The UCU Alumni Magazine
We shake things up from time to time, to turn our world upside down and look at it from a fresh angle. Sometimes the upshakings come looking for us instead, and make us see it all differently. This edition of Post is filled with worlds gone topsy-turvy, in good ways and bad, but always with something new in store for their inhabitants.
Besides, as Yin once said to Yang: “There is a bad in every good.” “And vice versa,” Yang added. “After all, if a French person steals your bread, aren’t they also taking away your pain?” Yin nodded in agreement, and then they hugged.
Post | the alumni magazine of University College Utrecht December 2011
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Photo (& cover photo) / Scenes from Barcelona / Vera Scepanovic (â€˜05)
Are you sitting comfortably? Ama gonna Togo Ghana Your medical career Tokyo after-sway Back to sea President Romney Cheers to a new nation! From campus to campus Word from the dean Graduates 2011 1/2 Who, what, where? About the artists
Are you sitting Then I’ll begin.
ou’re holding the second edition of Post of this year. Magazines that appear once a year are not magazines, wethinks, or not very relevant ones anyway, so we’re going to send you two Posts per year from now on. The UCAA is 10 years old this year and we’ve come a long way since our establishment. There is, however, a lot more we could be doing. We aim to maintain a vibrant alumni network that will be of value to alumni and students alike. Got something to tell us or want to help out? Get in touch! With our alumni network ever-growing, the possibilities for organizing local groups of alumni (dubbed “hubs”) are becoming more apparent. A group of enthusiastic volunteers is currently in the process of setting up the Amsterdam hub, which will have its first event in the spring of 2012. There are budding hubs (we’re calling them “bubs”) in other places as well. Would you like to help a hub bud, or just dub a bub, bud? Contact us! Money. There’s no way around it: we need some more of it. Wads of it in black duffel bags would be nice, although somewhat dodgy. A beautifully ornate chest filled to the brim with a sparkly loot would make us ‘ARRR!’ and gnash
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our teeth in delight. But alumni who did not go on to become pirates or bank robbers can make electronic donations. That’s why alumni received a form with this Post, the one you glanced at and put aside, perhaps so far aside that it’s in your bin now. Please retrieve it, as it contains vital information about how to contribute to your alumni association! Irretrievably buried under coffee grounds? Drop us a line and we’ll tell you more. What, you ask, do we do with the money you donate, apart from the obvious throwing it up in the air, running around in circles under it, and shouting “weee”? Well, after sweeping it up again, we use the money you contribute to sponsor a wide variety of alumni activities in the Netherlands and abroad, and to promote alumni involvement in the regional hubs. We also award an annual alumni prize to a member of the graduating class and invest in social media tools that will keep the alumni network interactive. We are confident that you might like this edition of Post. We had such a good time making it that we can’t imagine you having a bad one reading it. Of The title is a reference to a series of BBC radio programmes for children called Listen with mother, all of which begin with these two sentences.
course, you already know we have a blog with all these articles, plus a few online exclusive ones, at www.talkingpost.org. That’s also where you react to the articles, or show us your love. Oh, and if you didn’t receive this magazine, in which case you’re also not reading this, it probably means your address isn’t updated in our database. If that were the case, and you were somehow miraculously reading this anyway, then please note that you can update your address by mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is also your go-to address for any of the other stuff mentioned above. See you in 2012! (Twice!) Sarah Carmichael Kiran Coleman Laurens Hebly Thijs van Himbergen Iris Otto www.ucaa.nl email@example.com
The UCAA Board
Otto (‘09) Vice-Chair / Iris Coleman (‘05) Secretary / Kiran Carmichael (‘06) rah Sa Treasurer /
Photos / Elitsa Mateva (‘09) & Bojan Opacak (’10)
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Ama van Dantzig daydreams about a better Ghana.
ight months ago, a huge wave of Afro-euphoria washed me up on the shores of Ghana. I was certain this was where I needed to be. I had been in Holland for long enough. I was born in Ghana, and grew up there until I moved to Holland at age 13. Most people discouraged me; they said it was too early, that it would be too hard, that I needed more experience, more money, or more of a plan. But since 2006 I had been sure I wanted to go back. After all, I still had my friends from primary school, my family, and a home in Accra, Ghana’s capital. So I moved into my family’s house, where I now live with about 20 other relatives, including my mother. The house is filled with aunties, their children and some other cousins. Sometimes family members from our village in Togo pay us visits; long visits of about 2 months. They come in large, rowdy delegations. Then the house is filled with a lot of laughter and extremely loud snoring. My Ghanaian family consists mostly of subsistence farmers, and while many people stayed in the village, some young people have “tried their luck” and migrated to the city. There is an entire informal settlement of people from my village in Togo who have been settling in Accra for decades; a community of about 50 000 people that does not officially exist in Ghana. The heat and humidity provide the perfect slow, syrupy
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conditions for delicious daydreaming. No matter how busy I get, I always seem to drift off. One afternoon, exactly 7 days after my baby cousin was born, I was cooling off under the ceiling fan when I heard my little cousin Isaac shouting. “Auntie Ama, Aziz is stealing the meat!” Isaac has a wild imagination, so I did not make much of it at first. My aunties had been cooking for the last 3 days in preparation for my new cousin’s naming ceremony, and it generally caused a lot of ruckus. But I still got up and made my way to the courtyard. Aziz, the neighborhood drunk, had snuck in while my tired aunties were resting in their rooms. He had brought a black plastic bag, and had meticulously picked out all the meat from the big pot of soup! My aunt Lucy, who had heard little Isaac shouting, came out into the courtyard thundering insults (“Heh Aziz! You dey craze?!”), walked up to him and, in her rage, slapped his face so hard that he almost fell to the ground. It must really have hurt because Aziz is a very skinny man weakened by too much alcohol and too little food; my aunt on the other hand is a very big, strong woman. He turned around, started to hurl some insults back at my aunt, but quickly scampered away when he saw my cousin Kwame coming after him with a large wooden
again, who in Holland would steal meat? And who would report such a petty crime? Reporting a crime in a country like Ghana is generally seen as a lost cause. When my cell phone was stolen in the first months of being in Ghana, everyone laughed at me for reporting it at the police station. We have a thoroughly understood and generally accepted system of corruption, in which police officers are always “given something small” for their efforts. Therefore, the police following up on a reported crime for reasons of justice hardly ever happens, but instead has to do with the person who can offer the biggest “something small”. This leads to quite a serious problem of impunity. If Aziz had had a little bit of money, and had been sober, he could have successfully called the police to beat up some people in our house.
