Friday, April 20, 2012

Fulbright Seminar (Thessaloniki) Day 2

We started off the next day (after breakfast and informal social time) with a bus ride to the Museum of Byzantium Culture. That is where we were doing one more presentation and another lecture.

The first session there, was another group of student presentations. Including Mine!

Cassidy Henry, Studying A Community that Doesn’t Exist: (Do you know how hard it is to summarize your own presentation? Really difficult!) There are definitely challenges to working as an NGO in MK. The climate is realtively harsh- with political party connects, money laundering accusations, and a real lack of money coming in to help fund projects. In MK, there are two official documents governing the government and NGO cooperation: Strategy for Cooperation with Civil Society and the Law of Associations and Foundations. The Strategy was very overarching and too ambitious, so most of it was not accomplished when attempted. However, the Law on Associations and Foundations, implemented many great changes (allowing NGOs to make money to cover costs, and complete fundraising activities to even allowing organizations some tax havens). There is some research out there saying that NGOs communicate great and work well together, but none of the NGOs I have ever talked to had good cooperation with another NGO. Most never even really communicate with a different NGO, much less the government. There is also infighting for the same small pool of resources. Although there is some hope for the future- many organizations would like better cooperation with each other and the government and they are open to working together.

Jennifer Zenovich, Defining Feminism Amongst Women in Montenegro in Academia: It is difficult to define feminism, because so much of the definition is relevant to the context. Jennifer prefers bell hook’s definition (this might not be the exact quote, but it is close enough for horseshoes or hand grenades) “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” There is an element of taboo in mentioning feminism in Montenegro, with a subtext of being against the state. They rejected feminism (in the past) as being Western/bourgeoisie. Through the transition, there is a possibility for a re-working of this concept, but it is slow going. However, to ensure a democratic transition, women and feminism could really help. At the university, there are now two courses about feminism: ‘Feminist Literature’ and ‘Gender Psychology.’ One of these classes is taught by a younger professor and the other is taught by an older professor.  The younger professor is for a more western literacy movement and was raised after communism. The older professor claims to not be feminist, but for human rights. She said that she isn’t for the violent, radical events that feminists support. But a question that Jennifer is looking at: can it be called feminism if it is only viewed through a western ideology?

Adam Julian, Hip-hop and  minority language Revitalization: The Case of Gagauzian and Vitali Manjul: The Gagauzian language is considered a dying and endangered language. It is forecasted that within two generations, the language will be dead. Currently, only the over 50 crowd even speak it. The Gaguaz language is a Turkish language, although they currently live in Moldova (which speaks Romanian and Moldovan/Russian). They are separated from the Turkish religion words, although the Turkish influence is being absorbed into the language. Some of the grammatical structures are changing. Unlike other minority languages, Gagauz lacks a sphere of influence. Russian is everywhere- in schools, at the market, at home, in political life. Another problem they are facing is that there is not a unified script for Gagauz. There are some textbooks, but they are almost 20 years old and there is no changes for the Turkish words in them. Students are supposed to learn all three languages, but they can’t. Adam couldn’t even learn the language there! A new sphere that this one artist is doing is hip=hop using the Gagauz language. But he is mostly considered a laughing stock. Adam put together a video that I would like to link you about this rapper:

Karla Hoppman Buru, Exploring Cross-Cultural Social Work and Public Health Collaborations in the Jiu Valley: There are 7 smaller communities in the region. All organizations participating in the research had to have had international sponsors and volunteers. There were different reactions and support levels within the region. She is still in the research phrase, and talked mostly about how she is conducting her research. She is working closely with locals to complete the interviews. She interviews the international organizations and her local contact interviews the Romanians so that they aren’t inclined to make the picture more rosy than it is. She will be putting on a training in May to help them get on the same communication level.  (And I’ve been invited to observe it! I am really thinking about going, now if only I knew how to get there!)

