So last night I became aware of this dumb Facebook meme telling women to post the colour of their bras in their statuses with the supposed aim of raising breast cancer awareness. On the face of it, this is moronic: it’s hardly raising awareness if the entire thing is based on a secret code only familiar to the people already posting (and therefore already “aware”). Not to mention that the target audience here was really ineffectively chosen. The vast majority of women arealready aware of breast cancer and how to check for it, and men – who, yes, can develop breast cancer! – were deliberately kept out of the loop on this one, despite perhaps having a greater need for breast cancer “awareness”.

On other levels, though, the whole thing is symptomatic of an unhealthy and unproductive approach to the breast cancer problem. Years ago, raising awareness of breast cancer was a real and pressing concern. It was one of those diseases that simply wasn’t talked about, and as a result women were dying without ever understanding or confronting the cause. Now, breast cancer is the superstar of incurable diseases. Everyone and their dog has a pink product for sale, “with a portion of proceeds going towards breast cancer f*ckery”.

“F*ckery?” you may say. “Isn’t that a little harsh?” And yes, I will concede that there are, in fact, breast cancer related campaigns that are not full of fail. However, there are also lots and lots that are.

Let’s start off by talking about the fundraising runs. I acknowledge that getting people involved this way can be a fun way to raise money. Unfortunately, the amount of money required to organize these events often means that more than a third of money raised goes towards event costs. Getting people to just hand over cheques would be far more effective. Still, I understand the perspective that the cheques wouldn’t get signed if not for the runs, so I won’t give these an F. Maybe a C+, and a “More effort needed”.

Now then – the awareness campaigns. Does anyone remember that episode of 90210 where Brenda finds a lump in her breast and thinks she’s dying of cancer? And then she goes to the doctor and finds out that it’s nothing? Because less than 7% of breast cancers occur in women under 40? Yeah. While it’s great to be informed, it’s not good when that information is causing unnecessary anxiety and healthcare costs. In fact, while the revised US Preventative Services Task Force recommendations on breast cancer screening are framed in a way that’s super-patronizing, they do emphasize an important point: screening is good if it’s helpful. If it’s not – if pushing breast cancer awareness over and over and over again is scaring women instead of informing them – then it’s not helpful, it’s harmful. Hell, the only carcinogen definitively linked to breast cancer is the ionizing radiation used by mammography machines. Stick THAT in your pipe and smoke it.

Now let’s talk pink. Thinkbeforeyoupink.org does a great job of asking some critical questions about whether or not pinkification programs are effective, so I won’t repeat that here. What I do want to talk about is the phenomenon of “pink-washing”: where companies will wear pink while pushing products that may actually cause cancer in the first place. In the words of Cindy Pearson, director of the National Women’s Health Network, “Breast cancer provides a way of doing something for women, without being feminist.”

Avon is a major sponsor of breast cancer causes, while producing make-up containing toxins (parabens and phthalates) that may contribute to breast cancer. Yoplait sold pinkified yogurt that contained rBGH-stimulated dairy, another potential cause of breast cancer (though, through the efforts of Breast Cancer Action, they are now rBGH-free). Traditional car exhaust contains toxins linked to breast cancer, but this doesn’t stop Ford, Mercedes, and BMW from using breast cancer to promote their products. Cause-related marketing also means that the money raised by pinkified products is often minimal (think American Express’ one cent per credit card transaction) and subject to limits (likeEureka capping its annual contribution from sales at $250,000). Cause-related marketing raises money for awareness and cures, but avoids any mention of cancer’s causes. In fact, the real causes of breast cancer are mostly unknown, despite breast cancer’s position as the most popular girl at the dance. But breast cancer rates have increased by 46% since 1988, so something is clearly wrong.

Photo by techne, found at Feministing.com

Finally, there’s the fact that breast cancer campaigns are often egregiously sexist. Check out the photo above, which evokes images of violence against women more than violence against cancer. By focusing on breasts, instead of the women attached to them, women’s concerns are removed from the equation entirely. Cancer victims – and women as a group – are sexualized and dehumanized when we’re reduced to just boobs. The pink products, which are almost uniformly infantilizing and domesticating (teddy bears and pink vacuums, anyone?) make the disease seem harmless and easily conquered, while also reducing women to passive, uncritical children/patients. Cancer “survivors” are uniformly portrayed as calmly inspirational, framing their disease as a “life-changing experience” that allowed them to “refocus” on the “important things in life”. Is there any other life-threatening disease out there that’s actually promoted as a good thing to have?!

