Daily Archives: August 9, 2013

The Search for Authentic Chinese Food

By Miriam Shahidi, Travel and Foreign Language Lover and Assistant UNA-GB Blogger

Ni Hao readers!

We hope you’re ready for the next UNA-GB Young Professionals cultural event, Taste of China! Read along to gain some insight into China’s unique cuisine and rev your appetites for our event, which is only mere days away!

I’m sure most of you have heard many things about Chinese food and its sometimes bizarre ingredients and offbeat recipes. The first thing we should know about our idea of Chinese food is that what we eat here in the US is very different from native Chinese food. In fact, American Chinese food is almost an entirely different genre by itself!

What you think when I say “Chinese food”

Globalization has always brought an integration of cultures, allowing people in one part of our shrinking world to experience some cultural aspect of another faraway country, and a perfect example is Chinese food in America. What we eat here varies vastly from what people eat in China. In America, a typical Chinese restaurant will serve dishes rich in oil and heavy sauce, and somewhat uniform in flavor. To an American, this seems like an exotic dining experience, but in fact, these dishes are missing a common characteristic of authentic Chinese cuisine- simplicity. Which leads us to ask, what actually is real Chinese Food? What role does it play in China besides basic sustenance?

Food is an extremely important part of Chinese culture. China, having the largest population in the world, stands in at about 1.35 BILLION people.  That explains its huge agricultural industry and extensive  diversity of cuisine. Historically, the idea has been for Chinese people that if you want a good meal you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it, no matter who you are or where you come from. What most Chinese recipes have in common are their inexpensive ingredients and great nutritional value.  Here are some common staple ingredients in Chinese cuisine:

  • Basic grains: rice and wheat, which are either eaten as is or processed into hundreds of different types of noodles and dumplings.
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Green tea is a common addition to any meal

  • Meat, tofu, or bean curd are used as the protein of the meal.
  • Vegetables: bok choy, or Chinese mustard, has the texture of lettuce and is cooked or steamed. Eggplant, cabbage, broccoli, bean sprouts, mushrooms, snow peas, radish, and bamboo shoots are also very common vegetables to steam or fry.
  • Flavor: soy sauce, chili paste or sauce, rice vinegar, plum sauce (also known as sweet and sour sauce). All are flavor enhancing and give each specialty its energizing kick!
  • Green tea, black tea, and white tea are the most common drinks with and between any meal. They are all rich in antioxidants and carry great medicinal value. No meal is complete without a small, hot cup of tea!
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Prepared chicken feet… yum!

Authentic Chinese food has many forms and recipes, depending on the region it comes from. A trip to China in 2007 along the Silk Trail showed me how much food really differs by region. Going from coastal China’s large cities like Beijing and Xi’an, to the Gobi desert in the West, food transforms from simple, predictable dishes like rice noodles with steamed vegetables, pork, beef, or chicken, garlic notes, and lots of soy sauce, to more exotic dishes the more West you go. In the West, dishes tend to be more exotic, and sometimes bizarre, especially through the eyes of a Westerner! Somewhere in the Gobi desert, people are eating pickled chicken feet with spicy yellow curry sauce and green peppers (which would rank 5 out of 5 peppers on those spicy guides on menus in American Chinese restaurants).  Chicken feet, which are  more delicious than they sound, are something you can find in Chinese grocery stores in America. Meanwhile, somewhere in America, people are eating Sweet and Sour Chicken with knives and forks, reading their zodiac sign from a menu.  Another bizarre specialty in Western China is pig’s snout and it is eaten with flavorful soy and sesame sauce- and despite what it looks like, it’s absolutely delicious!

Real Chinese food is uniquely delicious and not to be missed. The detail, care, and craftsmanship that go into a real Chinese meal is unlike like any other. Don’t be put off when you see something like pickled chicken feet or frog legs at an Asian market in America. This is just one part of China’s vast culinary diversity. When you have the chance to taste authentic Chinese food, or better yet, make it yourself,  it’s a meal you will never forget!

Are you hungry yet? We hope you are excited for A Taste of China and won’t miss the opportunity to try some real Chinese food with your fellow YP’s! Tickets are $20 and you should reserve your spot as soon as possible!

Taste of China
Wednesday, August 21 @ 6pm
Shojo Restaurant
Tickets on sale here!

