Monthly Archives: November 2013

Food!

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Ask Singaporeans what is so great about Singapore, and you’ll get various attempts to describe the abundance of food. I used to think it was a cliche – and if I was in a slightly more Marxist mood, I would say it shows how the state has brilliantly distracted our minds into thinking that food matters so much. I don’t think food matters so much just to Singaporeans. I think good food is good food; it fills us up, you talk at the table, if there’s dessert, you’ll talk more and enjoy more. I will make Socrates and Aristotle turn in their graves and assert: good food makes us happy.

I don’t have to put up a list for anyone to find out what are the best food options in DC. We can all spend an afternoon perusing Google and Yelp for that.

I will however kindly point out two must-try simple options for students, local and exchange. In both options, it’s not just about the food – which may even be terrible – but also what you can do with your time.

Maine Avenue Fish Market

Maine Avenue Fish Market

Maine Avenue Fish Market

Less than 15 minutes away on the Blue Line Metro or a 40 minute walk from campus is an open air seafood market in Southwest DC. You can search Google using the above subtitle and you should be directed to the same seafood market I am talking about. I joined Reza and Andreas, my two roommates, on the Metro, choosing the quicker option considering my impatience when I’m hungry.

2 Fishes and Crabs
3 More

You’ll find fishes, crabs, shrimps, scallops – whatever comes to mind when you think of seafood. They are cheaper here compared to those you find in groceries and because the seafood here is fresh, it tastes way better as well.

4 Cook for you

Some shops will offer to cook the fish/crab you purchased for you. We chose a shop just behind for the deals and combos they offered.

5 Eat by river

You can choose to eat in a container-makeshift-eating-area (someone invent a word for this please!) by the river with birds looking very curiously at your catch of the day. Andreas couldn’t wait and stole a few fries as Reza and I made the decision that the makeshift eating area – although exclusively reserved – may be too messy.

6 Eat by Boats_Fotor
7 Picnic By Boats

Or, you can walk a little towards the pier and eat by the boats. We figured the birds would be a nuisance and decided to have a picnic by the boats. After a hearty meal and reflecting over the times we spent as trusty roommates-without-roommate-agreements, we thought of fish we can buy and cook at home – which is the whole point of coming here. You get a great view of murky water and seagulls, you can have cheap but awesome seafood with your pals, and you can shop for fish to cook during dinners for the rest of the week. Reza bought a red snapper, Andreas got a brick of tuna, and I got myself some trusty tilapia.

Exchange Room Dinners

I must qualify that I haven’t been to many of these but I must say there is something good about eating with exchange students (myself not included). Think about it, depending on who you visit, you’ll get to know people from different countries and eat all sorts of food. Why bother going to Malaysia Kopitiam when you can have a ten times cheaper but a million times better experience visiting a Singaporean or Malaysian – if he/she/they can cook.

8 Singapore Food

The Chinese Singaporeans held a surprise, private dinner at one of their rooms showcasing some of the food you will get if you visited our home – including chicken rice.

9 More Food

I must say, it was an educational experience for myself as I have never tasted halal-versions of food they will usually eat back home. Shiying made popiah, Shu Hui cooked chicken in all kinds of broth, there were shrimp fritters and Ma Po Tofu by Mark.

10 Sit and Chat

Reza and I guiltily bought brownies and cake for dessert to contribute. We all had a great chat about our plans once we were done with exams and finals. Some of us are leaving early to travel while others are planning to go straight home for Christmas.

I’m heading home straight with a stop-over at London by myself. It’s only a few weeks away and I’m already sick with the flu, maybe because of heightened anticipation.

Have a happy and awesome Thanksgiving everyone!

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Weekends

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Weekends are very useful to recharge and reinvigorate the body and soul; once the Monday morning sun pokes you in the eyes, you get up not regretting the two free days you had. Here’s what I did over the weekend that cost nothing at all.

