Monday, September 29, 2008

My New Blog

I would like to address the new blog that I just started entitled Footprints Devotionals. If you look under my profile, you will see it listed there. I want to address it because I do not see this as any hindrance to the work that I am doing here on this blog. In fact, I think it is better that those who read this blog understand where I am coming from. Although I try to be unbiased in the writings that I present as fact (in contrast with the opinion articles such as the smoking blog below), obviously I have certain beliefs that show through in my writing. I believe that it is better for you to know what I believe rather than being inundated with my biases unaware of what is at hand. I conclude by saying that my being a Christian does not hinder my journalistic abilities. In fact, if anything, it should only make my journalism better because the first loyalty in journalism is to the truth, and seeking truth and being truthful is at the core of my Christian beliefs. I hope this explains my situation. Please feel free to comment at will.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Addiction Affects the Non-Addicted

After coming to college, I thought I would quickly become accustomed to the endless trail of smoke that is left behind students and faculty alike as they walk to their various classes. However, even now, a month into school, I feel as though every time I inhale a cloud of their smoke, I am surely coming a minute closer to my death by lung cancer. Perhaps I am being overdramatic, but I am simply expressing the plea of my stomach, which quickly overturns itself and causes me to feel as though I will vomit whenever I walk behind a smoker. 

Although I do not understand the addiction whatsoever (as I have never attempted to smoke before), I think I do understand common courtesy. And blowing smoke in some innocent bystander's face as you walk by is what I would classify as rude. All this being said without even mentioning the other factors which include littering (one of if not my biggest pet peeve of all time), personal health effects, and indirect influence on others. I cannot help but think that if a person were attempting to quit smoking, they would have to drop out of school because they would not be able to attend any of their classes without smelling that excruciating mix of nicotine and whatever other garbage they place in cigarettes that they say is "pleasant" or "enjoyable" or any of the other equivocal terms they use, sending the pitiful ex-smoker into unconquerable cravings for their captor, nicotine. 

I must mention that I do find the smell of cigars somewhat appealing, but I would gladly never smell another cigar if it meant never having to smell a cigarette again. I do not pretend to offer a solution to this trend which so enthralls Americans. To be honest, most people probably find me completely and utterable unsympathetic to smokers. After all, is it really their fault that they have become addicted for a lifetime after one or two experiments with cigarettes? If you knew me, you would quickly see that abstinence, or more aptly termed stubbornness, is one of my most strongest attributes. So, I cannot possibly understand why a person cannot simply refuse nicotine.

But enough of my babbling. As I said before, I do not propose to offer a solution to smoking, but only desire to give a different perspective than those that have been proposed before so that people may see a more complete picture of the situation, or I would call it, plight.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Inspired by Humility

What are you supposed to think of a man who has built nearly eighty schools in the Pakistan and Afghanistan, has a book that has been on the New York Times bestseller list since January, is so prestigious that the presidential candidates call him for advice, and is so humble that he still gets nervous when speaking in front of crowds and has large holes in the heels of his socks, underneath his pant suit's legs?

This man is Greg Mortenson, one of the most inspiring men you could ever meet. This summer, Mizzou chose Three Cups of Tea, co-authored by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, as the book for the Mizzou Reads program. All the incoming freshmen are encouraged to read the book, although few did. The sad thing is, this book was one of the best books I have ever read, and many people chose not to experience it just because they were lazy. But this article is not meant to scold those who choose "fun" over knowledge.

The book relays the story of Greg Mortenson, who after getting lost on his way down from attempting to climb K2, the second largest mountain in the world, came to a small village in Pakistan and fell in love with the people. Seeing many children writing in the dirt one day, Mortenson discovered that the children had no school. So after a promise to build them a school, a couple of years in the United States raising funds for the project, and many sleepless nights, Mortenson's work began; and he hasn't stopped until this day. 

