with James Spady by Ellen Khan
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
ovember has been an eventful month. The US presidential election results stunned the world, we experienced a sudden passing of one of our honorable faculty members, and SOKA Festival once again bonded our community through dance and performances. Here at Pearl, we worked hard all month to bring you a truly global issue. We aimed to shed some perspective on our close community as well as the world around us. We decided to interview the Mayor of Aliso Viejo Mike Munzing to help our readers understand our city better. We want our students to be involved and felt included in their close community. We aimed to show our readers how anyone could make a change in Aliso Viejo. Mayor Munzing spoke on policy issues and politics. Additionally, we focused on social justice by interviewing one of our acclaimed faculty members James Spady. Our reporter Ellen Khan and Professor Spady discussed the Chicanos Unidos movement in Orange County. We also received many submissions this month, and we want to thank our readers for making this effort. We received spectacular photography, opinion pieces, and a submission from Lisa Crummett, our guest contributor this month.
The Pearl Editorial Board
Kristian Filip The Manager
Manager: Kristian Filip, Secretary: Tamy Nazha, Accountant: Katarina Hou, Curator: Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez Editors: Valerie O’Connor, Tamy Nazha, Katarina Hou, Dominique Ongaro, Rosabelle Heine Writers: Kristian Filip, Dominique Ongaro, Sofia Dugas, Rosabelle Heine, Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez, Ellen Khan, Emma Steer, Takashi Ichihashi, Lana Lief, Lisa Crummett
The Pearl Magazine Staﬀ:
Photographers: Tamy Nazha Graphic Designers: Kristian Filip Marketing Team: Valerie O’Connor, Dominique Ongaro, Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez Front Cover: Brandon Lim Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Inner Workings of ALISO VIEJO Interview with Mayor Mike Munzing by Kristian Filip, page 14
Soka Festival ................................ 5 Syrian Women’s Advocates .......... 6 Talking Social Justice ................... 7 The Inner Workings of AV ........... 10 Student Proﬁle: L. Ortiz .............. 16 Interviewing S. Hoﬀding ............. 17 Meditations on Election .............. 18 To the Mixed Child...................... 20 What happened? ........................ 21
ARTS Drawing by R.Heine.....................14 Bhamini by B. Lim .......................23 Mexican-American ......................28
GLOBAL CITIZENS #BlackLivesMatter ....................... 32 Dia de Los Muertos ..................... 34 Popping the Soka Bubble ........... 36 Diet or Regular Soda? ................. 38 Great Barrier Reef........................ 40 Study Abroad Letters .................. 41
The Charm of
Soka Festival T
his year, the Class of 2020 performed a dance under the theme of “Unify.” Almost half of the Class of 2020 are international students. From Japan to France to Ethiopia to Australia, they gather from countries and areas that extend over the five continents. It seems impossible that they can cooperate with each other and create one great piece of work; however, they were able to overcome this difficulty despite only meeting four months ago. The committee chair, Shara, said, “of course, it is difficult to encourage every student— especially because we haven’t experienced Soka Festival before. We cannot imagine what we’re supposed to do; however, almost all classmates enjoy practice and talking with friends.” Not only class senate, but lots of volunteers are actively involved in practice and preparation. “I wanted to contribute to my class through the thing that I love— dance,” said Harumi Endo, who is one of the choreographers. She added, “However, my classmates support me more for what I do for them. When I teach dance choreography, it is difficult to explain it in English, my second language. However, my classmates never criticize me, but encourage me. Through this experience, I am able to understand the kind of support that we do not realize in everyday life.”
by Takashi Ichihashi
Arthur Carlisle (Trey) believes, “dance and music are language for everyone. Dance can help performers express themselves without words. This must be a key to unify people all over the world.” Trey has cultivated this belief since high school and through his involvement in MiC (Music in Common,) a program that brings youth of different faiths together to learn about each other. Members of MiC develop an understanding and respect for each other, and create a song together about peace, tolerance, and respect. On Friday October 14, 2016, Trey presented this experience at Tedx Mission Viejo as a representative for MiC, and this presentation was broad-casted all over the world online. Trey coordinated the whole class dance. Even though it was difficult to gather everyone to practice, the Class of 2020 accomplished a touching dance performance. Trey’s challenge proved that one passion can spread to everyone and create a miracle. After the interview, Harumi whispered to me “Soka Festival is a great opportunity to deepen friendships with classmates who you do not meet in daily life. I’m looking forward to developing these friendships year by year, aren’t you?” Absolutely. Their SUA life has only just started.
Ghungroo hosted an amazing event on October 30th celebrating Diwali. This event brought together the Soka community for a night full of laughter, dance, food, and poker. This celebration of lights was a way to celebrate the diversity of the Soka campus, and helped those missing home feel more at home. Bhangra one half of Ghungroo performed a song for the crowd and started the dance for all to enjoy. Here are some words from Bhamini the President of Ghungroo, “Diwali more than anything is a space to celebrate new beginnings and the community that you live in. Even though it may have its own mythology/religious significance behind it, for me, it transcends those religious boundaries because you celebrate with everyone. That’s the beauty I miss, being able to go out and enjoy Diwali. You eat food with your family after the ceremonies, you clean your house, get a fresh paint, decorate it with flowers, candles, diyas and tea-lights. it looks beautiful! You spend the day with your family and friends and that is what counts and is most important. I think we tried to recreate that communal spirit at Soka where everyone was dancing together, there were lights rangoli and a little feeling of celebration. But I also know it means a lot to the students who are far away from home and have been celebrating this festival for years.”
Pearl Event Review
What I Learned from
Syrian Women’s Advocates
Pearl Event Review
his weekend at a UCSB Model United Nations conference, I represented Syria in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In my role of representing the state, I tackled the issue of Syrian refugees and attempted conciliation with fragmented rebel groups in the region. However, ending a civil war in a MUN simulation is drastically different than in the real Syria of sectarian conflict and a tyrannical regime. Many times during the committee sessions I felt my efforts of diplomacy were futile, yet I was reminded of a panel that I attended when I went on the 2016 Soka UN Study Tour. A group of Syrian Women’s advocates discussed the presence of sexual violence in the state and the importance of women in establishing peace within Syria. During the panel, Ambassador Mara Marinaki, Principle Advisor on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, a mandate which examines the impact of war on gender based violence, explained that there has been a major dearth of reported crimes in Syria, specifically the number of women who have been systematically raped as a tactic of war. This is mostly due to the shame that the victims of sexual violence assume, coupled with the religious and social implications for their families. Marinaki related that in Syria, the females within a family are usually the first ones to detect Islamic radicalism, prevent these ideologies, and are essential to the preservation of the family unit. Thus, the condition of life for women is vitally important to the the overall stabilization of Syria, and the stifling of Islamic extremism.
by Emma Steer
Further, the narratives regarding the relationship between women and the endemic democracy in a region is a discourse which can be articulated most distinctly by female leaders. Lilian Halls-French, co-President of the Euromed Feminist Initiative IFE-IFE, explained that the presence of women in a state is a measure of the nation’s democracy, and through structural patriarchal exclusion, Syrian women have been unable to participate in the peace process. She cited the exclusion of women from the Vienna peace negotiations by the International Syria Support Group as having been detrimental for the mitigation of sexual violence in the area. Rafif Jouejati, director of the NGO, FREE-Syria, believes that the lack of focus on these issues is due to the void of women in the narrative of international media. We hear about ISIS, chemical weapons, but little of the rape and detainment of women and girls. The response invoked by Assad’s use of chemical weapons in 2012 should be replicated for the Syrian government’s detainment and torture of 4,500 women. The women on the panel are using their voices to be heard by an international community that often doesn’t listen. Their determination to restore the decency of life for Syrian women reminded me of the wars we wage at Soka. Whether we are fighting against a pipeline that threatens the cultural and environmental landscape around it, or a president whose actions and rhetoric vehemently oppose our values, we are not powerless, and our measures have tangible effects.
al-Dimashqi, Youmna. "A Woman's Harrowing Account of Torture and Abuse Inside Assad's Prison's." Syria Deeply . Syria Deeply , 7 May 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2016. <http://www.syriadeeply.org/articles/2015/05/7199/womans-harrowing-account-torture-abuse-assads-prisons/>.
SOCIAL JUSTICE Discussing Chican@s Unidos and Student Involvement with Professor James Spady
by Ellen Khan
rofessor James Spady teaches a variety of interdisciplinary history courses here at SUA. For many students, James’ courses represent a new perspective on not just the disparity of power within society, but also how we, individually, view ourselves, how we perhaps are complicit with exploitative power dynamics, and how we might act to create a better world. Born and raised in the New York City, New Jersey metro area, Spady moved from Virginia to Orange County for his current position here at Soka in the autumn of 2006. He didn’t know any of the people who started Chican@s Unidos, but he developed a relationship with the current leaders and other core members over the past nine years. The organization was less than a year old when he attended his first meeting. Chican@s Unidos is a multi-issue advocacy organization involved in advancement of Chicano and Mexicano people in Santa Ana and Orange County. Spady said that the organization is “interested in the indigenous dimensions of Chicano identity which is where it begins to more closely intersect with some of my scholarship interests.” Chican@s Unidos is interested in decolonization culture and organizing, which also intersects with Spady’s teaching. More recently, Chican@s Unidos has been involved with gang injunctions. A gang injunction is a civil action brought against an alleged gang, usually by a county DA. The DA names a gang and they get a court injunction against it. The injunctions generally make otherwise legal activities unlawful for some specific individuals to engage in. Different injunctions like associating with non-gang members known to the state affect the individual who has a relationship with a registered gang member. “Those gang members could be your siblings,
so there are cases of people being enjoined from congregating in public with their own family members. It can involve any kind of public consumption of alcohol – even say out on your porch – a variety of photo: B.Lim things,” says Spady. The idea of a gang injunction is that a gang is already allegedly a nuisance in the community. When classified as a public nuisance, the gang’s activity can be enjoined continually so for example, they may not be able to wear certain colors of clothing. “ One’s clothing choices are of course not illegal as such but are, rather, self expression generally protected y the first amendment to the US Constitution,” says Spady. “But nonetheless you may not be able to do them anymore because the state alleges you and the colors you choose to wear are part of a gang identity and that gang has a civil injunction against it.” The effects of a gang injunction is evident in the Manuel Vasquez v. Tony Rackauckas California Supreme Court case. Regarding Chican@s Unidos’s involvement in the Vasquez v. Rackaukas case which ended in 2013, Rackaukas was the Orange County DA and Vasquez was the plaintiff who was one of the people named in the Orange Varrio Cypress gang injunction in Orange, CA. “The Orange County DA at
Pearl Cover Story
In 2013 the California Supreme Court issued its precedent-setting Vasquez v. Rackauckas decision. Soka students and Professor James Spady had participated in the eﬀort, which was lead by an Orange County community organization called Chican@sUnidos. For Dr. Spady, the work joins scholarship, teaching, and social justice advocacy.
