Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ice Cream Garbage Truck

Haikus for the garbage man:

Ice cream garbage truck,
coming down the lane. Play your
song, the birds miss it.

Soft bags of plastic.
The melody strikes the ear,
rings true as the smell.

It is 3, ya know?
It is time to play your tune.
Yellow like the sun.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Buddhist serenity

The calm surrounds the visitor as he enters the paper lanterned sky. Humbled, he walks on the grounds with care, admiring the simple beauty of the Buddhist Temple.

Breath escapes the lungs as a view filled with trees of cedars, cypress and junipers splash out from the Taiwanese hillside.

The Chinese deity, decorated by lanterns, oversees the Feng Yuan valley, protecting its people.

The calm attracted by this place provides a needed escape from the buzzing of the city below.

Gifts to ancestors fill the table, cakes and fruits plentiful. The spirit of the gifts are eaten by the deceased. Once the spirit is taken, people (such as our English teaching group) get to enjoy the bounty of fruit.

Buddhist gods stand guard protecting the sacred shrines inside.

Incense lifts up through the rafters, prayers sent up to their owners from their loved ones below.

Such beauty and serenity. The mind centered and the body whole. Until we meet again.

Taiwan Night Market

Scootering down the streets of Fengyuan, zooming sideways and upways through obstacles with flashing lights hovering above and below me, I reach the majestic experience of the Taiwanese night market. The sights, sounds and smells lure the curious traveler. There are food stands in every which way. Smells a westerner can't even come to comprehend, rough and salted, sulfur and bile, but I find them intensely curious and interesting and smell everything that comes my way. The sounds constantly buzz in my ear, people laughing and playing, a woman talking into a speaker trying to get my attention. "He(y)o, He(y)o". My ear is trying to catch the tones used in the Chinese language as I have been practicing them all day today. Sights of carnival rides and state fair games distract me. Salted eels and fried squid fill the once empty lot. People of all ages come for the market, a definite family affair as well as youthful meeting spot. I see kids winning prizes and riding the dumbo-style ride. Teenagers are awkwardly gawking and flirting. The whole scene culminates to create a perfect scene for the must-experience Taiwanese cultural activity.

The food and company made the experience worth repeating. I came alongside my trusty new friend and roommate, Sunny and the local down to earth secretary of the school, Kelly. We also met up with a former English teacher, Lisa, who is leaving in less than a week to venture into Thailand. All four of us ventured the aisles of the market, veering in and out of the stalls until we saw something that interested us. There were toys and belts, watches and clothes. So many knick-nacks and trinkets. We then decided to head onto the best part of the market, THE FOOD! We started out our eating adventure with a bit of sugar-coated mango, that turned out to be a bit sour, reasons pointing to pre-seasonal premature pickings. We then moved on to the show item of the night, STINKY TOFU! This item has been of constant discussion while venturing into Taiwan. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the delicacy, some love it while others hate it. I've always been an adventurous eater and ready for the ride! Now, this tofu is not a pretty smelling delicacy (as the name implies) rather it smells a bit like horse stable and soiled laundry, but nonetheless the smell was not too overpowering and did also give off a nice bbq smell I felt quite familiar with. As many westerners turn their heads at such a unique smell, I dove right in excepting the smell as part of the experience of it all. Taiwan locals often claim it as their favorite dish. Sunny ordered me a portion (he has tried it twice and is still quite repulsed by it) and on I went to take my first bite. I suckered Lisa into it as well, as she has yet to try it despite living here for six months. In I went, down into the depths of smellville and upon biting....I actually quite enjoyed it. The texture was soft and delicate. It had a hint of the smell in the taste, yet the smokiness of it all fell softly upon the palette, exciting taste buds that have never been exposed to such taste. The sauce alongside was sweet and savory and perfectly complimented the smelly treat. I was quite proud of myself and also quite relieved at what a pleasant experience it all was. I continued walking with my comrades around the market as I dived into the remaining tofu dish now and again, welcoming the taste back into the crevices of my mouth. As the night progressed we continued eating. We tried a thick jelly like hot drink with boba and peanuts that was quite tasty. We finished the night with peppery beef, noodles and fried egg. Delicious. I felt stuffed. I am ready to burst open at the seams. Despite all the new tasting experience, my mind and soul was left thankful for the rollercoaster of a meal I had just endured. The four of us laughed and joked. The food providing a perfect setting for conversation for a great Taiwanese tradition.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rhododendrons and reflected mirrors

Rhododendrons, their purple-pinkness, blanket the sidewalk next to the primary school. They cover the air near them with smells of deep beauty. My nose reaches in close to get a good wiff, juxtaposed with another smell near by my mind recognizes as putrid. The flowers offering a place of refuge for my nose.

Fellow teacher Whit and I after a good day of hustle and bustling. We started the day off biking to a fancy little pool/self-operated spa and this was our moment to shine after our visit with the physical examiner.

My mind takes in each moment like a needed dose of drug. Characters and colours out to grab me. Caught in the reflection, these eyes staring back into these eyes, I realize I'm here, not there. The mirror tells the truth and it's telling me to go and seek adventure. Enjoy this moment, dear boy, for it lasts just a glimmer.

The streets next to our apartment seem connected. If I wasn't careful, being sure to careful hawk-eye every establishment, I could get lost in a quick second. Every street can mesh together with a mind unable to read the street signs. Lets fix that, shall we?

Markets of meat and veggies, candies and courses, can be found on a corner by our apartment. My senses are filled to the brim. Smells new and interesting. Many stares of the locals at an interested foreigner. "Ni hoa, ni hoa" is what I say. They smile and continue on their day. I'm tempted to try the pigs feet...maybe next time as my stomach is still adjusting to the different food tastes and textures.

The pleasantries of biking

As I race through the streets of Fengyuan on bicycle, my mind seeks refuge, a sort of calm among the madness of the streets. It seems I'm transfixed by the racing scooters, the mixes of green and yellow and dirt, the coughing and spitting, or maybe it's just the piles of smoggy air filling my lungs, the chemicals forming a substance my body finds to be addictive and poisonous. I release great smiles from my face, the wholeness of it all, despite hectic and all together maddening, fills my heart with joy. It's the little things and the big things that my mind eats up. Time is stopping to take it all in. The woman is about to eat pomelo, juice soon to be dripping down her chin. Hundreds of birds cramped inside their cages in a corner pet store licking their tail feathers. The man on his scooter with a worn down cigarette butt resting between his fingers while reaching in his pocket to answer his cell phone. The rice plants next to the freeway, sprucing and polished like they're meant to be photographed. The signs, yellows and blues, reds and whites, rusted, jut out from the building, trying to escape the grey wall. The planted rhododendrons planted in the island separating traffic lanes. All is moving yet nothing inches forward. In cartoon form, everything has two squiggly dashes behind it. The bike and I are frozen in time too. I'm stuck in second gear and my helmet is on too tight. The sounds echo in my ears, the horns and whistles and endless knocking and grinding of metal against metal. My calf muscle is about to take another turn of the peddle. It's a picture worth saving if only I had a camera, so I try to store it mentally, inviting the next second's picture to cram alongside the last.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Welcome to Taiwan

Ni Hao Taiwan.

