Until We Meet Again, D.C

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Tara Yarlagadda.

In the span of three days, I went from 25 degree F weather to 65 F, from craving hot chocolate in blistering D.C. cold to sipping my mother’s homemade smoothies produced with berries fresh from our humble orchard in sunny California. Talk about a jarring (yet welcome!) change of pace.

This was my third time ‘studying abroad’ in a sense, and I have to say, that lump that wells in your throat as you part with a friend for the indefinite future or the emotions that boil over when you walk by a place you may never see again, the surreal feeling of hopping off the plane in your home state and being suddenly jerked back to reality…it never feels any less odd or jolting as the years go on.

But now, with the frenzy of finals over, D.C thousands of miles away, and ample time to reflect upon my experience, I’ve had time to parse through this whirlwind of a semester and figure out what truly mattered the most to me. At our last coworker dinner together, one of the fellow interns asked me: “What was your favorite D.C memory over this past semester?” Being the finicky person that I am, I couldn’t settle upon just one. And so, I’ve compiled a list of the very best moments that can sum up, in a nutshell, my UCDC experience. Until we meet again, D.C. Hope you enjoy!

5. Road Trippin’ in Virginia, Maryland and Philly

As my dad was temporarily working in Virginia while my brother was studying in Philadelphia and I in D.C, we got to have an unusual family reunion on the East Coast  by road tripping through Philadelphia, Maryland and Virginia. Getting out of the hubbub of D.C into idyllic Maryland for a good ole jousting match at the Renaissance Festival, touring the streets of Philly with my brother (still didn’t get my authentic Philly cheesesteak though! Boo…) and exploring caverns in rural Virginia was one of the highlights of my D.C experience. Anyone studying or working in D.C should ride a MegaBus up to Philly or rent a Zipcar for the day and take a scenic drive through Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley–you won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Dazzled by the jaw-dropping Luray Caverns with my brother Jay.

Dazzled by the jaw-dropping Luray Caverns with my brother Jay.

In front of the iconic "LOVE" statue at the University of Pennsylvania campus.

In front of the iconic “LOVE” statue at the University of Pennsylvania campus.

4. Smithsonian Teachers’ Night 2013

Every year, the Smithsonian hosts a Teachers’ Night event in one of their many museums, showcasing all that the Smithsonian has to offer and providing curriculum materials (and appetizers and alcoholic beverages) to thousands of K-12 educators. Each section of the Smithsonian puts on their best show, and my unit, the Asian Pacific American Center (APAC), dazzled teachers with an array of snazzy educational posters and tales about our upcoming exhibition. They were sold. Seeing the curiosity on their faces and  the desire to educate their kids about Asian Pacific American issues made my heart beam with pride. Also, providing dozens of teachers curriculum materials per minute while live tweeting and photographing the event wasn’t  easy, but we got the job done. Good job APAC! Teamwork at its finest.

Putting on a big smile with fellow employees as we hand out materials at Teachers' Night 2013.

Putting on a big smile with fellow employees as we hand out materials at Teachers’ Night 2013.

3. Research Presentation aka ‘Capstone Forum’/Internship Graduation Day  

The moment had come: The semester was almost over, and it was time to present the summary of my research project to the whole staff. This project was my baby (a whole 45 pages!) and summarizing it in a brief presentation seemed like a daunting task. Yet I managed to do it with a sense of accomplishment and bittersweetness as I realized that my internship was coming to a close. I came to feel at peace, though, as I said my goodbyes, munched on goodies baked by coworkers, read the heartfelt cards that our supervisors wrote to us, and was sent off with the rest of the interns with the best farewell anyone could have asked for.

Being given a warm send-off from my internship: a day replete with baked goods, fancy certificates, and good spirits.

Being given a warm send-off from my internship: a day replete with baked goods, fancy certificates, and good spirits.

2. 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial

This was before the stress of classes and the weariness of internships set in. Back when all the students were getting to know one another with ease and friendly smiles, and just grateful to be there to witness this historic moment, listening to powerful speeches by the likes of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton while soaking together in the pouring rain in solidarity. D.C set the bar pretty high with this incredible welcome, and it hasn’t disappointed me since.

Standing alongside a fellow UCDC friend among thousands while honoring the memory of the late Dr. King.

