Engaged Learningis students taking an active role in their education, learning beyond the classroom, tackling real world issues, using the tools of the classroom, exploring potential careers. Students have an opportunity to take their learning beyond the classroom to the capstone level in the Engaged Learning Project. These are blogs of Engaged Learners.
When I made the decision to travel to Coban, I knew the trip would be long. However, I forgot how the weather changes drastically as one travels across the Guatemalan country and how difficult traveling can be on the roads and through the mountains.
I do not know if you have ever packed a backpack to travel across a country but it is very hard! You have to think what is necessary and what is not. For me, I knew I would be trekking though mountainous lands so I just packed t-shirts and running pants. Thus, leaving for my journey I had my backpack, side satchel and was ready to go! I can see El Volcán de Fuego (The Volcano of Fire) fading in the distance as I drive away.
Now fast forward 5 hours after departure
I am in the bus and I still have a few hours to go before I arrive in Coban. I have put on and taken off my sweater twice as the weather has gone from hot to cold and vice versa. Additionally, my teeth have been chattering from the bumpy ride and I have been tossed from side to side since the road is curvy. It is like a roller coaster ride except no screaming is allowed.
8 hours after departure
I am in the city of Coban! I have met my translator and now we are ready to hop into the car to head to the outskirts of the city. When I first met my translator I was shocked to see how young he is. When I first heard of him I imagined an individual my age or older. However, he was a boy at at 16 and would serve as my translator from K’iche’ to Spanish language. Thus, getting our things into the car we were ready to travel again.
10 hours after departure
I have arrived in Chisec a village located two hours outside of Coban. To arrive in the village the car had to go into the forest and across a mountain. The roads were paved in some areas but the majority of the trip was a dirt road. It is 7pm in the evening, pitch black in the forest but I am very happy as I have just found my first person in town to interview!Share on Facebook
A look back in time I glance at my surroundings and cannot help but think I have traveled into the past. The houses around are built colonial style with black wood trims, decorative accents and large windowpanes. As I drive into the city of Antigua, I get a distinct feeling that this town is frozen in time. The cars look to be a bit out of place in a city that one would think used horses as means of transportation. Women are dressed in traditional huipils and skirts. The market is bustling with both residents of the city and nearby villages, as well as, tourists.
As I walk through the market I cannot help but smile at a group of tourists that are trying to bargain with a merchant. I do not think they realize that the jewelry they want to buy for 2 quetzals is equivalent to a quarter in American money. This would explain why the merchant is not wanting to sell a piece of his, handcrafted, jewelry for mere change.
I continue to walk and there in the corner is a woman working on a loom, intricately weaving a pattern from the threads. As I stop by her booth to glance at her work, she looks up and asks me if I am interested in any of her work. I take the opportunity to ask about a few things and noticing her outfit of traditional wear ask her what indigenous group she belongs to. After learning she speaks Kaqchikel, I take a moment to ask her a bit about her culture. It is always so nice to find an individual who is very friendly and willing to speak to me for bit. My vocabulary in Kaqchikel is limited to words such as, “Hello”, “How much does that cost?” and “Thank you”. However, after today I can definitively say my vocabulary has increased! Am I now fluent? Sadly, no but with each day I learn more and more. I like to say that any improvement is good!Share on Facebook
I sit on the plane trying to catch my breath from all the craziness that traveling entails and think to where I will be in just a few hours. Since it is the summer the airport was packed with individuals flying across the continental US and abroad. After checking in at the counter and heading towards the security checkpoint, I said goodbye to my family, hugged my mother and father, thanked them for their support and told them that I would see them soon. After all a month is such a short amount of time. Before I know it I will be back in the U.S.!
The whole summer I have been preparing for my research trip and the time has come where my proposed work will become a reality. While I was studying in Taos, I ensured that I had all my preliminary research complete so that when I arrived in Guatemala I could directly begin my interviews. I must admit that I am a bit nervous and can feel the butterflies (although the turbulence that the plane is currently experiencing seems to be emphasizing my butterflies). My feelings of worry are not due to the fact that I will be meeting new people. I absolutely adore meeting new people, learning about different cultures and languages. The world is such a beautiful place where each and every individual has a story to tell and I cannot wait to see what stories I will hear! Rather, I think that my feelings of worry come from the passion I feel for my research. I am so passionate about my research, the culture and identity of Guatemala that I just want to ensure that I can convey this to those that I will meet. I did have a lovely conversation on the plane with the woman next to me and was excited to hear that she is going to complete mission work in Guatemala as well! While I have a busy month ahead I know that despite all this the experience I will gain as I conduct my research will create memories I will treasure forever.
I glance at the window and the sun is just beginning to set, illuminating the sky in brilliant colors of red, orange and gold. The scenery is so peaceful and deep inside I know, by arriving in the land of my ancestors, I am going home.Share on Facebook
Traveling can be so much fun…that is one you have checked in your luggage, placed all your little liquid containers in the quart size bag for the security checkpoint, taken off your shoes and placed them in those handy plastic bins and have stood in the cylindrical tube where you are scanned (it feels very futuristic). Then afterwards you have to collect all your items and put back on your shoes you are on your way! I am so very excited to be traveling to Guatemala to begin my Engaged Learning project and standing for 30 minutes in the security checkpoint line could not even damper my excitement.
I am currently in the waiting area and can see that to my left passengers for London are boarding their plane while to my right passengers are leaving for Sao Paulo. I think that the waiting is the hardest part. As I think back there was so much to do before I could even think of leaving the country. Once classes were over I was preparing my interview scheme, getting my approval from the international review board, speaking with my mentor, reading literature over the country of Guatemala and its people and then before I knew it I was off to Taos, New Mexico.
I decided that I had wanted to take summer classes and experience the atmosphere of Taos because I had heard so many good things about it. Now that I have seen the beauty of Taos, I highly recommend to anyone that is considering studying at the SMU in Taos campus to go because it is absolutely amazing! So in the month of June I had the opportunity to study the parasites of the New Mexico area for my parasitology class. I will not explain all the parasites that can be found and encountered on a day-to-day basis because trust me you will learn to fear touching absolutely everything. After returning back from Taos I was in town for a few days and now here I am waiting to board my plane.
It is said patience is a virtue, but honestly sitting here in the waiting area I am working really hard on accomplishing the patience part. Oh wait, I hear that it is time to begin boarding! Writing this blog actually did make the time go by faster. I must turn off my computer now and say good-bye Dallas! Goodbye the United States and Hello Guatemala!Share on Facebook
So here I am again, in the sky, at 35,000 feet. I have the best spot on the plane, as it is both an aisle and window seat, which puts into perspective the size of this aircraft. If I could stand up straight, I would be able to put both arms out and touch either side of the airplane.
I left this morning, eating at Michael’s, a must if you visit Taos, and leaving by some dusty highway in a large red pickup truck driven by one of my closest friends, a future Marine, headed toward the Sante Fe Municipal Airport. She and I talked about how fast the month went by, and how things were slower, relaxed, older in this little town.
The talk turned to the future, of times after college, when we would have to be real people. This was scary, the worst being the lack of friends, how when you are a real adult, friends aren’t always there, just down the hall in the next dorm room. For the last three years, I have been living with friends, eating with friends, drinking (water) with friends, going to Rangers games with friends, talking story (what people call ‘chatting’ in Hawaii) with friends, and just BEing with friends. You come to love them, and cherish their company. They are your family. They are the ones you come to depend upon because Mom is 4000 miles away on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Then, just like the leaves on a tree in Autumn, everyone falls slowly away, floating listlessly this way and that, landing far from the leaves they had been with since spring. The season of college is over and Jennie, the Marine, may end up back in Taos, while Tyler, an old roommate, may end up in New York at Columbia Law. Some get bagged up with a few other leaves, ending up in the same city, reminiscing about the time you sent an email to the provost and got a school cancelled because of excessive snow. Some leaves fall into the neighbor’s yard, mixing with the leaves from other trees from all across the neighborhood, never to see them again. Some leaves are meant to get married, have children, be happy, and others find misery and disappointment. Some die young, struck down by cancer, and others star in movies, sing at Madison Square Garden, and act in plays on Broadway. Many have their hearts broken and some never do, which for the lucky few can be a curse. Some become lawyers, doctors, engineers, bankers, accountants, and science teachers. Many do great things and others break the law, spending life behind bars. Others save lives in Africa, reminding us that there are good people in the world. Some have plans, ideas, dreams, and they reach them, meeting wild expectations. Others fall short. Some dreams die.
This leaf is unsure. He looks down at the gathering pile. Yellow, red, orange, brown, and some green leaves litter the yard. He wonders where he will land, which way the wind will blow and if those leaves around him, the future lawyers and accountants, will fall with him. The last days of summer are slipping away. The air thickens with anticipation and fear. This leaf looks down again, and his sees his feet sitting on top of his backpack, which is stowed beneath the seat in front of him. Below he sees fields, some yellow, some red, some orange, some brown, some green, some circles, some squares. He wonders if he will end up in the little town below, the one where the river runs through.
This leaf is unsure. He spent the past month in the mountains of New Mexico working on a novel, which when completed, will be the greatest accomplishment of his life. He hasn’t finished yet, but he will soon. He is headed to Oxford University in England to study Shakespeare and the Gothic Novel for six weeks. Autumn approaches.
Airplanes make me feel this way. There is something surreal about sitting in one place, in seat 4A, and going nowhere, unless the potty calls, and yet going somewhere, usually somewhere far away. It is like purgatory. I am in the “in-between”. I feel transitory yet stationary, vulnerable yet safe, here yet not. I think of leaves on airplanes and of falling (which is maybe why I do not enjoy flying).
With that, goodbye, Taos. I do not know if I will return, if my leaf will blow your way again. I do know that you got me started on something that will change my life.
“I wrote there,” I will tell my children. “I started my first novel there.”
“Where did you finish it?” They will ask.
“Somewhere else,” I will say. “The wind blew me away.”
I started my life in Hawaii, floated in to Dallas, and will finish somewhere far away. These sentiments have haunted my writing lately, because just like an airplane, college is a transitory thing. I am here, but only for a little bit. You are at your home, your childhood home, but only for a little bit, because home is not a place, home is a time, and home was yesterday.
Here is the opening chapter of my novel, My Father and the Goodbye Home…
This house was ours from the wooden floors to the glass windowed doors and I called this place my home because it was where I felt we belonged. This home, this house, our home. Home was where the rooms were a collection, a catalog, of our lives. Home was where I was supposed to end up and home was where I belonged but that home is gone. You should have held on to us like we held onto you: furiously. Remember what we had? Well, that isn’t here anymore. This home was ours, yours, mine, from the wooden steps to the glass windowed doors until it disappeared, slowly behind us. We cut the ropes that held us here. Drifting away, we couldn’t go back and we left you in an empty house, by the ocean, where it echoes when you breathe. A steady gust came around and blew us away and I always look back and know that I never will return to this home because home is not a place, it is a time. Home was yesterday.
* * *
We built this home for you, for me, and we filled it full with the armoire, from that antique shop on Highway 51 where the sullen man made Mom pay twice its worth. You thought it was a waste of money. We had many things from other parts of the world, from places we had never been to. My grandmother’s home was full so they sent us their spillover; Hopi Kachina dolls, Russian eggs, and two glass vases made in Venice. There were the tribal masks that my grandmother gave to us, which hang on the wall by the front door.
There was a Papasan chair upstairs that I used to come home to, curl up, and read in. Mom called it my decompression chair. It sat in the guest room upstairs by the Murphy wall-bed. The guest bedroom faced out toward the ocean and I would look out through the large sliding glass doors that made up the entire east wall. We never had any guest use the Murphy bed until I slept there after coming home from Basic. Those doors led out to the lanai where the old wicker rocking chair sat after having been relocated from Mr. Chee’s front porch. Mr. Chee died last year and we bought the wicker rocking chair at the estate sale because we couldn’t bear seeing anyone else in that chair. He used to rock back and forth on his porch all day and carve wooden utensils out of maple wood, the same wood that baseball bats were made of, he told me. A long time ago, he brought over an entire set of wooden utensils for our family and Mom only used them when your clients came over for dinner. When you talked real estate, we left and went upstairs and played Monopoly on the lanai by the Murphy bed. When Mr. Chee died, my brother cried. Mr. Chee taught my brother how to tie a bowline knot for scouts a little while after Mom came into my room one night and told me about you. The masks watched you go but I never saw you leave; you were just gone.
Your friend David, from college, is a painter and he gave me a cat and a dog for my sixth birthday. They were painted on thick flat wood and each wore human clothes. Dog smoked a corncob pipe and Cat drank from a fish bowl. All of the fish were dead in the fish bowl because you said David had a sense of humor and vodka killed fish. Dog liked Cat the best and didn’t like it when Cat got drunk and threw things. Dog and Cat hung on the walls over my bed and I was trying to re-hang Cat after he had fallen down during the night when Mom came in to my room and told me that you were leaving home. After a while, it became normal that you weren’t around and when you gave me your old truck because you had a midlife crisis and bought a BMW, I finally got something out of it. You thought that would make me talk to you more but it didn’t because you were different and you weren’t here.
In the living room, there was a carpet that had a stripe of every color, each a different size, except the colors weren’t of the normal rainbow. Forest green next to burnt red next to pastel blue, that combination was my favorite. Henry, our dog who liked you the most, rolled on the carpet and his hair was everywhere so we had to vacuum on Sundays. We didn’t have a cat. I preferred watching the television from the floor because I didn’t like to sit next to you, Mom, or your son — my brother, or my sister — your daughter, because it made me uncomfortable. I needed space and my brother, your son, would touch me with his feet when he curled up or you would elbow me because you are a very tall, big man. Sometimes I would go, sit, and read in my decompression chair when everyone was watching Wheel of Fortune.
There was a tree that hung out over the water behind our home. I had built a treehouse in it and nailed a sailor’s wheel to the highest platform and when the wind and rain swirled around us, I was up in the tree turning port and then starboard. I was the captain of a sinking ship because you cut down the tree and had the men put in a dock for your latest toy, only I couldn’t dock there and I was lost at sea, boat in half.
I parked the gold truck to the right of the front steps, Mom parked her car to the left, I remember when you came home from the hospital, and we had to help you up the steps because the stroke had made you weak. You are six and a half feet tall and we could hardly do it so Mr. Chee came over to help. You were different after the stroke and even though I was twelve, and my sister was six and crying, and my brother was five and still thought you could do anything, we knew you weren’t Dad. Mr. Chee lived in the guest bedroom before he died so that someone could always watch him. We helped him up the steps and we didn’t need you.
Our dining room table sat eight and sagged so you and I bought some wood and sanded it and made another leg to prop up the middle. You helped me get the Woodcarving Merit Badge. When you left, I stopped going to scouts because I hated camping and only did it because I liked being with you. I went to the first few meetings but when you never came, I stopped going. Mom, my brother, my sister, and I would sit down for a family dinner every night because Mom believed in that kind of thing. Even when you were home, you usually ate upstairs in your office but we always told you when dinner was.
When we cleaned the house on Sundays, it was my job to wash the sliding glass doors upstairs by the Murphy bed because the salt would collect on them and it looked unkempt. Henry would follow me up and lick the salty water running down the glass. From the outside looking in, I would see you in my Papasan chair watching the TV by the Murphy bed while Mom, my sister, my brother, and me, cleaned the house. I would work quickly so that I could leave and ride my Schwinn cruiser, which we kept in the garage, to Ian’s house. Ian didn’t like coming to my home because you scared him.
The garage had room for two cars but we parked them in the driveway. Inside the garage was a punching bag you decided would be a good Christmas present for my brother because you had decided he had an anger problem. He punched my sister after she had hot glued his hair to the upright piano you bought Mom for Mother’s Day. She had told him that it was an experiment and when he tried to get up, he pulled out a chunk of his hair and so he hit her. There was still some glue on the piano next to the dent where the Texas-shaped dinner bell that hung in our kitchen slammed into it. You threw that at me when you found out I had unwrapped one of your Beatles albums, Rubber Soul, and played it because I had never heard it before. The album was no longer “mint” and so you threw the dinner bell at me. Mom yelled at you and so I took my brother and sister into my room and read them Elmer Blount Has an Open House, my sister’s favorite children’s book. Elmer Blount leaves the door open to his home and all of the forest animals come in to see what’s inside. My sister especially loves the foxes that play with Elmer’s underwear.
Our home was old and in the hallway was a cubby, a nook, where we kept the phone. Above the phone was a small bronze faced clock that hadn’t worked since we moved in before I was born. You tried many times to fix it but old things aren’t supposed to be fixed sometimes. After you left, we bought a digital clock that sat next to our cordless phone and we never looked at the bronze faced clock. Our technology was new so when you called, we knew it was you. Mom made us answer the phone when you did and sometimes we didn’t do that. You told me once over the phone that you didn’t know how to be a Dad because yours had died when you were thirteen and you just didn’t know what to do with me. By then, there weren’t any pictures of you on the wall and Mom had replaced them with paintings that her Father had sent as wedding gifts all those years ago. You never liked those paintings but now it didn’t matter. The one that I stared at when you called to talk to me was a watercolor of three children on a beach in Ogunquit, Maine examining the sandy beach. Their faces were turned away and they wore winter clothes, which is not beach attire.
You stayed married for a long time after the masks watched you go, almost 4 years, as you battled Mom for everything, until one day, she gave in. The piano was hers. The masks were yours. You hid behind those. Cat and Dog were mine but you took them because the judge said they were yours. Henry was yours. The Texas-shaped dinner bell was hers; it was ours. The armoire was hers because the judge said it was hers. The Beatles albums, including Rubber Soul, were yours but she, and we, didn’t care. The many-colored carpet and black leather couches were hers. The punching bag was yours. The Papasan chair was yours and you thought that would make me come sit in it. The table was ours, not yours. Mr. Chee’s wicker chair went with Mom because you didn’t deserve to sit in it. Our home, you demanded half of, and so we left the house and took the things that the judge said were ours. But, by then, I was gone and didn’t live there anymore and my mother, my brother, and my sister had found a new home. You came back and lived at the house. Then, you took the bronze faced clock, ripping it straight from the wall when you finally realized the clock was broken and could never be fixed. Sometimes, things aren’t meant for fixing.
The things that made this house our home were scattered across two by a tidal wave. I felt like I should wander down the beach and pick up the lost refuse, most of which had been floating for days. Steadily coming in, the things I found, the wooden utensils, spoon and fork and knife, wash up separately. Many people take and take, and soon the house is empty. Everyone has a piece. This home is gone and a house remains.
* * *
You are an old withered man who walking through our old home and telling this son how this stunning waterfront property has five bedrooms and three baths, with a guest room that looks out onto the murky sea. You don’t see. The lanai by the guest bedroom is great for company, you say, and this house has character; it has history. This house has our history but, history is forgotten and then misremembered. You never saw, would never see, and I knew it. You are dead but this old withered man is still here in your place. There is a ghost inhabiting your floppy skin, waving your arms, and speaking unfamiliar words with a familiar voice. Sometimes your face contorts and I faintly see the “you I knew” grappling for control of your familiar features. It was a face I had traced with my eyes many times before but, it was a face that had changed, different in the way only a child would question, like feeling the freshly shaven skin of where a mustache had once been and asking, why?
Last evening at the SMU-in-Taos campus there was an Engaged Learning event where 3 influential women from Taos came to speak to the students. It was such an inspiring event, from writers to philanthropists to project managers; every individual that spoke had powerful words of wisdom to share. At the end of the program the three Engaged Learning students, Dylan, Juan and I shared what our research entails. What I find most interesting, is the wide variety that our research covers. While Dylan will be writing a novel and Juan will be working with Hispanic youth, I myself will traveling abroad. This truly demonstrates what Engaged Learning is all about. All of us have different passions and interests in life; yet, we are focused on expanding our knowledge to continue beyond the classroom.
I really enjoy speaking over my research to others because it allows me to present what I am passionate and care about in life. Since, I come from such a rich and cultural background, I always want to share its beauty with others. At times, speaking of my research makes me sad because it reminds me of the terrible past that my family comes from. While for many, the crimes committed are remembered in history books and are events to memorize for tests, but for my family the pain and memories are all to real. Speaking in front of others and sharing this pain gives me closure because I know that I have a voice and can be heard. It is also my past that gives me strength because I know that I can look forward to the future. When I speak of my research to others, I feel such joy because I know that I am traveling back to my ancestors’ homeland to remember and honor those I was never fortunate enough to meet. I realize that the lost are never truly forgotten but rather through my voice and stories, they will be remembered.
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Today, I passed the 20,000-word milestone! It is a fantastic feeling to have written that much in so little time. I figured that I would give you an idea of how my writing process works, since it seems to be working well. I usually begin a short story with an idea, or a phrase, such as “He had killed before” or “Reaching 34G, Danny sighed loudly, realizing that 34F was a talker” (I came up with that on a plane … Don’t know if you can tell) Usually that sentence, that idea, sparks something and by the time I am done with the first paragraph, I have a story, fully told, in my head. The problem is, this approach doesn’t work nearly as well when you write a novel. It is easy to keep facts straight in your head when the final document is only a couple thousand words, and even if you forget, it isn’t that hard to go back and find what you are looking for. Novels are different animals, which require significant planning and foresight.
Some people write and revise and write and revise, creating many drafts of one story, chapter, etc. I see my fiction as a living, breathing creature, which changes over time. I am constantly revising my work as I write it. When new ideas spring into my mind, I either dismiss them or include them, and when those ideas contradict something I have already written, problems arise. For example, last Wednesday I thought it would be a fine idea to make one of the central characters the sister of an ancillary character. I thought it would allow me to introduce her earlier in the novel. However, by Friday I had changed my mind, which required a good twenty minutes of editing and revising to the novel’s many parts. An important part of my novel is the relationship between things and memories. After writing the first chapter, a chapter intended to charge objects with emotions, I realized that I needed to keep it all organized. I needed to know where an object was in relation to a character. For example, the trophy that your little league baseball team won wouldn’t be very important to your sister, but it is important to you. Below is a map of the objects that are central to my novel. They are organized into categories based on their location in the family’s house, and further connected by the information associated with each object. Click for the map for the first chapter of the novel: Map
The deeper into the story I get, the more complicated this map becomes.
In addition to maps, I am using a program called Scrivener, which helps me organize the novel into Parts, Chapters, and Scenes. Below is a screenshot of what the program looks like when I am using it. There will be 12 Chapters broken up into 3 Parts. Here is what it looks like so far:
This is the view fully “zoomed” out. You are looking at the novel’s basic outline.
And finally, as a little bonus, here is the cover of the novel… I know I am getting a little ahead of myself, but I couldn’t help it.
Look for my next post. I will be revealing a chapter of the novel!
With all the awful things happening in the world, you’ve gotta wonder: Who’s doing anything about it?!
I decided to research human rights campaigns in relation to the Olympics simply because I learned a ton about human rights abuses in the History of Human Rights course I took last semester. I left Dr. Halperin’s class thinking, “OK I know what’s wrong with the world, how do I help fix it?” There is this awful sentiment I had leaving the class for the last time. My mother always said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” And I would be remiss to learn all of that history and do nothing with it. So I decided to research human rights campaigns. My hope is to observe their actions and start a movement of my own one day. I just want to be able to say I made a difference. No one likes debbie downers who whine and complain about the injustices of this world. People love the ones who have the courage to stand and change things. Maybe my goal is idealistic, but I have always set high expectations and this part of my life is no different. Sooo my journey began a few weeks ago! I am trying to learn as much as I can from the brave people behind the Green Wash Gold campaign. I have immense respect for them because it is hard to stand for human rights when no one around you really cares. Yet we have seen so many people do it over the years and they helped paved the way for us.Share on Facebook
Hello! My name is Brittany Dickey, I am a senior at SMU, and this summer I am in London studying how human rights campaigns use the Olympics as a platform to raise awareness. I am particularly studying Green Wash Gold Campaign 2012. This organization is targeting BP, Dow, and Rio Tino, 3 sponsors of the Olympics that have serious human rights abuses. Last week I interviewed Colin Toogood and Jess Worth. The interviews were about an hour each and were very informative. The biggest thing I noticed was how suspicious Toogood and Worth were initially. Toogood informed me that Dow hired spies that follow him and other employees around, sift through their rubbish, and hack into their computers. When I asked if he was leery of doing an interview with a student from a different country, he said that Dow would not normally send someone like me, a Black woman from America. He did mention that the company could be “doubling back” and sent me to throw him off!
Bhopal Medical Appeal is Dow’s biggest threat as the campaign has damage the social license of the company. The BMA’s goal is to attack the company’s PR and as a result affect Dow’s bottom line. He said, “what we are trying to do is influence the media in a way that affects Dow.” The theory is that the more Dow loses money, eventually the company will rationalize that it is more cost efficient to fix the problems in Bhopal India. Apparently this is working as a Homes report ranked Dow as the 5th worst PR disaster. Toogood made clear that BMA is not just attacking Dow for the hell of it. BMA wants the people in Bhopal India to receive help and for the toxic waste that was dumped to be cleaned up. I asked Toogood about the arguments that Dow was not responsible for the oil disaster in Bhopal India because this happened before the company bought the Union Carbide Company. Additionally some argue that the UCC already paid a settlement for the oil leak. He explained that a civil settlement happened years ago but now criminal charges are being filed for culpable homicide in addition to a curative settlement that has been filed. The curative petition could range from 1 to 8 billion dollars. Toogood and I talked about how Dow has taken responsibility for UCC’s lawsuits in America but not India. Toogood said that because Dow, “is an American company there is more pressure in their native country.” There just is not any accountability for the horrendous occurrences in Bhopal.
