Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Thousands have lived without love, no man without water"

Saw the movie FLOW (For Love Of Water) this past weekend at the E Street Cinema.  FLOW is a documentary on many of the serious water issues our world is facing today.  I know that water is a serious issue, but I feel that, unfortunately, it's very hard for the average American to grasp the level of seriousness of the problems we're facing, and the consequences that water quality issues and water shortages can bring.  Similar to climate change: how can the human mind grasp such a huge problem?

Unfortunately, I don't think the movie helped matters.  I was slightly disappointed in their approach; either show more issues in an organized and strategic fashion (instead of skipping around from country to country), or focus on one serious issue that can be explored and learned about so that people can be informed on what they can do.  To me, the movie left you with a helpless, slightly confused feeling.  If you want the spoiler, the final request of the film was for viewers to support a new article to the UN on water (explained below).

However, one pretty amazing thing about seeing the movie was the panel Q&A that was held after the film with 4 professionals who are active community members in the pursuit of accessible, clean, and affordable drinking water in the Washington DC area.  It's not that the discussion was mind-blowing, it's just that I am used to academic audience and now everyone asks about policy.  Having these opportunities makes me happy to be in the city.  I don't know how politically active I'll become, but I do want to learn something while I'm here.  We haven't gotten too deep into policy with my job at work yet, so for now it's fun.  

So, I'll do my part: If you believe and want to support Article 31, which states that "everyone has the right to clean and accessible drinking water, adequate for the health and well-being of the person and family, and no one shall be deprived of such access or quality of water due to individual economic cicumstance" you can sign the United Nations petition here: Sign Article 31

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Into the Routine

I start work tomorrow.  Woohoo!  I'm actually temping with a consulting firm that supports the DOE Geothermal team until my clearances go through, but I'll be in the same office, earning the same pay (with full benefits) so it's fine.  More than fine, I am ecstatic.  I've had a rough time this week trying to remain content with not going to work.  It's not that there aren't plenty of things to do here in the city, it's just that I've been off for about two months.  I am ready to start DOING something with myself.  

I found a new art class here in the city that runs for seven weeks every Wednesday night for only five dollars, total, for everything.  Check out ArtSpace on my links.  They've got everything from pottery to photography to drawing, and all the instructors are experienced yet kind enough to donate their time.  The program isn't offering watercolors, which I just got into last year, so I'm taking drawing.  I always wanted to take drawing.  We're using charcoals, which somehow I wasn't expecting.  I managed to leave with an entire arm covered in black, and only minor black smudges on my nose and upper lip.  It's pretty clear that I wasn't born with a natural talent for charcoals but I'm hoping to see gradual improvements from week to week.  If nothing else, it's a great way to unwind and put the rest of my thoughts aside for a few hours.  

That's all for now.  I actually have to get up early tomorrow morning :)  

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gym Woes

I found a gym that is less than one mile from my apartment.  And it is one of the best gyms in DC. However, it costs $97 per month.  Yes, per month.  That is about what I paid for an entire YEAR at Penn State for fantastic fitness facilities.   The salesman gave me a free pass to check out the gym for a few days and the fitness classes I've been to are really good.  But... that's a lot of money.   I still need to check out other gyms in the city, and there are probably some close to my work (that maybe offer a government employee discount), but it's still going to be expensive.  I've been running outside and that seems to work for me, and the weather should stay nice for quite a while, so it's probably not necessary.  

But I love the gym.  I love going to classes.  Cycling, aerobics, kickboxing, yoga - everything.  I love sweating and agonizing with a group of people around me who are mutually miserable and yet elated to be there.  I love smiling at the people I walk by and getting to know the regulars who show up at the same time, even if it's not on a first-name basis. It's a way for me to feel connected to the world, to my neighborhood, to other people who care about their health and actually enjoy working at it.  For me it's fun. 

My dad used to tell me that working out was an investment.  Put in a little now and get a lot out down the road.  I agree with this, but I could be doing other forms of exercise - and also making a financial investment with that 100 dollars each month.   I'll have to think about this.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

City Bike Tour

Today was an fantastic day to be outside.  Low humidity, with temperatures in the upper 70's - a welcome break to the tropical 80's we've experienced since I've arrived here in the city.  I thought that taking a bike ride would be the perfect activity for the day, with not being able to work yet and all. Using my bike would at least make me feel better about storing it in the living room!  

I needed to go to the Dept of Energy building downtown for fingerprints, so I ventured down Pennsylvania and Independence and, to my surprise and dismay, there were no bike trails, no bike lanes... nothing.  I figured that a town with such a phenomenal public transportation system would have at least made some accommodations for the bikers, but this is not so.  I am disappointed and do not think that I'll be biking to work as I had originally intended, but at least we do have a great metro system. 

I rode (slowly and carefully!) all they way to the Department of Energy building to get fingerprinted, which was quite an educational experience.  I learned that they do not even use purple ink to take fingerprints anymore - it's all done electronically.  All I had to do was roll my fingers over the scan pad and it was done.  Painless and no mess.  In the lobby downstairs I stopped to browse an exhibit on the Manhattan Project, which was fascinating.  I read the original letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt that relayed information on the recent discovery of nuclear fission and its ability to potentially create a real weapon of mass destruction.  I was amazed to see how this enormous scientific discovery directly influenced WWII and the entire world.   

Here is where I will be working, which is only one block from the Smithsonian museums: 

Once I arrived at the Washington Monument I was able to catch some bike trails for several miles.  I figured I would bike until I was too tired or too lost to go anymore.  I found a small trail around a pretty lake (I think it was Tidal Basin) and stumbled upon the FDR memorial.   From the lake I had a view of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. The city was also laid out such that I could see, clearly between two buildings, the US Capitol.  

Can you see it?

This is not the only time they thought about point-of-view when laying out the monuments and walk spaces.  At the FDR memorial I turned around and was in a perfect place for the next shot: 

I continued my ride down the Rock Creek Parkway all the way to the Kennedy Center, found the Watergate Hotel (and of course stopped to snap a pic), then traveled across the Memorial Bridge.  I found a nice-looking trail but decided to turn around (I was still in business-like attire from my trip to the office earlier that afternoon) but considered it a pretty great afternoon.  

Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Recap

Despite the rain, my first weekend in D.C. was a lot of fun.  On Friday night, I tagged along with my roommates to a benefit/party in honor of two fellow peace corp volunteers who passed away during their time of service.  The party was at the Ghana Cafe, a west african-style hotspot in Dupont Circle.   Great music, good turnout and lots of dancing!

I stuck to the plan on Saturday and stayed inside the entire day, even though the rain ended by about 7 PM.  Hannah dropped quite a bit of rain and wind in our neighborhood, and some places lost power, but it really wasn't bad.  Our one front window did pop out though.  We didn't even realize it was broken until several hours of wondering why the downstairs was as humid and moist as a cloud - despite a functional central AC system.  Fortunately, the window landed on the couch so we were able to put it back together in one piece.  

Sunday was a fantastic day.  I woke up early to a clear blue sky and relatively low humidity, and decided to go for a run.  I live right off Pennsylvania Avenue, so I ran several blocks down and around the Capitol Building - which is beautiful. I kept going down past the Botanical Gardens, which are currently featuring some colorful and creative environmental displays in the front yard.  I continued down to and along the National Mall all the way to the Washington Monument and back.  Being able to throw on my running shoes and take off to enjoy a Sunday morning in our nation's capitol bypassing so many fantastic structures and landmarks is something I really love about where I live.  Taking the run was both soothing and exciting, so it might have to become a weekly ritual for me. 

I later ventured two blocks over to Eastern Market, a well-known flea market/farmers market in the city.  Eastern Market has been around since 1873, but the main building was unfortunately destroyed in a fire last year.  The market has moved outside and into a temporary building, so it's still quite large and fantastic.  Saturdays feature the market produce and Sundays have more arts and crafts.  I managed to restrain myself from buying several interesting pieces of jewelry and a purse, but did purchase some delicious fresh apples!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Here comes Hannah

Instead of spending my first Saturday searching for yummy local produce at Eastern Market, I'll be cooped up indoors for my first tropical storm!!  Tropical Storm Hannah is nearing hurricane strength but is expected to make landfall further south around Charleston, SC.  We're under a Tropical Storm Warning here in Washington, DC.  

In preparation for the big event (and to give me something productive to do) I checked the batteries in my flashlights and went to the grocery store to buy some big jugs of spring water. My housemates and I are planning to stay indoors, watch college football, and play some of the new games I brought to the house.  The last roommate (Charlie) left enough canned tuna to feed a family of six for two weeks - so I'm sure we'll be fine.  

Those of you who know me well should not be surprised that my first weekend spent living right near the East Coast would bring a major weather system upon me! However, I'd much rather deal with a lot of rain and wind than an unanticipated thunderstorm with the potential to bring hail and tornados.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

to be employed.. whew!

I just heard from my supervisor for the first time in about two weeks.  I have not received the official offer letter yet (yikes!), so I was seriously worried about the fate of my career with the government, and even put off making a big mattress purchase until I knew I'd be receiving a paycheck...  

Anyways, my boss said that I do indeed have a job (whew!) and that my official transcripts got lost somewhere, but they are doing everything they can to get me in as soon as possible.  Since I told her I had already moved into my apartment in DC, I may even be able to be hired through a temp agency before my clearances go through, so that I can get in and start working.  It's not that I don't mind the time off, but after this week I'll have most of my 'business' taken care of, and it's not cheap to live here in DC.  

I'm excited to start my new job!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I have arrived

I moved into my apartment today!  I live near the Capitol Hill/Eastern Market area - and I love it!! It is everything that I had hoped moving to a city would be.  My neighborhood is made up of a bunch of row houses right off of Pennsylvania Avenue.  I have three roommates and they seem great so far.  The house now has two girls and two boys - a nice balance.  They others have all been friends for awhile, so I'm hoping I fit in and we can maintain the friendly, relaxed vibe that they've had going for the past year.  

Before moving in I took a bunch of pictures of the place, which you can look at if you want.  I'll post some updated ones after I've moved in and settled into my room.  Moving makes me realize how much "stuff" I've accumulated over the years... and it doesn't make me feel good.  I'd like to try to get by on a little less from now on, but we'll see how that goes.  It never seems to register when you are buying one thing at a time, that I'm sure I "need", but after moving it out of Penn State, into storage, out of storage, and up the stairs into my apartment - I realize it!  

I don't have a parking pass so I need to move my car every two hours during the day, so I'm staying close to home.  Our internet is down so I happily walked 3 blocks to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts, assuming I'd get free wireless, but this was not the case.  I forked up ten dollars for a day pass, assuming that I'd need to take care of a bunch of business online (car insurance, etc).  After re-moving (?) my car, I decided to explore the neighborhood some more, and one block down I found the public library!!!  I was assuming I'd have to walk up the big steps to the Library of Congress (where you can't even check out books) to enjoy the library, but I found the small neighborhood branch of the public library right near my apartment.  I discovered my love for public libraries while living in State College, but far too late in my educational career to enjoy it to the fullest.  Not only does the library have free books, big flat tables, and bright sunny windows, they have FREE wireless internet.  And I don't even have to spend $2 on a coffee for the privilege of using it.  Life is good.  

From Happy Valley to Capitol Hill

I've always wanted to blog, but I haven't really found a good enough reason/topic/emotion/obsession to write about and share with close friends and/or random strangers.  I've never really even gotten into reading blogs until recently, but now I love it!  The blogs that I read usually fall into one of four categories: friends, cooking, fitness, and energy/environment... go figure ;)  I'll keep a list of my favorites on this site.  Anyways, I figured that moving to a new city, complete with new job, friends, and experiences, justifies at least a post now and then to my friends and family and whoever else cares to peek into my new DC life.   Wish me luck!