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Zambian Women Are Dying From Preventable Complications

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Africa, News, Program, Region, Research | 0 comments

I am humbled and grateful that I have so many healthcare options, which are not available to most women in Lusaka, Zambia. Childbirth never seemed dangerous or scary to me. But, how would I know? I have never been pregnant. These are reflections after my time as a Fulbright Student Scholar in Lusaka, Zambia. I completed a documentary short as the research element of my appointment.

I was embedded on the labor ward at the University Teaching Hospital.  The hospital’s visuals are very different from my hospital experiences in US.  But, the human connection between doctors and patients is hauntingly similar. Those narratives resonated with me.

The final  film, WARD B12,  offers a hyper-realistic behind-the-scenes view of the low cost labor ward, B12, at the University Teaching Hospital. Follow patients,  doctors, caregivers, and midwives as their days intersect and unfold into a powerful narrative about determination, strength, life, and loss.  The film highlights the need for improvements in women’s healthcare and the powerful personal narratives that beat all odds.

The film tackles globally significant, easily relatable, issues that bridge borders and have the potential to deliver a new, significant point of view to an international audience.

Watch the trailer for the film, WARD B12, on vimeo now.

 https://vimeo.com/206996681

While in Zambia, I made connections that I will continue to grow.  And I hope that my documentation will add to a public discourse on the subject of women’s health and specifically encourage institutions and individuals to give available resources.

Every adventure supplies new inspiration for artistic expression, content and process.  I believe in the immortality of art & collaboration. With so many stories to tell, there’s no reason to stay in one place.

BIO: Becky Beamer is a freelance documentarian who is currently searching for screening and speaking opportunities related to this project, WARD B12.  For Becky Beamer’s contact information and other projects visit her  website.

 

Top 8 Fulbright Scholars’ Must Pack Items

Posted by on Feb 21, 2017 in Africa, Program, Region, Research | 0 comments

Lusaka, Zambia – One needs to get creative at the Birdsnest Backpackers when you are not just staying for a few days, but months. The bunkbed is covered with a very necessary mosquito netting but the cement ceiling made it hard to hang from the top.

Congratulations to all Fulbright recipients for 2017-18 school year.  I fully understand the intensity of the application process and then the excitement of receiving the appointment.  You will surely have an unforgettable adventure.  I am taking a moment to reminisce about my time last year preparing to depart to Lusaka, Zambia. I wish I had a list of recommended items to throw in my suitcase.  And then I really wished I had that same list even more once I arrived and spent a lot of money on some items that are much cheaper in the USA. So, without further adieu – I give you my list of Top 8 Items to Pack for your Fulbright Adventure!

Top 8 Items to Pack for your Fulbright Adventure:

  1. This is an inside look at Becky Beamer’s Fulbright adventure packing must-haves and maybes. Only about half of these made the suitcase.

    Headlamp : Ugh, I always pack my headlamp.  I take it to the beach.  I take it to youth hostels and I take it camping.  I can’t remember a documentary shoot in 10 years when I didn’t have my headlamp.  But, I forgot to take my headlamp to Zambia. Zambia suffers from regular load shedding (or planned power outages) across the city.  I broke down and had to buy one since I had no light in the neighborhood.

  2. Crystal Light Single Serving Packets : Nothing gets older to drink than bottled water for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  Well, it was water or drink super sugary soft drinks and juices.  I’ll be feeling the effects of this bad choice as I try to lose the 10 pounds I packed on from poor eating habits.  Everything here is full fat and full sugar. It’s something to think about before you put on a couple extra pounds like I did. Now, I truly appreciate the options for healthy and safe eating that we have in the USA
  3. Fast Drying Camping Towel : Like many budget travelers, I found myself bunking in at a backpackers when I first arrived. I was so thankful that I could wake up to a towel the first day I arrived. It also packed easily into a backpack when I went on small journeys or sat by a pool.
  4. Carabiner : I attach things to things to things.  I packed pretty light and so, I couldn’t afford to misplace anything. So, I attached my shoes, umbrella, and bag of food to my backpack.  Also, in a pinch, I found that it could be used as a trade.  Carabiners are impossible to find in Lusaka so it’s a hot commodity on the crafts market.
  5. Extra Battery Pack for Phone – Solar If Possible : I mentioned before that Lusaka regularly has power restrictions.  As a technologically based project and person who likes my computer, a lack of power slowed me down.  I regularly sat in the dark doing literally nothing but, being mosquito food. I wish I had brought a power block.  If power is questionable in your Fulbright location, splurge for power now. Also, I did have the forethought to bring rechargeable AA and AAA batteries.  That has saved me a lot of money.
  6. Cloth Folding shower caddy / Flip Flops: This item is probably not at the top of your list of things to buy before you leave.  But, if you are sharing a bathroom at any point in adventure pick one up at Target.  You can grab one during the “back to school” sales for about 15.00 USD.  And then wander over to Walmart and grab the 2.00 cheap-o flip flops.  I used them at the backpackers, around the pool, in my house, and when visiting friends.  
  7. Ziplock Baggies: Nobody does ziplock like Ziplock. I cherish the large baggies with a slide zipper closure.  Those are unheard of in Lusaka.  I brought 10 and I’ve reused each one about 30 times.  I keep bread, cheese, veggies, meat, chips, cereal and more in my baggies.  I wash them and reuse them another time.  I bet you don’t do that in the states.
  8. Journal: Books and paper are expensive.  In Zambia, it’s very difficult to find nice writing paper or a blank journal.  Throw one into your bag.  You will love the way your moleskine journal feels in your hands compared to what you can find in some cities.

