Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Break and the City

The spring break is coming to an end. Why did it happen so fast? This week, for one reason or another, I have been quite busy. However, today I felt like I was on a holiday trip in New York. I love exploring new places in the city, but to be honest with you, I also enjoy visiting the major touristic attractions from time to time. Today I had a bit of both. I had a great lunch at a Spanish restaurant (I admit it, I'm homesick), and then I took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. 

Let me tell you first about the restaurant. It's called Café Español, and it's located in Greenwich Village (172 Bleecker street). It's the first Spanish restaurant I go in the city, and I really like it. They have a great deal that includes salad or soup, a main course to chose from a big variety, a dessert, a drink to chose between sangria, wine, beer or soda, and homemade bread. All for $12 during the weekdays! Moreover, the restaurant is really cool too. They have something like a garden in the back, with a glass ceiling that was really cosy. It felt great to eat Spanish food... it has been more than 3 months since I didn't have any of it.

To be honest, I felt back home for a couple hours. Not only because of the food, but because of the feeling of sitting down with people and enjoying a long meal. In Spain we always try to have lunch and dinner with the family, we sit down and have an appetizer, a main course, a dessert... and once we're done with that, we still stay there to have a coffee or a tea and chat. The deal they have at this restaurant makes you enjoy the meal the same way we do back home. For the Spaniards in New York, I'm sure you'll enjoy it! And for those who are not from Spain, it's a nice cultural experience as well as a more than a decent slow food meal (as opposed to the popular fast food). 

After the lunch, we decided to go downtown and take the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. There are other options to visit the statue and actually be in the island where it is. However, this ferry makes a route that allows you to see it close enough, to have a fantastic view of the city's skyline and it's free of charge! The only bad thing is that the weather wasn't very nice. It's so annoying because last week it was warm and sunny, and now that Berkeley students are free, it's rainy and cold! But it was a nice thing to do. I had done the same four years ago, when I spent my summer studying English in the city. Today I had a flashback to that day. The weather, the people and even me were different this time. Who could have told me that day four years ago that today I would be doing the same once again. Moreover, I remembered the statue being much bigger and impressive than I thought it looked today.

I will try to enjoy the rest of my spring break as much as possible to have my batteries charged for the spring quarter, I hope everyone is doing the same!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Permanent Mission of Botswana to the UN

We are in the middle of the Spring break, but today the Model UN got together for something great. We've just had the opportunity to visit Botswana's permanent mission to the UN. I really thank them for letting us come and treating us so nicely. Professor Weinstein (our mentor) and Dr. John M. Rapanos (Dean of the School of Business, Berkeley College) came with us to the meeting and I also thank them to come with us representing Berkeley College there. 

I want to give a big thank you to the Minister Counsellor, Phologo Jim Gaumakwe, for answering all our questions and giving such a great presentation about his country. First of all, he gave us an overview about the situation of the country and its history. After that, he answered all our questions. As a matter of fact, we had emailed him the topics we were interested in, and he gave us information about every thing we asked. He was really prepared for this meeting, we really appreciate it.

Botswana became a nation in 1966, but the situation by that time was quite complicated. The economy there was rudimentary and they went through a lot before getting where they are today. Fortunately, Botswana has done a good job exploiting its minerals. Many of the diamonds that we see in those fancy stores in the 5th Avenue actually come from Botswana. Thanks to mining and the transparency of the government (meaning that it wasn't corrupted) the country started growing. We consider Botswana to be a middle income state at present. However, the country is still dealing with significant challenges. 

The country is still developing and growing. Unfortunately, issues like poverty, health and education need to improve. Moreover, the financial crisis of the last years have had a very negative impact that makes it even harder to overcome these challenges. It was very interesting to understand why a country like Botswana has a permanent mission at the UN. Phologo Jim Gaumakwe said "we're here to sell our country, to tell our story". Being a middle income state is not easy at all. The priority are the developing countries, so they are the main focus. However,  countries like Botswana also do need a lot of help to deal with similar issues, such as poverty and health care. Being at the UN means being close to a huge amount of countries. 

I think the country is doing a great job. At the mission they made it clear that they are fighting for its people. We talked about children. Because of AIDS, many children become orphan. The country needs to have a plan to deal with them, and they do have one. These kids receive food baskets, clothes for school and an education. This is one of the main focuses in addition to health. Because of epidemics, the country is losing skilled people. If the country loses these people,  the progress of development  slows down. It's very tough to see the statistics, but it's also a reason to work hard and find solutions. That's why being close to the UN can help. The country has the opportunity to be close to many leaders of developed countries that can offer the assistance they need.

We spoke about a lot of topics today, because each of our committees had its own questions regarding the three topics we all have. A last interesting fact I'd like to mention considering that March is the women month at Berkeley is that in the country of Botswana, there are more women at decision positions than men. However, this applies only to the privet sector and not to politics. The general feeling of the team after the meeting was great. We do feel really proud to represent Botswana, and today we felt like if we had just traveled there. It's been a honor for us to be there considering how much we have been studying about the country. It's been a fascinating meeting and definitely a huge learning experience. Once again, I really encourage you to join the next Model UN.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dancing at Lughnasa

