Tuesday, December 2, 2008

International Development

The time is fast approaching for me to get on with my life and commit to getting my Master’s degree, so I think I’ll revisit the topic of what exactly I am going for. I think I’m set on the idea of international development, although I really have no idea what that entails. I know I love anthropology, which is what I received my bachelors in, but international development sounds like a focused next step. How did I come to that conclusion, you may (or may not) be asking yourself. Well… (deep breath), in the past I’ve focused on cultural anthropology; sustainable development, educational systems, means of production, etc. I didn’t know exactly how to channel these different issues though. Believe me I’ve definitely been over and over this. In undergrad I even tried to narrow my focus down and come up with a unique focus by concentrating on the way art around the world depicts religion and what this means in terms of societal regulation and interaction. I know, I know, I was really reaching.

I found a few job postings that show what kind of positions are out there for people schooled in international development. A few are:

Senior Programme Design Officer, African Wildlife Foundation
Programme Manager, Rainforest Foundation
Program Director Foundation for Sustainable Development, Tola, Nicaragua
Orphans and Vulnerable Children Technical Advisor, Global Health Fellows Program, Washington DC, USA
International Consultant, Best Practises in Public-Private Partnership
Human Development Specialist, World Bank

I know these postings fall under the heading of international development, but it seems that they all require some sub-focus of education, health, agriculture, economics, etc. That is where my problem lies: what within international development could I possibly narrow my focus down to??? I wonder if I go for business or management or something, if I would learn enough skills to fit into a particular niche. I think that might put me in the running for jobs such as the offered position in the following job posting:

Program Assistant (Africa Programs)

Job Level: Executive-Level

Founded in 1941, Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes an engaged U.S. foreign policy; evaluates human rights conditions; sponsors public education campaigns; facilitates training and other assistance to promote democracy and free market reforms; and provides support for the rule of law, free media and effective local governance.

Freedom House is currently seeking a full-time Program Assistant for Africa Programs. Under the direction of the Senior Program Manager/Deputy Director of Programs, the Program Assistant will assist in logistical, research, and administrative support for Freedom House programs. Specific duties include, but are not limited to:

• Assist Program Officers and the Senior Program Manager/Deputy Director of Programs in compliance with Freedom House, USG, and other grant regulations.
• Assist in the preparation of proposals, press releases, and speeches.
• Assist in financial management responsibilities, including preparation of draft budgets and requests for funds.
• Assist in updating the website concerning the programs as necessary.
• Help maintain expert database.
• Help develop and produce promotional material on the programs.
• Make travel arrangements and organize logistics for international staff visits and meetings.
• Organize events/meetings in DC and abroad related to Freedom House programs.
• Assist with other administrative duties as assigned.

Candidates must have a bachelor’s degree. The ideal candidate will possess a demonstrated interest in, and knowledge of Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Southern Africa and the Horn; strong research and writing skills; excellent organizational and communications skills; experience performing basic administrative tasks in an office environment; an ability to work collaboratively with a program team; and proficiency in Microsoft Office software. Knowledge of international human rights, democracy, and rule of law issues is highly desired. Fluency in oral and written English is required; proficiency in French is preferred. Position is based in Washington, DC with projects are located in new democracies and developing countries.

Okay, so I can handle grants, press releases, speeches, administrative duties, computer and database concerns, and promotional material. I have strong writing skills and excellent organizational and communication skills. The knowledge of international human rights, democracy, and rule of law are subjects that I may have to become familiar with in grad school. As far as the language and interests in that particular part of the world are concerned, I would just look for positions in China, where my focus has been and hopefully will continue to be.
So we’ll see. So far I’m in the preliminary stages of compiling my definition of what it is I want to do and searching for schools that teach it or something like it. Then when I’ve found a few, I can talk to an adviser to see if they have any idea of what I am talking about and if they’d be willing to take me in and hold my hand through a master’s program. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Tattoo!!