Atlanta, Georgia – This sunrise was only made possible thanks to a delayed flight. The 39 hour long flight to Lusaka, Zambia just got 24 hours longer.

Yes, every country appointment is different but, these items should be a consideration for all. Please consult your specific country’s representative to see if they agree with this list. And put them on the spot with a couple questions like  “What do you and your colleagues purchase when you come back to the USA? What everyday items are super expensive there that I might want to bring with me?”.

 

Happy travels to all,

Becky

www.beckybeamer.com

 

Some of my first impressions of Zambia. The vibrant color is obvious. I wish I could send the feeling of growing in the heat of September.

Some of my first impressions of Zambia. The vibrant color is obvious. I wish I could send the feeling of growing in the heat of September.

Thoughts one month before departure for Poland!!!!

Posted by on Sep 6, 2016 in Europe, Research | 0 comments

Hey all. My name is Pandora White and I am a 4th year chemistry doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama. I have been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Research Grant to Poland for the 2016- 2017 cycle. Currently, I am less than 30 days away from my scheduled departure. I am currently engaged in packing and preparing for departure. So, I will tell you my thoughts about this process.

First of all, let me inform you of some of my traits that heavily influence my packing process. I am an African American with natural hair, plus size, and a solo traveler. In America, this may not seem like a big deal. However, when it comes to other countries this seems to be an incredible mixture of traits. I have travelled abroad to 7 countries and have spent months in a few of them.  So while preparing to depart, I always ask myself these questions:

  1. Will my race/nationality cause a problem? In countries like Jamaica or Ghana where the majority of the population are members of the African diaspora, I did not have any problems with race. However, in some of the other countries I’ve visited, I felt my blackness. People stare at me, take photos of me, or ask me tons of questions. So in general the normal responses I get when people see me are:
    1. In some countries I have travelled to, some people have not seen African Americans and they want to document it in some way. Some people ask to take my photo and sometimes they just do it without permission. It makes me feel like I have my own paparazzi.  I have started taking photos with the people who ask to take my photo to document it. I generally respond kindly to these requests, and the people leave me alone.  Here are a few photos of this:
      Pandora1

      Shirahama Beach in Shirahama, Japan

      Pandora2

      Kochi, Kerala, India

    2. Confused/ Misinformed/Ignorant. These people are generally not a problem.  They just do not know of my culture, history and how to approach me. I consider those as teaching moments, but sometimes they anger me.  Recently, I was in the Philippines and a guy from Amsterdam asked me “Why are Negroes in America so violent?”  This was during the time when BLM protests were happening all around America. Instead of responding angrily, I explained to him the events that led to the protests and hopefully that influenced him not to think that African Americans are violent.
    3. Anger/racism. Although, I have never had anyone openly attack me. I have had a couple of altercations. I am always concerned about racists.
  1. What to do about my hair& skin?Pandora3A lot of study abroad programs tell you that you can just pick up shampoo anywhere so you do not need to pack it. However, in my case I cannot do that.  My hair is all natural. A lot of the things I use are not available in certain countries like Taiwan.  In those instances, I make my hair care and skin products from raw ingredients. So I have been compiling recipes and gathering some of the ingredients that may not be readily available such as Shea butter.
  1. Will they have clothes my size? Being both plus size and tall in America, there are specialty stores and tons of options which makes it easy for me to find clothes. However, in some countries like India and Japan, they don’t sell clothes in my size. I had to rely on what I brought with me and in some cases hire a tailor/ seamstress to make my clothes. So right now, I’m thinking about what is the most durable and versatile clothes I can pack.Pandora4
  2. Is it safe and are there rules for women that I should know? Knowing the appropriate dress code for women can help a lot in some places. I do not want to receive unwanted attention because my shorts are too short. So I pay attention to that.  In some places, it is uncommon for single women to rent apartments which makes it difficult to find apartments. In general, I just rely on instincts but I also research the country.

