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Survey of Development Issues
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    [post_content] => Lashihai was filled with simple living. It included peaceful walks after dinner, familiar faces everywhere, fresh fruits, and little plumming. I had plenty of time each day where I could sit in my courtyard and spend hours reflecting on my experience as I watched my family carry on with their daily activities. I was woken by the sounds of the chickens every morning, and I was greeted by our guard dog each day when I came home from class. My showers were accompanied by a swarm of flies, my meals likewise. I enjoyed hand washing the dishes after each meal with my Jiejie. I trekked to the bathroom each night with a flashlight on my head, hoping not to step into the ditch of bowels.  While communicating was  often difficult due to my families' constant use of Naxihua (the native language), I learned to communicate through hand gestures and facial expressions. At meals, I often enjoyed the sound of silence.

Now picture the opposite. That's Kunming.

I wake up each morning to the sound of an alarm clock. I enjoy breakfast with my mama, and we are able to communicate on a whole new level with the aid of her cell phone translator. I hop on the elevator and rush to the bus. Public transportation is survival of the fittest in China. If you think you are going to get on the bus by being polite, then you can think again. You must transform into a bulldozer. If you are lucky enough to get on the bus, watch out for the doors, do not think that you are special, because they will close on you. And if you don't plan ahead to stand right next to the exit when your bus stop is coming up, you once again must realize that you are not special and that the bus will not wait for you to get off. Once I get off the bus I'm greeted by the beautiful smell of fried dough and smoke. After class, I rush to the store and load up on candy. I swear the store right next to our school is making some serious bank because everyday our class buys their whole stock of Snickers. After that, I rush to the bus stop and  once again transform into a bulldozer. On the bus, I enjoy a constant stand and shake experience due to the endless stop and go traffic. After I get off the bus, I run home, punch in a few passcodes, hoping that I typed in the right one.  The elevator ride up to our apartment is about the only quiet time I will have the whole day. Those peaceful 43 seconds are a key part of my day, once I see the number 9 in red lights,I know I have reached my destination. I knock on the door and I'm greeted by my energetic Meimei. I spend the evening chatting with my family, looking at maps of China, and drinking Coke because apparently water to everyone else in the world is Coke to Americans. My family loves to look through my notebook and correct my characters, and I love to teach them English words. Mama, Meimei, and I enjoy singing beautiful Chinese songs together.  Before bed I enjoy a steamy hot shower with so many hair product options! I fall asleep to the sound of the TV outside my room. I am definitely not in Lashihai anymore.

So while my experiences in Lashihai and Kunming are anything but the same, two things remain the same: Chinese adults love playing má jiàng and I'm experiencing something like no else.
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China Language 6-week, Survey of Development Issues

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From Lashihai to Kunming

Hannah Beach,China Language 6-week, Survey of Development Issues

Description

Lashihai was filled with simple living. It included peaceful walks after dinner, familiar faces everywhere, fresh fruits, and little plumming. I had plenty of time each day where I could sit in my courtyard and spend hours reflecting on my experience as I watched my family carry on with their daily activities. I was woken by the […]

Posted On

07/19/13

Author

Hannah Beach

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    [post_content] => I feel conflicted.

On the one hand, to traverse the streets and hidden corridors of this city is to find oneself hundreds of years in the past. Yet, even in the oldest sections, constant reminders of the modern era -- motorcycles, internet cafes, and radios -- prove to be a constant reminder of home.

Even as I approach the city center of Bhaktapur, this co-existence is prevalent. Buildings and homes with chipped stucco and flaking paint are flanked by swaths of rice paddies, filling the hilly landscape of Kathmandu Valley, while bustling highways packed with smoke-spewing cars and vehicles are carved throughout the area. I see craggy walkways, slippery with mud from the rain, leading to the stone steps of temples and courtyards, well-tested by time, as Nepali schoolchildren, wearing full formal-wear and ties with school insignia, venture home after classes.

At first I found this duality to be very jarring. I would lose myself in the more hidden parts of the city, staring at the intricacies of some of the woodwork in the buildings, only for a native Nepali with a smartphone to walk by, gabbing as he strides. And to witness the juxtaposition of technology and religion, seemingly opposing aspects of society, linger together in such close quarters, and in such a nonchalant and almost intimate way, was not at all what I was expecting.

