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Currents College

Winter 2010


Currents - Winter 2010 College

Cato Zahl Pedersen During his visit to the College and Haugland Rehabilitation Centre Cato Zahl Pedersen finished his talks in the auditorium with a riddle. What is the difference between “Impossible” and “I’m possible”? Using experiences from his own life, Cato gave an example of how your focus in life can make a huge difference. He shared stories from the sick bed – having lost both arms in an accident as a teenager – and from his expeditions to the South Pole and Mount Everest. And then he had to venture into the unexpected– as our philosophy students invited him to an early breakfast dialogue. Cato was game – and added it to his already busy program before addressing patients and staff at the Rehabilitation Centre. And what is the difference between Impossible and I’m possible? Just an apostrophe ... and a state of mind.

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Currents - Winter 2010 College

Sabrina’s Story When Sabrina Szeto visited the RCN campus this summer, it was not purely out of nostalgia for her UWC days. Since graduating in 2008, she has bounced back to Flekke whenever possible, often interrupting the long journey between her Singapore home and the U.S., where she is studying at Princeton University. What pulls her back time and time again is traditional Norwegian gammaldans, the music and the people who play and dance to it. Sabrina’s first year in Norway developed her attachment to the Norwegian people and culture, which had fed her imagination through the stories of Roald Dahl from an early age. Here finally she experienced seasons, fishing, and hiking for the first time. She spent weekends with a wonderful host family in Leikanger who made her feel very much at home, introducing her to attitudes and a lifestyle that she compared and contrasted eagerly with her own. And in the course of the Nordic Studies program at the college she was taught a few traditional folk dances by Knut David, a patient dance instructor, accompanied by a local musician, Andreas. In the autumn of her second year, Sabrina made a decision that had a profound effect on her life. One evening she had intended to cook with a friend, but when a Norwegian student on his way to gammaldans invited her to come along, she abandoned her earlier plans and went. From the start she was hooked. “At first I didn’t know how to dance reinlander, but people were very encourag-

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ing and danced with me even though I didn’t know how... carrying me around the turns when necessary! After about 5 weeks I finally got it – a moment of rejoicing!” Sabrina became a regular at the weekly dances (even when she had an Economics test the following day!), looking forward to the cheerful, friendly atmosphere, the happy live music, the joyful activity. It was a great way to de-stress, and being with a community of people who enjoyed the same thing was powerful. Each week, a group of UWC students and teachers would fill the college minivan and head off to Straumsnes, Dale or Flekke for the dance. Anticipation and laughter bubbled amidst lively chatter there and the way back. After each Thursday evening,

the positive feelings and memories would linger into the next day. Over time Sabrina grew closer to some of the musicians and dancers. They supported school events, offered transport to dancing events in the regions, and took pleasure in interacting with the students during the matpause, the break which occurred in the middle of the dance evenings. When applying to U.S. universities, she did research into Scandinavian folk dance opportunities within travelling distance of each choice. From Princeton the nearest dance was in New York City, an hour and a half away by train. She found a Princeton professor who plays the Hardanger fiddle and wrote to him (prior to accepting an offer from Princeton), and he assured

her that the dance in NYC was accessible; she needed to ascertain this before accepting a place! When she graduated in 2008, Sabrina stayed on in Norway, worked in Trømso for a month as a tour guide, then returned to Flekke and travelled to a folk music festival with musicians from the local spelemannslag, or dance orchestra. On the way, she was invited to sing some Singaporean songs, one of which (a Chinese love song, “The Moon Represents My Heart”) caught the ear of the musicians, who asked her to repeat it until they had mastered it on the Hardanger fiddle and accordion. Knut Skoghei, the leader of the orchestra, recorded the tune on his phone and later played it to the orchestra, who now claim it as part of their repertoire, though it has been retitled “Sabrina’s Song”.

