Today I went to go meet with a girl about a room I might rent. My current lease is up in December and I don’t know what my next plans are, so I figured I should start meeting with people about housing. The neighborhood I went to check out was amazing. Brick paved paths, trees that dripped over the side walk, their branches reaching for the townhouses. Every place has a tiny porch and about 7 steps leading up to it. Plus, the neighborhood is in the heart of one of the coolest areas of DC. Everything about the situation seemed right. The girl who I met is a freelance writer, shes a year older than me, the other roommates have small dogs, and the place had a good vibe to it. I don’t know that I’ll get it, or that I’m definitly going to stay here, but it felt right.
On my way home it stated to snow, and it wasn’t long until snow was pouring down on me. Walking in the snow with an umbrella. That was a first for me. I was drenching wet by the time I got home, about forty five minutes later, but the walk was so charming. The snow blowing in every which way direction and the brick buildings were meant for one another. The pictures don’t begin to do it justice.
(note the goat)
watermelon house : )
It’s Friday and it’s the end of the week. Take five- ten minutes and scroll through the list of art. I chose all these pictures because they appealed to me, and I tried to sample different styles, so they would appeal to you as well. At least one of them. Look longer at some than others, look long at all, or don’t look at any. Let your imagination go.
A few weeks back I went to a committee hearing on the status of Sudan and Southern Sudan, and the problems still plaguing the region. It was my first hearing and I didn’t know what to expect. I arrived to a room already overcrowded and people lining the walls. Video cameras were set up in all corners to film the hearing, and members of the press were taking photos of people, who I had no idea as to who they were. There were no open seats left, but I spotted a deep windowsill against the far wall. I awkwardly shuffled my way through rows of people sitting down, bumping the backs of my legs into everyone’s knees. Every time I am forced to walk through a row of seats I never know if its polite to put my butt in their face as I squeeze through, or if I should face them, bumping knees with theirs and probably hitting the people in the row in front with my butt. I’m not even that big of a person. I can’t even imagine how uncomfortable the situation could be.
I eventually made it to the other side of the room after many times of “excuses me” and “ sorry.” I took a seat in the windowsill, with a perfect view of the committee and witnesses. They opened an overfill room and began to ask everyone who didn’t have a seat to leave, and watch the hearing from the TVs provided in the extra room. Technically sitting on a ledge in the wall wasn’t a seat, so I tried to act invisible, hoping that no one would see me, as they simultaneously kicked out every intern who was taking up room. This was my first hearing and it was on a topic I was really interested in, and watching the events take place via TV wasn’t going to be the same. After about ten minutes of anxiously waiting I had made it through and they closed the heavy wooden doors to the room. A committee of about ten members of Congress sat at the front, and then about eight people testified over the next 2 ½ hours. There were ambassadors who spoke, members from the UN, John Prendergast from the Enough Project (undeniably the best speaker I have ever listened to), a journalist and host of a political radio show, and finally a testimony given by an 18 year old boy, who had recently been freed from slavery in Northern Sudan.
I went into this meeting with absolutely no idea of what was to come and what expectations to have. I hadn’t expected to cry. I hadn’t expected it to change my life. I hadn’t expected to feel utterly crushed afterwards. The hearing addressed the issues Southern Sudan is facing as the newest nation on earth, and the problem of famine, conflict and slavery. Maybe I’m incredibly naive, but I wasn’t even aware that slavery still existed, let alone the torturous conditions that slaves survive under. Ker Deng had won his freedom from slavery after an American nonprofit group which functions in Sudan bought him from the man who had acted as his master for over ten years. Deng sat before the members of Congress and through a translator, a survivor of the Lost Girls, asked for help for the people of his country, for the thousands who are still enslaved, for his mother and younger siblings who were not as fortunate as himself. He wore sunglasses to shield his eyes as he described the horrific treatment he received, the conditions he lived under since being a child, and the day that his master rubbed so much chili in his eyes he became blind.
Pictures from where I was sitting after a seat opened up.
From his testimony…
“He said that when he was a toddler, Arab raiders from the north came and invaded his village, burning their huts, killing the men and tieing the women and children to camels and dragging them to a life of slavery in the north.
