Sunday, January 29, 2012

New York Has A Price

Hey everyone! Today was a regular Sunday until I started getting more messages from back home than usual. It turns out that they were airing the show I participated in a few months ago about New York (you can see that post here.) Fortunately, technology allowed me to watch it live, so I got to see myself on TV! I must say I felt quite uncomfortable, even though I was only on for a few minutes... I didn't like hearing my voice, and I'm not used to see myself on screen beyond pictures! However, it was pretty cool that my family and my friends got to see me showing the city, so it wasn't that bad.


The show is called "Nueva York Tiene un Precio" (which means: New York has a price) and it's from the series "Callejeros Viajeros" in Cuatro TV. It's a show about traveling. I really like it, and that's why I was happy to participate. They had been in NYC several times before, but they had a new approach this time. They were comparing two different ways of visiting the city: the expensive way vs. the low cost.


If you understand Spanish, I recommend you to watch it if you're planning on coming to New York. They gave nice tips and showed cool places that can be interesting for you. It is available online here: http://www.mitele.es/programas-tv/callejeros-viajeros/temporada-4/programa-136/. Or you can also watch it on Youtube:



In the show, the reporters meet with Spanish people that live in New York, so that we take them to places and talk about the city. I showed them Bryant Park, where we ice skated for a little bit... I never thought I would end up doing that on TV!


After Bryant Park I took them around NYC on a touristic bus, from which we saw the most popular touristic attractions of Manhattan. Once we got back to Times Square, I showed them three different ways of purchasing a ticket for a Broadway show. We went to see Mary Poppins with a regular ticket booked online, one from TKTS and a student discount one for me. It was nice to see the comparison between those three.

I think they did a good job, they showed some expensive things like flying on a helicopter above the city, an omelet that costs $1,000... and then cheap stuff such as bars with $1 beer, or free museums. This city has so many contrasts!

Enjoy the last minutes of weekend and see you soon!

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Very International Happy Hour

Hey everyone! Here I am one more weekend enjoying life. How was your Friday? I got to hang out again with friends from school. Many international students at Berkeley know what I mean when I say Happy Hour!


Many pubs in New York do happy hour offers somewhere between 4pm and 9pm (the hours vary in each place.) This makes it a lot easier to go out, considering how expensive the city is. Many people go with their colleagues after work to have a drink and hang out before home, especially on Fridays.

We went first to The Ginger Man, which is located on 36th Street between Madison Avenue and 5th Avenue. Very cool place! It's big, so it makes it easier for large groups of people. It also has a cool vibe and it was nice on Friday night. I also had dinner there, and it wasn't bad at all. You can check out the place here: http://gingerman-ny.com/.


After a while, we decided to go to a different place. We went to Havana NY, where we had gone the last time we had an international happy hour. The offers there are from 3pm to 7pm, and they are really good! By the time we got there, the happy hour was already over... but we were already happy so it didn't make a difference! You can check this place here: http://havanany.com/. This one is on 38th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.




Finally, we moved on to one more place! These people have a lot of energy... We walked down a little bit and got to Pranna, which is a very cool lounge on Madison Avenue at 28th Street. This place is also a restaurant during the day, but I never saw it like that. I really liked it there, it's not as overwhelming as a club but you can still have a good time with friends without destroying your ears. Here's the link for more information: http://www.prannarestaurant.com/.


Honestly, I didn't stay much in the last one because having started so early I was already tired. However, we did have a great time! And, of course, the best part is to hang out with such amazing people coming from such different places around the world. It is also great how I keep meeting new people every time I attend this kind of events. Now let's enjoy the weekend, have a good one!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Year of the Dragon 2012

Hey everyone! How is everything going? This week has been an important one for the other side of the world. I'm talking about the Chinese New Year celebration. Since I'm in New York and this is such a melting pot of cultures, I've been able to see several things this week that have to do with this celebration.



I have always had curiosity for other cultures and ways of living, but I must say China is one of the top places I want to go and explore. The New Year celebration is just one of the things that amazes me. I'm sure you have heard that for the Chinese, this is going to be the year of the "dragon" right? I've always found it cool how every year has an animal, but have you ever wondered why that is and what it really means?

Every year is dedicated to one of the 12 animals in the Chinese calendar:
  • 2008 Rat
  • 2009 Ox
  • 2010 Tiger
  • 2011 Hare (rabbit)
  • 2012 Dragon
  • 2013 Snake
  • 2014 Horse
  • 2015 Ram (sheep, goat)
  • 2016 Monkey
  • 2017 Rooster
  • 2018 Dog
  • 2019 Pig (Boar) 

We just ended the year of the Rabbit, and started the year of the Dragon. The same way the zodiac signs that are associated to months (for example Aries to March-April), the Chinese zodiac has those 12 animals associated to years instead of months. That way, people are believed to share certain personality traits with the animal of the year they were born.

I'm not really sure of how much I believe about that, but I find it very curious. I have found a few adjectives that describe the sign of the Dragon:
"A powerful sign, those born under the Chinese Zodiac sign of the Dragon are energetic and warm-hearted, charismatic, lucky at love and egotistic. They’re natural born leaders, good at giving orders and doing what’s necessary to remain on top. Compatible with Monkey and Rat." You can check the rest here: www.chinesezodiac.com
As I said, there were many places in New York where they celebrated the beginning of the Chinese year on Monday. One of them was, of course, Berkeley College! I was so upset to miss it, because I would have liked to be there too, but I had work and classes during the whole day. However, here you can see the pictures they uploaded from that event. The food looks delicious!

Happy Chinese New Year to everyone!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

From Finland to a Hookah Lounge

Hey everyone! First of all, it finally snowed in the city! Well, it was about time... and it was such a pleasure to wake up to a white view from my window. Even better was to stay in all day with the snow outside my window... Really relaxing!


However, not all the weekend has been that calmed. After a tough week, Friday night was finally the time to hang out and enjoy with friends. Thanks to one of our fellow students, Janne and his girlfriend Sari, we enjoyed a great and homemade Finnish dinner. It was delicious! I can't really tell what the dish was called, but it had mashed potatoes, meat balls, salad... and everything was really good. We invaded their apartment and had a lot of fun there in Queens.


One of the things I like the most about being here is that I get to meet people from all over the world. It makes me think how much of the world I'd be missing if I hadn't moved from home, or if I hadn't learned English. This party was a great example of what I'm talking about. 

After a while, we were in such good mood that we moved back to Manhattan. As international as this group is, we ended up in a Hookah lounge thanks to our Tunisian friend Wissem. We're like a small scale UN all together!

The place is called Babylon, and it's located on 34th street and 3rd avenue. You can check it out here: http://babylonhookahny.com/. I love this kind of atmosphere. It's a cool place to hang out, and they treated us really well. To be honest, it brought me back to the bars they have in Turkey, were I've spent some time and have many friends.

We had a great time there, which is why we stayed right until they closed the place. We were the last ones leaving! And to our amusement, once we got out of there, everything was already white. It was snowing! It wasn't a huge blizzard like I saw last year... but it made me very happy!

I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend and wish you the best beginning of the week! See you soon!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Weekday Morning Routine in Manhattan

Hey everyone! How are you doing? I've been given a video camera (thanks for that!) so that I can include more footage about this experience with all of you beyond the words I write. I'm excited to start making videos, and I'll try to find the time to that as much as I can from now on.

It is supposed to snow in the weekend, but these days the weather is quite beautiful. It's still cold, but very sunny. Since it looks so nice outside, I decided to start trying out the camera and see what I can do. I tried to capture my way to school and work and then put it together so that I could share what I see every morning, which by the way, still makes me go wow!

I left home earlier than expected and had a little time to walk around the school, so you're going to see the surroundings of the NYC Midtown campus in the video. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here I leave the video. (If I did everything right, you should be able to watch it in HD)


I realized I don't go outside as much as I should during the winter. Well, let me tell you I wasn't designed for this weather. But I will try to capture anything cool happening in the city, and, of course, much more to come once the weather gets warmer! I already have a huge list of things I still have to do in the city before leaving this year...
 
Now let me go and explore a little bit more what I can do with this. I'm open to any suggestions! And once again, here's the e-mail for the blog in case you want to contact me in privet: berkeleycollegelife@gmail.com

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Hey everyone! How is it going? I haven't been posting much these days, but now I'm back on track! I'm sure you all enjoyed this weekend, since we had one extra day to relax from school.

Today it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Every time we get a day off like this, I always wonder what is it that makes it a holiday. In this case, I have heard about King many times, especially in my history classes. Here's a little introduction to what this day means to clarify:
"King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The campaign for a federal holiday in King's honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed on January 20, 1986. At first, some states resisted observing the holiday as such, giving it alternative names or combining it with other holidays. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000." Read the full article here: link
It wasn't official in all the states until 2000, which means it's not a very old tradition. Perhaps that's why most of the businesses were open today, and it seemed to me like there was no day off for most of the people. 

In fact, I haven't talked about it yet but I started working at the Academic Support Center and we were open today as well. Let me tell you that you should take advantage of it and get any help you need with your courses. You can also come say hi! :)


This winter is being so different from last one. Maybe it is so because it didn't snow yet... Even though on my way back from the gym today we could see some snowflakes falling! Whatever it is, I'm definitely ready for the good weather. Every time I step outside I get chills, and then I remember how good it felt this summer sailing around Italy... my mind is cruel some times!


Then I see how pretty the city still looks and come back to the present. I took this picture above while freezing around the river. It's a nice walk that I have literally two steps away from my apartment, and every time I need some fresh air, I'm there. It's the place I go when I need to think and make decisions. As cheesy as it sounds, it brings me calm. I wouldn't change being here for anywhere else at the moment, so let's deal with the temperature! Have a great week and see you soon!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Where Is the Snow?

Regular temperature in Tallinn, Estonia. -20ºC!!
Hey everyone! It's funny how I spent half winter last year complaining about how annoying the snow was in NYC and I just caught myself being angry at the weather because we haven't got any snow yet!

This is my third year away from Spain, and the third winter I spend in a place where it's actually cold enough to snow. The first time I lived in a place where there was snow was Estonia. The city of Tallinn was just beautiful in white, plus, trust me, those people are ready for the snow.

At some point we had -22F degrees! (-30 in Celcius.) That was a beautiful time anyways. Very cold indeed, but I used to wear proper winter stuff (and when I say "winter stuff" I mean snowboarding equipment.) Moreover, we would spend most of the time in cafes, at home with friends or in any warm indoor place.

Beautiful old town in Tallinn

New York is different with the snow. It's very pretty at the beginning, when it's falling and everything looks white. However, in a few days it becomes quite gross to be honest with you. It starts melting down and getting really dirty, and you step on it thinking it's still ice... and boom! You're shoes end up messed up and sometimes even the bottom of your pants.

Laying on a frozen lake (Peipsi) between Russia and Estonia, 2010
It can also accumulate in the walk sides and become a very annoying obstacle. You might have to walk, and walk, and walk to find the way out of a block. And usually the way out is all flooded with that dirty melted snow that will make you want to leave to Hawaii!

My street last year in SoHo
Finally, some facilities close. Classes might get cancelled. Public transport stops working. Some professors are unable to make it to school... But in the end, everything gets back to normal.

Nevertheless, here I am. Looking at the weather forecast and hoping for the snow to come. After all, maybe what I've heard about winter in New York is true. It's not a real winter if it's not white. So far, the Christmas holidays didn't get any snow, and interestingly enough, the last time I saw snow was on the Halloween weekend.

Global warming? Who knows, but I would appreciate some snow before the winter is over. There are still a couple more months to go! For now, let's just enjoy the fact that we can still walk around the city without too many complications.

Have a good one and see you soon!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Three Wise Men in Spain, and I'm in USA!

Hey everyone! Even though nowadays we also have Santa Claus coming to my country (who is known as Papá Noel), children there get their presents traditionally from the Three Wise Men the morning of the 6th of January. We call them "Reyes Magos", which literally means "Magic Kings." Their names are Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar.

The way it works is very similar to Santa Claus here. The main streets of every city get crowded on the evening of the 5th of July to receive the Three Wisemen. Every city organizes big parades with music, customs, dancers... and the Wise Men arrive and pick up all the letters from the children.

That night, children have to go to bed early. Before that, they leave some food (like cookies or sweets) and water (for the camels the Wise Men travel with) under the Christmas tree. It is also a tradition to leave a pair of shoes of each person in the house, so that they know how many presents they need. The next morning, the 6th of January, children wake up and find all the presents waiting to be open.




This is something that reminds me of my childhood a lot. We did something different in my family, though. The three Wise Men actually came to the house! Don't ask me how, because I won't tell you. But they came and gave the presents in person to all the kids (and we were a lot of kids in my family.) The only sad thing about it, is that my father and two of my uncles never made it to that moment! They would coincidentally leave the house about half hour before the three Wise Men arrived and wouldn't come back til half hour after they were gone... I still haven't figured out where they went every year!

Well, I didn't find anything under my tree this morning. There are two possible reasons. The first one is that I have been a bad boy. Even though, it is said that in that case, the three Wise Men will bring you coal! Or the other reason could be that since the economy is doing pretty bad nowadays, they couldn't afford a flight to New York. Anyways, my mother told me I got something back home. I guess I'll have to wait for summer to enjoy it!

I hope you guys had a good first week of school and see you soon!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, New Quarter

Hey everyone! How are you doing? I hope everyone recovered already from the excesses during the holidays and that you're back in track with school. I have already started my classes, and I've already seen that some of them are going to be quite challenging. I'm taking Microeconomics, Statistics, Business Law and International Business this time.

I must say my favorite one so far is International Business, and I'm sure I'm really going to enjoy that one. I hadn't taken any major courses yet, so this is my first "international" one, even though we deal with international stuff all the time in the other subjects anyways. However, this class is dedicated exclusively to that.

I know there are new students arriving this quarter. If you're one of them, welcome to Berkeley! I know how complicated it is to arrive here for the first time and having to adapt to this life quickly so that you don't lose track of your school stuff. That's why I would like to help and I remind you that I answer questions or doubts (if I don't have the answer, I might know who can help you) through my e-mail address: berkeleycollegelife@gmail.com . I try to answer them as fast as I can, but I do answer all of them eventually! You can also feel free to leave a comment here if you want to share it.


There are many things I would tell to the new international students, and of course to the American ones. But I think the best advice I can give is to take advantage of all the opportunities that Berkeley offers. Go beyond the classroom and participate in activities, clubs, etc. and most of all, use this experience to do some networking. Don't be afraid to talk to people, because you will miss a lot if you don't do so.

Also, use the facilities at school to get the best academic experience you can get. There are libraries and study areas in both, 41st and 43rd Street, buildings. In the 13th floor of the 41st Street building you can also find a computer lab as well as the Academic Support Center (ASC), where you will find tutors to help you with your school work. All of those are free for students!

If you're international (or you just want to get involved in the international scene even if you're a local) go and participate in the activities that the International department organizes. The best way to get the information about the events is to check out the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/BerkeleyCollegeInternationals. You'll find all the events posted there, and you can also introduce yourself to the other students and start making new friends!

Here's a video we filmed with Teresa, one of our International Advisors, where you can meet me and some of my fellow international students at Berkeley:



I hope you're enjoying your quarter so far, and see you soon!

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Eve in New York City!

Hey everyone! First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Did you enjoy your celebration? I had a blast here in New York, even though we didn't do anything fancy like many people would expect. My roommate Danny and I had some friends coming over and we celebrated it here together. No fancy clubs, no Times Square and didn't even see the fireworks... but I enjoyed it a lot!

We wanted to celebrate the entry to the new year at our home countries as well. That's why we started our celebration at 6pm via Skype. My friends were celebrating it in Barcelona, and the new year started there when it was 6pm in New York. Danny and I were on the other side of the screen eating the twelve grapes with the countdown, as it's the tradition in Spain.

Yes, I know it sounds weird. But that's what we do and I would feel really bad if I didn't! Let Wikipedia help me explain:

"The tradition consists in eating a grape with each bell strike at midnight of December 31. According to the tradition, that leads to a year of prosperity. In some areas, it is believed that the tradition wards away witches and general evil. Each grape is eaten with each beat of the bell.
The twelve grapes are linked to the Puerta del Sol tower clock, where this tradition started and from where the change of year is always broadcast." Read the full story here: link.
We heard the beats of the bell through Skype and had the grapes at the same time with my friends. After the countdown, we tried to have a toast with Catalan champagne online. It was original and a lot of fun!


One hour later, it was time for the Scottish countdown (that's where Danny comes from, and that's why he was wearing the kilt.) We also called his friends via Skype and did it their way. It was fun to have it again, and it's a way to feel more connected to your country on such a special date!

Finally, we had our friends who were in NY come to our place and celebrated the American New Years at 12pm. Since we had started celebrating so early, we were done quite early, but we had enjoyed so much that we did not care!


Let me tell you, though, that cleaning the apartment wasn't that much fun... But it was nice to enter the new year surrounded by nice people at home in NY even if we are far away from our home lands!

I hope everyone enjoyed the night and now time to start once again at Berkeley (I'm very excited for the new subjects!) with new projects in mind. Also, do keep your new years resolution in mind at least for a few months! It will be fun to see how many new people come to the gym for the next days!

See you soon, and again, HAPPY 2012!