Monthly Archives: January 2013

Exploring Washington

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Mountain of Dispair

Mountain of Dispair

My task last week was to start exploring Washington. The more I am getting to know the city, the nicer it seems to me. My goal this week was to see the monuments I have not seen yet, especially the Martin Luther King, Jr.

Memorial. The Inauguration was very important here, yet it all reminds us of Martin Luther King as well. After seeing this sight I dare say the Memorial complies with his legacy. I have read some controversial opinions towards the style of the whole monument, specifically considering its resemblance to Social Realism.

This picture shows how big the monument actually is

This picture shows how big the monument actually is

However, being from Prague and having traveled through other post-communist countries as well, I have to say, it is interesting to compare the distinct points of view.

Detailed picture of the portrayed army and people - Sofia, Bulgaria

Detailed picture of the portrayed army and people – Sofia, Bulgaria

The main pedestal of the Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia

The main pedestal of the Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia

The statue, in contrast to the above mentioned styled sights, consists of significant artistic inventions, yet it preserves a certain simplicity. It does not communicate in clear emblematic symbols of Socialism, as it is in some genuinely Socio-Realist monuments. In order to express myself clearly, I would encourage everybody to compare the pictures of the monuments in Sofia, Bulgaria and the particular sight in DC.

Out of all the sights I have seen in DC, the Lincoln Memorial is still my favorite. Even though when you are tired of crowds, it is the best to go and calm down by the DC War Memorial. Doesn’t it remind you of a tranquil sanctuary among all of those crowded places?

DC War Memorial

DC War Memorial

After seeing this, I strongly encourage everybody to go and pay a tribute at the World War II Memorial.

The desserts were even better than it seems here

The desserts were even better than it seems here

Having done this night tour, you are cold and in need of a nice and warm place to go to, especially in this time of the year. We chose a renown place in Washington – Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. This wonderful bookshop offers a lot more – it is a bar, a cafe, and a restaurant, and at the same time, they have a live performance every night. I had been longing to go there since I first looked this place up, that is prior to my arrival, therefore I am glad I finally managed.

Saturday was quite a special day for me. I met my Global Colonial buddy, Livia, and we went to one of the Smithsonian’s, National Museum of the American Indian. The museum gave us the opportunity to learn about tribes from various locations, their traditions, rituals, everyday habits, languages, and most importantly their history and first interactions with people coming from the Old World. It also focused on the nowadays situation, the struggle for identity and for preserving the culture, reflected in arts as well.

Australian Michael is enjoying the Australian hot dog

Australian Michael is enjoying the Australian hot dog

The infamous spread called Vegemite

The infamous spread called Vegemite

Afterwards I went to a party celebrating the Australia Day with typical Australian food. I don’t think I will ever forget about the pronounced taste of Vegemite. I am sorry, my dear Australian friends, but I don’t think I will ever have this yeasty spread again.

In the evening we had our Exchange Orientation Group 6 reunion and had the pleasure of tasting the delicious food cooked by our Singaporean friends. Now we are planning to have more sessions of this type so I wish good luck to the Italians when preparing the pasta for us next week!

Group 6 is about to enjoy the Asian food!

Group 6 is about to enjoy the Asian food!

Hopefully, I will see some other parts of Washington to admire as well!

A few things I’m loving about GW

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Now that I’m settled down into a routine here at GW I thought it’d be worth listing a few of the things I’m loving so far about GW.

1. Wholefoods & Trader Joe’s

At home we have two big supermarket chains that control the market. Both are decent, but neither does organic food very well (as well as having lots of gluten/lactose free options). It’s great having two stores so close by full of great food and produce (especially with the ready made food options at Wholefoods). Both stores are more expensive than the big Safeway supermarket in Georgetown but even so the prices are about the same I’d pay at home for food that isn’t organic or as good quality.

