One more week comes to an end in the beautiful Ukrainian city of Odessa. It has gone one month since my arrival and I have to say that time runs really fast here.
This week, with the help of some former volunteer combatants, I was introduced to the local Odessa battalion called “Shtorm”. Shtorm’s paramilitary battalion was formulated from the existing self defense personnel and included people from police squads, as well as civilians who enrolled as volunteers. The preceding week Shtorm and its personnel celebrated the fifth anniversary since the creation of the self-defense battalion. According to the stories that I have heard, all Ukrainian battalions including the Shtorm were not created randomly, but due to the anticipation of Russian aggression, as well as the further advance of the pro-Russian separatism into regions other than Crimea and Donbass. So, the paramilitary battalion Shtorm was created in responce to the events of 2014, and the fifth anniversary since the creation had a strong symbolic importance for the Ukrainian independence, as well as the capability of Ukrainian people to defend their country.
I had the honour to participate in this important event for both the battalion and its members. Everything began from the military parade ground with the singing of the Ukrainian anthem. Thereafter, the combatants were awarded with rewards and certificates for their deserts. Shtorm’s volunteer fighters played a significant role in impeding the advance of the pro-Kremlin insurgents in the Eastern Ukraine. Therefore, the deeds of the fallen soldiers were met with great respect both under the military performance and the joint lunch. Thanks to my acquaintances within the battalion and the hospitality of the Ukrainian people, I was invited to participate in this joint lunch. During the mingle, I was acquainted with more volunteer combatants who had very interesting stories to tell about their experience at the frontline.
I liked the delicious Ukrainian dishes, especially those dishes with herring. Herring can be found in almost all dishes such as sallads, sandwiches and in a warm meal with cooked potatoes and dill.
The combatants in the Shtorm battalion were very friendly. What I found interesting was the number of women in military uniform, which indicates a relative gender equality within the Shtorm. The upcoming week I plan to meet more volunteers from Shtorm and talk about their experience during the military operation in the Eastern Ukraine.
Now I am entering week three here in Argentina and I finally got in contact with some people involved in the struggle and the movement for the legalization of abortion about conducting interviews with them. So for this week I have scheduled three interviews, the first one tomorrow. The nerves are a bit shaky but it will hopefully be fine.
Tomorrow I will conduct an interview with a women involved in the “National Campaign for the legalization of abortion” (La campaña nacional por el aborto legal seguro y gratuito) and then later during the week I have two interviews with two medicine students who are organizing an open and free course at the medicin faculty about abortion and it being a problem of public health care. Since the practice of abortion is illegal the medicin students does not get trained in how to address the issue of abortion and how to talk about it. The organizers of the course states that the purpose of the course is to provide academic and practical tools that are needed in order to confront the reality, a reality where where people that are able to get pregnant do have abortions . The penalization of the practice imply that women realize abortion in unsafe and clandestine manner, which makes it a problem of public health care. I believe that it is an important aspect and action in the struggle for the legalization to also provide professionals with the tools they need in order to help women.
During the weekend I had time to enjoy some fiesta. A cultural center in the city had a LGBTQ festival that where arranging performances and concerts that raised awareness to the trans and non binary artist scene. It was really fun and so nice and open energy at the place. It makes me glad that there are places like this where everyone is welcomed and the hegemonic way of understanding gender is challenged and deconstructed.
During Sunday evening I went to a book release event. A student from the journalist faculty presented her book “Seremos Ley” that is a result from her bachelor thesis. The book presents various stories from the women engaged in the movement for the legalization of abortion and especially women engaged in the “socorrismo”. Las socorristas is a group of women that help and accompany persons that wish to have an abortion in the process, so that they are able to have a safe and abortion. This national network of help or first aid, which is the translation of socorrismo into english, has become extremely important to the struggle for legalizing abortion. Every year this network help and accompany around 5,000 women to have safe abortions.
