Friday, April 15, 2011

Small Space. Little Effort. BIG Impact

So what have I been up to for the last couple of weeks? I've been creating a bit of promotional material for a great cause:

Go and support an AMAZING non profit here in Raleigh: Pack for a Purpose's offical website

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Japanese Flair In The City Of Oaks

Sushi has been a staple of Japanese diets for hundreds of years, but only in the last decade has it grown to such a massive popularity in the United States. For Americans eating sushi is all about trying something out of the norm and breaking out of your comfort zone- after all it isn’t every day that you eat raw fish wrapped in seaweed. And with the growing popularity of the Japanese dish dozens of restaurants have opened up in Raleigh to cater to the hungry masses. One of my favorite spots is Sushi Blues Café

Sushi Blues is a cozy restaurant and bar on Glenwood South (301 Glenwood Ave Raleigh), filled with a constant stream of locals from downtown rather than those who are more interested in bar hopping. This is why my friends and I frequent the spot so often, even in a sea of crowded night bars you can manage to get great service, a wonderful atmosphere, and authentic sushi for less than the price of a cover at most clubs.

At first glance the interior looks more like a spot to lounge around and listen to music rather than a place to eat, and while I haven’t experienced it myself I have heard that the live music is great! Along with the musical offerings there are also several big scream televisions to catch the game and plenty of spots to socialize until your food arrives….But of course the most important thing isn’t the ambiance, it’s the sushi! If you’ve ever traveled to Japan you know that some of the greatest food can be found in some of the most underwhelming of locations. Good sushi is all insider knowledge after all. Luckily Sushi Blues looks great and has a cool feel, but once you head to the dining area you’ll be treated to the great taste of Japan from the city of Oaks.

Sushi Blues Café’s menu consists of dozens of items inspired by various regions of Japan. The sushi list is extensive and offers traditional rolls such as the California and Salmon but also features various rolls named after and based off of local spots and famous faces. One of my favorites is the “Lena Horne”, a roll including mackerel, scallions, avocado, cucumber and spicy mayo which provides a great kick at the end. Accompany the meal with a bottle of Sake and you’re set!

If you’re low on money Sushi Blues Café offers a buy one get one free deal after 11pm on weekends. This deal allows patrons to get several varieties of sushi and share with their friends. The great deal on food and drinks at night is one of the major reasons why Sushi Blues Café is full from dawn till dusk.

Monika Webb, 21, a local student from Raleigh frequents the late night sushi scene.

“I’ve been here before and it’s always a good time, the sushi is great and the Sake is good too”

Elaina Bright, 21, a student from Peace College stated it simply:

“Affordable, Assessable, Perfect atmosphere for a college student”

Sushi Blues Café is open seven days a week, and offers several drink and food specials daily:

Monday-Friday 11:30am - 2:00pm

Sundays/Mondays 5:30pm-10pm
Tuesday-Wed 5:30pm-12am
Thu-Sat 5:30pm-1:00am
Half Priced Sushi
Sunday-Thursday: All day
Friday-Saturday: After 11pm

*Photos courtesy of Sushi Blues Cafe's website

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Packing For A Purpose? Who Would Have Thought It!

Pack for a Purpose

At my college students are required to partake in at least one internship their junior or senior year, though what you do is up to you as long as it captures your personal interests and skills! Internships are a great way to learn more about what you love after all….

Which is why I can’t help but to feel extremely lucky, after all I get to intern with a program that involves international affairs and does a great deal of good for the world!  By taking advantage of the extra space in a traveler’s suitcase to send much needed  school supplies to children in need, the non-profit organization 'Pack For A Purpose' is helping to spread the word about responsible tourism to the people of Raleigh-and the rest of the nation! 

Created in December of 2009 by Rebecca and Scott Rothney, 'Pack For A Purpose' has provided travelers with information so it’s easy for them to use a small amount of space in their luggage to provide needed items to community based projects in over 100 destinations around the world! When a traveler logs on to they are brought to a page where they can choose their destination and see available drop off points located nearby.  Various lists of needed items are also included so everyone knows just what to bring!

