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"Boda Boda?!!!" Welcome to Uganda, where the burnt orange colored dirt bears the weight of a gritty vibrant city. In Kampala (Uganda's capital city), the "bodas" are the popular means of transportation, a motorcycle that is a taxi. They weave passed the blaring horns of vans stranded in potholes, and oversized lorrys (trucks) that block the streets. FORUS is going to need a long hot shower after trekking through the red dust of Kampala city! But our first stop in Kampala is the Refugee Law Project.


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Here, Makere University began a program to assist the underprivileged and provide experiential learning for Ugandan law students. A history of violence and conflict has ravaged this region of the Africa. Continuing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and political oppression in several neighboring Nations has forced many refugees to flee into Uganda. That's where the Refugee Law Project (RLP) steps in. Their main focus is to help refugees navigate and understand the legal system and the rights that they can assert in Uganda. However, the RLP also offers psycho-social counseling and English classes to children and adults, because healing needs more than just legal help. There are many organizations throughout Uganda, and the rest of east Africa, that are like RLP. Taking a summer to visit and volunteer is a rich and rewarding experience you will not soon forget. FORUS certainly will not forget the hospitality of everyone here!


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Perspective is a strange thing. Also, a very dividing thing. But sometimes I think we give it more credit than it deserves. Other times we simply under estimate its influence. Sometimes we agree to disagree, sometimes we can find common ground. I don't mean to make deep-rooted and painful issues trivial, but I do want to share an anecdote and hopefully a smile. 

I walked into an elevator on the first floor of an educational facility in Washington, DC.

On the right hand wall of the elevator was an advertisement for the "Jewish Law Students Society Luncheon." On the left hand side of the elevator was another advertisement for "Law Students Supporting Peace in Palestine Luncheon." 

The rooms for both? 

Different

The menu for both?

Falafel


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For anyone who has traveled to Europe, you remember the elegant, venerable buildings. The tranquil countryside, or perhaps the sidewalk cafe's, settled into your heart as a little corner of heaven experienced on earth. But between Europe and the USA, as closely related as we are, there are significant cultural differences. Today I was reminded of one of the greatest differences; our work ethics, and how the recession might be changing them.

In America, the protestant work ethic is a significant influence, though not the only influence. Immigrants and children listening to their parents stories know that in America, rags to riches is really possible, but it's not meant to be easy. Statements like "if you just work hard, you will get everything you want" are rooted in that history and mature in modern professional motivation. A spirit of competition is infused into many American work places and the recession has intensified it.

In Europe, vestiges of the siesta and afternoon tea, hearken days of long chats and social extravaganzas. Even if you are at work longer, but only actually working for 6 hours, that is usually part of building relationships with colleagues and customers. And if every employee in the pet shop just sat down for coffee break, even though you wanted to checkout... no worries, just take a minute and share a cup of coffee with them! The recession has very much hurt Europe, too. Some leaders question whether the governments can sustain the costs of supporting or paying for weeks of vacations for European employees.

To be sure, there are many negatives and positives on both sides. But a fundamental principle to most employees and employers on both sides of the ocean is stick to your values and beliefs. So, if you value money, make wealth. If you value relationships, keep them strong, if you value balance, make that your mantra. It's hard. But, I think my European cousin placed this dilemma best when she said;


"You know, sometimes it's so difficult to fit work into my social life! But how to have a social life without any money?"


Whatever value chosen, we have only finite time, and there are other things foregone. But, the power to choose is ours alone.

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T.J. Creamer

Sohaib Athar

Derwent Capital

Mark Luckie


Who are they and what is the common thread?

Each of these people did  a very ancient thing: Communicate. But did so using an innovative medium: Twitter.

Creamer tweeted @ the "twitterverse" from space. Although in ignorance of the fact, Athar was the first to report the Abbottabad raid that killed Bin Laden. Derwent capital is trying to predict stock, and Luckie found a job.


Before you decide that I am simply trying to preach the blue bird into your already hectic life, rest assured, I am not. Today is not about how you should sign up for Twitter. It is about the creativity to do an every day thing in an innovative way.


