Monthly Archives: February 2018

Celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year

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    Chinese New Year is the most important event to Chinese people in a year. It is not merely a holiday, but the precious moment to have a reunion with all the family members and relatives that live far away. During this period, we have different traditions and events to celebrate every day. For example, on New Year’s Eve, especially at night, we sit in a round table and eat together. Later, we watch TV or play games and then all the family members will start to distribute red envelopes to each other. This is the most exciting day for kids because they do not need to distribute their red envelopes, but keep receiving them from the elderly family members. On the first day of the Chinese New Year, according to traditions, we will go to temples in the early morning to pray for good health and luck in the following year. On the second day of the Chinese New Year, those women who got married must return their hometowns to visit their parents. In short, this is both an interesting and busy period for us. This year, for the first time in my life, I cannot celebrate Chinese New Year with my dear family. It is a pity on one hand, but on the other hand, I have the opportunity to participate in different activities in D.C to experience how Chinese people here celebrate their Chinese New Year.

     There are a series of special events to celebrate Chinese New Year this week. After searching for information online, my friends and I planned to go to Kennedy center to enjoy traditional Chinese music performance, cook and have a nice dinner together, and watch the New Year Parade at Chinatown.

    The Kennedy Center is a nice place for all kinds of performances. Some of the performances require tickets, but some do not. The one we participated in on Friday, which was one of the special events for Lunar New Year Celebration, was free. We got immersed in the music banquet with the beautiful melodies played by traditional instruments like guzheng, flute, pipa, and so on. For those who are interested in the free performance held every day at six o’clock p.m., I recommend you to go earlier in case you cannot find a seat.

    On Saturday morning, I went to supermarket with my friends to buy all the ingredients we would need to cook for our dinner. At night, we had hot pot, salmon fried rice, curry chicken, tofu, salad, and we drank beer to celebrate Chinese New Year. Although I cannot eat with my family, the friends I meet here are just like my family and I had an adorable night with them.

    On Sunday, we went to Chinatown to watch the annual Chinese New Year parade. We got there a little bit late, so the street had already been crowded with people when we arrived. Thankfully, we could still find some space in between. During the parade, we saw a lot of national flags of Taiwan, so we were extremely excited. It felt like D.C was our second hometown! The parade was gorgeous, for all the people in the parade dressed so beautifully and the performances were all unique. It was my pleasure to participate in this celebration and I was really glad to see that so many native speakers came to know more about Chinese culture. This parade put a perfect ending to my celebration trip for Chinese New Year. I believe that every single event that I have enjoyed this week would become one of the most memorable memories in my life. Anyway, Happy New Year and may everyone keep healthy and happy in the year of dog!!!

 

 

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Away from D.C

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It was a random, rainy and cold Thursday night when we decided that we had had enough of D.C.

Not actually, of course. But sometimes, when your routine gets overwhelming and the weather doesn’t help you power through it, it is normal to feel the urge to escape for a few days.

Me and my roommate felt that urge last Thursday night, as soon as we found out that there were no classes on President’s day and that we had not planned anything. We bought round trip tickets from DC to Philly, by bus. This type of short term, last minute planning is definitely my favorite. And the US East Coast serves that purpose pretty well. I mean, where else in the US can you get away for 2 days at a price of 80$ to visit a major city?
This isn’t something you can do if you’re in California, or Texas or even Chicago.  I like this European dimension of closeness that the east coast has.

We planned it out, recruited 2 friends and then we were ready to go. The details of our trip were as follows:

Departure on Sunday morning, and return on Monday night. 2 full days, 1 full night, 4 people and a full hostel. Full hostel meaning that other than us 4, our room was filled with additional people which, I know, is the very principle of a hostel. But as I had never sojourned in one, I was slightly weary of the concept. I did shared airbnb’s or even co-ops several times in the past, but never hostel. The bunk beds remind me of a military setting and the fact that you share them with strangers is a 50-50 situation. Either strangers are normal, or they are not. However, there is no room for such perplexities and considerations when the price for one night is so low: 26$. Unheard of in D.C.

We arrived at around 11 am on Sunday. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get rid of the D.C cold, as in Philadelphia it was about the same temperature. It was sunny, though, unlike in D.C. So the absorption of vitamin D compensated for the lack of heat.

