International Event: Betty Bigombe

I attended a lecture by Betty Bigombe. Betty Bigombe is currently the Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict, and Violence at the World Bank. Bigombe is also well known for initiating and conducting peace talks with Joseph Kony. She is an incredibly influential woman and she also trains woman mediators.

In this lecture, Bigombe talked mainly about the importance of women and children in state conflict mediation processes. She argues that it is time for the UN and international communities to ensure peace keeping success by involving women in the peace keeping negotiations and processes. This can only happen through targeted mentoring of women in “affirmative action” efforts. According to Bigombe, women and children are frequent victims of violence and are large bearers of the burden of war. Many women have been able to find strong voices on the grassroots level, however, women must take part in the senior level of peace making decisions. Bigombe works to help women have the opportunity to have a seat at the peace keeping table. Bigombe also argues that when women are involved in the peace keeping negotiations, there are positive results that enhance the overall success of the mission. Women are able to talk more candidly about things such as sexual harassment, childbearing, etc.

I had no idea that peacekeeping was such gendered work. Bigombe mentioned that in 2008, the UN had very few women peacekeeping envoys. According to Bigombe, women were not leading mediation efforts anywhere. This is quite shocking as Bigombe pointed out the benefits to having women lead peacekeeping efforts. I think that Bigombe is doing great work by trying to propel women to make their contribution to sustainable, long-lasting peace. It is vital to the success of peacekeeping efforts that women are included in the discussion. Bigombe talked about how when she was mediating in Northern Uganda with the LRA, she played the role as a “mother.” Even the groups that she was negotiating with called her “mother.” Womanhood has incredibly unique power in many aspects of social interaction. Women should have the tools needed to utilize this power in peacekeeping negotiations.

Bigombe’s lecture reminded me of the concept of the “individual level” of analysis. As mentioned and exemplified previously, Bigombe is an incredibly powerful woman. She has held impressive titles and has studied at the best schools around the globe. Her personality, perception, choices, and activities directly impact different aspects of the international social sphere. The idea of the “individual level” of analysis is especially relevant when discussing Bigombe’s peace talk negotiations. In many cases, Bigombe was alone during these conversations. In these instances, she was acting as an individual actor. Recently in class we have also talked about intergovernmental organizations. Bigombe touched on her experiences working with these organizations including the UN and the World Bank. The way she discussed these organizations exemplified that they are “actors” as well as “frameworks.” This is an illustration that I found extremely powerful in the context of our class discussions.

I entirely agree with Bigombe’s points. She is a fantastic woman who is leading efforts to empower women across the world. She is entirely correct in recognizing the full power of women to participate in peace talk efforts. I hope that as Bigombe continues to encourage the participation of women in peace talks, this idea becomes reality. I believe that Bigombe is right in saying that women are more effective than men (in many areas) of peace talk efforts. Bigombe concluded her lecture by mentioning that exclusion is a vicious cycle; the exclusion of women in peace talk efforts only breed more exclusion. It is time that women have a seat at the table in peace talk efforts.

International Event: Technologic Entanglement in Cyberspace

For my second international event, I went to a lecture entitled “Beyond Deterrence by Denial and Threat: Technologic Entanglement in Cyberspace” with Aaron Brantly. Brantly’s main argument was that it is very difficult to achieve deterrence by threat of punishment in an effective and efficient way. It is already costly to maintain effective security systems, however, it is even more costly to recover from a deterrence failure. A system of entanglement that promotes technological interdependence is beneficial to preventing cyberattacks. Entanglement has several benefits: it allows for heterogeneous involvement and market development, it supports shared research and development programs, it encourages mutual technological development, it encourages economic interdependence, and it allows for security throughout information sharing. In short, entanglement shifts the focus of deterrence actions from costs and benefits to gains and losses. Despite the benefits of entanglement, Brantly also agreed that deterrence through entanglement should not function in isolation. It is necessary that entanglement is supplemented by additional forms of deterrence.

Despite the fact that I did not have any previous knowledge on the topic, this presentation was rather interesting and insightful to me. I had never really considered the different methods of ensuring national cybersecurity. As a business major, I was interested in researching the ways that cyberspace security intersects with the business and technology industries. I think that cyberspace security will continue to become prevalent in the business world as we continue to increase our reliance on technology.

