Posts in: Study Abroad

COP’s Representation Problem

This morning, I went to a panel in the #wearestillin pavilion regarding the U.S. midterm elections and how they relate to advancing the climate agenda. This was essentially about the ‘blue wave’ that swept the states one month ago, flipping the house from red to, well, blue. These elections were remarkable in many ways- there was the highest voter turn out in a midterm election since 1966, we now have our first muslim representatives-elect, and an unprecedented number of women and people of color won hard-fought elections to take the house. This panel was remarkable in a different way, all 5 panelists were middle-aged white men in suits. As they rode the blue wave, a wave of irony hit me– demographically, it was not them who won this battle, not their rights on the line every day in Washington, and yet here they were sitting pretty talking about how we could now advance a climate agenda in Washington.

The COP, as a conference, suffers the same problem. Climate change will affect disproportionately people of color, people of low socioeconomic status, and women. And yet white people and men fill the panels and the hallways. The United States is most represented country per capita here at the COP. This is largely due to the fact that the bulk of the non-governmental organizations badged at the COP are from Western Europe and North America. It costs a load to get here, Katowice is no international hub, and then even once the barrier of arrival is met, the accommodations are expensive. This is not to mention the lack of accessibility of language here, almost every event is in English.

This is symptomatic of the larger negotiating process, developed countries ask for clemency in their past emissions, and then continue to emit. Developing countries bear the brunt of climate change and are often, by lack of economic resource, denied as large a seat at the negotiating table as developed nations and their constituents.

Solving climate change cannot be done on the backs of the poor and disadvantaged. If that is what happens, it will simply continue the same structural catastrophe that landed us here in the first place. Solving climate change requires a reckoning with structural inequality and systems of power. The first step towards this is giving developing countries a seat at the table, sitting back, and listening.



Bad News From Katowice

Late last week our delegation was joined by President Tiefenthaler, Provost Townsend, and one of the Colorado College Trustees, Marc St. John. Their presence at the COP underscores the importance of climate change for CC. We had a wonderful time leading them around to events and chatting with them about our research projects. A hearty thank you to them for taking time out of their busy schedules to come to coal-y Katowice and attend this important conference.

You may be wondering what we do from day to day so I’ll give you a quick rundown. We wake up, hop on a free(!) tram to the venue, which is quite like a giant temporary airport, breeze through security, and start attending events. Events range from attending the technical negotiations of the Katowice rulebook (called Plenaries) to going to a wine tasting centered around the effects of climate change on the wine industry. In addition, there is an entire building filled with country and business pavilions, think Epcot for climate change professionals. Each country has a small area decked out with their flag where they hold events, providing seating for conference goers, and share their perspectives on climate change. (I am sitting in the Austria Pavilion right now where they have outlets (a rarity inside the venue) and free hazelnut wafers). We attend events for 6-10 hours each day.

The COP is an emotional rollercoaster, something I neither anticipated nor understood before coming. As all the countries argue about the technicalities of the Rulebook (which really feels like the last hope for combatting climate change on an international level), there are hiccups. On Saturday, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia stalled the discussions when they said they would not support a clause “welcoming” the UNFCCC-requested Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the effects of 1.5 degrees celsius of warming. This refusal stopped an entire meeting and radically changed the broader mood around the conference from one of tentative hope to one of hostility and despair.

There is some hope yet, as the conference does not end until Friday so there will still be progress.

Hello from the COP

“If we see climate change destroying entire countries, and we know we have the technology to stop this, what is stopping us from taking the necessary action?” – UN General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés”

This question, from the opening session of the COP weighs heavy on my mind, and the mind of every attendee, as we move into the two-week Paris Agreement Rulebook negotiation period. The principal task of COP24 is finalizing and creating the aforementioned rulebook. Since COP22, negotiators have been working on creating the rules, guidelines, procedures, and institutional mechanisms through which the Paris Agreement contributions will be implemented. Without these rules, the commitments made under the Paris Agreement will be practically meaningless. The tenor of this COP is underscored by the recent IPCC report showing what would happen if the world only warmed 1.5 degrees Celsius (the Paris Agreement ceiling is 2 degrees). Many, including myself, feel that the Paris Agreement is our last chance to make a meaningful dent in climate mitigation, which makes this COP and the ensuing rulebook of utmost importance.

Attending a COP is a hopeful experience, it is the largest international initiative for climate mitigation and adaptation- a refreshing change from the flat out climate denial in Colorado Springs. Seeing people from all over the world come together to solve humanity’s greatest issue is reassuring and satisfying. That being said, within this venue is both incredible selection bias and incredible privilege. People are here precisely because they understand the dire nature of climate change and to some extent it is a giant (UFO-shaped) echo chamber. Unfortunately, those who will be most adversely affected by climate change are not here.

