Tag Archives: DC

Halloweekend

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Bernie Sanders’ book tour is coming through GW next month, and the news of free tickets brought students out in droves. The box office was set to open at 12:00 on Thursday last week, but when my roommate and I arrived at 10:40 there were already over 100 people there. By noon there were closer to 1000. It’s not hard to see why people are so enthusiastic about it here, my media classes are understandably packed with political discussions and the I’ve met several people involved with explicitly or tangentially political associations.

In my first blog post this semester I said that I was looking for exciting and unique experiences from DC, and after two months I’m confident in saying that GW has delivered. While I still think Hasan Minhaj underperformed as a comedian, I can’t fault his drive to send a message. He filled a basketball arena with close to 1000 students and kept them engaged through what was essentially an hour-long anti-Trump pro-refugee lecture. A free ticket to Bernie was well worth the two hour wait for me, I look forward to writing about it.

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Damn socialists at it again

This week has also been my first real experience of Halloween. Most Americans don’t know this, but Halloween basically doesn’t exist for most of the world. At home in Australia there might be a handful of parties and a few kids trick-or-treating each year, but we’re talking tiny numbers. It’s not a national holiday by any stretch; seeing a carved pumpkin would be a bizarre novelty to most Aussies.

A handful of exchange leaders took charge and organised some stuff at 1959 last weekend. It was my first taste of a Halloween being taken seriously, and I have to say it was a lot of fun. Most of the exchange students there hadn’t ever experienced it before either, so it did take a while for us to work out what the deal was. The smell of freshly-carved pumpkin is a strange thing to the uninitiated.

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Solid first attempt

I’m looking forward to more Halloween fun this week. I’ve still got a bunch of assignments to soldier through, but I’m confident that they won’t stop me getting the cultural experience I came here for. Still have to wait almost a month for Bernie though.

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Viva Montreal

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I’ve only been doing four subjects this semester. I figured I’m only in DC for half a year and I didn’t want to lose too much of this precious time to assignments and readings. It’s turned out to be a pretty solid decision so far; I’ve had more than enough time to explore the city and enjoy myself while comfortably staying up-to-date with uni work. My cruisey first half-semester seems to be at an end however, as all four of my professors have dropped major assessments over the fall break. This would be manageable if not for the fact that I’ve left DC to spend a week in Montreal and haven’t started any of them. But Montreal is fun, so let’s focus on that.

Being the thrifty student I am, I opted for the cheapest possible tickets available to fly in over the break. That meant a 3 p.m. flight out of DC with a four-hour layover in Toronto, which I figured would give me ample time to start some of that work I’d been putting off. This didn’t exactly go to plan however, as the lightning-fast WiFi and complimentary snacks distracted me for the entire break prior my second flight. My Australian girlfriend Alice is on exchange at McGill, so I caught a bus downtown and found her just before midnight. I had yet to touch an assignment.

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You know normal countries don’t make you take off your shoes, right?

Montreal itself is a nice enough city. Day one was sunny enough to warrant hiking up Real, the city’s titular mont, and by that evening I’d met up with a bunch of exchange students at McGill to watch the hockey. Ice hockey doesn’t really exist in Australia, so this was the first time I’d sat down to more than a few seconds of it and I’ve got to hand it to the Canadians—it’s an excellent spectator sport. I’m a firm believer that having too many rules is the enemy of entertaining sport, and I was glad to see the players echoing that sentiment with their casually aggressive attitude to violent play. Combined with cheap Canadian beer and a constant fear of being smacked in the teeth by a rogue puck, ice hockey is a truly brilliant experience.

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Honestly the most satisfying part of the game

The rest of my trip so far has been composed of touristy expeditions to museums and landmarks, as well as a particularly good jazz bar in Old Port. I’ve tried my best to sample as much of the local cuisine as possible, and it’s been generally enjoyable. The local practise of dipping rather than smearing bagels in cream cheese is a curious and welcome change, and an unassuming Mexican bar in Chinatown turned out to have some the best tacos I’ve ever tried. I was sorely disappointed by poutine however, it just doesn’t live up to the hype. The UK has had chips and gravy for decades; don’t try and tell me cheese curd is enough to turn it into a cultural icon.

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Canadian poutine vs. Australian HSP. Tell me which one looks more appetizing…

The name’s Bond, James Bond.

