Tag Archives: UNA

Befuddled, or Tiny Violin Day

There was a point when I felt like my life path was always waiting for me, like that mini-game with digging for treasure in Mario Party, and I was lucky enough to be uncovering what was always there.  With Arabic, the Egypt trip and working at Amnesty, I felt confident in my direction, if not my skills.  I had a great answer anytime someone asked what I was up to, and in my daily life I felt like I was stretching, learning and adding to the conversation.

Then I came home and Andrew and I broke up.  I started working and trying to recover from losing not only Andrew but some of my closest friends.  I moved in with some strangers, and tried (and failed) to get back to where I used to be with my freshman year friends, and the great new people they had acquired in the meantime.  That of course only served to remind me that they all live together and I lived with strangers.  UNA was a constant source of negativity, although many would argue that I was that source.  And finally, I got a poor review from Amnesty that I wasn’t expecting at all.

That leaves a lot of things up in the air, like human rights and nonprofit as a career choice, as well as the basic people I spend my time with.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with where I live, whether I go on coop in the fall or spring, traveling, or even writing this blog.  I had wanted to try for an international coop at the Arab League this spring, but now I’m questioning my wherewithal to live alone in Cairo for six months.  I don’t know if my tutoring job is waiting for me, though it probably is, and I have no idea what to do about UNA.  I miss the debate and the camaraderie (when it was there), but I don’t know if there’s a place for me there anymore.  Even if there is a place, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  For a long time people on both sides of the aisle have been wondering why I’m wasting my time, but I have yet to determine if that premise is true.

So that’s where I am today.  It’s a grey day in Cuba and I’m 21 years old and I have no clue what I’m doing with my life, or even with my time here.  It’s not pretty, succinct or resolved; it’s just today.

Inspiration: here, via here, Mariseca y les Aldeanos

Foto Friday: Propaganda

I know I’m a day late, but cut me some slack–there was an earthquake and now there are 15-25 mph winds, and the Malecón is flooded.  No one’s injured or worried or anything, it just means our internet is extra-slow.  So here it is, the second installment and already we have a Foto Saturday.

Outside of a gas station (“your friend, 24 hours a day,” “black gold”) there is a bust of Jose Marti so big I can see it from the bus.  The most basic, obvious form of propaganda here is the ubiquitous billboard.  They are used for no other purpose, and are actually quite compelling.  Some are just text, while others are giant, childlike drawings.

Here’s a sampling of some of my faves from around town.

My question: who are these aimed at?  Who are they actually convincing?

There are tons more, but I usually see them out of a bus window.  There will be plenty more in the future.  Unfortunately, I’m so used to it that upon further scrutiny I don’t actually have pictures of many of my favorite slogans.

A man sits across the street from an elementary school.
A typical storefront sign. Many of the decorations from the 50th anniversary last January 1 remain, however.
Brittan and Aliesha with a Che flag in the Hotel Nacional, which used to be owned by the mob
"For peace and friendship"
Hasta la victoria siempre!
Some campaneros stroll past a large version of a ubiquitous logo

There’s actually a conscious effort in Cuba not to deify the living, which surprises some.  Jose Martí is everywhere, usually in statue form.  Che figures heavily in the billboards and murals.  I’ve only found one mention of Raúl, and unfortunately it was pitch black and the picture came out terrible no matter what I tried.  Fidel is around, but not as much as you’d think.  There’s a ton more of the propaganda that’s great, but it’s hard to get good pictures.  I’m fairly fascinated by it, so there will definitely be more.  And some of the best pictures are being save for later, like the US Special Interests Section.  All you UNA, polisci kids would be all a-quiver to see it, so stay tuned.

The Final Countdown

You can miss a lot in three months.  While I am pumped to go, here are a few things I’ll miss while I’m gone.

