Monthly Archives: October 2016

Election Mood in the DC

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Being in a most politically live city in the world requires to be besieged by the current political thoughts. It is beautiful to be in DC when it has faced the most bizarre election in the US history. On the one hand, there is a candidate whom, while having chance to be the first female president in the US history, is representing the old political thought established and seen that it has to changed. On the other hand, there is a candidate who represents the change in the politics, but uses hate speech to get votes.

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There have been three debates that these two candidates faced with each other. However, it is clear that no candidate was perfect. No candidate has clear solutions for the problems such as foreign or social policies, but since Clinton defends the foundations of the country, most of the people around me defend her. Also, I have been hearing that people will move out the country if Trump gets elected because the US won’t be the same. At the first debate, Clinton was slightly better than Trump, which cannot create a big change in the election. However, there was a record of Trump in which he clearly humiliates women’s dignity. That could be a game-changer because he was defending himself by saying this talk was “locker-room” talk and in the debate when the topic is brought up he was claiming that he will defeat ISIS. This was a totally disaster for him, and it was really hard for me to listen that guy. I mean, I was ashamed. As opposed to that, Clinton didn’t, I think, well-strategize her policy for the Middle East. For example, she will defend a no-fly zone for the refugees. However, this was proposed by Turkey, but rejected by the USA because it is not economically possible for the USA to provide a no-fly zone in the region. Also, she seemed that she will continue doing the same mistakes that US has done in the region. Of course, most of the people can be against my statements, but I am just an outlier, and a guy who feels the US policies at home.

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If I were a US-citizen, I would vote for no-one. Many would argue that it would cause Trump to hold the office, which is I think really bad. However, I would not humiliate myself by voting to a corrupted president either.

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Backpacking on the Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah

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From Rural King (Front Royal) to Thorton Gap. 4 days, 3 nights, 31 miles (~50km) and 0 showers later, we finally made it through (a portion of) Shenandoah!

Fall break was the perfect time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of D.C. and immerse in the great outdoors. With 6 GW Trails Guides and 11 students, we were ready to commence a 4-day hike that would push us mentally and physically to the extreme.

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We arrived at Front Royal. About an hour drive from D.C. sits a town that was just outside of the start of the Shenandoah Trail. The guides shuttled hikers in Enterprise vans. The wind was cold, but the sun compensated by its warmth. There was a couple with their Blue Heeler that had just finished the hike and told us it was going to be a cold day. We stopped for lunch on the side of the trail. We had food spread amongst the packs we had on our back. Tortilla, summer sausage and cheese with a hint of Sriracha sauce never tasted so good. It was the first time I’d ever backpacked. I’ve done hiking and camping, but never the both combined. It’s a different experience. First off, you have to carry a heavy pack that will have the minimum amount of equipment to keep you warm. A sleeping back, sleeping pad, change of clothes and toiletries were pushed and shoved inside the 55L pack borrowed from Trails Gear (a place that rents out gear for free if you’re going on a Trails trip). With only 6 miles to be completed today, we arrived promptly at the first shelter. The shelter was a three sided wooden structure with a deck out front. There was a privy nearby, which made me appreciate the modern toilet a whole lot more. Dinner was quesadilla which served as a hand warmer and food. The wind was howling by this point and everyone was miserable. Starting a fire in this kind of wind was difficult but once it was started, the warmth lured us like moth to the light. Camp fire stories were told and eventually it was time for bed. Sleeping in a tent with 5 people that was meant for 3 was cozy but the roaring wind was the thing that kept everyone awake.

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The next two days were faced with difficult hikes but albeit better weather conditions (sunny with very little wind). 10 miles on Sunday and another 13 miles on Monday. By that time we were somewhat comfortable with the routine. We woke up at 7:30am and aimed for a 9am start. Lunch was served at around 12:30pm somewhere along the trail. Apples, clementines kept us hydrated and the trail mix from Trader Joe’s kept us motivated. By the end it was a matter of putting one foot in front of the other that pushed us through to the end. Great friendships were made as we bonded over the fires and the making of s’mores which made it all the more sad when Tuesday came. It was back to reality, to the homework and classes. But I’m sure that there will be more hikes to come – maybe GW Trails to Mary’s Rock?

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A Week in the Life of a GW Student

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I wanted to give you a snippet of what it’s like being a student at GW. Week 7 of school came and went and I’ve finally set in my role as an American college student. It was a week packed with mid-terms, projects, home works and more. My new roommate also moved in which ends my week long of freedom.

One thing that stood out in terms of academic differences between the U.S. and Australia was that the exams here are much easier. This was partly due to the ability to bring in a sheet of notes which in other words mean cram-everything-you’ve-ever-learnt-in-the-course-on-the-paper. I liked the exams because they’re not tricky like back home but instead focused on whether you understood the fundamentals of the course.

