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Culture, Identity, & Religion

Cultural topics such as "Who you Are?" and Religion.

Flag of the Week - Argentina

Argentina is a federal republic located in southeastern South America. Sharing the Southern Cone with its smaller neighbor Chile, it is bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north; Brazil to the northeast; Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east; Chile to the west and the Drake Passage to the south.

With a mainland area of 1,073,500 square miles, Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the second largest in Latin America, and the largest Spanish-speaking one. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

A historical and current middle power and a prominent Latin American and Southern Cone regional power, Argentina is one of the G-15 and G-20 major economies and Latin America's third-largest. It is also a founding member of the United Nations, WBG, WTO, Mercosur, UNASUR, CELAC and OEI. Because of its stability, market size and increasing share of the high-tech sector, Argentina is classed by investors as a middle emerging economy with a "very high" rating on the Human Development Index.

The earliest recorded human presence in the area now known as Argentina is dated from the Paleolithic period. The Spanish colonization began in 1512. Argentina rose as the successor state of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata, a Spanish overseas colony founded in 1776. The declaration and fight for independence (1810–1818) was followed by an extended civil war that lasted until 1861, which ended with the country's reorganization as a federation of provinces with Buenos Aires as its capital city. From then on—while massive European immigration waves radically reshaped its cultural and demographic outlook—Argentina enjoyed an historically almost-unparalleled increase in prosperity: by the early 20th century it already ranked as the seventh wealthiest developed nation in the world. After 1930, however, and despite remaining among the fifteen richest countries until mid-century, it descended into political instability and suffered periodic economic crisis that sank it back into underdevelopment.​


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SnapChat Across the Atlantic

What I would send across the Atlantic if I used SnapChat
…Little snippets of my home and study-abroad experience in Spain!

Scene 1—Brr-eakfast:

Each day in my new Madrid apartment brings new comforts, surprises, joys and challenges. These of course begin the very moment I wake up, when I enjoy a delicious breakfast while wearing finger-less knit gloves. (Americans, I have realized, are total whimps when it comes to the cold—we actually turn the heating on. The bad-ass Spaniards on the other hand…)

Scene 2—At  the “Uni”:

Entering a classroom composed entirely of Spaniards speaking animated, rapid Castellano? That brings your “new kid at school” complex to a whole new level. Knowing the answer to the question, but being unable to articulate the language quickly enough to speak a coherent response? That is frustrating. Sitting in class and not understanding what in the world was just said? Ha, well I suppose some confusions are endemic to university life in general.

Scene 3—My host family is better than yours:

I unfold from its tin-foil casing a beautifully made bocadillo. Fresh avocado, sliced cheese of delicious origin, vinaigrette, pepper…You get the idea. This is a damn good sandwich.

A non-Dukie but fellow American student looks laughs. Her host parent also packed a sandwich for her. She unpacks it; two slices of Wonder-Bread. Nada más. The fellow American looks relieved and tells me that it is better than the 5-pack of uncooked Oscar Meyer hot dogs she got for lunch yesterday.


Scene 4—Tripping on your tongue:

When you speak in Spanish, and then afterwards realize that the literal translation went something like this: Yes I will like to have ordered me a pint of coffee…So perhaps their lingering gaze was not because you are incredibly attractive, but rather that you made no sense.


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American Common Courtesy - CLG workshop at IHouse

When I am introduced to someone in the US, often I do not know what to do – Say Namaste with my hands pressed together in the traditional Indian way or Say Hi with a tentative wave of my hand or just go forward and shake hands with them. SangHee Jeong at IHouse hosted a workshop on American Common Courtesy, and Duke student Ashley Gibbs, with some help from Ilana Weisman, shared with us the appropriate manners and levels of courtesy in the US.

Okay, let’s start at the beginning. When someone greets you, ”Hi, how are you?” , just say “Good” (don’t start explaining about your stiff back, unless it is your doctor).  When you are introduced to someone, you could give a firm handshake or a hug (I like the sideways hug demonstrated by Ashley and Ilana), depending on the setting and how well you know the person. If you are in a group, remember to introduce them too.