What wonderful people your country holds, friendly to the tee.
Everything full of busy here, and still I'm all at ease.
I'm thankful for the rain you provide. It's cleansing. I feel free.

Characters of Chinese, I wish I understood.
The jungle of colour and strokes, you'd think would be self-defined by intent.
But no, it's all so strange to me. My English seems so crude.

The bus ride, plane and walk took nothing short of forever,
But to cut any part short would leave me ill-experienced.
Each leg a journey I endure, to fast forward, I'd say never.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring, people asking me if I'm lost?
I'm lost, yes, I'm okay with that. I'm finding my true self within the cracks.
New friends, new adventures, new experiences and for what, so little cost.


Exhausted and worn I lay here on this new bed under a new sky listening to some Bob Dylan as I collect my thoughts. It's good for me to listen to something familiar while I lay in this foreign place, trying to bring it all together. The harmonica sounds the same wherever I go. Today, I traveled a long while over seas, only braver men than me venture, in order to get to the land formerly known as Fermosa (named by the Portuguese meaning "beautiful island"). Hello Taiwan I said as I exited the plane.

The airport seemed to sparkle as I collapsed my bags onto the ground. The air seems different here. It's hard to place. I find it a little like sand, gritty and natural. I could bottle it up and put a lid on top, if I wasn't afraid of being thought of as weird by these wonderful Taiwan citizens.

Evidence of the people's generosity exists everywhere. As fellow participants of the teaching program and I exited the bus in our new hometown, we were immediately asked if we knew where we were going. We answered no, and someone was quick to point us in the right direction. And mind you, this is done not with our asking, but with people insisting that they help us. I've never seen such kindness! Once we were pointed in the right direction, we became stranded at our supposed meeting point at the Fengyuan Train Station. Unable to reach our contact we stood dumbfounded and wondering what to do next. A young gentleman, maybe in his early 20s, came over after minutes of us standing around looking like forgotten rabbits and helped us to a cab. That cab was off-duty, so the man called his mother who called the cab company to come pick us up. (Have I mentioned this was at 1:00 in the morning here???) The cab picked us up and the man who helped us talked to him insisting we get there and get a fair cab fare. We headed onward towards our living quarters about 7-minutes away. When we arrived we saw the man and a girl, perhaps his sister, riding a scooter behind our cab to ensure we made it safely to the right location. I thought, who does this with random strangers? I was thankful for this man. He helped us find our safe haven. The people here are truly amazing.

I'm excited to see this place in daylight. I'm sure the streets will shine and the sandy air will lift me awake from my slumber. For now, I'm sleeping. I'm tired. Night. Wan Shang Hoa, Taiwan.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The next chapter: Taiwan

As I spent the holidays cascading the Mountain West to spend time with family and friends, I'm reminded of all the love that I have surrounding me in my life. The good times I wish I could record from my vision, re-playing back the laughter and tears, as if being viewed from a High-Definition television. I spent long days shopping with best friends and short hours spent with loved ones seldom seen. I exchanged gifts and pictures, love so abound I could swim in it. Now, as I remember the greatness of people so dear to me, I move on towards something new. It's strange to move on but it's something I feel I must do. I'm moving towards the sun. A new horizon, literally. I move towards the Far East, the Orient, the "beautiful island" known as Taiwan.

I will be teaching in the city of Fengyuan in the county of Taichung (Central Taiwan). I'll be working at the Behran Institute there. The grade of the students I will teach has yet to be determined, but I am excited for the opportunity to share my cultural background while gaining a great deal more from them. I taught English in SuĊĦice, Czech Republic in the summer of 2007. I adored standing in front of these great minds, nervously exploring the English language with them. It's a feeling unlike any other to finally connect with these students and help them learn. I'm excited to experience it again.

Taiwan will be a cultural shock, there is no sense in denying it, but I'm excited for it. I think it'll be good for me. I enjoy being outside my comfort zone and find myself growing because of it. There will be plenty of reminders of home as I have been told, such as the Cosco just 10 minutes from my apartment. But the times I'm most excited for will be far-reaching abnormalities I'm not used to such as the cuisine (have you ever heard of stinky tofu?). I'm prepared for these differences. I'm ready to face a place dispelled with myth and legend and come up with my own first-hand experience of it all. I'm excited to learn a new language, to gain new friends and to live a life with new scenery. Who knows what's around the next corner? Only one thing to do, find out!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mount Vernon

I traversed the wooded outerlands of Virginia to reach Mount Vernon by bike on Sunday. My sturdy stead (a bianchi-brava road bicycle) and I headed outward with much excitement. I've been wanting to do this ride for at least a month now and finally caught wind of an opportunity to ride despite the frigid cold. It had snowed the day before but Sunday let the sun roar its shiny head and out washed away much of the snowy pavement. I departed from Dupont Circle, my bike's parking place at work, and found the Mount Vernon trail (route below) after crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

Off I went, quicker than expected but not tiring because of the exhilaration aspiring from my extremities. My legs were machine-powered, the cogs working fluently in motion with the bicycle spokes. My fingers, snug tightly in their gloves, gripped the handlebars. I was flying and couldn't be happier. My heart played along with the beat of Arcade Fire and Radiohead, my "get-hyped-because-I'm-riding-a-bike-in-frickin'-Washington-D.C" music. The visuals were stunning. I would stare at the Capitol Building, just stare as I ride down the paved pathway. It took me a moment to wrap my head around the idea that I was in an environment enthralled with history. I seem to forget that I'm here sometimes, or maybe just get comfortable with it all and need constant reminders or a pinch to ensure it's not a dream. Moments like this remind me that I'm here, exploring Washington D.C. and exploring my self, reminiscent of that in which I encountered on my first long bike ride in Washington. Everything looks slightly similar yet vividly different. The monuments I've grown to adore, stuck out and seemed to say "hello. You are in a wonderful place, enjoy this for the short time you have left."

The sky was a wonderful hue of pink, softly sparkling from the shining sun off the melted snow puddles. I would bike through woods of oak, holly, and laurel trees. In and out, weaving like a mad man. The path took me under highways, over wooden bridges, into muddied swamps, and rumbling on cobbled streets in Alexandria. Sure, the path isn't always glamorous, early on I met the greyness of the Reagan National Airport. I remember thinking what a big extravagant mess it was. Airplanes scraping through the sky, nearly reachable if my hand were a hundred-foot crane. It was loud and ugly, I felt comfort in finding the calm in the wood.

