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An enduring tradition, the “thes-ku.” For many years now, a graduating student has come forward to unleash the flood of procrastination-inducing capstone-inspired poetry. The concept: capture the content of your capstone in haiku format (that is, three lines with five, seven, and five syllables). Please find below a sampling of the capstone titles and related thes-kus. Note that many, but not all, students write a traditional thesis to fulfill the capstone requirement. Also note that I have snagged these off the Social List and am sharing them without attribution, but without objection from their writers.
One student wrote that she “mostly wrote a thesis just so I could summarize it in haiku format.” Whether that’s 100% true or not, her thes-ku leads the collection:
Wired for Geopolitics: Incentives Shaping Technology Companies’ International Policy Decisions
Google runs the world
Because they want more profit?
It’s not that simple.
War Without Weapons: A History of International Politics in Sport and the Future of North Korea
Sports matter to Kim
Let’s play together!
Systematically Seeking Shared Value: An Analysis of USAID Public-Private Partnerships
Once about leverage
Now shared value is our thing
Finding it is hard
Promoting Pluralism or Patronage?: Parliamentary Electoral System Design in Timor-Leste
East Timor elects
Few parties despite system.
Pacts spread patronage.
The Role of Congress in Offensive Cyber Operations
No one likes Congress
Cyber is so hot right now
…Checks and balances?
Fractured Lives: Personal Narratives of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Parents’ old stories
Have historical value
Who would’ve thunk it?
Feminism on the Field: Changing Attitudes about Girls’ Soccer in Southern Morocco
Girls play soccer too
Attitudes are hard to change
These girls are badass
Doing Harm: How Humanitarian Organizations Have Exacerbated Identity Conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine State
Conflict is the worst
Could be the worst-est.
From the Jamba to Christian Dior: Fashion Trends and Regime Preservation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Kim likes fashion
Don’t be hatin’ on his vogue
It’s all political
Paying for Performance: Policy Reform to Improve Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in Rural Bihar
Sometimes it just ain’t enough
Systems change vital.
The PPA Crutch: The Implications of Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) in New England. Lessons Learned from Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) Independent Power Producers (IPP)
Power Purchase Agreements
While solar price drops.
Life after Salesforce: User Adoption and Implementation Strategy from Social Impact Organizations
Cloud computing what
UTAUT for who
Fletcher can speak tech
The Business Case for Sustainability: Developing an Environmental Vision and Strategy at a Privately-Held Retailer
Climate change is real
You’re pretty late to the game
Let’s convince your boss
Energy is Power: The Role of Oil in Self-Determination Movements with Case Studies on Iraqi Kurdistan and Greenland
Oil runs the world
revenues or resource curse
it creates new states?
A Blend in 21st Century Warfare: The Balance of Deterrence vs. Provocation
Putin Rides Big Bears
Russia is reemerging
NATO is worried
Promoting Pluralism or Patronage?: Parliamentary Electoral System Design in Timor-Leste
East Timor elects
Few parties despite system.
Pacts spread patronage.
What is Missed When Measured: A Systematic Review of Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Conflict-Affected Populations
Such a mouthful. Hard to rhyme.
Don’t forget the men.
Survival in the Frontier Borderlands: Widespread and Opportunistic Violence, Governance, and Livelihoods in the Karamoja Cluster
Guns be a’flowin’
Cattle raided, crops stolen
State can’t stop us now
Last, but not least, as the haiku is a revered Japanese poetry form, we have a contribution from a Japanese student, who noted that a true haiku should refer to the seasons, and who implied that this is not her best-ever haiku effort.
The United Nations, Peacekeeping Operations and Assisting Sustainable Rule of Law
背中押す （せなかおす：Se Na Ka O Su）
法の治めし （ほうのおさめし：Ho U No O Sa Me Shi）
国づくり (くにづくり：Ku Ni Zu Ku Ri)
Let them build RoL
No imposition, it’s culture
A long and winding road
Three student bloggers will graduate on Sunday, Alex, Aditi, and Ali. They’ve all been particularly great to work with and I’ll miss them! You can expect to see their words of farewell in the coming weeks, after they have graduated and had a chance to process their experience. For today, we have Alex’s Annotated Curriculum for his two years in the MIB program.
