09 May 2010

Home Sweet Illinois!

I'm home!! After a seemingly endless last day in the archives, breakfast at my professor's house, and a two hour history final my days in DC came to an end. My last precious hours were spent at the Library of Congress, which I have to admit was a great way to end my time in the nation's capital. I spent my mornings in the Manuscript Room looking at documents penned by Roosevelt and Taft. It was quite an experience. Last summer, I held LBJ's letters in my hand, but these seemed even more special. I don't know what it is about letters. I guess it's knowing that they picked the piece of paper out of the drawer. They took out their pen and touched it to the paper. Their arm rested on it as they wrote. That's what I love about history. I love following the documents and piecing together the story. Now, a month ago I knew absolutely nothing about Elihu Root. After my time at the LC I have a new appreciation for the Progressive Era -- or at least I have a better understanding.

Then the family rolled into town, I ate my last Friday Night Dinner (at Chipotle of course) with the roommate, and we were on our way back to Illinois! I have never been so happy to see the rolling fields and all-around flat-ness of the state I call home. I have never been so excited to drive. And drive I did. After only 3 days at home, I went to Monmouth to see the people I missed so dearly all semester. I had a great time filled with laughter, stories, and of course Pepperoni's pizza. And as a storm rolled in Thursday night, I knew I was home.

18 April 2010

Pe-Can Pie and Armadillos...

Only one week of classes left! That translates into 3 days of work, 3 days of class, and a final! Then I'll be on my way home -- where the night's are quiet and you can see the stars!

This weekend was a busy one! Saturday morning I went to do some community service hours at DC Food For All. This was a really efficient organization! So I spent my morning packing up boxes of food to be delivered to shut-ins in the DC area. Then it was off to the Washington Nationals - Milwaukee Brewers game. I got to see the Presidents' Race again, have a heart to heart with my seminar professor, and debate the pronunciation of pecan. Is it pe-can or pe-con?? All of this because one lone Nationals player has a country song play when he comes up to bat. Chicken Fried by the Zac Brown Band. Which is now Kathryn's and my song. All the others have hip-hop/rap songs. It was nice to see the Nats pick up a win for once! After the baseball game, we trekked out to RFK for the DC United - Chicago Fire game. We had pretty awesome seats in the crazy fan section, Barra Brava. We had to stand up to see and the bleachers were literally shaking! People were throwing their beers in the air, they set off smoke bombs, and they were constantly singing or chanting. It was an amazing atmosphere! And Chicago won!!

Then today, Kathryn and I returned to Crepes-a-go-go in Dupont Circle for our last weekend crepes. Crepes-a-go-go was a total find -- Nutella and Bananas -- you can't beat it! After breakfast we took the train up to Rockville to work at KEEN -- a sports camp for disabled kids. So I spent my afternoon chasing after kids, playing basketball, and playing duck duck goose. What a day! But the long walk there from the Metro gave us time to practice our swagger! Afterwards, I said that I could curl up in a ball and sleep forever -- like an armadillo. Although I've never seen a live armadillo, only dead ones on the side of the road in Texas.

17 days until Monmouth!

10 April 2010

(Lack of) Easter Break, Baseball, and "High Speed" Trains

April has brought me more visitors from Monmouth. I've known about one of the visits since January and it was the one thing I was using to mark the end of my semester here in Washington. I knew that if I could make it until they arrived, I could finish out the 20 odd days I would have left. Their questions really made me reflect on my time here. What have I learned? So much. Too much to tell a person in one sitting. And a lot of it doesn't have a thing to do with academia. I learned to live on my own. I learned to navigate a city. I gained independence and confidence. I became an adult...in a sense.

The Easter holiday (which we here at AU don't get off) brought a friend from Monmouth. Her visit was not expected at the beginning of the semester. In fact, she kind of came on a whim. But I was so glad to share my city with her -- even if it was the height of the cherry blossom pandemonium! We saw all the sites downtown -- monuments, museums, etc. I was excited that I finally made it to the Air and Space Museum to see my hero, Amelia Earhart. We also went to see the Washington Nationals play the Boston Red Sox. It was reassuring to know that there is a team in Major League Baseball that is actually worse than my beloved Cubs!