During the event there were some beautiful live music but also a discussion talk and presentation of the book by the author. Women who had been interviewed for the book where also there and together they presented a interesting discussion of the their work and its importance for the struggle.
The book Seremos Ley which in English means “we will be ley”.
Picture of the talk where the author presented her book and then some live music.
The call for abortion can be found in many different places, for example in the bathroom of the place where they held the party, there I found these stickers.
Äntligen hände det. Efter en vecka i mer eller mindre ångest, där jag hade en jobbig tid eftersom mina tilltänkta intervjuobjekt inte svarade, så vände det. Jag hade skrivit mail, skrivit påminnelser, ringt och försökt få tag på någon utan resultat. Efter över en veckas väntan blev jag trött på det och helt enkelt gick bort till kommunhuset. Vid receptionen frågade jag efter kommunchefen och fick besked om att gå upp till andra våningen. En ny reception, där uppenbarligen alla visste vem jag var… Men efter en viss diskussion fick jag audiens hos förste sekreteraren till kommunchefen. Och det blev ett riktigt bra möte! Jag fick massor av information och också fått bokat ett nytt möte med chefen för avdelningen för markplanering och bygglov. Det mötet blev av i eftermiddags och även det få klassas som en succé. Plus att jag fick honom till att hjälpa mig med att boka kommande möten med hans personal. När man väl får tag på människorna är de så väldigt hjälpsamma.
Jag måste också nämna mina kontaktpersoner här som har varit ett stort stöd under tiden. Jag har verkligen haft möjlighet till att diskutera både mitt uppsatsämne och mina funderingar med dem och de har gett mig väldigt värdefulla tips både vad gäller vem som jag skulle intervjua men också inför intervjuerna. Ett stort tack till dem!
Och så har jag fått besök av min sambo! Även om vi bara har en begränsad tid tillsammans här, har han väntat tålmodigt på mig medan jag försökte finna vägarna igenom administrationens villospår. Men som belöning fick han en guidad tur i Port Louis och vi tog också tillfället i akt att besöka UNESCO Heritage Site som kallas för Aapravasi Ghat i staden. Det är en minnesplats för de arbetare som togs hit från Indien och många andra länder för att under slavliknande förhållande arbeta på sockerplantagen. Dessa arbetare är förfäder till huvuddelen av öns invånare idag. En mycket intressant och lärorik erfarenhet och väl värt ett besök: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1227
Förutom den kulturella upplevelsen tillsammans är det såklart underbart att få direktkontakt med sitt vardagsliv där hemma. Jag har “bara” varit här i drygt två veckor, men det känns som så mycket längre! Alla upplevelser gör att tiden får en annan dimension när man är borta så här. Väldigt givande perspektiv som är värd att ta med sig.
Spending this Monday trying to plan this coming week and what I want/need to do! I am currently writing a letter to the minister of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Protection here in Accra, to hopefully be granted an interview with the director of the human trafficking department there. I really really hope I will get that interview, would be SOOO helpful! Other than that, this weeks will be filled with studying as usual. I am still trying to find a good location where I can sit down and study, so far it is either at home in the house or a cafe in the mall. I miss a good old library…
I thought I would share some things that I have noticed so far after my 3 weeks here, that are quite different from Sweden. Most of them positive, some a little less.
People always say good morning, good afternoon, good evening before beginning a conversation. Took me a few days to pick that up, they must have thought I was so rude…
The traffic here is CRAZY compared to Sweden. Everyone drives like crazy, honking to everything and nothing, and I wouldn’t say traffic rules are what decides how people drive. I’m taking both Uber, but also the local ‘bus’ called trotro which is the cheapest option. It is all the same, you kinda feel happy you are still alive when you get out of the vehicle haha! It is definitely true what they say, if you can drive in Accra you can drive anywhere in the world!
