Packing Up Again

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I still remember that awkward feeling of excitement, nervousness, and reality setting in when I boarded the airplane in January of this year to leave NYC. I had been mostly excited up until November. Then I started feeling nervous when I had to think about saving money (harder when you’re not working) and looking for a place to stay. Then reality hit me in late December, perhaps after I received my visa and cooked Christmas dinner with my family and friends for the last time. January was coming too quickly, I still had lots of packing to do, some stuff to pre-read before the school year starts, and I didn’t (and never would) have enough money saved up.

It took me awhile to call London home and I remember exactly when that was. It was my first night in Copenhagen in late August. I haphazardly planned the trip (bought tickets and accommodations), but I didn’t have any plans for the whole week except to visit a friend outside the city for a day. By the time I arrived, it was late afternoon and I was staying in a room in a nice house-share away from the center, on a street that I couldn’t pronounce. I sat on the tiny bed and thought about the comforts of my full size bed and my laptop with amazon prime where I could fall asleep to a movie. Yes, I had missed my home, London. I was not thinking of New York or how I could call a friend to hang out in Manhattan or Brooklyn, I wanted to go back to London and sit at my pub down the street.

And now the time has come again to pack up and start again. For almost seven months I will be in West Africa conducting field research for my thesis. I have my documents ready and am anxiously awaiting to process my visa. I am unable to sublet my apartment while I am gone, so I had to give it up and will my put my belongings in storage, except for a tumble dryer if anyone is interested in buying my appliance. I’ll be starting over in London again, when I return in the summer. I won’t say Thanksgiving was miserable, but without the dinner and the fuss, it was depressingly quiet and it looks like Christmas may be too. However, I will return home a for few days before boarding at JFK airport again for another stage of my life.

Damn, coming home from college (it soundsso lame after 25). I wonder how everyone looks? Maybe my room looks ten times smaller or my neighborhood has burned to the ground. Hey, I’ve been following what’s been going on in the States. I also kept up with local gossip, I know who broke up, who got together, who left my old job (besides me!), who just had a baby, who is engaged, in short everyone but me. Yep, everyone has moved on and for a moment that makes me feel insecure. I mean, shouldn’t I be an associate director or junior vice president now with a bun in the oven and an anxious first time buyer? Not that I really want to be in that world, but I am re-thinking life as a post-grad student and what contributions I can make in my field at this level. In other words, I don’t see the light yet and I’m a little anxious about that. On top of that, it doesn’t help that my supervisors also seem anxious and that just makes me more anxious, oh and I’m broke.

I’m also fairly certain we are heading into another recession in 1-2 years, so my prospects for a job opportunity when I come out of this will also be poor. Thus, rounding back to the same old question of, “what is the meaning of my life?” Happiness is key, but finding what makes us happy is so hard! And I wonder why, don’t we know ourselves best? Why does it take so long or so many trials to find something that makes one happy? Obviously, someone who is happy has to give me some advice here!

In the meanwhile, I’ll be packing up.

Everything You Need to Know About Online Dating

black girl on tablet, online dating, saturday afternoon, the reporter and the girl, IR blog, BWWM, S.C Rhyne

Digital technology like smartphones, tablets and computers have changed the way people connect. They’ve also changed the way people date. If you’re single and ready to date, you should consider internet dating as it lets you interact with like-minded people before having to meet them in person. But what are the pros and cons, the advantages and dangers of these internet platforms? Here’s a look at how you can get started, protect yourself and find your match from your mobile device or computer.

Your Profile

Every online matchmaker site requires a personal profile for each person. Most of these sites will guide you through the profile creation phase once you sign up, but there are some tips you should consider. First, be honest about your intentions and your lifestyle. This can be a snapshot of who you are and your everyday life. Also, only post profile pictures of yourself. If you post one picture of yourself and many group pictures it can confuse those who look at your profile. Second, don’t list your ideal partner — that person doesn’t exist — instead include the type of values you have and cherish, this will attract similar people. Lastly, check your spelling and grammar. Attention to detail is key.

How You Connect

When you’ve chosen an internet dating site, how do you connect with other users? People love to talk about themselves, so personal questions about someone’s life is always a sure bet. Or if you’re more blunt, just ask someone if they want to have dinner or a drink after work one night. Remember, people are on these sites for this very reason, oftentimes there’s no point beating around the bush. If you’re a flirt start a game with the person you message like Would You Rather. This can get as intimate as you and the person messaged let it.

