Menno in the Metro

A Mennonite college student interning at a small newspaper in DC, what?

A farewell to D.C.

It’s been about a week and a half since I left the wonderful place in which I spent my summer days.  When I left, I was whisked off immediately to spend time with my family visiting relatives in Pennsylvania and Ohio for about a week. Soaking in the simplicity of Amish Country, I loved the contrast I was experiencing between there and the capital city.

And now I am back in Florida, smiling at old pictures and recalling adventures. I guess this is the wrap-up of my blog, which is basically going to end up being a mesh of pictures and little stories that I felt had no category to go into any earlier posts. A misfit blog post.

Let’s start with my feet, which were abused so much this summer.

D.C. involves a ton of walking. I didn’t have a car at my disposal, so it was a 0.7 mile walk to the metro station several times a day for me. It really took a toll on my feet, and I got so many bad blisters. This is also due to the fact that I refuse to wear anything but flip-flops… but hey, I’m from Florida, people accepted it.

Sorry if you are grossed out. Nah, I’m not that sorry. I talk about my feet to a lot of my friends.

Here are some metro pictures. We had sort of a love/hate relationship. In the end though, I say I will miss the handy transportation system that sometimes failed me.

A crowded metro station– won’t miss this.

Mariko and the crowded metro– I’ve squeezed into a couple of these!

Waiting on the metro.

So if I wasn’t killing my feet enough from all of the walking, I also tried to go running a couple times a week. It was actually really relaxing for me!

This is the bridge that was usually involved in my jogging route. Some of my close friends know I have a thing about running over bridges. It’s nice. This one happened to smell like garbage every time I went over it, which really was pleasant as I was gasping for air. But like most annoying things in life, it grew on me and now I am all sentimental over it.

The rest of my run usually consisted of going up another (long) hill, which basically made me want to die every time. Then I would go through Catholic University of America, which is really beautiful, just how I pictured a northern university to be. You know, brick and stone buildings, statues of saints.

On one run, right as I got over that dreadful hill, I saw one of the coolest sights of the summer. In a randomly placed field adjacent to the sidewalk I was on, I suddenly saw two live deer, staring back at me. It was just amazing. We were practically in the middle of the city. And at that point, it had been a long time since I had seen any wildlife. God has a way of showing me His glory in a whirlwind of busy-ness.

Speaking of God’s glory, He really blessed my summer in D.C. by leading me to a great church called Capitol Hill Baptist.

It helped keep me grounded in what was sort of a surreal environment for me, living in the city. With solid teachings, faithful and caring members, and an Intern Bible study that helped me meet so many diverse yet like-minded friends, I am overwhelmed when I think back about the impact God had on me this summer through this church! I would definitely recommend stopping by if you are ever in the area.

Here are some of my church friends– I can’t believe this is literally the only picture I have!

In this picture we are about to see an outdoor screening of a movie…I loved doing this, and I ended up going to three outdoor movies in different D.C. locations during my stay! (1. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? 2. All the President’s Men 3. It Happened One Night)

And some other things…

Well, I did a considerable amount of sight-seeing. Spread out between a couple of Saturdays, I toured the monuments at the National Mall, ate Chinese food in Chinatown, strolled through the National Zoo and went to the Holocaust Museum with my dear intern friend Faithful.

We had so many good times! And the best part is, though I just met her this summer, she actually goes to my school! So I’ll be seeing her again soon.

My last week in D.C. was pretty hectic as I tried to wrap up about eight different articles for work, while also still making the most of the city and attempting to squeeze in fun activities/saying bye to friends (aka a non-fun activity).

A run through:

I went to around seven different Farmers’ Markets in the D.C. area for an article I was writing on the markets.

Went on a boat tour of the Potomac River one night with five of my housemates.

(This was also the time we got up the metro escalator to see  our train home there across the station, and wasn’t coming again for another 20 minutes, so we literally ran through the station to barely make it into the train’s closing doors. Talk about adrenaline.)

I’ll never tire of seeing this.

