Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

Hey everyone! Yesterday there was no class because of the celebration of the Memorial Day, which is always the last Monday of May. I'm still a bit lost with the national holidays in the US, because they usually don't match the ones back home. Even Mother's Day is on a different date in Spain. It is always nice to learn about the celebrations Americans have and to understand why I have a free day. For those who are in the same situation, let me sum up what I've found about the memorial day.

What is it? The website http://www.usmemorialday.org says that "Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service." There's an interesting article about it in the same website, you can check it here

The Memorial Day was everywhere in the media. I checked the channel of the popular Youtuber, Philip de Franco, who talked about it. Philip brought some controversial issues that happen in the country regarding how the government takes care of the soldiers that I hadn't heard about. Check this episode here, he talks about it in the first minutes:

Besides the controversies that I can't talk about because I don't have enough knowledge about it, he and all the people speaking about it, made me think how grateful Americans are to the soldiers. I know that, in general, people in my country don't care that much about anything that has to do with military things. However, this day here is very big.

After knowing how important the day is for this country, I wondered what people do to celebrate it. I looked for it in Answers.com and found that statement: "On Memorial Day, many Americans gather with friends and family for barbecues, get-togethers or local parades. Some display their American flag outside their home or car, especially for the day and visit graves of deceased relatives." Moreover, there were a lot of things going on in the city. Heather Cross wrote an article about the day in the travel guide "About.com" pointing out the main events that happen every year in New York:

Memorial Day Events in New York City
  • Fleet Week has a variety of events over the Memorial Day weekend.
  • Intrepid Memorial Day Commemoration Ceremony from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the SummerStage in Central Park
  • Memorial Day Parade from 12 to 2 p.m. at Broadway and Dyckman, in Manhattan
Now I regret I didn't search about it before because I could have done a lot! Anyways, I had a very nice day. I had planned to spend the day in Coney Island with some friends, but since the weather predictions weren't that good, we decided to postpone it and hang out around the High Line park area, which is so nice at this time of the year!

    I hope you all enjoyed the extra weekend day! See you soon and good luck with week 9!

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Barcelona Weekend

    \Hey everyone! This weekend has been a good one for Barcelona's soccer team, or as we call it: Barça. I can say I felt as if I was back home for a while because of the match. As I've said many times, soccer (or football, as we call it) is a huge thing back home. This weekend a very important sporting event took place in England, the final of the European Champions League. The two finalists were Barça and Manchester United. Guess who won... Barcelona! I'm not the biggest fan of soccer, but I go crazy when it comes to F.C. Barcelona. Let me share with you some of my Barça pride.

    To be honest, I think I started feeling more passionate about it ever since I moved away from Spain. When I was in Tallinn I very much enjoyed watching the matches, especially the tough ones. It somehow made me feel home for an hour and a half. Now that I'm here in New York, it's the same thing. First of all, because anywhere I go to watch the match, I will find Spanish people for granted. Moreover, I feel like these players are representing my homeland and trying to make the millions of Barça supporters proud.

    Last time I spoke about watching a soccer match was in a Catalan restaurant in SoHo. This time we stayed at a friend's place to avoid the massive crowd. The bars where Barça supporters usually gather were really packed up. Considering how hot it was outside, it wouldn't have felt very good to be lost in the crowd. Instead of struggling to see the screen in a bar, we had a lot of fun in my friend's lounge by ourselves with no one between us and the TV. Moreover, the place is located in the rooftop of a building in Midtown Manhattan, which has amazing views over the city... It couldn't get better than that!

    Wait... yes it could get better and it did: Barça won! The final score was 3-1 and all the goals were amazing (included the Manchester United one). It was very funny to see my friends so euphoric about that, because it brought me back to the atmosphere I had in my town with my father and my brother. These two are the biggest fans in the house, and I'm sure they did enjoy that one. It felt good to see the name of my city in the newspapers over here, and to find out that they were not speaking about any economic recession whatsoever. For once, it was all good news! I was very happy to see how good all the critics were with the team. I even saw that The New York Times suggested that Barcelona could be one of the best teams in soccer history!

    The following day there was a big celebration in Barcelona. The players arrived and had a tour through the main streets to greet all the supporters. Finally, they arrived to the stadium, where a big party was held. I followed that through online TV, which made me feel once again as if I was back home. However, the night wouldn't end in the stadium for most of the players. Shakira happened to be performing in the city that night, and she also happens to be dating one of the most popular players, Gerard Piqué. This one announced that he and his team mates would be attending the concert. Even if Shakira started the concer one hour later than it was supposed to start, she got half of the team to get on the stage with her and dance. It was kind of fun to see, you can check it out in this video:

    I hope you enjoyed the match if you watched it. If not, I encourage you to follow the next season, because it is very exciting! See you soon!