Celebrate the 63rd Birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!!

Tomorrow, December 10th 2011, global citizens around the world will celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10th, 1948. We have come a long way since 1948 in regards to human rights and this year we have a new player in the game to thanks: social media!

In the words of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “many of the people seeking their legitimate aspirations were linked through social media. Gone are the days when repressive governments could totally control the flow of information. Today, within their existing obligation to respect the rights of freedom of assembly and expression, governments must not block access to the internet and various forms of social media as a way to prevent criticism and public debate”.

From Tunis to Madrid, from Cairo to New York, citizens across the globe have been standing up for their rights as humans through peaceful protest movements using social media tools. Even the High Commissioner for Human Rights hosted a global conversation on human rights this morning, December 9th, through social media. Missed the conversation or interested in learning more? Click here!

Continuing with the celebrations, the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to three amazing women, all leaders in the worldwide struggle for women’s rights. Liberian
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Leymah Gbowee, a social worker and peace campaigner from the same country, will share the prize with Tawakkul Karman, an activist and journalist who this year played a key opposition role in Yemen. These three inspiring women, who were chosen “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work,” will be honored with a weekend full of festivities in Oslo, Norway. Click here to learn more about the laureates and the weekend’s events!

In the Boston community, the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Harvard Kennedy School held a celebration on December 1 to celebrate not only Human Rights Day but also the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International. For more information on this event, click here!

Want to get involved?! With social media being a crucial tool in this year’s accomplishments, you can participate in this years celebrations by utilizing your favorite social media. Click here to learn more about your rights and spread the word by making a wish for universal human rights!

Help us celebrate universal human rights and the brave global citizens who stand up for them!

Check out other Human Rights Day celebrations happening around the world!

Fun Fact: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is THE most universal document in the world! The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been awarded the Guinness World Record for having collected, translated and disseminated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into more than 380 languages and dialects: from Abkhaz to Zulu. The Universal Declaration is thus the most translated document – indeed, the most “universal” one in the world.

-Jen Jones

Rebuilding Rwanda, One Woman at a Time

“To me, Akilah means family. It’s a place where you can find yourself, discover your potential, a place where you can know your responsibilities and discover how to be responsible in your future.” -Irene Ingabire, Akilah Student

Akilah presentation by Elizabeth and students, Allen and Noella

This personal account is one of many shared by the young women whose lives have forever changed as a result of the Akilah Institute located in Kigali, Rwanda. The Akilah Institute for Women was founded in 2009 with the vision to help young women in East Africa transform their lives by giving them the skills, knowledge, and confidence to become leaders and entrepreneurs.

In an event held at the Harvard Kennedy School on Wednesday, November 2nd hosted by the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations and the Women’s Forum@the United Nations Association of Greater Boston, guests had the opportunity to hear from Elizabeth Dearborn Davis, Akilah’s Co-founder and CEO, and also current students Noella Abijuru and Allen Kazarwa who are touring the United States on a Metropolitan Safari for the first time to meet supporters and share their life-changing experiences at Akilah.

Dearborn Davis, inspired by the resilience of the Rwandan people after the devastating 1994 genocide, decided after finishing her education in the United States that she wanted to move to Rwanda and be a part of the reconciliation. On this journey, she found herself working to build a new model of education for young women. During Wednesday’s event she spoke about her passion to help women find meaningful career paths to lift themselves and their families from poverty. Her testimony was a powerful reminder that a moment of inspiration and selfless dedication can lead to life-changing results.

The Akilah Institute offers women a unique learning environment that fosters innovation and confidence. Currently Akilah offers a 2-year diploma in Hospitality Management and hopes to begin offering a Business Management and Entrepreneurship (BME) in 2012. At Akilah students develop their English language proficiency and gain the confidence to speak in front of others. Students learn how to become leaders in Rwanda’s booming hospitality industry while also developing their own individual strengths. Students express that Akilah is especially rare because it is not just a school, it is a family.