Yet in many ways it is the antithesis of the life I live as a person from Boston, and perhaps as a native of the United States as a whole. For while the society I am a part of seems all too eager to adapt and modernize and change -- only selectively preserving elements of our past -- it is as if Bhaktapur is trying to to accomplish total preservation of life and culture as it has always been, with the advent of modern luxuries being slowly and purposefully introduced. Which is, in some respects, a very beautiful thing.

Perhaps this has as much to do with economics as it does culture. That I have yet to desire and miss many of the various things in my modern and digitally-connected life, however, leads me to believe that the people of Nepal know something that I don't, and have much yet to teach me.

And I am ready to learn.
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Nepal Summer 4-week, Survey of Development Issues, Rugged Travel

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Bhaktapur

Joshua Ramirez,Nepal Summer 4-week, Survey of Development Issues, Rugged Travel

Description

I feel conflicted. On the one hand, to traverse the streets and hidden corridors of this city is to find oneself hundreds of years in the past. Yet, even in the oldest sections, constant reminders of the modern era — motorcycles, internet cafes, and radios — prove to be a constant reminder of home. Even […]

Posted On

07/2/13

Author

Joshua Ramirez

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In today's politics, land conservation and development are widely discussed topics for Bolivia. The outcomes of these debates will have huge consequences for the country in upcoming years and unfortunately the two goals are not mutually exclusive. EvoMorales, Bolivia`s current president and first indigenous president, rose to power as the head of the Coca farmers union on a platform of economic development for Bolivia as well as protecting the rights of indigenous lands and peoples. The construction of theTIPNIShighway (the Spanish acronym for the Isiboro Sécure National Park and IndigenousTerritory) has become a central debate of his presidency and is extremely controversial and contradictory in theory and even more so in practice.

There is no question that Bolivia is in serious need of development especially in terms of transportation. For example, I now sit in a lowland touristy town ofRurrenabaque.A return trip toLa Pazoften takes over 20 hours of driving the majority of which is on a slow speed dirt road in places too narrow for two vehicles to pass. And this is a major interstate road which has been under construction for the last 20 years. The alternative isjust a 30 minute flight on a small plane. However as we found out flights are very infrequent but that is another story.

The Amazon jungle covers a large part of Bolivia´s northern region where roads are virtually non-existent. TheTIPNIShighway, which is planned to cut directly through thecenterof the National Park, will provide the first direct link between the lowlandBenidepartment and theChochabambadepartment as well as opening up a trade route with Brazil.The highway has been discussed for decades buta recent$332 million loan from Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development provided the funding for the project to begin on Aug. 15, 2011. All in all the expected cost of the 300 km highway is $415 million. In June 2011, President Evo Morales inaugurated the project with a ceremony. However, neither a final design nor environmental approval had been released for the middle section running through indigenous lands which is required by the Bolivian Constitution that the Morales adminstration newly reformed. A mass opposition from environmentalists and a protesting march from indigenous residents has led to a public conflict about the highway.

The government believes that the road will boost Bolivia’s national development by connecting agricultural and commercial areas as well as improving public services for inhabitants of thepark. ButTIPNISresidents thought otherwise. They feared the road would bring increased drug trafficking, deforestation and damage to wildlife. In mid-August more than 1000 people from theTIPNISarea set off to defend their way oflife marching in protest fromBeniall the way to LaPaz. Along the way they were met by police opposition and hundreds of people were detained. However the march continued now backed by overwhelming public support and when the marched arrived in LaPaz, tens of thousands of people filled the streets to greet the weary marchistas like heroes. This was the second major indigenous march, the first being in 1990 winning rights for indigenous people, and now they demanded their rights be respected. Currently the political debate has forced construction to be halted while the Morales administration scrambles to find consent from the local people andtriesto fend off assaults from local and international media.

The environmental and social issues tied with the construction of the highway are astronomical. “A study of the project by the Program for Strategic Investigation in Bolivia, concluded 'Empirical evidence has shown that highways are motors for deforestation" The study projected that the road would markedly accelerate deforestation in the park, leaving up to 64% ofTIPNISdeforested by 2030.' Perhaps surprising, a technical report submitted by the Bolivian Highway Administration established “that the direct deforestation caused by the road itself would only be 0.03%.”

Bolivia is split as a country between its need for development and support for native livelihoods and in the case of the TIPNIS highway it is clearly one or the other.