Life is exciting. Too often we let everyday commitments and obligations take the fun away from even the things we used to love. So, to keep the message simple and sweet... invest some of your energy into taking one mundane routine and spicing up the process with something innovative!


To read more about how the people above did it, see these links...

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10439573-36.html

http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/05/02/heres-the-guy-who-unwittingly-live-tweeted-the-raid-on-bin-laden/

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/business/2011/08/how-twitter-based-hedge-fund-beat-stock-market/41389/

http://www.mediabistro.com/10000words/how-twitter-saved-my-career-and-my-life_b356


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In a remote parking lot not long ago, I heard the last half of a conversation about a new mutual acquaintance...


Kim: Well, I met a woman 2 weeks ago and I think she might be a good connection for you.

Mo: Who are you talking about?

Kim: Shona, she has the experience, both here and internationally and her educational track will be helpful as well. In fact, I think you met her already!

Mo: I did??

Kim: Yes, 2 weeks ago, we were talking to her at the luncheon for about half an hour, remember?

Mo: When? What luncheon?

Kim: Two weeks ago, at the seminar on human rights.

Mo: Really? I don't remember...

Kim: The one at our table, the african woman.

Mo: Oh!! Yes, I remember.....


Before I continue let me disabuse you of the notion that this entry is about racism. It's not. This time, I wanted to write about identity. About the way we identify people. About the way we identify each other.

The above conversation illustrates one common approach. The initial speaker, Kim, tried to convey the identity of a person by her talents first and their possible benefit or connection to Mo's needs. Secondly, Kim stated the woman's name and continued to illustrate her talents and qualities. Finally, Kim identified her by race.

Mo could not recall the individual by talents, qualifications or name. Only Shona's race triggered Mo's memory of who Shona is.


So, who is Shona?? I suppose it depends to whom you talk. There are some places in the world today where a person is recognized by their name, and that name may be inherently attached to the character of their person. Some cultures and societies answer who a person is by where they are from or what they do. Sometimes we identify them in relation to their significant other, orientation or ethnicity. I am not an author who is in a place to say whether an approach is "wrong" or "better" than another. However, I really challenge readers to think hard about HOW and WHY we use identity to relate to people and how much our presumptions and assumptions affect our relationship (or lack thereof) with them.


Because, even a name comes with certain presumed identities. For example, consider the conversation above... Kim is the most common name on planet earth. Depending where you are from, Kim may be female or male, Korean, American or South African. Mo could be a nickname or real name, elderly man or teenage girl. Maybe you think you can tell by the way they spoke? The words they used? 


Which identity did you give them?


Either you had in your mind an image about the characters in the conversation, or maybe you read the whole blog with one of a few questions in your mind the entire time... "Who is Kim, and who is Mo?" Well, all names and circumstances are changed to give anonymity to all characters. So, forget Kim and Mo, it does not matter who they are. Instead, start thinking about your friends and acquaintances. Who are they? Who do you think they are? How do you identify them? How do you identify with them? How do you identify them to other people? 

....Would they identify themselves the way you do?


One final thought: Every new person I have met self-identifies with a name... and a smile.

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Veering a little from the general topics, this week I wanted to share a fun conversation I had about THE language of the future. The proverbial "Will there ever be one language?" question and the most important part... if so, which one? 

Most people said English or Mandarin (Chinese). That there will be one world language eventually does not seem to be in great dispute, but I don't think the language of the future will be either of the previously mentioned two. Language, like many other things, is in submission to the forces of globalization. The result will be equally complicated.


There is a movie called "Spanglish." Named for a slang term referring to the common practice of mixing English words into Spanish sentences or vice versa. When one forgets a word or is just "lazy" replacing it with an easier to say word from another language keeps the conversation moving along. Though Spanglish may often be heard in the Americas, the phenomenon is not solely between English and Spanish. 

"Franglish" also exists and if you can imagine it, you can speak it; "Manglish" "Thaiglish" "Koreglish" "Cantoglish" "Polglish" "Deuglish" "Portuglish" "Norglish" "Swahiglish" "Hindish" "Hausglish" "Araglish" "Perglish" "Tamglish". 

