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A tale of many countries

By gjmacdougall

This weekend the 'fresher's flu' I'd been running from since the beginning of term finally caught up with me and made me miss the creature comforts of home, but before then, this week was about experiencing a mix of different cultures.

It started with a delicious, American home-cooked meal by the mum of one of my friends, the US theme continuing later in the week with the GW Alternative Breaks Fall Ball (a fundraiser for volunteering trips during university holidays that my roommate is a part of) as well as in my weekly struggle with american coffee chain ordering systems for my caffeine/catch-up fix with a friend.

However, the highlight of the week and perhaps the ultimate 'American' experience was our visit on a balmy November (try saying global warming isn't real) afternoon to the East Wing of the White House. Organised for the exchange students by our exchange coordinators we were able to wander a selection of the corridors, admire the rooms and their history (the extent of which the European students felt a little superior over), and even - with the photography ban lifted - take photographs, because did it even happen if it wasn't captured on film?

 A Room with a (slightly wonky) View
A Room with a (slightly wonky) View

Seeing the inside of the White House had an air of surrealness similar to that which I felt during the Garden Tour. Aside from the stringent security, designed, one felt, as much to instil fear as to protect against threat, it felt hard to reconcile what seemed to be just a beautiful English country house with one of the most powerful places and symbols in the world.

We concluded the tour with another cultural experience by going to District Taco to sample some (albeit Americanised) Mexican food. I have been told countless times by my American friends in Edinburgh that 'Yeah, British people can't do Mexican food' so I was eager to try some in the States. District Taco has a number of locations across the Washington and Virginia area and you are able to customise your order, Subway-style, whether it be tacos, burrito or quesadilla. It had been highly recommended to me by a friend here and I have to say, after my first time trying soft tacos, I will definitely be making a return visit.

However, the day of cultural experiences was not done as later that night Bahar had invited me to an evening of spoken word by DarkMatter, a trans south asian performance art duo who were performing at GW. Spoken word is an art form I had never encountered before going to university and some of my friends in Edinburgh are heavily involved in it, so I was very keen to be in the audience. Their fresh, radical intelligence was amazing to hear - hearing a mention of the name of my mother's state in India was also nice for me - as they articulated how bringing cultures together can, and have been, highly destructive.

For culture with an uncomplicated moral message and most likely complicit in the processes DarkMatter were calling out, I went to see the latest James Bond film, Spectre at the AMC Loews Theatre in Georgetown (the same cinema where I had previously attended a church service) with a group of other exchange students. A Bond fan already, being overseas made me even more appreciative of the positive portrayal of my country, despite any flaws the film might have, seeing Britain as it wished to be seen in the eyes of the world.

To another week of experiencing different cultures and their interaction,


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