Comparison of my old and new self

Blog by: Students on the Buddhism and the Great Ganges River Experience: Philosophical Exploration and Social Action in the Sacred lands of India program

Student Name: Dibbya Biswa

This trip has open my eyes and made me re-experienced my days in Nepal. Two days flight without sleep was not part of my “to experience” list for India trip. I was exhausted when we reach the Varanasi airport. My thoughts were why did I even come and I was better at home, sleeping in my big bed. As I stepped out of the airport to the indie atmosphere, I couldn’t breathe.  Although it was raining the air was super hot and the climate was burning hot.  I didn’t think of anything besides I want to go back to Washington. We got in the van that was reserved for us. On our way to Central University of Tibetan Studies, I was looking outside from window. What I saw was not so different from what I have memories of Nepal. The house was similar, land area was similar, small and big shops were similar and even the way they display products on the shops was similar. When we got to the city area the traffic and the way vehicles were running the wait vehicles in Nepal. When I saw those it reminded me of my childhood. I felt like me I am in Nepal walking on the street and seeing this all. It made me feel like I am on my younger age feet. As I saw those kids walking and running near road fearlessly. I was terrified to see kids near vehicles. My hearts were racing see all that. Then I realized that I was like them in Nepali. But I had one question that I just can’t answer: In Nepal, was I fearless like those kids or fearful like I am right now? It’s been 8 days and I still fear walking on the street. In fact, can’t walk with just one friend, I have to have more than one friend walking with me. Rowaida my colleagues ask me if I wanted to go for walk. I told her to bring one more friend to go for walk.She has been to Egypt by herself, so she somehow convinces me to walk with her but eventually, I end up adding Emma. I have been here for a week and I still fear when vehicles go near me, I still get scared when people horn and I still can’t walk on my own on the street. I left half of my life in Nepal and half of my life in the US. Here I am still figuring out who am I?

Photo by: Dibbya Biswa

Finding a Global Friend

Blog by: Students on the Buddhism and the Great Ganges River Experience: Philosophical Exploration and Social Action in the Sacred lands of India program

Student Name: Rebecca Diamond

Photo taken at the Central University of Tibetan Studies. (Right) Sun Tse (left) Rebecca Diamond

Photo credit: Kara Adams
After the mess of my first day in Kolkata combined with the sadness of being away during Owen’s first day of school. Compounded by the pressure and guilt of being away at all as a mother has weighed heavily on me. I cried every interaction we had over the phone. I didn’t know how I would continue in the state of depression I was living in. I didn’t know how I would be at all productive during the program and I just wanted to go home. I felt like I made a mistake coming back to India a second time. We made it to the Central University for Tibetan Studies and I was feeling miserable. The only thing getting me through was video chats and my friend who stayed with me two more days in Kolkata before flying to Varanasi to meet our group. We met our host, Sun Tse, I was very intrigued by him and I wanted to know more about his life and history. I got many chances to play soccer, basketball, and just enjoy getting to know more about him over snacks and classes. One day a few of us stayed after class to talk more. Sun Tse told me about his journey to India. He told me his parents who live in Tibet paid an intermediary to bring one of their children to India to escape the Chinese occupation. He said they initially asked his oldest brother if he wanted to go. His oldest brother said no. They then showed Sun Tse beautiful pictures of India and being of the age of ten he agreed without the understanding that when he went he couldn’t come back. He said the day he left they all cried his family brought him to a house and left him there to be picked up. He ended up finding he wouldn’t leave for two more days so he went home and he said ironically no one cried two days later when he actually left. They had seemed to already have moved on and accepted this fate. He arrived in India and stayed with other intermediaries who took in Tibetan refuges. He attended school eventually making his way to The Central University of Tibetan Studies.. He spoke about the memory with reverence some sadness but I could also sense the Buddhist influence in his conceptualization and internalization of his experience. He has been away from his family for 17 years now! He said now that he is older he thinks his parents in some ways tricked him into going but he also thinks it was the right decision.
We are so close in age that I felt that he could have been me and I could have been him. We were living very different realities on different sides of the world but connected quickly, to me like kindred spirits. We spent more time together talking in person and connecting online via Facebook and Instagram. His story inspired me as well as his acceptance for his situation. This acceptance I believe comes from his belief system, Buddhism. The concepts of impermanence, suffering, and karma contribute to his ability to manage the suffering of loss. The day we left The Central University for Tibetan Studies we all piled into the van. We were waving goodbye and Sun Tse came to the window to offer me his mantra beads that he had had a conversation with me about a previous day. I was so moved and immediately put them on. His story has helped me to not only cope with being away but be able to embrace the opportunity of being here and when I put on the beads or notice them during the day it reminds of the universal experience of suffering as well as our ability to transcend its negative pull into depression.