Around Americans, you better watch your mouth – yawning, chewing with your mouth wide open, coughing / sneezing without covering your mouth, talking loudly on the phone, are all considered rude.  When you are talking to someone, respect their personal space and maintain a few feet distance and also, maintain eye contact. During a conversation, do not ask people their weight or salary and definitely don’t ask a woman her age. It is considered impolite if you don’t hold the door when there is someone a few feet behind you.

While punctuality is important, do not show up early to a party. Men do not wear hats indoors but women can wear church hats or fashionable hats. Cutting in line, laughing loudly and staring at strangers are considered inappropriate. While walking, if someone wants to walk past you, please make way for them. With Professors / superiors, play it safe by using Professor / Doctor / Mr. / Mrs. / Ms. / Sir / Ma’am. If they want to be on first name basis, they will tell you.

People in the South like to be friendly. So while passing strangers, if they smile, be polite and return their smile. Do not interrupt them while speaking and when you want something to be done, ask questions (ending with ‘please’) rather than giving orders. But in the North, life is more fast-paced. People do not commonly smile or make eye contact with strangers. They tend to speak fast and do not mind being interrupted.

One thing common to all Americans is they prefer to be direct. So if they offer you something and you want it, then go for it. If you are trying to be polite and say no, you may not get another chance. Now, about eating out, if someone says, “Let’s get a meal together”, it means you are going to split the bill. But if someone says, “I’ll treat you to lunch”, it means they will pay for you too.

As the Berenstain Bears say “Please and Thank you can make your day; they are as nice to hear as they are to say”.


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Black Popular Music - CLG workshop at IHouse

February is Black History Month. It was created to understand the history of African-Americans from the time they were displaced from their homeland, the hardships they faced and their ongoing struggle to make this land their home. Their resilience and rebellion found expression in the form of music. In celebration of Black History Month, IHouse offered a workshop last Thursday about “Black Popular Music from Spirituals to Hip-Hop”, hosted by Lisa Giragosian, with a presentation by Alec Greenwald, Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.

The origins of Black music can be traced from the historical context. When people were brought as slaves, they lost their identity and tried to keep their culture alive through music. Their musical traditions began as a form of communication - call and response and their artistic creativity came to the fore when they made musical instruments like the banjos and drums from gourds and hollow tree trunks/ animal skin. The theme of early Black music was mostly coded messages seeking freedom from slavery, conveyed through simple lyrics (“Follow the Drinking Gourd”).

Alec took us on a historical journey through various genres that evolved under the secular traditions of Black music – from the melancholy notes of the blues to the vibrant and energetic beats of hip-hop.

  • Game Song / Play Song: Created by children, involving distinctive imagery and complex dance steps
  • Work Song / Field Call: Lifted spirits, offered encouragement, coordinated the movements of workers
  • Rural Blues: Three phrases performed in simple harmonic foundation, expressing feelings of sadness
  • Boogie Woogie: Evolved in barrelhouses, railroad camps inspired by rhythmic clacking of steam locomotives
  • Urban Blues (Electric Blues): Amplified form of Rural blues that evolved in urban areas
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll: Filled with teenage sense of rebellion, independence, and an aggressive beat
  • Soul: Gospel influenced music with passionate vocalizing, powerful rhythms and honest lyrics appealing to the younger generation
  • Disco: Dance music (soul, Latin-soul, funk) played by mobile DJs in discotheques; recordings exceeded the standard three minute length to keep the dancers moving
  • Funk: Instrumental, vocal dance music based on jazz, blues, R&B, soul; the rhythm helped them dance
  • R&B: Dance music incorporating various styles like jazz, blues; encompassing all types of popular Black music other than hip-hop
  • Hip-hop: Original poetry based on range of experiences and world views sung in rhythm and rhyme; four essential elements are – DJ, rapper, dancer and graffiti artist

Just reading or talking about music may not be that interesting. But Alec kept it lively by playing some music (on the laptop), humming tunes and dancing a few steps. In order to fully appreciate and enjoy Black music, it is important to understand their history and culture. As Lisa nicely summed up, the presentation was not only about music but a combination of history, geography, anthropology, sociology, culture, dance etc.

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Life in NYC

Courtney Liu, ‘13 Discusses her Life in NYC as a Professional Dancer and Arts Entrepreneur

What is an arts entrepreneur? How do you become one? Courtney Liu, Duke ’13, shares insights and strategies she’s learned as a professional dancer and arts entrepreneur in New York City. It takes more than just passion. It takes flexibility (literally and figuratively!), a varied skillset, and most importantly, the ability to hustle. Check out Courtney’s story below.

