Monday, December 24, 2007

NYC at Christmas time

This week-end I spent one day at NYC. Since I`ve been there in August, I`ve dreamt of coming back...Of course, I love Washington DC, it`s a great place to be, but NY is sort of a mythical city, don`t you think!! Well, this time I got to see it at Christmas time and for a little more than a couples of hours! I went there with two friendson Friday night on a us leaving from Chinatown. Once we got there, my friends and I went straight to the hostel, in fron of West Central Park, and we got some sleep. On Saturday we woke up early and we started walking around in the city. First thing, we saw Central Park, of course. Then, we decided to go to Rockafeller Center to see the ice-skaters and the famous Christmas tree. From the Rockafeller Center, we walked the 5th avenue to go to Broadway and Times Square, where we tried to find some shelter from the cold in fantastic stores such as the m&m`s and Hershey. Soon after lunch, we decided to go up on the Empire State Building, and then we ended up our trip on Madison square.
It was thrilling to go around NYC, take the metro see so many places we usually get to see only in the movies!! I really loved the city...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The White House tour

Yes, that`s right! I`ve been inside the White House!! That is something, isn`t it? Sadly, we couldn`t take any picture, so there is no real evidence that I have been there...but I hope you`ll believe me. A little before going in there, I was thrilled at the idea that I was about to step on the same floor on which the President of the United States steps every day. I had been told by many who visited the House before that I should hold my horses since the tour was not that exciting. As a matter of fact, you just get to see the rooms where some events are held, the library, the room where the First Ladies usually receive their guests, the Christmas tree and the Gingerbread House (actually a mini representation of the White House made out of white chocolate). You don`t get to see the important rooms, like the Oval Office. However, it is still least to see that the White House is not a castle for the president. It`s a very ig house, no doubt, but it is not huge! As the Americans put it, it is to remind the president that yes, he is important, but he`s still a human and a simple American citizen too.


Hanukkah, the Festival of lights. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday which corresponds somehow to the Christian Christmas (in terms of dates, at least). On this holiday, Jewish celebrate a miracle that happened thousands of years ago in the old Jerusalem, when Antiochus IV and his troops desecrated the sacred Temple leaving enough oil to burn for one day. In order to get another supply of oil for the Temple, the Jews would have to wait for 8 days...and, miraculously, the oil in the Temple burnt for as long as 8 days. At the same times, some Jews who were particularly upset with Antiochus IV disrespectful behavior, joined together to fight against his troops. The Jewish warriors, known as the Maccabees, were greatly outnumbered by Antiochus IV soldiers, but they managed to win the battle. This victory is also seen as a miracle and is also celebrated during Hanukkah. Since my host family is Jewish, I got to participate in the celebrations an see how it works. An essential part of Hanukkah is the menorah, where the 8 candles (one for each night) plus the shamash (the candle used to light the others) are set. At sundown (or a little later) of the first night of Hanukkah, the shamash and the first candle are lit. On the second night, a second candle will e lit, and so on until the 8th night. Along with the lighting of the candles, people like to say some prayers and to sing a few songs. After that, in the American version of Hanukkah, each person inthe family gets one present and opens it. Finally, the family plays dreidle, a typical Hanukkah game in which a sort of spinner decorated with Hebrew alphabet letters is used in order to win chocolate money (known by Jews as Geld). A particular attention should also be given to Hanukkah typical food. From what i`ve seen, during hanukkah, Jewish traditionally eat very fattening food that is deep-fried in oil (because of the oil miracle). I tried the potato pancakes, also known by the Yddish word Latkes, and the doughnuts filled with fruit jam, also known as sufganyiot. I loved celebrating Hanukkah with my host-family: I got them some presents, but not as many as I received!! I was very, very lucky :) and I got very good presents!!


Keeping up with my blog turned out to be much more difficult than I expected. Still, I should do a better job because this blog might help me in 2 ways: first, I will improve my English writing (which is not ad since the TOEFL is coming up); second, I will keep all my numerous friends (I`m pretty popular...just kidding...) informed of what is going on in my life (and this would certainly have a good impact on my inbox). Of course, I love sendimng e-mails too and this is pretty much what kept me from writing in my blog (however, there are also plenty of other reasons).
Ok, ok, I`ll try to keep it short. Let`s start from what you guys missed out in my life:
1) Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is certainly one of the yummiest holidays in the US. I spent mine in Pennsylvania, close to Philadelphia, at my host-mom`s relatives` house. Anyway, I actually took part in two Thanksgiving dinners: the first was the weekend before. I went to an International Dinner in a local church, and there I met new very nice people, I learnt a little it about Thanksgiving and I tasted international food (from Africa, Asia, South America, Europe) as well as traditional Thanksgiving food. My second Thanksgiving was a more traditional one, where the family gathered together to have a nice dinner.
Now, let`s talk about Thanksgiving history and tradition. This is an American holiday that is celebrated in order to remember what happened at around 1500 aD, when colonizers from England came to America and met the native people. In this meeting, indians brought a variety of typical food to the colonizers and they all ate together in peace. Till now, Thanksgiving traditional food is related somehow to that day: Americans usually prepare Cranberries and Sweet Potatoes (sometimes with marshmallows), but they also have the famous Turkey with stuffing (the best part!!) and a variety of food with pumpkin, e.g pumpkin pie (yummy).