Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Search for Charity

I wrote a while back about UN Online Volunteering, and I finally received my placement. Of course, this is very exciting news. I am working with the Ann Foundation, which works in underdeveloped countries to create opportunities for children with disabilities.

To raise money, the organization is part of GoodSearch, which is a search engine that donates a penny to the charity you designate every time you search. All you have to do is go to the site and type in Ann Foundation and search away, and our organization will recieve funding!

GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!

It's nice to see that there are places on the internet sponsoring charitable causes. We all search, so there is really no reason not to give this a try.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The New York Times gets it!

I graduated from college with a degree in Journalism, which also means 4 years of thinking about what will be the future of the industry. It seems as though blogging it is, and the New York Times really gets it by publishing the Baghdad Bureau blog.

I think this blog, as it is written by journalists who are there on the scene in a place that many of us will fortunately never completely understand, really sets the stage for an interesting future for journalism.

Check it out! I'm really interested by this.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why I love my bike and why it's relevant to talk about here

Since moving to Long Beach, I decided to get a bike. I use it to ride to the train station, to the supermarket, to the gym or anywhere for that matter.

It improves my endurance.
It makes me feel healthier.
It helps me to lose weight.
It relaxes me after a long day.


It contributes towards saving the environment.
It saves GAS!

I'm so glad that something that makes me so happy personally, is actually contributing to bettering our world. Specifically UN Millennium Development Goal number 7 "Ensure environmental sustainability."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where I was: Germany FINAL ENTRY

May 29, 2007

The last week of our trip was really relaxing, and I am definitely thankful for that because both of us were very exhausted. After a long series of trains and missed trains on the so-called efficient German train system, we made it to Heilbronn where Sabrina, Lisa's cousin and Sabrina's mom Diana picked us up.

They took us to a beer garden type restaurant where we met Lisa's relative Horst and her younger cousins Tobias and Sarah. I had beer with sprite which was really good - usually I don't like beer but it's ok with some sweetening. I ate some beef with onions and these German noodles, which were surprisingly delicious. Germany's food is weird for me, but it's really good.

After dinner we headed home--it was nice to have a clean bed, towels and a shower. We were able to get a "real" German experience by staying with Lisa's family.

Anyway, in the morning we woke up after sleeping in a little, and had breakfast. Breakfast consisted of a smorgasbord of liverwurst and pretzels. Everything was so good. I love liverwurst. My mom loves it too--I wish I could have brought some back for her. After breakfast, we hung around and showered while we waited for Sabrina to get home from school. I got to blow out my hair for the first time all month and I finally felt like myself again.

We went to Stuttgart all together once she got home. Horst took us to the TV tower, which is actually the world's first. We went to the top and enjoyed the view and then we had drinks up there. Lisa and I both had frozen chocolate, which was delicious. Then we walked around and went to a bunch of shops in Stuttgart.

We went out that night with Sabrina, which was fun. The next morning we woke up, and Tobias and Sarah waited for us; it was so cute. They made us coffee and tea. We took this kids to the pool, and even though the kids spoke just a little English and we spoke no German, we had fun. I guess playing around doesn't require language. Sabrina threw a BBQ party that night on the family's vineyard--it was such an authentic experience.

The next day, Horst drove us to Lisa's dad's friends Kiersten and Krumel's house. We stayed in their upstairs apartment. When we got their, Krumel took us to a fair in Mannheim. We ate sausage and kebabs and just enjoyed the music that was there.

When we went back to their house we had a great dinner and then decided to stay in and watch EUROTRIP--which was all so true.

At around 12:30 a.m. I hit my bed, but 4:45 a.m. came too soon and we had to get up to go to the airport. I slept the entire flight that when we landed, I didn't even know we took off.

I am so ready to be home with family and not deal with willy-nilly Europe for a while. This definitely, however, was the best experience. All of the mayhem actually made it even more memorable.

Lisa was the perfect person to do it with, we got along so well and stayed positive. I am amazed at all we did and wish I could share this with everyone I know. For now, it's back to reality and maybe some day I'll do somewhere else--Africa, Asia, Latin America...who knows...

To be fair, the choice to do this was pretty last minute.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"A 20-something Spin" = Travel

While there are a variety of factors that differentiate a 20-something's view of the world from someone of previous generations, travel plays a major role. Many of my peers participated in study abroad programs or travelled independently during their collegiate or graduate years; this makes us very unique. Let me not discount the travel that I am sure many of our parents did, but with our globalizing world, traveling is much easier.

I always laugh when my parents are stressing about whether or not I have a physical plane ticket before I go to the airport, and remind them that I definitely DON'T have it because all I need is my passport and/or credit card.

A lot of what I believe and what I write about is shaped by the traveling that I have done--you can probably see that based on the "Where I was" segment that I just did publishing my journal that I kept while backpacking for all the world to see.

Traveling is an awesome opportunity to explore your habits, skills, weaknesses, preferences, dislikes...etc. Some people like mayhem and some people like order when they travel. The same people might learn that they prefer the opposite in real life. But for those that like order when they travel, hints from fellow travelers make the journey a little bit easier.

So, because I believe that traveling is an important part of developing "A 20-something Spin," I am going to begin a new segment to follow the end of the "Where I was" entries called "Tips for Trips."


Monday, May 26, 2008

Where I was: Berlin

May 24, 2007

The train to Berlin was a really beautiful ride. Germany is like a never ending forest, and is really green. We met two funny Scottish boys on the train. They thought we were hilarious with our backpacks and American lingo. We got to the first Berlin train station and hopped off, but it was not the main station. This was when we realized that Berlin is HUGE.

I can not even begin emphasizing how massive Berlin is. We went to information to figure out where we were, book our next train and try to find a hostel. The man at the information booth was super helpful and gave us exact directions to our hostel on the subway. The subway system in Berlin is also massive considering it has to cover such a big city--makes sense.

We made it to the hostel, but they only had room for the first night. Out of tiredness we took it. We were starving by this point so we walked to Unter Den Linden--the "parade" street, which was further than we thought. Either way, we made it there and got a traditional German meal. I ate sausages, sauerkraut and potatoes and drank a syrup flavored beer which is apparently one of Berlin's specialties--I found that out later.

After dinner we got ice cream from this place Bandy Brooks where we met these American boys who were in the Glee Club at Rutgers.

After ice cream we went to a street filled with cocktail bars and lots of prostitutes--awkward. Lisa and I each got a cocktail. We would have liked to experience Berlin's famous nightlife, but we were super exhausted and had to wake up early to do the tourist stuff in Berlin since we only had one full day there. In he morning we left our bags at he hostel until we found a new one and met time who brought us to Brandenburg Gate for a tour of Berlin.

The tour was 3.5 hours long, but our tour guide Maria was super enthusiastic and a great storyteller so it was actually a really great and really informative experience.

One of the first things on the tour was the Hotel Adlon, which happens to be the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony. I was highly entertained by this. We did the Holocaust Memorial which consists of concrete slabs laid out in a field with little explanation. Walking through them was chilling, I can't even imagine what visiting a concentration camp would be like. We also saw the spot where Hitler committed suicide--but almost none of the Nazi buildings exist anymore. The spot is impossible to know unless someone points it out to you. Berlin is essentially rid of all of that history, but the tour helped to understand it all.

It was also interesting seeing the Berlin Wall. Our tour guide pointed out the irony that there is now a fence around the remains of the wall, but this is to keep away people who hack at the wall to get pieces and then sell them as souvenirs.

After the tour we went to a museum that our tour guide suggested--the Pergamon. It had the gate of Babylon, one of the seven wonders, and a temple from Pergamon which is a town in Turkey. Basically, these structures were torn down, brought to Germany and rebuilt in a museum. I love how Europeans used to think it was ok to go around pillaging places and then displaying the acquisitions in local museums.

After the museum, we got some ice cream and then started to look for a hostel. It turned into a never-ending search. We took a break from the search at an internet cafe where I realized I have .78 cents left. I also found out that I got offered an interview at the United Nations Association o Greater Boston. I am excited about the interview.

After not finding a hostel in Berlin's massive downtown we headed back to one near our original hostel. It was called Three Little Pigs and the guy said he had beds in an overflow room. We were fine with that until we got there and learned that we'd be sharing a room with a 45-year-old German man. We left and equally sketched out, we tried to find another place. Everything was booked because it was a German holiday.

Near the Three Little Pigs hostel was a strip of budget hotels and one had a room for 58 euro, which was only 11 euro more each than the sketchy man room. After an awkward situation with with the receptionist at the first hostel, we got our money back and booked the hotel. We knew it was wise to avoid that situation even if the man seemed harmless.

We were exhausted, but we carried on and went to the Reichstag, the German parliament. We went to the glass dome on top where you can look down on the government. Our guide told us that this is to remind the government that the people are always in charge so another Hitler never happens. Lisa also told me that Germany is very liberal for this reason.

At the dome we were being fools saying the few German phrases we knew--danke, bitte, enchuligan and the police up there thought it was hilarious and joined in. It was a good laugh.

After Reichstag we went to checkpoint Charlie--a re-enactment of the American army checkpoint during the Berlin wall years and we ate an unhealthy dinner consisting of pizza and fries at a little restaurant there. It was super cheap, which is important since I basically have run out of money. Dead tired we went back home and went to bed.

We woke up this morning for our train, which ended up being late making us miss our two connectors (to visit Lisa's family). We are still on the train and Lisa's relative Horst will be picking us up. We thought Germany would be smooth sailing, but even with the clean and seemingly organized train system, we have run into mayhem.