People are so friendly and welcoming. Maybe sometimes a bit too much for a European… I love the fact that everyone talks to everyone, every house is open to everyone, people sit outside and talk and just spend time with each other. It is a whole different culture in that sense compared to Sweden, where most people just want to stay in their own corner and spend as little time as possible with strangers or interacting face to face. But the downside might be when the Uber driver says he loves you and asks to marry you after 5 minutes in the car. It happened to my roommate from Germany, it seems like she handled it well whereas I’m thinking I would’ve either freaked out and jumped out of the moving car or gotten quite angry… Neither which would be a very good solution haha, so I am happy she told me about this so that I’m prepared with a chill answer if it would happen to me. + always sit in the backseat, less risk for it to happen!
Obruni – white man. This is the main word Ghanaians use to get my attention on the street. At first, I found it to be a bit strange and felt uncomfortable, but after discussing it with some Ghanaian friends I’ve understood that it is not an insult or a bad word per se. As I connected it to be, like if someone would call black man after a Ghanaian on the streets in Sweden – we all know what would happen then.
Goats, chickens, lizards, cockroaches, (huge) spiders and dogs are everywhere. In our yard by the house some chickens from the houses around daily come for a stroll, it freaked me out at first but now I kinda like it! Regarding the spiders, I killed one my first week here, but now I have named the one in my room because I consider him my roommate! Can’t say for sure if I like having him there just because, or if it is because seeing him in his usual spot calms me knowing that at least then he is not in my bed!
Det är ungefär tre veckor sen vi lämnade Sverige och åkte iväg för att uppleva den tredje största staden i Colombia (Cali). Jag skulle vilja skriva att det ungefär som Malmö som är Sveriges tredje största stad, men icke! Cali till skillnad från Malmö innehar två millioner människor och det är lätt hänt att man går vilse i denna stad. Dock finns det två millioner människor som skulle vilja hjälpa till om något märkligt skulle uppstå. Såklart, har vi fått lära oss rätt snabbt att det inte går att vandra runt hur som helst i denna stad, speciellt på kvällarna! Det är då alla vampyrerna kommer ut!
På dagarna har vi svettats eftersom det är super varmt här. Malin verkar ha lättare för värme, än mig. Jag skulle kunna skoja att jag hade kunnat åka till Sverige för några dagar, bara för att andas in lite kyligare luft!
I veckan har vi åkt till Juanchaco. Det tog ungefär 4-5 timmar att komma dit. Först tog vi en buss i tre timmar till Buenaventura och därifrån tog vi en båt till djungel. När vi anlände så mötes vi av den vilda naturen och en guide som skulle visa oss runt! Det kändes underbart att ta en paus från stadens puls och befinna oss närmare det gröna. Vi besökte vår intervjuperson för att fråga om tiden som skulle passa henne att ta emot oss. Det var en kvinna med ett stort leende på läppar och färgglada kläder. Efter att ha ett intervju har vi besökt en skola som ligger precis intill damens hem och butik. Vi blev inbjuda att träffa elever och delta på en lektion. Vi fick till och med dansa och sjunga med kidsen! Det intressanta är att man inte behöver kunna språket för att kommunicera med barnen!
Efter resan i djungel hade vi inte enbart intervjuer i våra fickor, men även en upplevelse rikare. Såklart var det trevligt att komma hem till Cali och njuta av en vardagslyx som att kunna ta en varm dusch.
Med vänliga och somriga hälsningar Rolanda och Malin<3!
This week I conducted quite a lot of interviews with people who enrolled voluntarily to various military battalions. We talked about their motivations for voluntary enrollment, as well as their experiences in both civilian and combat zone. Moreover, I met and interviewed the friends and mothers of fallen soldiers. This helped me to get a better insight into the motivations of volunteer fighters. I have to say that these meetings were very emotional, and especially the interviews with the mothers of fallen soldiers were very difficult to conduct. The stories that they told me were very tragic and sensitive. It was very difficult to hold tears during some of the interviews.