So what can we do? Read “Welcome to Cancerland” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Support Breast Cancer Action’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign. In fact, check out Breast Cancer Action’s other campaigns and do what you can to support them. Donate directly to reputable breast cancer organizations, after taking the time to figure out where your money will actually go.

Most of all, consider whether your action is helpful or harmful. Hint: posting your bra colour doesn’t fall in the “helpful” category.

Posted by: capitalgirl | December 22, 2009

My Last Day in D.C.

So I’m hoping, anyways. I’ve had three cancelled flights so far, and am sitting in the airport hoping desperately that I don’t have to face another one. Fourth time’s the charm, right?

Anyways, it’s hard to believe I’m actually heading home. Originally, I was super-sad to be leaving – D.C. has been incredible, and even now I find it difficult to think about going back to Ottawa. Admittedly, three days of flight delays and stress has made me slightly more enthusiastic to get home, if only because it means I won’t have to look at an airport again for a while. Still, I think that when I get back to Ottawa, there are going to be some things I do differently.

For one, I’m getting business cards printed and handing them out to everyone. If there’s one habit that I have definitely developed, it is the business card addiction that runs rampant here. Even though it may get me some odd looks when I come home, it’s something that I now find eminently logical: why not hand out a card with one’s contact information, rather than fiddling around with a cocktail napkin in order to illegibly scribble one’s name and phone number in the hope that one’s companion might remember who said napkin belongs to and also be able to read said napkin’s information? It makes sense to me, and it also just seems polite.

I also know that I’m going to make a bigger effort to go out more often. It’s only after I started getting into the habit of going out regularly in D.C. that I realized how much of a rut my social life had sunk into. I never went out during the week in Ottawa, and weekends I always went dancing. I was nausea-inducingly consistent, and it was so boring. In D.C., I went out to trivia nights, I went out with different groups of people, I went to concerts and museums and restaurants and I did it just as often during the week as I did on weekends. (Part of that was attending networking events, which I also definitely want to keep up with.) I know Ottawa is comparatively boring, but with any luck I will be able to keep myself occupied through sheer force of will. If I sink back into that rut, I am going to be just as bored as I was before I left.

I’ve also developed an obsession with political maneuvering. I can’t deal with the fact that I’ll be out of the loop now! There really is nothing like opening the newspaper only to discover that the high-ranking politician you saw speak a week ago is now being investigated for ethics violations. And watching the health care bill more through Congress has been incredible. That I was in town when the Senate vote happened was one of the few bright spots in my flight delay getting out of here. (The fact that I’m leaving now is probably for the best, though. In the unlikely event that I were to run into a certain Independent Senator from Connecticut, I would be forced to say some WORDS. Some UNPLEASANT words. Similar words would probably be said to a certain Senator from Nebraska, a certain Congressperson from Michigan who I think has been misrepresenting the last two letters of his name, and nearly every elected member of the GOP. Barbara Boxer, on the other hand, would get a big high-five, and Olympia Snowe would get a handshake of grudging respect.)

My respect for Canada as a whole has also grown enormously. Our healthcare system frigging rocks, if only because losing one’s house due to an inability to pay healthcare costs is not a widespread problem north of the 49th parallel. Our system of government is also none too shabby, despite my occasional frustrations. Canada’s bureaucracy, believe it or not, is awesomely efficient, from the upper levels of government all the way down to bottom. And Canadian politesse is something I appreciate more than ever.

Most importantly, maybe, I’ve learned a lot about how I work – what I enjoy, what I dislike, what I do well, and what I need to work at. I’ve finally figured out that when I need to recharge at the end of the day, I need to go talk to people I like, rather than moping on my own. I’ve figured out better ways of keeping myself on task. And I’ve remembered how effing great it is to be busy.

I’m going to miss D.C. enormously. I know I’ll be back to visit, and I think someday I’d love to go back more permanently. Meanwhile, I’m going to take advantage of everything I’ve learned, and tell some crazy stories that people may not actually believe. And, of course, yell “I’ve been there!!” at least three times per episode of the West Wing.