Strategy Consultant, Monitor Deloitte in Washington, DC
General Manager, Valsek Nutritional Foods in Addis Ababa
Fields of Study
International Energy Studies (self-designed Field of Study)
International Finance and Banking
The PPA Crutch: The Implications of Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements in New England (Advisor: Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher)
Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Develop business models and financing mechanisms to bring renewable energy to scale in new markets
Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
The Arts of Communication
Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy
Managing Operations in Global Companies: How the World’s Best Companies Operate (Audit)
My first semester was all about laying the groundwork for a meaningful time at Fletcher. The core MIB classes, especially Finance, helped our cohort develop the key business skills necessary to be successful at Fletcher and beyond. Perhaps more importantly, taking a few classes as a group really brought the MIB class together, which has been invaluable both academically and personally. I also greatly enjoyed my elective classes like Communication and Clean Energy Policy, as mentioned in previous posts, and the professors have turned into great mentors over time.
International Business Strategy & Operations
Political Economy & Business of the EU
Engineering, Economics, and Regulation of the Electric Power Sector (at MIT)
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (Audit)
In my second semester, I finished up my MIB requirements and started to delve deeper into my energy concentration. My business classes felt very much like B-School, in terms of the content they covered and the hard skills they built, with one big difference: I was taking them at an international affairs school. As such, my professors and classmates brought an incredible depth and breadth of international experience to bear, and the policy context was always discussed. I also took an enlightening Electric Power Sector class with a bunch of engineers at MIT, which really got me into the nitty-gritty details of how power systems work. Also, Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy sponsored me to go to an energy conference at which I was able to wrangle an internship during the semester at Commonwealth Bay, a wind-energy private equity firm, where I performed market analysis and due diligence on wind projects.
One of my professors introduced me to BlueWave Renewables, a solar-energy developer, where I got an exciting opportunity to apply what I had been learning in my classes and to gain further exposure to the thriving cleantech ecosystem in Boston. As discussed in my previous post, I helped build out a platform for community solar, a new business model designed to bring solar to the three quarters of Americans who cannot own their own solar panels. Thanks to my business and energy classes, I was able to hit the ground running and make an impact in a short period of time.
International Business Transactions
Large Investment and International Project Finance
Petroleum in the Global Economy
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
The Art and Science of Statecraft
The third semester was my first opportunity to truly cast a wide net across the amazing diversity of classes offered at Fletcher. International Business Transactions covered topics such as contract law, which, although it may sound dry, is where “the rubber hits the road” in business; I discovered this when I was starting a business in Ethiopia, and it is one of the reasons I decided to come to Fletcher. Project Finance and Petroleum complemented each other very well, and contributed to my Field of Study requirements. Leadership, which was taught by a great professor on loan from the Harvard Business School, provided a valuable soft-skill counterpoint to more analytical courses I had taken so far. Finally, Statecraft was an interesting foray into the mental models of one of our well-known professors, renowned equally for his colorful analogies and for his direct language. On top of all this, I also worked with the wonderful Fletcher Social Investment Group to lead a team of classmates on a consulting engagement for EverVest, a renewable energy financial analysis software startup.
Energy, Entrepreneurship, and Finance
International Energy Policy
Political Economy and Business Context of Latin America
International Financial Management
Management, Finance, and Regulation of Public Infrastructure in Developing Countries (at Harvard)
My fourth and final semester has been great because the foundation I have built up over the last year and a half has enabled me to engage with the material in a way I could not have done before. My two energy classes are a nice culmination to the thrust of my studies here, and indeed they provide timely input as I wrap up my thesis for the capstone requirement. International Financial Management, affectionately dubbed “Jacques Deux” after the French-American professor who has taught a notorious regimen of finance classes for decades, proved to be as difficult and enlightening as promised. The Infrastructure class at the Harvard Kennedy School has provided another good perspective on the matter, and a chance to meet new like-minded people. Finally, I have supplemented my studies by conducting energy policy research for a Fletcher alumnus at EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar.
I am excited by my prospects post-Fletcher, but know that I will be sad to leave this place. Throughout my two years here, I have had the pleasure to work with supportive professors and a diverse yet cohesive set of classmates. As demonstrated above, Fletcher has also consistently opened doors for me, both at other top-tier schools and at cool companies. I know I will look back fondly on my time here, and now understand more and more why the Fletcher community is so strong.
I’m always amazed and impressed at how Fletcher students organize their lives. They all have a full slate of academic commitments, but they also want to engage with the community in many ways. For student blogger Adnan, the School’s traditional “culture nights” have been a highlight throughout the year.
