Monthly Archives: March 2013

Spring Has Come to DC

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Spring Break sure did bid goodbye to winter. The Cherry Blossom Festival has already started and everybody got out of the places they would occupy during the winter. I myself have started with my “spring program.” Some of the trees have finally revealed their beauty so highly appealing to the eyes. I finally made my trip to the Arlington National Cemetery. Seeing all the attractive places DC has to offer at the background of seemingly endless rows of graves is an unforgettable experience.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

After visiting the cemetery, my day go even better with the chance to see a remarkable performance, this time with a little bit of nostalgia. GW performance of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was truly impressive, with its amazing actors, whom you would not recognize when they revealed their own gestures during the applause, great music added to the experience we had there. The dark atmosphere just got ahold of us even during the walk afterwards.

Last week I realized I’ve only got so much time here and I need to value my time more. As much as the classes are important, I do not want to regret seeing more of the library than of Washington. The weather actually helped me out in my attempt to stop the time and allowed for me to be able to study outside of the library for once. I had a wonderful weekend outside complete with a picnic at the National Mall. I could tell the spring has driven most of the DC residents out of their homes, we could see so many grown-ups running around with kites, forgetting about their kids. Spring has not shown itself in its full power yet, but it has already made excited fools out of a lot of people.

DC residents and tourists loving the spring weather on the National Mall.

DC residents and tourists loving the spring weather on the National Mall.

I also realized, that there only a couple of last weeks left for our every day readings. This semester I have come across such a huge variety of texts that I can already say that the semester has been successful. I have experienced American college at its finest. There were better times and worse times, luckily, the latter have not shown much. There is only a month of classes left and it is making me sad. I am sure it will be a huge relief since there is always a lot to do for each and every class, yet it makes me think of the time I will attend the lesson for the last time, of the time I will drag every single piece of luggage out of the Amsterdam Hall, and head over to the airport, leave Washington for good. Spring, we waited for you, we prayed for you, and we have been enjoying you, even though you remind us of the near future that will put an end to our American experience. In the meantime, I am hoping to enjoy the time when my travels reaches its peak in New York next week. Let’s hope for a less sentimental Springtime there.

The Search For Coffee

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I come from a city that prides itself on the quality of coffee. Melbourne had an influx of Italian immigrants during the 20th century, and along with their food they brought their coffee machines. In a city with generally glorious weather, outdoor cafes, and laneways a culture of coffee and coffee snobbery has developed. As a result I was a little concerned about the quality of my daily (or twice, sometimes thrice) coffee here in DC.

So here are my recommendations for coffee at GW and nearby. As an aside, I only ever order espresso machine coffee, so I have nothing whatsoever to recommend in terms of filter or percolated coffee.

Baked and Wired, Georgetown (1052 Thomas Jefferson St NW)

I love walking down to Watergate and then along the river and up the street to Baked and Wired. This cupcakery is near the Georgetown Canal, it has really comfortable couches (if you can get a seat) and on weekends sometimes has a line out the door. The cupcakes are the main attraction, and they are absolutely to die for – my favorite in Georgetown (a place over-run with cupcakes) – I recommend the Vegan Chocolate with Peanut Butter frosting or the Carrot Cake cupcake. But another excellent feature of Baked and Wired is their tea and coffee. They do excellent lattes; as good as I get at home, and a really great dirty chai, a cross between a latte and a chai tea. I love how they size their drinks too – you have a choice between big and small, no silly faux-Italian names here.

Filter Coffeehouse, Foggy Bottom (1916 I Street, NW) & Dupont Circle (1726 20th St NW)

My roommate took me here. She had been on exchange at the University of Melbourne, and knew this place made Flat Whites, a variety of coffee you struggle to find outside of Australia, and my favorite. Hands down, Filter is the coffee place most like home. Walking in is like walking into any hipster coffee place at home – a little pretentious, but so very worth it when that delicious cup of coffee gets put in your hand. A flat white is a little like a latte, but with no foam and half steamed milk, half espresso. Their original location is in Dupont, but there is one much closer to campus too. Neither location has wifi.

