Sunday, July 3, 2011

(Not So) Lazy Sunday

Looking back on today, it doesn't seem like I did all that much, but my yawning is telling me otherwise.

First, I was up at 8 in the morning, listening to the rumble of thunder and searching out my window for the flash of lighting (a few day earlier I had re-arranged my room a bit; now I can look out the window and see the sky without even having to raise my head from my pillow). I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I absolutely adore thunderstorms. They are utterly magnificent.

But a key part of thunderstorms is, as everyone knows, rather heavy rain, and that made it difficult to go out and grab something to eat in the time I'd allowed myself. So, instead, I caught an extra hour of sleeping mixed lightning-watching before hauling myself out of bed. I'd signed up to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my RA this morning, and we were meeting at around 10 AM to leave, an early start for a lazy Sunday but not incredibly unreasonable. 

A large group of us (this time all girls, a steep contrast to my earlier photography museum trip) took the subway and then a bus down and across town to see the museum. At the Met was Alexander McQueen's exhibit called Savage Beauty, the only museum collection that I know of where fashion is the only art form. The dresses there were all incredible, more works of painting or sculpture than clothing someone would actually wear. The installation itself was very well done, with each room having a totally different feel from the next, although I must admit that the eerie vibes some rooms were trying to achieve were distorted by the sheer number of people in the exhibit: our group had to wait in line for more that 45 minutes to even get inside, and after we came out at the exit the line had gotten even longer. 

We all ate lunch at the museum (quite overpriced for not amazing quality; but hey, museum food, what can you expect?) and I ended up heading back early with my RA, Julia, as both of us were drooping after the sheer boredom of waiting in line followed by the intense experience of seeing Savage Beauty; I'm hoping to go back to the Met sometime in the next two weeks so I can treat it more as a museum and wander about the paintings on the upper story.

Our walk back was quite the trip. We (Julia, myself, and another RA, Adam) had decided not to to take the bus back to the subway but instead to walk there. Our original plan was to cut essentially straight through Central Park to Broadway, where we could catch the 1 train back up to Columbia. Well, we... meandered. Half an hour later we came out 2 miles uptown of the Met, at 96th street, which is only about a mile south of Columbia. We'd walked almost all the way home! My complaining feet opted for the subway, and all three of us reached the campus intact and ready for a nap.

I puttered about during the afternoon, studying a bit, doing laundry, attempting to clean my room, until eight o'clock rolled around. At 8, I went with three of my suite-mates down to the gazebo, where we met a few more people and headed out for dinner: one of our friends, Aarev, hadn't had Indian food in almost two months and was missing home, so we decided to take him out to an Indian place recommended to us in Times Square. But fortune had other plans: a delay of more than 30 minutes on the subway platform left us with not enough time to head downtown, properly enjoy a meal, and be home in time for curfew without cutting it very finely, so we went searching a little closer to home. At West 108th we found our dinner destination, and had one of the less expensive (20 dollars for an entree, naan, and a lassi; pretty decent for New York!) but most lively meals I've had in weeks. The entire dinner was spent laughing and talking, and I feel like we all left that restaurant much closer to each other than we had been before.

Tomorrow is our trip to Coney Island with Mrs. L, and tomorrow night I'm heading to Riverside Park with the rest of my suite to watch the fireworks; it promises to be a good Fourth of July here in New York

A Worldly Experience

The United Nations tour was the highlight of today.

The tour was fantastic, however, the rooms did not carry the significance and important aura that I expected of the meeting place of representatives of the world. It was rather plain, ordinary. Like a normal classroom on a much larger scale.

The weather was very peculiar today. It was humid, sprinkling and we even experienced some thunderstorms this morning.

For dinner, we went to a local Cuban restaurant for some mofongo, a plantain dish.

One of the best reasons for coming to New York has to be the various worldly experiences the city offers. After this weekend, I can easily see why New York is called the cultural center of the world.


Edward, one of my international students, hails from the U.K. (living just outside of Birmingham). He prefers Ed, perhaps Edward is too informal for his taste. He's currently taking programming, and he's been to New York before. In a way, Ed is reminiscent of Kirby in that he is very nonchalant about most activities and he has a calming aura around him.

I remember when I first met Ed, a number of things popped into my head sequentially:

1) I was jealous of his accent.
2) I wanted to know how life was by comparison in England.
3) I wanted to know what his thoughts were about the U.S.

I skipped #1 astonishingly fast, realizing that it would take much effort to develop one myself and that I could talk to him to hear it all I want. On to #2.

There are a lot of parallels between the U.K. and the U.S.A., and while that might be assumed by most, given we were Great Britain in our past, I always thought of the U.S. as radical by the world's standards--not capable of fitting in to world culture. But, it seemed as though every topic I brought up had a connection between the two countries, rather than my original expectations, which prepared for an antithesis of sorts. I just thought we'd be a whole lot different than we actually are.

Obesity is nearly the same. While, the U.S. is the largest nation in the world, in regards to the scale, England is a close-runner up.

Many American businesses are overseas there. Further than McDonald's. There is Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, Macy's, McDonald's, and so many more.

The teenagers are, well, teenagers. They grow up in different settings, but they sustain the same mentalities.

They breathe. They sleep. They communicate.