Birds echoed my name as I entered the forests. Birds I've only seen from encyclopedias and picture books. A bright red cardinal lie on the low-hanging tree branch ahead of me. I screeched to a halt in order to get a longer-lasting view of it. The bird sparkled and sang a sweet whistle. I tried whistling alongside it but found it shied away the more I continued. So I halted my melody and decided to just observe the sweetness the cardinal evoked. It felt great to be in that present state, just me and the beauty that exists in nature. The joys of birdwatching finally became apparent.

After a 2-hour venture, I arrived at my destination, Mount Vernon. The estate encompassed a true sense of American spirit and past. The sheep lay grazing the grasses as I entered. Washington's Mansion lie in the heart of the estate and stuck out against the pink-hued backdrop. The exterior was white, with forest-colored shutters and a Merlot-stained roof. I remember thinking how the colors resembled my home in West Jordan, Utah. The one where I have lived consecutively for the longest period of time, evoking an immediate sense of home for me with the place. I can see why Washington loved it here. There was a beautiful view of the Potomac River, glimmering with hope and rain water. I wandered the grounds, looked into the frost-bitten gardens and onto the harbor and Washington's grave site. The stories told here seemed endless and the history of the place pulsated from the floorboards. I remember seeing Washington's prized black chair in his workroom and thought about the greatness that this chair has bestowed. He used the chair as the first President of the United States and then brought it back home to work from it. The birth of our nation lies threaded with the brass and leather from that single piece of furniture. I was in awe.

As I biked back the same way I had come, I thought about many things. Scrolls of questions and pondering rants lie inside my mind. I thought about the sacrifice. I thought about democracy. I thought about the journey of life. As my body grew tired of the travel, I found my mind growing more acute, continuing onwards towards the monument erected for the man which I just regained a new found love for. I thought about the choice he made to give up his power in order to let this country be for the people, by the people. I lie there in Washington's shadow taking it all in and as I cross back over the Arlington Memorial Bridge, I acknowledge the journey I had just taken and the one that lie ahead.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in NYC

Stuffed. I'm lying on my back letting the food sit atop my spine, like birds on a power line. The tryptophan is doing its job, sleepy is taking control. I just had a great meal with great friends. The whole kit-and-cabootle: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, rolls, and Martinelli's, of course. It feels great just being here in this warm Manhattan apartment with a slight brisk breeze coming through the opened windows. Some DC friends and I were able to use my friends, Jon and Madison's, apartment on the upper east side during the holiday weekend because they were going to be out of town, back home to SLC. Their apartment is cozy and inviting. The walls are covered with pictures, maps and posters, and found objects scattered across New York sidewalks. I like it here, as I always do.

This morning started off with an early appointment with Mr. Turkey. Yes, I was in charge of turkey this year, my first time preparing the beastly bird. At first the whole task was daunting, but then, I remembered my Saturday mornings spent in my youth watching nothing but cooking shows on PBS. I pulled from my mind images of Julia Childs, placed her beside me in the kitchen and went to work. I have been in cahoots with my grandma all week long in order to get the exact directions on making the turkey perfect. I took out the innards, covered it in salt, gave her some thyme and rosemary, stuffed her, coated her in butter and then led her into the small oven. She fit right in that house, cozy as a...uh...cucumber?
Afterwards, I headed out to meet up with the group of friends, meeting just west of Central Park to watch the Macy's Day parade. The balloons filled the sky, like frozen-in-time fireworks. I stood there, mouth ajar, just staring at these figures of media, remembering all the Thursday mornings spent watching the parade on NBC, amazed by the sites, the biggness, the sounds and the colours. It was a momentous occasion to be there in person. Children were laughing and pointing, mothers were calm and collective gathering their kids up with excitement, fathers were brawny and intellectual, reminiscing about their thanksgiving days of past, everyone was so happy and I was too. We stood just west of Central Park on a brick wall watching the parade floats before they took off to begin the actual journey towards Macy's Department Store. I saw stars-galore, media'd up and all glorified. Most of all, it felt great spending the morning with friends, all excited like a kid on mornings at grandmas watching theparade on TV.

So now we've eaten and I'm stuffed. I'm thankful too, it truly is a great day for thanks. I was able to call some of my family, people enjoying each other throughout the country. My dad is spending the day with my sister and her kids, her oldest and my nephew Kristofer, spoke complete sentences to me (although half in Tongan). I remember seeing him as a newborn and holding him in my arms. It's amazing how fast he grows. He finished his sentence with "I love ya, bye". He's such a good kid and I'm thankful for having him in my life, and my sister, and all my family. I'm thankful for love and for joy. For good times and bad times. For life in general, I'm thankful for that. Thanks NYC.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Places to Go in DC: Tryst

Tryst $
2459 18th Street, NW
(202) 232-5500

The instant I saw the little horse and camel animal crackers lying next to my mountainous cup of chai tea I knew this place was a keeper. In fact, I have been back almost weekly to this place since my first weekend here. I was randomly passing it on a biking rendezvous up around Adam's Morgan. I always try to spot places piled with bicycles and this was certainly one of them. I had to squeeze my lock around my Bianchi and a tree because the bike rack was busting at the seems. The instant I walked in, I felt at home. The music was just right, the lighting was a little dim to read in but still manageable, and the mismatched furniture was perfect to rest my tired body.

Tryst provides a great community feel. If you can't find an empty table, feel free to make a new friend and share a seat with them. On most weeknights they have a live jazz band which fits quite comfortably with a nice conversation with a friend or some self-reflection. For eats, may I suggest the soup of the day and a moist peanut butter cookie. The perfect combination for a cold Autumn eve. If drinks be your thing, try the sweet and spicy chai tea, a classic black coffee, or one of their many assorted loose leaf teas. The proportions are plenty big and moderately priced. Check it out. You're sure to fall in love, if even just for the childhood reminder of how happy an animal cracker makes you feel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blurry Plateau

There becomes a moment in places where consistency becomes planned and the days seem to blur like paste plastered on a glass ceiling. This isn't a bad thing, it's just a moment of comfortableness I have to grow accustomed to. It's in this moment, that things lose the new to be replaced by the memory of the new. The bike ride in the morning seems shorter, the strain on my calves less punishing. My mind has a memory bank full of these things so the process of understanding them is short. I almost miss that newness of the mind processing each little thing as I pass it, the journey long and full of mystery. But in the same breath, I'm sure I like this knowledge, this memory bank full of things, the journey planned.

I'm comfortable here. I've grown knowledgeable about places to eat, people to meet and monuments to visit. I know the corners, the nooks and the crannies. I know the bookstore on the corner of P and 20th street. The one that I've spent my lunch hours scouring. I know the National Cathedral down by Woodley Park. The one I run to in the mornings to get a headstart on the day, stammering as I look up to see the towering spires. I know the doorman of my apartment. The one with the most genuine of all smiles. I know the smell of my shirt as I come home from the pizzeria. The one that embeds itself into my skin forcing me to take a shower. I know the feel of the rain pouring over my ankles as I bike in the puddles. The one that makes me soaked through to the bone. I know the taste of inspiration as I surround the monument of Abe Lincoln. The one that is felt among my neighbors overlooking the great figure in front of us. I know the sound of the Metro train as it hauls to a stop. The one that cues a safe hello train or goodbye platform. I know this and that and the other thing here. It's like having a feeling of I could make it here if I stayed.