Bourbon Coffee, Foggy Bottom (2101 L St NW)

Bourbon coffee is a firm favorite of mine. They have wifi, comfortable seating, and a whole selection of milk options. I avoid dairy, and go for Almond milk over the soy, but there’s also the rice milk option. They do a good iced coffee and a really great latte. Bourbon also has some really interesting flavored coffees, including one called Pralines and Cream, which I really must try before the semester ends.

Starbucks (at Gelman Library)

If all else fails, and you want to grab a coffee before class, head to Starbucks. I order soy lattes, because the slight sweetness of soy offsets the burnt coffee taste. They also do decent iced lattes. The real risk with Starbucks is all the flavored coffees – the sugary syrups give me a sugar high on top of the caffeine hit! The Gelman location is always, without fail busy, but it does have wifi and is conveniently open 24 hours a day during peak midterm and final exam time. If you ever find the line is nearly out the door, go to the Starbucks inside the GW Hospital and if you’re down near the Elliot School, try the Starbucks there.

There’s also Dunkin Donuts, in the basement of Ivory Tower, which I go to because I live in the same building. But I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re feeling particularly lazy and I only ever get the iced lattes (and bagels…)

My name is Claudia, and I love coffee.

21 and Under

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21 and Under

“Dude your going to be 20 when you’re DC”, “You will be so bored! You will have nothing to do”, were some of the phrases my friends back home where telling me when they found out I was going on exchange to DC!  20 and I’m loving DC; I have decided to devise a list of fun things that other under 21 people can do.

1) Comet Ping Pong: Haven’t been there yet, simply because every time I go its packed! You may think it’s your ordinary pizza place, but once you step inside you realize that your “ordinary” pizza comes to you on top of a ping pong table! You get to customize your own thin-crust pizza while enjoying a game of ping-pong or foosball.

2)U Street Music Hall: This late night venue hosts many great performances that allows, us under 21 people to attend! It‘s a great atmosphere with amazing music. Lots of performances are held here.

3) UltraBar: Now for those of you who are really eager to go clubbing in DC, by far the best under 21 club is ultra bar. You should definitely dress to impress for this four-level club located in Chinatown. With each floor boasting a different type of genre you are bound to hear something you like.

4) Café Japone: If you love to sing out to your favorite tunes but don’t want to have to do that in front of everyone; at Café Japone you can rent a room with your friends and sing out loud to your favorite tunes while eating some delicious Japanese food! Definitely worth a visit!

5) National Zoo: no matter how old you are, everyone sure enjoys a visit to the zoo! Come to the National zoo and get to see the giant pandas and great apes! It definitely is a fun day out when the sun is out and you have nothing to do in the morning!

Above is just 5 places under 21 people can go, but as I make my way throughout the semester I will definitely be sure to update the list!

U Street Music Hall

U Street Music HallUltraBar

Panda

Hola meggico!

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Done. Done and Done! With my finance exam all written up and my public communication speech delivered, nothing was going to stand in the way between me and the 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) temperature of Cancun, Mexico!cancun_pool Shorts, swimsuits, tanning and Pina coladas; I was ready to leave my winter coat and heavy scarf and get ready for the typical American spring break destination. What more can an exchange student want then to travel to an exotic location with 10 other multicultural students?

“Arriba!” “Hola!”, was all the ten of would say as we would race down the hotel strip of Cancun. Our mornings consisted of tanning by the beach and soaking up the blazing Mexican sun. “ I must get tanned! I have no time to waste!”- Yelled Diletta, senorfrogsan exchange student from Italy. Deprived of the sun and the beach from being frozen in the cold for too long; you can bet you could not get the ten of us out of the crystal clear water.

