Monthly Archives: September 2013

Take me out to the ballgame!

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Baseball is not a popular sport in Singapore but we know what it is because of Hollywood movies that range from cheesy ones with dogs that can catch to the movie that I watched on my plane ride to DC: “42”.

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“42” tells the story of Jackie Robinson who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. I may be biased because my life experience has made me a little tender towards any stories that tell a story of discrimination, but I would recommend it to those who haven’t watched it or those, who like me, would have avoided watching baseball movies if not for the fact that I was terribly bored on my 20+ hour journey. Aside from the emotional story, that movie also got me interested in baseball and its rules particularly because the legendary player in the movie played quite interestingly.

So, when the opportunity came for me to watch a game with fellow exchange students, organized by the Office for Study Abroad, I was totally up for it. The Office also kindly arranged for an after-school session of learning how to play baseball so that “noobs” like us could actually understand what would be happening on game day.

learntoplay Playing “Wiffle”, with baseball rules.

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Game day itself was an experience. It was different from watching baseball on the television or in the movies. From where I was, I couldn’t really see the dust being kicked off the ground. The huge mega screen showing replays from various angles, the crowd’s cheers and the music was what helped me guess what was going on. The Nationals led initially, but were very inefficient in that they had twice as many people on the base than they had number of runs. (My attempt at reporting what happened during the game may not be interesting).

I am very much used to the faster paced soccer games (that’s football by the way) but I enjoyed sitting in the cold and guessing “balls” from “strikes”. There was much less activity (it may be that it was not a particularly interesting baseball game) and I prefer playing it myself than just watching, but the slow pace meant that any good hit that propelled the ball up in the air guaranteed a little excitement, a small urge to witness a home run and I would edge a little bit off my seat. If it wasn’t a magical hit, I would just sigh and sit back down, continue eating my fries, mutter how I could swing the bat better and make small talk about how cold it was sitting all the way up. If it was a good hit, especially a home run, even if it was an error by those on the field, I would, for a few seconds, become a baseball fan.

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Descent from Ivory Tower

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Not literally. I live on the 1st floor.

Among the many things I noticed when I arrived in D.C. a month ago: people who were less fortunate living on the streets in numbers way more than I’m used to back home. I have had to reassess my expectations of D.C. and the United States in general. Being a foreigner – specifically, a resident alien – it would be terrible for me to rely on false assumptions about this country. I have been trying my best to be politically correct, holding back my tongue, keeping in mind I know very little of the local community and hoping that there must be some form of social welfare “safety net” out there. Yet, culturally and emotionally, I find myself unable to avoid having sympathy for the homeless here.

As I find myself lost and unable to articulate my sympathy into words or manifest actions, it was a relief that I found a group of local students who I felt I could associate myself with.

Over the weekend, I joined “Project Downtown”, a regular occurring event in which members of the DC community come together to make sandwiches and assemble bagged lunches for the homeless members of the community. The number of people that came down to help out early on that Saturday morning gave me some assurance that there are people out there who are doing something to address the various issues affecting the local community.

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Making sandwiches! Chips and bottles were included in the “gift pack”.

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we went to Franklin Park to distribute the food.

The Project is a monthly event I intend to participate in. I know, a few sandwiches will not alleviate hunger in all of the United States or even D.C., I daresay it was barely significant, I might even be insulting, and I’m pretty sure there are people out there who might even be against the idea.

To put things in a different perspective, I’ve been getting free food for various reasons; they’re just getting some too.

Escape!

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ESCAPE

Let’s be realistic here. It would be weird if I woke up every morning totally in love with doing my readings. On second thought, I am weird and I do love my readings – some of it. I am different from the other exchange students and Americans in many ways. I don’t drink and, let’s just say, I would not score participation marks in any activity that involves it. So that pretty much forces me to find other ways of escaping the “stress” of keeping up with all the bright minds in GWU. Laundry and grocery shopping don’t count.

Georgetown

Does it count as taking a break if we wake up early and walk more than a mile? Yes it does, especially when we get free cupcakes. Every Friday or Saturday, while everyone else sleeps in bed my roommate and I would take long morning walks to D.C. Cupcakes in Georgetown for a free cupcake. They only have 100 each giveaway!