Standing alongside a fellow UCDC friend among thousands while honoring the memory of the late Dr. King.

1. National Christmas Tree Lighting

Having Michelle Obama recite a Christmas bedtime story to thousands of viewers and then listening to heart-stopping, lively renditions by greats such as Train, Mariah Carey and Aretha Franklin? And, to cap it all off, hearing the President himself honor fallen leader Nelson Mandela while the White House flag stood at half-mast for the fallen leader in the background? The White House Christmas Tree lighting was nothing short of incredible.

Our spirits were ever so-slightly dampened (literally and metaphorically) by the rain pouring cats and dogs over our heads, particularly when we had to lower our umbrellas so all the audience members could view the mega TV screens telecasting the event. However, we pressed on, whistling and cheering in support of the performers when it was too blazing cold to remove our gloves and getting up and dancing to the tune of the Christmas jingles at other points.

The beauty of the National Christmas tree against the night sky truly takes your breath away.

The beauty of the National Christmas tree against the night sky truly takes your breath away.

As an aside before I tune out of this blog post : It’s funny – mid-way through my internship, I swore that I would never again attempt to juggle a nearly full-time unpaid internship along with coursework. Despite the fact that I enjoyed my internship, the stress compounding from impending midterms and papers, on top of the ache in my feet and body after waking up at 6 AM everyday for my 9-5 job, left little desire for me to do a repeat of the same.  And yet here I am, looking up internships on Idealist.org during my (last?!) semester at Berkeley, doing what I swore not to do. I guess it’s the same principle as students who devote themselves to student group upon student group, despite their grueling academic schedule: you may complain along the way about STRESS STRESS STRESS, but when you find an organization embodying principles or work that inspires you to get up every day, you don’t want to let go of it, and once you’re without it, you seek another intellectually stimulating and challenging activity that fulfills your passions.

As I head off to graduate in a few short months in this still dismal economy, I doubt that I’ll secure a job or fellowship that makes me feel that way right away, but I’m going to keep trying. But for now, I’m going to take pleasure in the fact that I have no pressing-concerns for the next week or so, indulge in a House of Cards Netflix binge and attempt to whittle down my ever-growing stack of ‘must-read’ books. And for all of you students about to finish your final exams, I suggest you make the most of your long break and do the same.

Happy Holidays everyone!


Tara Yarlagadda is a UC Berkeley senior majoring in Political Science and South Asian Studies. She is currently studying and interning at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC) as a Matsui Washington Fellow at the University of California Washington D.C. Center.

Learning Curves and Woodland Retreats: Navigating the Daily 9-5 Grind

Posted by Matsui Washington Fellow Tara Yarlagadda.

So, a few things have changed in D.C since my last blog post. The federal shutdown ended after a grueling 2 1/2 weeks, during which the public and House Speaker John Boehner’s tears grew infinitely larger as they wept at the sad state of our nation’s democracy (or in Boehner’s case, his dismal electoral prospects in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections). As a Matsui Fellow and someone who believes in the importance of compromise and civil engagement to the legitimacy of our democratic republic, I felt the federal shutdown was almost cringe-worthy to watch. Ted Cruz may be brilliant; to a certain degree, I admire his determination.  But gosh darn it, if I have to watch another politician get up on his bully pulpit and faux-filibuster a bill for 21 hours come time the second round of spending and deficit talks hits in January, I may just renounce society altogether and become a hobbit.

However, following the shutdown, all federal employees–minus some contractors and other personnel–received retroactive back-pay for their salaries lost during the crisis, so all is well again in the nation’s capital…for now.

About my internship with the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center: I really do love that I’ve found an internship in which I’m not just making coffee and copies. Although: please note that I intend no offense to interns whose task descriptions include these assignments. Hey, what’s the harm in making copies during your downtime in the office on Capitol Hill if it allows you the opportunity to rub shoulders with prominent individuals like Anderson Cooper and John Boehner? I wouldn’t complain either! But I digress. It feels truly rewarding to be doing work that will contribute to the overall longevity of the organization, and working on our center’s largest exhibition to-date among such incredibly knowledgeable and qualified individuals has been a humbling experience.

I pose with my coworker Paul as we both sport our new, shiny badges for our internship. Ah, first day memories...