Pearl Cover Story
that time had begun a handful of years earlier –’06 or ’05 – to seek is own injunctions in court. It’s an old practice that was really pioneered nationally by Los Angeles County in the early ‘90s,” says Spady. “The Orange Varrio Cypress one was the one Chican@s Unidos found out about because a friend of one of the core members of Chican@s Unidos could help and participate in that.” Chican@s Unidos wanted to help fight it, and here’s why they got involved: Originally when gang injunctions are being pursued in Orange County, there was no way for a person – once added to the gang injunction – to ever remove themselves. So, let’s assume that you are even a gang member, and you are involved in some illegal and dangerous activities for yourself and others. Then let’s assume that you clean up. The law is designed so that you can’t get off the injunction. There is no process for doing it. It’s permanent. “It doesn’t have a sunset, it also gets these kids – and they are often children – 12, 14 – and they get added into the gang database – younger even,” says Spady. These children get added into the state wide database that is available to police officers when they are conducting their investigations.
In short, there is a way in which you become an instant suspect by the virtue of being on the injunction list. Once in the database, the record is permanent. “The injunction can follow people around and frankly, ruin their lives,” says Spady. This is also assuming that these people are even gang members to begin with. The other major problem with the injunctions and the other primary reason to fight them is that originally, there was no necessary requirement for a DA to give the ‘defendants’ their due process rights under the United States Constitution. Minors were being named by police officers in the field as gang members and served with a gang member identification card to sign without any legal process. “Some of these will be children who 2, 3, 4, police officers standing around telling them to sign this piece of paper and you can go,” says Spady. “Give the officers the benefit of the doubt and let’s say that the officers are honest, and they truly believe that they are looking at a gang member. So, they get the kid to sign the card and the card gets them into the system, and the system makes them a gang member and then they find themselves on a gang injunction.” In such a scenario there has been no opportunity for that child or if not a child, an adult to have legal representation that is competent enough to chal-
lenge the idea that they are a gang member. “The 2013 Vasquez v. Rackauckas decision required DAs in California to take steps to protect those legal due process rights,” Spady said. Since Spady’s involvement in Chican@s Unidos, he has learned a lot about gentrification in the city and the history of the city government. He was also able to apply those concepts to the courses he teaches here at SUA. From 2010 onward, Spady began to see in which students interested in the law could be involved with the Public Law Center that use to work with Chican@s Unidos on certain issues. “Perhaps students of ours who are interested in going to law school would be able to experience doing basic research to support cases that the public law center is pursuing,” says Spady. However, Spady mentions the importance of mutual reciprocity. What he means by that is, “our students had to be getting something that was intimately, deeply connected to what they were studying in class. While at the same time, it had to dove tail with the actual research that the organizations needed.” There is a mutual interest in seeing a line of inquiry followed that benefits both parties so that no one is being exploited.
Alex Scott and Isaac Castillo, two alumni class of 2015, are core members of Chican@s Unidos. Both individuals are interested in, and serve the interest of the organization. “The work that I do is about that reciprocity,” says Spady. “About avoiding that colonial and exploitative relationships with people that you work with within communities.” Some of the classes that Spady teaches correspond with the indigenous themes that are highlighted in Chican@s Unidos. Courses like Indigenous North America, Culture and Imperialism, and Cultures of Learning embody some of the themes oriented around exploitative relationships. “Anyone on campus who is interested in being involved and is interested is welcome to approach me,” says Spady. “Every now and then a student or other will talk about creating a club which is always a possibility. Anything from networking within the county to attending protests, organizing talks on campus – all those are possibilities and I am always happy to talk with students about ideas they want to pursue.” There are tons of organizations that students can network with, draw strength from, draw ideas from, go to meetings for and lean really transformative things for themselves.
Pearl Cover Story
photo: LA Weekly
The Inner Workings of
ALISO VIEJO Interview with Mayor Mike Munzing by Kristian Filip
Pearl Pearl magazine magazine
SOKA Soka University students often feel disconnected from the City of Aliso Viejo. In an attempt to understand our city more, we decided to interview the Mayor of Aliso Viejo Mike Munzing. We want to thank the Mayor for taking time out of his busy schedule and sitting down for an interview with us. We discussed policy, the city council, hot issues in Aliso Viejo and Mayor’s outlook on America.
Just for clarity, we are now about a week and a half after the election, and I am currently blessed to be the top vote-getter of all time. Previous record was 8,817 votes in 2004, and I currently have 10,634 votes, with more to count. When I first got elected in 2012, we had a lot of concerns. There were a few things on the agenda that I didn’t agree with, e.g. the Green City Initiative. The policy name might sound nice and environmental, but the problem was rooted in the fact that these proposed new regulations were not being aligned with similar future regulations that will inevitably be placed upon cities and counties by the state and federal government. At the time of the decision, the Soka community was upset about my stance on this issue, though I believed that we were going down a fast “environmental path/ trail” that we don’t know if we are going to be aligned with in a few years. For example, a requirement for CFLs (Compact Fluorescence Light) were part of the Green City Initiative. This policy would mandate everybody in the city to switch to CFLs. However, if you know the industry, everything has gone LED. LED is an innovative technology, and it is amazing what it can do. CFLs, on the other hand, contain a lot of mercury, and are no longer the favored product. As a city, we would have mandated everybody to use CFLs while LED is simply the better technology. I personally didn’t think the issue in this policy proposal was well researched; the city simply never did a financial (cost-benefit) analysis. As a Mayor, I want to know what the costs are for the city, the residents, and the businesses. This was an overall program that was proposed and promoted by our former city planner Albert Armijo and enabled by the city manager, Mark Pulone. Albert and Mark were great guys, but there were just too many loose ends in this proposal and was based more on ideology than on research and facts. I went to one of the first of twelve workshops on this issue, and I saw there was very little open communication and I felt like I was treated disrespectfully as a resident. This issue was one of the big reasons why I ran for the city council in 2012. They made a mistake by not passing the policy before I got in the city council, so when I got elected, they needed my approval.
2. How does Aliso Viejo elect its Mayor?
There are only 3 cities, that I can recall, out of all 34 Orange County cities that elect their mayor directly. We have 5 council members total, out of which 3 council members get elected in the presidential years (like this year), and two council members get elected in the alternative years. This year I am blessed to be one of the three elected council members in Aliso Viejo. The other two candidates were William A. Phillips and Ross Chun.
From the five council members, we select one person to be the Mayor. That council member must get at least three votes from other council members to be the Mayor, then another council member will go through the same process to fill the Mayor Pro Tem position. This year, I am the Mayor, and the Dave Harrington is the Mayor Pro Tem and then next year, someone else will be the Mayor. I have been blessed to serve as the Mayor this year, but I won’t be Mayor next year. We usually change our mayors every year mostly because being a mayor adds a lot of extra work and responsibilities to the standard city council role. At this point I am very eager to return to my role as one of the council members. Serving as Aliso Viejo’s Mayor made for a very busy year and over time, it has taken it toll on my personal business, so in 2017, I will be back work, focusing on my personal business.
3. What have been the three most important actions taken by the council since you have been mayor (or on the council)? Can you describe how the issue got on the agenda? What actions were taken? The first action we took was against the Green City Initiative, which I mentioned previously. The next important issue that I took a leading role on was the Aliso Viejo Ranch proposal. There was a plan to build $20-24 million boys and girls club and a multipurpose facility. The plan was to scrape all the history off the property. Aliso Viejo Ranch is the last 7.7-acre parcel of the original Moulton Ranch (20,000+ acres), and getting rid of it would be a travesty. This is the last piece of the history remaining from that important period from our history. I put a lot of work into what I call, a “needs-assessment analysis” to put the brakes on the previous plan. Do we need another boys and girls club in the city? Aliso Viejo already has two boys and girls clubs serving our city of 50,000 residents, do we really need a third? How many parents have come to the city requesting another boys and girls club? None. There was no data behind this policy proposal. I helped to push back on this plan, and encouraged the council to reassess it. Over time, the council created a renovation plan for the Aliso Viejo Ranch. We looked at the history of the place, and decided what we wanted to preserve and how. We voted to save all the original buildings and to refurbish one or tow of the original structures. We also plan to build a new similar barn-like structure which should be approximately seven to eight thousand square feet in size, mostly for community events, classes, weddings. We have also been in touch with the Moulton Family who have preserved many artifacts from the original ranch and we are hoping to provide and opportunity to showcase these treasures on the ranch, for kids and families to enjoy, in cooperation with the Moulton Family.
