Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Polka Dot Umbrella

The temperature and the weather are definitely not correlated here. The sky is cloudy but the temperature is approximately ninety degrees.  As I packed my stuff to leave my dorm, it started to rain. Fortunately the temperature remained warm, so as the cold rain touched our skin it was not drastically cold. I was able to use my convenient polka dot umbrella. With the push of a button, the umbrella is opened and ready to use.  I invited my cohort to join Shraddha and me for breakfast at the Ratty.  On our way to the dining common, I saw a swarm of colorful umbrellas walking towards the Ratty as well.
My Polka Dot Umbrella
Once we got there we split up and met with our new friends. The Ratty is not air-conditioned so it can be uncomfortable while eating. I wonder if the conditions in the Ratty are
The Ratty
somehow correlated with its nickname. I wanted to drink tea because I needed some caffeine, but it was too hot for a warm beverage. Instead I drank raspberry ice tea with my french toast and eggs.

In the morning session, we were fortunate to listen to Dean Robin Rose speak about listening skills and the value of leadership. She reinforced the concept of leadership—to positively influence others, to accomplish goals, and to listen to other’s opinions.  Some students have difficulty staying quiet when conversing with another person. In other words, they have the urge to voice their opinion or to contribute to the conversation instead of actually listening to what someone has to say. We also practiced using non-verbal communication by using gestures. We implemented these practices by switching the listening and speaking roles with our partner. Additionally we were asked to occasionally summarize what our partner said during the conversation. In order to do so, without sounding like a parrot, we rephrased what they said by adding an extra comment. I think the summarization exercise was extremely beneficial because it makes it clear that you understand and are listening to what they have to say.

Dean Robin Rose is the founder of the leadership institute at the Summer@Brown program. She established the program in 2002 and it has been successful thus far (I should know). Towards the end of her workshop she mentioned her ideology as to why she believes it is important that we develop these leadership strategies.  She stated that society expects us to be critical thinkers, but there is no focus on compassion. In some aspects, we are encouraged to develop brilliant minds but there is no emphasis on nurturing your personality. To back up her argument, she mentioned the quote by Marian Wright Edelman, “service is the rent we pay to be living.” I believe that it is necessary to give back if you have been blessed with privileges and opportunities. The quote correlates to our class because we have the privilege to become better leaders in order to make differences on our own personal scales. She summed up the workshop by encouraging us to not let our age discourage us from attempting to make a difference. If we want to change something, we need to take the intiative and do it now. I felt empowered at the end of the workshop. Although I have attended multiple leadership workshops, I have not been necessarily moved by them. The workshops mainly focus on meeting others and not on developing your leadership skills. However, I already feel like this course has made an impact on me. I know that I will leave Brown University being the leader I aspire to be. Although it might not happen drastically, I know this course will change my perspective and will inspire me to change myself to help others.

The workshop went by in a blur. I asked my partner from the workshop, Nina, if she would like to accompany us for lunch. Nina has a very individual style of her own. I think that is one of the coolest aspects I like about her because she is confident in expressing her individuality. She accepted the invitation and we decided that we would go to a teahouse after our lunch. We sat with Vera, the Chinese-American from Hong Kong; Eve, from Michigan; and Nina (I am not sure where she is from). We conversed about genetically engineered food. It is a topic that I have been interested in since my family has made an effort to occasionally purchase organic food. I’ve noticed that some genetically engineered foods are tasteless. I nonchalantly told them about the tasteless raspberries that my dad once purchased from the dollar store. I was amazed by their stunned look when I mentioned the dollar store. It was a surreal moment for me. I thought it was quite funny that we have completely different lifestyles, yet we are similar on multiple levels. Then Nina directed us to the teahouse, Tealuxe. It was a small shop on the corner that, once again, reminded me of a Harry Potter scene. The scene was when he was at the small tavern. Do not worry, butterbeer (it is a type of beer in Harry Potter) was not sold here! We took our tea to go and once again flaunted our assortment of umbrellas and headed to class.

We saw this on our way to the Tealuxe
Nina and me



In the afternoon session, we reviewed the excerpt that we read the previous night. My group was responsible for explaining why socialization is a form of systematic training in context of the beginning of socialization. A child’s beliefs are developed through the principles of their parents. When the child becomes an adult, he/she continue the cycle of similar beliefs. However, societal concepts are reinforced in all aspects of life. After reviewed the excerpt, we watched a broadcast from ABC News called, “What would you do?” The video highlighted the reactions of customers who witnessed a cashier refuse to serve a woman who wore a jihad. Both the woman and the man, saying the discriminatory remarks, were actors, but the reactions of the customers were real.  Some customers agreed with the cashier and praised him for doing so. Other customers either left the bakery or defended the woman. The cashier told a man, who defended her, that he was not a good American. He calmly replied by saying that his son is serving in the war. Two college-aged girls, also, defended the woman by scolding him. The video brought tears to my eyes because of the people who decided to take action in defense of the woman. Dean Almandrez told us that another reason we are in this class is to develop the knowledge and vocabulary to be able to create strong counterarguments and to be able to defend others with an impactful notion.

In the afternoon, I attended the Hunger Banquet. The Summer@Brown staff was told to keep the banquet under wraps, so I did not know what to expect. I walked with Alicia, Vera, and Nina to the banquet. We waited in line outside of a house. I was given a small piece of paper with a green dot. The room that we were in was small and it was filled with approximately ninety-two students. Students with an orange dot were told to sit at a dining table that was prepared with a fancy meal and nice dishware. They also had the luxury of having a butler. I was given beans and rice and chips and was seated in a chair. The other students were only given water and rice. The banquet was supposed to bring awareness to the starvation that people experience on a daily basis. It also acknowledged the difference between different classes. It was a fun activity that did impact a few students. We watched a slide show that gave statistics and pictures of those who suffer from starvation. When I saw the photos of their villages, I thought to myself, that is where I want to be.
As I walked to the Ratty with my red polka dot umbrella this morning, I never expected that I would be so moved today. I sometimes feel as if there is nothing I can do that can contribute to bettering the lives of others. It is the small actions, however, that can cause the most impact in the long-run. Change towards better lives is not fast-paced, but I want to be the one who does contribute to social justice. I know it will not be easy but I am willing to try my best.
The Hunger Banquet




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