The world, stories and me

Guest post by Trophy Ewila, Bachelor of Arts (Economics)

I do not agree with the statement that the world is getting smaller due to technological advancements. If the world is getting smaller, it’s due to story. How you may ask, are stories reducing the breadth and depth of the world? Think about this: at a recent event, a young girl won a literature writing competition. The young writer was Ugandan. She had never left her country or seen snow before, yet her winning narrative followed a one Mary Higgins of Staffordshire and her escapades with snow. This is my description of a smaller world!

Growing up in Uganda, literature was an abstract concept to me. It did not correlate with reality.  For starters we were taught in English and not the local languages. Most of the books we read in kindergarten were foreign (British to be precise). The concepts presented were strange. One thing that always baffled me was the notion of kids playing in the ‘park’. I often wondered why people would play at a bus station since in Uganda we picked the bus from the ‘park’. This incongruence creates a larger social impact in the country. This is what we read and that’s how we are taught to write. The self is lost in this tradition and translation.

To that effect at the age of 8 years old, I detested books. I presumed that all those who read were simply seeking social accreditation while pretending to love the experience. This problem stemmed from the mismatch between what the education system offered and what was our social reality. I only started to enjoy reading once I saw myself in the words. The sight of a book written by a Ugandan president at an airport in Dubai put things into perspective. I saw freedom. The setting was my city, the story was my country, the words my possibility. I had never imagined that story on paper can be yours. The descriptions were vividly Uganda. I honestly cannot describe the experience; I will never be able to. But I know what I felt, and it permitted me to see a deeper social issue. Ugandans are scared to write about themselves, and if they don’t get out of this fear they will die. Not physically but mentally.

It is after this day that I went mad with books, reading to compensate for the loss of time. Chasing stories. That mystical aura that engulfed me listening to my uncle’s tales of the past and his well-crafted fables was present in every page. I found story, I found humanity.

If all we could do was speak. Not allow anyone tell us what we should say or do. But speak, not just by mouth or with words but with every essence of us the world gets bigger. For what is the world to us but our experience with others.

But before speaking we should first listen. Listen to voices from afar. It will tell you how big the world is. When was the last time you read Japanese literature or Nicaraguan poetry, listened to Australian music or paid attention to West African history? How big do you think you can visualize the size of the world when all you see is one major story of one general region. Yes, one can communicate faster through technology, but to what essence is this speed in relation to the size of the world?

The world is as big as the number of stories present. Tell yours and expand this world. Listen to others and expand your world.

Global Fest 2015: Celebrating Diversity, Embracing Differences.


This year’s annual celebration of Global Fest was a blast!
Every year it has gotten bigger & better and this year’s edition was the best one yet! The morning session began with a special opening address from the Vice Chancellor, Deborah Buzzard and the manager of the IPS office, Leah Sanford who spoke on the importance of the diversity on our campus and the opportunities they present to learn from the different cultures.


There were presentations from different countries and regions, with memorable mentions including Chilean music + tortilla chips, having your name written in Taiwanese and dishes from different Tanzania, Nepal & different parts of the world. Many people walking through the FIPKE building, students and staff alike, sampled dishes and listened to the students and staff who represented the 26 different countries  on showcase at the event.


Global Fest Night Performance


The night section begun with a poem from the Master of Ceremony of the event, yours truly, Nene Azu and was characterized by music and dance performances that from India, Iran,  Russia, Canada & China among many others. There were also  memorable performances from Sam & Eaton (rap) ,UBCO Beats(acapella) , the ASA and the Latin Dance Club(dance) who graced us with amazing dance performances.


Overall the event was a success and the International Programs and Services Community Animators did a spectacular job at putting it together. I believe the UBC community looks forward to more events like this as it embraces our diversity and celebrates diverse cultures.



The Other Side of Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a developing country located in South Asia. With a population of over 160 million people, it is one of the most densely populated nations in the world.

For many, some of the first words  when hearing ‘Bangladesh’ are- ‘where is that?’, ‘is that a city?’, ‘poverty’. For me, there’s only one that comes to mind – HOME.

My country is home to the pioneer of Microfinance (an economic model that is uplifting millions out of poverty), Dr. Muhammad Yunus;Bangladesh is the Royal Bengal Tiger’s home, it also has the longest sea beach in the world. These are only few of the amazing things about Bangladesh.

The following photos show one side of Bangladesh, the side that associates the country with poverty, inequality:

Source: The New York Times ( The picture shows few people in a cold, winter morning transporting crops.
Source: The picture shows women working in the tea gardens of Bangladesh

The following pictures show the other side, a lesser known side of Bangladesh:

A country where every religion is respected (Khagrachori) (1)
A country where every religion is respected- Tausif Ejaz, UBCO Graduate School of Engineering , picture taken in Khagrachori, Bangladesh
Ahsan Manjil Through The Pinnacle (Old Dhaka)
Ahsan Manjil, seat of the Nawab Family of Dhaka- Tausif Ejaz, UBCO Graduate School of Engineering, picture taken in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh


Human being versus human doing

When you look at the image featured above what do you see? Despite it being a world map, does it feel off putting to you? Does it seem like you know what you see, however the feeling you receive is somewhat irregular?

