Arabic Talent Show Fall 2018

I have always enjoyed OU’s Arabic Flagship Program and its semi-annual talent show. This year Norman’s “Sisters” restaurant catered the invent. I enjoyed a heaping plate of hummus, tabouli, chicken schwarma, and of course Baklava! I enjoyed the live performances from the colloquial class and of course the plethora of video projects that are always filled with lots of humor. The audience was filled with regular attenders as well as new faces in the program. I really like the video with the students from the second semester class. The humor and content meshed nicely together. The quality of the production also had people wondering whether or not the students had produced it with a film studies student. Altogether, I’m already looking forward to next year’s Talent Show!

German Club’s Weihnachtsbäckerei

Ich habe mit Vanessa Erat die Weihnachtsbäckerei gehostet. Umgefahr 18 TeilnehmerInnen haben unseres Event besucht. Vanessa hat vier unterschiedliche Teige mitgebracht. Wir haben die Zutaten bei Aldi und Walmart zusammen gekauft. Vanessa hat deutsches Essen bei Aldi gefunden und sie hat ein paar Taschen von “Winternacht Gefüllte Herzen Zartbitter” gekauft. Sie war eckt glücklich!!  Wir haben die öffentliche Küche in Walker tower benutzt. Sie hat gut geklappt. Die Teige waren für traditionelle Süßigkeiten aus Österreich. Da war Lebkuchen, Vanillekipferl, Mürbteigkese, und Husarekrapferl. Die TeilnehmerInnen haben die Teige gut ausgerollt und ausgeschnitten. Da war Schneemann, Rentiere, und Weihnachtsbäume. Wir haben die Süßigkeiten gut verziert mit Schokolade und Streusel, die gut geschmeckt haben. Ich habe viele neue Wörter für die Küchengeräte gelernt. Zum Beispiel das Ausstechförmchen, das Nudelholz, und die Oblaten. Wir haben ganz viel Spaß bei der Weihnachtsbäckerei gehabt. Ich freue mich auf nächstes Jahr! Aber Ich werde Vanessa vermissen 🙁

Paper Airplanes

This past semester I have tutored English as a second language with a refugee from Syria. My student is currently living in Jordan and has sought to improve his English to better his employment opportunities. We have met once a week this semester to work on grammar, speaking, listening, and writing. I have really come to appreciate his efforts to learning English. Although he currently lives in Jordan he would like to one day return to Syria and resume his life as normal. Unfortunately the current situation has made that a great challenge. Through the curriculum we have been able to foster conversations that have brought us both to a greater understanding of the world and the position we hold within it. Altogether, Paper Airplanes has offered me a new perspective on humanity and allowed me to better comprehend the challenge of navigating the human experience through the lens of a displaces person.

Searching for an International Internship

Looking for an internship abroad can be a daunting task. Thankfully, the resources of OU’s career services have made the process a lot more approachable. For instance, the “Passport” tab on hand shake offers a database of thousands of jobs and internships with international locations. I was able to find an IT position in Germany that fits nicely with my Major and work experience. Here is my cover letter for the position. A good start to a hopefully awesome opportunity!

Dear Mr. H,

I recently spoke with Mr. Sebastian Slack, a recruiter for the sales department at Procter & Gamble, and he suggested I submit my résumé to your office. With my studies in International Business and Management Information Systems, I am confident that I am qualified for the Informational Technology Internship (IT 0000****) in Hesse, Germany.

Prior to attending university, I was an intern with the Swiss manufacturing firm, Endress & Hauser, in Maulburg, Germany. I became experienced in the process optimization philosophy known as Kaizen. Our department made over 2,300 improvements to the production line by working closely with engineers and production personnel.

I wish to continue developing my job skills by working for a larger company and utilizing my IT knowledge. The data analytics that the position offers interests me greatly. My English and German skills will also contribute to the international focus of the internship.

My resume contains additional information about my volunteer activities and certifications. I will contact your department next month to see whether we can further talk about my qualifications and internship options. Thank you, and I look forward to meeting you soon.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Thomas Heinrich

Germany Department’s Grillfest Spring 2018

Last weekend I attended OU’s Grillfest event hosted by the German department. I was able to see teachers and colleagues from my German courses and also get to meet some of their dogs. I particularly liked Jedi, Frau Chilson’s puppy. Although I don’t really eat red meat, I was able to enjoy the Sauerkraut and the bread! The mustard also made a nice pairing with the bread. It was nice to see everyone in a relaxed environment without the pressure of a class or upcoming assignment. Sarah Hobson made it into the honor society along with a couple of students I have meet through Stammtisch sessions. I met a German family who also had a nice dog named Tommy. That dog and Jedi didn’t really get along. I also got to experience the Danglish I am particularly well versed in. I could mingle between groups of experienced speakers and beginners who preferred to converse in English. Frau Chilson used the opportunity to practice the subjunctive for our Oral exam which was the following Friday. I ended up doing well on that exam! I look forward to OU’s next German Fest event and will try to be a recipient of the fancy Honor Society Certificate.

