Sunday, November 21, 2010

We Have a Country!

We finally received the news about the country we are representing in the Model UN program. It is Botswana. It's in South-Central Africa. It is a small country and honestly I can't remember hearing about it before. My first impression was something like "wow, we weren't very lucky", because this wasn't expected at all. However, I started googling it and found out it's actually going to be exciting. It is a challenge, but there are so many things I like about it! First of all, it is a challenge because the culture there is obviously far from ours. Which might seem like it makes it complicated. Nevertheless, as I mentioned before, I love learning about new cultures and I'm definitely going to get to know Botswana's one. It will be like traveling to Africa without moving from New York City. I think it will let us see the world from a different side and from a totally different point of view, which I think is great. 

Here I leave some fast facts about the country so that you all know what I'm talking about (they are taken from

  • Head of State: President Festus Mogae (I edit this because it wasn't updated) Ian Kahma
  • Land Area: 582,000 sq. km
  • Population: 1.6 million (1999) 
  • Currency: Pula
  • Urbanisation: 46% 
  • Capital city: Gaborone 192,845('98) 
  • Climate: Subtropical
  • Summer: 19-33°C, Winter: 5-23°C 
  • Languages: Official language: English. Setswana is the national language. 
  • Flag:

The fact that catches my attention the most is the population. The information here was updated in 1999, but according to Wikipedia it was 1.9 million in 2009. As you can see it is a very small country (considering the population). Which personally, is quite appealing. I spent last year in Estonia, which is 1.4 million people and I learned so much. I think big countries have so many things to learn from small ones, there are other matters they care about and they have the chance to do things in different ways since the government is dealing with an amount of people which is about 200 times smaller than in a country such as the US. We will definitely observe all these things. Besides from the population, I have read that 70% of the country is covered by the Kalahari Desert (which I have definitely heard about in the National Geographic!). This might explain why the population is less than 2 million. 

Finally I'd like to mention something I read about the country and was actually very inspiring. This is from Wikipedia (even though it is not an academic source, as we all might already know, I personally think it's a good starting point for these kind of research and this time it helped a lot). This is the extract I'm talking about: 

"Botswana is one of the world’s great development success stories. A small, landlocked country of 1.9 million people, Botswana was one of the poorest countries in Africa with a GDP per capita of about US$70 at independence from Britain in 1966. In the four decades following independence, Botswana has transformed itself, moving into the ranks of middle-income status to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world with its average annual growth rate of about 9 percent with a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about $14,800 (2010 IMF estimate)." (See the entire article here)

They went from being a very poor area to become a very fast growing economy. It seems it has a lot to do with the independence from Britain, which I am really eager to learn about. Even though at first impression they have nothing to do, I would also compare it somehow with Estonia. They had two independences from the Soviet Union and after that, their economy grew very fast too. As you can see in the extract, the average growth rate of Botswana is around 9%, which sounds quite crazy to me. 

I'm not sure about my team mates, because we haven't had the chance to meet since we got the country, but for me this starts from zero. I mean, until today I didn't know anything about the country. And honestly, this is kind of exciting to me. I get the chance to discover a new culture of a country that maybe I would have never wondered about. I'm going to have fun with it, so I can say I'm not afraid anymore. What's more, I'm rather eager to get started!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Lunch

Even though Thanksgiving is next week, the international students had a nice Thanksgiving meal this week. The idea of mixing food with culture is something that brings me beyond happiness, so you can imagine how happy this kind of events make me. We had the traditional American meal, with the turkey and all the delicious stuff. But then some students brought food from their countries and the table looked as great as you can see in the picture.

Some people brought really elaborated food. I remember tasting food from Poland, Korea, Ecuador... and Spain! As I told before, I previously had an excursion to a Spanish shop in Soho. I got some olives filled with cheese (which is a very traditional "tapa"). Then I had olive oil from the country, which is basic in the mediterranean diet, and pieces of baguette bread to taste the oil. Finally I got some sweet desserts: toasts with Spanish jam made out of fig. Actually we would have it for breakfast, but it worked out.