I pose with my coworker Paul as we both sport our new, shiny badges for our internship. Ah, first day memories…

However, I can’t deny that the weekly 9 AM-5 PM grind wears on me like no other.  Getting up on a daily basis around 6 AM, trudging half-awake out into the frigid cold, working for 8 hours a day in a cubicle–albeit a very nice and comfy one–and then coming home straight to class or face-to-face with a laptop to commence research-paper writing is simply exhausting. After getting incredibly spoiled with inconsistent college schedules, in which I had the luxury to sleep in until 10 AM on some days and go to bed at 2 AM on others, it’s jarring to be thrust back into a fixed daily schedule. Now, I know that the vast majority of post-college working world adults out there (or any students who work full-time while going to college) will likely roll their eyes at me and scoff: “Do that for another 10 years, and THEN you’ll earn the right to come back to me and complain.”

Fair enough. I do have the luxury of knowing that the my next meal isn’t dependent upon the hours I input at the office,  and that is a privilege I am grateful to possess and never wish to take for granted. However, I won’t deny that having to adjust to this unfamiliar daily routine, in addition  to the perennial dilemmas of student life (“OMG how will I ever finish this paper? I have a draft due this Friday and I haven’t even begun researching.”) added onto new college senior drama as I figure out what do with my life (“Honors thesis or invest more time into studying for LSAT/GRE? Which fellowships should I apply to?”) has left me feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future at times.

Navigating office boundaries and ascertaining what my role is as an intern has also been an unforeseen challenge, yet a  crucial learning opportunity as well.  Learning how to take constructive criticism gracefully, exhibiting professional behavior with peers and superiors while maintaining my gregarious nature in an office setting has not been without its struggles, but I do believe that I have grown personally and professional as a person, and it has all been for the better in the long-run. Life isn’t like a J curve (all the science and math-y folks reading will get a hoot out of my belabored metaphor here) with a neat and gradual progression upward; it’s more akin to a sine curve in which we have our highs and lows, but learning moments are plentiful throughout the roller-coaster journey.

Despite any setbacks or difficulties, I still wouldn’t trade this internship experience for anything else in the world. Getting to serve as an impromptu photographer for an event in which I learned about  love songs serenaded by Japanese immigrant workers in the cane fields of Hawaii,  teaching children new drum beats and dance moves in an activity that could one day be featured at a museum,  or seeing the light-bulb go off in an teacher’s head when I promote our organization and they sign up for our curriculum materials is nothing short of exhilarating. The feeling that I get when I call up a potential artist to feature in an exhibition, or the sense of accomplishment after having compiled an extensive spreadsheet of organizations and potential donors for our biggest exhibition to-date–these all make any difficult experiences or hard learning curves worth it. Having the privilege to participate in talks regarding the future and vision of our organization while palling around with cheetahs during a retreat in idyllic rural Virginia (picture below!) is pretty incredible as well.

A cheetah lounges on his  (her?) stoop at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia.

A cheetah lounges on his (her?) stoop at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia.

Although, I have yet to finish my internship, I know that the learning opportunities I’ve gained here have been the most important collective experience I’ve had so far  in getting me ready for the working-world. So to any college students out there contemplating taking a semester off to pursue an internship in D.C, Mumbai, Geneva, or anywhere, I have the following two words for you: DO IT. More than anything else in your college life, this experience will prepare you for the reality of the ‘real world’ post-graduation: warts, wonders and all.

You may not see a cheetah in the wilderness of Virginia, but I promise that your future internship will have plenty of other exciting opportunities in store for you.


Tara Yarlagadda is a UC Berkeley senior majoring in Political Science and South Asian Studies. She is currently studying and interning at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC) as a Matsui Washington Fellow at the University of California Washington D.C. Center.

10 Things You Can Still Do in D.C During a Government Shutdown–For $10 or Less!

Posted by UCDC Matsui Washington Fellow Tara Yarlagadda.

In the past year or so, I’ve gone from India to Lafayette to Berkeley to Chile to Lafayette once again and finally arrived in D.C, realizing that I am perhaps destined to be a global nomad. I will support myself by living out my dreams of being a faux National Geographic photographer, taking low-quality photos all around the world with my beloved iPhone 5 camera. My parents will be so thrilled.