2. The location

I’m still reeling from the fact that all I had to do to watch President Obama get inaugurated was walk a few blocks to the Lincoln Memorial and then wander down the National Mall. Not to mention the ease of being near a metro stop, in a city with frequent and efficient trains. My friends and I visited the National Archives on Friday to go see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. We caught the train to Federal Triangle and then walked a block or two and we were there! A 15-20 minute journey to see some of the most iconic symbols of modern democracy – so brilliant! (If it hadn’t been below freezing outside we could have walked the distance too)

3. Living on campus

In Australia most students commute to the campus. There is the option of living on campus, but only a small percentage do at my university. I do not miss sitting on the train in peak hour trying to get to a 9am class, only to discover the trams to the university campus aren’t running because of road work. No more half-awake tram trips clutching my coffee and trying not to spill it on the businessman in the suit next to me. The convenience of being able to go back to my dorm between classes to drop books off, have a cup of tea and relax is brilliant.

4. My GWorld card

At home my university ID is just a library card and proof I’m a student (for student tickets at the cinemas, etc). Here my GWorld is a key to the dorm building and gives me access to the gym and library. Plus I can charge my GWorld up with money. I can use it at food stores all over campus, not to mention at Wholefoods and CVS pharmacy. At first I thought I’d just charge it up so I could use it in the laundry room and for photocopying and printing. But more than once now I’ve gone to the food court in the basement of my dorm and forgotten my bank card. Thankfully, it’s no problem because I have my GWorld! I do love convenience.

Egyptian Revolution: Bringing a little piece of home to DC.

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Koshary

Koshary

Egyptian Night

Egyptian Night

Mix white cooked rice, with fried onions, macaroni, and vinegar red sauce; now I know what your thinking, what is this mess! I’ll pass and grab pizza! But trust me after the 25th of Jan, once you call out those ingredients anywhere around campus, you will have a great number of Americans and exchange students lining up to get seconds from this traditional Egyptian dish; Koshary.

In spirit of the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution of Jan 25th, I decided to host an Egyptian themed party in my apartment room of Amsterdam hall. It was not supposed to be a political event nor any type of protest, just some traditional Egyptian food of “Koshary” and an Egyptian desert of “roz b laban” which translates into “rice pudding”.

With a gigantic poster that read “ Egyptian revolution” hung in the living room and different colored belly dancing belts wrapped around our waists, this Egyptian themed party was soon to start at 8pm.

Atay enjoying some Koshary

Atay enjoying some Koshary

Arabic music in the background, and belts making a whole lot of noise; within 30 minutes over 40 eager foreigners were in my living room getting ready to try their first Egyptian dish. Bringing out two large platters of Koshary with the red vinegar sauce on side, I couldn’t help but laugh at the puzzled faces of the students as they feasted their eyes on a plate of macaroni, rice and lentils, drained with vinegar red sauce. Yet however as soon as their forks dived in the plates I knew it was going to be a success.  “Dude this is amazing! Thank you for feeding me!” yelled Atay an exchange student from Turkey. “I’m coming to Egypt” called out Marie, an exchange student from Czech Republic. With smiling faces and students running in for seconds, it was no doubt that we needed to make more red sauce.

Egyptian PartyWhen their stomachs were satisfied, it was time to take them on a cultural dance experience. A group of Egyptians and I put on some traditional belly dancing Dancingmusic, and started shaking away to some of the most popular Egyptian songs. It almost felt like back home eating my favorite Egyptian food while listening to some of my favorite music. “Teach me teach me!” we had some exchange students yell, and even some of the guys. We took turns with the belts and danced away to the rest of the night.

It was such a memorable day for me where I was able to bring a little piece of home to DC. Now not only will Egyptians remember Jan 25th but also the foreigners, who were able to get a piece of Egypt on such a remarkable day.

Hanna Dina and Shahd

Egyptian Revolution

January 21, 2013: History was made

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I am really wearing five layers of clothing!

I am really wearing five layers of clothing!

Dressed in literally five layers of thick winter clothing and managing to wear two different pairs of pants on top of each other, I marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in two degrees Celsius weather (Or what the Americans call 35.5 degrees Fahrenheit). Standing in the chilly weather with the clock striking 5 am, most people would call me crazy, but today I witnessed history in the making.  I could have predicted that I was going to do a study abroad, and I most certainly could have predicted that the world would not end in 2013, but never would I have imagined that I would be one out of a thousand proud citizens watching live the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America: Barack Hussein Obama.

Andrew, our awesome GW leader

Andrew, our awesome GW leader

The whole day seriously felt so surreal. With my bundle of clothing and snack box filled with my favorite candies (and of course cupcakes!), a group of 10 exchange students marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. We were lucky enough to have Andrew, a GW student, lead the way as he took us to a private non-touristic location on the National Mall.

Lounge in the Museum of Modern Arts

Lounge in the Museum of Modern Arts

However from this secret viewing area, no food or drinks where allowed and it was hard to hear the speech. So I opted to leave this luxurious warm lounge, grabbed my American flag and head on out to battle the cold with the rest of the tourists.

Inauguration Flags

Matching GW Beanies

Matching GW Beanies

With a GW beanie, GW pin and an American flag in hand, I was a true Colonial cheering on the President of the United States of America. It was such an amazing feeling standing outside of the National Mall, listening to Mr. President as he pledged his oath in front of the entire world.

With citizens chanting “ four more yeas” and people going crazy at the sight of Mr. President, it is with no doubt that people love him!

Taking Classes at GW

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I have truly been impressed with the courses here at GW during the first week of classes. There is a lot to say about the professors and the material they have planned for the courses. I find myself looking forward to delving into the subject matter and anticipate a rewarding semester that will challenge my thinking and teach me more about American culture, both on and off campus. I think that the university environment is set up in such a way that it allows the students to rationally discuss, assess and decide whether to value or doubt a variety of issues and ideals.

In the last week I have observed so many differences between the classes here and at Charles University, and have always tried to understand their origins and impacts. Firstly, I was appalled when seeing how interactive the classes are expected to be. The next shocking moment came while having a first discussion in class. I must say, I have never seen such a vivid, lively environment for a debate. Students are eager to express their opinion rather than just muttering incomprehensibly to themselves. I had to assert myself in order to be heard. Students here are much more self-confident than in the Czech Republic, which helps to stimulate and move the discussions further.

The next thing I have found interesting and highly inspirational was the concern for up-to-date matters, including recent developments in pop-culture. Both lecturers and students tend to refer to pop-culture quite often. I was so surprised when we were supposed to debate the movie Lincoln, or Beyoncé, and I thought for a minute that the professor was joking. However, it seems that assessing mainstream culture is an efficient way to assess you surroundings. Additionally, it reveals how deeply connected recent theories are with the academic culture here – for instance the works of Žižek or Butler show a very similar attitude. In Charles University, the whole academic culture tends to neglect this. Both the courses and the discussions are very classical, only a few times before coming here I had encountered more recent texts to study, as if only time can prove whether the text is worth reading or not. Lecturers here are thus more progressive and not afraid of possibly dashing debates.

The most positive observation was, however, seeing America in doubts. From the very beginning I have been here, I could see (regardless of the Inauguration) many sign of patriotism. Such signs would have been extremely ridiculed in the Czech Republic. Of course, it is very pathetic when a citizen feels like being a part of the state only when sport events take place. However, this stance also protects us from mindless acting. The star-spangled banners and posters everywhere tells me that something is different here. It is nice to be proud of your country, unless it is at the expense of truth. I was afraid I would not be able to talk to anybody about this, because everybody seemed to have no objections towards America. Nonetheless, once the classes started, I was sure I am in the right place. I could see people objecting and trying to rethink this sort of approach towards your country. And that made me happy again about being here. I can say, I am in the right place, where America can be proud and still able to be critical at the same time.

Even though I was too impressed with the classes to get to the Inauguration, the exchange students couldn't miss this event

Even though I was too impressed with the classes to get to the Inauguration, the exchange students couldn’t miss this event

inauguration gw exchange

The 57th Inauguration

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My roommates and I woke up at 6.30am this morning, gobbled down some breakfast and pulled on endless layers before heading a few blocks down to the National Mall to watch the 57th Inauguration of the President of the United States of America. In a wonderful coincidence, it has fallen on Martin Luther King Day. 2013 also celebrates 150 years since the Capitol dome was finished – so there was a whole lot to celebrate in DC today!

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The early wake-up (for a College/University student!) was entirely worth it. It was cold when the cloud cover came over but the atmosphere, even as early as 8am, with the Inauguration scheduled to begin at 11.30am, was electric. My feet got numb with cold, and there was disagreement regarding the rules to a game we played to pass the time but we got free badges and we got free flags and we got to watch Barack Obama take the oath for his second term as President of the United States of America. We were near the first jumbo-tron of the free un-ticketed section, and could see the Capitol clearly, though watched the jumbo-tron so we actually knew what was going it. Every time the crowd heard something it liked, or saw a person they loved, the flags were raised and flapped around wildly, eliminating people’s views of the goings on, but filling your eye-line with flashes of red white and blue, as voices cheered for the next four years.

Inauguration 2 Inauguration 1

After the excitement of the morning, it was a reasonably quick return  (well, an hour…) back to our dorm building, hot food and sofa. Now I’m writing this watching the parade, and reflecting back on what was a brilliant experience. I had known months ago, as soon as I found out I was going to GW, that I’d be there for this inauguration, but it only really hit me when I was standing in front of the Capitol as the sun rose. The message of the Inauguration seemed to me to be one of hope, equality and of teamwork. It’s one that resonates not just in politics and society within the USA, but also at home, and all over the world. I’m just a little bit sentimental when it comes to celebrations of democracy and of the future to come.

I’m still taking so much in after my first fortnight at GW, and have many thoughts on dorm living and classes to come!

I’m a Colonial Now

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A thousand miles away from home, no more warm cooked meals and a size single wooden bed. I knew I was going to start to feel homesick. As I dragged my overweight red suitcase filled with winter and summer clothes I looked around room 113 of Amsterdam Hall. I turned to my clock, it was 5 pm, already past midnight back home. No one to call, nothing to do so I went to sleep.

Hairy Hippos, Group 2

Hairy Hippos, Group 2

Now for most exchange students, this feeling of loneliness and homesickness would usually take on for more than just a few days. But with a busy schedule from 9 am to 9 pm and awesome orientation leaders, there was really no time for us to feel alone.

No phone lines, no credit cards and definitely not enough winter clothes; you can bet that the first few days consisted of basic logistics. With over 60 exchange students from various parts of the world, we were divided into groups of 10.

Once the logistics where out of the way we got ready for some exciting activities! Having never seen this much snow before I was extremely excited when the orientation leaders planned a trip for us to Wisp Resort in Maryland. There we got to go snow tubing, and ice-skating!

Wisp Resort

At Wisp Mountain

At Wisp Mountain

Next in line was learning a traditional American dance called the “Cotton Eyed Joe”. After practicing it everyday with the orientation leaders, we were confident enough, that we decided to form a flash mob in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It was my first time seeing and doing a flash mob! An awesome experience!

GW Basketball Game

GW Basketball Game

Adding on to the American experience, as a group we went to the GW basketball game, where GW beat St. Bonaventure! (btw I won a free t-shirt because of my cheering skills). Having memorized the GW Fight song, I felt like I was part of the colonials, cheering on our team! It was great to see how much school spirit GW student have as there were rows of people dressed in “Buff and Blue” (GW’s colors).

To wrap up such an awesome first week here DC, the orientation leaders threw us a black and white dinner party at Mrs.K’s Tollhouse! (Food was amazing! I totally recommend the chicken with cranberry sauce).

A totally new experience, and many new friends made.  If we did all this in one week I

cant even imagine what we are capable of doing in the next 5 months!

GW, I’m a colonial now.

At Mrs. K's Tollhouse

At Mrs. K’s Tollhouse