Saturday, 24 October 2015


     We have been involved over the last three years in an exciting project set up by the Instituto de Ciencias de la Educación (Education Science Institute), a centre of the University of Seville whose mission is to offer extended academic and professional training to the university staff. This specific project aims at providing English language teaching to a group of university professors and researchers whose purpose is to get the ECFRL C1 accreditation in English by taking the Trinity College London’s ISE III exams. This academic year 2014-15 is the third edition of the course at the University of Seville, the first two editions having been highly satisfactory as far as teaching/learning experience and exam results are concerned.

   The ECFRL C1 Trinity College London’s ISE III exam is a thorough evaluation/accreditation tool applied to assessing the candidates’ command of the four communicative skills of the language: reading, writing, listening and speaking. In fact, the acronym ISE stands for Integrated Skills in English, attempting to consider the different skills as linked and interdependent. Besides, the examination assesses their ability to use different conversational functions in a variety of topics, mainly educational.

        We have organised the material accordingly. A set of files have been produced, each one dealing with a subject matter from the official Trinity College London syllabus, i.e. The media, Lifestyles, Advertising, The arts, The school curriculum, among others. With the general subject matter as a consistent framework, each file provides students with direct four-skill practice of the tasks in the final exam, which is divided into two broad sections: reading/writing and speaking/listening, adapting so to the official ECFRL requirements for the C1 level.

        One important section in the exam under discussion is the so-called Extended Writing, which consists of a 250-word-long writing task in which the candidate responds to a prompt. The output genre in this task can be one of the following: a descriptive essay, a discursive essay, an argument essay, an article (magazine or online), an informal email, an informal letter, a formal letter or email, a review and a report. As pointed out above, the different theme files offer the students in our groups a wide range of exercises proposing different written tasks that follow the format and requirements of the exam so that the potential candidates will be familiarised with the type of writing exercises and trained accordingly. In fact, it is usual to receive a written task every other week from the students who are given the corresponding feedback.

        There is a period, however, coinciding with the month of February, in which the number of these written tasks submitted for practice decreases, the reason for this being found in the exam period that the members of the groups are involved in. And this has happened all the three years. We should not forget that the components of the groups are mostly university professors and exams are administered (and marked) for the students of the University of Seville during February. 

        Knowing that English is not likely to be the priority for these groups, but wanting it to be one of the first three priorities for them in their academic sphere this year, we tried an idea to motivate them to write at least an essay or any other text type during that period. The idea was to encourage them not to stop writing in English at advanced C1 level for a long time. It had to be something attractive enough to make them think that it was necessary for them to comply with it.

         After studying the profile of the students and adapting the teaching/learning principles to this, we customised an exercise that would be in line with the competitive nature of the group members. The idea of a ‘prize’ was essential, even if it was an immaterial one. Once the motivation was achieved, we had to take advantage of it by setting a series of rules to comply with. These rules arose from the requirements of the real exam, namely:
-   the official word length should be taken into account (although we were flexible in this as it ultimately was a class exercise);
-  text organisation is of paramount importance: number of paragraphs (3-5), paragraph organisation (topic sentences and supporting sentences), introduction, development, conclusion;
-    signposting devices must be used to give coherence and cohesion to the text;
-    proper vocabulary of the level must be used depending on the chosen topic;
-    use of phrasal verbs and collocations of the level;
-   use of the set of grammar points as suggested in the ISE III syllabus: 2nd, 3rd and mixed conditionals, should/must/might/could + perfect infinitive, verb patterns after hope and wish, verbs followed by gerund and or infinitive, complex forms of passive with modals, structures to convey emphasis (inversion, fronting, cleft sentences).

         With all those considerations, we explained the activity and our intention with it in class and presented our Creative Writer Extraordinaire contest. First, students had to write a text (any genre or text type) showing creativity to be submitted in class the following week. All texts had to begin with the sentence It had been raining all morning (or finish with the sentence I had never been so surprised in all my life, for the first two years). After that, the teacher would check all of them and make the corrections on the expression mistakes, but respecting style and approach. So the following week, all the texts would be read out loud in class and all students would vote for the three best creative texts in an involving voting session. The winner would be appointed Creative Writer Extraordinaire of the group/year.

