A Travellerspoint blog

Blogging Best Practice

This is not an official Department of State Website or Blog!

rain 45 °F

As I am opening up this blog to a wider audience I wanted to make clear that my blog is not an official Department of State website or blog and that the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program, the Department of State, or IIE.

The purpose of my blog is to share my experiences in the USA over the course of my exchange year in an entertaining, informative and interesting manner and in doing so, increase mutual understanding between the people of the my host country, the USA and the people of other countries.

Posted by mhwedwards 14:05 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Hallowe'en and Hurricanes

It's a Howler!

storm 50 °F

On sage advice, I'm now fully stocked up on toilet paper, coffee and candles-apparently that's all one needs to weather the impending storm ready to whip the east coast of the USA! All public transport has ground to a halt in DC and the schools in both DC and Virginia are shut for at least today (Monday) and Tuesday-and last week we were smugly basking in temperatures of 80F degrees! The storm is set to hit land this evening but until such time, I'm making sure all electrical items are fully charged and I've prepared a gargantuan hot meal while I've still got power!

I hope this weather doesn't put a "damper" on Wednesday's Hallowe'en celebrations-the highlight of my year! DC is experiencing a pumpkin patch explosion with neighbours trying to outdo neighbours with the quantity and magnitude of their stepped pumpkin displays! Piles of bones and grizzly gravestones "adorn" front gardens and watch out for those gigantic spiders which try to grab you as you hastily sneak past!

My "costume" has a "Wallace" theme but you'll have to wait for the next blog installment to get a peek!

Next Tuesday is Election Day and there is a sense of mounting tangible excitement. A current art project touring the States involves plonking volunteers down behind a replica of the the desk in the Oval Office and asking them what they would do if they were President. My favorite (Am. Eng.) is the little girl who wanted the USA to make all countries live in peace with each another and then proceeded to do a beautifully executed ballet dance around the desk! I hope she runs for Office when she comes of age!

I visited the town of Fairfax last weekend with my colleague Cindy and had a fascinating tour around an estate entitled "Blenheim" which was commandered by the Union soldiers during the Civil War and used as a field hospital. The fascinating attraction about the building is the fact that it is full of soldiers' graffiti, mainly signatures which are still very legible! We also visited the old schoolhouse, the first school in Fairfax which is now a local museum and has many references to the Civil War. Fairfax lays claim to the first shot fired in the Civil War, in front of the Court House! Incidentally,Cindy's great grandfather fought at Gettysburg! I picked up several pamphlets on Civil War sites to visit and so a few more excursions are planned for finding out more about this fascinating period in American history!

In preparation for the latest Bond movie, "Skyfall", I took myself off (undercover) to the "Spy Museum"in DC, the only museum of its kind in the US dedicated to espionage! Kitted out with Homburg hat and dark glasses, I slipped past Security (okay, I handed over my "Groupon"!) and merged with fellow visitors to see what kinds of subterfuge, plots, disguises and devices spies of old and new engage in. My "Cluedo" expertise, honed over many years of Festive family tradtion, helped me to interact successfully with the hands-on "for visitors under 10 only" exhibits, but wearing my alternative "brat" disguise, I think I got away with it! I think I only have another 150 museums to visit in DC but I'm sure I'll get around to visiting them all before I return home even if it is just a "virtual" tour!

I have also been enjoying Sunday afternoon chamber concerts performed by the "President's Own" (US Marine Band) in the John Sousa Concert hall. The standard of performance is top class and amazingly, the concerts are FREE! (I was even handed a souvenir pencil and pen)! Being security checked by marines resplendent in their dress uniforms is also an added bonus!

I'm glad I didn't opt for the "open-top" bus tour of DC this week. "Groupon" was offering tours at half price-do you think they knew about the looming weather situation?!

At this time I'm safe and snug-hopefully I won't end up flying over Kansas!

Happy Hallowe'en!

Posted by mhwedwards 17:16 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Gone With the... World of Coca Cola?

