Monthly Archives: April 2016

Peaceful Week

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Weather has been so beautiful lately, and my friends and I decided to take a tour in D.C. for the weekend.

The first place we visited was donburi in Adams Morgan. On our way there, we think we saw a Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence passing by so casually. We were so surprised we got off and chased after her, but the bar she entered was closed. We are guessing that she borrowed the bar for herself with her friends for a day off. Boys who didn’t see her said it is impossible that she would come all the day from LA. However, according to my friend who saw her, her hair and clothing style were so similar to that of Jennifer Lawrence that she is pretty sure that its her. Too bad we couldn’t take a selfie nor get a signature.

After getting a bowl of sakedon, we walked along the street to go to Cakeroom, the most famous cake cafe in Adams Morgan. The design of the cafe was cozy and relaxing that we spent more than 2 hours just sitting there and chatting. Even though I only had a cup of coffee for diet, I surely regret not having the cake. My friend exalted the Red Velvet and Chocolate cake, which makes me want to visit there again by myself to get some cupcakes and cakes.

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The weather was so great that we didn’t find a need to take an Uber. We walked for about 30 minutes in the pleasant sunlight and chatted as we went. Even though it rained a bit in the morning, the blue sky that appeared later on was so beautiful. The brief period in transition of spring and summer is certainly the best time of the year. Our final destination was in front of the monument at World War II memorial. We sat down on a bench for a while, and enjoyed the beautiful weather and the view.

 

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On Sunday, I went to the picnic at the church in Centerville. Its been three weeks since I’ve attended the church, and so far I’ve been loving it so much. We had great food at the barbecue, met new people and shared our experiences and hard times as students. Praying for each other is the great motivation in life, and I hope to attend the church until I leave for Korea.

 

 

 

 

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Make Australmerica Great Again!

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 Did you hear the one about the Clown, the Chairman, the Cuban-Canadian, the First Lady and the Socialist?

Yeah I did- it was called the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

There are currently five real candidates for President left: On the one side there is Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, both white haired, veteran Democrats. On the other side of the political gulf there stands Donald Trump and Ted Cruz: the Clown and the Cuban. Yes John Kasich is still in the race. But he only has 144 delegates compared to Trumps 744 and Cruz’ 559. His resignation is expected any day. Now, to business. For many people the 2016 election is a convoluted process. For me it’s easy. It’s just a process of elimination. In fact, I already know who the next President is going to be:

           

Donald Trump’s name has become a byword for comedy, arrogance and racism. His attitude to women, the disabled and to foreigners is despicable. His comments about CNN host Megyn Kelly last August were sickening.”You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes”, Trump spewed out in another moment of verbal diarrhea, “…blood coming out of her wherever.” This utterly inappropriate statement makes Trump a candidate for the world’s biggest misogynist, not the President of the world’s richest country. And although he has apologized and water has gone under the proverbial bridge, when will Trump strike again? He is a loose cannon. He is a big bombastic, bigoted, big-mouthed brawler. He will not be President of the United States.

                                                  

Hillary, Hillary, Hillary. She is the most experienced woman in the world in American politics  to be running for the Presidency. A First Lady, a Senator, a Secretary of State. She has held some of the highest offices in the land and done a remarkable job. But being married to a former President of the United States (Bill Clinton) makes Hillary part of the establishment, whether she likes it or not. The 2016 Presidential campaign has already demonstrated that it doesn’t want a member of the establishment back in the Oval office. Look at what happened to poor old Jebby Bush. For the son and brother of former Presidents, you’d expect it to have been an easy race for him. Not at all. American voters are more informed than in the past. More skeptical. More alert. When it comes to Hillary they are aware that she has many positives. But they are also aware that she has done shady, secret deals in the past. We would run out of time to tell all the intricacies of Chinagate, of the Travelgate Scandal (when Hillary fired seven employees from the United States travel office to replace them with associates from Arkansas including Catherine Cornelius, a 25-year-old cousin of Bill’s), of the Whitewater Scandal or of the Filegate Scandal. None would like to see a woman become President more than I but…. I highly doubt that Hillary is the one.