Noella spoke to guests about her experience with Akilah and her hope for Rwanda

The Akilah students grew up as survivors, many without the guidance of elders or mentors. Today, in addition to attending school, many are also the providers for their households. These women have forged their own paths and overcome tremendous obstacles. Guests witnessed firsthand the influence Akilah has had when current students Noella and Allen captivated the room with their confidence and optimism for the future. They each briefly spoke of the struggles they have experienced but quickly changed the focus to the future and their responsibility to reclaim their country. They emphasized that Akilah has transformed their lives by empowering them with the ability to find meaningful employment, serve as leaders in their communities, and instill a powerful sense of pride.

The work that Akilah is doing directly addresses UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) #2 which aim to provide universal education opportunities, regardless of gender, and and #3, which focuses on gender equality and empowerment. Although the UN has stated in a new report that Africa’s overall progress toward achieving the internationally agreed targets to eradicate extreme poverty and accelerate social development has been slow and insufficient to meet the 2015 deadline. According to the report, the continent’s efforts to achieve the MDGs have been mixed and characterized by substantial variations in access to basic social services across sub-regions and countries. Yet, while overall progress is slow, programs like Akilah show us that results are possible and are what give us hope for scalable, sustainable change.

Akilah with the team from the Hauser Center, the UNA-GB Women's Forum and guests

As Dearborn Davis spoke, she became especially excited as she shared her goals for the future of Akilah which include moving to a new campus, largely increasing the incoming classes of women, growing their social enterprise and earned income initiatives, closing the gender gap of entrepreneurs in Rwanda, and also plans to replicate the model of Akilah to reach more of Rwanda and other African countries.

It is safe to say that this event was inspiring to all who were able to attend and hear the testimonies of these courageous women. UNA-GB’s Women’s Forum would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the team at the Hauser Center for their partnership and especially to the women of Akilah who took the time to share their stories with us.

If you would like to donate to the Akilah Institute or learn about other ways you can support thier mission please do so! Remember each one of us has the ability to make a big change!  I also encourage you to learn more about the Women’s Forum at UNA-GB and ways to get involved here.

-Katie Miles, UNA-GB Women’s Forum

From Peace-Building to Nation-Building: Southern Sudan

Today, July 9th, is a day of celebration and promise as Southern Sudan declares its independence and becomes a nation with the guidance of the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and UN organizations, including the United Nations Mission in Sudan.

The UN’s Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon looks at Southern Sudan’s newfound independence as the start of a challenge as they find their place and develop. In support of this burgeoning independence, yesterday the UN announced its new mission, the UNMISS UN Mission in Southern Sudan that will specifically focus on the development of the new country.  The Security Council voted unanimously to set up a new United Nations mission to help Africa’s newest nation consolidate peace and lay the foundation for longer-term state-building, conflict prevention and economic development.

While the history of Sudan is quite complicated, a brief overview is as follows: the history of Southern Sudan goes back all the way to the French and English influence on the continent of Africa in the 1800s leading to the English control of both the Northern and Southern parts of Sudan until 1956. The actions of Sudan’s People Liberation Movement in the 1980’s started the rebellion in response to perceived discrimination of Southern Sudan, along with division of religious beliefs in the region l, that led to the wars between the North and South. A peace agreement (CPA) was formed in 2002 with the assistance of the US that brought about the end of the civil war and a new government, but also created challenges in developing the area. Once the civil war ended in 2002, it was decided that a declaration would be formed between the government and Sudan’s People Liberation Movement by the end of 2004, with the support of the UNSC and CPA. These actions led to the support of the elections this past year that would allow Southern Sudan to gain its independence from the North.

Here, in the Boston area there are some interesting initiatives in support of the Southern Sudanese people. A Sudanese Education Fund has been started to support the educational development of the people that immigrate to the United States from Southern Sudan. Many Southern Sudanese people made efforts to be a part of the decision towards independence as they voted in the Boston area for Southern Sudan’s independence during the referendum in January of this year. There were a variety of different organizations that supported the Southern Sudanese voters, but specifically in this area was the South Sudanese Community Center in Arlington that worked to support the rights and independence of Southern Sudan.

You can get involved, too! Encourage the US Senate to support the development of Southern Sudan.  You can connect with all of the celebrations in real time online here.  And stay tuned as this country continues to develop and find it’s own identity.

-Cara

Round Two For Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon?

Just a few days ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon officially requested his consideration for a second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations by the UN Security Council and was decided by the UN General Assembly as a candidate.

