Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2012 CGE Photo Contest!

Are you a current or former CGE travel seminar or semester program participant with a knack for the artsier things in life? If so, you should enter our Third Annual Facebook Photo Contest! First place wins a $150 Fair Trade Certificate, and second and third places win $50! 

All you need to do is find an amazing picture that you took while on a CGE trip, and post it to the Center for Global Education Study Abroad Facebook page with a detailed caption. 

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua 2009

 Quick Rules: For the Facebook-Savvy
  • You must “like” us
  • You must be a current or former student or travel seminar participant; the photo must be from your time as a student or participant
  • Post your entry on our wall/timeline between March 28, 2012 and April 13, 2012
  • Give it a caption – location, year, and brief description
  • Email it as a .jpg to haasj@augsburg.edu
  • CGE Staff will pick 5 Finalists
  • We'll notify you if you are a finalist, and your photo will be voted upon by the Facebook community
  • See extended rules for prizes and timeline on the Facebook page here.

The deadline is April 13th, so start looking through those photos!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Luz y Libertad For All!

The Ladies from Luz y Libertad with students Itohan and Katelyn
Interculturalist, businesswoman, writer, singer, songwriter, composer, M. Bertha "Betty" Ramos spoke to us about the work she has done in her career. She spoke about intercultural discovery and how learning about and experiencing different cultures is also a gift in self discovery. She shared with us her experience of living in Canada versus living in Mexico, and how things she used to not enjoy in Mexico were things she began to miss while in Canada. She explained that, in experiencing different cultures, especially when living in another culture, we learn more about our own culture and are given an opportunity to see the world in a new way. Betty Ramos shared her experiences of working and living amongst different cultures and was a living example of how in learning more about ourselves as social workers  and as people in general, we can better provide services to those we work with.

Eating amazing vegetarian food at Luz y Libertad!
This week we also visited the Christian Base Community organization of Luz y Libertad here in Cuernavaca. The organization has been in action for 21 years involving programs such as self esteem courses for women experiencing domestic abuse, nutritional cooking classes incorporating wheat germ and soy, and an arts and crafts group. In everything the organization does, they strive to provide empowerment to those who participate in the programs, especially women. The self esteem course is aimed at providing the women a space to realize there can be more to their world than the cycle of abuse. The arts and crafts group is also an extension of this in which women are taught how to make things like bags in which they can sell to provide more income for themselves and to be less economically dependent on their husbands. The organization Luz y Libertad, and the leaders who spoke to us about the organization they started, like Betty Ramos are examples of the infectious effect of what happens when we live the change want to see in the world.

The Church at Luz y Libertad

"To change the world we must start by being the change we want to see." -Buddha

By Katelyn Stanoch

                                                                                   References                                                                                      .
Ramos, B, M. Interculturalist Discussion. 20 March 2012
Garcia, A.T, Chaives, A.M, Alvarado, M. V., Saldana, E.E, Luz y Libertad Organization excursión. 23 March, 2012.
Full names of ladies from Luz y Libertad: Teresa Andrade García, María Alma Chaives. Victoria Maria De Leon Alvarado, Eustorgia Estrada Saldana

Friday, March 16, 2012

First Week with our Host-Families

Lauren and me in Taxco
On Friday night, the students from CGE were all eager to meet their host-families. Everyone was nervous but also excited to see whom he or she was staying with. Upon arriving to my new home, I already felt welcomed and was excited to start my month long home stay. My host mom was very hospitable and I truly felt as if I was at home in the States. Of course the first night we began to watch some of the Novelas together, and then the next day we were invited to a Bautismo (Baptism). That day I was able to meet more of her family and eat some delicious food. So far this week has been very exciting and I can’t wait for what the rest of the month has in store for me.
One of the oldest churches in Mexico

Thursday, March 8, the social work students were given the chance of meeting a social worker that works in a community. Being able to spend time with her made us realize our profession in the States has some similarities and differences. For one, all social work students study the same material but the profession is seen differently in Mexico. In Mexico, social workers typically find jobs in organizing or community development. They are only hired for specific tasks. However, seeing how much of an influence she has within the community only encourages me to move forward with my career.

On Saturday, March 10, the students of CGE were taken to Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico. The city, known for its jewelry, and beauty was filled history at every corner. The city was beautiful and filled with exciting Puestos. Upon arriving we were able to see one of the oldest churches built in Mexico and still be able to see the modern life of Taxco. 

Written by Stephanie Villarreal

The beautiful city of Taxco

Monday, March 12, 2012

Migrants: Butterflies to the South and Campesinos to the North

This is a beautiful male butterfly
As I have come to find during my studies here in Mexico, there are a number of reasons for migrating. For some, it is safety from political regimes and violence within the country. For others it is the chance to live, not just survive. After visiting the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary, the winter resting place for over 200,000 monarch butterflies, this past weekend, I have come to find that these migrating butterflies and the poor campesinos of Mexico have a lot in common. The butterflies migrate from the north to mate and provide a safe space for their offspring to flourish. They travel for thousands of miles, in dangerous conditions, to reach their destination. How is this any different from many Mexican families who migrate to the U.S. to provide a better chance of living for their children and wives? Men, women, and children cross the U.S.-Mexican border every day in order to make a life for themselves. It is extremely hot in the day and many die of dehydration. In the evening, it cools off but there are rattlesnakes, scorpions, and other dangerous animals that make sleeping impossible. Not only do they have nature to combat, but they also work with coyotes, experienced guides in crossing the border, who are known for their brutality. Many times women are raped and abused, they stack migrants on top of one another like boards in vehicles, and they demand more and more money from the very people who are migrating to gain some form of capital. It is a dangerous journey, but many continue to make this trip because they feel it is the only way to make any success.

These clumps of "leaves" are actually butterflies crowding
together on trees. There are more than 200,000 in this
sanctuary, so there are easily thousands of butterflies
on a single tree.
We climbed the mountain, at the butterfly sanctuary, using horses from local campesinos. The higher we climbed, the quieter it became; I could practically hear the flapping of wings. At the top of the mountain, the butterflies resided on the trees that have been holding their ancestors for hundreds of years. They appeared as leaves on the trees, all bunched together, becoming one community. Just as these butterflies stayed together, migrants who come to the U.S. find others in their community and stick with them, a survival tactic to help improve their chances of finding jobs, learning the language, and understanding the rules of the land. Often families and people from the same small towns (pueblos) migrate to the same city in the U.S. because they have a connection there and feel safer and more comfortable. The young man who allowed me to ride on his horse told me that after he graduated, he planned on joining his brother in the U.S. His mom was not pleased, but he said, "She knows what to expect. No one can make it here and she knows the best thing for me is to join my brother."

The butterflies were in flight! It sounded like a
 thousand leaves falling from the trees. It was a magical
and powerful moment.
The only similarity I could not find with both of these migrants is that one receives a residing place protected by the country, the other does not. The Mexican migrants continue to be mistreated in the U.S. As a future social worker, this experience opened my eyes to the needs that this particular population has. I know that I must fight for them to have a safe resting place in the U.S. and fight for rights within our country so that they can easily leave when they have done what they need to do, just like the monarch butterflies. They always return to the north. Mexicans do not, not because they don't want to, but because they have no other choice. I hope to change that.

Written by AnnMarie Eliason

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mi Casa es Tu Casa

On Friday night, the CGE house was packed to the brim with Social Work students and their new host-families. Everyone gathered together to meet and greet each other, play getting-to-know-you games and eat the most delicious tinga tostadas in Cuernavaca lovingly made by our cook, Don Victor. The students served the families coffee and tea, mingled and practiced their Spanish while they tried to "Find someone who likes waking up early" or "Find someone who is involved in their community." As a larger group, families gave advice to the students on how to enjoy and feel at home in their new environment while students gave advice to the host-families about how to be patient with their language skills and to help them learn cultural norms and traditions so as not to be unintentionally offensive. Both groups seemed pleased to learn from each other and excited to begin the next step in their CGE experience.

By the end of the night, students and families happily left together to start their four-week long intercultural adventure together. Now, after a weekend full of quality time in their new homes, the students seem relaxed and content to spend a month with their Mexican families. Here are some of their initial thoughts:

There could be no better saying than "mi casa es tu casa" to describe the welcome I received from my host family. I have gone to the market with them, attended their local church, and watched my host brothers' soccer game; I already feel like part of the family and feel right at home. I can't wait to continue to spend time with each member of the family.

My host mom is very friendly and willing to share valuable time with me. I love it!

The weekend was just like returning home. Saturday was a day of getting settled and reuniting with my host-mom, Doña Irene. She is famous for her tortillas and other specialties.  I, unfortunately, have a long way to go in the department of tortillas.

I have had a great weekend! It has been so fun to practice my Spanish and get to know my new family through wonderful conversations about life, faith, family, and Mexico. I was nervous to start the month long homestay but now that it has started, I am so happy to be here.

I returned to Amatlán de Quetzalcóatl for my month long homestay. I enjoy smelling the fresh air, looking at the stars in the night, and reflecting on my Mexico experience this far. I'm excited to help work on the farm, ride horses, hike up the mountains, and start teaching ESL classes!

Have you stayed with one of our host-families here in Cuernavaca? If so, tell us about your experience!

Travel Tips from CGE-Minneapolis

CGE has several upcoming travel seminars in Mexico. We’re also gearing up for sending off summer study abroad students to Mexico in a few months. We thought some of you traveling with CGE might be looking for travel tips. CGE-Minneapolis is here to help.While we may not have the in-country expertise of our colleagues in Cuernavaca, we are the folks that often have to travel to and from CGE locations around the world.Sometimes frequently! So we thought we’d put together a list of our top travel tips. We hope they help you as you plan to study abroad or travel abroad in Mexico.
From Olee Amata, Program Assistant, International Travel Seminar:
“I always carrying toilet paper with me. Travel-size tissue paper works great! I also like to bring wet wipes, and hand sanitizer too. When traveling, you don't want to be caught without TP!!! Toilet paper is not always readily available like it is in the U.S. and if it is, sometimes you have to pay for it!”

“When traveling internationally, always make sure that your passport does not expire for at least a year out. If your passport will be expiring soon, or the same year you are traveling, I would suggest applying for a new one. Most people don't know that some countries require you to have your passport valid for a least six months before the date you will be departing from their country.”

From Fatimah Panemalaythong, Administrative Assistant:
“It's always handy to have a few of plastic bays around for certain items such as toiletries or dirty clothes.”

“Don't draw attention to yourself, avoid wearing flashy jewelry and don't display large amounts of cash. Carry only enough cash and leave the rest in a safe.”

From David Hamilton, Director of International Travel Seminars:
“Travelers often don't realize they have a different standard of tolerance until they are in another country. For instance, if we told students that they will have to bathe with a bucket in a rural homestay, they might complain about it. However, nobody ever complains about doing these things after the trip. After students get in another environment and get welcomed by a family who is often giving up their bed for the students, they can easily adapt to it.”

From Regina McGoff, Director of the Center for Global Education:
“Zip up everything once you're done using it so you don't take unexpected guests home!”

“Eye masks and earplugs are your friends for sleeping better in loud areas, shared rooms, etc. (as well as a little Tylenol PM!!”

From Emerald Tribuno, Program Associate for International Travel Seminars:
Carabiners. I always bring at least 2 and they come in handy so often. I use them to:
1) air dry clothing if you don't have any hangers
2) clip my purse to a loop on my pants in busy areas filled with people when I am worried about theft (use a locking clip for this one)
3) hook my carry on and rolling suit case together or shopping bags
4) keep hair binders in one place
5) hang a hammock
6) clip muddy shoes, a hat or water bottle to my backpack
7) emergency zipper if yours breaks on your luggage, zipper pulls, additional layer of security to detour theft (hooking 2 zippers together like on a backpack)
However, note that if you pack them in your carry on and go through Munich security they will search your bag looking for your brass knuckles.”

“I always bring a couple of packets of dry-mix gatorade with me to countries where I anticipate intestinal distress. After one trip to Mexico where I was too sick to leave my room and go in search of something with electrolytes, I've carried them with ever since.”

From Jesse Haas, Coordinator of Recruitment and Promotions:
Skip the souvenirs. As people go through life, souvenirs can’t always come with– especially if you’re young and have many life transitions ahead of you. When you’re packing up a tiny Toyota to move across the country for a new job, you will more than likely choose your pots and pans (or your dog, in my case) over boxes of items purchased while abroad. Souvenirs often get donated or left behind. Instead of souvenirs, keep a journal. They take up less space and nothing is more valuable than your thoughts and reflections from your time abroad. If you want to support the local community, purchase a few gifts from artisans to give to others upon returning home.

CGE-Mexico would like to congratulate our frequent guest speaker Dr. Susan Smith, Director of Atzin Desarrollo Comunitario in Mexico because the Canadian Nurse Journal recently published a super article about Susan and Atzin. Anyone interested in international health can read the article here: http://bit.ly/susan_smith_atzin  

Have you visited Atzin and/or Tlamacazapa? If so, please post your comments regarding what impacted you most about your visit. Also, please share the article with others. 

Thanks! Ann