Sunday, April 30, 2017

The State of the Swamp

It is my DC six-month-aversary, so I figured that now would be the right time to give a "State of the Swamp" update from our great nation's capitol. 

^ not my house, but loved this door

I begrudgingly moved here six months ago from my soul city New York (more on that later). But, I've actually come to really appreciate this place! A few days ago during a run through the capitol hill neighborhood it was the perfect temperature and the neighborhood was alive with the first warm breeze of summer. And in that moment I felt so much joy that I had to stop running and just soak in the sensation. It was crazy! I walked a few extra miles with this huge smile on my face before jogging home. 

^ my new tiny room with a giant bed 

That being said, the transition to making D.C. my new home has had its ups and downs, I'm still getting to know the city. But, here are my first impressions.  

Things I dislike: 

- Carpet in the metro cars. Why?!? Just why. 

- Metro stations. Why do they have to be dim-concrete-caves? Also, the fact that it occasionally is smoky and has an acrid smell at my station makes me a little worried. 

- How crazy empty the city center can be on weekends. This is still bonkers to me and was my first impression of DC after coming straight from NYC. 

- Slow. Walkers. Need I say more? Ugh. Especially when trying to catch a train in the morning and people are leisurely strolling or standing (!) on the escalator on both sides. 

- The utter lack of good Mexican food. 

Things I like:

- ROW HOUSES. There are some areas of the city where high-rises are the norm. But, for the most part, if you live in D.C. you probably live in a row house. My favorite neighborhoods to stroll are Capitol Hill and Eastern Market. Don't be surprised if you are consumed with joy because they are so beautiful. 

- Cherry blossoms. Even though climate change froze half of them off this year, they were still beautiful! And the 3 days the magnolia tree next door was in blossom (before the storm) it was insanely gorgeous. 

- Living within walking distance of the Capitol/National Mall/White House has been extremely useful for all the political marches and protests. And unfortunately I don't see them ending any time soon! (I'm going to do a whole post on the Women's March because it was the best) 

- Athleisure. The dress code in D.C. is way more casual than NYC. I liked being fashion-forward and trying new things in NYC, but mt wallet is happier in D.C. 

- Almost all of the museums in D.C. are free admission. I have visited quite a few, but need to make it a point to check out others that have been on my list for a while like the Air and Space Museum and the National Building Museum. 

- I feel very safe in my D.C. neighborhood. I don't have any problem walking out the door with headphones on to go for a run, or sitting on the porch and working on my laptop. (that wasn't true for my Brooklyn apartments) 

- D.C. is full of cool people doing cool things 

Swamp people unite. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Future is Female

Here on the blog I have been reminiscing about my travels in Europe as I wrapped up my final semester at Franklin University Switzerland. 
But, my heart is bursting with emotions right now. So, I'm taking a break from nostalgia and writing down all of my thoughts and feelings about this last week. 


I get the New York Times headlines delivered to my inbox every morning. I follow the Washington Post, BBC, The Atlantic and NPR. It's fair to say that a good amount of my free time (especially during my commute) over the last 2 months has been spent listening to, or reading about, what smart people think about the Presidential election. 

So, I sat in my rowhouse near Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on the night of the election and texted my mom that "some pundits are predicting that Hillary could sweep it and call a victory by 10pm."

(free tee shirt I snagged on the street!) 

The day before the election I was mentally planning out where to pick up a copy of The Washington Post and The New York Times with their historic headlines about our first female president. 

I thought about how exhilarating being in D.C for her inauguration would be. 

Would there be another white pantsuit involved?! 
(Hillary after accepting her DNC nomination)

On election day I was a little bit anxious, but mostly just excited. I saw the feeling described as a combination of how you felt on Christmas Eve as a kid and the feeling you might have right before a major surgery, which in all likelihood will go well, but has a small chance of being life-threatening. 
Excitement. Nervousness. A little bit of dread. 

All day long my social media and news feeds were blowing up with election day posts that had me feeling all kinds of patriotic though. 
I saw one news article that said the line to put "I Voted" stickers on Susan B Anthony's grave was over a mile long. 

The time to shatter the glass ceiling seemed to have finally arrived. 

^ Suffragettes who fought for women's right to vote. 

When women gained the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th amendment how long do you think the suffragettes thought it would take to get a female in the oval office? Some probably were optimistic they'd see it in their lifetime, but after facing such vitriol over even the right to vote, I'm sure the knew it'd be a long road. 

The NY Times (along with every other mainstream news source) had Hillary's odds of winning at about 89% though. It basically seemed a given that tonight would finally be a celebration after a loooonnnggg and ugly campaign! 

