Monthly Archives: November 2018

My best week so far?

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By yassineaourid

Do you remember my trip to New York when I said that it was the best week of my semester abroad? Well, I think we have a competitor.

This week, I have been through so many situations and experienced so many things about the American culture that I truly felt I was in the USA. This week, Americans celebrated one of the most important holidays of the year: Thanksgiving. As a foreigner, I didn’t know much about this holiday since we don’t celebrate it abroad. All I knew is that the whole family is gathered and everybody eats a lot. But first, let me tell you about how the week started.

On Monday, most of my classmates didn’t come. In fact, they took advantage of the long holiday to go abroad or go see their families earlier. Classes were pretty tiny and I felt weird being with a professor and two or three other classmates. On Tuesday, no one came to the Yoga class, thus I had a private yoga session only for me. It was much harder than usual because all of my professor’s focus was on me so I had to make sure to make some pretty decent poses. Also, it was an opportunity for me to get know my professor since we talked a lot about my experience and about my country.

Wednesday was off so I went golfing with an exchange student at the East Potomac Golf Course (where I usually go for my Golf class) and we played 9 holes. The weather was amazing and our swings were perfect.

The following day was the big day. For those who follow me for a while, you must know that I was going to have a great Thanksgiving dinner. In fact, a few weeks ago, I received an email from the President’s Office saying that students staying on campus for the holiday were welcome to have Thanksgiving Dinner with president LeBlanc and his wife at F Street.

When I knocked on the door, I was expecting a housekeeper or someone working in the presidential residence to open the door. Against all the expectations, it was president LeBlanc who opened the door and welcomed me. I was surprised and fascinated by the interior beauty of the house. It was warm and several students were already there. I had a discussion with the president who asked me a few questions about my background and my origins. Also, I had a discussion with Mrs. LeBlanc, a wonderful woman that I admire. I loved having a conversation and sharing my thoughts with her. What can I tell you more about this dinner? Oh yeah! Food! The dinner was remarkably succulent. I have never tasted such great turkey and Mac and Cheese. Everything was delicious, we even had Kobe beef, a very tasty kind of beef from Japan. We ate marshmallows with the president who showed us how to make a particular type of sandwich made of marshmallows, dark chocolate, and biscuits.

Overall, the dinner was great. I had a really good time at LeBlanc’s and I told myself I wish it was Thanksgiving every day. To finish in beauty, I had a beautiful picture with my Thanksgiving hosts and I’m very grateful to them.

 

I was sad that Thanksgiving was over but when we talk about Thanksgiving, we also talk about Black Friday. My wallet hated me on Black Friday because I made some great deals that day. I would never regret my purchases. All the big brands had 40% even 50% off!

In conclusion, I loved this week a lot. No work, a lot of fun, a lot of food what else do we need? Although the weather was very cold this weekend, I went with a friend to the Zoo Lights at the National Zoo on Saturday night and it was very beautiful!

 

See you next week

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TurkeyDay

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By angusmack101

Thanksgiving doesn’t exist outside the US. That isn’t too much of a revelation for most of us, but I’ve got to’ve had a half-dozen Americans ask me about it this week. Black Friday does exist—kinda. You could probably get up at noon in Australia and still make it to the sale for your OLED TV or cut-price shoes. Here ends my PSA.

All that said, Thanksgiving in the US was a great time. I shipped off to New Jersey for the holiday to spend it with my friend Fraser and his family, and I was more than happy to experience it for all it’s worth. We joined another American family and did the whole dinner with them; It was a wholesome night of giving thanks, eating turkey & pumpkin pie, and dodging political conversations. There was one close call when someone brought up Brexit, but it was swiftly dismissed and a merry evening was had by all.

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Wholesome family fun… No further questions.

The rest of the weekend was just as good. New Jersey isn’t drastically different from the rest of the North East, so Fraser and I were initially at a loss for what to do in my limited time there. He suggested we take a half-hour drive to a nearby beach in the hopes it’d be empty for the holiday. We were quickly proven right, and after a bit of confusion walking through the cold and the wind it became apparent what we were really there for; an abandoned military base on the southern tip of the New York harbor.

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Please don’t jump this waist-high fence. Please.

Despite it being obviously deserted, we clearly weren’t the first ones to have wandered through the old complex. The pitifully-short fence had been trampled down in multiple places and the bolts on the doors had long-since been busted open. We steered clear of the buildings that warned of prosecution for trespassing, but what remained gave us plenty of opportunity to explore and escape the cold. The signage and the design seemed to indicate it was an old gun battery and fort for guarding the harbor, and the sturdy construction had kept it structurally sound in spite of intermittent hurricanes and a half-century of salt and rain. Stalactites of salt had formed in most of the cavernous rooms, and thankfully the litter and graffiti hadn’t ruined the experience of scoping it all out.

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Grave Encounters hmu

The remainder of the weekend was spent hanging out with Fraser’s friends, playing old Playstation games, and generally avoiding the multiple assignments I’ve been given in the last week. We’re coming up on the end of semester, but I’m confident I’ll get through the finals unscathed and can make the most of what I’ve got left to experience at GW. That Bernie ticket I waited two hours for is finally going to come in useful this week. Stay tuned.

Winter has come

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By yassineaourid

This week was particularly amazing. I have witnessed so many changes again in many aspects. First of all, I can tell that winter has officially arrived in DC. It was one of the most pleasant surprises of this semester. I woke up and I found this:

It’s not a lot of snow but still, how could I miss this during one night? The weather is surprisingly strange in DC. Sunrise is around 7:00 am and sunset is around 5:00pm. We can enjoy only ten little hours of light.

With the end of the semester coming, there is much pressure in class because of the projects due and the exams. However, it was a pretty charming study week. In fact, I tried for the first time team group as our professors suggested it. I got to know people from my class which is huge (more than 80 people). After hard work at Gelman, it was time for us to enjoy a good lunch. We went to Founding Farmers and although it’s only my second time, I can tell that food is incredibly amazing. I had a great steak with vegetables (sorry vegans).

Furthermore, because of the amount of study I had this week, a funny anecdote happened to me this week. I was in my yoga class and at the end of the class, we are supposed to stretch and relax. Our professor always puts some nice music in the background, so I completely slept for about twenty minutes, and when I woke up all my classmates were about to leave the classroom while I was sleeping on my mat comfortably. My professor said that I must have been really tired.

Also, I decided to work a lot this week because next week is a holiday week and I don’t want to feel any pressure next week. I got rid of the chores of the week such as sending a package to my family in Morocco full of presents and gifts, going to the office hours…

I am really looking forward to experiencing Thanksgiving here in Washington at the president’s house. I think it is going to be on of the great opportunities of this semester.

See you next week!

 

 

Yacht Dreams

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By angusmack101

It’s become a recurring theme of my time in DC; plan for one experience and stumble into another. It happened last week with Catharsis on the Mall, and it happened this week outside the Anthem.

A friend and I had bought tickets to the Young The Giant gig on Friday night and decided to roll in to the wharf early to take advantage of a local happy hour. I’m not sure if it was the happy hour or the quality of the bar, but the place was packed when we arrived at around 6:45. After fighting our way to the front of the mass we’d bought drinks and my friend had struck up a conversation with a guy seated at the bar. I went over and joined the convo, where we quickly found out he was the president of the local yacht club on the wharf. Turns out he lives full-time on his boat, presumably splitting his time between the water and the club.

After a solid half-hour conversation the happy hour had ended and he offered to show us the club. Since it was outside the Anthem and the gig didn’t start for another hour, we agreed. I also sensed the possibility of free drinks, so I didn’t need much convincing. It was a bizarre turn-of-events for sure, and we were genuinely impressed with the setup this guy had going. He said his was one of the only yacht clubs in the country with an average age trending down, and it wasn’t hard to see why when we saw the place and met the people. I spoke to one guy for 15 minutes about Australian politics before he revealed he was a congressman from Oregon. If the president is to be believed they have a bunch of members with high-profile jobs on Capitol Hill. By the time we left for the gig my friend was already trying to network her way into a membership. Is this one of the #onlyatGW experiences I keep hearing about?

Young The Giant was another highlight, and by the evenings-end we were exhausted. I managed to spend a couple hours at a party in E street, but eventually called it in to try and get a few hours before Saturday. I’d booked another hike with TRAiLS, and I wasn’t looking forward to the 8 a.m. wakeup.

YTG - picture 1

One of those openers that’s good enough to remember but not enough to look for more of their stuff

The wakeup on Saturday was definitely rough, but not enough to ruin the day. I’d loaned out another DSLR for the trip; I needed more footage for my next video production assignment. This ended up being a great decision as the town we went to had some of the best scenery I’ve ever seen. Historic Harpers Ferry indeed. We were lucky to catch it at the brief intersection of Fall & Winter.

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$15 well spent

I did end up getting a lot of great footage and pictures from the trip. At this point I’m seriously considering shelling out for a decent camera of my own, it might incentivize me to go out and do more of this kind of thing back in Aus.

The rest of my week wasn’t eventful as those couple of days. I did go to another gig at The Black Cat on Thursday to see Alex G, which was great, but aside from that it was mostly receiving and submitting assignments. Finals are getting dangerously close—I suppose I’d better ramp up my efforts to do everything this city has to offer.

A good week for walking

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By angusmack101

It’s been another good week for walking around.

The media department at GW allows students in set film classes to rent out equipment for free, which you might remember I took advantage of a few weeks ago to film my roommate Javier buying and eating the first bagel of his life.

Honestly hours of editing for this.

While it was definitely a good time, the film camera I used for that video was impractically large for my purposes this week, so I went for a more compact Nikon DSLR —a D3300 for any camera-nerd readers. After an hour-or-so of YouTube tutorials I was ready to take it out to test, and opted to do so on one of my late-night monument walks. I’ve been in the habit of walking around the mall at night once or twice a week, usually when I can’t justify spending money, and I got a kick out of learning the tricks of the camera on the quiet streets of DC.

