International student, Alesander Romero shares some of his pictures, the first of which won 3rd place in our International Photo Contest in the Fall semester. He explains the scene:
"This picture was taken in summer 2012, in Basque Country, in the North of Spain. Although this beautiful place is only 30 minutes by car from my hometown, this was the only time I visited it. This place is part of a big forest on top of a mountain with most of the trees painted by an artist called Agustin Ibarrola between the years 1982 and 1985. The only way to get there is by driving your car to the bottom of the mountain and then take a walk of around one and a half hours. According to the artist, ‘this way of art seeks to take art to nature and use the countryside as the artist’s frame, support and medium’. Walking around the forest you can see different colors and shapes on the trees, and sometimes you need to observe a set of trees from a specific position (marked on the ground) to see how different trees are combined to show you figures that transform themselves as you move.
An NWTC student shares a family tail…
Often the only times my mother and I sat down to talk was to hear her childhood stories. She was born in Laos to a traditional Hmong family. My mom was the eldest of many kids. I can’t recall how many because several passed at a young age, and my ear for the Hmong language isn’t very good being that I was born in the US. The Hmong culture has strong belief in the spiritual realm, and every story she has told me involves something spiritual and “spooky”. My mom’s memories are very vivid, even with my poor ears for the Hmong language, I feel as though we are walking side-by-side as young girls on the dirt roads of Laos. This particular story involves dogs. In the homeland, most dogs are not domesticated, and those that are domesticated, are used solely for the purpose of protection from evil spirits entering the family’s home. My grandparents had several miscarriages and many stillbirths before they had my mom, the first born to live. To change their luck with conceiving, they did many spiritual rituals, and brought home a special dog. My mother said these dogs were not like any normal dogs, their eyes were deep, and even had wolf like features. They were gifted dogs who could sense evil and protect families from those spirits. My grandparents luck changed with the furry addition for the next few years; they had my mom and a few more other uncles and aunt. That dog was a female and a very beloved member of the family, she said the dog went everywhere with the family and served as their guardian. Unfortunately, these dogs would also be cursed. Every litter of puppies she had, they would all die, and this happened repeatedly. These tragedies happened horribly, too, with screeching yelps and haunting memories that are maybe too gruesome to go into detail about. One day, the guardian dog wondered into the neighbor’s house because she had smelled the pot of lard inside. The neighbor, alarmed, attacked the dog and eventually ended up killing her. When news broke that the neighbor killed a family’s guardian dog, the people had a council-like meeting and determined the neighbor would have to pay to replace the dog, because of his actions he bought evil spirits to my mom’s family, a crime equivalent to even murder. During the time without a guardian dog, there were many unfortunate events that occurred, my mom shared. The new guardian dog was a male, and his curse for his loyalty and protection to my mom’s family was that he would always bleed from his genitals. That guardian dog lived for a long time and worked hard to protect my mom’s family.
This story told by my mom touches my heart because it helps me view my mother differently. Growing up, she’s always hated animals and never showed affection to any of our family pets. According to my mother, pets are filthy and useless if not edible. Listening to me mom tell me this story, I saw a little girl reminiscing about a beloved pet. She giggled and smiled about how loyal the dogs were to her, my aunts and my uncles when they went out to play in the fields, how the dogs never left their sight, and the pain they suffered to protect my mom and the family.
A great story and a great experience by Tunisian NWTC international student Mohamed Dhib:
"It was a Friday. I was, as usual, in the BI building doing my Internship. I got mail from our IREX program with the subject line: ”An invitation to DC”. They mentioned that it’s an honorable invitation and that I will be meeting high-level officials from the U.S. and Tunisian Governments. So yeah, I flew out Thursday. They told us that we were going to meet with Tunisian minister of higher education, our prime minister, some important people from our program, and from us department of state and white house officials.
Friday we met with our higher education minister in the US Department of State and we discussed many things about prospects for Tunisian education system. As alumni to studying in the U.S., we played the role of advisors, and suggested our ideas about improving our education system back home and making the collaboration between the U.S. and Tunisian systems stronger through the exchange programs. We had some doubt, honestly, that something was going on, but for security reason they weren’t telling us. Then our higher education representatives announced that we would meet our prime minister at the White House and that we may catch a glimpse of the U.S. president there, because during that time he would be meeting our prime minister.
Yeah, so we went around 3pm to the White House and we went through the security and then someone escorted us to the White House and into a fancy room, then to the Rose Garden… I was totally amazed!
We were then with some White House officials when suddenly we heard someone come up from the behind and say “Hi guys!” For like 10 second nobody said anything, it was the President of United States and our prime minister along with the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, whom we’d met a couple days before we came. He invited all 66 Tunisians to his house.