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Native American Rights at a Crossroads

    Yesterday I attended another event with the National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals (NCCLP). The event took place at the National Museum of the American Indian, a very beautiful place! The event was described as "a discussion with Native American rights attorney James W. Zion and Cecelia Belone (Navajo), President of the National Indian Youth Council." A few days ago I blogged about how interested I was in the history of this country and about the series of documentaries "The Story of Us". This event gave me a new perspective concerning what happened with the native Americans. It was very interesting because we heard Cecelia Belone, who could speak from first hand and James W. Zion, who has a great experience in the topic. As an international business student, and international student myself, I'm very concerned on how some cultures make an impact in some others. This event was very enriching and gave me a lot of food for thought. 

    James W. Zion is an attorney who has written in Veredict, the publication by the NCCLP. He was very passionate about the Native Americans and his speech blew my mind. At some point in the discussion, he pointed out how Spain, my country, had "contributed" to the natives culture. Well, I must admit I was shocked when he said that in 1550 there was a debate in Valladolid, a city in Spain, to determine whether the natives where human or not. What's more, they decided that the American Indians would be very useful for slavery, and that they could use their lands!

    James W. Zion
    I liked hearing what my country did over here. As it used to happen with many other colonies, the Spanish arrived to the "new world" (meaning the America of those times) and wanted a big piece of this pie. It might seem like it was too long ago, but it scares me to think that there were people like you and I thinking about other people as if they were simple machinery equipment. Zion's speech was really breath taking.

    Cecelia Belona, President of the National Indian Youth Council

    The other great speech of the evening was made by Cecelia Belone (Navajo), President of the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC), who had a lot to tell us about the topic. She advocates for the American Indians in a very passionate way. The organization she is president of, was founded in 1961, 50 years ago. If you're interested about it, you can visit the official website: http://www.niyc-alb.org/.

    Mission Statement of the organization: "To provide and ensure that every Native American person has an equal opportunity to participate, excel and become a viable member and asset to his/her community. By providing access to education, health care, social service, employment, housing, leadership in government and economic development this will insure their dignity and self-respect."
    It was a very interesting evening. Considering how much I love learning about other cultures, I definitely enjoyed and learned a lot of things about the American Indian culture (or cultures!). What's more, the surroundings of the museum are just beautiful. It's located by Battery Park, which is great at this time of the year. I'm going to leave a few pictures from the walk I had around there after the event. 

    Enjoy the long weekend! See you soon!

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    It's Healthy Week!

    Yesterday I was walking through Times Square to get a train after school when I found a cool NBC event going on. It was the "Healthy at NBCU" and it was a lot of fun. Even though Times Square gets a little bit annoying with all the crowd, it always surprises me! This time, the event was something I hadn't seen before and I'm glad that the healthy movement becomes more and more popular in the city. I've heard many times how foreigners see Americans as very unhealthy people, especially because they think Americans eat junk food all the time. However, after being here for such a long time, I can say being healthy is quite an obsession for many New Yorkers, and it is possible to have a healthy lifestyle here.

    Nevertheless, it is true that there are many unhealthy "temptations" around the city. This is why NBCU had this initiative to make people aware of how important it is to take care of our health. According to the official website, "Healthy at NBCU is NBC Universal’s unprecedented initiative to provide viewers with the information and inspiration they need to take positive steps toward better health and wellness." There are other companies involved as well, I saw some posters sponsored by Walgreens.

    The channel is releasing a lot of news related to the health issue, special programs and healthy tips. However, what I saw was the life event at Times Square, which had a bunch of interesting things going on. First of all, when I got close to it, a host gave me a funny plastic spring as a souvenir and explained me what was going on. The thing that caught my eye the most was the "Step-a-thon", which are the stairs you can see in the picture. Visitors are encourage to walk up the stairs. Every step has a sensor, and every time someone steps on it, NBC sends a certain amount of money to a charity. They didn't specify how much and to which charity it would go, but of course I did it! I felt kind of silly walking up and down in the middle of the square, but since everyone was doing the same, it was actually funny!

    There were also activities for children, with a trainer encouraging everyone to exercise there in the middle of Times Square. However, it doesn't end there. They even created an app for smartphones exclusively for the event. It's called "iGohealthy" and it's a game which has a lot of information about how to live in a healthy way. It's a way to learn some healthy tips in a very entertaining way. If you're interested in this topic, I recommend you to have a look at the website: http://www.healthyatnbcu.com/. They have gathered a lot of information and it's very well classified. You can read about diet, fitness... and many other topics related to the health issue.

    The marketing department of the company is doing a great job. After learning so much about social responsibility at school, I saw how NBC is really working on it. I'm very interested in that part of business, because it proves how big companies can make a positive influence in society. At least it convinced me to make an effort and eat less pizza and more salads! Take care of yourselves and enjoy the summery weather that finally arrived to the city! See you soon!

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    America the Story of Us

    Hey everyone! I know the American students already know a lot about it, but for the international ones, do you know how America and the US were born? I studied world history at school, but I never really got into detail about America. However, since I'm living here now, I'm very interested in knowing what people did to make this country what it is today. I just found a great way to have a picture of the history of the country in a very entertaining way. It is not reading, even though there are awesome books about it. It's a series of documentaries called "America: The Story of Us" and it was broadcasted in the History channel. 

    I have only watched the first episodes so far, and I'm really amazed about it. The production is amazing. There are 12 episodes of about one hour each, and they include the highlights from the times of the English colonies to the last decade. I'm really addicted to it and can't stop watching them. I think it is very important for us, the foreigners who come here, to understand what this country has been through. So far, I learned about how it was born, and it has given me the chance to understand why the "American dream" exists and where this idea comes from. 

    The episodes are not like a narration read from a book. They are a recreation of what happened. There are actors playing roles of big figures in the American history. There are also great animations and special effects that makes it look very real. Moreover, according to the reviews I have read from history experts, they are very accurate. Let me give you the link with the official website: http://www.history.com/shows/america-the-story-of-us, where you will find a lot of information about it and a detailed episode guide. Check out the trailer of the show:

    If you have the History channel, I know they still air the show (you could check the schedule). If not, I would say the best way to watch it is through Netflix, as I'm doing, because they have all the episodes there. However, it is possible to order it in Amazon.com, where you might find the DVD package for less than $20. Great money value! Finally, you can directly order it from the website I posted in the paragraph above, where you will also find a link to download it through iTunes. 

    Now, I'm sure for many American students this series will lack of many things. Nevertheless, I see it as an overview of the history of this country. Of course it won't equal to study history during years and years, but it's a great thing to start with. As I said, I felt the need to know the meaning of the country I'm living in right now, and this show is giving me a lot of answers! I hope you enjoy it if you watch it. See you soon!

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Yoga to the People

    What to do in a rainy weekend in the city? Well, after the super-long winter I've just passed in the city, I now know how to spend my free time during the rainy days (just like the last ones... when was the last day we saw the sun in NYC? I can't remember!). I think one of the best options is yoga. The practice of yoga is very popular over here, and there are many options to do it. For students like myself, who aren't willing to spend large amounts of money and commit to a regular course, there is a great place in the East Village. "Yoga to the People" is a donations based studio located at 12, Saint Mark's Pl. 

    The great thing about this studio, besides from how affordable it is, is that you don't need to be an expert to participate. There are many people attending the yoga classes, and all of them have different levels. No one will care if you can't maintain a pose, what is important is to discover your own limits and possibilities through practice. I've been there a couple of times, and I would recommend to go especially on Sunday nights, when they do candle-lit yoga. It's basically the same thing but with candle light, which makes it much more relaxing and peaceful. 

    They have a lot of classes going on throughout the week, and all of them work the same way. You don't need to make a reservation. If you want to attend any of them, you just need to arrive there about 15 minutes earlier to get a place. There are many people going, so I would recommend going as early as possible. If you don't have a mat, you can rent one there for $2. The suggested donation is $10, but you're free to chose if you want to pay more or less. Here is the regular week schedule (all classes last 60 minutes, except the specified ones):

    Monday thru Friday
    7am, 10am, 12pm, 2pm, 4:30pm 6pm, 7:30pm, 9pm
    10am, 12pm, 2pm, 5pm, 7pm
    10am, 12pm (90min), 2pm, 5pm
    7pm (candle-lit) & 8:30pm (candle-lit)

    For more information, you can check their website, where you can find more locations: http://yogatothepeople.com/new-york/

    As I said before, I'm not an expert in yoga. However, I think it's a great practice because besides from improving your physical conditions, it also affects your mind in a positive way. I cannot tell all of them, because it would be a never-ending list. Nevertheless, I can't think of a more suitable place to practice yoga than the big city. New York is very stressful by itself, and the practice of yoga reduces stress levels, anxiety and even depression risks. It is also great for students, since it improves concentration, attention and memory! 

    I hope this idea works for you in your rainy days, and let me know if you ever want to join me. It is always more fun to go with friends! Enjoy the rest of the weekend, let's hope we get some sunlight before it ends! 

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Piano in Bryant Park

    Hey everyone! I'm glad to say that we had a few hours of unexpected sunshine today. I never thought it would make me that happy. Moreover, it also makes me happy to announce that Bryant Park is back to life! Ever since they removed the ice rink, the park had been under construction. However, even though we still can't lay on the grass (because they put that there recently and needs to be adapted) there are many things going on there already. Since I was so happy that the rain stopped for a while and the sun was shining during my lunch break, I decided to have a picnic there in the nice tables they have around the park. I found something very interesting there that made me stay for a big while: a piano man! 

    The piano was located under a big umbrella in the upper terrace, surrounded by people sitting in the tables provided by the park. I hadn't heard about it until I saw it this afternoon, but Piano in Bryant Park is actually an organized activity that takes place almost every day! Later on I found out about it in the official website of the park:
    "Some of the best pianists from all over New York come to Bryant Park to play on the Piano in Bryant Park. Tap your toes to the music of Scott Joplin, the Gershwins, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, Jelly Roll Morton, and more every weekday. The custom-made piano and series has been created by Bryant Park in partnership with Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians and Sam Ash Music Stores." (http://www.bryantpark.org/plan-your-visit/piano.html)
    In that same link, you can find a detailed schedule with all the dates and the pianists performing. I love that, but what I love the most is that it's so close to the school that I can have my breaks there all the time! The hard thing is going back to class when there's so much going on there. Besides the piano concerts, there are many other things going on there. If you have a look at the schedule in the website, I'm sure you will find something you're interested in!

    I usually get updates from their blog: http://blog.bryantpark.org/. They post there any information regarding their activities. There are many things planned for this Spring/Summer, from concerts to film festivals and meetings with very influential business executives. It's a great way to discover how alive Bryant Park is. Anyways, even if you don't check the calendar, anytime you go you might find something to do. There are game tables, people playing music, WiFi connection and even a free of charge reading room. Yes, you grab a book, sit there and read. It's also great for children, because there are many donated books for kids and I think it's a great way to encourage them to read in their leisure time. 

    Here's the president of Bryant Park speaking about the park:

    Finally, and just in case I haven't convinced you yet that Bryant Park is a good option to spend your free time, there is no more smoke! I'm sorry for all the smokers that used to spend their "cigarette break" there, but very happy for people like myself that hate the smell! The new law will actually start being effective from next Monday, May 23rd. However, you can actually see the funny signs saying "Smell Flowers, Not Smoke". 

    I hope you're having a great week and that I gave you an idea on how to spend your break time if you're around Midtown Manhattan! See you soon!

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Eurotrip with Interrail Pass

    Jumping before leaving Bern
    Hey everyone! This week the weather is quite disappointing in New York. It's been raining for the whole weekend and it seems it will continue raining until the next one! However, the summer is getting closer and closer, and I've been hearing many summer plans. Some people at Berkeley are taking the summer quarter (which allows you to finish your degree faster!) and some other people take it off to enjoy the summer, which is also a nice option to be honest! Some people have asked me about traveling around Europe, and I always talk about traveling the continent by train and my adventure with Interrail. It was for sure one of the best traveling experiences I've ever had! 

    Overnight train from Frankfurt to Berlin
    The Interrail pass is a railway ticket that you can use during a period of time to travel to any of the European countries participating by train. Mine was for two weeks. It allowed me to use it 5 days during those fifteen, which means you can travel to 5 different countries. There are many other options, one to several months, unlimited, etc. For further information about it you can check the website: http://www.interrailnet.com/. It's a kind of trip you do with a backpack and 0 expectations of luxury hotel rooms. In fact, you need to be ready to sleep in a train cabinet!

    Resting after walking for hours around Frankfurt
    As far as I can remember, the ticket doesn't include the trip from your country to your first stop. What my friends and I did was to book a flight with Ryanair (the cheapest airline we have in Europe that I really miss in America!) to Frankfurt, Germany, our starting point. To me, the best thing about Interrail is traveling without plans. We arrived to the first city without knowing where we would spend the night! Our initial plan was to spend two days in every city, which would mean taking an overnight train to save the money of a hostel and the following night sleeping in a youth hostel in the city. However, when Eurotriping, plans change a lot! The first night we didn't find any place to stay in Frankfurt, and our train to Berlin was leaving early in the morning, so we slept at the train station!

    Looking for a place to stay from the train station
    Once we arrived to Berlin, we developed a strategy so that we wouldn't have to stay at any train station any more (it was February and for 6 Spanish people it was definitely cold!). Once we arrived to a city, we would find Internet connection and we would book our seats in the train and a hostel room for the following country. That way, when we arrived to the rest of cities we visited (Berlin, Prague, Wien and Bern) we already knew where we had to go! Nevertheless, it didn't work out all the times and in some cities (like in Bern) we had to be a little bit more adventurous.

    Amazed by the snowy landscape in Bern
    Doing this kind of trips is a huge experience. Even if we only spend 2 days in each country (except in Germany, where we spent 4 days because we had so much stuff to see!) we had enough time to see a lot of things and enjoy ourselves. I have a lot of memories from that trip that my friends and I will never forget. Sleeping in a train, visiting a concentration camp in Germany, drinking hot wine in a boat around Prague, seeing snow in Bern, not understanding a German train supervisor yelling at us, missing the train to go back home and having to cross France by local trains to get closer to our border... definitely an amazing adventure!

    If you check in the internet, there are many recommended routes that you can do around Europe by train. Since it's a very popular and affordable way of traveling for young students, there are plenty of reviews and tips. I absolutely recommend having a look at it if you plan to go to Europe, because you will see it with different eyes and for sure you will have a lot of fun while learning from such an experience. Now, enjoy the rainy week! See you soon!

    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Eurovision Song Contest 2011

    The Eurovision Song Contest 2011 took place last night in Germany. Some of you might know what this show is about, but for those who are not from Europe let me introduce you one of the biggest music events in our continent. Before telling you about what happened this year, here's the description of the show by Wikipedia:

    "The Eurovision Song Contest (French: Concours Eurovision de la Chanson) is an annual competition held among active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular song in the competition. The Contest has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programmes in the world. It is also one of the most-watched non-sporting events in the world, with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally."
    Even though the contest has changed a lot in the last decade, I still like to watch it. There are many controversies regarding the voting processes and the music not being live (except from the vocals). Moreover, many people criticize the fact that the show is not about the songs anymore but about how spectacular the show is. Which I think is a natural evolution of the industry, people need more than a good song, they need a performance that make them go "wow" and vote. I also like it because it's somehow like a sporting event, where you gather with your people in front of the TV to see what your match (in this case your country) does. 25 countries perform in an incredible stage, then each of the participant countries communicates the vote results to the rest of Europe. Each country gives 12 different points (from 1 to 12) and at the end, the country that gets the biggest amount of votes wins, which means the contest will be held in that country for the next edition. 

    This year, the winner was Azerbaijan. Here's the performance that got them to the first position:

    Many people say that this contest is all about politics and voting the neighbors or the countries you like. However, I think in the last years the winners really deserved it. It's about popular music, having a catchy song that gets you from the first time and presenting it in a surprising way. My country, Spain, wasn't so lucky this time. I'm not sure I liked the song for the festival. Moreover it was in Spanish, and we are the only country in Europe that speaks that language. Many countries have decided to perform in English, so that everyone understands the songs. Nevertheless, some other countries and Eurovision fans don't want the countries to sing in a language other than their own. It's a little bit controversial, but I don't think music should care about the language. I wouldn't mind being represented by a performer singing in English, French or Russian. Here's the performance of my country:

    As I said, I'm not sure I liked it, but everyone has a different taste and we had to try! I actually supported Estonia. I guess I'm in love with that tiny country since I lived there. However, I think the song was very nice and appropriate for the show. The song is very catchy and I think the stage was fun and entertaining. I don't understand how they were in the 24th position! It's quite a nice show and the singer is lovely. I would have loved to hear her singing in Estonia, but I understand they chose to sing in English. Of course, my vote would have been biased! Have a look at the performance by Getter Jaani:

    I hope you enjoyed the clips! Now it's time to go back to the midterms that I still have. Have a great week (starting week 7 tomorrow!) even though the weather is going to be quite sad these days... The weather forecast says it will rain during the whole week in the city! See you soon!

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Housing in Manhattan

    Views to the New Yorker Hotel from the Olivia Building
    We are already in the last part of the Spring quarter, and so the summer plans begin to arise. One of the most annoying issues for me about living in New York is housing. Everyone knows it's very expensive, but it is also very complicated! I receive many questions about it. Now that I start looking for a place to stay next year with my friends, I thought it was a good moment to talk about it. There are some points to consider before deciding where to stay if you plan to live in the city. First of all, New York is much more than Manhattan. However, my school and everything I do is in this neighborhood and, even though you can save a lot of money, I prefer staying in Manhattan at the moment. Therefore, everything I know is about living here, which I reckon won't apply to other neighborhoods like Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem or Bronx.

    There are several options for housing in Manhattan. The ones I considered were: living in a students dorm, renting a single room in a shared apartment or rent a full apartment and find people to share it with. There are some others like renting a studio, living in a hotel or setting up a tent at Central Park (but I honestly wouldn't do the last one). Finding an apartment is quite complicated. The way I did was spending hours at craigslist.com looking for adds. My advise is to look for as many adds as possible and contact all of them. However, there might be some scams, so never pay or give your data away without meeting the owner/broker. In that particular website, you can choose what option you want (room share, apartment...). Many adds will actually be posted by real state companies. Anyways, the best you can do is to contact them and let them show you the place.

    Manhattan views from the Google office in NYC

    The figure of the broker is an essential point here. A broker is the person that mediates between you and the owner of the apartment. There are many brokers in New York, and they are always willing to help you / slash willing to persuade you to rent their apartments. It is very difficult to find a place without a broker, especially when you want something specific like a certain area, budget or number of rooms. They do a good job on that, they will show as many apartments as you want. The bad side is that there is a 95% possibility they will charge you a broker fee, which is usually a month rent or more.

    Another thing to have in mind is that to rent an apartment being a student, you will need a guarantor. This is a big issue for international students, because the guarantor has to be American. Moreover, they usually ask the guarantor to make XX times the month rent a year. For example, in the last building I visited they ask the guarantor to make 48 times a month's rent. Let's say it was $4,200/month, that makes $201,600, which means the guarantor should make at least that amount every year and prove it. The numbers are not always like this. There might be buildings that ask for less or even for nothing. But a guarantor is usually required. What do international students do? Well, if there is no one in America that could be your guarantor, then there is a company that offers an insurance for your rent. You have to pay a certain amount and then they act as your guarantor. It should be around the price of one month's rent, but it depends. You can check it out here: http://www.insurent.com/.

    Last but not least, there are a couple of things to have in mind with the lease. Usually the real state companies will want you to sign a lease for at least one year. It is quite difficult to find apartments for less than 12 months. This is to have in mind when your stay is shorter than a year, because I guess you don't want to be paying a house you're not living in. Finally, some apartments are advertised as 3 bedrooms and then you go to see them and they are actually just 2. This happens a lot, because they consider them "convertible". When an apartment has 3 actual bedrooms it will say "true 3 bedroom". Otherwise it's a "convertible 3 bedrooms". They are not bad, it just means you will need to pay an extra fee to build a wall in the living room to make a third room, which is extremely common in Manhattan. The living room will be smaller, but the rent will also be cheaper! 