ladle. My mother tried to soothe the situation and pleaded with my angry aunties and cousins to leave the poor drunk alone; after all, it was a special day, and she did not want any trouble in the house. All my little cousins, aunties and uncles watched Aziz run off, shouting on the streets: “I’m going to call the police. You will see!” But the police never showed up, Aziz got away with the meat, and the entire household was left stupefied. Despite this episode, we each dressed in the crispest, whitest clothes we had and partied the day away while the necessary rituals were done to name little Nana Kojo Armeyaw. At night we all sat in the courtyard, reminiscing about the naming ceremony and especially about the meatless soup we had served our guests. While my aunties were understandably angry, I had to wonder if Aziz could really be held accountable for stealing the meat. We all know he is a helpless drunk. We have each fished him out of a gutter, cleaned him up and fed him on countless occasions. It is clear the man is suffering. If a man like Aziz had lived in the Netherlands, and had received the same opportunities that the Dutch get, would he still be the same? I started wondering what would have been done to Aziz - or any other thief for that matter - in a country like Holland, where there’s a legal system that works, and where the police often follow up on a reported crime. Then
Being here, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the meaning of this thing we call international development, and its value. Ghana is a country with a very strong historical link to Europe, specifically the Netherlands. In many ways, the affluence enjoyed in the Netherlands is due to the Dutch interaction with Ghanaians. Did you know that there are many people walking around Ghana with last names like “De Heer”, “Bartels”, or “Vanderpuye”? The Dutch arrived in Ghana in the 1500s and built forts to compete with the Portuguese, who had arrived on the coast earlier. To oust the Portuguese, the Dutch strategically forged alliances with local tribes. In later years, the Dutch played an important role in tribal wars by supplying ammunition to those tribes that could improve their position in the trade in gold, and soon the relationship with them evolved into one of exploitation and slavery. Warring tribes sold millions of Africans to European slave traders, who took the slaves across the Atlantic to work on plantations, never to return again. Of course, as I hope most people know, the Dutch were among the keenest of slave traders, buying ship loads of human cargo to be exported to the Caribbean and Latin America. There are descendants of runaway slaves in Suriname and Jamaica that still speak languages like Kormante, one of the aboriginal languages in Ghana. In 1957, Ghana proudly became the first African country to gain its independence from the ruling colonial power, the British. It is important to realize that before the arrival of the Europeans, there was no Ghana, there were many
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different tribes. What was it that these numerous tribes on this small piece of land shared? Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who spearheaded the independence movement in Ghana, invested heavily in culture and arts as a way to search for the answer to this question, and to create a country that was “unified in diversity”. Though there was some resistance because a united Ghana could mean a change in power relations between the tribes, the population generally received his ideas with great enthusiasm. A new nation was conceived, one that had “the Ghanaian identity” – a mixture of various disciplines and cultural practices – as its centerpiece. Nkrumah sent cultural groups across the country to show whom the new Ghanaian was. Despite the momentum and enthusiasm of being a new nation and a new people, the independence of Ghana did not mean the end of foreign influence, or of imperialism. In many ways, Kwame Nkrumah pasted Ghanaian attributes over the existing British institutions. This is probably why, despite the stifling heat, Ghanaian lawyers and judges wear white wigs - just as the British do. Aside from European influence, I believe there are also issues with the diaspora. At independence, Ghana was happy to welcome home its black brothers and sisters of the diaspora, and even became a Mecca for many civil rights activists in the United states: Malcolm X, Muham-
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mad Ali, W.E.B. Du Bois, Maya Angelou, and so on. People were excited to come to this free nation, some even settled here. But today, we are still wondering who ‘the Ghanaian’ is. Some “conscious African Americans” come to Ghana and are shocked and disappointed to find that Ghanaians do not necessarily welcome them back with open arms. Ghanaians have an interesting relationship with the diaspora - especially with the descendants of slaves. Many of them come to Ghana with high emotional expectations, searching for a sense of belonging, hoping to discover where they come from, expecting to find evidence of their roots, expecting a warm, welcoming embrace into society. Instead they find themselves confronted with a country where people cannot afford to focus on such emotions because they are busy surviving and dealing with the uncertainty of fulfilling their basic needs of tomorrow; Ghanaians are quite pragmatically struggling to improve their lives without much support from the government. There is also a small group of African Americans who come to Ghana thinking it is a country waiting to be conquered. Somehow, they are able to overlook the history of extraction and exploitation, and even claim to be more African than modern Africans because they were taken away and therefore “protected the original African identity”. There is one thing at which the African American visitors have been very successful and that is conquering the history of slavery in Ghana. Ghana has the largest number of slave forts and castles dotted along the coast, built there by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Danish, the Brandenburgs; everyone was here. The people most interested in these structures seem to be the African Americans, so the stories that are told there are the stories that they want to hear; about slavery and torture, and sometimes quite explicitly about “the evil white men”. This way, the role of the Africans themselves in the slave trade is often overlooked. So while
“Toni, A is for..?” Toni responds: “Pay ATTENTION”. “And B is for..?” “Beat my Buttocks.”
the Ghanaian is busy surviving, African Americans are retelling Ghanaian history from their perspective, as descendants of slaves, often leaving out the nuances of centuries of interaction, resistance and conquest. Not to mention the fact that when the Europeans arrived in Ghana, the Africans were too well organized for them to just take over (as they were able to do in places like Congo). It is forgotten that for over 3 centuries, the people living in the place we call Ghana today traded resources with the Europeans on a relatively equal footing, mostly in gold, ammunition and slaves. So whether you were “good” or “bad” is not dependent on your skin color, but on who you are, what you want and what you are willing to do to achieve it. In fact, many local coastal chiefs were very quick to recognize the advantage of having different European countries competing for resources. Today, though the nature of trade and interaction has changed, those relationships remain. The ancient bond between Ghana and the Netherlands also lives on. Ghana is now one of the 15 partner countries receiving Dutch development aid, and hosts many Dutch business people who are attracted by the prospect of large profits in a country with poor leadership, very attractive tax laws and no strong systems for tax revenues. It is heaven. While African countries like Ghana are stereotypically seen as corrupt, we often overlook the role non-Africans play in the corrupt or criminal circuits. There are Dutch businessmen/criminals who are very active in Ghana, working with some of the biggest Ghanaian criminals, and making millions. By capturing the imagination of the people with wild stories, and by cultivating preposterously decadent lifestyles, they are able to get away with almost anything. An example is that of an eccentric Dutchman - a businessman and self-made millionaire - who claims to be a tribal chief. He supposedly owns a luxury hotel in Accra, which is managed by a well-known drug baron. He also claims to have played a key role in the return of the head of Nana Bonsu II, an Ashanti King, which was taken to Leiden by the Dutch in the 1830s and preserved there for cultural and scientific purposes.
On the other hand, the Dutch have been investing in various sectors, trying to help Ghana develop and work towards achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (among which are eradicating hunger, developing education and stabilizing incomes). The ‘Ghana School Feeding Program’ is an example with huge potential. This program supports farmers to grow more food, which they can sell to schools, thus encouraging parents to send their children to school. The idea is innovative, sustainable, and great! However, human beings with different incentives always seem to ruin a good idea, and the project was riddled with corruption. Rather than investing in farmers, the coordinator of the project bought cheap, expired Chinese food and supplied that to the schools, and the remaining money mysteriously disappeared. Many of these problems have now been dealt with because the Dutch refused to continue the project unless drastic changes were made. The program is still ongoing and, luckily, the people in power are now being watched – and know that they are. Education faces more challenges in Ghana. Despite all the good intentions to send children to school, there are still some children whose parents do not prioritize formal education. Last week, when all my little monstrous cousins went to school, one of my cousins stayed home. His mother works on the streets selling “Ice Kenkey” (a local maize-based drink), and does not earn much. Sometimes she leaves my cousin at our house for months. He is a hilarious little boy. Actually, he is a big man, stuck in a boy’s body. I attempt to teach him based on what he might know, but he seems to come from a completely different world. “Toni, turn the page,” I tell him. He turns the page upside down. Later, we are going over his ABCs. “Toni, A is for...?” Toni responds: “Pay ATTENTION”. “And B is for...?” “Beat my Buttocks.” “And C is for...?” “Cane! Pay Attention or else I will Beat your Buttocks with a Cane!” He laughs, and then adds: “Ok, C is also for Capoeira.” We are both laughing when his mother walks in, drunk. She is happy to see us enjoying ourselves, and to see me teaching him. I feel fulfilled at the idea of being able to help out. But suddenly a thought occurs to me; she might not be
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Ghana is now th at place - if you can make it in here, you can make it any where. It is all about learnin g to hustle.
Impression of a slave fort near Accra, Ghana
sending him to school any time soon. She is happy to see that he can also be taught at home. The thought scares me. Toni’s favorite letter is F, because it stands for ‘Friends’. You may be wondering why his mother does not send him to school with his friends, and there could be many reasons for this. It is possible that she simply cannot afford to send him to school; because even though primary school is free, there are still costs involved. It could also be because she does not believe he will learn anything worthwhile in school. Teachers’ salaries are so low, that many teachers have turned their classrooms into market places. They sell candy and anything else that can get them a few extra Cedis at the end of the month to make ends meet. At the end of my little cousin’s naming ceremony, after all the guests had gone home and we were sitting in the courtyard reflecting on our meatless soup, we started talking about how everything is possible in Ghana. There is a saying about New York: “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”. But times have changed and Ghana is now that place - if you can make it in here, you can make it anywhere. It is all about learning to hustle. We need to be creative and innovative in our approach and we need to be patient to see the results. A drunk like Aziz has to take risks to survive, and to find some enjoyment in his life. And since the government is weak and seems unable or unwilling to enforce any rules, another saying is true here: “Money talks and bullshit walks”. But is it a hopeless situation? If I thought so, I would not be living here. There are an increasing number of people like myself who are returning to Ghana. We see opportunities here, and not only do we want to bear witness to the changes taking place, and learn from them, we also want
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to be a part of the developments by adding our own positive twist and discovering new challenges for our ideals and ourselves. Being in Ghana is about fulfilling a deeprooted need to make a difference and contribute positively to the Ghana-Netherlands connection. Absolutely anything is possible, both the good and the bad. There is peace and a relatively stable democracy, and there are resources and few rules. It may be a playground for the corrupt, the opportunist, the shortsighted and the self-centered, but we idealists have our place in Ghana too. This is why Lynn Zebeda (UCU class of ‘06) and I started our own company, ‘Dr. Monk’. We’re an international collective of young, creative and driven global citizens who work on the socio-cultural side of sustainability by offering innovative perspectives. We work to make a positive difference, searching for an authentic connection and dialogue with people, cross-pollinating between disciplines and cultures, and searching for the right mix for a sustainable future. There is a lot to learn from Ghanaians who have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and have never received any support from their government. For a child like Toni this means that, although he may not receive the best education to help him fulfill his potential, being in Ghana teaches him to be a survivor. With only 5 years of life experience, he is already a strong and resilient boy who can take care of himself.
