Tag Archives: international

One Rhythm, One Planet: Music from the Banned Countries

February 9th, 2017

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I have always believed that music brings people together and bridges cultural divides. Music can connect us like no other arts, with its universal language of rhythm and melody. Maybe even more importantly, music—especially world music, helps us understand and appreciate other cultures and people. I have bonded instantly with immigrant taxi drivers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Armenia, Argentina, and other places simply by asking them about the music of their homelands.

This core belief in the binding power of music has underpinned my work over the past 30 years to popularize world music in Los Angeles and beyond. It’s been a joy to watch ecstatic crowds dancing to Pakistani qawwali (sufi gospel) music or Nigerian afrobeat and juju, to see people entranced by whirling dervishes from Turkey and Syria, and to swoon with others to achingly beautiful classical music from Iran. My life and personal horizons have been immeasurably enriched by these experiences. Sadly, some of these experiences may now be in peril due to the recently enacted immigration ban on seven predominately Muslim countries—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya.

In this time of division and discord, it’s imperative to keep building bridges through music. With that in mind, I want to celebrate music that I’ve loved by artists from the seven countries targeted by the recent immigration ban. This sweeping ban will most certainly prevent artists from these countries from performing in the U.S., but we can still support their music and arts from afar—by continuing to share and learn about them through recordings and the vast resources of the internet.

We begin in SYRIA with the poet-musician Abed Azrie and his albums Lapis Lazuli and Aromates. Azrie was born in Aleppo but has been based in Paris for many years. Aromates was his first album released in the U.S., on Nonesuch. I put a beautiful cut, “Pareil à l’eau” (Like Water) from the album Lapis Lazuli on a compilation that I produced called Trance Planet Vol. 3. His poetry is as beautiful as his music.

IRAQ: Munir Bashir has been called the King of Oud and is credited by many as the greatest modern oud player. Algerian-born, French singer-songwriter Pierre Bensusan gave me my first Munir Bashir LP years ago. I immediately fell in love with his finely-filigreed music. Sadly, Bashir died at the age of 47 in an auto accident in Budapest. Here is a track from his album Mesopotamia:

I also want to mention an upcoming concert at the Getty Center by Iraqi-American oud musician Rahim AlHaj. His concerts take place on Saturday, February 18 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, February 19 at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but you must make a reservation. Click here for more information and reservations.

IRAN: Masters of Persian Music is a classical music ensemble formed in 2000 by true masters of Persian music. Iran has an amazing classical tradition, as complex and arabesque as any Mozart or Bach. Lyrics come from the classic poets and mystics: Hafez and Rumi, as well as more modern writers. The group once performed at the Hollywood Bowl with a live calligrapher rendering classical Persian poetry; it was one of the most stunning concerts ever to grace the Bowl’s celebrated stage. Here is a song from their album Hanan (Without You), featuring Hossein Alizadeh, Kayhan Kalhor, and Homayoun Shajarian. It is a gentle, passionate, and powerful love song.

YEMEN: When I think about Yemen, I immediately think of the late Yemenite Israeli singer Ofra Haza. Her parents moved from Yemen to Israel in 1950 in the airlift known as Operation Magic Carpet. She burst upon the scene in 1986 with her transcendent album Yemenite Songs. Many of the songs on the album were written by a 17th century rabbi. Her song “Im Nin’alu” topped the European charts, even rising to #1 in Germany. To me, her success was more convincing proof that music transcends language and builds bridges between cultures. Ofra once visited my UCLA World Music class—International Bandstand—and performed a Yemenite song, drumming a large oil can on her shoulder. It was a beautiful moment. Here is “Im Nin’alu“:

SUDAN: Sudanese music has incredible rhythms and deep groove. Crowds love it, though it’s featured more in big European summer festivals than in the U.S., especially after 9/11. Sudanese singer and oud player Abdel Aziz El Mubarak leads a large group, playing music that blends Arabic styles and Western forms. The great UK label Globe Style released his music back in the 1980’s, and I was listening.

SOMALIA: Somali poet, musician, and hip hop artist K’naan (born Keinan Abdi Warsame) was born in Mogadishu in 1978 and now resides in Canada. His hybrid sound draws from world music, hip hop, reggae, and of course, Somali music. He has collaborated with artists from the great Youssou N’Dour to Bono. Here is his song “Take a Minute.” Watch him as he walks by portraits of Gandhi, Mandela, Bob Marley, and Nina Simone:

LIBYA: We don’t hear too much from Libyan artists, especially here in the U.S., due in part to the country’s isolation under the four-decade long rule of Qaddafi. Ahmed Fakroun is a pioneer of modern Arabic pop music and one of the most popular Libyan artists, both in Tripoli as well as among Libyan expats. His crossover style blends Arabic instruments and lyrics with Western pop elements like synthesizers and electric bass. Here’s a track called “Ya Farhi’ Bik” from his 1983 album Mots D’Amour – it definitely has that 80’s pop sound but with an Arabic twist:

Finally, I want to mention the compilation album Lullabies from the Axis of Evil, released back in the days of the Bush 43 administration. It features music from all the countries above, as well as music from Afghanistan, North Korea, and other “evil” places.