Hometown:  Cincinnati, OH
Graduation date:  May 2013
Major(s), Minor(s), Certificate(s):  Psychology Major (Developmental Psychology concentration), Markets and Management Certificate

Duke Extracurricular Activities and Leadership:
Sabrosura (President, Co-President), Baldwin Scholars, Duke Dancers, Alpha Phi
Internships/Summer Experiences/On-Campus Jobs:
Freshman Summer: DukeEngage in Zhuhai, China (taught ballet, jazz, and English)

Sophomore Summer: Benenson Arts Award to go to Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Intensive; Duke in Greece

Junior Summer: VIP Program for Psychology Majors graduating with Distinction; Durham Crisis Response Center, Research Intern and Hotline Responder (funded by SOL grant)

Other Jobs at Duke:  Yoga Instructor at Wilson Gym, East Campus RA, Ballet Instructor at Nina’s School of Dance, Walltown Children’s Theater, Red Apple Day Care and Triangle Youth Ballet

Tell us about what dance means to you and your life, and why you decided to pursue it professionally.
George Balanchine once said, “I don’t want dancers who want to dance.  I want dancers who need to dance.”  Since graduation I have discovered that I fall into the latter category.  There is nothing logical about pursuing a career in dance, particularly ballet.  Most dancers endure excruciating pain, suffer lifelong injuries, receive little compensation, retire before age 40 and rarely become stars in the way that singers and actors do.  For all these reasons I was hell bent on pursing a career outside of dance during my four years at Duke.  However, upon graduation I felt stifled sitting down in an office all day and found myself running out the door each evening for ballet class.  When the opportunity presented itself, I left my job to pursue dance professionally.  
Walk us through how you were able to move to NYC, pay the bills, and begin your professional dance career?
As a senior at Duke, I wanted stability in my life and therefore had no interest in a career in arts entrepreneurship or dance.  Along with my peers, I spent my last year networking and applying to jobs until I landed a Research Coordinator position at Bellevue Hospital in Psychiatry. 

I moved to NYC and paid my security deposit, moving costs, and the first month of expenses with savings I had put aside during my four years at Duke.  I was happy to have a steady salary and spent my weekends and evenings taking contemporary dance classes.  Fellow Dukie, Monica Hogan, ’12, started a dance company and I began performing with her at different gigs she booked throughout the city.  Hungry for more opportunities to perform, I started to browse Backstage.com

When I saw the Phantom of the Opera audition I realized how much I missed ballet.  I was in no condition to attend the audition.  Although I was once a tiny, 17-year old ready to land a ballet contract, I was now an out-of-shape 22-year old who hadn’t taken a ballet class in months. 

I had an unbelievable surge of energy in that moment and used the momentum to push myself through the next two months.  I brought my ballet supplies back from my parent’s house, changed my diet and spent most of my salary on daily ballet classes and pointe shoes.  I ran out of the hospital every day at 5 p.m. to make the 5:30 class at Peridance and stayed for the 7 p.m. class, if I had the funds. 

One Sunday I took class from Stuart Loungway, a former San Francisco and Joffrey Ballet dancer.  I left his class feeling exhilarated.  It was everything I loved about ballet…. graceful physicality, intricate musicality, artistry and care in every step.  I attended this class every week and Sundays became a benchmark for the week’s work as I pushed to re-gain my technique. 

After eight weeks Stuart asked me to join his company, Terra Firma Dance Theatre (TFDT), for their Spring Season at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center.  I was thrilled and also relieved to learn that they rehearsed on Sundays…so I could keep my day job. 

It turns out that most of the other dancers had day jobs as well.  Everyone knows that many dancers/actors/singers move to New York and “don’t make it”.  However, I found that many dancers “make it” in New York (aka. perform on great stages, land contracts with their dream companies) but still cannot pay their bills with a dancer’s salary.  Most dancers in New York work other jobs to pay the bills (e.g. babysitting, waiting tables, Lulu Lemon sales).  In addition, dance is not a career that lasts forever and a single injury can sideline a dancer forever.  By concurrently pursuing another career path I was able to pay my bills and invest in my future, post-dance. 