Cupcake Mornings

If you might have noticed, I have made Saturday morning cupcakes a ritual. To be honest, I’m not that big a fan and have often ditched cupcake trips for the allure of sleep. However, it is good to start a day with friends who you miss during weekdays being busy with classes and assignments. The caffeine buzz and sugar rush from a cup of coffee and a caramel fudge cupcake gave me the energy to do more for the rest of the day.

As usual, myself, Reza, Shiying, and Boyeong went to Georgetown Cupcakes upon their reveal of the “super secret” free cupcake of the day on their Twitter account. Usually, there would be a queue outside. That morning, the universe aligned (yes, I watched Thor 2) and we strolled in and ordered cupcakes and coffee.

1 Georgetown Cupcakes
2 Georgetown Cupcakes
Our favorite place to consume the cupcakes is not in the store itself, but across the road and further downhill where there will be a red bridge over a drain waterway. Sometimes we will go further down by the Potomac and look at rowers, ducks and people struggling to steer their kayaks.

3 Waterway

We had to walk back to Foggy Bottom Metro to take the train up to the zoo, which was a mistake as we could’ve just walk to Dupont Circle and save the trouble of transferring lines which is a hassle during weekends thanks to scheduled maintenance.

The National Zoological Park

4 National Zoo

We did not choose the option to go to the zoo during the orientation week and it was about time we went there before any further changes to the weather. It was a pleasant day and I may have acclimatized to the “cold” because anything above 10 degrees (Celsius!) feels warm now.

5 Good Weather

6 Good Weather (1)

This zoo is part of the Smithsonian Institution and does not have admission fees. It charges $2.00 for a map – but you won’t need it because there are information boards with the map on it showing the different trails and the locations of the different animals.

7 Sleeping Leopard

Some of the animals aren’t from this side of the world. This leopard from Southeast Asia is resting in the cold. There are heated areas in each enclosure for the animals to get warm and they can choose to stay in indoor spaces as well. Rest assured, these animals are taken care of quite well. Here are some of them:

8 Playful Otters
9 Lonely Elephant
10 Philosophy Panda2

I discussed the feasibility of Socrates’ Kallipolis with a panda.
11 Panda in a bucket

He preferred Aristotle’s conception of a just city.

12 Meerkat2
13 Posing Lions2

I refuse to take pictures of the gorillas and the orangutans because they have human-like features and behavior  I stood and questioned the gaze I had looking at them behind glass windows as they were waiting for food. Someone outside said: “I don’t mind looking at cats, lions and zebras, but these monkeys look like humans and I don’t feel comfortable”. I agreed because I know, humans used to treat other humans in the same way – like how Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman was treated. In some other parts of the world, some females are forced into prostitution and put into “fish tanks”. Some people still look at others as inferior versions of humans as well.

At the end of the trail, we figured out a “walk” to Columbia Heights Metro station was shorter than the walk back to the station we came from. We were right about the distance and the trek there was awesome. Coming from a tropical island, the sight of falling orange and yellow leaves was breath-taking.  What also took my breath away was the hike up Columbia Heights. My lungs obviously haven’t been used for exercise in a long time.

14 Walk to Columbia Heights

I ended the day with a trip to the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument is no longer illuminated at night, which I assume is because of a pause in construction. I already expounded the no-cost beauty of going to the memorials at night in my previous posts.
15 Night Memorialing

Georgetown Soccer

Apparently the artificial turf in Georgetown University is open for use for free as well. I did smirk at the Hoya Saxa on the way up – oh what has GW made of me.

16 Gtown Soccer

It is a beautiful pitch on a hill with airplanes flying over once every few minutes or so. I bet it looks pretty during the day. Being on a hill also meant we were exposed to whatever nature gave us – thankfully it was just ball-trajectory-altering winds that night. Reza and me played with a group of Kazakhs who were either graduate students at GW or working around the area.