This is my first time ever celebrating Thanksgiving (ok, let's say a fake Thanksgiving) because we don't have this celebration back home. I'm used to see it in all the American TV shows (I'm a big fan of Friends), so I had an idea of what it was about. However, thanks to this meal I understood how important this day is. Maybe it's because it remind me of our family meals in Spain but I got the feeling it was Christmas. Which is the most important holiday for us. We also get together with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins... the more the better! And everyone brings food, sweets, drinks and anything to put on the table.

Another thing I know about Thanksgiving is that there is a huge parade in Manhattan. I've always seen it on TV and it looks amazing! I am not going to be here for the real Thanksgiving, so I won't be able to make it this time. I will make sure that I will have the time to see it another year before I leave New York. For those who stay in the city, you have to go! It is held by Macy's and it goes through Broadway Avenue. There will be enormous balloons, artists performing, dancers... and a crowd of millions of people!

You can check it here. The webpage looks great! See the videos on the "History of the parade" and the "Behind the scenes" sections.

Thanks International Berkeley College for the nice lunch!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back to Spain from SoHo

I'm attending a Thanksgiving lunch tomorrow at Berkeley. Many international students will go there to taste a real Thanksgiving meal, which sounds very cool. What's even cooler is that some of us will take food from our countries, so it's hopefully going to be a meal with a lot of international variety. I wanted to bring something from Spain. At first I thought about making a Spanish omelette (the one with potatoes), but then I thought I'm not that good cook and I don't have any kitchen supplies yet to do a proper one. So I thought it would be even nicer to explore Manhattan and try to find some real Spanish products (directly imported)... and I did find it!

I spent the day with a friend from Spain who is studying in the US as well. She was a great help! We tried to find products so I can prepare some tapas in common groceries stores. However, either they wouldn't have the products we would eat as tapas back home or they would be way too expensive. Finally another good friend of mine helped me finding a solution: Google Maps! It told me where to find a Spanish shop. And that's how I found Despaña. It is down in SoHo (408 Broome Street). They have a very nice website with all the products and services they have. Plus you can learn about Spanish cuisine from it because it is very well organized. You can see it clicking here.  

We had a lot of fun there seeing all the products we see in any supermarket back home. It's a tiny shop where you can either buy products directly imported from Spain or have a sit there and eat cooked Spanish food. I'm going to show you a few snapshots of what caught my attention (not that they are the most delicious things we have, but I do consume them very often and it brought me back good memories). 

This is the food that is already cooked. It was very nice to see it served just the way we eat it. You can see different versions of Spanish omelet. Because every one does it in a different manner (some people add onions, others add ham or even garlic and vegetables). Then there are salads with anchovies, olives and all the toppings we usually put in the salads which are a very important part of the mediterranean diet. 

Here you can see "aceitunas" (that's how we call olives). They have a lot of varieties of this product, since it seems to be very typical Spanish. You can find the most common brands (La Española, for example) and you can find many different versions: classic, filled with cheese, filled with pepper, filled with anchovies, etc. There were some there to taste, which of course I did. I realized how much I missed that taste! 

That's my favorite breakfast back home. I can't tell how happy I was to see it. This is Colacao, I guess I can say this is our national version of Nesquick (basically cacao to make your milk taste as delicious as chocolate). They even have two options, the Turbo (which is my favorite) and the original (which is tasty as well, but you have to shake it longer so that it melts). The small pots you can see on the right of the shelve are Nocilla, our version of Nutella. This is what kids spread on bread and eat it in the afternoon while watching cartoons, at least my generation did! 

Finally, I must mention the Christmas desserts. You can find all these on any Spanish table during Christmas holidays for desserts. The first ones are "turron". I find it very difficult to explain, but you can check a nice explanation from E-How here to understand what it is if you are interested in Spanish cuisine. I just let you know that there are many different kinds of "turron" and that I find them all extremely delicious. 