I also went to some student organisation panel this week which was really interesting. The Race and Racism in the U.S. and China panel hosted by the Global China Connection student organisation at GW. It was a discussion type of panel that looked at racism in the media (in particular, Fox News going into Chinatown in NYC to an idea of what American-Chinese thought about the presidential election). We also discussed the racism that exists in China, particularly towards Chinese minorities and other POC. Is ignorance a bliss when it comes to racism and racist behavior and attitudes? Should we put blame on the lack of exposure of POC to Chinese people to excuse racism? It was overall a very interesting discussion and one that many would hesitate to hold and I was glad that GCC had this.

I also managed to injure my knee over the last week’s frisbee tournament at Delaware. I found out that as a club sports, we were given access to free injury evaluation which is done at the Smith Center. This saved me a lot of hassle of going to a physiotherapist and getting examined and then getting reimbursed through my home university’s insurance policy.

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Finally, to end this perfect week (the weather has been great as well), I decided to visit Gravelly Point Park. We took the blue metro to Ronald Reagan Airport and walked about a mile to the park. What makes this park special is that you can see the Washington Monument, The Capitol, and have airplanes fly over your head every few minutes or so. It was the perfect weather for a picnic and plane spotting. Then, we proceeded to walk from Virginia all the way back to DC along the water.

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Family Dinner

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This week, my friend Hotsuki (from Japan), Anthony (from France), Annie (from Australia but originally from China), and I had chance to have an amazing dinner offered by a family from the Exchange Department. Furthermore, Supermoon and the view from the parking lot in Cardoza high-school were the bonuses of the night.

The dinner was organized by Taylor who is the Manager of Advising Services for the Office for Study Abroad at GW!! I don’t know what this is, but it sounds really cool! Also, I think he looks like Marshall in How I Met Your Mother, and there was a time he was talking about cheese shop in DC and I thought he was going to offer some gouda cheese :). I hadn’t said this to Taylor, but I know he will read this post so it should be okay. Also, Pethworth where Taylor and his family is residing is a nice and cute neighborhood that one may probably want to bring up one’s children. Even though we did’t have chance to see their yard back to the home, the environment was I think child-friendly.

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I think Taylor chose to cook burgers after considering what American food he can offer us, and this is by far a great choice. As deserts, we had fruit with non-fat creams, even though I think it includes lots of sugar 😀 I hadn’t had any meal before the dinner so that I could eat more and I did!

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We start conversing with the current presidential debate, of-course. Trump and his silly arguments were good icebreakers and thanks to this very hospitable family, we didn’t suffer the difficulties of being  strangers at all. After we all agreed that Trump is not a qualified leader, Taylor and his family start telling their experiences in DC and the places we have to see. I should admit that if you are lost in DC, you can just call and ask Taylor, and he will definitely help you find the place with the name of the streets exactly. He was such a Google Maps! The parking lot of Cardozo high-school that has a view up to the DC was the first stop after hearing the suggestions, and it was amazing.

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I will share the suggestions in here in case not every exchange student have chance to talk to Taylor:

  • For those who want to chill in the nature: US National Arboretum
  • Ice Skating at Mall
  • Drum Circle at Meridian Hill Park
  • Gingerbread House
  • Christmas Decoration
  • Treasury hunt at Dupont Circle
  • Christmas zoo night
  • Anacostia river keeper tour
  • Naval Observatory => I have already made reservation for it!
  • There are open house days for embassies located in Embassy Row. You should check on their websites.
  • Georgetown Halloween party
  • High Heel Race before Halloween

Those are the ones we could keep the Taylor’s speed! At the end, I think that I made good friends and everyone should consider herself/himself lucky if s/he can have dinner with Taylor and his family.

Rock Climbing, Tennis, and LSPA

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I have always been a sporty kid. From primary school to high school, I’ve participated in school sports such as soccer, tennis, softball, basketball, table tennis. The list was endless because I loved sports! But ever since university hit, the number of sports activities decrease dramatically, or more precisely to zero. I decided to turn that around during my exchange semester, partly because our marks wouldn’t get transferred over, and also because I discovered this thing called LSPA, which I mentioned a couple of posts back. I wanted to expand on this because I’ve had such a great time doing a variety of sports through LSPA and also sports clubs at university.

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First up is rock climbing.This course is run off campus at Sport Rock in Alexandria (more precisely near Van Dorn metro). It takes about 30-40min on the metro to get to the rock climbing gym and it is taught by the owner of the gym, Jason. There are a few things that’s great about this course. You get unlimited access to the gym and the areas within it: top roping, weight lifting, training, bouldering, and so on. All equipment is provided including harness and climbing shoes. And Jason is a wonderful teacher. At first I thought rock climbing is simply going to be comprised of us climbing every week, but that was far from the truth. There is so much more to learn in climbing, such as technique in using your feet and not your arms, that I never really thought about before. The whole point of it was to get us stronger and better at utilising what we have to conquer the rocks. Even for people who are a little bit scared of heights, rock climbing was still super fun and let’s us push our own fears out the door.

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Now getting back to tennis having played it in high school brought back a lot of memories. It’s incredible that my muscles still remember how to hit the ball. The lessons held on the tennis courts of the Mount Vernon campus (beautiful campus by the way) is two hours long. As an exchange student who probably wouldn’t want to buy a tennis racquet, I was able to borrow one at the start of each lesson from the coach. As students enrolled in this LSPA course, we are also able to book these courts for practice for free and rent the ball machine if we needed.