Bodhi Tree Tattoo (Imagine it without the circular border, though)

So I’m putting some serious thought into getting another tattoo. For those of you who don’t know me or have just forgotten, I have four tattoos already and yes the rumor is true, they are addictive. I’ve been pretty good at holding out though, as I was last inked almost eight years ago in 2001. My newest idea for a tattoo is a bodhi tree, (or at least a version of one, the tree in the picture is a variation, not exactly what you'd see if you googled "bodhi tree"). I’ve been toying with this idea for quite a while and although I’m convinced that this is the tattoo for me, I still don’t know exactly where to put it.

Now a little back story on what this is and why it is significant:

The Bodhi Tree ("Tree of Awakening," ) in Bodhgaya is a direct descendent of the tree under which Siddharta Gautama attained enlightenment. According to Buddhist tradition, Siddharta Gautama finally abandoned years of rigorous fasting and asceticism by accepting milk and honey from a young woman. He then sat down beneath the Bodhi Tree and vowed not to move until he attained enlightenment. After 49 days of concentrated meditation and several battles with Mara (illusion), Siddharta became Buddha or “the Enlightened One”.
The Bodhi Tree is a species of fig. The Bodhi Tree that exists today is not the exact one that shaded the Buddha's meditation 2,500 years ago, but it may well be a direct descendent.
Because of its close association with enlightenment, which is the goal of all Buddhists, the tree has great sacred and symbolic significance. According to some Buddhists, the Bodhi Tree is the center of the world and the site at which all Buddhas (enlightened ones) attain enlightenment.
In early Buddhist art, before the Buddha image was used, the image of a tree was one of the symbols used to represent him. Still today, it is customary to plant a Bodhi Tree in every Buddhist monastery to symbolize the presence of the dharma (Buddhist teachings).
At Bodhgaya, the Bodhi Tree is a favorite place for pilgrims to meditate and contemplate the Buddha's teachings. Many also hang prayer flags or leave offerings at the sacred site.

As for Buddhism itself, it is basically a family of beliefs and practices, considered by many to be a religion. Buddhism is based on the teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, (Buddha) who lived in the northeastern India and died somewhere around 400 BCE. Buddha himself was an awakened teacher who shared his insights to help people end their suffering and escape the cycle of rebirths (samsara). At it’s core, (although the idea of a common definition is debatable) what I can appreciate about Buddhism is the goals of ethical conduct and altruistic behaviour, devotional practices,renunciation of worldly matters,meditation, physical exercises like hatha yoga, study, and the cultivation of wisdom. A quick glance at the eight-fold path ( the path to end suffering) gives an idea of Buddhism’s beliefs. Some of the principals are: view reality as it is not just as it appears to be, speak in a truthful and non hurtful way, act in a non harmful way, and make an effort to improve. Pretty good stuff, huh?

Whenever I get a tattoo I try to make sure that it is something meaningful to me. I don’t want to put something permanent on my body that I just got at the last minute because it looked cool at the time. I don’t want to regret getting inked, and so far, I haven’t. So, after writing this I’m all the more convinced and ready to get my Bodhi tree. I think I’m forgetting something though… don’t tattoos hurt?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Landscape Photographers

Part of my passion for travel pertains also to a love of photography. I am a sucker for exceptional landscape photography, and although I’m not a professional photographer yet, I do aim to be one day. In the meantime I am working at a portrait studio trying to learn the ins and outs of basic camera techniques. It is not outdoor photography, but it is a start. When the time for that comes, classes will be in order.

I’ve been surfing the internet trying to get posing ideas from different portrait photography websites. Unfortunately, I usually get sidetracked by landscape and nature photos and after several hours looking at photos, I realize I’m no closer to finishing my “homework”. While getting caught in my usual unproductive cycle the other day, I stumbled across the works of two freelance photographers with some pretty eye-catching photographs: Jeremy Turner and Tony Howell.

Jeremy Turner has an interesting background. Only after completing a BS (with honors) in biochemistry and a PhD in molecular biology, did he become completely interested in photography. It’s pretty amazing that he found the time between his studies, odd jobs as a painter and decorator, in the retail industry, and in a commercial photo-processing lab, and playing classical piano and long-distance cycle touring. Impressive. He has since won various awards for his photography, held exhibitions, and contributed to magazines such as Smart Photography. Way to start out on one path and end up so successful in another. For me, that’s very encouraging.

Jeremy mainly uses a Pentax 645 medium format (MF) camera, combined with the following Pentax SMC-A lenses: 35mm f/3.5, 45mm f/2.8, 75mm f/2.8, 120mm f/4 macro and 200mm, f/4.
Tony Howell is one of England’s best-known landscape photographers. His images have been used everywhere from books and greeting cards to billboards and even movies (The Number 23). The amazing thing about this photographer is that he is completely self-taught. He acknowledges that he has no qualifications, but credits practice, dedication, and a love for the craft. He also notes the difficulties of freelance photography and that it is less photographic skills than marketing skills and patience that have helped him become successful.
Tony uses a Phase One P45 Digital Back with Mamiya 645AFD and a Canon 1DS MkII Professional Full-frame Digital Camera.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Hallows' Even

So now that Halloween is over and i've eaten all of the candy I care to for the rest of the year, I thought i'd find out more about this strange holiday where people go door to door and beg their neighbors for cheap goods.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. The festival is a celebration of the end of the harvest season and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year." Originally, the festival was a time when Celtic Pagans would take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock to store for the winter. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31st the boundary between the living and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. Costumes and masks were then worn at the festivals in an attempt to placate the evil spirits.
Interestingly enough, apparantly Detroit, MI is where "Devil's Night", the day before Halloween, originated. Starting in the 1930's, it involved petty vandalism by children and teens such as rubbing wax on car windows or egging houses. In the 1970's though, it escalated to serious acts of arson, and today Detroit organizes volunteer neighborhood patrols to keep the violence in check. (

While looking for relevant information about Halloween traditions, I stumbled upon a site touting religious intolerance. It claims that "A growing Halloween tradition among Evangelical Christians is to provide a type of horror tableau which promotes public awareness of conservative Christian concerns. In Arvida, CO, the Abundant Life Christian Center built a haunted house for Halloween 1997. It includes simulations of a bloody abortion in progress, a ritual human sacrifice by a Satanic cult, a teen committing suicide, the funeral of a homosexual AIDS victim, and a live action date rape scene" ( ).

Wow... I think they win top prize for scariest haunted house. I think they kind of missed the spirit and fun of Halloween. I'd much rather have childlike fun and naiveté.

All politically incorrect church demonstrations aside, besides the candy, the true essence of Halloween is the costumes. People spend more time and money than they should picking out the perfect accessories to win prizes and admiration. While the top costumes of 2008 are said to be a pirate and witch for adults, and Spiderman and Hannah Montana for kids, I think i'd give the top prize to an acquaintance of mine. While all of her costume ideas are usually of the wall, this Halloween she decided to go as... Michelle Obama. While that may not seem strange by itself, I think I need to add that this friend is Caucasian and that her dedication to creating the perfect costume leaves no detail ignored. (She is a stout Obama supporter, by the way). Although I was a bit offended, i'd say you have to give it to her for ingenuity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Xi'an, Shaanxi, China

As a capital of the country for over a thousand years, Xi'an is one of the oldest cities in China. It is most famously known for the Terra Cotta warriors, eight thousand Terra Cotta statues that stand guard over the tomb of the first emperor of China, ruler of the Qin dynasty (211-206 BCE). These statues (deemed by some as the 8th wonder of the world) include detailed, well-preserved, and varied sets of warriors, animals, and weapons. The warriors are all said to have distinct facial features, no two look alike, and a rumor abounds that for each of the statues, one live warrior was sacrificed. This is a fairly recent archaeological find as the statues were discovered just 35 years ago by well-digging farmers.

Other recommended places to visit include the Hua Qing pools, neatly constructed within an ancient palace to bring in water from nearby hot springs. Also, most interesting to me is Famen Si, the Doorway Temple. Originally constructed in 200 CE, this Buddhist temple has been rebuilt many times with the most recent taking place in 1981 after the building collapsed. It was then that underneath a sealed crypt was found containing a variety of artifacts and supposedly four sacred finger bones of the ancient Buddha. The Pagoda that stands today is an amazing piece of architecture and the temple complex also includes a museum detailing the story of the finger bones ( detail.asp?JournalID=9).