The second picture are "polvorones", which are really tasty as well. This is also hard to explain, so there you go with another nice explanation here, this time from Wikipedia. The funny thing with "polvorones" is that before unwrapping them, you have to squeeze them hard to make them compact and easy to eat. I must admit it brings me back a lot of memories from the great meals we have at Christmas back home. I'm glad I will be in Spain for Christmas holidays this year! 

The only negative side of the shop is that it is really pricey. Even more considering that I'm used to see all these things 3 times cheaper in Barcelona. But I assume it is not cheap to bring all these products directly from Spain. Nevertheless, I guess it's just fine for those days when you feel nostalgic and homesick. It will definitely bring a nice smile to my face even though nothing there will be as tasty as the meals from my father and the desserts from my mother. It might be also a nice experience for those interested in international cuisine or in Spanish culture. There are not many products, but to have a taste of how Spanish cuisine looks like it's definitely worth a shot! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The UN Club Goes to Philadelphia!

Yesterday we had a trip with the Berkeley College team for the Model UN program. We went there to attend the Model UN organized by the University of Pennsylvania. It was a great day, not only did we have a lot of fun but also got to see how the program works for real. I think we all had a great time and, on top of that, we got a very positive impression from the whole thing. Go for it Berkeley College! 

A group of 16 students and the professor met in front of the school. We left Manhattan early in the morning with a very nice bus. Unfortunately we arrived about one hour later than we expected because of a traffic jam caused by a terrible accident in the highway. Eventually, there were! We didn't have time to see the city, but from what we could see from the bus and from our stop for lunch I can say I liked it! It felt great to leave the city for a while. Even though Philly is quite a big city, I felt like if I was in a small town.  I'm not sure why, but it reminds me of London. 

After the quick lunch we went to the hotel where the Model UN takes place. I must say they treated us very well. We got delegate guides and our "guest" badges right away. Some supervisors told us about the organization of the event and showed us around. The whole debate is divided in different rooms with different committees. Every debate goes on for many hours (if I'm not wrong, some of them take more than 20 hours!). We were divided into different groups so that we wouldn't disturb so much the conferences and then got a taste from different committees. Obviously, we were unable to follow every detail since the sessions are very long and we only had around 15 minutes for each place. Nevertheless, we got a taste from every different aspect of the Model UN. 

First we went to a general conference about Human Trafficking where many countries were taking part. They were writing a resolution. When we got there, they were correcting the draft 1.3, which means that was the third resolution they came up with for the issue. Every country was trying to add its ideas and corrections.

After that, we where offered to visit smaller committees so we split up in smaller groups. We could see the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), UNICEF and some smaller rooms where they were trying to solve crisis. There was one about the crisis in Spain and Portugal regarding the foreign debt, which was very interesting to hear about for me. We also entered in a room set up as the West Wing with the figure of the President of America. Finally, the one I thought was the most interesting was the UFM (the Union For the Mediterranean). It wasn't very big and they were arguing about very interesting issues, such as the usage of efficient energy. 

We left Philadelphia around 5:30pm and had a more than 2 hours ride back home which we used to get to know each other better in the team, professor included. I'm happy to be part of that and very thankful to Professor Bedi for caring so much about the whole thing. He is a great example of how good will, passion and motivation can take you anywhere and he is doing a great job with the Model UN Program. It was a great trip!

We are still waiting to get news from the organization in the Model UN New York to know which country we will represent. Now it's time to start training for April! Students are still on time to join the team, you can contact the club by the facebook page "Model UN Berkeley College". Have a good one!

Friday, November 12, 2010

High Line Park

Today has been a beautiful day in the city. It was sunny and warm enough to feel happy walking through midtown at 7:30am. It was the perfect day for a walk after work. Where? The High Line Park, of course! It's one of my favorite spots in Manhattan. This place is alive. No matter when, but there's always something interesting to see there. It is so new that it hasn't even even been finished yet. The park is created on an old train-track, the ones that go above the street from 34th Street to the Meatpacking district. This is why the park is called the High Line. You can walk through more than 20 blocks in the middle of Manhattan with no need to stop because of the traffic!

