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.