After our presentation, we had the Deputy Mayor for Finance & Development speak and introduce the 2nd keynote speaker. Mr. Hasdai Capon, the Deputy Mayor basically just welcomed us to the city and said I hope you have a good time!  After her spoke, Mr. Dimitris Keridis, an Associate Professor of International Politics at a local university, spoke. Mr. Keridis also runs the Navarino Network, which promotes innovation and extroversion in public life while addressing the challenges of my generation. They also run these amazingly cool looking summer schools, (and although the deadline has passed, feel free to look at them). He then proceeded to talk about the economic crisis. We had been promised a talk about ethnicities that I was really looking forward to, but to no avail. Economics instead. If you know me at all, you know that econ is just not my thing. (it probably has to do with the math part of it and math and I don’t get along). The main take away that I got from his lecture, is probably not the one he wanted me to get. He kept stressing how Greece is not a European country but a more Eastern country. I had never heard that dialog before. Almost everything I had heard is how Europeanized Greece is. And how much it deserves to be in the EU because it is an European country. He did mention how the current crisis can’t just be blamed on economic means, but it also has to be blamed on politics. Institutional settings can also be blamed for part of the problems. Such as Greece not taking the Euro seriously and borrowing without limits. The global financial system didn’t account for difference between Germany and Greece. He did use a metaphor that was enlightening. The EU is like a bike, you either go forward or fall over.

After his talk, we stood around waiting for a group picture. It took forever for him to get srt up, because the lightening was so bad! However, we then had a tour of the museum. Now, while I like museums. When Every. Little. Thing. Is. Very. Very. Important. And. You. Must. See. This. One. Last. Thing. About 40 times, you get tired of hearing the same thing over and over and over. Now, don’t get me wrong this guide was super friendly and she was very passionate about her stuff, but she kept repeating herself over and over and over again. Like we were supposed to quickly walk through the museum and then eat lunch, but the museum tour took about an hour because she kept wanting to point out even more stuff for us to look at. But they rewarded us with delicious Greek food at the end. All fried or baked or unhealthy for you (except for the small mostly bread mozzarella and tomato sandwiches), but the food was so good! They had this potato baked in bread thing, yum!

We hopped on a bus for what was supposed to be a city bus tour, but involved more walking and talking than actual bus touring. We stopped off at some churches whose names I can’t remember, but they were super pretty. One had been converted into a mosque during ottoman times, and then is recreating into a church now. We went up to the top of the hill and overlooked the city. She seemed to be very sensitive to her history. (Turns out she had a high fever and still came out and shared with us!) She kept repeating how everything was closed after 3 pm. To the point that we really understood that things were closed after 3pm and we wouldn’t get to see as much.  Oh and did you know that there is just one more thing, that you should really see, because it is very important? No? Well…..

After a bit of coffee time back at the hotel, we started our final panel.  In this panel there were only three presenters, I think one girl wasn’t able to make it to the conference.

Athan Geolas, Three Legged Chairs and Capable Cities: Athan is in Athens studying architecture.  He wanted to see if there was any correlation between space and usage. He mostly showed us his drawings, but he did share a few assumptions that architects have: (1) Building change peoples lives, if they don’t then they are useless. (2) Faith in building the right building right now. Some spaces they have seen as centered around a water source or private space (where everything is enclosed). His work is best seen by looking at it, so I suggest you go look at his blog. Here is an example:

Lisa Owen, Familial Roles in Contemporary Croatian Cinema: The film industry is developing in Croatia, they produce about 7-10 films every year. Usually the war features prominently in the films that are about the war specifically with family drama. There are important parent and son relationships. The male protagonist is often the main character. The strongest bond is between the mother and son in any movies. She suggests that it is due to the privileged space of mom. The “Wall of Love” or the fierce mother, they were recalled from the Yugoslav army to serve in the homeland war. She provided two examples of movies where the mother is fierce (and kid of scary).

Stefana Simic, Banja: Thermal Spa Designs: There is rich potential in the banja for health tourism and sustainable development. A bit of history- Serbia lies on 7 different tectonic areas, which over time created thermal springs. Banjas are hybrid thermal springs and hospitals. Every banja has a clinic or special hospital. If you need rehab you will often go here. Recent political restructuring has led to a change in the definition of a spa. The reconstruction or construction of banjas is not included in the current plan, and many are in total disrepair. They are even viewed as financial burdens on the local people; thus they are shut down and abandoned. Health tourism is a $1 million industry, and it could be focused sustainably. She's an amazing artist by the way- her work was just wow. She showed some paintings and designs and it was just wow! Here is an example of it:

Then we got our certificate. They love certificates in this region for some reason. Apparently it is seen as a attendance sheet, so you get one even for just participating in a conference. I find it a bit odd, but…Apparently in some cultures they even keep binders of their certificates of completion.  We had to take our picture with the certificates and then we were able to go across the street (to the hotel we are staying at) for dinner! After dinner, we went out for a little walk as we were waiting for others to return so we could go out with them, but they never returned! So off to bed for the long next day!

See you around the globe!

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