Is it because Europe isn’t lined up in the center of the map?

Is it because the dimensions of Africa are for once accurate?

Is it because North America doesn’t seem as expanded or as intimidating anymore?

You need to be in charge of they way you choose to see things rather than accepting to be fed a false reality. It doesn’t just apply to this map, but to your everyday life as well.

Why does an uncomfortable feeling arise when I watch the Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner? Is it because it’s actually in mirror mode of what our potential future will look like? Moreover, that someday we are all divided into a bunch of districts of the wealthy and the poor, the skilled and the unskilled, and those with status and the status-less.

Why has the human race become organisms of doing, pacing, waiting, and rushing instead of just being? Why have the tables turned in the sense that we are not working to live anymore but rather living to work? Despite some us loving our jobs, we have a tendency to rush home just to stare at an electronic screen. It’s something you can’t feel; it’s simply robotic involvement.

Why does it seem like our natural environment has to adapt to us rather than us adapting to it? Rainforests that were once fresh and lushes are now desserts that are dry and dull. Fields that were once crisp and full of green are now landfills that resemble a spoiled child’s room, where there are too many toys and garbage lying about.

Why are likes, followers, and large friend lists an ego booster? Society needs to recognize you cannot auto-correct life. Moments, interactions and embraces should be your ego booster, because that is real. The record player that spins in your life seems to be broken, because all you keep hearing are the same lyrics over and over again: “Could have, would have and should have”. Yes life is tough, but guess what, you are stronger!

Why is it that the majority of people don’t know that 10% of the entire world population is illiterate? Second, 795 million people are undernourished around the globe. Third, women spend nearly one year of their lives deciding what to wear. Forth, only 2% of women describe themselves as beautiful. Fifth, on average a person spends 4 years of its life looking down at its cellphone. This list goes on and on. Now is it because every time you turn on the news you see events taking place involving celebrities like The Kardashins? Where having “a lot” on their plate involves them going to a photo shoot or not having any cell reception.

Why is racism, labels and religious conflicts such a huge topic still? It is 2015! We weren’t born instantly knowing or caring that we are yellow, brown, white, black or speckled. No baby is born racist. We grow up in these shells called labels and overtime we unfortunately start to believe that that is what defines us. “My god is all loving, but if you have a different belief I’ll make your life a living hell”. – There is so much wrong with that sentence. Yet it is repeated again and again in on going religious arguments. Why does it seem like we are arguing to death? I have a heart, a brain and I am human. The person across you on the outside may appear in complete contrast to what you look like, but on the greater scale of things they have a heart, a brain and are human too, just like you.

In my grade 12 yearbook of my last high school year, I quoted beside my graduation picture “The biggest challenge in life is trying to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else: Be you.” Sometimes you need to stop and think if you are doing something for you, or that you are indeed being fed a false realization.


Misconceptions About Islam at UBCO

The current events that happened in the past week in regards to the bombings in Paris and Beirut as well as the catastrophes and general sense of loss in various parts of the world, make it a good time for introspection and soul searching. Sadly, a bi-product of these attacks has been the rise in public displays of Islamophobia and discrimination all around us.

The Muslim Student Association, led by Adnan Bhat, held a talk last week on the Misconceptions about Islam; an informative session and open Q&A. The talk offered an avenue for genuinely curious minds on the UBCO campus to actually learn about the tenets and beliefs of Islam from  Sheikh Navaid Aziz, the guest speaker,  who is a chaplain and youth counsellor from Calgary.

As he begun, he greeted the crowd and encouraged the members of the audience to approach the session with an open mind. He went on to touch on many aspects that are highly controversial to the the way Muslims are viewed as well as Islamophobia in general. He spoke extensively about the problems of taking a small percentage of Muslims as representative of all of Islam,  quoting versus from the Quran and introducing counter examples from other religions. He linked these occurrences to the media and their largely reductive and negative portrayal of Islam.

The Sheikh continued by giving a brief introduction to the concept of Sharia Law, explaining its focal point was to protect people, faith, intellect, wealth and honour, and explaining some of the differences that exists between the different ideologies, Sunni and Shia. He also touched on the four types of Jihad, introducing the literal meaning of “Jihad,” or “struggle,” as waging war against ignorance, taking care of parents, and speaking the truth to a tyrannical ruler.

