Thursday, May 29, 2008

Busy and tired

Much as happened in the last two days, particularly the fact that I have worked two days at AIDS Alliance already. Tomorrow I'm leaving early for a meeting in Bethesda and I have to look up some information about the HIV vaccines being developed by the NIH tonight so that I have some idea what this meeting will talk about.

Working has completely worn me out for some reason I still can't comprehend, even though most of my work consists of sitting at my desk in front of the computer or at meetings.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yesterday I felt like a tourist, today an out-of-place college student.

Dear Friends,

Today I checked out my commute from GWU to K and 16th street. It's a 20-25 minute walk or just one stop on the Metro, but I'm going to try to walk as much as I can for the exercise. My route takes me up 23rd street, past the GWU hospital, turn right at Washington Square onto K street. Then it's straight along K from 23rd to 16th.

Along the way today the people I passed were mostly professionals. Most of the buildings along the way were office buildings and an occasional coffee shop or fast food restaurant that probably the people in these office buildings use. Many people I saw wore ID cards from their work around their necks or clipped on to their shirts. I wanted to see the name of some international organizations or federal agencies, but all the words were too small to read.

I'm at a Starbucks at the corner of K and 16th, next to the office building where I will work tomorrow. I'm here in part because I'm tired from walking around all afternoon, but also because I thought that a coffee shop would be a familiar place for me since in my mind college students are chief patrons of coffee shops, using them as places to study. (I wasn't looking for a Starbucks in particular, but I couldn't find this local coffee shop that I saw on google maps...) But this is not the case at this Starbucks nestled among office buildings. Of all the tables, there was only one occupied by two college-age girls studying. But this seems to be mostly used as a meeting place for people to talk business. Around me are young and middle aged people in suits and ties talking to each other or on cellphones or looking at their thick agenda planners. All this makes me feel anxious and giddy at the same time. I've never been around so many people in business dress. I feel as if I am leaving an academic environment for the first time in my life.

I have lived in China, Ann Arbor, and East Lansing. China in some ways seems like a very different place from the two college towns, but I feel that living in Washington D.C. this summer is totally unlike all those cities because I'm not in school, I'm working, and I'm far from my parents.

For all but a few years of my life I have attended school. I have finished 14 years of school, 15 including kindergarten. And I think I can say that I know what is expected in school. You read the assigned reading. You go to lecture. You participate in discussion. You see your professor and TA. You write papers and take exams. You study. You learn.

For all of my life, I have been surrounded by academia in one way or the other because my parents have always worked and still work at universities. But the specific cities and neighborhoods I have lived in are oddly similar. I've known are schools, universities, hospitals, and medical laboratories. I have always lived close to universities and in college towns. In China, we actually lived within the university campus, which is where most of the university employees lived. And of course Ann Arbor (especially now that Pfizer is gone) and East Lansing are dominated by universities. Everyone who hangs out in "downtown Ann Arbor" is also in Central Campus. I studied at UM libraries when I was still in high school in Ann Arbor. Our family friends also mostly work at UM too. I feel that all my life has been influenced by the university where my parents worked, where I know go, and the K-12 schools I had attended.

Despite having finished two years of college in East Lansing, this will be the longest time during which I will not see my parents for nearly three months. I know that people who go to college out-of-state have probably already experienced this, but it's new for me that my parents won't be able to help me much. They can't buy groceries or pack me food they made. They can't do my laundry.

I have never worked a 9-5 job before or a job not in a laboratory environment. (My job here is technically 10 to 5.) I have worked as a research assistant in medical research labs and even then it was only part-time while taking classes too. Lab work suddenly seems so hand-on, dealing with animals, machines, and equipment. The difference in dress code is a very noticeable difference. The dress code maximizes comfort and utility because you're working with chemicals, bodily fluids, and animals. Perhaps all the work I will do here is "paperwork" not in the sense that it's office work but that they are policies and laws. I'll have to refer to my work location as "the office" and not "the lab". This will be a huge change.

I'm actually dressed more like a tourist right now, of which there aren't many on these streets, because I wanted to be comfortable walking. I wanted to blend in with the business dress crowd I was walking amongst, but not today. Tomorrow I start working and I might actually look like one of them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


It's almost Thursday and I have no idea what to write for my MC 231 paper on M. Butterfly. I'm freaking out, yes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

space issues

Dear Friends,

I actually starting putting things in suitcases today. It is a very arduous task. I have had to eliminate the following items already:
Desk lamp
Some clothes
Thankfully LLN --v. gracious family friend in DC -- has offered to provide for me these things and more upon my arrival. I'm sure that you'll hear me sing her praises in the months to come.

But I still have to fit in earrings, a couple of purses, and maybe a book or two.

Is there a way to keep a suit from wrinkling without putting it in a garment bag?