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Game for the more observant readers: spot the rat.

I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided to go out and do it again on Saturday night. This was the surprising one for me, because I’d unknowingly walked right into the middle of a hippie festival camped out beside the Washington Monument. Literally camped out; they’d set up tents, art installations, a couple of dance floors, and a whole bunch of weed and LGBT flags. This was exactly the kind of weird stuff I enjoy finding, and a great opportunity to test my ability to snap pics in a bizarre low/high light environment. I even took the camera settings off auto for some of them.

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If 8th-grade English taught me anything, it’s that juxtaposition is the name of the game.

Of course after leaving my hippie comrades at about 3 a.m. I had to try and sleep, because I’d naively signed myself up for rock climbing with TRAiLS on Sunday—It was actually the reason I loaned the camera in the first place. I managed to get up on time to make the trip, and the climbing itself was a bunch of fun. After the trips I’ve taken with those guys this semester I’ve got to say that TRAiLS deserves every bit of funding they get; they never disappoint.

I’ve also got to conclude that, for a student, there’s no need to use a bulky film camera when the college has the Nikons available. My one was easier to use, less than half the size and weight, and it could take decent photos as well as video. My professor never even mentioned it was an option, but I’d be willing to bet he won’t be able to tell the difference from the footage. If you’re at GW now or you’re heading over for exchange, do yourself a favor and take a film class. The workload is manageable and you get access to a bunch of cool stuff for free. What’s not to love about that?

The end is right there!

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By yassineaourid

“The end is right there!” Every professor said this phrase this week, thinking that it would make students happy… The idea of me leaving scares me. I just got used to this new way of life, this American lifestyle which helps you to define yourself, allows you to discover great opportunity and much more. Me leaving this and being happy? No!

Anyways, I can remember every detail of my last post which shows how fast time is flying. More changes have come to my new way of life. In fact, I believe there is a strong correlation between the amount of time left in the US and the amount of cash in my wallet. Therefore, I can say goodbye to my Vanilla Latte every morning. Instead, I started cooking nice omelets thanks to the $1,12 egg box at Trader Joe’s. Also, I never knew why we associate students’ diet to pasta, now I know. I make pasta every day. First, it was tedious because it took me a lot of time and the end result wasn’t very good. Now, in my humble opinion, I’m a chef. Room 602 is now officially Ristorante Marrochino!

This week has been one of the most important weeks of this American political year. Although I don’t understand much the American political landscape, I went to an event organized by Prof. Porter where we enjoyed discussing the outcomes of these elections while savoring some pizza slices. I knew that the Democrats had to win a lot of seats to take control of the Senate but it wasn’t the case. In fact, it was a win-win situation for both parties. One of the good news of these elections is the number of women elected to the House of Representatives.

As I have a couple of exams next week, I went to several tutoring sessions at Gelman. It was particularly interesting to have someone else than the professor who re-explains the lecture in a way that I can understand. It’s free, efficient and very helpful.

This weekend, I went shopping and I bought some gifts for my relatives. Finally, the good news of the week is that I am invited to Mr. Leblanc’s house for Thanksgiving. I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving. Cant’ wait to eat that turkey tight!

Also, what’s going on with the weather? Anyways, I have my solution for it:

PS: 0°C= 32°F 🙂

 

Halloween

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By yassineaourid

After long weeks of hot and humid weather, the beautiful Washington D.C. is getting ready for the cold weather. It embellished with the colors of Fall, making the National Mall even more amazing. Everything turned to red, yellow and orange. In fact, most of the grocery stores are selling pumpkins because guess what? It is Halloween!

Being in the US for Halloween is an incredible and joyful opportunity. This special day represents so much for me since it is reminiscent of my childhood. I have always wished to ask candies to people and wearing scary costumes but unfortunately, in Morocco, it is not a big day. Halloween reminds me of those nights where we organized pyjama parties and we get scared the whole night, it was fun but we were 8. Being 20 for Halloween suggests another atmosphere. First of all, no more scary costumes. I was told that in the US, you can wear any costume as long as it’s not your normal clothes. I saw doctors, soldiers, dogs… Mine was basic but I liked it. I bought it on the 31st and I was pretty nervous because I was afraid that I couldn’t find any so I went to Crystal City in a shop called Total Fright where I got a Phantom of the Opera mask and a sort of skull necklace.

Wearing the Phantom of the Opera mask I could only go to Opera that night. It was an unforgettable night.

This week, I was very happy that I could finally make my own app! It was a hard work but it paid off. The app I made is nothing lucrative or exceptional. It is a tool for DC and Arlington inhabitants to use the metro easily. Basically, given two inputs, origin and destination, it tells you which line you should take, the station you should enter and leave. I am really using it sometimes but still don’t know how to include ads in it…

As usual, I always take my Sundays easy. I always go to the Mall to observe nature and have conversations with my friends and family on the phone. It was a great Sunday this week, a calm and sunny day that makes us prepare for the big event of the year: the Midterms elections.

Until then enjoy these beautiful pictures of the Mall’s trees and see you next week.