Monday, January 31, 2011

Study Abroad Alumni Dinner 2011

This weekend DePaul University held their First Annual Study Abroad Alumni Dinner. I attended the dinner along side six classmates I studied with in Morocco. Reminiscing about our "host families" in Fes, camel rides in the Sahara Desert, drinking wine in hotels, bonding in Meknes, being sick in Casablanca and protests in Rabat was truly life giving. Our experience together in Morocco was one of the most memorable times in undergrad. New perspectives on travel, academic research, culture, religion, and friendship were gained during the trip. A big thank you to Professor Sharon Nagy and the entire Study Abroad office for organizing the joyous event. Please continue to create opportunities for life changing moments for students at DePaul!

Above is a snapshot from this weekend. Below are a few photos from our Morocco trip in 2008. I love the photo of my host family! They were some of the most hospitable people I've ever met, despite the large language barrier!

Monday, January 24, 2011

24th Birthday Celebration!

So I am officially in my mid-twenties! Here are a few photos from celebrating my 24th birthday. I feel so lucky to have such amazing supportive friends. You all are the best!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shop Local: Amish Healthy Foods

A couple of months ago a new shop opened its doors for business down the street from my apartment: Amish Healthy Foods. This wonderful addition to Ukrainian Village offers shoppers great food choices of cheese, jams, milk, meats, eggs, peanut butter and beyond. Although the store carries a few items that may have crossed a couple state lines or international boarders, the majority of the food sold is from Amish farms in Indiana. I'm delighted that a grocer down the street from my place is helping city dwellers close the gap between farmer and consumer. In effect, food is fresher and the process of transporting it is more sustainable. I will admit I haven't been the best at shopping local or consuming foods that are in season lately. I've simply been heading to Trader Joe's after work and picking out my favorite items (which is pretty much the entire store!). Additionally, Amish Healthy Foods is a small business. My parents are small business owners. Thus, its extremely important to me to support the little guys branching out and doing their own thing among giant corporations out there.

So far my purchases have been limited to cheese and butter. Both fantastic! Look for updates on other delicious food items I purchase there in the future.

Also note that they carry meat from Amish farms. It can be hard to come by affordable local meat in the city... so come on in and check it out! I'm a vegetarian so I won't be giving any commentary on meat eating endeavors.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reflection, Alaska and the Recession

From August 2009 to August 2010, I lived in Bethel, Alaska as part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corp Northwest. My full time volunteer placement was at the Tundra Women's Coalition, a domestic violence and sexual assault shelter. Despite making the decision to move back to Chicago, I think about my experience out there almost daily. I think about my 5 lovely house mates, the people I worked with, the teen program I ran, hospital visits, village travel, ice roads, pot lucks, the tundra and beyond.

Last week when surfing the web, visiting my favorite sources of news, I came across R. M. Arrieta's article "The State of Native America: Very Unemployed and Mostly Ignored" on It reminds me with such clarity the one of many hardships Alaska Natives face living in the "bush". Arrieta's article does a phenomenal job illustrating the importance of using statistics that provide a more holistic picture of unemployment among Native people in general across the U.S. The statistics used are derived from the article "Different Race, Different Recession: American Indian Unemployment in 2010," which is based on the Current Population Survey.

The two statistics that stand out with reference to my volunteer year included:

"By the first half of 2010, the unemployment rate for Alaska Natives jumped 6.3 percentage points to 21.3%—the highest regional unemployment rate for American Indians."

"The employment situation is the worst for American Indians in some of the same regions here it is the best for whites: Alaska and the Northern Plains."

The second statistic rings with incredible truth. Teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers and law enforcement are all positions in high demand where I lived in Alaska; positions requiring advanced degrees and/or specialized certificates. Therefore, many Alaska Natives are excluded from employment opportunities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core Data in 2005, only 46.8% of Alaska Native students graduated from high school. This statistic is indicative of Bethel Regional High School (the local public high school where I lived) being referred to as a "drop out factory". Thus, the majority of the time qualified candidates for these positions in high demand are white people from outside the community.

Sitting at my kitchen counter in Chicago reflecting upon Arrieta's article, coupled with my personal experience in Bethel, I don't pretend to have concrete solutions concerning unemployment of Alaska Natives. I do believe, more often than not, the best solutions come from the people rather than larger removed systems and institutions. I also understand that sometimes systemic issues have to be reformed in order for "the people" to have more say in changing their circumstances.