Once Sabrina arrived at Princeton, she made the journey to New York armed with a map she downloaded from Googlemaps, and found the dance group there simply could not replace the Thursday dances in Norway. Undaunted, she has found some of that same atmosphere in American folk dancing (contra-dance) nearby the university. She has shared what she has learned by organising and teaching other Princeton students to dance gammaldans on the Norwegian National Day the past two years. In the summer of 2009 Sabrina was back in Norway, learning Norwegian at an intensive summer course in Trondheim. “I didn’t expect to fall in love with the culture and the music,” she said. “I wanted to be able to come back and talk with members of the orchestra who didn’t speak English. This motivated me strongly.”

The summer of 2009 also marked the beginning of another special relationship. Before she travelled to the U.S. to study, Knut Skoghei had urged her to invest in a Hardanger fiddle, since she could sing the tunes already. At Princeton she worked in the library and dining hall to earn money, and by the end of the year she had saved enough to buy a fiddle. She and this new love finally met in May, 2009, but they had to be separated for the academic year so the fiddle could be repaired in Oslo, but not before she had learned the basics, guided and encouraged by the orchestra. When the festival-going was done, Sabrina delivered her instrument to Oslo, where fiddle-maker Anders Buen, who had worked on Sabrina’s fiddle when it belonged to the previous owner, fixed it for free after hearing her story of music and dance, friendship and culture-sharing. In the summer of 2009, one of the key orchestra members, Helga Åsnes, presented Sabrina with a Dalsfjorden Spelemanslag t-shirt for her to wear when the orchestra performed. This gift foreshadowed her officially becoming a member of the orchestra in summer 2010, during the registration process at the national folk music festival that year. Sabrina plans to write her thesis for her undergraduate degree on folk music and dance in Fjaler municipality. Sabrina’s story is a simple one, but one which has gently changed lives, both hers and those of others.

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Currents - Winter 2010 College

Yuan Feng Yuan Feng was selected by the Chinese People’s Disabled Federation to attend RCNUWC. Here’s what he has to say about his selection and early days at the college. CDPF told me about this opportunity in May. They wanted to send a student to study here, so they got in touch with all the schools in the province. I was at a government school. It’s common for these schools to have a few students with disabilities. Many students applied. We wrote about 150 words in English, and I didn’t feel good about it. After that, we had an interview. I was interviewed by Mark Wang and teachers in CDPF. They asked me about my school life, my favourite subjects, and my communication skills. Then they informed me that I was going to Norway.

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I knew that Norway was beautiful, rich, and very cold - that’s all! My parents were quite worried that I couldn’t look after myself, because in China I never took care of myself. I could only go to the toilet and dress myself, and sometimes I even got help with getting dressed. In school, I didn’t need to move much, because all my classes were in one room. Before I was 16, I always walked with my mother’s help. Then I used my crutches, but I was busy for doing the school work, so I didn’t practice much. The most challenging thing for me at the college is doing everything for myself, being independent. Sometimes I don’t know how to use my strength. I have done many things for the first time. I am walking alone with a rollator, doing my laundry alone, opening

Yuan Feng with Cato Zahl Pedersen

and closing doors. I walk up and down stairs, even though it’s difficult. I have started visiting people. At first I didn’t know how to do it, but everyone is very helpful, and I find ways to manage. Living with people from other countries is very nice. From others I am learning how to take care of myself and live with others.

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Currents - Winter 2010 College

that we can live together, despite the multiplicity of our backgrounds.

First Impressions Asria Taleb and Galia Larosi are living and working at the College for a year as part of our Fredskorpset-funded exchange project with Western Sahara. Their home is in the refugee camps in south-west Algeria ... in the heart of the Sahara desert. We had arrived in Oslo from Algiers – that was already an adventure. We stayed overnight and then missed our flight to Forde! So we traveled overnight for 10 hours by bus from Oslo to Forde, then drove to Flekke and RCNUWC where Galia and I will be staying for one year. On the journey I was wondering, “What’s does Flekke look like?”, “What’s the College like?”, “Can I live with all these people?” - so many questions came to my mind, but one constant thing in my mind and my heart was that I would always keep in my heart the sufferings of my people. I spent much of the travelling time uncomfortable with travel sickness, in the plane and in the car, but I cried many times when I remembered my people, our children, our difficult life. All these sad memories give me a new energy to make the lives of my people better, even though I don’t yet know how - but I am sure I will do it! I will remember my people in every beautiful place, in every special food I eat, in every new place I visit. I will always carry my people in my heart. I think that my part in this exchange program came by grace and I say “Thank you!” to FK for me, and on behalf of my people. What Fredskorpset does for dialogue, exchange and understanding of other cultures is really wonderful.