I hope you enjoyed these tracks and will keep exploring musical riches from around the world.

toms

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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The Many Benefits of International Students at U.S. Campuses

12/30/16

interstudents

As we come to the end of 2016, we’d like to dedicate this final blog for the year to international students and the myriad of benefits they bring to the economic and cultural fabric of the U.S  Let’s take a closer look.

Economic Benefits

The economic benefits of having international students on U.S. campuses are impressive. According to the Brookings Institute, foreign students “paid $22 billion in tuition between 2008 and 2013 as well as at least $13 billion in living expenses.” According to the U.S. Department of Commerce: “In 2015, International students contributed more than $30.5 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.”

International students are able to fund their education in the U.S. through funds they receive from personal and family sources outside the U.S. They also receive financial support from their home country governments or universities.

Additional breakdowns of economic impact by state and Congressional District, calculated using IIE’s Open Doors enrollment figures, are available on the NAFSA International Student Economic Value Tool website.

Take a look at the chart below to see the countries which send most of the students to study in the U.S. These numbers grew from approximately 975,000 in 2015 to 1,043,839 in 2016.

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Source: The Atlantic

Cultural, Scientific, Technical Research Benefits

In addition to the economic benefits of having international students on U.S. campuses, the cultural gains are equally positive and impactful. The benefits of American students who actively engage and interact with international students on their college campuses are tremendously positive and impactful. American students exposed to and interacting with international students are more likely to read or speak a foreign language, appreciate art, music, literature of different cultures, and view current problems in historical perspective. They also are more likely to be more open minded and curious and interested to reexamine their political and religious viewpoints and their beliefs about other races or ethnicities. They may even consider traveling outside the U.S. or studying abroad.

Another significant benefit of having international students studying in the United States is that they contribute to America’s scientific and technical research. They bring with them international perspectives and stories of their personal experiences into U.S. classrooms. All these contribute to helping prepare American college students to be better equipped for careers in the global job market and in many cases helps them build and foster longer-term business relationships and economic benefits with their international student counterparts after graduation.

This reminds me of a taxi ride I once had from the airport in Reno, NV to a conference hotel. When I told the driver that I was attending a conference on international education, I was pleasantly surprised to hear him lecture me on the many benefits his city receives from its foreign students. He cited how international students contribute to the city’s businesses through their purchases, renting apartments, leasing or buying cars, paying insurance, going to the movies, eating at restaurants, and so much more. Clearly, he got it! And let’s not forget that many international students bring with them their spouses and children for the duration of their studies and these additional persons also help the economy. According to NAFSA, for the 2013-2014 academic year, “international students and their families at colleges and universities across the U.S. contributed $26.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 340,000 jobs. Compared to the previous academic year, this is nearly a 12 percent increase in dollars contributed to the economy and an 8.5 percent increase in job support and creation.” Another important and positive side effect of having international students on U.S. campuses which NAFSA found is that “three U.S. jobs are created or supported for every seven international students enrolled. These jobs are in higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance.”

These economic benefits have not gone unnoticed by countries such as Canada, UK, and Australia who are aggressively seeking ways to attract and recruit international students to their institutions. Though, at this time, the UK–having undergone the Brexit referendum– is taking a harsher stand against international students. We, in the international education community, urge our representatives in Washington and the incoming administration to take the significance of international students and their contributions to the U.S. economy and the fabric of our higher education into serious consideration before embarking on any anti-immigration policies and legislations. A negative and hostile stand against immigration if not clearly defined will alienate the international students who enter the U.S. legally on student visas and deter them from seeking the U.S. as their higher education destination. They will in turn look to friendlier countries like Canada and Australia. The U.S. will have a great deal to lose.

Useful Links:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2016/11/21/where-americas-international-students-come-from-infographic/#708592224669

https://today.duke.edu/2013/06/internationalengage

http://immigrationimpact.com/2014/11/19/international-students-add-billions-u-s-economy/

http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20150212092452773

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/globalization-american-higher-ed/416502/

http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/international-students-united-states

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Top 5 Countries Ranked Best for Education

October 6th, 2016

maps

The USNews recently released it’s 2016 Best Countries rankings and included the Best Countries for Education in its survey results.  In partnership with brand strategy firm BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania they asked more than 16,000 survey participants from four regions to associate countries with specific attributes. The Best Countries for Education, according to USNews “are ranked based on scores on a compilation of three equally weighted country attributes: has top quality universities, well-developed public education system and would consider attending university there. Nations with federally run education systems ranked first, as with the United Kingdom, and last, as with Iran.”

The top 5 countries ranked for best education are:

1. United Kingdom

2. Canada

3. United States

4. Germany

5. France

Take a look at the full list of the USNews Best Countries for education: http://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/education-full-list and let us know your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree? And, why?

