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Flag of the Week - South Africa

South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It has 1,739 mi of coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans.

South Africa is a multiethnic society encompassing a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution's recognition of 11 official languages, which is among the highest number of any country in the world.[11] Two of these languages are of European origin: English and Afrikaans, the latter originating from Dutch and serving as the first language of most white and coloured South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the fourth most-spoken first language.

 

About 80 percent of South Africans are of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. The remaining population consists of Africa's largest communities of European (white), Asian (Indian), and multiracial (coloured) ancestry. All ethnic and linguistic groups have political representation in the country's constitutional democracy, which comprises a parliamentary republic and nine provinces. South Africa is often referred to as the "Rainbow Nation," as a metaphor to describe the country's newly developing multicultural diversity in the wake of segregationist apartheid ideology.

South Africa is considered to be a newly industrialised country. Its economy is the second largest in Africa, and the 28th-largest in the world.. South Africa has been identified as a middle power in international affairs, and maintains significant regional influence.

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Eating Healthy on a Budget - CLG at IHouse

Do you enjoy grocery shopping - getting lost in the maze of various aisles, trying to decide what to buy - fresh or frozen produce, generic or name brand, organic or not, wondering if healthy means expensive? No? I thought so. At this week’s CLG, hosted by Seun Bello Olamosu of IHouse, Duke Student Health Dietitian Toni Ann Apadula answered all these questions and also gave us the perfect recipe for a healthy, delicious meal on a budget.

Balancing your Plate
It is always good to start with a plan. Establish a budget, plan your meals and snacks for the week, and remember:  
½ of your plate should be fruits & vegetables – for vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber & carbohydrates
¼ of your plate should be grains – for fiber, B vitamins and carbohydrates
¼ of your plate should be protein – for protein, fats and iron
Healthy Fats – for essential fats to enable the body to work properly.

Then make a grocery list. Be sure to check out the store’s ‘Weekly ad’ for what’s on sale, look for digital / printable coupons and at the store, ask about a loyalty card. Seems quite simple, doesn’t it? Let’s go grocery shopping!
Shopping Strategies – What are your options?

Fruits and Vegetables: Try to make your selection as colorful as possible – it is not just for looks but to get the full spectrum of health benefits. You could choose between Fresh produce which is most expensive vs Frozen which is not so pricey, nutrition content is intact and has longer shelf/freezer life vs Canned which is least expensive, but may contain more salt that can be reduced by rinsing. If you are not able to decide whether to buy Organic, the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” gives you some help. Fruits & vegetables are freshest and taste best when they are bought in season (www.ncagr.gov/markets/availabilitychart.pdf).

Grains: Try to choose whole grains. You could pick Name brand which is more expensive vs Store brand which costs less, but usually tastes the same and may have the same ingredients as name brand.

Protein Foods: Try to choose a leaner option. You could buy Animal protein which are most expensive, provide “complete protein” but contain more fat vs Dairy / Nut based protein, which are not so expensive vs Plant based protein / eggs which are least expensive and contain low fat & more fiber.

Is your shopping cart almost full? Before rushing to the billing counter, let me add a few more tips from Toni, as garnish.

Unit price – Compare unit price per lb/oz of various sizes. Larger sizes are often a better buy.
Nutrition facts – This label tells you the % Daily Value of various nutrients in each serving.
Ingredients – The ingredients are listed from most to least. So, if the first ingredient is salt, then you may be in a pickle.

Psst! – Stores stock most expensive items at eye level; so look at higher and lower shelves.

There was never a dull moment. It was amazing to see the active involvement of the participants, asking the most perceptive and interesting questions, and Toni’s patient and informative responses. If you have an appetite for more, try chewing on this.


 

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Trip to Historic Hillsborough - CLG serise at IHouse

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” – St. Augustine

When we make travel plans, we often look at the most popular destinations while missing the hidden gems close by. One such destination is nearby Hillsborough, just 20 minutes away. As part of the CLG series, SangHee Jeong of IHouse, organized a trip to this quaint little town, rich in history, culture and beauty. It was a grey, cloudy morning so we trooped into the vans armed with umbrellas, rain jackets, cameras and the itinerary for the day.



