Tag Archives: Latin America

Eat the World – Food in Europe versus America – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Eat the World – Food in Europe versus America – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Most of us have fond memories of our childhood. Growing up, few things sticks to us as strong as food did. Whether it was your mom’s homemade key lime pie, or a gross mixture you did not even know what was in it, food has always been key to transporting and evolving our senses in time. Growing up in Colombia I was exposed to, of course, the typical Colombian food. It was later on when I started trying different foods. Clearly, it has been a process of getting to know what you like and what you do not. Nevertheless, what I think is the most amazing thing about food is all that it implies.

I personally think food itself is a whole culture onto itself.

Everything revolves around food. It is amazing to see how food reflects a whole geographical, historical and cultural background. Latin American food, for instance, is characterized by the use of corn. There are multiple maize-based dishes all over the region, such as tortillas, tamales, tacos, pupusas, arepas, and elote asado. Precisely, this is the reflection of the historical and geographical background of the region. In this case, Latin American indigenous groups thought of corn as the greatest gift from the Gods. It was the most valued good, even more than gold.

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After traveling outside my country, I have noticed how the culture around food changes dramatically depending on the region. Even in the same country, food is significantly different depending on the geography. In Colombia, for instance, breakfast is an important meal. However, there’s plenty of options to choose from. In the central zone, the traditional breakfast is called “changua”. This is basically a milk soup with eggs. I know, it sounds interesting. This dish comes from one of Colombia’s indigenous groups: the Muisca people. In this region you can also find tamales, which are usually eaten for breakfast on Sundays; and “almojábana” with hot chocolate. Here, it is important to clarify that Latin American hot chocolate is completely different to American hot chocolate, which was one of my biggest food-frustrations when I first moved to the U.S. If you go to the “Eje Cafetero” you will find different breakfasts. One of them is the typical “calentao”, which literally means “heated”. This is usually the night before’s leftovers, reheated and mixed. There’s also the “arepa paisa”, which is a flatbread made of cooked corn flour, and commonly is served with toppings such as butter, cheese, scrambled eggs or meat. In the Colombian coast, clearly, the food is different. The Caribbean region breakfasts include “arepa de huevo”, which is a deep fried arepa made from yellow corn dough with an egg inside that is cooked by the frying process. It is also common for people to have fried plantain with cheese for breakfast. The list could go on, but I think I’ve proven my point.

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This is how, during my European adventure, I decided to look deeper into its food culture.

Firstly, breakfast is smaller. From what I was able to experience in London, Paris, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Munich, Santorini and Athens, it is more customary to eat smaller meals for breakfast. It was interesting to see that probably the biggest breakfast I found was in London, which was pretty similar to the typical American breakfast. Once again, I was able to make the connection to the historical background and relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. Other than that, most people tend to have either a biscuit, croissant or toast, accompanied by coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

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Putting this in perspective, I was able to confirm that American portions are indeed bigger than average. When I came to the United States, the only thing I could compare them with was with Latin American portions, which are indeed bigger than European, but way smaller than American.

Secondly, ingredients are different. Yes, this seems like a logical statement. Nonetheless, it is impressive to see the actual difference between the ingredients used in every place. The freshness and the way food is prepared absolutely changes the way people enjoy food. Pizza is the perfect example for this. European pizza is, in general, served individually, characterized by its thin crust, simple ingredients, sauces made from scratch and a not as cheesy/greasy consistency. On the other hand, American pizza is, in general, thick -even stuffed- crust, extra cheesy, and made from frozen dough. Both of them are delicious, but they are not the same in any way. It is not a surprise for anyone that American pizza is considered to be fast food. European pizza is not. Again, this reflects the culture.

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Thirdly, it caught my attention the way in which meals are distributed. For instance, in Latin America, breakfast tends to be significant, lunch tends to be the biggest meal in the day, and dinner tends to be lighter. This is not the case in the U.S.. From my experience, I have seen that breakfast is usually significant, lunch lighter, and dinner tends to be the biggest meal of the day. Along this, there is a lot of snacking in the United States. Snacks are a huge part of the market and of every day’s routine. This is not the case in Europe. Farmer’s markets are much more common in Europe and Latin America than in the U.S.. Clearly, this makes a difference at the time of analyzing the different food cultures.

There is no doubt that depending on the country, city, or even region, food will be different. Most importantly, food will reflect the differences between the cultures. After traveling around different cities, different countries and different continents, one of the biggest lessons I learned is to simply go out there and eat the world!

