Monday, March 29, 2010

Enamored Economics

Spring is here and I suppose love is in the air, although not in the typical sense. Milana's and my brains have been a bit under-stimulated as we discuss exchange rates and the current account in our Econ class, so she has turned  to creating the following economics-inspired pick up lines:

* You are my asset. (I can't help but ponder the subtle difference between this statement and "You are an asset to me," which she realized is what she meant to say.)
* In my eyes, you're always appreciating.
* My demand for you will never fall.
And last but not least, thanks to the paperwork accompanying final submission of our IB assessments:
*I'd love you even if you were a tax form.
 ...what has our education come to?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Globalvision

During the annual Model United Nations conference hosted here at UWCiM, we have a tradition of imitating Eurovision with our own set of performances dubbed "Globalvision." For the Americans in the audience who are unfamiliar with Eurovision, think European Union (plus Israel and Azerbaijan) meets American Idol...each country selects an artist and song to represent it, and then there is a televised competition in the spring in which viewers text to vote for the winner. Our version tends toward the irreverent and comedic, although there have also been some stunning vocal talents. A while back I posted about our Sound of Music girls' night in...well, we decided to mutate our love for the musical into a Globalvision entry, the result of which was a medley of all the favorites interspersed with some yodeling, Jeremih, and Black Eyed Peas...good times.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Zabranjeni" for a Reason

Thursday night was the eve of our final Internal Assessment deadlines, and I spent it in Sarajevo on the set of a Bosnian talk show called Zabranjeni (Forbidden) Forum. I can't say it's similar to Oprah or Jerry Springer or any of the others I'm familiar with. The premise is noble enough: to provide experts and the public a forum through which to discuss pressing but taboo subjects in modern society, but I'd have to say it falls short of its aim. Our question was: Are women the only victims of domestic violence, or to men perpetuate it against women as well? An interesting question, but the memories I'm left with are mostly of an egotistic talk show host, an aching back on the bleachers, Simone in the row ahead leaning against my knees and making it that much harder to sit up straight, the guest who insisted all women have a genetic and identical desire to get married as soon as possible and torture their husbands, and a caller who lamented that his life has been hell since his wife hit him in the forehead with a hammer eight years ago and who now claims he is afraid to take a shower or walk in the dark because she will turn out the lights so soap runs into his eyes or will come up behind him and try to kill him...seriously?!

Talking is always a good first step, but as any UWC student can tell you, it's just a pain in the brain unless someone with real knowledge and capability steps up and suggests a reasonable plan of action. When BiH society is ready to really address these taboo topics to raise awareness and find a solution, I'll rejoice. This time, I had to agree with our university counselor in saying that the only thoughts my mind when we left this forum were, "Oi vei, what a waste of an evening," and "I don't even care...just get me OUT!"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Abu Dhabi in Pictures


The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of the most impressive structures I've ever seen and hands down the most stunningly beautiful. These pictures don't do it's size justice. To give you a frame of reference, the prayer room underneath the two largest domes in the first picture will easily hold 10,000 people. The mosque was just recently completed with materials imported from around the world, and it contains the world's largest crystal chandelier and rug, seen above. For those who are wondering, no, it is not required to wear the abaya and head covering everywhere in the UAE, but it is done out of respect when visiting mosques.
A model of Saadiyat Island, located off the coast of Abu Dhabi, on which architectural tributes to the Louvre, and the Guggenheim will be located along with the campus of NYUAD and other cultural attractions.
Evidence of the incredible expansion in the UAE...hopefully at a more sustainable level in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai! On the right is a view of the world's tallest building from Dubai airport. It's even more impressive up close, but since I saw it in the wee hours of the morning the first time, this is as close as I could get with the camera! To the left is a view of construction seen from the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi...we were told construction continues 24-hours a day, but only at night in the hottest months of summer.
And here is the Emirates Palace "hotel" itself, surely one of the most expensive venues in the world. Again, these pictures hardly do it justice, but suffice it to say that the Ferrari's and Lamborghini in its valet parking and the number of dignitaries who have stayed here are probably a good indicator of its opulence. As for the interior, they say everything that looks like gold is. We had a multiple-course dinner in their outdoor gardens on our last night, complete with the sound of the ocean, dancers, and view of the gazebos and fountains which kept me just waiting for a princess Jasmine to appear. It was an unforgettable experience but a bit surreal for this Midwesterner!
Despite the plentiful opulence, Abu Dhabi seems to be a lively and comfortingly less than immaculate city. It's a hub connecting North, South, East, and West in many ways, and an ideal place to make connections...like the one my coyear from UWC in Hong Kong and I made here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's a SMALL World After All

Since becoming a member of the UWC community the world has gotten progressively smaller and I'm getting used to finding random connections between people on opposite sides of the globe. It was pointed out to me by my English professor last year that Americans tend to introduce each other by looking for connections among themselves. (ie - "Where are you from? Tuskeegee? Oh, I have an aunt that lives there!") This weekend, however, is becoming almost unrealistically exceptional...besides the airport and airplane connections mentioned in the previous entry, check out these other inescapable bonds pulling my world together:

-My coyear at Li Po Chun UWC in Hong Kong is here...we haven't seen each other since our interview in Chicago. The NYU people already know us because of the other UWCers who have attended previous selection weekends here in Abu Dhabi.
-There are 2 other UWCers here, and the hosts already know us from others who visited previous candidate weekends.
-The guy I'm sitting next to as I type this is from Plano, Texas, PESH, in fact...which means that 1) we know some of the same people (Margo that's you!) and 2)if I hadn't moved, we would have gone to school together.
-One of the local students from Abu Dhabi met some of the people from UWC Adriatic when they did their project week there.
-Not only are architectural tributes to the Louvre and the Guggenheim being constructed on Saadiyat Island along with the school's new campus, the Cleveland Clinic is also coming to Abu Dhabi!
-In Istanbul, I had a random UWC encounter when I ran into my biology teacher at the airport!
I'm pretty sure there were others I've forgotten to mention but the point is clear...that annoying and never-ending Disney song is coming true!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

UAE Part 1

So I just have to start by saying...this is, hands down the SINGLE coolest thing I have EVER done in my life!
Life is a series of moments, and in the last two days, these have been some of my moments:

- Having coffee in Sarajevo airport with a German woman who works with the youth theatre in Mostar.
-Drinking Mango Pomegranate Ice Tea from Starbuck's in Istanbul airport while reading Two Lives and waiting for my flight
-On the Istanbul-Dubai flight, sitting next to a guy from Kumanova, Macedonia on his way to Iraq. My friend Iva is from here and her dad works for the same company...and although it's a small town, I've been there! Most of the American responses he gets in Iraq are similar to, "Yeah, man...Madagascar! I know where that is!" so I hope I brought the score up for Americans and their geography.
-Being given VIP airport service at 2:30 in the morning...and getting some stares from people who looked like they were wondering why a girl in jeans and a sweatshirt gets a personal escort.
-Staying up the rest of the night with a Russian, a Chinese, and another American, getting my first views of the desert, a palace, and the tallest building in the world by night!
-Going to bed at sunrise after being brought room service I didn't even ask for...I literally did the throwing myself on the bed and jumping in excitement thing...it's just so freakin' cool! (pics to come)
-Coldstone ice cream on the beach while listening to the Latin Americans talk about what they were doing during the earthquakes
-Visiting the Emirates Palace after our escort made a call to get us inside the gates....by the way, this hotel is one of the most expensive in the world, and definitely one of the most impressive buildings I've ever seen and the fanciest I've ever visited (they style themselves a 7 star hotel)...pictures to come soon! There is also a small museum about Sadiyaat Island, where NYUAD's new campus will be located along with updated replicas of the Louvre and the Guggenheim.
-Swimming at the hotel beach and the world's longest gang of UNO while listening to karaoke so bad the songs were nearly unrecognizable
-BBQ chicken, sushi, hummus, and chocolate mousse all in the same meal...and all delicious
-TOO MANY introductions...like intro week as a firstie at UWC again. :)
....and SO much anticipation of tomorrow.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Going for First at FIRST

