Virginia – Days 3-4: Washington D.C.: Monuments, Museums, and Misadventures

Brittany Swanson   November 28, 2015   Comments Off on Virginia – Days 3-4: Washington D.C.: Monuments, Museums, and Misadventures

I started day three in Virginia working on getting caught up on the blog. Then Meghan and I went in to Washington D.C..

In D.C. we visited the monuments and memorials. We started with the Washington Monument, then we wandered to Meghan’s favorite tree in D.C.. Next we stopped by the World War II Memorial and took a few minutes to hang out by the reflection pool. We walked up and visited the Lincoln Memorial and then went to the Korean War Memorial and finally stopped by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

I can't actually handle the face I'm making in this picture... Washington Monument, Washington D.C..

I can’t actually handle the face I’m making in this picture… Washington Monument, Washington D.C..

Stanley met up with us after he got off work and the three of us went to the Renwick Gallery where they have a bunch of installation art pieces up right now. Probably the most thought-provoking piece was In the Midnight Garden, by Jennifer Angus. It was a whole room of different bugs pinned to the pink walls in different designs. Fun fact: the pink wash on the walls was created using a bug. Another unique thing about this piece was that some of the bugs had words etched onto them using a laser. We had to get really close to see the words and had we not already known they were there we, like most people, probably wouldn’t have noticed they were there at all.

In the Midnight Garden, Jennifer Angus, 2015, Renwick Gallery, Washington D.C..

In the Midnight Garden, Jennifer Angus, 2015, Renwick Gallery, Washington D.C..

Stanley’s brother Alex met up with us at Renwick and we decided to go get Ethiopian food for dinner since I’d never had it. Meghan tried to describe Ethiopian food to me, but the best she could come up with was it’s “mushy food that you eat with sour mushy bread.” Not the most appealing description, but generally I trust Meghan’s taste, so I agreed to try it despite her description.

For the record, Ethiopian food is really good! We went to this place called Keren in D.C. and the food was excellent! So excellent, that apparently I didn’t get a picture of it, because I was too busy eating and enjoying it. Whoops.

After dinner we went across the street to a bakery called The CakeRoom where we shared an apple bar with brown butter, and a nutella cheesecake. Oh. My. Yum! The cheesecake was insanely good and in comparison the apple bar was only ok, though I’m sure it was fine in its own right.

I had a very hard time concentrating in the CakeRoom because our group was having an interesting discussion about politics while another group in the room was having an equally interesting discussion about culture. At first I unintentionally eavesdropped on the other group’s conversation but then I found their conversation so interesting that I found myself trying to split my focus and listen to both conversations at the same time.

From what I gathered, two of the three late-twenty-something to early-thirty-something women in the other group were from India. At least one of them was a surgical resident (hello Grey’s Anatomy in real life!). They were talking for a bit about the difference between American family culture and Indian family culture and it was really fascinating. During the conversation the surgical resident said, “yeah, when my mom had me she just rested and recovered from giving birth for a while and my grandmother did everything to take care of me while she recuperated, but here [in America] everyone is on their own in these little isolated pockets, it’s crazy.” It was really interesting to think about cultural differences and how people from outside the U.S. living here experience those differences. Had I been alone I might have gone over and introduced myself so I could have possibly engaged in their conversation rather than being such a creeper and eavesdropping, but oh well.

On day four in Virginia Megz and I went to visit her younger brother Brian at school because he had her computer charger and she needed it. Brian goes to Metropolitan School of the Arts which is housed at the Workhouse Arts Center. We caught him on his lunch break and he showed us around his school and gave Meghan back her charger. When Brian went back to classes Meghan and I decided to wander around the rest of the Workhouse Arts Center. Meghan told me the facilities used to be a jail and in our wanderings we soon came upon the Workhouse Prison Museum.

In the museum we learned that the Lorton Reformatory or Occoquan Workhouse, as it was known when it was a prison, was for low level criminals. The hope was that hard work and fresh air would set the prisoners straight. What Meghan and I found particularly interesting though, was the exhibit about female suffragists. Apparently a group of female suffragists had been protesting outside the White House and were arrested and sent to Occoquan in 1917. When they arrived at the workhouse a few of them went on hunger strikes and the guards force fed them. One woman refused to open her mouth, so they shoved the feeding tube up her nose… The women were also beaten and otherwise manhandled. Word about the deplorable conditions and mistreatment of the women spread and helped spark sympathy for the suffrage movement. The women’s imprisonment brought so much attention to the suffragist movement that it was a possible turning point in favor of the ratification of the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Cool.

In addition to Brian’s school and the prison museum, the Arts Center also houses studio spaces for different artists. Each discipline has their own area and each area has a front section where the artists’ works are on display and a back section where the artists work. Megz and I checked out the glass, ceramics, painting, and fiber arts sections. First we viewed the art on display in the front and then we went in the back and explored the studio spaces. The Arts Center also hosts classes and we walked in on a pottery class. I really wish I lived in this area so I could take all the classes at the Arts Center or better yet become an intern or something so I could spend all my time there and take classes for free. It was so neat.

Meghan had to go to work so I went in to D.C. to meet Stanley at NPR’s All Crafts Considered. It was pretty cool. We got to try a few samples of things, some chocolate and some lotion. They had really beautiful handmade crafts but everything was pretty expensive. It was really a fun experience though.

Really delicious chocolate we sampled at NPR's All Crafts Considered, Washington D.C..

Really delicious chocolate we sampled at NPR’s All Crafts Considered, Washington D.C..

On my way back to Stanley’s the funniest thing happened. So Stanley had given me a Metro card to use because he had been biking to work. The Metro card had something like $400 on it. I went to get on the Metro, and swiped the card and it didn’t work. I tried again. It still didn’t work. I tried again. And again. No luck. So I switched turnstiles and tried again. Nothing. Maybe I wasn’t swiping it right? I tried again. And again. Still nothing, so I switched turnstiles again. Nope. Seriously? One more time for good measure? Nothing. So I finally went to talk to the man in the booth, who told me to wait a minute while he finished filling out paperwork…

So I waited and eventually he took my card and scanned it and it beeped at him and I was starting to freak out that I’d somehow broken Stanley’s $400 Metro card and lost all his money. The guy came back to the window and was trying to tell me something, but it was loud and I couldn’t hear him. He gave me back the card so I went back to the turnstiles and tried again. Still nothing. Swiped again. Nothing. Switched turnstiles again. What. The. Heck?! I was just about to go buy a new card when I decided to look at the card. I looked at it and I laughed.

Wow. It’s no wonder the card wasn’t working. I’d blindly pulled the card out of my wallet from in my pocket, but the Charlie Card from Boston was in the next slot down from the Metro card, so I’d grabbed that instead. I’d been trying to use the Boston Charlie Card to get on the D.C. Metro for five minutes. Embarrassing… I switched cards and had no problem getting through the turnstile with the D.C. Metro card.

Have no fear my friends the awkwardity of the evening did not end there. I saw a train as I walked up, but I wasn’t sure if it was mine because I thought it was labelled I. Turns out, what I thought was an I was a yellow line, which is exactly what I wanted. Oh well, I took out my Kindle, continued reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and waited for the next train to come. When the train arrived I found a seat on the aisle and went back to reading my book. I was so engrossed in my book I only peripherally noticed the dog get on the train and was completely oblivious to the lady with the dog until the lady next to me, who had just sat down, loudly said “She needs your seat!” At which point I leapt out of my seat and proceeded to stand for the rest of the trip. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the lady who needed my seat was blind. The dog was her seeing eye dog. Yep, I’m that jerk, so oblivious and in my own world that I don’t offer up my seat to a blind woman on a train until someone yells at me to. So awkward. Though, to be fair, there were plenty of other people who were less oblivious than I was that totally could’ve offered up their seats and didn’t, so I don’t feel completely terrible.