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to go to New York City to do research -- on the 6 am Acela train. Note to self: Getting up at 4 am is not something one should do on a regular basis. Now, I am not a huge fan of NYC (I might be it's worst critic), but there was just something about being in the city doing historical research that I found exciting. Being in the archives yesterday just reaffirmed that I am headed down the right path with my plan to go to graduate school for public history and library science. All was well, until we were on our way home on this so-called "high speed train." Too bad there were electrical problems on the line outside of Baltimore and we sat still for close to an hour. We arrived back in DC close to 90 minutes later than expected. Needless to say, I'm feeling a little fatigued today -- but the light is at the end of the tunnel now! 20 more days and I'm on my way home!

31 March 2010

Awesome Blossoms

The cherry blossoms are blooming!! It's definitely an exciting time to be in Washington, D.C. While I wasn't on the Hill to witness the passage of the health care bill, I did stay up well into the night to watch it on C-SPAN -- that's right, I watch C-SPAN now. D.C. will do that to you.

Saturday I went to do community service hours with Greater DC Cares at their Toolchest in Southeast. It was quite an experience! The Toolchest is in an old public school that could seriously be the set of a horror movie. It was awesome to help clean and organize their warehouse though. I spent my morning with 5 other volunteers sorting rakes, shovels, and paintbrushes and cleaning up from their last big service project.

Then it was off to the National Cherry Blossom Festival! Saturday was the Kite Festival on the Mall. There were so many people, but it was awesome to see the cherry trees there!

The rest of the week has been a whirlwind of academia as I've been trying to get all my papers completed so I can actually enjoy the weekend! Karen is coming to visit! She gets in tomorrow night. Friday I think we're going to hit up the National Zoo and some museums and then Saturday we are going to a Nats-Red Sox game. It's going to be great to see someone from home and the weather is supposed to be awesome!!

21 March 2010

A Local Tourist and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

March brought the long anticipated week of rest and relaxation otherwise known as Spring Break! And with Spring Break came a long weekend with a dear friend. Showing a friend around my newfound home of 3 months gave me the opportunity to be a local and a tourist. We walked down Wisconsin Avenue past the National Cathedral to Georgetown, stopping at a beautiful park on a hill. We went to the White House and the the monuments. Of course we had to go visit our good friend Abe! Then it was time to be a local and head to Busboys and Poets for some good food and an amazing atmosphere. We wandered around Eastern Market on Sunday and went shopping at Pentagon City before going to see Alice in Wonderland in Chinatown and to grab a bite at Ben's Chili Bowl. Monday was the long day of tourist activities. We visited the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and the Magna Carta (among other amazing documents), the Supreme Court to sit in the actual court chamber, and the Library of Congress! Tuesday we visited the National Postal Museum.

And then I was on my own for the rest of the week. And when I say on my own...I mean it. It got pretty bad. I resorted to watching old episodes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman online. Pretty bad, but I miss that show. Why aren't there more historical dramas these days?

Then it was back to work...and school. 1 month left until it's home sweet Illinois! It's hard to believe that my time in DC is almost up! I have a feeling the rest of the semester is going to fly by!

03 March 2010

Fake school is actually real school...

Here I am 2 months in to my semester in Washington, D.C. Spring break is just two seemingly endless days away. Will Friday ever come? I'm not so sure. We could just be stuck on Wednesday forever. Wow, the more I think about it, the worse it gets. Wednesdays are probably my least favorite day of the week. I think I even like Mondays more. At least with Mondays you get the start of something new. Tuesdays are better than Monday, because hey, it's not the first day of the week anymore. But then Wednesday comes, and it's like another Monday for me. Here's the deal -- I go to work at the GFWC on Mondays and Tuesdays. It's a wonderful two day work week. Then I start my school week on Wednesdays and I go to my seminar class through Friday. It's kind of like having 3 weeks in 1 if you count the weekend.

And I'm learning that fake school is actually real school. At least on select days. And today has been one of those days. For the most part, I feel like I'm in some twisted summer camp experiment where we go on field trips everyday and try to change the world with our (semi) brilliant minds. Today however I was back to real school as I spent my evening trying to frantically write an abstract and outline for my semester paper. It's due on Friday and I completely forgotten about it in my I-would-rather-sleep-15 hours-a-day mood I was in yesterday when stayed home with the flu. Another thing I've learned -- being sick is much worse when you're this far away from home. And with no one to take care of you.

While I'm in this learning mood -- here are some other things I have learned in D.C.

1. Whole Foods is evil -- especially when you have no source of income. They lure you in with their hummus and then steal your money.

