Tuesday, November 20, 2012

DC Times: Checking Up

I admit it. I've been neglectful! Here are some pictures from DC, things that have happened in past month and things I've missed! 

My View From Work!

Kayaking on the Potomac:

The Time the President Waved at Me!

Snow Hike in the Northern Virginia Mountains! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy almost Halloween! Carved a pumpkins tonight, probably the best pumpkin I've ever done and the pattern didn't even come out of a book! Boom!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Being a Tourist

 Most days I don't feel like a tourist when I walk around the city. I know to stand on the right side of the escalator and walk down the left. I have an actual metro card instead of a paper one and I can j-walk across Pennsylvania Ave like a pro. Each day when I go to work I walk past the Capitol, behind the Library of Congress
and behind the Supreme Court of the United States of America. There's something both empowering and scary about it. It's empowering because I feel like I fit-in here. But its scary. When I was in Europe I use to wonder how the people that lived in these great cities could walk by these amazing buildings and sights of history everyday and not even look up. Now. I get it. Every week day I pass the United States Capitol, the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States and each day of the week, I don't look up. My focus is on getting to the Metro stop, what I have to do what that day and what upcoming assignments I have. When you walk past something everyday you stop seeing it as it is and it becomes just another building.

Tourists get bad reputations. They stand on the wrong side of the escalator, they slow down the lines in the Metro stations  and they clog up the sidewalks taking pictures and trying to figure out maps. But tourists...they appreciate. They see
these buildings I walk by everyday but they don't just see buildings, they see amazing works of architecture and places of history. 

Maybe it isn't so bad to be a tourist...

There moments when I am dumb-struck. One night I was walking towards the Capitol. It was lit up and it got my attention. And I was stuck by the idea that, "Hey, I live here". And suddenly I'm a tourist stopping to snap a picture with my iPhone. A moment of appreciation caught forever in an iPhone. It happened again when I was on the other side of the mall and I
I happen to turn and looked at the Washington monument on this overcast day.

So maybe being a tourist isn't such a bad thing. In fact going back and looking through my pictures I've realized I've done my share of being a tourist...


 A National's Baseball Game
A  D.C. United Soccer Game
Madam's Organ Blues Bar
Located in the Adams Morgan neighborhood in DC Madam's Organ is a DC landmark. The bar is popular for its nightly live music (especially blues and bluegrass) and happens to be the location of the first annual Interns Night Out. --Madam's Organ features a large outdoor mural, which shows "The Madam", the bar's burlesque mascot.  [[from wikipedia ->]] "The bar's owner, Bill Duggan, says he commissioned the mural as artwork, but the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs ruled it an advertisement because it includes the name of the establishment. In court, the owner refused to remove the wording from the breasts, claiming that to do so would only further expose the madam. Since Madam's Organ did not have a permit for the mural, the bar owner was fined. The case remains in the Court of Appeals". --The history of the bar is pretty cool, the name "Madam's Organ" is just a play on words for "Adams Morgan". Adams Morgan comes from the two schools that used to be located in the area, The Adams School and The Morgan School. In times of segregation, the one school was designated for white and the other for black. The bringing together of the name represents the bringing together of the people. "Now, the Adams Morgan neighborhood is much more than just black and white; it's a thriving and exceptionally harmonious multicultural society".

The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden:
I can't say I understand Modern Art, but it was interesting to walk around and at least pretend to understand.


The Library of Congress National Book Festival (on the Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle)

The H Street Festival:

This man was doing this buffalo wood carving/burning using a magnifying glass on the hood up his black Charger.  
 Funky jaw/teeth wood-carved chair.

 And too finish it all off, a wonderfully tourist like photo of me in front of the Capitol.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Codename: Chasing the Sun (Thailand Day 2-3)

May  12, 2012 (Bangkok)

This morning we headed out fairly early to meet with our students at Rajamangala University. There was an opening ceremony (a few speeches and camp leader introductions) and then we got to meet our students. I have Tip, Beer, EA (pronounced 'A!', Joyz, Love Love, Gift and Toey Toey. They seem to be a super nice group of kids, but shy. But I get that. It's the first day. They were probably trying to figure our what sort of teacher I was going to be. They are all about my age (19-22 age range), which is sort of strange because I really do have this 'kids' mentality stuck in my head. Their majors rang from International Business to Accounting to Culinary Arts. Since today was the very first day we only spent about an hour with them.

