Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nine months later

End of the Year Personal Evaluation

              Yesterday was my last day of school. Nine months in Morocco…I can’t believe i(I thought I would never say that) my study abroad is already over. I’m heading to Turkey on Sunday and I can’t believe I’m leaving my ultimate comfort zone .  I’ve grown so much as a person being in Morocco. I have blogged a little about the idea of “finding yourself”, which I think is a silly idea, but I do think you become more accepting of yourself. You grow as an individual because you are put into situations where you realize who you are and what you stand for.

                One of the biggest things I have realized while being in Morocco is that I am a black feminist. There are not a lot of women of color who are feminists.  Being here has made me realize there is not enough black women on the front line fighting for the equality in both sectors.  Being a double minority is difficult, the odds are stacked against you in a place where you still are overcoming the recent Jim Crow laws—and Treyvon Martin cases.  Our Black and African communities are fostered around religion; our religions need to create an identity within women to balance the scale of inequality.

                I have expanded my knowledge about Islam, which is an INCREDIBLE religion, which teaches peace and selflessness…when practiced correctly (like any other religion). The west, Americans especially, seem to be so hyper-sensitive when it comes to Muslims.  First of everyone needs to understand Islam is an Abrahamic Religion just like Judaism and Christianity.  The route goes like this—

First there are Judaism, the chosen people of God, followers of Moses

Second there are the Christians who believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah—another form of God

Third we have Islam—first of all the word Islam means total SUBMISSION to God, they believe in the same God, but use the word Allah which cannot be used in gender form unlike God—Goddess…They believe in only Allah and that Mohammed was his last Prophet, they believe in Jesus, Mary, Moses, etc.
Americans (including myself) we need to brush up on your religious studies...
                I have also realized who my true friends are, communication is a two way street. When people call you up at the end of your program so you remember to bring them souvenirs, it’s like, “where have you been these last nine months”?

 I also APPRECIATE my family so much more. The support they give me is unforgettable, I feel like I can conquer the world and I know I can rely on them no matter how far apart we are!

                Patience, this is also another thing I have blogged about before…this is something we Americans need to work on. Being in Morocco we all understand the concept of Moroccan Time, which essentially means Morocco does not run on this said concept of time. Time is non-existent, which sometimes can be really eye-opening in the way that you learn to appreciate the small things in life like organization and timely fashion back in the United States, but you also understand that life is often times taken TOO seriously.  Life is meant to be enjoyed and that is DEFINITELY another thing I will be implementing into my life back home in the United States.

                The last and MOST important thing I have learned about myself is to enjoy my own company. I can do anything and everything alone. I’m not suggesting a system of total isolation, but Americans are so plugged into Social media…we are constantly worried about FOMO (fear of missing out). We have to be constantly posting, talking, and hanging out with people. When you learn to enjoy your own company it’s the MOST liberating experience. Realizing you don’t NEED people is the best because you know you genuinely want to spend time with that person; they are not just time filler.

This is my last blog whilst in Morocco, but I will be keeping you all up to date on current events as I travel around this summer.

Thank you for all your support these last nine months.

Enjoy your summer.


Ida Ayalew


Living as a woman in the Arab Muslim World

Living in Morocco has been one of the most challenging experiences coming from the United States.  The open system of patriarchy here was very difficult because the American system of discrimination is hidden, but the most important thing I've learned about women's rights while being is how patriarchal the system in the west has always been.

The Middle East and North Africa are known for its system of inequality because of gender roles, (which have must be fulfilled by men and women)…then I realized that we in the US are constantly put into gender roles. 

The fight, the struggle, the movement, lives within each woman in EVERY country and it is our duty to overcome this system of oppression regardless of where we are located.  

This poem I wrote about how living in an OPENLY misogynistic environment has made me realize that we Americans are no better than any country. Inequality is inequality and we should not SETTLE. 
--We still have not passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. The bill concludes women would essentially have wage equality, this bill was signed in 2008, twenty minutes after Obama took office…but there still has not been any changes within the system and it’s been six years. Let's not even talk about how rape isn't taken seriously enough within the court systems... their are so many problems within the U.S., but we constantly have our DIRTY fingers pointing elsewhere. I'm not willing to settle just because we compare ourselves to other countries.

At the end of the day misogyny is all about control. That's how some women are forced to veil in extremists Muslim communities…but also how western women are CONSTANTLY sexualized, why aren't women choosing what they want with their bodies? If we want to sexualize our bodies or dress modestly, we should have the ability to do so without having to dress to either A. try and avoid the eyes of men or  B. attract the eyes of men. 

 Change will come when every veiled, unveiled, sexualized, modest, intelligent, unintellectual, poor, and rich women come together to pursue every RIGHT we deserve.

I am A Feminist 

Morocco you have my soul
When we first me I could not stand you at all
All the things I’ve had to deal with to get here
I did not expect to fall---
MISERABLY, into the fate of others at my own will
I submitted my freedom to you like a slave to a master
I feared that if I did not follow your patriarchal leads
-I would stand out in the crowd, so…
I patiently waited for your arms—to accept me
For my brown skin, curves, and thighs
For that beauty mark I hold between my thighs
How could I be so blind
Without doing the research I had been told?
Adventures, adventures—to remember when I am old
Sitting in my rocking chair reading about everywhere
I went, I traveled, I ate
But I asked myself was it worth the pain
Of being a woman in an openly men dominated world
Where I can’t go to a cafĂ©
Without being looked at and scowled—I’m a woman,
Women don’t belong in cafes
They belong at home
With the babies and bread
Ya…Ya…I’ve heard it all before
 “What did you expect”
I EXPECTED to be treated like an equal
Like a human
But I was treated the same way I am treated there (U.S.)
Being a female is a joke and she’s nothing if she doesn’t have
Long straight, silky hair
But here where a large majority of women cover
From head to toe
They are told modesty is the tradition
When [some] women cover
They cover for their mother, brother, father
Very small percentage for Allah
Forgetting God has anything we want him,  no HER to be
She, it animal, almighty, existent, non-existent
We women of the west don’t realize
We are subjected to the same—THE SAME patriarchal systems
BUT if it’s ACCEPTED by a white man holding a Bible
We think we are FREE
But we are caged
Wearing Bandeo’s, tank top’s, Rain boots and Thongs (song reference)
WE are SEX
We created SEX
So what do we DO?
As women we must decide for ourselves
Must not let men decide;
What to…wear, eat, drink, buy, and smile
We stand together
With as little judgment as possible AND
Tell men; our GOD is a WOMAN
We follow the leader and if the leader is like us
We, Women were made in the image of God
Because men say to us, man was made in the image of God
Women was made from Adam’s Rib
There’s so must lost in translation it’s just glib
Human error depictions
White men’s agendas

Being in Morocco has taught me
There is no one standing in my way, but ME
Women of color; pink, red, brown, black, Carmel
We CANNOT let these men control us
We Must Rise because our souls belong to no one, but

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hello again from South Korea~

Hi everyone!!
I have been in Korea for two months now.

How I am feeling at this exact moment:
-Accomplished: So far, my semester is great, now that I have finished all of my midterms.
Speaking of midterms... The week before midterms is the worst. Everyone that you may possibly know will be studying in the library. I know, I should be studying at the library with them as well. However, one thing you should know around midterms or finals in an Asian country is DO NOT expect to find a place to study in the library; it will be completely full on every floor. Also, never expect to hangout with anyone that whole week. Korean students will be too stressed and focused on studying.
Note: There may be a handful of people who would just want to party instead of studying... DO NOT be tempted to go anywhere with them. When the time comes to taking your exams, it will come back to bite you if you slack off on studying.