I think I've reached the plateau. The plateau of my journey in DC. Things are constant now and I have my bearings. I have two jobs, good friends, fun places and a routine. That's really all I need. This plateau is a good one, it's one I was told about before arriving here. I heard it would be difficult at first but soon it would plateau. And it has. Every morning I wake up to the same alarm in the same bed trying to rush in order to make the same breakfast. Then I ride the same bike on the same streets to the same employment. The sameness is nice and it's constant and I have a great view from here.

While the plateau exists, I feel uncertain in its stability because of the constant newness that DC has in store for me. It's big and ever-changing here. People are moving in and out. Young people are starting over and trying to get their big break. Pedestrians are filing past me as I walk and the faces always blend together. No longer remembering their every detail, the passerbys, they are just blurs. Not having time to slow, the memory adjusts to the blurs in order to get a picture. A picture of being content but always wanting and seeing more. That's what I appreciate about this place. There is constant newness to be found and while a plateau now exists in which to rest, it is nice to know that in my final stretch here, for now, I am able to see the picture in the blur.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


The planes wizz by the concrete canyon. Fireworks of light fill the senses, flooding the pupils so much that the wetness spills out onto the shiny cement, dripping into the cracked sidewalks. The wetness stays a while in the cracks, waiting for the collection of glitter to be picked up by the soles of the passerbys. The glitter is hot and it's sticky. It's sweat pouring out of hard working people. It's oil, wet and slick from the manufactured pretty things. Constant pigments enter the database of the mind with few computing: the couple drinking ginger ale, the lottery ticket on the ground, the tiny dog being carefully maneuvered beside the passerbys, almost devoured by the trampling commuters. The dandelions stop growing to make way for the parking meters and stop lights. The clouds rendezvous around the tallest buildings, planning their next set of attacks, ensuring that the old woman remembered that umbrella she has had for ages. Wisps of wind push the smell of gyro into my nostrils as I feel the rumbling of the earth beneath my feet. Everything is fast and jaunted. I feel like a bee trapped under a glass. It's frightening and it's big but it's beautiful.

I was in New York City last weekend for a day trip. I'm always awe-struck by the presence of the city. It truly devours every sense and feels the mind with so many scenarios and so many stories. I went to see Hamlet with Jude Law with my friend, Niccolo. It was a great performance by a classically-trained actor. The stage was primed with pristine architecture, each set piece meticulously placed. Jude Law stole the show. He was keen in his betrayal, although at times he took the words of the play too literally. Polonius was also one of my favorite characters, his timing was impeccable and his charm deceitful. Beside going to the theatre, we were able to ascend to the top of the Rockefeller building where the birds didn't even dare to fly. The view was breath-taking. The Empire State Building was first to greet us as we got off the elevator onto the 67th floor. There lives such wonder in this city. I'm not sure where to place it. I think it's the grandeur of it all, of knowing I'm somewhere big and meaningful. I took deep breaths of the Autumn sky. The leaves of central park were vibrant oranges and reds. I dove right into the feeling of warmth as the city embraced me from below.

This was my fifth visit to the city. It had also been my first visit in Autumn, which now completed my seasonal catalogue of seeing New York in all forms, whether it be Spring, Winter, Fall or Summer. I remember going for my first time in 2005 with my High School Madrigal Choir. I was young and had only heard tales of the great city. Once I arrived, the city absolutely encompassed me. It grew over me like weeds, each cement structure pulling me in to take a closer look. It was all new and it was all wonderful. I like to imagine that New York was the first time I realized I can do this. This being life's big step forward after High School. I remember walking down the streets of New York by myself, although I was advised to always stay with my chaperone, but I was ready to move out and explore so I did just that. I walked the streets of Manhattan and nobody knew my name and nobody cared if I got lost and it felt like possibility existed around each corner. I was able to just be in this place, to just live as an individual without a destination. It's a bit crazy to think that this gave me confidence in life, but it did. I wanted to venture more on my own, discover the complexities of life on my own, and traveling to New York gave me that confidence. I think it was NYC that gave me the notion of exploration and worldly pursuit that I seek today. Venturing this little blue dot one step at a time and being okay with what the next step entails, because a new journey is hidden everywhere. The sky seems limitless and nobody knows my name.

I was a different person in 2005. My self-confidence was dodgy, my ability to trust lagged and my pain was hidden. In my youth, I found that New York was able to accept all that, because it was so large it consumed the insecurities I found in myself and exposed an open canvas of exploration. Sure, I was young and I didn't understand my self but I think I began to see that the future held great things. I've been through a lot of things since that early trip in New York. I've experienced a lot of life. Going back to New York always gives me that same feeling and it seems I'm more confident in my character after each visit. Being in the heated independence of the city gives me the comfort that I can be confident in my self as an individual. I'd like to meet this 2005-version of myself and tell him I have great things ahead. Some things will hurt and the road will be rough, but it's all worth it. Saying, "This journey doesn't last forever, so take hold and dream on. No regrets"

Sometimes I forget that lights have a way of talking to me. The neon buzzing shouts at me from all directions. "Buy me". "Eat this". "Vindicate that". The fluorescent light waits patiently inside a bedside lamp waiting for me to arrive home safely. The sun gives me words of inspiration and the moon sings me softly to sleep. New York brings light. The bulb shines brighter.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Philly, PA

I went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania over the weekend. Dirt and grime crawl up the stone of the old buildings. What is admirable is Philly's ability to not cover up its imperfections, but rather highlight them, truth spread across the city for all to see. It's the truth that I enjoyed. The stark reality of the current times hits the traveller with brute force. From the moment I walked into the subway terminal, I saw people taking shelter, their homes now becoming the tile in which I was standing upon. I saw a man lying on a drain in the streets, the rain water collecting beside him. These ill-taken realities are met with the breathtaking views of one of the oldest cities in American history.

I raced atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, my heart racing beside that of Rocky Balboa, the song "Eye of the Tiger" drumming in my ear. I overlooked this beautiful land, contrasting blues of the sky with blues of the glass buildings. Contrasting reds and yellows of the Autumn leaves with the reds and yellows of the signs sprung throughout the city. This glorious collaboration between man and nature. As if they were working together to build something so great. The tall buildings were alongside the clouds, both overlooking the land below.

I ate Pat's King Cheesesteaks, ensuring not to make a "misteak" with the competitor down the street. I sat in coffee shops and drank spirits in old pubs. Independence Hall had me relive history. How could a building with rooms so simple produce things so great? Greatness doesn't come from royal grandness, but rather tattered desks covered in papers and frivolous writings. The spirits of men standing up for liberty and justice for all lacquered the walls. I was enamored with the tale and wanted to relive all the lessons from my fourth grade classroom.

