This week, it hit me. This is the end of my master’s program. In the upcoming weeks, I will complete the last two week course on methodology and project management during which I will be endowed with the last bit of academic course work needed to complete my Master’s Final Project. But this week, I finished my last class of the development semester and my last intercultural seminar which has been incredible. I am within the end of this master’s program and although it feels amazing to say that, it also is as exhilarating as a roller coaster; exciting yet terrifying.
Today was a special intercultural seminar where we were able to listen to one of our own discussing an issue very important to her, the 12 Steps Program. Sarah Ferguson created a presentation to discuss addiction and her personal story through the 12 Steps Program in California. She specifically highlighted how the 12 Steps Program could possibly be adapted in order to promote positive peace transformation process. As I listened to each one of the steps and how they require you to reflect sincerely on your life so you can strengthen your faculties of compassion, honesty, forgiveness and love, I thought of how this process could be adopted to the issues related in our master’s program, specifically to conflict. Initially I thought that it would be very difficult or related to only some specific issues, but as I was researching the relation between addiction and trauma, I discovered the following video and I realized that the relationship between addiction and trauma are closer than it may seem.
During this intercultural seminar, I was extremely jetlagged after having just arrived from a long trip from Wisconsin back to Castellón de la Plana to start the last course that I would have for this semester. Fighting through the haze, I listened as intently as I could to the guest speaker, Marisol Brenchat Gil, who came to discuss the importance of emotional education in primary and secondary school systems. I always appreciate these types of seminars because I feel it really is important to look at traditionally marginalized fields, such as emotional education, when looking at education systems as a whole. As I was listening, I remembered my first class in this master’s program and the discussion we had on gendered education, as in what has been considered the Ethics of Care (traditionally associated with the female gender) and the Ethics of Justice (traditionally associated with the male gender). Most of the time, whenever I discuss this topic, most people think of the images below and the separation of boys and girls in the classroom, but I think it is time that we re-evaluate our education system and the way we have essentially silenced the Ethics of Care.
During this seminar, I participated in the recording of a radio play. Radio plays are common throughout Africa as entertainment and, as Esther Esho states throughout her presentation, can be used as a tool for social change. I played the character of Mrs. Sodada, chief of the village and teacher.
I have included the script for There is Hope for Africa in this blog.
The price of happiness. Something that is apparently unquantifiable, or so it seemed until Professor Jorge Guardiola along with some of my classmates presented about the economics of being happy and the economic concept of “living well.” Although I am not an economist and I have only had one class dedicated completely to economy, these concepts are not altogether foreign either. As I listened to the seminar, I could not shake the ideas of Denver, CO, floating through my head as I thought of my service year with AmeriCorps HealthCorps and how it would affect my perception of economic happiness and living well.
This week, we were told to meet on Tuesday instead of Wednesday for a very special seminar. One of our fellow students, Shaza Masri, had previously worked with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, was able to get an interview with a former colleague of hers who is currently in charge of the UN’s response to refugees throughout the upper Middle East area. This area incorporates Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, parts of Iraq and Syria. This representative gave us a first-hand account of what it was like to work in a UN commissioned field along with the current refugee situation in Syria. It was a fascinating look into many of our hopeful futures. Personally for me, it was a pleasant reminder of one of the initial reasons I wanted to work internationally, in order to work with the United Nations. This interview sparked a renewed desire to see how I could fit into the world’s biggest political arena.
This week we had an honored guest, a meditation guru monk, who taught us different styles of meditation. Meditation, although not something I do as regularly as I should (as shown by Meditation and the Brain), has always been something that fascinate those of us who dedicate part of our lives to peace. That is the more affable way of saying that this is my fifth internal peace/meditation/self-reflection and mindfulness seminar in one year which means I honestly struggle to find something new or innovative to discuss about the topic. I think it is fascinating, I am always motivated to do it more, but I somehow struggle to sit still for a long period focusing on my breathing. It was at this point of the practice that I felt my mind wonder to an activity that I had done years ago; attend a Japanese language immersion camp, Mori no Ike, where I learned what is the equivalent of one year’s schooling of Japanese. What I specifically thought of was my summer project, tending to the camp rock garden.
As the semester continued to pass, more conferences were occurring and essentially more work had to be done. During this week’s presentation, I was fresh off the plane after traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland, to go to an academic conference at the University of Edinburgh and I was beat, but I knew that I had to come. Erin has been talking extensively about her master’s thesis, her work with Professor Araceli Alonso and the infamous Meringa Tree, the essential tree of life to the women she worked with in Kenya. The presentation was amazing, her dedication clearly shown as she painstakingly set the background for what she has been researching and her approach was refreshing when it comes to development work (and our current semester focused on development as well). As I heard of her approach, I thought of the importance of the people-led development, specifically the people to whom the development is directed, and testing to make sure that development programs suggested do indeed work.
As I sat down to listen to this seminar, I was interested yet sorely uninformed about the topic. Although I am well aware of who Zapata was and what his role was in the Mexican Revolution in 1910, I was relatively unaware of the Zapatista Revolution in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994. This revolution, started from the periphery of Mexican population, indigenous groups of Chiapas, has attempted to right the obvious wrong and damage that is being done to indigenous communities throughout Mexico as it came into legal accordance with the NAFTA agreement. Through its many phases, it has seen periods of violence, non-violence and struggle which have allowed it to reform its practices to the practiced nonviolence that is more present today. It is this act of nonviolence, the conscious choice to not intervene violently, that interests me today.
Aikido. The martial arts with a peaceful touch? It seems unrealistic that the first seminar that wasn’t either my own or about research methodology involved a martial art. However, as I studied the theory behind it and looked at its practical uses, I realized that it indeed does involve many aspects of conflict theory that we promote in our master’s program. The concepts of restraint, responsible evaluation of actions and non-violence are all prominent themes that should be studied and reflected upon. These ideas intrigued me specifically to look further than just the basic theories, but also to imagine how these concepts could be applied to the topic that I hope to pursue for my master’s final project, prevention of sexual violence. I have come to realize that some of these theories could be put to use although not in the traditional (and inaccurate way) of prevention, educating a woman on self-defense so she doesn’t get assaulted, but rather possibly educating a man (since 98% of assailants are men according to the “White House Council on Women and Girls”, 2014) on how not to assault.