2. Snap peas really aren't so bad.

3. Mixing skim, 2%, whole, and soy milk can be done in a bowl of cereal.

4. I can go two months without going to the library (scary, I know).

5. I just might be a feminist after all.

6. Everyday should end with an episode of Gilmore Girls. It does the body good.

7. Dollywood is the greatest place ever created -- and every Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants/Spice Girls group of friends must make a pilgrimage there.

That is all...for now.

26 February 2010

A Bullfeathers Birthday and Midterms

This past week brought my 21st birthday...and midterms unfortunately. I started off my week by counting every page that was in the collection I have been cataloging at work. Apparently, the company that does the digitizing needs to know a rough estimate -- within a thousand pages! A thousand pages! So I ended up spending my entire day counting to 11,000! Have you ever tried counting to 11,000? Don't. Ever.

Tuesday was another day of work, but I didn't have to count anything! Instead, I got to integrate documents from another collection into the collection that I've been cataloging! Sounds thrilling, huh? It was pretty interesting though since most of the documents dealt with trips overseas. I was definitely living vicariously through them! Tuesday also began the birthday celebrations as I went out to lunch with my internship supervisor. We went to Bertucci's for some pretty awesome Italian food! Then just when I was feeling a little down and lonely, my friends surpised me with some valentine's birthday brownies! And then I opened my birthday presents at midnight. I got a Nintendo DS with a Brain Age game. I apparently have the brain of a 62 year old.

Wednesday was the 21st anniversary of my birth. I suffered through my seminar all day in anticipation of my birthday dinner. We all went out to Bullfeathers on Capitol Hill. It has a Teddy Roosevelt theme and there were a lot of government workers there -- it was a pretty cool scene. And then I successfully ordered my first drink: a gin and tonic. We had some dessert (apple pie ala mode) and then proceeded to wait for an hour for our checks! What a great waiter! But it gave us plenty of time to talk and laugh about our crazy semester in Washington, DC.

The next day was midterm day in my Holocaust class. I debated whether or not I even wanted to go to my seminar so I could stay home and study. In the end, I went down to Georgetown for my seminar and made it back to my midterm in time. I feel pretty confident about it, but we'll see!

One more week till spring break! =)

18 February 2010

In My Mind I'm Going to Dollywood...

On our Metro ride to Foggy Bottom today, we somehow got on the topic of Dolly Parton. And so then of course Dollywood naturally came up. Now, whenever we're feeling a little down, we go to Dollywood in our minds. It seemed like a good idea at the time -- until I started feeling a little (more like a lot) annoyed during our long day of site visits today. Now I'm trapped in Dollywood. I've been there just about all day with Dolly singing "I Will Always Love You" to me over and over again.

But it did give me some time to expand on my Bucket List that I started at dinner yesterday before I went to the longest community meeting ever in Dupont Circle. Here are some things I've come up with so far...

1. Go to grad school
2. Swim in the sea off the coast of Greece
3. Ride a camel
4. Write a book
5. Travel to all 50 states
6. Be in two places at once
7. Learn to fly a plane
8. Go to Australia
9. Meet the President
10. Learn to cook
11. Adopt a child from another country
12. Learn a foreign language
13. Go bobsledding in Jamaica
14. Travel with nothing but the clothes on my back and a little bit of cash
15. Retire to the Lake District to raise some sheep.

That's all for now...

14 February 2010

"Button Your Sweater..."

Friday brought us back to class for the first time all week. And then it was the weekend...

I spent my Saturday volunteering at the Washington Home and Hospice. It's a nursing home just a few blocks from my building. So I spent my morning chatting with the residents while they got their nails done. Then I ate lunch and hung out with them at "Happy Hour," which was essentially a jazz pianist playing for a couple of hours. During this time, a lady with Alzheimers started singing and dancing. And then she told me to button my sweater (which was a cardigan by the way). It was too funny! Then this lady just handed me a rabbit and told me to take it around to the residents. This was the biggest furriest rabbit I have ever seen! It looked more like a small sheep than a rabbit.

Today I went to the Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Southeast DC with a few of my classmates. It was definitely an experience! I'm used to a very reserved service -- but here, there was clapping and shouting and moving around. It was awesome to see how other people worship. The highlight of the service was when one of the trustees came to the front and proposed -- on Valentines Day! The church went crazy! I really enjoyed the music too! And the people -- so beautiful and accepting. I'm not going to lie, I didn't know how they would feel about us being there. They were so welcoming though...more welcoming than any church I have ever been to in my entire life!

10 February 2010

Cabin Fever? Snow Gracias!

