Wednesday, July 4, 2012

YES Abroad PDO

 YES Abroad 2012-2013

Last week, I traveled to Washington DC to meet up with the other 52 YES Abroad students for our 4 day pre-departure orientation. It was a week jammed packed with information, most of it very informative. One of the things that I had never really thought of before is how our ideas of morals can be very different from other countries morals. The idea that our morals/values, if expressed wrongly, can easily be construed as our imperialistic characteristics and it can be very condescending if you try to change how things are. Since, who are you to come in and place your morals on a society that functions smoothly in their set of morals. The example of this used in one our orientation "workshops" was about maids eating leftovers which at first flairs up in my mind, as in most American's minds as extremely unethical, yet the protesting this situation is probably not a good idea since that is the way that things work there. If one did visibly (or verbally) object, it could easily be portrayed as your belief of cultural superiority as a citizen of the Western world. That being said, I heard a wonderful story from the lady running the Bosnia and Herzegovina group about how she helped some young women feel their self-worth. She made an impact for the better by showing by example how much a woman could do on her own and just by continually encouraging them that they were much better than the way they were being treated.

In my experience, Americans, myself included, have a deep understanding/belief of what is right and just. We feel extremely awful and have a very deep reaction to anything that seems unfair or unjust. We have been inculcated with the idea of injustice as a deep atrocity. When witnessing anything one feels is unjust, then we are taught from a young age that one should take a stand to right the injustice. This is not a bad thing in my opinion, but I had previously never thought about how it could be seen as a very imperialistic thing and make one seem like you consider yourself morally superior. This really got me thinking since what I view as right and wrong as well as the idea that one must stand up for what is right is so ingrained into my psyche that I am afraid that I will seem as a moral imperialist.

Other than a myriad of workshops in a freezing conference room, we had one day of great excitement. Given, I overestimated what we were going to be able to do but it was still nice. We went to the Ghanaian Embassy with the Ghanaian students who has been hosted in the US this year through the inbound part of the YES program. It was great to meet some Ghanaian students and we were suppose to be able to listen to the Ghanian Ambassador give a speech and eat our first traditional Ghanian meal but we had to leave for the State Department so alas, we missed hearing him but we were able to shake his hand at least.
 All of us in the Ghanian Embassy
The architecture inside the embassy was so awesome.
Going to the Ghanian Embassy

The State Department was wonderful, it was such an honor to be able to go in the State Department since people just don't walk into the State Department. In State Department we were able to have a Q & A with the Undersecretary of State, Tara Sonenshine! After that they had people who specialized in each region come and we were able to ask them specific questions. I asked about the U.S.'s view, as well as the Ghanian view, on the discovery of oil in Ghana. There were some many awesome questions asked and answered by the Board of people we were questioning.
 Tara Sonenshine, the Undersecrtary of State, is seated in the middle on the right is the guy who is in charge of YES Abroad.
 The group of us who are going to Ghana in the U.S. State Department.

The room we were in at the State Department was so awesome it had translator things:) Yup, that's my hand, when my mom saw this picture she told me I had a very attractive hand. Boy, do I love my mom. <3

The best part of the PDO was all the other amazing YES Abroad kids. It was so much fun to be able to talk to them about all these awesome topics that probably wouldn't be discussed anywhere else. Every conversation I had was so intellectually interesting and just so great. And, I had the best roommate ever. :) She was one of my favorite people I met in Denver at the IPSE and she is going to Ghana as well. We had so much fun talking till the wee hours of the morning about a diverse range of topics. One of the funniest things that occurred the whole trip, happened on the first night. Once my roommate was done her shower, the knob was so loose that the shower would not turn off. For some reason we both found this the most hilarious thing ever. The funniest thing was, this had happened to me in Denver but my roommate there just came in, took it off, and put it back on and, it worked! Well... I am not as awesome as my Denver roommate, and could not fix the shower myself so the issue evolved into a huge ordeal where we had to call the manager, group leaders got involved, we even had to phone the leader of the PDO, all to have somebody come and fix the continually running shower. The whole time we were dying from the hilarity of this issue. We were joking that if we had shower troubles in Ghana we would have to call each other up but then we realized-oh wait, there aren't really showers in Ghana instead we will call each other if there is a hole in our buckets. Which of course prompted me to sing my favorite childhood song, There's a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Lisa.
My Awesome Roomie and Ghana Buddy, Emily
Oh, and Sabine and I were so excited that we finally got our free shirts. At the ISPE they asked for our shirt size so we assumed we were getting shirts but alas, we did not then. At the ISPE, we had discussed our love of free shirts and desire for this one in particular, and were overjoyed to receive this shirt.

1 comment:

  1. I am so happy to learn that YES Abroad warns their students about the issues of cultural hierarchies. Oftentimes, white people go to racialized locations and have this idea that our ways of doing things are superior. Granted, this is something that is rooted in our colonial histories, but this is something that we need to break away from. It is always amazing to learn of organizations working to fight this ideology, recognizing what is different from our own cultural understanding is not necessarily inferior.