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When you are born in a desert with nothing, you don’t know anything different - but you are happy because you think that this is the world that every person knows. Then I discovered that we do not have so many of the things that everyone else has. The life of the refugee is not like the life of other people: in our difficult life we never play like the children in the world; in our hard life we never eat like the children in the world; in our poor life we never have the chance to buy games. Once I knew about the way that other people live, I told myself that these things were not really important, but when I came here I realized that we miss so much in life.

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We arrived in Forde and there we met our Fredskorpset project coordinator Edmund (Galia and I now call him ‘Dah’ (‘father’ in our dialect) because he takes care of us like a father!) When we were on the way to Flekke, Galia couldn’t stop talking about the beauty of this country. I was like her but I couldn’t talk a lot because I couldn’t find the words to describe this amazing land. How could I find words to describe something I have never seen before?

But now I want to describe my first impressions of this beautiful country - Norway. It seems to me to be completely unique - it’s a place where you see people of different colors, religions, cultures; it offers an example of the coexistence of civilizations, and the evidence

It took an hour from Forde to the College and then we were at the school ... Oh! It’s not a school – it’s a paradise, a magical place, so very beautiful! We were very tired, but we didn’t feel it because we wanted to explore this place, and we found it so much more than we expected!

In our refugee life we don’t know what it means to live an ordinary life. It is the responsibility of the Saharawi youth to educate themselves and take the opportunities to be in different situations. If we do, maybe we can make the life of our people better, and tell the world about our situation which is the result of long years of colonialism, and long years in exile.

Everything you think about you will find in this College. In those moments we were so excited about the school. After two weeks at the College – learning about the Project, about the college, about Norway - we traveled to Oslo for a Fredskorpset Preparation Course (which is given for all participants of FK exchanges) and it was another interesting experience with this organization that has given us this chance. We came back to RCN and suddenly all the students arrived - 200 students from 80 different countries! It’s a chance to meet all the world in one year, in one place. What happened with the beauty and organisation of the school happened also with the people - we found them to be so much more than we expected: friendly and with open minds and a great desire to know and to learn from others.

It happened that the first weeks of the term was a special time for us Muslims, as it was Ramadan – the holy month of fasting. We shared this beautiful Ramadan experience with Muslims from many different countries, and we also had the chance to explain Ramadan to people who had never heard about it. I was so happy to have this experience here - it was different for us, and interesting (except the time 18 hours of fasting required by the long Norwegian days - which is something neither the school nor Fredskorpset could do anything about!) At this college we can discuss so many different topics, topics that I never could have imagined that I would talk about! In this college we are learning how we give to people, and take, all at the same time. In this college school you don’t only discover others, but you also discover yourself. So, finally “Thank you!” to everyone who helps, even a little, to keep this college a beautiful example of cooperation between human beings, and I hope that Fredskorpset will continue this program with my people of Western Sahara. We are looking forward to the year ahead.

