Heavenly Light

Heavenly Light
Read to see the light

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sem Destino

I came to the realization today that we are free. We are free to do what we want. There are no limits to what one can do with their own life. If you want to run down the street screaming something, you can. If you want to wander the globe with no home, no destination and no purpose, you can. The only boundaries are the ones we set for ourselves. Society however plays the role of making people think that they cannot do whatever they want. However, that is what maintains the masses. There are a few of us who are not part of this proverbial group. We are for some reason or another more individualistic, open minded, independent, creative, witty. For these reasons, upon many unexplicable more, we must follow our dreams, and those dreams are often more lofty than those of the masses. There is a system to control the masses--but in truth we are free, only if we choose to participate with our minds, and not fall into place within.

The only thing stopping me from doing things is the common belief that it should not be done, but in reality, there is nothing to stop me. And it has been hard trying to find my balance between my idealogy and legitimacy. However, somewhere in the middle lies our destiny, and we must follow it,..

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Interns at their finest...

As I mentioned before, I participated in a study of intern culture on capitol hill...I think Stephen Colbert has exploited his interns the best out of anyone, maybe even better than the intern who feeds whisky to Ted Kennedy....

Friday, January 05, 2007

Politics part 1

Last year, my good friend Derek Newberry and I, along with our staff adviser Professor Alex Dent, conducted a research project that focused on the culture of low level staffers and interns on Capitol Hill. Our findings were just a scratch on the surface of a huge world and culture of politics that has had very little anthropological work done in its field. There are many things that all play an intrinsic part of the framework of politics, from the subtleties of the way you greet someone (ie a firm vs. weak handshake, or presenting a business card) to the way people are reached, or not reached as in taking messages, returning phone calls, or eluding conversations by saying that they are "in a meeting." Our main focus was the way new staff members, or even members of congress are treated. In many cases our research drew parallels to the way fraternities work. The more experienced staffers or congressmen would assign menial or senseless tasks in order to break them down. However, as time wears on, staffers and congressmen get a large view of how the whole scheme of politics works. This is often referred to as "Washington insider knowledge" used with people whole live "inside the beltway."

Anyways, I was watching a lot of CNN today, as the big democratic takeover is taking place. As I watched, and listened to analysts like Wolf Blitzer, Lou Dobbs and all the cronies at the top of the media, new stories were emerging for the first time, my favorite being the amount of money lobbyists are shelling out, financial earmarks on bills and whether or not one should greet Nancy Pelosi with a kiss on the cheek or not. These are all things that are at the heart of politics, and coming to light with a very inexperienced, and less "inside the beltway" experience. Is this enough to actually cause change? Or will these stories get swept under the rug as the newbies embrace the insider learning curve? Just as a college student and waiter in Washington, I feel like I know what really goes on in politics. This leads me to believe that Wolf Blitzer knows all these things too, and has for a while, but didnt report them. Will he continue down this path of "new" information, or will Washington up its ante and put a stop to the enlightenment?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A very short version of a long story

I was born in Boulder, CO and started traveling to Latin America in high school with a student exchange to Paraguay. There I realized that I have a big desire to learn the intricacies of culture and language. I made tons of friends and pledged to come back. I went back to Paraguay b way of a month long trip to Brasil at the age of 18. On that trip I first used bootsnall as my guide to backpacking Brasil. I didnt know anyone and didnt speak portuguese but had the time of my life. Once again I vowed to come back, but for an extended period of time. I enrolled at George Washington in the International Affairs program. I spent over a year studying in Bahia, Brasil reinforcing my love for language and culture, especially everything Brasilian. I traveled as much as I could, retracing some of my steps from my first trip, to finding new and exciting undiscovered places. My friends and I became known as the international galera as we were made up of over 10 people from all over the world, but found each other in Bahia, partied hard and traveled frequently. It was then, along with many conversations with my host mom that I had the dream to own and operate a pousada for backpackers. I graduated from GW and immediately bought my ticket back to South America. I spent 1 month chillin in Buenos Aires, then went back up to Brasil. Upon many adventures, which I am slowly trying to write about, I came across what I thought would be my dream come true: a pousada for rent on one of the most beautiful beaches in Brasil. I spent about a month going back and forth from my host family to the pousada, negotiating deals with the owner...a lot of things didnt seem right, and by the end of it the cons were outweighing the pros. I ultimately turned down the offer, but am still committed to living the dream. Now I have a more realistic sense of what it takes to actually move down to Brasil and become an ex pat. I will be moving out to San Francisco to work for a while and get some real life experience after college in order to have another go at the pousada idea in the future. Thus, I am in the process of writing travel stories, and giving back to the international backpacker community--one that I feel a strong bond to, and has helped define who I am.

