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Might As Well Call Me Dora

It’s official! I am claiming it, I am Dora and as the artist formerly relevant Yeezy once said, “Nuh uh, you can’t tell me nothing.” I am sold on this idea because since being in Montréal I have had some exciting and odd experiences, but nothing too crazy. You know we do a lot of things here but we don’t do crazy.

There is too much that happened between that last post and now but I shall do my best to recap well. The second chapter of the journey begins on Saturday when I decided to explore the neighborhood of Mile End, and when I say that this area is heavily hipster, I mean like 90s-fashion-rip-off-hipster-who-claims-they-started-the-choker-trend-and-buttons-on-jean-jackets-and-wearing-docmartens type of hipster neighborhood.

Here’s what I mean.

or…

 

Honestly, sometimes the millennials of today just remind me of every 90s sitcom character you can think of, except we have iphones and apps for everything. Also, side note: those little polaroid-like cameras trip me up all the time because all of a sudden polaroids came back in style even though I think that is one of the best inventions since sliced bread, physical photos instantly in the palm of your hand!

*end of side note*

There I was, excited to explore the town and the small shops and cafés so I left the house a little after noon and first I just casually walked around looking left and right to take everything in, but of course I didn’t know where I was going. I was actually looking for a pharmacy because I was sick and needed to medication and that is when I had my first experience when Canadian money. I didn’t exchange my American currency while in the states so I just used my American dollars and got my first exposure to Canadian money when the clerk gave me my change.

Then…

  1. I went to a book shop that sold only comics (and no manga!) Again, I ask how?
  2. I went to a Vietnamese restaurant and had vietnamese tea for the first time. The food was decent but not four stars. But there was this magic soup that I had with my meal that I credit to my quick recovery. I documented it all on my snapchat.

While I was at the restaurant I got to have an interesting conversation with the owner of the shop who told me a lot about her passion for cooking and Vietnamese food, then she told me about her family and how she wishes she had time to study. She told me about how she hoped to learn Chinese one day and perhaps be able to write Vietnamese with Chinese characters instead of the roman alphabet. She was so pleasant I had to take a photo with her.

      3. I played around in an artisan jewelry shop, and I thought I saw the light because I love nice jewelry. I bought a couple of rings, because rings are to me as two chains are to 2chainz.

4. I went into two vintage stores and in one I got an awesome button with Drake’s face on it. Am I the world’s biggest Drake fan? No, but I know too many songs off of too many albums to say I am not fond of Aubrey. Then as I was trying to get a man to take a picture of me in front of some art, he had the nerve to try to ignore me, but he didn’t speak French. Then he used his English to say, “I’m sorry, I’m so used to homeless people asking me for money.” And I went off!

In his partial defense he wasn’t looking at me because he was bust trying to pay for a parking meter but I told him off. I told him to look at me, I oozed nouveau riche, I oozed elegance and refinement and 1% status. (None of those statements has to be connected with next, by the way.) Anyway, he apologized profusely and took my pictures, then I insulted him by telling him that the Chicago Blackhawks were slaying his Canadian hometown in their own sport.

5. I went into an amazing café and ate some chocolate croissants then, I finally returned back to “home.”

But WAIT, there’s more! Don’t forget it was a Saturday. I took an uber to an uber queer friendly neighborhood for the drag show. My driver, Jean, was hilarious and full of personality. When I got in the car, I belched immediately much to my chagrin but it tickled him pink and throughout the 20 min car ride he talked to me about divorce, poutine, and Arcade fire. He even tried to speak a little Spanish with me, much to his chagrin.

 

My friend and I planned to see a drag show and we surely executed that plan but not until after going to a karaoke bar and SLAYING Beyoncé’s Single Ladies, mind you, I know all the moves to the dance. We danced with some nice people and left to the drag show, where I had to “pop out.” As soon as the Destiny’s Child Bootylicious came on it was time for me to come into my element. I swore I’d keep my powers a secret but the black girl magic was too much to contain. I twist everything, popped, locked, dropped, picked it back up, and then some. The drag queen didn’t know what was coming for her.

