Tag Archives: North Star Reports

On behalf of The North Star Reports – we thank and welcome our readers from around the world

NSR January 2015 copy

On behalf of The North Star Reports – we thank and welcome our readers from around the world — as of January 2015, after two years since our establishment.

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Barcelona, Spain – Estoy Aquí, I am Here! — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

A special series. Barcelona, Spain – Estoy Aquí, I am Here! — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

arc de triomf[Photo 1: Arc de Triomf, Barcelona’s own]

Saturday, the 3rd of January, I began my trip. Driving the 164 miles from my house to Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport’s first terminal, it still hadn’t sunk in that within hours I would be immersing myself in a culture quite different from the one I had grown up in. My first flight flew 8 hours overnight, crossing the North Atlantic, and numerous time zones. My second, from Amsterdam to Barcelona was only 2 hours- but it seemed somewhat longer than the much more familiar drive from Duluth to the Twin Cities that takes about the same time. Sunday, the 4th of January, I had arrived in Barcelona, Spain and had begun my 90-day adventure.

park zoo[Photo 2: Parc de la Ciutadella, the huge park very near my apartment here in Barcelona, it features this lovely fountain as well as the city zoo!]

Before departing, I purchased a book suggested to me by my academic advisor/Spanish professor/Chair of my major, The Way of the Traveler: Making Every Trip a Journey of Self-Discovery, and within the first few pages I found writing activities intended to help me look introspectively at the kinds of emotions I was experiencing. On the plane from Amsterdam to Barcelona, I began feeling a bit anxious with the knowledge that I was only hours from my destination. I wrote in my journal various feelings, and after each I tried to trace them back to the source, it was a practice all at once overwhelming and therapeutic. For those of you who have traveled abroad for any period of time some of these may resonate with your experience, for those who have yet to travel- let them serve as an insight to what may precede the excitement and joy that studying abroad allows.

above fountain[Photo 3: The view from the top of above fountain, it’s very common for lovers to write their initials on locks and hang them from various bridges, fountains, public places, etc.]

Here’s what I felt:
Anxious: being away from family seems like a respite- especially when your family is huge and raucous, like mine; but in all reality my family is my everything and being apart from them was actually one of my biggest fears. Realizing I’ll be three months without my friends and my hometown routine was a bit disheartening as well.

Excited: this is an opportunity I’ve wished for since the summer of 2011 when I visited Spain for the first time, I’m so very happy to be able to live here in Barcelona and utilize everything I’ve been studying.

Worried: that everything I’ve studied thus far will be insufficient; that my Spanish won’t be up to par, that my ignorance will shine through.

Exhausted: physically AND emotionally. I tend to avoid goodbyes to avoid the mushy, teary-eyed experience that usually accompanies them, and this trip was no different. But some I couldn’t avoid and they were some of the most difficult. Also, at the time of this journal entry I had already spent 14 hours sentada (seated) in airplanes, airports and a car, and I hadn’t slept a wink since the day before- so I was a little tired.

Barcelona outlook[Photo 4: View of Barcelona from Mirador Montjuïc, or the Outlook on Montjuïc]

Now, I am well rested and feeling fine although I’m well aware I will experience a whole gambit of these same emotions and more during my stay. I’ve already had the chance to explore my new home a little, and am so very excited to learn more and more about its layout, history, food, and people – and how they all interconnect to form the beauty that is Barcelona! I hope to share my findings, musings, and interests with you, dear readers of the North Star Reports, and am more than happy to answer any questions you may have along the way! Hasta luego!

Barcelona Plane[Photo 5: Aerial view of Barcelona from the plane that brought me here!]

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

For all of the North Star Reports, see http://NorthStarReports.org See also, http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. 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

The North Star Reports will share essays from our student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open-access policy. K-12 teachers, please contact the chief editor if you are using these reports for your classes, HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Honduras — Misconceptions About So-called “Third World” Countries — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Sofia Pineda

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Honduras — Misconceptions About So-called “Third World” Countries — The North Star Project Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Sofia Pineda

When people think about Third World countries, all they can imagine is poverty, violence, and any negative connotation you can associate with a location. But who can blame them? It seems as if Third World countries do not interest the rest of the world unless there are revolts or violent activities going on. Mass media will let the world know all about how dangerous these countries are, but fails to tell how beautiful and full of potential they are. Growing up in Honduras, I have experienced this phenomenon all my life.