After Kaatsbaan, I joined another small ballet company and another contemporary company.  Although I was dancing many hours I still could not afford to quit my job at Bellevue until I had booked a dance job that would pay my bills. 

Because I had a good track record at the hospital, I was able to negotiate a flex-time agreement with my boss that freed up my daytime schedule for auditions.  During this time money became very tight as my student loan grace period expired.  Even with a full time research job I was not able to pay my rent, student bills and take daily ballet classes ($19/class).  I started tutoring four hours per week to make ends meet. 

After many auditions, I was offered a contract with the touring cast of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for November and December.  I told my boss and we both agreed it was best for me to leave at the completion of the study in June rather than to start on a new study and leave in October.   

However, I was now unemployed until November and had no income other than tutoring, which was ending for the summer.  I reached out to my networks and found two freelance jobs, one as a grant writer for a boutique PR firm and another as an administrative assistant for a dance institute.  I also began babysitting a few hours per week to supplement my income.

Although the freelance jobs were good, I was still worried they would not provide enough income for the coming months.  I continued applying for jobs and going to auditions. 

I found the solution to my financial worries on Answers4Dancers.com.  Busch Gardens needed dancers for their Halloween shows for September and October.  The gig paid well and was located near my Mom in Williamsburg, VA, which meant I could stay with her and sublet my apartment for a full four months (Busch Gardens and Radio City tour). 

I auditioned in both Williamsburg and New York to increase my chances …. and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I booked the job.  I plan to continue to work in grant writing and arts administration on a telecommute freelance basis while I am touring and am looking forward to embarking on this adventure!

How do you/what is your strategy for continuing to find paid/professional dance gigs and growing your professional dance career? How do you network/meet people that may hire you?
• Find your niche
Although I would love to take every style of dance, I invest in my ballet technique first because this is the skill that sets me apart at auditions.

• Balance high paying jobs with fulfilling jobs
The highest paying jobs are rarely the most “artistically fulfilling” jobs.  I balance my paid and unpaid gigs so I can pay my bills but can also perform the cutting edge work.

• Attend practice auditions
I go to every audition that fits in the schedule because auditioning is a skill that cannot be developed in the classroom. 

• Invest in your technique
Even if I have to take on a second job (e.g. tutoring), I always make sure I have enough money to take ballet class daily to improve my technique.

• Prep for auditions
Before an audition I read the entire website, watch (and sometimes learn) the choreography on YouTube, talk to dancers who may have information about the job or the audition, take extra classes in the style and buy clothing to match the part. 

• Tell people how great they are
Whenever I see an impressive dancer or take an exceptional dance class I always make sure to approach the dancer or teacher after class and compliment their work.  I usually follow-up by friending them on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.

• Pursue multiple careers
I continue to pursue a career outside of dance in grant writing and administration to relieve some of the anxiety that comes with identifying oneself as a professional dancer and to create a stream of income that is not dependent on my physical health or the volatile arts industry.   

How did your time at Duke build skills that you have been able to use as an arts entrepreneur?
I am incredibly thankful I spent my time at Duke developing skill sets outside of dance.  The research and writing skills have served me well in telecommute grant writing/administration positions and the Duke degree itself has helped me land tutoring and babysitting jobs.  However, the most valuable skill I learned at Duke is how to “hustle”.  Like many students, I spent my four years constantly looking for new opportunities including summer internships, different classes, various jobs, grant funding and extracurricular activities.   I am crafting my career in arts entrepreneurship in the same way I crafted my four years at Duke, by piecing together various streams of experiences and income. 

What advice do you have for students considering arts entrepreneurship and following their arts passions?
Develop multiple skills (both inside and outside the arts) while at Duke.  An artist’s life is a hodgepodge of jobs and the most sustainable arts careers are those that can balance these multiple responsibilities. 

Describe your life as a dance/arts entrepreneur in three words.
Creative, Flexible, Strategic


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You Can't Take Duke Out Of The Girl

Happy belated 2015! I am studying abroad in Madrid this semester as part of the Duke in Madrid program. We are only 30 + days into the year, and already it has brought me so many adventures. So much to be grateful for.

