30 January 2007

The Age of Genocide

Genocide Awareness Week which took place parallel to Wellbeing Week, is an event linked to Holocaust Memorial Day and aims to spread and renew awareness about holocaust, genocide and terrorism. I hereby give an overview of the events which took place during the past week:

"The Age of Genocide" - 23 January
was a panel talk hosted by ULU and included the following guest speakers:

_ Professor James Gow, Professor of Int. Peace & Security at KCL, and Co-Director of the Int. Peace and Security Programme was chair of the panel.
_ Eh Htee Kaw, a Karen refugee, talking about his experiences in a Thai refugee camp and showing short film Season of Fear (4.31 min).
_ Mary Kayitesi Blewitt, Founder & Director of Survivor's Fund, gives a talk entitled "Heroes of our Time: Rwandan Courage and Survival" where she also speaks about her and others' experiences concerning Rwanda.
_ Dr James Smith, Director of Aegis Trust, Co-Founder of the UK Holocaust Centre and the Kigali Memorial Centre in collaboration with the Kigali City Council. He also showed the short film Tomorrow is too late (4 min) while talking about the risk of genocide in Darfur.
_ Clare Hope Ashitey, actress from Shooting Dogs (Trailer), giving insights into the film.

This event was highly enlightening but also touching. Unfortunately, Burma got a bit neglected even though all panel speakers actively tried to include Eh Thee. I am sure his account (in English) and his opinion could have been enhanced with a Burmese translator. He obviously had a lot to say on the subject but I assume that his limitations in English was a hurdle for him. Also, there was no-one among the "experts" who was able to provide a complemetary view on the current multilateral political debate on Burma. I am quite a bit disappointed that Southeast Asia is underrepresented again, surely there must be someone from SOAS who would have been willing to contribute on this!

Evening before Holocaust Memorial Day - 26 January
_ Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks
_ Holocaust Survivor Mala Tribbich, talking about her experiences as a British Jew during WWII, including her time in a labour camp.
_ Rex Bloomstein, a Jewish filmmaker who will deliver a talk "Confronting the Holocaust, a film maker's journey"

I haven't been to this one, just copied the programme, sorry!

Followed by panel debate "How the Holocaust has affected London and Londoners"
_ Simon Hughes, MP
_ Councillor Penny, Abraham
_ David Peebles, Chaplain of LSE
_ Rabbi Gavin Broder, the University's Rabbinical Chaplain

Haven't been to this one either!

Followed by free film screening of Shooting Dogs

Still trying to get hold of a copy of the film!
By the way, another interesting and maybe more mainstream film on Rwanda is Hotel Rwanda.

26 January 2007

Wellbeing Week!

Wellbeing week is an event that takes place every year at SOAS. A range of alternative lifestyles or activities are offered, the range goes from ayurveda and acupuncture over hypnotherapy and a laughter workshop to Qi Gong and Reiki! Also, there is music (ie a Chinese orchestra) and free vegan food from the Hare Krishna Society at lunch times!

My experiences:
_ Aromatherapy: I (and several other people) didn't know that you actually have to sign up for the taster sessions (the workshops are for everyone) and by the time we got there, all slots had been booked. At least I still have my sister Helga who is a nurse and a certified energetician in training!

_ Yoga: I have tried it for the first time in my whole life and I have to say that I was positively amazed at the effects! I cannot remember the sankrit word for the style of yoga. It was supposed to be Ishta but since the instructor didn't turn up, another one jumped in and did what she said is also known as "furniture yoga" because you can do it at home, in the bus, at work with chairs, a wall... It felt good (afterwards) to stretch your muscles and tendons and the relaxation session at the end was a good round-off. I felt so relaxed, I fell asleep easily and had a peaceful sleep. All the time there was this sound like so. peeing, similar to the one at the toilet in the Karlsplatz Opernpassage in Vienna. I was wondering all the time what the hell that was. I only realised later that it must have been a tape by the instructor. And when she said the empty-your-brain part, a voice in my head kept screaming I WANT SUSHI! (you are not supposed to eat two hours prior to the start of class).

_ Head Massage: Unfortunately couldn't make that due to uni but I can still leave that to treat myself while essay writing!

_ Homeopathy: Came in late for the intro because directly from a tutorial but right in time for the taster's session! Got prescriptions for my burn and also the stress. I still have to get the remedies.