Guided Walking Tour
Our trip began with a guided walking tour of Historic Hillsborough. The town was founded in 1754 as the Orange County seat. It is located where the Great Indian Trading Path crossed the Eno river. The tour started at the Alexander Dickson House (1790), known as the “Last Headquarters of Confederacy”, which also serves as the Orange County Visitors Center.

After trying to assimilate more than two and a half centuries of history through maps and exhibits, we headed to the Regulator Marker, the hanging site of colonial protestors. Then, we visited the Hughes Academy (mid – late 1800s), a small private school whose graduates were accepted at UNC without examination. We walked past William Reed’s Ordinary (1754) that was a tavern, the old County Courthouse (1844) that has a clock tower and the old Town Cemetery (1757), where William Hooper, who signed the Declaration of Independence was buried.

Our final stop was the Orange County Historical Museum. On entering, one can see the Orange County Timeline of important events from 1650 to 2000. Then, a quick stop at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts, owned and operated by artists. After 1½ hours of sightseeing, legs and stomachs started complaining. So, we split into groups and headed in different directions to try out Hillsborough’s unique dining and shopping. I lunched at Weaver Street Market (their Vegan chocolate cake is delicious), which is a “community owned cooperative grocery store”.

Tour of Ayr Mount Historic Site
After lunch and a little rest, we headed straight to Ayr Mount Historic Site that includes a 19th century house museum and almost 300 acres of woodlands. Some of us took a guided tour of the house, while others enjoyed the Poet’s Walk, which is a one-mile trail that runs along the bank of the Eno river.


Ayr Mount is a federal-era plantation house built in 1815 by William Kirkland, and later purchased, restored and donated for public benefit by Richard Jenrette. Our guide, Bill told us about the ancestry of the owners and the archaeology of that site. In the house, the brick construction, high ceilings, transverse hallway, ornate fireplaces, huge mahogany tables, walnut shelves, grand piano, old time wavy glass windows, the various portraits and artwork (etchings of North Carolina architecture including Duke Chapel) all vie for attention.


We left Hillsborough with the satisfaction of having seen new places and made new friends.

Thanks, SangHee and Annette for making this trip so enjoyable.
   

        
 

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HOW TO MAKE AMERICAN-STYLE SMALL TALK - IHouse CLG workshop

“I like your boy’s haircut”, said the Duke bus driver to me, and thus began a very delightful conversation about school, teens, peer pressure and before I knew it my stop had come. I am sure all of us have been in similar situations, but we may become tongue-tied because we are shy. At this week’s CLG Workshop, the host Paige Vinson of IHouse helped us to become “conversant” with how to recognize attempts at small talk, start a conversation, maintain and end it politely.

Paige broke the ice by introducing herself and then gave the participants a chance to practice among themselves. Like many people, I used to think that small talk is just that – talking. Now I know that it could be the start of some meaningful conversations and wonderful friendships. Even people who enjoy talking, may be at a loss for words when they want to start a conversation with someone. Through the presentation, we learned some interesting opening lines. Some of my favorites are:

  • Hello/Hi/Hey, I’m Paige – Nobody can go wrong with this.
  • Nice weather, isn’t it? – This one is evergreen.
  • I really like your scarf/necklace – Makes me feel good about my choice.
  • I haven’t seen you for ages – Wow! She still remembers me.

Once you have picked up courage and started a conversation, how to keep it going beyond the initial exchange?

  • Find a meaningful topic
  • Give extra information
  • Pay close attention to what is said and how it is said
  • Use active listening, Trial and Error

Before you start making small talk, prepare yourself by identifying some “hot” topics like books, movies, restaurants, hobbies and travel. And, some topics to be avoided are: Personal, health, money or family problems, death, crimes, moral values, or any social, economic, political issues.

While it is important to make a good beginning, it is equally important to end the conversation on a positive note. During the course of the workshop Paige explained the difference between Ritual Interactions and Literal Invitations. In her inimitable way, she also gave us some useful tips and tricks on what to do when you don’t remember somebody’s name or if someone doesn’t respond to your attempts at making small talk. By the end of the workshop, I saw the participants eagerly practicing their conversation skills with each other and ending it on the right note too, with invitations to meet again.

Good-bye, or shall I say “Let’s keep in touch”.
 

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Flag of the Week - Republic of Liberia

Liberia, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast to its east. It covers an area of 43,000 sq mi and is home to about 4 million people. English is the official language and over thirty indigenous languages are also spoken within the country.