Tacos. Burritos. Nachos. Never in my life would I have imagined getting tired of chips and salsa. But yes after eating crunchy tacos almost everyday for 8 days you grow sick and tired of Mexican food. Even though Mexican cuisine is delicious. too much of it just doesn’t work (Imagine eating Chipotle for 8 days straight.).pineapple Later in the week we swapped tacos for exotic seafood. Yes exotic. Have you ever heard of a pineapple cut in half and then stuffed with cheese and seafood? Well I didn’t until I went down to a Mexican flea market. How about shark enchiladas? “ You eat me and I eat you,” read the sign. Let me tell you though, shark enchiladas, yum! It was so good, it tasted very similar to tuna fish.

With our stomachs almost always stuffed with exotic food, we knew we couldn’t go to Cancun without visiting one the new seven wonders of the world; Chichen Itza, “Chicken Pizza” , as Mike an exchange student from new Zealand likes to call it.

Chichen Itza was a significant monument in the Mayan culture, and stands today as one of the most visited structures in the world. It was really interesting to know that the pyramid like structures are aligned with the moon. Other than that it looked very similar to the pyramids I am familiar with in Giza, Egypt.chichen itza

You know you’re in Mexico when you hear the famous song “La Bamba!” and turn around to find a big sombrero ( over-sized Mexican hat) in your face! No trip to Mexico is complete without the Mexican men singing their tunes for you or what they refer to you as “my senorita”.

Stomachs filled with tacos and lips mouthing the words to La Bamba,  we put on our sombreros and headed home; we definitely wont forget such an amazing spring break!

Where Were You Last Week?

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The most frequent question before the most awaited time of the semester started was: What are you doing for spring break? Most of your classmates would respond to this by alluding to a warm place with the vision of themselves dressed in a summer dress and sunglasses. I chose Chicago and Boston. There were times I would envy my colleagues, who were enjoying the pleasures of the localities further south. Despite the wind and  low temperatures I do not think we made a mistake. I started my vacation on a sunny day with an extraordinary view of Chicago from the tallest building in United States, and the trip ended with a warm walk around Boston Common.

Atop the Sears Tower Sky Deck in Chicago!

On top of the Sears Tower Sky Deck in Chicago!

Boston Common

Boston Common

Even though we did not choose a very warm locations, the first and the last days were just perfect. Chicago is such an amazing city with so many things to see and to do. It truly must be an architecture student’s paradise. Sports fanatics would also find so many places interesting in this city. We also never encountered so many welcoming people. Anytime one of us had a look to our Lonely Planet Guide, there was somebody asking whether we need any help or not. Of course we tried to taste some food typical for Chicago, and I must say the stuffed pizza is at least an interesting invention. I will never forget our walk around Navy Pier, even though it was really empty this time of the year. The jazz bars are also an unforgettable experience and I can only wish for such authentic places to be here in DC or back in Prague.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier!

After following Al Capone we decided to follow much more appreciated figures of American history. Boston offered a really different atmosphere. Even though everybody kept saying that as tourists coming from Europe we will probably not be very fond of what everybody there calls rich history, we actually found it amazing. Following the Freedom Trail was one of the most impressive walks I have ever had, especially the part where The Paul Revere House is located… I have never seen so many bricks in my life! Boston gave us the opportunity to hear quite a significant accent, to walk around sea shore, to see beautiful parks, to eat a burger at Wendy’s one night just in order to fully appreciate the fancy seafood restaurant the following night, to see a different type of campus when visiting Harvard University, and much more.

The city of Boston

The city of Boston

The last week was so intense and so remarkable that I am finding it hard to come back and study hard for two more months. What I expect from this week is walking around campus, seeing faces I have not seen for more than a week, asking them about their Spring Break. I also expect that our thrilled talks will be followed by nostalgic sighs, demotivating memories, and words suggesting that the break is over and we need to get back to work. Fortunately, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is drawing closer and we will again have more to appreciate here in DC. Until then, let me ask you a question – Where were you last week?

Valley of Fire, Nevada

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For spring break my roommates and I decided to book a trip for 4 days to Las Vegas. I turned 21 a few days before the break, and we all wanted to experience something a little bit different from Washington. We definitely had a lot of fun, even on budgets that didn’t allow for shows and super fancy restaurants and bars every evening. Vegas is a strange place, a (simultaneously) glamorous and tacky strip of flashing lights and casinos surrounded by beautiful desert and mountains. At one slot machine a man is losing hundreds and at another a woman is making a thousand or more. The hotels are reasonably affordable while the experiences, food, alcohol, and gambling are expensive. It was a place I enjoyed, but don’t see myself returning too.