On an April weekend evening, for the first time in my life, I stuck my face in a pie. It felt funny, but tasted really good. Sadly, there was no time to savor the chunky apple filling because I only had a minute to eat as much of it as I could — without using my hands — as my friends watched and cheered. While struggling to finish, I learned an important lesson: having dinner before entering a pie-eating contest is not the best idea. (In my defense, the barbequed chicken, mac and cheese, and corn bread served earlier were hard to resist.) I lost, but the experience is one I will likely remember fondly for many years to come. A few minutes later, I was all cleaned up and back on stage for my first-ever swing dance performance, which was reminiscent of scenes from the 1978 Hollywood blockbuster, Grease. April is a particularly busy time of the year, so I hardly had time to practice, but a few lessons from my very talented classmates made me performance-worthy. Or so I hope. And thankfully, the motion didn’t trigger my digestive tract into reverse action.
Like the four culture nights before it, Americana Night, the last one for the year, was a huge success. Culture nights have been one of the highlights of my Fletcher experience, and I’m proud to have performed in all but one of them. Performances feature students in dances, songs, fashion shows, poetry recitals, trivia quizzes, and skits that give their classmates a glimpse of the region being honored. And the variety of ethnic food that’s served gets us lined up in a queue that often wraps the entire venue. The year kicked off with Asia Night in October. Given the region’s rich diversity, the evening’s entertainment ranged from Indonesian pop songs to classical Nepalese dance. I participated in a Bollywood dance segment, and it was heartening to see the enthusiasm with which my international friends learned each step. Their bhangra moves would easily put many of my friends back home in Pakistan to shame.
Fiesta Latina in November was my personal favorite because I got to learn salsa. It’s something I had always wanted to do, so I was particularly diligent about practice, and ended up performing better than I had expected.
Mediterranean & European Night in February saw performances ranging from flamenco and belly dance to dabke, hora, and even a chest-hair competition. I sang a French pop song with a group of Francophone friends. People who asked me afterward were surprised to learn that I don’t speak French. At Africana Night in March, it was good to only be a part of the audience for a change and watch my classmates perform dances like batuku and kuduro while enjoying goat curry and injera.
Not only do culture nights celebrate the diversity of our community in a manner that is inclusive and fun, they’re a Fletcher tradition that reflects the school’s spirit like few other events do. On the one hand students take ownership of the cultural traditions they are most familiar with to ensure things are done right; on the other, they sign up to learn whatever they find exciting. Performance leaders generously lend their time to teach and practice with their peers until they’re ready to be on stage. We also lend and borrow ethnic clothing items to help each other build outfits and costumes for performances. In many ways, culture nights embody what Fletcher represents: learning through engaging and sharing, and having a good time doing it.
Even as 2016 graduates are submitting their Capstone Projects, some of 2017’s grads have already selected a topic for theirs. Professor Amar Bhidé recently informed the community that he is compiling a “‘library’ of case studies on successful medical innovations,” as part of a study of medical advances. He invited students to work on a case study, individually or as part of a team, for a Capstone. The list of innovations from which they can select includes such topics as:
Bone marrow transplant
H. Pylori testing and treatment
Hip and knee replacement
HIV testing and treatment
Inhaled steroids for asthma
MRI and CT scanning
NSAIDs and Cox-2 inhibitors
Ultrasonography including echocardiography
These aren’t the typical Fletcher topics, but for the right students, they could be the start of a very interesting Capstone.
Tagged with: Capstone
As I wrote last fall, my favorite unofficial Fletcher event of the year was the four-part series that second-year MALD student Abhishek Maity offered on “The Beauty of Mathematics.” The topics for the sessions were:
The Language of Nature: Fractals!
The Inanity of Infinity
What are Numbers? Reality and Chaos
The Ancients: From the Vedas to Al-Jebr
Maity (as he prefers to be called) shared the YouTube playlist of the recorded talks with the community. I encourage you to give them a look! (If you do, you’ll see that he designed the playlist to be private. He agreed that I could share it with blog readers.)
Although the videos aren’t perfect, I’m sharing them because of what they meant to me — a student dedicated a lot of time to preparing and presenting, and an audience of other students attended, despite the tenuous link between the content and their Fletcher studies. There are many examples of students sharing knowledge with students, but there’s usually a more direct utility to the information. In this case, Maity presented the series simply to share his love of mathematics with others.