1. What are the issues of greatest concern in Aliso Viejo? How have they changed over time? What is being done about them?
photo: OC Register
Another big project that we helped to realize was the construction of the Vantis Hotel and Apartment Complex. This is a multi-story medium-density hotel and apartment complex project located up the street from the Aliso Viejo Town Center. Shea Properties will build Vantis, offering 435 units of luxury apartments and 129-room hotel. Big companies are coming to the city, e.g. MicroVention with 800-1000 employees, and we need to be able to provide apartments for these individuals as well. These luxury apartments are beautiful, and Shea Properties did a great job creating extra public space. Now we have a new fountain, and a park open to everybody as a part of the Vantis complex. This exciting addition to our city was approved with a 5-0 vote, and was a feel-good project which unified the council, the community and a local developer around a project will benefit our city in many ways.
4. If someone wanted to change a policy in Aliso Viejo, how do you suggest they do it? Firstly, anyone residing in Aliso Viejo can come to our meeting during our public comment section and simply bring up the issue. It is also important to realize that council members are residents and your neighbors as well. We are here to listen to people so we go out and meet with them. What I have found over my first 4 years is that some people who are passionate about their issue don’t often have the full picture. When they sit with us, they find that some issues have been already addressed, or there is a lot of reasons why the issue hasn’t been addressed. For example, we have met many people talking
about the OCTA (Orange County Transportation Authority) and their bus lines, but the problem lies in low ridership. Everybody must meet a budget, and we have to be able to afford the services. We have limited income that comes from hotels, retail sales, some property tax. Annually, we run the city on a $16 million budget, so we must live within the constraints of the limited income that we receive. Contracts with the Fire and Police Department constitute almost 50% of our budget, yet public safety continues to be a big issue in our community. Thus, while we are responsive to people and their concerns, our budget must be met.
5. What, do you believe, should be the role of your city government? I trust the residents to live their lives the way they want to live. What I mean by that can be explained by the analogy of a blank white canvas. I want Aliso Viejo to be the city where people can paint their lives as they like. I don’t want to be changing someone’s vision of their life. All I ask of folks is to be neighborly, treat your neighbors with respect, and then go live a great life. To provide you with that clean canvas, we make sure that we are working towards a comfortable and safe city. For example, we have to make sure that the utilities are working. I am personally afraid that we are running low on energy. I am not arguing against the closure of San Onofre, but we are not replacing the base power source, and unlike they often teach, wind and solar energy are not going to be enough. Wind and solar energy sources represent just a small fraction of our ener-
SOKA gy supply. Hydroelectric energy has been a major source of renewable energy, but the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) have been trying to tear down many dams recently, so that source is under threat as well. Both wind and solar are not reliable sources of energy. Wind speed is not always consistent, as it comes and goes. I prefer solar energy in the long-run, but unless we can store this energy for efficiently long term, we can’t rely on solar energy. There is a night, and that’s why we would need a better long-term storage solution. And as hated as fossil fuels are, there are still clean-energy alternatives among fossil fuels. The air in Southern California has never been better, and we achieved it by still using fossil fuels. We adjust the chemical structure of the fuels, and we can benefit. There are better ways to have a clean environment without killing our society. I am a big proponent of freedom, and building a “bigger pie,” so there should be no limitations to what we can do and achieve.
6. What current policies, do you believe, harm the city?
The Orange County Board of Supervisors negotiated contracts with sheriff departments without our participation in the decision making process, so we were simply told what our next year’s bill was going to be without having a seat at the table. We were not represented, and therefore couldn’t negotiate. The same happens with the bill for the Fire Department. I sat on SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) for three and a half years to fight other massive regulations affecting our communities. Many of these regulations are based on ideals that I am simply not aligned with. I do not believe in wealth redistribution, for example. Many of these policies sound utopian, but are simply not realistic. I like to use the analogy of teaching a man how to fish or just giving him a fish. Do we take care of the poor or do we help them to not be poor? Another similar policy is RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Allocation) that requires California cities to dedicate part of their land to various housing. People have bad perception of these policies just by looking at bigger cities like Chicago, Philadelphia where they have implemented such housing programs. Almost anything that you throw the word “public” in front of tends to simply downgrade, I am sorry to say this, but it is true. The problem with housing specifically lies in the notion of early 2000s that “everybody deserves to own a house” and I don’t think that. The system will fail if you create a demand that’s undergirded by fake buyers who shouldn’t be able photo: B.Lim
to buy a home, that should focus on their lives, saving up money and cleaning up their credit rather than buying a home right now. These programs facilitated the insane inflation of the housing market in from 1997 - 2008 which made housing unaffordable. The housing issue is out of control but mainly because of the government policies. RHNA, if you look closely, is not about rent control, is about density control. There is a lot of land out there, and they are asking us to live in these 300 square foot apartments. I believe there is a space for everybody, I don’t think overpopulation, globally is a thing, certainly some areas are more crowded at the moment than others. Other than housing, I fought regulations like Wilderness Corridor and car black-box mandate as a member of SCAG. Many SCAG members are for these Marxist redistributive policies that they don’t know much about. For example, many fight for reduction of CO2, but what happens to plants and crops when we have more CO2? I met with scientists, I know that plants would start growing like weed. We breathe out CO2, and plants breathe in CO2. There is evidence on the positive effects of CO2 on plant growth, so I don’t think CO2 is something we should be fearing. 75% to 95% of greenhouse gases is made up of water vapor. Is water vapor bad? I believe a lot of these regulations are just a part of the propaganda. I don’t believe everything is as scary as it is often portrayed. Even if the sea levels rose by 5 feet in the next 100 years, I am not worried because we don’t live on the ocean. They can’t forecast weather accurately, so I don’t necessarily believe in what they say will happen in 100 years.
nearly $500,000 in consulting fees. The council members almost passed it, but when I got elected, I stopped the bleeding and saved the city quite a lot of money. Also the Aliso Viejo Ranch proposal was estimated to cost $20-24 million which is more than our total cash reserves of $19 million. This project was not going to have any returns. We would have been bankrupt fairly quickly if this proposal had been passed.
8. Why did you run for reelection and what are your goals for your second term? The first few years of my term were rather turbulent. Other council members can confirm that I’ve had a leadership role on nearly every issue in the city. I am passionate, and I fight hard for the ideals that I believe in. I don’t pander, I am just here to help the city. Bill Phillips is one of our senior council members, and we ran together. We disagree on a few issues, but I ran again because people like him encouraged me. We now have Dave Harrington, Bill Phillips and Phil in the city council. In my second term, we want to focus on both the AV Ranch site and the town center. We are working on a plan where a developer can improve the Town Center by adding parking structures which will allow more retail space, office space, possibly residential units and maybe even a new hotel. With the success of the Irvine Spectrum and internet shopping, etc., we are in a changing environment for developments, but most of all, our focus must be on the future and our residents.
7. What are your greatest accomplishments from 9. Have you thought of running for other elected your first term? What was your role? positions in the government? State Senate/ I think one of my accomplishment was again the Green City Assembly Initiative. This project was 3-year project that had cost the city
At this point, I don’t’ have a path. As of now, I am in the leadership of the California Republican Party, and I know there is a lot of great people above me dedicated to our ideals. I am a Christian, so I believe that I should be content with what I have and where I am. I am blessed to serve and fight for the city of Aliso Viejo. I always believe in signs, and if God opens a door/ path for me, then I am open to that opportunity, but it must feel natural and of course, my wife always has the final word.
10. What are your thoughts on the presidential election results? I loved it. Did he say things that were horrible? Yes, he did. Was I happy with it? No. But then, I don’t like when people apologize for the country they love, as Obama did. Those of us who disagreed respectfully spoke out, but Trump’s followers were never the violent ones. Once you peel the onion and look at the reality, you see the truth. My friend, James O’Keefe, is the founder of Project Veritas that uncovered the truth about the violence at Trump’s rallies. I’ve been a Facebook friend of Steven K. Bannon (Trump’s White House senior counselor and chief West Wing strategist ) since 2010, and was a friend of the now deceased Andrew Breitbart from Breitbart News. Andrew spoke at one of my events in 2011. I also spent time with Vice President Elect, Mike Pence back in 2010 and he is a wonderful leader and a very good man. I am hopeful for the future under a Trump presidency. Our society is focusing on wrong things, I believe. Especially, the universities and colleges are so troublesome right now. Schools around the country create safe spaces for their students to shield them, but people need to be able to lovingly discuss what is going on around them. For example, another friend of mine, Milo Yiannopoulos, is a gay guy, but he is open to have a
conversation, and was always publicly criticizing this popular victimhood culture in colleges. There are mean people out there who will try to hurt you, as I have experienced this election season, but you must pay no attention to it. I, for example, couldn’t engage in these attacks, because I have bigger dreams and goals for my community. These attacks come from a place of hate, and I want to change my community through love. Additionally, Trump is not a racist in my opinion. Just because he suggests building a wall doesn’t mean he is racist. You simply cannot have an open border and a welfare state at the same time. The entitlement programs do nothing but create a magnet for people to try to come to our country from around the world, and that is truly unsustainable. The government has been reporting 11 million undocumented immigrants for the past 20 years, but the number is more like 25 million by now. We should deport the illegal criminals, and those who have overstayed their visas, as they actually signed a document, stating that they will leave. People are motivated to come here illegally, because we give them so much free stuff. Once we stop the free stuff that we all have to pay for, then we will see a decrease in illegal immigration. Every nations responsibility is to look after it’s citizens first, period. Once, our citizen’s needs are acknowledged and addressed, then we can focus on which immigrants can benefit our country and our way of life. Until we get control of the immigration situation, control who is coming to our country and enforce all of our existing immigration laws, as they are currently written, it is nearly impossible to have a productive discussion on what laws need to be reformed… that will come later.