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Andes and Amazon Semester, Fall 2012, Survey of Development Issues

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Development vs Preservation

josh phelps,Andes and Amazon Semester, Fall 2012, Survey of Development Issues

Description

In today’s politics, land conservation and development are widely discussed topics for Bolivia. The outcomes of these debates will have huge consequences for the country in upcoming years and unfortunately the two goals are not mutually exclusive. EvoMorales, Bolivia`s current president and first indigenous president, rose to power as the head of the Coca farmers […]

Posted On

11/25/12

Author

josh phelps

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“...the sea's only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. How important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head..." -Primo Levi

The Bajo are a majorly self-sufficient people; although they live with less money than what some of the homeless people I see in Boston receive, they are masters of fishing and can literally read the open ocean like a map. They live in houses on stilts above the water or coral platforms, although they have no address or mailbox. Their wisdom and traditions are ancient, although very few people know their actual age or when their birthday is.

The effects of spending 9 days in Sampela are physically visible on my body. My hair is bleached and my skin dark, both gifts from the sea and the relentless sun that the Bajo and I now share. On my wrist, I'm wearing a bracelet made from the shell of a turtle, which was a parting gift from my host family. I have scrapes on my left foot from accidently colliding with the coral as we snorkeled through the surrounding reefs. I have residual rope burn on my index finger from helping to pull a boat out into open water.

However, the implications of these changes are much deeper than what is first visible. Blonde hair and dark skin simply serve as another reason for land people (orang darat) to discrimniate and differentiate themselves from sea people (orang laut), giving the Bajo more reason to feel ostricized and exempt from society. In order to make the bracelet, turtles must be illegally hunted for they are currently in jeopardy of extinction- although the same police that enforce this enjoy access to free bracelets whenever they ask. Snorkeling around Sampela took my breath away (literally...I swallowed a ton of saltwater) but I know it is a temporary beauty partially due to fishing in restricted areas and removing coral to build platforms. The cut on my finger was from an activity where the Bajo's resourcefullness shone through- whenever a boat would break down, kids as young as ten would be on it before I even realized what was happening. There was no manual, no "how-to" youtube videos to follow. They built these boats, they know how to fix them...and if they don't, they figure it out without a word of complaint or cursing the good people of Honda.
The concept of living in Sampela at all still astounds me- living in a house among a community of sea nomads sounds like a bit of a contradiction. Most of the houses are built to last just five years, and if you ask anyone in the village what their plans for the year are, many will tell you they might up and take their boat to explore Malaysia, Australia, or the Philipines. The feeling of community was different than any I have ever known- I felt welcomed by everyone I met, but there was an untangible quality to the Bajo that I have enjoyed being mystified by, and believe that it's actually one of the greatest guardians of their culture. The external pressures on Bajo traditions are prevalent- rising modernity through technology, a conservative Muslim teacher that wants to squeeze out local traditions, and simply a new generation of teenagers...and I'm curious to see when push comes to shove how this nomadic culture will continue to stay "free", or how they will choose to settle.
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Indonesia Semester, Fall 2012, Survey of Development Issues

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Orang Laut

naya herman,Indonesia Semester, Fall 2012, Survey of Development Issues

Description

“…the sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. How important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing […]

Posted On

11/17/12

Author

naya herman

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    [post_content] => We've just left our ten day homestay in Masihulan on the island of Seram. Although living in the village gave us insight into the social culture of Masihulan, in order to really understand the culture we needed to spend a few nights in the jungle to gain a closer look at the one resource that Masihulan depends on most. A few of our guides, including Pache and Soni, are family men back in the village, always willing to sit with you and break out the ukelele. But before following them through the jungle, I had no idea of their expertise and skills - they are truly masters of the land. Watching Pache scale a 100+ foot tree, in the rain, in bare feet, was both highly astounding and terrifying. I kept wondering to myself what his training was in order to be able to have the sort of confidence to climb like that- how many years of school he must have gone through in order to feel secure enough to be able to get to the top. Soni showed us how to make traps using only a machete and the surrounding trees and vines, after teaching us which plants have healing potential and how to find clean, drinkable water within the most unsuspecting branch. I wondered who taught him about the geometry of setting a trap like that, what degree angle he must chop in order for the spear to make contact. I realized how silly these expectations were, and it became so clear to me that I expect learning to take place in an academic setting, and usually see it as a privilige, not nessecarily for survival.

The base layer of what Masihulan taught me is that despite all of our differences, we are able to be a part of the same family and same community with genuine love for one another. Although I can't walk in the jungle without wearing shoes, and Soni may have never been in an airplane or sent an email, he is by far one of the most influential people I have met in my life in terms of his capacity to love, his patience, and his contagious joy.