-Missing home: After the first month of being in Korea, I thought I would never miss the U.S. but, I was wrong. I am missing my family, friends, and the food!
 You cannot believe the trouble I went through to find pizza made like Papa John's. The Korean-style pizza has super thin bread and tastes very healthy. Well.. who doesn't want healthy pizza...? Not me, I enjoy a well-portioned meat-and-veggies supreme pizza!
This is a Korean-style pizza at Pizza Hut

Also, if you love eating pasta, good luck finding a place that will have actual pasta noodles (penne, rotini, macaroni, etc.). A lots of restaurants and cafeterias on campus have pasta... however, it is made with long spaghetti noodles.

Spicy Chicken Pasta (Notice it has spaghetti noodles..)
*A big food tip for being in Korea: Most Korean food are spicy!!! So, if you do not enjoy killing your taste buds, Korea is a bad place to eat. Oh but fear not, some places will have food that is not so spicy, so ask first. Personally, I like spicy food, but sometimes I cannot handle the spicy levels of Korean food, even the soups (which most meals will come with).
Also, they do not have much salty food, which I like. So, if you like to add salt to your food, you cannot do that in Korea unless you are cooking your own meals. 
Overall, I enjoy eating Korean food almost every day, but from time to time I miss the food I eat in America.

-Excited for the new adventures: I have experienced so many events and places these past two months.
I have been to:
--A traditional Korean palace
--National Museum of Korea
--Han River
--Cherry Blossom festival
--Many shopping districts (Still more to see)
--Thai festival
--I got a massage for the first time (by the way, it was very painful and relaxing at the same time)
--Participated in the Lotus festival parade for Buddha's Birthday (holding lit lotus lanterns) all through Seoul.
Seijin Kwon and I at the Lotus Festival
There are still a lot to experience during my semester here in Korea. I am looking forward to sharing more of my adventures~

Ting Ngov

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Three Essentials Things to Study Abroad Weekend Traveling

Hola Todos!

My program is coming to end soon and I really just wanted to share with you a few things I've learned through experience since my last post. So, from about the end of February I have been traveling somewhere almost every weekend with Either my program (ISA) or my friend Shaylynn. Info info we have so far been to Girona, Valencia, South of France, Madrid, Amsterdam, Paris, and just recently Portugal. Through all this traveling I've learned a few things That I find essential in trying to enjoy the Study Abroad travel experience while staying focused on the main purpose Also to study abroad - which is your culture and education perspective.

The first of the essential things is: Preparation

If you plan to travel During the weekend it's best to plan as soon as possible and as much as possible. Many of my teachers are very lenient when it comes to traveling but They can only bend the rules as much as the program will allow. Almost all of my classes have a very strict attendance policy (not very common in the States) in Which you can only miss 4-8 classes in order to be able to take the final exam (depending on how many hours of class you have) . I usually write down all the important dates in my classes - exams, quizzes, presentations ect - so there are no confusions That when booking trips.We do not have classes on Friday, which is good for traveling on the weekend, but a lot of people like to try to leave Thursday after class and come back Monday morning before class just to get the Most out of the weekend. In That case I would suggest saving your allotted absences for times where cutting it close That Could go wrong, ie you miss the train on you way back from the airport, your flight gets delayed, or worse case scenario you miss you flight all together. In another sense, sometimes flights are cheaper for one day That Dramatically Increase Whereas drastically They next day. For example, Shaylynn and I traveled to Amsterdam on Thursday on Which to my class ends at 24:30 and she has a class ends at 7:45 pm That. The flight for Amsterdam was much cheaper than in the afternoon and one in the evening was much cheaper than in the evening That early morning next Friday. Though it would Have Been much cheaper to travel in the afternoon on Thursday (In Which We both miss class), Shaylynn is allotted eight absences in her class while I am only allotted four. It's little tweaks like that can Interferes with traveling, that's why it's essential to Efficiently So THAT if need be to missed class does not Affect you plan progress in class.

Preparation and planning are essential not only for your attendance in class but Also for your finances. Budgeting is a key factor when it comes to planning a trip or even weekends spent Study Abroad in your city. I live in a home stay and my mother cooks breakfast, lunch, and dinner for me and my roommates every day. However, sometimes I eat in between meals, and Usually I'm out of the house all day on weekends. Also many of our program excursions do not include meals. Eventually all this adds up, and trying to pay for food, living, entertainment and travel to where ever you May Becomes a bit more difficult towards the end of the program.

The second of the essential thing goes Along with the first one and it is: Studying

Strategically planning your trips clears up any confusion or inconveniences you would run into while traveling, but you Also have to Consider your traveling time. My Study Abroad semester is much Shorter than a semester at UMKC. Our classes end on April 10th, info info we have spring break, then we come back for finals for two days, April 22nd and 23rd. Usually classes are much Easier for the first two or three weeks. A lot of people take advantage of These weekends to travel  where keeping up with your school work is not so difficult Often Because You have little to none. However, a problem is Most people When studying abroad find alone (like me), the first couple of weeks are spent trying to find friends and travel buddies. Often by the time you find someone to travel somewhere and your school work has gotten a little bit harder and requires more time studying .  I suggest at the beginning That the program of study you set-up times THROUGHOUT the week as soon as you Become accustomed to your class schedule. Now, here in Barcelona there are a lot of little things people like to explore and see after class Such as parks, museums, as well as go to the beach. This is where I would suggest you plan your weeks Strategically (correlating With the first essential thing I Mentioned) for both "study time" and "exploring time". For example, Monday and Wednesday I have a class at 24:40 That Ends. and another from 3:40 pm-5: 8:00 pm. Between this time I go to the ISA office, eat lunch, and study; After class on Monday I usually plan my weekend (book trips, plan random adventures, ect.). Wednesday after class I study until dinner (Which is normally around 9pm). Tuesdays and Thursdays my classes end at 24:40, so I have the  Entire  day to explore and study. Tuesday afternoon I usually study for Most of the day then explore until dinner. Thursdays I finish planning my weekend (packing if I am planning on traveling) and study for the weekend so I do not That Have to cram for anything Sunday night or Monday before the class. This essential thing is very nit-picky and Usually not much fun, but the main purpose for studying abroad is the educational part and it's very much worth it to  be able to travel  THROUGHOUT the program with out any worries on schoolwork.

Finally the last essential thing is: Keeping up with your Health

As simple as that sounds, Constantly traveling does take a lot out of you. Like I said before Most people try to take advance of the cheaper flights after class at night or early in the morning before class coming back, But Usually This results in little sleep. I do not know about you, but I find it really hard to get a good night's rest on a plain or a train. Just recently on my Portugal trip we took advantage of an early morning flight on Monday in order to make it to my 11:00 a.m. class. The flight left at 6:50 a.m. Which meant we needed to wake up at 3am, leave by 4am, and be at the airport to check in and go though security by 5am. We arrived in Barcelona at 9am and then I had to go to class! Inexpensive flights are a bonus, but sometimes they come with a down side: such as This. Traveling all day, almost every weekend can be a drainer on your body Especially with a lack of sleep to add to it.  Twice During my time abroad I've caught a cold Because of so much traveling, the change in weather, lack of sleep , and lack of water. My previous essential things to traveling, preparing / planning and studying are Most ideas importance of ideas, but They take up a good amount of time THROUGHOUT the week days. This means trying to catch up That on  the  sleep That You May have missed over the weekend Becomes a lot more difficult and can cause a great deal of stress!

With only about three weeks left in my program I thought it would be good to share what I felt was essential to enjoying your travel Study Abroad experiences while never losing focus to the true purpose. Not every one likes this much Have To Consider When so many destinations to wait, but it's definitely worth it so you will not ever have to look back With Any regrets!

Until then!
Gabby Smith