Trump himself had spent the last few weeks on the campaign trail preparing for defeat by insisting that the election was rigged. 

But to my horror I spent the next 8 hours that night in front of the television watching the map slowly turn red. 
The CBS news anchors were as confused as I was. 
I frantically texted my friends and family, confirming, "is this really happening??" 

Even though from 11pm onwards it became pretty clear where this was headed, I couldn't look away. Like a captain that goes down with her ship (or maybe I just still was holding onto some hope), but I I had to see it through to the bitter end. I stayed up until 3am, right after Podesta sent Hillary's crowd home and Trump shockingly announced that Hillary had called him and conceded. 

I listened to his victory speech in tears. 
Instead of the celebration that everyone told me to expect I was blindsided by shock and grief for the future of our nation. 

As an upper middle-class, heterosexual, white female I realize that I'll be ok. 
I come from a privileged enough background that I'm not immediately concerned for my safety or the safety of my family. But that doesn't make any of this "ok". 

I cried thinking of the families who are now wondering it they are about to be torn apart and sent to live in different countries. 
For refugees who will be denied entry into the US on account of their religion. 
For families who depend on Obamacare for health insurance and are worried about what their world will look like after January. 

Climate Change. LGBT rights. Education. Women's Health. 

These are all just some of the issues that we've made strides on in the last 8 years which Trump has promised to reverse. 
Hillary Clinton may not have been a perfect candidate. 

She was part of the establishment. She was willing to compromise if it meant political success. And those "damn emails"!  

She wouldn't have been a revolution, but her presidency no doubt would've been evolution
We would have progressed as a society with Hillary Clinton. 

Under Trump's stated plans for his time in office there is nothing but destruction. 

The choice seemed so clear between someone with 30 years of political experience (first lady, senator and secretary of state!) and someone with zero political experience, along with a string of sexual assault allegations and pending lawsuits. 

I just can't understand how so much of the country decided that they didn't care about the truth, they were just angry. They wanted someone who would tear down the system. They truly believe that Trump will provide a better life for them, and if that comes at the cost of minorities, women, the environment, LGBT individuals, refugees, our allies in other countries, that's all a-okay. 

How a woman, a minority or a person of any religious background could choose to vote for Trump is beyond me.Those two identities seem irreconcilable 

I thought America was ready for its first female president. 

I finally went to bed at 3:30am broken hearted, defeated and exhausted. 

November 9, 2016. 

11/9. The day the U.S. elected an openly racist, bigoted man to serve as our president. 

As I was getting ready for work in the morning (after 4 hours of sleep) I thought I heard the patter of rain on the skylight, but figured it was just wind. Sure enough when I looked outside though it was raining. 

Even the heavens in D.C. were weeping. 

No one wants to see the Obamas go and Trump to take over the nation. 
I walked to the metro station in the rain and everything was so quiet. 

This is Hillary at 22. 

And this is the Hillary I thought about the most on election night and as I walked to work in the rain. 
I'm 22 right now and couldn't help but cry as I put myself in her shoes and imagined seeing a glimpse of the future. So much success, but to have to the ultimate crowing achievement so blatantly and unfairly snatched away. After 30 years of public service, to lose because you aren't "likable", because people don't "trust you", when you've done nothing more than what every other esteemed male politician did to succeed in the game. It's just the fact that you're a woman.

I cried thinking about how much I've read about her 20s, how young and idealistic she was. But how the world wasn't ready for an empowered feminist in politics. How she had to change her last name so that Bill could get re-elected as Governor, because the people of Arkansas found it highly suspicious that she kept her maiden name. How the American people never quite got over the fact that she wanted to be a First Lady that actually made a political difference. With an office in the West Wing, as oppose to "baking cookies". 

30 years of public service and losing because you aren't likable enough. 

While you're opponent has been recorded bragging about sexual assault and people don't care. 
(local DC papers) 
Washington D.C. at least voted for Hillary by the ridiculous margin of 92% Hillary to 4% Trump. 
I was at work when Hillary gave her concession speech, but that didn't matter, the tears came anyway. 

"I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too... This is painful and it will be for a long time." 

"The American Dream is big enough for everyone. For people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, for people with disabilities. For everyone." 

" This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it." 

" And to all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me: I want you to know that nothing has made prouder than to be your champion." 

" Now I know that we have still not shattered the highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will -- and hopefully it will be sooner than we might think right now." 

" Scripture tells us let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap. My friends let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do." 