But Masihulan taught me much, much more than merely that we can be a family of juxtaposed individuals. The next layer of learning that I gained in just ten days with Masihulan is how powerful our ability to value each other can be. Depending on who you ask, you will get a very different account of Pache, Soni and the island. The Indonesian government might consider Masihulan and the majority of Seram largely uneducated and poor- it's distance from Java vast enough to geographically marginalize whole villages that might otherwise get support. At first glance, Soni and Pache might be written off in the same way. However, after watching Soni and Pache construct impromptu ladders and bridges with just a machete, I know there is no way I could ever see them as uneducated. Our entire group has been in a stupefied state of awe at the feats our guides accomplish with ease. Sarah pointed out it would be like someone watching you make mac and cheese and being dumbfounded with your abilities.

The inherent power we hold as white travelers from America may give where we place our value an extra boost of importance. If Soni and Pache gain even the slighest twinge of pride from our exclamations at their skills, I can breathe a little easier for the weight of gratitude I have for them and all of Masihulan would feel a bit more bearable. Through this exchange of cultural awe, I've been inspired to consider what I place value on in my life back home; why is it important for me to go to college? Do I get use out of all my material possesions? Do they help me stay connected to my family and friends, or just serve as distractions from what really makes me happy? Do I enjoy the pace of my life at home, stacked with agendas, short term and long term goals, or can I thrive without all that structure as I have in Masihulan?

There were so many moments in Masihulan where I was moved to appreciate their way of life deeply, and other moments where I was humbled by how much I appreciate my life back home. Perhaps the incentive to value what I have, and to value the incredible people around me, is the greatest lesson Masihulan taught me.
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Indonesia Semester, Fall 2012, Survey of Development Issues, Homestay

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Thank you, Masihulan

Naya Herman,Indonesia Semester, Fall 2012, Survey of Development Issues, Homestay

Description

We’ve just left our ten day homestay in Masihulan on the island of Seram. Although living in the village gave us insight into the social culture of Masihulan, in order to really understand the culture we needed to spend a few nights in the jungle to gain a closer look at the one resource that […]

Posted On

11/1/12

Author

Naya Herman

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Ragged on Romney for a little bit to my home stay sister. I'm missing the debates, the political season in the US. Perhaps a blessing. Who needs to hear Colbert make the same Paul Ryan jokes weekly? I covered Medicaid, Medicare, Military spending, and Budget reforms. Curious, she prompted me with questions, asking about this detail or that. Finally after my remarkably biased relay of why X campaign promise is bad, and why X problem could only get worse with X conservative in Executive Office, my sister asked me a simple question; "Did you have sex education in school?" Yes! Yes, of course yes. Granted, I've attended private school since Pre-K, but even the public education system mandates some level of sex education in high school at the latest. She went on, explaining that she only wished that Indian schools would offer the same information. Even in the private school she had attended, never once had that subject matter been covered, particularly not in a comprehensive and honest manner.

There are gaping inconsistencies in the US public education system in regard to sex education. State based schools offer exclusivelyabstinence-plus or abstinence-onlycurricula, both limited in the material they cover. The US continues to have the highest instance of teen pregnancy among 'industrialized' nations. ButWikipediacould tell you all of that. What struck me about the particular conversation I was involved in was not how these issues played out at home, but how the dialogue in India regarding the same subject matter was seeminglynonexistent.

Since having arrived in India, and particularly Banaras, I have been struck by what appear to me as obvious markers of deeply rooted traditionalism. Banaras is particularly conservative, perhaps the byproduct of the majority of residents being devoutly religious. This traditionalism manifested in my own thoughts as relative discomfort and resistance, particular in regard to gender dynamics. The rigidity of gender roles, relations, and presentation remains almost constantly infuriating. Encountering a religion, visibly more pervasive than in the US, that renders women impure, and consistently relegates them to specific roles continues to be frustrating.Having to be eternally mindful of how I am dressed, who I am smiling at, where I am walking is nothing new; only a heightenediterationof patriarchy and rape-culture in the US.Beyond that, even conceptualizing the eventual dissolve of the gender binary has become increasingly difficult, the rhetoric so evidently missing from even regional dialogue.