The Liberty Bell rang proud. It's crack symbolizing the endless journey to mend the broken and stand for freedom. We met girls from Sweden and decided to venture with them throughout the day. They were here on exchange to help nanny for families in Western Pennsylvania. They were a delightful addition to our party and made conversation lively and new.

A treasured view became my reward as I climbed a fence to view the Benjamin Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River. The freedoms withheld by large bodies of water always tend to attract me. It's endless out there and the water keeps shifting. The water doesn't claim you as its owner, but rather invites you to ride alongside. It reminds me of times spent with my father on our sailboat riding Strawberry Reservoir or Bear Lake, the wind guiding us towards our next destination, not knowing where we'll end up but sure of the excitement that lies within the present journey. Let the water carry me and the wind guide me towards my next adventure.

Empowerment. Ka-lu, Ka-lay.

I've never been a very political person. I've always fell in between places. Lucky to be born with such privilege, I'm able to sneak through the cracks without doing any action of my own. Being apathetic to the causes, I've sort of just existed. How cowardly I have been, to let others do the work for me while I sit and reap the benefits? I mean it's easier, right? To not have an opinion. To be okay with the injustices surrounding me just because I can live decently. But this is unfair to my peers and to the future. This is unfair to the decades of work laid forth by generations before me. This is unfair to my self, to the Henry inside.

DC has been a wake-up call to me as an individual. I've been able to stand up for my beliefs, act upon my civil duties, and challenge the injustices surrounding me. My work being done in the ACLU has given me access to people with such passions the provide me with empowerment. I've been able to see colleagues fight for DC Statehood, broadcasting their battle across DC public television. I've seen court cases on the freedom of speech/assembly for citizens marching on Adams Morgan. I've been exposed to issues of police misconduct, issues surrounding ex-offenders, looking towards justice. Controversy stands behind many of these issues, but in the end it is about my freedoms as an American. It is about resisting stagnancy in hopes of creating a better tomorrow.

Just today I was given the opportunity to view a public hearing on the proposed 'Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act' in DC. Hundreds of people came to speak to the DC city council bearing their testimony as to their reasonings behind whether marriage should be allowed among LGBT partners. Both parties, for and against the bill, were present. It was awe-inspiring to see such passion on the issue. Stories about a brother who has seen his siblings marry and just wishes for that same right for the person he loves. Stories of pastors who have been hurt by the council members focusing on LGBT issues when more pressing issues are at hand, like job-loss. Stories of DC residents wanting to hold the hand of their partner, not out of protest but for compassion. Each story rang out speaking to the power of democracy.

I was able to march on Washington a few weeks ago. The energy surging through my feet, through the streets. Each person there to be heard. I walked for equality. For justice. It was democracy in action. Tens of thousands walked beside me, marching towards those steps, the steps I saw on the old School House Rocks episode, the steps of the capital. It makes so much sense for love to be deemed equal. To see same-sex couple's families, families just like mine used to be, fighting and playing and walking the streets gave me hope. Hope of a better tomorrow where I can stand among many, stand among those trying to be next to normal. I stand within the margins prouder each day. To be fearful is to allow the downtrodders to trample. Take the reigns and act! Although the road is uncertain and the rope slick, I know there will be a destination. As I pass the threshold of identity, it becomes clear, just be ME. I need to choose dignity and happiness over my desire to please others, because in the end, babe, I just have me.

It's a gorgeous day. Ka-lu, Ka-lay. The sun is beating against my cheek. Colors surrounding me roar endlessly, cascading into my veins. The Autumn air devours the pigments of the colored leaves and sweeps them gently into my lungs. I want to bottle this up. Bottle up the color and the sounds, the sweetness on my lips. It's a beautiful day in DC.

The sky draws her happy hands downwards, her fingertips brushing by my chin. Beaming, I close my eyes, waiting for her to say, "buddy, I'm proud of you."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pictures. Half way through DC.

I've reached the halfway point of my semester in DC. Here are a few pictures commemorating my journey.
In front of the White House.

Friend J. Behl and I overlooking DC from the Washington Monument

Nighttime monument viewing is absolutely breathtaking.

This man is my favorite.

Beautiful East Coast autumn colours.

The actual Constitution of the United States.

Friend, Katie's drumming performance at the Kennedy Center

Equal Rights March on Washington.

Friend, Riley, and I. Someone didn't get the "act cool" pic memo.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Home is where people laugh

While in DC, I've created a sense of home. It lies within the little everyday similarities that evoke a place of calm. The moments where I forget I'm even somewhere I'm not used to being. The times where my leg muscles turn to pedals on my bicycle, the pushing becoming part of my ligaments. The novels that have turned into cinematic features, the act of page turning lost under the vale of imagination. The quiet place, the one I'm not afraid of. The times where I can scream at the top of my lungs, just because I can and no one is too close to noticeably hear it is me. The coffee shop that gives me animal crackers. The cold. The heat. My bedside glasses. My pillow. And maybe it’s not these material things I’ve mentioned that create a home, but rather the comfort they hold. The pearls they hide in the depths of their throats. The realness. People provide this as well for me. The people I've met here create normalcy in a place so far away from the geographical sense of what "home" means to me. It’s nice to open my self up to others, to expose my inner needs and wants. To explore a place, newly discovered with fresh eyes, with others. A place with Sunday dinner and laughing.

Spirits soar. The sky limitless, yet the ground providing support.
People laughing and loving. Couches indented after hours of conversation.
Secrets being told. Difference being understood.
The rain. The rain pours the same, our coverings helping the dry stay unmoistened, but the tears still linger far back in the eye. Speech sacred.
The routine of the week, broken by the spontaneity of the moment. Creating happiness in the fall breeze. The wind blows quick, then slow, against the window. I look out. The sky calm. Warmth reward as I turn my head back to friends.

Breathing feels good too. And the sun never comes out without a smile. It’s a home in a sense. This place and that place. The clouds providing my roof.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Places to Go in DC: Pizzeria Paradiso

Pizzeria Paradiso $$
2029 P Street NW

I must start off by saying that I am somewhat biased in my review of this restaurant because I am now working here. IT IS JUST THAT GOOD! Take off your coat, those slickers you've been carrying around and warm up to some good stone-oven baked pizza and beer. With over 150 domestic and international beer selection you're sure to try something you like. I personally enjoy the Pinkus Hefe or Pilsner. But might I also recommend the deliciously robust, yet not too sweet, Local Brooklyn. It's goes perfectly to guzzle down all the incredible pizza made with the finest ingredients from the Pennsylvanian-made Mozzarella to the New-York salami. It's all good here.

If you're a newbie to rustic traditional made pizzas, try the Cuatro Farmagi (Four Cheese). For the more adventurous type, try the delectable Di Mar (Of the Sea), where the cooks top off the pizza with mussels straight from the Atlantic. There is something for everyone here. Lots of beer and a cool atmosphere. Happy Hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Plus, you might even drop by on a night that I'm working. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How I Got Here

So, some have been asking, "How did you get to DC?" Well, my friends, let me take you on a little adventure.