Thank you!

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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The New Normal in the 21st Century

September 22nd, 2016

robot
Police Robot sent on the mission to deactivate/detonate the suspicious object.

The “new normal” paid me a visit on September 20, 2016 at 7:02 AM PST. My husband and I woke to the sound of our neighbor knocking on our door alerting us to news that the police and bomb squad were outside our condominium building. A medium-sized pressure cooker was found sitting on the sidewalk directly in front of our building. In no time, our quiet non-descript neighborhood in West Los Angeles, was turned into a crime scene. LAPD had barricaded all roads and streets around us blocking all types of traffic.  The police robot was brought in which detonated the suspicious object. Luckily, the object was empty, no one was hurt though a little shaken. By 8:00 AM the police began lifting the barricades and one by one left the scene returning our neighborhood to normal.

This event happened at the heels of the bomb that exploded in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood over the weekend. The term I heard on the NPR news hour, following the Chelsea explosion, was that this is the “new normal.” For a second, I nodded in agreement; yes, this is now the new normal and we just have to continue with our lives. Yet, this is not the new normal at least not for those of us growing up in the 1970’s where the “new normal” was most likely originally introduced. In the 70’s, I was attending a boarding school in Bexhill-on-Sea, in Sussex County, England. This sleepy beach town, home to mostly blue-haired retirees and a couple of boarding schools, was the quintessential English town with charming tea shops and antique stores. Ensconced in the protective walls of my school, my classmates—fellow boarders from the four corners of the world—and I were hundreds of miles away from the terror and disruption experienced in European capitals like London, Munich, Rome and beyond. We did not have social media or round the clock cable news alerting us of terrorist attacks, but they existed and had become a part of our daily lives; the new normal.

Every morning, especially, in the last two years of my schooling, before the start of our classes, we would converge in the school’s small library and pour over the daily newspapers in preparation for a pop quiz to be delivered by our fastidious History teacher, Miss Wade, an Australian transplant. This exercise kept us abreast of the world, the ongoing war in Vietnam, the Cold War between the USA and USSR, the Watergate Scandal, terrorist threats and attacks by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Spain’s Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Italy’s Anni di Piombo (Years of Lead) and the Red Brigade, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Libyans, Germany’s Red Army Faction aka Baader Mainhoff Gang, and other subversive groups with agendas to disrupt societies and topple governments. A day didn’t pass us by without news of a plane hijacking, explosion at an airport or Tube station in London, kidnappings of top government officials, and even the assassination of Aldo Moro, the Prime Minister of Italy. There was even the 1975 brazen hostage taking of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) who were meeting in Vienna, Austria by German and Arab terrorists led by Carlos the Jackal. And, let us not forget the brutal hostage taking and massacre of athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. 

In September 1975, during a weekend visit to London, where I was going to spend the time with my father who was staying at the Hilton Hotel on a business trip, the lobby of the hotel became the target of a suspected IRA bomb explosion. My father and I had just the left the hotel to dine at a nearby restaurant and returned to find the entrance blocked off with police, ambulance and fire trucks parked outside in the driveway. Two people were killed and 63 people were injured in the main lobby. Londoners woke up the next day to the tragic news and set off to work, school, or on errands as before. It was the new normal.

Another time, in mid-70’s, when returning to England after a short holiday at home in Iran, the BOAC flight from Tehran to London made a surprise landing in Beirut, Lebanon. It may have been a technical problem which had forced the Captain to land us in Beirut. We were not allowed to disembark. I was most likely 13 or 14, traveling alone, something I did regularly on the trips between school and home and back. I had read about the civil war which had erupted in Lebanon and remember looking out the window of the airplane and through the darkness of the night, I could make out the silhouettes of tanks and military vehicles. It was an eerie sight and one that I remember clearly to this day. The plane sat on the tarmac for perhaps an hour but soon after takeoff the Captain apologized on the PA system for the unscheduled stop and explained how lucky we were to have taken off when we did as the airport had been the target of a bombing as soon as we were in the air.

In its March 25, 2016 article, The Telegraph includes a glimpse into what the world was like in the 70’s and 80’s, marred by terrorist attacks fueled by various governments and insurgent groups. The world, as the old saying goes, has not just recently gone to hell in a hand basket. Yes, there’s no denying the horrific impact and loss of lives brought on by this century’s recent terrorist attacks in the U.S., Norway, Spain, Belgium and France, the ravages of the Civil War in Syria, the Refugee crisis, the savagery of religious fanatics who will go unnamed as their mere mention gives their heinous acts credit.  In no way am I belittling or dismissing this century’s horrible acts of violence. The present is as equally horrible as the past. The new normal has been with us throughout history. I always say that the only way to understand or make sense of the present is to know our history. It will not lessen the grief for the loss of a loved one or a way of life, but knowing the lessons learned from the past offer us perspective and focus to understand the present so that we can courageously navigate our way through it empowered without feeling afraid and helpless. It may sound trite or simplistic, but there is something to be said for the two words “Carpe Diem,” so beautifully memorialized in the film “Dead Poet’s Society,” by the late actor/comedian Robin Williams. The lessons of the past are there for us to learn from. We need to know the past in order to survive the present with its currents threats and Seize the Day.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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How to Be a Responsible Foreign-Language Learner and Speaker

August 25th, 2016

words

As participants in the 2016 Many Languages One World essay contest, we had to submit an essay on multiculturalism and multilingualism. Writing about multiculturalism and multilingualism is a tough and broad task, but what we can do, as individuals, is write about our own experience. 

