It’s been a great summer for the Summer Fellows and for all of us who’ve had the pleasure to read their posts. They’ve now all wrapped up this stage of their projects, but I think it’s safe to say we can consider this only a break in the journey for each of them. A few are continuing their work in very explicit ways, writing papers with their mentors for publication or extending their studies into a senior thesis. Others are still grappling to understand their experiences from the summer and have become energized with new ideas sparked by their projects. What have we, the readers, taken from our opportunity to experience these projects? Continue reading
At the start of the project, I had focused largely on getting to know the people I was interviewing and spending time with. We talked about their families, backgrounds and experiences both in South Sudan and the United States. Then, after we became familiar with each other and the subject of the research, we began to examine some ethical and social differences, such as the ethics of belonging, the meaning of home, and the importance of traditional marriage.
During the last three weeks, our discussions eased into very philosophical exchanges on the central question of this research: what does it mean to lead ethical lives? The major challenge was the main question itself. People thought that it was rather broad and abstract and akin to many perennial questions, like: what does it mean to exist? These are questions that one can only try to answer during what the Dinka call deathbed introspection: a retrospective conversation that we are supposed to have with ourselves when we come to the awareness that we have but few hours or days left among the living. Continue reading
I’ve been a fan of open source since learning about it in high school. I’ve been running Fedora linux as my main operating system for the past five years, and my first internship was at Red Hat, the world’s largest open source company. It was clear to me that open source software is significantly better for the developer, which translates into significant improvements for the user. Futhermore, I was convinced that open source philosophy just made sense — not only for software, but for other things as well. For a brief look at the open source movement, read the first paragraph of the wiki page for “Open Source Movement.”
Going into my research this summer, I figured that the typically touted open source values of freedom and equality would correspond very well with Christian values. I’ve been an open source advocate since high school, and a large part of that was because I believed that open source corresponded with my Christian values. And I was not alone in identifying the one with the other — this article from the Economist, the now-archival Open Source Theology site, and other sites and blogs have noticed the relationship. Some of my reading material for this summer confirmed this. From Kirkpatrick’s Critical Technology: A Social Theory of Computing: “Only from this starting point will we be able to identify virtuous uses of the web — those that everyone can agree ought to be prioritised — and to privilege these by ensuring that they are not disadvantaged, legislated against or otherwise inhibited by the machinations of power. Examples might well be the open source movement itself. . . .” Two weeks ago, I interviewed a leader in the open source world, who will remain nameless. It was a thoroughly enjoyable interview, but not entirely what I expected. He confirmed that the core value of the open source movement is sharing, but the other values promoted through the open source movement were what surprised me. In no particular order, the values he listed were: Continue reading
In my final blog I am going to talk about hope and how we can keep hope in our own daily lives, even when it seems impossible. One aspect of hope I have not previously brought up is religion. Religion is extremely prominent in Kagoma Gate and in many villages all across Uganda. There are three established religions in Kagoma Gate—two Pentecostals and one Anglican Church. There are other religious beliefs and practices in the village but these are the three largest. At first, it seems like religion is what enables the villagers of Kagoma Gate to have radical hope. However, when looking at what they hope for in their lives, no matter the religion to which they belong, their hopes and dreams were always related to family or others around them. Relationships with others is what I believe enabled the villagers to have radical hope. As I have discussed in previous blogs, villagers wanted their futures to be with their families or they wanted a bright future for their family members. It was often family that enabled them to keep “radical hope” or, in some cases, to not have any hope at all. The lady I discussed in earlier blogs said she had no hope, was religious, and was a member of the Anglican Church. But she, unlike other members of the church who had family, did not have hope. With no one to care about or for, she had no hope.
So how do we keep this hope in our own daily lives? Continue reading
“After all, nothing is with me now, except for me. To pass 5th was great, 8th a bigger thing, 10th IC board in New Delhi, then Bachelors degree then Masters degree. And now everything is gone in my small drawer, everything is there. Imagine just life where it takes you what it takes you.”
Interview 15 was the most moving and fascinating interview I had. I spent over an hour speaking to a 42 year old man who comes from a wealthy Bhutanese family that owned 50 acres of land and a famous orange orchard before they were forcefully removed from Bhutan. Despite this, this man was able to get a scholarship for his Masters and Bachelors Degree and was a practicing dentist for seven years in Nepal. Now, he says that he has nothing and has experienced withdrawal symptoms and depression from leaving his career and country. He arrived in the United States in early 2011, less than two years ago.
During the interview, we were interrupted a few times because he instantly has to jump up and answer phone calls for his job as a medical interpreter. He was obligated to pick up the phone within 15 seconds and translate between Nepali and English during medical emergencies. For example, when I was there, he had to help give a woman the proper instructions to her child on the phone. Continue reading
I have been home for almost a week now and this week I have been focusing on the acceptance aspect of my research. In short, I found that the villagers were able to create and live in a village of such diversity by sharing their stories. This enabled them to find common ground. Although they were from different tribes and different countries, they all had faced extreme atrocities. So many of the villagers had lost one or both parents, a spouse, children or other people close to them. So many of them have faced violence, starvation, illnesses, and long journeys to seek refuge. When experiencing events and pain such as these, the tribe you belong to quickly becomes irrelevant. The villagers did not even think about the origins of their neighbors. Each villager was looked at as a human being who had suffered greatly and was only trying to survive. So together they all began the journey to overcome their struggles and get through each day.
While the villagers have faced hardships that many of us, cannot come close to fathoming, there is so much we can take from it. In my proposal for the Kenan Summer Fellows Program, I described my experiences working with Latino migrant workers in my community. One of the key things that enabled me to relate to them was telling stories. Although they were from many different countries and cultures that were so different from my own, when it came down to it, we were the same. We all had family we cared about, goals we wanted to achieve, and stories we could relate to in some way. A person can still laugh or cry, or have the same emotions, regardless of where they are from—its part of humanity. If we could all see this more often, many of our problems would be eliminated. All it takes is looking at a person in their simplest form—a human with the ability to feel emotions. Continue reading