The first post of Annual Reports from student organizations helped me draw a few more. I always divide student organizations broadly between those that have a curricular link and those that have their focus squarely on relaxation. I’m sure you’ll figure out where the following three groups fall.
Fletcher Social Investment Group
The Fletcher Social Investment Group (FSIG) will soon wrap up its second year on Fletcher campus. FSIG is a student-run group dedicated to the study and practice of impact investing and the development of the next generation of social investment leaders. To accomplish this goal, FSIG focuses on three core competencies: advisory services to social enterprises, investment analysis and due diligence for angel investors, and research and education on impact investing.
Over the past academic year, FSIG has provided advisory services to 10 clients, including assisting with a market entry strategy for a renewable energy analytics firm and a business development strategy for a mobile provider of produce in food deserts. FSIG has also partnered with two angel investor collaboratives to provide support in the due diligence process. These engagements have allowed students to develop their skill sets while addressing business and investor challenges, providing them with hands-on experience with investment cycles and consulting approaches.
FSIG has also taken a lead in providing impact investing education here at Fletcher. FSIG led groups through a series of Acumen courses on business and financial skills for the social sector, as well as organized a set of trainings featuring faculty experts. FSIG also co-hosted the Impact Investing and Community Finance Conference, featuring speakers from Goldman Sachs, Acumen, and Third Sector Capital Partners. A group of FSIG members participated in the MBA Impact Investing Network and Training (MIINT) competition held at the Wharton School, with students sourcing and conducting due diligence on early stage impact investment opportunities to present to an investment committee of judges. Finally, FSIG produces the Investing in Impact podcast, which can be found on iTunes or on the FSIG website.
As it prepares for next year, FSIG is eager to strengthen relationships with the Tufts community and with other local partners. To help develop a pipeline of prospective clients and projects, FSIG will have an intern working closely with Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context this summer. To partner with FSIG moving forward or keep up with its work, please visit FSIG.org.
Fletcher’s Net Impact Club
Ben Costigan and Harper Gay
Fletcher’s Net Impact Club aims to inspire, educate, and equip members to use the power of business to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world. We strive to create an environment and community that ensures all Fletcher students graduate thinking about their social impact, whatever career path they chose.
Net Impact is a network of 95,000+ students and professionals from over 300 chapters worldwide who are collectively committed to thinking about four key issues and their relation to the business world: (1) sustainable food and agriculture; (2) social justice; (3) transportation and mobility; and (4) energy and the environment. Fletcher Net Impact is one of the 69 graduate chapters to receive “gold status,” demonstrating that we are leading the way for Net Impact’s global network.
Our chapter actively collaborates with other Boston-area student and professional Net Impact chapters to provide access to events and speakers; internship and job opportunities; technical trainings and certification programs; and a like-minded community to empower students dedicated to achieving positive social and environmental impact through their lives and careers.
Some highlights from the past year include: a site visit to BJ’s Wholesale Club to learn about quality assurance and supply chain sustainability; a networking Happy Hour with local chapters; a roundtable with leading female entrepreneurs from the Boston area; a Global Reporting Initiative Certification Workshop; and a Career Summit panel on ESG Investing.
Jesse Simmons and Liam Connolly
On Friday evenings every fall, Fletcher students close their books and start the weekend by hollering themselves hoarse in support of the Fletcher Fútbol team. Playing in front of the beloved “Fletcher Hooligans,” Fletcher Fútbol is a co-ed all-inclusive club that plays competitively against other graduate schools in the Boston Graduate Soccer League, including MIT Sloan, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Business School.
For 90 blissful minutes each week, Fletcher Fútbol offers students of all walks, commitments, beliefs, and dispositions the opportunity to escape from their daily travails through the therapy of long balls, short passes, cutting runs, and collective exaltation. Fletcher Fútbol is the Fletcher School’s foremost Sports Diplomacy practitioners club. We believe in using the world’s most common language — soccer — to connect students from around the world through a common love of the beautiful game.
Fletcher Fútbol is a cultural, athletic, and therapeutic cornerstone of the Fletcher community. Fletcher’s 2016 team cheer — “I don’t have friends because all I’ve got is family” — highlights the unity, community, and passion with which their players wear the orange and white.