As a student in Chinese department and as a traveler, I do not believe in any so-called “clash of civilizations”, or in any “culture shock”. “The other” is always the result of a process of image-making. Moreover, I am strongly convinced that most of the distinctions we rely on are constructs and artificial distinctions, used by dominant groups to justify unequal situations and discrimination. Learning foreign languages aims to explore interstices, never to widen gaps. 

I would like to explain why my experience of multiculturalism and multilingualism has fostered a strong sense of responsibility, and has motivated my political and social commitment.

I was born in France twenty years ago, and was brought up in ten different countries, among which Spain, South Korea, Canada and China. I have been moving every one or two years because of my parents’ job as International School French teachers. I can relate to many different cultural habits and cultural backgrounds. “Where do you come from?” is a question I feel very uncomfortable with. Because I am unable to answer it and because experience has proven, it doesn’t actually tell a lot about the person you’re speaking to. I don’t feel like I belong to a specific country and don’t feel attached to one single language. I don’t want to choose between countries and languages. The first language I learnt was Finnish. My brother and I recently saw some videos of us speaking Finnish together, but we can’t understand a word anymore. It’s one layer among our multi-layered, multi-dimensional life. Since then, my little sister arrived in our family, adopted from China, and my brother left the French school system to take the International Baccalaureate. My parents have moved to Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, and started learning Russian. When we get together in France every summer, we speak bits and pieces of French, English and Mandarin Chinese. Each language allows us to express our ideas, hint at common references, play on words in a different way. In our case they are always related to a certain time period, linked to certain friendships, landscapes, food, books, movies and educational systems we’ve experienced and share, which thus inform our approach to each language. As my sister said once, what we truly share is our story, our passing by in many places and never settling down.

This had led me to think identity is not an enclosed and immutable entity, identity is evolution, identity is change, making one’s way between adapting and conflicting. Identity is like a tangled web, tying together places you lived in, people you met or crossed paths with, what you’ve seen and experienced. In my case, I feel that what has primordially influenced me are the most unbearable things I have witnessed. People suffering from leper, from hunger and thirst, children working in terrible conditions and whom childhood was stolen away, eager to escape from poverty and war, in the places I’ve visited or lived in. You can’t forget these things. You can only pretend, but somewhere deep inside, it’s calling out for justice and urging you to do something. I feel this is what ties all the puzzle pieces of my scattered life together.

Therefore my political and social concerns have always been the very basis, the starting point in the appreciation of the world and people around me. I have been volunteering for several NGOs. I have been working in Pnomh Penh for the NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (For a Child’s Smile), which takes care of children living in slums and dumps and offers them access to healthcare and education. I participated in the planning of Charity Runs in Taipei and other cities I lived in. When I was in Paris I participated in helping homeless people and families to fill in paperwork and have access to basics. I have been writing down all their stories and hope to get you to read them some day. What revolted me is, some people would sometimes stop near me and say we – volunteers – were encouraging the present-day “invasion” of “immigrants” and poor populations in France. Some seem to consider solidarity as crime – but as I said, I don’t make distinctions between “us” and “them”, and by helping them I’m helping us. Recently I have been working in Lyon for the Secours Populaire, helping out in annual events and working to improve the reading and writing skills as well as self-confidence of children left behind. Wherever I’ve been I have felt the same emergency. Wherever I will be living, and wherever you live, there is probably something going wrong outside your front door and you can always do something, at your level, to instigate change. Multi-culturalism is about lending a hand to others, wherever you come from and wherever they come from.

Moreover, I believe that we have a duty to reflect on our ability to bring some change, not only as young people but also as students in Language Departments. I am studying in the Chinese department of my University. I think it is important for us to concentrate on building “cultural bridges” : we can study common, parallel aspects in order to create dialogues rather than orchestrate sensational “West-East” breaking points. For instance last year I have read some interesting studies on links between some French twentieth century surrealist works and early Chinese Daoist works such as the Zhuangzi : provocation, striking images, humor, rejecting of forged boundaries and rigid categories. Drawing parallels often teaches us a lot more and is definitely more stimulating. Also, I would like to emphasize the fact that cultural understanding should never be taken for granted. We have to fight for it. Some of my classmates in the Chinese Department, studying Chinese language and culture at a high level, have never been in a Chinese speaking country, have no intention of going there, no desire to learn more about or meet people who live there – because, as one of them told me once, their interest in Chinese is only “theoretical”, “aesthetic” – and sometimes they have harsh, shocking words, and many prejudices against Chinese people and culture – very dangerous ideas.