 This (here) is the official website for the park. It is pretty cool, there you can find out the events going on, the news, and information about the progress on its construction (only about one third is open to the public right now). I recommend you to have a look at it. If you are in New York and you have never seen the park, I wouldn't wait any more because right now it's looks beautiful with the fall colors! Otherwise, if you are not here but you are planning to go, add it to your sightseeing because it is probably not in any guide yet. 

There are many interesting spots around the park. My favorite one is by 17th street. There's a huge glass window facing the road and seats in front of it. You can seat there and watch the cars rushing from above. Paradoxically, it makes me feel so calmed. Then there are some parts where the park has to go through a building, which creates a kind of bridge. They usually have a projector there, musicians, workshops... you never know! As it is usual in New York parks, there are also seats and tables for people to use. Not only this, but also fancy design seats to lay down, have a sunbath, read a book or whatever you can come up with. 

The reason why I'm writing about this today is because I went there to develop one of my final projects for school. I'm taking a creativity class as a free elective this quarter where we have to present a monument proposal for the city. At the beginning I was quite afraid that I wouldn't be creative enough for that. But it turns out that following all the steps I'm actually loving it! My monument is located in the High Line park. The monument has to do with the idea of self-expression. I thought of the park because the area is full of art galleries, young artists, fashion designers, performers... and this is exactly what I wanted. After so many weeks working on this project, it felt great to picture it in my mind and see exactly what I mean in the place where I mean. 

That's about it for today. It seems it's going to be a great weekend, starting with the trip to Philadelphia! I remind the Model UN people that our bus will be waiting in front of the school tomorrow at 9:45am. Have a nice one!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting Started with the Model UN

I just arrived from our weekly meeting with the UN club. We have good news this week. We are going to Philadelphia on Saturday for the Model UN at the University of Pennsylvania (you can visit the website here). It is going to be a good way to get an impression of what it is like to participate in the program. Most of the students have never participated, so it is going to be very beneficial for us to see how it really works. I must say we are very lucky to have a professor guiding us who is so committed to the program. I mentioned the program before in my first post; however, since I am going to be talking a lot about my experience at the Model UN, I thought it would be good to explain what it is about in a more detailed way.

The Model UN is a simulation of the United Nations for students. Each team acts as if they were the diplomats of a country. The country is assigned by the organization and every team has some months to research about it. Basically the team needs to know everything about the country. What’s more, every participant needs to be trained on public speaking, writing resolutions, analyzing policies and a big etcetera. The Model UN New York will take place in April. International sessions will take place in the UN with all the participants. We will be given international conflicts that we will have to find solutions to. We will debate and consult with the other countries. The final goal is to develop a resolution to the given topic.

Even though we are participating in the Model UN of New York, there are many other cities and universities organizing this event around the world. One example is the one organized in Pennsylvania University (the one we will be able to see next weekend). Besides, it is not restricted to teams from the country where it takes place. Students from all over the world will be participating, which I think is one of the best points of the whole thing. I leave a very nice video about the experience of the students of the University of Siegen from Germany (representing Togo) in the last Model UN in New York. I hope it will make it easier to understand what this is about:

It is definitely a lot of work, but it is also very rewarding for the participants. First of all, the learning experience is priceless. Not only will we learn about the country we have been assigned, but also we’ll be able to improve our skills in public speaking, writing resolutions, understanding international policies, etc. In addition, it is going to be an opportunity for networking and, of course, to have fun in such an environment. After so much work, it is good to know that there will be great parties organized for us too! Now, if you are a Berkeley College student and think you might be interested, I definitely encourage you to come to any of our meetings. You are still on time to enroll. We just started organizing ourselves and we didn’t get the country yet. You can ask for the contacts through the Berkeley College Internationals Facebook page.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ne-Yo Live in Times Square

Last week Xbox launched a new revolutionary game. It's called Kinect and the revolutionary thing is that you are the controller. I'm not an expert, but basically a camera scans your body and detects any movement you do. You can get more information clicking here. The launch was held in Times Square. There was a big event for that with many dancers and special guests, such as Ne-Yo!

