Wednesday, February 10, 2010

First week in DC

I’ve already lost track of how many day’s I’ve been here in DC, but it feels like it’s been a week at least. In real time it’s only been a few days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday). So much has happened since I’ve arrived, but I’ll try to cover the basics.

My arrival was fairly uneventful. Besides a delayed flight in Chicago, things went very smoothly. I made it to Hanne’s apartment at around 11pm and after chatting for a while I slipped into her room mates bed (she was out for the evening) and went to bed so that I would be rested for my interview in the morning.


The next day (Friday the 22nd of January) I woke up at about 6:30am so that I would have ample time to get in the game, calm my nerves and prepare myself for a knock down interview. My former conversation on the phone with Jean-Ameil Jourdan had gone very well, but it was not enough to assure that anything was guaranteed. My nerves had started to get the better of me the night before until I read an email from Jean-Ameil inviting me to dress casually for the interview (apparently Friday is “Casual day” at FINCA).

Hanne introduced me to an amazing website for Washington Transit called, WMATA. I planned my route and time of departure so that I would arrive with plenty of time to account for missed trains and a few wrong turns. As it turned out, I had no unforeseen difficulties in my navigation and I arrived at the building by 9:45am (the interview was at 10:00). The FINCA office is on the 11th floor of a tall gray building on the corner of L street and 14th, near the McPhearson metro stop. When I entered the office I was greeted with warm tan and maroon shaded walls, which immediately calmed my growing anxiety. Jean-Ameil came to greet me at the receptionist desk and then led me back to his office.

Most of his questions were just about my experiences at different employments and with different organizations. I felt like my tongue was going a mile a minute and my brain was running even faster. I couldn’t stop thinking and analyzing each sentence. Searching for signs and his responses to my answers. I was a little intimidated by his French nationality and kept wondering if he was going to test my speaking ability (thank goodness he didn’t). Anyways, after I had gone on and on about my experiences at outdoor adventures and insulted the French education system (in a nice way…) he offered me the job as back office intern (sigh of relief). Long story short I think we will get along well and I look forward to seeing him at work tomorrow.

So by 11am (12 hours after arriving at Hanne’s) I had an internship. It’s unpaid and to quote Jean-Ameil, “has .01% chance of turning into a job at FINCA”, but it was just the encouragement I needed to push forward. So I walked downtown to regroup and get a bite for lunch. My next goal was to start looking for a paid employment of some sort. I used the free wifi in the National Portrait Gallery’s courtyard (a place I envision myself visiting often) and tracked down some addresses and ideas to pursue that afternoon. I started to make my way over to the Smithsonian human resources building just south of the mall when I literally ran into a massive roadblock. The streets were filled to the brim with protestors holding signs and speaking out against abortion. As I tried to push through the crowd, I quickly realized that I had greatly underestimated its size. There was absolutely no way that I could get past the mall without a major detour. As I took in the scene I started to become aware of how strange it is to see so many ‘individuals’ acting as one body. It was quite powerful.

When I left the Smithsonian office the streets had cleared up considerably and I made my way over to Pennsylvania Avenue to look for MIX (microfinance information exchange). I thought I could get there just to pop in and say hello before calling it a day and meeting Jordan outside the White House at 4:30. I felt there was some symbolism in the way I passed the World Bank and the IMF before arriving. The MIX is just one floor in another tall building, so to get to the office I lied to the doorman saying that I had an appointment with MIX and he let me ride up to the 3rd floor. When I entered and saw that there was no receptionist desk- just rooms with desks and men at computers- I almost ran out the door. I stopped myself (thank goodness) and introduced myself with as much friendly boldness as I could muster, walked into the first room and introduced myself to Chris. He was the web designer and kindly listened to me babble on about my appreciation of the organization and how I would love to be involved in any way. When I stopped to take a breath he suggested that I write down my name and email so that someone could get in contact with me. He also gave me the email of the director so that I could let him know I dropped by. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear back from them, and to be honest I don’t even know for sure what sort of involvement I was looking for, but I’m so glad I did it!

That evening I went grocery shopping with Hanne and Heather, met up with Megan, Jordan and some of her intern friends at Bus Boys and Poets (a chill sort of bohemian bar) on U Street. It was so nice to finally see my friends- I felt like the luckiest person in the world, moving to a city where not only did I know Hanne, who invited me to stay at her apartment, but also had my best friends waiting for me! It definitely makes moving to a new city without a job or a place to live that much easier.


I think I’ll be better off if I leave a little more to the imagination- otherwise I’ll never be able to get through this first week. So the abridged version of Saturday January 23rd goes something like this.

Hanne, Heather, Hanne’s boyfriend Wally, her other friend Becca and I went for brunch to Old Ebbitts just across from the White House. I had the Strata which was a delicious meal of egg custerd, some sort of cheese, and spinach and mushrooms. It was absolutely delicious, but because it’s a little pricey I don’t expect to be back there too often. Then we all wandered around in the Sun – I forgot to mention how beautifully sunny and warm it was! We went into the Post Office Building and then made our way to the Mall for some monument viewing and to find the National African Art Museum. The exibit was very interesting and the museum itself was very nice. The featured artist was Shambare who was born in Nigeria, but trained in Europe. His work was a modern form of African art that encorporated the theme of high class western culture with the bright vibrance of African clothing appeal. Using mostly maniquins (all without head which we later learned was a subtle reference to the French Revolution) that were draped in European clothing made from brightly colored african fabrics. The scenes were a depiction of the clash between two cultures and the impact of colonization.

After the museum we walked to Foggy bottom along the monuments. It was a tiring and wonderful day. That night I stayed home and caught up on some much needed sleep.


Sunday, January 23rd: This will be an easy day to record. All I did all day was look at places to live.

I’m temped to just leave it at that, but I’ll say a few more things. First Megan and I met at the hostel where we mutually decided that living there for a month was unnecessary, so we canceled our reservations on the spot (full refund was given because it was still 7 days out from our reservation).

The best part of the day was not looking for housing, but catching up with Megan. It was so nice to have some "one on one" time with her! We did however find a pretty good place to live in Eastern Market for the month of February. I think it would be a great idea to go for it, but we’re going to wait till Monday afternoon to decide.

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