Precautions, Catfish

There are certain things about yourself you should never disclose online. Personal information, your address and other sensitive data shouldn’t be included in your profile. Another precaution you must keep an eye for is catfishing. A catfish, in the online dating world, is someone who pretends to be someone they aren’t and lures a person to fall in love with the idea of the catfish avatar they’ve constructed. Whether for manipulative power or financial gain, why some people do this is largely unknown. To protect yourself, demand an online video conversation on your computer or smartphone once you’ve had a few conversations; the iPhone 6s smartphone and similar models come with FaceTime installed making it easy to connect via video chat. If the person continually makes excuses for why they can’t speak face-to-face, it’s best to move on.

Offline Meet Up

Once you’ve messaged someone for a while and have a good grasp of who they are — that they are a person you’d like to spend time with — initiate several FaceTime sessions and then schedule a meet up. This can be any type of activity: a drink at a bar, an afternoon in a bookstore or a picnic at the local park. The most important aspect is that you meet them for the first time in public, as you likely don’t know enough about them to meet them at their house or yours.

Conservatives, Liberals, Progressives…what’s next for 2017?

pro-poor policies, pro-family policies, political activism,

So I will acknowledge, with the understatement of the year, that this week has been an emotional one for many Americans as well as people abroad.

While I did expect Trump would win, I think what surprised me was how he won. Many states that reliably voted Democrat since the 1980s, turned red and even the states that Clinton did hold onto, like Maine and Virginia, she did so with a 0.1% margin in her favor. While I feel that her campaign and the DNC especially did many things wrong, I will only sum it up to this: hubris. They underestimated how angry, fearful, despondent, and tired people were with 1996 rulebook to politics. Trump is a populist candidate and they needed a populist face to counter him, but the Democrats did not produce it. They stuck to the same message, and took some things (people) for granted and that is why they lost. The biggest upset is now the GOP is consolidated and it is the DNC that is in a crisis mode and they need to shake things up and do an autopsy as to why they are not relating to middle America.

I am probably what some people will call a liberal elite, however my family and I, are by no means rich, elitist, or insider to any political machine. My mother and father were both born and raised poor in a developing country, and came to the United States in the 1970s because their only choice was to stay home and continue starving or take a chance to go to college here and have a decent life. Luckily, each (separately) chose the latter, and settled in my hometown of New York City. I had a good life, I went to a private school that was adamant about bringing quality education to lower-middle income neighborhoods, and then I went to a prestigious private school in an upper income neighborhood before going to public school, then college. I know plenty of young people, whose parents came later in the 80s and 90s, and their families had a much harder time establishing themselves. Under Reagan and Clinton, immigration laws changed and funding for ESL, GED, and citizenship classes dried up in a lot of places; these are the resources that my parents and many immigrants used to assimilate into American society and become part of the American Dream.

Donald Trump will be the 45th president, and although I have mix feelings about this, I will follow Seth Meyer’s path. The fear, anger, and sense of loss that many left-leaning and centrist people felt this week is probably how Trump supporters felt for years and maybe decades. It would be wrong of me to think that my feelings are more valid than yours. While I may feel that Trump will not benefit you or your families, especially in the long term, I hope that he proves me wrong and that he does not forget you.

It is important for me to say this, because many Clinton supporters and left-leaning people are blaming the loss of this election on the wrong thing. The reason I believe in universal health coverage, education, and an enforcement to market regulations is because in my academic research, I compare the poor in countries that do not have these things (Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Haiti) with the poor in countries that do have them (Sweden, Tunisia, Germany) and see a difference in how people live. The quality of life is different for everyone when we have pro-poor policies, in other words, pro-poor is also pro-middle class and what we had since the 80s has not been that. It would be hypocritical of me, to call myself a pro-poor advocate who can “relate” to the poor in Africa, the Caribbean, or Latin America, but remain blind that there is an under-privilege class outside my doorstep in America and my adopted home of the U.K. Maybe the last thirty or forty years have not befitted everyone and we need to think about where we go from here. So now that I know some people who did vote for Brexit and some Trump supporters, I can empathize and hopefully they empathize with me about the elusive American Dream and the reality where the law respects the rights of all persons and opportunity is open to all.

Thus, this is what I will continue to fight for, under every administration going forward. So liberals, progressives, conservatives, patriots, and freedom lovers: put away the tissues and let’s hold our leaders accountable, starting January 20th, 2017.

Send me your thoughts @ReporterandGirl or post them on Facebook.

