Saturday, May 26, 2007

One Year Down, One More Year to Go!

So, the second semester is over! And with this my first year in the U.S. is over too. My second semester was a bit harder than the first one; I took three courses as usual, and two of them were in modern literary studies while the third one was all about British literature and John Milton. In last January and a few days before the beginning of the semester, I went on a trip with a group of international students to Pittsbugh, PA and visited the museum of Andy Warhol whom I never heard of before! The moment I entered the museum everything seemed funny to me as I haven't really been to a Pop Art museum before. But after the visit I thought of writing a post about the museum and what I saw there, and as usual I got busy with many others things and eventually forgot about the post! On the week after the trip while I was sitting in class getting my syllabus I saw an assigned trip to the same museum as one of the case studies we were going to take during the course on critical avant-garde studies. So I thought that's it, I'm going to make my final project for the course on Andy Warhol! And it was such a big struggle collecting all the books and materials and annotate them for the bibliography :S But even with the hard time I had working on the paper, I enjoyed so much reading all about his life and artwork, and while I was in New York last week, someone told me and my two friends about where Warhol used to live and we went there to see the place.

Let's start from the beginning and list all the events and things that happened in this semester. In February, I went to Miami for four days on a Fulbright seminar for first year Fulbrighters. Of course everything was paid for :D which added more fun to the trip! I met more than one hunderd Fulbrighters from all around the world, people that I never thought of meeting one day. It was cool, and I enjoyed my time alot even though we had to stay inside the hotel for most of the time due to the heavy seminar schedule! But there was enough time to walk on the beach since the hotel itself was in South Beach facing the wonderful view of the ocean and the open sky. It was one of my little dreams that came true :) The hotel is called Miami Beach Resort and Spa, it wasn't the biggest hotel for sure but we envaded the whole place wearing our blue Fulbright T-Shirts with tages that have our names, U.S. university and country. One of the rooms that we had most of the seminar sessions at was called the Stars Room, or something like that ( I don't quite remember) and it was located on the 82nd floor. Later we were told that Frank Sinatra used to sing and have his concerts in this room!

I also went to a host-family dinner with other three Fulbrighters from Germany, Chile, and Indonesia. We were put into groups and each host chose one group to invite for dinner on our second day in Miami. My host was a man who is originally from Cuba and who invited four friends of his who were also from Cuba and Mexico who have been living in Miami for a very long time. The dinner was very good and we sat in the backyard which was facing the water and we saw small ships and boats passing by during the evening. And on our last night, everyone was invited to restaurant to celebrate the success and end of the seminar. We were told that the place was one of the famous restaurants in Miami, but at the time we got there we found out that it was actually something like a night club with a belly dancer and very loud Greek music!! Not everyone liked it, and many of the Fulbrighters preferred to stay outside talking with each other, although many more of them stayed in and enjoyed their time. Me and other two Iraqi Fulbrighters joined a fourth Iraqi Fulbrighter who studies in Miami and went to a mall and then to a small Middle Eastern restaurant for dinner. On the fourth day, the weather was getting very bad and started to rain, but it was also our time to get back to our campuses and studies after spending a wonderful time on Miami Beach. One of the things that I was surprised to know during the seminar was that Miami is one of the poorest cities in the United States and highly segregated in terms of wealth! I never thought it was actually a poor city at all, everything looked fabulous there with the beaches, palm trees, and high buildings and the lights. But then I understood that the majority of the people living there are immigrants who live in poverty and work hard to support their families in their new place.

And we also visited high schools during our stay as part of the activities during the seminar. We had to divide into groups and each group would visit the assigned high school. We entered some classrooms and started to talk with the students starting by introducing ourselves to talking about our countries, our studies and the scholarship, and we were also asked to encourage the students to consider applying for the Fulbright scholarship and talk about its benefits and all. Of course, being an Iraqi person in America, I got most of the questions from both the students and the teacher. But it was so much fun for me as it was the first time I get to a high school in America, and I wouldn't mind doing it again if I have the chance to.

In March, not much happened except the continuous study and moving to a single room in another residence hall on campus. I wanted a single room from the beginning but I couldn't get one when I first arrived because they were all taken and I was late. Work continued on Andy Warhol paper, with disinterest and difficulty some times! I started working on my other two papers by that time, one on Milton and Paradise Lost, and one on Frankenstein.

