Because of the four-day weekend, I decided to visit my host family from last summer. They live in Kanazawa, the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture, which is located in the middle of the west coast of the main island of Honshu. Having lived in Tokyo for almost two months now, I have become used to the sprawling metropolis. Save for a day trip here and there, before this weekend, I had yet to really escape the city.
I have a passion for São Paulo, from its culture to its language, food (as it is the gastronomy capital of Brazil), and skyscrapers. In Brazil, each state has distinct characteristics, which have become apparent during my travels around the country. Last year, I spent two months over the summer with a host family in the interior of São Paulo. This semester I am in a homestay in Rio, and their day-to-day routine is completely different.
“Well, the Brexit campaign was built on fear of immigration, and its followers were racists who were just too uneducated to know any better.” The rest of the students in the class nodded and grumbled their assent, and the lecture went on.
As soon as I stepped outside of the airport in Urumqi, I felt the difference. Urumqi felt very far removed from the fast-paced, economics-obsessed, technologically-advanced, southeastern-concentrated country that the rest of the world thinks of when they think of China. I have never been to Central Asia, but I imagine that Kazakhstan or Tajikistan feel much the same as Xinjiang. The Uighur language, which looks almost identical to Arabic, was written alongside Mandarin on every sign. It was more common to hear the Uighur language being spoken on the streets than Chinese. Urumqi is in direct contrast to Shanghai, the city I had just come from. In Shanghai, young professionals often only live in the city for a few months before moving on to their next fintech job. Meanwhile, Urumqi felt like a permanent home for its inhabitants, with a slower pace of life that retained its traditional nomadic elements. The Uighur way of life permeated the city. Most food vendors sold traditional Uighur noodles and still baked their bread directly in the side of their ovens, like their parents before them. Most women wore hair coverings similar to hijabs. The men wore little round hats, Sherlock Holmes-style caps, or large furry hats with earflaps that reminded me of Russian hats. People looked more like Arabs than East Asians. The stereotypical eastern Chinese city life, with its rapid technological change, economic growth, and societal restructuring, was not immediately apparent here in Xinjiang.
On the first day of classes here in Rabat, Morocco, my Gender and Society class professor told us about her experience growing up in Morocco. She is a native of Fez and grew up amongst brothers in a fairly traditional Moroccan household. When she was a teenager, she remembers the first time that her father pressured her to wear the veil. He said that he was embarrassed to see his daughter as one of the only girls walking around the medina uncovered.
At around 10:00 a.m. one quiet Sunday morning, I found myself in the middle of the medieval-style town square of the small Czech city of Kolin. Though a hub for trade, culture, and aristocracy in in its day, on that Sunday the town was silent, empty, and peaceful.
Japanese culture is often reduced to tangible products that are widely consumed all over the world: anime, ramen, sushi. Since coming to Japan, I have found it immensely rewarding to consider the unique characteristics and traditions of the local communities around me that had been inaccessible to me from abroad. These are traditions that have developed over the course of centuries and are preserved by informational plaques that commemorate the of importance historical locations and people.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses urging sweeping religious reforms and catalyzing the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation unleashed an intensified focus on freedom of conscience, with dramatic social and political consequences. It fostered new notions of religious liberty as well as new frameworks for civic life. At the same time, the Reformation built upon centuries of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologies of conscience, dignity, and freedom in ways that are not always understood.
Open dialogue across cultural and religious lines is becoming increasingly more challenging. The role of religion has emerged as a powerful force for combating discriminatory rhetoric and building strong communities across socioeconomic and cultural differences. This year, the Doyle Undergraduate Fellows are investigating new ideas and strategies at the local and national level to build bridges through interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
Sister Agatha Chikelue exudes both determination and warmth. She’s a force of nature. Quick to smile, she minces no words when it comes to her mission, which turns around women, justice, and peace. She is visiting the United States (from her home in Abuja, Nigeria) wearing the hat of Executive Director of the newly renamed John Cardinal Onaiyekan Peace Foundation. She works closely with the remarkable Cardinal John, who himself is one of the beacons of hope for peace and above all more harmony among Nigeria’s complex and often fractious religious communities.