Ban Ki-moon started his position on January 1, 2007, after having a variety of different government roles and international roles as a Republic of Korea national.  Ki-moon began working at the United Nations in 1975, as a member of the Foreign Ministry’s United Nations Division, followed by many different roles over the years within the organization, before attaining the top position.

Today as Secretary-General to the UN, Ban Ki-moon’s role is to represent the United Nations at a global level and to serve as the “chief administrative officer”. He serves as a global representative, focusing specifically on those in need and the missions to assist through the services of the United Nations. The role of Secretary-General of the United Nations is the top position of the United Nations that focuses on administration of the services, hiring of employees, and overseeing peacekeeping missions and mediation whenever there is conflict. Currently there is no limit to how many terms a Secretary-General can have – however, no Secretary-General has served for more than two terms so far, so his bid is well-placed and was to be expected.

Many are in support of his re-election, including European Commission President Barroso, the US, Britain, China, KoreaFrance, and Nigeria, just to name a few.  In fact, with the support of Russia, he has the support of the five permanent and veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council (US, Great Britain, Russia, China and France). His term so far has been full of determination- he has led with drastic and successful efforts in educating nations about issues of climate control and change specifically in developing countries. These efforts have been shown through the UN Climate Change Conferences, with the most recent one in Cancun in 2010. This conference worked towards gaining support from nations around climate control and also created the ‘Green Bank’ to fund the discussed possible changes at the Copenhagen conference the year before that had resulted in the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund. Of particular note was his success at gaining the support of the US and China in the climate talks, where they weren’t as active before.  Ban also said this week that he was proud that the UN under his guidance had saved many lives and had sown “the seeds of peace” in conflicts ranging from Sudan and Somalia to Congo and Cote d’Ivoire.

Considering his success so far, he has also been criticized for not being direct in what he looks to get done and is known to stay within his comfort zone or “inner circle” of employees within the United Nations Headquarters.  It has been suggested that his intentions are good as a leader, but his strategies may need to change in order to have outcome.  Looking ahead to the future and likelihood of his second-term bid, there are questions about his laid-back leadership personality and positive outlook on achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline. The UN is concerned about the suffering global economy’s effects on the potential for each goal to be met. Also, with the 30th Anniversary of the AIDS disease just honored, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes another future goal to end AIDS by 2020, a goal that is said to be realistic but will require a lot of effort.

For now, the question remains could Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon be caught singing “Ban Ki-moon is Coming to Town” in front of UN correspondents, for a second time?  Time will tell.  We look forward in anticipation as the inspirational global leader with a pinch of humor hopes for a second term.

-Cara

The Women’s Forum on Political Participation: Ukraine

My name is Christina and I’m a Programs and Membership intern this summer at the UNA-GB. I am from New York and currently attend Boston College as an undergraduate student studying International Studies and Hispanic Studies.

On July 1st, I attended the Women’s Forum Panel on Political Participation and was very impressed by the panelists’ experiences as well as their knowledge of women in politics in their home countries. Ella Lamakh from Ukraine especially stood out to me and I would love to share a few of the issues she spoke about.

Director of Family Affairs and Gender Policy Department, Ministry for Family, Youth and Sport, Ella is originally from Ukraine and focused on women in Ukrainian politics today and what is being to done to increase that participation.

She started off explaining that legislation on gender equality does exist in Ukraine. However, even though the legislation is written it is not regularly enforced in the country. The predominately male parliament and the surviving Soviet mentality continue to prevent Ukrainian progress in gender equality. The Soviet stereotype of women belonging in the home persists in Ukraine and is further reinforced by the media. Even the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, has recently made remarks stating that women are inept at holding positions in high political offices and ought to stay in the kitchen. (Guardian.co.uk)

Although this stereotype is prevalent, 60% of Ukraine’s local councils, which are unpaid positions, are composed of women. However, there are only 7% of women in the paid national Ukrainian council. These statistics show the difficulties in increasing women’s political participation in high political offices.

In an effort to change the mentality towards women in office, Ella explained that she is involved with a campaign to stop violence against women, which encompasses an emergency hotline and anti-violence training programs.

Thank you, Ella, for enlightening us on the social attitudes that make it difficult for women to be elected. We hope that this will change in the near future due to people like you.

Thank you!

Christina