Our dance off got so heated that they put the spotlight on us and the crowd was shouting and hooting. I knew we had to give them a show and we slayed. My slayage earned me free refreshments. It was spectaculaire! Finally, the show started and I can say that my life will never be the same after all of those acts.

The night was wonderful and I cannot thank my friend enough for being a part of my it all, and for taking a video of my slaying the drag queen!

Til’ next time, folks.

Be breezy and beautiful, but never easy.

 

 

Your Girl Is in Canada!!!!!!

Beloved,

There comes a time in life when thou needest a breaketh from thy work and thy stress.

“What is the most optimum way that I could chill the heck out,” is exactly what I asked myself a little less than a month ago. I somehow came to the conclusion that it was time I head off to Montréal, Québec. When I came across this idea I thought that I would do the norm and go with a group but then the idea to go by myself seemed more appealing because that meant that I would be going on a true “Eat, Pray, Love” journey. I would go to a country I had never been to, try new [safe] things, and get better at flirting in French. Let’s be honest–I came for the Canadian cuties.

 

…and for the opportunity to immerse myself in a different culture, Mom. Here was my thinking: I have got better than average French, some decent funds, an adventurous spirit, and a whole bunch of airbnb credit. So, people of all genders and agenders, that is where our journey begins.

As with every truly adventurous adventure, something is bound to go wrong and it is important to run with the punches. But luckily, I do kickboxing so, I know how to swing right back.

     You all should firstly know that your girl was on point with the preparation. I mapped out all my buses that I would take, pricing, and booking for my airbnb and so far it has worked flawlessly…almost.

Where Things Went a Lil’ Wrong

  1. Three days before I was to leave I started coming down with a cold. But, I said, “Not today, Satan!” So what did I do? Medicate, medicate, medicate! I’m talking Vicks, Cup Noodles, crackers, juice, expensive Naked drinks, soooo much TEA. BTW, listen to Sippin’ Tea with Bri every Monday @2pm et, let’s sip tea on pop culture trends, you know shade will be thrown on wrmc.middlebury.edu *end of plug*

 

2. Exhausted from the unnecessary amounts of work thrown my way, I waited until last minute to do laundry and pack. So I packed my stuff about twenty minutes before my bus left. I left the house at 1:29. My bus was scheduled to leave at 1:30.

 

Lesson learned: Don’t push it when you’re on a tight schedule.

3. Forgot to exchange my American currency for Canadian currency, because if I did I would really be balling out right now. That exchange rate is beautiful. 1.34 to the US dollar. Amen! But on the bright side, when I was at the information desk inquiring about a currency exchange machine, I got to talk with a nice man named Bill who loves horses and Black women. Yes, he volunteered that information. He talked my ear off for a good 15 minutes but he was such a character I couldn’t stop him.

“You know I’m from Maine but I was raised in the south and I dated many a black woman. Once a black woman made me some southern food and she had such a passion for horses like me, I darn near married her,” he said.

I responded, “Well, what happened, why didn’t you marry her?”

“Well, she wanted to have a busy life and I couldn’t hold her back and if you love someone you let them go. But you know, we’re still friends on facebook.”

This guy was, as my cousin Gail would say, “a hoot and a holler” so, I had to get a photo with him.

But wait! There’s more! I got on the bus and my bus driver was the chillest trillest man in the world. He was so chill, he was on his phone for most of the ride and told us to simply chill. He also interrupted everyone’s rest to tell us about his lottery numbers. Love it. 🙂

 

The quality is bad because I had to take the photo on the low.

While I was on my bus ride to Montréal I thought my French was too rusty to attempt conversing with anyone on the bus. But, the strong woman in me popped out with the carpe diem rhetoric. I turned to the older man behind me and started the conversation about subway sandwiches. Next thing I know he invited me to sit next to hit to talk about how he thinks the youth of Haiti are lazy and want to be like Americans. He talked about his friend who had cancer, his family of 4 and his teenage kids that he wished spoke Créole or French. He taught me some creole and offered me a piece of his sandwich. I refused the latter offer because your girl is adventurous but still cautious.

Side note: Tell me it wasn’t just me who watched Law and Order religiously with their parent. I watched Snapped, Criminal Minds, every Lifetime murder mystery, Fatal Attraction, Silence of the Lambs, Misery. Honestly, I think I’m a detective.