Gower Street Practice:
Had an appointment at the doctor's because of my change in need for sleep (that would make a cool slogan!). Been sleeping 10-14 instead of 6-8 hours a day and still feel sleepy after that. It actually keeps me from doing my coursework. This has been like this since New Year (Nancy will remember that I slept through most of my 21st birthday)! The trip turned out to be pretty useless, as the doctor did not give me the feeling of taking me seriously and didn't even so much as touch me! So I suggested it might be the stress of the whole moving abroad thing but also sth else and she said "Ah! So you left your family behind..." in a that-explains-everythine sort of voice (actually, my family was part of the reason why I left Vienna), that it was due to the lack of sunlight in the UK (that I do believe; I have come to that conclusion myself though, so no news). Her main theory was my lifestyle. She recommended I should go to bed early (she emphasised this thrice even though I replied twice that I could not do that due to my delayed circadian rhythm), set several alarms (I've already got two) across the room so I have to get up (been there, done that; usually return back to sleep after turning them off), drink a glass of milk before I go to sleep (I do not drink pure milk) and I shall not take any stimulants like food, coffee, tea or alcohol (actually, I believe the last two to be INDUCING sleep, if it's not black or green tea). Then she asked me if I tried any sleeping medication and I answered that I don't like taking tablets. She mentioned "Night Owl", a sleeping pill that I don't need to be worried about. I added that it is actually the swallowing part which prevents me from taking any such medication. She then emphasises my lifestyle again and that there is no single pathological explanation for more sleep and sends me off with the advice to do "brisk exercise", like "brisk walking" for example (I tell her that I walk to SOAS and back pretty much every day and basically, to everywhere else in London if it is within 5km and she, having an answer for everything concludes that I must have gotten used to that) or go to the gym (I do can actually go to my volleyball again). To satisfy me - because I must not have seemed convinced - she eventually offers a blood test for which I have to take a note where all the substances which are to be checked are marked to UCL (University College London) Hospital where it will be done. When I read through it after I had left the practice, I noticed that the iron level is not going to be analysed (as I have heard, too little iron may cause sleepiness). *exasperation* This is not really encouraging for future consultations!!!

I believe it is really important to be open for new things and if a week like this was initiated by the City of Vienna or alternative medicine practitioners' associations with free tasters & workshops, more people would try this out every now and then!

25 January 2007

Awareness Spot: Ethnic Cleansing in Burma

Since this week we have Holocaust memorial week (a summary will follow) and no effective international actions have been taken to stop the on-going genocide in Burma (China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on the issue at the beginning of this year), I would like to dedicate this blog post to raise awareness on the situation local ethnic minorities (the Karen being the biggest group among them) have been facing until this very day.

"Burma became independent from the British in 1947. What followed was 15 years of elected parliament and democracy that was hampered by ethnic unrest, lack of unity and economic troubles. In 1962 a coup was staged by General Ne Win which brought the Burmese military into power. Ne Win instigated the Burma Socialist Programme Party and a policy to wipe out the ethnic opposition groups that were struggling to assert their own identities and cultures. In the 1970s Ne Win went even further and introduced the 4 cuts program which was an attempt to cut off food, information, recruits and financial support to these armed ethnic opposition groups. The policy has mostly affected the villagers that live in these ethnic border areas. They are the recipients of Burmese military enacted human rights abuses, forced relocations, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, rape, village destruction, forced labour and portering. All of which has created the ever increasing IDP [internally displaced people] population that are either forced to leave their homes by the Burmese military or are fleeing Burmese military human rights abuses." - (Burma Issues webpage, retrieved 24 January 2007)

A critical view on tourism to Burma is shown by Austrian Roland Wehap's recent movie "Burma All Inclusive", though I am not sure if it is available in English as well. There are a few screenings coming up in Graz.

Burma snapshots is a very short film featuring two Karen who smuggle medicines over the Thai border and collect evidence of human rights violations.

Finally, you can find information on the website of Human Rights Watch on Burma.

"In 1992, the [Burmese] Health Minister, Ket Sein, reportedly boasted to a large meeting in Rangoon: 'In 10 years, all Karen will be dead. If you want to see a Karen, you will have to go to a museum in Rangoon' ". - (Burma Net News, retrieved 24 January 2007)

23 January 2007

Crisp Applestrudels and Schnitzel with Noodles

Great was the surprise (but even greater the curiosity) when I spotted a special offer for strudels at Tesco's! As an Austrian in disguise, I felt challenged to buy one exemplar of woodland fruit and one of the world-renown apple strudel (not least due to appearing in the lyrics of Sound of Music, currently advertised as "London's hottest show" - did you know there was a japanese version of it?).