Asria and Galia

With the Fredskorpset project participants

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Currents - Winter 2010 College

Christine Meiling awarded Clinton Global Initiative University grant RCNUWC and Luther alumna Christine Meling has been awarded a Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) Outstanding Commitment Award grant for $5,000 to fund her commitment titled “Sewing for the Next Generation.” Meling will oversee the production of school uniforms for families that can’t afford them in the village of Yari, Boma in southern Sudan. Meling will use the Clinton Global Initiative University grant to purchase uniform materials and sewing machines, train women to sew with the machines, and educate them to reinvest the profits from uniform sales to sustain the village’s new sewing industry. Meling says this will not only empower women whose

livelihoods have been restricted by two decades of civil war, but will also provide a sense of equality for the students who receive the uniforms. “Sewing for the Next Generation” is a continuation of Meling’s previous project in Yari, “Constructing Classrooms— Promoting Peace,” funded by a Davis Projects for peace grant in 2008. She traveled to her home village in southern Sudan to build a two-classroom schoolhouse that now provides a sheltered learning environment for elementary students. Clinton Global Initiative University Outstanding Commitment Award grants are given to currently enrolled college students to be used on

their commitments to action aimed at improving communities and lives around the world. There are five focus areas for the grants: education, environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, and public health. President Bill Clinton launched the CGI U in 2007 to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. CGI U Outstanding Commitment Award grants were created in 2008 to provide financial support to innovative, student-driven initiatives and are made possible by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. CGI U hosts a meeting each year for students to discuss global issues and possible solutions. The third annual CGI U meeting was held in the spring of 2010 at the University of Miami. Meling was one of four Luther representatives to attend the annual CGI U meeting this year and presented her commitment titled “Sewing for the Next Generation” in the education category. Funded CGI U commitments range from installing energyefficient light bulbs to establishing campus bike-share programs, from distributing life-saving water filtration kits to designing medical backpacks for nomadic doctors in Africa. Since its inaugural meeting almost 2,000 commitments have been made. For more information about CGI U, visit http://www.cgiu.org/.

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SaFuGe (Save the Future Generations) SAFUGE completed three projects this summer led by students representing their countries and helping their communities. Fundraising is done by all the group in jobs in the community, cafes at school and the Clothing Store sale. Students then vote on projects presented by members. The theme for this academic year was voted as WATER, one of the biggest concerns of the XXI century, so the three projects revolved around bettering underprivileged students’ educational environments by improving premises where water plays a huge role. The ongoing Cheshire school refurbishing in Sierra Leone is our flagship project that runs every year. This time it was led by Alim Kaloko who graduated in June 2010. It was supported by oncoming second years Fatima Bassir and Kome Musa, who will in turn be full project leaders in June 2011. They painted and outfitted the school cum orphanage kitchen, installing new windows, building a chimney and counters, doing the floor and buying pots, pans, plates, plastic glasses and cutlery. They enlisted the help of community members that have become like a team after all these years of successive cooperation.

The second project was the first one in an Asian nation won by second year Irina from Nepal, who built two taps and installed running water in a kindergarten for poor working mothers in Katmandu. This replaced the only source of water, a hose hooked to the ground. Irina also bought wholesale rice bags to feed the children until another NGO managed to store a year’s supply of rice. As a bonus, the wall surrounding the premises was raised to prevent breaking ins since the area is also home to drug addicts. The third project took place in a primary school in a poor area of Marrakesh where first year Myriem had new taps and water connections built in two bathrooms, together with painting jobs and toilet fitting. We expect to continue next year in this school by building a new wall lacking in a building so it can become operational. SAFUGE is a student-led organization that fundraises and allocates funds without any outside intervention and it operates with no school budget or support, but rather with the good faith and willingness to help of staff members. Colleagues offer to generously drive us to cafes and job venues and the community in Dale calls us for jobs such as the Dale Art

Center (gardening), the Vevangen school (wood cutting), the UKM organization (show café), NAV (old people’s home cleaning). Our plan for this year is to continue with the flagship school in Sierra Leone and we hope to be able to finish off the Marrakesh project and to offer first years the opportunity to propose projects to be voted by the group. Since we depend on the availability of jobs, we always keep our fingers crossed; however, we have always been blessed with very good fundraising. In former years, we have managed to have projects in a school in the highlands of Peru where we built and stocked their first library; we have refurbished a whole school in Madagascar (roof, painting, bathrooms, supplies) that doubled its enrollment after this and last year we built a playground complete with swings for the Cheshire home in Sierra Leone. SAFUGE was founded by a student and is run as a cooperative where decisionmaking at all levels is done on a discussion and voting basis. It is therefore a clear example of how UWC ideals can be actually put into practice when young, caring people are offered on site leadership.