Although this city has remnants of centuries long past, it has adopted some modern fixtures and practices. There are three Starbucks within a block of each other downtown. Shopping is also a major attraction and the markets are known for their leather goods, fashion accessories, and cosmetics. Some of the best international brands are also offered in the new world class malls.

Obviously, there are many other reasons to visit Xi'an, but these are a few of the destinations that stand out the most to me. Besides the beautiful layout of the land that is so different from my own, I long to see the buildings and the architecture that echo the times from the Qin to the Ming dynasties. To feel transported to a time centuries ago and thousands of miles away is reason enough for me.

Terra Cotta Army

Hua Qing Pools

Famen Si Pagoda

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Side Note

Just a side note before my next intended post, there is an anthropology site that I follow that has some pretty interesting material. You can read one of my comments on a particular post about the social construction of "race" at It's a bit lengthy, but it's worth it. I encourage you to check it out and perhaps to browse some of the other posts on this blog. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

World Cities

So after browsing and getting familiar with some different blogs on this site pertaining to culture, nature, and photography, I came across a blog that focuses on giving people traveling tips when visiting Somalia. For those of you that are interested the URL is Anyway, I thought it interesting and right up my alley to research some cities around the world that I would like to visit. I'm not necessarily interested in posting travel tips, but maybe interesting fun facts and the reasons why I would want to go to a particular area. So, that is my task which I will start shortly and relate in my next post. First up is Xi'an, Shaanxi, China...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Review

I just finally finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I say finally because I started it back in February when I was in Arizona, but I didn't have time to finish it and for some reason I didn't bother to try to finish it when I got home. Then about a month ago I checked it out from the library (not buying it-trying to reduce my "carbon footprint") and it sat on my bookshelf until a couple of days ago.
Why it took me so long to get back into I don't know, because it really is a fantastic book. This is the kind of writing I love because, without going overboard, Hosseini describes the setting and the events so vividly that I felt like I could feel the intense summer heat and hear the music in the streets myself.
It's also one of those books that doesn't necessarily dull my feelings toward my desire to travel the world, but does remind me that America is just one of many different types of cultures with different procedures, policies, and ways of life. The glamor of the architecture, unknown foods, exotic clothes, etc. should not blind tourists (as inevitably I would be although I hate that label) from the realities of people's everyday lives and what not only the women portrayed through the characters in this book, but war refugees as well, have to endure.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Johannesburg, South Africa

Fantasy Soccer

A couple of weeks ago I started actively playing fantasy soccer through I really like soccer, but the grand prize for the overall winner is two tickets, including travel and accomodations, to the 2010 World Cup games South Africa, so that clinched my participation. I don't have much experience at picking teams and such, but I think i'm getting the hang of it. I'm confident that I have a chance to win, even though (or maybe especially because) my current ranking is 249th. This is either good or bad, but it's early and I have the sinking feeling that these early rankings don't amount to much in the grand scheme of things. I've been telling people that i'm going to the 2010 world cup since the last one in 2006, so i'd really like to avoid the humiliation of trying to come up with new creative reasons why i'm sitting around watching the games with every one else at a bar in metro detroit. In any case, I have a plan b (use the year and a half I have left to save the money), and a plan c (take out a loan, maybe), but I think a plan c and possibly d may be needed, especially if they involve minimal spending on my part. I am open to ideas...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Where is my future going?

I've been trying to figure what i'm going to do with this anthropology degree and I think i've finally got it. Getting my masters in international development sounds like the most appealing option so far. I was already toying with this possibility when I was introduced to the book "Getting Stoned with Savages" by J. Maarten Troost. He basically examines his decision to leave corporate America for Fiji (and elsewhere) and describes his journey with his wife who works in... international development! His account did not necessarily glamorize their life in third world circumstances, but boy did it sound appealing to me. Now, I haven't actually been anywhere like this before, but i'm more than ready to get my feet wet. Does studying abroad for my masters sound like a good start?

Saturday, September 13, 2008


So i'm new to this whole blogging thing. I guess this endeavor will be an adventure itself. More to come after I work out some more kinks...