We spent the day doing touristy stuff: the liberty bell, the independence hall, the museum of Art. We went to a pub at night, and the rest is history. No, we didn’t do anything malicious by American standards, of course. We chilled at the pub and then went to bed. There was no weirdo, and we made friends with the other people in our room.

On the second day, we visited a super cool garden (see pictures) made with re-purposed waste.

  

Philly is a cool city. Middle ground between a European city and New York. It is high rise, but also historical. Pretty hipster-ish, and more lively than D.C on a Sunday night. Food is good (shout out to Philly cheese steak!) and cheaper than D.C

My verdict is: great get away destination for a weekend. Hostels are mostly safe.

  

Dad’s visit

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When I announced to my family that I would see them in the summer after the end of my exchange year, and not over Christmas break, I knew that I had triggered something.

Like the United States, Italian society is very much family centered. Families are the first places of socialization for little humans. The process of growing up is overseen and supported emotionally and financially until little humans get bigger and ready to leave home. At which point, their independence causes their ties with the family to get thinner.

Kids in the US start taking up jobs to sustain themselves financially as soon as they enter college, and  once done with college they’re gone for good and ready to be independent. In Italy, this is not the case. Families try as hard as they can to preserve co-dependency with grown up kids. Hence the stereotype of the over-protective and extremely caring Italian Mamma. Italian parents have a tendency to cling to their children especially when they are getting independent. No wonder why the average age of adults leaving the family home for the first time in strikingly higher than the US. Even the average age for young adults to get their first job. Well, that’s also because the state of Italian economy is not very kind to young people at the moment. But I don’t want to get political now. I will, in due time: we have election on March the 4th, and I just requested my absentee ballot from the General Consulate of Italy in DC.

Lecture time is over. In light of these considerations, the point I was trying to make is that  I did not go see my family for Christmas, therefore my family is sending envoys to come see me.

On a short notice, my dad notified me of his arrival a week before. The funny bit is that he told me he would be staying for a month. As a matter of fact, as I write, he is still in the US. Not in D.C, but in New York. He came last weekend and remained until last Tuesday.

We didn’t do much, because of the bad weather. But we got to catch up on some stuff that I had put off. We went to Walmart and bought a table for the living room, a bunch of kitchen utensils, bathroom products and so on. Walmart is always an experience for us Europeans, and it was the first time for my dad as well.

Most importantly, from as empty as black hole, my fridge was replenished in a matter of hours thanks to my dad. And so was my stomach. I had forgotten how he is at cooking.

We also watched the Superbowl, but since we didn’t really know the rule of the game we got bored easily. On Monday, he came to visit me at work at the EU delegation.  Anyway, it was a very good weekend.

I love to see how Italian family bonds adjust to globalization.

My First Try of Ice Skating

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    Taiwan is located between a tropical and subtropical area, so it does not snow in winter. Therefore, apparently, we lack exciting activities like ice skating or skiing to enjoy. If people want to participate in these activities, they might choose to go to countries nearby such as Japan or Korea for an one-day trip. Last year, when I went to Chuncheon, which situated in northern Korea, I seized the precious opportunity to learn skiing. Although it was extremely cold, I felt nothing but excitement and bliss. With the experience, I made up my mind to try any winter activities at least once. Fortunately, TRAILS has arranged an ice skating plan that is free for all students, so I registered right away.

    We walked to Washington Harbour Ice Skating Rink, which is just a few blocks away from GWU. The admission fee for an adult is 10 dollars and if you need to rent the skates, you have to pay 6 dollars more. For me, the price is reasonable but a little bit expensive, so I decided to make full advantage of it. I was so nervous at the beginning because it was really hard to maintain the balance. I kept screaming and hold the penguin (a cute tool for beginners to keep in balance) still and tight to avoid falling. But after a few hours, when I tried to believe in myself and skated in strides, I could catch the tips step by step.

    It was an extremely memorable and exciting experience for me, especially when I skated with my dear friends. But time always flies! We had to leave the ice rink after hours of skating. With the beautiful sunset and harbor, I accomplished my first ice skating trip. For those who enjoy ice skating, Washington Harbour Ice Skating Rink may serve your needs. You can also enjoy a great meal in the restaurant by the harbor, admiring the scenery at night with a sense of tranquility.

