Saturday, January 29, 2011

What's So Global About Hockey? Everything!

Fun fact:  While the NHL All Star Game can consist of any of thirty teams located in America and Canada, their fans are from around the world. It’s especially obvious when you head out to All Star Wide Open. 

For those who are unaware All Star Wide Open is a street festival celebrating the beginning of the National Hockey League's All Star Game. The All Star Game is an exhibition ice hockey match which pits many of the league’s top players against each other. Attending the All Star Game is a great way to meet many famous faces, watch a bit of hockey, or just enjoy the festive mood with an extremely enthusiastic crowd.  

Originally I didn’t head out to All Star Wide Open with the intentions of writing a blog post about its international connections. Despite it’s Nordic roots hockey is a game North Carolinians find very close to their hearts,  thus turning it into a very American pastime. When you think of hockey you can sometimes forget  just how global it really is. Not to mention I’ve been getting over a cold and missing my voice for a good three days now-definitely not in the interviewing mindset. I initially thought I’d go out with a few friends, take some pictures, eat some food, and be done with it. Not quite.

When we arrived downtown my brain started going a mile a minute. It could have been thanks to the French Crepes, or perhaps the African inspired jewelry in the craft bazaar, or maybe the Korean music blaring from a dance stage down the street. Whatever it was it led me to give myself a challenge: find out just how global All Star Wide Open could be. 

The Answer? Pretty darn global. 

Let’s start with the obvious shall we? While All Star Wide Open was created to cater to all things hockey the street festival was also filled to the brim with all sorts of amazing food from around the world. With two friends in tow; Santana Douglass and Samantha Hightower, we made our way from country to country through our stomachs.

Things started harmless enough, savory crepes (a dish which originated in the French region of Brittany) which then led to two Greek gyros loaded with tzatziki sauce, and a Mediterranean style vegetarian sandwich to finish it off. Even after our more than full meal I had to be curious about what was my friend's favorite part of the international cuisine:

Once we gathered ourselves enough to continue on we spotted an amazing assortment of local and global wares, created by people in the triangle. While some of the things seems rather conventional we were caught off guard by the unique wares of a few tables; especially that of Litina Egungun who brought his amazing African and Jamaican style and flare for art to the Triangle. 

After getting food and shopping out of the way I was curious to see just how diverse the entertainment at All Star Wide Open could really be. I was expecting a few cool local bands as well as some headliners (3 Doors Down anyone?)  but I really wasn’t expecting to see  Greek dancers, a Japanese performance and B-Boy inspired dance teams:

 So in conclusion hockey is a pretty great way to go global, especially when it's taking place in the Triangle. Raleigh has an amazing way of making something that doesn’t seem diverse on the surface an international affair for all to enjoy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Global Connection: Qatar to America

It’s not uncommon to see international diplomats around Raleigh; after all we live in the middle of the research triangle park: the mecca of all things global and business. The RTP has hosted hundreds of foreign visitors who usually stay just long enough to attend a few meet and greets, get some business done, and perhaps visit a few sights within the triangle. 

What’s rare is to see a group of foreign students whose main purpose of visiting is not for business, but rather to view American life through the eyes of college women in the triangle. These students, young women from the University of Qatar in the Middle East, were chosen out of over 200 applicants to participate in an exclusive exchange with Peace College in downtown Raleigh on the week of February 1st-6th

This exchange, going four years strong, has sent over twenty Middle Eastern women to the City of Oaks since its creation.  The idea was conceived by Mohana Raja Kumar, a former student at Peace who wished to make a connection between the two countries in order to lessen misconceptions and encourage curiosity. Since then the program has flourished offering young women who have never traveled outside their country a chance to experience the diverse cultures and traditions of America. 

While in America Qatari students participate in tours around the city and triangle, various team building excursions, as well as panels and class sessions with local students. During these sessions the differences between the two nations are discussed and questions regarding customs and opinions are brought to the table for discussion. This gives all students a chance to understand each other better and form lasting bonds which transcend their time on campus. 

Head of International Studies and coordinator for the Qatar-America exchange Dr. Laura Vick is excited for students to experience the unique differences between Qatari culture and our own:

“It’s a chance for Qatar University Women and Peace women to have one on one interaction so that they can learn first-hand cultural differences and different perceptions.”
But this experience is not only for the students of the University of Qatar. Each summer Peace College sends their own group of young woman to the Middle East in order to experience life as their new friends do each day. 

Tiffany Taylor, a Peace college student who participated in the exchange in 2009 describes the experience:

“The opportunity to meet people from a completely different part of the world is a very important and fun one in itself but the real fun is in the relationships in which you will gain from spending time with the Qatari students. I never thought that I would create such close friendships with the girls in such a short amount of time.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sustainable Shopping in a Global Raleigh

While Raleigh may not be the first place most people think of when trying to find global wares the City of Oaks is quickly being realized as a truly global city, offering an array of music, art, food, and items from around the globe. One of these spots lies less than ten minutes from downtown and offers local charm from a world away.

Hidden in the mish mash of boutiques and eateries in downtown Raleigh’s Cameron Village shopping district is a shop unknowingly passed by time after time by various patrons. The shop looks unassuming enough, a small door on the side of a building and a few interesting knick-knacks in a nearby series of windows.  Some may be interested by the store’s name- Ten Thousand Villages, and those curious enough to stop in will be treated to a vast array of uniquities from around the world, each holding a level of simple charm as well as a sense of responsible consumerism for the patron.  

Ten Thousand Villages is Raleigh’s prime source for handmade jewelry, gifts, and home decor- all of which are created by artisans from thirty-eight countries around the world.  In addition Ten Thousand Villages is the founder of the World Fair Trade Organization which strives to improve the lives of global citizens by providing opportunities for artisans to sell their creations at fair prices. The money we pay for a blanket or bag of tea at Ten Thousand Villages directly benefits the artisan by providing an income for food, education, health care, and housing. 

With over seventy locations across the nation Ten Thousand Villages was created on the idea of sustainable and responsible consumerism. The name derived from a quote by the Indian ideological leader Mahatma Gandhi:

“…India is not to be found in its few cities but in the 700,000 villages…we have hardly ever paused to inquire if these folks get sufficient to eat and clothe themselves with.”

To Ten Thousand Villages each village represents a unique people, each with products and crafts born from unique culture and traditions.  These products represent an entire culture, and thus should be appreciated through fair pay and ethical treatment.

Susane, a volunteer sales associate (as Ten Thousand Villages consists mostly of volunteers selling the goods) at the Raleigh location explained the benefits of responsible and global consumerism. 

“We’re all connected; if one person is treated unjustly then we are all responsible. Doing fair trade is doing what we can”

Another Volunteer at the shop, Glenda, echoed the same sentiments, happy to be supporting artisans, especially women without any other forms of revenue, from so far away. 

“It’s more empowering to women abroad to support fair trade. It creates more independence”

In addition to supporting responsible consumerism Ten Thousand Villages is worth a look for its many interesting knick knacks and home wares. As you walk down the stairs to the shop you are greeted with various portraits from Africa, and as you continue in you are offered free samples of teas from Asia or coffee from Africa. Children can play with drums and other toys from Morocco, while others pursue the various scarves and gloves from Peru.  Visiting Ten Thousand Villages is an adventure in shopping, and for a few minutes you feel as if you have left downtown and entered a whole other part of the world.