Last night I went to see the play Dancing at Lughnasa (by Brian Friel) at the Amateur Comedy Club of The Snarks, Ltd. It was directed by Janis Powell, who has an impressive resume. I got to see it because one of my friends, a young Scottish actor student at AADA and a future Hollywood star, helped out with the play and got some tickets. I definitely enjoyed the play. Here's the plot of the play, I got it from the description of the movie based on the play that came out in 1998 in IMDb:
"A young boy tells the story of growing up in a fatherless home with his unmarried mother and four spinster aunts in 1930's Ireland. Each of the five women, different from the other in temperament and capability, is the emotional support system, although at times reluctantly, for each other, with the eldest assuming the role of a 'somewhat meddling' overseer. But then into this comes an elderly brother, a priest too senile to perform his clerical functions, who has "come home to die" after a lifetime in Africa; as well, there also arrives the boy's father, riding up on a motorcycle, only to announce that he's on his way to Spain to fight against Franco. Nevertheless, life goes on for the five sisters, although undeniably affected by the presence of the two men, they continue to cope as a close-knit unit... until something happens that disrupts the very fabric of that cohesiveness beyond repair." (IMDb)
The play really took me to the Ireland of 1936's, and I wasn't even born at that time neither have I ever  been to Ireland. Because the theater was very small and the set was really cosy, it really felt like we were siting in their kitchen with the family. It turns out that they don't have subtitles in the New York theaters, so before the show I was a little bit afraid that I wouldn't understand everything, but I'm  proud that I did!

As you can read in the plot, the story tells the life of the five sisters that are fighting together to live in that difficult decade. It was very interesting because back home I have studied about the 30's countless times. It was our civil war, and it's actually mentioned in the play, so it's one of the most important and crucial moments of the history of Spain. One of the characters, the unmarried father of the kid who tells the story, is about to leave to my country to fight against Franco. It was funny how Kate (the elder sister who was very conservative and religious) reacted to that. In fact, I think she was my favorite character in the show. She tries to keep her family as conservative as possible, but her sisters are a little bit less convinced about that. 

Have a look at the trailer of the movie based in the play from 1998. I'm trying to find it, because I think it would be nice to see how they made a movie after it! Since I'm not sure if the show is opened to the public, I recommend you to watch it or read the play.

As I'm writing this, I realize how lucky I am to be in this city. I'm having the chance to live a lot of experiences day after day. This one just adds up to the enrichment this city offers. I'm really happy to be a part of it, New York New York! :) Berkeley: enjoy the good life, still on spring vacation!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Music Business at Berkeley

The Spring break is finally here! I hope you all did well in your finals and that you are enjoying this little vacation. Even though I finished everything on Thursday, I still went to school on Friday. This time I went to attend a workshop about the music industry that was amazing! I really want to thank the Office of Student Development and Campus Life for making it happen and bringing such an expert speaker panel.

The speaker panel included Jason Raditch (from Sony Music Entertainment), Michael Glita (musician and manager, Senses Fail, Love Automatic) and Dr. Syleecia Thomson (owner of DYG Management Group and professor at Berkeley College). It was a great speaker panel, because we got different points of views and perspectives of the industry: the artist, the managers, the executive at a music label, etc. It was such a masterclass about the business side of music. I've always wanted to be involved in that industry at some point in my life, but now that I got an insight from these experts, I'm even more motivated!

I learned a lot of things about the business. The music industry has changed radically in the last decade. The companies are struggling with the album sales, and they need to make significant changes in order to keep music as a profitable business. There is a lot of people behind an artist, behind a single, an album or a concert. All these people have to be paid, as well as all the resources used to produce the music, the tours and even the cover of an album. It was very interesting to learn what are the expenses an artist must assume, how royalties work, what kinds of contract they sign and so much more. I would spend hours talking about everything I learned, but since I'm not an expert (at least, not yet!), I'm going to give you information about a book that can be a good start. Dr. Syleecia Thomson is the author of Rhythm without Blues, a book that if it's as interesting as what she said in the workshop, I'm definitely going to love. You can check more details about it here.
"This insider's narration reveals the dark side of the industry and what an artist has to go through in order to bring his or her talent to the masses. Included are over 20 unedited interviews (several anonymous) from artists, producers, lawyers, managers, and industry insiders. You'll hear from such greats as R. Kelly and Syleena Johnson, industry giants Micky "MeMpHitz" Wright of Jive Records, Brownstone's Nicci Gilbert, and others. Thompson's book serves as a teaching tool for aspiring R&B artists, novice label executives, music lovers, and is a resource for those already in the industry." (Amazon)
As you can see, the workshop was very interesting. I got a bunch of useful pieces of advice that actually apply to everything and, most of all, I got a lot of motivation to keep learning and learning. It's great to see how what I'm studying now can lead me to work in things I feel passionate about. Once again, thanks Berkeley for organizing this kind of events! I hope you all are enjoying the Spring break, see you soon!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Somewhere in Brooklyn

Even though Manhattan is an awesome place, it is definitely a very stressful neighborhood to live. Being in the heart of the city during the finals week is not as nice as you might think. That's why I decided to run away from this craziness for a while and take some breathe for my last final, the accounting exam! I spent the afternoon in Brooklyn, walking around Prospect Park. I had never been there before. Actually, the only place I had seen in Brooklyn is the Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is quite like Manhattan. I really liked that part of the city. I enjoyed the quietness that I miss from time to time in my neighborhood.