           We then sent an email to all the members of each group reminding them of the contest and especially informing those students who could not attend the class in which the contest had been presented. The email was aimed at reinforcing motivation to participate and it read as follows:

Dear group.
In class today, we have called for a writing competition in which all of you can (will, should) participate due to its interest and its benefits for our purposes.
The winner of this writing competition will be awarded the title of Creative Writer Extraordinaire, a unique distinction which will be the pride of the whole class.
The topic to write about is:
(Creative writing task) 
Write a story (approximately 250 words) for a writing competition beginning with the words ‘It had been raining all morning.’
Papers will be handed in on Tuesday, March 10 by 18:00 in the classroom. Depending on the number of assignments, these will be read out in class either on Tuesday 17 or Thursday 19 and then the jury will decide on the best one according to the following criteria: accuracy, vocabulary and structures of the level, and task completion.
This information has been given in class and is especially addressed to those of you who didn't turn up.
Should you require any further information, it'll be a pleasure to provide it.
Have a good week.

         The outcome was just extraordinary, with more than 90% participation rate and a really enjoyable class, not less enjoyable was the process of creating the text, most of the times a short story. We are proud to present those texts for the reader’s enjoyment.

Andrés Sánchez Ortega
Philologist. English teacher

Autumn 2015
This story is my little, humble homage to Woody Allen’s Manhattan, one of my favourite movies. Although in its final scene it is not raining, the prompt for this composition made me immediately recall some of its details and below you may find the result. I hope you forgive me for ruining Allen’s marvellous love story.

Homage to Manhattan
by Antonio Prados Montaño

It had been raining all morning.

            When the alarm clock rang at seven o’clock, he realised that it was Saturday. Seldom did he forget to switch off the alarm clock at weekends but, when it occurred, he inevitably felt a bit depressed. Moreover, the sound of heavy rain disturbed him, but he couldn’t help getting up once the alarm clock had gone off. Nevertheless, he always knew that it would be difficult for him to overcome his current laziness during the whole day.

            Two hours later, he was sitting in his couch while idly playing with a small object, which rotated slowly between two of his fingers. It was the mouth-organ that she had given him as a present some time ago. He appreciated that the break-up was his fault, but only today did he become aware that he was beginning to fail to remember her face.

            Suddenly, he just knew. Had he been less insensitive, he would have done the right thing a long time ago. He picked up the phone but her line was busy. He tried again a couple of times, with no success. Raining still it was and he had to make a decision: only a minute after, he took his overcoat and made for the street.

            It was raining heavily and his pace was quite slow. Neither was he able to take a taxi nor her line was free when he tried to phone her on the way. Then, abruptly, he stopped. The street door was ajar, so he sneaked in and took the lift to the seventh floor. Somehow, her doorbell rang and, as soon as the door opened and a frank smile appeared on her face, he knew (in fact, both of them knew) it didn’t matter that it had been raining all day.
By María José Charlo Molina

Once upon a time, Peter told me that Anne had spent her life working very hard.  It was not an easy job having in mind that she was very young and too small. Not only had she taken care of her big family, but she had also built a place to live. Moreover, she had everything tidied up. Besides that, she had carried lots of weight at work every day.

In spite of all that, it couldn’t be said that she wasn’t happy. In fact, she did what others thought she had to do; that is why she felt satisfied.

However, she wanted to travel all around the world. In essence, travelling was the only thing she really greatly wished.

One day, a salesman arrived at the village and she realised that she had a great opportunity to carry out her dream. She didn’t want to tell anybody about what she was going to do. Despite the possible problems, she decided to run the risk and therefore got on the truck as soon as she could. It wasn’t difficult for her to hide from him.

Since that day Anne has spent the rest of her life travelling all around the world and not even the salesman has known about her. At that point, I couldn’t understand the way anybody could remain unseen for so long. I asked Peter but he couldn’t stop laughing. “Anybody?” he asked me smiling. If you had listened to the story carefully, you would have understood that Ann was not a person but an animal. Her name was Ant instead of Ann.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t my fault. It was the horrible pronunciation of my dear German friend. Now, I understand the reason why I had never been so surprised in all my life

The Door in the Attic
by María del Carmen García González

It had been raining all morning. Just like every year, the whole family had gathered at Grandma’s house to get the awaited gifts. Despite the weather, everyone’s face reflected excitement. Above all the children, they were thrilled, running and shouting in the house since they could not play in the garden.

However the kids lost interest in their toys and started to be frustrated for not being able to play on the street. But the most disappointed child was Angela. Although she had got the best present that she could have never imagined, she couldn’t ride her bicycle.  All her cousins could play with their new toys while she waited impatiently for the sunrise.