Beginning in 1820, the region was colonized by African Americans, most of whom were freed slaves. The colonizers (who later become known as Americo-Liberians) established a new country with the help of the American Colonization Society, a private organization whose leaders thought former slaves would have greater opportunity in Africa. African captives freed from slave ships by the British and Americans were sent there instead of being repatriated to their countries of origin.

In 1847, this new country became the Republic of Liberia, establishing a government modeled on that of the United States. The colonists and their descendants, known as Americo-Liberians, led the political, social, cultural and economic sectors of the country and ruled the nation for over 130 years as a dominant minority.

Liberia was a founding member of the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity. In 1980 a military coup overthrew the Americo-Liberian leadership, marking the beginning of political and economic instability and two successive civil wars. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005. Today, Liberia is recovering from the lingering effects of the civil wars and their consequent economic upheaval, but about 85% of the population continue to live below the international poverty line, and the country's economic and political stability has recently been threatened by a deadly Ebola virus epidemic.[5]

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MEET YOUR FUTURE SELF: CREATING A VISION FOR YOUR WELL-BEING - IHouse CLG Workshop

“How are you doing?” - “I am doing well”. We go through this exchange so often that we don’t even stop to think what we mean by “well”. For that matter, how many of us know the difference between wellness and well-being? Last evening, Maralis Mercado, Program Coordinator from Duke Student Wellness Center (DUWELL) guided us along the path to achieving individual and community wellness during the workshop hosted by Lisa Giragosian, IHouse.

DUWELL’s Model of Wellness
First, we were introduced to the Wellness Tree. Haven’t seen the tree anywhere? Sure you have, it is you. Just as a tree has roots, people’s roots are their individual identity, values and choices. Then comes the trunk of the tree, which represents self-care i.e. how we take care of ourselves and meet our needs. The branches of the tree are the different dimensions that lead to over-all wellness. The various dimensions are:

  • Intellectual Wellness: Integration of academic and personal pursuits with an internal drive to learn about and explore the world.
  • Social Wellness: Focus on importance of relationships in life and the social skills like active listening, ability to cope with conflict and involvement on campus and in the community.
  • Mind-body Wellness: Caring for the body’s physical and emotional health and reducing stress through exercise, nutrition, rest, meditation, breathing techniques and muscle relaxation.
  • Environmental Wellness: Impact of campus and community environment (noise, safety, social culture and cleanliness) on how safe, comfortable and healthy we feel.
  • Spiritual Wellness: Developing a sense of purpose and meaning in life which is a source of strength and can be beneficial to health and well-being.
  • Financial Wellness: Incorporates financial security, access to resources and perceptions of needs vs wants.

I was reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs with two differences: (1) The dimensions are not necessarily in any order of hierarchy, all are equally important. (2) The pursuit of wellness is not only for the individual, but the community as a whole.

Maralis kept us on the move (literally) as we went to different marked parts of the room identifying our strongest and weakest dimensions. Through guided imagery, she helped us create our own space and meet our future self (I didn’t know time travel was so easy). It was quite intriguing!

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Flag of the Week - Mauritania

Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara,  Algeria, Mali, and Senegal. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which existed long ago in the far north of modern-day Morocco. 90% of Mauritania's land is within the Saharan Desert. Therefore, the population is concentrated in the south where precipitation is slightly higher than the rest of the country. The capital and largest city of Mauritania is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast.

The government of Mauritania was overthrown in August of 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. In April 2009, General Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the July elections, which he won. In 2011, the Arab Spring movement spread to Mauritania, leading to street protests calling for more human rights aid and a more transparent government.

Poverty and human rights issues are the primary sources of Mauritania's domestic issues and international contention. In Mauritania about 20% of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day. Slavery in Mauritania has been called a major human rights issue, with over 150,000 people – proportionally, the highest for any country – being enslaved against their will. Higher estimates suggest 10% to 20% of the population (340,000 to 680,000 people) is enslaved. Additional human rights concerns in Mauritania include female genital mutilation and child labor.