The last week has been a drag...there's no other way to say it. On Monday I was so confused I thought it was Tuesday, tried to go to lunch early, forgot to attend meetings I had been inviting people to all day, and ended up throwing in the towel and going to bed early. Somehow I made it, and now it's Project Week so everyone's in good spirits. The idea is that we travel around the region a bit with the aim of getting to know our "home" a little better and maybe doing some volunteer work to invest in it. The award for furthest travel goes to our Robotics Team, started by my first year Ingrid, who are now in Israel at a FIRST robotics competition.

I'm so incredibly proud of what she has accomplished...when I first heard the idea of making a working, competition robot I admit I was skeptical. Working with people of different nationalities we are familiar with, but add in the inexperience factor, local mentors and students with varied schedules and levels of English, devilish time restraints, and limited materials...well, let's just say, it would be hard to overestimate the significance of what they've accomplished!!! The team has made the news multiple times, and aside from building a wicked robot, they've nearly flawlessly accomplished the integration which is supposed to be our school's main aim.

Spirit of the United Neretva, have fun in the sun. And good luck today!!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Born in the USA

This week is the Northern/Western/Southern Europe and North American/Caribbean cultural week. Yeah. The feast kicked off with some awesome sloppy joes, brownies, mac & cheese, and pasta salad contributed by the Americans, Dutch pancakes, Danish rice, and other treats, but they were rivaled by some very interesting country presentations. It's a pretty diverse group of countries being represented here, but one thing we all have in common is our "westernized" heritage and an abundance of stereotypes. So, we capitalized on these for some funny "man-in-the-hallway" interviews, the American segment of which is seen here.
Our response was a montage of American icons (Starbucks, Ronald McDonald, Obama...you know the type) ending with a declaration that although every country has it's contradictions, we are proud to be a country that allows people to be whoever they want to be...like these lovely people.












Gauge the sarcasm as you wish.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Welcome to the Pruture

Upon reflection, I realize that the statement that UWCers don't consider our schools to be a part of the countries they're located in is not entirely true here. One of our main aims is show that integration into the community of Mostar is possible, not in the sense that we try to tell anyone how to live or think we can solve all their problems, but in the sense that we take a genuine interest in building relationships and making this place our home. I'm sorry to say I personally have failed on many levels in that respect, partly due to the the fact that the internal struggles of UWC life are so intense that we get comfortably stuck in our bubble and forget the importance of letting it pop. Now that the future of the school is a little more solid than a question mark, we're looking both back and ahead to define whether we really do have a purpose here, what that is, and what carrying it out will look like in our daily lives. It's a complicated issue, believe me, and is leading to discussions ranging from whether international students should be obligated to learn local to whether our CAS (extracurriculers) are really approached in a way that will have a positive impact, from whether we as students need more pastoral support to whether we have a responsibility to focus on studying now so we can "give back" in the future, or to try to contribute something to Mostar and UWCiM now and to go back to our home countries later...and do we even deserve the scholarships we've been given?

This week is dedicated especially to bringing up these issues with the intention of making a unified mission statement but more importantly of recognizing what we can improve on and putting those realizations into action! This involves looking at the past, present, and future... we dub it the pruture. For us 2nd years, this is a metaphorical passing of the torch onto the firsties. We spend most of last spring fighting for the school to continue, and although it was an exhausting struggle, it drew us together and helped us grow up. Since they don't have to fight that fight, the first years are generally full of energy, optimism, and a will to initiate projects and represent the school with growing commitment integrity. To start off the week, we made this video to illustrate the fact that we have several viewpoints even among ourselves...and definitely areas for thought and improvement.

(I'm afraid the Internet connection's not sufficient for both uploading videos and doing research for lab reports, so...check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tFX-g6gs_8

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Shout out to my sista'

Today was sunny (nice for a meeting on the stage in Spanish Square), productive (no more Geography Internal Assessment), filled with the sounds and aromas of a Balkan cultural feast, and topped off with entertainment provided by my sister. The Austrians had never seen the sound of music, and we figured they're obligated. So the obvious thing to do was...make a girls' night out of it! Thanks for giving up your DVD Rebecca...just be glad you didn't have to hear us sing along.