 

Returning Home

Home. For some of us, “Home” is a complicated subject. It’s hard to define at times. We often hear phrases like “Home is where the heart is” and “Home is where the WIFI connects automatically”; regardless of what phrase we use today, I am home. Those who know me understand my struggle, as for years I have been torn by the concept of “home”. It wasn’t till this morning, while drinking my coffee, breathing in the fresh Washington morning air and talking to my family about my adventures abroad that I realized home is Washington.

Japan was an amazing experience. I am so thankful that I could step out of my comfort zone and go abroad to meet new people, experience new culture and learn from those who I would have otherwise never had the privilege to speak to. I will always remember and appreciate how I was treated as a foreigner in Japan. Although it was obvious that I didn’t know the culture, customs or language, I was always met with patience, kindness, and respect. I will miss the subtle but constant expressions of respect and regard displayed to others. Although this might be local to Matsuyama, I will miss the more obvious sense and importance placed on community, and the genuine interest people had in one another.

For those of you who are wondering if you should do study aboard, I truly mean this: DO IT. I will not be able to truly express on paper all the benefits that this program has brought to me, personally and academically. Stepping headfirst into a culture which isn’t yours is a journey I would highly encourage everybody to embark on. The ways in which your will see your own culture and others will be changed completely. If you go in with an open mind, willing to learn and appreciate, I guarantee you will be blown away by what you encounter.

Going to Japan was an amazing experience. I would like to thank UWB Study Abroad for helping me make this trip possible, to allow me to experience a new world, a new culture and make so many new friends. I honestly believe this was a life changing experience.  I was glad I went, and I’m glad to be home.

Hiroshima – The Other Face of Nuclear Power

In my time in Japan, I have been able to realize the unique relationship and view Japan has toward Nuclear Energy. Not only has Japan been the only country to experience the destruction, loss, and pain of a nuclear bomb, but also one of the few that have experienced a catastrophic nuclear reactor meltdown. This was the first year that this study abroad program added a trip to Hiroshima into the schedule; I’m glad they did, as, for me, it was the most impactful trip of the program. Although there is no American who does not know of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there are few of us who have seen it through the eyes of the Japanese, and to witness first-hand the wounds which are healing, and scars that remain from the event which took place 72 years ago.

A view into the past

The A-Bomb Dome

The inscription says please rest in peace, for [we/they] shall not repeat the error.”

To say the least, it was a difficult day. My eyes were opened to a different side of the story. Whenever I heard about the A-bombs in school it was “the bomb that brought the end to the war”, and that was the end of the story. What is not discussed were the approximately 140,000 lives which were lost, half lost in the first day, and the rest from the effects of radiation still taking lives to this day. As I walked through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum I read dozens of stories of people who were taken that day. For the first time in my life, the horror, destruction, and sadness of the bombing became a reality. This was no longer a chapter in a textbook: I was walking under the same sky where a nuclear bomb was detonated, reaching temperatures of the sun as atoms collided and released untold amounts of energy; I was breathing the same air which 72 years ago would have been so radioactive to took thousands of lives of a span of a few days; I walked past the ghosts of building whose concrete and steel beams were melted and vaporized by the heat.

The purpose of this memorial is not to blame, nor to create guilt, but to open our eyes to the past so we can clearly see our future. On The Memorial Cenotaph, the inscription reads “please rest in peace, for [we/they] shall not repeat the error”. The [we/they] is a subject up to the interpretation of the reader, and for me, it refers to the world: one people, one species; we shall not repeat the error.

This journey gave me a glimpse into the conflicting views Japanese have on nuclear power, as on one hand, you see the destructive and costly effects of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and now Fukushima, yet on the other, you see the benefits of having so much power produced through controlled nuclear reactions.

 

Group Picture at Hiroshima

Trip to the town of Ozu

Last Saturday, the 9th of September, a few of us had the day completely to ourselves as we were only ones who decided not to participate in home stay over the weekend. Personally, I decided to not go to homestay because I feared my lack of cultural knowledge would cause me to unintentionally offend my home stay parents. Regardless if my choice to not go to home stay was justified, the few of us had an amazing day as we traveled by train to a small, historically preserved city, two hours away from Matsuyama called Ozu. The ride was beautiful, as the train took us along the coast line for over an hour, and we got to see plenty of small villages, beautiful scenery and many locals who were interested in our visit. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the best and I couldn’t get very many good pictures until later that day. Around 5pm,  the cloudy and gloomy day showed its other face and gave us the perfect lighting to take some amazing pictures.