I plan on maybe becoming a researcher in Chinese philosophy or history; whatever I do later on, I hope I will never separate my work and my ideas. I was blamed once for refusing to complete an exercise in one of my Chinese courses. The problem was, the title was “Why women and men do not think alike” and the sentences we had to complete and read were very insulting. The teacher respected and understood my choice, but one of my classmates told me I should learn to separate the student and the “feminist” – that is schizophrenia – and then explained, China “never had and still does not have any feminist ideas” – which is completely false. Essentialism and distinctions between political and academic spheres are recurrent obstacles, and yet they can be overcome by raising awareness about our responsibility, our role as foreign-language learners and mediators. The issue is too important in our world today to be ignored.

That’s what I would like to conclude with: learning languages and traveling is a good start, but it is not enough. We need to stand up, and take action for what we believe in. We are responsible for what we do – and what we don’t do. Learning foreign languages is an urgent necessity but it won’t help if it’s just about playing with sounds and alphabets. It’s about making the others’ fear, anger and hope, our own.”

lea

Léa Buatois

About Léa Buatois: Léa was one of 60 winners of the 2016 international essay contest of Many Languages, One World® (MLOW) that included students from 36 countries and 54 universities. Her essay, shared in this blog, was selected from a pool of over 3,600 entrants. Many Languages, One World is organized by ELS Educational Services, Inc., and the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI). Léa  was born in Dijon, France, in 1996. Her parents teach in French international schools around the world. Because of her parents’ job as French teachers abroad, she has been moving a lot, approximately every one or two years. The first language she spoke was Finnish, and later she started learning English, French and Mandarin Chinese. She is now studying in the Chinese Department of the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon, France. She is interested in becoming a researcher in Chinese philosophy or history, or working in cultural diplomacy or international relations. She love traveling, reading and writing.

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I Am Not A Citizen Of The World

August 11th, 2016

worldpeople

No soy una ciudadana del mundo.

I come from Chile, located at the end of the world. Surrounded by the immensity of the Pacific Ocean, the loneliness of the Atacama Desert and the impenetrability of the Andes cordillera, it could be considered an island. 

I am not a citizen of the world.

I am fluent in Spanish, French and English. I am “cultured”; I know about history, art, music and poetry. I am “travelled”: I biked the Golden Gate Bridge, I went up the Eiffel Tour, I got the Padi diving course in Koh Samui, Surfed in Sydney and knew the leather tanneries in Fez. However, when I travel, I care about the amazing travel selfies that I post on instagram. I am not interested in knowing the locals, since they look different and their cultural traditions are ridiculous, obsolete, and nonsensical, compared to my “modern” and “liberal” way of life. I am not interested of Khmer Rouge and its impact in Cambodian citizens, and I certainly do not take advantage of my language skills to understand their beliefs, their stories, or their wounds.

Je ne suis pas une citoyenne du monde.

I do not care about global issues such as the energy crisis or the uncertainty of the refugees’ life. I have electricity and hot water in my house and recycling is too much effort. And when by accident I run into the international news happening in a faraway land, I quickly change the channel to the Turkish soap opera of the moment. After all, the facial expressions of Hurrem in Muhteşem Yüzyıl, are much more attractive than the death baby on the beach. My main concerns are the next season of Games of Thrones, the next Taylor Swift album or the 4 kilos that I desperately need to lose before my next trip to Costa Rica.

  1. Turkish soap opera: The Magnificent Century

 

I am not a citizen del mundo.

I do not have time to get informed of world news, search different sources of information and form my own opinions. I do not have time to do any volunteer work since my life is “crazy” and I have a lot on my plate; after all, you do not get to the 1013 level in Candy Crush Saga playing for only one month.

Je ne suis pas une citizen of the world.

I go to fancy restaurants, and the bill covers a month of an entire family living. I buy Louis Vuitton bags, while outside the store is a lady selling coconut water to support her family, and I bargain her down from two dollars to one. I love to buy cheap t-shirts, but I never ask myself how the price can be as low, and who is really paying for them.

Je ne suis pas una ciudadana of the world 

My favourite and most valuable relation is with my smartphone, since it provides all that I need. Wakes me up in the morning, keeps me company during the day and even introduces me to people to date, since I long lost the capacity to engage with others in real life. When I do not have Internet my phone, I feel disconnected. I am numb.

