Richmond's Own (but unowned) Website

Kind of hard to remember everything, but I’ll try a bullet of highlights over the past 3 weeks (not necessarily in chronological order)! Probably forgot something, but I’ll get in as much as I can.

  • 100 degree heat – made worse by humidity
  • National Zoo! Good planning meant we went on a relatively cool day. Amazing Amazon building (a real rainforest we can walk through, complete with birds flying about. [There’s another island, no fences this time!]) And an awesome invertebrate house – octopus, jellyfish, insects, butterflies, and other amazing wildlife!
  • American History Museum – saw the Star Spangled Banner (the actual one, as in the one in the National Anthem), and  going back and standing in line, just to go to the Presidents in the Media 10 minute video, just to see the 1 minute using clips from The American President, The West Wing (the last scene in the pilot. Talk about impressive), and Air Force One (get off my plane!). Also, always fun to see the exhibit’s copy of the board game “The Kennedys”
  • American History Museum has some cool trains and transportation history!
  • Microsoft Surface (the old table one, not the tablet) in the Freer Gallery to look at Asian art pieces. And just to play on!
  • Being disappointed by the lack of Chinese markets in Chinatown.
  • Walking back to GW from Chinatown (and past the White House)
  • Chipotle!
  • Uno’s Pizza in Georgetown
  • Helping staff my first White House event
  • Being in the same room as the Vice President and Dr. Biden at said event.
  • Intern food from said event.
  • Got an amazing dinner related to said event. 
  • Checked out a library book from the EEOB Library (why pay $50 to use the university library for read-only privileges when I can check out a book from a White House Complex library?)
  • Back on the mock USS Enterprise (the aircraft carrier) in the Air and Space Museum – and seeing the USS Enterprise (the Star Trek ship) in the gift shop again. Loved the little kid saying “it’s the Enterprise!”  - future trekkie!
  • Got my Library of Congress library card! As a pre-emptive measure for research. And it’s just cool!
  • Didn’t get to go to Pirates of Penzance, but got to go watch Brave instead!
  • Walk through the US Botanical Gardens.
  • Walked by US Congress
  • Got my EOP keychain fob
  • Saw the original Kermit muppet at the American History Museum.
  • Nationals Game (though I think I wrote about that the first time)
  • Finding the underground complex connecting the galleries behind the Smithsonian castle. 
  • Watching the Newsroom (pretty great!), and The Great Escape (not as great as I thought it’d be), and Food Network Star (spoiler: wish Emily wasn’t eliminated!)
  • Making our way around DC with 200,000 Girl Scouts
  • Saw some amazing Contemporary Art at the Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art – including some engaging and enthralling television/media installations (and I mean super captivating – mind blown with everything!), and a gaming exhibit
  • Jumping into the Capitol Reflecting Pool!
  • Shake Shack - good burger and shake!
  • Missed out on a crab festival, but got to eat a great cake out of it!
  • Chips and drinks with interns; and another informal gathering with office staff.
  • Learning about the Indian Treaty Room (beautiful place!)
  • Saw Marine One (albeit from a ways back and from a window)
  • Great food at the Museum of the American Indian (best Smithsonian food!)
  • Folklife Festival out on the mall!

Finished a week in Washington, D.C. – and what can I say? Well actually, that’s probably a good question to ask.*  I’m an intern this summer with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy – very fascinating policy and events happening!

Is it like “The West Wing?” Well…for one thing, the offices walls aren’t all made of glass. And unfortunately, there’s not always hundreds of people walking around, randomly handing you papers and folders as you walk down the hallway…  Though I’ll say the pace of the work is sure fast like the show! I love it; there’s never a dull moment. The people I’ve met have been great, both the staff members and other interns. And I’m learning fast that everything in DC has an acronym – there’s a lot to catch up on!

So I’ve finished my first week of 9-5 work – yikes, can it be tiring! College schedules seem so relaxed and sparse compared to a regular work week! And having to cook your own meals on top of that afterwards – on the topic of meals, since I have to cook the majority of my meals, and since I would consider my cooking skills amateur as best, I am also going to try to keep a food blog over the summer to cover my culinary escapades.  

I’ve loved it here in D.C. for the first week. The weather’s been nice, and hasn’t been too hot nor too humid (it’s been quite bearable!).  On Monday night, I was invited to dinner at the house of a family friend, which was quite delicious (and I didn’t need to cook!). Tuesday night, I went with a bunch of other interns all staying in the same GWU dorm to go to the Nationals vs. Mets baseball game. I thought it’d be alright, just another baseball game, but it turned out quite fun! Besides the obligatory ballpark pretzel, I got to meet a lot of the other interns in the building, and the game was actually quite interesting too! The Nats and Mets were tied at the end of the 9th inning, and then again at the end of the 10th, each scoring1 run after the other. And at that point, most of us had to leave (we had work the next morning!). In the end, I believe the Nationals won, all the way in the 12th inning! It was quite an experience!  
So the cheaper seats may be a ways up...still fun!
Wednesday night, my roommate and I made a Target trip, and I took the opportunity to purchase a cooking pot, as well as some food for the week. 

Today I ventured out into this fair city along with my roommate and another friend from the floor. Turns out this week is a huge giant gathering of Girl Scouts – 200,000 extra people! And all that many extra girls flooding the city means close to 200,000 more bags and purses…meaning longer bag check lines to get into museums! (Though it seemed like a great way for them to celebrate the Girl Scouts!) We went into the Museum of Natural History first, and we had to wait a while in line to get in, but it was probably worth it! We went through some of the exhibits I’d seen before, but it was nice to see them again, and I was able to look more closely at things or see things I missed the first time around. We went around through the dinosaurs, mammals, human evolution, insects, human skeletons, and more! Everything was so crowded though; I had no idea that many people could fit in there!
The photo doesn't really do justice to just how darn crowded the place was! (Museum of Natural History)
We ate lunch at the museum, and probably ended up spending about 4.5 hours in there. After that, we walked across the National Mall to the Smithsonian Castle and sat down for a bit. From there, we moved out into the garden and into the Sackler Gallery – the name of which presents no meaning to what’s inside. But it turned out to be the Smithsonian’s Asian Art museum! It looks very small – we thought it was; but despite its small physical footprint, we found that it went down for few floors and had a decent number of exhibits (think a submerged Johnson Art Museum). I love art museums and galleries! At the bottom, we actually found a tunnel that led to an underground atrium, which is actually part of a Smithsonian center  - there were lots of classrooms for activities and even a children’s theater, as well as offices, and a display commemorating all the patents Steve Jobs has. It also connected to the African Art museum, though we didn’t have time to go there. We came back on the Metro (with all the Girl Scouts, presumably leaving their “Rock the Mall” sing a long), tired after a long day, but I’m quite excited to museum myself out again next week!

Really cool piece of art, representing a story about 21 monkeys; it chains together 21 carvings, each influenced by the word meaning "Monkey" in 21 different languages! (you can sort of read "Mono" at the bottom link in the photo, Spanish for monkey)
Among the Sackler Gallery highlights was the Windows Surface table (here showing the water homescreen, but also allowed us to look at scrolls and other artwork). Move over Apple iPad, this thing was so much cooler! AND it used a matte screen so much fewer fingerprints!
*Footnote I guess? Yes, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m allowed or not allowed to say, but I thought it’d be a fun title.  
(There's a West Wing episode called 20 Hours in America. Is it better if I don't explain the titles? I feel it's kind

On Sunday, Carolyn met up with us, and she, Adam, and I proceeded to walk out to the mall, walking by the rather interesting street van vendors. We did go back to the National Air and Space museum, so I could get my picture of the Enterprise model (and go by very pricey space food!).
Enterprise is in DC!
While we were waiting for Katie and Stephanie to come down to DC, we went into the museum of the American Indian. While perhaps the exhibits don’t display the best story, the atrium is sure beautiful, especially with prisms that shoot rainbows all over the four storey (British spelling!) atrium. We spent some time discussing possible uses for extra ledge space – totem poles or performance space perhaps?
After that, we met up with Katie and Stephanie over at the Natural History Museum – saw the large diamond, and some elephant evolution side exhibits. Then we went through an extensive special exhibit on race. Some very deep stuff in there, I really enjoyed the parts about education.  We headed north, passed through the street where Taste of DC was happening, but we passed by the street where it was happening! Though we walked by and ate at Au Bon Pan – interesting change in the order of sandwich preparation vs the order the orders were put on the counter. But we got everything.

Next, we walked back and headed down to cross the tidal basin, over to the other side with the Jefferson Memorial. Very large, lots of steps, columns, and marble! We all sat on the steps for a little while, looking north up over the basin to the White House. There were quotes around the central statue, and some museum displays below.

Adam and Carolyn had to head back to GW, but Stephanie, Katie, and I continued making our way around the basin. We went to the FDR memorial, which traced FDR’s presidency chronologically through a series of waterfalls – love water features! Though we ended up going backwards through the timeline – but it was a very different kind of memorial, and I really enjoyed it.
Water Feature!!
Then we went to see the new MLK Jr Memorial, it was quite crowded, probably because it’s the newest memorial, but it was very great to see too – very tall, but the mountain symbolism made a lot of sense with the quotes.
We walked back up toward the Washington Monument afterwards, and saw Marine One land on the White House lawn! Well we didn’t really see it actually land, we saw the three of them fly over and land behind the trees. Though we waited around and saw it take off!
We went back up to the Museum of Natural History – walked through the mammals, ice age, oceans, and dinosaurs. Afterwards, the three of us decided to go eat at Potbelly Sandwiches. We got there about 10 minutes before their closing time, but the woman working was super nice and super fast too! We ate outside – next door was a sports bar…the whole thing had a rather London feeling about it. When we finished, Adam came back and met us, and we all sat and talked for a while. We walked around a bit afterwards, and had fun kicking a stick! But then we went to the Metro station and all had to say our goodbyes.

I had a great time seeing some of my Fulbright peers again – it was great too that we all sort of gelled back together, even though it felt like it’s been a long time since we’ve all been together. Was very glad to also get a real break (and my eyes off the computer!), and have a nice relaxing weekend with friends!

Monday I came back up to Ithaca. Had an hour or so to myself in DC, so I went down to the Capitol in the morning before getting on the train. The DC Union Station is quite nice as well! The train was packed (Columbus Day = travel day, should have figured that out sooner). Had a good train ride up, and I ran up to the Port Authority to catch an earlier bus (though in retrospect, maybe it would have been nice to spend a few hours in the city – perhaps next time when I don’t have as much stuff to carry!) On the way up, was treated to a nice sunset though! And now back to 7 more weeks in the college marathon…
Washington Monument!
National Air and Space Museum
Protesters outside the Air and Space museum - that large puppet is a bit freaky.
National Gallery - forgot to talk about this in the blog; but we spent some time here - saw some Monet paintings of London (Waterloo Bridge), interesting contemporary art themed around letters, and some fascinating tapestry.
Capitol at night is pretty!
The White House!
Fall Break time at Cornell! Finished off the first half of my semester with a marathon week of an essay due Tuesday, 2 exams Wednesday, an exam Thursday, and physics problem set Friday. Plus grading exams as a TA and music rehearsals and club meetings. Not much sleep in this week. (Though even though it was pretty rough, I’m sure there were people with weeks worse off than mine!)

But Friday came – getting ready to leave on the 2:30 bus was like student anarchy practically. A lot of rushing to the bus as each one pulled up, and everyone disappointedly walking away as 95% of the crowd realized it wasn’t a New York bus. I think 1 person stepped onto the Boston bound bus. But eventually, I got onto the fully packed New York bounded bus.

We got into New York City at night, around 7:30 pm – a very nice view of Manhattan’s night skyline as we were coming in from New Jersey (no pictures unfortunately, sitting on the wrong side of the bus). The bus ended up dropping us outside around the corner from the Port Authority, rather than inside. It was alright though. Made the walk down to Penn station where I had a bit of a wait. There was a ticketed passenger waiting area (which I had not seen last time, but then I was arriving at the station, not departing), and wifi! Ate my sandwich I had bought at Cascadeli, then got onto the train. Pretty much slept the whole way down to Washington, it took about 3 hours – didn’t get a chance to go to the snack car and talk with the train crew. Oh well though.

Arrived at Washington DC Union Station around 12:30am, where Adam and Carolyn were kind enough to come meet me. Took the metro back, got my first look at GWU (and some of the student night life atmosphere) and got into Adam’s room – it was great seeing him again – just like old times (it’s only been a few months, but it really has felt like quite a long time). Fell asleep pretty quickly too.

Had a rather late start to the next morning but it wasn’t too bad. Adam cooked some scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, and we went off! It still amazes me to see all the various institutions and agencies right here – the IMF, Organization of American States, the Eisenhower (Old) Executive Office Building. (And that was within the first 5-10 minutes of our walk!) We made it past the ellipse (which I didn’t even realize we were going by the White House until I saw it later when we were going in a different direction…too busy listening to a loudly woman complaining about sweat in her hair as she passed by.

We went onto the National Mall, and passed by the Washington Monument – though we couldn’t go up, closed because of possible cracks due to the Earthquake (I’ve got some screenshots of workers climbing the outside of the tower checking for cracks, from CNN). And I left my national parks booklet in my dorm! I could have gotten so many stamps from the DC area! Oh well, next time perhaps.

Adam and I started off in the National Air and Space Museum – which I’m sure is also a favorite of many a young child. We went in and got to go through the exhibits, we saw early flight. One thing I was really impressed by was the craftsmanship of wooden propellers – the curvature, symmetry, and weight balance is perfect to an extraordinary level, it’s amazing to think that they were doing this a century ago! We continued through some exhibits on commercial aviation – there was a display touting new digital instruments, and brand new modern CRT displays! Er…maybe it was outdated? To be fair, there was another display that did have a 21st century cockpit. It was astounding to see some of the old planes and lounges and level of services passengers received. True, air safety (another display) wasn’t as great then as it is now, but I wish we could all get that level of comfort and service! We proceeded to go through a WWI air warfare exhibit (complete with simulated trenches), then a much smaller WWII one. Though there was an air and sea display, which focused mostly on WWII and post war (up to the 90s or so) combination of air and sea power. It was really fun to look at because it was modeled on a real aircraft carrier, with a ready room, bridge, and other rooms, staircases, and ladders and gangways (though we couldn’t go on those). But that was quite an immersive experience (to some point at least), which I thoroughly enjoyed. We then walked past a small exhibit on UAVs (Unmanned aerial vehicles), and their rather recent history. After that, we went through an exhibit about the planets, and some of the information about our exploration, including a life sized mock up of the Mars Rovers! That was pretty interesting.

Finishing that, we walked across the bridge over the lobby, when we noticed that the doors were shut – people were not being let in or out. Police and security were telling people to not walk near the doors. Soon we saw a large group of people outside – protesters. Anti war protesters, as we could deduce from their signs and from the other people who had been on the balcony longer. Heard things about a huge poster being dropped over the railing in the lobby, and pepper spray. Intense sounding, but not sure how much of it was true (turned out to be true later on, according to the news reports – they took a guard hostage too, resulting in the use of pepper spray). We watched as they arrested a woman, and more police from various departments and divisions (or jurisdictions? Not sure what the correct terminology is here), as they came into the building, and then shut the museum down. So we, and a bunch of frustrated families, tourists, air enthusiasts, and some crying kids were quickly ushered out the back (secondary main) entrance. Oh well. We went around to the other side for a bit to see the protesters’ actual signs – and yes, they were anti war (mostly – there was an occupy Wall Street person thrown in the mix), and many police outside, Capitol, Park Service, Met, DHS, and more I think. A chopper was circling too.

After a bit, we had to move on to go up to College Park to pick up Stephanie, so we took the metro, and several transfers. Crazy weekend – red line single tracking (1 track, 2 directions, many delays), and the green line was out for a good chunk of stations – necessitating the getting on the green line, getting off, taking a red line until it met the green line again, transferring, and continuing on. We got up to College Park (Maryland), and waited for Stephanie – though a metro worker came and thought we were lost (probably since we were admiring the U of Maryland area map) – though after a while, Stephanie got there, and we all went back down into the city (after several transfers and one stop too far), to go pick up Katie. We walked up Capitol Hill, past the train station and postal museum out to where Katie’s bus came in. We waited a while, and then after she got in, we all went to get burgers, on Adam’s recommendation, which were great! (I haven’t had a burger in quite a while either!). After that, we walked back past the Capitol and down the mall to the Washington Monument. Felt like a little bit of London…just American. Walked around the circle, then up to the White House! Interesting mix of people outside the White House at that time of night, but it was a rather peaceful evening. We split up, the girls going back up to Maryland, Adam and I back to GW, where I got a glimpse of Adam’s duties in the building. Had a great first day in DC – and a bit more than I was expecting!