I took the F subway from my stop (Broadway-Lafayette) and in about 20 minutes or less I was in front of Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Once I stepped out of the subway, I already felt like in a different city. It has nothing to do with the crazy streets of Manhattan. It was quite a nice day today and it felt nice enough to be walking around. The park is just beautiful. It is very similar to Central Park (it was actually designed by the same architect), but this one is not surrounded by crazy skyscrapers. Have a look at the official website, they have a lot of activities going on! Check it here:

"Prospect Park is a 585-acre urban oasis located in the heart of Brooklyn, New York City’s most populous borough. The masterpiece of famed landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who also designed Central Park, Prospect Park features the 90-acre Long Meadow, the 60-acre Lake and Brooklyn’s only forest. The nation’s first urban Audubon Center, the Prospect Park Zoo, and the Celebrate Brooklyn! Performing Arts Festival are just a few of the cultural attractions that make their home here at the Park."
Walking around the park felt so peaceful. As you can see in the official description, the park has a lot of features, just as Central Park does. The streets that surround the park are very nice as well. For people who live there it is maybe not that calmed, but coming from the hustle and bustle of the city, it was definitely enjoyable! Walking from the subway stop to the end of the park brought us to the public library of Brooklyn, the central building. The building itself is amazing! It has a huge entrance, it's quite impressive. You can get information about it in the following link: For those who live in the area, I'm sure this is a nice spot to study! 

My friend and I kept walking around the neighborhood. You can feel that the people are not as stressed as they are back in Manhattan. I was happy to have a lot of free space to move around the side walk! There are also tones of places to hang out, restaurants, bars, shops, movies... Moreover, we found a mall! To me, the mall is a very American thing. However, there isn't any mall in Manhattan! A mall is a place where you go to hang out, where you can find bowling, movies, shops, restaurants and bars all in the same building. Well, I guess the whole district of Manhattan is a mall itself, but it was nice to see a real one. 

It was a very nice afternoon and I will definitely keep exploring that area as soon as the weather gets better. I'm afraid it won't happen in the upcoming days, though. First of all, the finals are going to get all my attention as soon as I finish this blog. If it wasn't enough, the weather forecast says it's going to snow for the following three days. What's wrong with the weather guys?! Anyways, I hope you are all doing well in the exams, and getting ready to enjoy the Spring break. Have a great week!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Equinox and Winter Quarter Finals

Today we are officially in Spring. I can tell it not only because it's warmer and some days it's actually sunny, but also because of people's mood in the street. They look happy! I really like this season. Spring and Autumn are my favorites, because they bring a lot of changes after such a long time of cold weather before Spring and warm before Autumn. However, Berkeley College students need a few more days to start enjoying the Spring season, because we are in the finals week! I've had a lot of exams so far... and I know some people struggle with this period. I have learned how to manage to do well in the exams without going crazy, and I'd like to share what I think about it.

  • First of all, I think the most important thing is managing your time. We all know when we have the exams and we should be able to figure out how long it's going to take us to get ready for each of them. You don't want to rush the night before!
  • Once I have planned when I'm going to study, I make sure I know what contents will be on the exam. Usually the professors tell the students what chapters are on the exam. However, it's always worth it to ask them what specific parts will actually be in the exam, you won't lose anything for asking. 
  • Then you need to collect the material you need. It's one of the most important parts of the preparation for a test, since you might have missed a class or a handout. It's a good idea to do it with some time in advance, so that you can ask for notes or whatever you are missing.
  • Figuring out what type of exam it is can help you save some time. For example, if it's a multiple choice test, I would spend less time trying to learn how to express myself about a certain topic and more time reading over and over the chapters to understand the content. 
  • Once everything is ready, it's time to start! Find a place where you can study and commit yourself to do it. I usually go to the library, because I have 0 distractions there. If I stay home, I know I will first do my laundry, then tidy my room and even clean my windows before I even open the books!

Everyone has a different way of studying, but what helps me the most is mind mapping. I believe that studying shouldn't be equal to memorizing a text book. I think we need to understand the concepts, then it's easy to explain it or find the right answer. To do so, I worked out that mind mapping is the best way for my brain to store the information. I use key words and link them. These visual links help me organize the ideas so that I can recall them easily on the exam day. However, other people might prefer writing essays, summaries or just reading the chapters.

Of course there are some things we shouldn't forget, like keep eating well (which I know is difficult in the finals period, specially if you live in this crazy city). Another thing is not rushing to study the minutes after the exam. I used to do that and it only makes you more confused. Now I just try to relax, I might even read a magazine before the exam starts. I wish you all the best luck for the exams, it's the last effort before the Spring break!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Green Day

In my last blog I wrote about how Saint Patrick's day would be in the city. Now that I've already seen it with my eyes, I feel like I have to tell what it actually was for José Navarro. It wasn't at all like I expected it to be, which is somehow funny. From the time I woke up to the minute I fell asleep at night that day, I saw nothing but people wearing green clothes. It was crazy! I think I can compare the atmosphere the city had with the atmosphere in Madrid when Spain won the soccer world cup last summer. To be honest, it was annoying in the morning, but I ended up loving it!

The worst part of the day was actually the beginning. As we all know, we are in the end of the quarter and getting ready for the finals, so I had quite important lectures going on that morning. I tried to get to school from 5th Avenue but the crowd wouldn't allow me to cross the street! The thing is that the parade started one block right after the campus, so everything was closed. I had class at 11:40am and the parade had started at 11am. I had to convince one of the cops that I was a student at Berkeley College and I needed to cross the street. The most shocking thing was getting off the subway and seeing crazy amounts of people already drunk so early in the morning. Moreover, most of these people were teenagers. I'm pretty sure they weren't even 18! They were screaming like if they were to see a football match. Everyone was Irish! However, I had to get to school, and that was annoying.Then in the lunch break, the day was so beautiful that we decided to have it at Bryant Park and get some sun. But it was quite an adventure to get there!

Once my classes were over and I could actually enjoy the day as the rest of city was doing, Saint Patrick's day looked much nicer. The atmosphere was still crazy everywhere. No one could tell me what kind of traditions people do to celebrate the day except from going out and having a beer at a pub. However, everyone seemed to be very happy and having fun, which is actually a good thing after all. My friends and I went to an Irish place called Mc Gees, around 55th street and Broadway, which I actually knew from before because it's the bar where How I Met Your Mother's bar is based on! (I'm a huge fan of that TV show). The place was obviously packed up, and everyone was wearing funny green stuff to make clear what day it was.

We decided to move Downtown, where usually the atmosphere is cooler for young people. It was a lot of fun. We did some pub crawling, which means going from place to place. All the bars became Irish pubs, seriously there were Irish references everywhere! The only bad point is that after dinner we tried to enter to some of those places, but they started asking for a cover charge, which was quite annoying. We ended up in a very nice bar, where we usually hang out and everything worked out. We were all wearing green clothes, which actually makes you feel part of it, even if I've never been to Ireland! Except one of my friends, who is actually Scottish and was wearing a kilt. It's always fun when he wears it (and he likes doing it a lot!) because people get very impressed with that. There are many funny comments like "are you Scottish? Is that somewhere in Ireland?" or whenever people say he's wearing a skirt. Just in case, don't you ever say to a Scotsman that he is wearing a skirt, keep in mind that it's a kilt. Finally, why would people care of the meaning and history of the kilt? What everyone wonders is if they really wear it without underwear! 

It was a good day and I had all the fun I needed after such a week at school! It's not impossible to keep up with the work and taking benefits from the fun part of the city at the same time. I'm so lucky I didn't have class on Friday. I must say we have a similar day in the part of Spain I come from. It's called Sant Joan and we celebrate that on the 24th of April. We actually do have some traditions like making big fires on the beach, but the atmosphere of people wanting to have fun is exactly the same. I hope you all enjoyed the day as much as I did and work hard for the finals!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saint Patrick's Day 2011

Hi everyone! How is week 11 going? These days have been crazy, but I guess it's normal since we are almost at the end of the quarter. First of all, there was a cool event today at school (in the SAC) after classes. It was a club mixer and it sounds like they had a lot of fun! Because of the crazy school situation I could only be there for a few minutes at the beginning and had to leave, but you can check  pictures in the Facebook pages! Moreover, the city is in such party mood that it makes it even more difficult to focus on my books. The thing is that tomorrow it's Saint Patrick's day, and for the last couple of weeks, New York City has been getting ready for tomorrow! It's impossible to walk two blocks and not finding an Irish flag, a leaf or something green as a tribute to the day. I had no idea this celebration was so big here in the US!

The day is a tribute to the death of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. All the Irish around the world (and even people who doesn't have Irish heritage) celebrate the day. The theme can be anything green or Irish. There are celebrations all around the world, not only in Ireland. As a matter of fact, the most common thing for cities around the world is to hold a parade. There is a huge parade going on tomorrow in the city, where I wish I could go if I didn't have class! It starts at 11am from 44th Street and 5th Avenue and goes all the way up until 83rd Street. Well, maybe in my lunch break since it's close to the school!
New York City
250th Saint Patrick's Day Parade '11
Thursday March 17th 2011
"On the streets of New York since 1762 - the oldest, largest, and best in the world" The parade marches up 5th Avenue, clan by clan.
The Parade starts at 44th Street at 11 am and is held every March 17th, except when March 17th falls on a Sunday, it is celebrated the day before, Saturday the 16th because of religious observances.
The parade marches up Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street all the way up past the American Irish Historical Society at 83rd and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 83rd Street to 86th Street, where the parade finishes around 4:30 - 5:00 pm

More information about other areas in the US here (

The quantity of events going on tomorrow is insane! It's so weird to feel that the whole city is throwing such a party while we will be at school preparing for the finals. I found a website where they have links to all the events divided by the different areas of the city. Have a look at it, but I warn you it's quite overwhelming! I wouldn't know what to chose! That's the link: However, I wouldn't have a headache deciding what to do, because if you walk across any street in any area you fancy, you are going to find an Irish bar for sure. The city is packed up with Irish pubs, in fact I'm afraid there are more Irish pubs than Starbucks and McDonald's together! Be sure all of them will have any kind of special deal for today, and most of what I've seen runs for the whole day. Go there and try some Irish specialties, a couple of Guinness pints perhaps?  

Now time to get back to work. I'm very motivated to be productive today so that I can have time tomorrow evening to have a walk around and see how is the atmosphere! I hope you all find the time to enjoy it, happy Saint Patrick's day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Immigrant Experience in New York

This afternoon I attended a presentation by Pat Stabile at Berkeley entitled "The Immigrant Experience: Then & Now". It was about the life of an immigrant in early 20th Century in New York City. I was very interested in this topic, because even moving here from Barcelona has been a big impact for me, then for people who did it a couple hundred years ago it must have been incredibly tougher. The presentation was very informative and entertaining at the same time. I learned many things I didn't know and it's always a pleasure to hear someone talking about a topic which is passionate about, and Professor Stabile really knows about the subject.

In the early 20th Century, people started arriving to New York hoping for a better life. The first big group were Germans, followed by Irish,  Jews, Italians, Latinos, and the most recent were Asians. Obviously, moving here meant having expectations of better life conditions. However, what they found when they moved wasn't as nice. They had to live in what is called tenements, located in the Lower East Side of the city (which wasn't even closer to the way it looks nowadays). A ridiculously small apartment for the whole family (which used to be quite numerous) without toilet, ventilation, and sometimes they didn't even have a single window. We have been told that there is a museum in the Lower East Side that shows tenements just as they were. It seems like a very interesting thing to do and I will definitely go sometime. Here's the address if you want to check it out:

The immigrants at that time had to live a hard time. The living conditions were really poor. To start with, they did not have heater or ventilation. Which means they would freeze in winter and suffer hot temperatures in the summer. Moreover, they didn't have warm water. They had to warm it up in the morning using the coal or wood burning kitchens, which would help them warm up in the winter, but make them live in a hell on Earth during summertime. Can you imagine waking up and the first thing you have to do is to go outside to get water from a pump? They also had to do food shopping every single day, because there was no refrigeration systems to store it. Moreover, most of the people would bake their own bread. 

Life was hard specially for women. Professor Stabile focused a lot on this particular part of the presentation, because this is the Women History Month. If a woman was married to a wealthy man at that time, most probable she would stay home. It was prestigious for a man to be able to maintain a woman at home. She wouldn't even have to worry about children or housework, because they would have service for that. However, the immigrant women had to carry on with housework, family and, on top of that, they had to work long hour shifts in factories six days a week. That's how it used to work in these social groups at that time.

One of the main difficulties these people had to face was the lack of hygiene. There wasn't garbage pick-up, so all the garbage would go through the window (and all garbage means every single thing a human generates). They didn't have a bath whatsoever, so they would usually wash their bodies once a week (to go to Church, or wherever according to everyone's religion).  Clothes were also dirty, because laundry was a hard thing to do as we can imagine. They would have two sets of clothes, one for every day and one for Church. The tenements (the flats where they lived) weren't a hygienic place to live neither. As a matter of fact, to make them look fancy they would use wallpapers. To stick the wallpapers they would use flour and water, which was the perfect meal for cockroaches. They had rats, mice and insects infestations and extermination services didn't exist. 

Health was a big issue as well. It's kind of funny/sad to think that the healthiest people were those who drunk beer instead of water, because beer was at least pasteurized while water was full of things you would not like to drink. The child mortality was very high, half of the born children would die very young. People wouldn't usually die older than in their 40's. The main diseases that caused death were diarrhea and TB. They could not afford any kind of treatment for these, so they would waste their time and suffer to death. 

However, most of them worked really hard and did move up. When they became prosper, they would move uptown and the following immigrant group would now live in their place. I was quite shock when I saw how hard the conditions were here at that time. And I was shocked because I wonder how hard your life must be to be willing to give up everything to go to another continent to live in such conditions. Of course they didn't really know how they life would be here when they moved, but most of them came just with a set of clothes and a cooking pot. Moving at that time would be like for us right now to move to Mars. There was no way to keep in touch with anyone they left behind. They didn't have access to any communication technology and they weren't able to read or write. However, all of them had hope. They came here, worked hard and were able to give education to their families. I think it's a fascinating part of history and it also makes me very sad to think that in many places in the world they are still living in similar conditions. I hope all of them have the same hope these people had.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

UNESCO Conference at the United Nations

Last Friday I attended a forum at the United Nations by the UNESCO. The title of the forum was "Building Peace: Reconciliation through the Power of Education, the Sciences, Culture and Communication". First of all I would like to thank Jodie Hirsch (Career Counselor from Berkeley College) for making it happen. It was certainly one of the most motivating experiences I've had in the city and probably ever. I've been working so much on the United Nations that being there in a real conference was just like a dream. Even more considering the guests and the members of the high panel that would take part in the forum. I also want to mention that this experience made me realized how much I've learn during the time I've been here, specially since I joined the Model UN program. I'm sure if I had attend this event last year, I would have been lost and wouldn't have understood everything. However, not only did I understand it but I also followed it with a lot of passion. I was really interested in what was going on and very happy to be there, at the United Nations in New York City.

I arrived in the afternoon, and just being there in front of the building was so exciting. Then I went through the security, which was the same you find in the airports, and met the other students. We were ready to go! The conference lasted around 3 hours. During all that time I got more food for thought than I do in a whole month. The best part of it was the chance to hear such important people speaking directly to you. I would spend hours and hours giving details of every part of the conversation, because I actually took notes like crazy of everything that was being said. But I'm going to try to sum it up with some quotes and thoughts that made a click on my brain. 

To start with, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, was there himself! He opened the event with a great speech (of course!). It was great to see such an important person there in front of me and hear from him that "peace is everyone's responsibility", something I definitely agree with. Then the host, Femi Oke, presented the fantastic high panel and the conversation began. It was opened with a documentary by Forest Whitaker, an actor that besides that, he is such an incredible man and has done a lot of humanitarian work. I truly admire him after all I heard from his mouth.

The whole thing was about how education, culture and communication can make possible reconciliation and peace in the world. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri (Saudi Arabia, Director-General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) said that education "eliminates barriers and misconceptions". He made me think about the verb "tolerate". Tolerating doesn't solve the issue of reconciliation, we don't have to tolerate someone who is different, we have to accept. He also stated that youth is the future, and noticed that a big part of the room was composed by young people. However, even if youth may lack some experience than "adults" have, I don't think it's correct to say we are the future. I believe we are also the present, which is actually what other participants said.

I really believe that education has a lot to do with peace. As a matter of fact, Ivonne A-Baki (UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and former Minister of Foreign Trade of Ecuador) explained how people in Ecuador "were raised to hate" Peru. Ivonne told us how she would hate Peru, because they had stolen their land, while Peruvians wouldn't even know about it. To solve the problem, a group of Ecuadorians and Peruvians were asked to sit together in a rounded table. They would sit down next to a person from the other country and then they would exchange their roles. Peruvians would become Ecuadorians and these would become Peruvians. She pointed out how walking in others' shoes helped solving the problem. Another thing she mentioned was how important creativity is to solve such issues. 

There were many artists in the room, like Omer Zülfu Livaneli (writer, musician and film director from Turkey) who explained how important is the artistic approach to reach peace. He was one of the founders of the Turkish - Greek Friendship Association (because these two countries have had many cultural conflicts) and he said he was seen as a traitor in his country. However, when he got Greek and Turkish people together at a concert to sing, they all forgot their differences. It all worked out. This is just an example of how art is important, "because artists have a sensible brain". Chen Kaige (film director from China) pointed out that "school kills imagination". He said that school only cares about exams, memorizing the subjects and results. I think he was trying to say that school should rather motivate students to be more creative and passionate.

Discussing about how school should be, reminds of what Vihakha Desai said: "we need education, but what type of education? Being literate is not enough". This is also a main issue. Saying that education will bring peace is not completely truth. The world needs an education and a culture that teaches empathy, equality, respect to each other, collaboration and sense of community. To me, this is the main point of the whole conference. It is clear that the world needs more education, but the kind of education received is what matters. The conversation kept going on for a long time about the topic, and also about how religion and culture affect in these matters. I could keep going for hours and hours discussing about the topic.

Finally, I'd like to mention that out of all the places in the world, there was a speaker from Barcelona. It made me so proud, because it was Meghann Aurea Villanueva (Director of the Peace and Human Rights programme of the Fundació Catalunya Voluntaria). She was a young lady who stood up for young people and also said that we are not only the future, but also the present, which she can perfectly prove. Once the forum was closed, I had the opportunity to hang out around the building thanks to my friend , and fellow team mate at the Model UN, Mrs. Wilches, who is interning there (how awesome it is!). She showed me around, and I was literally like a child in a candy shop. What a fantastic day! I have to stop myself, because I'm now realizing how many things we talked about in the forum and I would just go on and on with writing. I hope you all are having a great weekend!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Position Papers for the Model UN

This week we have been working a lot in the Model UN. We have to send our position papers by next week, so we have been working a lot on our topics. It's the hardest part of the whole thing, but it's actually the part where we get to really know what we are talking about. As I mentioned some weeks ago, I'm in the committee of the African Development Bank with my classmate Lisa. We are very happy with our committee because we are dealing with very important issues. I'm going to share a little bit of each topic and the position of our country, Botswana, so that you can see what we are working on in the Model UN program and what we're focused on. These are the three topics we are dealing with and our position as a country.

Fostering Clean Water Supply and Sanitation
Botswana is dedicated to increase the focus of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Policy (adopted in 2000) on the water sector in order to help assist regional member countries achieve their goals regarding poverty reduction and economic growth. We believe that the IWRM has the potential for contributing to the other Millennium Development Goals regarding: poverty, health, education, and gender. We believe the lack of clean water is a very significant obstacle for development, because it’s the main reason why infections and diarrhoeal diseases are still affecting the population drastically. Our country supports the Water and Sanitation Department (OWAS), established in 2006, to continue providing an institutional focus for water sector activities in the Bank, with its main focus on increasing water supply and sanitation financing, and targeting primarily the poorest 65% of population living in rural areas. Compared to other sectors financed by the AfDB, the amount of water sector operations and the associated financing in the last five years have increased. Botswana endorses the activities undertaken by the Multi-Donor Water Partnership Program (MDWPP), which has the participation of Netherlands (since 2002), and the Canadian and Danish governments (since 2006). The objective of the WPP is to assist the operations of the Bank’s IWRM Policy and to enhance its awareness.

Promoting Gender Equality by Increasing Women Entrepreneur’s Participation in Business 
 Botswana endorses the Beijing Declaration in fostering women’s entrepreneurship as a tool for economic growth through ensuring equal access to employment, equal wages and equal control over productive resources. We believe that the promotion of gender equality and female entrepreneurship mainstreaming will facilitate the eradication of poverty and creation of better infrastructure and therefore promote sustainable growth and development, as well as beneficial integration into the global economy. Botswana is dedicated to halt the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process through the adoption of the Human Rights of Women Protocol (1981) which calls for the protection of women’s rights concerning health issues as well was social and economic rights. Botswana urges member states to follow the “Millennium Development Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women”, established by the United Nations in 2006. We encourage member states to endorse the elimination of obstacles preventing women from seeking to support themselves and their families independent of male control. 
Increasing Access to Healthcare in the Region  
Botswana believes that the continent of Africa needs assistance with facing the existing difficulties to establish and guarantee common access to healthcare for Africa. Our country believes that the main focus should be the control of diseases like HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, since those represent the biggest obstacle in overcoming healthcare needs in the continent. Botswana endorses the urgency of promoting primary health care and national health services, because the difficult access to these services implies more poverty in the continent. We support the African Development Bank on “assisting to bring better access to healthcare to peoples in Africa, since its overarching objective is to spur sustainable economic development and social progress in its regional member countries, thus contributing to poverty reduction”. Botswana believes that health problems are linked with development ones. The population needs health care to reach freedom and further rights. Our country is dedicated to find a way for countries inside and outside the continent to cooperate in promoting access to the health services.

Having worked on the three topics that will be discussed in the debates, we feel much more prepared. However, we are still a team made up of people from different places. Non of us is a native English speaker, which means we need to work on our vocabulary. Now that we are done with the position, we just need to train, train and train. Plus great events are coming up! First of all, tomorrow we are going to a conference by the UNESCO at the actual United Nations building. I can't wait for that! And then, during our spring break, we will meet with the permanent mission of Botswana. This is a huge help for us. We will meet the people we are taking roles from! It seems we are on track now and I'm feeling very confident that we are prepared to have a good time in the Model UN in April. I hope you had a great week, and enjoy your weekend starting tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March at Berkeley

The end of the quarter is really close now. I can feel the tension in all my subjects. Some of them will be pretty much over by next week, with some finals left for the twelfth week. However, while navigating between these crazy amounts of work, there are cool things to do during this month at school. These days we've had a "Culture Shock" event at school, with the South Asian Student Association, where people from other cultures have been selling food and accessories like bracelets or scarfs. Some students even got henna tattoos. Another event that sounds like a lot of fun and I unfortunately missed was the "Berkeley Troops 1st Annual Indoor Paintball Trip". Anyways, if you missed those, you're still on time to attend what's coming next!

First of all, this is the Women's History Month, so tomorrow there's a Women's History Month Trivia at the SAC (43rd Street, NYC Campus) during the club hour. Hey, there will be food and prizes!

This Friday I'm attending an event that is probably the one I've been more excited about so far. We have been invited by the UNESCO to a Forum on "Building Peace: Reconciliation Through the Power of Education, The Sciences and Culture and Communication". The Forum will take place in the actual building of the United Nations. Do I need to say anything else? Yes! The guests are genuinely impressive. They include people like Irina Bokova (Director-General of UNESCO ) or Forest Whitaker (Artist, Film Director and Producer) and so many more! That's what the invitation says:

"The Forum is organized on the occasion of the meeting of the UNESCO High Panel on Peace and Dialogue among Cultures, and will also mark the conclusion of the 2010 International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures and the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). This event is generously supported by the Permanent Delegation of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO."

Next Monday there's a presentation by Pat Stabile (who already gave a presentation in my English class about plagiarism and research paper techniques) called "The Immigrant Experience: Then & Now". It sounds very interesting and, of course, very appealing to an international student like myself. She will talk about the life of an immigrant in the New York City of the early 20th century. It will take place in the SAC (NYC Campus, 43rd St.) at 12:00pm. 

Finally, I wanted to talk about an event that sounds amazing. I've always said it would be a dream at some point in my life to work for a company that has anything to do with the music industry. BAM! The school has an event entitled "Making it in the Music Business" for the end of the quarter, which works out perfectly since it's on Friday, after the finals. It will take place at the SAC (NYC Campus 43rd St) on March 25th at 12:00pm. There will be experts talking to the students. An expert panel that includes people from Heavy Rotation and Sony Music!

It's being a nice month, isn't it? One last thing, this week the Dean's List and the President's List have been published. I think it's so nice of Berkeley to recognize the achievements of the students in such a way. There wasn't such a thing at my university back home, and it is actually really motivating. Congratulations to all of you who made it to the lists! I hope you find something nice to do these weeks to distract your mind from the exams and good luck with the last sprint!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fusion 2011 (Parsons vs. FIT)

Another weekend is gone, but this has been a good one! Saturday was sunny, warm and it felt very nice to be outside. The weather today was terrible, it's been raining cats and dogs. However, it's been quite convenient, because it forced me to stay all day in catching up with my homework. Then I felt free at night to attend a nice event. One of my friends was modeling for a fashion runway and he invited me to the show, so there I was! It was the Fusion 2011, with designers from Parsons The New School For Design and the FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology).

I'm honestly not really into the fashion world. As a matter of fact, I enjoy myself wearing  my old clothes. I have shirts, jeans and sweaters from more than 2 years ago! The older they are, the more comfortable I feel. However, I did enjoy this event regardless of my poor fashion culture. Fashion is everywhere in New York City, you can't avoid it. Once here I realized how creative all these people are. To me, it's just another way of art, just like painting on canvas or writing a symphony. The Fusion 2011 event was very inspiring, because the 30 designers that were participating were actually students from the best two American fashion schools (Parsons and FIT), and guess what? They were my age and younger! (18-21 years old). If they had told me these were designs by famous fashion people, I would have believed it!

You can check the official website of this yearly event here. This is not a regular runway show, since it's more of a competition between both schools, which makes it really exciting. See how it's described in the official website: 

"Fusion Fashion Show is an annual competition between The Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons The New School for Design's brightest young talent. Fifteen undergraduate students from each school (any major is eligible, though most of our contestants come from Fashion Design) are chosen to represent their school with a collection of five looks on the runway.
The show has grown exponentially over the past eleven years, accumulating a world-wide following of fans. Featured in magazines from New York to Tokyo, this climactic presentation of innovative new ideas constructed with limited resources and experience gets more thrilling to behold each time around.
Our past judge panels include some of the most prestigious names in the industry, and as Fusion grows, more and more influentials have stepped in to inspire and support the next generation of fashion elite."

