24
May
11

Graduation and Gypsy Kings – a California weekend!

Last weekend I returned to Monterey for my friends’ graduation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). After 2 years of constant deadlines and pressure; students finally walked across the stage, shook the president’s hand and received their diploma. What a relief! About 6 months ago I graduated from MIIS in December 2010 with a Master’s in Conflict Resolution.

Originally I received my Masters from Quaid-i-Azam University in Defense and Strategic Studies. MIIS awarded me a merit scholarship and an advanced entry because of my prior course work in Pakistan. Thus, I was able to graduate a semester earlier than my friends. Studying in the US was an entirely different experience than my 2 years at Quaid-i-Azam. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to study at both schools because it made my academic credentials that much stronger. For instance the nuclear proliferation course taught in Pakistan was a totally different learning experience than the same course taught in the US.

The wonderful aspect about MIIS is that it boasts students from all over the world. After class, evening conversations amongst class fellows usually revolved around current events back home in everyone’s respective country. Thus students learnt so much from each other by engaging in constructive discussions. An array of languages could be heard any time in the Samson Center which is where a majority of us went to study. One of the requirements for admission into MIIS is proficiency in a second language. Coming from Pakistan, English was considered my second language.

Monterey itself is a beautiful little historic city by the Pacific Ocean. It was immortalized in the novel Cannery Row  by the American author, John Steinbeck. The novel was based on people working in fish canneries in Monterey during the Great Depression. Today the fish canneries are gone and Monterey is a tourist spot. I felt fortunate to be able to attend Grad School in such a delightful little town. One doesn’t need a car to live in Monterey, it has beautiful trails and bike paths that run along the ocean. I could walk to class, nearby coffee shops and grocery stores. Every Tuesday night a Farmer’s Market is held downtown where fresh fruits and veggies from the local farmers can be bought. My friends and I made this one of our weekly rituals! It provided a much necessary healthy relief from studying. 

Now back to my friends graduating last weekend! After countless research papers, presentations, and study groups my friends celebrated the end of the student era. Finally it’s time to set out in the professional world and to start repaying some of those student loans! Some of my friends have already set out on exciting perhaps dangerous internships all over the globe – mostly the developing conflict torn part of the world. Even though these internships are unpaid they are exciting because students gain first-hand experience and are involved with innovating projects in order to encourage development and conflict resolution. These internships are dangerous because interns are literally thrown in warzones… for example my friends are currently in Liberia, Ghana and Colombia. Living conditions are brutal and the weather extreme nonetheless MIIS students view these hardships as a growing experience. Besides when one joins the workforce then it is difficult to get away from the desk to work for free in different parts of the world.

Most of my friends will be moving to Washington DC, in pursuit of exciting careers so that they can play their part in changing the world. I wish them all the best in the future and I will always have fond memories of my Grad School experience. Here’s to our reunion in DC!

On our way back from Monterey on Sunday, we stopped at the Sonoma Jazz Festival to watch Gypsy Kings live! I grew up listening to their rich throaty voices and a combination of their acoustic Spanish guitars and hand claps. Their music got me through all those research papers in Grad School. Even now when I want to unwind with a cup of coffee I play my Gypsy Kings station on Pandora. Therefore I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see them live. My husband and I were celebrating 10 years together and we thought this concert would be perfect way to remember our first meeting anniversary.

Even the weather was perfect for this event; sunny and breezy in the beautiful Sonoma valley. An enormous white tent was set up to protect the viewers from the sun however with people rushing in to grab their seats it started to warm up inside. The breeze would provide relief every now and then, plus ice cream and chilled beverages could be purchased to keep cool. At 4pm Gypsy Kings walked on the stage. The band consists of a total of 9 members, 6 guitars, 1 fretless five string bass, 2 percussionists and no picks. The 3 hours live performance was indeed marvelous and the acoustics were splendid. They sang some of their biggest hits like Bamboleo, Djobi Djoba and Volare. However, much to the disappointment of one fan who kept yelling Bem Bem Maria, they did not sing that song. The Gypsy Kings have fans all across the globe including people like me who do not speak Spanish but their passion filled and timeless music has enabled them to connect with music lovers worldwide.


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