Uganda project update

This is a very late update on the status of the project we worked on while we were in Uganda. While I was in Uganda this summer, my group and I were hoping to see a well be dug for the Sisters’ new complex. This was, of course, after we had originally planned to build a spring box around a spring on the new land, only to discover that there actually wasn’t a spring. So we settled for paying for a well to be dug, and hoped that we might get to actually see the process. We did not see the process, because the trucks required to dig the well weren’t able to make it through the roads when we were there, and later the truck driver got sick, which precluded them from making another attempt before we returned to the United States.

I said this was a very late update because it really should have been posted 3 or 4 months ago, when the well was finally dug. It was a few weeks after the start of the semester when we got an email from our professor, informing us that the well was finally complete. This was great news to hear, because once we left we didn’t really know what would happen, and whether the well would ever actually get dug or not. This is a huge problem with service trips like the one we took to Uganda- three weeks is not enough time to get a lot done, and unless you or somebody else follows up on what you did, a lot of time it doesn’t end up being completed, or it breaks quickly, and then it’s no longer helpful. I’m glad to know that at the very least the well was dug, and OU also has a long-term plan to continue working with Sister Rosemary, so it should be maintained for a long time.

Staying Connected after studying abroad

A while ago, I got a message from one of the girls I met in Uganda. She just wanted to know how I was doing, and wanted help getting in contact with some of the other people who went to Uganda with me. It was really great to hear from her, and it got me thinking about staying connected to all the people you meet when you go abroad. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t done a good job of that. Like I’ve done a really terrible job, despite phones, and wechat, and facebook, and skype, and all the other technology that should theoretically make it really easy to stay in contact with people. But it’s not as easy as it sounds, because once you go back home, and get settled back in to life in the U.S., you just don’t end up thinking about those people as much. Not because you don’t care about them, but you just never see them or hear from them. I’m not particularly talkative either, and it’s not always easy to know what to say when you haven’t talked to someone in a while.

I’ve met so many wonderful people during the two study abroad trips I’ve done with OU, and it would be such a shame just to not keep in contact with those people. Technology is a good tool, but it’s still up to us to keep in contact with people. It’s still up to us to send that first message, and I’d like to do a better job of that in the future. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some messages to send.

CLC Moon Festival

This year was the first year that I got to enjoy the Moon Festival celebration put on by CLC without having to worry too much about trying to find a room to have it in, or come up with a presentation, or try to get people to sign up for the CLC mailing list. It was definitely nice to be able to just enjoy the event without running around like a crazy person the whole time. Like every year, we celebrated with moon cakes and other food, and listened to a presentation about moon festival. As a previous presenter at this exact event last year, I was surprised to actually learn something new about moon festival. In addition to eating moon cakes and gathering with family, another tradition is to carry lanterns, or to hang lanterns with riddles on them for people passing by to solve. I didn’t really know about this, but it sounds like a lovely tradition. I did a little more research on it, and it’s actually kind of interesting, because unlike moon cakes, it doesn’t go all that far back in Chinese history, and nobody really knows why there are lanterns for moon festival. Moon cakes are probably the most well-known tradition associated with the festival, and have been associated with in pretty much for as long as it has existed. They are also only associated with moon festival. Lanterns, on the other hand, are associated with a variety of different festivals, and haven’t always been associated with Moon festival. It actually looks like over time, the traditions associated with lanterns were kind of transmitted between festivals, so that now Moon festival, which did not actually have lanterns, and has no story as to what lanterns originally meant to the festival, is now associated with lanterns. I just think that’s pretty interesting.

Anyway, the CLC Moon festival was a lot of fun. It was good to see all the Chinese professors, especially now that I don’t get to take very many Chinese classes anymore. And it was also good to meet the new CLC members and see old friends. The new CLC officers did a really good job of getting the food and presentations organized, and keeping the event running smoothly, and I can’t wait to see what events CLC has next semester.

Leadership Change in China Talk

A couple weeks ago I went to a talk by Joseph Fewsmith on Leadership Change in China, and it’s implications for US-China relations. China had it’s 19th Party Congress in October, which is basically a meeting among China’s top officials to decide on new officials and policies. The congress is held every 5 years, and a new president is installed every other congress. The party congress this year did not see a new president, but did have several other important developments. The Chinese government is basically organized with a president at the top (currently Xi Jinping), and four branches that all work under the president. The legislative branch (People’s National Congress), the Executive branch (the State council, whose chair is known as the Premier), the judicial branch, and the military branch. The politburo is also an important body, composed of about 25 officials. This is a decision making body, and the Politburo standing committee is a smaller group of seven from the full politburo who have a lot of decision making power. There are also of course important positions heading the different branches, and managing different provinces of China. Who gets into these positions is pretty much decided by other people on power, but there are some informal preferences for seniority, and somewhat formal age limits for officials. The main developments of the 19th party congress was the reshuffling of important officials. The basic idea is that Xi Jinping was able to promote a lot of people who agree with him without breaking the seniority of ageing out rules, so he cemented his power while avoiding backlash from the rest of the party.

There was a lot more to Dr. Fewsmith’s talk than just that, but unfortunately, I didn’t know enough about Chinese politics to really grasp all of it. The talk really was good, and the speaker definitely knew a lot about the subject, and was able to go into a lot of the nuances of the decisions made at the congress. I wish I could tell you about them, but I definitely didn’t know enough to understand any of them. Overall, I’m glad I went, because it was very interesting, and showed me that I really should learn more about Chinese politics.