I took my family to Sprinkles Cupcakes, right down the road from (and honestly better than) Georgetown Cupcakes. The sisters were happy.

And those are some of the things I did this summer. Thanks to my faithful following, or just not-so-faithful readers that stumbled upon this, for giving it a look. I really had an amazing summer and wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Charmaine

The random shenanigans associated with intern life

I am serious about my internship, really. I just happen to have too much fun whilst also being serious. I love my internship because I get to be a journalist. I love writing, editing, interviewing, even trying my hand at layout. But I also really just like my fellow interns.

There are seven interns including myself. We can get a little crazy. For example, one day when four or five of us were in the office at the same time, we suddenly obsessed over finding a highly sought-after food truck that serves waffles. We stalked the waffle truck’s Twitter, we called, we emailed, we tweeted. Anything to find the location of the fluffy goodness. We were entirely consumed by waffles for about an hour.

In what seemed to be a painstakingly long week of waiting, the waffle truck finally made it to our neighborhood. It was a glorious encounter. Hopefully not the last.

Chris was going to have a heart attack.

Unfortunately, the waffle truck will not hold the near and dear place in my heart that is reserved for the first food truck I visited. I was introduced to the wonderment that is food trucks in Franklin Square, while meeting my fellow intern Mariko for lunch. Food trucks are kind of just like fair food. But more fun because they’re in the middle of the city.

We went to a Mediterranean truck and got some fabulous chicken and rice.

Us interns also do fun things like go to Nationals baseball games together. It was me, Mariko, Mariko’s boyfriend Ryan and Brian enjoying a game on a sultry Thursday evening a few weeks back. It was so much fun. Mariko and I were giving Brian a hard time, as usual.

Does this look like too much play, no work? Well I have graciously provided to you some evidence of us at work. The first photos you see here were taken around 7:30 a.m., after we stood in an assembly line of Street Sense vendors to pile the bundles of the new issue into our storage room. With about 20 hands helping, we got the papers stacked in no more than 15 minutes.

And here’s me with a pair of vendors, Jeffrey and Paul. If it looks posed, it’s because it is. But that’s basically what I do here anyway.

But my favorite photos out of all our intern excursions probably have to be from the waffle night we had at Brian’s house Thursday. Yes, we came up with the idea for a waffle night that day we were in our crazed state of waffle-hysteria. And it actually happened. Hooray for the most random social gatherings.

Brian and his housemates have a trampoline. Us girls were giddy as we sent each other flying through the air on this thing!

Blurry but awesome action shot.

Awww!

So there you have it. Shout out to Faithful, Mariko, Natalie, Lauren, Brian and Chris, my awesome co-interns.

A delayed account of a sweltering camping trip

A couple of weekends ago, my housemates and I journeyed to West Virginia for a few days to relish in the great outdoors. We were in a cabin, so some people would not call it camping. I would simply argue that it was camping, it just wasn’t as intense. (Get it, in-tents? Haha…)

The weekend again reached record-breaking temperature highs, and in a cabin with no A/C, it was quite a challenge. Most of the time, we just ended up melting in the living room and doing things like this:

AKA acting silly.

A real highlight was hiking to a waterfall on Saturday. It was a hot, grueling time getting to the spot, but so rewarding when we finally got to dip into the refreshing waters. Some people even sat under the waterfall and just let it soak them.

A rather unfortunate encounter happened as one of my housemates was leaving the falls. He decided to deliver a large, frozen water bottle to my other housemate via the method of throwing. The housemate on the receiving end didn’t catch it, and I was obliviously positioned right behind her, taking in the natures. I got socked. Right under the collar bone on my chest. It hurt, gave me a mean-looking rainbow bruise after. But hey, who else can really say they had a block of ice chucked at them? I’m all for the new experiences during my summer of adventure.

Hiking back to a stifling cabin was not the best, but we made the most of it. I was surprised that complaining was very minimal the entire weekend. With nothing but board games and each other to keep us entertained, we busied ourselves by playing Scrabble, Bananagrams, Dutch Blitz, Frisbee, soccer, Pictionary. We also played the most hardcore version of Fishbowl I’ve ever experienced. Several of the athlete housemates were super competitive, yelling in peoples faces and whatnot. It was really entertaining.