Posted by: capitalgirl | December 6, 2009

Never let it be said that Canadians don’t know how to party …

… because they TOTALLY do. I was lucky enough to get an invitation to the Canadian embassy’s Winter Gala last night, and thus my experience is of the first-hand variety!

I managed to get a ticket because my lovely friend N. was helping coordinate entertainment for the event and asked me to perform. This meant I got to put together a full solo charleston routine and perform it, on my own, in front of a terrifyingly large group of strangers. GOOD TIMES! I won’t bore you with the choreography process – suffice it to say I left it a little late, and that choreographing on the metro at rush hour is easier than some would have you believe.

The party itself was fantastic! I’d been to the embassy a couple of times before last night, so I had a vague idea of the interior layout, but I have to say, the decor was incredible. It was really remarkable what was accomplished with a few judiciously placed tablecloths, some wrapping paper, plastic snowflakes, and a mirror ball. The embassy cafeteria was completely unrecognizable. Everyone was dressed up in their snappiest attire, as well, which is always fun to see.

As far as gala events go, I have to say that last night’s was probably the best I’ve attended since I’ve been down here. Big kudos to the organizers, for sure – they put together an event that, despite being elegant and very stylish, still somehow managed to maintain a fun and casual atmosphere. I’m sure part of that was due to the people in attendance, as there was far less aggressive networking going on than I’ve seen at similar events. People seemed content to just chat, have a drink, and then bust a move on the dance floor. (And what a dance floor it was!! My gosh, the joys of dancing on that perfect, perfect floor …)

The tree lighting ceremony fit the feel of the event perfectly, as well. Ambassador Gary Doer gave a short, very nice speech, and then flipped a switch, lighting up the lovely (and HUGE!) tree outside.

Ambassador Doer lighting the Christmas tree

Just before he's about to hit the switch! (Sorry about the poor quality - I should maybe think about using a real camera at some point.)

I also got the chance to say hello to a few fellow Canadians I’d met previously, which was very nice. It’s amazing how much more fun an event can be when you know a few people there! (Particularly if you’re spending all your time trying to get to know people there – networking is more stressful for me than fun.)

Oh, and the performing part was fun too. Nothing like getting up alone in front of an audience with a mostly-remembered choreography with no one to help you out if you screw up!! But really, it went well and I had a great time with it. There’s really nothing like that performance adrenaline rush!

All in all, a totally awesome night. Thanks, N., for the wonderful opportunity to perform at such a great event! I had a fabulous time, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my time in D.C.

Posted by: capitalgirl | October 31, 2009

On The Town

Okay, so I stink at posting regularly. That’s okay – I’ll just embrace it.

GUYS. I WENT TO NEW YORK. My dear friend B. was in NYC before heading off to an event elsewhere, so I decided to pop up and see him. He got in to town at 7 pm-ish, and his train left the next day at 7:30 pm, so he had basically 24 hours in town to see as much as possible.

Hmm. This scenario reminds me of something …

What do you know. Apparently B. and I are secretly Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly dressed as sailors. (I TOTALLY CALL BEING GENE KELLY.)

Anyways, this is all neither here nor there. The exciting part is all the stuff we saw! As soon as we got checked into the hostel (which was super-cheap, but also was apparently shared with a resident of the rodent variety!!!) we headed off to a diner. After our delicious but late dinner, we grabbed a cab to the Empire State Building. Naturally, it was miserable and cloudy, so there was no point in going up to the top, but we admired the lovely Art Deco lobby and took some pictures. From there, off to Grand Central Station! Holy crap is that place ever ginormous. The ceiling is huge and fantastic and blue, painted with constellations. It is all very neat.

After Grand Central, we accidentally walked to the UN. I say accidentally because we were trying to get to Times Square, but for some reason I was navigating so naturally we ended up in the opposite direction. Anyways, we admired the UN, then turned around and walked back up to Times Square. Guys, Times Square will screw with your head if you go late at night. By the time we got there it was pretty much midnight, but it is so bright! It looked like the middle of the day! And of course there were tourists running around everywhere, so again, it didn’t feel like night time.

