This is my gym.

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Yeah, it’s awesome.
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Another Family Visit to DC

This past week I was lucky enough to have four members of my extended family come and visit me in DC. My Aunt Becky, cousin Clare, my Grandma, and my mom spent a long weekend with me. We had a lot of fun, and kept pretty busy, taking in a movie, seeing the monuments at night, visiting Mosaic Nazarene, my church, and just generally catching up.

My Aunt and Grandma stopped in town on their way from Connecticut, where my cousin lives, to Nashville. They three of them arrived in town on Friday night, after what I’ve heard was a nightmarish drive through terrible traffic. After resting up and de-stressing, I took them to Eastern Market the next morning.

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I love Eastern Market. The Eastern Market is DC’s oldest public, fresh food market, and it’s been operating for over 130 years. It’s located inside and around a building that was constructed in 1873 (which you can see on the right of the picture above). This building was nearly destroyed by a fire in 2007, but it has been totally restored and re-opened in 2009. During those two years, the market kept on operating, but in temporary quarters nearby.

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At the market you can find all sorts of fresh foods, including fish, meats and cheeses. Above you can see Aunt Becky, Clare, and Grandma deciding what to buy from the Market’s bakery. We ended up each getting a lemonade and a cookie, both of which were great on a warm day. My grandmother also bought me a beautiful pearl necklace and matching bracelet from one of the vendors. He told us that the pearls are freshwater pearls caught off the coast of China, and he’s been selling jewelry made from them at the Market for ten years now. If you’d like to learn more about the history of Eastern Market, I’d recommend this episode of the Kojo Nnamdi Show, called Eastern Market and DC’s Food Culture.

Later that day we picked up my mom from Union Station and headed out to Silver Spring for dinner and a movie. I love downtown Silver Spring – it’s a really great area to spend an afternoon or evening, since there’s so much to do in such a small, walkable area. And the fountain with tons of little kids playing in it is pretty great!

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We ate dinner at Austin Grill, mostly because it was a beautiful night and we wanted to sit outside. The food was fine, but nothing amazing, but we were really there for the company. And what company! I got to sit right next to a very charming umbrella stand, who you can see below posing with Mom.wpid-cimg8670-2010-08-16-19-30.jpg

The next night we decided to check out the monuments, figuring there would be fewer tourists on a Sunday night than a Saturday morning. We were right, although it was hardly deserted! Still, the monuments are amazing at any time of day, and I managed to get some good shots of my family.

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Above you can see Mom and Grandma posing in front of the Washington Monument. We’re actually right in front of the Lincoln Memorial, which I’d never been to before. Below is the Washington Monument as viewed from the edge of my favorite memorial, the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial.
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I like the FDR Memorial best because it’s so different. Unlike the other memorials, which are basically walk-up-and-look-at-a-statue memorials, the FDR Memorial is organized into four outdoor rooms (one for each of his four terms of office), each with different elements like waterfalls and smaller statues. It takes a while to work your way through, and it’s quite beautiful.

Because it was so late, we weren’t able to see everything, but the next day Clare, Grandma, and Aunt Becky went on a duck tour of DC. They loved being able to go into the Potomac River!

Living in DC is pretty great, because you never have to worry about planning a bunch of things for visiting family to do – the city has such a huge amount of free things to see and do that it’s basically all done for you!

Winter’s Bone

I’ve gotten on a movie kick recently, which started off with a visit to a local theater that shows independent movies, Landmark Bethesda Row. The very first movie I saw there was Winter’s Bone, and let me tell you, it is amazing. I had read a lot of hype about it beforehand – Jennifer Lawrence, the main actress (from Tennessee!) gives a “watchful, precise, and quietly heroic performance,” and the film is “close to flawless,” the “American film of the year.“, etc, etc, etc. Even so, I tried to keep  my expectations down. I’d heard a lot of hype about Let the Right One In, too, and turns out I thought that was just a weird Swedish vampire movie with all the excitement sucked out of it (lol, pun).

But Winter’s Bone did not let me down. I found it pitch-perfect. Everything about it was amazing. The acting was fantastic, the story was real and made sense, and it had a ring of authenticity to it that really resonated with me. I caught myself thinking “I’ve been in that house,” or “I’ve met those people.” Let me be clear, I have not actually been in a meth dealer’s house, but the look and feel and sound of the people and environment of the poor South rang true to me.