After which, we headed over to the super malls to do some shopping. We all found some tank-tops we all really liked from the same vendor. I managed to bargain the price down all the way to almost half-price. Pretty cool if I do say so myself.

That night we took the BTS to the very end of the Mo Chit line, got off, and walked for a mile or so to night market. And I can now mark eating street food off my Thailand to-do list. At the far end of this market there were several food places. I got two chicken feathers (tenders without the breading) covered in a sweet sauce (the Thai equivalent of ketchup) and a Chile sauce, on wood skewers and cooked on a grill. Holy Cabooses Barnaby Tucker, it was amazing! After dinner we walked around this out door market. The majority of it was junk, but they did have some really cool vintage stuff.

May 13, 2012 (Bangkok to Pattaya)

Today we started out really early. We were picked up at the hotel at 6:30. It was an interesting ride. Bangkok is a very big city but it was cool to drive through it and get to see the 'burbs. We also got to see the merest hint of farm land. We made a pit stop at a market and tried this traditional Thai dessert that comes in a bamboo shoot. It's a sticky rice that has purple fruit and sugar in it. It was delicious.

Pattaya is a reasonably big city on the northern gulf-coast of Thailand. It's a huge resort area. And out hotel was really nice with the exception of all the little ants crawling around in the bathroom. But they were in the bathroom and not the bedroom. --There's also a saying here among the group that I'm with, "This is Thailand" and the Thais have a saying (and I don't know how you spell it) that is pronounced Sa-bye Sa-bye. Let it be. Go with the flow. Don't stress. There's a huge concept of Face over here, and making sure you don't loose the figurative sense of the word.

When we got to Pattaya we were immidenetnly thrown into the class room for about a hour. There was no teaching everyone just socialized. We hand lunch and then it was straight on to teaching. I started out with this icebreaker I came up with on the plane ride over. A deck of cards, face down on the table and a bag of questions. If the campers guessed the color of the card correctly then they could ask me any question, not just the ones in the bags. If they guessed the questions incorrectly I got to ask them a question out of the bag. I learned that my kids don't like Rock 'n' Roll or Chocolate Ice cream!After that we played competative hangman. And they rock at competative hangman. If you don't do really long ones as soon a one letter is up ont the board they can guess it. Then they taught us a word game the like to play. Someone would go to the board and right 'October', and then the next person would right, 'Rain' &ct. So you'd end up with a board full of: 'Octoberainamexamplelephantimegguess'. It's pretty cool.

We hit the pool before and after dinner. It's hot but the constant sea-breeze is wonderful.



Saturday, May 12, 2012

Codename: Chasing the Sun--Thailand (Arrival and Day 1)

--Bangkok, Thailand (May 9-11)

While I may just be another American in Bangkok, I'm super stoked to be here. To get right to it though, my journey began 5:00am Eastern Standard time, when my alarm clock went off. But this is me we're talking about, so the snooze was hit once...okay, twice...and a half. So it was around 5:30 before I finally got out of bed. I met up with some of my fellow adventurers on down the interstate and began out journey to the Atlanta Airport. Now, this is not my first time at the rodeo known as Atlanta, I was expecting the same ol' hassle, but nope. I took me 10 minutes to get through security. It was the fastest, more I've gotten through Atlanta or any other airport for that matter. Our 15 hour flight (yes, you read that correctly) to South Korea not only boarded on time, but took off on time (Yeah, you read that right too, I am now a fan of Korean Air). To make a long story short--because I know y'all don't want to read about the goings-on of airports, after the 15 hour flight, we had a 2 hour layover in South Korea and then a 5 hour flight to Bangkok (which was also very much on time). Despite the fact I was able to get some sleep on the plane, two days of travel is still two days of travel no matter how you cut it. But I can now say that I've crossed the International Date Line (cross that off the bucket list).

Side note: If you happen to be wondering about the title of this trip, "chasing the sun" its because I saw nothing but daylight for about 35 hours. It finally set before we arrived in Bangkok. So we were--literally--chasing the sun.

Now onto May 11th, our first full day in Thailand and in Bangkok...

After breakfast we learned how to work on the local metro, known as the BTS, it's elevated something like three stories off the ground...picture something like the El in Chicago.

From there we walked to the Jim Thompson house. Mr. Thompson made his money back in the mid-1900s, he was an American GI that fell in love with Siam and decided to make his home here. He dominated the silk trade after his silks where featured in Roger and Hammerstein's "The King and I". His home is very unique, and very beautiful. It's made up of six different Thai houses he had dismantled and shipped in. But he made some changes...where traditional Thai houses have separate rooms, he put those rooms together to make a house...where traditional Thai houses have the stairs outside, he put his traditional Thai houses there are no such things as dining room tables but Jim Thompson was from the west and wanted a table, so he pushed two Chinese Majong tables together to make one. The inside of the house is full of ancient art and relgios symbols, Mr. Thompson was big into preserving history (man after my own heart). Switching from inside to outside, the house in located right next to a cannel, and is surrounded by this very lush garden. Without the noise of the city, one could almost think they were in the middle of the jungle: lots of palmtrees, and other things of the green, plant varity.

So here in Bangkok, shopping is huge. Everyone likes to shop! Just a few minutes down the BTS from us is a complex of three shopping malls. And by shopping malls I mean HUGE (so much so it deserves capital letters), HUGE malls. One could get lost...for days. But there is order to these malls. The first is the cheap, fake mall in which you haggle (always fun). The second, is the mid-level pricing. And the third, is like your Chanel, D&G, Dior, &ct. But get this, you go up to like the 6th level of the high-end mall and and your can buy yourself a nice BMW or Lambourgini. Right there in the shop, you know if with your loose, pocket money.

The coolest part about the malls, is the food court in the first (at least I think its the first). You go up to like the 6th or 7th story and they have this massive food court. But its not a food court in the Western sense of the world. To get food you go and you get a card. Once you have you're card, you figure out what you want--and they have food from all over the world. I mixed-and-matched with a triple mango berry smooth and chicken noddle soup with dim sung. For each of these you use the card they give you to buy. When you're done you go to the counter, they scan it, you pay and you leave. It was so easy! So convienent! Instead of having to pull money out here and here and there, but they want to go there, you just use the card!

After lunch we did take a quick break, rest up, get hydrated &ct. But then we were off again! We took the BTS to the river, where we hopped a water ferry. The water ferry was really cool. It was an awesome way to see a lot of Bangkok easily...and the breeze was nice. On the water ferry you can see some of the many different faces of Bangkok, from an Ancient Buddist temple, to the Royal Palace,to modern-day sky scrapers, to old, old docks and dock-supports (with dock missing) that looked like it jumped straight out of a Pirate movie. Which is really cool.

Once off the the ferry, we went and at the "buffet" but not buffet in the western sense of the word. Oh no, definately not. Some good things about the "buffet": it was one the water, it had a great atmosphere, live music &ct. But let me give you the skinny..."buffet" here means cook your own meat. Now, the extent of my cooking is making pasta, making my own sauce and a few other things. I do not known how to cook meat (should probably work on that now that I think about it). There's's not a grill, its a...picture something like a flying saucer with steeper sides that's surrounded by a trench. This little mechanism is powered by gas in arosaul cans, and water is put in the trench so it boils. This is what you cook with. The buffet part comes in because you go and get your own raw meat. But you can't tell what is chicken and what is pork--you could tell the seafood apart. I somehow managed to actually get the correct meat (chicken) and cooked it up, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Half-way through dinner I did find out that there was regular food, so I had some fried rice. Despite the food not being my forte I had a lot of fun, we watched the sun go down, and just chilled, which was nice after a long day.

We did a little bit of walking after dinner, through the real tourist-y parts. That was fun. Bangkok just lights up at night and you get a very diverse group of people.

So, lastly, some things I learned about Bangkok:

Bangkok is as big as the distance from Cincinati to Minasota. It's a horizontal city because much like Venice, its sinking! Bangkok was built on a swamp, and modern buildings are just too heavy.

There are several unfinished skyscrapers in here becasue of the Asian financial crisis of 06/08 (I don't remember which year). They're abandonded now and just stand like old, fossolized relects of the past.

Get this, street vending is illegal! But there's so much street vending, you ask. It's a shadow economy that just keeps everything in motion.

This city is very green! Like any other city there are parks and such, but there are palm trees everywhere. And the majority of buildings have some sort of plant on the balconies and/or roof. It's really cool.

Well, that's about all I got.

Update when I can.