Continuing an annual tradition, for last night’s Fletcher Follies event students compiled clips of their classmates dancing in locations around the world. Why do I love the yearly Where the Hell is Fletcher video? Is it because of the dancing or the cinematography? Ummm, no. It’s because students care enough about being part of the community project that they keep it in mind during their travels throughout the year, and then they carry through with exuberance!
Please enjoy (so long as YouTube/copyright issues in your viewing location don’t get in the way), “Where the Hell is Fletcher 2016.”
Less than a month remains before graduation in May. Let’s take a look at the two-year Annotated Curriculum of Aditi, one of our graduating bloggers.
Dasra, Mumbai, India
PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi, India
Fields of Study
Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (self-designed)
Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Technology for development; monitoring and evaluation
- Design and Monitoring for Peacebuilding and Development Programming (0.5 credit)
- Social Networks in Organizations, Part One and Part Two
- Corporate Social Responsibility in the Age of Globalization
- Quantitative Methods (0.5 credit)
- Data Analysis and Statistical Methods
I came to Fletcher with an interest in technology for development and in design, monitoring, and evaluation. I was lucky to start my year off with the Design and Monitoring module, where I not only learned a great deal, but also made some of my closest friends at Fletcher. I also decided to take some basic quantitative classes such as statistics and quantitative methods in order to help me feel more prepared for classes down the road. Social Network Analysis and Corporate Social Responsibility were courses I took to try and explore new areas — although I came to Fletcher with a very clear sense of what I wanted to do, I also wanted to make sure that I tried out some new subjects.
- Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors (0.5 credit)
- Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations (0.5 credit)
- Econometrics (at the Friedman School)
- Introduction to Research Methods
- Financial Inclusion: A Method for Development
After spending winter break with friends in the warmer climes of New Orleans and Austin, I returned early to Fletcher to dive into Evaluation, the second module of the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) course series. My spring semester was focused on specific skills I knew I wanted to gain before the summer and before second year, so that I would have the option to take courses that I found more challenging. I took my econometrics class at the Friedman School in downtown Boston since the Fletcher course was over-subscribed, which turned out to be a great experience. In addition to furthering my knowledge of monitoring and evaluation, I also brushed up on basic research methods and had the chance to learn more about financial inclusion, a topic about which I had heard a lot but never had the chance to formally study. The semester was also made more challenging by the fact that I was working more hours a week at my campus job than I could realistically handle, but in retrospect, I’m glad I took the opportunity to earn a little extra money for my summer internship!
Manos de Madres, Kigali, Rwanda
Since I already wrote about my summer internship, I’ll just say a few quick words about how my academics at Fletcher fit into it. My courses in design, monitoring, and evaluation and financial inclusion really gave me the tools to apply to my work with Manos de Madres — from conducting a Theory of Chance exercise with the team in Kigali, to thinking through how the savings group program could be improved, I found myself falling back on my Fletcher classes time and again. I also spent some time over the summer conducting research for my Capstone Project.
- Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
- Econometric Impact Evaluation for Develoment
- International Economic Policy Analysis
- The Art and Science of Statecraft
I returned to Fletcher early once again, this time to be the teaching assistant for the DME course series. I hadn’t had much of a break or a holiday over the summer, but decided to dive right into my year and challenge myself with my courses. I had taken so many requirements in the previous year in order to build up to taking a certain set of classes, and I was loath to let any of those go — and so I ended up (very happily) over-extending myself and learning more in one semester than I could ever have imagined. By the end of the year, I couldn’t believe my newfound comfort with numbers, or the confidence with which I could read and interpret statistics. Although the course load was incredibly hard, I don’t think I have ever worked harder or been prouder of myself. On the flip side, I didn’t have quite as much fun enjoying all the other wonderful things that Fletcher has to offer, and so I decided that come spring semester, I would focus on a select few things and aim to do them well, while spending time enjoying the full Fletcher experience.
- International Investment Law
- Development Economics: Macroeconomic Perspectives
- Independent study (Capstone)
- Civil Resistance: Global Implications of Nonviolent Struggles for Rights and Accountability (0.5 credit)
- US-European Relations since the fall of the Berlin Wall (0.5 credit)
After a rushed and exciting trip back home to India for a friend’s wedding, I came back early as the teaching assistant for the Evaluation module of the DME series. In true “senioritis” fashion, I realized I had left some of my requirements to the end of my time at Fletcher, and found two of my credits filled by those courses. Given that I wanted to focus on my Capstone, I enrolled in an Independent Study with my advisor, Professor Jenny Aker, and then took two half-credit courses in topics that seemed very interesting to me but that I had little knowledge of. So far, the semester has been a good balance, and I have been careful not to overcommit, to make time for enjoying friends, lectures, and all the other events that Fletcher has to offer.