  • Pat’s post-season and the Super Bowl.  I watch the Super Bowl every year
  • St. Patrick’s Day.  St. Patty’s is a big deal in my family, what with us being absurdly Irish and it being Kev’s birthday and all that.  I’ve also never been 21 for it before, and because of Southeast and UNA last year I pretty much missed it entirely.
  • Valentine’s Day.  For me, and any self-respecting UNA kid, V-Day means Harvard and all that that entails.
  • Chicken Lou’s TKO.  So delicious.
  • Husky Hockey.  The regular season, the Beanpot, etc.  I haven’t missed many games in my tenure at NU; it usually only happens when I’m out of state.
  • Harry Potter exhibit at the MOS.  I was hoping to get in there before I leave, but that didn’t happen.  I’m hoping they extend it beyond February.  Even if they do though, it probably won’t still be there in April.
  • Milk.  It’s only rationed for babies in Cuba, so I won’t get any for three months.  How weird is that?  And I’m a huge milk drinker so this may be an issue.
  • Dates with Meredith in Davis.  It’s a great little neighborhood with some of the best shopping.  Keep an eye out on Poor Little Rich Girl for me, k?
  • Alex, my partner in crime.  This will be the first significant amount of time that we’ll spend apart in over a year.  We survived the long hours of UNA, the Egypt trip, a broken ankle, a broken heart and a lot of fun.
  • The New England winter.  I know, easy for me to say.

If you were gone for the next three months, what would you miss?  Anything you totally wouldn’t miss?

The Infamous Minaret Ban Campaign

The psuedo-feminist slant on the Swiss campaign to ban the contruction of minarets represents the worst of so many things, including western portrayal of hijab. 

The commonly-used campaign art shows a truly frightening woman cloaked in harsh black.  She is wearing the naquib, meaning that with the exception of her eyes,  her entire face is covered. 

This is exactly the sort of propaganda that makes western people afraid of and fascinated by the hijab.  So many Muslim women observe hijab without looking dark and scary.  There are also those who are Muslim without observing hijab, or at least not observing it in such a way that we would recognize.  

The poster is misleading in so many ways.  What, precisely, does a woman in hijab have to do with the construction of minarets?  And really, Switzerland, the 5% of your population that is Muslim is really going to inundate your country with minarets?  That’s impresive since last time I checked there were only four minarets in the entire country. 

I am disgusted that feminist ideals were co-opted in order to frighten women into thinking that minarets are giant phallic symbols of Muslim men’s power over (currently) Muslim and (coming soon!) Christian women.  I am also disgusted that people fell for it, and in droves.  There is no logical reason to have a woman in a rather offensive portrayal of hijab on this poster other than to frighten non-Muslims. 

Many articles reacting to the vote have taken an apologetic tone, noting that it’s simply unfortunate that Muslims claim the role of “unknown” for the Swiss to fear.  Switzerland’s voting population is extraordinarily well educated, and I find it disingenuous to excuse their behavior out of ignorance.  Let’s cut the crap, western media.  Europe has shown that it still has a racist side, and that side has a penchant for hating on Arabs and Muslims.  This wasn’t a silly little mistake whereby the Swiss population was confused by glossy photos, this is a demonstration of just how very peachy the Swiss find discrimination. 

Another disturbing aspect of the discourse on the referendum is this idea that minarets will somehow change Switzerland.  This is, at its core, another attempt to frame Muslims as other, regardless of their citizenship.  As one woman is quoted as saying in the Times,

Before you know it, we’ll have sharia law and women being stoned to death in our streets. We won’t be Swiss any more.”

This of course strongly implies that being Swiss and being Muslim are mutually exclusive, and that being a practicing Muslim necessarily includes sharia law and stoning women.  The attempts to tie the religion to an unknown (but thoroughly frightening) political agenda (which allegedly Jews and Christians don’t have?  Since when?) are tenuous at best, and yet still wildly successful at their worst. 

