Just thought I'd give you a quick update on how it's going with the whole VEGuary thing. Not surprisingly, a lot more UPEACE people joined this than OcSober. I guess most people are more attached to their ethanol than their sarcoplasmic proteins. A good couple of handful of my fellow students decided to give up eating animals for 29 days, and mostly it has been going quite well. We have enjoyed the support of each other but also of the array of already-vegetarians. At a University for Peace, you can probably imagine that there are quite a lot (another similarity with CISV).
Thanks to Stephy's introduction (see previous post), I have personally gotten through the first 3 weeks without any scarring on my soul or physical symptoms. I've been tired at times, but that's not new. I've eaten more cheese (I bought six kinds (parmesan, cottage, cream, Gouda, fresh Costa Rican and Danish blue) at the supermarket one day in early February) but not extreme amounts. I don't know if I've lost weight but if so, not a lot.
The hardest thing has been the raised consciousness. As I don't have any (known) allergies, I usually eat whatever and spice it up with whatever. Now I can't. I can't add beef or chicken stock to the food, and I have not tasted my beloved nuoc mam (fish sauce) for three weeks!!! I haven't even opened my glass of Omega-3 fish oil capsules. And of course, there's the constant saying no to stuff. I haven't faced serious dilemmas like some of my co-Veguarians have, like host families cooking steaks specifically for them or being at an all-meat Latin American barbecue, but as this is my first time trying this, 'without meat' feels even more strange coming out of my mouth than into it.
On the school front, I just finished two weeks in the company of the knowledgeable, sympathetic and witty Gerald Caplan, one of the world's leading scholars in genocides. The topic was the media's role in the Rwandan genocide. I didn't know much about the 100 days in 1994 where between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi and Tutsi sympathisers were butchered, mutilated, raped, and displaced before, but I know a lot more now. Even if the whole story is so complicated that not even Gerald Caplan knows anything near everything (which he openly admits).
These weeks, I have a course with our Head of Department, French professor Victoria Fontan. She's a very interesting personality with a deeply sarcastic tone and generally a very pessimistic view of world politics on every level. Kind of refreshing, actually. The course is called 'Media, Terrorism and Insurgency', and I'm sure that all the students are now (if not before) on the CIA/Facebook watchlist after sharing questions about the readings on our course Facebook group (which include the communication strategy of Hezbollah and a collection of speeches by Osama bin Laden). Good times.
Oh, finally: In an hour I have a Skype "date" with a guy from CARE Denmark's office in Hanoi. We have been talking about an internship to finish my MA, and communication for a Danish NGO in Vietnam would not be bad. Tonight is just about sharing information about the programme and myself. I'll let you know how it goes.
I promised you an introduction to the tasks and challenges I have this semester. One of the most immediate ones is VEGuary. Just like OcSober (click the category on the right for more posts on that), I got a great idea of abstaining from something for a month, found a great name, and found out that someone else had thought of exactly the same. So VEGuary is a vegetarian February. I have personally chosen the ovo-lacto-vegetarian way (so I get to keep eggs and dairy), others choose pescatarian.
And again, it's not about proving anything to anyone else, it's just to try it out for myself. That a bunch of people have joined in (e.g. on Facebook) only adds motivation. Tonight, a good group of UPEACErs went to a bar/restaurant called Henry's and had a great serving of Buffalo wings and BBQ ribs - with some drinks to wash it all down - to say goodbye to meat for the next month. (Yes, February is the shortest month of the year, but it's still a leap year.)
Let's see how that goes. After doing OcSober I feel quite confident that this should be doable. My wonderful friend Stephy from Bolivia gave a great presentation on the pitfalls and recommendations for a healthy vegetarian (or the next step: Stephytarian) lifestyle.
The other challenges are mostly professional and academic. This week is class-free for me, but I have a relatively short paper due on Sunday, and otherwise I'm working on two rather large projects for school.
To end my MA programme in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies (MPCS), I can do either a thesis or a 4-month internship. Right now I think I want to do an internship in order to get a foot in the door of a relevant organisation or media somewhere. So I'm spreading seeds around the Middle East and Vietnam. Let me know if you have contacts.
Another thing I have to complete for MPCS is a so-called practicum. This is some sort of relevant practical project (not an internship) that is worth 3 UPEACE credits (equivalent to one of our 3-week courses). My idea right now is to combine my work experience with my interest (and a pinch of lazyness) and develop a goal-oriented social media strategy for an institution I'm getting to know better and better: The UN mandated University for Peace. Yup, my own school.
They already have a Facebook page and several groups and a quite active Twitter account, all of which are growing steadily. But with some strategic considerations and a guideline, UPEACE's work with and results from use of social media could get a lot better.
Also, I want to take advantage of a nice little TV studio we have at school. I'm thinking about starting an online TV channel (probably using Vimeo) for UPEACE with little interviews, special lectures, promotional videos, etc.
Both of these things are supervised by my supercool professor, Julia. She's German and young, so she's strict, professional and understanding.
I will update you on my adventures in Vegetarianism. Expect an exhausted and perhaps cranky next post.