Our night did not end there! After Times Square, we boogied on down to the Financial District. We saw the World Trade Center site, Trinity Church (which is quite lovely, though the cemetary beside it is a little creepy in the dark), the New York Stock Exchange, the big ol’ bull statue, and the spot where Washington was inaugurated, way back in the day. It turns out that going to see the bull statue at 2 am is actually a super-excellent idea: there is no one around, so you can spend as much time as you’d like getting silly-looking photos, and also there will be no boring tourists in the background of your photo.

After that, we decided to go to bed. You will note that by now, we have already managed to see LOTS. Apparently it is possible to fit mad tourism into less than 6 hours.

Next morning, we were up bright and early at 8:10 am. We boogied back to Penn Station to drop off B.’s luggage. Excellent tip – Penn Station has luggage storage at $4.50 per bag if you are travelling via train. From there, we ran to go pick up our bus tour tickets. Bus tour – totally awesome, minus the FREEZING POURING RAIN. Turns out that open top buses are not designed for rain. Still, it was pretty neat. We saw loads on the tour – the Flatiron building, the Woolworth building, the big button thingy in the Fashion district, lots of other things that are slipping my mind right now. Anyways, we hopped off the bus in Battery park, hoping to grab a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

Remember that miserable rain I mentioned? The Statue of Liberty looked like a grey outline on a slightly lighter grey background. Slightly anti-climatic.

For lunch we popped up to the Rockefeller Center. We got some absolutely delicious cupcakes at a teeny little bakery right nearby on the recommendation of B.’s girlfriend. Dear B.’s girlfriend: You have most excellent taste in cupcakes. KUDOS. We didn’t have time to see much of the Center, but we did take a look in the NBC gift shop and take pictures with the NBC Studio sign outside. It was pretty awesome.

After that, we went to see “Hair”.

GUYS. Many of you likely know that I am a big, big fan of the musicals. When I was last in New York, I saw “Phantom of the Opera” and “Chicago” (plus “Altar Boyz”, an excellent off-Broadway show). I saw “Mamma Mia” when it was in Toronto, I saw “We Will Rock You: The Musical” in London, I saw “Jersey Boys” when my parents came down to visit me a couple of weeks ago. Not to mention my deep and abiding love for movie musicals. I feel as though I have some relevant context when I say the following words:

HAIR IS THE BEST SHOW I HAVE EVER SEEN, EVER.

Seriously!! I am not at all kidding or exagerrating. Watch this video of the cast (THE SAME CAST I SAW ON BROADWAY BECAUSE LIFE IS AWESOME) performing at the Tony’s.

You see the part where the cast is running around the theatre like crazy people? B. ended up with a cast member’s head in his lap midway through the performance. During the big finale, I helped a cast member make his way to the back of the theatre stepping only on the backs of audience seats. By about halfway through the show I had a daisy in my hair. Heck, B. got up and danced on the stage near the end. The whole thing was incredible. The music was fantastic, the acting was excellent, the dancing was dead-on, the whole thing was crafted brilliantly. And, oh my God, was it ever fun. (It helped that our seats were about eight rows from the front, dead centre. Did I mention we got the tickets on sale the day before? Yeah.) If you ever get the chance, GO SEE THIS SHOW. Oh, but don’t go see this show if you have problems with people getting naked on stage or pretending to do the drugs. Because those are things that happen. On the other hand, if that’s particularly worrisome for you, maybe you wouldn’t enjoy it as much as I did, so maybe only go see this show if you are cool and awesome. Otherwise … well, “Mary Poppins” is back on Broadway, I guess.

Anyways, after said show, we boogied back down to the UN to try to make it in time for the last tour. Sadly, we missed it by about 15 minutes. 😦 We then boogied back up to Fifth Ave, wandered around looking in the stores, and then grabbed some dinner before heading back to Penn Station to go to our respective destinations.

I’m pretty sure that is what one might call “a busy day”.

Maybe.

😀

Posted by: capitalgirl | October 8, 2009

Meeting People in DC

I’ve got a few minutes before I need to head off to work, so I’ll try to crank out a blog post.