Also, if I were religious, I'd pray that I get along with my roommates.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Where I will be this summer

I started this blog in part to keep track of my adventures this summer, so I am now making the official announcement about my plans:

I will be a Policy and Government Affairs intern at AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families, an non-profit in Washington DC. (I'm going to Washington!) AIDS Alliance is an advocacy group particularly for women, children, youth, and families with and affected by HIV.

As a Policy and Government Affairs intern, I will research policy, legislation, write letters to policymakers, and maybe even go to Capitol Hill. I think I'm going to learn a lot about domestic policies about funding, prevention, and education for HIV/AIDS.

I'm leaving Memorial Day weekend and won't be back until the weekend before the fall semester starts, so pretty much the entire summer.

I will be posting my weekly essays here and uploading photos of lovely Washington DC. I hope someone reads this so my efforts are not soley for my own archives.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Turned the corner and the garage door has closed.

My housing and plane tickets have been paid for, at ridiculous prices, particularly the former.

No going back now and it better be worth all the money my mom paid.

DTW to BWI Sunday May 25
BWI to DTW Thursday August 21

It's still not on my student account and I told the professor more than a week ago of my placement.

The Last Ship

The last ship to Valinor

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tuesday, May 6

Most of the day was devoted to (unsuccessfully) finding a place to live. Looked up the Washington Post ads and scoured craigslist as well.

Conditions for housing:
cheaper than WISH housing; approx. max $900/month.
with interesting people -- preferable interns, college students. I don't know if I want to live with young professionals. I think I'd have more in common with people who are still in school.

One craigslist listing for 1BR of a cheap 2BR apt said the house is right across from Truesdale Elementary. I googled the school.

The first hit was, "The DC Education Blog: Man shot, killed at Truesdale Elementary School".

Then I googled the elementary school, found the DC school district website and read the stats on the school. It confirmed my suspicion raised by the headline so I decided that to give up on that place in Petworth.

I am still interested in the $600 room, despite it being in probably a sketchy neighborhood. I'm attracted to it because I think some Turkish girls live there. But the neighborhood is Shaw, which I don't think it very affluent and the dirt cheap rent also makes me suspect the safety of the location.

I was disappointed that the Takoma house is in suppoesdly an unsafe area because it seemed to have a good vibe -- two female interns from California and Virginia -- and one attorney and three more places open, possibly going to other interns as well. But if the area isn't safe and it's not very close to the red line Metro station then it might not be a good idea to walk that distance to the Metroo station, compounding the problem with this house. I also need a way to decline Ms. Thompson, the over-eager landlord of the Takoma house. But she's wrong about the house's area code. It is 240 and not 248. Does that give a clue about how much she seems to know about her own property.

I still think that Pennsylvania House is an excellent option because I feel certain that the GWU Foggy Bottom area is a safe and fun one perfect for college students. I'm not bothered at all that it's a shared bedroom for the lack of privacy but that it's a shared bedroom for so much money. Frankly I'm skeptical how much LLN knows about DC neighborhoods. I just hope that the person she asks who is a postdoc or something does know GWU well.

The hunt continues tomorrow.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Summer Reading

I know that I function most efficiently when I write down a list of things I need to do. Otherwise, I give myself the excuse to waste time by going online, watching TV (I have a TV now!).

Summer Reading List!
I always make too ambitious a list and never finish them, so perhaps it will be the case this time as well. I'll only be in A2 for about three and a half weeks before I leave, but during this time I'm completely free! No classes or work.
  • Finish The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri) I wish I had finished it before I watched the film...
  • Finish The Line of Beauty (Alan Hollinghurst) even thought it's getting slow when it should be picking up in the last 100 pages.
  • Finish After Dark (Haruki Murakami). I must end this bad habit of starting books and not finishing them.
  • Promises I Can Keep (Edin and Kafalas). Recommended by some SRP folks. It's an ethnography of inner city minority women, asking why so many of them become young single mothers. The results are surprising.
  • Read up on reports from AIDS Alliance, available on their website.
  • I feel that I must read some Salman Rushdie because he's always mentioned with the keywords public intellectual, cross-cultural blah blah.
  • Time for some Virginia Woolf again?
  • Books people have given me and I feel guilty not reading.
Feminist Books
  • Cunt
  • Female Chauvinist Pigs (This is supposed to be a classic, right?)
  • The F Word. This was one of the choices for MC 386 h-option.
  • Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History. Ditto above.
  • Something on Chinese feminism or Asian American studies. I could look over some of the titles I came across when I did the MC 386 review essay.

Perhaps there should be some book I re-read once a year or something like that. Joel read, I think, Candide every year. I like the idea but I have no idea what book to read. I rarely re-read books because I don't have the patience to go through every page after I know which parts are exciting and which are boring. I tend to just re-read the bits I like.