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.
So far (2½ days in), it's going well. Friday was my last night of drinking which I celebrated by first drinking a lot of Nicaraguan rum at a bar with my wonderful co-students from the Media programme (MPCS), then going to an Asian party at my friends' house which has been dubbed 'The Party House'. Before Friday I was wondering how it would be to drink until midnight and then stop. As it turns out, I fell asleep on an extra bed at 11:30 pm so I never found out.
On Saturday I went to the mall with the 'party house' crew. Got a haircut. Bought a T-shirt. Then went to a large supermarket where I almost accepted free samples of both wine and whisky. Close call.
In the evening, Diego from Ecuador (who not only is joining me for OcSober but is also a fellow CISV'er) and I tried out a Costa Rican non-alcoholic beer (or malt-based beverage, as they call it) called Kaiser. We got used to it pretty quickly and had a nice long night with a little bunch of people playing games in David's poolhouse and trying to stay quiet so his landlady wouldn't get mad.
On Sunday, Maj organised a triple-surprise party for three of our co-students who are born not on the same date, but on the same day. It became extremely chaotic for several reasons: Maj organised it for Saskia originally and didn't know about Elizabeth and Waan's birthdays being the same day. Then she expanded it to Elizabeth, but Elizabeth already knew about Saskia's surprise, just not that it was for her, too. Through an intricate web of deception, chaos and choir practice, we eventually managed to let Saskia see the birthday sign before we yelled surprise, and Saskia opened the door for Elizabeth and then closed it on her again while Elizabeth was saying happy birthday to her. We ended up having a very good time, and the Danish traditional cake-persons that Maj baked were a big hit.
Today, it's now almost 2 pm and I haven't gotten out of bed. This week is off for the MPCS class and I'm going to spend a good chunk of it not doing anything productive. The plan is to go and see sea turtles lay eggs in Tortuguero next weekend.
Had Kaisers on Sunday too - starting to like them. Thinking about bringing them to school next week and doing a non-alcoholic beer-bong at lunch, just for the hell of it.
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.)
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.