On the Eve of the Eighth

2016 elections, S.C Rhyne, the reporter and the girl, uncle sam

Hello readers,

It has been a while since I could settle down long enough to type out a message to you. My October has been filled with a flu, that later turned into bronchitis, and my mother came to visit me to celebrate her 70th birthday at one of the highest peaks in Switzerland.

Well, November is here. I finished my round of antibiotics yesterday, the semester is in full swing as I spend many nights in the computer lab, every store has their holiday specials up, and my inbox is starting to flood with the countdown emails to Black Friday. But of course, we are waiting to see what happens tomorrow on Election Day. I had just mailed my ballot on Saturday, it was sitting on my countertop for weeks before I filled in the bubble, sealed, and delivered it to the post office.

One of reasons I decided to pursue a higher degree in political economy is because I am interested in the way policy is created and how it impacts people. The intended as well as the unintended consequences need to be anticipated and law makers have to be flexible enough to adjust for anything. Policy is a vision for the outcome one seeks in a particular issue and how one strategizes to reach a set of goals. There is a lot more stuff that goes into policy making, like evaluations, resource management, power relations, and multi-sectoral planning. It doesn’t help that the U.S. is a federal system and it doesn’t have a lot authority in state and local sectors; so in our case, policy making is more complicated because authority is decentralized rather than our European friends who have national systems of governance.

I, like many Americans, have been astounded, fascinated, shocked, frustrated, and even disgusted at how we arrived with our two main front runners for the 2016 presidential candidates. Our arrival to this moment tells us that there will be a lot of work into reforming voting in the U.S., such as opening the primaries to more registered voters, rather than party insiders. But nonetheless, we are finally here and I don’t think this election, which has seen the bottom of the bottomless barrel, have ever caused so much stress and division to American families, friends, and relations.

I just want it to be over. Actually, I don’t even know if I want to live through the next 4 years. I’d rather be cryogenically frozen and defrosted some 50 years later.

But whatever happens tomorrow, know that on Wednesday, November 9th, we are still the same country that rest of world looks to as a shining example of democracy, opportunity, and liberty. Whether you know it or not, since post-WWII, the U.S. has been a major influence on political, cultural, and economic platforms; if we sneeze, Europe catches a cold, then Asia, Latin America, and Africa too. So yes, everybody is watching, and part of being a global leader and influencer means role modeling and setting the example for everyone else. Now my preferred candidate will not win tomorrow and I will not tell you how to vote, but only to vote. The only way your vote can be “wasted” or “thrown away” is if you do not vote at all. If you do not like any of the names on the ballot, there is a blank line to write in a name. Any name. It is not just a right, but a civic duty– your RESPONSIBILITY to vote.

While we have very real and serious issues to address after November 9th, I hope the weapon we will choose for the next chapter will be our pens or keyboards if you’re new school like me. The pen is more powerful than any fist or gun for changing our systems to fairer and more sound mechanisms that will work for the average Joe and Jane. So I will be up tomorrow night, watching and waiting with you all, good luck.

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And onward to Geneva

achieving goals, inspiration, breaking barriers, empowered woman, reaching destination, IR blog, S.C. Rhyne

“It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving, can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.” — Albert Einstein, in a letter to his son.

With so much that happened this month, I missed writing to you all and wanted to check in. I had an annual review due on October 1st and became ill with the flu for nearly two weeks after working on this nail-biting deadline. However, I kept moving, the best I could, as I have so much to prepare for my trip in January.

I received feedback from my university about an application that I put in, to approve this field trip. I have been re-writing the paperwork for the last couple weeks. However, right now, I am spending my first morning in Switzerland, and I am so glad that I can get away from the noise.

People say when you’re sick or tired to rest or “take a break”. However, I feel that puts me off-balance and that I lose my momentum. So, this ode is for the movers and shakers, may we find peace while never standing still.

How do you keep moving, even when you feel that you’re made of lead?

Why Police Shootings are State-Sanctioned Violence

I haven’t commented in-depth about the police shootings in African American communities on this blog. However, for today’s post I don’t think I can “escape” from that world, as I thought about the footage from Oklahoma’s and North Carolina’s shootings.

I did a post a few months ago about some questions I get asked as an American living abroad, and one of the things that British, Europeans, and Africans do not understand is our gun culture and hence, gun violence. They see the two as explicitly linked (available guns = mass shootings), and while I have given some rationale for our gun culture, I cannot find a positive rationale for police shootings of unarmed victims. This is when the discussion goes beyond the topic of gun culture into State-sanctioned violence.