Ker said he was treated worse than the animals he tended. He was beaten every single day, and was fed grain just like the horses. But he said the worst thing that his slave master did was, in a fit of rage, he tied Ker upside down to a tree and rubbed hot chili peppers in his eyes, blinding him. “
An uncomfortable lump rises in my throat and tears begin to fill the brims of my eyes just remembering. Memory is so incredibly powerful. I’d never heard such pain come from one person. No matter who I know in America and what they have experienced, it just— doesn’t even begin to compare. I will never come close to experiencing anything like what Deng spoke of. And he is just one. JUST ONE. It was so, shocking, for lack of a better word. I just couldn’t believe that I didn’t know about this. That no class I had ever taken had addressed this issue, that I hadn’t heard about it in the news. I wouldn’t call myself an uninformed person or someone who is blind to the problems of the world, but I had no idea.
I left the meeting feeling crushed under the weight of reality. How fucked the world is for so many. I felt the complete and total frustration of all those who spoke that day at the hearing, expressing their anger at the lack of progress in the area. The lack of participation by the American government. Sudan is the largest country in Africa and we are hardly involved. Humanitarian aid is not sufficient for the needs and demands of this area. So So So many people are dying. In America we continue to bitch about the injustices of the past, the horrors of our own country’s slavery. Well if we’re so upset by it why are we not stopping the slavery that current exists???!!! Why isn’t this talked about? How do we continue to turn a blind eye to this??
I left Mad. Upset. Guilty. Broken. Devastated. Frustrated. Defeated.
But a part of me left inspired. I felt moved. I felt passionate. I felt like I had found something that I could care about so incredibly that I could spend my life working on this issue.
Since that original meeting I have been to two more on foreign policy and Southern Sudan, and the Lord’s Resistant Army, who are just as awful as the government of Sudan. If you don’t know about the LRA please take 10 minutes out of your incredibly comfortable lives to inform yourself.
These issues may be taking place in Africa, but we are a global community, and therefore their problems are ours. Africa is incapable of solving its issues that have stemmed from colonialism and tribal warfare. This much is clear. They do not have the resources or coordination to combat terrorist groups that commit crimes against humanity, whether that be abduction of children and forcing them to act as soldiers against their own families and people, mutilation, torture and murder of other Africans, or preventing food aid from being delivered, so as to starve people into submission. Many of their governments are corrupt beyond repair and only a total revolution and overthrow could fix these. But a revolution has no energy when those who must act are being starved.
And we call Occupy Wall Street our own revolution. First World problems are hardly problems when placed on the global scale. We are spoiled and we demand when all our needs are not met. This is not our revolution. We need to refocus our efforts elsewhere.
Over the past two weeks I have done more research on Sudan and the issues that came up in the meeting. I have talked with many people who are familiar with these issues. There are so many problems it’s hard to know where to start. It’s overwhelming to even try to focusing on one point without realizing that something else is just as important and the two are tied so closely together.
I can’t choose what anyone does with their life, and I can’t tell everyone to go into aid work for Africa, nor can anyone one person or group attempt to save a continent plagued by decades upon decades of the world’s worst problems.
Just, be informed.
(I made it that much easier for you.)
I want to work for him, he is incredible- http://www.enoughproject.org/staff/john-prendergast-co-founder
For something lighter after all this…Thank you Cobert
It’s always weird when a child decides they are going to have a stare down with you. I should rephrase. When a child decides they are simply going to stare at you. For as long as they please.
There is this girl on the metro. I don’t know- maybe eight, give or take a year. I would assume old enough to have introspective thoughts, or at least in the most basic form. I think. Shes old enough to be starring at me and probably thinking about me.
Am I seriously being analyzed by a kid right now? Am I seriously analyzing the situation of a kid analyzing me? Oh god, I am…..
…..I looked up and met her eyes and gave her a smile and then looked back down at my ipod. Shuffling to another song. Distracting myself.
I look back up and shes still starring at me. No expression. Just a stare. Wide eyed. Gaze set on me. What on earth could this kid be thinking about. Just starring at me, her mind running.
A part of me feels awkward under the relentless eyes of this child. Another part admires the part that she hasn’t learned to be coy yet. To have social manners. To understand that you just don’t stare at someone for minutes on end. Especially a stranger. There are so many things that children haven’t learned yet. I start to wonder if starring at someone is something you are ever told not to do, or if its one of those things you just learn as you get older? Not everything we learn as we grow up our parents tell us, nor do our teachers. Some things I suppose we just learn from observing others.
What was I like when I was this girls age?
I remember being really curious. Always wanting to experiment. Always wanting to write everything down that I did or saw. Not that much has changed.