Of course, I also have to make sure that I find time to apply to jobs and figure out what comes next for me after this wonderful journey — so cross your fingers and hope that my next (and last!) post on this blog as a Fletcher student brings good news!
I have a little something different to offer today. Remember Mirza? He was a MALD student who wrote for the blog in 2013-14 and 2014-2015, and since then he has been alternating work that builds on his Fletcher studies with a continuation of the music career he had pre-Fletcher, with the duo Arms and Sleepers (AAS). Recently, I read something he had posted on his Facebook page and asked if I could share it on the blog. It struck me as bringing together so much of what makes Mirza interesting — his personal history, his directness and honesty, his work as a musician, and the insights he will have developed at Fletcher. I’m glad he agreed to let me share his thoughts. Post-Fletcher careers in the arts are not typical, but those graduates who pursue them are not alone.
As a further introduction, today Mirza noted, “I have performed in Georgia the country and Georgia the U.S. state; Moscow, Idaho and Moscow, Russia; Athens, Georgia and Athens, Greece; (the) Mexico and New Mexico.” He definitely covers a lot of territory. Speaking of which, let me share his upcoming tour schedule. If you live or are traveling in any of these locations, I’m sure Mirza would be happy to see you. He has always welcomed Fletcher alumni, students, and even applicants to his performances in the past.
And with that, I’ll let Mirza share his story.
I’ve been telling this story at my shows on the current tour so I’ll share it here as well, especially as I am in northern Greece at the moment.
Being a musician and doing this for a living, I often feel conflicted about the importance and impact of what I do, compared to what’s happening in the world. I arrived at Amsterdam airport the morning of the Brussels airport bombings, and was traveling to Greece via Brussels airport last week. I am now in northern Greece about to play three shows, practically right next to the refugee camps where people have only one thing on their mind: survival. I’ve been on that side as well. When I left Bosnia with my mother in 1992, we only had survival on our mind, too. We were lucky to escape the war, but we wanted the world to pay attention to our struggles and help us start a new life somewhere else. Almost every country closed its borders to us, and hours (many hours) spent waiting in line at the Norwegian/Swedish/Canadian/etc. embassies resulted in nothing but rejection. We were lucky, once again, to be taken by the U.S. after years of trying.
Today, I am on the other side, doing something I love and something that I helped build myself. I perform music across the world, and even if I am only a small artist, I feel incredibly privileged and lucky that people are willing to pay me to come to their country and play a show. So as I am writing this in Thessaloniki, Greece, I feel weird because I think about some western artist who might have been performing in Croatia at the same time that my mother and I were traveling on ferries and buses with two suitcases looking for a better future. Now that western artist is me.
I keep saying that music is important, because it is. At almost every show I meet someone who tells me how much our music has impacted him/her. In Bristol, UK, a girl was crying after our show because she heard her favorite song live; in Chongqing, China, someone told me our CD was the first she ever purchased outside of China; in Guatemala City, the show organizer told me that our music opened his eyes (ears?) eight years ago to all kinds of new music he never knew about before; in St. Petersburg, Russia, a young girl told me that she has a heart condition and can’t go to loud shows, as per her doctor, but came to my show anyway and felt free for the first time in a long time; a girl in Poznan, Poland recently got sick and ended up in a wheelchair — she told me that my show was an hour during which she could forget about all the overwhelming negativity in her life; in Ukraine in the summer of 2014, I was thanked endlessly for not canceling my tour and for being one of the only artists to play in the eastern part of the country; in 2009, we wrote a song that was the first thing a newborn in Nashville, Tennessee heard; a guy flew on a plane in Russia for the first time just to come to an AAS show; and I continue receiving Facebook messages from young people in Tehran, Iran telling me how much our music has been influential in the city’s underground electronic music scene. These are not ego-boosters, but little stories that are important to me because they involve people’s actual lives, and it is unbelievably humbling to have any amount of impact in someone else’s life.
So I don’t know, I continue feeling conflicted because I’ve been on both sides — I’ve been a refugee who nobody wanted and I’ve been a teenager/adult who needed music to get through difficult times. As I play these shows in northern Greece over the next three nights, I’ll be doing plenty of self-examination and figuring out how to best contribute positively in this messy world, with and without music.