Deal or No Deal?

Iran’s increasingly assertive behavior must not be coupled with an ability to acquire a nuclear weapon. The preservation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is of vital interest to national security. As well as being a diplomatic achievement, it has done its job of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Perceived flaws within the JCPOA should be addressed by building upon what already exists. This, however, should not distract from the fact that the Iran nuclear deal has been successful. The Obama Administration did not enter into the JCPOA because it liked Iran, but rather because it did not trust the country’s ambitions. The U.S. should be more concerned about what the JCPOA has achieved, rather than what it has not. Iran’s behavior, especially as a patron of the Assad regime, is deplorable. Yet, the Iran nuclear deal was never meant to curtail objectionable behavior outside of obtaining a nuclear weapon, which it does very well. Again, it is preventing the Iranians from becoming a nuclear power. According to Harvard Professor Stephen M. Walt, through the JCPOA “Iran gave up enriched uranium, destroyed 13,000 centrifuges, dismantled the Arak reactor, let the U.N. install monitoring devices, implemented NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] Additional Protocol, and a host of other measures— all before anyone or anyone else began lifting sanctions.” Essentially, Iran’s program has been halted, reversed, frozen in time, and heavily monitored. One of the greatest complaints of the JCPOA is the 24-day notice inspectors must wait in order to access an undeclared site. This is not totally irrational because Iran is an experienced cheater and will interpret the deal to its benefit. Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, is able to counter opposition to the inspection delay by commenting that the 24-day notice “is one of the most innovative mechanisms ever put into place within a nuclear agreement.” Indeed, it is an “innovative mechanism” because undeclared sites are conventionally extremely difficult to access by both foreign and independent inspectors.

The projected exit of the JCPOA by the United States compromises American security interests in the region. If the deal fails, there is no guarantee that Iran will not resume its nuclear program. In fact, even with the prospect of replaced sanctions, Iran would most likely begin restoring its nuclear program. A nuclear capable Iran would not occur within a vacuum. The Saudis and Israelis, with their mutually shared hatred of Iran, would react in full force. Although Saudi Arabia currently does not have nuclear weapons, it would hesitate little to obtain them. The Israelis have existing nuclear capabilities (although this has never been officially denied or confirmed) and would delite in adjusting their arms to compete with a new nuclear Iran. This hypothetical arms race within the Middle East could have disastrous consequences and lead to undesired proliferation to other countries. If the U.S. truly supports the NPT, then it should steadfastly pursue policy that prevents the spread of nuclear weapons.

Arabic Flagship Talent Show Spring 2018

Last Friday I attended the talent show hosted by OU’s Flagship program. I arrived early in order to get a good seat and be first in line. I’ve attended the past three talent shows in the Jim Thorpe complex, but this year it was held in Zarrow Hall. Each year, my fellow Arabic colleagues and I look forward to the food options and of course the various talents on display. This year planning the video was a bit of a challenge. Essentially, we had the idea but not the time or the actors willing to act. With the encouragement of extra credit from Dr. Al-Masri, the Arabic 2223 class was able to pull together a great video with some help from a couple of advanced students. I played Waleed Mahdi, in what were several impersonations of faculty, staff, and students associated with the Flagship program. It was a nice and humorous send off to many of the seniors who will be graduating this Spring. The editing quality was fantastic. Wesley Zhang is very skilled in his ability to make a amatuer skit appear to be a professional produced production. In addition to our video, there were many other standouts. The video produced by the class without a professor and class next fall was hilarious and creative. Not only did their work provide laughter, it also offered a scenario that could be understood through the expressions and acting alone. This is hard to achieve but they nailed it with their video skit. The poem entitled “Kindness” piqued my interest because it was written by the same author, Naomi Shihab Nye, as my final project source. It was recited beautifully in both Arabic and English. The talent show also serves as a reminder of where I was a year ago with my arabic skills. From watching the first year students’ videos and live performances to the advanced students, there is a much admired growth curve that showcases the quality of teaching and work ethic by the students. Ultimately, I look forward towards next Fall’s talent shows and the student’s ability to create fresh (and funny) productions.

