Monthly Archives: November 2016

Black Friday

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It was calm to be in DC for Thanksgiving, especially when no-one is around.

I was curious about the Black Friday madness that is the madness happening the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is used as a tool to boost the economy, and after experiencing that, I can prove that! Even though I could not see the people crushing each other, abandoning their humanity for a TV discounted 50 percent, My friend Can and I experienced the economy boost by going to a mall located in Pentagon City.

Pentagon City Mall is probably the biggest mall in the DC and hosts a number of luxurious brands, such as GUESS, Abercrombie & Fitch, Macy’s, Nordstrom, etc., as well as technology and food stores, such as Apple and AT&T.

It was so bizarre for me to experience that number of discounts simultaneously. These prices make people want to buy something even though they don’t need to buy them. What is more bizarre was that the discounts are fixed for some certain period of time. For example, there was additional 20% discount in GUESS. Furthermore, I didn’t buy a sweater that I liked due to these discounts. The sweater got more expensive! However, I ended up with buying 2 T-shirts and one sweater from Abercrombie & Fitch that I even don’t need! It was funny that I used the discounts for my next time, given as a result of the things I bought, by refunding the clothes I bought. In other words, I bought those clothes with additional 10 dollars discounts! I bamboozled you, Abercrombie & Fitch!!

On the other hand, It was nice to see the city entering into the Christmas mood. I saw the Santa’s spot at the mall where he gives presidents to the kids as well as a bunch of christmas trees. I have always seen this in the movies!

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The World Bank Group Youth Summit

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The World Bank Group Youth Summit, which is established in 2013 in order to provide a platform for young entrepreneurs to promote their ideas on development, has organised a number of seminars ranging from climate change to education in crises zones. This year, I was able to attend to the Seminar on Education in Crisis Zones. With the vision of “rethinking education for the new millennium,” and over 150 participants from 97 countries, the summit focused basically on gender education, new skills for the new economy and innovation in education.

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It was a great opportunity for me to discuss these topics with similar-minded people and professionals from different NGO’s as well as the World Bank. Since I have been volunteering with Syrian kids in Turkey for more than two years, I have ideas related to the solution for the problems we have encountered. I can say that the World Bank Group could provide me with a platform so that I can convey my thoughts. On the other hand, the NGO’s and policy makers (For example, policy director at the White House, Office of the First Lady or Education Technical Advisor at USAID) discussed the future of education in the crisis zones with us.

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The Youth Summit hosted a competition for social entrepreneur projects. Out of more than 100 projects, 6 projects founders selected by the World Bank Group as finalists, presented their projects, and the winner is determined by the joint votes given by the audiences and the specialists in the World Bank. The winner was a platform called “NaTakallam” that connects displaced Syrians with Arabic learners through Arabic sessions over Skype. This simple, but revolutionary project gives learners access to affordable, flexible, ans tailored training with native speakers, and provides an enriching work opportunity to displaced Syrians who, once resettled in a host country, struggle to join the workforce due to language barriers or strict labor policies. The winners will be sent to the seminar for entrepreneurs in Argentina hosted by International Council for Small Business. However, this year, there was also a bizarre situation because there was a tie between two projects. As a solution, one of the senior specialists in the World Bank offered to provide the seminars cost for the other winner. So, the other co-winner, project “ROYA,” will be joining the seminar in Argentina. ROYA mentorship program is a comprehensive educational program in Afghanistan that enables children of impoverished families – girls in particular – to learn English and acquire computer literacy. From the winners, I deduced that the ideas to improve the societies should not be that complicated and costly. Instead, by focusing on one aspect of problem, one can create tremendous changes in the society.

In the Youth Summit, I improved myself by being informed the humanitarian crises all over the world, especially Africa, and widening my perspective towards social entrepreneurship and the common problems arising in every conflict: children and their educations are most effected and needs to puzzle my brain.

 

NBA, Volunteering, and Chicago

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The beauty of studying at GW is that so much can happen in a short span of time. In the last 5 days, I’ve been to an NBA game for the first time, volunteered at the Washington DC Economic Partnership Annual Meeting, and spent 3 days in Chicago.