Ama van Dantzig (’05) went on to do an International Development Studies MSc and became a public advocate of thoughtful development work. She lives in Ghana and is the co-founder of her own development agency, Dr. Monk.
For information about Dr. Monk check: www.drmonk.org
In part one of this two-part story, Teun van der Bom recounts the trials and tribulations of a quasi-fictional, semi-autobiographical alter ego who is trying to become a good doctor.
inally, after six years you have graduated from high school. Over the past two years, you went to the open days of several universities, where you were enticed by colourful stands, inspiring professors and overenthusiastic university students promoting their specific fields of interest. As all these fields were very interesting, your high school preexams took up all your time in the fifth year, your final year was even busier still, and since your social life expanded to include weekend binges and the like, you decided to postpone the more concrete decisions to a more suitable time: later. However, you are not entirely devoid of ambition and have worked hard in order to pass with reasonable grades. All in all, you achieved a 7.7 average grade (you flunked history). Now that you have the time to properly reflect on matters, you realize that you excelled in biology and chemistry (and actually liked the subjects), that you are a very sociable person who wants to â€œdo goodâ€?, that you like House and ER, and that, accordingly, you are pretty darn good doctor material. In fact, come to think of it, becoming a doctor has been your vocation your entire life.
ple choice aptitude tests comparable to the American MCAT (medical college admission test), experience in the care sector (i.e. working in a nursing home), board or organisational experience (i.e. running the high school newspaper), exceptional efforts in art, literature, science, music or sports (at least at a national level), or a diploma from the two year scientific program for which you should have been preselected in the fourth grade (but you had no idea). The large variety in selection criteria gives the feeling Dutch medical schools are very keen on selecting their own students, but do not really know what criteria to apply. In fact, this is a worldwide problem. While many of these selection criteria excellently predict adequate academic performance in med school, no evidence exists to show that medical students who do well academically will actually become good doctors.
So, you download the brochures and decide to apply. However, as in most countries, the number of applicants far exceeds the number of available places. Consequently, a number of selection systems has been put in place. If your average grade had been 8.0 or higher you would have been accepted straight away to an institution of your choosing. Apparently, you should have paid more attention to your (stupor inducing) history teacher, but you cannot help but wonder why this prevents you from becoming a doctor. In any case, you still have two options. Medical schools are allowed to select half of their students according to their own selection procedure (your first option), while the other half will be chosen by nationwide lottery (your last option). Dutch medical schools either require high scores on multi-
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Back to you. Sadly, you are too late to apply directly to medical school to avoid the lottery system, the deadline having been in May before graduation. And anyways, while you did want to take on the multiple choice exam, you did not work in a nursing home, your organisational experience is limited to throwing parties, you did bash in the brains of half the online world, but doubt that this will be interpreted as an exceptional effort in sport, and as mentioned before you knew nothing about the two year scientific program, as it is only offered at certain pilot high schools and not yours. Consequently, only your last option remains. You apply for med school through the national lottery procedure and hope for the best. As your average grade is close to the required 8 you are in category B (8 or higher being category A) and have between a 40 and 60 percent change of being accepted, depending on the total number of applicants. If you grades had been lower, your chances would drop proportionally. For example, students in category E (6 to 6.5, 6 being the lowest pass-grade) have a 15 to 20 percent chance of acceptance, and are often precluded from directly applying to a medical school, as an average grade of 7.0 or higher is required. While basking in the sun in beautiful Tuscany on a well-deserved vacation you receive a call from your parents. In your category, 257 applicants were accepted. You were number 302. It looks like you’ve earned yourself a gap year. Apart from your rejection letter, the envelope that awaits back home contains an invitation to the “Rejected, then what?-day”, where less popular but slightly related programmes - though obviously not full-fledged medical ones – try to take advantage of your rejection-induced weakness. In the end you decide to improve your resume with a year of medical biology, while working in a nursing home and trying to reach a national level in something, failing miserably in the latter. Whereas in previous years too much was going on to think properly about your future, this year you are obsessed with getting into medical school. Based on a combination of experience in the care sector, confabulating how much you really liked it in your application letter, reasonable aptitude test results, and - probably most importantly - better timing, you obtain your letter of acceptance. Remembering the selection criteria, you expect many of your colleagues to have secret lives as superheroes, and indeed, you are very impressed but also slightly concerned for the girl who wants to combine medicine with the conservatory,
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while doing law on the side. On the other hand, remembering your time at the nursing home, you get really annoyed with anyone who chose medicine because his average grade was higher then the required 8.0, and “just wanted to see if they liked it.” During a laboratory practical, you stare incredulously at your very capable looking lab partner, when he tells you he has been studying medicine for five years, but recently had to start again in the first year because the old curriculum was replaced by a new one (and okay, maybe he should have worked a little harder). All in all, it’s quite the diverse lot. Your first four years of medical school are pretty much what you expected from university. You go to lectures and workgroups, hand in assignments, give presentations, stare morosely through microscopes, and miss an exam or two because you are hung over and consequently need to stay home during your family’s ski vacation to retake the exam. The only thing that really stands out compared to other studies is the anatomy practical, in which you study the human anatomy by dissecting real cadavers. At your first practical you feel a mix of excitement, fascination and revulsion. However, all emotions are rapidly dissolved in formaldehyde fumes that make you utterly incapable of any mental activity apart from following the instructions in your workbook. While you study vigorously at times, you are still able to enjoy a rich student life with several activities of your choosing. Some of your colleagues choose to spend their free time in voluntary research projects, claiming that it improves their résumés and that one cannot become a specialist without scientific publications. You dismiss this as tendentious rumours, as similar stories about the lengths you should have gone through always pop up at times of deadlines and exams, and are usually not true. Moreover, if something should distinguish future specialists it should be that they are good doctors (which you intend to be). After four years, it is time to put your acquired knowledge into
practise. It is time for your rotations. You will gain experience in many medical fields, often under supervision of an intern (a physician who just finished med school and is working in a hospital for experience) or a resident (a physician in training to become a medical specialist). During your rotations you are kept busy interviewing and examining patients who are submitted to the hospital for treatment or a procedure, attending morning reports and interdisciplinary meetings, performing
It looks like you’ve earned yourself a gap year.
small tasks such as drawing blood, inserting IVs or doing sutures, assisting during surgery and providing your supervisor with enough coffee to get through the day. What you have seen from the medical world so far has led you to believe that apart from (resident) psychiatrists and the occasional researcher, physicians are not the hipster type. In fact, all the doctors in your university hospital are friendly, sociable, quick-witted, apparently extremely busy, and oozing copious amounts of intelligence, but never “cool”. It seems that it is up to you to fill the obviously overlooked niche of the cool doctor. However, after being 1) screamed at by a random surgical resident in scrubs for wearing a hoodie under your lab coat, 2) overhearing two elderly physicians loudly complaining about “running shoes”, while casting disapproving looks at your All Stars, and 3) accidentally being taken for the food cart delivery guy by the nursing staff despite your lab coat - all in one day - you decide your life during your clinical rotations will be much easier if you go with the flow. In your final year of rotations you get to choose your senior rotation, which is sort of a dress rehearsal. You will function as a graduated physician for three months, including all responsibilities, though with fewer patients. For you, this is the time to choose what you want to be doing once you have graduated. As you really liked your neurology rotation, you see yourself as a future neurologist and apply for a senior rotation in neurology. As with any beginning doctor, your first weeks are chaos and require long hours to make ends meet. However, with time, you start to get the hang of
running your part of the neurology ward. After you’ve made several smart remarks while discussing a patient with your supervising neurologist, you decide to ask her how to apply for the neurology residency. Instead of getting the enthusiastic response with a couple of handy pointers that you were hoping for, she directs you to the professor in charge of the residency program. After mailing your résumé, you make an official appointment with the professor through his secretary and secretly hope all this fuss is an attempt to offer you a residency without upsetting your colleagues. The professor receives you in his cupboardsized office (and he is lucky to have an office; shortage of space being a chronic problem in university medical centres), and greets you with the expression of a doctor who is about to give you bad news. You realize that since he actually is a doctor, indeed the news must not be good. He tells you that he is glad that you are interested in neurology, but in order to be considered for the specialist training, two things are important. First of all: experience, which you lack, not even having graduated. Second of all, verifiable scientific interest, with ‘verifiable’ being a euphemism for “published scientific articles to your name, or a PhD”, both of which you lack. When you talk to the residents on your ward, you learn every one of them has a PhD and that in the past couple of years no one has been accepted who did not, not even those with experience. You wonder why residency programs are so bent on scientific interest, a quality that, as opposed to compassion, medical knowledge and basically being a good doctor, does not seem absolutely necessary once you are a practicing physician. You decide you want to be a good doctor, not necessarily a good scientist, and apply for a job as an intern to gain some experience. You write every hospital within a reasonable distance if there will be any openings once you graduate. You get invited by six, of which four ask if you can start right away, which is weird considering that you will only receive your diploma after two more months of rotations. But this is good news. It seems that you are well on your way in your medical career. Teun van der Bom (’01) finished UCU with a degree in Science. He has since pursued a degree in medicine and is now a research fellow in cardiology at the Amsterdam Medical Centre. To be continued on
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Tokyo aftersway Wendelien Hebly remembers the 2011 Japan earthquake, and how the social media were a mixed blessing in the aftermath.