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After a great week in New York, I came back to the hard reality of Monday mornings and the class routine. I can finally tell that Washington D.C. has its own charm. Being surrounded by officials at the government and living near the heart of the global decisions center is a great privilege. For instance, this Monday I saw some White House limos at Pennsylvania Avenue driving the Mexican delegation. A few minutes later, I read on Facebook that the US signed a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada…

My Software Design class is getting more interesting since we tackle some very important elements of Mobile app design. My professor is truly helpful and very kind. He makes a lot of efforts so that we can grasp the content of the lectures. We communicate through Slack (a professional version of Whatsapp where all the classmates and the professor can interact). It’s a new concept for me and it gets us much closer to the professor. I find it better than office hours.

This Tuesday after my class at the Milken Institue, I found a man selling some T-Shirts in front of the Metro station, and he had a chessboard. So I asked him if we could play, he said: “With pleasure”. It would have been cool if I won but, unfortunately, I did not. I will have my revenge though

My fall break started on Wednesday afternoon since I don’t have class on Thursdays and Fridays. However, I didn’t plan anything special for this holiday. In fact, I was going to go to LA but my friend who was going to host me had a last-minute difficulty. Therefore, I decided to devote some time to study in order to get rid of the work charge, because yes I am a procrastinator.

My roommates went for their break trip, thus the apartment is quieter but freer. After checking my museums’ list, I noticed that I didn’t visit an important one yet: The International Spy Museum. This museum is incredibly awesome! It’s true, it costs $18 but I would have paid more because it is really worth it.  From Julius Caesar to Alan Turing through James Bond, every character was there. It was fascinating because the history of the intelligence services dates back the era before Christ. I got to try this fun activity where I had to hang on a metal bar pretending I am James Bond…

My record: 46 seconds

It was a pretty good week but again the next one will be neat!

See you then 😉

Gettysburg

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Being reminded of an all-day hike at 2 a.m. is not a pleasant experience. I’d signed up to trek around Gettysburg with GW Trails a couple weeks prior and completely forgotten by the time I found myself at a dorm party on Friday night. It was an accident too; I overheard two Aussie friends of mine talking about how much they dreaded getting up for a full day of hiking the next day. That was enough to trigger a distant memory of paying for just such a trip, and we soon realized that all three of us were stuck with this decision. We weren’t going to let that $15 go to waste.

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My trusty jug: 98% water, 2% milk. Seen here with a side of 7/11 coffee and some post-party regret from Lou.

Don’t let it be said that Australians aren’t committed. Against our better judgement we all made it up before dawn the next morning to prepare an improvised lunch and find some water for the trip. In the absence of an actual bottle, I settled for pouring the dregs out of a gallon milk jug and refilling it with tap water. I was also able to scrounge some flaming hot pringles and an improvised pickle sandwich. Lou and Liv didn’t fare much better; they managed to secure some 7/11 trail mix before sprinting to the rendezvous at the Marvin Center.

The two-hour van ride to Gettysburg would be our only chance to rest before eight hours of walking. Naturally, we elected to stay awake the entire time arguing over the distinction between puddles, ponds, and lakes.

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That’s a fake answer and you know it. Poor form, Google.

After agreeing that YOU CAN’T SWIM IN A PUDDLE AND YOU CAN’T SAIL IN A POND, we arrived at Gettysburg and began trekking around behind our ever-enthusiastic trip leader Jared. Honestly I can’t fault the expedition. The weather was great and Jared was the exact kind of history fan you want to have leading trips like that. I was so distracted by the aesthetic of the place that I didn’t even mind the milky aftertaste in my water.

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Stay limber Jared.

Traffic on the way home was brutal and sleep wasn’t really an option in either of the overpacked minivans. This didn’t stop some of us trying—to varying degrees of success. In spite of all the things that should’ve spoiled it, the trip was honestly a great time. If I’d bothered to get a night’s sleep and pack some decent food beforehand I’m sure it would’ve been even better.

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It hurts just looking at it.

A memorable week

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If you read my posts regularly, you would know that the last week was the most boring one and that I promised you that the following will be great. Well… the promise is made.

When I finished my psychology exam on Wednesday afternoon, I quickly ran to Union Station because something was happening. I was going to New York for the first time. People told me that the train was comfortable and it was quicker than the bus. Before going, I had some plans that turned out to be a little bit eccentric. A dear friend of mine invited me to spend the weekend with her.

