Off the Radar

Off the Radar

Off the Radar

I find it incredibly interesting that of all the OU events I have attended in the past year, the vast majority of them have related to the Middle East, and in particular to the refugee crisis and its impacts around the globe.  Every time I saw a flyer for an event related to this topic, I jumped at the chance to learn more about this incredibly complex and current topic.

Cyrus Copeland’s lecture on his book Off the Radar: A Father’s Secret, A Mother’s Heroism, and A Son’s Quest was one such event that I immediately cleared my schedule to attend.  In part, I was curious about Copeland himself: almost forty years ago, his father was accused of being a CIA agent in Iran and was arrested, so his wife became the first female lawyer in Iran’s history in order to defend him in court.  But I was also intrigued with the opportunity to learn more about any piece of Iran’s history and culture, no matter how insignificant.

When I arrived at the lecture, I immediately felt out of place.  I felt out of my element, as the majority of the other students and professors were either Iranian themselves or were deeply involved in the Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies programs at OU.  But Cyrus Copeland’s lecture was engaging and enlightening as he examined the stigma with which Americans continue to view Iranians and told several short stories of his own experiences as an America who grew up in Iran.  It did frustrate me slightly that the lecture’s main question–was his father really an undercover CIA agent?–was never answered in the lecture, but Cyrus was a compelling enough story teller that I would gladly read his book in the future to find out for myself.

Overall, this event opened my eyes to the tensions that still exist between Americans and Iranians today.  I look forward to learning more about this topic in the future, since our lack of forgiveness and cooperation remains a very current and tense issue.

Salam Neighbor Website Banner

Salam Neighbor

Salam Neighbor

Last fall, my Becoming Globally Engaged class spent a day watching Living On One’s series of videos about what it is like to only have one dollar a day in Guatemala.  I was impressed by how down-to-earth and earnest the producers were as they spent two months living in a rural community, filming the local way of life and spreading awareness of how different their living conditions were.

Later, I found out that the same group of students had recently made another film about their experiences living in a refugee camp in Jordan.  I immediately thought that this film would be an excellent way to see what life is really like for the refugees in the Middle East.  However, Salam Neighbor wasn’t available on Living On One’s website or on YouTube like their earlier series; instead, it could only be viewed in a public screening.

I was so excited when I heard a few months later that there would be a screening of the film at OU!  The film was extremely impactful, and had such an in-depth exploration of life at the Za’atari refugee camp that I walked away feeling heartbroken for the thousands living in similar camps around the world.

The film successfully portrayed the refugees and the wars raging throughout the Middle East in an extremely humanizing way: it brought the very broad, unspecific subject of “the refugee crisis” down to a relatable level that I was able to connect to.  The interviews with various refugees as well as explanations of everyday life in a refugee camp were incredibly moving but also inspirational, because even in the midst of such dire conditions, the films subjects have found ways to keep up hope and even begin to turn Za’atari into a semi-permanent village.

I am so grateful that I was able to view this film, and would recommend it highly to anyone interested in learning more about the refugee crisis.  Living On One has now released a copy of Salam Neighbor to iTunes; if you want to learn more about the organization or see the film for yourself, you can find their website here: http://livingonone.org

Delta Phi Alpha Logo

Wait, There’s a German Honor Society?

Wait, There’s a German Honor Society?

Lo and behold, there is such a thing as a German Honor Society at OU!

Well, not just at OU, but we have a chapter of it: the Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society is a national organization that was founded back in the 1920s.  Which is impressive, really, considering that back then, the predominant association most Americans had with Germans was from World War I.

Delta Phi Alpha’s mission is “to promote the study of the German language, literature and civilization and endeavors to emphasize those aspects of German life and culture which are of universal value and which contribute to man’s eternal search for peace and truth.”

Although I was already a member of the German Club at OU, I was somewhat dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities for me to practice my German at Stammtisch meetings.  Most of the students who attend Stammtisch are in introductory-level German courses, so the conversation is very limited.  Students quickly get frustrated and switch back into English, leaving me without German conversation partners at meetings.

When one of my professors mentioned Delta Phi Alpha, I was excited to speak German with more fluent speakers, since students must be in at least 3000-level German before they can join.  The simple induction ceremony for new members was held during the German Club’s annual Grillfest, and I was surprised to see how many people were joining Delta Phi Alpha or were already members.  I look forward to being part of a larger German community in future semesters at OU, especially as I prepare to spend a semester in a German-speaking country in the spring of 2017.