t was dark outside when I finally decided to try and make my way across town. There were people everywhere. The three layers of Tokyo had merged to one. Metro and train systems were down and taxi’s stood silent in the jam of traffic. There was no honking of horns. Black suits filled the sidewalks, as the millions of salary men and women speedily walked in the direction of their homes. They weren’t able to reach their families due to the phone lines being down but they didn’t seem to be questioning if and when they would get home, most of which were probably tens of miles outside the city center. It was as if I were amidst a live colony of ants, busily and orderly hurrying from A to B without question. I stood still for a moment, with my little green bike in hand – observing in awe how silent panic was in Japan. When I walked into my friend’s office across town it was anything but silent. iPhones, iPads and MacBooks gave us unlimited access to the outside world – and the outside world to us. Constant
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bleeps from Skype, pop-ups on Twitter and Facebook messages of concerned families and friends ‘back home’ could be heard throughout the office. News agencies from all over the globe were dialing in via Skype to get the news as fast they could. Japanese TV news anchors wore helmets as they updated us on the earthquake (magnitude, effects, etc.) and bits and pieces of information rolled in on the tsunami that had struck the northern coast of Japan. Whitewashed faces at the office of those with family in those coastal areas. Phone lines were down and information was hard to get. The earth provided us with constant reminders of the jolt we had felt around 2.46pm that day, with roughly 180 aftershocks recorded within the first 12 hours. The aftershocks were still so strong it seemed as if we were out at sea with bad weather. We took turns holding on to lamps, bookshelves and other equipment that was not fixed. And as we duck-taped the new presentation-beamer for extra support, I re-
membered sitting under the tiny desk at my office, one leg sticking out, drawers opening and closing to the swaying of the building and archive cupboards falling over. What was going on? The shelves at the convenience stores were first wiped clean of product by the quake at 2.46pm, then filled again by the staff in the hours following, only to be cleared again 9 hours later by the people following protocol. “Assure a decent supply of water and foods, though not more than necessary as to leave enough for others”. *Ping* – finally another message from my friend Anaïs (UCU class of ‘02). She had been on the KLM flight that was scheduled to land at 2.50pm, 4 minutes after the earthquake, and was now finally heading towards Osaka. The plane had had to interrupt its descent and divert to a military base 50km out of Tokyo. Bits and pieces of her whereabouts I was able to gather through Facebook and e-mail. But, as phone lines were still down late that night, the internet was our only communication tool. Later, as Anaïs told me the tales of that flight, I again was amazed. The people on that flight had remained calm, although the doors of the airplane had not been opened for 22 hours and limited information had been given. I cannot imagine how the Japanese people on board must have felt. Not knowing what had happened and what the magnitude of effects were for them and their families, only knowing that it was one of the largest earthquakes to hit Japan. Again the main source of information was internet and social media. As surreal as the situation seemed to me then, joining an ant trail and dodging flying cupboards now seems so benign in comparison to what was going on up north.
We spent the next day in an apartment on the 24th floor of a new building. These buildings are specially designed to withstand shocks up to 8 on the Richter scale – some are built on rollers and thus roll from side to side as a whole. Others are built to sway from side to side – so the higher up one is the more seasick one gets. Up in the top we could not quite make out when we were actually swaying as a result of an aftershock and when we were experiencing after-swaying as a result of shock. The TV displayed images of the tsunami that had struck coastal regions and videos of chaotic scenes of offices and supermarkets in Tokyo. And then we saw the explosions in the nuclear plant. We used bilingual Twitter sites to try and understand what was
being said about the explosions. Everyone was instructed to “close all windows and doors, not to go outside if not necessary and to fill the bath with water”. And as we sought to find more information on possible scenarios, reading up on Chernobyl, Facebook messages started rolling in. “My company is pulling all foreigners out – I advise you to do the same,” and a second: “the Mongolian embassy is evacuating all its people,” and so on. The overload of tweets on a nuclear explosion just 300km north of Tokyo and the lack of reliable information (or trust in the communication of the Japanese government to its people) led to restlessness within our apartment. What do you do when you have limited access to information and the information you have is contradictory? Social media provided a great platform for ev-
eryone to share all the information, true or not, and we tended to believe this information more than that which was provided by the government. Of course, they cannot tell 33 million people that a huge nuclear catastrophe may be around the corner because the infrastructure would not support such an exodus – so the conclusion of a lot of Twitterers was the government could not be trusted. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and the acts of the Japanese government in this case and in many others is a significant but separate discussion. What was fascinating about this particular aspect of the catastrophic events surrounding March 11, 2011, was to see the difference in reactions between the Japanese and the foreigners. The Japanese stayed calm and collected, followed protocol and awaited orders. We, on the other hand, pro-actively got involved in telling stories we knew little about, spreading words that could be misinterpreted and snowball into chaos. In that sense, the social media were both a blessing and a curse in this disaster. The widespread availability of videos, tweets and messages allowed us to communicate with loved ones in and out of Japan and to acquire information on what was happening in the north and around the Fukushima plants. It enabled the world to follow closely and take part in providing their opinions from a distance, especially with respect to the nuclear threat. But this transparent insight into countless opinions also fed panic in many on and beyond the island, because it was now up to the individual to decide what to do - stay or go?
“My company is pulling all foreigners out – I advise you to do the same.”
Wendelien Hebly (’03) completed her MSc in Neuroscience and is now working in Tokyo as corporate strategist for Tommy Hilfiger Japan.
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BACK TO SEA
Loretta van der Horst was traveling through Chile when one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history shook the country.
severed horse’s head, tickled by a swarm of flies lies in the muddy grass of Talcahuano, a fishing town in Chile on March 3rd 2010. Less than a week ago it was cut off by electrical cables as it was propelled forward by the tsunami that followed the 6th largest recorded earthquake in history. Large fishing ships stranded in the middle of residential inland neighborhoods make for a bizarre spectacle and the smell of rotting fish perforates any wall still standing. A week earlier the 8.8 magnitude tremor on February 27th at 3:34am woke me inside a bus on the way to Santiago. Stuck only a few kilometers from the epicenter, the driver had only barely avoided the nearby bridge that collapsed. The locals inside their homes hadn’t been able to even stand on their feet when it happened. It lasted 3 full minutes and devastated large parts of Chile and, in the most affected area, displaced 20% of the population. I spent that day stranded in Chillan, 60 km from the epicenter. I saw a collapsed
Post | December '11
wheat factory and people sitting outside of their crumbled houses. The country’s phone lines were down and most roads had been wrecked. The town was unknown to me. The people behaved in an otherworldly manner as they united in euphoria, while filling large bags and containers with the wheat that had poured onto the street. Perhaps reality had not yet set in. Or in a more likely scenario these people were so poor that they had lost less than they could gain by stealing from fallen buildings. I found a driver whom I paid to take me north, and as we made our way through villages with unpaved roads and houses of adobe I was glued to the window through which I saw families huddled over a radio, children carrying water from the river and women sweeping bricks and dust into mounds of what was once a house. These confronting spectacles were combined with the fear I felt knowing that several escapees from a nearby prison were sitting in the seats behind me. A few days later, after having checked up on my friends in Santiago, where damage was limited I went back to
the disaster’s ‘Ground Zero’. Contracted by NRC Handelsblad I set out to find stories. With roads ruined and chaos ensuing all over Chile I arrived by plane with Chile’s air force. Large shipping containers lay empty on the shore, as if thrown around like toys. The locals took whatever produce was inside. The chaos that had been in the news had visibly engulfed this town. Besides the mud and destruction after the tsunami, many shops, even those still standing, were ransacked. From bread and milk to an entire fridge, Chileans carried what they could as they emptied the city’s stores. Nobody I knew had predicted that middle class Chileans with no criminal record would be reduced to thievery. “We were making use of the situation,” says a woman living in villa Alto Palomares, a neighborhood of Concepción. And that is what 90% of her neighborhood did as well. The government’s response to the lootings was a city wide curfew. People were not allowed on the streets before 12pm and after 6pm. To enforce this,
While some lo oted the shop s, others came to the disaster zo ne to help their fe llow countrym en. 10.000 soldiers were dispatched in the most affected regions. Though a press pass I had been given exempted me from the curfew, it wasn’t of much use, as the only people I came by were patrolling soldiers, many not older than 19, who all needed to see my pass. While a young man, padded by a bullet proof vest and a machine gun hanging from his neck bowed to see the pass I thought it an eerie phenomenon that police authorities were now second to these newly trained military men, prepared to do whatever necessary to keep the order. Many of the older Chileans were reminded of the right wing military dictatorship of Pinochet, during which thousands were killed and many more tortured. The opposition blamed the pillaging after the quake on then president Michelle Bachelet, as she had waited two days to dispatch the military. Though it was clear to me the mil-
itary was necessary, Bachelet, having been tortured by that same institution herself, was understandably apprehensive at the prospect of occupying the streets of Chile.
