Land of the Free… Museums

Phew! So much to catch up on!

The bowling on Friday was good and bad. Good in that I had a chance to meet more people, especially interns (one of whom it turns out also received a DAAD Scholarship, interestingly). It was bad in that I shamed myself thoroughly because oh my God I suck at bowling. I made sure to warn the people on my team, and they, of course, were nice and shrugged it off because hey, it’s about team building, right? But by the end of the game I think many of them were a bit flabbergasted how someone can be so poorly coordinated. Unsurprisingly, I slipped away after the first game and found new people to talk to.

After bowling I had a bit of time to spare before other people got back from their internships and I didn’t want to just hang out in the apartment alone, so I decided to go see the Library of Congress.

Did you know: "Hall o' Madison" is not the proper name for this room.

I first went into the Madison Building (there are three buildings if you didn’t know – I didn’t) which isn’t very pretty from the outside (picture) and does little to redeem itself inside. I just wandered around the halls, which looked uncomfortably like a high school’s (wide, linoleum, fluorescent lighting, off-white walls) but I suppose it’s possible behind some of the doors lies untold splendors. They do have a hall o’ Madison which was kinda nice. It’s a room with a statue of James Madison and some of his quotes (well, I assumed they were his quotes).

After briefly exploring the Madison building I migrated to the main Library of Congress. It made up nicely for the spartan Madison building.

Actually, that doesn’t quite do it justice. The Library of Congress is BEAUTIFUL. I had no idea what it was like inside, but it was essentially my heaven. Standing in the Great Hall, there is so much to look at – columns and arches and walls full of paintings of figures whom you wish you could think of their name because you would feel smarter. They also had some awesome exhibits on topics like the early Americas (meaning, Mayan culture and things of that nature), colonial times, and the role political satire has played in American history. I was impressed at the quality of the exhibits – they were as good as you would find in a Smithsonian museum.

My favorite display was Thomas Jefferson’s library. Essentially they have recreated his entire collection of books (which he sold to the Library of Congress to start its collection) using the original books that he owned or identical copies from other sources that the library has acquired to reconstruct the collection. It was such a fascinating insight into the mind of one of the founding fathers and the kind of literature that was prized then. I would have given anything to have been able to pull books off the shelves and peruse them for hours. Curse you, bullet-proof plexiglass.

The Great Hall: Not just for wizards

Friday night we got phenomenal milk shakes from a nearby eatery called Good Stuff (that’s what all college kids do on a Friday night, right? Drink milkshakes?). We went on a walk around the Capitol (how passé) and unexpectedly found a five-minute fireworks show. Ah, D.C. in the summer.

Saturday we went to the American History Museum. We thought, rather foolishly, that we might hit up the Natural History Museum as well, but it turns out the American History Museum is really quite large and we ended up spending almost five hours there! I really, really enjoyed it though. Most of the exhibits were fascinating. My favorites were one on the history of America’s wars (I think memorabilia from the Revolutionary War is so neat. It’s so old! Do you see now why I think Antiques Roadshow is the best 50 minutes on television?) and the Star Spangled Banner exhibit. That particular one featured the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem during the War of 1812. I was a little surprised by how much I enjoyed this exhibit. But the history was really interesting and quite frankly, the flag itself was really flipping cool. It was big (huge!) and old and worn and just saturated with history. What more can you ask for?

When we were finally done at the museum, it was too late to go to another museum, but it was still sunny and we were near the Washington Monument so we decided to mosey over there. It was nice to see it up close (so tall!). I guess you can get tickets to go up to the top of it, but they release the day’s tickets at 8 a.m. every morning and apparently people often line up beforehand. So I doubt we will do this while we are here, since why in God’s name would we wake up even earlier than we already do? Madness!

Sunday was zoo day! As in, yet another awesome thing that is totally free. The zoo was very nice, although the animals weren’t particularly active (if they were visible at all) because it was so hot. We’re the ones sweating it out schlepping all over the park to see these guys, the least they could do is come out of their nook. Sheesh. But we saw pandas and elephants and anteaters (my favorite!) and all in all it’s a great zoo at a price that really can’t be beat (unless there’s a zoo out there that pays you to attend. hmm…)

This week I’ve really been able to get a much better idea of what I’ll actually be doing at my internship. I’ve been given a couple projects and even got to sit in on a panel on Brazilian patent law, featuring the president of Brazil’s patent and trademark office. I was surprised how interesting that actually ended up – it was kind of neat to enter a meeting with zero knowledge of the subject matter and leave feeling almost knowledgeable.

I also got a chance on Wednesday to walk around the White House a little bit, since the Chamber is very close. I’d like to go back since I’ve only seen the back of it, but it certainly is a sight to behold. There was a group of protesters there, I think demanding that the president of Sudan be tried for crimes against humanity, but they didn’t bother me. Actually, in a way, I thought it was kind of appropriate for them to be there. The right to assemble and protest has been so crucial to the American identity and experience that it only seems fitting for it to be exercised in the shadow of America’s highest elected official, as a reminder that his power is never absolute (or ought not ever be so).

Finally, just got back from another museum! We went to the Natural History Museum today. It was, shockingly enough, another awesome museum. I think my favorite part of it was the collection of minerals and gemstones – there were so many beautiful things to look at! And of course, you can’t forget the dinosaur skeletons. There was also a fascinating exhibit on human origins that I think is pretty new.

Sorry for the exceedingly long post. I’ll try not to let that happen again.

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