As I look out my third floor window (that is partially covered with snow), Snowpocalypse 2.0 is still wreaking havoc on Tenleytown. Today marks the sixth day in a row that American University has been closed. The undeniable cabin fever is setting in with a vengeance. My days have been spent reading for the most part. And calling people from home. Calling people I would never normally call. And texting...and Facebook stalking (yes, that's right, I just confessed to an ungodly amount of Facebook creeping. Remember, I'm living vicariously through all of you who can actually venture outside without facing imminent death). And watching an embarrassing amount of Gilmore Girls on DVD. I stay up late and sleep in. It sounds like a pretty good life, eh? It was pretty cool for the first few days, but the novelty is beginning to wear off. I'm ready to be able to walk down the street without wearing three pairs of socks and two pairs of pants. I'm contemplating going for a run around my building.
With our deteriorating weather situation, it appears as if the university will be closed again tomorrow. Snow day number seven. But no official word yet. Please keep me connected with the outside world, even if I do live on an island of snow.

07 February 2010

All Quiet on the Northwestern Front...

I survived Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse 2010!! The snow started Friday afternoon and continued steadily through Sunday evening. All in all, we received between 25-30 inches of snow. It's hard to tell! I do know that I have never seen so much snow in my entire life!

Friday night Facebook was abuzz with the word of a citywide snowball fight in Dupont Circle. So, me and the gang braved the snow (which was still coming down) and trekked it to the Metro. We had to walk on the road to get there...and there were people skiing right down Wisconsin Avenue! Alas, we made it there safely. And at 2:00 p.m. EST we joined the Southside in the Dupont Circle snowball fight. There were hundreds of people there! I threw my fair share of snowballs and took a few in the face as well. People were talking like it was war. They were using all the military jargon -- ranks, flanks, charges, fronts, etc.

I found the amount of community that developed to be incredible. People were actually talking to one another on the Metro. Hundreds of people were milling about as close to three feet of snow fell. And what makes it even more interesting is that these people -- this community of snow lovers, if you will -- was brought together via social media. This is a concept we have being debating in my seminar class. Does social media promote or detract from community? I think the Dupont Circle snowball fight is proof that sites like Facebook and Twitter truly can bring people together.

Today, the snow has subsided (for now). All is quiet in Northwest DC, or should I say on the Northwestern Front, as we call it now. No offense Erich Maria Remarque.

03 February 2010

Mortgage Meltdowns and Snow Storms

Some days I feel that my seminar class doesn't really relate to the rest of my college career. Ok, most days I feel that it doesn't relate. I spend the majority of time here in DC talking about community, civic engagement, gentrification, poverty, and housing. These topics aren't usually on the docket of your typical history major. Being the liberal arts student that I am, I try to make connections. Today for example, we were discussing the mortgage meltdown and housing policy. I was able to use my background in history to relate the current situation to that of the 1930s and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal policies. Up until then, there was no housing policy. The Roosevelt administration encouraged home ownership as well as affordable housing. It was at this time that Public Housing Authorities were created. The federal government gave money to local governments to build housing for those who couldn't afford it. However, it was only meant to be temporary and was intended for widows and the elderly. FDR's encouragement of home ownership ended up contributing to the mortgage meltdown of the early 2000's. All Americans wanted to own their own home. This led to the expansion of the mortgage market -- an expansion that went much too far.

Essentially, my seminar class is more a lesson in life than it is a lesson in academia. While I might sometimes think that it isn't relevant to my life, I know that deep down it truly is. Even if it's only relevance is that I will one day have a home of my own, and that home of my own will be in a community. All of the topics that we discuss will never go away. They will continue to be pressing issues for the rest of our lives.

So the amazing weather I was bragging about has disappeared -- gone AWOL. It's snowed twice in the past week, and --prepare yourselves for this one -- it is supposed to snow 20+ inches this weekend! Goodbye 60 degree days filled with sunshine, hello Antarctica!

31 January 2010

Panda Parties and Tax Evasion

Today marked my first trip to the National Zoo. Despite the snow on the ground and the cold weather, we journeyed the 3 short metro stops to Woodley Park to say hello and goodbye (perhaps we should have said aloha) to Tai Shan the panda. On Thursday, he's flying to China to be trained to live in the wild -- or so I've heard. And DC is quite distressed about his departure. The entire city is in mourning. There was an article in the newspaper the other day entitled, "Bamboo-Hoo." He was outside playing in the snow. He would run and slide down the hill. We probably stood there watching him for a solid 10 minutes, before walking through the rest of the zoo.

