Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Job Opportunity: Sigur Center Staff Assistant (Part-Time, Federal Work Study Award Required)

Position Description: 

The Staff Assistant position is located in the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs. This position is primarily responsible for staffing the center's front desk which encompasses answering the main phone line, greeting visitors, and processing mail. Other administrative duties and special projects as assigned, such as creating spreadsheets and reports, data entry, editing, etc. as well as supporting Sigur Center events. The Staff Assistant also plays a central role in managing the Sigur Center's social enterprise -- our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts. This is a great opportunity for someone interested in Asian Studies and International Affairs to work closely with Asian Studies faculty, staff, and students as well as visiting scholars from Asia.
  
Approximate Hours Per Week: 10-12

Hourly Wage: $10/hour

Qualifications:

* Interest in/knowledge of International Affairs and Asia
* Some knowledge of an Asian foreign language
* Experience living, working, or studying in Asia
* Strong customer service and interpersonal skills
* Administrative experience
* Must possess a Federal Work Study Award for the 2014-2015 academic year

Application Procedures:

* Apply via GWork to position number 802193 ASAP. You may contact gsigur@gwu.edu with any questions.
* Include the amount of your FWS award in your cover letter
* Specify the dates/times you are available to work in your cover letter
* Due to a high volume of applications only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. No calls, please.

Sunday, August 24, 2014



First impressions of New Delhi
Hit the ground running but jetlagged, feeling like an extra in a zombie apocalypse flick.
Delhi is hot.  Descriptors are insufficient.  I land at 9pm and it feels over 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Delhi is acrid.  Having lived in Beijing, I am prepared for the worst, surviving days with visibility so low you had to lie to yourself that it was fog to muster up the courage to go outside. I lack a keen sense of smell, something I have always cherished on long bus rides and in large developing cities, but even my dull nose can comprehend the pungent air; it feels like I am a prisoner of an unventilated parking garage in the desert.
Delhi is clean.  The extra bureaucratic funding and attention is apparent – streets are swept, medians are landscaped, and rotaries are decorated with extravagant fountains that mock the sweltering temperatures, Vegas-style.
Delhi is green.  Delhi must be one of the greener cities on the planet, even in the peak of the dry season before the monsoon.  Birds abound.
Delhi isn’t too loud.  Horns go off with high frequency, but without animosity.  With many cars, rickshaws, bikes, and carts sharing few lanes, a horn is neither antagonistic (unlike, say, Los Angeles) nor aggressive–it is a simple statement “I’m here.”
And so I am.  After 8 weeks of visa delay (don’t ask and I won’t tell) I am here.
My Internship
The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) is he premier think tank in India funded by but autonomous from the Ministry of Defence. It will be my home for the next three months, thanks to generous grants from the Sigur Center as well as the Graduate School Career Development center.  Working at the East Asia Centre with Dr. Jagannath Panda, I will research the strategic triangle of India, China, and the United States, and how China both compels and constrains the India-United States relationship.  This complex subject touches on the most sensitive of issues--India's hallowed strategic autonomy, Chinese fear of encirclement, and the demands of the 'rebalancing' United States.
Despite my jetlag, big things are happening.  There is a Chinese charm offensive after Narendra Modi's recent election.  I meet Ambassador Weiwei.  He has a slick salesman vibe about himself, and is diplomatic enough to briefly chat with a mere intern and compliment my Mandarin; any nonnative speaker of Chinese knows even a 'hello' in Mandarin will elicit gushing compliments on your ability.  Regardless, I will chose to take the accolade at face value.
Ambassador Weiwei is at IDSA for a conference on the 60th Anniversary of Panscheel and its Relevance for India China Relations.  Panscheel, or five principles in Sanskrit, was first enumerated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India signed in 1954.  This was the heyday of Nehru's optimism of a united postcolonial Asia, with India and China working together--hindi chinni bhai bhai.  This bonhomie was shattered just short years later by India's shocking defeat in the 1962 war. Any student of Chinese foreign policy sees the centrality of the Five Principles in official documents, but the Panscheel bring back bad memories and lingering suspicions for India.  In the same way the United States both engages and hedges with China, as does India, needing Chinese investment and trade as well as a stable border. I hope to explore Indian perceptions of both China and the United States to understand India's response to China's rise and what role the United States may play.  It is a large and sensitive question, but I am ready to get started.

Friday, August 22, 2014

(My Failed Attempt at) Watching the Flag Lowering Ceremony at the Tian’anmen Square


(This is the second post by Chunhua Chen, a Ph.D student of Political Science at GWU. This summer, she is doing field research for her dissertation in China supported by a Sigur Center Grant for Asian Field Research for summer 2014.)