 

Sunsets and Castles

Us students who for some reason or another decided not to go to homestay

Taking advantage of great lighting

 

Ozu emerged during the Edo Period (1603-1867) originally being a castle town. Today, there are still nostalgic alleys and shines which bring you back to the times of the Edo and Meiji Periods. It was amazing to walk around the small town and see the old and modern styles of houses and streets side by side.

Shout out to our amazing travel guide and friend, Yuka-san, an Ehime University student studying education, for making this trip and many like it possible.

Renewable Energy in Japan – Week 1

It’s been almost one week since my arrival to Matsuyama and I’m having an amazing time, every day learning, experiencing, and appreciating new things. I’m going to write this post in two sections, one focusing on cultural and daily life aspects which have really impressed me and the other on topics discussed in the engineering sections of the program.

Culture and Daily Life:

I can say that I’ve never walked so much in my life. The first day we covered over seven miles in less than six hours. Thankfully, on the second day of the program, we were given the keys to our bikes, and my fears of my legs falling off immediately faded. Matsuyama city is quite flat, which makes biking a very convenient, cheap, and compact source of transportation. There are also plenty of laws to keep pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists safe on the roads and alley ways. For example, listening to music while riding, riding under the influence of alcohol and riding while holding an umbrella can all result in fines up to 500 USD. Of course, you still see those who choose to be rebels and ignore the rules, but in general, people obey the laws. Drivers are also very considerate to bicyclists and pedestrians in general; not once have I been honked at or felt I was in danger when riding around town.

Classmate Jon and I parking our bikes and heading to lecture

If there was one store you needed to know about to survive in Matsuyama it would 7-Eleven. There is almost consistently one 7-Eleven within 5 minutes walking distance from any place I’ve been in the city. Unlike in the US, 7-Eleven is not a gas station, instead, it is a small store with everything from basic first aid products to pre-made meals. The service is always amazing and the cashiers incredibly helpful, considerate, and polite. Any meal (with in reason) will cost you no more than six dollars, and there for extremely affordable. Even when going to local restaurants, meals typically range from $4.50 for breakfast, to $13 for a full meal at a nice establishment. This brings up the most mind-blowing part of Japan for me: the service provided at restaurants. Never in my life have I consistently been given such amazing service until my arrival to Japan. To my understanding, it is expected for restaurant employees to always provide their best possible service. Because of this, it is considered unnecessary to thank or praise restaurant employees and extremely rude to attempt to provide a tip for great service.

Matsuyama prides itself in its history. Two of largest attractions would be Matsuyama Castle, located five minutes away from the university by bike, and Dogo Onsen, a historic hot spring establishment. Natural hot springs have an enormous impact on Japanese tradition and culture. Although the building was only constructed in the late 1800’s, mentions of the local hot spring date back over a thousand years. A trip to the healing and refreshing hot springs is a common way to either begin or end one’s day. Matsuyama Castle was much larger than I anticipated. There are at least three large gates to breach before reaching the main tower. The builders also placed hidden doors and gates to allow the castle’s defenders to go behind the enemy and flank them if necessary. While never being attacked, Matsuyama Castle was built to spot the enemy long before they were to arrive. At the top of the main watch tower, you can enjoy the 360-degree view of Matsuyama City.

View from the top of Matsuyama Castle

Group Picture Under one of the main towers

 

 

Engineering

If there was one word to describe Japan’s power situation it would be: vulnerable. In a worst-case scenario, if Japan were to be blockaded and no imports allowed in, their oil reserves would only last 198 days. After that point, it would be lights out for almost all of Japan, as there would be no means to create electricity for the public. Even with all things going smoothly, Japan is pouring out money to be able to import unbelievable amounts of oil, mostly from the Middle East, which is taking a toll on its economy. So basically, Japan is in a pickle. Power companies in Japan desperately want to start up some of the nuclear reactors which were shut down in 2011, however, there is still a strong resistance coming from the public and government. Although it doesn’t quite solve their dependency problem, Japan is hoping hydrogen fuel cells will be a more reliable and greener alternative to their current system. Essentially, hydrogen can be used as a battery and as long as they have a big enough tank, they can store the energy with ease.