    I would also like to speak about prices, but there's not much I can say since the price can vary a lot depending on what kind of housing you're looking for, how many people you're sharing it with, what area, etc. But for a single room in an apartment in Manhattan in a decent area, I would say anything lower than $1,000 is quite cheap compared to other options and anything above $1,800 starts being expensive. But then again, it really depends on many things. I hope the information was useful, you can always let me know if there is anything else you want to know. Enjoy your weekend!!

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    Man Push Cart

    Hey everyone! Last night I saw a different side of New York City from my room. This place is so diverse that it has many faces. I'm very lucky to see the nice one everyday, but the reality is that many people struggle to live here. I actually saw that part of the city from my room, thanks to the magic of Netflix! I saw the movie "Man Push Cart" in the suggestions and thought it could be interesting. Well, it definitely was. It's a very sad movie, but it's awesome at the same time. It's an independent low-budget movies, but it's the kind of movie I like to watch. It will definitely make you see the face of the concrete jungle that we don't think about when we dream of living in Manhattan.

    "Man Push Cart" tells the story of an immigrant from Pakistan who works selling coffee from a pus cart everyday in Manhattan. Through the costumers that visit him everyday to get their breakfast, we get to know about his past in his home country and why he moved to New York. His life there is quite miserable, and at some points he is hopeless. However, he wants to fight to get back his son, who is now living with his parents. It's a tough story, but there are very interesting characters and the way it's presented is brilliant. Have a look at the trailer, even though I think it doesn't make justice to the movie.

    Here's the plot of the movie by Netflix:

    "Standing on a corner in midtown Manhattan every day, a Pakistani immigrant named Ahmad sells his coffee and bagels to the fast-paced New Yorkers from a cart -- all the while harboring secrets from a tragic past. After becoming friends with local newsstand worker Noemi and a wealthy man named Mohammad, Ahmad's inner demons begin to surface in this poignant examination of personal identity in the big city from director Ramin Bahrani."
    One fact that made me love the movie even more is the girl, Noemi. When she appeared first in the movie, I found her face familiar. Then I listened to her speaking, and her accent sounded familiar. Then she introduces herself to the main character, Ahmad, and says "I'm from Spain, Barcelona." There we go, she's an actress from Barcelona that I have actually seen many times in Spanish movies and TV! Her real name is Leticia Dolera (the one in the picture on the right side). Her character in this movie is very interesting and one of the most important roles in the story. I think she makes Ahmad realize about many things and she also learns a lot from him. She's not in the same situation, she's just visiting the city for a while, yet both of them work in the same place. She's making some money working in the news stand owned by her uncle. However, Ahmad needs to sell donuts to be able to live, while she can always go back home and keep enjoying her life as a translator. Two different realities that find each other in this crazy city.

    This movie gave me a lot of food for thought. If I'm being honest, this morning when I went to get my coffer from the push cart, as I do every morning, I looked at it in a different way. Ahmad doesn't have a car, so he has to push the cart himself around the city every night to be ready in the morning. He can't afford a proper apartment, and he barely sleeps. However, he never gives up. The most interesting thing here is that he left a fascinating life behind. He used to be a very popular rock star in his home country. In fact, other Pakistanis recognize him! It made me think how life can change from nothing to everything, and from everything to nothing, so quickly. Nevertheless, even though sometimes he has no more hope, he keeps fighting to earn a better life.

    If you watch the movie, I hope you enjoy it. It's probably different from any other movie you've ever seen. It's almost like a documentary. Even though it's not happy, it's a great movie to watch and I think it deserves all the awards it won. Moreover, it's an independent production with a low budget that apparently was filmed in only 2 weeks. Imagine the huge effort! Have a great week!

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Skype Me!

    Skyping with my friends from Barcelona
    Hi everyone! I was reading the news this morning and found out that Microsoft has just announced it's going to purchase Skype. As a guy who lives thousands of miles away from home, Skype is quite a big thing for me. I use it a lot, and I'm sure all the international students do. It's a great service and, at least until now, it was free of charge. However, this event has been quite controversial among Skype users (which are hundreds of millions!).You can read the full article from The New York Times here.

    Microsoft will pay 8.5 billion dollars for the acquisition according to what I read. This crazy amount is the highest purchase Microsoft has ever done. Because of this huge investment, Skype users now wonder how Microsoft will make a profit out of it after spending such a large amount of money. Does it mean Skype won't be free anymore? Many of the reactions are also complaints about how Microsoft will make changes to the software, to adapt it to their current offer. Skype is a very functional program, and many people are afraid Microsoft will add features that will slow it down and make it more complicated. However, Microsoft didn't say anything about any of these changes. Therefore, we still don't know whether we will have to pay and if they will change it to adapt it to the "Windows" type of applications. 