  

Ted is Cruz’in for a bruising. Yes he is a political fighting machine. Yes his popularity has increased significantly  since his campaign began. Yes he is eloquent, highly, highly educated (Harvard Law School), more ambitious than a room full of Napoleons and, well, Southern. But at the end of the day Cruz does not represent the America of tomorrow. He just doesn’t. Times are changing, whether we like it or not. Cruz is stuck in the past. He is dealing with guns rights issues, abortion, anti-immigration laws and American exceptionalism. With an increasingly edgy Russia, poised to carve out new portions of old sovereignty, the US needs somebody with a cool head. Cruz is a hot head. He once stood for 21 hours and 19 minutes filibustering an Obama Bill on the floor of the U.S. Congress. How pugnacious and stubborn can you get? What’s more, Cruz is a gun head. His youtube video entitled ‘making machine-gun bacon’ has been viewed 1.4 million times. That’s even more warped then watching ‘silly cat’ videos. What’s more, Cruz is a Cuban-Canadian-American and was actually born in Calgary. Sensationalism surrounding his dual citizenship will surely cost him some votes. The best thing Cruz could do on inauguration day next year is to line up for a lead role in forthcoming Terminator movies.

                                                                                                                The minute that Bernie Sanders came out of the closet as a ‘Democratic Socialist’ his campaign for President was over. Let’s not forget, from 1945 until 1991 the U.S. was locked in a fierce ideological rivalry with Russia, then known as the U.S.S.R. The Cold War, in a nutshell, was Capitalists Vs. the Socialists. Day after day, year after year, the U.S. came to resent that word like off blue cheese. Socialism = the enemy. Although times have changed, some things never change and in the U.S. the meaning of socialism has retained its negative connotation. I actually think many of Bernie Sanders’ ideas are great, better education and welfare systems for Americans alla Scandinavia or my own country Australia is fantastic. It doesn’t matter how many wonderful plans and schemes he has to save America from itself, however, at the end of the day, by branding himself a ‘Socialist’, Sanders has as much chance at being the next President of America as Fidel Castro.

And so there is only one choice left. That’s right: I’m officially running for the President of the United States of Australmerica. You see, in the future war with Russia that Cruz is predicting, America and Australia are going to have to join together. United, the Pacific Ocean will be more secure under the watchful eye of Australmerica. Recently, a policy adviser of mine informed me of the top problems facing Australmerica. Firstly, the Chinese are building more aircraft carriers. Secondly, Canada has increased its goods and services tax on imported Australmerican goods. Thirdly, ISIS has increased its attacks in Europe. Lastly, economic growth in Texas and New Mexico has drastically decreased, thanks to big business going to Mexico, where workers are paid lower wages.

Today I announce my Key Action Plan (KAP). We are going to build a wall. We are going to build a wall on the Californian, Canadian, Eastern and Mexico borders and make China, Canada, ISIS and Mexico pay for that wall. I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall. We’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall; we’re going to have people come in, but they’re going to come in legally. You see I love all these people; I respect the Canadian leaders, but their leaders are much sharper, much smarter and more cunning than our leader. When they send immigrants over to decrease our maple syrup intake, they’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing hockey sticks and polar bears. They’re bringing maple syrup addicts. They’re criminals. And some, I assume, are good people.

I will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And we won’t be using a man like Secretary Kerry that has absolutely no concept of negotiation, who’s making a horrible and laughable deal, who’s just being tapped along as they make weapons right now, and then goes into a bicycle race at 72 years old, and falls and breaks his leg. I won’t be doing that. And I promise I will never be in a bicycle race. That I can tell you.

Another reason to vote for me is I’ll reduce our $18 trillion in debt, because, believe me, we’re in a bubble. We have artificially low interest rates. We have a stock market that, frankly, has been good to me, but I still hate to see what’s happening. We have a stock market that is so bloated. Be careful of a bubble because what you’ve seen in the past might be small Vegemite sandwiches compared to what happens. So be very, very careful. And strengthen our military and take care of our vets. So, so important.

Sadly, the Australmerican  dream is dead.

But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make Australmerica great again.

                   

The Cree Triumph

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At Rupert’s, Montreal, I came in contact with a North American First Nation’s person for the first time. It was a wonderful experience. The night had started rather normally. Fellow exchange student Louise Bicknese (The Netherlands) and I were enjoying our first poutine, a typical French Canadian dish consisting of French fries, cheese, gravy and shaved meat. It is the kind of food you avoid if your dieting. Big time. One bowl of that deliciously deadly consistency and you could knock 6 months off your life. Easy. It was Friday night, however, and I was not dieting, so poutine it was.