I have tons of anxieties about going to Poland, but I am also looking forward to all the new adventures that may befall me. I will post my detailed packing list closer to my departure date.  If you have any questions or comments, please post a comment.

 

 

Near the Halfway Mark

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in South America, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments

IMG_2288

On the Brazilian side of Iguassu Falls.

I am now almost halfway through my time in Brazil as a Fulbright grantee, and I have had a great experience so far!  A lot has happened since my last blog post, but I’ll try to fill you in.

In the end, I ended up being assigned to the city of Belo Horizonte in the middle/southeast of Brazil, which was one of the two cities I requested as preferences.  So that worked out perfectly!  Belo Horizonte may not be as famous as Rio or Sao Paulo outside of Brazil, but with about 2.5 million people it is the 6th largest city in Brazil and the capital of Minas Gerais, one of the largest and richest states in Brazil in terms of history and culture.  I am finding that Belo Horizonte has everything you expect from a huge city in terms of things to do, while also maintaining the smaller feel and particular culture of the state of Minas Gerais, which is known for its warm and receptive people, comfort food, and colonial history.  I really could not have been happier with my city placement, given the wide variety of options in a country as large as Brazil.

Of course, there is so much more to this year as a Fulbrighter than how much I enjoy the city I was placed.  As an ETA (English Teaching Assistant), the vast majority of my time during the week revolves around attending and preparing classes in the Ingles sem Fronteiras (English without Borders) program here at the Federal University of Minas Gerais – UFMG.  My role in the classroom varies depending on the class.  All of the English classes here have a professor who is responsible for organizing and teaching the class, so it is up to them how to use me as a teaching assistant in the classroom.  Sometimes I attend classes just to help lead activities and participate in whatever the students are learning that day, and other times I am asked to prepare a specific presentation or “workshop” to lead myself.  I work with 4 professors, each of which has 3 classes, and so I only go to certain classes each week because otherwise it would be impossible for me to attend every class.  So actually my schedule changes from week to week, based on which classes my professors ask me to attend or when I have a language or cultural workshop scheduled in advance.

IMG_1883

In Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

One very positive experience I have enjoyed so far has been my development of a “pronunciation workshop” that I have created for the English classes here at UFMG.  It is basically a 2-hour interactive presentation about English phonetics and pronunciation, mixed in with lots of participation from the students, explaining and practicing tons of sounds and words that can be difficult for Brazilians speaking English.  I have done this 2-hour workshop about 15 times this semester in many different English classes, constantly modifying it as I think of better materials or examples, so this has been a major project for me and I have gotten great feedback from both students and professors.  As a result, I have also started weekly informal meetings for students to show up and practice their conversation and pronunciation with me, and yesterday I had a workshop proposal approved to share my pronunciation materials with all the other American Fulbrighters here in Brazil when we get together in Sao Paulo for our mid-year conference/seminar in July.  Out of more than 70 ETAs in Brazil, only 12 workshop proposals were approved for our midyear conference, so this was a huge feeling of accomplishment after all the work I have done this semester on teaching pronunciation!  Obviously pronunciation is not the only thing I work with here — I and the other two ETAs in Belo Horizonte have also done presentations and activities about American sports, American music, American food, university life in the U.S., competitive debating, among other cool topics.

At this point there is less than a month left before the first semester ends and we head to Sao Paulo for the mid-year conference in July.  Afterward I will have 2 weeks of vacation to see some new parts of Brazil, and then I get back to Belo Horizonte for my final 3.5 months at the start of August! I will keep you updated on the next chapter of my time here!