Ana Maria serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

Dominican Republic – Friendship Across National Borders – by Eleni Birhane. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Dominican Republic – Friendship Across National Borders – by Eleni Birhane. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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I met my now very dear friend Diana at the beginning of fall semester 2016. Almost instantly we became close; both of us wondered why we had not been friends until then. Not even half way through the semester, Diana suggested I go to the Dominican Republic with her to visit her family. I immediately accepted, how could I refuse such an offer! Once I had made the arrangements, she informed her family that I would be joining her on her trip for winter break. She told me that they were all happy and excited that I was coming. I knew that if they were anything like her (she stressed that they were) they would be extremely welcoming and hospitable, so I had no worries.

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My stay at the Dominican Republic was one I am not likely to ever forget. From the people to the land to the culture, everything I witnessed had a beauty that I cannot easily express in writing. I was lucky enough to experience the country not only from a tourist perspective, but also through the eyes of the local residents. Diana’s family took care of me as one of their own. Even though there was a language barrier between us (I speak almost no Spanish), I realized that if there is enough will and maybe a little help from the notoriously misleading, but undoubtedly helpful Google Translate, people from very different places and dialects can get along and even care for each other.

Other than being a much needed break from school and work, my stay at the Dominican Republic was also an informative experience. I learned a lot about the people’s culture, how laid back yet hardworking they are. I learned about the dynamics of their politics and their somewhat tense relationship with their only other neighbor on the island they share, the nation of Haiti. I learned that no matter how much I ate, Diana’s grandmother and aunt would never truly believe I was full. I enjoyed observing the similarities and differences between the Dominican Republic and my own home country Ethiopia.

Overall, by the time I had to leave I was feeling very down. I had come to truly care for her family as I believe they did for me. I know I have made friends for life and have promised myself (and them) I would come back when I could. I am very grateful I got the chance to have this experience. I encourage people to take any chance they get to travel and explore the world no matter how close or far, there might be something beautiful waiting just around the corner.

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Eleni serves as an editor for The NSR

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Eleni Birhane, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

Global Friendship, Love Across Borders – by Shivani Singh. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Global Friendship, Love Across Borders – by Shivani Singh. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Welcome! Witaj! Enkua Dena Metachu! Mauya! Swagat Hai! Bienvenido! Laskavo Prosymo! And more warm greetings from new faces and cultures. A year ago when I first came to the United States, just like many of my fellow International students, there was a lot to process. It took a while to let this new culture and atmosphere sink in, but eventually we all got along. It’s crazy how unfamiliar faces become family, how strangers become support systems, how the discomfort of feeling out of place comes together to form a place of its own, and how International students become the ‘International squad’ in a matter of just a couple days.

I remember the first few days during orientation with students from Colombia, Canada, Ethiopia, India, Poland, Slovakia, Zimbabwe, and many other countries cramped up in a single room. The Director of International Programs – Alison Champeaux guided us through the basics and realities of living in a completely alien country (at least for most of us) and making the best out of it. I still remember how a year ago, there was uncertainty lingering in the back of our minds when all of us were trying to befriend and start a conversation with each other. Trying to figure out what was appropriate and what was bothersome, to not hurt anyone’s feelings but also try to woo them. It was all brand new. How we involuntarily hung out, planned things, took classes together and helped out each other. And within no time, between shady puns and lame jokes…a family emerged.

Today, when I sit with my roommates Yabi (Ethiopia), Basia (Poland), and Laura (Colombia) to look back and think about those times, a nostalgic smirk appears on all of our faces. How instantly our individual discomfort was creating a sense of comfort for us collectively, how our issues and queries were closely related and most of them were even similar. We all came in with distinct schedules, meal times, gestures, and understanding of relationships. For instance, back home for most of us, a professor-student relationship is extremely formal and doesn’t normally extend outside the classroom. One could hardly built a friendly and more than just an innate classroom connection with the professor. But here, in the USA, you can talk quite openly to your teachers and in addition to that you can (sometimes are even expected to) be on first name basis with most of your teachers and other elderly. A lot of social stigmas were different as compared to where we came from. The concept of ‘tipping’ was absolutely new to us all (me, Basia, Yabi, and Laura). The first time we went to eat dinner at Green Mill, and the check was put on our table, we were a little startled. But after a year of culturing ourselves in this new atmosphere, we have been able to embrace the differences with wide-open arms.