In April, I went on a university bus trip to Washington D.C. with my two Polish friends. I forgot to mention that at the beginning of the semester I got to meet many new friends, mostly international students who came here as exchange students for one semester. They all went back home now :( So, this D.C. trip was more fun and much better than my first trip! It was for one day but we got to see almost everything we wanted to. The first stop was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The moment we got there I swore I could smell blood in the air!! I could never imagine that I would see real things from the Holocaust, and in that museum there were real and original objects that were used in some of the consentration camps in Poland and other places. I don't know, but it was very scary to walk among those things knowing that people died on them in a grotesque way! There were writings on the wall from the book Night that I read last year about one of the survivors in Aschwitz concenttration camp. No photographying was allowed inside the museum, so I couldn't take any pictures there. Our second stop was the White House. I was actually a bit disappointed when we got there because I thought we'd be able to see it on a closer range behind the black fence! But even with that far away look, it was pretty cool :D And then we walked to Veitnam Veterans Memorial, Veitnam's Women Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Cherry Blossoms festival, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, back to Washington Monument, and then to the Capitol building. The weather was extremely cloudy on that day but luckily it didn't rain until we got on the bus to get back home! By this time I bought a camcorder replacing the one I didn't bring with me from home to record everything and everywhere I go.

In May, two events happened on the first week of the month. The first one was a BBQ for international students celebrating the end of school year and the graduation of some of the students. The event took place in an off campus lodge located down a hill among huge trees. It was COOL! There weren't as many studnets as I expected it to be because it was the last week of the semester and many of us had exams and papers to work on, but I didn't want to miss the chance of relaxing and seeing a new place in the small town where I study. We played frisbee and broke some nails :P, and of course took many pictures. The second event was an American wedding of two of my friends here! Never did I think that I would have the chance of attending a wedding in the U.S.! It felt like I was in a movie, everything looked so neat and beautiful. Both the bride and the groom are in English department with me, but we've never been in the same class together. The girl is American and the guy is Syrian and they had both Arabic style wedding and American one, but I only attended the American one. I couldn't stay for the whole time cuz I had to get back and finish my papers, it was still the last week of the semester and time was running so fast, however, I enjoyed it alot.

A week after the semester was over, I went on a trip for four days to NYC with my two Polish friends. It was the first time for me there, and won't be the last for sure! I saw almost everything I wanted to see and walked everywhere from 9 in the morning till 10 at night! Well, this trip needs another post and will have so many pictures, and this post has been delayed for so long already and I want to publish it now after fighting with uploading the pictures! As for summer plans, I'm taking two summer classes, one at a time, and the first one will start on this coming monday and ends in the beginning of July, while the second class will start four days after the end of the first class, and end sometime in early August. I'm not going back home for the break because I can't. The Fulbright gave the Iraqi students a one-entry visa and it would take us up to six months if we have to apply for a new one! So I'm just staying here untill I graduate. More trips and events are coming ahead, along with much more studying and homework!!



Lisa, NY said...

Wow, you've had so many great experiences, Morbido, and I'm sure you'll have many more.

It seems like just yesterday that you were so disappointed when you thought you wouldn't get accepted into a University and now one year of your Fulbright experience is over already! Can you believe it?? Time really flies.

I hope you take advantage of every great opportunity that comes your way. You deserve it. :-)

programmer craig said...

Such a great post! Well worth the wait! Now we know what you've been up to all those times you were too busy to update us :P

Looking forward to your pics! I lived in Manhattan for a couple years when I was a teenager but it was a long time ago. I don't even remember it that well.

Michomeme said...


i wish i was there with you

luv ya sis

Anonymous said...

I am so glad things went well for you! It is terrific that you have been able to visit several American cities, meet lots of people, and experience different events.

Has anything surprised you? Anything different than you expected? What about the people? Do Americans behave like you expected? Is there anything about American life you find difficult to adjust to?

jd said...

It sounds like you are having fun.

Don't let them deport you back to Iraq though. Do whatever it takes to stay here.

Google "greencard" and "US Asylum" for more info.

programmer craig said...

jd, we're not going to deport Morbido! Are you crazy? (just kidding crazy part)

We need Morbido here! I'm sure she will have no trouble getting a work visa (and a job to go with it!) if she decides to stay in the US after she completes her studies.

jd said...

Craig, her only option, as far as I'm concerned, is to remain in the US and ultimately become a citizen.

It sounds like she is leaving after she graduates. She said in her post: "So I'm just staying here untill I graduate."


You have to stay here forever! You can never set foot in iraq again! Do whatever it takes to stay here - work visa, green card, asylum, get married... etc.

This is really important.

Jeffrey said...


