Monthly Archives: January 2016

Jonas the Snowzilla

Standard

2016

I am hurrying to catch the metro, short of breath. Behind me I am pulling my 85 litre travel bag stuffed with warm clothes and study materials for the next few days, or weeks. Snow storm “Jonas” is coming, you see, and there is no knowing how big he will be or what mood he will be in when he finally decides to drop by. It could last for days. Nobody knows. Coming from Australia, I am unaccustomed to copious amounts of white, fluffy snow interrupting my study routine and by extension conveniently granting me, and most folk in the north eastern states of the USA, a three or four day weekend. Pity about all those missed classes…

jonas6

Washingtonians are getting ready. Employers have rented hotel rooms for their staff so they can work longer hours (apparently some places refuse to shut off, even in the face of a storm). The George Washington University has been closed early. Everywhere I go I see students, staff, citizens frantically scurrying like ants before a thunderstorm that threatens to wash them away. Many stock up on necessary supplies, bottled water, toilet paper, and Jif, extraordinarily crunchy non-oily peanut butter, to spread on Grandma’s famous family pancakes. Everyone is determined to survive ‘Snowzilla’.

Unlike most of my college friends, I had been invited to see Jonas out off campus, with my friends the Thomas family in Northern Virginia. The three days I spent there just flew. Whether it be sitting down to a breakfast feast of buttermilk pancakes served with bacon, blueberries and dripping in ounces of maple syrup or Maine blueberry sauce -all washed down with a cup of real American coffee; jonas11appealing to Jonas’s softer side with Americana tunes such as “My Way” by Sinatra on the Steinway; spontaneous snow fights in 30 inches of snow before an enchanting mid-afternoon sun; or learning to use a snow blower with Jonas at my heels: it was a terrific experience I won’t forget. The Thomas’ epitomize the ultimate hospitable American family. The warmth and generosity I experienced made me feel like I was back home. Let me tell you, they have three very lucky Shi-Tzu dogs.jonas10

 

 

jonas7

The positive thing about otherwise reckless snow storms, like Jonas, is they give people the opportunity to slow down. We live in a very fast paced life, and every now and again it’s important to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Although I didn’t take part, a lot of my friends back on George Washington City Campus participated in a snow man making competition in Kogan Plaza. I can visualize exchange and residential students alike frolicking carelessly amidst the powdery white, like children in an enormous sand pit. For some, no doubt, it would have been their first time experiencing snow. According to social media, such outbursts of public interaction were to be seen everywhere Jonas traversed. Meanwhile, back in Virginia, one of the Thomas’, Jenny, and I stayed up until long after the witching hour to complete a 1000 piece puzzle of an American newsstand. So although a lot of homeless people were inconvenienced by his wrath, Jonas’ legacy is that he gave many the opportunity to catch up on some rose-smelling.

jonas4

jonas5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Jonas.

PS: Perhaps you’d consider making a little reappearance in early May? Right around the time of my finals would suit me just fine…

jonas2

jonas1

Advertisements

Cupcakes!!

Standard

One thing I realized during my stay in DC is that CUPCAKES ARE SO AWESOME!

It is not an exaggeration for me to say that about 90% of my energy comes from sugar, and cupcakes are excellent energy resource for me. It had been this way forever, and I don’t regret the fat cells that came along as a side effect (Well I actually do).

Therefore, my quest for sweets served as one of the most important missions for me in my life.  Every weekend, I went hunting for sweets that would be both satisfactory in taste and helpful in accumulating energy that would help me survive for the rest of the week. I searched for blogs and reviews before visiting so that I would have an idea of what the sweets are like in that particular shop, and to get an idea of what is recommended and what is to avoid.

When I first came to Washington D.C., my parents greeted me at the airport (my family lives in D.C.), hugged me, and whispered “Kyuyoun! You look so healthy!” As soon as I heard this, I immediately sensed that this is a euphemism for “Kyuyoun! I think you gained weight and its obvious even at one sight!” In actuality, I gained 5kg (11 lbs) in total because of the stress I received last semester and the consequential increment in my sweets consumption. I was so determined NOT to get any fatter, and I decided to say goodbye to my sweets-oriented life.

But shame on me…My visit to cupcake shops in D.C. totally nullified this idea – they are just so awesome! I didn’t have to do any googling for these cupcakes; no matter what cupcake I picked, it didn’t fail to surprise me every time.

The first cupcake shop I visited was Baked & Wired. Baked and Wired is located in Georgetown, which is about 15 minutes walk from campus. After having a decent lunch at a seafood restaurant in Washington Harbor, I realized that Baked and Wired was just around the corner. I thought it was a great idea to visit Baked and Wired to get cupcakes for dessert. The bakery itself was pretty small, but the cupcakes were actually enormous in size. I chose Red Velvet cupcake which I believe to be the best choice. The frosting  on the top was pleasantly sweet, which went along well with the cake that was spongy and mild.

cupcake1

The second cupcake place I visited was Red Velvet Cupcakery. I liked how its name was so concise – I could tell that it sold Red Velvet cupcakes, and my sixth sense detected the “We are good” aura that surrounded this shop. It was unique in that they sold low-calorie cupcakes. Even though my parents thought that low caloried ones wouldn’t taste as good, I decided to try it. My parents were wrong; it was AMAZING. Personally, I liked this cupcake more than that of Baked and Wired. First of all, it was not so big (which allowed me to try other flavored cupcakes as well), and secondly, it balanced out sweetness and mildness pretty well throughout the whole thing. I am actually planning on taking my fellow exchange friends here since it is not as famous nor renowned as it deserves!

cupcake2

It is not that I gave up on losing weight. This is my logic; after a semester of being in this cupcake heaven, no other Korean desserts would satisfy my upgraded criteria in evaluating sweets. Therefore, I wouldn’t be as attached to sweets as I was, and I will eventually lose weight! Well, humans are animals of adaption and I am pretty sure I will continue to eat a lot in Korea, but it is better to think this way to justify my reason for conquering cupcakes shops in D.C.. My next stop: THE Georgetown Cupcakes!

The Californian Zephyr!

Standard

 train

Fast across the windswept plains of Nevada, traveling snake-like in its calm embrace, steams the Californian Zephyr. The stuff of legends, in 2016 she continues to defy her critics and captivate her admirers. She is no ordinary train. With a lifetrack spanning over 2, 438 miles (3,924km), the elegant locomotive drifts from open Oakland, California to Calamity Jane’s Windy City, Chicago, on the banks of Lake Michigan.

It was onboard the Californian Zephyr I saw the New Year in. This experience reminded me of an interesting New Year’s custom they have Sri Lanka. On the evening of last day of the year, apparently, every window and house in Sri Lanka is drawn open. This symbolizes the departure of the old year and the welcoming of the new. Riding the Zephyr during New Year’s for me bore a resemblance to this custom: the inexorable choo-choo powering forwards scattered the bygone year across the Utah salt plains, whilst coasting into an exciting new era.rocky3

rocky2
For a three day train ride, my time aboard the Zephyr passed surprisingly quickly. Whilst sipping chilled apple juice in the comfy observation lounge, we watched the snow fall in the splendid Sierra Nevadas, eagles dare in John Denver’s Colorado Rocky Mountain High whilst elk gathered in wildered bemusement at the galloping iron horse. Almost everyone I met was outgoing and willing to stop and chat. I cant say whether this was a microcosm of American hospitality in general or whether such amicable behavior was a survival mechanism that is seen when humans are forced to interact with each other in a particularly restricted environment.  Since I have been riding the rather stern and serious DC metro for two weeks, my bet is the latter. Either way, I really got my fix of human connectedness over the three day train saga.