The trip on the train was great. It was super comfortable and although the trip duration was 3 hours and a half, I didn’t feel bored at all. When I arrived at Penn Station in NYC, I had goosebumps. It was a historic moment for me. The next morning I walked around the city and had lunch in the Rockefeller Center. This center, localized in the center of the city, is very impressive. After a lunch rich in calories, I went to see all the famous avenues that I only have seen in movies and social media. The Fifth Avenue is incredibly amazing. Police officers were everywhere because of the UN summits. I took advantage of my presence in the 5th Avenue to say Hi to my neighbor Donald.

“New York is one of the most crowded cities in the world”. When we read this sentence between the lines, one will understand that safety and security are key in New York. This is why I wanted to pay tribute to NYPD officers. They were very kind and helpful. I had a conversation with them and they appreciated it.

Nocturnal life in New York is totally different from every other city’s nocturnal life. The best way to discover a city is to get lost in it. My friends and I ended up in Little Korea, a neighborhood that brings you from NYC to Seoul. We decided to try Korean barbecue. It was a great success. Korean food is delicious. We had chicken, beef, shrimp, dumplings and all kind of vegetables. I tried for the first time Saké. This night was culinary excellent.

The following day which was a Saturday, I reserved myself a little surprise. I decided to go watch a Broadway show and a very particular one: The Lion King. All my life, this Disney production will always have its place in my heart. I purchased the ticket for $300 but this is a one-lifetime experience. I can finally know how it feels to go watch a great show on Broadway on Saturday. My friends took dropped me to the Minskoff Theater and we passed through Time Square on a Cadillac!

 

 

I encourage everyone to watch this astonishing show.

This trip to New York was the opportunity for me to fell in love with another city. Sorry Washington, your cousin NYC is so special…

And I arrived at Union Station.

See you next week

 

Cell Plan Rant

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Trying to get around and go about your life in 2018 without an active cell phone plan is a real pain. I’ve been without a carrier for about a week now and pretty much every day has presented a new way for this to inconvenience me. Everything requires mobile activation now. It’s insane. The worst part is that I had a working plan; I spent a month on a prepaid Simple Mobile sim that gave me a US number and enough data to sign myself up for an abundance of things I can no longer access.

My love-hate relationship with online retail wasn’t helped when the Mint Mobile sim I ordered to replace the expensive Simple one turned out to be a dud. I only discovered it was a dud when I had begun porting the number, which has had the painful effect of trapping the number in the no-man’s-land between carriers where it’s completely unusable by either of them—so I can’t even go back to square one.

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Gee, a sad fox. That sure makes me feel better about not having a working phone.

How did people do this for thousands of years? Expecting to be able to contact anyone at any time is one that’s proving extremely difficult to unlearn; I spent 20 minutes yesterday camped at the perimeter of the GW wifi so I could ask someone who lived 10 minutes off-campus to let me in their building. When they responded I had to bolt to their door and hope they didn’t assume I’d already left.

I can’t even contact Mint to get it fixed. Any call to them is met with a “get that button-pressing finger ready” series of extensions before finally being told to “try again in 24 hours”. Don’t get caught without a number people. Here ends my rant.

Another week in DC

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Another week just passed. My week always starts with an intense cycling session at 9 a.m. It really wakes me up and even though I wanted an outdoor cycling class, I don’t regret having taken this one. Classes, in general, are getting more interesting. In fact, subjects like psychology are just awesome! I feel that all the knowledge I have acquired in high-school wasn’t useless. We talk about philosophy, sociology, genetics, statistics… It is really fascinating.

Tuesday was a fun day! I had only one class and a very interesting one: Yoga class. This is the first time I am taking a yoga class. It is impressive how the body can feel a sense of ease while suffering. Sometimes I just look ridiculous since my poses are clumsy. But after each yoga session, my slumber is smooth. As my school week came to an end, I was getting excited to start the weekend. However, I had to keep in mind that I had several projects and exams due the upcoming weeks.

On Thursday, I met a Moroccan guy through a common friend. It is very surprising to meet Moroccan people at GWU especially one who is from the same city as mine since they are very rare. My friend told that he knows only 4 Moroccans on the whole campus. We went for a walk, talking about life in DC and at GWU from a Moroccan perspective using our home language. I missed speaking my language -darija (Language made of Arabic, French, and Spanish).

 

I found this amazing instagramable  place, during our walk

 

Finally, I ended this week by going to a brunch with my roommate at Founding Farmers. I was told that this American restaurant was known for serving good quality and healthy food. I woke up at 9 a.m on a Sunday morning to try this new restaurant.

Verdict: I highly recommend it.

This week may seem like the least interesting one, I agree. But, brace yourselves for next week 😉