Zoo in DC

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As the new year began, I vowed to put an end to procrastination. One of my new year’s resolution was to stop procrastination and putting off things to do. The main goal is that of getting to the end of the day knowing that I did not waste my time.

It is very likely that you end up not doing much of your day when it’s cold outside, warm inside, and school deadlines are not pressing yet.

It was a beautiful day in DC, at least 15º(celsius). It felt like a pause from the crippling winter-like cold that haunts most of the East Cost. So I decided I would do something I have been procrastinating since I was a child. That is, going to the zoo. My parents have always avoided taking me to animals-related attractions such as to zoos or circuses. There was no particular reason, it just wasn’t a family thing to do.

At 21 one years of age I have the chance to catch up with this long overdue childhood experience.

Here’s some pictures from the Smithsonian zoo.

 

Let’s Cook for Ourselves!

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    In my first days at GW, we exchange students ate at restaurants a lot, so I spent too much money. So, I decided to find a great market to cook by myself. By doing so, I could not only spare some money, but also make several kinds of dishes that I like. In an extremely cold morning, my friends and I went out for our shopping journey.

    I love GW so much because you can almost find every place you want to go nearby, and the supermarket is no exception. The market we found is called Trader Joe’s and it was on the 25th Street. The things that the market sell are mostly fruits, vegetables, ingredients, foods, and so on, so if you want to look for household devices or daily products, you may want to search for another market.

 

 

    If you feel tired or cold when you first got in the market you can go to an area where the market kindly offers customers free hot coffee. You can make sweet latte if you want because they also offer you hot milk and vanilla cream. It is always the best thing to drink a cup of warm coffee in winter, isn’t it?

    There will be some special discounts from time to time, so if you pay attention to it, you can save a lot of money from your pocket! Also, there is an area for free food samples. It is great to have free delicious foods there, but you might easily spend money buying the things that are not on your list because the clerk who was promoting the special dishes there is so adorable. Take us for example, we bought a pack of frozen potatoes there after trying one!

    We really enjoyed our time at the market and we bought a lot of ingredients in a cheap price that we can cook for several meals throughout the week. If you are looking for a great food market, go to Trader Joe’s and grab your stuffs.

Georgetown

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    After arriving at GW, I have heard of a lot of people recommending Georgetown as a place worth visiting. Thus, I put Georgetown on my top list and I went there with my friends in one lovely afternoon. Georgetown is pretty close to GW, so you can go there either by walking or taking a bus. We chose to take a circulator because we were afraid of getting lost in this new environment. Besides, it only cost one dollar to take a circulator.

    Without exaggeration, Georgetown is so amazingly beautiful. All the houses and stores there have their unique appearances, but still stay in a harmonious order at the same time. There are so many shops in Georgetown, so if you want to buy some souvenirs or products of any specific brand, it might be the first choice.

    After arriving at GW, I have heard of a lot of people recommending Georgetown as a place worth visiting. Thus, I put Georgetown on my top list and I went there with my friends in one lovely afternoon. Georgetown is pretty close to GW, so you can go there either by walking or taking a bus. We chose to take a circulator because we were afraid of getting lost in this new environment. Besides, it only cost one dollar to take a circulator.

    Without exaggeration, Georgetown is so amazingly beautiful. All the houses and stores there have their unique appearances, but still stay in a harmonious order at the same time. There are so many shops in Georgetown, so if you want to buy some souvenirs or products of any specific brand, it might be the first choice.

  

    We had our lunch at a Spanish restaurant, Bodega, which my friend’s roommate strongly recommends us to go after shopping for a while. We ordered two sets of express lunch, including free bread, two starters and four tapas and they were really delicious (express lunch is only available Monday through Friday 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM and each set is $16.)

 

    In addition to all those beautiful stores, Georgetown is also well-known for its cupcakes, so we went to one of the most famous cupcake stores, Georgetown Cupcake, to try one. There are a variety of cupcakes you can choose from and each of them is $3.50. I spent a long time pondering over which one to buy because there are so many flavors that I would like to try. Eventually, I got a confetti vanilla cupcake. It tasted awesome, but it was a little bit too sweet for me. For those who do not like to eat too sweet, red velvet must be your first priority.

 

    All in all, if you are planning for a tour not far away from campus, head to Georgetown and enjoy your time there. Just don’t forget to try a cupcake!