El Walmart !! Y El Resto

Costa Rica is sunflowers and sunshine!!!

Thursday was our “follow Walmart’s supply chain day.” We started out by visiting a large farm that harvested peppers. We had a tour of the greenhouses and the owner of the farm gave a small presentation. He talked about how he enjoys selling his product to Walmart. They give him access to tools and techniques that would not otherwise be available to him. One thing that was interesting: farmers never sign contracts with Walmart. They only continue to sell as long as the quality and conditions are good. We then moved to a smaller farm. The owner gave a similar presentation. We got to see where the produce is grown, where it is washed, and where it is packaged.

Fresh veggies at one of the Walmart farms. They even let us try some different veggies!

After visiting the second farm, we stopped for lunch at a foot truck court. I got some ceviche, it was good. After lunch, we bought some flowers from a woman selling them out of her truck, because why not?!?! Flowers in hand, we headed to the Walmart produce distribution center. We got a tour of the warehouse: where produce is brought in, evaluated, and sent out. It was very interesting.

On Friday we visited an American technology company called L3. After our visit, we got to go to the beach for the rest of the day. It was an absolute blast.

On Saturday, we had a tour of downtown San José. This is the are that we had visited on the night that we first arrived when we were looking for a music festival. It was fun to see it again in the light.

Some graffiti in downtown San José.
“The Blue House” in downtown San José. This is where the President works.

Also on Saturday we went to a coffee plantation for a tour. It was very interesting and one of my favorite visits for sure.

Me and the un-roasted coffee beans. My hands are in the shape of a heart – this is how our guide told us to take the pictures, haha.
I want the concrete outside my house to look like this someday.

Miércoles en San José

On Wednesday, we visited two companies: CINDE and Baxter Healthcare. CINDE is Costa Rica’s investment promotion agency. They work to bring foreign investments and capital into the country. They have been largely successful in creating more of a “business scene” here in Costa Rica. Interestingly enough, CINDE told us that the largest export out of Costa Rica is medical equipment. Convienantly, the next company that we visited was Baxter Healthcare. Baxter Healthcare is a American health care company. They have a massive factory in San Jose that produces medical tubing. The visit to the factory was unlike anything that I have ever experienced before. They walked us through their sterile rooms and showed us a video of the company’s “best practices” for shift changes on the assembly line. After Baxter, I had some authentic “al pastor” tacos for lunch. They were delicious. We took a brief break for happy hour, then went to dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was good — I had a pizza.

Primera Visita de una Compañía

On Tuesday, we drove from the Arenal area and back to San Jose. Our new hotel is in the middle of the business district. It is very nice and lovely. We stopped at a mall food court for lunch, and I grabbed a Greek chicken pita. Naturally, I had to get a palleta for dessert. It was delicious. After lunch, we went to our first corporate visit: Gensler. Gensler is a collaborative design and architecture firm that has offices all around the world. The visit was really great. They have an incredible and ecofriendly office space that was really interesting to visit. We ate dinner at a sushi / hibachi restaurant and it was really great. I had a Costa Rica Roll and it was delicious. It had plantain and fried shrimp. It was quite unique.

San José ➸ Fortuna

Zip lining with the gals.

This morning we woke up to the natural light from the huge window in our room. It was beautiful! We ate breakfast at the hotel (eggs, beans, rice, typical “Tico” breakfast), then headed to the zip lining place. Zip lining as super fun. It was a huge course and there were like 14 cables that we got to cross. It was great!

After the zip line, we ate lunch at a little place. I had beans, rice, a plantain, steak, and potatoes. I also had a mango / strawberry smoothie. It was delicious. I should’ve taken a picture.

After lunch, we headed to the Volcano Arenal National Park. It was about a hour and a half long hike through the jungle. I didn’t take many pictures, but we saw some cool animals including a money and a toucan. It was really interesting and good to get some exercise. We headed back to the hotel and are here for the night.

Some cool trees in the jungle. This tree was huge.

The journey down the hill is so scary and seemingly unsafe, we decided to get some foods to prepare at the hotel from the store. I snagged some peanut butter. I can’t complain!!

Costa Rica – Día Uno

Pretty flowers in San José

Today is our first full day in Costa Rica!