Ulloa says the chaos that ensued after the earthquake and tsunami, “brought forward, the worst and the best in people. While some looted the shops, others came to the disaster zone to help their fellow countrymen.”
Luis Aguilar’s story proved the necessity of the curfew to me once more. I met him as he guards his family home from thieves with a fire at the entrance of his street. Luis’ butcher shop was set on fire despite his prevention efforts. “I opened the shop for them so that maybe they wouldn’t damage it,” he said. He was scared like many others and with his neighbors has invented a system of whistles while patrolling the surroundings to warn of potential thieves.
In those days fresh after the disaster I saw a lot of hardship and sadness. It showed me humanity in its purest form; people at their most vulnerable, trying to get back on their feet amidst the worst possible conditions. And it is those people whom I kept following in the months after I left. I kept in touch with a handful of individuals who are still in an everyday struggle to regain what they have lost and went back to Talcahuano over the summer of 2011 to film a documentary with the working title ‘Back to Sea’, which will premiere in February 2012 in New York, almost 2 years after that fateful day.
Chile was not struck by just one disaster, the earthquake. It wasn’t even struck by two, including the tsunami. The lootings were so widespread and thorough, nobody was adequately prepared to prevent them or deal with them as they swept over Chile’s cities. Deputy Jorge
Loretta van der Horst (’09) went on to work at the Santiago Times in Chile, where she experienced and documented the 2010 earthquake. She is currently finishing her MA in Documentary Journalism at NYU.
For information about Loretta’s documentary: www.backtoseafilm.com
December ‘11 | Post
The Photographer on Archimedean spirals
The continuous expanding or contracting motion around a fixed point. We are the only fixed point in this world: everything else spirals either towards or away from us. Our inner experience of the outside world restricts us to seeing things as being around us: nothing or nobody can ever truly and fully connect with us.
The Academic on ‘Bewegungskontrast’
The illusory motion of a stationary object due to the counter-directional motion of a nearby object. When the outer circle is slowly rotated clockwise, the inner circle - which is fixed on the plate seems to move counter-clockwise, and vice versa.
By Roeland Verhallen (‘10)
Photos / Elitsa Mateva (‘09) & Bojan Opacak (’10)
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Kiran Coleman tells you why Mitt Romney will beat Barack Obama in 2012’s race for the office of U.S. president.
e might as well face it now, Mitt Romney, the Republican ex-governor of Massachusetts, is going to be the next president of the United States of America. I know, voting hasn’t even started yet, there are still months of primaries before we even know who Obama’s opponent will be, and the seemingly endless presidential campaigns leading up to the actual election in November haven’t even begun. However, there are only so many ways that these elections typically go, and this election cycle, looking at the history and the state the
country is in, all signs are pointing to Romney. Not convinced? Let me take you through why: Why Romney will be picked over the rest of the Republican field First of all, Republicans have a habit of granting the nomination to whoever’s due for getting it. Of all the Republican nominees from the past 40 years, McCain, Dole, George H.W. Bush, Reagan and Nixon all had ran presidential campaigns in previous elections before they were granted the nomination, with only Gerald Ford and George W. Bush being nominat-
ed the first time they ran (and Ford had already been president for two years at that point1). Romney not only has run for president before, he, like George W. Bush, is the son of a well-known and seasoned politician who also ran for president. A figure like Obama, who rises from relative obscurity to sweep the Democrats off their feet, is incredibly rare on the conservative side. Republicans may like to flirt with a new and exciting candidate every once in a while, but when it comes to actually granting the nomination, they tend to go for the establishment candidate and this cycle, that candidate is undoubtedly Romney. Another element working in favour of Romney is that the Republican primaries are starting very early this year, and the earlier the primaries, the better it works out for the best prepared candidate. This election, Iowa (traditionally the first state to vote) is holding its caucus on January 3rd already and, out of everyone in the GOP field, Romney is clearly the best prepared. In terms of connections, fundraising, and organizational matters like having campaign staff and headquarters in the places where voters need to be reached, Romney’s campaign has had more time and experience setting these up than those of any of his rivals. Other candidates will take care of or learn to do these things as they go along, but with Romney already off to Ford, incidentally, is the only US president to have never been elected, rising to the office only by first being appointed vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned over tax evasion and corruption, and then president when Nixon also resigned.
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People are unhappy and when they get the chance to vote, they will want to vote for change. This time around, that’s no longer Obama.
Ever since Obama got into office there has been a significant and palpable animosity towards his administration and person, which has come to the front for instance in the many Tea Party rallies or some of the 2009 town hall meetings dealing with healthcare. All Romney would have to do is get those riled up voters to reconcile with him and he can tap into a fired up and highly motivated base of supporters that has no significant equivalent on Obama’s side.
a head start, it may well be too late for the rest of them. Perhaps most importantly, Romney, unlike the other candidates, has been battle tested. All the personally and politically sensitive information that can come out about a candidate (and which could hurt them), already emerged during his previous run for the presidency. His hiring of a gardening company that employed illegal immigrants and the 12 hour road trip he took with his dog strapped to the roof of his car made for political fodder against him then, but bringing them up again now runs the risk of coming off as petty. Plus, being the seasoned politician that he is, Romney will have the answers to these matters prepared and be ready to respond. The new candidates don’t have this luxury. Any time a new woman comes forward to accuse Herman Cain of sexual harassment or when we find out that the Perry family hunting grounds used to be called ‘Niggerhead’, not only do their campaigns have to deal with dispelling such negative information, they also run the very real risk of fumbling the response and making themselves look unprepared and unable to handle unexpected situations (an important quality when it comes to being president). Unlike the other contenders, whose numbers have either remained negligi-
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bly low or tend to shoot up and down, the polls have shown Romney has had not only a very sizable, but a steady and stable support base ever since he announced he would run. Other candidates have seen their poll numbers surge, but also saw that support waver again once the spotlight was turned on them. Romney’s supporters have never left his side and as soon as Romney’s steady support starts being translated into actual primary votes, Romney will have the momentum on his side and, in so far as he isn’t already, will begin to exude an air of inevitability (and voters like picking a winner). Why Romney will beat Obama in the general election Romney’s victory over Obama won’t be as easy as his win over the rest of the Republican field. Regardless of your opinion on how he’s doing as president, Obama has proven himself to be an excellent campaigner, a gifted debater, able to give a great speech and having charisma to spare. Romney would have a hard time besting, or even matching, Obama on any of those fronts, but, luckily for him, Romney doesn’t have to be the darling of the right. The GOP doesn’t need to run an exciting candidate that instantly bowls over everyone who could ever be tempted to vote Republican, because the Republican candidate won’t be the one that will drive conservatives to vote, it will be Obama.
This base is fired up because, perhaps on more than any other issue, this election will hinge on the state of the economy. And the economy, in case you need to be told, isn’t doing so well. The Consumer Confidence index is traditionally one of the bellwether indicators of whether the American people think the country is heading in the right direction, and it has rarely been this low. These things always have the ability to (slowly) turn around, of course, but to give you an indication of how long a way it has to go: The average Consumer Confidence index on the day a president was re-elected has been 95, the lowest it’s ever been when a president was reelected is 75, when Carter’s re-election campaign managed to win only 49 of the 538 electoral votes in 1980 the index was at 64, right now, one year before the election, it’s at 55. With numbers that low, people are unhappy and when they get the chance to vote, they will want to vote for change. This time around, that’s no longer Obama. Now, it’s not that Obama has been a total failure as president; in fact, I’d argue that he’s been far from that. He has booked some substantial victories when it comes to foreign policy (like taking out Osama Bin Laden and aiding the Libyans in ousting Gaddafi), but the policies that led to those victories largely haven’t been that different
from what a lot of Republicans have been advocating. Barring any major international events, this election isn’t shaping up to be one where the policies of Obama and his (Republican) Secretary of Defence will be a point of much contention. On the domestic level he passed legislation that helped stave off the demise of the automotive industry and a stimulus package that many independent economists will tell you prevented the economy from falling into a full blown depression, and he has passed a bill that provides health care to many previously uninsured Americans. The thing about those accomplishments is that it’s very hard to campaign on them. Claiming you prevented something from happening is a much tougher sell than presenting to the voters something you made happen. After all, “it could’ve been so much worse” doesn’t make for a very good bumper sticker. Add to that that the health care bill (currently under review by the Supreme Court to determine whether certain elements of it are even constitutional) is a complicated piece of legislation of which few Americans
will have noticed the concrete, real life benefits by the time they step into the voting booth. Plus, it isn’t very popular with a lot of people on the left, who had hoped it would include more than it did (like the Single-Payer universal health care system). This, in turn, is indicative of another problem, namely that Obama’s base is much less fired up than it was during the last election cycle. When the people had had eight years of George W. Bush and the very real prospect of Sarah Palin being one heartbeat away from the presidency, those who could be persuaded to vote Democrat were very eager to do so. However, some of those same core constituencies that drove voter turnout last time, have been disappointed. As much as he has tried to temper them, expectations for the Obama presidency
were extremely high and he hasn’t been able to live up to them. A lot of liberals are dissatisfied with his failure to close down Guantanamo Bay, that his foreign policy has largely been a continuation of Bush’s policies, and that he hasn’t been able to get Single-Payer health care through. Gays might be glad about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” being repealed but could be disappointed that Obama won’t come out in support of federal recognition of same-sex marriage (which a majority of Americans now support). African Americans have, proportionally, been hit much harder by the current economic woes and his support amongst Jewish Americans has also waned, which would spell trouble for him in the crucial swing state of Florida. If he wants to keep Jewish Americans happy, he might
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be forced to side with Netanyahu’s right-wing government more often than he would feel comfortable doing. This might not get all these people who voted for Obama last time to switch their vote to Romney, but it does make them much less likely to knock on doors and campaign for him and also much more likely to not vote at all on election day. And those non-votes could prove extremely important, because in the end, getting elected in the US is a numbers game and all a candidate needs to become president is 365 Electoral College votes. The days when a Reagan or Nixon could get elected by carrying more than 40 states are long gone. In 2012 Texas and Alaska will go to the Republicans, New York and California will go to the Democrats. It’s only a handful of states that are really up for grabs, which explains why candidates spend a vastly disproportionate amount of their time there where the votes can be got. A lot of the current swing states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania, are states that have lost a lot of industrial jobs
After all, ‘it could’ve been so a much worse’ doesn’t make for very good bumper sticker.
and where the economic downturn is being felt harder than in a lot of other places. Additionally, if Romney is smart in picking a vice-presidential running mate, like, say, a Marco Rubio, he has a good chance of firing up the Tea Party constituency that has not been as excited about Romney, of winning Rubio’s home state of Florida (the largest and most crucial swing state) and he could snatch up a few other swing states with high Latino populations, like Nevada. Obama on the other hand will most likely be stuck with Joe Biden, a very capable administrator but also an extremely gaff-prone campaigner from a very small state that would have voted Democratic anyway. During any election there are many factors at play, but the crunch is: The
economy is bad, unemployment is high and the president’s poll numbers are low. And that’s as true now as it will be next November. Regardless of the roles Greece, Goldman Sachs, or George Bush may have played, after four years it will always be the incumbent party that is held responsible for the state the country is in. That’s bad news if you’re a Democrat, but if you’re Mitt Romney, it’s what will get you your next job.
Kiran Coleman (’05) went on to study International Law at the University of Amsterdam and is the current Secretary of the UCAA Board.
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! o n t o s i t r a e e N h C ew N a an
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Bodil Dronkers is hesitantly optimistic about the future of the Republic of South Sudan.
climb into the passenger seat of the old, beat-up white Land Cruiser next to my favourite driver Emmanuel and set out for a drive into town. It takes us about 10 minutes to start the car, with a lot of team effort from all other staff on the compound. After informing the security guard of our destination we exit the barb wired, concrete jungle of a compound. I take preventive action against hitting my head or damaging any other body part by tightly hanging on to the handle as we splash through one massive puddle after another. A giant billboard on the side of the main road advertises Tusker, the ever popular Kenyan beer brewer: “Cheers to a New Nation”, it reads. It is one of the many reminders of the upcoming independence of South Sudan seen throughout town. We fight ourselves through traffic and onto the main paved road, a
novelty here in South Sudan, as the entire country has a grand total of 60 kilometres of tarmac road. I notice a myriad of women along the side of the road, sweeping with locally made bamboo brooms. Other women are planting purple flowers down the middle of the road; I imagine all in preparation for the big Independence Day. I think about all the changes that are happening around the city. The paved road is now lined with solar-powered streetlights, the first streetlights in South Sudan. As we weave through the mass of motorcycles and matatus (local transportation mini buses) on another bumpy road, I ponder the vibrant, energetic chaos that dominates the city today. A large group of women in full traditional dress are running down the road and chanting their tribal songs of happiness. There are countless street vendors selling the new flag. In
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the midst of all the chaos, Emmanuel explains to me that all problems will be over once independence rolls around. His children will have better education and more wealth. “No more problem, madam”, he assures me. We make all planned stops in town without ending up in an accident. On the last stretch home I notice fake roses have been planted in between all the purple flowers. A few days later I am battling my way through the back roads of Juba (the main roads were closed for non-VIP cars and lined with rocket launchers for security purposes), and pass Emmanuel, whose entire face is covered with painted South Sudanese flags. He is dancing in the middle of the road with a large group of people from his tribe, celebrating this very special day, July 9th 2011. Independence Day has finally come and he is not the only one celebrating. I am struck by my inability to describe the sights, sounds, and feelings generated from the enthusiasm on this day. I could fill an entire book with descriptions and still wouldn’t do it justice. There is a sense of ecstasy and energy beyond anything I have experienced before; people just let their bodies and minds go. There was no limit to where or how people celebrate – some in the bars, many on the streets, others in the stadium at the official celebration. Everyone is together, regardless of tribe, history, gender, or age. True solidarity. At the famous John Garang Stadium VIPs from around the world, together with the press and other invited guests, engage in the official ceremony to declare The Republic of South Sudan an independent nation. Among the VIPs
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are Ban Ki-moon and Omar al-Bashir, now the president of North Sudan. He came to South Sudan to officially endorse the independence and hand over full leadership to Salva Kiir. Thousands stream into the stadium to witness the moment, and millions more are watching from their TV screens across the world. Meanwhile, up in the northern parts of South Sudan, in the Abyei region, conflict has never ceased. Abyei is a disputed border area between North and South Sudan, and contributes to a quarter of crude oil outputs. A separate referendum is to be held to decide its fate; a referendum which has been postponed indefinitely due to the ongoing conflict between North and South over the area. At the end of May 2011, just a little over a month before independence, the North violently invaded Abyei under order of al-Bashir, with over 5000 troops and aerial bombardment and shelling, forcing more than 150.000 residents to flee their homes. At the time of Omar al-Bashir’s endorsement of the independence in the John Garang Stadium, 150.000 people are without any prospect of peace.
Last week, as part of my job, I went on a field visit to a village 2 hours from Juba. As we travel down one of the few dirt roads that lead to the rural areas of the state, I begin to see a massive compound. I ask the project officer what monstrosity lies ahead and why it’s so horrendously massive. It must be the size of all the ministries in Juba combined. He informs me that these are the headquarters for the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army).
it is Apparently make big possible to ickly. Where changes qu ill, there there is a w is a way.
Despite the conflict in certain areas, Juba and its surrounding peaceful areas plough forth to make changes in confirmation of independence. In the course of a few months the national currency is changed, a new international phone code chosen, a national football team formed, and dialogue with the UN on the creation of a new seat in the General Assembly initiated. I had never put much thought into what factors come into play with the creation of a brand new state. While some changes seem trivial, they are still key aspects of creating an independent identity. These changes are a testament to the fact that people have some reason to be optimistic – things move fast, and apparently it is possible to make big changes quickly. Where there is a will, there is a way.