When asked about the Hijab and Niqab during the Q&A period, the Sheikh responded that cultural differences are at the heart of misunderstandings about women’s clothing. He reiterated women’s prerogative in choosing to wear a head covering, and he further reinforced that the most respected/valued member of the home, according to the Quran, is the mother.

Sheikh Aziz wrapped up the Q&A session with a short discussion on how family values and legislation within Islam are very different from Western styles and again pointed at misconstrued understandings of Islam. He also talked a little about Islamic banking in response to a student interested in working in the UAE.

The Muslim Student Association provided snacks and the event was generally a success, more so a success of the mind as many were very open and ready to learn from the Sheikh.There was a lot of media coverage on the event and a good showing from the campus community.


We are more than labels

Guest post by: Jorge Garcia, BSC

In the last couple of decades, our society has made great progress when it comes to racial discrimination, and although we still have a long way to go, we can slowly see improvements with each new generation. However, there is another side to this issue that is often ignored or minimized. It is what we call “White Privilege”.

In short, white privilege can be considered to be the other side of racism. It is that immense list of everyday conflicts that some people have the privilege of ignoring simply because they are “white”. It is the privilege of being considered an individual and not just another member of a specific group or race. It is the privilege of being a voice, and not just a stereotype or a set of labels.

“We Are More Than Labels” is a series of portraits that intend to expose some of the invisible labels that people are given simply because of their color. It is an exploration of both the prejudices that people of color have to go through, and in the counterpart, the lack of these labels on white people; which result in the privilege of not being judged based on their skin color, the privilege of doubt, and the privilege of trust.

We Are More Than Labels_1 We Are More Than Labels_2 We Are More Than Labels_3 We Are More Than Labels_4

Omar Mwangari : Life After UBC-O!

Omar Mwangari graduated from UBCO in 2014 with an honours in Psychology and minor in English. As a student here, he was an integral member in the International and Aboriginal Programs and Services offices, and he also co-ordinated major events from Global Fest to Jumpstart.

After graduating, he began work with Cintas as a Management Trainee and has been working with them for the past year and a half. We got in touch with ‘Omie’, as he is known,  and asked him a couple of questions in relation to his transition from university life to work life.
1. How are you finding life after UBC-O now that you’ve moved to another Canadian city?

Life is great post-UBC. Work has been good even with the relocation from Kelowna to Edmonton. The fast-paced Edmonton offers unique challenges that build character and further prepare you for the different leadership positions that come with being a Cintas partner.

2. How was the transition from university life into working life?

I would say I found it easy! I had social support (family, friends, peers, mentors) who cared for my well-being and success. I couldn’t ask for more.

3. Did you find that certain skills you learned at UBC are being applied in your workplace?

All skills learnt at UBC (and throughout my life), be it in class or on the social front have been of great help. Not only did these skills (e.g. leadership, budgeting, public speaking etc) get me through the Cintas doors but also sustain me after.

4. Were there any challenges you faced during your transition? If yes, how did you manage to deal with them?

As cliche as this may sound, the biggest thing for me (which I believe is shared across many working class members who just recently finished school) were the cravings for a sleep-in day(s) and the procrastination – more so now with the harsh Edmonton winters. Gone are the days of pressing the snooze button, knowing your friend has you covered in class. The key is to remember that the world is no longer at your beck and call: you have yourself, your family, your peers, and the company to consider. If I were to sleep in, chances are that I will have signed, sealed and delivered my own termination papers.

5. You moved from Kelowna to Edmonton. How’s the new city treating you? Do you miss anything about Kelowna?

Edmonton has been great. As I noted earlier, it brings with it unique challenges that I may not have been exposed  to while in Kelowna. However, at the end of the day, I feel like Kelowna will always be my second home (after Mombasa, Kenya). It’s no surprise I stop by every now and then to visit.

6. It is a known fact that you were a student leader involved in many initiatives at UBC-O. Are there any that you’re still involved in? Are you now involved in anything new?

I try to get involved in the community, but I haven’t done that to my satisfaction. I do, however, try to put in the same (if not more) effort at Cintas as I did at UBC.

7. Do you have any advice for current students especially the first and final year students?
Word of advice: ask yourselves, after the completion of your degree (that point in time when you are super busy trying to apply for jobs), whom will you have in your corner to write you a reference letter? Does this person really know you well to speak on your behalf? The small steps you take right now not only make you stand out in interviews but also shows to your future employer how driven you are, how much potential you have. This goes a long way into deciding whether you are the right fit for their company or not.

The Other Side

The Other Side Project was started by Mirabelle Arodi, a student here at UBC, who is currently on exchange at McGill University.
The project focuses on the concept of home, from a more individual lens and contrast it with mass media representation of countries.

The Project contrasts these images by placing both images side by side, with a student’s photo of home and an image from a major news outlet that is representative of home. The project is an attempt to counter stereotypes of different parts of the world and share the true image that actual citizens experience daily and call home.