But about D.C: Within the span of a month, D.C has suffered from a tragic mass shooting, a deadly and tragic car chase taken straight out of a scene from 2 Fast, 2 Furious, and a man self-immolating on the National Mall. Suffice to say, something’s rotten in the District of Columbia. Oh, and let’s acknowledge the 500- pound elephant in the room that has caused federal workers to sit at home in their pajamas and millions weeping over the utter decline in civility and sanity in our political system (and the fact that the National Zoo’s PandaCam is no longer posting live-feed of the adorable panda babe and his mom):

THE FEDERAL SHUTDOWN.

Congress decrees from Capitol Hill that no humans shall be allowed on the National Mall during the federal shutdown. However, squirrels are apparently welcome.
Congress decrees from Capitol Hill that no humans shall be allowed on the National Mall during the federal shutdown. However, squirrels are apparently welcome.

The shutdown had crushed my dreams of seeing all 18 Smithsonian museums (not including the National Zoo or the Castle). However, I quickly realized that I had already been seeing plenty of sites that had no connection with the national parks or museums, and the majority either for free or at a relatively low cost. Despite the shutdown, I was determined to live it up in the City of Magnificent Intentions (the humorous nickname bestowed upon D.C by Charles Dickens). With that in mind, I’d like to share with you some of the best sites, smells and sensations I’ve been able to experience in D.C during the shutdown.

1. Cupcakes. Cupcakes.

Food is intimately connected with the culture of a place, and D.C is no exception. The limited options for high-quality, low-cost ethnic food (Hello D.C Chinatown; the ‘Chinese’ food you offer is a sad, feeble specimen compared to your robust counterparts in San Francisco and Oakland) speaks to the relative lack of diversity in D.C. However, there are a few exceptions to this, including a delicious falafel place that I’ll highlight shortly.

Californians love their frozen yogurt (better known as fro-yo), and so do D.Cers, but the true stars of this city are the cupcakes. D.C is sin city for those with a sweet tooth, and you’ll surely emerge with a few more cavities and dental appointments if you frequent these following places:

Sprinkles-Rating: 2.5/5; Price: $4.50

Despite the cute name, you should steer clear of this place. Sprinkles is the poor (wo)man’s version of Crumbs. For cupcakes with sickeningly, artificially sweet frosting and surprisingly dull and dry batter, look no further than these babies. You’re better off saving your money for any of the many other cupcake vendors in the city.

Sweetbites Mobile-Rating: 3.5/5; Price: $3.00-$3.50

Cupcakes on wheels–who could resist? I sampled the Peanut Butter and Chocolate, and while it had just the right amount of sweetness to satisfy my craving, as far as cupcakes go, it wasn’t particularly memorable. It was a decent size for the price, but not a steal like Crumb’s ‘Happy Hour’ deals.

Georgetown Cupcake-Rating: 3.5/5; Price: $2.75

Ahh, the much-raved-about starlet behind the hit TV series D.C Cupcakes. Honestly, my reaction after sinking my teeth into one of their cupcakes was “This is good, but I’ve had better.” A bit on the small side too. Granted, I only tried one cupcake (Lemon Blossom), so perhaps I need to give it another go before passing judgment. Go here just for the sake of taking the obligatory ‘posing in front of Georgetown Cupcakes’ photo. If you have to wait 20+ minutes in line though, skip it and head on over Georgetown’s lesser-known, yet delightful…

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Baked & Wired-Rating: 4/5; Price: $3.50-$4.00

Baked & Wired is tucked away from the bustling main street and picturesquely located next to a riverbank and Georgetown schooner. Location aside, this place has insane sounding (and tasting!) ‘cakecups.’ Take your pick between ‘Dirty Chai,’ ‘Flapjack’ and ‘Chocolate Cupcake of Doom.’ I sampled “Elvis Impersonator: AKA Unporked Elvis”: an oh-so-sweet and fluffy medley of chocolate, peanut butter and banana. The icing is occasionally a bit too sweet for my liking, but for a ‘once-in-a-blue-moon cupcake,’ this place will not fail.

 

A compelling argument to chow down on cupcakes is pinned to the shop wall of Baked & Wired.
A compelling argument to chow down on cupcakes is pinned to the shop wall of Baked & Wired.