The May flowers brought graduation. Four years gone in the flick of a tassel. Daunting and exhausted, my undergraduate left me worn and confused. I needed a break from Utah life, a journey away, far away from what I was used to, I felt bottled up in a place that wasn't meant for me. I wanted to fly. I wanted to soar. Do something extreme, different and challenging, perhaps even stupid. So I decided go far! How about Asia, I thought.

Deciding on programs dealing with International education, I applied for all programs Asia-specific and English-teaching, both of which I had little experience in (took one Japanese class and taught English in the Czech Republic for a month), so basically I was going at things pretty blindly. But I had confidence regardless and set my mind to it hoping that it was what I really wanted to do. I applied to three companies, The JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) Program, Interac, and ILP (International Learning Program). I was convinced that I would get one of the programs, leaning towards Japan I was hoping for JET, the most prestigious out of the three. I got an interview from all three and was excited as can be.
My first interview was for the JET program. It was a wet day in Utah and I had dressed in a newly-purchased suit to the interview. It was being held at the Guest House on the University of Utah campus, just a few minutes from where I was living at the moment. I went in confident and collective and really nailed the interview, well, most of everything besides the Japanese speaking part. But I had confidence in my abilities regardless and went forward hoping for the best.

The second interview was for the Interac Program, another Japanese English-teaching program, this one located out of Provo, UT. It was a group interview and it was sort of odd being there because most everyone else had recently got back from a mission and were fluent in Japanese, which furthered my handicap in not speaking the language. Ultimately, my interview went well, but again, without speaking the language I was unsure if I was qualified for the position.

The third interview was with ILP. This seemed to be the most inexperienced of the English-teaching companies. This program specified that teachers work in Taiwan. The interview was held over the phone. Everything went well. They cared less about whether or not I knew the language of the land, which gave me more confidence that I could get the teaching position.
Well, things crumbled, sort of. I received an alternative position with the JET program and because of the rampant loss in Japanese jobs, the percentage of teachers staying in Japan because of American job shortage, and other reasons, I was told that it was very unlikely that I would receive a position with them at this time. Any other year may have been different, but this year was special and they didn't have as many positions open than they thought they would have. I was devastated, but understood that higher qualified applicants that knew the language were likely to get a position before I did. Bummer. So I awaited the two other positions hoping it would be different, but, it came to be that all companies shared a similar situation. Interac and ILP both said that they had reached capacity for hiring for the fall semester and I was out of luck.

So, my grand vision was lost. I lay still and confused for a few weeks not knowing really where to go from here. I felt like I needed that escapism in order to reach my true self. I needed time away so that I could look into life from a different lens, a different location, that would change my perspective, forcing me to grow and learn. I was set in making this a reality. In grasping this idea of going somewhere, anywhere but here, I received word of opportunity with a program existing in DC. It was called the Hinckley Internship Program through the University of Utah. It was an opportunity I had always wanted to take advantage of during college but hadn't found the time to do so. I decided, no time better than the present.

I applied for the program and got in. The next step was finding a job. I worked with Hinckley to send in applications to a dozen or so organizations in DC. My first three being Amideast (A middle-eastern relations firm), NPR and the Smithsonian Art Museum. All three very different. I wasn't especially qualified for any of these positions, well, maybe I could have been if competition in the area wasn't so fierce because of the recent economic situation (everyone just trying to get a foot in the door), so I ended up with another organization on my list, that of the non-profit, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU.

It wasn't a top-selection on the list, but hey, I made my goal: To be somewhere else, discovering new things. And I am doing just that. My days consist of constant concentration and thought. I'm filled with scenes I haven't experienced before, I take deep glances at the world around me with more detail, examing the way people here move and talk differently than I'm used to. I examine my own psychology and have been able to write more frequently about my thoughts. It's just what I had in mind and it's something I need. More than anything, I appreciate the way different scenery challenges me. I am faced with meeting new people, making new friends, and discovering new things. It's cool to think, now that I've been in it a month, that I can do these things. I've already made a great group of friends. I've found spots that I can call my own. And my experiences have been plentiful.

So here I am. In Washington, DC. Trying to take it all in.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Into the graves, Arlington Cemetery

It was a rainy day. The graves wet, thousands and thousands of graves. White stones sitting in rows, rows and rows, like doves ready to fly, but cemented into place. Men dead from war. There lies such history in these grounds. Such mystery in these grounds. There lies so many stories. Ones of men fighting for freedom. Ones of men fighting for what seemed right. The head stones shined against the mist. Each one reminding me of how lucky I am to be here.

To lie in the ground. We all come to lie in the ground. What I realized after seeing the graves. All uniformly erected, row by row. We all end up the same. Into the ground. Whether I die from a lady swerving into me as she was texting or a mistake while climbing or from old age or by a family-man turned soldier, I come to lie in the ground. It's not a scary thing, the ground. I mean, I walk on it every day. I lay on it when I'm tired and I step on it when I jog down the street. It's there. It provides support and keeps me "grounded". I'm not afraid of the ground, of the dead in the ground. It's the political acts that cause the dead to be in the ground that make me afraid. It's the gun powder and ammunition that makes me afraid. The ground is cold and it's hard, but it's there and I know what it feels like. I don't know what it feels like to kill another man, to fire a gun at a living soul. Nor would I want to know what it feels like. War is pain. The ground is far more comforting than war.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those hippie, "no war can ever exist" types of people. Nah. I rather define myself as a sort of neo-realist, that sees war as inevitable within the confines of human extortion. But still, to see all those graves. To witness the changing of the guard, made it all the more real. At times, I turn the dial of my brain to forget, disguising the pain felt behind seeing these graves, the men and women beneath them. But in moments like this, the dial is turned to "never forget" and the buzzer is buzzing, my head getting heavy. I honor them, and I thank them for sacrificing themselves in duty in order for me to live. Into the graves they wandered, being remembered for what they were, soldiers.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My First U of U Alumni Event

On Tuesday, I attended the Wallace Stegner Alumni Event at the Carnegie Institute of Science, just a few blocks from where I work. The evening included light refreshments and socializing with lots of U of U alumni, including President Young, Humanities Dean Newman, and some old friends I haven't seen in a while, then concluded with a biographical film portrait of Alumnus Wallace Stegner, "the dean of western writers".

So odd, the feeling of alumna. I did this, I experienced it, "The U", and now here I am a part of this larger community, listening from others that have also graduated from there. Just last year, I was celebrating Homecoming by being honored to represent the student body as "Homecoming King" and now I'm here as part of a greater whole, honoring a great philosopher in modern conservation history. It feels good. Odd but good. So much success surrounds me, yet I'm just starting. My foot barely entering the sand. The oceans of life right in front of my eyes. I'm sure I'll find the sailboat that delivers me to my dreams and desires, but for now, I get my feet wet.