Another big question I had was the campaigners view on the role of the Olympics in ensuring that companies with human rights abuses be restricted from sponsoring the event and increasing profit. Toogood agreed that the Olympics could persuade companies to repair past human rights abuses and uphold companies that have been pioneers in the human rights movement. However he said it wouldn’t do any good attacking the Olympics because the audience BMA targets are in support of the Games. There is currently a court case in New York City against Dow about the toxic dumping the company did in India that is still causing illness and affecting the citizens who live there. If this case is in favor of the citizens, it will set a precedent that there is an issue outside of the oil leak in the 80’s. Going into the interviews my big thought was: most people could care less about human rights abuses. The reality is that people tend to be selfish and oblivious. When I asked Toogood about whether BMA could raise social awareness he responded, “people don’t give a damn, we know that.” The overall goal of the BMA is to influence Dow by aiming for the company’s wallet.
The UK Tar Sands Network has different goals in mind. Worth made clear that she personally wanted BP “to shut down.” She said that the stock holders would save more money selling and closing than watching the company plummet. The UK Tar Sands Network is targeting the political arena rather than society at large. People in the political arena have the power to actually make a difference. In addition Worth said, “we are saying to the Olympics ‘you should not have picked these companies’.” She hopes that the Olympic committee will think harder about who they allow to sponsor the event. Worth believes that the Olympics, “is so lucrative that if the Olympics set stringent rules maybe some companies will clean up their act.” Also companies that are more aware of human rights can be sponsors and that is the overall goal. BP has extracted 20% of the world’s natural resources and has plans to continue to extract more oil for the UK Tar Sands. Although their extractions has been said to pollute the water of indigenous people in Canada, no research has been done to confirm this. People have complained of becoming ill and have protested their extraction in the UK. The most interesting thing I learned from this interview is that protestors in London are being arrested for no reason and restricted from protesting. According to Worth, the protestors are being arrested for peaceful protest and taking photos of the Olympics grounds. I would love to interview a few protestors and get their prospective.Share on Facebook
It’s like wrestling a bear, and the bear is winning. It’s like climbing up Mount Everest and having your shoes stolen by said bear (which is why you were wrestling him in the first place). It’s like remembering, mid-wrestle, that you were supposed to be at the dentist an hour ago and now they are going to charge you that fee; the expensive one with the overly long name. It’s like being a poor college student wrestling a bear on the top of Mount Everest, realizing that you are about to get an overdraft fee on your credit card, and having no shoes because the bear stole them. That is what the last three days have been like. I started with a fire but that fire has cooled into smoking embers, which are not enough to warm my fingers into words. I thought that after two awful days of writing, a weekend spent rock-climbing and fly-fishing would cure my writer’s block. Alas, even the joys of my prize fish could not shake the languidness that had enveloped me.
I have only recently begun to tell people that I want to be a writer. It is a scary thing because that phrase (“I want to be a writer.”) has some weird stigma attached. It is cliché to want to be a writer. “Oh,” people think to themselves, “You want to be lazy. You want to live in a cardboard box for the rest of your life. You want to breeze your way through college and not do any work like those engineers, or accountants, or lawyers. You want to do drugs, don’t you? You will probably fail.” But to your face, they smile and say, “That’s nice.”
On our way to fly fishing, I was asked by an eager young freshman named Monica, who had spent the last forty-five minutes discussing the merits of an Accounting major with a senior named Bryan, what I wanted to do after I graduated. I said that I wanted to be a writer, but that probably wasn’t going to happen because I wasn’t very good. I told Monica that I was going to do all of the things I imagine other people think about when I say “writer”. Lazy, check. Cardboard box, check. I am worthless, check. Terrible writer, check. Our professor (this was a Wellness class trip) turned around and told me off. I told her I was joking. She said that the more I said those things the more I would believe them and you know what, she was right.
I have doubted myself lately and that is probably because when I get on the Facebook, I see pictures of people getting married and statuses about incredible internships. When I look at my friends, I see successful people, some of whom already have jobs lined up with a year left to go at SMU. I look at my parents and my professors, and I see people who are secure and settled. Then, I look at myself and I see someone struggling to write his first novel. I see failure. I see myself wrestling a bear, at 14,000 feet, over a pair of shoes. I feel like I am losing this fight. But, tomorrow will be better and so will the day after, and maybe I will get my shoes back. I have one month and I can’t afford to let another day go by.Share on Facebook