Crumbs-Rating: 4.5/5; Price: $4.00 (**$2.00 during their half-off weekly deals)

Don’t be deceived by the less-than-stellar reviews on Yelp. Crumbs features a spread of playfully decorated enormous cupcakes, ranging from the more traditional vanilla to the savory chocolate ‘Blackout.’ These gigantic and delectable cupcakes will satisfy the hungriest soul, and if you head over there during what I like to call their ‘Happy Hour’ period (cupcakes for 1/2 the price–> $2.00 ginormous cupcakes!). you’ll receive a sweet, blissful deal. The one on 17th street in front of the Farragut Metro station offers half-price ($2.00) cupcakes on Saturdays from 5-7 PM.

A perfect mix of peanut butter frosting and chips, chocolate cake and cream cheese blends together to form this half-eaten Baba Booey cupcake.
A perfect mix of peanut butter frosting and chips, chocolate cake and cream cheese blends together to form this half-eaten Baba Booey cupcake.

2. Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park and Hana Japanese Market

For an escape from the tourist traps along the National Mall and the ritziness of Dupont Circle, look no further than Meridian Hill, AKA ‘Malcolm X’ park. This quaint, three-tiered park features an expanse lawn surrounded by ample reading benches, a monument dedicated to good ol President Buchanan, Joan of Arc, and a cascading waterfall flanked by a column of walkways and a bounty of flora. Perfect for a fall stroll with friends or a significant other.

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Joan of Arc charges through Malcolm X park, defeating all who lay in the path of her sword.

For all you Japanophiles out there: Just a few blocks down from Malcolm X park is this hidden gem in D.C: Hana Japanese Market. I sought shelter from a bought of nasty rain in this adorable shop, satisfying my sweet tooth craving with a $2 Mochi purchase and some instant Thai peanut-sauce powder.

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Pocky is a delightful Japanese treat that will satisfy any sweet tooth.
Pocky is a delightful Japanese treat that will satisfy any sweet tooth.

3. U Street–West Coast Meets East

IMG_4926Ben’s Chili Bowl is a favorite of actor and comedian Bill Cosby.

U Street is where the hipsters, social justice folks and artists of D.C roll. If you’re a Bay Area transplant like me and feeling a bit homesick for the high-energy activism of S.F and Berkeley, this will quickly become your go-to spot. This place has no shortage of good eats. Beloved by a number of celebrities–including President Barack Obama and Bill Cosby–Ben’s Chili Bowl is a D.C landmark that lives up to its well-deserved reputation. Pick up a basket of chili-cheese fries for $5.95, plop down at the counter, and enjoy. Veggie and turkey burgers are available as well for all types of foodies.

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Some very Berkeley-esque posters in U Street.
Some very Berkeley-esque posters in U Street.

For a combination of glorious comfort food, social justice literature, and powerfully recited spoken word poetry, stop by Busboys and Poets. The restaurant has multiple locations throughout the city, but I’ve got a soft spot for the U Street location, having experienced an incredible spoken word event there during an Amnesty International conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Georgetown

Georgetown Cupcakes and Baked and Wired have already been mentioned, but beyond that, this charming college town has much to offer. Georgetown is shopper’s paradise for those in need of retail therapy, featuring everything from Nike to the highbrow Vineyard Vines ($30 key-chains–WHAT). There is also a bounty of fine restaurants in this area that are perfect for meeting with an old friend or an out-of-town guest. Stunning views of the Potomac River will also make the trip to Georgetown worth your while.

An archway in a picturesque garden at Georgetown University.
An archway in a picturesque garden at Georgetown University.

Georgetown University is striking in its beauty, with grand, uniform stone and red brick buildings and well-maintained infrastructure. The Lauinger Library is also open 24 hours (!) every week of the academic year, offering sleep-deprived students a much-needed study spot. Haunt the infamous Georgetown steps while you’re here to get a good workout and complete your tour.