    Skyping with my friends from Barcelona; Vanessa, Adam and Cati

    As I mentioned, I use Skype a lot. I'm actually thinking how much I depend on technology in my life. This kind of software makes it possible to keep in touch with your people back home in a very real way while you're in the other side of the planet. I usually speak with my friends and my family, especially my mother! It's very different from telephone, e-mail or any other kind of telecommunication because it feels somehow like you're just hanging out and talking face to face. I would say that thanks to Skype, I get much less homesick than I would without it. Of course it will not replace the feeling of being there in person, but it's the closest I can get at the moment. Moreover, in the last update a few months ago, Skype added a feature that makes it possible to make a group video call. In order to use it, there is a fee. I used the free trial week and it was actually very nice. I was in New York and I spoke to one of my friends in Barcelona, a friend that was in Italy. We could not only hear the three of us, but also see the three of us. 

    Group video call with Cati and Cristina by Skype
    Since I'm a Mac user, I hope Microsoft doesn't change our version of Skype much and that it keeps it free. According to The New York Times, Microsoft plans to "plans to expand Skype’s business and inject its voice-and-video technology across the spectrum of Microsoft products, from consumer offerings like Xbox to its Office productivity software." Anyways, I'm sure there will always be software to make video calls possible. I can't imagine myself living here without being in touch with all the people I left back home and I'm sure all the international students can relate to that. Moreover, it is used for many other purposes. For example, a lot of businesses and schools use it to make conferences since it saves time and money, and it makes it possible to communicate between different regions or countries without losing the body language part of communication.

    Now let's continue with week 6. Can you believe we are already in the middle of the Spring quarter? Because I can't. Good luck with all your midterms, which are quite of a torture considering how nice it is outside... but as one of my friends always says: no pain no gain! See you soon!

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    New York from Spanish Eyes

    There's a popular TV show back home in Spain about traveling. It's called Callejeros Viajeros. They do documentaries about the cities they visit. New York had appeared in the show before. However, a few months ago they came here to film a special edition called "Spring in New York" that will have several episodes. Cuatro, the TV station that broadcasts the show, aired the first episode tonight. I received many messages from friends back home saying they were watching it and it reminded them of me. I was surfing the Internet and found out I could watch it online. It's been a lot of fun to watch a documentary like this of the city where I live right now made by people from home. 

    If you can understand Spanish (or maybe you like how it sounds!) you may want to watch the documentary. Here's the link to watch it online: http://play.cuatro.com/directo//portada/callejeros-viajeros/ver/primavera-en-nueva-york-1

    I enjoy a lot this kind of shows, because it feels somehow like traveling from home (well, not that much, but you know what I mean!). However, with this episode it has been different. I haven't seen the New York that I know. Then I understand that everyone perceives every place in a different way. Especially in a place like New York City, where two different people living in the same street might feel like if they were living in two completely different worlds. The show consists of a reporter following different people who live in the city. Usually, they are very eccentric people so that the show is fun to watch!

    Most of the followed people in this episode coincide with the idea that most of the people have a love-hate feeling for the city, which I agree with. It's such a huge place, where everything happens so fast that if you have a good day, you feel like it's the best; but when you have a bad one, it's even worse! The city has many faces. It is also reflected in the documentary. Many of the followed people are rich people living in fancy apartments in Park Avenue, while there are also many homeless in the city. To be exact, the reporters say there are 50,000 homeless people in New York right now! This is such a crazy figure. Nevertheless, you see people spending hundreds of dollars on a single dinner!

    It was funny that there is someone I know in the show! He's a promoter for Marquee club and I have entered there with him just like the people in the episode do. Nightlife in New York is fun, but very very expensive. That's why young people usually enter to clubs with promoters. They work for the clubs and their mission is to bring young people to the club so that it has a pleasant crowd for the people who actually pay, but this is not all! If you enter with a promoter, not only you enter for free but you also belong to one of the tables with free drinks so that you stay. This means that entering without a promoter you may have to pay around $40 cover charge, plus $18 for a drink... while if you enter with them, everything is free! But keep this as a secret before it gets too good to be true.

    If you watch the show, I hope you enjoy it! I definitely did, even though I don't think this is the city I see. I just hope my people back home who watch the show don't think I live like these people that appeared! :) Have a good start of week 6... See you soon!

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals Gala

    Hi! Yesterday I volunteered for the National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals (NCCLP) gala, and I had a great time! I got the opportunity from a fellow student, Sofia, who told me about it. The gala had the purpose of appreciating their devoted time to the attorneys and the people who collaborate with the organization. It was very interesting to learn about the organization and see what they do. Moreover, the night was fantastic. It was in a very nice place in SoHo, nice food, live music and great speeches and guests. 

    The National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals is an organization that offers aid, advisement and means regarding legal issues for low-income workers who can't afford it. There are many people contribute, from attorneys to artists, delicatessens, designers, printers and professional services. This gala was to thank and appreciate all these contributions, and it turned out to be a very enjoyable event.

    The location was very beautiful. It took place at the Scholastic House in SoHo. Scholastic, which is also a very philanthropic organization, donated a roof top room for the event (you can check about it here: http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/index.jsp). The views over the city were amazing! When I arrived in the afternoon, they were setting up the tables, decorating the room, receiving the food, etc. It was very nice to see how coordinated they are and how many businesses contributed for the event (for example Chipotle, Jamba Juice...). The manager told each of us what our task was, and the group was big enough to make it easy to get everything done. I was happy to see many Berkeley College students there!