I am not une citoyenne del mundo

I live unconsciously. I do not connect to others in any significant way. I am a consumer. I try to fill my internal void with external things, and wonder why I never feel as happy or complete as the girls in the women’s magazines. Even when on my Instagram I have hundreds of likes and I seem to have it all, I do not want to acknowledge that “thing”. That “thing” on my chest. That “thing” that I conveniently “confuse” with hunger so I eat/drink/smoke to make it go away. That “thing” that accompanies me everywhere I go. That “thing” that never leaves me, not even in my dreams. That “thing” that gives me nightmares every night. Nightmares that I do not realize that I have or even question why or since when I have them.

Since most of the time I travel alone, is not unusual that people approach me to ask where I come from and why I am traveling by myself; people with epicanthic fold, women wearing veils, with different skin and hair colour, in summary people that I had never the interest to approach. It is when they kindly ask me about my culture and they tell me about theirs, when I realize how narrow my worldview is. How come they are interested in me but I am not interested in them? When they talk to be on the bus or in the hostel lobby I realize how much I focus on my belly and not on what surrounds me. I realize how loyally I mirror Chile. I am also an island. Surrounded by invisible but robust frontiers, locking me in a comfortable bubble wrapping me to everything dissimilar.

Out of nowhere, these strangers show me their openness, their kindness, their generosity, and their happiness, and strangely, it feels good, and that “thing” on my chest feels somehow warm. It is then when I realize I lack those attributes. I cannot demonstrate affection as easily and as openhandedly as they do. I wish I could, but that “thing” on my chest, seems to be cold and empty…

It is only because I am multilingual that I am able to talk with people from China, Lebanon, Malaysia, India, Nigeria and Russia about the common battles we face as women over coffee in Edinburgh. Women who would be unlikely to meet in Chile since the percentage of immigrants from China is 2%, and even less for the other mentioned countries. Our natural barriers seem to act like an impenetrable membrane from the rest of the world, which gives the illusion that we are the norm and the others are the different ones. Our barriers keep us physically, mentally and emotionally disconnected from the rest of the world. 

It is when we cry our hardships together and encourage one another that I discover and I am able to appreciate these former strangers as human beings. Humans with feelings, struggles and dreams, just like mine. And it is then when I feel something moving on my chest, and I notice an urge to help them to achieve their goals, and to do it together. Suddenly our conversations are not about the bachelor or what we consider attractive in a man, but about our adventures or misadventures, on how we misread cultural norms, and what we learnt from them. We compare traditions, customs and meaning and it is then when I start to appreciate their way of life, and recognize that maybe my way of life is not the best one, that it is certainly not entirely “right” or “good”. Theirs may be more “conservative” and traditional, but at the same time it is more respectful, cooperative and caring. Women are not displayed as sexual objects, people are not in an endless race to show who has more, and people think twice before judging someone else. Learning different perspectives and about different ways of life, allow me to think about new ways, new solutions and new possibilities. I am able to see the richness of our world and it opens my mental frontiers to consider that maybe if we share more, we can take what is good from each other´s cultures, build a new perspective together and share a new common path to improve our communities.

It is when they tell me about their life stories when I realize, that that news that I heard about war and the bombing of that country in a faraway land, becomes real. It is not something that happened to random people on TV. It is my friend’s life that was on the line. I had shivers and sorrow to hear her describe how her father decided to split the family members in several different cars to drive to the frontier in case one of them got bombed. The shivers and sorrow I was able to feel were only possible because we were able to talk the same language and were curious about each other experiences. 

It is then that I realize that multilingual ability is more than technical proficiency. Multilingual ability serve to something more than to land a job in an international company, have high scores in a given test or ask for directions in a foreign country.

Multilingual ability can be more. It can be a door to empathise and develop significant relations with others different than us that we would have never talked to since we would not understand each other. It can allow us to connect with others emotionally and break our stereotypes. It allows us to constantly redefine the meaning of kind words according to the langage we speak. It can be a way to engage with others as human beings and find what bonds us instead of what takes us apart.

Multilingual ability awarded me the gift to have new friends with diverse customs and worldviews. Friends who showed me their generosity and their love; friend who taught me how to develop the attributes I lacked. Attributes that moved and warmed up that “thing” inside me. It was with their friendship that I started filling up the everlasting loneliness that was with me, no matter how far I went or how many things I bought.

Multilingual ability threatens my perfect “casual” picture on Instagram of me looking at the horizon in the Grand Canyon, and replaces it for a messy picture in my wallet with all my friends sharing hummus, dumplings, patacones, fish and chips, chalakaka and pisco sour on a long table.

It is when I acknowledge the stereotypes I have,
It is when I start to connect emotionally with others and with myself,
It is when I question the fears I hold,
It is when I recognize what impact my actions have in the world,
It is when their issues become mine, and mine become theirs,
It is when my friends´ homes become mines,
It is when I see the richness of what we could create collectively,
It is when I live my life with others,
It is when I share the warm of heart,
It is when we realize that we are all in this together,
That I start my journey of becoming a citizen of the world.

maria
Maria Jose Ramirez C.