My stay in Beijing this time is going to end next week. So yesterday, I decided that I needed to go to the Tian’anmen Square to watch the daily National Flag lowering ceremony before leaving the city.  It had been several years since I was last in the Square, and I had never watched the famous national flag-raising or flag-lowering ceremonies—strange, as I had lived in Beijing for six long years. I was sure they were scenes to marvel at. The national emblem and national flag are the symbols of a country and everything it stands for for its people. Ernest Renan says that “a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle” that necessarily entails “the possession in common of a rich heritage of memories” and “actual agreement, the desire to live together, and the will to continue to make the most of the joint inheritance.” It is in the same vein of Benedict Anderson’s definition of the nation as an “imagined political community” in the sense that the basis on which a nation is held together springs from its members’ minds. National identities, which are primarily formed on the basis of factors such as sharing the collective memories of history, awareness of oneself as belonging to the same nation as other members, and the sharing of the same culture, are all phenomena at the mental and spiritual level, based on the formation of ideas. The lines between different nations lie in, or stem from, in large part, people’s “imagination.” Ceremonies such as national flag raising and lowering are an important part of creating, sustaining, and triggering that imagination, which is essential for the very survival of any nation. Stephen Walt even calls nationalism “the most powerful political force in the world.”

            At about 6:30, following the stream of tourists, I walked slowly along the narrow street leading to the Square. In the souvenir stores were stuffed pandas, folding fans, cheong-sams, etc. At a porcelain store, I saw several big decorative plates with the portraits of the four generations of leaders of the People’s Republic of China painted on them. President Xi Jinping’s portrait, of course, was on display at the most prominent place. What’s noteworthy was that there was also a plate with the picture of both President Xi and his wife, Ms. Peng Liyuan. A former popular folk singer and performing artist, Ms. Peng charmed the whole country and the world with her glamour and fashion sense when she accompanied her husband on his first official trip in 2013 to Russia, Tanzania, the Republic of Congo and South Africa, and thus broke the tradition of Chinese "first ladies" not entering the limelight.
 
Left and right: President Xi Jinping; middle: President Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan
 Two little girls, dressed by their parents like Qing-dynasty princesses, were running and laughing on the street. Every several hundred meters there was a patrol team of three helmeted police officers and a white police car. I tried to take a picture of one of the patrol teams but was called off.

I went through the security checkpoint and finally stood at the Tian’anmen Square. Last time when I had been here, I, like many of my peers, had not known much about the history of the Square, especially what happened here back in the late 1980s. But now I had known better, and could not help recreating in my mind the scenes on the Square in that eventful year. Many tired tourists were sitting on the ground, waiting for the ceremony and playing with their handsets. The Monument to the People’s Heroes was still solemn and quiet, and the sunset was purple-orange-pink. Somehow it also looked like blood.  




At about 7, someone shouted, “it started!” Then people quickly formed a wall in front of the gate of Tian’anmen, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace. I could vaguely heard the national anthem, but was too far away from the flag-raising platform and too short to be able to catch a view. So what I ended up watching was countless cellphone screens ---people were all video recording the ceremony while watching it, or to be more exact, watching the ceremony through their cellphone screens.
  
I was watching numerous cellphone screens
More screens

 
The ceremony lasted for only several minutes. Night started to slowly fall upon the Square and police officers—both in uniforms and plain cloches—started to ask people to leave the Square and not gather. I finally saw the flagpole when the crowds were dispersed.

When I left the Square through another narrow gate, I saw many disappointed tourists being turned away by the officers guarding the gate. “The flag lowering ceremony has ended,” one officer said impatiently, “now the Square is no longer open to the public.”


Thursday, August 21, 2014

8 Rupees


This is the second blog post by Diogo Bernardo Lemos, PhD candidate in Political Science at GWU, recipient of the 2014 Sigur Center Summer Grant for Asian Field Research:

Mario Miranda's interpretation of Mumbai's trains.

I'd heard about Mumbai suburban railways' enviable reputation for crowds, accidents and thefts. To be sure, an estimated 7.5 million people ride its trains everyday, making this the world's second busiest rapid transit system. A quick survey online revealed a bifurcated appraisal: foreigners were advised either to entirely avoid it or to vigilantly embrace it. And so, for a moment, I too hesitated in jumping on its wagons to commute between South and North Mumbai. After all, the combination of cheap taxi fares and the fast route via the new 'Sea Link' viaduct ('shhhlik' according to one driver) made for an enticing alternative: why bother? But then again, I came to Mumbai to study its politics and few experiences provide better grasp of a city than its public transportation system.

So, there I was, one Mumbai morning in Grant Road station, negotiating my way across the gelatinous crowd towards a ticket booth. Seizing my precious audience with the seller, I inquired the fare to Bandra station. '8 rupees,' he said. I hopped on a train and, easily enough, arrived at my destination.

Emboldened by this experience, I then attempted to reenact it on the way back. Only, this time, the ride took place at rush hour. People, people all around me, people coming and going, people streaming by me as a tidal wave through the last standing tree. The thing about Mumbai's railways is that there are many lines and these change tracks frequently. So, unless you understand Marathi, you are in for a vigorous few hours of lapping in a human pool. After several failed requests for help, a lady (an 'auntie') pointed towards a train and said: 'It's that one. Quick - it's leaving!' As I flew across stairs and elbows, I heard her yell one last piece of advice: 'Take first class!' I would have forgotten this were it not for the coincidence that I plunged into a first class wagon. Or so I thought considering the much quieter and roomier car, which obviously led me to the conclusion that first class was the way to go with Mumbai trains.


video

The next morning, I planned to repeat the journey wearing the placid vest of experience. I returned to Grant Road station, validated coupons in the amount of 8 rupees, waited for the correct train to arrive, calmly searched for a first class wagon, and then proceeded to find a cushy seat inside. As the train began its slow march north, I remember vividly opening that morning's copy of 'The Times of India' and thinking to myself: 'I've become a Mumbaikar in a day.' The phone rang. It was my wife. 'Oh, what a perfect picture: I'm riding a Mumbai train, daily newspaper spread across my lap, and speaking with the wife on the phone.'