While the COP feels hopeful, it is tinged with a sort of horror. This is the 24th COP and even throughout all the partnerships and agreements achieved over the past two decades, we are still on track to overshoot even the 2 degree goal set by the Paris Agreement. This anecdotal quote from an ex-greenpeace employee who has been to every COP sums it up:

“I’ve been here long enough to be complicit”


Our class plus Watson Fellow Theo Hooker outside the COP24 venue


Arrival in Katowice

After a class-combined 3 days of travelling, we all arrived safely in Katowice (pronounced cat-oh-vee-cha) and have spent the past 24 hours exploring and getting oriented to our home for the next two weeks.

Last night, we all went to explore the downtown area, ate perogies, and bought towels. While Katowice is a small city, the town center is lively and bustling with buskers singing, men selling fruit, and Christmas carols blaring out of speakers. It is very evident in the city that the COP is coming. Banners are hung on buildings, new bus routes have been created, and every single hotel room in the city is filled.

This morning, we headed to the COP venue to get our badges and it was a surprisingly seamless process. Getting badges (the only means to get into the conference) for this class has been difficult. In years past, the host cities of the COP have been far larger than Katowice, and therefore able to accommodate more conference goers. This year, the number of available badges was significantly smaller than it has been. Through a lot of tenacity on the part of our professor, we were all able to be badged for at least some portion of the conference.

While getting our badges this morning, we met up with CC’s Watson Fellow, Theo Hooker. It was nice to catch up with him and hear about the incredible things he has experienced so far in his travels. Some of us headed to the Christmas market where we went ice skating and then explored some polish cuisine. Tonight, a number of people will go to a string quartet concert at the Katowice National Symphony.

COP events start tomorrow and we have our first full-delegation dinner. I will keep you all updated!

EC 385 Prepares to COP

Hello, and welcome to the block blog for EC 385 “International Economics: the Economics of International Climate Policy,” my name is Lily Weissgold, I am a junior double major in Economics and Environmental Policy and I will be blogging for our class while we are abroad. Our class will be traveling to Katowice, Poland this Thursday to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP).

This is an incredible opportunity for learning, networking, and critically engaging with the strongest existing international effort to mitigate the effects of and adapt to climate change. One that would not be possible without the flexibility of the block plan. Throughout the semester, including this week, our class has met 11 times to discuss readings, learn UN terms, and even learn how to cook pierogi!

I will be updating this blog regularly, so check back to hear about what we are up to on the ground of the COP. Until then, pozegnanie! (farewell in Polish)

Muito Prazer – Nice To Meet You

When most students decide to study abroad they usually chose places like Italy, France, or Spain. While these places are obviously full of culture and history, I am beyond satisfied with my choice to not travel the beaten path and travel to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.                         IMG_5724                                 IMG_5737

I’ve only been in Salvador for four days, but in that time, I feel like I have a new understanding of the world.For the first time in my life, I was the foreigner, struggling to understand  another language. As a butchered words, received blank stares from everyone around me, and sometimes was forced to just sit silently, I was reminded of all the immigrants in the United States. Speaking a new language is indefinitely hard. Languages are not just a new set of words, but also a new way of thinking. The people in the United States who are from another country yet can understand what I’m saying and respond in “broken” English have accomplished something I and many American’s still can’t do. This brought me to a new realization. I am stupid. I, a straight A high school student on an full ride academic scholarship to a great private college, with an A- average in college, am stupid. In Brazil, when someone says, “I speak a little English,” essentially they can understand most of what I am saying and respond coherently. When I say, “I speak a little Portuguese,” I mean I know a tiny bit of scattered vocabulary and a few grammar constructions. So many people around the world can speak more than one language, and I struggle to learn one. Most Americans don’t even give other languages that much dignity. Most Americans push through their required two years of language in high school while they’re 14 and 15 years old. After that they forget about this language unless they’re required to push through more years of language in college, but like me they learn only scattered vocabulary and few grammar forms. Living with my host family, watching them talk and laugh, and not being able to communicate with them, is hard. I want to laugh and joke, but instead I sit quietly and watch. When Americans travel, we go into new countries without knowing a word of the country’s language and expect to be accommodated. When students from other countries come to America, they come fully speaking English or something close to it.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing I’ve learned in Brazil. Salvador is so alive and full of culture. The people here are proud of their African heritage and their culture is a mix of African and European roots. Catholicism and Candomble (an African religion), stand hand and hand in the city. There is no conflict, no or struggle between the two. We went on a city tour and saw many of shrines and churches of both religions.