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I, personally think that all International students go through a similar phase where they figure out what to inculcate and what to neglect, what to keep and what to push away. While we are trying to do this, we built ourselves in an all-around perspective. Meeting new people, making connections, soaking in the culture, and keeping each other company through thick and thin. Since the first time we (me and my roommates) made a connection as International students, we had each other’s back. We had a supernatural feeling about trusting each other; it was strange but significantly a grand feeling. What still blows my mind is that, how the four of us being from distinct countries, even continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America) got along. We were used to a certain flavor of life, our liking for food and flavor, our habits, our sleep schedules, our customs, our rituals, our religions, our sense of styling, our definitions of beauty, every little thing was distinct. Somehow, this distinction acted like glue and we were stuck together! We got accustomed to each other, shared our beliefs, (being girls) we even shared our secrets. Introduced each other to our families over Skype, and our families to each other. It was quite overwhelming at first, to accept that the four of us connected in such short span and quick enough became so close that we could not go a day without talking, hanging out, or even humiliating one another. We even participated in each other’s cultural gatherings. I, as an Indian celebrated the festival of lights “Diwali” and was accompanied by lovely girls from around the world. We all dressed in Indian attires. I explained them the meaning and significance of this festival. And we ate mouth-watering Indian food. This was the situation when none of us even lived together. We would hang out in the lounge just to be within our comfort zone, which indeed we sought with each other. Recently, this year, the four of us we moved in together and it had been an absolute blast. We have cuisine from four different continents under one roof. We take turns cooking delicacies from our respective tastes. Not only do we share food and common beliefs, and sometimes end up disagreeing with one another, but also that doesn’t stop us from being goofy just the next second. It has almost been two months since we have been living together and all we have done is nothing but, alleviate each other and help improve in all possible ways. We are sisters, friends, companions, partners, sometimes; even therapists, tutors, cuddlers and so much more.

There is nothing more I could have wished for. Finding friends who would push you toward excellence, always encourage you, support every right thing you do, and even slap and drag you on to right track if you wander off. ‘Love is rare, but true friendship is even rarer’, and I am more than privileged to have this attachment with three beautiful girls. It is not just a second home anymore; it’s rather my newfound home. We solicit repose, contentment, ease, warmth, tenderness, and endearment with each other. The feeling of solidarity, belongingness and the level comfort we seek with each other is beyond the imaginable. I found my family among these fools.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Peace in Colombia – Saying yes to the end of a half-century of war – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Peace in Colombia – Saying yes to the end of a half-century of war – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Twenty years ago, it seemed absurd to imagine a peaceful environment in Colombia. Twenty years from now, it will probably seem absurd to imagine the country in a constant and endless war.

It is internationally known that Colombia has had to fight three political, social and economic enemies: guerrillas, paramilitaries, and narcotraffic. Back in the 1920s, the country started to experience what would be the core of the oldest and longest civil conflict in the Americas. The fundamental conflict revolved around the land distribution in the rural areas of the country. This leads us to the fact that the agrarian conflict has been the determining factor to the emergence of Colombia’s war. Nonetheless, it has not been the only one. The adoption of capitalism as the Colombian economic and political system led to the emergence of Marxism as the perfect ideology for the guerrilla groups. Irregularities, corruption and instability in the Colombian government were also factors that allowed the aborning of the country’s civil conflict and criminal bands all over the country. Even though there have been multiple guerrillas, including the M-19 and ELN, the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) is currently the largest and most active guerilla group in the country, internationally known as a terrorist group. Their funding comes mainly from illegal drug trade and production. The way in which the group has performed has caused damage and resentment all over the country.

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The combination of all these factors have forced Colombian society to be in an uncomfortable position. On one hand, the government is not providing the necessary support and/or action to combat and ease the struggle for political democracy in the country. The consequences of this can be seen in corruption, abandoned areas in the country, high levels of inequality and poverty. On the other hand, they are being directly affected by the consequences of the struggle for political democracy as Colombian people are the ultimate victims of the conflict. These conditions have resulted in a remarkably bloody, complicated and long-running war.

For most Colombians, there was no hope of bringing the country together again without killing each other. There had been multiple attempts to finish the conflict, from peaceful talks to armed attacks. The first set of talks was in 1984, which failed because the paramilitary groups did not follow the ceasefire with the FARC. Then, in 1992, the talks did not succeed because they were left in the air. The third attempt was in 1999-2000, with President Andrés Pastrana; this turned in another failed ceasefire by the FARC. This year something historic happened. Announced on August 24th, 2016, and after after four years of negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC in La Habana, Cuba, the Peace agreement was signed. It ends a war that began 52 years ago and has killed, displaced, kidnapped and affected Colombians in one way or another. Six points were discussed: integral policy of agricultural development, political participation, closure of the conflict, solution to the drug industry issue, determination of victims, and countersignature mechanisms after agreements. This agreement is supported by the international community as well. 47 countries have announced their support, including the United States, France, Russia, United Kingdom and China. After being signed and celebrated, the agreement will be presented to Colombians as a plebiscite. This means that the ultimate word on the effectiveness of the agreement will take place after a democratic vote from Colombian citizens, followed by the actual application and fulfillment of the conditions and subjects discussed.