The thing about LSPA is that back home we don’t offer sports courses and the only way to get involved is through sports clubs. That means that for the people starting out or just learning, it is very intimidating as some sports are very intense and competitive in nature. As an exchange student, you can also take advantage that any courses you take will be of no financial burden besides the fees you pay to your home university. These were great for someone who wanted to just play casually in a fun environment and learn a new skill or two. There are plenty of other LSPAs offered such as boxing, yoga and much more which means there’s something for everyone!

 

 

 

Capital Bike Share

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– Oh my God ! Are you going to Washington DC ? You should definitely buy a bicycle !

This beneficial suggestion was given at my visa interview in Turkey. I immediately understood that Washington Dc has a improved bike culture and felt that this is the best way to feel the city and the history living in it. However, it has been almost 2 months for me to be in here but I currently figure out how to use Capital Bike Share that is a bike-renting company having more than 400 stations and 3500 bicycle in Washington, DC; Arlington County and Alexandria, Virginia; and Montgomery County, Maryland. I am writing this posts to inform those who love to ride bikes and not to get confused about the system and to lose one month to figure it out. I lost one month when I have the best weather to ride. I am so sorry about that.

If you see one of the station, you may think that to rent a bike costs 2 dollars for 30 minutes. This is right if you rent it for just one day. I first thought that it is not worth. Instead I could take a bus to go to the university. However, when I check its website, I saw that there is annual and monthly options. Currently, this monthly options is 28 dollars and annual is 85 dollars. If you rent a bike it is free for 30 minutes. There is additional costs for trips lasting more than 30 minutes but I will give you a trick; it won’t charge you if you change your bike in a station when you see that you will pass the 30 minute rule.

Those are the pictures I take while bike !

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Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made Of

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Four day weekend – the perfect amount of time for a weekend away from the peaceful D.C. to the hustle and bustle of New York City. We arrived in the Megabus as the lit up billboards welcomed us to NYC (side note: the bus was incredible – they allowed us to go on an earlier bus with no extra cost and everything was clean and comfy, would definitely go by Megabus next time). We rolled our luggage through the small puddles o water on the sidewalk that had formed from the rain earlier. It was still sprinkling a bit but it was nice. The heavy fog and clouds prevented us from going up the Empire State Building to view the City that Never Sleeps. Nonetheless, we had plenty of other things to explore. We pushed through the crowds in Times Square and stood there for a while to take it all in. Then the  Empire State of Mind started playing over and over in our heads:

In New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There is nothing you can’t do,
Now you’re in New York,
These streets will make you feel brand new,
The lights will inspire you,
Lets here it for New York, New York, New York

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The highlight of the night was definitely the walk over Brooklyn Bridge. Light rain touched our faces as we paced. We stopped a few time to turn and take in the magnificent lit up skyline of Manhattan on the other side. The bridge was almost deserted with a few joggers and people riding home on their bikes. We walked towards Dumbo in the middle of the darkness to get photos of the Manhattan Bridge.

We stayed at an Airbnb place on Chauncey St in East Bushwick of Brooklyn. It was a small 2 bedroom apartment right next to the Metro (convenient but also slightly noisy at night) with 5 beds crammed into one of the rooms. The hostess was really nice and provided us with everything we needed (cream cheese bagels included). This accommodation costed about $32 per person per night which was incredibly cheap. Slightly far from Manhattan but getting the metro to the city was easy and only costed a standard $2.75 per fare.

The next few days were spent by exploring the Financial District (Wall St, the Charging Bull, New York Stock Exchange), Battery Park,Statute of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial, Central Park (which was quite amazing seeing the massive city surrounding this green piece of land), the MET, getting 99cent pizzas before watching Fiddler on the Roof in Broadway!
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The next two days were mostly spent in Brooklyn which was probably my favorite place in New York. In particular, Williamsburg and Bushwick both had a lot of local culture with amazing street art, markets selling creations in the form of canvases, paintings, jewelry, restaurants (which also drowned in street art) and so much more. It reminded me of Newtown, a suburb in Sydney which gives off the same hip, young, artsy vibe.

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Foods that I recommend: Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick, best in Brooklyn with long lines on a Monday morning. Criff’s Dogs, for the authentic American hotdogs experience for cheap. Dunwell Donuts, for the vegans with a sweets craving (all the donuts are vegan here and they taste amazing). The Little Owl, which is right under the Friend’s Apartment with people packed to the rim (get the meatball sliders and cheeseburger). 99cent Fresh Pizza near Broadway, it’s cheap, it’s tasty, it’s pizza. Cold Stone Creamery, for some great ice cream in Time Square.

 

I loved the experience in NYC but I probably couldn’t live there long term. The subway was convenient but incredibly dirty, as were the roads. It was also a harsh reminder of the reality of the rate of homelessness and people suffering from mental illness who could not afford shelter or healthcare. It was a sore sight to see this happening in supposedly the greatest city in the world. Maybe this will change in the future – let’s just hope America elects the right president to run the country.

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