Salvador also has huge communities called Favelas.
IMG_5775                         IMG_5767
These favelas have been compared to slums. People come to the city from the countryside looking for a better way of life, and while they try to find a job, they find or build a ‘temporary’ home in a favela. Once they are here, they are usually stuck here, in an unplanned community. Not all favelas are dangerous, but some are and have drugs running through them. The favelas are mixed in with the rich neighborhoods. There is no separation or distance between the rich or the poor. One favela we saw overlooked the soccer stadium built for the world cup, a beautiful lake, and a beautiful neighborhood for the rich. As my professor put it, Brazil is a rick country, but it has a corrupted government, so that the money stays in the hands of the politicians and a select elite, and doesn’t ever reach the hands of the people. For me, the hardest part is to see people sleeping in tents on some of most beautiful beaches or graffiti on beautiful churches or historical landmarks. Of course there is no way to make this better or justify what’s happening, but when I open the window to my room and hear the thriving city below me and all the people rushing in their car to be somewhere, I know that this city is still fighting for it’s equality, and I have hope.

Eating IS studying. . .

Hello again from Lima! It’s a cool Sunday afternoon here in Miraflores as we progress through CC’s Anthropology of Food in Peru.  Our most recent development is that we have started to undergo the research and writing process for our final projects.  Our professor allowed us to select a random topic from a hat, which contained various ideas about regional, cultural and festive food items.  Behind this seemingly simple and tasty research project is a challenge–Mario deliberately chose these topics because they had less literature available.  Thus, we’re forced to go out and eat these foods, talk to people and experts on streets and restaurants and overall become less reliant on our standard student methodology of immediately hopping on research databases and Google. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the great variety and history in Peruvian food, our topics include items such as:

Pachamanca: a pre-Hispanic form of barbecuing the involves the cooking of different foods (most often meats) in the ground upon a hot bed of coals, enclosed by rocks, leaves and other insulating materials. The real slow cook! Several varieties of this method exist in New Zealand and Hawai’i.



Ceviche: A very popular dish in Peru, Ceviche is a mixture of fish, lime, onions and other spices.  However, it is unique because the fish is cooked using “denaturization,” which uses the acids of lime juice to deconstruct the proteins within the fish (essentially cooking it, but without heat).  The result is a scrumptious dish of “cooked” fish served chilled and commonly accompanied by camotes (sweet potatoes) and choclo (a variety of large-grain corn grown in Peru).


At first this was a difficult transition for us because we simply couldn’t find anything on the internet or within printed texts. How the heck are we supposed to approach a topic as pioneers of the field? We don’t know anything! But thanks to the aid of Shelley and Mario throughout the process of narrowing down our topics, we now stride confidently through the streets of Lima in search of pachamanca and ceviche restaurants.  In addition to talking about food theory and cultural dishes in class, our group has also taken a few recent excursions to places like El Barrio Chino (Chinatown in Lima) and El Museo Nacional de La Gastronomía Peruana (National Museum of Peruvian Gastronomy). As we continue to learn more about the roots of the many different foods here, we move closer towards understanding better both the unique diversity of cultures in Peru and the life of an anthropological foodie.

museo nacional

These large ceramic containers were often used in the pre-Hispanic period for a primitive version of fermentation in order to make the famous Peruvian drink “chicha.” In the Incan empire, it was considered dangerous to drink water by itself, since contaminants were known to cause epidemics.  Thus, plenty of chicha was made during this period with the aid of saliva from many different community members. Yum!

barrio chino nuevo ano

Según el calendario chino, el 2013 es el Año de la Serpiente (Foto: USI)


When we originally set the date to visit El Barrio Chino, we had no idea it would be Chinese New Year! Upon arriving, the streets were teeming with people, bamboo shoots and crazy dragons dancing around. Definitely the right day to visit.


Until next time!

¡Hasta luego!




The Lima Foodies

After our first month in Lima, we’ve gotten into the rhythm of class and exploring the city.  Our group has explored numerous museums, archeological sites, local attractions and more during the first block.  Everyone took his or her own approach to block break—some of us stayed in Lima to relax and explore while others traveled to areas like the northern coast to enjoy the lush green reserve and beautiful beaches.  And now, three days into our next course, we’re back into business mode.