This is why it is vital to understand that even though a permanent Peace accord will potentially change Colombia in great ways, the country needs more than the written agreement. If the agreement works successfully, Peace will increase Colombia’s economic annual growth. Clearly, security would improve due to the ceasefire. It would also be expected a decrease in illegal drug trade, as one of the main centres for this business has been created by the FARC. If Peace is achieved successfully, it would shift the social environment and structure in the country. Instead of having a Colombian society who still distrust everyone and everything around them, the country would start working together to create a culture of trust and tranquility that will traduce in a healthy and more prosperous society. It could also open the political scenario for more leftist groups, as they have been discriminated for their alliances with the guerrilla. Colombia has all the potential to create a new society. As a country, it counts with all the necessary resources to grow and gain power in the region and internationally. It is a matter of restructuring the civil society and shifting from a resentful environment to a peaceful and more tolerant country. For this, it is necessary that the Colombian government takes the Peace agreement as an opportunity to restructure policies regarding political participation, societal equality, agricultural rights, and economic opportunities. For Colombia, signing the agreement is the first big step. The fulfillment of the points agreed on should be followed by the presence and support from the national government.

Being another Colombian living outside the country turns into a challenge in situations like this. Even though I am 3,098 miles away from home, thanks to social media and news I have been able to testify people having all different kind of opinions regarding the subject. It is easy to find tons of people who would vote “no” to the plebiscite based on a wide spectrum of reasons. Though understandable, it is quite outrageous to see that personal interests, resentments, and political alignments are limiting a whole country from getting a new perspective. Future generations have the right to live in a country where they have different opportunities to succeed without the fear of being killed, kidnapped or being internationally discriminated for being Colombian. Colombia is far from being perfect, just as any other country in the world. However, if there’s a historic chance for the country to eliminate one of their major sources of violence and injustice, why do not take it?

I am from Colombia, I have lived four years on my own in Minnesota, and I know my country has much more to offer than an endless bloody war. Olympic winners such as Caterine Ibargüen and Mariana Pajón, champions like Nairo Quintana and James Rodríguez, artists like Shakira and Carlos Vives, and magic realism creators like Gabriel García Márquez make Colombian people proud of their country. Pursuing their dream of being globally recognized for more than being a narco, a drug dealer, or a criminal, Colombians should give a chance to Peace. It is moment to stop waiting for a deus ex machina and start creating a new country. It is time to stop blaming others. If it is not the Spaniards, it is the priests and Catholic church; if it’s not the conservatives, it is the liberals, the communists, the military, the Americans, the elite, the corrupt, the narcos, the guerrillas, the paramilitary, the Uribistas or the Santistas. Colombian society needs more than a paper to change its path, Colombia needs a societal transformation that allows the government to be accountable for its role. It is moment to go beyond what has been done before and allow the establishment of the political democracy and social justice Colombia has always dreamed of.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – “The Native Speaker” – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – “The Native Speaker” – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

I will be leaving my university before the end of the Fulbright grant period.

Among other personal reasons is the main reason that I am unhappy with my university; I am more than a native English-speaking “object”. I am a teacher, and (quite strangely) nobody seems willing to allow me to teach.

While this isn´t the experience of every English teacher in Bogota, it is the experience that I have had during my time here. There is an overwhelming desire that many people have in Bogota to learn English, practice English, and speak in English. The students who are dedicated to the idea of learning English often take supplemental private classes outside of their required university courses.

There is, however, in my opinion a very positive bias towards people who are native speakers of English.

LauraNative1

I am a licensed Spanish teacher in the United States. It means that I know how to teach Spanish and, when my skills are stripped down to their fundamental level, I understand a little bit about how to teach language in general. I´m not a trained English teacher. The only claim to competence that I have is a mash up of my Spanish teaching skills and the fact that I´ve spoken English for the entirety of my twenty-two year life.

Bogota is full of people who teach English, many of whom have less of a claim to competence than I do. That´s not bad. There´s certainly a necessity for English teachers no matter how skilled in teaching they are. However, the majority of the people I’ve met in Colombia never seem to mind whether somebody is a trained English teacher or simply a native speaker–in fact, it is usually only the “native speaker of English” that seems to be important.

LauraNative2

As I visited more and more classes at my university, there seemed to be a common theme: It didn´t particularly matter if my lessons were good, if the students were engaged, or if the students even paid attention. What mattered was that I was a native speaker and that the students got to hear me speak. The students asked me all generic questions (“Where are you from?”,“Are you married?”, “Do you have a boyfriend?”, “What do you look for in a Colombian man?”), and then whether or not I taught a lesson seemed irrelevant to both the professor and the students. I was the “native-speaker” from the States who talked and looked different. The professors complained if I didn´t visit every single one of the 110 English classes because it was so important for the students to just “meet me”, and the students seemed to feel in many cases that simply having me say things at them with no structure, scaffolding, or goal, would magically increase their English skills.

Those of you that are native speakers of English, do you feel like you could teach a class on English grammar right now? Modal verbs? Auxiliary verbs? Past participles? I´ve been teaching in Bogota for six months and I still stumble over English grammar. Deep down, I don´t feel qualified and I feel like I´m a bad teacher, but nobody cares because I´m a native speaker of English.

I was confused about the whole process until a student came to my tutoring hours. When I told him that I would be returning to the United States soon, he was crestfallen and explained that he wanted the opportunity “to talk with a native speaker”. He went on to explain that he was taking English courses at another school and he thought he was learning a lot “because there are no more than six students in a class”, but he didn´t like the classes because it was taught by a Colombian, somebody who wasn´t a native speaker of English. He explained that the reason that he refused to speak English to me was that his school had never given him the opportunity to speak to a native speaker. Therefore, he wasn’t prepared despite the fact that we had communicated extensively in English through Facebook Messenger.

LauraNative3

(A lot of my university students in Colombia have taken the same English course again and again through Elementary and High School. It’s the same basic topics, similar to how many students in the United States take many years of (usually) Spanish and learn the same things. The only difference is that English classes in Colombia are influenced by the fact that the government has set a deadline for everyone in the country to be bilingual.)

To me, there seems to be a widely held perception that native English speakers can magically impart the English language unto any person that bothers to pay for private classes. In order to learn English, you must sign up for English classes, and the English classes must fulfill two components: 1) they must have as few students as possible, preferably only one, and 2) the teacher must be a native speaker. If these two components are not met, the perception is that a student must travel to the United States or England to learn the language through immersion. When students come to my tutoring hours, which are designed as times where they can bring homework or projects that they tend to never complete, they don´t bring ideas or homework to work on. They simply stare at me and tell me to teach them things like “verbs” or “United States English” and listen as I say things to them. At the end, they tell me that they feel they’ve learned a lot.

It’s a very strange experience.

At first, I felt “objectified” in a certain way by my students and by my university. I was literally being asked to simply go around and greet students and my suggestions for lessons and improvements to my schedule were pooh-poohed and deemed irrelevant. At the same time, it’s easy to understand why a native speaker is conferred so much seemingly supernatural and sometimes undeserved power and desirability. The English language is heavily propagandized in Colombia. Every single one of my students, every professor, every person that I met on the street, waiter I spoke to in a restaurant, and taxi driver that drove me to and from the airport could tell me that English was incredibly important and necessary for their career advancement. The issue is that in many cases it simply isn’t necessary, but in a country that has a massive national program for creating a Spanish/English bilingual population it’s very easy to repeat the idea that you’ve been taught since you were a small child.

LauraNative4

(When I am not there, the students at Aguadulce learn English through repetitive translation work. Unfortunately, they sometimes are taught the wrong words. For example, in this translation the word atractivo means sexy instead of attractive. I was very confused why 5th graders were using the word sexy.)

About our special correspondent and senior editor Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Trash Collection – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Trash Collection – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

When our cleaning lady decided to take a week off after Christmas, I and the fourteen other people living it the house from which I currently rent a room ran into a problem: the trash was piling up. For some of my house mates, that doesn’t seem to matter. For me, however, this was a problem. I wanted to take the trash out, but the problem was that I didn’t know how.

lauratrash1

(Note the lovely collection of garbage and recyclables in the garbage can. Separating recyclables and garbage was not a thing in any of the buildings where I lived or in any of the schools where I worked or volunteered.)

In Bogota, there are no universal trash or recycling binds that are distributed throughout the city. In fact, there is almost no such thing as recycling bins. Recycling is a very new concept and it tends not to turn out so well when only a small fraction of the city is aware of what recycling is. I’ve seen students quietly deliberating as they stare at the recycling bins at my university before quickly dumping all of the leftover food into the recycling bin, leaving the paper plate and plastic cup in the trash.

lauratrash2

(In Leticia (the Amazon region of Colombia), trash collection seemed to be a bit more universal in the small city. There were also many more campaigns advertising recycling and the proper disposal of trash.)

Instead of a universal system for trash removal, the system seems to be as follows: trash bags are left outside of houses, on the side of the road, on street corners–so long as they are all placed in a somewhat central pile, it seems–and are then collected by trucks or individual sanitation workers who lug around a small cart to collect trash.

lauratrash3

(In Salento, all of the trash in the city is collected and deposited nearby the public baseball field.)

This works to a fault. There are a few elements of Bogota that make this process more complicated.

There are many homeless people on the streets of Bogota. For many of these homeless people, the one readily available source of food can be found in the flimsy plastic bags of trash that are left out on street corners throughout the week. While the plastic trash bags may be set out in a neat pile, within a matter of hours they will be shredded to piece, sorted through, and discarded.

lauratrash4

(Note the single lone trash bag sitting out at the edge of the park outside of the house where I live.)

Those that choose to sort through the plastic bags are in search of two things: leftover food and recyclables. The food is very obvious. Entire plates of food, half eaten fruits, and only slightly rotting produce is discarded every day, and the homeless are able to take advantage of it. The recyclables are collected for money. Near garbage collection days, the streets will be full of people lugging carts packed high with cardboard, wood, plastic, and papers.