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It all started when the lady next to us inquired about our accents. After some chit chat, we had asked where she was from. “My name is Patrica George and I’m Cree” she said. The first thought that came to mind at that point was me as a young boy encountering the concept of American Indians for the first time in the 1990 film Dancing With Wolves, you know the one with Kevin Costner? Since that time, I had always wanted to meet a First Nations person.

As Patricia kindly proceeded to tell us the story of her life, I listened intently with a burning curiosity to learn more about what it is like for a First Nations Person in the 21st century. The images that first developed in my mind as she spoke were that of a bucolic paradise. She spoke of the human interaction and connection that Cree people have on a day to day basis. They hunt, cook, share and live together by the atmospheric wonder that is the Great Whale River in far northern Quebec. It sounded like a real community lifestyle. As she continued to share, however, I stared deep into her hazelnut eyes and a saw a flicker of the emotional abuse she and her fellow tribesmen had experienced for generations. In a nut shell: the Majority has tried to crush the Minority, but the minority has not been crushed because it refuses to surrender.

Something really special that Patricia shared with us has remained with me. She told us how in 1990 the Quebec Government announced the construction of the Great Whale Hydroelectric project which was to divert eight large rivers and affect an ecosystem the size of France. Patricia’s people felt that enough was enough. So, the James Bay Cree in the far north of Quebec joined with the Inuit Indians in the area to build a special canoe. In the spring of that same year a mixed team of both Cree and Inuit Indians paddled their ‘odeyake’ canoe from Whapmagoostui, Quebec, all the way to New York City. It was a momentous task: 2000km in just 5 weeks. By dogsled over frozen lakes, by dusty abandoned road, by rapid river. These brave descendants of some of the earliest North American people’s came united: to protest the proposed Great Whale Hydroelectric project. And you wouldn’t believe it. The project was cancelled. The $12.6 billion Great Whale project was ripped to shreds in front of the greedy eyes of Wall Street stock brokers. I bet Bernie Sanders cheered that day. The mammoth Odeyak canoe journey had not been in vain. The Cree and Inuit triumph sent a message of hope for all minority indigenous groups-not just the First Nation People in North America-but right throughout the globe.  Were the Cree to have resisted singing their song and sharing their own special identity, an enormously ugly dam would have flooded ancient camping grounds with eons of history.

These are the kind of things that should be taught more in our schools. The triumph of the minority over the majority deserves a more prominent place on history’s page.

So I’d like to say thanks to Patricia for taking the time to share her personal story with us! I hope that this blog entry encourages others to research more into this incredible modern-day David vs. Goliath story.

In 1990 Cree and Inuit from Northern Quebec travelled more than 2000 km over five weeks, by dogsled on the frozen bay, by road and by river, all the way to downtown Manhattan in a campaign against the proposed damming of the Great Whale River.

 

The location of Great Whale River, the Cree community Patricia comes from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image attained from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/northern-quebec-cree-community-celebrates-25th-anniversary-of-odeyak-voyage-1.3044078, accessed April 11, 2016.)

Tysons Corner

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My house is located in McLean, which is about 10 minutes ride from Tysons Corner, one of the biggest shopping malls in Virginia. Whenever I have an appointment, I try to meet them in Tysons because that’s the most convenient place for me to meet my friends. My friends don’t really complain about this because Tysons offers such great entertainment and has excellent shops, restaurants and cafes.

I still remember the time I visited New York two years ago with my family. My dad kept on insisting that we go to one of the most renowned burger place in New York, which is Shake Shack Burger. We had to wait in line for more than 40 minutes just to get inside, and it indeed took tremendous effort to try to catch the workers calling our names. Even though the burger was good, we were a bit startled that we saw Shake Shack burger inside Tysons Corner. Plus, the longest we had to wait was 10 minutes, which is comparable with the one in New York. Tyson’s is such a great place, where it makes the unordinary ordinary.