There is wide use for this terminology, however I am specifically speaking of the legacy of police-community relations in African American neighborhoods. The relationship between law enforcement and Blacks has always been tense, so what we are witnessing in 2016 stretches to at least a century ago. The same White Supremacists (Ku Klux Klan members) who would burn crosses on front lawns or perform other acts of terror in Black neighborhoods at night, would dress up in law enforcement uniforms or suits in the day, to work at the police station, city hall, attorney’s office, or at the court. In other words, the same people who swore on a bible or in front of the flag to protect the citizenry and uphold the law, were the same ones who would commit these acts under the cover of darkness. This reality is less than one generation ago.

Today, the movement of #AllLivesMatter claim that this construct has been abolished and that specifically pointing out that “Black lives matter,” is racist. Just to be clear, the entire statement is “Black lives matter (too)”; as it is not about elevating the life of a Black person above anyone else, but raising awareness to a very critical issue that the people who are sworn to protect us, are killing us. Who can we trust? And yes, this system of “terrorizing and policing” Black communities that was historically constructed, is still in place. The tactics are more subtle, but the rhetoric of the “infinitely dangerous or threatening Black man” is used as a justification for lethal force.

So why do I use this term “State-sanctioned violence” ? Other than having race, class, gender, and manner of death in common; after the shooting, the victims also did not receive life-saving first aid. Huffington Post wrote a great article and this is why the phrase “Black lives matter” is important and should be shouted from the rooftops of every house. It is terribly unbelievable to think that a terrorist, who placed many bombs all over New York City and New Jersey last weekend, was shot but received life saving treatment, and will live to stand trial to defend himself. However in direct contrast, a Black man whose car was stranded on the side of the road, or the other Black man who was pulled over for a traffic ticket, or the 12 year old Black boy playing with a toy gun in the park never made it home. Not just because of a gun-shot wound, but because the officer, and surrounding officers, did not administer first aid or call for an ambulance immediately.

Thus, what is the rationale that an “armed and dangerous” ISIS-inspired terrorist gets to live, see his family, and do all the things that a law-abiding father of four will never get to do? For the record, I am glad that Ahmad Rahami received treatment and was treated with dignity as each human deserves. But why weren’t any of these men too?

This is the key link to why we can see this historical legacy perpetuating itself. Even after the victims were shot, many were denied immediate first aid after the “threat or danger” ceased. However, mainstream society and the main discussion of police-involved shootings, have not addressed this phenomenon. The Black community has suffered disproportionately from social ills (high unemployment, under-housed, health disparities etc…) and thus as a group has faced marginalization. Police shootings are a part of this larger scope. Thus, the “lack of caring or concern” to provide humane medical treatment is a product of decades of State-sanctioned violence, where power relations constructed in this realm has made violence against African Americans plausible. In other words, there is no “outrage” when violence of this nature happens, because in a way, we expect it to; nor do we expect the first responders (usually other officers) on the scene to help neither.

The phrase #BlackLivesMatter, which raises awareness of unfair policing practices, speaks to the dehumanizing of a Black life. No individual would say that one life is less valuable than another; however as a society, we collectively stopped seeing Black “suspects” or “perpetrators” as human beings. We have dismissively rationalized the deaths of Eric Gardner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, or Walter Scott as “guilty thugs”, rather than critique the system that wields so much power over us behind a badge. A system that is flawed and insular, and has rarely been challenged by mass society to change, innovate, and respond to the dynamic needs of the public.

The training standards of law enforcement has to become universal across the country, there are multiple DOJ investigations into these shootings; however, the reports that came out on Ferguson and Baltimore policing practices, reveal that while the ideology of White supremacy is dying, officers still “police” differently in Black neighborhoods than White areas. Rookie officers are trained to view encounters in Black communities differently and the insular nature of some police districts prevent fellow officers from coming forward when his/her colleague breaks the law. Officers are also first responders. This means anyone that needs medical help (including the person that was shot by the officer) should receive immediate first aid and a 911-call for an ambulance. However, the problem again is training, not every police force is trained to perform first aid and protocols for officer-involved shooting varies.

The federal government has a role in this; a task force was set up to review police standards and provide meaningful solutions. However, these recommendations are up to individual police units to decide if and how these recommendations would be implemented. Thus, there is no enforcement or universal mandate for local officers to wear body cameras or use conflict diffusion measures. Americans of all race, class, gender, orientation, and background also have a role in this, because this isn’t just a “Black problem”– it affects everyone. Every community deserves safer policing practices, stronger law enforcement-community relationships, and officers that are accountable to the public that they serve, not “police”.

The only thing deadlier is silence.

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