About our special correspondent and senior editor Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – “It’s Not Bad, It’s Just Different …” – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – “It’s Not Bad, It’s Just Different …” – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

LauraDiff1

I work with another organization that pairs individuals that are studying or working throughout the world with elementary school classes in the United States. I signed up for the program because I loved the idea; I could help educate a class of young students about another country, discussing topics like stereotypes, culture, and addressing differences between people and countries.

For my first article that I had to write about the program, we were asked to describe the place that we were living. There were prompts–weather, currency, prices, and nature found throughout the city–and then there were more open-ended questions that we were allowed to answer as we pleased based on what seemed important to us. For one of them, I chose to discuss the fact that I had discovered I was having extreme allergic reactions to the pollution in Bogota. It allowed me to talk about the recent push to replace the Transmilenio buses with new “eco-friendly” or electric buses and the fact that, though called “eco-friendly”, many of the buses continued to contribute to pollution.

LauraDiff2

(The university where I work.)

This seemed very commonplace to me. I was discussing the fact that a city in another country struggled with pollution, a problem that many large cities around the world

When my editor sent me revision notes, I was a bit bothered by the fact that she had chosen to remove the entire section of my article that talked about pollution in Bogota. She explained that my paragraph about pollution was too negative. I should just focus on the different eco-friendly movements and I shouldn’t focus at all on the pollution. In her words, I was going to make the young students “prejudiced” against Bogota if I portrayed it in a negative light.

Here’s my issue with that: Even though they may be young, elementary students aren’t incapable of critical thinking.

Critical thinking may be a difficult skill to develop, but that doesn’t mean that it should be avoided. Rather, it should be focused on. The United States education system definitely has its faults, but one thing that I loved about all the classrooms that I’ve worked in is that the environment of education stressed the importance of critical thinking and independent thought processing.

LauraDiff3

(The office that I’m allowed to use at work is shared by seven other professors.)

I didn’t want to give the students that I had been paired with a “dumbed down” portrayal of another country. Yes, it is true that in the past (and the present) the United States as a country have been prone to broadcasting the idea of the United States as ultimately “good” and other countries as “lacking” or “bad”, but that doesn’t mean that in order to make up for this incorrect portrayal of the world that we should swing the pendulum to the complete opposite. The organization that I was working with was asking me to portray everything about other countries as incorruptibly “good”.

A friend of mine taught me a phrase that she used when working with elementary students in an exchange program that brought students back and forth across the US-Mexico border. “It’s not bad, it’s just different”.

After living in various countries throughout her life, my friend shared the amended version that she had created from that phrase she was told to use in her job. “Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s bad.”

Sometimes things that are “different” are bad–an idea that in itself seems a bit negative because it’s only talking about negatives. What’s important to take out if is that the cultures of ALL countries have positives and negatives. Looking at entire countries with a dichotomy of black and white, good and bad, is like trying to use the phrase “It’s not bad, it’s just different” because it doesn’t allow for instances when certain norms– sexism, racism, etc.– are different and also not particularly desirable.

To me, being asked to show students an overly positive picture of living in Bogota that stripped away all things even slightly negative was both incorrect and inefficient. In trying to correct the fact that for so long the United States has created a dichotomy of good and bad and placed itself in the good category, the organization was asking me to create another dichotomy of good and bad and place anything that was “different” in the good category. While it was an attempt to fix a stereotype that many people believe, in the end I was still presenting the students with a dichotomy instead of an opportunity to critically examine differences and understand WHY, in many cases, that things that are different are not always bad.

About our special correspondent and senior editor Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – The carnival of Pasto – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – The carnival of Pasto – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

LauraPasto2

(Most floats are incredibly tall and detailed like this one. They may look solid, but when you see them up close you may notice where some of the Styrofoam has been ripped away by somebody in the crowd or simply by the float being in use.)

After playing in the Steel Band at St. Scholastica, it was always Trinidad and Tobago that came to mind when somebody mentioned Carnival. In reality, there are many Carnival celebrations that take place in Central and South America, from the massive celebration in Rio de Janeiro to the smaller, but nationally recognized Colombian celebration of Carnival in Barranquilla.

I never intended to visit the massive Barranquilla celebration, so as part of my travels during my university’s semester break in January, I and two friends decided to spend a few days in Pasto, a city an hour or two´s drive from the Ecuadorian border. The city is fairly quiet and un-discussed the majority of the year, but it springs to life in the beginning of January for their own Carnival celebration. (Locally, it´s called Carnival, but nationally it´s recognized as the Feria de los blancos y negros or Fair of the Blacks and Whites).

