Dumbarton Oaks

Today I was yearning for adventure. After being cooped up with a spring allergies for the last few days I needed to get out, stretch my legs, and explore! I decided that I would walk up to Dupont Circle, a DC classic that I hadn’t been to on this trip. I leisurely made my way over, making a stop at the Postal Museum (highly recommended) and of course to grab a coffee. When I got to Dupont, I looked at the trusted Google Maps on my phone. Where would I go next? As I scrolled along DC’s linear streets, I noticed Dumbarton Gardens; I think someone told me about that once before. Serendipitously, I decided to try it out. It was a beautiful day anyway.

I walked and walked as modern concrete turned into classically whimsical brick and stone. The houses in this neighborhood were unique and of colonial style. Certainly unlike the packed townhouses around Capitol Hill, these were actual houses with beautifully kept roses and leafy trees.

When I arrived at Dumbarton, I first entered the museum portion, a gorgeous red-brick home with a priceless amount of art and history. I then wandered around the corner of the estate to find the garden museum entrance. I do not exaggerate when I say that this is now

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Stunning Irises and garden houses

probably one of my favorites places in DC. The fifty-three acre property is meticulously taken care of and preserved in a classic 1920’s style. I strolled through the orangery, lilac circle, and rose garden, admiring the garden’s ability to make just about anyone feel absolutely transcendent. Though I was in the midst of a city, the hidden benches winding brick paths of Dumbarton were blissfully silent.

Though it is a journey to get out to the gardens, (there is no nearby public transport) I whole-heartedly recommend visiting Dumbarton Gardens and the beautiful brick streets of northern Georgetown on your next visit to DC.

 

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Symphony

Before I left for DC I received a very special present from my grandmother, some money to help buy a ticket to a Kennedy Center show. In my previous trips to DC I had always wanted to visit the Kennedy Center, its ominous presence bridging the Potomac River to the monuments on the National Mall. After spending a good chunk of time browsing the web for shows, I decided to call the Kennedy Center to see how they recommend finding tickets for a good deal. It was on the phone where I found out about the MyTix program, which allows 18-30 year-olds to purchase select tickets for a VERY discounted price. I was in.

On Friday night I made my way over to the performance, the National Symphony Orchestra. As a musician and orchestra member myself, I was overjoyed when I found my seat seven rows from the front; the Concert Hall itself must have been at least 200 ft. deep with almost 2,500 seats. The rest of the Kennedy Center was equally as breath-taking. Pre-show, people whizzed around to find which theater they were in as others lounged on the patio, dressed to the nines and sipping wine as the sun set over the Potomac.

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Pretty good seat!

When the performance was about to begin I also noticed that the symphony was playing a piece I was familiar with (having played it last year), the Vaughn Williams Symphony No. 4, in addition to the virtuosic Elgar Cello Concerto.

Though I was on my own, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and the moving performance by cellist Alban Gerhardt. Being so close to the stage, I almost felt as if I was sitting with the musicians, a comforting thought. The Kennedy Center and the National Symphony did not disappoint and thank you Granny Kaye for the inspiration and gift!

Claire

Hotdish Off!

Yesterday I got the opportunity to attend one of the most unique events  I’ve been to on the Hill, the 6th Annual Congressional Minnesota Delegation “Hotdish Off.” Now, if you are thinking that this seems like a pretty random thing for an intern from Oregon to go, you’re probably right! It so happens, however, that one of our staffers is from Minnesota and used to work for a delegation office and was emcee-ing the event and asked me to go along.

Hotdish, if my fellow Pacific Northwestern-ers do not know, is basically any type of casserole dish that makes a hearty, not-so-healthy meal. Typically they involve a starch (rice, potatoes, and commonly tater tots), a meat, some veggies, and the standard “Lutheran Binder,” cream of mushroom soup. It’s a standard at all community gatherings in the northern midwest, especially Min
nesota.

Needless to say, the purpose of this event is lighthearted.

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Hotdish press!

Members of Congress mingled with the press, judges and hungry observers. Supposedly this is one of the biggest events all for the delegation. The judges were a Minnesotan-born food critic from the Washington Post and his mother, as well as a local restaurant owner and Minnesota native.

The ten dishes lined up were as diverse in name as they were in taste, with names like “Making Hotdish Great Again” and the “Land of 10,000 calories Hotdish.” As the judges tasted each submission, the press swarmed the table of food and the members of Congress. This was probably the biggest press event I have been to in DC and it was all for casserole!

The winner, “Tim’s Turkey Taco Tot Hotdish” got a mix of cheers and boos as the office was announced as a three-time winner and was awarded with a gold-plated glass casserole dish.

Who knew that the highlight of my Wednesday would be getting a slice of Minnesota culture and a big bowl of hotdish too!

Common misconceptions

I have done a fair share of political show-binging in my time, House of Cards, West Wing, Veep, and Madam Secretary to name a few favorites, but after being in DC for a while now I have started to learn what is right and what is oh, so wrong about what happens on the hill.