In spite of having visited her grandmother since he could remember, she had never noticed there was a door in the attic. This door was almost invisible as it was covered with the same paper as the rest of the wall. But it was possible to see a small lock. In this moment, Angela forgot her bicycle and the little door drew all her attention. Even though her grandmother had never spoken about this door, she knew that she should not open it. For this reason, she crept slightly because she didn't want her family to realise that she was going to go into the attic.

She was about to get it when she awoke from her sleep.
Italian Capriccio
by Jesús Vallejo Fernández de la Reguera

“Have you noticed that the waiter stutters?” asked Julia when we were sitting down for dinner in that tiny, charming restaurant. “Poor fellow…! He’s a lucky man, anyway. If his wages depended only on his way of speaking, he wouldn’t be able to save his job”, she added. “Who knows”, I said; “my grandfather once told me that a friend of his, who had a stutter like our waiter’s, made up his mind to be a broadcaster… and he achieved it!”  “How did he manage?” she inquired. “It’s a real mystery”, I replied, “but in fact, when he had the microphone close to his mouth he was the best of the newsreaders. He had the gift of the gab. Surprising, isn’t it?” “Definitely. Your story reminds me of something somebody told me years ago. It’s a case even stranger than yours”.

She gave me a sweet smile and continued: “In your story the surprising event would have been the dismissal of your grandfather’s friend, don’t you agree? He broadcast wonderfully, didn’t he? Why shouldn’t he be hired?” She paused to light a cigarette and went on speaking: “Two years ago, in Italy, three lecturers applied for a chair at the university. Two of them belonged to rival groups, both having defenders in the tribunal; the third one was almost dumb. The members of the tribunal couldn’t agree on one of the two real candidates. Therefore, they voted for the dumb, who is teaching right now, to his students’ despair, in an Italian university. That is what I was told. I had never been so surprised in all my life”. When she pronounced this last sentence, it was me who smiled: “Oh, come on…, surprised? We both work at the university!”

A Christmas Tale in Liverpool

by Luis Valencia Cabrera

It had been raining all day. James had been waiting for hours to go fishing with his younger sister Lily. As any other 8-year-old child of fishermen from Albert Dock, he loved fishing. Unfortunately, their father had not been going through a good time since he lost her wife the previous winter, and stormy days only made things worse. It was 5 p.m. and there was nothing to suggest that something special would bring them out of boredom and sadness.

Suddenly the brightest lightning they had ever seen startled them, and they ran to the garret. It did not look like the best place for two small kids to flee from danger, but it was safety that they felt there, it was love that they breathed there. Their mother had been preparing that room for them before Lily was born, and they always went there when they felt frightened. It seemed that her spirit was somehow there protecting them.

Had not they reached the attic window on time, they would not have witnessed the greatest scene any child could imagine. The light was even shinier than before, a colorful rainbow remained suspended before their eyes, but it was not that what impressed them the most. It was a great winged ship that left them perplexed.

The boat flew next to their window and the captain, John, kissed James and Lily on the cheeks, and whispered a few words of wisdom: let it be. Then he turned from the window and talked to a wonderful woman: ‘Get back, Emily, you are at home’.

…A year had passed since the sea snatched Emily from her family, but John imagined a winged ship getting out of the rainbow, he made it come true, and Emily was given a second chance to see her children grow.
by María Gloria Romero Romero

Being a teacher at University, I decided to apply for a grant to go abroad. Lublin, a Polish city near the Ukrainian border, was to be the final destination. I was excited and nervous about the adventures that were waiting for me in this unfamiliar country.

The first day after my arrival, I decided to go to a bank to get some money exchanged. I thought it wouldn’t be difficult to understand the local people. While I was standing in the line, I heard a loud noise. Suddenly, four men with black balaclavas stormed into the bank office. Everybody was terrified and started screaming. We were told to lie on the floor and keep quiet. I don’t know how many minutes it took but it seemed like an eternity. All my family, my friends, my childhood and whole life flashed across my mind.

I thought that it would be the last few minutes of my life. I started to regret ever having applied for that scholarship. I didn’t understand anything they were saying. They were speaking in Polish as you would expect and I only knew English. Why hadn’t I studied Polish?