I was invited to the environmental event by some volunteer fighters. The purpose of this long planned project was to plant trees in commemoration of fallen soldiers. The event took place in the Maksim Gorkiy park, in Odessa. After the planting of trees was completed, the participants of this event mingled and enjoyed drinking tea with some Ukrainian sweeties. During this mingle, I was acquainted with more volunteers, as well as their friends and relatives. Consequently, thanks to these contacts my schedule is full with planned meetings for the upcoming weeks. I will conduct more interviews with volunteer fighters, and even participate in a celebration event.
The tenth of April some residents of Odessa were celebrating the 75th anniversary since the liberation of the city from German occupation. To my surprise, the city administration of Odessa and some governmental structures supported the organizers of this event. However, this event was not welcomed by all residents of the city having in mind the Soviet nostalgia evoked by this commemoration. On this day, the police was mobilized in great numbers to prevent violent actions.
I was also invited to Rukh’s office in Odessa by the former volunteer fighter who works there. Rukh is people’s movement and a political party that mostly attracts Ukrainian nationalists. I have met many Ukrainian volunteer combatants who support right wing political movements and parties. However, it is important to mention that these nationalists differ from those in Western Europe and Scandinavia. My encounter with Ukrainian nationalists was always nice, and at least out of my experience, I can conclude that these people express civic nationalism rather than ethnic. I would call these Ukrainians passionate patriots and not radical far right nationalists as some call them in various media outlets. These are people who love their country. They welcome all ethnicities who respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.
This was all from the city of Odessa. See ya next week!
Namaste (hello in Nepali)! This week being back in Kathmandu has been very busy. I have had a couple of interviews as well as attended several events organised by the Australian Embassy in Nepal (my host organisation). It was also the Nepali new year. According to the national Nepalese calendar Bikram Sambat it is now 2076.
Each year the Australia Awards Nepal program organise a return home and reintegration workshop for all the alumni that have recently returned from their studies in Australia. I got to meet Rajuna, which I helped to mobilise to Australia 3 years ago when I worked in Adelaide, Australia on the AA program. So good to see her again!
I got invited to attend the Australia Awards Nepal inspirational talk program with famous Dr Sanduk Ruit. Dr Ruit is an Australia Global Alumni and today an eminent eye-surgeon and restored the sight of more than 120,000 people across Nepal and beyond. He work to help the poorest of the poor. He has received several international Awards and it was an honor to be there and listen to him.
Then I also completed two interviews this week. The first one with the AutismCare Nepal Society and I got to interview two alumni, Sijan and Dr Sunita that both have attended the short course in inclusive education. I got to see their school, a school for children with autism that at this stage are unable to go to a mainstream school.
My second interview was with Sagar, he worked for the National Federation of Disabled, Nepal (NFDN) for many years before he earlier this year resigned to work with his project Sangai Hami (Together We) – People with and without disabilities together! Sagar is a great inspiration!
Vi har inte kunnat logga in tidigare så här kommer ett lite försenat inlägg vi skrev vår första vecka och så fyller vi på därifrån.
Det är bara några dagar kvar av mars och vi har nu varit här i Cali i en vecka och tiden har sprungit iväg betydligt snabbare än vi hade tänkt oss. Första dagarna hade vi båda mycket jetlag och kunde inte göra mycket annat än att vila och komma i ordning. Vi bor i ett delat hus i området San Cayetano som är nära många restauranger, en park och busshållplats. Det var otroligt skönt att ha ett boende ordnat redan innan som dessutom jag, Malin, bott i tidigare under min halvårs praktikperiod här.
Idag, tisdag, var vårt första besök på en organisation i ett av de mest utsatta områdena i Cali. Området är utsatt på grund av att det under de senaste årtiondena flyttat dit många människor som flytt andra delar av Colombia i hopp om ett bättre liv och en ljusare framtid. Detta har resulterat i att många hus byggts som inte registrerats och på mark som inte officiellt ägs av familjerna. Organisationen driver en skola för barn årskurs 1-5 med alla grundämnen inklusive engelska vilket annars bara är något överklassen har råd till i Colombia. De har på grund av olika samarbeten lyckats pressa ner priset så att fler ska ha möjlighet att betala för sina barns utbildning där och dessutom få lära sig engelska. Vi ska tillbaka på fredag för en mer formell intervju med rektorn. Vi har även ett par möten inbokade med ytterligare några sociala organisationer här i Cali.