One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed about DC since being here is how absolutely critical it is to have a network in order to get anything done. The fact is, no organization is an island, and without knowing people, it’s hard to get a project off the ground. More than that, though, I’ve noticed how amazingly useful having an extensive network can be for small organizations. If your organization is small, your network can honestly be the thing that makes or breaks you: either you have people who can help you get a project off the ground, or you don’t. There is no way that a really small organization is going to be able to plan, fund, and implement a project in the developing world without outside contacts.

This has been my first real experience with networking on a sustained basis, and I’ve basically been thrown in head-first. So far, I’ve learned three major lessons:

  • HAVE BUSINESS CARDS. For reals, a business card is the absolute minimum tool you need to have for networking. You cannot be writing out your contact information on the back of a napkin to hand a CEO. Moreover, use other people’s business cards. The secret reason so many of them are blank on the back is so you can write down that Jane Smith was the woman with the excellent glasses in the purple suit who you met at event X.
  • SAY HI. As it happens, most people at business events (receptions, panel discussions, etc.) are there to meet people even more than they are there to enjoy the food. Take advantage! Say hello. As long as you are not a creeper (and hey, maybe even if you are), you will get a nice reception, a handshake, likely a business card, and hopefully a contact. But if you sit in the corner eating hors d’oeuvres, you will not. So feel free to eat hors d’oeuvres, because if you are like me then you are a poor intern with no money to buy delicious food, but make sure they’re not going to glue your mouth shut or leave funny things in your teeth that will make it difficult for you to have a grown-up conversation with that dude over there in the snappy suit.
  • FOLLOW-UP. This was the hardest thing for me to start doing, because I had honestly not really reached this point with that many people before. Plus, believe it or not, when it comes to meeting business type people I am shy as all hell. But unless you want a Rolo-dex full of people that you have never actually talked to outside that one time they gave you their business card, YOU NEED TO FOLLOW UP. There are loads of resources online that have better advice on following up than I have, so I will not mention anything here. But seriously, send emails. Otherwise you are a useless business card collector and your network will not be useful! (This is what is called tough love. So go make a useful network).

Welp, now it is time for me to head off to work. So I will do that. But if anyone has actually bothered to read this lovely spiel despite my aggressive lack of experience, I hope you will find it useful. Hooray!

Posted by: capitalgirl | October 1, 2009

So I saw U2 in concert …

… which, as some might know, has basically been my dream since the age of 14. Literally the day before the concert, I found out there were tickets left. So I called my lovely friend S., bought a pair of tickets, and headed down to the stadium after work. (Btw, apparently the FedEx Field stadium is the second-biggest sports stadium in the US. I’d believe it; it’s huge.)

Amnesty International and the ONE Campaign

Amnesty International and the ONE Campaign

As soon as I arrived, I saw Amnesty International and ONE Campaign tents; I signed three different petitions while I was waiting for S. to show up. It’s easy to love a band that has groupies like that. XD

Once S. arrived, we headed in, paid way too much for mediocre chicken fingers and fries, and then paid way too much again for t-shirts. (Lets be honest, though, considering the fact that I’d have sold a kidney for U2 tickets in the first place, the t-shirt was really not so bad.)

Muse opened; they were pretty good, though I have to admit to only being superficially familiar with their music. It was pretty cold, and neither S. nor I were brilliant enough to bring a sweater, so by the time intermission hit we were both pretty freezing. Luckily, S. is a lovely person who also came straight from work, so he let me borrow his dress shirt which at least cut the wind down. Thanks S.!! 😀

So then U2 came on. It’s kind of hard for me to describe how absolutely incredible that moment was. Larry walked out first and started whaling on the drums; then Adam; then the Edge; and finally Bono came out. And it was spectacular. I mean, I’d been looking forward to that moment for like 7 years. I’d been on an adrenaline high all day because I was so damn excited. I was sitting in a ridiculous seat, so far from the band that they looked about an inch tall, on the top level of the stadium. By any reasonable measure, I should have been disappointed.  But it was still amazing.

Bono & The Edge

Bono & The Edge

They played new songs, they played old songs, they played obscure songs and they played some of their many, many hits. (They even managed to play a song I didn’t recognize, which I’m fairly sure was from their Passengers album that I still haven’t managed to get a hold of.) Practically every time they started a new song I jumped up and down, screeched, and went “OMG I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH OMG.” There were, I am not afraid to admit, a few times I nearly cried, but didn’t, because I was so damn happy to be at a U2 concert.