I remember being fascinated with those who were older than me too. I remember being fascinated with the idea of one day having my own place, being able to cook myself whatever I wanted to eat for dinner, being able to drive myself wherever I wanted to go that day, having a job where I got money. Now that I have all these grown up advantages I don’t really want them any more. Isn’t that how it goes? Being a young adult and having unlimited freedom and no one to tell you what to do isn’t half bad, but being a kid was so nice. It was so carefree. I remember days where all I had to do was entertain myself. No responsibilities, no where to be. Just hanging out.
The pain of the world was still hidden. You haven’t begun to question your purpose in life. No one you know has died. You haven’t experienced heart brake. The problems of your parents aren’t something you think about when your mind wanders. Theres no what ifs, time spent wondering what could have been. You don’t have to plan ahead. You don’t have obligations, priorities, things that would cause you any stress at all. Remember when you didn’t know what stress felt like??? When you’re a kid there aren’t sleepless nights. There are nightmares and your parents bed to crawl into. When you’re a kid you don’t think about what others think of you. They either like you or don’t. and when they don’t, end of story. There isn’t a self reflection of why that would be.
Complexity is just- non existent.
Remember when the only thing you regretted was not staying out later on Halloween so that you could get even more candy?
Remember when you could eat all of your Halloween candy in a sitting, and you’d still feel good afterwards?
Being a kid is sweet. Very very sweet. I wish I could forewarn my childhood self of the attachments that come with being a young adult. I wish I could tell eight year old Allie that life is good, don’t be in such a rush to grow up.
A stare from a child got my mind racing all over the past. What on earth is she thinking about as she continues to stare?
We’re going to be “gifted” with a health care plan we are forced to purchase,
and fined if we don’t,
which purpostly covers at least ten million more people,
without adding a single new doctor,
but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents,
written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it,
passed by a congress that didn’t read it but exempted themselves from it,
and signed by a president who smokes,
with fuding administer by a treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes,
for which we’ll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect,
by a govenrmnet which has already bankrupted social security and medicare,
all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese,
and finanacied by a country that is broke.
What could possibly go wrong?
Heres a quick recap of the past few weeks and what I’ve been up to when I’m not on The Hill.
Sunday morning garden tour of the White House with my wonderful roommate.
The Occupy DC protestors encampment. Feeling torn on how I feel about them, and what their general goal is. While I think there is the inevitable disorganization that is attached to demonstrations that serve as an umbrella to many issues, I do support people wanting to have their voices heard. We are the people, and those in government seem to have forgotten who exactly elected them. They are public servants, and as so, they need to listen to us.
Walking home from work and exploring the many attractions DC has to offer. Somehow I was lured into a the National Botanical garden, where I fell in love with the jungle room. Orchids dripped from the ceilings, vines and ferns had outgrown everything, and tropical palm trees pushed to break out of their confines. As I walked around mist fell from above and left a layer of moister on my skin.
More pictures from walking around and spending a day with dino bones and bugs.
Special project featuring jelly fish that played sounds and changed different colors. Love it.
The Newseum. The best museum I’ve ever been to, and definitely the most moving. The images were captivating, the videos had people crying, and all from the power of the press. As an aspiring writer and someone who is passionate about language and literature, I am a strong supporter of freedom of speech, and the opportunity that we have as Americans to have our voices heard (some of the time), or the freedom we have to say what we want. Seeing all of these exhibits made me realize how important journalism is. It brings parts of the world into your life you would never other wise be in contact with. It helps share the human experience. It opens your eyes. Journalism and the exhibits I saw also raised the question of what do you share, as a writer or photographer? When is it too much? When do you decide that some images are not meant to be captured? How do you photograph someone dying, rather than putting down the camera and treating them as a human rather than a subject?
the radio tower from one of the twin towers
One of the better things about being in this country.
Spending a rainy day on a morning bike ride and in a coffee shop/cafe/bar.
…And finally, a nap on my lunch break…
What do all of these pictures have in common? My advice today is take advantage of the free things to do in your area, especially if you find yourself in a city on a budget. In DC every museum is free, the parks are beautiful, and the architecture that surrounds you is breathtaking. There is so much to be done you’ll find yourself with not enough time. Explore. Cities have a lot to offer.
A few nights ago I went to see a few bands I had never heard of, and we’re a bit different than what I would normally listen to. They were a mixture of bluegrass, rock and indie, and they were amazing. The first band, The North Country (check them out!!), was my favorite, and the drummer in the second band was radiating energy. My advice… explore the local music scene and step out of your normal boundaries. Your ears just may end up thanking you. Plus dive bars that are only illuminated by red ceiling lighting, twinkling blue Christmas lights, and have walls of brick and stages upstairs are a must. Wonderful night with wonderful company.