My Fulbright App: Going Back to Brazil

Posted by on Dec 16, 2015 in South America, Teaching | 0 comments

Fulbright for me was something that all happened rather quickly.  In the summer before my senior year, I returned from 5 months studying abroad in Florianópolis, Brazil, without a clear idea of what I wanted to do a year later after graduating.  I was an international studies major, I knew I had at least a vague interest in working abroad, but I also had ideas of going to graduate school.  It was actually in the first couple weeks of classes last fall, when I overheard one of my friends talking about his plans to apply for a Fulbright grant to teach English, that I started thinking about Fulbright seriously for the first time.  Once I did more research and discovered that the application deadline was just a couple weeks away, I quickly got in touch with the wonderful Dr. Beverly Hawk, attended one of her useful information sessions in BB Comer, met with her 1-on-1 in her office, and quickly got working on the application.

Teaching English in some fashion had always been a dream of mine, so I knew I wanted to apply for an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) grant instead of a study or research grant.  So for me, deciding the country was really the main choice to be made.  I loved my semester in Brazil, I had even done a little bit of volunteer English teaching in Brazil before coming back home, and I had devoted significant time and effort to learn Portuguese.  So did I want to continue following my interest in Brazil by teaching English there through Fulbright, or did I want to see another part of the world and go to a different country for a different experience?  In the end I decided to apply for Brazil, knowing that my background would make me far more competitive for a grant there than anywhere else, and feeling confident that I already loved the country and its culture.

Dr. Hawk guided me excellently through my application process, and then the final piece was the interview here on campus, in order to be recommended by UA to the national committee.  Although I was nervous going in, it turned out to be quite enjoyable – the UA interview committee just wanted to get a better feel for me as a person and as an applicant, so that they could help me show myself as best as possible.  I was also able to ask my own questions to get a better picture of how Fulbright works and what its mission is all about.  It wasn’t long before I knew that Fulbright was far and away my main dream for post-graduation, so during the next several months, I just waited anxiously and excitedly to find out the result.  In January I found out I had made the final cut, and in March I found out I was offered a grant.  The feeling of relief, triumph, and anxious excitement was incredible.

Having graduated in May, I am now working at UA in both the Education Abroad office and as a Portuguese language trainer in the Critical Languages Center, through the end of the fall semester.  I leave for Brazil with Fulbright in mid-February, where I will remain through the middle or end of November (a 9-month grant).  Now the next major piece of news will be my specific placement and location!  While the variation between possible destinations is almost endless, considering that Brazil is the 6th largest country in the world, I really cannot wait to get started wherever I end up!

The Fulbright: Why and When

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Europe, Teaching | 0 comments

Choosing to apply for a Fulbright grant was the easiest part of the application. The steps that come after that initial choice certainly lend themselves to considerably more effort and significant reward.

I decided that I wanted to apply for a Fulbright grant in my sophomore year of college. I set the application as one of my goals (I still managed to procrastinate on starting it) and kept the Fulbright in mind throughout my college experience. I chose to apply for the English Teaching Assistantship in Spain and I made this choice early on. I am fluent in Spanish and had studied abroad in Spain and visited once before. If you have been to Spain, you can probably understand how it was an easy choice. It’s hard not to fall in love with the culture, the art, and the people. However, my love for all of those things is only superseded by my love for Spanish language. The opportunity to live in a place that is the origin of the language that I love was irresistible.

The only other passion that I have that parallels my love for the Spanish language is my passion for teaching and helping others. The ETA Fulbright position offered me the opportunity to incorporate all of the things I truly care about, and the decision to apply for this type of grant was hardly even a choice. The application process comes a lot more easily if you choose what you love.

I began my application about a month before it was due, which I would not recommend. There is no such thing as having too much time to work on something. Although I regret waiting to start the application, I’m a notorious procrastinator and there is a 100% chance that I would do it the same all over again. With the help of Dr. Beverly Hawk, I completed my two essays, my application, and secured my three recommenders within the month of application period that I had allowed myself.

After months of waiting to hear back about my Fulbright grantee status, while I was in California over spring break, I decided to check my email. I normally have a policy that while I’m on vacation, I don’t check email, but I had a feeling, and following that feeling led to my discovery that I had received a Fulbright grant to be an English Teaching Assistant in Spain. My last semester of my undergraduate career flew by from that moment, with me completely euphoric (aside from the visa process, which you will definitely hear about later on).

I cannot wait to be living my dream of teaching and living in Madrid, Spain and that journey starts in 8 days. An anomaly for me, I am packed and ready to go. I am still in utter disbelief that I will be living this experience in a little over a week, but thankful for the opportunity and those who encouraged and supported me on the way. I’m looking forward to updating in my next blog post, straight out of Madrid. ¡Hasta luego!