Panera

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Another favorite restaurant of mine is Panera Bread, where I can have to most amazing soup I’ve ever eaten. I am not much of a soup-lover as rest of my family is, and I was a bit disappointed when they took me to Panera Bread for lunch. I just complied to their choice (since my parents were the ones paying), and ordered the same thing they did, but thing in life never flow as expected. I finished the soup faster than any others, and even thought of getting another one. Even though Panera Bread is one of the most common restaurant in D.C., I just love the atmosphere and the kindness of one in Tyson. That’s why I always head to Panera Bread when my friends visit Tysons.

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Tysons is always on sale. I don’t know why, but whenever I visit Tysons, they offer some kind of deal that I can never leave without purchasing something. My most recent visit was Friday the 8th, and my original purpose was to get a perfume for my friend’s birthday. However, I ended up getting a pink skirt, a blue top, and a new limited-edition Mac lip for myself. Even though I did spend a lot of money, I am satisfied with what I got.

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Tyson’s is definitely on the list of what I’m going to miss the most about my exchange student life. Despite the fact that it was almost the only place I visited for entertainment (except when I was traveling), looking around Tysons was never mundane. There is no place like you, Tysons!

See you in Montreal

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I’m standing in a now deserted Montreal metro station, captivated. It is a woman’s voice I hear, echoing confidently through the labyrinth. The words are meaningless for she sings in Québécois, the unique French spoken in the Canadian province Quebec. Somehow the voice’s tone imparts its own message, of life, of love, of the endurance of the human spirit. I follow the voice. In my mind I have conjured up an image of the owner of the voice. I do not know what French Canadian people look like, as I have just arrived here. Yet, I am certain that, just as her voice is high, strong and empowering, so must she be tall, confident and beautiful. I am certain of that. I walk with curiosity; to see if my assumption is correct. I turn the corner of the metro, and there she stands. Yes she is as empowering as her song. Tall and elegant like a princess. But something is not quite right. I watch for a while and listen. It is not her voice that is the problem. As my mind takes a while to register what it is seeing, with that it is hearing, it suddenly computes: our singer is completely blind. 

Standing next to her is a man. Well, now he is crouching. No, he is crawling. His hands are outstretched in front of him, waving the empty air. I know what he is looking for. It is his jacket that lays outstretched before him. It all makes sense now. She is a busker, and he is her attendant. He is looking for the jacket to see if they have collected cash to eat. Finally he reaches the jacket and, instead of money, he finds an open hand.

“Hi…”, I say, rather unsure of how he will take my intrusion.

“Hello” he responds, turning his head to look in the direction of my voice. He looks to where the metro departs. He is looking in the wrong direction. I am right above him. Then, it hits me and I can’t believe it: he is also blind.

“Mae nem ez Denis  Harting”, he speaks, with his exquisite Québécois accent. “…end thiz”, he gestures  towards the singing siren, ” iz mae daughtur Lauviah”. I can’t believe it. Denis is not the attendant, he is the father! Lauviah stops singing, aware that there is somebody interrupting the show. She comes over and we meet. Then, for the next five minutes these two blind, wandering minstrels share with me the exceptional story of their lives. Born 2 months premature, Denis had been placed into an incubator. Somehow, the oxygen level was too high in that incubator and it burst both his optic nerves. Lauviah’s story was just as tragic, born with a rare eye disorder, completely unrelated to Denis’ condition. Together they try to make a living by singing in Montreal’s metro stations. Denis could sing too, as he later demonstrated after we stopped chatting. It was clear to me where Lauviah got her majestic voice from.

Then it was time depart. I thanked them for making my day. And up I went up the escalator, with the distinctive sound of Lauviah’s voice wooing me back to learn more.

As I exited the metro I saw in my peripheral’s a woman walking rather strangely, with a large white stick pointed out. Tap. Tap. Tap. She attempted to enter the metro entrance, once, twice. Finally she made it on the fifth. It was all too coincidental for me… I couldn’t resist…

“Excuse me…”. The tapping was momentarily paused.

“Do you…do you know those two wonderful singers down there…?”

Before I could finish, she let out a laugh, smiled and then turned her weary head to where she thought I was standing:

“Mae Lauvy and Dennie are gud, no?”

                            

Lauviah Harting, Peggy Roux and Denis Harting (daughter, mum and dad).

This excellent photo-video about this exceptional Montreal family was made by SesamePreet’s channel, if you have time, check it out!

Spring has come!

