It's decided. I'm going to try observing OcSober, also known as Sober October.
The first 6 weeks of university have been filled with alcohol here and there, and I don't think it's very good for me. So I am going to try (!) not drinking alcohol in the month of October. It's not about being better than anyone. It's not even about connecting more with those of my fellow students who don't drink. It's not about proving anything to anyone else, but proving to myself that I don't need alcohol, that I just like it. I drink once or twice a week normally and I think I have a quite good relationship to alcohol (especially seen from the perspective of a Danish (!) journalist (!) at college (!).
But what does it say about me that I'm seriously doubting I can pull this off? I'm feeling anxious about the potential defeat before I've even started.
Here are some things I will try to repeat to myself during the month. What if I end up as a journalist (or husband (!?)) in a strictly Muslim country? I'll have to abstain. Also, Muslims are much tougher going through Ramadan (especially when it falls on a summer month in Scandinavia). What about the CISV camps I've done in Sweden, Norway and the US (obviously, the greatest difference is that everyone around me didn't drink either)?
For those of you who don't drink, this post must seem absolutely pathetic. Why should it be so difficult to abstain from drinking for a month? It's not like eternal celibacy, veganism, or other drastic life-changing decisions. I don't expect you to understand why I expect to find this really hard, but you have to know how much alcohol is a part of my cultures: Danish people drink earlier and more than most Europeans, journalists drink more than most professions, and college students drink more than ANYONE, especially when trying to shake together a multi-cultural group of people.
There are also a bunch of social events coming up at UPEACE, and I have next week off from school. That's going to be a serious challenge.
Alcohol to me is a social thing that can be enjoyed over dinner, casually on a bench or at a crazy party - it doesn't mean getting drunk. And I already have one rule about alcohol; I am never the only one in the room drinking alcohol ("I never drink alone" is more catchy, but less concise).
I recommend that anyone from alcohol-drenched cultures like mine try this. If you want to try doing it with me, join the Facebook Event, and we can support each other. (If you already don't drink, it's not much fun.)
Wish me luck, and please support me.
(I actually thought Sober October was a pretty clever name and it fit my timing really well. As it turns out, so did a lot of other people. OcSober is a whole fundraising movement in Australia. I'm not affiliated with nor inspired by their concept.)
From coast to coast
A lot of things have happened since I last posted. The most recent dramatic development was a death on campus. The head of the Environmental Peace Department, Dr. Mahmoud Hamid, sadly passed away from a sudden heart attack during class on Tuesday. The entire university was shocked, and the class he was teaching are still trying to figure out what to do until the next class starts. I personally didn't know him, but many of the staff, faculty and students are very sad these days.
More cheerful events have also happened. Last weekend I went on a 3-day trip to the lazy reggae-loving beach town of Cahuita on the Caribbean coast with three great guys: Tito from Barcelona, César from Mexico City and Gregorio from upstate New York. Here's a picture of the four of us at our hostel:
Generally we just had a nice relaxing time. Spent some time in the pool and at the beach, had some amazing chorizos and seafood, met up with other UPEACErs in town and just relaxed. I was supposed to do some reading for school but that never happened.
School's been really good. The Media, Peace and Conflict Studies programme is now in its first real course, Media In Conflict - Introduction. Our teacher is Álvaro Sierra, a Colombian journalist and academic who has lived in and reported from many different countries and conflict zones around the globe. Today he is the editor of Semana, Colombia's main newsweekly. He's very knowledgeable and a very nice guy even though our readings are sometimes unrealistically long.
This past weekend I went away again, but only for about 24 hours. My Belgian/U.S. friend Saskia's family has an apartment in a gated community near Tárcoles by the beach on the Pacific coast, and she kindly invited four of us (my Costa Rican roomie Álvaro, Norwegian/Polish Dobrawa, Elizabeth from Wisconsin and me) to come visit her. It was wonderful to relax in an air-conditioned apartment with an out-of-this-world view, three bathrooms, a coffee-maker with built-in grinder and several swimming pools. On the way to the place we stopped at a bridge to spot crocodiles - here's a pic I took over Dobrawa's shoulder:
Today I tried to give a little lunchtime session on the privacy settings in Facebook. Out of almost 200 students, 5 turned up but they were good students. I think I'll host one again soon and try to promote it a bit better.
Until next time, pura vida.
When I don't post here for a while, you should generally take it as a sign that I'm keeping myself busy with school and socialising. As is the case now. Went to a party last night at a very cool place near the university where they have a hot tub and a pool, and a bunch of us went in. Great party - I came home at 5 this morning.
This weekend is not about fun, though. To round up the last three weeks' Foundation Course, I have to write my first academic paper. It's only a 2,000 words essay but I'm still a bit intimidated. Haven't written essays in English since I studied at Concordia in 2008. It'll probably be fine, though.
Next week we start our actual MA programme. As you may know, I'm in the Media, Peace and Conflict Studies (MPCS) programme, and I'm glad that we are starting now. The first course is aptly named "The Role of the Media in Conflict - Prevention and Peace Building - Introduction". Thursday is the national day of Costa Rica, though, so we hope to get a four-day weekend. That may open up for some travelling, perhaps to the beach?
My father should be glad to hear that I play sports at least twice a week. On Mondays there's volleyball, and on Fridays, Ultimate Frisbee is becoming a big thing. I brought a disc and helped start it up, and people are loving it - such a fun sport. If it catches on, I might try to get it started in the local community (inspired by my first club, Hanoi Ultimate Club) as a way to let the local youth mix informally with all the international people from UPEACE.
Oh, and I moved. Love my new place. I can walk to town, my roomies are cool, and I started cooking much more and having friends over for dinner. Maybe I'll bake something tomorrow. Not having to choose between water pressure and hot water is great. I feel so clean now.
Some of you may have seen my Facebook status: "... just sent an application to the UN." The UN has a programme called Young Professionals Programme, and I applied for a position in Public Information. If they like my experience and application, I will take a test at UPEACE in December and perhaps qualify.
Last thing; I made a group presentation on a conflict (mining in Costa Rica) with a great group of people. We used Prezi to make it, and you can see the Prezi itself here (without comments).
My Year in Costa Rica
I'm studying an MA programme (Media, Peace and Conflict Studies) at the UN mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica 2011-12. This blog is about my experiences here, in and out of school.