LauraPasto1

(It’s usually Ecuador that’s known for cuy (guinea pig), but many of the foods in Pasto and southern Colombia are influenced by the proximity of Ecuador. There are many restaurants in the city that specialize in cuy!)

The city boasts a massive parade on January 6th that matches many of the large fairs and Carnival celebrations in cities all over Colombia later in the year. There are massive floats made out of styrofoam and electric neon paint, as well as large masks that marchers carry through the day-long parade as they dance through the streets. The amount of work that goes into the parades is impressive and results are gorgeous!

For the few days before the parade, everybody in the city dons ponchos, ski goggles, face masks, sweatshirts, and large hooded parkas to protect themselves because the streets are full of people spraying foam, throwing white dust, and trying to draw on your face. It sounds super fun! We brought all of the necessary equipment (including an excited attitude) the first night that we arrived in the city, and after thirty minutes walking through the streets we realized something shocking–to us, it wasn’t fun!

I had found myself caught in a similar type of festival earlier the year in Girardot, a very hot city a three hour bus ride outside of Bogota, and the experience had been super fun! Everybody in the city had bottles of foam that they were spraying at each other. Everybody that owned a motorcycle was out on the street, covered in foam, the person on the back of the motorcycle armed with their own bottle of foam. It was fun!

However, when it came to the festival in Pasto, there was something about it that made it difficult for us to join in with the festivities.

To begin with, people aim at your face. That in itself is okay because you can put on sunglasses and pull up your hood, but people would run at us and rip off our hoods, grab our hair, and, in some cases, pull off our sunglasses as they sprayed directly in our faces. It´s not my definition of fun. For some people it is, but I´ve never been in a situation where it is permissible to run at a random stranger anywhere in the city and throw things at them when they´re shouting “No!¨. It was very different than what I was used to!

LauraPasto3

(Note how the foam is primarily inside the hood of my poncho.)

The other aspect of the Pasto Carnival that made me feel unnerved was that the primary people enjoying the opportunity to spray foam and throw dust were not what I would assume was the “intended audience”. When little kids, children, families, or a group of good-natured adults spray foam at you and laugh as you retaliate in kind, it´s a fun experience! However, the streets were full of large groups of early and late twenties men who I often witnessed ganging up on a single person, including little kids.

My friends and I decided to make our time in Pasto short, and we took every opportunity possible to see sites around Pasto such as a famous gothic cathedral and a peaceful glacial lagoon that is used for trout farming. (Though, while driving back from the lagoon we had a mob of thirty-some people attack our van, rip open the door, spray foam inside of the car, and then pull our friend out of the van.) In a few of the vans, we overheard other passengers discussing how they no longer visited Pasto during Carnival because they thought it no longer had the “spirit” of past years.

I´d like to say that we had a wonderful time at the Carnival, but, even after “fully-engaging” and going all out on foam and protective gear, it was inevitably not quite what we were expecting. However, it was still an experience! I can now say that I visited Pasto during the famed Feria de los blancos y negros.

LauraPasto4

(Pasto itself is a beautiful city!)

About our special correspondent and senior editor Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

41 Comments

Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Health Deliveries – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Health Deliveries – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

In terms of health, my term in Colombia has been horribly unsuccessful.

In the first few months after I arrived, I thought that my awful allergic reactions to the pollution in Bogota (that my body was not accustomed to) was me somehow developing asthma. In the Amazon, I caught a less severe form of dengue fever. After returning to Bogota for the second semester of classes in late January, one of my mosquito bites got horribly infected and my throat was once again infected by polluted air in Bogota.
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(The medical supply stores in Bogota often features manikins wearing surgical clothing or scrubs.)

I´d like to say that this means I´ve become a pro at navigating the health systems in Bogota, but the truth is that I have very little idea how they operate. When I first started suffering from allergies, I went to the emergency room at a massive hospital a few blocks away from my first apartment. I had no idea how to call a doctor or locate a smaller clinic, so I decided a hospital was my best course of action. After waiting six hours in the waiting room, I changed my mind.

We in Bogota are very lucky because the insurance that we are given through the Fulbright program allows us to take advantage of a very nice opportunities: domicilios.

Domicilios are deliveries. In Bogota, you can have almost anything delivered to your house. The amount of restaurants that will make a “house delivery” is overwhelming, and they stretch well beyond the normal pizza and Chinese takeout options to include places that serve stereotypical Colombian lunches, sandwiches, fried chicken, beer, and just about anything you can think of. When you order something online in Bogota, you´re often actually ordering a domicilio of the item and a man on a motorcycle will show up at your front door the next morning with the item in a ridiculously large box.

Domicilios include medical care.
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(I used to leave in a neighborhood full of medical supply stores. I walked past “for sale” dentist chairs every morning.)

After calling, giving your insurance and ID information, describing your symptoms, and providing an address, a doctor or nurse practitioner will show up at your house between fifteen minutes and an hour and a half later. The exam is usually minimal, but will always be followed by the same things:

First, the doctor will offer you an injection of something to help with pain or swelling, but usually pain. Second, the doctor will write out a very, very long list of medications for you to take.

The few times that I´ve gotten a medical domicillio, I´ve received a list of at least four different medication to take. When I had an infected mosquito bite, I was told to ask the pharmacist for a topical antibiotic, an oral antibiotic, some sort of foot-soaking salts, and a pain medication–and all of these medications were supposed to be taken for two whole weeks. When I was suffering from allergies, I was prescribed a pain medication, a medication for my throat, drops for my ears, drops for my eyes, and a secondary pain medication.
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(Another fashionable mannequin modeling the latest in medical wear.)

The medications are a little bit more intense than what I´m accustomed to receiving in the United States.

Regardless of how different medical services may seem to me, those of us that are placed in Bogota are fortunate enough to have easy access to medical care. In some of the other, more rural cities in Colombia, the assistants do not have access to a properly equipped hospital that is less than a three to four hour bus ride away.

About our special correspondent and senior editor Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – The Perception of Backpackers – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – The Perception of Backpackers – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Lauraanimals3

I’ll admit it. When I was in high school I often dreamed of taking a post-high-school backpacking trip across Europe. When I was in college I often dreamed of taking a post-college backpacking trip across South America. A lot of people dream of it, a lot of people pin things on Pinterest about it, and, in reality, there are actually quite a few people who actually do it.

As a result of recent dips in ticket prices to Colombia, the tourism industry has experienced a huge boom. And, as a result of the diversity and beauty contained within a small country, many travelers intent on traversing all of South America end up detouring and spending a good chunk of their time in Colombia.

Prior to the holiday season, I wasn’t able to travel throughout Colombia. I met a few backpackers and travelers in La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota, but Bogota itself isn’t a huge tourist attraction and backpackers especially don’t tend to linger here for long. I did, however, hear a great deal about travelers from professors and students, the individuals with whom I most often discuss cultural perceptions and stereotypes.

When talking to certain students, I was alarmed at the descriptions I was given when I asked them to describe a person from the United States “based on foreigners they have met”. I heard words that are often repeated like “ignorant” and “greedy”, but when the words turned to phrases they confused me.

In particular, one student told me that he hated travelers from the United States. He described them as very “close-minded”, and when I asked him to elaborate on being close-minded he explained that every backpacker from the United States that he had met was never interested in speaking Spanish, interacting with locals, or going places other than those frequented by tourists. He said that many of them only came to Colombia for drug-tourism and partying and didn’t actually care about the country or people.

It was a harsh critique.

I assumed he had had some bad experiences. I didn’t believe it–that is, until I had the opportunity to travel and frequented a few hostels in different cities in Colombia. There are definitely some hostels that are “party-hostels” and there are definitely some hostels that are not “party-hostels”, and the people that I met in each one varied accordingly. However, across the board, I was often disappointed by the attitudes of the fellow estadounidenses (United States-ians) that I met throughout Colombia.

In Medellin, I met countless pre-college or post-college graduates who spent the duration of their time partying at the bar in their hostel, hanging out with other backpackers, and discussing other hostels that they had stayed at. The default language of hostels: English. The default goal of many travelers: party. The more time I’ve spent around people “traveling” through Colombia, the more I’ve come to understand my students’ harsh critique of the estadounidenses that they’ve met.

However, for me, it was the level of Spanish used by other travelers that was the most disappointing. If you’re traveling through Europe, I find it perfectly understandable to not speak the native language of a country. There are so many languages spoken throughout Europe that it would be impossible to expect yourself to learn them all. South America is a different story. With the exception of Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana (countries that are not very popular travel destinations in the first place), Brazil and its Portuguese is the only outlier. Spanish is universal.

Would it hurt to learn a little bit of Spanish?

Time and time again, I’ve met travelers that can’t answer basic questions that are thrown at them again and again. I now understand why, on my “touristy days” otherwise known as my casual-dress days, I suddenly have every street-seller shouting things at me in English.

I often feel like I’m judging my fellow travelers a bit unfairly. I have a different opportunity. I’m living in Colombia for ten months and many of them are spending a week or two exploring a few cities; of course they aren’t going to be able to “connect” with Colombia as much as I can. That being said, the legacy that these travelers leave behind is often awful and has jaded many people’s perceptions of the United States.

When I think back to my study abroad experiences in university, I’m reminded of how many times I was told of my position as a “cultural ambassador”, how often I was reminded to be careful and courteous. I remember I thought it was silly back then, but I often find myself wishing now that other travelers could keep the idea of being cultural ambassadors in mind as they embark on their journeys throughout Colombia.

About our special correspondent Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Laura Blasena, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang