Divya’s Week 3

This week the whole office had the week off for Eid. After asking around the office about what people usually do to celebrate, I got the sense that the week is a time to hang out with family and eat as much as possible. Seeing as that I’m not Muslim, and I didn’t want to intrude on anyone else’s family, I figured I would take the week to explore Thailand. I spent 4 days in Bangkok and 3 days in Chiang Mai. Bangkok, like KL, has spent the last couple of years beefing up its infrastructure. Their train system, the BTS, runs pretty much everywhere relevant and is also accessible to the main airport, which is a financial pain to get to otherwise. They also have a public ferry type of service that takes you to any major tourist attraction (the temples) for just 20 baht. It’s such a beautiful, clean city that I think is underrated for how accessible and modern it is. I could honestly see myself living a comfortable adult life in Bangkok. Traveling alone is extremely intimidating, especially given the reputation Bangkok has and the fact that I am female. However, I didn’t particularly feel unsafe as much as I did lonely. It’s a lot of time for introspection, most of which I filled by eating. It’s weird when your thoughts are given so much free reign.

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Divya’s Week 2

I’m going to be honest, the 9 to 5 work life is exhausting. Our apartment is a 20 minute drive from the university, but we take a 15 minute train and then a 20 minute bus to work every day. We live in Setiawangsa, a little suburb about 3 stops from the heart of the city, KLCC, which holds the famous Petronus twin towers. The university is in Gombak, the outer edge of Kuala Lumpur, and surrounded by beautiful mountains (that I intend to hike at some point in time). I love my morning commute because our train goes in the exact opposite direction of the hustling masses going “downtown” to work. It gives me an opportunity to observe the chaos all while listening to Anushka Shankar play sitar. I’ve finished my article on the women in the Islamic finance department. In the process, I’ve interviewed 2 other professors and my mind is still blown. It’s just so interesting watching adult women get giddy talking about how cool they think Islamic banking is. I really hope to be just as passionate about my future career as they are about their current ones.

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Divya’s Week 1

I finally figured out how this works so here it is, a few weeks late:

This week has been more successful than I anticipated. I figured out how to use the LRT (metro) and bus system to get myself to the university and out to explore a little. My first day of work was intimidating and slightly awkward, as expected. We’re all still trying form deeper relationships, but I can see myself really bonding with my coworkers at the end of this. Thus far, my role has been interviewing really cool students/faculty for the rector’s office. I absolutely love this because more than anything I enjoy talking to people and interviewing people with diverse stories is inspirational. I interviewed two out of five female professors in the Islamic finance department on their recent award of being part of the top 300 Islamic women in finance. Firstly, I had no idea that Malaysia, specifically the International Islamic University of Malaysia, pioneered the regulation and educational discourse of Islamic finance. One of the women said she helped write the curriculum for the first batch of students at IIUM to start their degree in Islamic finance and, at the time, their program was the first to offer a degree in Islamic finance. Secondly, I was confused on how the Islamic financial system could exist in a world highly dependent on the conventional financial system, or why the implementation of the Islamic financial system by various countries/banks was, in fact, a worthwhile step. One of my largest takeaways was the idea that the Islamic system was rooted in financial justice and social betterment. Through a variety of screening criteria employed by Islamic investment firms, it is proven that there is a lower risk factor when investing using the Islamic system instead of the conventional one. Moreover, there are global and local social benefits of implementing an Islamic financial system. The way these two professors were speaking about finding ways to help local Islamic female entrepreneurs and elderly people navigate financial planning showed me a side to business, a more compassionate vision, that I had never even considered before. Finally, the two professors were absolutely thrilled to have me. They made me feel special and didn’t look down on me for asking questions far too basic for their academic level. In just a short two hours I felt like we made a deep connection, and in true Malaysian style, one of them even asked me to come to her house to celebrate Eid.  I love being in Asia because people here don’t over think social interactions. If you’re receptive to someone they will do the same for you. Often times in the states I find myself replaying scenarios of conversations in my head before responding to someone. Here, however, I try my hardest to be kind and usually the outcome, although unintended, ends up working out for everyone. Lastly, I would just like to end with a simple summary of how my experience has been so far: so much good food.

Update 6/13: Some Thoughts about the Outline and Some Questions to Answer

Research Update, 06/13


Tentative outline and thesis

The purpose of this research project is to analyze the significance of late-Qing constitutions, and to understand late-Qing constitutional movements’ political legacy. My tentative thesis suggests that the two constitutions published in early twentieth-century Qing China symbolized China’s political modernization, as China, for the first time, had a body of written fundamental laws to function as its constitution. The late-Qing constitutions are drastically different and much more progressive than Qing China’s earlier legal system constituted by the Qing Huidian. While the first version of late-Qing constitution, Principles of the Constitution, seemed a partial compromise to settle reform demands from the public, the latter Doctrines of the Constitution reflected late-Qing government’s resolve to launch reform. Doctrines of the Constitution, though failed to prevent Qing China’s downfall, facilitated the proliferation of a collective Chinese identity and sovereign unity, as the latter Republic of China’s constitution inherited the spirit of the late-Qing counterpart. The late-Qing constitution and constitutional movement reinforced China’s unity, as China in the early-twentieth century, though suffering chaos among regional warlords, remained as a nominally and constitutionally political unity.

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Green Earth

My second week of work was spent preparing for two of the most influential days of my experience thus far. Monday and Tuesday of this week we journeyed to the Lao Ngam District of Salavan Provence in southern Laos to visit VFI’s Green Earth Center (GEC). This center is where we produce our mak mao juice and wine, train local farmers, and will (fingers crossed) open an agritourism business. Basically, this incredible place is the heart of my summer assignments. This weekend was my only chance to visit and talk with the people working there everyday. No pressure. Except a lot of pressure.

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