The UNA’s simulation this past weekend of the Council of the EU (which discussed the ascension of Turkey) witnessed similarly disgusting  ideas, with many delegates citing the “cultural” differences between Europe and Turkey as reason alone to slam the door.  Apparently, they forgot the segments of their own population who have genes from outside of Europe, or that the Ottoman Empire was considered a major European player.  While the delegates were all (sadly) rather on-policy, I’m not at all convinced it was because they did their research. 

Rather, I think many of those students, like many Americans, like to think that Italians are Italian, and that there are no black or Asian people in Britain.  It never ceases to amaze me how very many Americans will remark with surprise when they meet a black Brit.  We do not have the market cornered on diversity, and we certainly don’t have it cornered on making the diverse among us feel marginalized, either. 

Thanks for reminding us, Switzerland. 

For a more all-encompassing, scholarly/political take on the Swiss ban, I direct you, of course, to Khalid, the eponymous Moor Next Door.

The Hillary List

Lately, there has been many a rumble in lady-land.  I have been reminded again and again that there are certain rules that should never be broken by people who are any combination of a) female, b) in authority, or c) driven, straightforward and intelligent.  I have come to think of this, aptly, as the Hillary List.  Love her or hate her, we’re all going to be treated like her, so we may as well learn a lesson or two.

  1. Everything you do will be subject to far more scrutiny.  Rather than complaining, accept it and adjust accordingly.
  2. Never let them see you cry.  This is imperative. See: Sex and the City
  3. If you lose it, everything you say will be discredited.  You’ve just given them an excuse to do what they already wanted to.
  4. Know when to hold em, when to fold em, and when to walk away.
  5. Own shoes that are comfy and shoes that are sexy.  Know when to use which ones.  Bonus points if they are in fact the same pair
  6. You will be called a bitch.  You can’t stop it, so don’t try.  Just deal with it, and see #2.
  7. Blow sunshine up their ass.  This is great advice from my mother
  8. Also from my mother: if you ever need to get out of something, bodily functions are an excellent excuse.  No one will want to chat about your period, and you simply can’t argue with the runs.
  9. Follow the rules.  You can get away with a lot if you stay within the lines, especially if it’s not that big of a deal for you to do so.
  10. Be cautious about who you trust, or: don’t air dirty laundry in public.  You don’t want to be considered a gossip, and many females will actually go out of their way to make you look bad.  Think very carefully about what you are saying (and to whom) before you speak.  Even if you disagree with something, be careful who you air that disagreement with.  Nobody likes someone who complains about their own team/boss/friends/whatever to people who aren’t involved

Break these rules at your own peril.  And remember, sometimes you just have to settle for Secretary of State.

Originally posted Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 10:01 PM

Play Nice

Lately I have received a lot of similar criticism, all stemming from a behavior about which I am offended to be criticized.  This is mostly because a successful male equivalent commits the same behavior and is revered. 

Also, it is because I am not wrong.  It is simply a choice of style, and in my mind, the style of those criticizing me is more offensive, but in a different way.  I do not meet their definition of nice, but they don’t meet mine, either.  I brought these points up to someone when they made a snarky remark about my behavior, but they claimed my male equivalent loses respect too.  And yet, no one makes snarky remarks to his face.  Even if people lose respect for him, they do it in private, and they still maintain a healthy amount of respect for him in other ways, like intellect and presence.




Why can some people get away with it and others can’t?


In Model UN and Model Arab League, we have chairs who lead committee.  Mine have run the gamut from almost-impeached (more than one) to award-winning (quite a few).  This year I had a great chair that was abrupt and rules-oriented.  I must admit that at first I bristled, but it turns out my chair was great.  She didn’t chair the way I would, but there was nothing inherently wrong with her chairing, and she had vast experience.


Unfortunately, some others didn’t agree.  They were a  vocal minority, and there were enough in the undecided column to cause a stir.  


