Jan 18 2017
Taylor Bond January 18, 2017
Mono-no-aware is a challenging perspective to put into words successfully; it can be literally translated to “the ahhness of things” or to “the bittersweet poignancy of things.” What comes most easily to mind is the beauty of the cherry blossom; the flower blooms intensely, yet only for a short period of time each year. As the flowers die and the petals fall, cherry blossoms line the streets like a layer of soft, pink snow, and are most beautiful when captured between the precipice of life and death. That is precisely the unique appeal of the cherry blossoms; their aesthetic focuses on the unavoidable transience of the material world that exists. According to this view, the fragility and inherent brevity of an instance of awe, such as the blooming of the cherry blossoms, only aids in heightening the event’s stunning, albeit melancholic nature. Because it only lasts for such a short period, it is undoubtedly appreciated more. Understanding and accepting that innate uncertainty of life helps us evade the overwhelming feeling of morbidity associated with impermanence, instead highlighting our ability to enjoy life by appreciating its fleeting moments. The unavoidable nature of finite existence is contrasted with the never-ending stream of change, as life continues to occur despite the continuous passing of objects and experience. The realization of impermanence is therefore bittersweet, tinged with mourning, and yet also capable of recognizing the beauty of change in itself.
Jan 3 2017
Delana Sobhani January 3, 2017
When President Obama visited Senegal in June 2013, it’s rumored that he stepped off Air Force One and said, "Ñoo far," which means “we are together” in Wolof. Whether or not this account is actually true, the pride and warmth with which my host family spoke of it is indicative of language’s significance in Senegalese society. In a country with over ten ethnic groups and 38 languages, differences and diversity thrive thanks to Wolof—a lingua franca that transcends ethnic and linguistic boundaries to reinforce an overarching Senegalese identity. It wasn’t until I was two months into my stay that I felt confident enough to start using Wolof in lieu of French, but when I made that switch I immediately encountered more intimate and sincere interactions with Senegalese people and culture.
Dec 26 2016
Sarah Coniglio December 26, 2016
If you travel to Spain, especially to the southern part of the country, you will hear extensively about the Moors, a term used to describe the Muslim inhabitants of Spain during the Middle Ages. The Moors first entered the Iberian Peninsula in 711 CE and remained in the country until the Christian kings reconquered the peninsula primarily in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. However, Muslims remained in the country until 1492, when the infamous King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered the last Muslim kingdom of Grenada and subsequently expelled the remaining Muslims who refused to convert to Catholicism from Spain.
Dec 23 2016
Benjamin "Ben" Lillian December 23, 2016
Though I haven't seen the sun in almost two weeks, my vision of Russian life grows increasingly clear. My classes have inched away from Russia’s dissociated imperial history and are now discussing events much closer to the twentieth century. I've also had the chance to visit other cities such as Moscow and Murmansk. It is not surprising that many customs, as well as Russians’ contemporary way of life, stem from the Soviet Union, but it may be of interest to learn how distinct ethnic cultures were incorporated into what is the largest country on earth. I've been learning about the process at school and in the Hermitage museum, where I am helping design interactive exhibits for the one-hundredth anniversary of the 1917 revolution.
Dec 22 2016
Cassidy Gasteiger December 22, 2016
Finding a place or a group of people that feels like home is so important, both at Georgetown and during study abroad. For me, the women’s rugby team filled that role when I first arrived on campus two years ago. When I arrived at the University of Botswana (UB), I felt a little lost again, especially since with 20,000 undergraduates, UB is several times larger than Georgetown. Luckily, UB also has a women’s rugby team, and I was infinitely thankful to find my home here amongst a group of amazing, strong Motswana ruggers.
Dec 21 2016
Ingrid Glitz December 21, 2016
It was not my first time in St. Petersburg’s Ploschad Vosstanya metro station. I had stood under its garnished ceiling and stood on its huge escalators at least 50 times before. Russian metro stations are to D.C. metro stations as a Picasso masterpiece is to a child’s drawing. Paintings hang on the walls, the ceiling is filled with golden ornaments, and stunning mosaics portray an idealized image of the Soviet Union. (Don’t believe me? Just see this!) Russian metro stations are so unbelievably pretty I actually spent half a day in Moscow on a “metro tour.” Very different from the constant burning smell on D.C.’s metro that makes me think I should be ready to run from a fire at any second… So yes, it was not the first time I stepped foot into a Russian metro station, but nevertheless I was still impressed, even after seeing it so many times before. However, this trip marked the first time I was in the Ploschad Vosstanya metro station after discovering that the station used to be an old Orthodox church.
Dec 21 2016
Emily Ressler December 21, 2016
I nervously check my phone for the thousandth time, sigh, and try not to lose my temper: I’m stuck behind that classic Spanish couple. They come in all ages and all shapes and sizes, but they all share one thing: an inability to share the sidewalk. It’s a special skill to walk at treadmill speed 1.0 while staying perfectly spaced out so that no one can pass you on the left, nor on the right, nor squeeze through the middle. It’s like a human urban puzzle with no solution but to give up on ever making your destination on time, crossing the street, or aggressively budging your way through.
Dec 21 2016
Samuel Boyne December 21, 2016
Japanese society consists of a wide and diverse range of values and spiritual beliefs. Yet in a nation that so often presents a homogenous culture and history to the outer world, the phenomenal clash of beliefs between Zen Buddhism and Japanese pop-culture materialism, two elements of present-day Japanese culture, raise questions about these two value systems and their relationship. While both serve up how outsiders stereotypically perceive Japan, one cannot help but wonder how do peaceful rock gardens and the practice of meditation coexist with massive shopping centers and an excessive influence of anime culture?
Dec 20 2016
Casey Doyle December 20, 2016
There seems to always be that brief pause at the dinner table. My family isn’t religious; we don’t normally say grace before our meals, save for a few large family gatherings. So when I’m eating with a friend’s family for the first time, I always pause briefly to see if they will clasp their hands together before digging into their food. And often, I notice their family members wait a few seconds to glance in my direction and see what my customs are. I find it funny, too, that sometimes my family will say grace around new guests—whether it is to indicate the shared meal as a special occasion or display knowledge of traditional religious customs, I’m not sure. It’s almost an embedded part of American table manners—even if you don’t say grace yourself, you give everyone that moment of pause to start the mealtime prayer, and if no one seizes it, the host can announce to their guests that it’s time to dig in.
Dec 20 2016
Nick Zeffiro December 20, 2016
“Am I crazy, or are they staring at me?” This is a common question posed during one’s first few days in Spain. It can be a bit jarring at first, feeling like someone is watching you, analyzing your every detail for far more than an appropriate amount of time by American standards. They say that Spaniards are more appreciative of beauty in the world, and it’s certainly made evident by their shamelessness to stare in public. If they see something they like, they are going to make it known. This “Spanish gaze” hints at a far larger cultural norm that encompasses all of daily life in this country: directness.