 When the host told the audience that the designers were young students from both schools, I actually thought they wouldn't be able to have such high quality designs. I couldn't have been more wrong!! These kids are just amazing. Most of the designs were fresh, surprising and looked great. How is it possible that they are so talented if they just started college? These were clearly talented people. You can see the list of the 15 designers from each school in this link, click here. I'm sure most of them are going to make it very far in the fashion industry. 

One of the big things in this competition is that the judges are very important people in the fashion world. As I mentioned, I'm not into the fashion thing, so I barely knew who they are. But I knew what Victoria's Secret is, and the designer was one of them. Plus I know what Teen Vogue is, and the editor was there as well. I'm sure the designers were really happy and proud to be judged by such a team. This is the list of all five members:

Mary Kate Steinmiller - Teen Vogue
David Yassky - Stylist and creator of
Todd Thomas - Designer, Victoria's Secret
Daniel Feld - Designer and Project Runway alum
Peter Davis - Editor-at-large, Paper Magazine

I don't want to leave without mentioning the winners! There were 3 categories: best designer in Parsons, best designer in the FIT and best overall school. The winner in Parsons was Victoria Hayes (the name of her collection is "It's Not a Competition Girls"); the winner in the FIT was Wonki Lee (with the collection "Industrial Art: The Elegance of Mechanization"); and the best overall school was the FIT. Finally, I must also mention how great my friend Ernesto was! That's him in the picture above this paragraph, even though the quality of the image is poor because I took it with my phone and there was too much light. It's such a cool feeling to see someone you actually know up there in the spotlight. I hope you all had a good weekend and good luck with week 10! Wow, sounds crazy... 2 more weeks and we're already in the finals!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Last night I went to the opening of "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" a very beautiful art gallery with the last artworks on canvas and photography of Anna Coroneo, an Australian artist. It's the second time I visit a gallery of her and I've loved both of them. The first one was "An Endless Summer" and took place last fall. I wrote a post about it in my previous blog, you can check it here.

This time the gallery was a bit different from the one in fall, it wasn't so colorful. However, it was still making you feel alive, as happened in the other one. The title of the gallery plays with the concept of her artworks on canvas. Here you can see some examples, they look amazing. It's funny how a bunch of nicely done letters can say so much.  

It took place in the Gallery District, in the heart of Chelsea. This neighborhood is really exciting. Most of the buildings are actually warehouses converted into art galleries for young artists. It makes a great atmosphere. You walk around there and find very fancy art galleries next to a garage or gas station. It's by the west riverside and it's always alive. No matter what time of the year, but every time I've been around there I've found something interesting to do. 

Back to this exhibition, I will post a few pictures I took here. However, I recommend you to visit the website of the artist where you will find more material and information about her work.  Visit it here: One thing that I found very interesting is that she links her artwork with fashion. As a matter of fact, the artist was there and she was wearing a dress with an artwork that was on a canvas as well. You can check her fashion designs in the website I just mentioned.These are some of my favorite pieces in the gallery:

As an art lover I feel very happy to be in New York, because it is so easy to have access to such a huge variety of forms of art, different styles, different backgrounds... And I recommend you all to visit the gallery district because there's always something to see. Moreover, if you walk back to Chelsea (around 9th avenue) it is full of nice places to eat, I actually had great Sushi last night after the dinner and we found it by chance! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Brooklyn Bridge

Last Saturday was a very beautiful day. It was sunny and it wasn't as cold as the rest of the week, so I went for a very nice walk across the Brooklyn Bridge with a couple of friends. First time I came to New York, I went to the Brooklyn Bridge park, but I had never walked across the actual bridge. After more than half year living here, I guess it was about time to do it. Now I can say this is one of my favorite walks in the whole city, even though I still have so much to explore. 

We took the subway to High Street stop (A and C trains), which is the closest to the bridge and the park. As I said, the day was beautiful so we decided to spend sometime in the park before crossing the river to the other side. The park goes all over the riverside close to the bridge. It's actually bigger than I remembered! Now that the weather is finally calming down, it's starts getting greener. If you go there, I recommend you to have a look at the official website of the park: They have a great project which isn't finished yet, you can see what they're doing and what they plan to do. I have also been there at night. I would say the night scene is much more spectacular than during the day time, because at night you can see all the lights in the skyline of Manhattan and it looks awesome.

The best thing you can do while visiting the park is eating an ice cream from the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory! It's a small cute house right by the bridge where you can get delicious ice creams starting from $5. You can check the menu and everything they have here: It was really good! It's the first ice cream I have outdoors this year, you can't imagine how happy that made me. Anyways, the best of the park are the views and the quietness you get while looking at the crazy Manhattan skyline. We even saw a wedding right there, how cool is that to get married in the Brooklyn Bridge! The only issue is that you can't access the bridge from the park and you have to walk all the way back to enter. However,  I think the neighborhood is really nice and it's worth a walk around there.

The view of Manhattan from the bridge is breathtaking. Once we started walking across the bridge, I realized of something. It's very easy to forget where you are. I have been dreaming about living in New York City for so many years, and now that I actually live here, most of the time I'm not even aware. When I stepped back and looked at Manhattan from outside I got the thought "wow, I actually live there in the middle!". While living in Manhattan everything is so crazy and stressful that sometimes it's easy to forget how great it is. When I saw it from the outside I couldn't help feeling lucky and happy. I recommend all of you to do this walk if possible, it gave me a lot of positive energy! I'll upload a couple of pictures of the views:

Have a nice week!