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Studying abroad last year reinforced this thought. I left home to live the “American dream.” Education is not a good as it should be in Honduras, so my parents and I decided it was best for me to study in the United States. Because English is my second language I have an accent when I speak, allowing people to know I am a foreigner. People here were surprised by “how good I speak English.” But they were even more surprised when I told them where I was from. It seemed as if all they knew about Honduras was the revolt we had in 2009 or the poverty and crime that exists. Many didn’t even know where Honduras is located and I got asked several times not only if I lived in Mexico, but even worse, if I spoke Mexican. I am completely honest when I tell you that I have been asked if I live in trees.

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What a dream to live, right? To live thousands of miles away from home and have people make assumptions of who you are and about your culture just because you come from a certain country. Truth be told, this saddens me. There is more than meets the eye. Just because we come from a country that is not as developed as others, it does not mean we are “uncivilized” individuals living in forests and are unable to speak another language besides our mother tongue. I will not lie and say that my country has no poverty or crime. But let’s be honest, what country has no people who are homeless or who suffer from poverty? What country has people that never commit crimes? What country has a perfect government loved by all its citizens? Last time I checked, there was no such country.

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There are so many misconceptions about Third World countries; we are continuously diminished because we have been labeled in a box. Third World countries do not want others’ charity— this is one of the biggest misconceptions that exists. Third World countries want to be seen as equal, because that is what we are if we are given the opportunity. Believe it or not, we, just like all First and Second World countries, have our fortes. While some countries may excel in education, others excel in crop growth or fertile land. Every country has its weaknesses and its strengths.

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Third World countries are more than poverty and violence and charity works. Third World countries are beautiful. Honduras, for example, has the second largest coral reef in the world— a fact that is overlooked or ignored due to the negative news that are shared with the world. Not only do we have beautiful nature but most importantly, we have beautiful people. When I say beautiful people I mean both from the inside and outside. We are honest people fighting to live that “dream.” Only as you grow older do you understand that your dream can be achieved anywhere. You don’t need to study abroad or work for a foreign company or live somewhere else because, at the end of the day, you may belong to a Third World country but no one is superior or inferior to you. Misconceptions will always exist and it is your duty to inform others how beautiful and full of potential your country truly is.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU

For all of the North Star Reports, see http://NorthStarReports.org

The North Star Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School, Duluth Denfeld High School, Dodge Middle School and other schools around the world to the North Star Reports. The North Star Reportshas flourished since 2012. 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

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2014/embracing-oa-universities-adopt-open-access-policies-for-faculty-journal-publications

The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Reports student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Two, St. Petersburg, Russia

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The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Two, St. Petersburg, Russia

By Marin Ekstrom St.Petersburg: Week #1

I arrived in St. Petersburg around 11:00 at night, and instantly felt transported into a surreal land. The bright duskiness of the White Nights had me thinking that it was 7:00 (as if a flight ever arrives early), and I was astonished by the jarring mixture of breathtakingly beautiful monuments, decrepit Soviet apartments, and modern commercial enterprises vaguely reminiscent of Las Vegas. However, the following day our study abroad program orientated us throughout the city, showing us the major landmarks like the Church of the Spilled Blood, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Bronze Horseman, and the Hotel Astoria. Through this journey I became enchanted with the history and magic of St. Petersburg, a city that began as a Swedish backwater and transformed into the Euro-tinged cultural capital of Russia.

Through these walking tours of the city, I have been able to experiencing the culture. On the culinary end, I have discovered Teremok, the blini-centric “Russian McDonalds” that serves such heavenly creations as blinis with sweetened condensed milk, and already know that I will miss it back in the States. I also love the various dairy products available in Russia (Dutch cheese, kefir, and tvorog, Russian cottage cheese) and the variety of fruit juices (that are strangely unrefrigerated). As for the people, many seem to be quite serious, based on the lack of smiles, the vast amount of book and Kindle readers on the metro, and the blunt, curt attitudes of the checkout cashiers-. Some of these factors have clashed with my own tendency for Minnesota niceness- I even had a professor that went on a bit of a rant because I used “please” and “thank you” too much! However, I’ve also noticed that once you get to sit down and talk with a Russian, they are kind and caring, and make for pleasant conversation- which I think describes all humanity, no matter what nationality.