A central component of our new course, Anthropology of Food, is the process of research (especially since we’ll be turning in a 20-page research paper as our final assignment).  However, Shelley Harper, who is a librarian at Tutt Library back in Colorado, has been given the opportunity to join us for a week here in Peru.  Throughout this first week, Shelley has been giving us useful tips and strategies for approaching this research process; each day we dedicate about an hour of our class time to learning about new and effective methods for researching unique topics.  That is to say, our professor Mario Montaño has given us final paper topics that are specifically chosen for the reason that they are less developed, and this can make the research process challenging when there are fewer secondary sources to work with.  Nevertheless, with the help of Shelley we are now well on our way to narrowing down our topics and collecting sources for Friday’s bibliography workshop.

Throughout our first few lectures and assignments from Mario, we have all been transitioning to the mindset of the anthropologist.  We’re invited to think about food not only as something that we eat three times a day, but as something that at its root defines the very people who eat it.  Mario constantly emphasizes the importance of food and its relationship with society—analyzing food can tell us about poverty, social customs, history and even politics.  For example, we recently read and talked about an article that discusses culinary history in pre-Hispanic cultures from South America.  As human beings adapted themselves from being simple, nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers to domestic, agricultural societies, several important evolutions occur.  Food once was and still is an important pillar in human life, and its presence, or lack thereof, can truly define a civilization.  The Incan empire was one of the first well-organized civilizations to emerge in South America; through the lens of food, our class has talked about how nobles and common citizens’ lives reflected a disparity that was generated by food.  While nobles had an abundancy of food, which was often a product of power and control over a newly developed agricultural society, common citizens ate more sparsely.  Nobles had large dinner corridors, servants and often regal eating traditions whilst other people simply ate off the ground in their small house.  At the root of all these differences is food, and as we continue to explore the culinary history of Peru, and more generally South America, we look forward to uncovering more about how food deeply affects the social structure of our lives.

Today we visited Villa El Salvador for the second time as volunteers.  This particular site is incredibly well-known for its historical significance but also poverty.  The story originally takes place just outside of Pamplona, which is roughly six miles south of Lima.  Previously an abandoned site, in 1971 it became occupied by over 200 different families that sought refuge in a new community.  The population thrived, and shortly thereafter, a violent conflict erupted between the new tenants and the central government, which resulted in numerous deaths, widespread international media coverage and intense outcry within Peru.  After the conflict finally came to a close, the government resolved to create a new community site, this one 12 miles south of Lima that would be a more suitable location—Villa El Salvador it would be named.  Still, the new roots of this community were shallow and unstable in the beginning; the vast sand dunes seemed almost uninhabitable.  Today, Villa El Salvador is a recognized “food desert,” in anthropological terms, and still suffers from poverty.  As volunteers, our plan is to visit once a week to play soccer, volleyball, jump-rope or whatever fun games the center has planned with the kids. While some of us were outside playing and romping around with the diverse group of kids that gather each day at the center, several other students were indoors helping reorganize the community’s small library.  Service trips such as those to Villa El Salvador are important to our group—not only do we enjoy spending several hours each week giving back to these bright young children, but it also helps provide essential perspective of the place in which we’re studying and living.

The Art of Insurgency Final Projects

Dobar dan! (Good afternoon!)

Two days ago I experienced one of the most epic days I have yet to experience at CC. John Gould (one of our professors) even said that it was one of his favorite days at CC, and he’s been here a lot longer than I have!

Our final performances took place all over campus and were wildly different from one another. It’s one of those things where you kind of had to be there, but I’ll try to give you a little taste of each one.

1. First, Chris gave a long and convincing monologue, which seemed to be about a romantic relationship, but was actually about nationalism. I think a lot of the political science majors in the class realized this right away, but I didn’t realize it until Chris made the big reveal afterwards, and it blew my mind. I suddenly saw every detail of the speech he had just given in a new light. It’s amazing how much clearer politics can become when it is mapped onto interpersonal relationships.

Chris' monologue.


2. Then Anya, Lauren, and Shauna performed a multidisciplinary piece–involving painting, dancing, and storytelling–about the experience of growing up in a military family. There were so many layers to it: it touched on freedom of expression as opposed to duty, what constitutes a home, and how to come to terms with one’s family, among other things. All of this was centered on the interplay between various bright colors, on the one hand, and white, on the other hand.


3. I didn’t have much time to process it all before we drove to a local middle school for John Russell and Tim’s performance. We were asked to enter the cafeteria and each sit down at a different table of sixth graders. We were then supposed to engage them in conversation and work different facts about dropping out of high school (we were given a sheet to work from) into the conversation. I was absolutely terrified to do this, but I found a quiet table with two girls and begun talking to them. I cheated by merely giving them the sheet to read if they wanted to, instead of reading it to them. I still had a good conversation with them, though. Next, John and Tim staged a slow motion “race” in the middle of the cafeteria. One of them was a lot faster than the other, but they both got to the finish line and both got graduation caps. A lot of the kids got really into the “race” and were cheering them on, which was sweet to see. It’s impossible to say if the performance will have any long-term impact on those kids, but it did seem to inspire them for the moment.


4.  Next, we went to the quad, where Mac, Nawar, and Zach had set up a huge canvass. Mac painted the word “release” on it, and then they began inviting people to throw paint balloons on the canvass. It was really fun, and created something beautiful as well. The project was meant to offer a “release” for all the stressed out CC students trying to make it through Fourth Week. A lot of people gathered to participate and watch, and everyone seemed to be having a good time, so I would say it was a success!

One stage of Zach, Mac, and Nawar's piece.
Another stage.

(Crowd not pictured–everyone had to stand back to avoid getting splattered!)


5. We had a lunch break and then, back in our classroom, Luigi and Aaron performed a Brechtian agitprop piece mocking the current government of Venezuela. It was absolutely hilarious—I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the whole thing. Describing it punchline by punchline wouldn’t do it justice, but all I will say is that I got a square of toilet paper on which was written “revolution, revolution, revolution” as a souvenir.

"When is this shit going to end?"

“When is this shit going to end?”


6. Taylor’s performance was next and it darkened the mood instantly. It was about race, immigration, and the “American Dream,” and involved re-mixed voice-overs, including some poetry by Langston Hughes. It also involved Taylor sleepwalking with a white box (that said “dreamer” upside-down) over his head and later with a black garbage bag over his head. There was an all-white bed, white pajamas, a little white lamp, white walls, a white ceiling, and a white floor. And there was eerie, all-black visual art scrawled on the walls. It gave me chills.

Taylor's piece. What a nightmare.


7. I didn’t want to follow that, but my project was next. I took the class to the library and, acting as a character called “Official History,” I began reading from a book on CC history that I had found in the library. Ever since returning from Serbia, I had been collecting personal stories from various kinds of people. All the stories were about things that happened to people while at specific locations on CC’s campus. I gave slips of paper containing these stories to the class and asked them to read the stories when something in the history I was reading inspired them to do so. For example, I read a passage about William Slocum and various people read events that had happened in Slocum Hall. When each person had read from all slips of paper they had (most people had two), they ran to the location the story took place in, found an object, ran back, and gave me the object. As that happened, I slowly transformed from the character of Official History into myself, and began telling my own personal stories related to the objects they brought me and the locations these objects were from. The performance ended when I asked the class to leave the library and the collection of official books about CC behind. I intended to create a kind of alternative history that was specific to people and locations. I also tried to deconstruct the binary of official versus unofficial history at the same time, by blurring the boundary between my own persona and the persona of “Official History.”


8. After leaving the library, we went to the gym, where we all participated in Hanna and Liz’s performance. We were all asked to work out in place, while Hanna and Liz protested unrealistic body standards and eating disorders through movement, posters, and a soundtrack. They did this on the top floor, where the cardio machines are, and then also led us to the weight room, where they did a second performance specific to common male body image issues. (They were not stereotyping based on gender, but responding to the reality that the vast majority of people working out on the cardio machines are women, and the vast majority of people working out in the weight room are men.) I thought their performance was very powerful, due to the location they chose.

Hanna and Liz's protest at the gym. That's the two of them huddled on the scale.

That’s Hanna and Liz huddled on the scale.


Overall, I was blown away by the creativity and bravery of my classmates.

Well, this is my last blog post for this class. This block has been amazing! Thank you for (virtually) sharing this journey with me. Dovidjenja!


Pictures From Serbia

A very, very select few:

We found a Chinatown in Belgrade. #globalization?

We found a Chinatown in Belgrade. #globalization?

I had just gotten off the plane when we went to this place that had pictures of Che and Stalin. (From L to R: Che, Stalin, Hanna.)

I had just gotten off the plane when we went to this place that had pictures of Che and Stalin. (From L to R: Che, Stalin, Hanna.)

"And that's how baby centaurs are made."--Chris

“And that’s how baby centaurs are made.”–Chris

The coffee shop where Otpor was founded (according to secret police reports)! Wow!

The coffee shop where Otpor was founded (according to secret police reports)! Wow!

Some sort of street art instillation? It was so pretty!

Some sort of street art instillation? It was so pretty!

The ruin of the TV/media building bombed by NATO.

The ruin of the TV/media building bombed by NATO.