So, you know even though I am loving my adventure, I am still keeping my eyes out for everything. EVERYTHING.

 

This is a photo of me and mon grandpère haïtien, my haitian gramps.

Finally, a little after 6 I got to the central station I was prepared to put that young problematic UBER into action. But, like this year’s Grammy’s they disappointed me. 

 

How did they not have cars????? How, Sway???! So, then I had to take a cab but not without help, a nice Chinese girl helped me out. She didn’t speak French or English but my limited Chinese helped me out when I needed it most. (Shout out to my laoshi men.) She helped me call a cab, then I took a taxi to my location. My cab driver was also haitian and when I spoke to him he thought I was haitian. Ayyy! But nah, I’m Black American and proud. He got me to my airbnb safely and took my bag up the stairs, and I am pretty sure I gave him too much tip but whatever. Power to the people!

 

Finally, I met my host and her roommate, a gastronomy expert apparently, because I kid you not, he talked about cuts of bacon for at least eight minutes. They generously gave me tea and welcomed me into their home, and now I am recording my entire day on my laptop while planning my day tomorrow. I’m thinking drag bar?

I know this post was long, but don’t lie, it was really entertaining. Stay blessed. No stress. Forget Kanye West.

#bars

 

Now watch me Cana-dab. (I had to do it.)

Slides from Feedback Workshop

Thank you to all who came to the workshop last night, and for Nadia for teaching! We loved the fun and laughter. Feel free to let us know what you got out of it or what we could have done better 😉

If you weren’t able to make it, ask a friend to tell you about what we learned!

Feedback Workshop Slides

The Power of Quiet

The Power of Quiet

By Nadia Rabesahala Horning

Today a controversial speaker is coming to the college where I teach. Even though I am away at a conference on social innovation, I am aware of this visit because it has generated so much activity on campus. In fact, for the past week, colleagues in my department have exchanged dozens of emails, some explaining why the department is co-sponsoring the event, others requestinq that our department rescind its cosponsorship. Our departmental exchange has been respectful, informative, constructive, and even productive. All but five colleagues participated. I was one of the quiet ones.

I ask myself why I did not feel compelled to “speak up”, and I had to get away from the activity at a conference on social innovation to find an answer to my own question. The reason for my silence is not indifference. I do have a position on the matter. What I don’t have is the urge to make noise about it. Here is why: energy, physical and intellectual, is a scarce commodity. Since it comes in limited supply, one is wise to use it where and when it matters most. What I saw my colleagues do is use their energy to accomplish two things: make noise and impress. And noisy and impressive they were: they wrote multiple messages, laying out their positions and defending them with eloquently marshaled and well-reasoned arguments. This is standard practice in academia.

So, why did I not participate in the exchange even though I did have position and I am an academic? It is because I am comfortable with quiet action that inspires, not with noise that impresses. I don’t judge colleagues who run on noise that impresses seeing as this is precisely the behavior that academia and academic institutions promote and reward. What I am saying is that I don’t think of this as the best way to use my intellectual and physical energy. Instead, what I aspire to do is inspire my students to engage with issues that go beyond debating whether or not an institution of higher learning should contribute to the reproduction of a monocultural environment, to borrow from former Stanford University provost John Etchemendy. Our world has pressing issues to deal with. And considering the state of said world, it is imperative that we focus on our students and find ways to equip them with the mindset and tools to engage a world rife with tensions in informed, respectful, ethical, and effective ways. We must teach to invest in impact, not in noise.

March 2, 2017

February Workshop Follow-Up

This is a reminder that, as a follow-up to the February workshop, “Who/What inspires you and why?” please post either your personal values matrix, a written reflection, or both.

Racism in International Development

A recap of Tuesday’s panel discussion.

International Development is a topic of frequent discussion at a globally-minded place like Middlebury College. Many faculty members have taken it on as a subject of critique; others teach development economics and practice, regardless of their views on the field. Some students interested in global power structures, humanitarianism, colonial history, service, or justice consider international development a possible line of work for after Middlebury; yet those same students may harbor qualms about working in a field laden with neocolonial overtones, one governed more often by political motivations and economism than by an uncompromising and honest concern for human life.