On exchange, but didn’t even leave the country

Written by Mirabelle Arodi, 4th Year Biochemistry Major

” I’m going on exchange,”

” Oh cool! Where?”

” Montreal!”

” Oh…”

Even before they said it, I knew what was coming next: ” But that’s not really exchange. It’s still Canada,”

This is a conversation I’d had countless times— with friends, acquaintances, eavesdroppers– in the months before the fall semester. It always began with excitement, which immediately changed to either confusion or disinterest, once I told them that I would be going to McGill University for the fall semester. The fact that I wasn’t crossing borders on my journey abroad somehow seemed less impressive.

As an international student, coming to Canada for university was in itself ‘going abroad’.  It is an experience I have enjoyed so far, and what has been most enriching for me are the different people, cultures and ways of thinking that I have encountered in Kelowna. I have learned just as much, if not more, outside the classroom as I have inside lecture halls. One of the things I learned outside class, is that the province of British Columbia alone is twice the size of my home country, Kenya. To say that this new knowledge-bomb blew my mind would be an understatement. Sure, looking at maps (and the fact that a flight from Toronto to Kelowna is as long as a flight from Kenya to South Africa— nearly half the length of the African continent), I knew that Canada was a big country. Putting it in relation to Kenya, however, is what made me really understand just how big. And it got me thinking–if I can have such a wealth of experience and diversity in Kelowna, how much more must there be in the rest of Canada? I would love to explore all of Canada. But as I have already established (and probably beaten to death), Canada. Is. Big. I can’t explore it all at once. But I can start somewhere. It was a foregone conclusion when I looked a the Go Global partners schools, that my destination for exchange would be within Canada— and Montreal, Quebec, it was!

[That was the response I would have loved to give to all those people that were less impressed with my location choice for exchange. But I reckon it they would not have endured that longwinded justification.]

I probably could not have chosen a place more different from Kelowna. Montreal is on the opposite side of the country, predominantly French speaking, more multicultural, always awake, and has a subway system (which I am not the biggest fan of—such a gloomy place). Coming from the small town Kelowna, I definitely needed time to adjust to my new home for the next four months. I had studied French for over 5 years, so I thought I had the language part covered. What they didn’t teach me in class, however, is the blistering speed at which French speakers talk. Every interaction with a sales associate in a store, the teller at the supermarket, or barista, went the same way. They say something in French, to which I respond ‘pardon?’ with a blank look on my face as I try to process what they just said. They then swiftly repeat what they said in English, just as I had computed the French version. But by then it was too late– I had to carry the rest of conversation in English, all the while thinking, “I understood it the first time, all I needed was some time to process- honestly! Just give me a chance. Je parle Francais!!’ What is seriously impressive is how almost everyone in this city speaks at least two languages, sometimes three or more, and the ease with which they switched back and forth depending on who they are talking to. Two shopkeepers will speak to each other in Arabic, answer a customer’s question in French, and tell another customer his bill sum in English, all in one breath. I want to get to that point too, one day. (#Goals)

Something else that took me aback is how spoiled for choice one is in Montreal. There are countless cafes to study in, variety of cuisines to sample, and a range of clothing stores—from thrift shops to designer boutiques. Maybe this explains why Montrealers are ALWAYS dressed to the nines, whether it’s for class or a night out. Their fashion game is strong! I am yet to see anyone dressed in sweatpants outside of the gym. (But then again, it isn’t exam season yet). Even with so many options though, there are still hidden gems in in this city– like the grocery store where I can buy a week’s worth of produce for under $20, or the cozy little cafe that serves Tanzanian tea in your own personal tea pot.

There seems to be something for everyone in Montreal. Bars that have live jazz bands playing every night, nightclubs that have more of a pop-music sound, water fountain displays and outdoor temporary art installations. My personal favorite is taking walks; to the top of Mont Royal in the morning where I am rewarded with a panoramic view of the whole city, and around the interconnected streets downtown at night, where I am guaranteed to see something out of the ordinary—people salsa dancing on the sidewalk, buskers singing their lungs out, or a colorful graffiti mural so large that I have to look at it from a distance of 10 meters.

As I am writing this, I am exactly halfway through my exchange experience. I am finally settled in and had a taste of Montreal life (croissants and crepes included). But I feel that I have so much more to see and do. For instance, visiting Vieux Port in Old Montreal, shopping at the renowned farmers markets, and of course, indulging in some legendary poutine from La Banquise. I’m pretty sure that’s obligatory when one comes to the birth place of one of Canada’s greatest contributions to the [food] world.

Yes, I am still in Canada, and no, it is not all the same. I believe it is both dangerous and a disservice to assume that Canada is homogenous, and that living in one place means you’ve experienced all there is to Canada— that it warrants looking beyond it’s borders to find something new and exciting

And yes, it does count as going on exchange.