The movie also made me evaluate my privilege. It happens sometimes that I bump into people who’s worlds are so much smaller than mine, and it’s always disconcerting. Ree, the main character in the movie for example – going to college is probably not even something she imagines as an option. The best she hopes for is to provide for her family in such a way that they don’t go hungry and don’t become homeless. Her dreams are not particularly relevant, and “career goals” is not a phrase she’s likely spent much time on. And having a healthy family life, making a legal living, would be miles above what most of the people she knows have, and so is a goal to strive for, rather than something to take for granted. And by some quirk of fate I’ve landed in a place where my options have always seemed limitless. Going to college was not a question – of course I would go. I want to get a Master’s degree, so I put off getting a job in my career field to pursue more education. If I want to be a lawyer, I can go to law school. If I want to be a doctor, I can go to med school. Same for psychiatrist, pharmacist, politician, engineer, accountant, physicist – all of these careers were (and are) mine to choose from. I’m aware that I have disadvantages that work against me, but compared to Ree, they’re laughably small. And that’s a valuable piece of perspective.

But I don’t think it’s enough to watch Winter’s Bone and think “Wow, I’m so lucky I was born in Nashville and not in the Ozarks!” and then forget about it. Working to make it so that the Ree’s of the world can have a big, boundless world like ours is the only acceptable course of action once you’ve realized that her world is limited through no fault of her own, and yours is limitless for reasons you can’t take full credit for.

You can watch it to provoke thoughts on class and gender, or you can watch it cause it’s a great suspense thriller, it doesn’t matter. The point is – watch it!

Here’s a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bE_X2pDRXyY

And a link to the official site, where you can find out where it’s playing near you: http://www.wintersbonemovie.com/

Vote for my Co-worker Bettina!

California Tortilla is having some sort of contest in which the person with the most votes gets to go to a Word of Mouth Marketing Conference in New York City. My co-worker Bettina is one of the finalists, and she needs your help to win! She’s really cool, and has promised to teach us all the stuff she learns at the conference, so if go and vote for her! You can vote as many times as you like until the contest ends on July 11th (my mom’s birthday!). I’ve already voted like twenty times, so you have some catching up to do!

Here’s the link to vote: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Supergenius

Soccer in the Circle

I haven’t been posting recently – sorry about that! I’ve been busy with work at my temporary job (which I just learned on Friday will not turn full-time, as the Dean denied the request for funding), and not been feeling so great. But I’m back on my feet, and ready to resume posting more regularly!

This last Saturday I went to watch the US v. England match of the World Cup in Dupont Circle. The event was organized by the same people that organized a snowball fight during the Snowpocalypse, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll come up with next!

Lots of people watching the game!

They had to raise $20,000 for permits and expenses, and with donations from some businesses and individuals they were able to put two giant screens on the circle.

A view of one of the two screens.

A couple thousand people (in my estimation) watched the US/England match with me and my friends. It was really cool to see so many Americans caring about soccer, if only for 90 minutes!

American flag waving above the crowd. The USA!USA! chanting was fun!

I met up with some friends and friends-of-friends at the circle, and we had a good time watching the game. The only downside was, it was HOT! And I hate being hot.

Pals on the circle, trying not to melt in the heat.

So it was a good time, but unless the US is in the final (and probably even then!), I’ll pass on another outdoor viewing experience.

Franciscan Monastery Sale

On Saturday the Franciscan Monastery near Centro Maria had their annual plant and herb sale. I went to check it out with Margie, Sarah, and Anna.

They had tons of plants for sale!

Margie, Sarah, and Anna sniffing a flower.

The monastery was really beautiful. They had a prayer written in a bunch of different languages, including Japanese!

I can read the parts of it that aren't kanji!

The monks also had some of their famous honey for sale. They have beehives at the monastery, and the honey they make is very popular. I was really excited to buy some!I made sure that we got there right when it was suppose to open, and an hour after we got there the honey was all sold out. Luckily I was able to buy it before they ran out!

On the way to the car we saw a woman with five Yorkshire terriers. They were so cute on their leashes! We of course had to stop for some pets.

I want to go back to the monastery again and take a tour. Apparently they have a catacombs with actual bodies!

Go to my Flickr page to see more pictures of the monastery!

Lantern-lit Cherry Blossom Tour

When looking at the list of the cherry blossom events I was immediately drawn to something described as a “Ranger-guided Lantern-lit Cherry Blossom Walk.” I wrangled four friends and we headed down to the Washington Monument to meet up with our ranger guide.

Michelle, Sarah, Lee, and Anna at the Stone Lodge

We met our ranger, Jane, and she started to fill us in on the oldest cherry trees still living.

She was pretty long-winded.

We walked around the tidal basin learning about Japan’s gift of cherry blossoms. We saw the lantern that Japan gave later, which is lit each year during a special ceremony. The lantern has a bunch of symbols carved into it, and the gift itself is symbolic. Jane went into a lot of detail, but I can’t really remember it. 🙂

Next we saw a pagoda that Japan gave us as well.

We walked halfway around the tidal basin with Jane, and it took us two hours. Then Sarah, Anna, Lee and I walked the other half back to the car in twenty minutes. It was a good night, although I was disappointed that the “lantern” was a flashlight!