rockyrocky4
rocky5

One group of sojourners I have fond memories of was a group of young 20-somethings that spoke with soft, genteel voices and, as we would say in Australia, smelled of hard yakka. They were old order Amish from up state Indiana. I learnt that each of them easily worked a 60 hour week, whether that be on the farm ploughing the old fashioned way with a  team of diligent arbeitspferden (work horses) or putting the final touches on an RV in a factory in Elkhart. Yet their countenance did not appear weary and worn,instead they smiled with contentment. Dissimilar from their contemporaries, they were not selfishly submerged in a psychedelic trance of ipod listening, ipad lunging and iphone lounging. On the contrary, they sat in neat rows on the upper level lounge playing Rook, a family card game, chuckling like innocent children when a break through in red or green cards was reached. Occasionally, one could sound out a smattering of Pennsylvanian Dutch here or there, when they felt it was appropriate to speak their 17th century tongue without drawing too much attention. My short visit with Ervin Schrock, who invited me to visit his farm sometime, with Norman, Raymah, Grace, Lavern and Kevin, was like I had joined the Dr. on a Tardis trip back to a simpler and more holistic era when technology took a back seat to human interaction and deep Rook-inspired belly laughs.

jarrod2friends
photos
brekfast

If an author ever runs short of character ideas, they should book a seat aboard the Californian Zephyr. The number of fascinating people I met, each with their own quirky style, accent, humor and behavior could rival Debrett’s guide to the peerage of Great Britain. There was my seat mate Robyn, who was on a 15 day train journey, circumnavigating the US in search for new ideas and inspiration; Colchee, a woman from Chicago whose ninety year old mother, she assured me, was well known in Illinois, and rubbed shoulders with Obama and Rev. Jackson; Tom the lower level lounge attendant whose PA system voice bore a striking resemblance to Rev. Lovejoy from the Simpsons and who could forget Tad, the self proclaimed ‘bootlegging redneck’ from Fredericksburg, Virginia, who was more robot than man, having been run over by an excavator last year. Tad dwells on a diet of noodling (catching fish with his bare hands), fixing moonshine like the “good ‘ol days” and attending a restaurant chain associated with the onomatopoeia of owls, whose waitresses, Tad assured me, “th’all reel pruety”.

colcheejarrod

As the Zephyr chugged its way into Union Station, Chicago, vivid nostalgia came over me. This had been my home for the past few days and the meeting place of life long friends. I had laughed until I cried, cried until I laughed (at how expensive the dining cart bills) and overall had the time of my life.

Take my advice: take the train.

train1

chicago

Review on the first week of school

Standard

Before classes started, I was so enthusiastic about my GWU life – I was more than ready to excel in academics, to join local GWU clubs, to travel around the city, and to search for good restaurants (which is the greatest passion of mine). However, right at this point when I am done with my first week of school, I realized that such ideal life is hard to pursue.

The biggest limitation I face is that classes are so intense, especially because of the extraordinary amount of readings professors require. I am taking five courses in which all of the professors casually claimed that they were expecting more readings than the average classes. My initial attempt to do the readings for all the classes failed from the very first day, and I guess my need for academics help center, which I thought I wouldn’t really have to visit, is increasing at an exponential rate.

However, I was captivated by the atmosphere of the classes. I am not saying that one is better than another, but the class style of my home institution and that of GWU are so different. At my home institution, professors mainly held lectures that were primarily composed of explanations. Even though they did receive question, they considered information/knowledge transfer more important than the discussion amongst students. However, all of my classes at GWU are discussion oriented, which makes doing the assigned readings important. Assuming that the students have already done the reading, professors expect students to discuss the readings and integrate what they learned from what they already know. I was astonished by the amount of knowledge the students have, and how they don’t really appear so shy in front of a lot of people.

During the weekend, I visited Smithsonian Portrait Museum in D.C. The museum wasn’t merely about portraits, but had remarkable artworks from different periods of time. The explanations of each artworks were written in such a neat and comprehensive manner, so that I didn’t know time had passed by so quickly by the time I exited. My favorite place was the president’s gallery, which contained portraits and detailed explanations of previous presidents. This is a picture of my at the entrance of the gallery, with the portrait of George Washington, the first president of United States. KakaoTalk_Photo_2016-01-18-18-04-36_84

Can I fix you something to drink, Sir?