I ran into old friends, Katie Trieu and Brandon Lee, of the U's community service organization, The Bennion Center. I also ran into other people I haven't seen for some time. The world seems to be a lot smaller than I had imagined, seeing people again. I remember not knowing too many of these people that well, but because we're surrounded by such bigness, we have this instant connection. The evening even provided me with a great contact. I met a woman whose husband went to China in the 80's to teach English, a similar path to which I'll be taking in January. We're meeting up next week to go over preparations and expectations. It's an exciting time!

The night was filled with connections and networking. Interchangeable support. I'm truly grateful to be here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Places to go in DC: Teaism

Teaism $
2009 R Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
Hop on the Yum Yum train and catch out this little diddy right off of Dupont Circle. The Salt Oat cookies are AMAZING! They melt in your mouth and give you that sweet-yet-salty taste we've all been searching for. If you want a little more zing to your baked confection, try it dipped in chocolate. Yes. This is heaven.
If sweets aren't your ideal of the perfect meal, try out one of their delicious bento boxes. I chose the teriyaki salmon variety with a fresh sweet potatoe salad, but one can also choose from a variety of others including chicken, tofu or veggie. Their other menu items include everything from lentil soup to thai curry to portebello and goat cheese sandwiches.

Wait! Have I not mentioned the best part? TEA! Fresh teas from all across Asia and also any tea brewing contraption you could ever need to buy can be purchased here. I'd recommend the Teaism Chai, a special home-brewed selection. The establishment is cozy, a perfect little place for quaint conversation with good friends.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Holocaust Haunting

I remember that day being solemn. It was a rainy day and I thought about laughing and how much I missed it. I thought about pain a lot that day. I wonder why. The prompting didn't come from the fact that the Holocaust Museum lie in my agenda for that day, or at least I didn't think it did.

Haunting. I took the elevator up to the top floor to start the exhibit. The doors open up to a picture of a pit of dead. Bodies melted by fire. Bodies lying on top of each other like meat at a market. The smoke still rising and the smell still lingering. My heart sank beneath my chest, beneath the pit of my stomach and dropped to the floor. I felt sick, vomit stricken but holding it all in. Holding in the anger. Holding in the tears. Not letting it show. Some people broke down right when the doors opened. It was a difficult thing to see. Such brash images, such horror.

Haunting. I saw things I knew about but had forgotten. The way they classified people based on their skin color, the way their noses were shaped and the ways their heads were rounded. Does the world not see people as people? As human beings all here for the same reason? The same being. Traveling by day after day on this big blue and green sphere. The sun shining on each one of us. The stars ahead, planning out our destination. How did this happen?

Haunting. I sat down after a while. I was still sick. Something painful. A needle in my throat maybe. I couldn't speak. I sat in a room filled with the voices of Holocaust survivors. Men and women. Something about their voices hit me so hard. The voice still there, speaking on behalf of millions. The voice strong enough to speak up and remember the haunting memories. The killings. The families devoured by hate. It's a voice that usually hits me harder than an image. Just the rawness of it. The chords hitting the back of the throat. Abused almost. I'm stricken by there voices. I sat quietly and just listened. Making sure to hear the voices of the ones that got away. Each syllable. Each word.

Haunting. The portraits of families line a tunnel. Each so beautiful. Reminiscent of my own family portraits. Families skiing and families laughing and families singing and families smiling. I couldn't understand. They are there. They are fine in the pictures. Why didn't others see this? Why would anyone not understand the inhumanity behind the whole thing? Questions were stirring. Boys and girls staring back at me from the photographs. Their eyes so pure. Their innocence so evident. I can't understand. To let them die doesn't make sense. I felt so much pain, but nothing, nothing at all. I couldn't feel like they felt. Ever. And I don't even want to think about that. This uncomfortableness is real and raw. My heart stuck in a blender, feeling these feelings was so necessary. It stings and it's painful but that's why it's so important to see. So that nothing, nothing could cause something like this to happen again in human history.

Haunting. The shoes. They took my breath. Each shoe lying piled so high. The little girl's shoes shook me the hardest. Her slippers. Ones her mom gave her when she went off to first grade. The ones she would dance to in the kitchen while her mother made her favorite soup. Oh how hard it was to understand. Oh how much I wanted those shoes to be filled with feet. That the dying may not die. But it happened. And the shoes prove it. A quote lay above the shoes saying,

"We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses. We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers from Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam. And because we are only made of fabric and leather, and not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the Hellfire."

My heart couldn't take it. It was the shoes that pushed me over. I tried to hold onto strength and not give in to the tears. But they came. It was the shoes. The old grandfather's boots he wore at every family meal. The boots his granddaughter danced on when she was too small to stand on her own. I released anger and frustration in those tears. I saw the shoes, through my misty glaze, being worn by the ones that were now gone and I had to release something or I would of imploded, the pressure too much.

Haunting. I'll never forget the images in that exhibit. The lives lost. The heroes that tried to resist. The voices. The portraits. The shoes. The intensity of it all still gives me chills. The coldness runs down my spine and trickles at my toes. I want to forget, I do, but I know I can't. And I won't. For the sake of the children, I won't. For the sake the future of humanity, I won't. I'll continue the story and cry alongside you someday.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Washington, a glimpse

I have some photos to share. Sorry for the lack of updating lately. I've been entrenched with social activities surrounding the area and have been finding my footing. I am taking a vow now that I will update on a more regular basis. I have lots to share with so many good memories!

To run through the pipeline a few ones that stick out: Seeing the United States Constitution, attending an Appeals Court hearing, getting a run-down of future cases ACLU is going to take on, being a part of an Education Committee, having debates over political issues, running into fun people at random house parties, going biking on the Potomac River, taking a weekend to visit amazing best friends in LA, kayaking along the shores of Catalina Island, weekend getaway to NYC, random friends on subway rides, crepes with Jon and Madi and so much more. Lots to talk about. I'll update in future postings, for now, enjoy the pics! More to come!

Fletcher's Cove on the Potomac River. My getaway away from home.

A lot of thinking happens here.

The Potomac is absolutely gorgeous. I never expected Washington to look so green. Be so vibrant and have so many cool places so close to the city. I love it here!

I was caught in a horrific/wonderful rain storm. It soaked me to the bone. I forget how powerful mother nature can be.

A rainbow next to the Washington Monument. A sign from my mother as my Auntie Tracy would say.

Old Lincoln himself. He's so much larger than life. My jaw drops every time I step in his presence.

The beautiful Jefferson Memorial. Surrounded by beautiful green and blue.