Leonardo Ortiz Ruben Jimenez
by Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez
Class of: 2020 From: Santa Cruz, California High School: Soquel High School
Pearl Student Proﬁle
he first sentence on here has to say ‘How we doin?’” Leonardo from the class of 2020 is a Soka athlete playing on the Men’s Soccer team ending his 1st season with 7 goals and 1 assist. How do you balance being a student and an athlete? “I don’t sleep is one, but I mean I get all my work done mostly...” Balancing between studying for Chinese, practice and other classes takes up most of his time but he still finds time to have fun. Some of his hobbies include: anything outdoors, going on adventures, taking hikes, running, watching movies, and “Soccer for sure, you know what I’m saying. Playing other sports as well basketball at times, volley ball which I’m really bad at, tennis which I’m really bad at but I like to do it anyways.” Prior to Soka he played varsity soccer for 3 years and was the president of The Multicultural Club for 4 years at Soquel High School. The Multicultural Club encouraged students of color to aspire to higher education. He hosted several multicultural
events, soccer tournaments, graduations and a Peace movement at his high school when there were racial tensions. “We had a pledge week in which students would sign a pledge that our school was all about peace, unity, and diversity. And they would sign the pledge and have a pin they would carry on their backpacks and they would sign posters and we would put them over the office so the families could see what our school was about”. Over his four years he watched the club evolve, expand and witnessed over 170 students of color graduate. After deciding to attend Soka he became known for his suits. Tell us about your suits? “I was only going to go for Fridays wearing suits but once school started and I saw my schedule I decided to do it Monday Wednesday Friday because those days are days that I would be able to wear them and not get them dirty because Tuesday and Thursday I have drawing, so Tuesday and Thursday’s I just wear regular clothes and that is why you see me in soccer clothes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Monday Wednesday Fridays are the suits and the weekends it’s just how I feel.” His love for looking good was inspired from a guest speaker at one of his high school assemblies. From there his cholo looking days behind and began wearing polo’s until his senior year he began wearing suits. He currently owns four suits and is acquiring two more. How is your 1st year at Soka going? “This school is in a very beautiful location, I really like it, you know what I’m saying, you have to add that quote you know what I’m saying.” He hopes to get to know as many people as he can, make connections, and do well in all of his classes. On campus he is a part of Sualseros, The Canning Club and Philosophy Circle. He looks forward to the rest of his time at Soka. Leonardo enjoys Italian and Mexican food and his favorite type of music is rap. And if you ever hear music being played inside the cafeteria it is probably Leo with his portable speaker hoping to bring others together with his love for music.
by Rosabelle Heine
For myself and many others, November has been disorienting, frustrating, confusing, upsetting and seemingly never ending. I know that I’m not alone when I say that I have had difficulty focusing, staying motivated and maintaining a positive outlook. However, despite all of this, November has been a wakeup call. A wake-up call to cherish my education and the people in my life—a wake-up call to raise my life condition so that I can set an example for others and a wake-up call to start doing what makes me happy. I’ve talked with a lot of people recently about what they’ve been doing to get through this month and I’ve compiled a list of their responses.
A Soka Student Guide to Surviving November: 1. On a piece of paper, write down one good thing that happens to you each day and put it in a jar. Every week empty the jar and read what you had written. 2. Set a list of goals for the week. 3. Take yourself out on a date. Get dressed up and go out (to eat/ to the movies etc.) Don’t focus on anything except treating yourself. 4. Go to the beach. 5. Watch a funny T.V show or movie. 6. Call someone you love. 7. Wake up early and watch the sunrise. 8. Write a letter, despite whether or not you decide to send it. 9. Download “Simply rain” on your computer. 10. Volunteer in the community. 11. Take a nap. 12. Do yoga. 13. Exercise. Even just for 15 minutes. 14. Start the book you’ve been wanting to read for ages. 15. Drink water. 16. Cry. 18. Have a sleepover with friends. Tell funny stories and eat snacks and be honest with one another. 19. Take a bath. 20. Complete something you’ve been putting off. 21. Do something completely unexpected—something out of your comfort zone or a random act of kindness.
17. Create something—a song, a drawing, a story etc.
22. Turn off your electronics two hours before bed to improve sleep. 23. Get a journal and write down everything you’re feeling. 24. Listen to this playlist—a compilation of “songs to listen to when you’re having a hard time” submitted by SUA students
Meditations on Elections by Sofia Dugas
I want to thank Jessica Butchleitner, the author of the two-part series 50 Women for coming to Soka and asking about how we were feeling after the election. There were many students who expressed disappointment and actual fear. She reads excerpts from her book of women from Kenya and Yemen who are truly brave pioneers of justice and peace in their communities and reminded us that this fight is not new. She oﬀered us words of condolences and stories of hope and urged us to exemplify what we believe in. She told us with conviction that the best way to defuse hatred and anger is with dignity and respect. She encouraged us to talk–a lot– to share our stories and to listen to others’ stories. Here are my reflections after the elections: Weekly Meditations Nov, 9, 2016 Donald Trump is the President. I am lying on the floor–it is 1:34 am– all I am thinking is, how did this happen? Winded, exhausted, and distraught I begin imagining and visualizing all the possible effects of this election. I check Facebook... it is infiltrated with fierce accusatory statuses, celebratory victory announcements, desperate pleas, calls to action, letters of fear, and hurt-filled rants. Overwhelmed. I lay on the floor. I lay in a pile of clothes and look around my disastrous room which seems to reflects the state of my mind. How did this happen?
So What Now? Later today– We just received the news that a beloved professor, Marie-Rose has died. The weight of this day... I have seen never before seen professors break down; I have never before seen so many of my peers and friends distraught.
Despite the heavy cloud hanging in the air, I feel an incredible sense of unity. The last time I felt this sense of unity was after the July 22, 2011 massacre in Norway. I was 15 years old and had been living near Oslo with a Norwegian family as part of an international peace and cultural exchange program. The attacks: A radical far-right Norwegian man bombed the building of the Prime Minister killing 8 people. He then dressed as a policeman, traveled to an island that was hosting the annual Labor Party Youth Camp where there 700 youth from the ages 13-22 gather, and he proceeded to open fire. He had planned to decapitate Gro Harlem Brundtland– a former prime minister of Norway, the first woman elected to the post, a feminist and supporter of multiculturalism– but she had left the island just before he had arrived. He declared “you will all die today Marxists!” His plan was to kill every single person on the island but after killing 69 youths, he called the police and turned himself in. When he was finally confronted by police officers on the island, he said, “This is politically motivated. The country is being invaded by foreigners.”
SOKA Anders Breivik, the man who had committed these crimes, wrote a 1,500 page manifesto conveying his hatred of Muslims, the “radical feminist agenda”, and the politicians responsible for the “cultural genocide against the indigenous people of Europe.” His section on multiculturalism reads: We must destroy multiculturalism; deconstruct it, delegitimize it, and acknowledge it as the Utopian self-destructive fantasy that it is. All cultures are not equivalent. Some cultures are better than others, and some are our enemies and some our friends. This is reasonable, rational thinking. The foundational concept of multiculturalism is that all cultures are of equal value and worth. This is inclusiveness, tolerance, and “niceness” taken to the extreme. This is anti-intellectualism and irrational thinking that will result in the entire loss of our civilizations. Multiculturalism must be destroyed and swept into the dustbin of absurdity where it belongs. (Anders Behring Breivik’s Complete Manifesto “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence”) Now, here are some nice Trump quotes to complement Anders xenophobic rhetoric. “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” and "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best. They're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting." Wait. I never finished the Norwegian story. It doesn’t end there. Neither will the story end here for the United States. One man man may seemingly hold all the power, but we have far greater power. I will never forget the unity that followed the events in Norway events. I will never forget gathering with thousands of people in solidarity to light candles and to support and console one another. If any country has shown us how to move forward with grace and dignity, it is Norway. After such horrific crimes, I was amazed by how the Norwegian people reacted. They didn’t react with hate or revenge. Rather, they gathered for a national moments of silence, they gathered for processionals, and they continue to fight for multiculturalism and work towards a peaceful society. Despite the pain, they were able to disallow the triumph of evil by deepening their love and compassion. This is how I want us to write our story. We must now decide how we are going to react. If anything, I hope this election makes you realize your unique and important role in the world right now as a global citizen. I hope we may respect one another, support one another, and continue to strive forward. Let us answer hate with more openness, more humanity, and more democracy.
I hope we may zoom way out, far far beyond Soka, past Orange County, outside California, and think about this in terms of a larger global narrative. I hope we may realize we are powerful people and we can create the future we want. That is what Soka means right? Value Creation. Andrew Lam writes in his essay Perfume Dreams, “I implore you, do not give into their hatred. They want you to hate just like them. But don’t hate. It will take great strength not to hate. And it will take even greater resilience not to teach hatred to those who come after you. Hatred consumes oppressed and oppressors alike…”
I hope we may each find our voices and let them be heard. We must be respectful, yet firm.