I was so petrified that I hadn’t noticed a group of people surrounding me. Slowly, I stood up and realised that everybody was wearing a broad grin on their faces. Furthermore, there were five or six men dressed in a kind of uniform. I had initially thought that they were police uniforms but, they were talking to the masked men!

It had been a robbery drill all along.  I had never been so surprised in all my life.
The Stranger and Me
by Sergio Muñoz Moreno

I´ve been really excited lately due to the amazing research project I´m involved in: the development of a time machine. And what´s more, the fact that I´ve been selected to take part in an experiment: going back to a near past (30 years ago). 

Over the last months, I´ve been trained for these experiments. Among all the rules to comply with, there is one that mustn´t be broken: I can´t contact or interact with anyone, in order not to change the future. What would happen if I interacted with someone in the past? Would the future be changed somehow?

Reflecting on my imminent trip to the past, something strange took place: an old memory sprang in my mind. I remember playing in a park when I was a child, when a stranger approached me and was talking to me for several minutes. After that, before saying goodbye, he took a photograph of both of us and gave it to me, according to him, “as a souvenir of you.”  I never let my parents know about that weird incident.

With this memory, a mechanism started to work inside my mind, fitting together the pieces of a puzzle and giving meaning to the rare happening that occurred so long ago. But, it couldn´t be! It should be just a fruit of my imagination.

I ran to my bedroom and jumped on a trunk where old objects from my childhood were kept, searching for that photograph. When I found it, my heart turned over. I had never been so surprised in all my life. Apparently, it seems I disregarded (or I will) the first rule.
Animals can Teach us
by Maya Davis López de Carrizosa

‘It had been raining all morning…’
So even though I had a list of outdoor pending assignments, I decided to stay home and organize all those pictures I found on my mother’s bedside table the day she passed away five years ago. For some unknown reason, that morning I felt strong enough to go back to all those good memories without the deep grief that had invaded me since I last saw her.  

The first picture quickly placed me on a lovely sunny day at the beach. My father was teaching me how to remove the hook from a fish he had just caught and I was staring at him in admiration but with a sight of sorrow. I could not help feeling sorry for each and every single creature he fished and I was the happiest girl when he gave me back his capture and let me put it back into the sea.

It was a day like the one reflected on the picture, when the most incredible thing in the world happened to us. I was about to release a huge fish, so big that my clumsy seven year old hands could not hold it for long. My father finally helped me and we both put it on a pond gently bathed by the waves. I waited for the next wave to sweep it in the sea but to my surprise the fish turned back at me and clearly said: “thank you little girl”. I could not believe my eyes, well, my ears!  A talking fish, that was extraordinary. But my ears were not fooling me, the astonishment on my father’s eyes confirmed that he had also heard the fish’s gratitude. 

From that day on, we kept the secret; it did not make sense sharing it since no one would have ever believed us. We did learn something though; even the smallest creature, the simplest animal, even those we do not understand because they do not seem to communicate with us, all of them must be respected and preserved.

At the tender age of seven I suddenly understood that we had plenty of things to learn from animals and to this purpose I would devote my future career. 
Hospitality in Africa

I went to Africa a few years ago. There were five of us in the group in Tanzania for three weeks to climb up Kilimanjaro, visit several National Parks and meet some tribes. Every single step we took in Tanzania was exciting, every activity was stimulating, but there was just one thing really amazing for me.
We went to meet the Bushmen, a tribe still living in the Stone Age. The small group was formed by women with several children and a few young men to defend them. The rest of men had left the group early in the morning in a hunting expedition for all the community.
Our guide arranged with them to take a walk around in order to watch some animals. We just had to follow them through the bushes in a single line. In spite of that, we, the Europeans, got lost and they (wisely) decided to take us along a dry riverbed. Suddenly, they became very excited, pointed out to a tree and took quickly different positions near the tree. One second afterwards a monkey was dead on the ground. Just on the same river margin they set a bonfire with sticks so quickly that it seemed easy and cooked the monkey. 

Only God knows when it was the last time they had eaten but they invited us to share the small monkey. Isn’t it hospitality and generosity? I would have never imagined they intended to share their scarce food with their hosts. I’ve never been so surprised in all my life!
by Daniel Antón

It had been raining all morning. The skies were closed and grey. The smell of the humid soil in gardens flooded the air. Some drowsy pedestrians struggled to avoid the puddles which spotted the pavement and still reflected the streets as mirrors do.

There was a bar heading down the deserted main street. Inside, the smoke of cigarettes accumulated at the top of the room like fog which had been dying the white ceiling throughout the years. Nevertheless, the inner environment seemed both homely and warm. The aroma the coffee maker gave off enhanced that sensation of tradition and authenticity that customers thank for. The steam covered the glasses of doors and windows and let a cute blond girl draw smiling faces with her tiny finger.

Two vivid waitresses in turn waited upon the customers who were at the same time enclosed in their own routines, with sights put down on wrinkled newspapers or over the boiling coffee served in ceramic cups which got the client’s hands warm while they seized them for a long time. In spite of the fact that each person had their respective stories and experiences, they were sharing that peaceful moment there.

The old wooden tables were being left little by little as people were awaking from their evident daze. Finally, the rising sun passed through the glazing slightly and got rid of its veil of steam so as to change the gloomy atmosphere and let the new day start.
The story of Canelo and Paco
by Francisco Santolaya Soriano

This is not only a story about friendship and survival; it is also about the indifference that surrounds us in our everyday life.

But I knew nothing about this until I stumbled upon a small monument a few years ago. I was focusing my attention on my mobile phone when I noticed a plaque on the ground. The text read: "To Canelo, Paco´s best friend."

After being invaded by curiosity, I immediately began to search for information. So I got to know the story of Paco, a drifter who survived on the charity from passersby and Canelo, a small mongrel dog, short haired, who used to walk with his head down. Both used to vie for the attention of the public in a shopping area by day and a gate by night. Nobody knows how but after some time they became inseparable. Some versions of the story say that Paco and Canelo never spoke, but just looked at each other and it was enough to know if the day would bring benefits or they had to shelter because of the imminent rain. Other versions discuss how Canelo started to bark the day Paco fell ill, and how he followed the ambulance all the way to the hospital, and then was long waiting for Paco to come back.

But this never happened.

Paco's life ended as soon as cancer decided to show up. Canelo waited for Paco in vain outside the hospital, gaining the attention of the medical personnel, even the media, until his strengths failed six months later.

If Canelo were alive today I wouldn´t know what to say. Maybe I could start our conversation by stating: “Canelo, until I heard about your story, I had never been so surprised in all my life.”
Rain beyond the Earth
by Ismael Roldán Castro

It had been raining all morning, but at long last, a very strange sun appeared. The crew were walking on air. The Meteorological Project had been a great deal of complete success. There were a group of scientists from different areas who had been dealing with this challenge for such a long time.

In fact, the reason why the vast majority of the travellers were deeply depressed was the lack of real meteorological phenomena. Despite the fact that they had seen a lot of films about the Earth, they suffered from claustrophobia after having been flying so many years, and consequently, most of them had decided not to keep looking for a new planet in another galaxy and, as a result of it, to come back to the Earth. But, fortunately, the giant proportions spacecraft ‘ISE III’ (Interstellar Space Experiment, 3rd Era) was able to fulfil its aim.

Eventually, Mr Andrews, a widely-recognized expert in this kind of missions and highly-respected commander of the long voyage, summoned up the crew in order to carry on with the interstellar journey. So, from the cosmic vantage point where they gazed up at the far corners of the Universe, he solemnly addressed those future Argonauts by telling them: 
‘If we hadn’t created artificial rain inside our spaceship as well as an incredible sun, we wouldn’t have managed to produce healthy food, fresh vegetables and restocking of animals. It is music to your ears. Now, you can put your psychological discomfort behind you. You are fed up with pills, but time is running out. We will be able to settle in a new galaxy and human life will be spread all over the Universe’
The child’s summer play
by Cristina Pérez Ternero

When I was a little child we used to play in the basement of my grandmother’s house during our summer holidays. However, if it hadn’t been the coldest place in the house, we would have chosen somewhere else as the scene of our summer adventures.

One day while we were playing hide and seek, I decided that the old dusty wardrobe would be the perfect secret place where no-one would go to find me. But it was me who found something amazing. I was pushing my body against the rear of the wardrobe and that was enough to unlock a hidden door to a room that could be the dream of a 12-year-old boy full of imagination. It was the greatest room filled up with old spying devices, books, yellow handwritten pieces of paper that I found behind the wardrobe… everything ideal to build a summer of exciting activities without precedents.

I had never been so surprised in all my life. My friends and I, as a team, decided not to tell the adults about our plans of further investigations. If we had told them, I’m sure they wouldn’t have allowed us to go down there anymore. We ourselves felt like spies with a secret mission.

Years later, my grandma told me that that was the room where my grandpa had to be hidden in order not to be discovered during the civil war. The place where they also discovered something: their love.
by Miguel Ángel Martínez del Amor

Professor Marlock was a well-known mathematician, and very unsociable in his personal life. After several years of confinement at his home, he finally attended a conference in 2008. The venue was crowded, researchers galore! Professor Marlock announced just few days before that he had resolved the famous problem P = NP; the problem that, if solved, would make all security systems useless. The Internet would not be secure any more, bank accounts would have to be closed, spies worldwide would extract information from governments effortlessly!

He started his talk at 10 o'clock in the morning: “Thank you all for coming, colleagues. I'm glad to announce the demonstration that P = NP. Actually, the solution is so easy that I had never been so surprised in all my life! The key is....” Suddenly,  Marlock started to cough very loud. He choked and, finally, passed away right there. After three hours, the police found cyanide in Marlock's drink. They interviewed every attendant, but no clue was found. Since Marlock lived alone, without family and any declared enemy, the case was closed.

But it was six years later that the murder was resolved by a young detective. He realized that the case had been closed suspiciously soon. He investigated who bought the cyanide, and found that it had been a retired police officer, who was also a cousin of a well-known researcher! In fact, I am his cousin! I was the chairman in that talk, and gave the bottle of water to professor Marlock. I am writing this confession letter from prison, because I want to let you know that I was following orders from the whole organization committee of the conference! The P = NP problem must remain unsolved!
When I Cannot Use my Mouth
by María José Ruiz Acosta

It had been raining all the morning
When we met for the first time.
Alluring, cosy, naive and friendly,
That’s how you seemed to my eyes.
But at that precise moment
Hardly ever could I see
That sometimes a precious treasure
Hides a danger inside it.

It had been raining all the morning
When began to grow it all.
I felt hostage of your kisses
On account of that true love.
But if I hadn’t been so focused
On those feelings deep inside
I would have been more aware
Of whoever was behind.

It had been raining all the morning
When I thought you felt involved
On my gloomy, secret island
Where I always stay alone.
But I wish I had turned down
Those ideas from my mind
And become much more sceptical,
Closer, nearer to life.

It had been raining all the morning
When the first mourning took place.
So much I had idolized you
That nobody could I blame.
But inside that voice reminded me
That I always used to be
The runner-up of all the races,
The only one that never wins.
It had been raining all the morning
When I wish I could have been
Much more brilliant, even brighter
Than what nature gave to me.
But the one-hundred-fold efforts
Only made just to pretend
I am not just who I really am,
I will never be the best.

It had been raining all the morning
When I found out what you meant
As looking down on my poor figure,
There’s no need to go ahead.
But inside this threadbare heart
I gave you one year ago
There is passion, hope, respect
And my trueborn love below.

It had been raining all the morning
When it all came to an end.
There’s no need to look for answers
Just to cure what has been hurt.
But God knows, oh yes, God knows
As I lick my wounded world
That I am the first place finisher,
Between us I loved the most.

It has been raining all the morning,
Still this craving inside me.
Being your target wasn’t easy
But even worse it’s how I feel.
But, alas, this latest hunch
Is still freaking me out,
Whispering throughout my body

When I cannot use my mouth.

New York, New York
by Cristina Abad Navarro

It had been raining all morning and the windows were too steamy to see anything outside. As the bus was approaching my most dreamed-of destination, I had butterflies in my stomach. Ever since I was a teenager New York City had been my favourite place on the planet. I was sure that if I had the opportunity of going there, I would instantly fall madly in love with it.

It was through Frank Sinatra’s songs that I learnt to love the city that never sleeps. I could easily imagine myself walking along 5th Avenue, having a Sunday lunch in Central Park, watching the Phantom of the Opera in Broadway, blinded by the neon lights of Times Square, feeling I’m king of the hill, top of the heap. 

The summer of 2000 finally made my dream come true. I had to go to Philadelphia for a conference and I decided that I would take a bus to NYC and spend a whole day there. The moment the bus came out of the tunnel under the Hudson River, I managed to wipe the steam off the window with the sleeve of my t-shirt and look out. I was astonished. The view of the skyline in front of me was breathtaking. Whether I looked to the right or to the left, there was nothing but skyscrapers. And in the middle of it was one of New York’s most famous icons, the Empire State Building. It was much better than I had ever imagined.