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Walking to DC Cupcakes. “Bo” went with us that Saturday.

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Here it is!

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So many cupcakes!

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Our free cupcakes of the day!

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The best part about our walks back is sitting down by the Potomac and enjoying our free treats.

New York City

Over the weekend we figured we really needed to experience something else and New York is only a really affordable 5-hour bus ride away. My roommate and I out really early in the morning and arrived with much time to spare before lunch. Here, street food is halal and much cheaper and the tall buildings, fast cars and people provide a different atmosphere.

The city is far from calming, but just what we needed to freshen up for the weeks ahead. We took time to visit a few places to restock our supplies, find clothes to prepare for cooler weather expected in the weeks to come and buy souvenirs early so we won’t be distracted when there’s assignments to do and exams to study for.

We got a shock when we arrived because the city is much bigger than D.C. and everything was moving in a much faster pace. By dinner though, we kind of missed the calm tempo of Foggy Bottom.

Here’s a video of our little escapade:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fk_fBXrrDis&feature=youtu.be

First Week of Independence

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Living on Campus

I was assigned a room in Ivory Tower with the most awesome roommates I can ever ask for.

Haziq (National University of Singapore), James (Uni Melbourne), Andreas (Copenhagen Business School), and Muhammed (National University of Singapore)

Haziq (National University of Singapore), James (Uni Melbourne), Andreas (Copenhagen Business School), and Muhammed (National University of Singapore)

In the temple of the great emancipator, we sealed the bond of roommate-ship with a photograph, after a day’s worth of persistent counsel by those who have had bad experiences to compose a “Roommate Agreement”.

Being laid-back and very trusting of each other, we have yet to talk about anything related to any document of understanding ever since this photo was taken. The only thing we agreed upon was to take turns buying milk. The only other consensus was that cockroaches are not welcomed in our apartment.

I have stayed on campus back home occasionally to finish assignments and to do group work with friends, but this is a whole new experience. If I’m not making my own breakfast, I could get a dose of caffeine on my way out and before my hair dries, I’m already in class, answering a question, barely having swallowed a sandwich.

Now that I’m more orientated with the Foggy Bottom area, I find myself bravely using shortcuts to classes, confidently grabbing cheaper options for groceries on my way back to my room, comfortably eating from the many cafes, delis, vendors and food trucks around (I need my food to be halal) and smartly keeping quarters in my pocket for the trip to the laundry (when I say trip I mean 5 short strides to the machines across my room door).

Lessons and Challenges

I don’t have much to say about the classes I have so far since it has only been a week but what I can say is that I enjoy the “class participation” atmosphere here. My home university has vibrant and competitive “tutorials”, or the equivalent of discussion sections here, especially for participation. Here, participation also extends to “lectures” with impromptu polls and sharing of opinions on required readings as well as related current affairs. As a political science student, I somehow feel “at home”.

However, my greatest challenge here so far is the deficit of knowledge I have with regards to issues of local context. I am able to discuss theories and issues in general, but occasionally, I find myself lost when a reference is made regarding, for instance, the education system in the United States. Often, I am the only one not laughing when the lecturer makes a joke that only Americans would understand. I predict my non-involvement would get more serious as the weeks pass and I will have to borrow a few extra books to read over the weekends – I may still not laugh along, but at least, I hope, I will not be left behind in class.

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I did get my first chance to “keep up” when a lesson was cancelled and I managed to catch President Obama giving a speech at the Lincoln Memorial!

YES! YES! YES!

To end off my first week, I went for some family-entertainment at the Verizon Center – WWE Live! I was a wrestling fan when I was very young and, like how I’m unfamiliar with U.S. politics, I had to “catch up” and learn about the new characters.

WWE at the Verizon Center!

WWE at the Verizon Center!

I found myself sympathetic towards “Daniel Bryan” and I loved chanting along with the crowd to cheer him on. Can I make it through the rest of this semester? YES! YES! YES! YES!