Internationally, we are just so much similar than I thought, and that's what surprised me.

Then, I moved on to #3. I wanted to know exactly what other nations thought of us. I asked him what the general views upon the U.S. were like, and to my surprise, they were decent. Sure, there are some negatives people pick up on, such as our weight, but America doesn't really come off as the international bully to the general public, at least, not to Ed's general public. And, while I realize that we have been allies with the U.K. even before it was the U.K., it still went contrary to my expectations.

Regardless of what I learned from Ed, he's just a cool person to hang out with. And, if there's something that sticks out in him more-so than most, it would be his willingness. It's not like he's victim to peer pressure or manipulated easily. He genuinely likes to try new things, and I admire that. I think that's an incredible trait to have for the world, and people who do possess it tend to have more interesting lives collectively.

Between Ed and Dr. Z, I feel as if I've learned more about England and international knowledge in comparison to U.S. knowledge (not to say I haven't learned much about the U.S., I'm learning extensively within both subtopics), which is extremely ironic, though whole-heartily welcomed. Diversity in intelligence is something to be embraced.

Taking a break from my floor mates, tomorrow is Independence Day, and I'm definitely excited for the bright lights and riverside explosion.

Happy Blow-Stuff-Up-At-Night Day, yo.

Diplomatic Day

Tour the U.N. building?

Today I accomplished one item on my to do list. Before we flew out from San Francisco, each member of our cohort was assigned a topic to blog about and one of the was the United Nations Building. Prior to reading the blog, I would have never thought to visit. However, the blog really sparked an interest in me to see the headquarters of the world's peacekeepers.

Initially when we arrived I was like this place looks run down, because one building was under renovation and none of the flags that surround the area were up due to rain. Once we passed through security, the exhibit about regions of the world at war drew my attention. I learned about the conflicts in countries such as Darfur. Because today is part of the holiday weekend, we were told that we had to wait two hours until we could begin our audio tour. In order to kill time, we went to the post office which was unique in that postcards bought in the U.N. building had to be sent from the U.N. post office because the U.N. isn't a part of America. After wandering around the visitor center, our RA Pavel decided to head to a local Starbucks until our tour began.
U.N. Conference Chamber

Security Council Chamber

I found the tour extremely interesting because we were allowed to actually enter the room where the conferences are held; the same room that dignitaries such as Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela have delivered speeches in. I was stuck by how simple, yet elegant the chamber appeared. The furniture wasn't the most expensive, but between the lighting, carpet, and speaker podium, the room had a important feel to it. Likewise the temporary Security Council chamber had the same feel to it.

It was nice to see the different gifts given to the U.N. from a hand woven piece which depicted the struggles of a nation during civil war, the hope for democracy, and what success would look like. My favorite part of the tour was the exhibit about the eight millennium goals. I truly can appreciate that the U.N. is recognizing problems such as malnutrition and trying to do something to solve the problem.
Interesting quote I found

"The UN was not created to take humanity to heaven but to save it from hell."

What can I say about today. Simply amazing.

My morning started off by the loud noise of thunder outside of my window. There were thunderstorms all morning. They were so loud I thought they wereinside of my room. I was unable to go back to sleep so I was eager to start my day.

The main attraction of today was visiting the United Nations headquarters. Like my mother told me, "This is where nations come together to work together to create a better world." That's exactly what they're doing. We headed out with a group headed by RAs and fortunately one of the RAs was our TA from our class. When we got there we had to go through security almost like the airport and once we got in we had to wait two hours for and audio tour.

The tour was a lot better than I had expected. It showed the missions ofthe UN, like eliminating nuclear power throughout the world. The UN does a lot to try to help under privileged areas of the world like working with UNICEF to supply mosquito nets, water, and tents. They also are working to create better living conditions and education for children. Diseases infest the less fortunate areas of the world and it is amazing to see how much the UN is dedicated to this cause.

"Seats for every nation"

When I looked out on the conference floor, I was stunned. There are so many seats for every nation that is represented in the UN to have a voice. They are all working together to make a better world... for us. The are dedicating their careers to work together to stop war and promote peace, to helping children receive and education and women's rights.

After we got back we had dinner at Havana Central, a cuban restaurant. Beilul, Will, Eric, our new group member Kirby, and I enjoyed listening to latin music while eating some interesting food. It wasn't what I expected but at least we all got to go out and do something together. I'm glad I was accepted to this program and was offered the opportunity because of all of the experiences and new people I have met. They each teach me something new.

I felt like my experience at the UN can apply to the class I'm taking. Even thought it's about American Presidential Powers, in a broader sense it is about what it takes to be a leader, which is what the UN is comprised of. It made ma have a lot more respect for politicians and world leaders who work together and sacrifice so much time for all of us. It also kind of opened my eyes to... do I really want to be an engineer, or could I do something so much bigger? Anyway, it was still mind boggling.

Tomorrow we are heading to Coney Island to see the hot dog eating contest and then back to Columbia to go see fireworks with our suite. For now, I will focus on doing my homework. I can't let this weekend get in between my studies! After all, ifit wasn't for my studies I wouldn't be here in the first place. I realized I am glad that I'm hard working and took the risk to be involved in this program. If i hadn't I wouldn't have been able to see the world outside of my comfort zone.