As I said to S., “U2 is my Beatles.”

So the music was amazing. But so was the band. According to Bono, U2 is now it’s own country? He decided to ramblingly introduce the band members according to their “government roles”. Apparently Larry is the founding father, writer of the constitution (a.k.a. the notice asking for band members posted at school), and leader of the opposition. Adam is … a diplomat? I think? There was some excessive Bono-type-rambling going on at that point, so it was a little obscure. The Edge is the President of U2-land, and Bono gets to be Speaker of the House. Because he is elegant and well-spoken like Nancy Pelosi. Or something.

Of course there was the requisite running around the loop that had been constructed around the stage, and Bono pulled people up out of the audience to hang out with him. He pulled a kid out of the crowd, ran around the loop with him, and then gave the kid his sunglasses, which was super cute. And then a stage tech came out with an immense selection of glasses and Bono just grabbed another pair, which was hilarious.

Amnesty International Volunteers

Amnesty International Volunteers

“Walk On” was played; a huge number of Amnesty International volunteers walked out onto the loop carrying Aung San Suu Kyi masks to protest her incarceration in Burma. But I think my favorite moment of the night, which sadly I don’t have any photos of, was when they played “Sunday Bloody Sunday”. They lit the whole stadium up in green and showed images of Iranian protesters after the election. Then Bono reached into the crowd and pulled up a guy with a big old American flag. A guy with a turban, actually, since he was Sikh. The symbolism of having him up on that stage hoisting the American flag and singing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” right alongside Bono was. Well. I was rendered speechless at the time, and still don’t really have words for it. It was an absolutely incredible, spectacular moment.

Actually, that’s a lie. My favorite moment of the night was when the band came out and played “Ultraviolet” for their second encore. Zooropa is far and away my favorite U2 album, and Ultraviolet is an incredible song. Incredible, and underappreciated, so hearing them play that was really just wonderful. But honestly, there were so many fantastic moments. Hearing 90,000+ people singing all together – and singing so many songs all together – is an unreal experience. It truly made me feel better about humanity.

Anyways. I need to head off to bed. But before I do that: kudos to S. for taking such fabulous photos!!! He gets credit for everything here (except for the photo of the tents up top – that was all me). And just because it is an absolutely fantastic photo, and also because Adam, I am madly in love with you, here is one more lovely photo from S.

Good night!

S. takes excellent photos, hooray!

S. takes excellent photos, hooray!

Posted by: capitalgirl | October 1, 2009

I am a terrible blogger

But, in my defense, I quite literally have not had time to update. I’ve been running around doing all sorts of crazy exciting things, but as a result I have not had any time to post. So today I will do a quick summary of some of the fancy things I have been doing and seeing in the past two weeks.

  • I saw the President of Senegal speak
  • I’ve been inside the Rayburn House building twice (and that building looks like a freaking fortress, btw)
  • I met a Congresswoman
  • I attended events for the Congressional Black Caucus
  • I went to the Newseum
  • I went to the Museum of American History
  • I went to the National Archives (and TOTALLY geeked out over the 1297 Magna Carta they have on display)
  • I turned 21, and went out to an American bar for the first time
  • I got half-price beer because I’ve got red hair
  • I went swing dancing at the Glen Echo ballroom, which is totally huge, totally awesome, and totally inaccessible if you don’t have a car
  • I went to an embassy party
  • I went to a gala event
  • I ripped a huge hole in a pair of pantyhose in the middle of the work day, but no one noticed thanks to my devious maneuvering
  • I scared my DC friends by introducing them to my boyfriend and his roommate
  • I started watching Glee!
  • I read “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moyo, “Hell” by Robert Olen Butler, and a lot of international law papers
  • I geeked out when I saw the Global Policy Director of the ONE Campaign speak on a panel
  • I handed out a lot of business cards
  • I wrote this really long list on my blog.

So now that I’m all caught up (or, at least, I cheated by writing a list to catch up), I’ll see if I can’t compensate y’all by writing a second post tonight about the REALLY big thing I’ve done in the last little while.

Also, in case anyone’s interested, I have new photos up on my Flickr photostream depicting some of my adventures. Hooray!