After we arrived last night, we had dinner at a Tapas bar and went to Walmart. We also took about an hour long bus ride to an local arts festival. When we arrived at the festival, all of the music was over. There was, however, a boxing match going on. It was an adventure.

This morning, we got up early to drive from San Jose to Fortuna. We went to a sustainable farm for a tour and lunch. Everything in the lunch was produced at the farm. The tour was also very interesting. We got to try several fruits / leaves / plants. Our guide painted my face with some Turmeric (I hope it comes off lol)!?!

Turmeric on my face. Update – it came off!

After the farm, we headed to our next hotel. To get to the hotel, which is basically on the top of a mountain, we had to take our HUGE tour bus up a HUGE hill. It was quite spooky. I cannot describe to you how large our bus was and how small / curvy the road was. I was honestly surprised that we even attempted to make it up the hill. Somehow, we made it. The hotel is fabulous. We all have little cabins on the top of this huge mountain.

We went to dinner at a delicious Italian restaurant and journeyed up the mountain back to our hotel. On the way up, the bus started smoking. Somehow, we made it up once again!

After dinner, we played card games and hung out. It’s always a good time with these peeps! I’m looking forward to the next few days.

I’m obsessed with all of the flowers here!

International Event: Bagaisu Men Don’t Cry

For my first international event, I went to a lecture entitled “Bagaisu Men Don’t Cry” with Dr. Pamela Khanakwa. For the majority of the lecture, Dr. Khanakwa talked the Imbalu ceremony, which is a public right of passage in Bagisu tradition. Throughout the past few hundred years, the role of the Imbalu ceremony has changed in the Bagisu culture, thus indicating a shift in the greater understanding of masculinity. Ever since the origin of this tradition, it has been greatly celebrated. Anywhere between the ages of 16 and 26, a boy could choose to go through the ceremony. This process happens publicly and is generally a large celebration. Within the past one hundred years, however, Bagisu elites have challenged the cultural norms. They argued that the ritual was “irrelevant to the needs that they had established” and that the tradition aimed to “tribalize people deviating from the minority culture groups within Uganda.” Bagisu society met these concerns with several solutions. The first solution was to introduce the practice of medicated surgery that would occur in private. Many argued that allowing men to have anesthesia during the procedure would defeat the purpose of the ceremony. Another solution was to forbid women and children from watching the public surgery. These solutions were met with opposition.

This was a topic that I had no previous knowledge on. I was not even sure exactly what the topic would be when I arrived at the lecture. I was pleasantly surprised and actually gained a lot of new knowledge. Throughout my time in grade school, lots of what I learned about Africa was from a very Eurocentric perspective. This lecture made me realize that I have never had the opportunity to learn about tribal customs or norms. Everything that I know about Africa is about one of the following topics: colonialism, decolonialism, The Scramble for Africa, or the slave trade. This is very unfortunate. I would like to expand my knowledge about Africa after this lecture. It was interesting to have the opportunity to hear someone from Uganda speak about the issues that face her community.

International Event: Pastries in Puebla

I attended the “Pastries in Puebla” event on Thursday, September 21st. At the event Armando, the Director of OU in Puebla was there. He talked about his favorite parts of OUP and how many students have great experiences there. It was nice to talk to him after first meeting him while studying in Puebla this past summer. He is a great asset to the OUP program. Armando and I also talked about opportunities to study abroad in Puebla for a full semester. If I did so, I would be required to take geology classes with the OU faculty that goes along. This seems unnecessary and would not count for any of my required credits for my major. Anyways, the event took place in Farzaneh and was lovely. There were pastries and other people interested in traveling to Puebla. I also got to share about my experience in Puebla with some other students who were interested.

International Group: The International Business Student Association

This semester, I was part of the International Business Student Association. This group is comprised mostly of people with my same major, International Business. This group has meetings and events to inform its members about international happenings and opportunities, mostly geared towards business. Through this organization, I have been able to talk to fellow IB students and hear about their internships abroad. While I might not have the opportunity to intern abroad during my undergrad experience, it is fascinating to hear others talk about this experience. International internships are a big focus in IBSA. I am looking into possible internship opportunities while I do my semester abroad, thanks to this organization.