In addition to my “play” of exploring the city, I also “work” by study the Russian language at St. Petersburg State University, designated as a slushatel, or listener. I have one class per day, three hours straight (though there is a ten minute break at the halfway mark) that focus on grammar, conversation, and reading. Classes are conducted solely in Russian, which is both intimidating and exhilarating in this immersive experience.

All in all, I hope that the combination of formal study and life experience will help me to further unravel what Winston Churchill deemed “the riddle wrapped up in an enigma” that is Russia.
———-
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=10

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to the North Star Project. The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2014/embracing-oa-universities-adopt-open-access-policies-for-faculty-journal-publications

The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2013-present The Middle Ground Journal See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Forty-Four, Nowruz at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, by Marin Ekstrom

The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Forty-Four, Nowruz at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, by Marin Ekstrom

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Despite the Gregorian calendar “standardizing” January 1st as the start of the New Year, its inception varies from culture to culture. In the case of Nowruz, which is primarily celebrated in Iran (although parts of Central Asia, South Asia, northwestern China, and southeastern Europe also observe it), the New Year is based on the spring equinox. The holiday traces its origins to Zoroastrian practices, and like many other spring holidays, features a variety of rituals to commence the rebirth and renewal associated with the season. The most iconic Nowruz tradition is the haft seen table, or the “Table of Seven S’s.” A table is covered with seven sacred items that all begin with the letter “S” in the Persian language: serkeh (vinegar), senied (dried fruit), sir (garlic), seeb (apples), sabzeh (greens), samanu (wheat pudding), and sumac (crushed berry spice). In addition, other popular haft-seen items include a mirror, an orange in a bowl of water, a bowl of goldfish, colorfully dyed eggs, hyacinths, candles, and sacred books (i.e. the Quran, the Shamaneh, the poetry of Hafez). The items have symbolic qualities attached to them that will bestow the family with happiness and fortune in the coming year. Another key practice is fire jumping. People make small bonfires and jump over them while uttering a special phrase; the flames in turn take away the bad things that occurred in the previous year. The festivities described only constitute a fraction of the rich cultural traditions associated with Nowruz, but luckily I got a taste of it when I visited the Freer and Sackler Gallery’s exhibition on this holiday.

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The first display that I encountered was an exquisite haft seen table that was not only adorned with most of the ritual items described above, but also softly colored flower petals, wads of gumdrops and flowers, and whimsical figurines of traditional Persian folk characters. Although I took pictures, they honestly do not do justice to actually seeing the display in person. I could not stay there long, however, as many people, particularly Persian-speaking families, were crowded around it. In fact, there were youngsters, parents, and grandparents abound throughout the museum! I admired them for taking so much pride in their language and culture and sharing it with their children, all while taking the time to savor the simple pleasures of this springtime festival.

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As I ventured on, I encountered another haft seen, which, while simpler and earthier than the other one, was still stunning. I entered a wing where various activities were being conducted. I observed a young man painting people’s names in the Persian calligraphy by utilizing stylized forms and colors to transform their names into works of art. Another stand featured the Falnama, or “Book of Omens.” The Falnama is an old tradition in which someone turns to a random page, and depending on what brilliantly illustrated story and series of texts he/she turns to, that will reveal his/her fortune. Lastly, I toured the exhibit Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran, which featured breathtaking metalwork and dishware from the early civilizations of Iran. All of the brought the cultures of Iran and Nowruz-celebrating countries to life, and it was amazing to partake in these festivities.

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Sources Consulted

http://cmes.hmdc.harvard.edu/files/NowruzCurriculumText.pdf

figandquince.com

Picture Credit (What’s in Haft Seen and why?): figandquince.com

———-
For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=10

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to the North Star Project.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2014/embracing-oa-universities-adopt-open-access-policies-for-faculty-journal-publications

Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year

(c) 2014 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 8, Spring, 2014. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

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