CULTURE SHOCK

Life in Queens (the Most Diverse Borough of the Most Diverse City in the World)

Pre- Summer Travelling Guide

Now that it’s April and we only have a few more weeks of school ahead of us, many people have started planning their trips to places all around the work. So no matter whether you are visiting family in your birthplace or travelling in anticipation of a new cultural experience, a good Travel Guide is definitely necessary!

Packing

Pack light! I shouldn’t be the one saying this, considering I insist that I need to bring my entire closet along with me on every trip, but this small piece of advice can really help you out. In some European countries, 2 and 3 star hotels are not always accommodating with elevators. So, instead of having to lug three suitcases up four flights of stairs, it’s simply more convenient to pack light. Snacks, toiletries, and last minute supplies can always be purchased in the country you are visiting. Taking more clothing than you need will only make you spend more time deciding what to wear! So, this summer, I will definitely be listening to this advice.

Plan out Your Trip

While surprise adventures are always fun, you don’t want to waste too much time looking at travel guides and maps when you’re finally in the country you’re visiting. You want to make the most of your visit, so it’s better to plan out some key places you want to check out. If you have family or friends that have been there before, ask for advice on great eateries and sites. I assure you, these reviews will be more in-depth and truthful than anything you will find off of Yelp!

Enjoy the Experience

One of the things I regret of my trip to Greece last year is that I didn’t take enough pictures. Yes, I came home with >200 shots of my face next to some statue I don’t even remember the name of anymore. But what I missed out on is the dozens of fun moments spent with my friends; the late night trips to get gelato, and the games nights we created in our hotel rooms after a long day of travelling. Not just the sites are something to remember; the whole experience is. Don’t forget extra memory cards and chargers for your camera! The prices of these things are always hiked up near tourist sites, so to avoid the inconvenience, come prepared!

If you’re going somewhere this summer, comment below with the place and the expectations you have for your journey!

Easter Around the World

Now that we’ve said goodbye to the harsh winter and welcomed Spring with open arms, we can start all the Easter decorations, egg hunts, and filling our Easter egg baskets. Easter is a holiday celebrated by Christians commemorating the resurrection of Jesus. The 40 days leading up to Easter is known as Lent- during which observers give up something they enjoy as a symbol of their religious devotion. Americans celebrate Easter both for spiritual reasons and for the fun. Games are planned for the children such as the Easter egg roll or the egg hunt. The Easter bunny is a symbol for this holiday first brought by the settlers of German descent. Later on, Americans accepted the traditions as a main part of their Easter celebrations.

America is not the only country that celebrates Easter in a traditional way. Bermudians celebrate   Good Friday- two days before Easter- by making and flying home-made kites, and eating hot cross buns. In Norway, there is a tradition known as “Easter-Crime”. During Easter, people around Norway, read crime books or watch crime based television shows. No holiday tradition is complete in Norway without a big family meal. The meal table is covered with daffodils and other decorations. Another big Easter tradition for Norwegians is mountain trip and skiing. Norwegians head up to the mountains to celebrate this holiday while skiing, eating oranges and Kvikk Lunsj- a chocolate bar consisting of crunchy wafer and milk chocolate.

 

In Greece, the “pot throwing” ceremony takes place on the morning of Holy Saturday. Pots and pans are thrown across everywhere, being smashed on the streets. This unique custom is said to be derived from the Venetians. Some say that this custom welcomes Spring, and shows meaning for the new crops that are to be planted in the new pots. In France, on Easter Monday, a big omelet is served not the main square of the town. More than 4,500 eggs are used and can be fed up to 1,000 people.

 

While it is fascinating to see all these different cultures and customs, what’s important for any holiday is to be surrounded by family and friends.

 

 

Public Transportation in NYC: Are Shuttles Necessary?

I was five years old the first time I took New York City’s MTA bus and subway. I still remember thinking how cool it was to look out the window and see the city I live in fly by. I felt grown up, surrounded by businessmen in suits talking rapidly in their cell phones. I felt as if I was one tiny piece of the puzzle that makes New York City. There are literally bus and subway routes taking you to any place in NYC with a 2-2.5 hour span. As New Yorkers, we are taught from an early age that, yes, you should run for the first open seat near you, but also to be considerate of the elderly and disabled when they board the bus.