Friday, March 5, 2010

You Know You Went to a UWC When...

This Facebook group gave us a good number of smiles this weekend, and reminded me how much of a bubble I do live in. Here's a sampling of the points that I've personally seen in action. I'll leave it to you to decide whether UWCers cross the line from college camaraderie to sect-like status...

1. You have seen Zeitgeist, Life and Debt, Who Killed The Electric Car, An Inconvenient Truth, or most likely all of them.
2. You have to bite your tongue to keep from introducing yourself like you did at UWC: "Hi, I'm [name] from [country]".
3. You can speak multiple languages yet your English gets "worser and worser each day".
4. Normal people DON'T get your jokes.
5. You hate to admit it but you miss mass e-mails.
6. Even if you were the slacker at UWC you study the most out of all of your other friends.
7. It surprises you how much younger the zero years get EVERY year.
8. You have to explain the difference between co-years and co-years, and first, second, and zero years to non-UWCers who always struggle to grasp the concept.
9. You know geography from travel itineraries, not a classroom.
10. You'd never get stranded in a foreign country, you'd just show up at your friend's house.
11. Dorm rooms seem huge now.
12. Anytime someone tells you where they're from you know more about it than they expect you to.
13. Foreign songs you used to hate because people played them all the time at UWC are now in regular rotation on your iTunes.
14. Your Newsfeed on Facebook is populated with articles from BBC, CNN, one random one from Al-Jazeera, and declarations of Skype appointments that will invariably not be met.
15. Shelby Davis paid for all or part of your education.
16. You see people who look exactly like your coyears/friends everywhere and go crazy for a moment before you realize there's no way that's them.
17. You procrastinate like someone is paying you to do it.
18. Anytime you meet another Udubber you automatically know some of the same people. Coincidentally you share an understanding of how crazy those people are.
19. You know that not everyone from Afghanistan is a terrorist but completely understand why someone might think that.
20. You know that Africans make some of the best DJ's.
21. You fast for Ramadan but you're not a Muslim.
22. There's a country that you hate now because of that one person from there.
23. You don't really know how to explain UWC to normal people.
24. You have mini-reunions every time you have a break from school.
25. You wear that dingy UWC Hoodie and/or T-Shirt with pride and anytime someone is going back to your UWC you send them with money to get you more UWC clothing.
26. You don't consider your UWC to be part of the country it's actually in.
27. You forget that the real world has time zones except when you need to call home. All of your UWC friends will definitely be awake when you call them.
28. You wonder why you can't get sick days in college.
29. You still expect there to be that massive plague of sickness at the beginning of every semester like there used to be in UWC.
30. You know that snoring sounds different in every language, as do cows.
31. You remember when one of your coyears/friends spoke absolutely no English at all but still tried to tell jokes...and you laughed.
32. "You respect your second years, you worship your Third Years."
33. You start making politically correct remarks not to be correct but to avoid even longer and more disagreeable meetings.
And last but not least...
34. You have an opinion about American people that somehow hasn't changed regardless of the fact that none of the Americans are anything alike.

Monday, March 1, 2010

PostSecret Therapy

Last fall, I applied to read English at Oxford on the off-chance it might lead to reading literature in the same hallowed halls as greats like Lewis and Tolkein. I made it as far as having an interview with Balliol College, which I consider in itself a great achievment! But I'm not gonna lie...some part of my pride was slightly hurt at being rejected. I mean, who wouldn't want the selfish pleasure of saying they turned Oxford down. The fact is, if I'd gotten an offer I would have wanted to accept it even though it's financially unfeasible and I'm pretty sure pedantic English literature expert is not the life path I want to pursue. Today I was browsing PostSecret. For those not familiar, PostSecret is a collection of people's secrets sent anonymously in the form of creative postcards and published in books, on their website, and even through a Facebook feed. I saw this postcard on their blog...it made everything better.