An Awesome Atlanta Adventure!

sunny 67 °F

The more observant amongst you will have noticed a mild Americanism slipping into my usually pristine Standard English blog entries. I think I'm beginning to slip gently into the next phase of cultural assimilation which is regarded as "acceptance"!
Having just returned from a four day Fulbright "jolly" in Atlanta, I can reasurringly report that Atlanta has stopped burning and that I didn't have to resort to making a day dress from the drapes in the hotel! (That last comment will have meant little to those of you who are unfamiliar with the epic book and film "Gone with the Wind"-check it out!). It was great to meet up again with fellow Fulbright teachers who I had formed freindships with at our orientation week in Washington at the beginning of August. We took great comfort and pleasure in swapping stories and details of our experiences over the past six weeks. It was also refreshing to stand back from my current situation and draw breath! As well as a variety of interesting sessions in our very comfortable downtown hotel, we also had the opportunity to visit the Martin Luther King Center which is a historic National Park site and has been restored to the appearance of the area during the early 1960s.
We also had a great visit to Peach Tree Ridge High School where we were escorted by senior pupils around various classrooms and given further insights into how Georgia delivers its education system. After the last full day of business, the lure of the "World of Coca Cola" was too much to resist and as Atlanta is the birthplace of this iconic beverage, it was a visit not to be missed! A very full day was rounded off with a trip to the theater (Am. Eng.) to see the play, "Apples and Oranges", a tale of an acrimonious brother/sister relationship in adulthood, written by Alfred Uhry who wrote the play, "Driving Miss Daisy" which was also filmed in Atlanta. All in all, an AWESOME trip!

Back in D.C. I can now reveal what "D.C." actually stands for...It is not "District of Columbia" but rather "Dog Capital"! I have never tripped over as many dogs anywhere else than I have in D.C.! They come in all shapes, colors (Am. Eng.) and size! Their owners persist in allowing them freedom to roam on extendable leads which only results in them wrapping themselves around the nearest tree from which they have to be unwrapped, or creating makeshift hazards for pedestrians (of which I am one ), as they unravel the lead from hedge to road edge creating a mini Olympic size high jump obstacle which requires athleticsm and luck to avoid! This evening, I witnessed an outdoor canine "obedience" class: the only obedience shown seemed to be coming from the weary looking owners trying desperately to restrain their over zealous hounds as they attempted to bond with the pack!

Monday was Columbus Day-a Federal holiday -yeah! I took myself off in pursuit of higher knowledge to the Library of Congress and all I can say is that Meldrum Library has some way to go! The marble and gilding are awe-inspiring and the Thomas Jefferson reading room (open twice a year to the general public), instils a sense that the visitor is entering into a hallowed hall of learning. Maybe it's time to move on in my reading from "Hercule Poirot Mysteries"!

Although officially "Fall", the temperature is still very pleasant, hovering around 18C-20C and still warm enough for sitting outside-long may it continue. Will have to start thinking about my Hallowe'en costume soon...lots of pumpkins and spooky objects are appearing in gardens in the neighborhood (Am. Eng.)!

For those of you off on holiday from school, have an awesome break!

Scarlett x

Posted by mhwedwards 19:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Virginian Wineaux

A Rudimentary Guide to the Vines of Virginia

sunny 70 °F

With the onset of Fall upon us amid a comfortable 70 degrees F, the time was ripe last weekend (22nd September) for a foray into Virginian wine country! I had the privilege and honor (Am. Eng.) of joining a dedicated group of wine lovers (12 in total), led by Carl Sulzbach, hisband of Fuzun, one of my colleagues at Annandale High School. Carl's hobby is wine and if there was ever anything you wanted or needed to know about wine, he's your man!
Our first stop was the Philip Carter Winery in West Virginia. As we made our way along the vine lined ribbon driveway luring us ever closer to the red clapboard visitor center, I sensed that we had truly left the concentration of people and commerce behind and had escaped at last into a truly beautiful rural landscape, shaped by the legendary Blue Ridge Mountains, (my rendition of the Laurel and Hardy classic raised a smile!). Prior to our group's sampling session, we set out our picnic on tables outside and enjoyed a magnificent feast courtesy of group contributions. Our genial sommelier at the tasting, sharpened our taste buds and we enjoyed some lovely light, fruity and thoughtful wines. Picnic hampers repacked, we resumed our travels and made a second stop at "Naked Mountain" winery where had it not been for an invasion of Stink Bugs,(large ugly looking bugs which although harmless, cling to you and if squished, emit a powerful stink!), the location would have been terrific for sitting outside. We were however able to conduct our sampling in the cellar room which was lovely and cool and the tasting session was rounded off perfectly with scrumptious dessert from the picnic hampers! This was truly a wonderful day - great company, food and wine!!

On the heels of the wine trip, I was dropped off at the Ford Theatre, (infamously reknowned for the place where Abraham Lincoln was shot), and saw the play, "Fly" which tells the story of the Tuskagee airmen during WW2 (a squadron of black fighter pilots whose heroics helped desegregate the US Armed Forces after the War) - it was excellent. The theatre itself is a national monument and as I was sitting quite close to President Lincoln's box, it was quite a moving experience to be so close to such a historic occurrence.

This weekend, I was delighted to be asked to attend the production "Black Watch" in DC which is touring in the USA at the moment with the National Theatre for Scotland. I had always wanted to see the play but had never been in the right place at the right moment. It was funny hearing strong Scottish accents again and listening to references about places in Scotland I am familiar with: Burntisland, Kinghorn, Dundee, Perth, and people: Lord Elgin! The play is truly amazing and the standard of acting and production, phenomenol.

This week I'm heading off to Atlanta for 3 days as part of the Fulbright program and so I'm really looking forward to meeting up with other Fulbrighters and exchanging reports on our experiences so far! To be continued...

Posted by mhwedwards 18:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Go Atoms!

A Beginner's Guide to Understanding High School Football

It's the atmosphere that first hits you as you approach the football field: a swarm of red and white supporters milling around the entrance gate, the smell of hot dogs, burgers and pop corn at the concession stand, row upon row of chanting, partisan fans. "Go Atoms!" Annandale High School's cry to battle resonates around the ground. The away team supporters on the stand opposite try their best to fill the empty space but they realise that the Atoms have conjured up a formidable support and their own battle cries will be hard to hear above the home team's feisty vocals.
Cheerleaders beautifully attired in "spirit" colours of red and white deftly twirl their pompom accessories and fire up the crowd with their rousing cries. The marching band, resplendent in military-esque uniform adds pomp and ceremony to proceedings...and this is all before the game begins!
At last the footballers run onto the pitch, an endless stream of disproportionate athletes, dressed for battle and rallying to the ecstatic cheers of the spectators. What's happening? It's kick-off, the ball flies high, the players run and then... the action stops! My attentive and sympatheric fellow spectators inform me the team with the ball have 3 chances to make 10 yards (the USA has not gone metric yet!). Only certain players can handle the ball (I'm still working on that one!). There are 4 quarters in a game and each lasts 12 minutes (in High School football) but the number of stoppages during a game means that a quarter's length is considerably longer than 12 minutes! At last, an Annandale player breaks free and makes a run for it-it's a touch down!!!!!!! 5 points with a further 1 for kicking the ball between the goal posts or 2 if the team decides to run over the line-we decide to kick and the ball goes over the post-1 more point!!!!!! The stand goes crazy and I find myself jumping up and down, hollering for the awesome Atoms!!
I am made aware of the following terms:offensive linesmen, defensive linesmen, quarterbacks,defensive backs, receivers, running backs, linebackers, kickers. I've got a good idea what a kicker does but it's going to take a few more games to be fully familiar with the role and responsibilities of the other team players. However, I think I've made a good start-what do you think...

Postscript: Have now counted 4 cats around DC!

Posted by mhwedwards 17:25 Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 18) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »