Somewhere Between a Local and a Tourist

Posted on June 21, 2009

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Hello from DC again! This past week has been one surprise after another, and it all started last Tuesday when I was able to go on a self-guided tour of the White House. Tours of the White House are extremely hard to get, so I was pretty lucky being able to go. There are no cameras allowed on the tour, however, so you’ll just have to try and go sometime yourself. In actuality, the tour itself was a little lame. You can only visit the ground floor, and walk in a line of humans through the East Room (which was closed for an event later that day), the Green Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room, and the State Dining Hall. A definite highlight was seeing the last remaining orignal portrait of George Washington through the doors into the East Room, and also seeing the original “Franklin Studying Under the Gaze of Newton” (a personal favorite) in the Green Room. I did snap this shot with my cell phone in the rear driveway on my way back to work.

Iranian-American Election Protesters

After the rest of the week, I decided to follow through to go visit the Smithsonian Castle. I took a route via the White House (only six blocks from my dorm) and ran into the 200+ Iranian-American Election Protesters, which was actually in International News. I’ve actually been following the situation in Iran pretty closely for my job, so it was cool to see some of this in person.

Iranian Election Protesters marching to the White House

More protesters

Little Protesters

The crowd in front of the White House

Saturday near the White House is a zoo no matter what is going on, and the Iranian-Americans were one of many groups protesting all sorts of stuff. These Burmese Monks stand out from the crowd though.

Burmese Monks

Smithsonian Castle

When I finally arrived at the Mall, the heavy downpour that had woken me up in the morning had combined with the strong sun and made the air thick with humidity, so I was more than happy to arrive in the air-conditioned castle. The very first room is the tomb of James Smithson, who is ultimately responsible for one of the largest museum systems in the world.

Tomb of James Smithson

The rest of the public areas in Castle consisted of a dining area, a lobby, and two display rooms, one with a little bit of history and the other, known as the West Room, containing random displays of what one could find in the other museums. The room itself, however, along with decorations on top of the display cases, made the room cool.

A flock of Geese

Bear, art and Jaguar

Most of the West Room

After the Castle, and a brief tour of the gardens behind it, I went over to the massive Smithsonian Natural History museum, where I killed an hour in one section of the oceans exhibit. I can’t imagine how anyone would be able to see the whole place, but I’m going to try to go there once a week or so to see as much as I can.

On the walk home from the Mall, I discovered the National Einstein Memorial

For the rest of the weekend I ran errands and did laundry, and also went to check out the Sunday afternoon scene at Meridian Park. I heard there were slacklines from a friend at the climbing gym, so I had to check it out. It was actually full of people doing outdoor yoga, partner yoga, slacklines, soccer, freestyle poetry, live bands, and a gigantic grooving drum circle. I mostly stuck to the slacklines, but met all sorts of super-nice young people, including a random run-in with Robert DuBois, of Glenwood Springs fame. It was a great time and I’m sure I’ll be back next Sunday.

Regarding the title, there is a question I’ve been pondering all week. I’m in DC for 6 weeks, which can be considered a long tourist visit or an expedited sampling of local life. Between the museums and park festivals and the climbing gym to the photography, I can’t figure what my “label” is. I’m here too long to be a tourist but too short to be a local. I guess this is what most interns are, but what are we exactly?

With that, I’ll leave you with this shot of the sunset on U street walking home from Meridian Park. Oh! and before I forget, I never shared that I got into the 4+1 Master of Arts program in International Studies at DU, so I have two more years of university left, but I’ll be out ahead of the game (I hope) when I graduate in 2011. Thanks for reading!

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Posted in: DC