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.