17 Kazak Team

Soccer catharticaly relieved me of pent up frustrations, energy, passion and emotions. My team lost 10 to 8, but it was a close match and we had a lot of fun. A few of the Kazakhs studied in Malaysia and could speak some Malay. One of them said “Nasi Ayam Goreng satu” which meant “one plate of fried chicken rice” I was instantly overwhelmed with memories of food from home. I exclaimed in pleasure that I missed fried chicken rice.

The Secret Cinema

Immediately after washing up, I went to this secret cinema, which I will reveal only if you ask me personally. In this secret cinema, the secret seats helped me rest my severely aching muscles. (I got hit in the face with a ball, but the force was so hard it wasn’t my neck that hurt, but my arm, which I suspect dislocated slightly as my body, less the arm, jerked backwards from the impact). We watched Thor 2 that night. I would love to reveal why this cinema is so special to those interested. I wanted to post a picture showing why it’s so special but it will reveal why the cinema has to remain a secret.

Raise High

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Last week, the GW Men’s Basketball team started their 100th season with a game against Radford at the Charles E. Smith Center. It was an opportunity once again to have a taste of American sports and culture. I began my evening with free food and drinks at the tailgate party where the entire 22nd St outside the Charles E. Smith Center was closed off.

1 Tailgate Band

Tailgating is a social event that originated from the United States where there will be consumption of alcoholic beverages and grilled food on and around the open “tailgate” of a vehicle. This social event, which can be organized without any vehicles with tailgates, may occur before a sports event – football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer – and may also be held during weddings and barbecues.

2 Tailgate Meat
3 Tailgate Band
4 Tailgate Meat

The tailgate pre-game that night started in the late afternoon, and assuming there will be a crescendo of participation peaking nearest to the game, I went down the street to the Center much later and queued up with my roommate James who was very eager to get a grilled burger. On such a cold night, being near a flaming grill provided much comfort as I observed hungry young Americans committed to the barely moving queue, some staying longer at the tables to sneak a hot dog as well, to the dismay of those far behind in the queue. There was a band playing songs familiar to most who were present, contributing to the overall American ambiance.

7 RaiseHigh

The game was more exciting than watching people eat. I sat behind the “Colonial Army”, which I assume is similar to the Kop or Forza Milan, but less “Ultras” and more happy-students-just-having-fun. Thank god the words to the GW Fight Song or “Hail to the Buff and Blue” were displayed on the big screen. A guy wearing a yellow colonial hat at the front said something along the lines of: “This is the Colonial Army… you have to be loud otherwise you have to sit somewhere else”. Owing to a terrible experience in the past when I wore a Liverpool jersey to a local Arsenal Fan Club hangout, I gave a worried look to James and memorized the song in one seating. It didn’t really matter and no one was kicking me out for just sitting and clapping, but it was nice to participate in whatever quantity of school spirit that possessed the crowd. It certainly was more fun than when I watched a pre-season game between Miami Heat and Washington Wizards.

8 MiamiHeat

Here is a video of one of the songs that we sang along with to cheer the team on and have fun ourselves. We “woah-oh”-ed to the “chorus” – if you can call it that – of Kernkraft 400:

After the resounding victory and a satisfying late dinner, we went back to our room and every once in a while, one of us would have this song in our head and start humming it and we’ll hum it together for a minute.

I had fun and hope to see the team for another victory this Tuesday.

I Witness

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Our consciousness of the world we live in is influenced by many factors. Censuses, maps and museums, for instance may chisel and affect our imagination of our “nationality”. In another instance, the news, new media and social media may frame our worldview. As an exchange student I am ripped apart from a reality I used to be comfortable in and I now witness the world within a different context and experience a different consciousness.