Spooked at the famous steps from the movie Exorcist in Georgetown!
Spooked at the famous steps from the movie Exorcist in Georgetown!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Washington National Cathedral

Whether you’re religious or not, this place is a must-see before you leave D.C. On a sunny day, the exterior of the church is remarkable, cream-colored architecture and numerous arches and steeples, flanked by wide green lawns. However, that doesn’t even compare to the striking interior. Ornately decorated stained-glass windows depict iconic religious figures and saints, reflecting beams of colorful light throughout the main hall. Short of making a trip to the Vatican, this is the next best thing. Additionally, if you are so inclined, please attend a service here. The church is remarkably progressive in its attitudes towards social justice, particularly regarding LGBT matters, openly criticizing church leaders who disseminate anti-gay propaganda. It’s come a long ways from the days when it honored Robert E. Lee, the former leader of the Confederate Army who defended slavery.

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6. Yuppie it Up in Adams Morgan

During the daytime, this place is a fun place for families and singles alike to wander around and window-shops, exploring the variety of ethnic shops, used bookstores and restaurants, ranging from African and Tibetan wares to halal markets to the beloved “Amsterdam Falafelshop.” At Amsterdam: For only $5.50, you receive a warm pita pocket filled with three divine falafel balls, allowing you to fill the rest of the pita with your choice of UNLIMITED heavenly sauces, colorful veggies, baba ghanoush, and more.

Colorful wares inside an African and Middle Eastern trinkets store.
Colorful wares inside an African and Middle Eastern trinkets store.

$5.50 for this hearty combination of everything under the sun in a pita pocket. Money well spent!
$5.50 for this hearty combination of everything under the sun in a pita pocket. Money well spent!

At nighttime, this place becomes a veritable feast of college students and 20-somethings living la vida loca in D.C and enjoying its smattering of hookah joints, nightclubs and dive bars.

 

 

 

 

 

7. Korean Cultural Center Screening and (Free) Feasts

Twice a month, the Korean Cultural Center in D.C organizes FREE film Korean screenings and serves complimentary appetizers. An advance RVSP is required in order to attend these events, but it’s a mere two minute procedure to fill out the RSVP form. These events are incredibly well-put together and enjoyable, featuring bestselling Korean films and a spread of mouth-watering Korean goodies. I’m by no means a Korean film buff–I saw my first Korean film at the center a month ago–so these events are open to anyone who is culturally curious, willing to learn, and eager to experience great cinematography and cuisine (did I mention that it’s free?).

The most recent event featured a a heart-wrenching tearjerker of a film entitled Miracle in Cell No. 7 , as well as a spread of red bean and cream buns and tantalizingly sweet banana milk. Mmm. My ideal dinner. They occasionally display special exhibits, like the gallery of Hangul art (apologies for the crude simplification, but it’s essentially Korea’s version of calligraphy, done with a modern twist and flair) seen in the photo below:

Sasha (a fellow APAC intern and UCDC student) and I pose with the Korean artist in front of one of his beautiful Hangul works.
Sasha (a fellow APAC intern and UCDC student) and I pose with the Korean artist Moon Tae Kim in front of one of his beautiful Hangul works.

A heavenly cream bun, oh-so-sweet banana milk, and a synopsis for the night's film "Miracle in Cell No. 7." A must-see film, but be sure to have a box of tissues on hand--it's a tearjerker!
A heavenly cream bun, oh-so-sweet banana milk, and a synopsis for the night’s film “Miracle in Cell No. 7.” A must-see film, but be sure to have a box of tissues on hand–it’s a tear-jerker!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Politics, Protests, World Leaders–Oh My!

Given that D.C is the epicenter of U.S politics, this one should be self-explanatory. As a Political Science major, D.C is heaven in one metropolitan area, featuring an array of prominent politicians and gatherings of activists.

Recently-elected Somalian president Hassan Sheikh Mohammed speaks about challenges and successes in Somalia's first year of civilian, democratic governance since the start of the civil war in 1991.
Recently-elected Somalian president Hassan Sheikh Mohammed speaks at the Woodrow Wilson Center about challenges and successes in Somalia’s first year of civilian, democratic governance since the start of the civil war in 1991. The WWC offers several free events like this to the public each month.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) speaks to students on a litany of issues, ranging from gun control to campaign finance reform.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) speaks to students on a litany of issues, ranging from gun control to campaign finance reform.