Right:

  • People getting into the office early and staying late: The intern schedule is 9-5, but that doesn’t mean that the other staff even thinks about going home that early. DC is infamous for it’s impassioned workaholics, something well-portrayed in most political dramas.
  • Airtight schedules: There not much down time for anyone on the hill. Often times meetings with members are on-the-go or cut short by a hearing or a vote.

Wrong:

  • Everyone is cutthroat in DC: Actually, pretty much the opposite. People are really willing to help out  and give advice to interns and young professionals.
  •  There’s always crises to divert: Most days are really well planned out and anything odd is handled smoothly and professionally.
  •  Suits – all day, every day: In session, yes you typically want to dress nice, but on out-of-session days, you are free to dress down! Bring on the jeans!
  • Crazy private-professional-political mix: No dramatic “storming-out-of-the-room” moments. The offices are run like any other busy professional space.

Of course,tomorrow something overwhelmingly movie-esque could happen, but probably not. The TV world of DC seems galaxies away from what any normal day on the hill looks like.

Claire

How?

When I’m on tours, there are three popular questions that I am asked by folks almost every time.

  1. Are you from Oregon?
  2. How did you find out about this internship?
  3. How did you find somewhere to live?

Obviously the answer to number one is yes, but the other two questions always surprise me in how often they come up. Almost always our visitors are looking for advice for themselves, their child, or someone they know. I thought I’d share here my answers to these two common questions in case any of you are in the same boat as the people I have met with, or are just curious.

I’ve known for a while that wanted to do an internship in Washington DC, it was just a matter of when and for who. Through my experience in student government at OSU I knew enough people who interned on the Hill to understand that it is kind of THE type of experience you need if you want to go into a politics or public service. Last year my desire to spend a term here was solidified after I worked in OSU’s Government Relations office, receiving first hand experience what it was like to work on legislative issues and public offices. Since there are only seven members of Congress from the Oregon Delegation, I didn’t have that hard of a choice. I applied for several internships, but ultimately chose Congresswoman Bonamici’s office because of my interest in the issues she works on and the fact that she is currently the only woman in the Oregon Congressional Delegation. Women in politics is something that is very important to me and I knew that working for her office would inform my future in many more ways than one.

Housing is not secured after you accept an internship in DC. I think this actually probably one of the hardest parts about solidifying an internship and often deters people from coming at all. I found Thompson-Markward Hall almost by accident. On a PDF about thirty clicks into an OSU career center website, I saw a quick mention about TMH. Curious about this all-women’s boarding house, I googled it and the rest is history! I did, however, reserve my housing really far in advance (booked in November for arriving in March), which I think gave me a leg up in the housing search.

So, if you are considering an internship or don’t know where to start looking, just remember that there have been so many others in your position and all you need to do is go for it!

Comment with any more questions you have!

Claire

Life in the City

Washington DC still feels a lot different than the comfortable rural-suburban atmosphere of back home in Oregon. Though I like to have the window in my stuffy room open at night, sometimes I have to leave it closed due to my intolerance of the rumbling, siren-filled cityscape outside my window. I am thankful to face the secluded garden of TMH, so occasionally I do hear the desperate chirping of birds, but rarely do I get any sound serenity (without earplugs, at least).

Living in a city and in a boarding house also precludes me from one of my favorite pastimes, cooking. Sometimes, usually when I’m hungry, I will just long to be stationed over the oven, frying up onions and garlic. I of course am not complaining about my all-inclusive quarters, but cooking is one of the those things that you don’t know you really miss until you’re not doing it anymore. My trips to the grocery store seem curt and directive while shopping in the city. With cramped and shared fridge space and no kitchen utilities expect a microwave, I no longer have the freedom of spontaneous purchases or experimental dishes. I buy by what I can carry while I walk home, and that usually amounts to the standard and unimaginative loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter.

Of course, there are wonderful things about living in a city as well. No where else can you get such a variety of people and activities. There is always something new to see or do. I just wonder if I will get back home and wonder, “why is it so quiet?”

Recess time!

Working in a Congressional office, you begin to get accustomed with the patterns of busyness and rhythms of the Capitol. This is exceedingly present in the difference between being “in-session” versus “out-of-session.” When Congress is in-session the halls are hustling and bustling, the members of Congress are dashing from meeting to meeting, barely even getting in time for lunch, and in the office we

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At the front office

are sometimes so overflowing with people, that our staff has to convene people in the hallway. I guess we know where the term “lobbying” comes from. On out-of-session days however, things settle into a productive lull. While there is plenty still to get done
(research, reading, mail), and members are busy out in their home districts, things seem a lot quieter. When Congress isn’t in session there is also the added benefit being able to dress down in classic Pacific Northwest “semi-formal” style (which consequently is “casual” here on the East Coast).

I like to take this time to focus in on developing my writing and research skills through legislative research. One thing that I have found in this process, is sometimes the government is too good at collecting data. Sometimes I will think I have hit a gold mine of information just to realize that it is just slightly on a different topic. This only leads me to learn more about the subject, something that I don’t contest much. Who knew I could have so much fun looking at government reports!