During Tuesday’s “Racism in International Development” panel, three guest speakers shared their perspectives as academics, practitioners, and entrepreneurs on how racism informs development theory and practice.

Professor Crewe began by holding up an intersection lens to racism in the development sphere. As an academic conducting ethnographic research on INGO projects in Sri Lanka, she observed the infantilizing, feminizing, and devaluing language that (largely white) European practitioners (mostly male) used to describe local cooking techniques and technologies. Crewe commented, for example, that words like, “traditional”–which the aid workers used to describe a chimney that women had in fact only recently innovated–relegate (black and brown) women, their work, and their lives to the status of primitive. They become the problems to be fixed, the practices to be improved upon. “Knowledge is power,” is University College London’s motto. Yet, knowledge, Crewe noted, does not always give you power. As a development consultant, too, Crewe witnessed racism play out in hiring decisions. British and American development organizations too often hire white Americans and Britons to do work that could otherwise be done by members of the communities where development projects are being implemented; these organizations justify such decisions with language that hardly masks real racial bias. Crew cited managers who have said that local people–local professionals–are disorganized, unmotivated, unable to handle the analytical rigor of the work, though of course it’s “nothing racial.” Hierarchies of gender, knowledge, nationality, and ultimately, race, shape development work and the decisions that critically affect people’s lives in developing countries.

Connor Shapiro ’03, founder and CEO of St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, offered his thoughts on why the development field so easily writes off the people it purportedly aims to help. He described the healthcare desert that exists on Haiti’s southern peninsula. St. Boniface is the only quality health care facility on the southern part of the island. While the organization provides healthcare to thousands of people and has even expanded its services over time, it faces funding and infrastructures limitations that donors (individuals, foundations, NGOs, government aid agencies) explain away by appealing to “cost effectiveness” or “project sustainability.” Port-au-Prince, as Shapiro pointed out, is less than two hours from Miami by plane. There is no credible reason why infrastructure and supplies should not make it to Haiti, nor would well-off Americans accept such limitations on our own health care. In our world, some lives simply do not matter as much as others, Shapiro asserted. In Haiti’s case, black lives do not matter to funders in the same way that their ideas and dollars do.

William Michael Cunningham, founder of Creative Investment Research, affirmed this analysis with a bang and took it even further: “Economics does not work for people of color.” With its system of values, economics doesn’t actually work for anyone. Cunningham, himself an economist by training, challenged the assumptions of classical economics and even questioned its effectiveness as a tool for understanding human life and behavior. Within a discipline as old–and as powerful–as economics is today, there needs to be more innovation. Cunningham presented his own analysis of GDP’s inefficacy as an indicator: while global GDP comparisons, for example, put the U.S. and Europe “on top” in terms of wealth, Africa and Antarctica house the majority of the world’s natural resource wealth. The countries in the Global South have also have immense human resources and potential. Indeed, these countries produce a significant portion of the manufactured goods and parts that ultimately make it to “rich-world” consumer markets. This output, resource wealth, and even cultural capital is not considered or valued within the framework of contemporary economics. Cunningham is a proponent of crowdfunding as a means of circumventing barriers to just resource allocation such as racism. By democratizing and diversifying financial flows, he believes that people can challenge big banks, the IMF, USAID, and other hegemons of global resource governance.

These three talks sparked audience questions that shaped a rich conversation after the panel. In what other ways are brown bodies fetishized and devalued in international development? Can we use the tools of economics to produce just knowledge, or do we need entirely new tools? How can we encourage interdisciplinary development work, and would such an approach address some of the problems mentioned today? There was a sense that students and other community members would take these questions and thoughts with them into their work, scholarship, and personal lives.

International development work is necessary today because colonialism disrupted organic social structures, destabilized societies, altered psyches, and established extractive economies that persist today and perpetuate global power differentials. These legacies pauperize millions of people. More optimistically, empathy and a shared sense of humanity drive Middlebury students and others to work in international development. In classes and in conversation, though, we must acknowledge that colonialism itself was a project based on racism. Our guests revealed the ways in which racism still pervades efforts to address the very problems that racism created.