Essentially, she wasn’t nice enough.  She didn’t break any rules, but she passed down a ruling quickly, without explanation, and without a smile.  All weekend she was fairly no-nonsense, and whipped an incredibly green bunch of delegates into shape.  Apparently, they didn’t appreciate it.  So they motioned to impeach her, not based on a violation of the rules, but on a personality conflict.  Because she wasn’t bubbly; she didn’t smile and mollycoddle them.  


I brought up, in my defense of her, that delegates could have approached her personally before taking such a drastic step.  But I guess that’s the issue.  No one felt they could.  When people feel that you are unapproachable, they won’t bother until it all gets to be too much, and then there’s a bit of an explosion.  Allegedly, it’s a sign of respect when someone criticizes you–it means they think you can change, and care enough to help you.  Perhaps my…colleague?  Acquaintance? is too unapproachable for anyone to confront him for the behavior that I am chastised for.  I’m hoping that my reception, compared to his, will save me from an upset down the line.  


For those of you who think this is too cutesy, I agree.  While I am aware it is the appropriate inner-growth zen-type thing to say, I feel otherwise.  I feel like maybe this applies if people criticize you constructively, but not if they simply judge you and are unreceptive to criticism of themselves.  And a part of me says why the hell should my chair have to play nice?  She already followed the rules, why do you have to throw in the smile?  


Well I guess you don’t.  But it means you have to be willing to be impeached.  


Originally posted Friday, April 24, 2009 at 1:02 AM

Don’t Give it Your All

First, there is the obvious, obnoxious reason: we need to take time out for eating, sleeping and basic hygiene.  But beyond that, there’s also a reality check: we are entrenched in multi-tasking.  Everyone has family, friends, occupation and hobbies.  If you don’t have all of these things, you won’t stay sane.  So no, you can’t give everything to any one of these things, so stop making speeches about giving it “110 per cent.”

The problem is the return on your investment.  If you spend all your free time (after satisfying the basic needs) on any one person or project, it can never give back to you anything close to what you deserve.  People simply aren’t capable of living up to those sort of expectations, and it will just strain the relationship.  And the project, whatever it may be, will never be worth all of that time and effort, and will never fulfill the amount of you that was devoted to it.

Take me, for example.  I gave pretty much everything to the UNA, in one way or another, even sometimes sacrificing the basic needs part.  I took chunks out of the time I used to spend with my boyfriend, I rarely communicated with family, and I cut a whole group of friends out of my life.  I put my health at risk and put school and work in the turned around wayback of a station wagon.  The problem with this is that the UNA can never be all of these things for me, all the things I gave up.

I have friends in it, sure, but it will never have the kind of personalities I need to balance me, the ones I cut out, and it sure as hell can’t replace my boyfriend.  I got either the easiest or the  hardest A ever by taking Arab League as a class, but that does nothing for my American Gov grade.  I can go to conferences sick, stay up late and eat fast food so I can get everything done, but putting on a great conference or winning an award will never make bronchitis go away.  It’s great that I was able to have so many leadership positions, but they won’t put dollars in my pocket, or make my boss think I’m less of a flake.

But really, the very worst thing about giving it your all is that you may fail.

And fail I did.

And when we fail, we need the diverse-life thing to make it ok.  If you fight with your friend, you can bury yourself in work.  If work sucks, you can complain about it to your significant other.  If they dump you, you can work out your aggression with your hobby.  If things in your chosen diversion aren’t going well, you can complain about it to the friend.  When one of these is your everything and it fails, you have nowhere to go.  And you can bet that when things start falling apart in all those neglected areas of your life, the one you spend all your time on is gonna leave you high and dry.

So treat your time like money, and invest wisely.  Diversify, and choose a few safe, steady investments, so that when the big risks don’t pan out you aren’t a mess.

Originally posted Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 2:42 AM

Southern Man

This past weekend I was down in South Carolina.  Having returned, I’ve noticed a stark difference in the way delegates handle themselves, especially with regard to gender, in the South as opposed to the North.

Oh the accent. The twang is gone now, but while I was there, and a few days after, my delightfully charming Boston accent was dulled and the twang came out.  I wasn’t really expecting this, as I’ve been to the South before, but this past weekend I spent all my time listening to southerners speak for hours on end, where the only other non-southerner in the room is from the blandly-accented land of Seattle.
Throughout the weekend, I was called Darlin’.  As in, “Don’t you worry bout a thang, darlin’, I didnt mean to fuss you up any!”  I was thoroughly confused by how often doors and chairs were held for me.  In fact, it rubbed off on my own team, a group of guys who generally sees me as a, uh, witch, nuisance or male.  Instead they were being downright chivalrous all weekend.  My natural tendency has been to open doors for myself, shake hands with male delegates, and to wear pants.  Part of my treatment was due to Vince and my success as a pair, and part was being female.  I started to get less annoyed by the politesse and actually enjoyed it.  Strangers always greeted me with “Mornin!” and even people who disagreed with me remained extraordinarily kind, a behavior quite foreign to the northern conferences.
The more time I spend as a delegate, the more I focus on every specific aspect of my behavior.  For example, I, like all Harringtons, stand with shoulders squared, feet hip-width apart, and my arms crossed in front of my chest.  If you look at pictures of the Harringtons, we all stand this way, and in person nod repeatedly.  This is our listening posture.  Unfortunately, this is considered an aggressive stance, especially for a woman, and especially for a younger woman in the south.  I have done my best to eliminate this from my conference behavior, just as I actively turn off my Boston accent when I’m using my intelligent conference voice and vocabulary.
It’s not that I endorse permanently changing myself for others, or doing what makes males comfortable for a prize, but I think it is important to realize that postures and mannerisms mean different things to different people.  Really, I only hesitate to change because it is males who are made uncomfortable.  If I were instructed to speak up so people could hear my good ideas, no one would be concerned in the least.  This is just another way of making it easier for everyone to hear my ideas, instead of focusing on everything else.
It was pointed out to me by my advisor and partner that the reason we got second and not first is my behavior.  I am an intelligent, straightforward human being, and I tend to be more agressive and blunt than most females.  This is offputting to the guys on my own team, and to many guys in my life in general.  Take this down south, and it doesn’t go so well.  Especially when the other teams expected my tall, muscular male marine partner with the booming voice to be telling me what to do, even though it was his first conference.  (For the record, he never once tried to tell me what to do, and I hope I didn’t order him around either.  Vince is pretty much the portrait of a gentleman, and I think our partnership worked really well.)
Reflecting on these ponderings and the discussions with my lovely UNA mentor and our advisor, the accent is actually kind of an advantage.  As my partner mentioned to me today, he will miss the sweet smiles of the southern ladies, as opposed to the hostile and frigid demeanor of their northern counterparts (his words, not mine.)  The female delegates I went up against were formidable.  Many had done more research than I, and several had more experience.  They wanted awards just as much, maybe more.  And yet, they never came across as masculine, dominating or terribly negative at all.  Perhaps the over-emphasis of the accent is just another one of their tools, one that allows them to be aggressive like I am, without losing any votes in the final tally.  In the end, the first place pair had one partner who was dead weight, and another who never controlled the room like I did, but neither of those two ladies pissed anyone off.
Originally posted Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 12:56 PM

Division of Labour

We visited the ICRC (Red Cross/Red Crescent) and met with a rep in the hottest room imaginable.  I didn’t faint, but it was dicey for a while.  Despite the heat, it was one of my favorite lectures.  It’s amazing to hear people who are good at this (this being diplomacy, public speaking and representing something other than themselves) field questions.  His job is a mix between relief work and politics, and I was eating it up.

Unfortuntely, some in our number lack the legal background to really learn from the talk.  They spent their time asking uninformed questions and then rudely carried out silly debates during the rest of the q&a.  No, you don’t need to fight about what defines “advanced warning” or “civilians” in international humanitarian law (IHL), because teams of lawyers already have.  When these questions flared up I was really grateful for Kim Jones’ class (Human Rights in the Middle East), and the background I’ve gained from UNA.

Some in our number were freaked out by the morals of the ICRC.  The man was pretty realist (especially about the organization) but not as hardcore as the Arab League ASG.  Some people get upset because the ICRC doesn’t publicly oppose war, or always cause a ruckus over various violations it finds.  However, the ICRC has to face certain realities.  The man we spoke to emphasized that Amnesty International (AI) and the ICRC are both very different, but both very necessary.  AI does field research, releases reports and draws publicity in order to put pressure on various states. ICRC on the other hand does relief work in the field, and don’t go back to their offices for quite some time.  If the ICRC publicly denounces a state r a practice, they jeopardize their ability to help people on the ground.  In the end, there’s only so much merit to being right if you can’t help anyone, as demonstrated by the fact that the ICRC is the only organization still allowed in Sudan.  Being loud and right has its merits, but it doesn’t mean a damn if there’s no one to immediately help in the field.

Meanwhile, some disagree with the idea of relief work as opposed to development aid, the idea being that with proper (western?) development, there would no longer be a need for  relief work.  The ICRC steps in during natural disasters though, and no amount of infrastructure can stop those, and even “civilized” states can have civil war or be invaded.  Even  if the premise that good development aid=no relief work later was true, one would still need the ICRC in the meantime.

After the lecture we had an intense discussion in the van.  Finally, the powder keg of 25 politically minded smartasses went off.  I hnestly can’t believe it took this long!  It was an enjoyable day though, and I actually didn’t argue for a while and just watched others do it–I may have even learned a few tricks.

True Life, I’m a Geek

We went to the Arab League the other night, and it was wicked awesome.

The building is gorgeous, and we were treated with much greater hospitality than when the American Embassy received us.  The Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League (aka a big deal) sat with us to have a discussion and answer our questions.  We went with the other group of NU kids who are here for journalism.  They were psyched when he said it would all be on the record unless specific questions necessitated that.

We sat around a huge table with microphones.  There wasn’t enough room for everybody to sit at the table, so everyone else sat in rows around it.  You can bet your ass I got a seat at the table.  Waiters came around and served us some shay (tea) while we listened to the ASG speak.   The ASG was very open with us, which was great.  I love watching diplomats work.  Some of the journalism students were upset that we didn’t get “real,” answers, but that seems silly to me.  He’s obviously a politician, diplomat and spokesperson–he’s not going to either say thins that aren’t in his best interest in order to be ultra-honest or accidentally slip up because some upstart kid thinks they’re the first one to have the gaul to ask a “tough” question on Palestine or Sudan.  I really appreciated the chance to talk to him and to hear his artful way of adressing the questions.  In fact, he was surprisingly critical of some of the League’s history.

I was a little miffed at how little everyone knew about the League of Arab States.  Like, say, that it exists.  The journalism teacher had no concept of it, even after it was explained that it functions like the UN, but is purely regional.  I can understand people not knowing about it—most don’t.  But it has been on our schedule since the beginning, so putting in a little time on Wikipedia wouldn’t have killed anybody.  Also, we have a weekly meeting where either of our group leaders could have given a summary.  A result of the lack of awareness was that many people did not know how to direct their questions.  Until our speaker mentioned it, most in the room didn’t think to ask about Sudan since most assumed it wasn’t in the League.  Ditto for Somalia.

Asha Pandya interviewed me for an article of hers, in which I sounds ridiculously geeky.  Every quote is about how excited I am to be in the building, to hold the SG gavel, to take pictures with countries I’ve represented, and so on.

And now I leave you with pictures of me bugging out.  I know, pictures, finally, and of course they’re all from the Arab League.  🙂

Sitting in the Secretary General's seat...with the gavel!
Sitting in the Secretary General's seat...with the gavel!
The Delegate from Iraq has the floor...
The Delegate from Iraq has the floor...

Oh yeah, and you must all watch this