Roosevelt Memorial. Went there again today. I loved his journey and story.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Places to Go in DC: Cactus Cantina

Cactus Cantina $$
3300 Wisconsin Ave, NW

After spotting this restaurant the first day I arrived, I knew this was going to be a delicious treat, and indeed it was.  The outside is southwestern 
meets old New England.  The brick contrasting the cactus-green and salmon-pink make the place
 instantly recognizable, that's if the huge crowds of people in the place don't catch your attention first.  The patio area is lovely, especially on a nice late-summer DC night.  I was able to venture out with a few fellow interns, who didn't realize the walk was as far as it was from our casa de Van Ness.  Although crowded, we were seated in less than 20 minutes.  We jam-packed two tables together on the patio to fit all of us, immediately receiving freshly fried tortilla chips and salsa.   The salsa was a bit sweet for my taste, with not enough spice, but it did the job to fill our hungry bellies.  The chips quenched my thirst, so I went after the half strawberry/half original margarita.  It beat the heat and gave my lips a good feeling.  For the main course, I ventured for their most requested menu item, fajitas!  They were perfectly cooked with all the right fix-ins and the tortillas were freshly rolled and grilled inside.  I also tried a tamale, that was a little bland in comparison to homemade ones I've had before. Overall, this place is a perfect gathering if you want something hip, good and Southwestern.  Next, I'd like to try the pizza place next door that I heard has the best brick-oven-baked pizza in DC.  Yummers.

A fellow intern, Kristin, and I digging into the chips and salsa

Getting over the old

This was written over a period of time. In my journal, the date last reads: September 25, 2009.

My lonely bed lies broken. The support strained from all the burden. The invisible rock crushing my bones, wet with blood. I fall beneath the pressure. I can't escape his gaze. The one with the sparkles. The wide-eyed kisses. The ones I dream about. It's too much to handle and he's over it. But this is about me. This is my journey. Mine to explore and do. Wanting things and getting them. Stop the intensity. Stop the addiction, the constant checking-up and prodding to get attention. He's stopped responding. He's moving on. His kisses lie as memories now, as wetness now dry. Get over him. He's over you. He never really needed you. He didn't know who you were to him. It was trivial. I guess he's ready to let his wall down. I guess. I won't be there to see it but it'll happen. He's already done more than me.

But stop it! This is your life. Get over it. Stop the comparisons. The monotony. It's dragging you beneath the surface and you are ready to fly. Live YOUR life. What are you passionate about? Spill it on your feet, make the guts fall on your shoelaces. Let the drippings manifest themselves into the seeps of the sidewalk, planting the seeds of the future. Just do it. No more fear. No regrets. The sky is the limit. Open your wings.

Well, that's what I'm told, right? But in the meantime, I'm just getting by. Afraid of being crushed by the man, I'm unwilling to negotiate the cause. Stuck as it seems in the marrow of time. Lost within the two streets I need to arrive upon. Catch the bus and swallow the pill. Make reality real. Stop pretending and just do!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First day at work

August 24, 2009

I enter 1400 20th Avenue.  Home of my work place.   It's called The Bristol apartment building with a few office rooms located on the first floor (I wasn't expecting much but an apartment building threw me off a bit for work, I won't lie). I asked the nice man at the reception desk the way to ACLU, "I'm a new intern there".  He smiled and told me the directions.  I am up the stairs and the last door at the end of the hall to my left.  It seems the first walk towards a new destination, a new work place, is always the longest.  I stare at each minute detail on the walls: freckles of paint on the door ways, neighboring room numbers, shifted carpet designs, thinking about what if they'll like me, what if they don't, How will my first hand shake be, questions racing through my mind, each step evoking newness, each step provoking an idea, making the hall stretch long and far, as if I was walking for miles.  I finally reach it, my destination, room 117, home of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Now I've never really had high expectations for my internship.  It was an almost last minute decision made because going to Asia to teach English didn't follow the timeline I had expected.  I've always heard of ACLU through newspapers, articles bashing them or articles thanking them, it always seems to be here or there, never in between.  When I got a call from them, I really wasn't sure whether they were right for me to intern at.  I mean, I don't know very much about law and I realize their issues spring far towards the left but what intrigued me was its newness and passion.  I have strong interests in civil liberties, civil rights, and government check and balances.  The internship provided challenges I had yet to face in my undergraduate yet utilized my social justice work.  In the end, I found that the internship could provide an environment in which to grow, where my own biases on issues could be challenged, and my values reevaluated, questioning myself as an individual with freedoms, wanting to discover new things about myself.  I stepped up to the challenge, up to the plate, and am taking a swing.

I enter room 117.  Slowly turning the knob, it opens easily.  I see several people bustling about, the environment too much for me to take in at first.  Posters of human experiences, white cubicles, brown hand-me-down desks and chairs, stacks and stacks of paper, pride flags, 'Statehood Now' banners, filing cabinets, bumper stickers....I realized at this moment, I am now here, no turning back, despite the overwhelming feeling I had to run from this chaotic office, I knew I was there to stay.  

The volunteer at the front desk, I see first, announcing my self as the "new intern".  Sitting next to her was another intern, Adam.  Slightly shorter than me, Jewish-looking and slim, I could tell his first day was today as well, for he wore a suit similar to me, except slightly less color-coordinated.  He seemed very nice and nervous as well.  We both waited patiently for an introduction of some kind to the office.  I had been talking with a gentleman named Don Haines, I asked for him and out he popped in the cubicle right in front of me.  He was plump and welcoming.  After waiting for several minutes, unsure of what to do next, I saw a woman frantically going about the office printing off various papers. She eventually introduced herself, loads of papers in her hands, "Hi, I'm Beverly."  Her face gave a smile that seemed appropriate for the situation, quaint and direct.  She led us to the conference room.  

From here on, everything gets a little mundane.  Basic first-day stuff at work I suppose.  We went over the ACLU, what it does, how it differs being that it's the DC ACLU, etc.  I learned my correct title is now "legal assistant".  It sounds more official and special, although I'm still required to do the clerical work around the office.  Beverly and Don, my main supervisors, are welcoming, definite characters.  Beverly is strict and always busy while Don is long-winded, cracking jokes here and there, and a definite stickler when it comes to answering the phone correctly.  There are other people around the office, the director, Johnny, 2 law fellows, a paralegal and volunteer lawyers that have yet to come back from vacationing. I can tell lots of learning will take place here, well I hope it will.  My mind is open to new experiences and new challenges, the first day representing such things in store.  

Places to Go in DC: Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl $
1213 U Street, NW

This lunch counter and late-night hangout is home to the delicious "half-smoke" chili-covered sausage. I came here late night after some bar-hopping and found the experience quite overwhelming, in a good way.  The crowd was out the door, so I squeezed on into the madness and eventually ordered my food, a traditional chili dog and chips.  It came out hot and the cheese was oozing onto my fingers.  I noticed in the back a sign which read, "Bill Cosby eats free.  And Obama BUT HE PAID!".  You gotta love a place like this.  The bustling lovers of late night eats with no-crap-taking employees that will tell you how it is.  Cultures mixing all for the love of good food. I found myself a slab of counter and started digging in.  The dog was perfectly cooked with a rich smokey flavor and the chili was everything you could ask for.  I used the chips to clean up my spills of chili on the plate.  A perfect DC meal.