One experience I had that made me realize how much NYC MTA has had an effect on me was on my trip to Greece. In Athens, they have a similar train program, and of course, us from NYC knew to run for the open seats and to place our tickets into the automatic scanner. I thought this was all common sense, until the students from Illinois  came on (mind you, they came in our group) and stopped with puzzled faces, wondering why they were unable to get a seat. Of course, there have been quite a number of mornings when I get agitated to an extreme with the MTA. When the Q88 is a half hour late, and I am most likely missing my first class, I say to myself, “I am going to go home and write a *strongly worded* letter to the MTA!” But even then, I know for a fact that the MTA is something that makes this city individualized. It is something that allows NYC residents to have individuality. I’m sure that there aren’t many places in the world where there are free shows coming to you, whether it be a card trick or a jazz performance, asking for change as a payment. You can’t get this experience elsewhere.

So what am I trying to prove here? Personally, I don’t believe that Queens College needs shuttle buses. My reasons for this, along with everything I’ve said above, is that I am already one of the hundreds of commuter students living over an hour away paying for a metro card.  The $115 monthly isn’t cheap, and adding another $40 per semester to pay for a shuttle that is not beneficial to me, nor necessary, is something that I simply cannot agree to. Also, many of the commuter students to QC drive- they have to pay for their parking permits as well as gas. I do not think they should be forced into paying for a service that they will not be using. Lastly, there are those that simply do not need to use the public transportation services frequently. A simple bus ride to Main street leading to the 7 train will get you into the city in just under $3.00.

Just my view!

So, if you disagree with me on this issue, let me know! Comment below and see what others have to say about this.

Education Systems Around the World

We live in a world where “No Child is Left Behind”. America’s education system has progressed greatly over the past ten years. From the ideas of George W. Bush to President Obama and to even our personal Mayor De Blasio, many people disagree with the way our system woks but what they don’t realize is that America is much more better off than countries around the world. Many of us are immigrants from third world countries and it came to my attention that there, kids who go to school for ten hours a day, only to pay extra money to out of school tutors for tuition.

Now, I know that there are various points that can be debated over NYC’s new PreK curriculum, or Mayor De Blasio’s choice to close off the charter schools. And while it is completely understandable to have differences of opinion, we should take a look at the ideas of parents who think that they’ve made the proper decision to send their children to charter schools. As I have heard from a teacher in the public school system, there has been recent changes and blocks that have made it almost impossible for teachers to individualize their lessons, and they must follow all protocols strictly. Is this a good or bad thing? I find that while certain guidelines should be followed, it is unfair to give every child the same type of education when each child thinks and carries out thoughts in a different manner. Because of this, charter schools are seen as more lenient. At the same time, they may be more beneficial to children.

Around the world, it has been found that Finland and South Korea top as the two highest ranking education systems. It has also been noticed that as the social status of teachers increase, the quality of education does as well. Students in Latvia, Chile, and Brazil have been moving to better grades and educational gains at three times the rate of American students. (This basically equates to 2 full years of American education).

The amount of money spent of each child’s education in American rounded off at about $15,000, whereas in Japan (#1 educator in 2013) paid only around $10,000.

So what do you guys think American is doing “wrong”? How can our standards of education be raised to from 18th rank, to #1?

Social Media In Today’s Culture

These days, it seems as if anyone and everyone can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. We define ourselves with the kind of pictures we post, and the number of likes we received on our last status. We have smartphones which we are constantly checking- whether we are in class, out to dinner, or about to sleep.

When did we become a society so ignorant to the real life and so dependent on the virtual life?

There was once a time when people were lucky to have cell phones: truly used for what they were made for, emergencies and only phone calls. Now, we have high tech phones which not only make calls, but also serve as our cameras, GPS’s, gaming device, internet access, and book reading device. With apps for basically everything, there is no reason, heaven forbid, to open up an actual dictionary to look up a word. There is no reason to go to the gym, because your fitness app tells you to do a certain exercise and even measures your accuracy. There is no reason to carry a key ring, because as now innovations advance, there are locks that are opened by the presence of your phone, and your phone can carry all the barcodes to every store card you own.

The way it may seem, this is great for society. It has made life easier for everyone and can keep people are their high speed movement.

But is it really without a cost?

What happened to the days when you would spend time to actually think about all the  important things you wanted to tell a friend who lived far away, and gathered your thoughts on pretty stationary? What happened to the feel of actual paper books in your hand, with the papers yellowing in the corners, showing that it has been used and resused? Whatever happened to the family nights gathered in the living room watching the latest Hollywood Blockbuster? Now, it seems as if the usage of Netflix, email, and e-readers have replaced some of the simplest pleasures of life.

Fitness Around the World

I know that a lot of you guys most likely have a schedule for the week. Monday, Class, then Lunch, then Work, and then drop by the closest gym to fit in a workout before heading home. I find it that the way that Americans are constantly advised on health and fitness has made it all the more possible for us to battle some of the worst epidemics, such as overeating and obesity.

I am not one to say that it is completely mitigated from our country, but it is helpful to know that some of the commercials we see in the middle of the last basketball game we watched questioned the effects that the sodas we grab on to without a second thought have on our bodies. There are definitely some people who resent these types of commercials with extreme hated, with comments ranging from, “Who are they to question my preference of beverage?” to “Maybe they should just stick to the drunk driving commercials.”

Nevertheless, America is one of the more privileged countries- where most middle class citizens are able to afford gym membership to get in shape. In other countries world wide, people are using social terms, food, and even games to get fit.

Bangladesh is big on badminton. The majority of gyms and fitness centers in Bangladesh are expensive and basically reserved for the richer parts of the community. Badminton is one of those sports that can be played in almost any time of area, weather permitting. Therefore, a lot of people form teams within the village, and also use this as a way to get together.

Britain believes that food comes over all. The usage of healthier foods are well observed, and this is considered their daily fitness! After all, eating food sure exercises your internal organs.

Cairo, Egypt is specially interested in weight training and lifting. Even the poorest neighborhoods have run down gyms with the basic equipment needed to keep in shape, so no one has an excuse there!

In China, the concept of exercise has much less to do with actual fitness, but a lot to do with socializing. Street sports and dancing in parks is not only free, but quite enjoyable as well. They also believe that slapping themselves in areas with low circulation is good for them, so they aren’t so crazy to be hitting themselves!

As you can probably tell, people have different ways of staying healthy throughout the world. So feel free to adapt any of these wonderful ways of staying healthy from other countries. :)

Henna

I’m sure that the majority of you guys reading this are wonder, “What is so special about henna that it deserves a whole post on this blog?”

Well, ever since I was little, the concept of henna as a traditional making has been engraved into my brain. Navratri? You put henna designs on your hands as a supplement to the extravagant outfit you are dressed in to go to Garba (an Indian dance).  Weddings? There is an entire night of celebration dedicated just to having the bride and the females of the family getting their hands and feet tattooed. And in my household, there was always a cone or two left around for my sister and I to do trial experimental designs with.

Henna Art

I remember waking up the next day with crusted mehndi to rub off. My favorite part was seeing the beautiful designs that had been placed onto my hand in a vibrant red or orange color. As a kid, I had even gotten in trouble with my second grade teacher once for “drawing on my hands with marker”. Henna tattoos have been a part of my childhood, and it is a part of my culture and who I am.

It is used in much of Africa, India, Pakistan, and the Middle East for similar reasons as to what my family uses it for. Any celebration is a cause for henna tattoos.

Henna is made out of a plant, which binds to the keratin protein in our skin- which is why it leaves a color. You may be familiar with people putting henna in their hair as well, because it is the safer alternative to hair dying, and actually serves as a conditioner for your hair as well.

Along with being used for aesthetics, henna actually has many medicinal purposes as well. It serves as method to prevent hair loss, and heals open wounds and burns, headaches, and fevers. Some farmers put it on animals as a natural sunblock as well.

I think this plant is one of the most amazing, with so many uses and extravagance. And to think, if it weren’t this blog I may have never known all about the wonderful things it does other than please a bridezilla hoping for a perfect Indian wedding.

So next time you get a henna tattoo at a fair, remember, it is actually good for you! :)

 

Valentines Day All Around the World <3

Many people like to say that Valentines Day is just another sappy old holiday in which the businesses selling flowers, chocolate, and candy boom. While that may be true to a certain extent, I’m sure that the outcome of all the fuss is an abundance of happy couples all over the world.

Each country has their own way of celebrating Valentine’s Day. Here in America, there is the widely known concept of date night. Of course there is the showering of chocolates and flowers, and once in a while, someone decides to do something exotic for their significant other that surpasses the general boundary of the idea of Valentines.

Chocolate

 

I remember, ever since I was in middle school, my schools had flower and candy sales for Valentines. By high school, it became obvious that if you were in a relationship, you were bound to receive roses and an embarrassing serenading by member of the schools choir in the middle of class. In my close-knit group of friends, we always decided to surprise each other by little things. Honestly, we turned the holiday into a joke by senior year.

Valentine’s Day actually originated in France, where it was customary to send and receive love letters in the second week of February, because that is when the birds begin to mate.

One of my favorite Valentine’s customs is in Japan. The girls and women make chocolates for every important male in their life, from their father, to brothers, to a significant other. Their are different types of chocolates, each symbolizing the kind of feelings you have to offer the opposite person. In March, they have “White Day”, in which the boys and men who received chocolates for Valentine’s Day return the gift to the women.

England is known for the love of Shakespeare, so it is not found unrealistic or particularly surprising that the British decide to convey their love and feelings through the use of sonnets and other script writing.

In Canada and South Africa, there is never a time not to celebrate, and Valentine’s Day is just as good a day as any other. They have balls and in some areas, week long parties. In South Africa, these celebrations are called Lupercalia. This event requires young girls to pin the names of their lover on their sleeve.

The most outrageous tradition of all comes now. In Scotland, it is said that the first person you see on the street is your Valentine. How weird would it be to spend Valentine’s Day with a complete stranger?

Well, that said, I hope everyone has an amazing Valentine’s Day! :)

My Personal Tribute to Dada

Every Sunday morning for the past 16 years, I woke up to the sound of my parents talking on the phone with joyful voices. On the other end of the line were my grandparents back in India. Even though I was only two years old when I left my birthplace in Gandhinagar, my dad made sure that I would have a great relationship with my grandparents. Every couple of years, I would pack my bags and get ready to spend my summer vacation in the house my dad was brought up in. My grandmother would wake me up and ask, “Have you had your bournvita yet?” I would be forced to drink milk that had come out of a buffalo and would always oppose this, asking for cows’ milk instead.

Two years ago, I woke up to the voice of my sister saying that my Grandmother, my Baa, had passed away. I didn’t believe what she said. The first thought that had come across my mind was, “I will never be asked if I’ve drank my milk yet”. Through the funeral and religious services that were held in my house for her, I was in a blur. I didn’t truly realize she was gone until last summer. I went to visit my Grandfather, my Dada, in our hometown. He seemed to be doing well, but anyone could tell that he was lonely. Nevertheless, he kept a smile on his face and joked with me about my Baa’s spirit being around to be with me. Now, he is with her as well. This morning, I lost the most influential person that I have ever known. My Dada was the smartest, most interesting man that you would ever meet. With seven children, nine grandchildren, and two great grandchildren, my grandfather was loved and looked up to by so many people. I do believe that I had a special bond with him, because of our shared love for books. Both of us had identical Kindle e-readers, and every time I spoke to him, he would thank me for setting him up with his favorite books. He would say that every time he read from it, he thought of me. We also had a shared passion for science, and he was always willing to the movement of technology, despite what other people his age thought. He never once pushed me towards a career that I did not want to pursue, namely, medicine. Although many of the others in my family said that it was best to be a doctor, he would tell me, “Do whatever makes you happy”. He always said that I would be a great professor, and that I am capable of doing whatever I tried to do. Several times in the past month, he said that he was looking forward to seeing me win a Nobel prize from up in the heavens. Most people would think that being said something like that gave them a lot of pressure, but for me, it was simply a sign that my Dada believed in me.

Dada also loved philosophy. He was a man of many interests. Time after time, he would tell me to read books by J. Krishnamurti, his favorite philosopher. I actually never found to time to between my classes and work. I now deeply regret that I will never get to discuss with him the ideas that he loved so much. Even so, the talks we had on Socrates and Plato (and his ridiculing them, calling them “old fashioned” and “outdated”) are so precious to me, and will always be remembered.

More than anyone, I owe thanks to Dada for allowing me to become the person that I am today. I couldn’t have gotten into college, or received the scholarship that I did, without the help of Dada. He always looked over my writing, even though he was several oceans away. He would correct them, and tell me that I kept him preoccupied. At the same time, I knew that him having these papers of mine to look at made him feel closer to me, as I did to him. His corrections and guidance helped me being a better writer, which is one of the reasons that I am writing on this blog today.

Dada donated his eyes. He was always thinking of others, and even at the end, he helped someone to see. This way, his eyes will continue to see the world.

I can sit here and blame the hospital my Dada was in, and say that he wasn’t taken care of properly. I can always see the bright side- that he and my grandmother are back together. I can be thankful that he is no longer in pain. I can promise to always think of him, and love him unconditionally- because that was what he gave me.

Maybe I haven’t yet realized that my loving, inspirational, amazing Dada is no longer in this world. Maybe it will take me a visit to my old Gandhinagar home to realize this. Nevertheless, I will be confused and sad tomorrow morning, when I won’t get to hear my Dada’s voice on the phone. I know that there were some times that I was a bit tired, or not in the mood to have a conversation with him. Although he knew that, our relationship never wavered. Now, I wish that all those times, I had taken the two minutes to chat with him, considering I will never have that chance again. Through this all, I have realized that even though Dada lived a wonderful 90 years, I will always wish that he was here longer. He and Baa are now together, and I hope that everything that he accomplished in life will be forever remembered. A man of such greatness, intelligence and caliber, should definitely always be remembered. He will remain in my heart, my thoughts, and my actions forever. Rest in peace Dada and Baa, and one day, I hope that you will see what I’ve come to become and be very proud.

Carnaval: The Celebration of a Year!

As you all have probably noticed, from the excessive amounts of Brazil posters around campus, this year, Queens College is celebrating the Year of Brazil! In the honor of this event, QC Voices has decided to take part of the celebration by having special posts on Brazil. I personally love parties, celebrations, and anything festive. In Brazil, they seem to feel the same way. Every year, for five days before Ash Wednesday, they celebrate the “Carnaval” which literally translates to carnival in English. Everyone is invited to participate in this event of the year, and on the contrary to the customs in most countries, there are parts of Brazil when the poorest of the country are the ones who actually make the party.

There are many different ways of celebration, depending on which part of Brazil you are in, from the “Rio de Janeiro” to the “Bahia” to the “Pernambuco”. For the “Rio de Janeiro” style, the European methods of celebration are mimicked, but Native American and African cultures dwell through it as well. With Blocos de Rua (street carnival bands), a major part of this celebrations follows on music and dancing. Basically, anyone can form a bloco group, and they normally come up with a comical name or phrase for themselves. They can take this opportunity to meet new people, show there standard in business, and other beneficial things. Samba schools run all year long in preparation for the Carnaval. They are financed by well known and renowned businesses, but also by illegal gangs.  This is not truly considered as an opposition to the law, but has become rather a tradition of the Carnaval.

The Carnaval is really a time for people of all social statuses and standings to come together and enjoy themselves. Actually, one of the major parts of the Carnaval is come together by the poorest people in Brazil, the people from the favelas, the poorest of the neighborhoods. These people actually seem to make the festivity of the carnaval, and they look forward to it all year because they know they are welcome to enjoy this festivity as much as everyone else. Many of the participants of the samba schools are from these favelas. Another interesting detail about the festival? For the duration of the festival, along with social boundaries, all gender boundaries disappear as well. For a country not as open to homosexuality as the United States, this means a lot. The LGBT communities take a big role in the festival because they are free of all judging that they may have to face normally.

They have masquerade parades, where everyone dresses up and there are various performances on different types of music.  Believe you want to take part in this celebration? Book a ticket or learn more from http://www.rio-carnival.net/ !


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