Posted by: capitalgirl | September 15, 2009

Long delayed …

… to the point that I no longer really feel like posting about Glenn Beck’s crazy-ass “September 12th” protest. Suffice it to say, people were insane, signs were offensive, ignorance was expressed, and no progress was made on anything. And no, I didn’t get out for the pro-health reform rally the day after. (It wasn’t my fault! I had no idea I’d made it ’til 5am the night before until I actually crawled into bed!)

On the other hand, I have completely fallen in love with DC. Everytime I go out and do something new, or meet more people, or whatever, I find more things that I adore about this city. The museums are free! (And the ones that aren’t are totally worth paying for.) Anywhere you need to get, you can take the metro. If you have to walk, the city is gorgeous. Every single person I’ve met here can talk politics. People have ridiculously different perspectives, but it makes the dialogue vibrant. People take politics seriously, because yes, politics actually affect their everyday lives – it’s to the point where it makes Canadian politics kind of look like a joke. A nice joke, because we’re pleasant that way, but still. People love what they do, and are passionate about their work, in a way that is so utterly consistent that it blows my mind. One of my roommates has totally discovered a DC resident who bears an uncanny resemblance to Josh from The West Wing. And, no frigging joke, I work TWO BLOCKS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.

Of course, a lot of this has to do with my program. I’m getting amazing chances to meet incredible people, interns and real professionals alike. And, my God, we interns are driven. “Work hard, play hard” appears to be the motto, and it is one that I can totally get behind. Heck, we’re in DC! We should be staying out late and getting up early, dressing up for cocktail parties, dressing down for the bar, and then dressing up for work. Sure, people might get testy on the metro, but that’s only when people don’t know better than to stand on the left on the escalators or try to stick close to the doors on the train. Besides, these people have places to be!

I haven’t even mentioned the weather yet. OH MY GOD, THE WEATHER. It is beautiful and sunny and HOT, full-on hottest days of the summer weather in mid-September. And when it rains, it’s not that miserable, depressing rain, like back in Ottawa, when it seems like the whole damn sky is trying to depress you. It rains like it does in Calgary, where you don’t even care if you get wet because everything smells incredible and feels wonderful and is great. I got absolutely soaked walking home from the metro today, and believe me, it was awesome.

I’ve been here for almost exactly two weeks, and everything is amazing. Time is already going by so fast that I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when it’s time to go home. At this point, I don’t think I’ll want to leave.

Posted by: capitalgirl | September 8, 2009

Apartment Decorations


Apartment Decorations

Originally uploaded by capital.girl

Quick post before tomorrow! I started decorating the DC apartment this evening, and it’s already starting to feel a little more like home. I put up my fans and my postcards from various trips, and I’ll probably add some more to other walls soon. (I’ve got a big pack of super-nerdy Star Trek postcards that could be lots of fun to put up somewhere!)

Meanwhile, I’m pretty excited to be starting work tomorrow. The weather’s supposed to be cool enough that I may actually be able to wear a suit on the metro without sweating through it, but it’s also supposed to rain and I haven’t bought an umbrella yet. Clearly I should have picked up one of the silly spy themed ones at the International Spy Musem yesterday!

That’s all for tonight; expect more updates, and maybe some pictures of the rest of the apartment! 😀

Posted by: capitalgirl | September 6, 2009

Capitalgirl About Town

Georgetown, that is! Having arrived and settled in to my lovely apartment with my three lovely roommates, I decided to get out today and see some of the District. I got to take advantage of an excellent walking tour around Georgetown, so I busted out my fancy new running shoes, made sure I had my camera (by which I mean my phone) in my bag, and headed out.

The Waterfront

The Waterfront

Georgetown is absolutely gorgeous, full of lovely old historical buildings, great stores, and some really fabulous spots to eat. Actually, after the walking tour, I stopped with some friends at a burger place called “Five Guys”. Remember that photo op with Obama and Biden eating burgers? That was at Five Guys. This place was so cute – they actually have a sign up on the wall that they change every day, letting you know where the potatos in your fries are from. (In case you’re interested, today our fries were from Sugar City, Idaho. Sugar City, you produce HIGHLY DELICIOUS POTATOS.)