Ideally, power from a renewable energy power plant would produce electricity to isolate hydrogen from water, the hydrogen stored and oxygen released into the air. With the help of some chemistry, the hydrogen would be turned into a liquid and shipped to Japan. Japan would receive it, vaporize it, and run it through their fuel cells to create water and power. They could also leave the hydrogen in its liquid form for storage, which would solve their reserve problems as this method would be able to store much more potential energy.

Great! Problem solved! Oh wait, not really. Because of the multiple changes the energy has gone though you are only getting a fraction of the power you started with.  With current technology, hydrogen power required massive government subsidies to be competitive against fossil fuels. Japan is currently one of the few, if not only country still developing hydrogen fuel cells. In the US, companies like Tesla are putting their money on batteries to store energy, which is much more efficient but can’t hold as much power as hydrogen can. It’s almost as if the world is at this slightly awkward stage where we know we have to get away from fossil fuels but can’t see far enough down the road to know the right choice.

I apologize for the lack of pictures, I’m having some slight trouble with my camera at the moment. I’ll attempt to fix the problem and post pictures sometime early this week.

 

Renewable Energy in Japan – Pre-Departure

September 1, 2017 Blog by: Derek Flett, Mechanical Engineering, Renewable Energy in Japan and US

Greetings! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Derek. I am senior in the Mechanical Engineering undergraduate program at the University of Washington, Bothell campus. Although I was born just a few miles away in Everett, when I was two, my family and I moved to the small country of El Salvador, were I grew up and lived for sixteen years. Once I finished High School I moved back to Washington and started taking classes at Cascadia with the intention of getting the prerequisites necessary to apply to the ME program at UWB. Currently, I’m planning on going into power generation industry (preferably renewable power) upon my graduation. This hope and aspiration brought me to this program, officially called Renewable Energy in Japan and United States. Although we don’t arrive in Japan until September 4th, a group of eleven students and I (picture of the group below, I’m wearing the black Columbia jacket) have been taking classes for the last two weeks which have dived into not only technical aspects of various forms of renewable power generation but also the beautifully intricate and complex Japanese culture, history and language. It has been a long two weeks, but I’ve learned more than I could have imagined and am even more exited to go to Japan continue to learn.

Not only is this program’s theme extremely relevant to me as my plan is work in the power generation industry upon graduation, but also because there is no better example to learn from than Japan when it comes to renewable energy. In 2011, after the disaster in Fukushima, Japan’s government make the decision to shut down all their nuclear reactors to avoid any further catastrophe. Unfortunally, that meant stopping over 40% of Japans power generation over the span of a few days. To make up for this massive scarcity in power, Japan was forced to begin importing oil and coal as fuel for their combustion power plants to make up for the recent shortage of power. As their national deficit grows, Japan’s economy has suffered and will continue to suffer until a more economic and renewable source of power is implemented in a large scale. This brings me back to why Japan is the perfect country to learn from as they rapidly expand their renewable energy grid. Hopefully, the United States will undergo a similar change in the decades to come, as we shift from being a society filling the gaps of our power needs with renewables while depending on fossil fuels, to a society that depends on renewables while filling in the gaps with fossil fuels. When this time comes, we can look back to Japan, having already conquered the challenges that arose, learn from their example, and ultimately, follow in their foot steps toward a clean, efficient and renewable power grid. This study abroad will allow me to get some insight into the challenges Japan is facing, with the hopes of be able to address similar challenges in the US in the years to come.

This will by my first time I will be going to a foreign country while only knowing a grand total of thirteen common word/phrases in the native language. Not being able to communicate effectively without the aid of technology or a translator is quite scary for me. In the weeks prior to my departure, I’ve started practicing a few useful phrases in Japanese. Once I begin to feel comfortable with the pronunciation, I turn to the world most powerful tool for conquering language barriers: Google Translate. Unfortunately, when I try translating my new Japanese phrases back to English, I discover that my mispronunciation has changed the context and meaning to either nonsense or something completely offensive. Thankfully, most Japanese are more than understanding and forgiving when it comes to a foreigner’s attempt to speak the language; often, the attempt at respecting another’s culture and language speaks volumes, and is highly regarded and praised.

I look forward to updating you all on my adventures in the days to come. I know that I will learn volumes and only hope that I can apply that knowledge in a later day to help our nation move toward a better future.