As a student, I took advantage of the $15 tickets to the Wizards vs. Knicks game held at the Verizon Centre. Given that I had very limited knowledge about NBA, I naturally went for the Wizards. My friend and I arrived at the stadium and ordered Chick-fil-A to go. It was a nail biting game. At one point the Wizards were up nearly 30 points against the Knicks. Empty seats scattered throughout the stadium. Fans in orange surprisingly outweighed those in red and navy. As the game entered the 4th quarter, my friend and I were on the edge of our seats cheering on the Wizards for a comfortable win.

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The next day I put on my business attire to volunteer at the Convention Centre for the WDCEP Annual Meeting. This opportunity came from the Real Estate department at GW because it was related to development. Given my keen interest in real estate, I decided to check it out. The volunteering part wasn’t difficult but I was surprised that I was the only one from GW that signed up. After a few hours of peeling off name tags and directing exhibitors to the exhibition room, we were given the chance to sit in on the Luncheon in the Ballroom. In the room sat 200 attendees, and was full of lawyers, architects, engineers, developers, government employees that came to network and listen to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of D.C. talk about what they can do to continue the growth of economic development. I got a free 3 course lunch out of it too so it was pretty worth it.

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Saturday I embarked on a solo 3-day journey to Chicago. The plane ride was only 2 hrs, but delayed by an hour at the airport. By the time I arrived at the Airbnb accommodation which was about an hour by metro and bus from O’Hare, it was too late to catch the show I had planned to watch at The Neo-Futurists (Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind). I had my doubts about Chicago’s safety, especially the place I was staying at which was close to the Wilson Red Line – apparently a popular spot for gang hangouts. I had no problems during my stay because I stayed away from catching the metro there and stuck with the bus option.

Since it was my first time in Chicago, I set out to do all the touristy things one might do, such as going to Cloud Gate and taking a picture (or several) with The Bean, getting cultured at the Art Institute of Chicago (with artworks by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Claude Monet), a walk through the Millennium Park, and getting a deep dish pizza (it was an hour wait at Giordano’s but it was worth it), and going up to the Sky deck of Willis Tower. The most memorable, however, was the improv show at the Second City e.t.c. It was 3 hours of non-stop laughter with different sketches, songs, and a lot of improvising. Some alumnus of Second City include: Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and other famous funny people. Even though my time in Chicago was short, I got a lot out of it. Travelling alone was also unexpectedly refreshing.

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National Arboretum

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It was a long and dense week because of the election, the mood of people who are disappointed with the results, and the people protesting the results. In addition to that, having lots of school work has made me really stressed and I want to move away from the city. My friend Raphael, in this stressful time, offered to go with me to the National Arboretum, which is a natural break from the heavy buildings of the DC. We are lucky that the Arboretum is really close to the city. The trip lasted about 15 minutes by bike. The National Arboretum is a huge botanic museum supported by  United States Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Service. Visitors can see a variety of collections from all over the world.

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The collections are:

  • Asian Collections
  • Azalea Collections
  • Dogwood Collection
  • Fern Valley
  • Friendship Garden
  • Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-Growing Conifer Collection
  • Holly and Magnolia Collection
  • National Bonsai and Penjing Museum
  • National Boxwood Collection
  • National Capitol Columns
  • National Herb Columns
  • Perennial Collections
  • Youth Garden

My favourite collections were the Asian Collections (consists of Asian, China Valleys, Japanese Woodland and Korean Hillside), Azalea Collection (consists of Historic Glenn Dales, Morrison Garden, Mount Hamilton Overlook, Henry Mitchell Walk and Lee garden) and the National Capitol Columns (twenty-two sandstone columns that once stood at the east portico of the U.S. Capitol now stand at the heart of the Arboretum).  I would suggest any one to follow the path I described above. However, since it was autumn, most of the flowers were not alive and we couldn’t see the real beauty. I can not imagine how beautiful would have it been if I had gone there in the summer !

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Another Full of Turkish Day

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It has been more than 2 months for me to be out of my country, and I really miss it!

For those who feel homesick as I do, Washington, DC is right place to find something related to other countries. This time, my roommates and I went to a Turkish restaurant. It was surprising that as opposed to Europe, Turkish restaurants are not that popular in the USA. In DC, there are 3 or 4 Turkish restaurants. I chose to go to Ottoman Tavern and it was located in  425 I St., NW, Washington, DC 20001. Even though it was little bit fancy and expensive, I felt like home and understood how much I missed talking in Turkish.

