Monday, September 28, 2015

Visits from Arabic Language Professor and U.S. Ambassador

I finally finished the first draft of the journal article I've been working on for seemingly ever. Every time I think I'm done with the research, I find something else that needs to be looked into. It has been a humbling experience. Next it goes to my supervisors for feedback and then off to the journal for review.

But I still have another journal article to work on, and that one is on pedagogy (teaching). Let me tell you, researching pedagogy is like going into a huge black hole: there is so much out there and you can easily get lost in it. However, it's quite interesting reading about what people have to say about what makes the best teaching practices, and I find myself reflecting on my own experiences at school and what worked and didn't. I have learned and continue to learn a lot about teaching this year.

I was involved in a second session of teaching/leading at the tutoring center and it was quite fun preparing for and presenting because the topic we chose was holiday celebrations. I made a quick 5-minute presentation on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Christmas in the U.S., and everyone seemed to enjoy all of the pictures and my stories of shopping and making cookies and decorating. I told them all that they need to try pumpkin pie at some point because it is so good. I can't wait for October to be here so I have an excuse to make lots of pumpkin treats. Sure, the Libby's Pumpkin is $5 a can, but it's so worth it.

The bookstore on campus had a further reduction in their clearance books -- only $2 each! -- so I couldn't resist buying several. Okay, maybe 14. But most are gifts!! Much cheaper than buying a Secret Santa gift, and it's good for people to read. :)

We also popped by the British store that we haven't been to since we arrived to see what they were stocking. It was taken over by new management so the prices were a little better. They have boxes of Shreddies which I think I can use as a Chex replacement so I can make Chex Mix and other treats requiring that kind of grid cereal. D bought a can of Heinz Spaghetti with O-shaped pasta (looks like Spaghettios but unfortunately doesn't taste like it) and we both got packages of Bachelor's pasta which we had almost weekly while in the UK. It still tastes the same!

Professor Sahar Amer (Chair of the Department of Arabic Language and Cultures at the University of Sydney), whom I heard at the ANZAMEMS conference this past July, was visiting the university and gave two presentations on Muslim women. The first was on "Gender Trouble in the Seventh Crusade" and focused on the first female sultan of Egypt, Shajar al-Durr, whom I had never heard of. The second was on "Muslim Women's Rights in Post-Colonial Europe" and discussed modern Muslim women and veiling practices. We learned about the rising Islamic fashion industry which is becoming a substantial source of revenue for Europe; she played a clip of award-winning British Asian Muslim comedian Shazia Mirza poking fun at her culture, as well as a clip from The Hijabi Monologues. I was glad she had brought these things to our attention, as I know I had never encountered them before and probably wouldn't have otherwise.

Finally, the US Ambassador to New Zealand, Mark Gilbert, paid a visit to the university. First, the International Recruitment Officer said a few words about how great it was that U.S. students were helping expose New Zealand students to new ideas (and helping fulfill part of the new graduate profile: "being globally aware"). He said he travels a lot in the U.S. and finds that the two peoples are quite similar in values and being hardworking and motivated. I was thinking, where do you get that idea?! I have not found many people here who have the same work ethic that I find in the U.S., but maybe in different circles or in Auckland things are different. Next the Chancellor spoke about the importance of a strong relationship between the two countries. The Ambassador got his chance to speak and reflected some on his career moves from Major League Baseball to 30 years in the banking industry, and then becoming part of Obama's campaign and getting this position. He spoke about how many entrepreneurs he's met across New Zealand and advised us to try to see some of the cool things going on on-campus, like drones. Very business-oriented, but that's to be expected from his background. He did make a funny joke about feeling less wind chill in his house in Florida during a hurricane than in New Zealand because of the poor quality of insulation and window thickness. He said New Zealanders could learn some things from the U.S. and we all laughed because we know how cold it is here!
Ambassador Mark Gilbert with U.S. students studying abroad
White pigeon young-lings at school
Japanese cherry blossoms

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