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Washington D.C. is renowned for its amazing cherry blossoms. Whenever I searched the term cherry blossom on Google, the results that appeared on the top usually had Lincoln Memorial on its background. Accordingly, the beautiful cherry blossoms were Japan’s gift to D.C. for the friendship they would be pursuing in the future, which unfortunately didn’t last so long! (gift given in 1912, but WWII broke out in 1942 with Japan and US on the other side). Total of 3000 cheery blossom trees were given to D.C., and this creates the beautiful landscape that represents D.C.’s spring.
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In Korea, cherry blossom festivals are to be enjoyed with the significant others. When I walked past any street with cherry blossom trees, the only type of people I could observe were couples, a phenomenon that wasn’t very favorable to my mental health. However, in D.C., people who came for cherry blossoms tended to be families or friends, which made me relieved and more comfortable. (I went with my parents).
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I spent 11 springs in Japan where cherry blossom trees originated from. Cherry blossoms were so commonplace that I didn’t really have any special sentiments or feelings for it. However, D.C.’s cherry blossoms were a bit different. The architectural styles of the buildings in the background were different from that of Japan, which created a brand new atmosphere that I could never perceive from Japan. Both atmospheres are so distinctive that I couldn’t believe that it were the cherry blossom trees.
It was a short but relaxing weekend. Even though it is a bit cold these days, I can smell the scent of spring 🙂

Cuba 101

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Before we begin our excursion to Havana this morning, grab your headphones, open a new web page and please enter the following address:

Cuba cannot be experienced fully without some music in the background!

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Havana, Cuba. Retro cars in dazzling blues and rumpus reds sail by beaches filled with fat tourists. There are Plymouths, Chevrolet Bel Airs and Ford Fairlane’s aplenty.Be careful not to strain your neck as that illustrious Cadillac canters by. Jazz musicians from the Buena Vista Social Club sing a melody which could soothe the soul of a Guantanamo Bay inmate. Idyllic, cloudless weather. Cobbled streets filled with the clip clop of horses. The Capitol building arched high above, rivaling Washington’s. The old abuelo taking a siesta under the shady palm 3with the cheeky smile blows a puff of his cohiba cigar in your direction. 9He winks at you, or more likely, at the twenty something brunette behind you, as she rushes home for cena with the extended family. You turn the corner and reach Plaza Vieja where a fountain bubbles forth. Happy children in uniform bicker and bicker about this, that and the other. Over there between the palms, beyond the marble statue of the poet Jose Marti, can you make out that young pair of star-crossed sixteen somethings? They are hiding from the awakening call of their padres

4Love is in the air. And all the while you hear the enchanting sound of Guantanamera, the old tune that speaks of a region in Cuba where a truthful man wishes to coin the verses of his life before he dies in the land of the palms. And who wouldn’t want to? You have made it to paradise, or so you are led to believe. Crossing the street you pass by Hotel Inglaterra, a suave spot where lunch is served on silver platters. Here history breathes its sigh in every corner; Winston Churchill himself visited in 1895.

Should you care to, for less than one US cent you can purchase a ride to some of the most idyllic beaches the Caribbean has to offer: Santa Maria and Playa de Este. Returning with a pleasant tan and sand between your toes, now would be as good a time as any for a stroll down Havana’s majestic sea side walkway alla sunset boulevard. Pass by the old fort Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña where every day at 9 sharp a cannon is fired in memory of Cuba’s colonial past. Climb the sweeping rock stairs to the Hotel Nacional, newly restored in all its neo-colonial splendour. Pause.  Close your eyes. Take a breath. Open them. Before you the sun dims its grand yolky eye. It is spectacular. Woken by the strong  wave that splashes its salty foam far below, bashing against the boulevard, you look out over the city. You have come to admire this city for its 1950s charm and slower paced living. People have time to think, to breathe, to live. The internet is barely existent here, and is that a bad thing? You see families walking together down the ocean walkway, or sitting outside after a satisfying meal of arroz and frijoles (rice and beans), engrossed in abuelo and abuela‘s chess game. For many, like me, who have traveled from the US, we crossed just 90 miles of sea to get to Cuba. 90 miles away but 90 years in the past. It is difficult for the novelty of the calmer life to wear off. To Hanavarians, it is another day in Cuba. In the distance a street quartet crackles out the all too familiar tune… 

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera, Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera

Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma
Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crece la palma
Y antes de morirme quiero
Echar mis versos del alma

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