We turn into what looks like a hiking path. Lucky for us, we just bushwhack our way through with our colossal Land Cruiser. I quickly pull my arm in from the window before it gets mangled by the bushes. The project officer tells me that we are the only NGO that comes out to this community because it is too remote for other organizations. Up ahead, I see a stream with a very steep and rocky path heading down and another steep and rocky path heading up. It’s clear to me: we are going to either get stuck or ruin the car. The only option would be to reverse out. The driver sees things differently and just continues straight down the steep slope and into the stream. Our four-wheel drive is in full gear and I cringe at every big rock we hit in the stream. We make it through the stream and over the hill and continue on our merry way. As we roll into the main community meeting place, a group of representatives greet us with big smiles and waves. The school children march towards me with songs and dance, welcoming the first khawaja (white person) to their village. I am eager to visit the only primary school in the entire community, which spans over 100 square kilometres. As we approach the school, I am slightly confused by the empty classrooms and children hanging around here, there, and everywhere. Two men approach us, and are introduced by my Field Officer as the teachers and facilitators of our activities. Standing across the two men, I am met with the stench of alcohol and a list of problems, including the fact that they have not been paid in months. I catch myself wondering if it was Tusker beer that they have been drinking. The heat is getting to me and the one bottle of water I brought from Juba is empty, so I ask a community member where I could possibly get some water. He informs me that, with no shops around, the community has big water problems. Only two water pumps service the community members, and the closest one is five miles away. As we make our way to the borehole in our Land Cruiser, Paul
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t as brough h e c n e d n en Indepe . It has giv m o d e e r f hope and to shine. e c n a h c ew people a n Simon serenading us, and with the air conditioning on full blast, we pass children carrying big 20 litre jerry cans on their head in 40 degree heat. As we drive back into the outskirts of Juba, I observe and ponder all the changes that have happened so quickly in Juba and how starkly these changes contrast with the type of community I just visited. In the past months hotels, business centres, restaurants, and car showrooms have popped up like mushrooms. In the villages, on the other hand, nothing has changed at all. Juba is developing, superficially, every day. Months ago, it was an anomaly to see a Hummer driving on the roads of Juba, now it’s a game for NGO workers to count how many we can spot on the road in a short trip to the supermarket. On the other hand, some things are not developing at all: power is still irregular (with up to two weeks of power cuts), water is transported by trucks, and infrastructure is still limited to less than 60 kilometres of tarmac roads. Independence has brought with it an array of changes that will make our lives in the city better, but a stark difference still remains between the changes happening for the rich, urban population and the poor, rural population. I recently read on the front cover of the South Sudan Business magazine that western businessmen had come to invest in the Republic of South Sudan. Good news, I thought, because South Sudan needs investments to help it develop. Later, when talking to some journalists who had reported on this, it became clear that ‘investment’ was maybe not the right word to use, as it could imply developmental aims. Van Vliet, a prominent Dutch businessman dealing in cars, made a deal in South Sudan for the sale of 200 GM Hummers. This while 73% of the population is illiterate, 82% live in rural communities (South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics), and it’s more likely for a 15-year-old girl to die from childbirth than it is for her to complete her education (IRC). The Republic of South Sudan is an infant and the road to development is best compared with a labyrinth that it
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Photos / Aerial photogr aphy of rural commun ities, a dried-up river and cattle on the road in South Sudan / Arse nie Coseac (‘04)
must crawl its way through. When I specifically think of what needs to be done, I am overwhelmed. All problems are related to one another and they are all happening on different levels, from national to state to county-level government. Education is a disaster, there are very few jobs, and very few meaningful investments. To top it all off, there is severe corruption at the top levels of government. Perhaps this is the biggest problem of all, because in order to address any of these issues one thing has to change: government budget allocations. When looking at the current government structure and national budgets, the armed forces receive a whopping 60% of the budget, while the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development each receive less that 5% of the national budget. When visiting the Ministry of Social Development at the state level, I was faced with a meeting room filled by the smell of urine and several officers crammed into one office. The skill set of the people employed, save the Minister and her Directors, is limited,
South Sudan government, (International) Non-governmental Organizations, and other institutions must take advantage of this hope and build sustainable skills that will lead people to start believing in, and thinking in terms of, long term success. But the people have to realise that hope is not enough, and that only hard work and dedication can lead them there. In this sense, it is a two-way street and that is often where the problems in aid lie – differing expectations from all stakeholders.
The road to developm ent is a long one, with lo ts of potholes, dust, an d puddles.
especially with regard to expertise in social development. There is a lack of critical thinking and problem solving skills. Without an adequate budget, how can the ministries ever evolve into working institutions that can provide appropriate services to their vulnerable population? The government must invest in the development of basic and essential services, such as education, health, and infrastructure for the people. Without these, the country and its people will not develop. Another essential factor for the successful development is the people of South Sudan. Up until independence, very few people felt true hope for the future, especially the youth. They have no jobs, no education, many of them are illiterate, and most have become alcoholics to forget their boredom. Independence has brought hope and freedom. It has given people a new chance to shine, from within themselves, in their communities, and to the world. The
Although it is easy to get pulled down into all the misery of a post-war country, there is a light in the euphoria and hope of a people that have just been freed. After years of war with the Sudan, South Sudan is now a free nation. Freedom is something that most of us take for granted, but for the people of South Sudan freedom is priceless. Still, the road to development is a long one, with lots of potholes, dust, and puddles. The government and agencies need to capitulate on the euphoria that comes with independence with some urgency. It is only a matter of time before the population realises that the desired change has not happened and becomes frustrated. That frustration, the loss of hope that follows it, the lack of sustainable development and the ever-remaining tribal tensions obscuring what the common enemy is can be a recipe for disaster. Without swift and critical action, it is more than possible that another conflict will arise within the country, and that the road to development will once again be blocked. But for now, there are many NGOs, governments, and motivated people driving on that road to change. Hopefully, with those essential structural changes and targeted interventions, we will slowly be able to make our way to the end. So, in the words of the Tusker billboard, cheers to a new nation indeed! Bodil Dronkers (’05) followed her bachelor’s in International Law and Psychology with a master’s in International Development Studies. She spent almost three years working in Thailand for international NGO Right to Play before moving to South Sudan in 2010 to work for War Child Holland as a Field Location Manager.
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Naomi Becht and Derk van der Woude are in Dublin, Ireland, working for Google, a big company that started as a “search engine” on the “internet”.
niversity life was over and the transition into working life promised to be a demanding one. At least, that is what the others who had already joined the rat race had told us. They spoke of early mornings, long days and late nights. The recruiter had promised us that Google was different. There was only one way to find out and before we knew it we found ourselves wandering the Google campus in Dublin. The campus was different from the one at University College, but some of the faces were not. There are currently four UCU alumni working at Google in Dublin. Naomi and Derk discuss Google: the company, the culture and the work.
So why are the Google headquarters in Dublin? There seem to be a couple of reasons. Firstly, Dublin is culturally close to a large part of Europe, English is the main language, and the culture is easy to relate to. These factors make sense if you realise that Google is serving and driving business in 56 markets using 56 different languages and recruits most of its employees (about 75%) from abroad. With the global headquarters being in Mountain View, the fact that there is only a five-hour time difference with the US east coast may also have played a role. But perhaps the most
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important reason is that Ireland offers a 12.5% corporate tax rate, which is about half of what companies in London pay. Possibly also a reason why other internet giants like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter followed suit? You refer to the Google offices as the campus, why is this? You can compare it to the University College campus: there are four main buildings and there is a constant flow of people between these buildings. Everywhere you go you bump into people that you know or recognize. Instead of one, there are four Dining Halls (serving sushi instead of kroketten) and there are plenty of social committees and sports teams to choose from. The only thing that is missing is a bar, but no man overboard: the Irish love their pints and there is always an Irish pub just around the corner. And of course, how could we forget: the usual Friday beers with our colleagues, with free beer in the office. Everyone knows Google for its search engine, but the company also has a wide range of other products such as Gmail, Maps and Google Plus. What is Google’s focus? Google’s mission is to “organize the world’s information and
make it universally accessible and useful”. In addition to the more well-known products such as Search and Gmail, this mission also translates into some very cool features such as Google Books, Google Sky and the Google Art Project (just Google them!). Google is not afraid to take a risk. Even when a project may not necessarily be profitable in the short run or, at times, even the long run, they go ahead with it anyways. It’s like testing products by throwing them against the wall to see which ones will stick. This way, many projects that in other companies would never see the daylight get a chance. Nevertheless, the main focus of Google is and for the foreseeable future will be Search.
So, what do you guys do all day after all? With Google operating globally, almost every major country is represented in an Online Sales team. Thus, while the overall environment is internationally oriented, within your own team you deal with customers from your own country. With the Dublin office being largely Sales focused, most employees give advice to advertisers who use Google for their company. In the Dutch team, we check and optimize their accounts, make our occasional phone calls and deliver pitches - we essentially try to make their business as successful as possible through the use of Google products. So, as an endnote, if you are interested: Google is hiring!1
Google is famed for its open culture; do you really sit on Skippy balls and eat cupcakes all day long? Yes and no. The cupcakes and Skippy balls, as well as pingpong tables, X-boxes and massage chairs are most definitely there. Google is a very young company and this is reflected in its employees. Most are somewhere in their twenties and wear sneakers to work. At the same time, Google says it only hires people that are “smarter than us”, so most employees are high-potentials and ambitious. In such an environment, people aim to work hard and ultimately they are of course responsible for meeting their targets and their team’s needs.
Naomi Becht (‘10) continued to study Social Anthropology at Oxford University, where she was recruited by Google. She currently resides in Dublin, where the company’s headquarters are located, working as an Online Sales Account Strategist. Derk van der Woude (‘09) co-founded the UCWorld Foundation and obtained his MSc in International Management at King’s College, London. He currently works as a Strategic Account Manager at Google in Dublin.