To get back on topic, we started off the tour at Old Stone House, which is one of the most literally named landmarks I have ever encountered. It was, in fact, an old stone house, dating back to 1765. They had furnished it with period items, which were pretty snappy, particularly the old spinning wheels and other knitting acoutrements. I geeked out a little bit at that.

Afterwards, we headed towards the waterfront, which accorded an excellent view of the Potomac River, the Key bridge (named after Francis Scott Key, composer of America’s national drinking song “The Star-Spangled Banner”), the Kennedy Centre, and the Watergate Hotel. We stayed long enough to snap some photos, then moved on to a more pop-culturally relevant photo spot.

The Exorcist Stairs

The Exorcist Stairs

To the left, you can see me standing beside the stairs from that scene  in The Exorcist. In case anyone cares, it so happens that there are 75 steps here, divided into three groups of 25 stairs, with two landings separating them. There’s also a chin-up bar to the right (which you can’t see) because the Georgetown athletic teams like to run the stairs for training. No one threw themselves down the stairs as we walked up them, nor did we encounter any priests on their way from performing an exorcism.

Once we’d made it up the stairs, we stopped in Francis Scott Key park (yes, the same Francis Scott Key) for a breather, then headed off to Georgetown University. Apparently it’s the first Jesuit university within some geographic boundary or other. Though I can’t remember specifics, I can readily affirm that it’s much fancier than the oldest Jesuit university in Canada, which happens to the the one I attend. Seriously, why doesn’t my university have chandeliers in the hallways? (Probably because I don’t pay insanely huge numbers of dollars for tuition, so I guess it’s okay.)

Our last stop on the tour was outside JFK’s residence, which he lived in while serving as a senator. It’s now privately owned, so we didn’t see anything more than the outside, but it’s a neat piece of history and was nice to see.

After stopping for lunch, I headed off with a new friend to tour Arlington National Cemetery. I hadn’t made it out there the last time I visited D.C., and he’s a big liberal who wanted to see Ted Kennedy’s grave.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Some fun facts about Arlington:

  • About 320,000 people are buried there
  • There are between 25 and 30 funerals held there every day
  • The cemetery was originally a plantation owned by the family of Robert E. Lee’s wife
  • There are a standard set of religious symbols used to designate religious affiliation on government-issued tombstones
  • For atheists, the symbol is a stylized atom

The Arlington Cemetery is a little bit overwhelming. It’s hard to take in the meaning of the endless rows of tombstones and other memorials. There’s so much political and historical context to all of that loss, and in some ways it seemed a bit tacky to be wandering around taking pictures. I clearly wasn’t the only one having trouble reconciling the commemoration of loss with the tourism, considering the couple I saw arguing over a photo of Ted Kennedy’s grave or the woman talking loudly on her cellphone at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The fact that the cemetery is also an enormous  tourist destination left me conflicted, and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the experience.

Regardless, I did see some super interesting things, including the Kennedy graves (JFK and Jackie O, along with two of their children who died young; Robert Kennedy; and Ted Kennedy), the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (which involved three guys who I think might have been robots, considering their coordination and unbelievably strict movement), the memorials for the Challenger and Columbia shuttles, the memorial for the individuals who died during the Iran hostage crisis, Arlington house, and the monument for women in the military. There were also, obviously, some interesting people buried there, including Pierre L’Enfant, the Frenchman who designed the layout for D.C.; President William Howard Taft; and the last five-star general in the US military.

Canadian Cross of Sacrifice

Canadian Cross of Sacrifice

As a shout-out to my Canadian peeps, I’ve also included a photo, to the right, of the Canadian Cross of Sacrifice. It’s pretty crappy, because I only snapped it as we were driving by and the bus was going pretty fast, but it’s a neat monument. It was donated by Mackenzie King in 1927 to commemorate the contributions of Americans who served in the Canadian Forces in WWI, and since then has also commemorated Americans who served in the Canadian forces in WWII and the Korean War as well. It’s got a big sword on the front, which you can’t really see in this picture, and it’s large and impressive and a nice piece of Canada in a quintessentially American place.

I couldn’t fit nearly all the pictures I took today into this post, but I’ve set up a flickr account in case anyone wants to take a look at my photos. I’m doing that instead of loading them on Facebook because it’s WAY more convenient for blogging, plus this way I can keep my real name private. Anyways, enjoy the photos, and my boring touristy account of my day!

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