I have a lot of insider information on the state of Bahia, as well as many other places in Brasil, but have spent most of my time seeking secret beaches in Bahia and the northeast. I hope that I can be of use to a site that is still helping me realize my dreams, and contribute to those who feel the same!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Boliva OP ED

Trent Simpson
April 18, 2006
OP ED: “Coca not Cocaine”

Coca is at its highest market value in history—even with a small plot farmers can make about $60 a month per family. Mr. Felix Muruchi and his fellow Aymara Andean indigenous people are fighting a social battle against multinational corporations, the United States and international law that prohibit the export of coca, not cocaine, a traditional crop which generates sustainable income for some of the world’s poorest farmers.
Social movements in Bolivia are well developed and have deep roots in the indigenous community. Mr. Felix Muruchi has been an activist in Bolivia for over 30 years. His struggle has been a long hard-fought battle that has helped the Aymara people elect one of their leaders, Evo Morales, as president of Bolivia.
Evo Morales, a coca growing farmer from the Chapare region, was elected with 54 percent of the vote in December 2005. His constituency draws heavily on the “cocaleros,” traditional Andean farmers of the coca plant. Coca has several properties that can be used for a range of products. Coca however, is not cocaine. This is the message Morales, Muruchi and the traditional farmers are trying to convey to the rest of the world. Coca does contain the alkaloid needed to make cocaine, but also includes potent medicinal values as well. Coca has been used in Andean healing for centuries. Some other traditional uses include chewing coca to sustain harsh conditions in mines and relieving fatigue and hunger in high altitudes.
The movement, as mentioned by Muruchi, consists of three major groups: FREJUEVE, COR and UEPA. All three organizations have their base in El Alto, an impoverished city above La Paz. They are connected with Aymara speaking university for indigenous rights in Bolivia. El Alto has grown to over 600,000 inhabitants and in 2010 will be bigger than La Paz. Most houses are collectives of shanty towns and do not posses simple things like gas to cook with, a major grievance of the indigenous community.
The United State’s anti-narcotic policies have targeted the supply side of the “war on drugs” focusing heavily on crop eradication. Coca has a rich heritage of indigenous cultivation that exists today and most farmers resent the fact that other governments are forcing them to eradicate a traditional crop. However, unlike Colombia with its high rates of cancer and organ defects, aerial crop eradication using chemicals is prohibited in Bolivia. Often times the military employs the farmers to uproot the coca themselves.
Putting coca for sale on international markets will considerably boost Bolivia’s economy. Coca is not legal for export for traditional products made with the leaf. However, multi-national American corporate giant Coca-Cola is allowed to import a large supply of coca leaves annually which is used for flavoring. It is an unfair hypocrisy for the struggling farmer making two dollars to feel economic oppression, but for a multinational company to expand profits worldwide.
Mr. Muruchi and the indigenous movement have valid arguments in their constant struggle. Why should multinational companies be able to come in, exploit indigenous land, use their labor and keep all the profits without regard for the native people? The US needs to listen to the grievances and cultural values of the people affected by its foreign policy. At least now the Bolivians have a president who advocates for the rights of his people and will try to prove to the world that coca is a versatile plant that can benefit the rest of the world as well as the people that farm it.
Panel: Mr. Felix Muruchi Poma: “Urban Social Movements in Bolivia”
April 14, 2006, Elliot School Series on Andean Social Movements.
Healy, Kevin. Journal of International Studies and World Affairs. “Political Ascent of Bolivia’s Coca Leaf Producer”
Sanabria, Harry “The Discourse and Practice of Repression and Resistance in the Chapare” 170-190.
Spedding, Alison. Coca and Cocaine in Bolivia: Reality and Policy Illusion. “The Coca Field as a Total Social Fact” 47-71.
Articles found on Blackboard, posted by Professor Kevin Healy.