Ikväll ska vi på middag hos vår kontaktperson för att diskutera vår studie och hur hon kan hjälpa till. Vi har även med oss lite choklad och annat gott att bjuda på från Sverige.
Hi! I have just done the most amazing thing!! I completed an 8 days trek to Mardi Himal in the Annapourna region in western Nepal. OMG! After two weeks in Kathmandu I needed a break from the busy city life and to get away from the bad air (Kathmandu has the worst air in the world). Another MFS student (from Stockholm University) and myself booked a tour to trek Mardi Himal for about a week and it was only one other Swedish tourist on the tour which was nice. The trekking company is called Beyond Borders Ethical Adventures and owned by a couple, the wife is Swedish and husband is Nepali so really the best combination.
The trip started with 7h bustrip from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Then we trekked from Pokhara into the depths of Annapourna region. The landscape was just absolutely amazing! Below you see some of the photos:
We stayed at various tea houses, different place every night. Some had electricity however none had internet – I was out of internet for 7 days (and toiled and warm water for longer)!! I met so many fantastic people along the way and learnt lots about Nepali culture and food (yummy momo’s!)
The trek was very refreshing after having spent a couple of weeks in a busy city like Kathmandu. You could smell the fresh air, get away from being connected, and to learn about the country. I thought this was fantastic and would recommend everyone to do the same.
Now the trek is over and it is time to head back to Kathmandu to continue my interviews. It has been an inspiring trip and it feels like I can do anything after this. I am very appreciative of being here, Nepal is an unbelievable country so much history, stories, people, traditions and customs.
Note: for those who are interested in applying / already received / alumni of the SIDA-funded Minor Field Studies (MFS) scholarship program in Nepal. I have just established a Facebook group MFS Nepal which is a forum meant to help conduct our field studies in Nepal and network with each other to share ideas, recommendations, and support each other. Everyone welcome!
It’s safe to say that during two months in Zanzibar, I’ve experienced some very unfortunate situations. Everything from getting robbed and injured to getting typhoid fever my last two weeks. But nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed this time to the fullest and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. For me, this MFS has been both a personal journey as well as it has benefitted my studies and given me an incredible eye-opener to a whole different culture. I’ve made friends from all over the world, learned some Kiswahili, lived 5 minutes from the most beautiful sea and in the heart of a UNESCO heritage city. Most valuable of all, I’ve gotten to collect data on one of the most interesting places in the world.
I now have 8 weeks of observations and several interviews done, which I concluded in the last week. To be honest, studying colorism has been a bit tricky, something I knew would be a difficult topic to discuss from the get-go. In many cultures, it’s not common to speak about the discriminatory practice and it is not viewed as a form of internalised racism. Approaching people with my subject has therefore been a challenge as many people were of the idea that it’s simply evident that being of lighter skin is better and more beautiful. I’ve discovered that colorism, in fact, does affect women in various ways, be it in unconscious or conscious. Some of my interviewees witnessed being teased in school for the color of their skin, received nicknames based on their skin complexion and overall, described that women with lighter skin color have it much easier in several settings. At the same time, I learned that the revolution in Zanzibar and the unity of the people has, according to my observations and my interviews, led to colorism not being as palpable on the island archipelago as on the mainland of Tanzania.
I’m thankful for SIDA for giving me this opportunity and in general, thankful that I live in a country that has the means to be able to provide young generations with this type of life-changing experiences. I’m thankful for all the friendships I made, my interviewees who so kindly offered me their time , the staff at SUZA who not only taught me swahili but also helped me understand the culture of Zanzibar and assisted me with knowledge and help in all my endeavors. My journey ends here for now, but I will definitely be back soon. Asante sana Zanzibar, you have changed me forever.