ASA Fashion Show

OU’s Arab Student Association (ASA) recently hosted a cultural night that displayed the various forms of dress found throughout the Arab World. From North Africa to the Gulf, there were garments that showcased the diverse cultures of the Middle East. There was both traditional and modern clothing that highlighted all aspects of culture instead of just idyllic pieces. I particularly liked the clothes from Palestine. These clothes were able to send a message about the country with their vibrant symbolism. From the colors to the stich work, there was meaning in the designs. One piece, which was modeled by Sophie Richardson, was a modern twist of an older style. The stitchwork was intricate yet wasn’t distracting and could easily be worn as everyday attire. There was also a men’s piece modeled by Sammy Najib which incorporated with entire flag of Palestine in its design. Essentially, these pieces represented a nationalism that is all too seen as non-existent in regard to Palestine. The audience’s response to the different counties represented was worth observing as well. With each introduction of a country there was an a roar of applause and in some cases a singing and clapping. The highlight of the evening was the dabke performance. At first, only Arab students performed a routine that was set to a catchy tune. As time went on, guests from the audience joined in on the performance and it served as a great closure for an event that took a lot of planning.

Lastly, I was a part of the planning committee and organized the catering for the event. I had never had a $900 budget to spend on food all at once so I felt a lot pressure to make sure that I did everything correctly. Fortunately, I was able to find a catering option within our budget and they kindly assisted me throughout the process. The night was an ultimate success despite the unexpected number of people that far exceeded or predictions. I have already volunteered for next year’s event which will build upon the success of this year’s.

Viewing of 8 Borders 8 Days

Amanda Bailly’s 8 Borders 8 Days, follows the journey of a single-mother, Sham, and her two children, LuLu and Yaman, as they make their way from Turkey to Germany.

After experiencing two years of the war in Syria, Sham decided to move to Lebanon with her two children, Lulu and Yaman. She talked about how at first she felt welcomed in Lebanon, but after the influx of refugees ballooned the welcoming atmosphere began to deteriorate. The situation took a turn for the worse when refugees were required to have a sponsor in order to remain in the country. At the mercy of a threatening sponsor, Sham set her sites for Turkey with the long term goal of reaching mainland Europe.

The filmmaker focused intermittently on Sham’s two children throughout the film. They offered a comedic relief to the dire situation. I particularly enjoyed their narrative of the raft ride from Turkey to Greece (Lesbos). Lulu described how people used plastic grocery bags to help remove the rising water within the raft. Yaman described with laughter how the water began to rise past their chests. The children were able to recall the potentially deadly experience with the innocence that only a child could muster. The children offered an unfiltered reaction to the reality of their surroundings.
Once they arrived in Europe, train stations were the main hub of refugee activity. For instance, in Budapest, many of them made haphazard encampments in order to wait for the next opportunity to travel further into western Europe. In some cases, there were many volunteers who held concerts and rallies in support of the migrants. Eventually, Sham, LuLu, and Yaman arrived in Germany via Plane. The film ends with them in their small housing quarters that the German government had provided. Also, Sham became pregnant with her fiancé, Marwan.

Ultimately, Sham and her children traveled from Damascus, Beirut, Istanbul, Izmir, Lesbos, Athens, Pesevo, Belgrade, Roske, Budapest, and then finally settled in Berlin. Each destination offered a different degree of acceptance for the migrants. Passing through each land, Sham encountered different spaces of language, culture, and politics. The film documented their journey through their eyes. This often evoked a sense of disorientation and wandering. “Where are they?” “Who is that official?” “What does that order mean?” were just a few questions that left me imagining the plight that refugees face when trying to understand and cope with new identities.
Although the film provided a raw portrayal of the plight of refugees, it still offered a narrowed experience of refugees in general. During the post-film discussion with Eva Rusho, a Syrian refugee living in Belgium, she highlighted the reality that a significant number of the refugees payed large sums of money in order to reach mainland Europe. In other words, a higher portion of wealthy people were able to pay their way to safety while poorer victims of conflict had little to no financial means to escape the violence.
The film caused me to reflect on America’s role in the refugee crisis. I thought to myself, “What actions by the U.S. contributed to this global crisis?” Answers filled my mind that stirred emotions of frustration and hopelessness about positive U.S. engagement throughout the world.
In terms of refugees, the U.S. has not taken on the same number as its European counterparts. Yet, one could argue that the U.S. has contributed to a greater amount of instability in the region where most of the refugees have come from. Altogether, the film demonstrates the reality of a single story that encompasses the struggles that refugees encounter.