The 80$ Prosthetic Knee

The $80 Prosthetic Knee

The thing that struck me about this video was not the fact that they created a prosthetic knee for only $80, as amazing as that is, but the care that went into creating such a product. I was moved by the attention to detail that they took in creating a device that didn’t just get the job done for the cheapest amount of money. The company took care in learning the customs and stigmas of the cultures they were looking at providing for. I loved that they took care in knowing that these cultures sat cross-legged more, knelt more, and used there knees in different ways than we usually do here in the west. I also saw the care in the way they took the box-y knee and transitioned it to something more like an actual knew because of the cultural stigmas against disabled people, allowing those disabled people to go by unnoticeably handicapped.

Far too often things are created to help people and they fall through. A prosthetic knee is a prosthetic knee, it doesn’t matter how it looks, how it sounds or how it works, as long as it does work. That is usually how companies look at these products, but if more companies were to look at the details like this, so many people would receive more benefit and the help would be for efficient. This just goes to show how the smallest of research and education can make a world of difference when helping people in need.

Helpful or Harmful?

I have never gone on an international volunteer trip before. I’ve thought about it in the past but never followed through. After the articles, videos, and class discussions I’m actually glad I didn’t go along with it.

I had never thought about how helping can actually be harming. My mom is a preschool teacher so I have grown up loving kids so I would have loved helping kids around the world but now I see how detrimental that could be if I were not living there for a long time. I had never thought about how that would harvest even more abandonment and trust issues. That really made me reconsider the way I help abroad in the future, if I choose to do so.

Some of the videos and articles we talked about in class made me feel helpless. I do not see myself devoting years of time to a small village in a developing country so I felt like any help I could provide wouldn’t even be worth it. I would love to help in the future if I could do it in a beneficial way so these discussions made me realize how much research I need to do to prepare for volunteering broad so I know I’m actually making a positive impact.

The past two weeks have made me think a lot more about whether or not I want to help abroad. Last week I felt guilty thinking that my goal in traveling abroad isn’t actually to help or volunteer but after this week I have felt a little better knowing that by accepting the fact that I’m a tourist and using my time abroad as a learning experience is actually more beneficial than trying to solve all of their problems without prior understanding.

The Other

There have been many times in my life that I have felt like the “other”.   Some of those times have been abroad but many were actually right here in the US. High school has a way of making everyone feel like the “other” at some point in those four years. I come from a school that was extremely liberal and nonreligious. I was known for being one of the only Christians and one of the only Republicans in the school. I distinctly remember an incident that made me feel so different and ashamed but then taught me to be proud for what made me different.

I was in the sophomore common room working on homework next to a large group of typical teenage boys. While I was working, one of the boys turned to me and the rest went silent. He looked down at my left hand and loudly asked, “Hey why do you wear that ring.” He obviously knew the answer because that was a very specific and random question to ask. Usually rings have no meaning behind them and usually guys could care less about the rings a random girl in the commons was wearing. He knew it was a purity ring he just wanted to hear me say it, and so did the other 15 boys in the huddle. I mumbled what it was and blushed as he scoffed and the guys held back their chuckles. I instantly felt ashamed for my faith and what I believed in and felt like an outsider in my own community.

I learned to find strength and pride in what made me different. Abroad, I am nervous to meet the discrimination towards women, and specifically Christian American women, but this story from my sophomore year taught me to take pride in what makes me who I am. The way I’ll apply this abroad is to respect the culture I am immersing myself in without losing what makes me who I am.

Lost in Translation

This week’s activities opened my eyes to the extreme situations we tend to overlook when thinking about traveling to another country. We all know that traveling to a country with very little English speakers will be difficult, but we don’t realize a lot of the repercussions. We think about the language barrier but we never think about the cultural barrier as a result.

What I mean by this is that with a lack of common language or experiences, we are faced to make unknowledgeable assumptions and then base everything we learn off those initial assumptions that can in turn create for us a truth that is completely fabricated. Being lost in translation isn’t just about not understanding language; it’s about not understanding their lives or culture.