Great blog post. It's been some time now for me but, as another Eng Lit student like you, I recall reading everything from Beowulf to Spencer to Milton and on up to the hundreds of modern authors like Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor. I'm an ESL teacher at a university today, but I recall with great fondness all of my Eng Lit friends I made in the past. We shared a passion for literature that has stayed with us all of these years.

Every so often when I go back to the University of Iowa, where I did my undergraduate degree, I walk through the Student Union and pass the tables where all of us would gather between classes to discuss heatedly, say, Tristram Shandy, or Donald Barthelme.

Like Lisa, I remember how sad I was only a year or so ago when it looked like the Fulbright was going to fall through. It's just fantastic to read about your experiences here.

I wonder if you've altered your views on Americans and America since you've arrived.

Here's today's blog post from IBC, if you'd like to read it:

Fatal Glass of Beer


Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Hi Morbido,

Glad to hear you're having a good time while you are here.

jarvenpa said...

Now I understand your Warhol post! And you have been having adventures, and you are safe, and I am so happy for you. I look forward to seeing your pictures.

David said...

Wow, what a long and detailed post! :) It sounds like you have had many interesting experiences in your first year in the U.S. I am really glad that everything worked out so you could come here!

I once drove from my town in Alabama to Miami. It took me two full days of driving. I went to visit my good friend from South Korea who was working on his Master's at Florida International University. He and I did some fun things there, and I did a few things on my own. Sea World was a very interesting place! I saw the dolphin and orca shows. There was also a very talented sea lion who could balance anything on its nose. :) My friend and I had a scare while we were driving in the Florida Keys. He wrecked his car! Lucky for us, we were both ok, but his car needed some expensive repairs. Overall though, it was a fun trip. I understand what you are saying about the poverty in Miami. I drove through a few very poor neighborhoods. Maybe it was a good thing that my car was very old and ugly. It fit right in! ;) I think it is great that some high school students got to meet you. What they get to see on TV about Iraq is a very narrow slice of what life is really all about there. I am sure that they learned a lot from your visit to their school!

I have seen a documentary about the creation of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, but I have not been there. I forgot if I told you or not that half my ancestors are Jewish? Well anyway, over the years I have learned a lot about the Holocaust. One of the exhibits at the Museum contains thousands of shoes. If I ever see those shoes, I know that I will not be able to keep my emotional composure. I would be imagining all the people who once stood in those shoes, what they were thinking, what they were feeling, and how they could be treated as if they were not human beings.

I spent a day in Washington, D.C. when I was in high school. It was a school exchange trip to a high school in Long Island, N.Y. We stopped in D.C. along the way. I really enjoyed seeing the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and some of the monuments. There were many people at the Lincoln Memorial, but I was the only one who walked into the Jefferson Memorial. I had it to myself while I was inside. I felt sort of honored. We got to see Jefferson's house Monticello during that trip too. It is a very large and beautiful house! He designed it himself and his slaves built it. It seems a bit strange that the man who wrote "all men are created equal" kept slaves. He even had children with one of his slaves. At least he freed them all after his death. Today, hundreds of Jefferson's black and white decendents gather every year at Jefferson's house. For a long time, the white decendents didn't want the black ones there! Well, times have finally changed for the better.

Hey, I used to love to play frisbee! It is a really fun toy. :)

I will look forward to seeing your pictures! I hope you will enjoy your classes this summer.

ac blue eagle said...

I like your blog because you sound like a typical, normal person--which we seldom hear of in the Middle East.
AC Blue Eagle

karina said...

i longed for this post. glad your enjoying your stay. will hit grad school too this june, will study here in the phil.

Marshmallow26 said...

Hello Morbido,

What a nice post and great trips...I needto google Warhol!!

Micho, Inshallah one day you will make it to the States as well :)

Zappy Corleone said...

Do u still remember us?

Anonymous said...

Amazing post Morbido! It sounds like you had quite the time this semester! Yeah, DC (I went in eighth grade for a field trip) is a truly amazing palce. Wedding...Miami...class and everything in between. I'm really happy that you had a fantastic first year. I think you'll find summer classes go a bit easier, unless it's Maymester here at Purdue :p .

Bill said...

Now I know how the Harry Potter fans feel while waiting for the next book to come out :)

Great post and so nice to read your voice for more than two lines hehe

Jeffrey said...


The new template looks great. How are your summer classes going?

Yesterday I posted a timeline of Iraqi blogosphere history. Check it out and let me know if I've missed anyone.

Let's Catch a Wave.

If you have any thoughts about the Iraqi blogosphere and the "wave" you associate with, that would be interesting to read.