StudyAbroadGroup

Snoqualmie Falls Field Trip – Taken in front of Original Generator Installed in 1898

Week of 8/17-8/27

8/17-8/27
**DISCLAIMER** (Sept 3,2017)
I have just finished my study abroad about 4 days ago so now i have time to catch up and write my blog and adventures!!

OKAY LETS BEGIN!!
August 17th, We visited the Hotel Des Invalides, which Louis XIV had built to serve as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers. It is also the resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte! It is such a big place, and contained many different museums. My favorite exhibit they had was the World Wars visit. History of the world wars, and history in general, is extremely important to me because I feel that we’re to learn from history and our mistakes and grow from them in order to not repeat the wars and the mistakes of our past. After the visit some of the group went to a cafe near Père Lachaise, one of the biggest cemetery’s in Paris, and had some snacks before going back to our housing for the night.

August 18th, Friday was just a day of class and then we were free for the rest of the weekend!! After class, my friends and i went to go see Dunkirk (Dunkerque en Français) at the movie theater. The movie theater itself was very different and also very small, the movie played in English but had french subtitles so it was easy to understand and correlate the words i didn’t understand in french to the words i heard in English. Afterwards we just headed back to get some rest because the whole week before was super busy, and the week ahead would be even busier!

August 19th, some friends and i took a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens again, and we found a small version of the Statue of Liberty that France had gifted to the US back in 1886.
After being in Europe for a couple weeks, we finally decided to try the french version of Chipotle! Usually i don’t eat meat in the US because it makes me sick but i have had a lot more luck in Europe, with other food that aren’t meat too. Fast food is fast food where ever you go, but personally i think that the fast food in Europe doesn’t taste like the fast food in America. We then walked around after being full of food, and shopped a little! We tried to go to the catacombs the line was too long and they were closing soon so we just got some food at home and played card games for the night!

 

 

August 20th, a couple of us got up early for a post-mass performance to hear the organist play the Organ. It was really something spectacular. I have played music for over 7 years and i just love hearing music being played so to me it was a really great experience. After listening to the organist, we went and got crepes at one of the little cafes and myself and my friend, Sarah, went to the Cemetery Montparnasse, and the Père Lachaise Cemetery because for once of our classes we needed to research a famous French person buried in one of the two cemeteries. The cemeteries here are very different than in the US too. They are very crowded and have very extravagant or elaborate tombs. Just walking around the cemeteries took a couple hours, and after wards we headed home and worked on our projects, and went to sleep so we could rest for the week ahead.

August 22st, probably one of my favorite days on the trip was this day. We went to the Hôtel de Ville, which is the city hall of Paris, and it was really extravagant on the inside and outside, we had a guided tour around and i still am in awe of all the beauty in Parisian buildings. After the class visit, my other friend , Xiyi, and i went to Le Mur des Je t’aime and Sacré Cœur. We climbed way too many steps that day, but it was worth it to see the view of paris. And the wall of i love you, is a wall that has the words ‘I love you’ written on it in every language. It was really an amazing sight to see. And i was able to get little souvenirs for my friends, because at the bottom of the hill from the Sacré Cœur, were a ton of little shops for souvenirs. It was a very eventful day.

August 23nd, EARLY EARLY MORNING!! We got up for our group trip outside of Paris to visit Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte! We took a charter bus about an hour out of the city to look and have the hands on experience of our history lesson. Both the castles were beautiful but were simple compared to the upcoming visit to Versailles. There’s not a lot to say but more to show for the two castles. *side note; i did get attacked by a swan though because it didn’t like my white shoes, i think maybe it thought i was another swan, but who knows*

August 24th, another early morning with the first stop being the Louvre! I got to see so many amazing works of art that I’ve always wanted to see. We only had a couple hours in the Louvre, and let me say as a word of advice, if you go to the Louvre and want to see it all, plan on that taking a couple days! The place is huge!! After wards we had class, until around 5pm, and i was so tired i just took a nap after wards and then did some homework.

August 25th, the day we went to Versailles!! Versailles, was probably one of my favorite group outings. The inside is so beautiful and the outside gardens are HUGE, you would need a whole day or two just to see all of both. The weather wasn’t happy that day so we had to wait under some arches until the storm passed before we could walk around the gardens. But it was so beautiful and after the storm cleared it was really nice!

August 27th, we had a optional cooking lesson with our professor Hélène! She taught us couple of french meals that we then prepared for the class for the next day for lunch and dinner. Our professor contributed to much to the program from her knowledge to her cooking to her help in general everyday things! She really made the program great and is another reason study abroad was so amazing