The main problem with trying to understand someone else’s culture is when we think we understand it. These activities this week made me realize that I can be in a country for an entire semester or year and still not know that culture, and even if I think I do understand it, I should never act as if I do because that could come off as offensive (to anyone, even if there isn’t a language barrier).   The key is to always stay open to ideas and learning about people’s beliefs and cultures and to view it as a continuous learning experience with no end.

I think a good way to get used to this way of looking at cultures across the world is to realize that we don’t even know everything about our own culture. We should take time to explore and become familiar with what we unite with and that will let us be more humble when learning about others.

Being Graceful in Offensive Situations Abroad

With our exercises this week on real life situations abroad regarding  reactions towards Americans,  I was surprised to find that my experience in Turkey was not as unique as I thought. I found that I tend to get more offended than others when people have negative assumptions and prejudices of the US. This is not because I believe that the US is the best and should be seen that way, but rather because, a lot of times, other countries don’t set their stereotypes of us aside, yet expect us to set our stereotypes of them aside.

Knowing that I get frustrated easily with these situations, I know that I’ll have to learn to become more gracious when faced with these sentiments in the future. Not all Americans are as open minded as I try to be so I should excuse people abroad if they are not used to open minded Americans.

Right now I am dealing with a problem regarding my family friend in Istanbul. Since I have returned to the US she has sent me very offensive e-mails through Facebook towards Americans thinking that I would agree with her and her views. I finally couldn’t take it when she went as far as making fun of some very close family friends of mine who were also in Turkey at the same time.

While reading her messages, blood rushed to my cheeks and tears filled my eyes. These people she was calling freaky and fake were practically family and I couldn’t let this 35 year old woman get away with being so disrespectful to my culture. I was shocked that she had been the one lecturing me on being open minded when if I had said anything nearly as disrespectful about her family, I would never be aloud back in her house.

I unfortunately feel that I am more sensitive to negative American sentiments after this situation and will have to work on being gracious in the future when their comments aren’t as personal but still offensive, such as “American having no culture” or any of the other comments that were in our in class exercise this week.

Bonding Over Food

I cannot wait to get involved in international groups on campus. I love learning about other cultures and having other cultures learn about me. I didn’t realize how different my hometown was to the rest of the US until I moved out here to Norman. I feel as though I came from a foreign country sometimes so it’s fun to share my unique pieces of home and culture with people who are eager to hear me talk about green chile and Breaking Bad. I want to be that person for the people who are actually from a foreign country. I want to share their excitement when they tell me about their local food, or the culture and living environment they grew up in.

I plan to be an active participant in OU Cousins as much as possible and really get close with whomever I am paired up with. I also started going to Farsi Friday’s where we drink chai and eat Baklava Cake while talking about Iranian culture. I can’t wait to start attending clubs or events involving food! Okay yes, part of it is because I love to eat, but I also feel there is a lot of bonding over cooking and meals. So much of our individual cultures surround food. Food brings us closer with the people around us. I know that the one thing I miss most about my hometown is the food. The food is what I miss most about New Mexico and it’s what brings up the strongest memories for me. I met a boy on the elevator the other day wearing a shirt with New Mexico on the front. It turns out he was from Colorado but he travelled to New Mexico enough to know what our famous green chile was. We bonded instantly. As silly as it sounds to bond over something like food, it’s a powerful uniting tool and it’s a wonderful way to share yourself with someone.

My OU Cousin(s)

I was extremely lucky to have met my OU Cousin Manon, but I didn’t realize that through her I would get the chance to make even more friends.  Manon’s friend Mathilde is also part of the OU Cousin program and they are both from France. Mathilde’s  American Cousin Shanna is in my sorority who I didn’t know before the program.  Because of how well we all get along I feel like I have multiple OU Cousins.

As a freshman from out of state (I’m including Texas as “In State”), I felt like I was in the same boat as many of the exchange students.  I didn’t even know any of the girls in my pledge class.  Being OU cousins with Manon made me closer to the OU community, the OU international community, and my pledge sister.  Shanna and I have now become great friends and if we meet up with our OU Cousins its always together as a group of four.

We have attended a lot of the OU Cousin events but we enjoy doing a lot of things on our own.  We go shopping, snapchat each other all the time, and always catch up about our crazy weekend experiences!  It’s been great learning about each others cultures here and there but we have found more similarities than differences so we tend to just enjoy our time together being friends than discussing our experiences in the past and how the differ because of our different countries.

