Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jet Lag, Again

Hey everyone! I'm finally home, it feels great to be in Spain! It's been an awfully long journey, it took me over 26 hours to get to my house in the lovely town of Blanes, Spain. It felt really nice to be back here. Everything is still the same. It's like if this place was frozen went I left and it just melt down. Talking about melting down, it's also really hot here! I had forgotten how summertime was in Barcelona!

It's really late (or early) and I should be sleeping. However, my internal clock didn't travel with me, it's still in the US and I can't fall asleep! That's the jet lag. Even though I have crossed the ocean several times already, it's always the same. There are 6 hours ahead in Spain, which means by the time I wake up here, I would be going to bed back in New York. When it's time to go to sleep, I'm not sleepy, so I keep turning around and around until I finally sleep, which is usually very close to the time I should be waking up. 

It doesn't only affect to the sleeping habits, but also to eating. For example, right now I should be sleeping in Spain. I already had dinner and I shouldn't be eating anymore. Nevertheless, something inside of me is saying EAT EAT EAT! And I'm actually starving! Am I going crazy? Hopefully not. As far as I know, an average person recovers from jet lag 1 hour a day. Which means that, having 6 hours difference between New York and Barcelona, it will take me about 6 days to adapt to this time zone.

Jet lag may affect you depending on many factors. One of them is the direction of your journey. Flying from North to South in the same time zone (or the other way around) is usually easier, because you always remain in the same time. The worst one is flying West to East (for example, from the USA to Spain). It's the worst direction because you "lose" time. Your meals, your bedtime, etc. are pushed several hours ahead, and that causes discomfort to your body and even to your mind (it can also affect your mood!). Flying East to West might also make you suffer jet lag, but it's not as bad. It always takes me more time to adapt to the new time zone when I come back here than when I fly to New York. 

Is there anything you can do to avoid jet lag? I found a few tips that help you cope with jet lag. Some of them are very general, like staying in shape (which works for everything). Nevertheless, there are some precise tips that might make a difference.

It is very important to avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages before the flight, during the flight, and after. These substances modify and disrupt your sleeping times, which will make it more difficult for you to adapt to the new time zone. 

If you're going to spend a long time in the destination, a good idea would be changing your schedule before your trip. For example, in my case, since I'm going from West to East, I should have started pushing my schedule back a few weeks before the trip. I should have gone to sleep a bit later than I usually do, eating later as well, etc. However, depending on your responsibilities, it is not always possible. 

During the flight you should start worrying about it. Drink a lot of water, so that your body keeps fully hydrated. If it's a long flight, move around the plane every couple hours, since this will help your blood circulation. Finally, wear comfortable clothes. Don't worry about the looks in an airplane, everyone is to busy thinking of their destination to appreciate your brand new dress. It's important to wear clothes that won't bother you while sitting there for such a long time. 

Once you arrive, the best you can do is to adapt to the local schedule. Eat whichever meal they are having at the time you arrive, rather than continue with the schedule from your departure time zone. Try to go to bed, even if you're not sleepy, according to the local time in your destination. 

Finally, get out of wherever you are and get some sunlight! It's very important, since the light will affect your internal clock a lot. It tells your body that it should be functioning in "daytime mode". When you stay in dark, your body produces a hormone that makes you feel sleepy, which you don't want in the middle of the day. If your body detects daylight, you won't feel that much sleepy.

One more thing I would add is to use pharmaceutical products wisely. Be very careful with sleeping pills and similar things! I personally use them only as the last source, when I really need them. Further information: http://www.medicinenet.com/jet_lag

Now it's time for me to have breakfast, even though I haven't slept more than 4 hours... But hey, I'll have time to sleep on the beach later! :D I hope you're all having a great summer break, enjoy your earned holidays!!

Monday, June 27, 2011

I'm Leaving Today

Hey everyone. Just a warning before you continue reading this post, this is gonna be quite cheesy. As you can read in the title, and I'm not singing Frank Sinatra's famous song, I'm just about to leave the city. I'm not leaving for good, of course, I'll be back soon enough! But still, I'll be in Spain for a couple of months before I come back here, which means this is the end of my first year in New York. Since it's only my first year, I'm going to take the summer quarter off, and I will catch up with school once I'm back. For those who are not studying at Berkeley, we have quarters instead of semesters and it's very flexible! You can choose to take a quarter off, or to take online courses (which I think I will do for next summer). However, I wouldn't recommend doing what I'm doing if you want to get your degree sooner, because if you keep taking four quarters a year, you get your bachelor in only three years. Anyways, It's been a great weekend in the city, and I still have many things to tell about New York!



However, now that I have my room empty and all my stuff packed up in two suitcases (which was such a challenge), there are a lot of memories running through my head. What an incredible year just passed by. When I look back, I feel like it's been much more than just one year. However, it passed so fast that it seems like yesterday when I was landing in JFK scared to death!


Living in New York was in my head for many years, actually you can't imagine how young I was when I started dreaming about it! So this year meant a lot to me. Even in those days when you're not in the mood for anything and you're a bit down, I looked through the window and just seeing the city made me happy. However, before coming here I had many worries. I was afraid I wouldn't fit in, which after all that has happened sounds ridiculous to me! And I was also afraid of not being able to adapt to an American school, which is even more ridiculous, because it's been great since day one. Not only I didn't have problems with the language, but I also enjoyed being a student here and I have learned a lot. And I mean it.


Apart from school, this experience has allowed me to grow in many other aspects. Being far from your loved ones is not easy, but sometimes this extreme independence makes you stronger. I have gone through a lot of good and bad things, it's like a condensed soup... had I stayed back home, all these things would take place in many years time, however here everything came in just 10 months! I appreciate every single minute I have spent here and must thank to everyone that was part of it. I'll be back soon, but this is the end of the first phase. Once I come back, everything will be different, and I'm hopping for the better! I will move to a different location and will share an apartment with friends, which sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun.



Now it's time to go back home and see all the people I've been missing here. I am very excited about that, because last time I was there it was too quick. However, getting there will be a huge adventure... I booked my flight too late (big mistake), and now I have to fly to Germany first. Once I get there, which will be after a long 8-hour flight, I will have to wait 10 hours until my next flight takes off! But this one will take my to Barcelona, where I will be landing some time tomorrow. The whole thing will take around 23 hours... so I have a huge bag full of books, earplugs to sleep and many movies on my computer. If anyone happens to be around Dusseldorf tomorrow morning, come hang out with me in the airport, it will be fun!
I'll keep up the blog once in Spain, see you soon!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York Dyke March 2011

Hey everyone! This was quite unexpected. I was hanging out at Washington Square this afternoon when I started hearing a lot of noise coming from 5th Avenue. Suddenly, the square was full of women dancing, carrying posters, waving rainbow flags and dancing. I had no idea what was going on, and I'm sure many other people neither. However, they all seemed quite happy and cheerful. At first I thought it was a demonstration for gay rights, but then why would there be only women? Well, then I read the posters and understood more about it. Even though it wasn't until I got home and looked it up when I realized it was the New York Dyke March for this year.


First, let's see what this is all about:
"Dyke March is a mostly lesbian-led and inclusive gathering and protest march much like the original gay pride parades and marches. They usually occur the Friday or Saturday before LGBT pride parades and larger metropolitan areas have related events (parties, benefits, dances) both before and after the event to further develop community often targeting specific community segments (older women, bar events, arts, parenting groups, etc.) The purpose of a Dyke March is to increase lesbian visibility and activism and they have grown to be more inclusive of all women-loving-women regardless of labels as well as bisexuals, intersex and transgender persons.
 New York City's Dyke March is another beloved tradition. In the 1970s, separate Lesbian Pride marches were held, for several years, but they did not become a continuous tradition. The Dyke March was renewed by the NY Chapter of the Lesbian Avengers in June 1993 (after the success of the Dyke March in Washington).
On the Saturday before Pride, lesbians gather in Bryant Park as they prepare to march down Fifth Avenue towards Washington Square Park. The Dyke March is open to all self-identified women. Because of this, men have been asked to stand on the sidewalks and cheer on the marchers. As with the San Francisco Dyke March, the organizers do not seek out a permit, and put a high emphasis on the political. Even though there are many club nights and parties after the March, the event is not so much about entertainment as it is about highlighting the presence of self-identified women within the LGBTQI community. Each year approximately 15,000 women attend this monumental event." (Link here)
 
Now it makes much more sense that all those women were doing that. It was very peaceful, and most of the people were actually happy rather than angry. I think it's much more effective to demonstrate like that than using violence. That way, they got people to listen to them. Even TV cameras were around. I must say that what caught the attention of most of the people in the park was that some of the girls decided to jump inside the fountain and take their clothes off. Actually, that's when the TV cameras arrived! 


This whole weekend there have been many news concerning gay rights. Not only the gay pride is taking place in the city, but also gay marriage became legal a couple of days ago! To me it's quite surprising that it took so long in such an advanced country, because it's been legal in my country for several years already. In any case, I'm glad that all these events take place in a peaceful way and, as far as I'm concerned, there haven't been any violent incidents. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Done!

Hey! Wow! I just finished all my exams, I'm finally done with the spring quarter, which means that my first year at Berkeley College is over! I can't believe it went by so fast, it's ridiculous. It seems like it was yesterday when I was doing my Accuplacer test in the computer lab at school to figure out my class schedule, and here I am now. Even though I must admit I'm having a blast in new york and this whole experience is incredible, I'm very excited to go back home! This year I could only go back for a few days during the Christmas holidays, but it was so short that I didn't even have time to recover from the jet lag thing! Moreover, that was six months ago, so obviously I'm really excited about going back home for summer vacation.

How did everyone do in the exams? I hope you all got what you expected! Do you ever think about the importance of the GPA? (Grade Point Average). In my previous academic experiences in Europe, the GPA wasn't as important as it is here. In fact, I still have no idea what my GPA was over there. The grades in Barcelona are very different, not only the grading system (we don't use letter grades), but also the value of it. I would say that the important thing there was to "pass". Good grades are only for outstanding students. However, I came here and the system is very different.

In the letter grading system, failing means having an F (one of my biggest fears!). However, I would say getting a E or even a D is not so satisfactory. Because the studying system is also very different, I feel like an A is much more achievable here. I would say it's way fairer. In Barcelona, to get the equivalent of an A I had to struggle to get everything beyond perfect. However, I think an A means achieving all the academic objectives that each course had. Of course, you need to put a lot more effort to get an A than a B, but still, if you do all the work, extra credit, attend lessons, do well in the exams... the A is possible most of the times (there are always exceptions).

However, it is not always so easy to get an A or a B. Some subjects are more difficult than others, depending on your abilities. Here's when I start worrying about the GPA figure. As I said, in Barcelona we don't really use it that much, we don't even put in the résumé. However, in a class I had where we had to prepare our own résumés here, we were told to put it, because employers do look at it. Now, I don't think it is very important to employers, as long as it's not so bad. Of course, it is not the only thing they will look, and a good GPA won't get you a job by itself. Then why should we take the GPA so seriously?

A GPA can be a great tool, specially in a country like the US, to get accepted in schools. It is going to be a big issue if you are trying to access to a master degree, for example. Not only it can give you access to a certain school, but it can also make you eligible for financial aid. Moreover, there are many scholarships out there for grad students to continue their education. Guess what? The most important quality to get them is to have a good GPA. 

I found an interesting article that speaks about the importance of the GPA nowadays:

"The bottom line is a GPA matters but other things in combination with an average to above average GPA do as well. It is one's own choice how much his or her GPA matters. For people who let it defeat them, it matters a lot."
Download the article here:
http://msdadmin.scican.net/mhs/mhs_area_artesian%20herald/Artesian%20Herald%20Volumes/20092010/issue_4/MHSA13-BW-1111.pdf


I personally see the grades a teacher give as the salary for a student. I do my work and I want to get paid what I deserve. I take the results very seriously because, firs of all, I want to continue my education and I know a good GPA will provide better opportunities, and then because it's the minimum I can do for the people who are supporting me in this huge investment. Having said that, I wouldn't recommend to obsess much about the GPA thing. There are many other things you need to focus on to have a successful career, but this is definitely something to keep in mind!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Danger of Procrastinating

Hey everyone! How is the finals week going? I'm sure many of you will feel identified with this post. Now that we need to focus on our final exams, don't you feel like tiding your room? cleaning the window? organizing the book shelf? cooking? painting your walls? Stop procrastinating!

"In psychology, procrastination refers to the act of replacing high-priority actions with tasks of low-priority, and thus putting off important tasks to a later time. Some psychologists cite such behavior as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision. Other psychologists indicate that anxiety is just as likely to get people to start working early as late and the focus should be impulsiveness. That is, anxiety will cause people to delay only if they are impulsive." (link here)
Even if I can't complain about my results so far, many times I find it hard to concentrate on studying as the exams get closer. In one of those nights, I started researching about that, about procrastinating. I ended up wasting valuable hours that I could have used to prepare my exams, but I did get some information! There's a very interesting website, mindtools.com, with lots of tips about how to avoid it. Watch the video they made about it:


In the video you will find three steps to avoid procrastination: first of all they tell you to recognize that you're procrastinating, then work out why you're procrastinating and finally, they give you different strategies to beat procrastination. You can read the whole think here: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_96.htm.

After so many years being a student, I think I'm getting better on it. I've realized it's mostly about motivation. Whenever I feel like tiding my room right when I have to study for something important, I force myself to sit on the chair and understand that this exam might make a lot more difference in my life than organizing my furniture. Another thing I usually do is to change location. Since there are many distractions at home, I usually take the things I need and go to the library, to a local cafe or even to the park if it's nice outside. It works for me! I also try to avoid having my laptop close to me. Yeah... Facebook is always there looking at you!

There's a funny Youtuber guy that I usually follow who talked about it too. He's Charlieissocoollike, his videos always make me laugh, but because of this particular one, I started worrying about procrastinating! This video is not as specific as the previous one, but it will make you understand what you're doing with your valuable time when you should be studying! Check it out here:

I hope you guys are not procrastinating too much. Except if you're reading my blog instead of studying, that's not procrastinating, that's very nice of you! Good luck with your finals, and think of the great summer vacation coming soon! 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Row Boats at Central Park

Hi everyone! I'm writing this post in a break from my intensive study weekend. Since last week I had friends over, I had to spend all weekend long preparing for my finals! I can't believe next week my first year will be over. It was more than fast! However, now that I got off my books for a while, let me talk about something fun. First of all, happy fathers day! It's weird that the fathers day in America is completely different than in Spain, which takes place on the 19th of March. Just in case my father reads this and wants to feel American for a while: happy fathers day daddy! 

These are my two buddies from Estonia. They spent the week in New York and we had such a blast! I enjoyed the city like we used to do in Tallinn, the capital of their country. They came in the right moment. Just before starting with the work for the finals week and when the weather in New York is the best. I had also done my work before they came, so that I could spend more time with them and had prepared a schedule for this weekend that allowed me to catch up with school (I'm proud it's working so far!).

These guys make me feel like an Erasmus student again (Erasmus is the exchange program in Europe). They also prove that stereotypes are wrong. When I arrived to Estonia two years ago, the first thing they warned me in the orientation meetings was that local people would be colder and less friendly than people from the south of Europe. Then I met these two, that prove it wrong! It's impossible not to have fun with them and I'm really happy that even though it's been a long time since I left Estonia and I hadn't seen them in a while, everything is still the same. 


Living life the way I do, from one place to an other, has its consequences. I've shared many experiences with people that I wish I could keep close to me all the time, but it's not possible. I would love to say that I'm getting used to it, but it's not true. Goodbyes are always bad, even though I've learned that true friends, as cheesy as it sounds, will always be there no matter what. Right now I'm at the point where anywhere I go, I will have someone missing. When I'm in New York I miss my family and friends from home, when I was in Estonia I missed them too, when I go back home, I miss the "other families", the ones I made in Tallinn and here in New York. Wow, it's quite a mess! However, the nice part is that many places I go, I have someone to visit! 


Anyways, this week I did stuff that I normally don't. I lived in the city as if I was a tourist again. I did things like having lunch at Hooters, taking pictures in Times Square or rowing at Central Park. The last one was a lot of fun and I'm going to recommend it to you! Even if you are living in New York and don't have anyone visiting, take your friends there and you'll have a good time. We rented a boat for one hour, and it was relatively cheap. There's a maximum of four people per boat, and it's $12, which means $3 each. We did it at the Boat House, you can check it here: http://www.thecentralparkboathouse.com/ for more information.

Have a great week, I wish you the best with your finals!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Times Square

Hi everyone! Now that my first year in New York is coming to an end, let me talk about one of the most famous spots in the city. To be honest, I don't go there very often, and I don't think the average New Yorker does neither. The reason is simple, it's always crazy crowded! I'm talking about Times Square. Even if I don't visit it that often, this square means a lot to me. The shining lights, the Broadway shows, the commercials, the crowds of tourists taking pictures, and everything that happens there is the first thing that comes to many people's mind when talking about New York City. 

International students from Berkeley College
Last week I went there many times. I had friends from Europe visiting, and many attractions of the city happen around that area. Also I went there with my fellow international students from Berkeley College, because we were filming a video for the 80th anniversary contest of the school. You're still on time to participate and you should definitely check it out! 
 
Back to Times Square, a brief introduction by Wikipedia: 
"Times Square is a major commercial intersection in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. The extended Times Square area, also called the Theatre District, consists of the blocks between Sixth and Eighth Avenues from east to west, and West 40th and West 53rd Streets from south to north, making up the western part of the commercial area of Midtown Manhattan.
Formerly named Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in April 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the newly erected Times Building, which is now called One Times Square and is the site of the annual ball drop on New Year's Eve. Times Square, nicknamed "The Crossroads of the World" and "The Great White Way," has achieved the status of an iconic world landmark and is a symbol of New York City and the United States."
I remember the first time I came to New York four years ago. I came here for the summer, to study English while having my dream of visiting the city come true for the first time. The first thing I wanted to see was Times Square. I knew exactly where it was, even though I had never been in New York before. My first day I went to school and right after it, I started walking towards 42nd Street. I will never forget how I felt there in the middle of Times Square for the first time. It was even more impressive than I had imagine. 

 
There is always something going on. I have found free live concerts by famous superstars many times (Rihanna, Ne-Yo, etc.). I've also found street markets right there in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city. Many events take place there, like the Broadway shows season kickoff, which was an event where all the musicals performed in the middle of the square. It was like a "musicals taste" and it was truly spectacular. See the video I took of the finale:  


Even if many New Yorkers complain that it's a very stressful place and that only tourists go there, it's a must! You can't come to New York and skip Times Square... it would be like going to a concert with ear plugs! There are countless things to do in the square: musicals, comedy shows, shopping, more shopping, restaurants... and what I like the most, an incredible variety of people coming from everywhere. I love sitting around there and just watch them other people walk around (I promise it's not in a creepy way!). 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Party Cruise!

Hi everyone! This is a post about fun, I'm showing you a lot of pictures because I want to share my experience at a cruise party which I loved! Yesterday was one of these days that make this experience so big for me. I had a great summer party cruise around the Hudson River. It was unbelievable! Sailing the river while having a great party with the skyline of Manhattan and the sunset! It doesn't get better than that! Wait... yes it does! We got the tickets for only $15!



We found the event at Pulsd.com, a great place to find deals in Manhattan! We were told to be at the peer at 6:30pm, and so we did. When we arrived there was quite a lot of people, but it wasn't as crowded as we expected, because it was a weekday I guess. They check our tickets and boom, we're on a boat! The boat wasn't very big, it had a nice dance floor and bar and then a terrace in the upper level. 


The DJ was playing party music, mainstream tunes most of the time, which was fun. We had a drink and some food at the beginning and then we were ready to enjoy the night! The whole thing took about 4 hours, which might seem like a lot but it was actually very fast. The route was great as well. We departed from 25th Street east and went all the way to the west and then to the Statue of Liberty, which I had never seen that close. It was crazy beautiful!




There were also people from different websites taking pictures. This happens a lot in the events here in Manhattan. They take a picture of you to register in their website to check it. The photographers were professional so the pictures came out pretty nice. 




The only negative part, if anything, is that the boat moves so much! I almost got seasick, but that's a minor thing considering how much fun the whole event was. I really recommend doing it! You can check it out at the website of the cruise company: http://marcopolocruises.com/index.html.
 
As you can see it is possible to have some fun during the quarter, even though we almost in the finals week! Have a great day, see you soon Berkeley! 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Having an Accent: Positive or Negative?

Hey everyone! How did the weekend go? Mine has been very busy trying to keep up with school work since finals are approaching! Can you believe we are almost done with this quarter? In a couple of weeks I'll be on my way to Barcelona, where a great summer is hopefully waiting for me! However, it is time now to focus on school. Tonight I'm preparing a presentation for a final project I have this week and started thinking about something. As I was practicing for it, I started worrying about my English pronunciation a lot. Now, it's not that I have a problem with the language, but I do (as most of the people from Spain) have an accent. I wouldn't say it's too thick compared to other Spanish people and I never (or almost never) had problems with being understood (which has easy solutions: repeating, slowing down, pictures, gestures, body language or a huge smile on your face). However, I started wondering, is having an accent a plus, or does it hurt?

It's not the first time I think about it. One of the greatest things of living in New York City is the opportunity to meet different people every single day you step out of your room. After almost a year here, there's a comment I've been hearing every other day: "love your accent!". While it doesn't bother me at all, it sometimes make me think. Are they making fun of it? Do they really like it? Is it the only thing they notice about me? Do they think I'm not understanding? Are they they talking to me like if I was a little kid? In the end I always come up with the same: it never was a problem, and it's a great way to "break the ice" when meeting people. However, it might become annoying some times.

Many people say that Americans love accents. However, New York is the biggest melting pot of accents I have ever seen, so I'm not sure if that works over here. In any case, it's true that many people still notice the accent and makes comments on it. The only few times I have been annoyed about it have been in formal situations. When you are trying to speak in front of people and you want them to pay attention on WHAT you're saying and not on HOW you say it. Nevertheless, it is part of the communication process, and I guess it's my job to make them focus on whatever I want them to. This is when I think having an accent is more of a disadvantage. You need an extra effort to make them forget about how you speak to focus on the content of your speech. 

I know no one would do it on purpose, but after having done your work, prepared whatever you wanted to say, gather the courage to stand in front of people to speak and hear someone ask "oh, so you're from Barcelona? you have an accent" is not so pleasant. Another scenario would be a job interview. You have been preparing it very carefully. You want them to know how much you want to be there and you want to let them know who you are and what you can offer to the company after having worked hard during your education. Then the first thing they tell you after hearing you is something about your accent!
As I said, it didn't happen many times and eventually you develop your own techniques when you want to be heard carefully. Maybe you can make your accent even thicker so that they need to hear more carefully to decode your words! Anyways, I'm very lucky that this is not happening at school, since there are so many international students and different accents that I almost feel local! 

However, in the bright side, sometimes the accent can be used as a weapon. It's the easiest way to change the topic of an uncomfortable situation! It's also a nice way to gain some extra attention (if you know what I mean!), even though I'm afraid French and Italian guys might win in that one. Mispronouncing some words when you're with friends is funny most of the times. If it makes people laugh, then people have a good time. Guess what? People like people that make them smile! My advice is to not to worry too much about it and laugh with them, as long as no one is disrespecting you. Also, don't let it be the only thing people notice about you, be who you are and show them you can be fun beyond your accent.

Moreover, and above all, it's part of our identity. The way I speak tells a lot about myself. I might be learning a lot and improving my language skills, but no one will ever ask me if I'm from California. I'm sure I will always have the accent and I just decided not to worry anymore about it. As long as it's not a communication barrier (and I can tell it is not!), I think it's a beautiful thing. It's nice that everyone can communicate in the same language and yet speak in different ways.

Have a great week and see you soon!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Spanish Omelette Night

Hey everyone! I just had a great homemade Spanish dinner with Andrea, a fellow Berkeley student from Barcelona, and I must share it with you, because it was delicious! We cooked Spanish potato omelet, what we call tortilla de patatas (not to confuse with the Mexican tortilla, a completely different thing). I'm going to tell you the usual recipe, how we did that, and some other versions of the same dish. I really hope you give it a try! 

For those who are hearing about this dish for the first time, the Spanish omelette or tortilla de patatas is just a thick egg omelette with fried potatoes and onion. There are many variations to that, some people like it without onions, with ham inside, with garlic, etc. However, the eggs, potatoes and, of course, olive oil are a must. There are also many ways to do it, I will tell you about some of them, but you can always be creative and do it your style!

What we used today for the omelet you can see in the picture (we ate one each, but they're actually quite big, so you could share one for two people if you're eating something else in addition to the omelette): 

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 big potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt 
  • Tons of love


Now, I'm sure there are many other better ways to do it, but this is how we made our omelette and the result was actually more than acceptable!
  1. Peal the potatoes and then cut them in small pieces, and do the same with the onion
  2. Fry the potatoes with olive oil for some minutes and then add the onions (you will need quite a lot of oil, but you can reuse it later to fry other stuff!) 
  3. Beat the eggs in a bowl while the potatoes and the onions are frying
  4. When the onions are done and the potatoes are soft (but not too brown), drain them and add them to the bowl with the eggs
  5. Mix everything and add some salt
  6. Have a good frying pan with a little bit of hot olive oil (you don't need too much) - tip: make sure the frying pan is good enough so that the omelette won't get stuckk to it when you want to turn it, or you'll cause a big mess!
  7. Put the mix in the pan and fry one side of the omelette
  8. Now the hard part! Use a big plate (make sure it's bigger than the pan) to turn the omelette, do it fast! 
  9. Now that you have the omelette with one side fried on the plate, put it back carefully in the pan to fry the other side
  10. Push the borders of the omelette to the bottom to make it look rounded... Done!

Some people like to eat it right after it's cooked, others wait until it cools down a little bit and some others even put it on the fridge to eat it cold. It's all about taste! It looks like a lot of work, but once you've done your first one, it will be easier. Moreover, you will develop your own technique, because there are many things you can change or add to it. For example, I just found a video made by a Spanish guy (Warning: if you laugh at his accent, you're banned from this blog, because he speaks like me!). He came up with a version of the Spanish omelette that takes only a couple of minutes, he changed the real potatoes for crisps! I never tried that, and I'm not sure how it will taste, but I think I'll try sometime... have a look at it if you want to make it quick!


This dish has something that makes me really happy. I don't know what it is, but I'm sure it has to do with the connections it has to my life back home. I'm very lucky that my parents are great cooks, and I've always had the best food at home. My father is a genius when it comes to Spanish omelettes; he does the best ones, no joke! I can't wait to be back and have some proper meals, which will actually be in a couple of weeks! I hope you guys give it a try, let me know about the results! Enjoy your weekend, and if you happen to be in New York, come tomorrow to the beach volleyball tournament organized by some of our fellow Berkeley students, at 1pm at the Hudson River Park - Pier 25, I hope to see you there!
 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sporting Life at the FIT Museum

Hey everyone! I hope you are all safe from the extremely hot weather we are having these days. Guess what! I'm so lucky that my AC unit broke yesterday... It had to be precisely now! My room has a big window, so I get a lot of sun, which makes my room feel like an oven if I don't turn the AC on. I've tried to spend the minimum amount of time in the room, but there's a long night in front of me and I should get my 8 hours of sleep. How can it still be so hot at when it's almost midnight?! It's amazing how I'm depending on technology here. It's very warm back home too, yet I never used AC at home. There we just open the windows a little bit and there's a nice cool breeze running through all the house. Here I open my window and there's only hot air coming in, like if a dragon was blowing from the window!


Enough "first world" problems for today, let me tell you what I really wanted to tell. Yesterday (before the AC tragedy started), I visited the FIT Museum with a friend, where they're having an exhibition called "Sporting Life" that will be there until November. The FIT defines the exhibition as follows:
"Clothing for sporting activities has often influenced fashion—and vice versa. “The fact that casual everyday clothing is called ‘sportswear’ in the apparel industry is a testament to how comprehensively the development of specialist sports clothing has shaped our ideas about clothing,” observes fashion writer Jennifer Craik.
Sporting Life explores this relationship between sportswear and fashion from the mid-19th century through the present. Featuring more than 100 garments, accessories, and textiles from the Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition is organized thematically around styles associated with sailing, swimming, golfing, skating, motoring, and other sporting activities."
(You can check the whole thing here: http://fitnyc.edu/10717.asp)

 As soon as we got in, the first thing we saw were three short female mannequins with weird costumes. We didn't know what they were for until we read the information. They were old swimming suits! The first thing we wondered: how did they manage to swim wearing all that?! Honestly, I couldn't understand it. It wasn't functional, neither beautiful (or maybe I'm too ignorant in the fashion field). I started imagining a crowded beach in Spain with women wearing those funny outfits, it would be hysterical in today's world! 

After this first impression, the museum got even better! We saw all kinds of outfits classified according to the sport and in chronological order. It's crazy how they changed! There are outfits for hunting, motorcycling, running, football, etc. However, I still thing the best part of the exhibition are the swimming suits. It's amazing how they have changed. Moreover, I saw some swimming outfits that I'd say they are from our decade, and they were from the 60's! It's clear that some trends won't stop coming back over the years. 

If you are interested in fashion (and I know many Berkeley students are majoring in that field!) you shouldn't miss that one. To make it even easier, it's FREE! Finally, just as a tip, don't take pictures if you don't want to make the security guy angry. He told me I couldn't take pictures after I had already taken a few... and I kept taking more because I wanted them in the blog! I hope you enjoy the exhibition if you have the chance to see it. Enjoy the week and, please, wish me luck with the AC tragedy! See you soon!  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Grocery Shopping in Manhattan

Many people who come to live to Manhattan for the first time ask me where to do grocery shopping. It is hard for students to find a store with acceptable prices in this island. It's a pity because before I came here, I used to buy a lot in the supermarkets to cook at home, that way I saved a lot of money. However, prices in the grocery stores here are so expensive that most of the times I prefer buying made food... Nevertheless, after 10 months in the city I've discovered a few places that have saved me!

When you arrive to NYC, the most similar thing to a supermarket you see is a pharmacy: Duane Reade, CVS, etc. They sell everything from medicines to groceries, and they are literally everywhere (you might even find two different Duane Reade stores in the same block). However, they are much more expensive than a big supermarket such as the ones I'll talk about below. Don't go there to do a big grocery shopping or you'll spend tones of dollars for a few things.

One of my favorite places to buy is Trader Joe's. I usually go to the one at Union Square, the closest one to where I live. They have a lot of variety there, and most of the products are organic. It's definitely a good choice if you're concerned about your health! It's always packed up, and the price is not the lowest, but I think you get good money value. According to their website (http://www.traderjoes.com/) "All Products In The Trader Joe's Label Promise: NO artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, NO genetically modified ingredients, NO MSG, NO added Trans Fats." You can find store locations in the same link.

Whole Foods is another good choice for the healthy ones. I'd say it's a bit more expensive than Trader Joe's, but I think they have more variety and in most of them (if not all) you will find salad bars, deli sections, sushi... just like a regular deli where you would grab food to take away. They have many locations, you can check them at the website: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/. It's a pretty interesting website, because you will find a lot of information on how to live a healthy life, beyond from the information about the stores. Great brand building! 

Pathmark is my latest and greatest discovery. From what I know, there is only one location in Manhattan (East Downtown) and it's not really convenient since only the F train gets there. However if you're tight with your budget, you should definitely drop by! It reminds of the big supermarkets we have back home (even though those are not away from the city). You get a big trolley at the entrance, and start taking advantage of the deals. The deals are usually better if you buy big quantities of the same product. For example, and I'm not making this up, today I saw a woman getting 10 dozens of eggs (yes, 120 eggs!) because that way every dozen was only $1 (10x10). Anyway, even if you don't buy industrial quantities, it's still a lot cheaper and it's worth going once in a while with a big back pack to carry everything home. Moreover, if you exceed and buy too much, they have delivery service for just $5! You do your shopping, pay and leave it there... within a couple of hours, they will bring it to you. If you go, don't forget to get the club card first (it's totally free and it takes 1 minute to get it), only with the card you get the discounts. Visit the website for more information: www.pathmark.com.

There are other grocery stores that aren't that big, but have more convenient locations, such as Morton Williams (where I go a lot because it's one block from my pace) and Grestedes. However, those two are a bit more pricey. You actually don't notice it when you just buy a few things, but if you do a big shopping, you won't want to look at the receipt. I hope that was useful for the ones living or planning to live around here! Have a nice week!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Above It All

At the 230 Fifth rooftop
This summer weather makes me so happy! I love the atmosphere in the city when it is so nice outside. It seems to me that people are happier, everyone's out and there are much more outdoors activities going on. I couldn't wait anymore for the city to be like that, what a long winter we had! There's something I love doing in New York when it's as warm as it is today: going to rooftop places! I love feeling "above" Manhattan. As long as it's high, the views are amazing no matter where. Many buildings in Manhattan have rooftops opened for their residents. We all know how expensive housing in this island is, but having a rooftop lounge in your own building often "makes it worth the money." However, what happens with those who aren't so lucky to have that in the building? No worries! There are a few places in the city where you will enjoy the same pleasure without paying for a crazy expensive rent. I have selected three rooftop places to hang out that I have visited and, of course, loved!

Sky Room views
The Sky Room is located in Times Square (40th Street, between 8th ave and 9th ave). It occupies 2 floors, the 33rd and 34th of a new building in West Midtown. As it says on their website "the bi-level ultra lounge transports guests to a high energy oasis atop 40th Street and offers five distinct spaces: the Times Square Lounge, the Cube balcony, the Private Salon, the North terrace with its retractable roof, and the South Terrace with its private cabanas." Honestly, all the spaces are really cool. The views are very nice, you feel surrounded by Skyscrapers, even though the buildings around are much higher. I would recommend it for a snack in the evening (before 7pm) in the weekdays, to enjoy the "Happy Hour" menu. Since it's a bit pricey, this menu makes the prices similar to a regular bar. Check the place at http://www.skyroomnyc.com , they have amazing pictures!

Sky Room (this roof is now removed)
Let's move to the East side of Midtown Manhattan. The second place I can talk about is Bookmark. This one is very convenient for Berkeley students! If you're +21 and you happen to take classes in the Midtown Manhattan campus, you should definitely give it a chance. It's within one block from the school, in Madisson Avenue and 42nd Street. It's a very cosy place and it's usually not that crowded. It's only on the 14th floor, so it's not very high. However, the views are still great and the atmosphere is excellent. It's a very relaxing place, it almost feels like being in a living room or in your own terrace. Even though it's a rooftop and the terrace is very nice, I'd say I prefer staying inside, their lounge is great! Plus all the doors to the terrace are opened, which makes it feel like it's outside too.

Finally, let me tell you about my favorite one so far. It's called 230 Fifth and it's an outdoor rooftop bar, club and restaurant, all in one! The location can't be better, because the views to the Empire State Building are unbeatable. It's located in 230 Fifth Avenue (easy to remember!). It has two levels, an indoor lounge/club and the rooftop terrace, which is amazing. The indoor space is very nice, but once you step out you find a great terrace full of palm trees and the Empire State building right in front of your eyes. It's opened even during the winter! If it's too cold (and it is), they provide robes to keep yourself warm, which feels very nice. You would expect a place like that to be crazy expensive, but it's actually even cheaper that many other clubs and bars since there's no cover charge. They also have restaurant service (which I never tried, but hopefully one day I will!) and at nights it turns into a great club to have a good time. I like the atmosphere there very much, and I always found nice people.

At the indoors space at 230 Fifth
You can check this last one at http://www.230-fifth.com/ . I hope I gave you some ideas about where to hang out in the city when the weather is as nice as it is these days. It's so easy to love New York! Enjoy the rest of the weekend and see you soon!