To the Mixed Child
by Dominique Ongaro
ou weren’t born with the knowledge of race. Neither were they. And yet it was them who were the first to point it out to you. You grew up knowing your parents as just that; your parents. The color of their skin did not register to you. The differences in culture did not register to you. But for some reason, the people around you began asking questions, pointing fingers. It was then that you began to see color. It was then that you began to see differences. It was then you began to see the reflection staring back at you as someone other than yourself. You realized something that day. Something the world will never let you forget. You are two conflicting ideas and cultures packaged inside of one human being. And as simple of a concept, people never seemed to understand. You think well I guess it’s not that simple because if it was, then why do people stare at me the way they do? Why can’t I walk down the street with the parent whom just so happens to have a different skin tone than me without turning the heads of all those around? If it’s that simple, why do people insinuate that I am only one or the other? Why can’t I “fit-in” with either people? School is where you learned to adapt. But still no matter what you did, no matter what you said, it was always only attributed to one half of you. One half of you. As if you could pick and choose when to express your ethnicity and/or race. You can collect the stereotypes of both but only in the situations in which they apply. The situations to which they correspond. And the one which you look most like will forever haunt you. Because never, in any world of existence, could they ever be allowed to exist together. You could never be both and yet, you are. You can feel the distance the people of each part of you create between themselves and you. You know that you will never be enough of either to be accepted. And when troubles arise, where do you fit in? Are you allowed to speak on the problems of race? What will people say when you open your mouth in support, in order to stand with them? Some will turn you away. Some will say you are not one of them. It will hurt. You’ve spent all your life trying to prove something. I know. But I am here to tell you that I have heard your cries. I am here to tell you that you are no less white because you are half black. You are no less black because you are half white. You are no less Mexican, Japanese, Cuban, Korean, Italian, Filipino whatever it is that you are because you are “only” half. That’s it right there “only” half. I am here to tell you that you ARE enough. You are a mixture so unique, so beautifully that is almost inconceivable. A dynamic human being who can be whoever they want to be. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Including yourself. To the mixed child, don’t think of these people as evil. They are merely ignorant to the divisions that we are creating amongst ourselves. Enlighten them with the ways of your blended blood. Show them that we are more the same than we are different. Show them how to embrace all the parts of themselves by embracing all of those inside of you. To the mixed child.
photo: The Daily Beast
What the Fu*k Happened. A Liberal Perspective.
elow is a compiled version of multiple opinions from people who consider themselves liberal/democrat/ left-wing. Yes, we are aware that this is the majority perspective here at Soka, but we also think that it might do everyone some good to read the following opinions to fully grasp, not just how angry these people are, but how they fear for the Earth, our nation and everyone in it. In Matthew McConaughey’s voice* alright, alright alright… so what the fu*k happened? Talk about the most stressful time of our lives. Huddled up in one super cozy dorm room, if I do say so myself, with friends ‘working’ on homework, and hitting refresh every 30-or-so seconds, biting one’s fingernails, and crying tears of exhaustion as red takes over the nation isn’t exactly how we chose to spend our Tuesday night. Talking to friends the following morning on the logic behind the new president-elect was unproductive to say the least. I read this article about a Republican’s Millennial perspective from Gonzaga University and was heartbroken. (Discussed this same article with friends later this past week - heart shattered. Like a thousand or so pieces). The article starts off by victimizing all millennials who voted for Donald Trump. Many people are charging toward Republicans guns ablazin’ with harsh words and accusations. Many republicans are claiming that just because they voted for Trump doesn’t mean that they are sexist, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, islamophobic, xenophobic, bigots. Well let me ask you something. Do you think Trump is? If so, then why the hell did you vote for that bastard? Obviously there are other values and ideas that republicans are prioritizing over the rights of others. What the fu*k happened. Clearly all those who voted for Donald Trump do not understand the severity of their choice. You have clearly never experienced discrimina-
tion, racism, sexism, you are privileged. Please sit down, do not tell me that you are not this and you are not that because you obviously don’t care enough about the people of color, minorities, women or anyone else that hasn’t already had these rights for years. I hope you can look at your sister and your mother now that their personal freedoms will be stripped away. Maybe not today, maybe not next week or next month but 4 years is a long time to destroy something that we have worked so hard to build. How can we claim as a country to have progressed and that racism isn’t a problem when clearly it is evident that the truth is racism never left it just hid and now it has shown its ugly face in the form of Donald Trump. The hope is there, and we will come out of this. Ahh the right to bear arms. Yes, I totally understand that you would like to be able to have your gun, but honey you should really reevaluate your situation and how this presidency could affect you. Maybe your rights as a human being aren’t as important as your gosh darn right to hold a gun. Just reminding you on the context of having the right to bear arms in the constitution, America was just developing and was going through many civil wars. We are in a day and age where we should be a bit more sophisticated and not need to use such violent means to protect ourselves. If we need to protect ourselves, then there are some serious societal issues that need to be resolved so we are able to have a more cohesive and unified country. But, what if I am only wanting my gun to go hunting? WELL, you won’t have to worry because having stricter gun controls WILL NOT I repeat WILL NOT impeded on your right to bare them. Maybe I am just a person against violence, violent ways, and anti-guns but maybe I want to be able to live in a place where I won’t have to fear my life being ended in a millisecond of a bad judgment. The environment. Oh wait that shit is going down. Bye-bye mother earth. One of the saddest victims from this whole election, is the environment.
by Dominique Ongaro, Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez & Ellen Khan
photo: LA Weekly
There are so many things that I feel need to be said about what your vote for Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence means for the country and how the left is screwing itself over. But let me just start with this; when I hear people say “I am not this or that because I vote for Trump/Pence” I believe you but I also know that you don’t care about me. People did not vote for Trump/Pence simply because they did not like them, as a lot of people voted for them simply because they did not like Hillary, people didn’t vote for them because they are afraid of them. People feared what Hillary’s presidency would mean for their gun rights, people feared that she would not do a good job as a president because she is a woman or unqualified or whatever is it. But people, including myself, fear Trump/Pence’s presidency because I am afraid for the people I love and my own safety. But if you truly do not support Trump/Pence’s racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism etc. then I expect to see you all on the front line of the battle when it comes down to a fight for the rights of the peoples being affected. Because in the end, it’s not about you and me, it’s about WE. A nation is supposed to be about WE. This is biggest problem facing America today. We have no sense of community, no sense of togetherness. Even amongst groups of “similar” peoples, there is so much division. We have to stand together for the betterment of our nation and EVERYONE in it. To my fellow left-wing liberals: We are not living up to what we claim to be. We claim that we are open-minded and accepting but as soon as someone disagrees with our
point-of-view or anything be believe in, we go into attack mode. What have we come to? Are we that blind to our own hypocrisy? How is it that we are becoming the very hate that we are supposedly fighting against? Why are we insulting people and telling them they are wrong just because their opinion(s) differ from ours? We claim to be all about love and loving other people but all we have been doing lately is spreading hate. Now I’m not saying that all Republicans or Trump/Pence supports are good people by MY moral standards but not all Democrats, liberals, left-wings whatever you want to call them are good either. If you disagree with me, that’s fine but if my opinion upset you SO much that it hurt you to finish reading this article or you attack me for my opinion then you’ve done nothing but prove my point. PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO STATE THEIR OPINIONS. It doesn’t have to be that way. I have lived peacefully with my best friends of almost 10 years who are majority Republican while being a Democrat and have never faced hatred. We respect each other and we actually have a conversations about things that matter to us WITHOUT degrading one another. I’m not saying that racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia etc. is not highly present in this election nor am I saying I agree with or understand their reasoning and yes, some of Trump/Pence supporters are all these terrible things but not all of them are. We should try to be more understanding and accepting; not so quick to cast judgments on others before hearing them out. “Before you point your fingers make sure your hands are clean”
he world should learn to move ahead without America -- at least for now. In the past 8 years, we have made some progress on important issues like climate change and gender equality. Just because over 59 million Americans who came to the polling station voted for a person, who did not care these issues that define the future we want ourselves or our grandchildren to live in, we should not let them hold the progress for 7.5 billion populations. Sadly, amid the wave of rising nativism and jingoistic nationalism, there is a little hope that the issues that collectively affect our lives will come first. We may call for stronger international institutions but sadly the fate of these institutions are intertwined with the trajectory of the countries that fund them. This is the danger of living in a global economy, where the major economy still literally affects the progress on so many other important environmental and social issues. I hope -- for the sake of basic decency and self-respect -- other countries would stop band-wagoning and appeasing the US for an extra bowl of "international funds". It's time for forward-thinking countries to band together to work towards a future that has a dignified place for everyone alive and everyone yet to born.
by Brandon Lim
by Brandon Lim Pearl magazine
by Brandon Lim
by Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez
No diversity is allowed Brown is not a color in the crayon box it is the color of your skin Brown, the color of earth, the dirt the land The land, harvesting the fruits of our labor, harboring our past, present, and future “Go back to your country!” Pero, I’m from here, de la tierra de las oportunidades Check all that apply: Hispanic/Latino Yes, No, Maybe I’m not Hispanic I am Latino, Soy Chicano “Stop speaking Mexican, this is America” “No hablas Espanol? Eres demasiado Americano” Bilingual, a lo mejor yes maybe no, Spanglish la forma de comunicación que nos permite usar two languages a la misma vez. Siempre tenemos que demostrar que somos más Mexicanos que los Mexicanos y más Americano que los Americanos. I am never enough Freedom is a limitation unless you are white and privileged A cage made out of gold doesn’t make it any less of a cage Forced to deal with the stereotypes, the hatred and the discrimination Racial profiling, wage gaps, mass incarceration “Will you take this picture for our school?” Is that all I am good for? The diversity mark in your pamphlet in hopes of getting more people that look like me “You only got in because of Affirmative Action” No pus wow My capabilities and intelligence far exceed your expectations, Working hard is in my blood, passion lives in my heart, my relentless soul always fighting “Are you proud to be Mexican-American?” Siempre seremos chingones, con el poder de cambiar nuestro presente y nuestro futuro. Brown Pride “I would not have traded the delights of my sufferings for anything in the world”-Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Where is the Path?