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Active and Efficient Reading Strategies - CLG workshop at IHouse

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know” – Albert Einstein
In this knowledge era, we have to keep updating ourselves to make sure that we are not left behind. There is so much to read and so little time to do it. The only way out is to read faster but, there is a catch – you may not understand / remember what you read. Jackie Ariail, Learning Specialist from Duke’s Academic Resource Center elaborated on strategies for reading efficiently and retaining what you read, at this week’s workshop hosted by Lisa Giragosian, IHouse.

The Mechanics of Reading & Strategies for Reading Faster
If you are taking forever to read something it is (either because it is boring :| or) because you are a slow reader. Some strategies for reading faster:

  • Don’t sub-vocalize
  • Do take in more words with one look (fixation)
  • Don’t reread (regress) unless you have to

In the workshop, we all did a ‘one minute read’ to check our reading speed (typical range for adults is 250 – 300 words per minute). To practice reading faster:
1.    Understand the typical construction of the English sentence – Noun, verb, object. Use the orienting information provided at the beginning of the sentence.
2.    Recognize the word groupings.
3.    Read more vertically than horizontally.

Reading Actively and Efficiently
Once you learn to read faster, it is equally important to ensure that you understand what you are reading. Jackie outlined a few steps to read efficiently and effectively:
1.    Understand the purpose of reading within the context of your course.
2.    Before you start reading, familiarize yourself with the material by looking at TOC, headings, illustrations/diagrams.
3.    Read the introduction and conclusion, and try to form an idea about the material.
4.    Read the material.
5.    Remember what you read by writing marginal notes, highlighting or writing a summary.

Finally, we discussed a reading technique called pseudo-skimming which combines, “the comprehension benefits of reading and the speed of skimming”. The secret is to identify the meaty versus filler paragraphs and focus on reading the important ones.

Thanks Jackie, for inspiring us to “Read, Read, Read……………. To Succeed”
 

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Flag of the Week - Jamaica

Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea, comprising the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles. The island lies south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola, the island containing the nation-states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Jamaica is the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean.

Once a Spanish possession known as Santiago, in 1655 it came under the rule of England (later Great Britain), and was called Jamaica. It achieved full independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962. With 2.8 million people, it is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. Kingston is the country's largest city and its capital. Jamaica has a large diaspora around the world, due to emigration from the country.
Jamaica is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, currently Patrick Allen. The head of government and Prime Minister of Jamaica is Portia Simpson-Miller. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.

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American Culture 101 : Music, Party Culture, and Food -CLG workshop at IHouse

During my last trip back home, my niece started asking me questions about life in America, especially about college life. I knew Dukies worked hard and partied hard, but beyond that I was clueless. The CLG Workshop on American Culture, hosted by SangHee Jeong, IHouse and presented by Duke students, Joanna Blaszczak and Ellen Gambrell gave us a brief peek into American Music, Party Culture, Food and more.

American Music
Joanna started the presentation with the National Anthem – not singing it, but talking about it. Then we were introduced to the various genres of American classics like
Folk –    Bluegrass, Appalachian, Indie folk
Blues – Originated in the Deep South
Jazz – New Orleans, Jazz Capital of the world. You can listen to Jazz at Duke’s Mary Lou
Williams Center @ 9:30 pm on Wednesdays.
Country – Originated from American folk and Western music


Through the decades, the classics evolved into new styles of music like Rock N Roll, Pop, Classic Rock, Rap, Hip hop, Disco and Soul, made popular by stars like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Rhianna... We had great fun listening to short pieces of music and trying to discern the difference in rhythm and tempo of each genre.

(No Reason Not to) Party in the USA
Ellen’s presentation gave us a very clear picture of how and why Americans party. She enriched my vocabulary by explaining the meaning of terms like House Party, Dinner Party, Tailgating, Binge Drinking, Starting a Tab… We also learned about Do’s and Don’ts of partying and how to party safely. I liked the way she used photographs to make her point. She shared with us the importance of tipping, since waitstaff may not be paid minimum wages. The rules of tipping are: 10% if service is bad; 15% if okay; 20% if good; 25% if outstanding.


American Food Culture
The presentation covered different categories of American food, Ethnic & Regional blends and Soul food.

Wait, it is not over yet. After the presentations were done, the presenters faced a barrage of questions about peer pressure, frisbee (!), music, radio stations, music sites, balancing work and partying, Southern hospitality, attending church and just about everything the participants could think of. I was amazed by how readily they fielded all the questions. It was a refreshing evening, I went home feeling younger.

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