Few minutes later, I noticed for the first time a commotion on the other side of the wagon. Certainly, nothing too serious to drive my attention away from this cross continental phone call. The train pulled in the next station, commuters got off, commuters came in and I remained seated, conversing on the phone. The train jerked again into motion and only then I realized the reason for the commotion: a ticket inspector was steadily advancing towards me. A thought of doubt and disquiet burst into mind: was 8 rupees the fare for a second-class journey only? It was now too late to escape. I turned off the phone and prepared for impact.

I handed him the coupons. His deliberation took barely a second: 'You must pay a fine.' It's not possible. Yes, it is, he said. In fact, I was guilty of a double offense: I was not only riding first-class with a second-class ticket, but I also had less than the required 8 rupees. Somehow - believe it or not - I mixed-up the previous day's coupons with that day's and forgot to validate a new 5-rupee coupon. All in all, I was traveling first-class on a 3-rupees ticket. 'This is very serious. You must pay 500 rupees.' While I recognized I was in the wrong, I wondered whether the inspector was trying to take advantage of the situation. Lacking any better excuse, I apologize and said it was mistake. 'Yes, I know,' he smiled and punched, 'That's what I do: I catch mistakes.' Round 1 was his.

video

As with any incident involving a foreigner in India, this exchange was kindle for the curiosity of my fellow passengers. The inspector said we should get off at the following station to discuss the matter. I conceded the partial defeat. There, we found ourselves at the police station. This turned out to be an orderly, albeit spartan, chamber. We both made effusive display of our diplomatic skills: he repeated his indictment; I reiterated my defense (centered, at this stage, around my evident inexperience with the Mumbai suburban train system). We eventually drifted outside to the platform and I began to realize that I was winning through persistence. He had somewhere else to be. Finally, he uttered the magic words: 'This time, I'll let you go. But...' The condition involved validating a 5-rupee coupon and riding the rest of the journey on a second-class car. Moments later, I was back on a train holding the 8-rupee coupons on the way to Bandra. The taxi would have been more serene but it surely wouldn't have been this much fun.


This post is dedicated to the memory of Mario de Miranda (1926-2011).

Diogo Lemos
PhD candidate 
Department of Political Science 
GWU

Job Opportunity: Sigur Center Staff Assistant (Part-Time, Federal Work Study Award Required)

Position Description: 

The Staff Assistant position is located in the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs. This position is primarily responsible for staffing the center's front desk which encompasses answering the main phone line, greeting visitors, and processing mail. Other administrative duties and special projects as assigned, such as creating spreadsheets and reports, data entry, editing, etc. as well as supporting Sigur Center events. The Staff Assistant also plays a central role in managing the Sigur Center's social enterprise -- our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts. This is a great opportunity for someone interested in Asian Studies and International Affairs to work closely with Asian Studies faculty, staff, and students as well as visiting scholars from Asia.
  
Approximate Hours Per Week: 10-12

Hourly Wage: $10/hour

Qualifications:

* Interest in/knowledge of International Affairs and Asia
* Some knowledge of an Asian foreign language
* Experience living, working, or studying in Asia
* Strong customer service and interpersonal skills
* Administrative experience
* Must possess a Federal Work Study Award for the 2014-2015 academic year

Application Procedures:

* Apply via GWork to position number 802193 ASAP
* Include the amount of your FWS award in your cover letter
* Specify the dates/times you are available to work in your cover letter
* Due to a high volume of applications only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. No calls, please.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Seoul Wanderings

 
A short video of my adventures in Seoul this summer. Enjoy!
         -Adena
 
 
Adena Peckler
B.A. Asian Studies, International Affairs 2015
Sigur Center 2014 Korean Language Fellow
Seoul National University, South Korea
 
For more posts from Korea:
Update from Seoul

Looking for Chinese Tea-Time Leader!

The Sigur Center for Asian Studies is looking for a student to lead its weekly Chinese language tea-times. These are informal events designed to allow a time and place for students to practice their Chinese skills, share study tips, learn about the Language Exit Exams, and get to know other students interested in Chinese language. Tea and cookies are provided! All tea times are from 4:00 - 5:00 PM in the Sigur Center's Chung-wen Shih conference room, Suite 503. 

Tea-time leaders will be paid $15 per tea time. Native fluency is preferred but not required. Tea-time leaders are expected to have at least advanced speaking and listening proficieny.

If you are interested in becoming a Chinese tea-time leader, please contact gsigur@gwu.edu.