Allahu akbar allahu akbar [2x] Ash-hadu anla ilaha illah Allah [2x] Ash-hadu anna muhammadar-rasulullah[2x] Hayya as-salah [2x] Hayya al-falah [2x] Allahu akbar allahu akbar La ilaha illa Allah
Everything is an addiction. The heightened vulnerability of music, the tender feel of chicken, the smell of hot chocolate, the feel of a wooden tile, and our unconscious breadth are all addictions. I would I imagine Yoda saying something like ‘Life addicts’ to describe us, and he would be right. Imagine the number of things required for us to function every day. A running shower, a dry towel, two bars of liquid soap, a working toilet (with all of its plumbing), the unseen heat through countless snakiest pipes, and the fleeting will to get out of bed in the morning. We think we own things, but we are hoarders or tenants at least. From my prized sneakers to my body cells, everything that I profess to own or at least control will gradually fade away. We are fading right now, atom by atom, second by second. “Be careful. See, I told you so. Now stop crying, it’s only a paper cut! Name! Name!” What do children feel, when they see blood for the first time and or when they realize that the brown-yellow contents of last night’s meal are still lingering in their intestines. I imagine disgust. If I smell my arm pits after a hot day, I feel the same. All bodies reek of their waste or as the Montaigne said “Kings, Philosophers, and pretty ladies shit”. Kind of funny that in our silk and cotton, we are all full of shit! “Name it’s RAMADAN. Don’t talk to me if you’re not going to fast. Get lost!”
There’s an Urdu song inside my head. A 57-year-old woman is asking her lover to stay with her a little longer. I feel a chill every time I play that song. I just cannot explain why I feel this way, I cannot share this sensation with anyone, and this is not because it’s an Urdu song, but because it relates to my being. Like an enzyme, it fits some part of my subconscious that even I am not familiar with. How can we explain what we don’t understand? We just can’t. “There’s no place for you here” I said that to a friend at dinner once. I didn’t mean it. I was just trying to be sassy, but did they understand the meaning. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, but what did I mean by those words? I’m not really sure, and I don’t think expanding on that would make any difference to my understanding of that moment of instinct. Fact Is that I know that I can never communicate the meaning of the song in my head and can never be sure of how my friends perceives my words. Some effective communicators we are! “Don’t do something stupid, do you know who your grandfather is. Name! Look at me”
“Dad? Dad? Why do believe in Allah?” “Because he is the one true God” “Why, Dad” “Because he is the one true God. One day everyone will die, and then God will place the believers in Heaven, and the non-believers in Hell. Remember God is the way” “But why do you believe in Allah, and not Jehovah or Zeus.” “Name!”
“Enter this crowded room. See these people. Remember their faces. 100 Years; that’s the most they have” Death, our invisible pimple mark, stares at us contently. We know it. We feel it. In a hundred years, all that may remain of today’s beautiful faces will be outdated, pixelated photographs in discarded
ARTS photo albums, waiting to be processed into something useful. The best case scenario would be our photograph hanging in a dignified room in a mahogany frame, and we can’t reconcile that fact with our sensational, everyday reality. Death, darkness, and emptiness lie coiled in our subconscious, and when we hear them hiss, we remember that one day we must die. “I can only pray for you” So we are constantly fading away, we are full of shit, we can’t communicate effectively, and one day we are sure to die. No wonder we want to transcend this murky existence, and settle into more permanent and less confined reality. “A place of perfection. A cleaner place, where we don’t stink and don’t eat. A place where our dispositions are calmer and happier”. Some believe its Janat, some Heaven, and some think Brahman. Huge Books have been written, grand churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples have been built, wars have been fought, and people have been killed for achieving this freedom, but are we there? Have we achieved Brahman? Or Peace? Or Anything else that we preach on Sundays or Fridays. All these ‘solutions’ have Billions of Dollars available in funds, but not enough substance to convince an 18-year-old of their truth. I was that 18-year-old, who just asked “What makes you different”. It was not until I changed my perspective that I realized that the answer to humanity’s suffering lies somewhere else. Look up from this page. Are you alone?
It was when I realized that longer does not mean better, that I was freed from my snake. It was when I realized that sure we are fading, but we are also growing that I overcame aging. It was when I felt my rough skin and felt through the bumps that I realized that my body may stink at times, but it’s warm. Most importantly, it was when I gave up trying to communicate perfectly that I made someone laugh; sure, it wasn’t the ‘ideal’ communication or the ‘ideal’ body or the ‘ideal’ life span or the ‘ideal’ existence that I wanted, but it’s here. It’s mine. Why move towards the faster, bigger, shinier? Why prefer the façade of a castle more than a house of brick and mortar? An iconic silhouette doesn’t make a home warm, and dreaming of a life of ‘perfection’ only destroys the life we already have. My path is to live this life that I know I have, and make something beautiful of it. My path is to leave my book, raise my head, and talk to the people next to me, and find meaning in this real, human world. I know that I will speak clumsily at first, and look like a fool, but I also know that if I do it enough, maybe someday, I may actually communicate, and this is my divine, getting through to another human being. My path is to look into the eyes of the people next to me, and find my peace through them. My path is to open my notebook and start scribbling, hoping that maybe, someday I just may come up with something interesting. My path is to be me. My path is to be.
Aliso Viejo is Boring
Go to a place where there are people because the answer is within them.
Aliso Viejo is the worst city in Orange County Aliso Viejo is one of those towns where you can hear the silence creep in around nine o’clock every night Aliso Viejo is not just mediocre, it is mediocre with character The only things going for it are the Soka University Bistro and Siamese Express Aliso is not walkable at all Aliso is a boring inland suburb with nothing but cookie cutter houses and a couple cookie cutter, chain dominated shopping centers I still hear people claim that the recession never hit Orange County though the people begging on the corners of shopping plazas seems to argue otherwise I feel you’ve overlooked a certain distinctive charm that can be found in Aliso Viejo’s dreadfulness Aliso Viejo is awful in a truly amusing way and the same cannot be said about the lackluster neighboring city Laguna Niguel Aliso Viejo is horrid
#BlackLivesM by Dominique Ongaro & Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez
The Black Lives Matter Movement has been in the spotlight for some time now and has received both praise and critique. The movement itself was officially launched after the murder of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then BLM has received a lot of attention from the media that has given the movement both positive and negative commentary. It seem that since the movement has gone on for so long, as protest have been done for several diﬀerent reasons, the true mission of the movement has been lost in translation.
Pearl Social Justice
he Black Lives Matter Movement was originally founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi three queer African American women. The movement was created to give a voice to those that have been underprivileged for years. In their words, “We created #BlackLivesMatter. We created a platform,” she continued. “We used our social media presence online in order to forward a conversation about what is taking place in black communities ... This was actually a racial
justice project for black people.” The implications of their want for racial justice has led to start of conversations that have been needed for decades. “When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state. We are talking about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.”
JEMAL COUNTESS/GETTY IMAGES Black Lives Matter co-founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi attend The New York Women’s Foundation Celebrating Women Breakfast on May 14, 2015, in New York City.
How Black poverty and genocide is state violence.
How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.
How 2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.
How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conﬂict and war.
How Black women bearing the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families is state violence.
How Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality deﬁned by white supremacy, and that is state violence
How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.
BLM was not created to be a discriminatory movement nor was it created to “stir the pot.” What many people seems to be forgetting is that these problems of racial injustice, racism, police brutality were already existing which is what led to the creation of BLM. It only appears that they never existed before because they were hardly ever reported on. The only way we could even begin to think of a solution for these injustices is to make it public knowledge that these happenings are real and disproportionally occurring around a specific group of people.
Pearl Social Justice
Dia de Los Muertos by Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez
Dia de los Muertos is a tradition, that dates back to over 2000 years of Aztec culture that has been passed down from generation to generation. Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is typically celebrated on November 1st and November 2nd.This celebration used to be celebrated mostly by the indigenous people of Mexico but after the Spanish colonization the tradition was then modified to fit in with some of the Christian symbols. El Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of life, celebrating the lives of all of the loved ones that have passed away. In preparation for this day many things are done.
Pearl Social Justice
Creating an Altar
The Alter, is an offering to the dead and is traditionally set up to be very colorful and vibrant. The majority of the altars contain photographs of loved ones along with candles, decorations, food, toys, trinkets , flowers and other belongings that were cherished by the dead. Some altars also have crosses and other religious figures but not all include them, depending on the region and the family altars can be made in the home or at the grave sight of the member that has passed away. The flower that can be found on the altar is called Cempazuchil or Marigolds which are said to guide the spirits of the dead back to earth. The tradition states that dead come back on these days to visit the earth again what they enjoyed in life. For some it may be a toy or a musical instrument or even food. Many families also place food and drinks on the altar for the person to enjoy. During this time of the year there is a specific bread that is made that is called Pan de Muerto or Bread of the Dead that is traditionally made for this day. The altar can be as fancy or as simple as you please, as long as you honor those loved ones.
Face Paint For El Dia de los Muertos, many people traditionally paint their face. There are the full face paint that covers the whole face in white paint with colorful designs to symbolize the skull and death. The full face paint was also created to make fun of and mock the bourgeoisie for not wanting to participate in such common folk traditions. The Catrina and Catrinos were created for this purpose.
In recent media, the Day of the Dead has become very popular. For example in the movie Specter there was a huge scene of a Day of the Dead parade that inspired the first ever one in Mexico City with vibrant costumes. And for those that believe that Dia de los Muertos is the “Mexican Halloween” it is not, it is a tradition that has honored the dead for hundreds of years and will hopefully be a tradition that will continue for many more. “Death is democratic. At the end, regardless of whether you are white, dark, rich, or poor, we all end up as skeletons.” -Jose Guadalupe Posada
Pearl Social Justice
The half face one requires less color and can be done both with and without white paint. The half face celebrates the duality of life and death and how death is a part of life that needs to be accepted and welcomed as a part of life.
Popping the Soka Bubble:
What’s Happening In the World? by Lana Lief
I admit to paying more attention to news that relates to the US election for this month’s issue—there is still lots’ of news happening in the world—Check out BBC and Al Jazeera for more in depth coverage of world news.
Response to Trump Win in the US European Union—European Union countries have agreed on a plan intended to increase EU’s defense and security role. This plan intends to encourage more cooperation in EU-led peacekeeping missions. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that this plan was not in place to compete with NATO and was already being considered before Donald Trump became president-elect in the United States. The French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian added that, “Europe needs to be able to act for its own security.” While these plans have been in the process since the Paris attacks last year although Trumps victory has added an incentive by his rhetoric during the campaign saying that he expects Europe to pay more of the bills for its own defense. Brexit also encouraged the finalization of this plan.
Pearl Current Topics
Greece—President Obama visited Greece November 14th both to dis-
cuss Greece’s debt crisis with the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, but after the election some of the conversations had to change as well as the president’s security detail. Obama told the Greek minister of state, Nikos Pappas told Obama, “The mood of Greek people for this political change is ‘wait and see’.” Before the election they had assumed that “Everybody would be expecting the US government to continue to be on our side.” Obama said that he had encouraged president elect Trump to show some signs of unity after the vicious campaign.
Germany—The night of the US election was also the night of Kristallnacht (A night during Nazi Germany when Jewish people and their businesses were violently attacked in 1938). Germans put up candles in their window sills to remember. The date also marks the 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. One German newspaper described the outcome of the United State’s election as a “nightmare from what we can’t wake up.” Germany’s foreign prime minister never issued a public congratulation to Mr. Trump.
GLOBAL CITIZENS Transatlantic Trade (US and Germany)—Germany’s defense minister’s
concern is that no one really knows where Trump stands on foreign policy, and it is affecting German business, finance, and industry leaders. The United States is Germany’s main trading partner and more than 1 millions jobs depend on the export markets to the United states. German officials are now trying to reach out to everyone on Trump’s team who may be involved in foreign trade. They hadn’t expected him to win and did not have contacts in place before the election. But what Angela Merkel is really concerned about is the growing Right Wing movement in Germany when Germany goes to the polls next year.
Mexico—President-elect Donald Trump has said that he will deport/jail up to 3 mil-
lion illegal immigrants. He says that the people he is targeting are immigrants with criminal records but 3 million is a huge number and in order to reach it would require even the most minor infractions as cause for deportation. Trump also still intends to build his wall, although pieces of it may be a fence. But, the BBC notes, by admitting that part of the wall may need to be a fence, Trump is acknowledging that the whole idea may be difficult to achieve. Although Trump also has said that, “We are not planning on erecting a deportation force….I think we should put people’s minds at ease.” For his deportation goals to actually be achieved a deportation force would be necessary.
China—Chinese President Xi Jinping told Trump that co-operation is the “only
correct choice.” During the campaign Trump frequently attacked US China relations, even going so far to say that Climate Change was made up by the Chinese. He also pledged to put 45% tariffs on all Chinese exports to the US. Although, after a phone call between the Chinese President and Trump, Trumps presidential transition office said, “President-elect Trump stated he believes the two leaders will have one of the strongest relationships for both countries moving forward.” And Mr. Xi has said on China’s CCTV that there is “huge potential” for the two economies’ cooperation. Mr. Woolsey, a senior national security adviser to Trump made moves to reassure Asian allies that, “the US sees itself as the holder of the balance of power in Asia and is likely to remain determined to protect its allies against Chinese overreach.” So, we’ll see how all that plays out.
India Removes Rupees—Overnight Indian officials have moved to scrap 500 and 1,000 rupee notes which has incited lots of criticism. The intention was to limit the cash flow that supported the black markets in India, and was an attempt to get rid of “black money.” But low-income Indians rely on the cash economy for their daily interactions and the throngs trying to get to banks to deposit the expiring money and withdraw lower denominations has hurt them. It didn’t help with the government raised limits on cash withdrawals on November 13. The government intends to recirculate the money, worth billions back into the economy in order to stimulate growth, although the current paucity of money, more that 4/5ths of currency in circulation will likely have costs that outweigh the eventual benefits. I looked at BBC World News to gather these stories. You can also check out the Economist and Al Jazeera News for more world news.
Pearl Current Topics
DIET OR REGULAR
SODA? by Guest Contributor: Lisa Crummett
o answer this question, we first have to look at the “guilty party” in regular soda, sugar (sucrose). This molecule is composed of glucose bonded to fructose. Glucose is the main source of energy for all of the cells in your body and can be metabolized (broken down to deliver energy) by every type of cell in your body. Fructose, the really sweet molecule, on the other hand, can only be metabolized in your liver, since liver cells are the only cells that have a “fructose transporter”, which allows fructose to enter the cell. When consuming large quantities of sugar, one’s liver gets overloaded with fructose and the liver has to convert a large percentage of that fructose to triglycerides (blood fats) that end up getting deposited as visceral fat around your liver and other organs in the belly area, leading to fatty-liver disease, insulin resistance, and metabolic disease1. This fructose overload also causes the liver to produce a type of small low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that is associated with plaque in inflammation in one’s arteries, which in turn, is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke2. Sugar also takes a negative toll on our bodies via the hormone insulin. High sugar consumption leads to high levels of insulin secretion. Insulin’s primary function is to tell your cells to metabolize glucose and store the excess glucose as glycogen in the liver (for a rainy day when you have skipped a meal). But insulin is also termed “the fat storage hormone” because high levels of insulin result in fat production, as glucose has to go somewhere when your glycogen storage is full. To make matters worse, high levels of insulin blocks signaling of a hormone called leptin, which tells your brain that you are full (satiated) and thus, high-sugar
consumption leads to overeating3-4. This biochemical process has proven very important to the survival of our great ape ancestors who had to make it through long winters with very little food; those who had the greatest fat storage from gorging on fruits (high in sugar) before winter were the ones that survived5. Now, we have an endless supply of sugar that is making us sick. To summarize, high sugar consumption leads to metabolic stress in our liver, which leads to fat production around our visceral organs (belly fat) and an insulin spike in our blood stream that also results in more belly fat (a double fat-whammy). It is specifically the belly fat that concerns doctors because it is highly correlated with metabolic disease, which includes high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and even cancer. There is now a growing body of scientific evidence to show that a global increase in the consumption of added sugars (in sweetened beverages and processed food), and NOT fat consumption, is responsible for the huge global surge of metabolic disease that we have seen over the past 30 years6. Now, let’s get back to our original question. Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) such as aspartame, acesulfame K, and sucralose, have taken the place of our food villain (sugar) in diet beverages and diet foods since the 1980s, although saccharin was used as early as the 1890s. Many people around the world consume large quantities of NAS on a regular basis in the hope of losing weight or reducing their risk of metabolic disease. If you fit into this category, I hate to break it to you, but NAS are not better for you than sugar and some recent data
suggests that they are even worse. A ground-breaking study published in 2014 provides clear evidence that consumption of either saccharin, sucralose, or aspartame in mice led to the development of glucose intolerance (pre-diabetic state) through changing the composition of the mouse’s microbiome (community of symbiotic bacteria in the gut)7. Interestingly, experimenters performed a microbiome transplant from humans who consumed NAS for 7 days (and showed significantly poorer glycemic response) to mice and those mice developed significant glucose intolerance7. Further, they show that saccharin-fed mice have additional metabolic pathways activated that are associated with obesity or type-2 diabetes in both mice and humans7. So should you choose regular soda or diet soda; NEITHER, as both lead to obesity, metabolic dysfunction, and disease, not to mention that since both are sweet, both encourage sugar cravings and sugar dependence8. Your best bet is to choose water (adding lemon and/or cucumber slices is a delicious twist) or unsweetened or lightly sweetened tea. Lastly, go ahead and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (bound sugar) since they are full of fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the blood stream and reduces cholesterol as well as antioxidants that scavenge free radicals produced by oxidative stress in the liver. A recent meta-analysis showed that increasing one’s intake of fruits and/or vegetables did not lead to weight loss (alone) but did not lead to weight gain either9. So don’t be afraid of eating an orange, but beware of drinking orange juice because, believe it or not, a glass of orange juice contains the same amount of “free” sugar as a can of soda.
1. Tappy M.D. et al. (2010) Fructose and metabolic disease: New findings, new questions. Nutrition 26: 1044-1049 2. K. L. Stanhope et al. (2011) Consumption of fructose and high fructose corn syrup increase postprandial triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, and apolipoprotein-B in young men and women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 96. 3. M. Keller et al. (2001). Insulin inhibits leptin receptor signaling in JEK293 Cells as the level of janus kinase-2: a potential mechanism for hyperinsulinaemia-associated leptin resistance. Diabetologia 44: 1125-32 4. J.W. Hill et al. (2008). Acute effects of leptin require P13K signaling in hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin neurons in mice. Journal of Clinical Investigaton 118:1796-805 5. Johnson R.J. and Andrews P. (2010) Fructose, uricase, and the Back-to-Africa Hypothesis. Evolutionary Anthropology 19: 250-257 6. Lustig, R.H. (2012) Public health: The toxic truth about sugar. Nature 482: 27-29 7. Suez J. et al. (2014) Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature 514: 181-186 8. Yang Q. (2010) Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Neuroscience 83: 101-108 9. Kaiser K.A. et al. (2014) Increased fruit and vegetable intake has no discernable effect on weight loss: A systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 100:567-76.
The Great Barrier
by Dominique Ongaro
“I can’t even tell you how bad I smelt after the dive – the smell of millions of rotting animals,” stated Richard Vevers, the chief executive of a non-profit company called Ocean Agency that he founded to bring awareness to environmental problems. His job, which started as a hobby, has now become quite sad, some might even say morbid, as he has been traveling the world to document dead/ dying coral reefs. As a result of climate change, coral reefs around the world have been suffering coral bleaching, Coral bleaching occurs when the water temperature is too warm for too long. The warmer water causes coral to expel the algae living in their tissues which causes the coral to turn completely white. The algae that is expelled is what provides the coral will almost 100% of its energy so without it, the coral begins to starve. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is no exception. Vevers expresses that out of all of the devastation he has seen in coral reefs, he has never seen anything quite like that
of the Great Barrier Reef. He says “It was one of the most disgusting sights I’ve ever seen. The hard corals were dead and covered in algae, looking like they’ve been dead for years. The soft corals were still dying and the flesh of the animals decomposing and dripping off the reef structure.” This may be hard to picture for most which is why he has photos to document this devastation. Now that the damage has been done, it could take a decade for the reef to recover without any other stressors like pollution. But this kind of recovery has little chance considering the thick seaweed that is beginning to take over the dead coral. This not only prevents fish from using the coral as shelter but it weighs down on the structure which is likely to collapse. Without the coral reef, the entire ecosystem will be changed. All of the fish that rely on the reef for shelter and food will leave or die along with the bigger fish that rely on them. This would/will not be simply the loss of a wondrous site but the loss of an ecosystem.
Cassidy Lavigneâ€™s Study Abroad Experience:
My life in Spain
I've asked a lot of my friends and peers who voted for Trump as to how they could. For me, I still don't understand that they can simply brush off the hateful rhetoric of Trump and just say, "I don't condone what he says, but..." Although, I am trying to stay open minded. Obama's speech of Trumps victory, "We are not Democrats or Republicans first, we're Americans, we're on the same team." Stephen Colbert spoke on the results, "Being an American citizen is like family: You're in it whether you like it or not." (On Americans jumping ship to Canada). Part of me wishes I could be taking part in the protests breaking out across the Nation, part of me is lucky that I feel safe in Spain, knowing the amount of hate crimes being committed since the results. What I do have a problem with is people dismissing people's emotions of this election and making people who are sad about feel belittled. Being a cis-white woman, I have the least to worry about (besides my rights to my body and reproductive system). I don't have to worry about being screamed at to "go back to my country" because I am a POC, or Muslim. Protesting is part of our right. While I may be completely devastated and fearful for the results of the election, that's democracy. We have the right to speak out. I am confident in the system of different branches of government and advisers of the future President Donald Trump will help him make the best decisions for this country. I know these protests are being seen not just by the future government but the world, and I know that this will have an impact on future decisions. Am I upset? Absolutely. But at the same time, this is Democracy. I am grateful we are allowed to speak up. I hope this election means people, including myself will force themselves to skip a day and protest and not just participate in politics once every four years, if that's what it will take. And in the words of Seth Meyers in having future woman president, "The fact is, we donâ€™t know who you are, but I imagine this moment today will be a defining one for you. One that will make you work harder, and strive farther, and whoever you are, I hope I live to see your inauguration."
Pearl Study Abroad
ver since I landed in Spain three months ago, I was asked on multiple occasions what my thoughts were on the election. I would roll my eyes and say, Clinton. All of Spain agreed it seemed. In fact, ever since Trump won the election it seems the whole world, whatever thoughts they had of Americans and stupidity, was reinforced by his election. My roommate here while in Spain is from South Dakota. She said she really didn't follow the election or politics, but that she would probably vote for Trump since that's who her parents voted. I asked her, "What do you think about how he talks about women and sexual assault?" Her response, "well, everyone has a past." "What about calling Mexicans "rapists"?" This is where her answer truly scared me. "Well, I'm not Mexican, so that doesn't affect me." I immediately thought of the WW2 poem "First the came..." by Pastor Martin Niemoller. My memories of AP US history and world history came to my head when we learned about the steps leading up to the world wars. The thing that scared me, is I knew she wasn't alone with this thoughts. In fact, she said "This election won't affect me, in 4 years I'll still be a student it won't affect me." Which isn't true, because she's a woman, but she is also cis and white- only time will tell. What also startled me was when I asked her her thoughts on Trump wanting to ban the entire Muslim religion. "You gotta start somewhere" was her response. I cried later that day. Because I knew she wasn't alone with her thinking. This conversation happened the day before the election. I also was emailing my adviser more about the US election than I was my schedule for next semester. The was, and still is very real. I cried even more watching Trump crawl his way up the electoral college- Being on study abroad during the elections was like watching an explosion, a wildfire, and being able to do nothing. My friends and I here cried during our classes. Trump was plastered across the Spanish newspapers, and for the first time I felt embarrassed to be an American. Whatever negative stereotypes the world created about Americans, we couldn't be pissed about anymore, because our new president is the epitome of all of them.
by Cassidy Lavigne
GLOBAL CITIZENS Cai May Tan’s Study Abroad Experience:
Senegal neex na? by Cai May Tan Senegal is the land of teranga, which translates to hospitality. If it is not in the warm smiles of people I have come to know through intersections of daily routines, the steaming hot and insanely sweet attaya my host brother slides in my direction after weekend lunches, or the moments when people open up after the initial hesitancy, there has to be something absent. Or wrong. Or miscalculated. Or all of the above.
Pearl Study Abroad
t has been 12 weeks since I touched down in Dakar, Senegal, since I put trepidations and anxiety behind me and just went for it. That’s my study abroad experience, pushing my comfort zone. I chose to study abroad in Senegal not because I really wanted to learn French, but because I wanted a challenge. On a general slate, there are so many levels of comforts I wanted to expand on – perceptions, stereotypes, intentions, principles, etc. I have done that, well, most of it. It has been rough you all. Navigating your way through the streets of Dakar armed with less-than sensible French in a Wolof-speaking environment was the lesser challenge. With a skewed perception of study abroad, I commenced on this program in such a foreign context, I feel embarrassed coming in with the idea that I’ll be able to pick things up along the way because I had some exposure. In reality, no exposure is enough and you learn and lose things every day. I came into Senegal without any expectations, because I wanted a clean slate to start on. Culturally, it was very overwhelming, even for my peers who have traveled to neighboring countries. Interacting with others without a cultural context was hard. I struggled with justifying interactions with what I thought was “appropriate” or “friendly”, because they do take different forms for everybody. Being called chinoise behind your back is no fun, so isn’t being grabbed by the hand in attempt to convince you to buy their products and ride on their bus. Being micro-aggressed but having to brush it off is not a teranga experience, but really, who could you blame? However, being viewed as female and treated differently as “one should be” is something that I cannot justify. My friends and I who physically look “female” experience blatant verbal, physical and even sexual harassment. However, Senegal is not the factor behind the sudden “rise” in harassment. The gaps between cultural interactions only make harassment through language and actions more obvious. It’s less highlighted in a setting that you grew up in. I am not comparing how equal harassment is nor trying to downplay the fact that it is crucial we need to be aware of it, but I am just sharing my
thoughts on what I have come to realize. Sorry if this is not a rosy postcard picture of Senegal. Week 11 and I still reflect on being here as a lifetime opportunity. I have traveled and seen parts of Senegal under different circumstances, trying to establish a sense of comfort in a foreign environment where I am pretty much independent. The idea of being here for four whole months gave me the incentive to establish my identity and presence in my community. I never had the opportunity to do that on my own for a long time. Staying with a host family while the rest of your friends are scattered in other neighborhoods allowed me to be a braver to seek out things for myself. I am not held back by the standards of a familiar community nor their expectations. I still have to go to beaches in a group or the marché with somebody else, but I can navigate public transportation and go to the tailor on my own. While I have not gotten myself into situations where I go “Oh f…”, I still have had close shaves, and they certainly had to with being foreign and being held to that standard. Not being fluent in a language takes a whole piece of your identity away and I struggle with establishing my presence in conversations in school, workplace and in public. How do you scream at a taximan for trying to charge you extra en route when you know it’s the price? There is no way I could have expressed my anger or strong female self (up-yours patriarchy) eloquently as I would have in English. That said, one of the most beautiful things I have encountered was how you’d be able to share appreciation for things beyond the language bridge. The beauty of the sunset by the beach can be admired with cold beer and in silent solidarity, the frustration of the traffic jam can be shared with glances and shakes of the head, and so can “thank you that meal was delicious” be expressed with merci beaucoup, jerejef and bright eyes. Senegal has been great, really! Suivez @ acupofcai.blogspot.com for more!
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PEARL’S MISSION STATEMENT: The Pearl strives to emulate slain Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl’s efforts to bring out the human side of every story. Following his courageous model, The Pearl opens channels of communication in an endeavor to articularly and respectfully express differing opinions. The contributions to The Pearl report on issues of concern for the campus, the local community and the globe, aiming to unify the campus toward the realization of the mission of Soka University of America. Pearl magazine
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