National Museum of Natural History

Museum 1
Museum 2
Museum 3
Museum 4

I went to the National Museum of Natural History recently, hoping to exploit this temporary “separation from reality” feeling I was having. Honestly, I expected to be mildly educated in things I can just find out about on Wikipedia in my spare time. That expectation was surely exceeded by the vast amount of information presented to me. I went through a journey of time, passing by fossils and crystals and looking at dinosaurs and more familiar ocean and land animals.

Everything was categorized and put in place, providing a narrative of sorts.

So I was shocked, when I passed by the Neanderthals in the Ice Age section and into a section called African Cultures.

Neanderthal-African Voices divide
IceAgeAfrican

I found the immediate shift rather distasteful. I had the gaze of a human looking at animals and pre-humans and I was somewhat forced to carry that gaze through this section. I consciously knew this was an exhibit of culture. Yet, to me it didn’t seem to fit into the scheme of things. I realize I had a different view of things. As a student of social science, and coming from a region where colonial powers once looked at us and toyed with us as if we were animals, I was being overly sensitive. I seem to be the only one bothered with the placement of the exhibit.

Peace, not Prejudice

Among the activities of the GWU Muslim Students Association include a weeklong program called “Peace Not Prejudice Week 2013”.

Peace not Prejudice

I had the opportunity to taste apple cider for the first time in my life on Wednesday. It was heavenly and it cheered me up for the rest of my day of classes.

Among the more informative activities included the talk about Jerusalem and the Syrian Relief Benefit Concert; the latter activity included a sharing session by a lobbyist and a member from an NGO.

Jerusalem
Syrian Relief 1
Syrian Relief 2
Burma’s Rohingya

 

I also attended an exhibit by the United States Holocaust Museum named “Our Walls Bear Witness: The Plight of Burma’s Rohingya”.

1 Cycle

After my classes, I cycled down to the Museum located along the Mall. It was really cold and my face was frozen by the time I got there. I’m happy the bicycle has served me well so far. I have lent it to friends as well.

2 Panel

The panel of discussion included Dr. Holly Atkinson from Physicians for Human Rights, the photographer Greg Constantine and Maung Tun Khin who was born and raised in Arakan State, Burma. Tun Khin is a leader in the Rohingya exile community and the grandson of a Parliamentary Secretary during Burma’s postcolonial democratic period.

3 Greg

What followed were stories and explanations of genocide committed towards the Rohingyas who are currently stateless and defenseless. The photos that were flashed only burnt sad images of brutal injustice onto my retina as my ears were fed with words such as “forced labour” and “children burnt alive”.

4 Projection

We were then led out to see the rest of the photos, projected onto the exterior wall of the Museum.

I Witness

I witnessed a lot in a week, including stories from home, where there is a peaceful movement to allow the hijab to be worn by female professionals. Under Singapore’s constitution, Articles 152 and 153, the Malay-Muslim minority has a constitutional basis for this movement. In other parts of the world, the hijab is often misunderstood as a sign of oppression. In Singapore, the movement to allow the hijab to be worn presents itself as a movement of freedom and civil liberty. Professional Muslim women around the world, including in the US, Canada, Britain, Sweden and Thailand have already been allowed to wear the hijab. Muslim nurses and other Muslim women in the uniformed services in Singapore face a steep challenge paved with discrimination, racism, misunderstanding, male chauvinism, a semi-authoritarian government and fear. I could only sign an online petition, which was eventually taken down after reaching more than 12,000 signatures. Currently, the issue is slowly and barely allowed to be discussed in the press. Not many non-Muslims are sympathetic towards this cause. The Malays have after all always been an “underclass”. I wish the movement the best of luck and hope their objectives are just and legal and that the Malay community present the value of neighborly peacefulness and co-operation that has always been doubly emphasized by culture and religion.

Living as a resident alien in the US, the beacon of democracy and freedom, I also hope that those who pursue justice, liberty, freedom and equality everywhere else in the world eventually find themselves victorious.

The past week was a week of layers of discovery. I only wish that, in the weeks to come, I would have fewer assignments to do so that I can leave my desk more often.