So why, you might be wondering, am I still blogging on Student Affairs when I could be at the Museo del Prado looking at Picasso’s Guernica, eating tapas, or at least doing my homework, which must know I am a Duke student after seeing how much I have received over the past few days. I think the answer to this is best described by a Duke 360 photo I saw very early in the New Year. (https://document360.duke.edu/2015/01/05/january-5-2015/). To put it another way, you can take the girl out of Duke but you can’t take Duke out of the girl.

I have one more year in college and then it’s the “real world.” So I'm taking this semi-independent study abroad program as a dry run of what it means to be living without Duke’s campus, Duke infinite resources, and Div Cafe’s baked oatmeal. 

I have blogs of more “substance” coming, but for now I will let the photos speak for themselves--taken in Sevilla and Madrid. Keep it dirty, Durham! Over and out.

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Amercian Football 101 with Former Duke Football Players - Connect.Learn.Grow workshop series at IHouse

In Basketball, you shoot a ball through a hoop or basket to score; In Baseball, you hit the ball with a bat and score runs by moving around a series of bases; In Football, you score by kicking the ball into the opposing goal; In American Football, you score points by um… uh… well, let’s just say it is a different ball game altogether.

With the Super Bowl coming up this Sunday, I did not want sit through another experience of trying to figure out why they were playing in fits and starts and what kept the scoreboard ticking. So, I headed to the CLG Workshop, American Football 101 hosted by SangHee Jeong, IHouse, where former Duke Football players, Lex Butler, Patrick Kurunwune and Quan Stevenson made a presentation, with Byron Turner, CMA acting as Moderator. While the participants were chatting with the players and admiring their ACC Coastal Division title rings, Byron got the presentation started with the kickoff (not literally).

<Former Duke Football Players explaining the rules of American Football>

Football is played between two teams. Each team has three units – offense, defense and special teams.

The team in possession of the ball is the offense. They advance the ball to the other team’s end zone by running, passing or kicking and score a field goal or touchdown. They get four downs (chances) to advance the ball by 10 yards. Various positions of the offense are:
Offensive Line (Center, Guard, Tackle) – Snap ball to Quarterback, block and make way for Running back
Quarterback - Leads offense by receiving the ball, handing it to Running back or passing it to Receiver
Fullback – Runs, blocks to make way for Running back
Wide Receiver – Catches the ball, runs towards the end zone
Tight End – Hybrid position that requires blocking or being the Wide Receiver

The defense tries to prevent the other team from advancing the ball towards end zone by tackling. They score points by intercepting the ball or by blocking field goals. Defensive positions are:
Defensive Line (Defensive End, Nose Tackle, Defensive Tackle) – Tackle the ball carrier
Linebackers (Outside, Middle) – Tackle Running backs, Tight Ends or any ball carrier
Defensive Backs (Cornerbacks, Safeties) - Intercept the pass, tackle Wide Receivers

Special Teams come on the field during kick-off / return, punt / return, Field Goal / Block.

And, there is a whole set of rules about penalties against the offense and defense.

<From left: Bryon, Quan, Patrick, Lex with the blogger Triveni>

Initially, none of this made any sense to us.  Then, we huddled (again, not literally) and came up with a strategy to tackle the situation. The participants kept tossing questions at the presenters and they patiently explained, sometimes even giving us a demo with the ball. It was nice to see players who are tough on the field, being friendly and unassuming off the field. Finally, words like kickoff, down, snap, pass, punt, block, tackle, touchdown and field goal took on new meanings. I guess, now I am ready for Super Bowl Sunday!



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Flag of the Week - Switzerland

Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, the so-called Bundesstadt. The country is situated in Western and Central Europe, where it is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura. While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8 million people is concentrated mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found; among them are the two global and economic centers of Zürich and Geneva.
The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291, which is celebrated annually as Swiss National Day. The country has a long history of armed neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organizations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Area – although it is notably not a member of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area.

Straddling the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Therefore the Swiss, although predominantly German-speaking, do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnicity or language; rather, Switzerland's strong sense of identity and community is founded on a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism.

Switzerland ranks high in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, economic competitiveness, and human development. It has the highest nominal wealth per adult in the world and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product on the IMF list. Swiss citizens have the second-highest life expectancy in the world. Zürich and Geneva each have been ranked among the top cities with the highest quality of life in the world. 


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