Maria Jose holds a PhD in Education from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Master’s in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa, Canada, and degree in teaching from Ponrificia Universidad Catolice de Chile. She loves sports, nature and travel and for over 12 years has worked with athletes by motivating and inspiring them to not only win medals but achieve their own excellence not just at their sports, but also as human beings. Maria Jose was one of the 60 winners of the 2016 international essay contest of Many Languages, One World® (MLOW) that included students from 36 countries and 54 universities. Her essay, shared in this blog, was selected from a pool of over 3,600 entrants. Many Languages, One World is organized by ELS Educational Services, Inc., and the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI)

alcanzandotuexcelencia@gmail.com

http://www.alcanzatuexcelencia.com

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In Contribution to Peace: The Role of Multilingualism in Contributing to Process of world Peacemaking

July 21st, 2016

peace_international

Growing up in a country which has lived long successive wars for more than three decades makes Peace and Peacemaking my very first priority. Civil wars, fighting, explosions, extremist groups, segregation and  destructed social structures, displaced people, frightening number of widows, orphans, and immigrants, polluted environment, declined agricultural lands, poverty, hunger, collapsed economies, and almost all other serious problems, are the consequences of long years of unjustified successive wars. I believe that it is time for everyone, for each of us, to take the responsibility of rebuilding a sustainable peacefulness in this world. As an Iraqi architect, faculty, and researcher within the field of architecture, I had a dream, a small dream: for architects and architecture to promote the process of peacemaking, not only in my country but in all conflict zones all over the world.

The Journey was not easy at all. The dream had started to fade behind the rapidly rising conflicts in Baghdad, especially following the civil war of 2006, until the moment when a light started to emerge again at the end of the tunnel. I was blessed with a scholarship to study a PhD abroad. The dream came alive: to study at a University in the United States was the key to my goal.

Being blessed again, I was accepted to study at the University of Cincinnati and that was for me the very first step to bring my dream into reality. One of the requirements for the admission of international students was a language certificate in order to improve their language skills and prepare them for the academic life of University.

Initially, learning English was simply a requirement I had to fulfill in order to start my journey at the university.  I never expected that my journey would actually begin earlier, from ELS, where I learned the real meanings of living in peacefulness. The experience of learning English itself turned out to be my very first, crucial step towards achieving my dream; that is to contribute to the process of peacemaking in this world. 

From the first day, I discovered that ELS is not just a school, it is a new home and the ELS team is our new family. In that small, safe world where I was learning English, I was receiving so much more than I ever expected. Every day I had a new experience. From inside our warm, safe, small classes, I travelled all over the world through our class presentations and discussions about our countries and cultures.  I can’t count how many times we laughed together or how many times my eyes filled with tears. I can’t forget when we were asked by our teacher in SSP class about what we miss the most from our home countries, and how we all answered the same: family and food. During that class I kept listening to my young Omani friend trying his best in English to express how much he was missing his mother and how beautiful he sees her; I was feeling the same.  In our Reading and Writing class, our teacher asked us to write about unforgettable moments in our life and my Chinese friend shared with us his experience with his parents when he was a little child. He used to see a homeless person with his child begging on the street every day on their way to school. His parents taught him to never to look down on that homeless child; instead, he should help him because a homeless child is also a human being and we all need to help each other.    

I also remember my Korean friend when he was trying to explain his understanding of religion; he sees religion as a way to appreciate every beautiful blessing around us on this earth, the sun, the rivers and the seas, the moon surrounded by the stars in the night, the mountains, the colorful flowers, and the birds flying high in the sky, and he feels that there should be a great creator behind all of this beauty. 

Every time that I was blessed to listen to my friends, I asked myself the same question: how would I be able to communicate with all these wonderful people and have this rich experience and live this peacefulness without sharing English as a common language between us? 

The Experience of learning English at ELS gave me the opportunity to learn about cultures, art, history, family traditions, food, and so many other things about different countries.  My horizons expanded. I learned how to accept different points of view as new ways of seeing the whole life. But above all, it is by learning English that I started to build connections with people from different cultures and nations. I discovered the beauty of diversity and I realized that we are all, from all over the world, just a big family. We have the same feelings; the only difference is that we express them in different languages.

The time passed and I transferred to my university program and coursework.  The role of multilingualism in contributing to the process of peacemaking did not become clear enough to me until I started working on my PhD thesis. Searching deep in the theories of peace and peacemaking revealed important derivatives, among them are the following points:

The first is the crucial role of building common grounds between different groups in order to promote a more peaceful and harmonious future for them.The experience of learning English at ELS is an example for the viability of this point. The process of learning English, in one of its deep structures, was an act of building common grounds between people coming from different cultures and nations with totally different native languages. Without English as a common ground language I would not be able to communicate with my Chinese, Korean, Indian and my all other amazing friends from all over the world.

The second point is the emphasis on producing productive connections.  It is essential to the process of creating more peaceful environments to get others with all of their differences to establish new inclusive inter-relational systems. Here comes the importance, if not the urgency, of learning other languages as it enhances communication and builds productive connections between people from different cultures and nations. Building such productive connections can produce a new means of expression, or a new realization. Peacefulness, based on this point, could be the new realization in this world.