Rebecca Rothney, founder of 'Pack For A Purpose', thought of the idea for the organization after her first trip with her husband to Africa:

"During our first trip to Africa, my husband Scott and I learned that while we were limited to 40 pounds of luggage on safari, the airline has an allowance of 140 pounds for luggage. In making plans for a second trip, we looked into visiting a school near the lodge we would visit in Botswana. We contacted our safari company, Wilderness Safaris, to see if we could determine any specific needs of the school. Armed with that information, we were able to deliver 140 pounds of school supplies between the two of us to the school. It was enormously rewarding to be able to help the people in the community that had given us such a life-enriching experience."

While the idea of packing with others in mind was great, it wasn’t one many people thought of until it was too late. 

"I asked out travel agent why other travelers did not use their luggage allowances in this way. ‘Because nobody thinks about it’ he said. That was the aha moment when I realized that I needed to provide an easy and effective way to encourage other travelers to do what we had done"

And thus ‘Pack For A Purpose’ was born! It’s amazing to think that with a small space and little effort people can make such a big impact!

Travelers can get involved with 'Pack For A Purpose' by heading to the website or visiting the site’s facebook and twitter pages! New locations are added each day so be sure to check so that you can help the world one bag at a time!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Answer The Call: Responsible Travel With The Peace Corps

Photo courtesy of  Peace Corps Public Service Announcements

The idea of responsible travel is something that many people have heard about on television, in magazines, as well as online. The concept is that instead of traveling for yourself you do so with a purpose of aiding the country that you will be visiting. Countless television personalities talk about how people can give back and help the places they will be staying by bringing along items for schools and orphanages or donating funds to worthy cause abroad.

While I have an extreme love for traveling I admit I haven’t been doing my part at times to be a responsible traveler. As a young adult the majority of my trips have been for school in which we attended university abroad or studied famous sights. And when I wasn’t traveling for class credit I was abroad with my family, sightseeing and living in some of the most interesting destinations I’ve ever been to. All of it was amazing, but aside from working with some national and international charities I haven’t really been doing my part to help.

Now that my college career is wrapping up my travels will be less and less about school and recreation and more about helping out as I hope to make the move towards becoming a more responsible traveler. And the perfect way to do that? Looking into joining the Peace Corps.

Now I’m not saying that joining the Peace Corps is for everyone, nor am I guarantying that I will even get in but it’s definitely worth it to bring up this amazing opportunity for people in Raleigh to get involved with projects halfway across the world.

The Peace Corps is a volunteer program which started in 1961 with the three fundamental aims:

  • To provide technical assistance
  • To help people outside the United States to understand U.S. culture
  • To help Americans understand the cultures of other countries

To obtain these goals the Peace Corps has employed over 200,000 American volunteers to be sent abroad to help developing areas in 139 countries by working in schools, government institutions, non-profit organizations, and with entrepreneurs in their local setting. Volunteers are sent abroad for 27 months at a time after receiving various language, culture, and technical training and support stateside. Once abroad Peace Corps volunteers receive various benefits such as partial college loan deferment and cancelation, monthly living allowance to cover housing and living expenses based on location, medical and dental insurance, vacation time, and transition funds once time is complete. 

In addition to all of this joining the Peace Corps is a great way to build a resume, and achieve marketability towards potential employers in the future. If you decide to attend graduate school after your 27 month commitment is up you also may be eligible for scholarships and reduced tuition at over 130 participating schools with a Peace Corps program. 

To learn more about the Peace Corps I decided to attend the Eastern North Carolina Career Alliance’s Career Fair in Raleigh where a representative of the program would be speaking to students from local colleges. While the career fair was full of great opportunities with local and national businesses, the Peace Corps booth definitely stood out as the most global of ways to make an impact in society. The representative from the program, Emma Garcia, was a former Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria from 2007-2009. She was extremely helpful in explaining the ins and outs of the program, and explained to me the benefits of responsible tourism and volunteering abroad:

“It’s a great opportunity to give back on the international level. It’s a life changing experience.”