One of my friends here at the New Yorker Hotel and future superstar, Andrea, is a dancer at the Broadway Center and she was taking part on the show. That's how we got to know about it. We went there about one hour before to get a good spot to see these two stars performing. By the time we got there, the place was already packed up. There were people everywhere, dancers rehearsing, lights, cameras, led screens... it was actually pretty cool.

The show started around 6.30pm, when 600 (yes, six hundred!) dancers appeared and started  dancing all at the same time. It was awesome. The Kinect game they were promoting was about dancing (obviously). So they showed how it works and soon celebrities like Lady Sovereign started performing from the stage while the crowd of professional dancers did their job with the choreographies. However, it was Ne-Yo what everyone was waiting for. When he arrived people went crazy! Here are the videos I took of the two songs he performed:

This was when he arrived and performed "Because of You". There were dancers in front of us, what you can see on the video, but there was also a second section of dancers behind, between 43rd and 44th streets. All of them doing the same movements at the exact same time! This second video is from his new single "Beautiful Monster", the second and last performance of the artist:

That was it for the show. I love how alive Times Square is for this kind of events. In fact, this is the second time I see Ne-Yo performing there for the launch of a product. A few weeks ago he did the exact same thing for the CR-Z Honda car.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dave & Busters

This week there was a school party at Dave & Busters in Times Square. It is the second time I've done that with Berkeley students here and it's so much fun! 

We had dinner a nice dinner where we met students from all over the world. It is always exciting to find  people from so many places doing the same thing you are doing here. Anyway, I must admit the best part is the games! Once we were done with eating, we got our 15 dollar card and started playing! There are many games… fortune, abilities, arcade, quiz, races… and to play you have to swipe your card and it takes the credits from there. Then when you win you get your points, they give you hundreds of tickets!

After the games, when your credit is over you can go to the gift shop (or whatever you wanna call it) and exchange your tickets for gifts! There are all sort of stupid things: stuffed animals, tees, bracelets, candies, toys… And it's so exciting!! The first time I was there, I had around 260 points, and I thought it was enough! Well… not! The smallest stuffed animal was like 350 points so I got a super-mini monkey that farts when you push its belly! How cool is that! But this time I got better and I had 470 points. So I came back home with a mini Frisbee, a mini baseball ball and a lovely Yankees teddy bear. 

Definitely you have to spend quite a lot of money to get a good item. However, I recommend this place to have some fun with friends because it really works! There are many exciting things to do there. I saw some banners that said they have combos with dinner + game card for around $15 which is not bad! You can check out the website here. It was a nice evening and what's best, we got to meet new people in the school. All of them with different and interesting backgrounds, which sounds like a lot of fun to me! 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Great Experience

Welcome to Berkeley College Life! First of all, a little bit about myself. I'm a student from Barcelona who moved to New York a few months ago. I spent the last year living in Estonia as an exchange student. I'm majoring in International Business at Berkeley College. Before that, I studied Advertising and Public Relations back in Barcelona. My biggest passion is traveling and learning about other cultures. I've been in many places around the world and it just makes me want to discover more and more. Which is the reason why I recently joined the Model UN program at Berkeley, a project I'm really excited about!

I'm blogging because I love writing. In addition, I am a very active person. I always find something interesting to do in the city, so I will have many things to tell! I will be writing about my life at Berkeley, the Model UN program, whatever interesting happens in the city and anything that has to do with this great experience I'm living. You are more than welcome to post any comment, suggestion or question you might have.

This is already my sixth week of classes. I can finally say I feel home in New York City. I walk through midtown every morning to go to school. It makes me wake up with such a positive energy! Yesterday I had a meeting with the UN Club to talk about the Model UN project. We just started and this is the first time the college is participating, so we start from zero! We will know soon what is our country, I can't wait for that. Even though it will be a lot of work, I think it's going to be a great experience for me since it fits perfectly with what I want to do with my career. Besides it's a nice opportunity for networking and, why not, having fun!

Have a nice rainy day!