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Currents - Winter 2010 College

start up with two hives on a nice spot just 10 minutes walk from the college. May the 16th, Eivind came with the bees, and gave a course about the basic of bees and beekeeping for the interested students and staff.

Beekeeping We are grateful to our founders that made it possible to be here and work for the mission: The aim of the foundation is to promote peace and international understanding, sustainable development and the dissemination of ecological knowledge through education, research, seminars and other initiatives. This we do through a variety of means, including strategic planning. Our strategy plan states: 3.2 Provide opportunities and activities that will instill respect and reverence for nature in all members of our community and re-invigorate their appreciation of our natural surroundings. Many people within the College work to make this happen. Each project depends on persons with ideas, determination and ability. And when it comes to bees, the former student Craig Christensen (2008-2010) was instrumental.

Craig: I began thinking: How could I make people start caring? I started to consider why I cared about environmen-

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Eivind Vereide and attentive learners tal issues so much. Coming from an isolated, rural area in Northeastern Alberta, Canada, I’ve always been in close sight of the interactions between humans and the natural environment. Agriculture, up until very recently, has been the main livelihood for a lot of people, and our standard of living is still at the mercy of Mother Nature. If our weather is bad for crops, or we mismanage our natural environment, we later suffer. I’ve always been aware of that fragile sustainabliity, but perhaps my friends, mostly from urban centres, may not be so conscious of that connection. The answer I realized was getting them to see that connection for themselves, and to realize their own vulnerability. I wanted to start as many practical environmental activities as possible. Composting, vegetable growing, farming: I wanted it all,

but with only a few spring months left at RCNUWC, I had to focus my energy on one thing. I figured unless it was something unique and far out of the ordinary, interest could fizzle out and my impact reduced. Thankfully, I had something very unusual to offer: beekeeping. My father, uncle, and grandfather are three of the approximately 100 commercial honey producers in Alberta, and together, they make a living off of 3000 hives. It’s been something I’ve been exposed to all my life, and I figured it would be the perfect legacy to leave behind. Growing and thriving The plan of the first agricultural project at RCNUWC started to form in the early spring 2010. With Craig’s lifelong experience and good knowledge with beekeeping from home, together with good help from the eager, local beekeeper Eivind Vereide, we decided to

It has been huge amount of interest from staff and students, eager to get involved. Despite some unexpected challenges during the summer, the bee-colonies were strong enough to collected around 20kg of honey from the heather-blooms, during early August. Some eager students have just started to harvest the first heather-honey, that soon will be extracted and tapped on glass. During the fall and winter the “Beekeeping-EAC”-students will, be trained in beekeeping, the different products from the bees (honey, beeswax, propolis, bee pollen, royal jelly), and how to refine the products for use and for sale. Thanks to all involved! -----------------------------Stig Moltumyr is the leader of the Environmental Committee at the School. What is the effect of this project form the Schools point of view? SM: All people have their way of learning, and mixing theory with more “learning by doing” might be good for many students. To make theory into practice is good not only for the students, but also to the Staff. It’s the physical evidence that something actually happens. Why does this project fit so well into the strategic plan of the College? SM : To turn the world around towards sustainable lifestyle we

RCN students working with the bees all go to care. Then we got to know about the nature. We think that by learning about and enjoying the beauty and wonders of the nature, a love towards it will be established. But why bees? SM : With bees we see this clearly. In the beginning of this beekeeping project this was unknown territory with a creepy fear of insects, stings and pain. As we went on and got fascinated by the complexity of these eco-systems and learn more about how to control

them, the fear was replaced by fascination and understanding. A feeling of belonging to the eco-systems arose. Anything else you would like to add? SM : Yes. Many people have been involved and many more will be. I’d like to thank all of you that make this project, and all the other environmental projects that is on at the moment, happen. If you are lucky you might have a taste of these delightful golden drops of good consciousness!