So when I went to interview Mortenson for the school newspaper when he came to speak at Mizzou, I felt like I was meeting a celebrity. I had read all the articles that said how gracious and gentle he was, and I began to feel quite guilty for interviewing him when I had heard that he hardly ever had any time for his family because of everything that was demanded of him. So I interviewed him for a short time before his speech, but, although he had some excellent points, what he said was not what stood out to me. Instead, it was his demeanor. Just like I had read, he was kind and gentle. When I first spoke with him that day, it was at a reception four hours before my official interview. Being "such a big fan" of his, I asked him to sign my copy of Three Cups of Tea. He asked where I was from and mentioned that he had just been in my hometown of San Antonio the week prior. At this I was incredibly disappointed that my mom did not have the opportunity to see him speak. But afterward, I casually mentioned that I had been set up to speak with him later that day. Seeing as he does not set his own schedule, I am not sure if he completely understood what I said, but, nevertheless, what he did next amazed me. "Oh, okay," he said. "Let me give you my email and phone number." 

His phone number? This man who barely has enough time to breathe cares so much about this program that he would give me, a freshman at some university's college newspaper, his personal cell phone number?

Well he did. He gave me the Central Asian Institute's main line and their email, along with his phone number and email. I do not think I will be calling him any time soon, but this act of kindness did not go unnoticed. I will never forget this man who cares so much about the children in Pakistan that he will wear socks with gaping holes in the heel so that he put every last penny toward building more schools. This is the kind of celebrity I admire. This is the kind of person I would aspire to become.

I will never forget what he wrote in my book that day.
"Gretchen, when your heart speaks, take good notes."    -Greg

Sunday, September 7, 2008

International Friends

Leaving home to go to college for some people is bad enough, but what if you had to leave your family and travel half-way around the world, entering into a culture with completely different traditions than what you know? In June of 2006, 583,959 international students were enrolled to study in colleges in the United States, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. At Mizzou, the university I attend, there are approximately 1,300 international students. 
I thoroughly enjoy learning about other cultures, so when the opportunity presented itself for me to become involved in International Friends, a ministry to help internationals in Columbia adjust to life in America, I was thrilled. I expected to learn a great deal about other cultures, which I have. I expected to have a little difficulty understanding some of the people I would meet, which I did. But what I did not expect is how much we had in common. The first night I went, we had a fellowship dinner. Everything was going extremely well. I was meeting new people from China and other places across the globe. After we finished eating, the leader of the organization stood up and explained a little exercise we would do at our tables. I do not know how the exercise led to it, but somehow, we began to talk about how much influence families had on our lives. 

After two weeks of being several states away from my family, I was getting to be quite homesick. I knew it was just part of the process of adjusting to a new life, but during that time, I realized how great a role my family had in my life. 
As we talked, one of the students from China spoke up about how he did not realize how big an influence his family had had on his life until he moved away from them just a few weeks ago. Although this comment was very common for such a setting, it moved me deeply. Here were two people, from the opposite sides of the world, who were having the same emotions. Both were just homesick students, trying to adapt as best they could to their new life. Somehow, knowing that other people understood how I felt made me feel more at home. Here I was, supposedly helping these people adjust to their new life, and I felt like they were helping me to adjust to mine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I'll be honest. Today, I am not blogging because I have anything important to say, but because I am bored. But what I have realized being at college is that boredom is an interesting thing in itself. First of all, I believe that man was made to work, so when  he is not being productive, something triggers in his mind making his thoughts first fleeting, then a constant static. This, we call boredom. So, in order to correct this problem, we occupy our minds with such things as music, Internet, television, and the like. While these things are not inherently bad, when someone relies on them so heavily that his mind is no longer productive but simply a mundane collector of information, doing nothing with that information except to let it mold in his brain, something is very wrong.
Now the picture that is most likely in your mind at this moment is not very realistic, because I cannot think of anyone who sits on the couch all day staring at the television. But I do think that we, as a society, often allow ourselves to be fed information without question until our mind is filled with junk, like a attic full of unorganized boxes. Instead, we should sort through the information we are given, filing it in our memory for current or future use. In order to do this, I believe it is incredibly important not to allow oneself to become empty-minded or bored. Be productive. Take up art or read a book. Contribute to your community and those around you. Invest in others.