Study Abroad

I cannot wait to step foot in Arezzo, Italy.  I have always wanted to go to Italy so I was beyond excited to find that OU actually had a campus there.  I have always had the plan to study abroad but I have heard many horror stories of credits not transferring and having countless problems with the host schools abroad, so knowing that OU in Arezzo will make it nearly impossible for those horror stories to become my own makes me even more eager to go.

Being that I am majoring in International Studies, I’m hoping to take classes that will help fulfill my major’s requirements.  I also hope to take Italian.  I have taken Spanish since 6th grade so I believe the addition of Italian will actually be quite simple with that background.

Outside of class I plan to travel.  Inter-European travel is so easy and I expect to make use of it and travel during some of the weekends.  While spending most of my time in Arezzo I plan to focus on interacting with locals and not retreating to the comfort zone of American OU students.  This won’t be easy but it will definitely be worth it.


Farsi Fridays

I’ve had a great time attending Farsi Fridays.  It’s always amusing when I ask friends to join me at the meetings.  I get blank stares and many times, after I explain what the group is all about,  it’s clear that they have no idea what Farsi is and why it’s the name of an Iranian club.  But this is exactly why this club exists.

Every Friday we sit around drinking Iranian chai and eating delicious traditional Iranian baklava cake.  Iranian music is usually playing in the background and we sit around talking about Iranian culture.  It’s difficult to have such discussions without bringing up the ever present political issues between Iran and the US, but we try to leave those discussions out because  those political problems do not accurately capture the beliefs of the actual individuals living in Iran.

I am very fascinated in Iran especially after my Comparative Government class in high school so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Farsi Friday was exactly what I was looking for; a club that explores the culturally accurate views of Iranians.  It’s been a great learning experience to abolish the stereotypes of “American hating Iran” and explore its true culture.

I would highly recommend people visit a meeting sometime.  The tea and cake is delicious and its great to see another side of such a controversial country.

About Me

It was the sharp inhale. Then it was the ripple of chills folding through my back, planting my feet where I stood. I was afraid. The arid breeze rustled the ends of their burqas. At twelve years old, I had only seen Middle Eastern culture displayed on TV in the context of terrorism, so the sight of the two women frightened me, but it was a sight that would illicit a great change in my life.

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Egypt with my family the summer before my seventh grade year. My father had been traveling there, off and on, for the previous two years setting up the country’s mortgage system. That summer, my mom, brother, and I were fortunate enough to join him. Sitting on the plane over the Atlantic, my excitement was only for the Pyramids of Giza, but little did I know, it was the women I encountered in front of the Grand Pyramids that would change my life.

I gave my life to Christ at the young age of six. One could argue that was my first step in growing up, and in many ways, it was, but I believe I grew up when I learned how to be a Christian. Discovering true devotion was what enabled my development.

One of our nights in Egypt, while eating dinner with my father’s closest business partner from Cairo, we had the opportunity to discuss our diverse faiths. I brought up the women I had seen at the Pyramids and his wife and daughter explained to us the message behind the veils. Once I was able to see the burqa as a devout symbol of Islamic faith, I was moved and reflected on my own devotion to Christianity. The burqa was their outward expression of faith whereas I had to find another way to express my faith. They have to wear it; I have to live it. Respect replaced fear. Revering their faith did not change my own beliefs, but strengthened them. I realized that I had to follow Jesus’ footsteps by loving and accepting everyone, despite different beliefs.

My broadened perspective has been extremely beneficial to my outlook on life and I cherish the opportunity it has provided me to be there for others. When I think back on the day I saw those two women, I can’t help but smile. It is because of them that I learned how to be a Christian. It’s not about judging people for the way they live their lives, it’s about loving them regardless and accepting them for who they are. It’s about creating relationships with people and allowing yourself to learn from their presence in your life.

I applied for the Global Engagement Fellowship Program because of this desire to see the world and learn what it has to teach me. I’m majoring in International Studies and I am glad this program will help give me real life experience in dealing with International communities before I even graduate. I cannot wait to see how this program will change me, develop my interests, and challenge my perspective.

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