The real highlight of the trip was on Tuesday, when we hired a car and went on a mini-adventure. We’d researched  into the State and National Parks near Vegas, planning to go hiking and just be in an environment wildly different from the East Coast, and settled upon Valley of Fire State Park.

Near Lake Mead and the Nevada border with Arizona, Valley of Fire is the oldest State Park in the state. About an hour and a half drive out of Vegas, we paid a $10 entrance fee and were given directions to the visitors information center. Here we came across a lovely Ranger who asked us how far we were planning on walking and told us about the great walks, two about an hour long and the third maybe 30 minutes. Each had different scenery, and a different character, and each was incredibly beautiful. In many ways the scenery and weather (it was a lovely 26 degrees Celsius, 80 Fahrenheit with not a cloud in the sky) were comforting reminders of home. Central Australia is filled with similar warm reds, oranges and golds and desert hardy plants used to the extremes a desert experiences. But it was also a different kind of scenery –the rocks have been built up over time, the remnants of ancient oceans millions of years ago, where sediments build up layer by layer creating the landscape we see today. It’s a truly mountainous area in a way the flat landscape of Central Australia just isn’t.

I guess I can probably best explain the beauty of the park with pictures rather than words.

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One of the more shallow highlights of the adventure for me was that I didn’t get a sunburn! No way would that be the case hiking in the desert in Australia. On our drive home we stopped by to see the Hoover Dam, a great monument to man-made engineering and manipulation of the natural landscape and from what we gather, a dam that has been contentious ever since it open in 1945.Image

The whole day was a really lovely escape from our Spring Break escape.

The Town That Billy Sunday Couldn’t Shut Down

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Even though most of us GW students are still occupied with the mid-term exams and paper submissions, it is essential to have a little bit of time for fun. Last Thursday after school a few of us decided to relax. We launched out to see our very first theater performance in Washington. However, it was not us, but our books and laptops, who had the mental rest. What we saw was a powerful and disturbing experience worth the discomposure one faces when reading Toni Morrison’s novels. A three-hour long play called The Convert has left us awestruck. The story followed a young girl, whose life was marked by an acceptance of Christian faith to the detriment of her family and traditions linked to it. The play certainly employed all the criticism and metaphors we are familiar with from reading Heart of Darkness or A Passage to India, yet it offers a perspective of the oppressed, which makes it more intensive. I need to say that it certainly motivated me to find out about other performances here in DC.

This play was recommended to me two weeks before by one of my professors, but I could not go that particular day. However, I got lucky. As soon as I heard that exchange students are welcome to come for free, I RSVP’d. Before coming here, I was prepared to arrange and finance my own life in terms of concerts, performances, etc. Nevertheless, I have found myself deciding between events offered by the organizations and communities in GW a few times – something that would have never happened in my home university. Therefore, I am just hoping that I will have enough time to take advantage of the many opportunities and enjoy them fully. I am really enjoying the possibility of decision here at GW – you always have the option to be independent and self-contained as well as to attend events in group when you usually meet both friends and new people.

In spite of all these keen comments, I  admit that I need a rest. One is never ready for the mid-term exam period to come I guess. Having four days until Spring Break is causing my motivation to decrease. In my mind, I am already flying to the destination (Chicago) I have dreamed of so long. The excitement is probably equal to the sensation I had experienced prior to my departure here in January. Do you remember the times when all the famous scenes from movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Strangelove, or Homeland keep you up all night? Well, right now it has been John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd driving the Bluesmobile, real estate agents confused by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, Courthouse Place and its famous press room – be it for the presence of Carl Sandburg or Billy Wilder’s hilarious comedy The Front Page. This time, I see myself wandering around Chicago, having The Snatch soundtrack playing in my head. Hopefully the weather is with me.