Do UCU communication skills translate well to most social situations?
By Paula Kaanders, class of 2013
I’m sitting behind my desk reanalyzing data I collected last year for what must be at least the twentieth time. In other words, I’m mindlessly stuffing myself with Maryland chocolate chip cookies, while looking at my phone every 3 seconds to check for new messages. In the Whatsapp group called ‘US’, consisting of the people with whom I formed a tight-knit friends group back at UCU, a discussion is taking place on a potential fall of the two-party political system in the United States and the West’s embrace of neoliberalism as the absolute truth. In all other groups, the conversation has gravitated towards the mean topic: how hung-over everybody is from last night, how everybody needs to check out this Youtube clip of some dude eating a chapstick, and who wants to go out for a beer later? Sometimes my conversations with others make me feel like I’m leading a double life: I jump from attempting to contribute a nuanced view to a discussion on some deep global issue, to sending selfies to show ‘how fucked up I look’. Sounds familiar? Surely I am not the only UCU alumnus suffering from a bit of left-over UCU idealism that doesn’t seem to be of any use when communicating with most of our peers. Why do we sometimes feel so different, like the elite we’re often made out to be? And how much does it suck? (Just a heads up, I’ve not actually done research for this article, this is literally just my brain poop, every single word of it.) Continue Reading
Travelling through Uzbekistan with Soviet-era trains and food poisoning
By Daniel M. Craanen, class of 2013
Sweat runs down the sides of my face. I feel burning hot, ice cold, burning hot, ice cold. I’ve been sick for almost six days now and have lost almost twenty kilos. Internet research told me I should find a doctor if I’m not better after two days. At the same time, Karakalpakstan and Khorezm are not known for their quality medical facilities, and Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, is nineteen hours away by Soviet-era night train. The owner of my bed and breakfast has brought me green tea, round bread, and white rice in salted water. I also have a generous supply of ORS. I decide to sleep it off.
Khiva (image credit Daniel Craanen)
My first week in Uzbekistan, the first port of call of my six-month travels, started out rocky. However, having overcome Khiva’s culinary perils, the country soon opened up its doors. As part of a strategically located region, Uzbekistan’s Khanates once benefitted tremendously from the riches of the Silk Road. As such, the country’s cultural assets are unrivalled. They range from mountain villages hardly ever visited, to remnants of steppe nomad cultures, to ancient desert cities with towering blue-mosaicked minarets. Feeling somewhat shaky still, I set out to discover all these marvels. I enjoyed the local cuisine, consisting of plov, shashlik, more plov, and more shashlik. I bought a great souvenir for my girlfriend in the form of a fantastically fuzzy Khorezm hat. I met hospitable and friendly people, and learned about modes of transport in a former Soviet Republic.
A personal account of the 7,8-magnitude earthquake that struck the coast of Ecuador on Saturday 16th of April, 2016
By Kristina Eger, Class of 2007
It has been almost two years since I moved to Portoviejo to work as an advisor for a local NGO on gender equality. During this time, Portoviejo has become much more than a working environment to me. I fell in love with its beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, and with the locals’ kindness and entrepreneurial spirit. But most importantly, I fell in love with a “Portovejense”, as the locals are called, and in January 2016 our son was born.
The 16th of April was just a normal Saturday. We went out for a cup of coffee and had just returned home. My partner was lying in bed reading and I was breastfeeding our baby next to him when the house started trembling. At first, we were not afraid – small tremors are quite common in Ecuador. Nevertheless, we decided to get up and head outside; by the time we arrived on the second floor of the house, however, everything had started moving with such intensity that we were not able to remain standing. We pressed ourselves against the wall, crouching down on the floor of our narrow corridor. The walls moved, as if we were on a boat on a stormy sea.
First, I felt scared for our lives. It seemed as if any second the walls of our house would fall on top of us and bury us alive. I tried to shelter my three-months-old baby from falling debris with my own body. At that moment sadness overcame me. I had wasted so much time of my life working and worrying about the future, while I would have rather spent more time with my family and enjoying the moment. But then I started feeling so much love for my partner and baby and I was thankful to be close to those that I most cared about in those difficult moments.