Mostly, this article serves as a vehicle aiding in my continued reflection upon my time in Bethel, Alaska. It reminds me to continue my understanding and awareness of marginalized experiences. It is in the understanding of marginalized experiences that help us all make decisions in a democracy (where resources and allocation of funding seem to be increasingly scarce) that are not only beneficial for ourselves, but for others as well.

Thank you to all those who were apart of my JV year in Alaska!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A visit to Margie's Candies

One of my favorite places to patronize in Chicago is the original Margie's Candies on Western Ave. Open since 1921, this candy shop most known for homemade ice cream, is still outfitted with its original decor. Everything in the shop screams vintage, antique and old; in which its charm derives. Early Sunday evening I arrived at Margie's assuming there wouldn't be much traffic in the shop for ice cream. The place was packed like a hot humid day in July. I guess I should never doubt the power of great ice cream, even during a cold winter day in Chicago. Many of the people patronizing the shop were families. Young children were getting the chance to eat ice cream that has been enjoyed by Chicagoians for decades. In a time where modern, new and young are considered the most valued, I find this priceless. Needless to say a banana split (pictured above) and a turtle sundae were devoured with much delight. For those of you who grew up in Ohio in the Cleveland area as I did, Margie's Candies will be an awesome substitute for Dragger's (the old ice cream parlor in Shaker Hts. that has been closed for probably a decade now).
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Saturday Breakfast Bonding!

"Roomie" breakfast was in full swing Saturday morning. The menu included hash browns, blueberry baked french toast and banana chocolate chip pancakes. My tummy was extremely happy to say the least. It was also wonderful to spend a little time with the lovely ladies I live with. My schedule seems to be completely opposite of their's, so planned hang out time is a must!
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Merry Christmas Ukrainian Orthodox!

Ukrainian Village is the current neighborhood I call home in Chicago. It's a beautiful community that maintains its rich cultural heritage, as I often share a bus stop with cute old Ukrainian women speaking their native tongue. Thursday night proved to be an exciting time here. Walking home from a blissful yoga class I passed the Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Parish. Enchanting music poured out of the church and into the street. Despite my doubts concerning the Christian faith and my ignorance to why the music was being played at 8pm on a Thursday evening, my heart was warmed by the church hymns. It almost moved me to go inside. I resisted the urge and settled for standing outside with my red Chuck Taylors firmly planted on the sidewalk for a few minutes. Later, after some time with Google, I discovered it was Christmas Eve for Christians following the Julian calendar. A calendar 13 days behind the Gregorian, the Christian calendar we traditionally follow in the US.

Merry Christmas to all my neighbors and beyond celebrating the birth of Christ this week! Thank you for making my Thursday evening walk home truly sublime.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Resolutions

New Year's resolutions are cliche. They are goals that are often set and rarely achieved. This is what personal experience has shown me over the years. So in recent years I've foregone concrete lists. Instead, I've kept my resolutions to vague phrases like "try new things" and "don't f*ck up". These phrases have kept the accountability much lower. Yet, after hearing numerous friends spout off their own goals for the year I caved. This morning I made an organized outline on Microsoft Word of my resolutions. I worked for an hour to articulate achievements that seemed reasonable yet challenging. My list is broken down into categories-- writing, reading, music, movies, gardening, cooking, travel, fitness, friends and family, and miscellaneous. This is a list meant to be revisited and revised. These are not rigid resolutions holding me hostage to expectations. They are resolutions created to help me see what's important. When life gets stressful and the unexpected happens it will serve as a grounding point; an anchor. Cheers to a new year and a new perspective on resolutions!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Day 2011

This year I chose to start the new year with a plunge into Lake Michigan! The standing temperature outside was 27 degrees. The plunge included a small jump into the water, running out to fully submerge my body, and then running back to the icy shore to join the masses where my towel and warm clothes awaited. Despite stinging legs and numb hands, I could not stop smiling after I got out of the water. The extreme feeling of exhilaration after you've done something you didn't think you could do (and survived) had taken over. Overall I give the experience two thumbs up and would recommend adding it to your own bucket list. On that note, I would never do it again. Cheers to being bold in 2011 and embarking on new adventures.

A special thanks to Chris & Barb for including me in the plunge!
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