Also, it was the best opportunity for me to introduce my country to my roommates. At the end of the dinner, my friend Brennan, who will go to Lebanon as an exchange student from GWU, promised me that he will come to Turkey to see the real culture.

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We ordered chicken and döner kebabs. I have to admit that those food called “kebab” were not real kebabs. Kebab in Turkey are made with a variety of spices not with some sauces. I drank Ayran with kebab. Ayran can be called as yoghurt water and is always ordered with kebabs. Also, we ordered Lahmacun that I can be called “Turkish pizza”. At the end of the dinner, as most Turkish people would do, we drank Turkish coffee, and Brennan tried to tell my future based on my coffee cup, which is a tradition in Turkey. After I drank Turkish coffee, one of my friends always tells my future. Even though Brennan was not that good at fortune telling, it helped me feel at home.

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Love Trumps Hate

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Like many other exchange students, one of the main reasons we chose D.C. to study was due to the Presidential Election which took place last Tuesday. On the evening of Tuesday, silence echoed the streets of Washington as people gathered indoors to watch the election. I, like many other GW students, was naively optimistic about the outcome. After watching the 3 Presidential Debates leading up to the final day, there was no way that the American people would elect Trump as their President…right? The media certainly reflected this. But boy were we wrong. I later discovered that being in a liberal bubble that is D.C. and GW will do that to you.

The audience eagerly awaited the polls to close on the East Coast and drank one too many glasses of wine as the reporters on CNN changed the colours of the states on a touch-activated map of America. People were on the edge of their seats as many states such as Florida were too close to call. It wasn’t looking good. Electoral votes for Trump edged its way up as the blue remained stagnant and the lever for predicting a Trump victory was 5%, then 25% then 95% on the WSJ. “It’s going to be ok” was all that I could muster to say to my American friends.

Now I won’t start a whole spiel against Trump and what he stands for. There’s been enough of that this whole week. I believe that it is not the time to draw a demarcation line between the American people. It is not the time to further the us vs. them mentality. There is enough hate going around as it is and we don’t need any more of it. Love trumps hate. The slogan of peaceful protests that are conjuring up in major cities around America. Protesting not because we want the results of the election to be reversed or trying to be sore losers but because we have a sense of urgency to show the people who are scared, the minorities, that we will stand with them.

To end, I continue to remain naively optimistic about the future, because I’ve seen first hand how many people do care. I am also willing to give Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt. We can only hope for the best.

President Trump

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I have been following the presidential election since it first started. Needless to say, the US has faced with the most polarised and disrespectful election in its history. The so-called winner of this election was Donald Trump by leaving behind the damage to the founding thoughts of the US.

According to polls, Clinton was leading at the very last day of the election. However, the Trump’s argument that the media was bought and corrupted comes true and he won without any difficulties. Even though he said that he will be the president of all, I would argue, as a person living under the Erdoğan’s regime, that this claim becomes meaningless in the context. Erdoğan claimed the same argument and eventually the contrary was proved. Even though Trump gets elected, it is not the day to cry or mourn. The US still has working democracy and no-one can predict the next four years. After all, in my opinion, there is no difference between the both candidates. (When I say this in the conversations, I am being accused of having the heterosexual-male-white mind. However, even though I am not a minority that Trump attacks, I belong to those influenced by the US policies in Middle East.)  If Clinton had been elected, I would have written the similar things.

I watched the elections with my friends. Everyone has a cheerful mood but it changed in 3 hours. After the election became certain, we decided to go to White House because we heard that it is a tradition to gather in front of it. Lots of mournings and cries welcomed us. On the other hand, Trump supporters, who are very few as opposed to Clinton supporters, were yelling as “U-S-A”. Also, I tried to be on TV by standing behind the people giving interview to the TV channels. After standing behind everyone, I found a Turkish TV channel interviewing people. After a short conversation, I saw a Trump supporter giving an interview. Under the yelling from others, he was really happy. A man ask him if he knows where the Aleppo is. He answered him by giving the most egoistic laugh I have ever heard and he said of course he knows where Aleppo is. The guy asks him to spell the Aleppo, and the Trump supporters spelled it as Allepo.

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It was a hell of experience for me to be in DC in the election mood, especially witnessing a historical election. However, the only thing I can say to you guys, now you have a president who trusts in Erdoğan!