Lastly, defining the process of peace building distinguishes negative from positive peace.  Negative peace is an act that halts the direct violence, but it does not end the tension, while positive peace is a process of life enhancement. Positive peace is not a direct act and it is not the absence of violence; it is, rather, a process of creative transformation towards achievement of more sustainable peaceful environments. Building common grounds and producing productive connections are crucial for this creative transformation. Learning other languages helps end separation and opens the doors for creating more communicative and dialogic spaces, wherein multiple points of view benefit from each other’s presence, without necessarily resolving themselves or negating each other. Within such spaces, transformation towards achieving sustainable peacefulness would be possible.

It may seem that the dream of peacemaking in a world full of meaningless wars and war consequences is almost impossible, but sharing my life journey until this moment might be an inspiration. 


  1. John Paul Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (Washington D.C.: United States Insyitute of Peace Press, 1997), 73-87.
  2. John Wilmerding, “The Theory of Active Peace,” Peace and Collaborative Development Network. Colombia University, January 4, 2009, http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/forum/topics/the-theory-of-active-peace.

  3. Graham Livesey, “Assemblage” in The Deleuze Dictionary, ed. Adrian Parr (Edinburg: Edinburg University Press, 2010), 18-19.

  4. Johan Galtung, Peace By Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 1996), 9-23.

  5. Dongsei Kim, “Towards A Dialogic Peace in the Demilitarized Zone,” Architecture of peace 40, no. 2 (2014): 40-43.

 

My long journey goes back to 1990, when my father left this world. My mother showed strength and great care: education was her very first priority. She used to repeat her dream for me: to become an architect as my father wished, and to get a graduate degree from a university in the United States of America. Although becoming an architect was not an easy dream to achieve, to continue my graduate studies in the United States of America was such a huge dream, enough to be unrealistic and close to impossible. The situations were especially difficult due to the economic embargo suffered by the Iraqi people at that time in addition to many other political and social pressures. But, my mother used to say: “dreams have to be huge otherwise what can change our reality but the ambition to achieve our unrealistic huge dreams?”

Time passed. Despite all the difficulties, by 2002, I was not only the first architect woman in my family but also the first woman with a Master’s degree in Architecture.  Soon after, by 2003, the Iraq War was announced; my mother left this world, but her dream stayed with me and became mine.

In 2003, my first day as a faculty in the same university I graduated from, was the same first day of official work after the military operation in Iraq. Everything in Baghdad including my University turned into destruction. The situation rapidly deteriorated that by 2006 a civil war had broken out; there was bombing, blocked roads, fighting everywhere. Life in Baghdad had almost reached a zero point; many professors left Iraq, students couldn’t attend classes. All of these difficult circumstances were challenges that pushed me to identify a clear goal for my life: to have a positive role in rebuilding this society.

In December 2009, I walked toward the stage among the Arab Ministers of Housing and Construction at the Arab League in Cairo while my name was announced, to receive the Architect Award of the Arab World as a first woman winner of the award. With every step I saw all the faces that have supported me in my long journey, teachers, real friends, and my family especially my parents.

By March 2013, my mother’s impossible dream came true. I started learning English at ELS preparing for my next academic life in the University of Cincinnati, United States Of America.

By 2014, I was the winner of Tamayouz, Excellence Award in Architecture, for the rising star category, announced by Angela Brady; the former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA.

My journey has not yet ended; as an architect and scholar, I am working on the possibility of introducing the concept of architecture of peace. As a citizen of the global society I am calling for the learning other languages for the role of multilingualism in building connections and common grounds between different cultures and nations, a role which is crucial to the process of rebuilding positive sustainable peacefulness in our global society.

I am fully aware that this is a huge dream and maybe difficult to achieve. But I believe that if peace is our desire, and if each of us take the responsibility and if we all stand together to achieve it, then impossible itself would be the impossible. Peace can become the new realization making this world a better place for living not only for us but also for the next generations to come and the role of multilingualism can help us achieve this dream.  Love still exists deep in our hearts; all we need is to bridge the differences together and bring the barriers down.

Bibliography

  1. Galtung, Johan. Peace By Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization. Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 1996.
  2. Kim, Dongsei. “Towards A Dialogic Peace in the Demilitarized Zone,” Architecture of peace 40, no. 2 (2014): 40.
  3. Lederach, John Paul. Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997. P: 73-87.
  4. Livesey, Graham. “Assemblage”  in The Deleuze Dictionary, edited by Adrian Parr, 18-19. Edinburg: Edinburg University Press, 2010.
  5. Wilmerding, John. “The Theory of Active Peace.” Peace and Collaborative Development Network. Colombia University, January 4, 2009. http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/forum/topics/the-theory-of-active-peace

 

Venus Suleiman Akef

Architect_venus@yahoo.com

Venus

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