Garcia told me about aid while abroad which ranged from the stipends to advice and support from other volunteers. She also explained how language training in a volunteer’s host country is extensive and free, a great deal for someone interested in learning a new language. Most volunteers learn enough of the language to feel confident to work and communicate with the public on their own!

Garcia also explained the work that goes into the selection of a volunteer’s sector of work (the theme of their volunteer service in a sense) and why volunteers are asked to make the 27 month commitment:

"We tailor your volunteer work towards the sector you want, and we look at adaptability and how you deal with challenges. It really takes a good amount of time to integrate into the community”

She went on to explain that the first few months are full of various training abroad, and getting used to your new environment. By the time you have reached the one year mark you will be more comfortable in your surroundings and can focus solely on making a difference. 

The Peace Corps is a great opportunity to travel responsibly, whether you are just out of college or looking for something amazing to do after leaving the workforce. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Good Art Knows No Language!

Remember back to elementary school: piling into a bus and traveling to the local museum to stand in line and learn about important people from days gone by. Whether this is a good or bad memory is up to you, but I seem to remember the annual museum field trip as a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand  I loved the excuse it gave us to break our mundane school day and spend the afternoon chatting with our friends on the bus and eating our white bagged lunch on the museum lawn. On the other hand standing in a line and touring dozens of exhibits with a constantly monotone tour guide was pretty boring. 

While planning my latest excursion I feared that same feeling of boredom, as I’ve never been one to pay attention for anything for more than a few minutes at a time. I was plotting a trip for Peace College Qatar delegation (as mentioned in a previous blog post of mine),  a group of 11 young women from the Gulf nation who would be coming for a little less than a week. The trip I was planning, a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art, would be one of the main attractions as well as a chance to showcase the best of American art to the girls. Naturally I was aware that there would be global art there as well, but we hardly had the time to even see all of the American pieces right?

Well partly. When the time came to make our way to the museum the girls were anxious to see what America had on display, as well as what international works the museum had on displayed. They seemed equally excited so we decided to let the girls have free reign of the museum, which in turn gave me a chance to see some amazing pieces from around the world! 

The North Carolina Museum of Art is located just outside of downtown Raleigh and consists of hundreds of pieces from Europe, Africa, North and South America, as well as a special selection from ancient Egypt. In addition the museum boasts several special exhibits a year as well as a showcasing of student art from local art institutions. 

Many of the girls from abroad instantly gravitated towards the North and South American pieces, but I found myself slipping away towards the European section. All of the art within the museum is amazing but I have always enjoyed the elegance of many of the older pieces....And the interest of those super cool takes on the classics!

Besides the classics The North Carolina Museum of art has various pieces of modern and interactive art to encounter as well as a giant museum park full of various sculptures and pieces (the reason why you should go on a sunny day!)

As I went around I was curious to see what the Qatari girls' (as well as my peers’ and professor’s) favorite pieces were, as well as what kind of art they most enjoyed:

Whether you have a few hours or a full day the North Carolina Museum of art is an amazing place to discover the world through an artist’s eyes! Or through the eyes of several crazy girls.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

What's So Global About Hockey? Everything!

Fun fact:  While the NHL All Star Game can consist of any of thirty teams located in America and Canada, their fans are from around the world. It’s especially obvious when you head out to All Star Wide Open. 

For those who are unaware All Star Wide Open is a street festival celebrating the beginning of the National Hockey League's All Star Game. The All Star Game is an exhibition ice hockey match which pits many of the league’s top players against each other. Attending the All Star Game is a great way to meet many famous faces, watch a bit of hockey, or just enjoy the festive mood with an extremely enthusiastic crowd.  

