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