Continuing our return to spring break, along with yesterday’s post by McKenzie, today we’ll read about Tatsuo’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Fletcher offered a trek to this region, but Tatsuo will explain that he ended up joining students from Harvard Kennedy School for their trek.
Over the recent spring break, Fletcher students organized a Fletcher Policy Trek to Israel. I applied for Fletcher’s trek, but I wasn’t accepted because there was a lot of competition for the available places; however, I had another opportunity to join such a trek to Israel, through Harvard Kennedy School. Many events at HKS welcome the participation of Fletcher students. I think that having access to the resources of one of the world’s largest universities is a big advantage of Fletcher.
In line with this, I eventually joined HKS’s Israel trek. It was a little more costly than that of Fletcher because of the size. (HKS’s trek had over 100 students, while Fletcher’s trek is limited to about 50 participants. The funding resources were about equal, which meant I needed to pay more.) But the places we visited were almost the same and I was also pleased to make friends with enjoyable and interesting students from HKS and other Harvard schools.
I knew something about Israel and the neighboring Palestinian territories as a Japanese public officer and a student of international relations. However, through the entire trek, I realized that knowledge from books (or the internet) is just knowledge itself. Everything I saw, everywhere I went, and everyone I met were interesting, thoughtful, and impressive.
In an area of Israel near the Gaza district, we saw concrete-covered bus stops and other shelters to avoid rocket bombing from Gaza. The IDF base at the Gaza border crossing had a very serious atmosphere. On the other hand, in the Golan Heights, the other area fronting a conflict zone, we were surprised by the peaceful scenery. We drove through an old Syrian Army headquarters, trenches, broken battle tanks, and dead villages. We also saw an ISIS controlled town, Quneitra from the top of the hill in the Golan Heights. The Syrian Army and ISIS are still fighting over the area, but UN peacekeeping officers seemed to be relaxed and welcomed us to take a picture with them. There were also many tourists chatting and drinking coffee. The contrast between the peaceful scenery, old military facilities, and the ongoing conflict area was very strange.
The contrast between the Palestinian areas and Israeli occupied villages in the West Bank was also thought-provoking. Over the separation wall/security fence, we faced an undeveloped and struggling community. Almost all buildings placed black plastic tanks to store water on the roofs. The landscape with many steep hills seemed to be hard to cultivate. By contrast, the Israeli villages were well developed, beautiful, and clean. I had already understood that the Israeli people enjoyed well-developed lives, unlike those of the Palestinians. But I was moved by the clear and sad contrast in very close vicinity.
When we walked around the old city of Jerusalem, the guide said we walked on the floor of the Jewish district and on the roof of the Muslim district at the same time.
Israel is very small country. We could see the skyscrapers in Tel Aviv from the hills of the West Bank. However, I was surprised by the power of Israel. I don’t mean the military power. There were modern and developed cities, well-maintained infrastructure, beautiful cultivated fields, and green forests. I heard that most trees in Israel were specially planted, not wild. Compared with other Middle East countries that I have been to, the land of Israel seemed to be an oasis in the desert. I was impressed by the power but I also felt mixed emotions. The oasis did not benefit the surrounding region and people, including the Palestinian people, unlike a natural oasis that can feed anyone who visits there.
While I was moved by such interesting but complex experiences, I also enjoyed the trek by swimming in the Dead Sea, riding camels, and of course, eating and drinking! In particular, the region has a lot of historical sites. Masada, the ancient fortress of Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire was one of the most interesting places for me. I climbed the hill using the ramp that the Roman Army built for attacking thousands of years ago, and from the steep edge, I observed the walls and camps of the great empire.
The entire trek was a very nice opportunity for me. Although I could always visit Israel by myself, on the trek I visited places that would be hard to go to if I went by myself. I met people who are too busy to meet with a typical tourist such as Salam Fayyad, the former prime minister of the Palestine Authority, and Yair Lapid, the former minister of finance of Israel. And I shared the time and my feelings with many interesting Harvard friends.
Now, I am still struggling to catch up on the tasks that I had to skip because HKS’s spring break was one week before that of Fletcher. But the trek was surely worth the hard work. If you will be at Fletcher next spring, I strongly recommend that you join Fletcher’s or HKS’s Israel Trek, or another interesting study trek that might be offered!
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