The President started to speak to each one of us separately. He was really cool, modest, and he took away all those feelings of nervousness we had had since we stepped into the White House. We shook hands and we took a group photo. I really feel proud and I never expected that! It’s a great experience that gave me a positive charge to represent my country more and more around the world.”
Mohamed is front row, third from left.
Mohamed’s story also made the local news…
“One of the most important sources of pleasure in our life is the food.” These are the words of my mother who has a strong belief that we eat not only to enjoy the taste of the dish, but also to give a taste to our life.
Sarmale is a traditional Moldovan dish, which is made of sauerkraut, rice, chopped and roasted vegetables and meat, mixed with spices and boiled in tomato juice. The ingredients are simple and easy to find in any grocery store, but only the knowledge of the recipe for combining them at the right place, in the right time, following each delicate step, creates a special dish with an distinct taste and flavor, which aims to make the event attendees enjoy the special atmosphere it was made for: a birthday party, a wedding celebration, graduation moment, or just a day when you need some soul food.
Usually this process of making real magic in the kitchen is designed by my mother, who inherited the mysterious formula from my grandmother. Oh no, do not think we are witches, we are just Moldovan women, who know how to bewitch in cuisine.
To understand me better what I mean, I will try to describe for you the Sarmale taste in a Hemingway style: First, you find yourself cached in a very pleasant and warm environment of the hostess’ home. After you sense some peculiar sauer-apple-tomato smell in the air mixed with some folk music, you’ve lost your inspiration. This habitually accompanies the cause and creates an awaited predisposition for trying the mysterious dish. You find it on a beautifully white trim covered table, and when you find it served-up, it promises you lots of pleasure and delight…you try it and you become overwhelmed by a soft-sandish taste of Sarmale….
My dear readers, I know you are wondering if I thoroughly got the recipe from my mother. Yes, I did.
It all started in December 2010 I don’t remember the date specifically but I remember it was winter break , and I was watching videos on Facebook of Sidi Bouzid’s people manifesting , and going out to the streets asking for freedom , a better life. Of course the videos were deleted from the internet after only few hours of posting them and we had to use some sort of a hacking software to watch them .. they were demanding a new government and a new president , since it has been like a kingdom were Ben Ali was crowned for 23 years .
It was always like this , in the news there must be at least 15 minutes where they talk about the great contributions that he have done , all the newspapers , all the magazines , everyone who opened a business should hang his poster , he even named our local channel Tunis 7 , because he was elected on the 7th of November. That day was a national holiday were no one study or work .Everybody hated him but nobody showed it. People were afraid. I remember my father once telling me never talk about politics because they might hear you.
It was only in high school when I started realizing that people started to fed up , I had a teacher who was making fun of the government indirectly all the time, I always admired his confidence and his courage , and I knew that there is no reason to be afraid and that people must speak up or we will live like this forever , without freedom or dignity.
But it was in December , when everything changed , when Mohamed Bouazizi burned himself in front of the city hall of his town , Sidi Bouzid , in response to the injustice of the police and the government .
That led to manifestations in Sidi Bouzid and then to all over Tunisia.
When winter break was over , schools came back and students went to their classes . we didn’t .
In our high school it was like nothing happened but some of us saw opportunity and didn’t enter classes , of course that wasn’t a major thing because nearly all of the high school students were studying only a minority was not, hoping to convince the others to join them. But what did really make a difference were the universities especially in Tunis , the capitol , were almost every day you see students beaten up by the police who throw gas bombs or who slap them , or beat them up and leave them injured seriously. However , students did not surrender and that what led into more major manifestations in the streets . Some people were beaten to death , some were shot and some were arrested but that didn’t stop any of us and we were hoping that something more will happen , that no one will give up.
A week later the schools were closed and they put a time limit for people not to go out . I remember starting 9 pm no one is allowed to step out of his house , and as the manifestations grew they changed it to 5 pm.
That was extremely devastating , not being able to do anything and staying at home all day long watching the news , seeing people die defending our freedom. It was the most painful thing but yet exciting because for the first time in 23 years something is finally happening and there is hope.
Luckily , in January 14th , tens of thousands of people went into a huge manifestation and they were screaming in one voice ”Ben Ali Degage “ (Ben Ali go away). Unfortunately for me I wasn’t there because my father wouldn’t let me but we were watching in TV , and we saw that the military also was supporting the people and protecting them. That evening , it was confirmed that the former president Ben Ali left the country and finally we are free.
The happiness was indescribable , we were shouting and laughing and hugging each other . it was one of the happiest days of my life because now I can say I am free. It was like you were in the darkness and finally saw the sun , like you were living in jail and finally was released.
I am really proud of the Tunisian people and what they’re capable of.
Sure we are a small country but definitely we are a strong population.
Next week is Celebrate Diversity Week at NWTC. This will include students discussing their international study abroad experiences, the “Around the World” presentation by MESA committee clubs and more!