The results of my investigation were as expected, disappointing (see illustrations). Both strudels had been adapted to the British customer, I suppose. The puff crust in the UK version is very different from the thin phylo dough (resembles samosa dough) used in THE ORIGINAL. As a result, the dough overlaps the characteristic apple strudel content smell. More deduction of points for putting coarse crystal sugar on top (instead of powder sugar) and the absence of Semmelbrösel / Semmel bread crumbs. The ultimate sacrilege is the design as take away pie (PIE is what it comes down to) which together with the wrong dough makes it look like an oven version of McDonald's Apple Pie. *sigh*

More about Schnitzel and other culinaric explorations to come!

(From top to bottom: woodland fruit strudel, apple strudel and Apfelstrudel how it is supposed to be)

19 January 2007

Essays & Retrospective

I finally submitted my last essay and feel as if a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders! I have been under unimaginable and unindurable stress these past weeks! Feeling guilty whenever you are NOT working on your essay and feeling constantly under pressure from when you get up to when you collapse on your bed is not very nice. I needed tons of coffee which made me all giddy, otherwise I would have dozed off while working due to my low energy level the past weeks (needed more than 12 hours of sleep a day).
But now I actually feel like writing the next ones for this new term! However, I am going to take a break this weekend, relax, treat myself...

So far, I have chosen the following briefly summarised topics, just for your information and my log for the future:

Theory in Anthro: Manchester School: What are the features?
Ethno SEA: Gender & Globalisation: Female OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) on the global labour market.
SEA GP: Colonialism: The impact of colonialism on the Philippines.
Theory & Evidence in contemporary Development: Poverty research agenda: Poverty measurement and who generates knowledge.

So, now that I have a bit more leisure to do so, I thought a bit about my expectations of coming to SOAS and if they have been met. For anyone who does not know, I came to SOAS

(1) because it has been my dream to spend some time abroad in general and some time abroad in the UK in particular (I didn't get to do the high school year, so I am redressing that now!). Living in another country is exciting. There is sth new to discover everyday. Also, mulitcultural society in the UK and students with highly diverse backgrounds make me think more about my ethnicity and identity.
(2) because I wanted to specialise in SEA which doesn't exist as a course in Vienna and as a consequence lacks relevant material and resources. Also, Anthro is not as marginalised as in Vienna but actually taken very seriously. I really enjoy my Ethno SEA class, it covers really intersting topics, conceptions, perceptions, identities...
(3) because this place like no other promotes and lives intercultural discourse and offers such cool languages...!

The formalised schedule system over here was expected and desired, however, the work load hit me like a ton of bricks. Reading, constant reading! But on the other hand, you get to discuss ideas and theories which deepens your understanding and your confidence in applying your knowledge. Also, since every SOAS student has a JSTOR account, it is easy to access articles and expand the knowledge by the way. I haven't quite found my rhythm yet, as to how to organise time efficiently. I feel exhausted, pushed to my limits in every dimension. A few private issues can completely throw you off track. And this whole cocktail is not very healthy. Been eating a lot of junk, sleeping in irregular patterns, slouching in front of the PC all day & night, not much fresh air, constant erratic pulse and anxiety... Good then, that Monday sees the beginning of Wellbeing Week, an annual event at SOAS I will write more about afterwards!
Last but not least, I wished for a change in life, a new chance. I just hope (and work so) that I don't fuck it up!

13 January 2007

Uni Update

After the winter break, uni has us back. Essays, readings and a presentation are taking up my time, so please be patient with the next post that is probably going to be provided by Natascha.
Meanwhile, check out the new actual links that I have added!

08 January 2007

Dinner Dialogues - philosophical effusions inspired by Ben & Jerry's (Chocolate Fudge)

"Blumen sind wie Vaginas"
"Flowers are like vaginas"
"Es lebe der Konjunktiv!"
"Long live the subjunctive!"

"Zu sagen, man ist vegan ist wie zu sagen 'Ich bin nicht Kommunistin, sondern blau!'"
"Saying you are vegan is like saying 'I am not a communist but blue!'"

02 January 2007

Happy New Year!

London is rumored to be one of the coolest places on earth to celebrate the New Year. I have certainly never experienced anything like this or seen so many (crazy) people before!

Silvia, Nancy and I set out at 10.30 pm for Trafalgar Square which is one of the Hot Spots to be at the turn of the year, apart from Leicester Square, Picadilly, Big Ben and the London Eye.
Already in the tube we saw evidence of the fact that the british lifestyle certainly is "le binge-drinking", compared to the french "savoir vivre", the italian "dolce vita" and of course the austrian "Gemütlichkeit". When we got out at Trafalgar station, there were already masses of people that wanted to get out but that didn't prepare us for what was to come later.
As you can see, I shared an escalator with superman and superwoman.

When we get out, all the streets were cordoned off and there was police security everywhere, whether on foot, on helicopter or on horse. We made our way to Trafalgar Square where there was a huge video screen with a live feed from Buckingham Palace where there was a show going on. We found ourselves among people that we had never met before that kept wishing us a Happy New Year! Fortunately, there were hardly any crackers fired by the people in the crowd, probably due to (fire) safety restrictions. Unfortunately, we didn't see any of the great firework that is broadcastet throughout the world and originates at the London Eye simultaneously to the chime of Big Ben which is the reason why a lot of people try to get as closest to the river bank as possible!

After the event, Silvia headed home to get up early the next day, she later said that she couldn't get into the tube station and therefore went all the way back by foot (~ 1h). Meanwhile, Nancy and I were tipped on the shoulder by some italian guy who spread his arms invitingly and said "Auguro!", he then leaned in to hug and kiss us both on the cheeks and then we three and a friend of his posed for a group picture that was taken by his girlfriend! *lol*

Nancy and I wanted to get to the water to see if there were would be some more fireworks but the stream of people were all controlled by the police so we had to take a detour. I have to mention that I was sooo fascinated by the police horses that were wearing armoured visors, first time I saw something like that! They used the horses to create a sluice on the Strand (a wide main street where traffic is usally to heavy to cross the street on foot).

Slowly but steadily, Nancy and I made our way to Waterloo Bridge, wherefrom we had a fantastic view of London at night and at a nicely dressed group of people (one was in a smoking, his friend in a leopard fancy dress, such as used for leaflet distribution) and decided to do a nightly sightseeing session, to exploit the waiver of tube fares during this particular night. Right. The problem was just to get into the station, as hundreds of people wanted to get in but policed had closed off the entrances. We were squashed from all sides like sardines, an elderly woman in front of me started shouting at people to "Stop pushing!" and when I bumped into her unintentionally, she shouted at me and I shouted back "I am not pushing! I am being pushed!", there was a short silence before she spat back "Then push back!" Since I didn't appreciate her shoving her arse into my belly (she was doing sth like a hula as a preemptive measure), I let myself be moved away from her by the masses. It was a nightmare, police was everywhere and the officer kept shouting unintelligble announcements and directions at the crowd without a megaphone. For around an hour, we were stuck in limbo. There was a guy that kept shouting "Pregnant woman! Pregnant woman! Please let us through, we have a pregnant woman! Her fruit's broken!" to let him and his friends through and hula woman stuck her head pugnaciously forward and remarked angrily, "You don't look pregnant!" When Nancy and I got close to the station entrance, I wanted to get us even closer and crossed over a free space within the throng where a woman was bending over, believing that Nancy would follow close behind. But then the woman started puking, Nancy stayed where she was and we got separated! I kept waving my water bottle, so we would know where we were but to no avail. We would meet each other another hour later inside the station. She had been pushed inside by a police officer after the same had been instructing her otherwise in violent speech only seconds before that. Since I was standing 20 metres away next to another police man that kept shouting, "Please move on, do not stop here! YOU WILL NOT GET INTO THE STATION THROUGH THIS ENTRANCE!", I had to walk all around the building and entered Waterloo Station from behind. It took a while for Nancy and me to realise that. Meanwhile she witnessed how a guy was being detained brutally by five police officers after slipping on the floor and touching one of them while falling while at the same time another guy was peeing right next to the ticket machines. I witnessed a woman who had passed out on the floor next to a puddle of an unidentified yellowish liquid and was surrounded by several police officers and paramedics. It was absolutely crazy!

After a hearty reunion of Nancy and me we dropped the idea of going anywhere else that night and decided to have some breakfast from Costa's (Tiramisù Latte, mmmh!) where there was something that looked like Linzer Augen in the vitrine. When I pointed that out to her, she looked at the description and said, "It is Linzer Short Bread!". Back at Dinwiddy we had a second breakfast before we took a nap and took a third breakfast later that day.

All in all, a very memorable experience! Next year then, I will know where to go in order to have the best view on the fireworks!
N/B: Thanks to Silvia for providing her pictures for this entry. The first pic is from the net.