Standard

“Can I fix you something to drink, Sir?”- like something out of a Hollywood script, these were the opening lines of my 7 month trip to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The flight steward on the United flight from Sydney to Los Angeles spoke with a New York accent and his grin stretched across his face like a beaming Cheshire cat. I am from Australia and when a complete stranger smiles that broad, either a ten year drought has just broken and it’s raining cats and dogs or they’ve just won the lottery. But the steward wasn’t being facetious. He was being American.

My name is Jarrod Grabham I have just finished my first week of exchange at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Thus far my experience has been riveting. I feel like I’ve wondered into the pages of a fast paced novel; the experience is surreal. I have to pinch myself each time I casually saunter down Pennsylvania Avenue to number 1600, location of the White House. Washington D.C. features so prominently in the media as the home of Western Democracy that it has almost developed an ethereal quality. Then again, I am not used to big, fancy cities. I hail from a small 200 year old settlement built on the banks of the Macquarie River in New South Wales, called Bathurst.

I am doing a double degree in International Security Studies and History at the Australian National University in Canberra. Considering my majors, you can just imagine how thrilled I was to find out that I was to spend a semester abroad in D.C. The streets are paved with history and the city is a center for both security policy  (the Pentagon is a metro stop!) and for the field of security studies academic criticism. The clock is ticking however, as I will only be here for 4.5 months. I will have to take the advice of my 9th grade science teacher and become a sponge, soaking up the facts and figures of the city’s rich and intricate history.

Canberra is not dissimilar from Washington D.C. It is the capital city of the nation, a center for world class museums, a melting pot of ideas and cultures and the home of Federal Parliament. On the other hand, Canberra is far less significant internationally compared to D.C. Several Americans I have spoke to have told me they have never heard of it… talk about being a “legend in your own lunch box!”

One of the biggest draw cards of Washington for me is its terrific history. Every nook and cranny has a plaque, a memorial to ponder. Some would goes as far as saying that Washington D.C. is the key to understanding the history of the United States. I posit if not the key then the keyhole. This is because D.C. has been the platform for many scenes of American socio-cultural transformation. I challenge you: try to build a mental image of the 1950s /60s American Civil Right’s Movement without conjuring Dr.King beckoning intimately to the multitudes at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. You can’t. The truth is that D.C. goes part and parcel with U.S. history. I just cant wait to start soaking up the facts.

Oh and Mr. Cheshire Steward I will take you up on your offer, can you “fix” me a chai late please?  No? Oh well… grand cities aside, Sydney’s coffee may well be the thing that boomerangs me back to the land down under…

Running to the White House!

Running to the White House!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brand new life at DC

Standard

When I accessed my gmail after an all-nighter for my finals, I was so exhausted to the extent that I typed my gmail password, which I’ve been using for 10 years of my internet life, wrong. Not even once, twice. However, as soon as I opened my inbox (with considerable effort), my half-closed eyes got huge and my mouth opened agape, not believing what I was looking at. It was an email from GWU, saying that I was chosen as a recipient of Blogging Scholarship for exchange students! YEAY.

So here I am at George Washington University – more specifically at the second floor of Gelman Library, on the first day of class, ready to write about myself and my upcoming GWU life. I would like to start out my blog post with an appreciation towards OSA staffs who have bestowed me such a great opportunity.

“What is your hometown?” This question is the hardest question for a Third Culture Kid, which is the simplest way to define my identity, to answer. I am a Korean by blood, but I spent most of my lifetime in Japan because of my father’s job. In addition to that, I have a high school diploma neither from Korean nor Japanese school, but from an American educational institution. Never have I ever appreciated the odd situation I was placed in. It made myself look like a miserable bubble who couldn’t belong in any particular community. I strived to escape out of this bubble, and the final destination I chose was Korea.

I am currently an undergraduate student majoring in Political Science and International Studies in Yonsei University, the best private university in Korea. Yonsei University has a reputation as the most westernized college in Korea, as the founder of Yonsei is a British-American pastor Horace G. Underwood. It also has the highest percentage of international students and is definitely the most popular Korean university amongst foreign exchange students.

Yonsei University helped me rediscover my passion for international relations, and I realized my unique background would help me achieve my dream in that my environment provided me with an objective way to view world issues. My enthusiasm lies on resolving conflicts amongst East Asia. Japan was major axis power during the World War II along with Germany. However, from what I observed, Japan doesn’t take as much effort as Germany in engaging with the victimized countries, especially Korea. As a Korean living in Japan, I’ve always felt terrible to see the tensions that never relieved between these two countries.

I believe my education in GWU would provide me with capability to deliberate on this problem. I am convinced that GWU’s International Affairs program would further broaden my perspective because it takes a multi-disciplinary method to analyze international event. Not only did GWU’s location in world’s political hub captivate me, the excellent professors who are actually are active participants of the international stage also made me apply to GWU as my first and only choice. I was so amazed to know that I could learn from professors that I could only get in touch with through theses and articles.

After my experience in GWU, I hope I would be able to come up with a practical solution for both Japan and Korea, for Japan not just to give an official apology, but to demonstrate its humane aspect that actually shows that Japan “cares” for the victimized country, and for Korea to have an accepting attitude similar to that of France and Poland to move on with the past.

Also, I would like to travel the city and get to know it. I’ve always been captivated by Washington D.C., the city that is in charge of operating and changing the world. My first time visit here was during summer 2014, but my family and I were only able to take a brief look at the city during that trip. During this semester however, I plan on visiting every single landmarks of D.C., taking time to observe it carefully and enjoying it as much as I can. From Washington, Baltimore and Pennsylvania are easy to access, and Florida and New York are not that far away. My day off on Friday would help me travel around different places as well.

The Americanization of an exchange student by the University George Washington

Standard

It’s the night before the beginning of the spring semester and so it feels appropriate, now that the dust has settled after the whirlwind of finals and the slight jolt and joy of a visit home, to reflect upon the fall semester.

True to the words of every exchange student, the time has flown by – as well as friends flown away, needing to return for the spring to their home universities. But though the time has gone quickly, it has had an effect. Though I was greeted back in Norwich by friends congratulating me on having ‘escaped’ the accent, I did feel at times slightly more ‘American’ at home – a little more outgoing and assertive, perhaps, than those around me who were more reserved. Not to mention needing to go cold turkey on caffeine for a while, after my first finals experience.

Going to a country that shared my native language and that had a culture which closely mapped onto my own, I had been doubtful about how much an exchange would affect me. However, it has.

For example, I have had to become much more efficient and organised – in Edinburgh I never had a diary but here you can’t survive without one. I also now appreciate my university’s city much more, being excited to return and play the tourist there, as I am doing here, and not take it so much for granted. And I have grown in confidence in myself and my ability to relate to others because, contrary to my initial fears, America 2.0 couldn’t have been more different from the first version.

In terms of academics, my exchange so far has had a great positive effect, introducing me to many new ideas and writers as well as forcing me to become much more time-efficient in my writing due to finals (10 essays, 7 days…). However, I feel I have also become a little lazier with my essays, spared from having to adhere strictly to a word count as in Edinburgh, where laboriously cutting down the words is half the battle.

Though I couldn’t have imagined a better first semester of my exchange, there are still some lessons I will be bringing into the spring term. One of them is pacing: something that I feel I should have applied to more than just my Thanksgiving meal. There is the temptation – spurred on by all those you see around you – to try and do everything at once, and though trying new things outside your comfort zone creates the great experiences (and in terms of the less great ones, ‘good stories’) of an exchange, sometimes saying ‘no’ would save future stress down the line. Hopefully I’ll remember some of this wisdom a couple of weeks from now.

So much of my enjoyment of the first semester is down to the care taken of us by our exchange coordinators and for that I am very grateful.

Anyway, to get to bed and start this new semester with its new adventures –

 It's goodnight from me...and it's goodnight from GW - goodnight!

It’s goodnight from me…and it’s goodnight from GW – goodnight!

Grace