Originally I didn’t head out to All Star Wide Open with the intentions of writing a blog post about its international connections. Despite it’s Nordic roots hockey is a game North Carolinians find very close to their hearts,  thus turning it into a very American pastime. When you think of hockey you can sometimes forget  just how global it really is. Not to mention I’ve been getting over a cold and missing my voice for a good three days now-definitely not in the interviewing mindset. I initially thought I’d go out with a few friends, take some pictures, eat some food, and be done with it. Not quite.

When we arrived downtown my brain started going a mile a minute. It could have been thanks to the French Crepes, or perhaps the African inspired jewelry in the craft bazaar, or maybe the Korean music blaring from a dance stage down the street. Whatever it was it led me to give myself a challenge: find out just how global All Star Wide Open could be. 

The Answer? Pretty darn global. 

Let’s start with the obvious shall we? While All Star Wide Open was created to cater to all things hockey the street festival was also filled to the brim with all sorts of amazing food from around the world. With two friends in tow; Santana Douglass and Samantha Hightower, we made our way from country to country through our stomachs.

Things started harmless enough, savory crepes (a dish which originated in the French region of Brittany) which then led to two Greek gyros loaded with tzatziki sauce, and a Mediterranean style vegetarian sandwich to finish it off. Even after our more than full meal I had to be curious about what was my friend's favorite part of the international cuisine:

Once we gathered ourselves enough to continue on we spotted an amazing assortment of local and global wares, created by people in the triangle. While some of the things seems rather conventional we were caught off guard by the unique wares of a few tables; especially that of Litina Egungun who brought his amazing African and Jamaican style and flare for art to the Triangle. 

After getting food and shopping out of the way I was curious to see just how diverse the entertainment at All Star Wide Open could really be. I was expecting a few cool local bands as well as some headliners (3 Doors Down anyone?)  but I really wasn’t expecting to see  Greek dancers, a Japanese performance and B-Boy inspired dance teams:

 So in conclusion hockey is a pretty great way to go global, especially when it's taking place in the Triangle. Raleigh has an amazing way of making something that doesn’t seem diverse on the surface an international affair for all to enjoy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Global Connection: Qatar to America

It’s not uncommon to see international diplomats around Raleigh; after all we live in the middle of the research triangle park: the mecca of all things global and business. The RTP has hosted hundreds of foreign visitors who usually stay just long enough to attend a few meet and greets, get some business done, and perhaps visit a few sights within the triangle. 

What’s rare is to see a group of foreign students whose main purpose of visiting is not for business, but rather to view American life through the eyes of college women in the triangle. These students, young women from the University of Qatar in the Middle East, were chosen out of over 200 applicants to participate in an exclusive exchange with Peace College in downtown Raleigh on the week of February 1st-6th

This exchange, going four years strong, has sent over twenty Middle Eastern women to the City of Oaks since its creation.  The idea was conceived by Mohana Raja Kumar, a former student at Peace who wished to make a connection between the two countries in order to lessen misconceptions and encourage curiosity. Since then the program has flourished offering young women who have never traveled outside their country a chance to experience the diverse cultures and traditions of America. 

While in America Qatari students participate in tours around the city and triangle, various team building excursions, as well as panels and class sessions with local students. During these sessions the differences between the two nations are discussed and questions regarding customs and opinions are brought to the table for discussion. This gives all students a chance to understand each other better and form lasting bonds which transcend their time on campus. 

Head of International Studies and coordinator for the Qatar-America exchange Dr. Laura Vick is excited for students to experience the unique differences between Qatari culture and our own:

“It’s a chance for Qatar University Women and Peace women to have one on one interaction so that they can learn first-hand cultural differences and different perceptions.”
But this experience is not only for the students of the University of Qatar. Each summer Peace College sends their own group of young woman to the Middle East in order to experience life as their new friends do each day. 

Tiffany Taylor, a Peace college student who participated in the exchange in 2009 describes the experience:

“The opportunity to meet people from a completely different part of the world is a very important and fun one in itself but the real fun is in the relationships in which you will gain from spending time with the Qatari students. I never thought that I would create such close friendships with the girls in such a short amount of time.”