On the way home we had the brilliant idea of stopping at the Giant grocery store. So we wandered around picking up our items. Kathryn, of course, made me carry her Gatorade around the store. When we finally made it to the checkout, there were no bags at our aisle. I proceeded to take one from the next aisle, only to get yelled at for not paying the five cents for my plastic bag. DC imposed a five cent tax on plastic bags this year. So the guy proceeded to yell at me, until another worker just told me to go ahead and leave without paying for my bag. In other words, I could be prosecuted for tax evasion. And DC isn't a state, so does that make it a federal offense? DC's most wanted criminal -- that's me.

29 January 2010

"If You're Not Feelin' This Train..."

I made it through my third week of class, and it seems like an appropriate time to discuss my adventures on the DC Metro System. Take today, for example, I was on the red line towards Chinatown and it was crazy crowded. Like hold on to the person next to you for dear life crowded. In fact, it was so crowded that the conductor (or driver or whatever they're called for subways) announced to the people on the platfom, "If you're not feelin' this train, there are two more directly behind us." So great. And then, I was just minding my own business when this homeless lady starting talking to me about Tai Shan the panda being sent back to China. Did you know that pandas aren't friendly? My reliable Metro source tells me that pandas will give you 250 stitches. Great.

Today we visited THEARC. It's an awesome community center across the river in Anacostia. They have partnerships with the Washington Ballet and the Corcoran Art Gallery to bring in programs for the kids -- so amazing! The center has really helped to revitalize the area. Up until a couple of years ago, they didn't even have a grocery store in their entire ward! I guess we all take for granted that we don't have to ride two different buses just to get food. They didn't have any sit down restaurants either. Now they have an IHOP, which is where my class ate lunch before heading to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street Center.

The weekend brings the writing of the first papers of the semester and hopefully a trip to the zoo to see the panda before he goes back to China. P.S. He's flying first class in his own charter plane with his picture on the side.

28 January 2010

I'm Going to Get on My Camel Named Bogart and Ride...

Essentially, I only have two classes here in DC. I have one history class at night, and the rest of my time is spent in a seminar class. In other words, for three days a week I spend close to eight hours a day with the same thirty people. Not to mention we all live in pretty close quarters. Things are bound to get ridiculous. And trust me, the ridiculousness has already begun.

Yesterday, my seminar class went to visit the Capitol Heights neighborhood of DC. It was a pretty long trip out on the blue line -- plenty of time to have some of the most absurd conversations of my adult life. I'm glad that my classmates are as crazy as me. We determined that when I grow up, I am going to ride a camel to work. His name is going to be Bogart -- like Humphrey. For some reason Humphrey is a popular camel name (or so I've heard). So, a few years from now if you see a woman riding a camel to some museum or library, that would be me.

Ridiculousness aside, we visited a very high poverty area yesterday. It's an area that most people who live in the more affluent areas of DC never see. I saw deteriorating housing projects and rundown houses. It was an eye-opening experience. While the situation seemed pretty hopeless there, we did get to see some of the progress that was being made through revitalizing the neighborhood park. It has been renamed for Marvin Gaye since he grew up in the neighborhood. I never knew that a park could make such a difference in a community -- but in Capitol Heights, it really has.

23 January 2010

District of Columbia 101

Seventeen days ago, I arrived in my new home --at least for the next four months. Seventeen days ago, I moved to American University in Washington, DC. I am going to be studying, working, and living here until May. This is my journey. This is my adventure. This is my story.

I've seen the White House. I've been to the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian. I've visited my congressman. I've learned to navigate the Metro, and I've gotten lost. I've discovered that DC is a lot warmer than Illinois. I've volunteered in my neighborhood. And I've eaten at Ben's Chili Bowl, which apparently makes me a local.

And oh yeah, I go to class and work too. On Mondays and Tuesdays I intern at the General Federation of Women's Clubs in their Women's History Resource Center. Basically, I spend my days looking at documents about some of the most amazing women in history. The rest of the week is consumed by seminar class: Transforming Communities. We discuss issues like civic engagement, economic mobility, poverty, diversity, etc. At night I take a class on the Holocaust, which has been amazing so far. Currently, we are discussing the roots of anti-Semitism. I had no idea how far back it can be traced.

So here's my proposition: this blog will serve as my journal of my time in Washington. I will try post multiple times a week about what's going on. I welcome any suggestions of things I should do while I'm in the city.