That's just the ones we mix with English!  "Franeigan" "Norabi" "Portahili" "Geranish" "Bahalogue" "Hinderman" "Friesabic" "Catalajabi" are also practiced.


So, if this is language today, where more and more people are bi-, tri- and quadrilingual, what will it be like tomorrow? If there was a time travel machine and you chose a few hundred years in the future I think you would understand at least one word of every sentence any individual spoke. I think in one sentence you would hear words that today we think of as "Japanese" or "Tgalogue." Language of the centuries to come would not be English or French or Mandarin or Italian. It would be something like "Fran-span-tam-ital-arab-alba-taga-manda-nor-germ-hindi-baha-mala-glish."

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Personally, I like the idea. That somewhere in an interconnected future, we all have a standard of speech that combines a million dialects and a thousand tongues and trillions of idioms we know today as different languages. All of them affected and intermingled by culture and interpretation. In fact, many travelers of today know that that "world of the future" has somewhat arrived. Adventures with dear friends and living with summer study abroad classmates, showed me that between the 200 words I know in French, conjugations I (mis)understand in Spanish, limited south east asian vocabularies and progress in Dutch, I could get in and out of as much mischief in non-anglophone regions, as in NY, London or (one day) Melbourne. So, to the pollution of a pure language, to the quirk of a dialect, to the tune of "Ik liebe traveling y @*$&%(not supported text)" may we always share our diversity and perspective through any or all of the above! Salut!

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Cherry blossom season in Washington DC may not be considered the ideal time for a visitor to seize upon the opportunity of a human rights panel, but for me vested interest held sway over soft pink petals. American University hosted a panelist of speakers to address a topic I never presumed had so many layers of depth, intercountry adoption. The keynote speaker was Norma Cruz 

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 who labored as an advocate for Guatemalan women (Fundacion Sobrevivientes) until a few women began approaching her with a different kind of troubling story. Each account ended in the same manner; their children were taken away from them and placed into organizations arranging adoptions for middle and upper class parents in wealthier western nations. And she soon realized it wasn't just Guatemalan mothers.


In many countries, mothers are losing their children to what is becoming a lucrative business; kidnapping and selling children to wealthier soon-to-be parents.  Their story begins when a child is stolen from their parents or sometimes bought by middlemen coercing resourceless mother's with various false promises or even threats. Sometimes scam adoption agencies responsible for finding homes for these "unwanted" kids reap the rewards of thousands of dollars in "forms and application procedures" from unknowing couples seeking to adopt a helpless child. In Guatemala, attorney's oversee all adoptions and often use that authority to cash in.


So, why did it take a group of missionaries in Haiti attempting to "save" children from their birthland to generate some awareness? A few of the panelists, spelled out in plain English (and Spanish) what has often been inferred by the inaction of influential groups. The opinion of some has been to dismiss it as a less than pressing issue, after all, these children will now be "rescued" from a poverty stricken upbringing, right? Historically, this kind of arrogance has proved to be damaging whatever good will was intentioned. So many losses could and should be prevented, especially where laws clearly state that everything should be done "in the child's best interest."


The shocking realization that only recently has this issue been regarded as something that needs more aggressive attention from the Hague Conventions and U.S. protocols for cross-border adoptions is tragic.  We have the opportunity to be so well educated and yet, so little has been accomplished where the battles of stigma, wealth disparity and exploitation have weighed in heavily. 


Ultimately, it is our responsibility to be knowledgeable and help raise awareness. We must seek to be educated about the issues at stake and take time to have a deeper understanding of the struggles of our fellow parents and their sons and daughters. If you know a couple considering adoption, make sure they know about the risks; who their agency is, where their child comes from and how the child was chosen for them. Help them take responsibility to make sure that the child they adopt does not already have a parent, broken, in pain and tears, because their child was stolen.


If you have a desire to share with a friend or be more educated about intercountry adoption and stolen children you can visit Adopting Internationally. If you would like to learn more, be involved or help raise awareness you can visit Pound Pup Legacy, Ethica, or follow blogs  Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform and Imaginary Mothers' Blog.

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