Racism in International Development, a panel on Tuesday, February 21st, was designed and co-sponsored by the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs; the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity; and the Center for Creativity, Innovation, and Social Entrepreneurship.

Me in 3

Daughter

Mexican

Adventuress

 

Sustainable Development Practices in Argentina

Sustainable Development Practices in Argentina – January 2017

San Esteban Farm

                Sustainable development has been a topic that has become popular in the recent years. With the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015, some countries have taken the initiative to include the promotion of sustainable development in their agendas. Particularly Argentina is one of the countries that has taken the lead within Latin America in terms of human development, therefore, I went to Argentina to be exposed and learn about the current practices and approaches of sustainability in Latin America.

 

                This J term I had the opportunity to work with the project “Sustainable Development Practices in Argentina”, where I had the opportunity to work and learn from the San Esteban Farm. Working in the farm was such an experience. It was the opportunity for me to study and value how it is possible to run a business that incorporates sustainability practices in their daily life work. This farm’s work has also been seen as an example for other kind of ecotourism, “Turismo de estancia”, where the visitors have the chance to stay at a place that runs under sustainability practices and feel connected with the environment surrounding them. Visitors end up having a different experience than just staying at a hotel or a hostel. The farm receives visitors who are mainly interested in perpetuating the idea of sustainability, and therefore learn about how to do it while enjoying their stay at this farm. The farm is currently trying to increase their target audience to young travelers and people who are not that aware of sustainable practices, to therefore, serve as a window of knowledge and advocates of sustainability.

 

                My role was to assist with the day to day activities at the farm, such as checking the crops and animals, the watering and solar electricity systems, and being the bilingual person to talk to when needed. My previous work in Costa Rica and Guatemala with sustainable development practices was highly valuable to contribute to this experience. I felt I was able to contribute and learn at the fullest with this experience, as I was familiar with the practice’s background and the farm’s sustainability goals.

A summer in D..

Undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights of my Middlebury experience this year has been my summer internship. This summer I worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC. This internship allowed me to grow personally and professionally, and it was for sure a motivational and learning experience that will impact my decisions for the near future. I was able to experience the diplomatic world, dressing up nicely every day and working with really outstanding and remarkable people.  I was in charge of writing and editing a technical note about the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programs in Latin America. The Social Protection and Health Division publishes these technical notes explaining how the CCT programs have worked in different countries, and I was writing about the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) in Jamaica. The research and writing process itself was difficult but this was definitely a broadening experience in all senses.

 

This new experience allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I was able to experience the diplomatic world, dressing up nicely every day and working with really outstanding and remarkable people. This internship was for sure a motivational and learning experience that will impact my decisions for the near future. I always said I didn’t want to spend my entire day working in an office, but the IDB has no simple and individual offices, it’s was a home for me. The working environment was definitely an unexpected aspect of the internship. I never expected such a pleasant and collaborative environment. The fact that most people there spoke Spanish surprised me a lot and how much the language would positively affect the working relationships.

           

            This internship combined many of the classes I have taken at Middlebury, for example, hard economic courses, and electives, such as Development in Latin America and Economic History of Latin America. The combination of those allowed me to contribute to a publishing paper which needed both, the knowledge of STATA and data interpretation, as well as the economic and historic background of Latin America. There were so many things that I didn’t know about or how to do them. I was learning something new every day. I always felt well supported from my supervisors, if they did not know the answer, they would send me to see different specialists at the Bank and I would ask them my questions and doubts. I learned a lot about poverty levels, poverty indicators and, Latin American backgrounds in general. My feeling was that everyone wanted to share their knowledge and, therefore, contribute to have a better understanding of the specific topics as a whole group, not individually.

 

                This was definitely a broadening experience in all senses. At first, I felt pretty intimidated by my co-workers, almost all of them had finished their masters and they would continually ask me how much more time I needed to finish mine. They would be surprised when I told them that I was just finishing college. This internship reinforced my idea of getting a master’s degree after college with the focus on development economics. I have clear now that I want to continue contributing to Latin America in any possible way. There is so much to be done, never too late to start and there is no insignificant contribution that can be made.

 

 

Social change

Me in three

Resilient

Daughter

Innovator

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