We also participated in some typical camping activities. We made hobo meals over a bonfire. S’mores came shortly after that. There was singing and ghost-story telling. And some good old-fashioned gossip with the girls.

Also interesting, but maybe not so conventional: my housemates Jordan, Greg, Erica, Leah and I decided Saturday night when it got completely dark to visit a nearby grave yard. I volunteered to go, because again, I’m all about the new experiences. I almost immediately regretted it. We walked only by the light of Greg’s phone, and I kept psyching myself out and thinking murderers were going to pop out of the bushes somewhere. When we got to the graveyard, I was looking over my shoulder every ten seconds. Looking back on the experience alive and well, I’d say I’m glad I went. But it was a bit scary!

It was a good weekend to just get away from the busy-ness of the city. We tend to compartmentalize and sort of make our lives into a bubble, but it is always a good reminder to know that there are different lifestyles and environments outside of our own experiences at the time.

And… here’s a few photos of me and my housemates during the trip!

 

Stars and Stripes

Spending the fourth in our nation’s capital is really what it is cracked up to be: wonderful, unforgettable, amazing. I didn’t have high expectations at all though, because I knew it was going to be a hot day and I had made a bunch of amorphous plans with people that I didn’t actually expect to transpire. But they did.

I started the day at the National Mall, navigating the streets to the Smithsonians right as the parade was going on. It was a cool thing to catch sight of. I met up with two friends from church and we passed out fliers and told people about Jesus. It was difficult for me, but rewarding too. We stopped around 2 p.m. By then, the frozen water  bottle I had brought with me was completely thawed out, filled with warm water. ‘Twas blistering hot out.

Then I met up with a large group (maybe ten of us) of friends from my intern Bible study at Capitol Hill Baptist. We just explored the Smithsonian Folklife festival and finally settled under a tent. Everyone in the group is so nice, I had some really good conversations over a much-needed but overpriced sweet tea.

Then I headed to a party hosted by another friend from church, in her house which is a couple blocks from the Capitol building. Again, really great conversations were had. More sweet tea was consumed, far better priced (free!). I then headed to the concert at the Capitol to find friends from my internship, but it was extremely crowded and we couldn’t find each other.

I found a grassy area away from all of the people and just lay there for a couple of songs. It was so relaxing, after a day full of walking and sweating. I got up and made my way to the metro just as the fireworks were starting, determined to beat the metro crowds and actually get home by a decent hour. The fireworks, which I saw on my walk back, were beautiful!

I got home by 11 p.m. after a full, satisfying day. I was amazed that I actually met up with most of the friends I made shaky plans with! I ended the night laughing with some of my housemates in the kitchen as I made my first pitcher of sweet tea ever. And it was good!

Where are the pictures of this amazing day, you ask? Sigh. I actually didn’t get around to taking any. But that’s alright. My philosophy is sometimes it’s best not to take photos. That I was having such a great time that I didn’t even think of pulling out my camera.

What a great day. Go America.

Felled trees, clogged toilets and other misfortunes of group living

So the past two weeks have been a little bumpy. Don’t get me wrong, my time here in general has been awesome. But it was inevitable for a couple things to go wrong…

We had our first majorly clogged toilet the other day. Even Erica, who has been recognized as a sort of toilet-plunging master, was unable to fix that mess. So it sat there for a couple days until one of our house directors fixed it. Yummy.

We’ve also been having less-than-desirable weather up here recently. Almost every day this week was scorching hot, reaching into the high 90s. Yesterday, with a high of 104 degrees, was the hottest June day in D.C. history, according to the Washington Post.

And the storms seem to like us. The last two Fridays, our area has been tussled around by heavy rains and lightning. The power went out all around us, some stoplights and the metro went kaput. A huge branch fell in our alley, blocking it completely.

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We didn’t get the worst of it, just some flickering lights and an AC that decided to stop on us for a while. Some of the housemates and I sat in the living room with the lights off, watching the storm and telling scary stories.

And while we are practically hand-holding and making friendship bracelets most of the time in the house, I will say tensions rose a little in recent days. Let’s just say I happened to be in the kitchen when a certain shouting match between two housemates broke out. I was making brownies and cleaning, pretty standard fare for me.

But you take the good and the bad I guess. No group of people is perfect—you find that out especially when you live with them.  

 

The Day I Met a Local Legend

Last week when I came into the office, my editor let me know that a homeless man who had come in earlier today was going to drop by again. He had a lot to say, so I was to listen and ask questions, maybe come up with a profile or feature to write on him.

I am always excited to receive a new assignment. When the man came in, he wrapped my hand in a warm shake and introduced himself as Terry Huff. I led him into the conference room, where we ended up talking for three hours. Well, it was mostly Huff doing the talking. But he has a really interesting story:

Huff caught a break in the music business at 13.  Joining his brother Andrew in an R&B act called Andy and the Marglows, Huff’s sweet tenor voice helped send “Just One Look” to the pop charts. It was a short-lived glory.

Andy and the Marglows (Terry Huff is on the top left)

Doris Troy came out with her version of the song two weeks later, creating a hit in the soul market and crushing Andy and the Marglows. Their label dropped them shortly after.

Huff glided through his teen years with a couple of odd jobs, then joined the police force. He became D.C.’s youngest celebrated detective at 22. But he couldn’t get his mind off music. He quit the force to study music at Catholic University of America. In 1976, Terry Huff and Special Delivery released “I Destroyed Your Love.”

And “Lonely One”

Huff was thrown out of the group just before the record was released. He was left without the money to perform or make any more records.

“It beat me up to continue pursuing music,” Huff said.

After gaining some footing in selling insurance, Huff was able to move to Los Angeles for what would be his final try at music. He was offered a record deal with Warner Brothers, Huff said, but then two of his brothers got shot back in D.C. One died, the other, Andrew from Andy and the Marglows, survived. And a sister Huff was especially close to passed away. He raced back home to D.C. By then it was 1983 and he was in his thirties.

Huff has since been living in D.C., a man of conviction trying to make sense of the senseless violence he witnesses around him all the time. He enjoys rationalizing through economic models. After years of consideration, Huff said he has come up with an incremental pay system to lift people out of poverty. He wants to end homeless indignity.

The soul legend has experienced more than his share of indignity.  He’s shacking up in what will now be his third homeless shelter. He spends a lot of time reading newspapers, tweaking his pay system plan, trying to get people to listen. The shelter wakes Huff and the other men up at 6 a.m., sending them out to the streets with some oranges. They only return for a bed, a cold shower. Huff said some of the guys in the shelter get violent. If you carry with you anything valuable, it’s going to get stolen. That’s how Huff lost a laptop.

But he hasn’t given up. Huff is an idealist, who has become stronger through his painfully real experiences. He is a passionate man, a religious man, one who has known fame and destitution alike. He has had plenty of doors slammed in his face, but he  remains enthusiastic about getting his plan for a pay system out. He hopes the economic opportunity he presents can eliminate a lot of the injustice in the world.

“Man has yet to love another man simply for being a human being,” Huff told me numerous times. I had to agree.

City Paper’s front cover, June 25, 2010

Washington City Paper wrote a feature on Huff in 2010. The front cover labels him as a lost soul. But I think the soul legend still got some soul. Who else can go from catching a glimpse of fame to the humble streets of D.C.?

He told me he was turning 65 “in a minute”, so I glanced at my watch and said, “Oh, we better get started on your cake then!” He flashed me his signature grin. I guess he meant more along the lines of October. Huff is pictured below, unfortunately without the remarkable smile. But you can see he’s smiling with his eyes.

Terry Huff on the day I interviewed him

Good days

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Today is a day that I really just love D.C. Sometimes the city makes me feel small and forgotten. Sometimes all I can see is cement and trash and cold stares, and then I wonder what a simple girl like myself is doing here.

But the other days make it all worth it, days like today. I got on the metro during morning rush hour and there was a father singing to his three-year-old son in Spanish. An orthodox Jewish man shared a newspaper with a black man. Another man gave up his seat for an older woman who was holding on to a bar.

And when I made it above ground and started to walk the two blocks to my office, a woman stopped me and asked directions. This is perhaps one of the greatest joys of a D.C. intern: passing off as a native. We all spend way too much time acting like we belong, so it’s nice to have someone else play into that illusion.

Of course I had to tell her that no, I didn’t know where the Ronald Reagan building was, but I still felt puffed up from that. And as if that wasn’t enough, my adrenaline skyrocketed when I came into the office. One of the vendors had written some information about a story idea on the inside cover of a book and read it off to me.

There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a transitional living house happening in 15 minutes. I bolted for the metro. Feeling like a bada** journalist. A bada** Mennonite journalist.

I was ecstatic to ride the green line to the event. I’ve never ridden the green line. It was a long ride. When I finally got off at the Naylor Rd station, I had quite a bit of walking to do still. I actually walked from Maryland into the District.

Doesn’t that sound far?

I got there in just enough time to snap a picture of the ribbon-cutting. Then the madness. There was a swarm of people there, and I was a little bit intimidated. I didn’t know who to talk to. And I didn’t have my press badge yet either, so no one would’ve known who I was either. Finally, I just told myself to own it! I mean, I got all the way here by myself. Surely I could act like I knew what I was doing.

I ended up talking to a lot of people there, all of them really friendly. I got more than I needed. Feeling confident, I made my way back to the metro station where I rode back to my office. This is where I do something embarrassing, like slide down half a flight of stairs on the way to the metro, right? Wrong! That was a different day. But today is my good day.

When I came into the office I got another story assignment (always good.) Then Faithful, another intern, brought in one of her sources to interview in the conference room. Guess who she was interviewing? A guy who walked from Nevada to D.C.! His Congressmen wouldn’t talk to him on the phone, so he decided to come here himself. Faithful let us meet this guy. This is the link to the story Faithful ended up writing: http://streetsense.org/2012/07/man-marches-2800-miles-for-homeless-veterans/

Flavor Flav

Now that I posted about grocery shopping, I should probably let you know how my house eats. In short, we eat a lot. We have quite a few athletes in the house, and they have pretty large appetites. But something that would most characterize our eating habits as a house would be our love for breakfast food.

I was shocked and amazed the first week when every morning I woke up and found at least one of my housemates cooking a full breakfast—eggs, bacon, toast, sausage links—for themselves. Even when internships started, the bacon kept frying and the eggs kept cracking. I’ve never had the time or made the time to make myself a breakfast like that. Back in Gainesville, my roommate makes fun of me for being sort of a cereal fiend.

For the first few weeks, I stuck to my cereal. Maybe poured myself a glass of orange juice if I felt compelled. Then on my day off, I decided to go for it and make a hot breakfast. I made scrambled eggs and bacon. I never make bacon. I didn’t even like it until that sweet smell started hanging around the house all the time. I thought I’d give it a try.

And I did alright! I hate when bacon is too crispy, but somehow on my first bacon-frying try it ended up chewy, which I must say was pretty good. Here’s some pictures of a scene I might regularly come downstairs to in the morning:

And since the house loves breakfast so much, for my first dinner I had to make, my partner and I decided to make breakfast for dinner. Each night, two housemates cook dinner for all 14 of us. It’s really nice to come home after a long day of interning and have food ready shortly after. It’s daunting to come home after a long day of interning and cook for 14.

But the first dinner I cooked was on a Sunday, so it was more relaxed. My housemate, Nardos, and I worked on some seasoned breakfast potatoes together. I had never made those, and I don’t think she had either, but we just sort of winged it. Then she fried some sausage links and I made pancakes. Oh, how I love to make pancakes. I made plain, chocolate chip, and a special order of cinnamon pancakes for my housemate Nora. I chopped up strawberries and paired that with a can of whipped cream for pancake-eaters like me. (So delicious)

The cooking took longer than I thought, and dinner was set out 45 minutes after it should have been. My housemates dug in. They said they loved it! Especially the potatoes.

We have had plenty of good meals in the house. Usually, I try to stake a claim on leftovers to bring into the office for my lunch the next day. We almost eat too well. Several nights a week we have some sort of dessert. Cake, cookies, brownies. I must say I am really grateful, because I have a nagging sweet tooth. I mean, when I first arrived at the house, I was thinking to myself, Imma hafta get some Oreos to keep mah blood sugar up! But no, no need for Oreos anymore.

It is a rare occasion that the dinner served does not compel me to get a second helping, but it does happen. We’re still learning this cooking business. We’re getting to know the preferences of our housemates. For example, basically the whole house knows that I despise sour cream, cream cheese, that sort of stuff. Courtney loves her coffee. Jordan eats cake in a bowl of milk. Heather tones down a spicy bowl of chili with a dab of peanut butter.

I am relieved to say that none of us have made a cooking mistake as egregious as one of the most notorious characters on reality television has. Her name is Hottie, and she appears on the first season of the ever-so-classy dating show Flavor of Love, which aired in 2006.

Hottie is a mess. In one competition, each girl is tasked with cooking a whole chicken for Flav, the man they are trying to win over, to taste. As you can see in the video clip, Hottie puts her chicken in the MICROWAVE. Oh hey, it’s healthier without all that cooking oil and whatnot.

Ok, so I saw that the video I tried to put in is disabled. But click the “Watch on YouTube” link, trust me, it’s worth it!

Shopping

It’s been a couple of days, but I’ll recap on some of the main events.

So when you hear about what I’m experiencing here in the capital city– living with 13 other college students in a Mennonite house– maybe a certain image comes to mind. Maybe a certain sort of reality show image.

I don’t know why they haven’t made a reality show about us yet, probably because we get along so well. But I could just imagine: The Real Mennonites of DC. Mennonite Shore even.

Our first bonding activity when everyone arrived at the house on Sunday was going grocery shopping together. We ended up getting at least four shopping carts piled full of food. This experience reminded me of one of my favorite reality show episodes from Amish in the City.

Amish in the City is probably one of the most interesting and yet underrated reality shows to grace TV screens. You know, exploiting Amish young adults during their Rumspringas by letting them loose in the “world”. The show only aired for one season.

I’ve included a clip from the shopping trip on the show. A non-Amish girl is accompanied by two of her Amish housemates. My favorite is Mose. Quite the character, I love his thick Amish accent. As you can see in the clip, he tries to be accommodating to everyone else. It’s just fun to watch.

Some other activities we’ve done as a group these first couple of days: a city scavenger hunt, canoeing the Anacostia River, getting better acquainted with our “Little Rome” neighborhood, cooking meals together. It’s been great, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my housemates. Hopefully I’ll have more photos to post soon!

On the first day

Yesterday I was riding the Disney monorail with six of my college girlfriends. Today I rode the DC Metro all by my lonesome.

So yes, maybe I’m trying to play up the drama, but this was a scary deal for me. I flew into DC early this morning and sat in the airport outside this metro station, just staring at it for a while. My program director, Kimberly, had given me clear directions to get to the stop where she’d pick me up. But those directions included a transfer. And I had on me a small suitcase, a very pregnant-looking duffel bag and an overstuffed backpack. I knew that even if I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, that image would be ruined by me bumbling through the subway with my baggage. And that’s the light version of what I wanted to bring—you should see the piles of things I had leave at home.

But by some miracle I made it.

And now I find myself in a house of thirteen other college students, most from Eastern Mennonite University. I learned today that only three of us, myself included, are actually Mennonite. I think my Gainesville friends would find that pretty funny, considering how much I talked up living with all these Mennonite folks. Oh well. All of my housemates are really cool.

We’re going to do more exploring of the city this week, so I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on my adventures.

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