And somehow, beside my home stay sister's simple query, my pent up frustration, and resentment seemed utterly selfish. I am always hoping for some sort of major political overhaul, the mythic end of capitalism, the demise of neo-colonialism, the complete upheaval of patriarchy and the gender binary. And still, for a girl growing up in Banaras, thefulfillmentof something that seems to me both basic and fundamental, such as widespread general sex education, is almost afar-fetcheddesire.Admittedly, the proliferation of standardized sex educationcurriculain the US was no mean feat, not something that happened overnight or without opposition, not any less controversial.

My intention is of course not to sound paternalistic, or to wrongly voice the concerns and desires of an individual, and a group, with who I have only minimal mutual understanding. Nor is my intention to advocate a similar programme or institution in India as currently in place in the US. Something specific to the country and perhaps even the regional culture would likely be most effective. That said, preventing myself from feeling indignant for those students in India denied undeniably essential information, remainsunexpectedlydifficult.

While having recognized the problematic potential in articulating an issue with which I have an almost one sided perspective, I cannot help but still feel compelled towardsa forementioned indignation. Is education about the reproductive process not a basic enoughnecessityin today's ever expanding, increasingly globalized world? Even outside of the long arm of industrialization and colonialism (an outside of which there is very little left) is this information not still beneficial?

Particularly in India where the population continues to rapidly increase, and gender ratios remain skewed by infanticide, is widespread sex education not justifiably significant?

I think it is alright to pose questions that I cannot yet answer at this point in my adventure here. Yes, we are dangerously close to the halfway mark. And yes, maybe I ought to have some things answered. But honestly, my headreverberatesdaily with new queries, which arise, and remain continually unresolved. Which is, I am learning slowly, entirely acceptable

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Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012, Survey of Development Issues

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Always more questions.

Julia Reichard,Visions of India Semester, Fall 2012, Survey of Development Issues

Description

Ragged on Romney for a little bit to my home stay sister. I’m missing the debates, the political season in the US. Perhaps a blessing. Who needs to hear Colbert make the same Paul Ryan jokes weekly? I covered Medicaid, Medicare, Military spending, and Budget reforms. Curious, she prompted me with questions, asking about this […]

Posted On

10/25/12

Author

Julia Reichard

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    [post_date] => 2011-07-15 00:00:00
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In my first International development class at Mcgill, our professor asked us all to define development. Given the size of the lecture hall, not many students were willing to volunteer an answer and so, after a few attempts, he looked at us all and stated “Development: The study of Misery”

So far, we’ve been through 3 different cities in Rwanda, driven over thousands of hills, walked through countless patches of dancing banana trees, followed endless cracked clay roads but the faces staring back at us read nothing of misery. Children laugh and run after us yelling “Good Morning” as we pass their houses at 7 o’clock at night. Women, carrying their babies on their back and baskets of food on their head, smile with surprise when we mutter “Amakuru”. Teenagers point and laugh when we try to balance 5 liter water bottles on our head and drop all of it on the paved road. Our host families shake their head and worry that we aren’t eating enough after our 4th helping of rice and plantains.

Development is not the study of Misery. It’s the study of Listening. It means listening with curiosity as basket weavers encourage us to weave together the colorful grass stings of Rwanda with our own experiences. It means listening with admirationas your hostsister explains that she cooks and cleans for her 7 brothers and sisters, has a night job at a water cleansing factory, and is still planning to go to university in the fall to study economics. It means listening with interest to your host brother as he recites his lesson on Socrates’ philosophy during dinner. It means listening with amazement when you pass by a rickety mud hut that’s about a 2 hours walk from nearest village with “Empire State of Mind ” blasting from outside the window.

The last day of our home stay in Butare, my host Father turned to me during our usual morning tea and asked “What is your vision”. No one has ever asked me that question before. I’ve gotten it multiple times under the form of “What do you want to do when you grow up” or “where do you see yourself in 10 years but no one has ever asked me about my vision before. As of now, my vision is blurry but I know that Rwanda is helping me bring it into focus, more so than any professor who can stand in front of 600 college studies and claim that development is the study of misery.

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Best Notes From The Field, Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011, Survey of Development Issues

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The Study of Listening

Pauline Chery,Best Notes From The Field, Rwanda: The Transformation of Society, Summer 2011, Survey of Development Issues

Description

In my first International development class at Mcgill, our professor asked us all to define development. Given the size of the lecture hall, not many students were willing to volunteer an answer and so, after a few attempts, he looked at us all and stated “Development: The study of Misery” So far, we’ve been through […]

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