Justice Kennedy discusses SCOTUS matters, inserting references to Lady Gaga and Platform 9 3/4 and delivering this gem: "The nature of injustice is that you can't see it in your own time."
Justice Kennedy discusses the SCOTUS at the UC Washington Center, inserting references to Lady Gaga and Platform 9 3/4 and delivering this gem: “The nature of injustice is that you can’t see it in your own time.”

 

 

Calling for immediate change to reform the broken immigration system to keep families together and allow all Americans to live in peace in the land that they call home.
Calling for immediate change to reform the broken immigration system to keep families together and allow all Americans to live in peace in the land that they call home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Join A Group or Volunteer in an Organization of Your Personal Passion

Ok, so I’ll admit, this one isn’t exclusive to D.C. However, D.C being the capital of the nation, it is pretty much second only to New York City in possessing the maximum number of organizations catering to whatever interest you may have. My personal passion is the protection of human rights; back at home, I’m an active member of Amnesty International, the largest grassroots human rights group in the world. My social justice nerves were getting antsy after a month of not advocating for righteous change, so I found a local Amnesty group at Meetup.com. I stopped by their meeting one day after work, and voila! I am now officially a dedicated East Coast Amnesty-er. In addition to participating in rallies, I’ll be lobbying on key human rights issues, including the need to pass the International Violence Against the Women Act (IVAWA) and getting members of Congress to adopt a prisoner of conscience.

Peacefully protesting in front of the Egyptian embassy (no worries--we had a permit) with Amnesty Int'l and demanding accountability for sexual violence.
Peacefully protesting in front of the Egyptian embassy (no worries–we had a permit) with Amnesty Int’l and demanding accountability for sexual violence.

 

 

Meeting with one of the staff members of Amnesty USA in their D.C office and discussing upcoming human rights actions.
Meeting with one of the staff members of Amnesty USA in the D.C office and discussing upcoming human rights actions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Merry Markets, Bargain Books and…Cranberries?

I can’t stress enough the low-quality and exorbitant prices at the ironically nicknamed “Communist” Safeway on Corcoran Street. *sigh* At least D.C has an abundance of farmers’ markets to tide me over. For a delightful Sunday brunch, stop by the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market. The produce here is somewhat pricer than your typical Trader Joes’ bananas, but nothing that will break the bank. $3-4 for a bunch of pears and $2.50 per croissant will fill you up and leave leftovers for snacks later. Pro-tip: Look out for the produce that is slightly slightly nicked or overly-ripe–they’ll still taste great and last you a few days, but you’ll receive a hefty discount.

An assemblage of wonderfully decorated soaps for sale at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market.
An assemblage of wonderfully decorated soaps for sale at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market.

Afterwards, treat yourself to a shopping spree at the Eastern Market weekly street fair, just 2 blocks up from the Eastern Market metro. This market features various trinkets, antiques, furniture, women’s dresses, jewelry, salsa, potted plants, T-shirts, arts and crafts–you name it, it’s got it. Great place to pick up a unique gift for a friend. To quell the bookworm in you: Head over to Capitol Books just around the corner and navigate your way through stacks upon stacks of featuring every topic known to man.

Clearly, the Japanophile in me is making a comeback. Cute ceramics for sale at the Eastern Market.
Clearly, the Japanophile in me is making a comeback. Cute ceramics for sale at the Eastern Market.

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The workers show off their sense of humor at Capitol Books.

Also, just for fun: Being the nation’s capital, D.C will feature anything and everything wacky that passes through the USA. Ever seen those Ocean Spray commercials depicting farmers wading through a seemingly-endless sea of cranberries in comfy overalls? Well, take a look at this replica 24-hour ‘cranberry bog’ I witnessed at Union Station in D.C; it featured a farmer in overalls, harvesting machines, and as seen on TV, a field of floating cranberries.

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A cranberry taken from the bog is juxtaposed against one of the iconic red lights signaling the arriving of trains at the Metro station.
A cranberry taken from the bog is juxtaposed against one of the iconic red lights signaling the arriving of trains at the Metro station.

And those were the highlights of the wonderfully random things I’ve done since the federal government went awry. As a final note to cap off this post: While we may have lost all faith in Congress as a result of the shutdown, at least this church offers one uplifting message of hope to the American public:

5+ awesome points to this church! We federal workers may be worthless to Congress, but we are all 'essential' in the eyes of God.