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Currents - Winter 2010 College

Peter Wilson - Thoughts from the Adriatic When I decided to take a one-year ‘permisjon’ from RCNUWC I had no idea that a few months later I would find myself living and teaching at UWC Adriatic, nesteled on the Adriatic coast between Venice and Trieste, but here I am a month into my one-year contract as Head of English, Residence Tutor and learner of Italian. “The college here is slightly smaller in number of students but otherwise there are many similarities between the young folk here and there: keen, idealisitic, full of energy and opinions. Here, living in the village of Duino also means the students come and go to classes via the street cafes, pavements and pathways of a ‘real’ place. Saturday nights at Mickey Mouse’s bar are pretty lively! “As at RCNUWC the staff here is an international one, with a strong core of Italians in the administrative and support areas. From the Canadian Rettore to the South African Physicist, from the Bulgarian Mathematician to the Dutch Economist, all have made me and my fellow new colleagues feel incredibly welcome.

Volunteer Programme to UWC Adriatic and also see if I can raise some funds towards my ongoing school-building project in Ethiopia. The coming months are going to be full, varied, challenging and stimulating in equal measures, I am sure. But my heart belongs to Flekke, and, no matter how persuasive the balmy climate and fantastic coffee, I shall return thence next summer refreshed, recharged and re-stimulated. For now, though, it is of to the staff room for an espresso then nip across the road to the cafe for a brioche. Ciao a presto!”

“My enjoyment at being able to hop on a bus literally outside the staffroom door and be in downtown Trieste 30 minutes later has yet to wane, and of course the cafe life in the towns is wonderful. It is worht noting, however, that one can quickly grow a bit weary of pasta, served though it is in dozens of different ways. “My plan during this year is to introduce the RCNUWC

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Currents - Winter 2010 College

Summer Course 2010 Summer seems a long time ago, as the ice grips the fjord ever more tightly. But remember..... Towards the end of the summer break, 24 nervous but eager new students participated in RCNUWC’s Summer Course. Over the four weeks the students enhanced their English and developed skills such as public speaking, planning and preparing events and getting involved with the community; all of which are essential for a UWC student. At

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the same time they were eased into the routine and structure of the RCN way of life. This process was aided by a small group of enthusiastic RCN graduates who generously volunteered their time and came back to help support, mentor and pass on their wisdom. The group participated in several community events; starting with the Jakob Sande festival. Alongside the Jakob Sande Company the students got their first opportunity to organise and

run a cafe for one of the festival’s evening events. This was a huge success and a great way for the students to meet some of the locals. At the International day during the Dale festival the students showcased their national dress, dance and musical talents. Further opportunity to meet and mingle with locals took place at Flekke with a BBQ and bonfire to commemorate St Olaf’s Day.

Throughout the course the students spent their mornings in class improving their English, learning how to debate, give presentations and developing their writing skills. Discussions were always rich and varied as students shared with each other their own cultural view points and experiences. The afternoons were spent exploring the local sights on excursions and hikes, playing sport, swimming, canoeing and relaxing in the afternoon sunshine.

The summer course culminated in five fantastic days spent at Hegnes; a lovely old farm house that the school is using for projects that promote environmental awareness and allows staff and students to experience life without the usual mod-cons. For five blissful days the students worked in the veggie garden, built fences and paths, swam, cooked together, learnt about and used composting toilets, sang and played games. They rediscovered life without

computers, the internet and mobile phones. It was a special experience and life-long friendships and bonds were sealed. On the hike back home to school excitement grew as the realization that the 2010 school year would officially begin the next day. As we came down the final hill we could hear drums and horns and as we rounded the last corner we were met by a sea of smiling and excited second year faces who were there to welcome their new first years.

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Currents Winter 2010