Google will be represented at the 2012 UCU Career Day on February 28th; all alumni are welcome. Send an email to email@example.com if you want to attend.
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Contrasts in UCU’ s international collaboration UCU’s dean, Rob van der Vaart, updates you on UCU’s international collaboration and invites you to join him in a strategic dialogue.
ontrasts, oppositions, contradictions – they can be found everywhere on the pages of this edition of Post. I would like to update you on what may look like contrasting approaches in UCU’s international collaboration. On the one hand, we have invested substantially over the last few years in international partnerships for student exchange, with prestigious partners who offer excellent education. Our UCU students can now study (for a semester) at the University Scholars Program (honors program) of the National University of Singapore, at one of the Colleges of the very high-ranking Chinese University of Hong Kong, at Boston College, or at SciencesPo in Paris, just to mention a few. On the other hand, we collaborate wholeheartedly with institutions that you will not find high in the international rankings. One of them is Wollega University in western Ethiopia, one of the country’s new universities, an institution of great ambition, with excellent leadership, but obviously with limited resources. We believe that if you en-
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courage students to engage in community service (as we do nowadays), you should also give the right example as a school. We support Wollega University in many ways, such as capacity building. There is reciprocity in the relationship as well: Wollega offers us a lot in terms of student project options, widening experience for our faculty and staff, and the like. University College Utrecht has built up prestige and reputation over the years as the best undergraduate program in the country, and as exemplary for a “new way” of undergraduate education in Europe. It is only normal that we offer our students the best possible options for study abroad, hence the collaboration with prestigious partners. But “noblesse oblige”: we believe that it should be our mission also to reach out, help others to improve their education, on
the basis of our experience and expertise. This is what we do in Ethiopia, but also in our support to some European universities that intend to start Liberal Arts and Sciences programs. If you are interested in UCU’s positioning and collaboration internationally and would like to know more about it, then please tell the UCAA Board! I am most willing to come to any of your local gatherings, either in the Netherlands or abroad, and discuss the issue with you. I am sure that such a meeting would generate new ideas, based on your experiences. I hope to see some of you soon, somewhere! Prof. Dr. Rob van der Vaart has a doctorate in human geography from the University of Utrecht and has been the dean of UCU since 2008.
Congratulations, class of 2011 1/2 ! Aneta Bankova, Quirine Boertje, Katherine Bolger, Anna Bornemisza, Andrea Bos, Banta-Eric Dram, Ania Fiksinski, Philipp Friemann, Cathy Granneman, Ted Greijer, Jesse Groenewegen, Julian Keuzenkamp, Kariuki Kirigia, Salomea Krobath, Ralph van der Maat, Iva Mechkunova, Marieke van Nuenen, Naomi Peters-Rit, Thu Thuy Phan, Yuval Preiss, Sophie Reddering, Laura Round, Michelle Sachtler, Steven Smits, Charlotte Swart, Gerard van Vugt, James Wangu, Sarah Wells, Joris Zantvoort, Anna Zenka Illustration by Anna Denise van der Reijden (â€˜05)
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Who, what,where? Albert Joosse (‘04) defended his PhD dissertation “Why a philosopher needs others: Platonic and Stoic models of friendship and self-understanding” at the University of Utrecht on June 17th 2011. Irina Buga (‘08) and Jennifer Speirs (‘06) were both awarded NWO Mozaïek-subsidies for doing PhD research. Irina will research the evolution of international treaties and Jennifer will be doing work to aid the treatment and prevention of cystic-fibrosis. Dominique Snel (‘10), Nienke de Pauw (‘09) and Bram Eidhof (‘08) were all selected to participate in the Nationale Denktank 2011, this year themed around innovation in the job market. Lynn Zedeba (‘06) and Ama van Dantzig (‘04) both made it onto Viva’s Viva400 list of young, successful women in the Netherlands for their work with Dr. Monk, the company they founded which focuses on innovation in international co-operation. Rebecca Noorderhaven (‘11) won
Vera Scepanovic (’05) continued her studies in political science at the Central European University in Budapest. She is currently a PhD student at the CEU studying industrial development in East and Southern Europe under the influence of foreign direct investment. Elitsa Mateva (‘09) completed a masters in Conflict Studies and Human Rights. She currently interns at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies as a Strategic Policy Analyst.
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the second annual Student Research Award on the basis of her bachelor thesis, entitled ‘The Plasterk Effect - Experiencing Stereotype Threat Increases the Ingroup Trust Bias’. Frederique Schut (‘08) completed the Mongol Derby this summer and was the first Dutch person to do so! She rode 1035km on horseback across Mongolia and is writing a book about it. Julia Zamorska (’01) was named Executive of the Year at the 8th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business for her work as VP of Corporate Communications at iolo technologies. Nicole Grether (‘02) was awarded the 2011 National Edward R. Murrow Award for Use of Video in her coverage of the Chili mine rescue for the Associated Press. Ingmar Vriesema (‘03) published the non-fiction book “Het Beroemde Broer & Zus Boek” at Thomas Rap publishers (an imprint of De Bezige Bij). Sarah Carmichael (‘06) published her first article in the journal The History of the Family: “Marriage and Power: An examination of age at first marriage and
Roeland Verhallen (‘10) is currently doing an M.Phil at the University of Cambridge. You can find more of his photography at: www.roelandverhallen.com
spousal age gap in LDC’s, and the variables that explain its variations.”
Bojan Opacak (’10) went on to work at Paprenjak as a Marketing Consultant/Brand manager. Bojan and Elitsa took the photos that appear throughout this edition of Post during a holiday in Croatia using a double exposure effect. Anna Denise van der Reijden (’05) has a master’s degree in art history of the low countries as well as one in arts management and policy. She’s currently working as a program officer at the Flemish-Dutch cultural house deBuren in Brussels, does freelance illustration work, blogs at annadenise.nl and theyellowumbrellablog.com, and occasionally teaches courses and workshops on art journaling and creative living.
Annelies Vredeveldt (’07) got the paper “Eyeclosure helps memory by reducing cognitive load and enhancing visualisation” published in the journal Memory & Cognition, together with Graham Hitch and Alan Baddeley. Roel van Lanen (‘01) and his fiancée Maria Witte had their first baby, a boy named Danyo, on September 22, 2011. Everybody’s healthy and happy and it looks like Danyo will be a singer, just like his daddy (he’s got the lungs for it anyway). Chris van Hemert (‘02) and his partner Kim welcomed a baby daughter, Ella Johanna van Hemert, into the world. Myrthe Welberg (‘05) married Brian Geurts in June of this year. Alexandra de Shazo (‘05) married Eitan Konigsburg in August of this year. Tim Nicolaye (‘05) and Maaike de Boer (‘07) got married on the 5th of June, 2009. Annika Greup (‘07) will marry Richard Fawcett on the 22nd of September 2012.
Read more articles from Adine Rooyackers(‘08), Gerard van Vugt (‘12), Lotte van Weerd (‘13) & Bas Heerma van Voss (‘12) at:
Arsenie Coseac (‘04) completed an LLM in International Law at Utrecht University in 2006, following which he worked as a volunteer with refugees and returnees in Sudan. More of his photos can be seen at: www.flickr.com/sidelife
Photo / Scene from Barcelona / Vera Scepanovic (‘05)
Colophon Editorial Board Sarah Carmichael (’06) Kiran Coleman (’05) Laurens Hebly (’01) Thijs van Himbergen (’03) Iris Otto (’09) Layout, design & illustration Laurens Hebly (’01) Thijs van Himbergen (’03) cargocollective.com/vanhimbergenhebly Contributors Naomi Becht (’10) Teun van der Bom (’01) Kiran Coleman (‘05) Arsenie Coseac (‘04) Ama van Dantzig (’05)
Bodil Dronkers (‘05) Wendelien Hebly (’03) Bas Heerma van Voss (‘12) Loretta van der Horst (’09) Elitsa Mateva (‘09) Bojan Opacak (’10) Anna Denise van der Reijden (’05) Adine Rooyackers (’08) Vera Scepanovic (’05) Rob van der Vaart Roeland Verhallen (’10) Gerard van Vugt (‘12) Lotte van Weerd (‘13) Derk van der Woude (’09) Many thanks to Sebastiaan Cassé (‘03) Derek Coleman
Bas Defize Jochem Floor (‘04) Manon van Gijtenbeek (‘00) Fried Keesen Noortje van ’t Klooster (’09) Roel van Lanen (‘01) Bettina Nelemans Rob van der Vaart Annelies Vredeveldt (‘07) Marijt Witteman (‘06) Printed by Drukkerij ZuidamUithof A very special thanks to all UCAA contributors and to the UCU administration for believing in this magazine and for making the many UCAA events possible.
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