    The guests started arriving around 6:30pm. At the entrance, everyone got a name tag, which I thought was very nice! You could see everyone's name on it. Once all the guests were there, the band started playing and the speeches started coming up. There were speeches by the organization members and the sponsors. All of them had something to say regarding the success and enthusiasm of NCCLP and the legal situation for those with economic problems in this country.

    After all the speakers were done, people were invited to stay and mingle. I met so many interesting people with great ideas. Since I'm a business major (most of the other students were actually Criminal Justice majors), I usually don't pay attention to the legal issues. However, it applies to everything and it is very important to be concerned about it. I hope I will participate more with NCCLP, for those who might be interested there's a telephone contact you can call and ask for further information: (212) 791-1364.

    Once again, I had another enriching experience in the city. I'm really enjoying this quarter, even though it will finish so soon! We're almost in the middle now! I hope you're all having a good week! See you soon.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    Echo by Jaume Plensa

    Hey everyone! Now that it's nice outside, many days I decide to walk back home from school instead of taking the subway. It's a very nice walk all the way down through 5th Avenue. As you may know, I love parks. Going down from school to my place I actually walk across two big ones: Madison Square Park and Union Square. In the first one, there is a new sculpture that was placed there a few weeks ago and will stay until August. I saw how they put all the pieces together, it was like if they were doing a huge 3D a puzzle, and a few days later I saw it finished. It's the head of a little girl who looks like she's daydreaming. 

    It's one of the most beautiful works of art I've seen in the city, if not the most! I've seen it many times, and I can't just pass by. I always stop and stare at it. However, I hadn't thought about checking who did it until today. It turns out that the artist is Jaume Plensa, and he is from Barcelona, my city! As I read in the official website of Madison Square Park, the sculpture is the face of a girl from the city as well. That is awesome! I have been loving this piece of art and it turns out it comes from where I'm from! This is the description of the work by the Madison Square Park Conservancy:
    "Echo, Plensa’s commission for Madison Square Park, depicts a nine-year old girl from Plensa’s Barcelona neighborhood, lost in a state of thoughts and dreams. Standing forty-four feet tall at the center of the park’s expansive Oval Lawn, Echo’s towering stature and white marble-dusted surface harmoniously reflect the historic limestone buildings that surround the park. Both monumental in size and inviting in subject, the peaceful visage of Echo creates a tranquil and introspective atmosphere amid the cacophony of central Manhattan."

    The name of the sculpture is Echo. We all know what this word means, right? right? right? right? According to the website, the sculpture refers to Echo, a loquacious nymph in Greek mythology (http://www.madisonsquarepark.org/things-to-do/calendar/jaume-plensa-in-madison-square-park). In the story, she is forced to repeat only the thoughts of others. Plensa's Echo translates "this sculptural portrait into a physical monument of the internalized voices of the thousands of daily visitors to Madison Square Park."

    Here's a video of the sculpture, I hope you enjoy it and if you have a chance, go visit it! Have a nice week!

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    A Historic Moment for the USA and the World

    Wow! I started blogging about something else tonight, when the news about Osama Bin Laden being killed started popping up. I'm still shocked about it, because this is a very important moment for the world, but specially for this country. I'm sure it's going to be on the news all the time for the next days. I remember when I first heard about Bin Laden, it was with the unfortunate 9/11 when I was about 12 years old. After such a tragedy, I understand how big this is for this nation. I guess most of the people in my country are sleeping right now, since it's about 5am there. Therefore, they will start knowing about it in a few hours when they wake up.
    Osama Bin Laden has been wanted for ages, and I still can't believe he succeeded in hiding for so long.  He was finally found. To be honest, it's been quite shocking to read about that, turn on the TV and wait for the president of the USA to speak. I'm sure most of the people in the country were sitting in front of the screen paying attention to all these words. I'm sure I will always remember this speech. 

    One of the statements by Obama that caught my attention the most was when he explained that this wasn't a war against Islam and Muslims, it was a war exclusively against Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. I think it was very important that he clarified that, because I know many people in the Islamic and Muslim community feel definitely offended when people generalize about terrorism. Last year I had the chance to live a great experience where many of my friends were Muslims, and we spent a lot of time talking about that. They feel terribly sorry that some people create stereotypes based on the terrorists that have nothing to do with representing any religion or culture.

    Obama also said that "American people didn't chose this fight", which is also a strong statement. I can feel how tonight this country is unified again. I've seen images of the outside of the White House, and it's full of Americans reacting to the news. It happened with the 9/11 attack and it's happening right now. All the TV channels are discussing about it, and I'm sure it will keep going on like that for the rest of the week as more news and details are released.

    Of course this is not the end of the fight against terrorism and against al-Qaeda. This event is quite difficult to classify. First of all, I'm glad the president mentioned the families of all the losses caused by Bin Laden. I try to walk in their shoes and it doesn't seem easy. I don't think this will make them any happy, because this won't bring the loved ones back (as the president said), but it might bring some comfort. I've also heard on the news that the death of Bin Laden might also make people afraid of a retaliation. That's why the country, as the president stated, will continue reinforcing security and fighting against terrorism.