I cried and CRIED on Wednesday and Thursday because this just seemed like a horrible dream. And the more I thought about the implications of a Trump presidency the worse that pit in my stomach got. 

4,000+ positions in  government, nominating a supreme court justice, plus a republican controlled congress. Where are our checks and balances?! 

The only thing that made me feel a little bit better was talking to friends and family members who were just as upset as I was. And they are not going to quietly let our country go to shambles. 

( ^ courtesy of the brilliant New Yorker) 

At about 7pm on the night of the election I was on the phone with my two youngest brothers for 1.5 hours talking about the moral challenges and the forces of good and evil in the Star Wars universe. 

I know.

It started out as a casual comment about how excited I was to see the new Rogue One movie with them in December. And before I knew it we we were an hour deep into a discussion about the moral lessons we can learn from the clone wars! 

We spent a lot of time talking about Palpatine's rise to power. How he becomes the elected chancellor and eventual emperor of the new republic. How he deceives so many people (including the jedis!) and manufactures a war just so he has an enemy to help catapult and consolidate his rise to power. 

At the time I was still sure that Hillary was going to win, but the conversation about good and evil and electing a tyrant seems so spooky now in light of what transpired that night. 
So now what? 

Forget moving to Canada.  

I'm going to stay and fight. 

Join the "rebel alliance." Continue supporting the causes I am passionate about and speak out against things that I know are wrong. 

As a NY Times article put it, "elections determine who gets the power, not who offers the truth." 

Women gained the right to vote through the 19th amendment in 1920 maybe it will be poetic that 2020 will finally be the year that the New York Times headline will read "Madame President". 

There are so many vulnerable groups and causes that need protecting and advocating, now is the time to get to work. 

I have faith that in the end, Love Trumps Hate. 

xx Jess

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Malaga, Spain

My very last Spain post! 
We concluded our trip in Malaga. A beachside town that was sunny, but unfortunately with a bitter cold wind blowing through, not much sun bathing going on. 
Our hotel was right on the beach and the first thing I noticed was these crazy sand castles that I was sure were permanent installations made out of cement and there to trick tourists. 
But they were totally REAL! As I walked along the beach during the few days we were there I saw them being destroyed and new ones constructed, 100% sand. 
check out this Last Supper rendition! 
super cool selfie to show off my new Zara scarf and turquoise (5 euro) ring. 

Dying of laughter about these prawns (?) who looked like they were chilling in a paella hot tub ^  
I like long walks on deserted (vaguely dystopian) beaches 
Got me so excited for my graduation trip in May to Morocco  ^^ 
Got the whole beach to myself! 
The back of the Picasso Museum in Malaga! Picasso's hometown was Malaga and he specifically requested that a museum for his work be established there. So his family donated many of his more personal works there. It was really cool to visit it and learn more about his personal life and his artworks. 
My Picasso purchase. One of his lesser known sketches that I fell in love with. 
So crazy and intricate! On day 1 this was just 1 castle but every day I watched the guy add more components to this miniature world. 
Haggled for this leather backpack in the market, (20 euros down from 50, so its obviously made in china, haha) and it's been a loyal travel companion ever since! 

Spain, you were beautiful and oh so romantic, but on to the city of lights! 
From Malaga I took a 6am flight to Paris! 
Next stop: A weekend in Paris with Andre!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Al Hambara, Granada, Spain

 The red (female).

That is the direct translation of Al Hambara from Arabic.

Probably because she sits atop the hill like the red queen of the city of Granada.

The Al Hambara palace was a highlight of our trip in southern Spain and a "must-see"! 
^ photo of the palace from the steps on a hillside across the city 
Al Hambara was built by the Arab Moors who ruled this region of Spain between the 700s and 1400s. The Al Hambara was completed towards the end of their rule in the early 1300s. 
We spent 3 hours just touring the palace and the gardens. And our professor had to keep urging stragglers in our group to stop taking photos and move on to the next room. The whole palace is just magnificent! I highly recommend devoting an entire day to leisurely exploring it! 
One of my favorite things about Academic Travel is that we are always traveling at the beginning of March/October, which is the off-season for tourism at 95% of the places we are visiting. So even though the weather may not be ideal, and sometimes I may complain about wishing it were nicer weather to eat outside or enjoy the scenery. It is actually REALLY nice because we have a lot of these really popular tourist sites basically to ourselves. Like when I visited the Mona Lisa in Paris on a random Thursday night in October 2012 right before closing, it was literally JUST my friend and I in the room with the painting. Or when I visited Pompeii, it was a rainy day in March 2013 and the site was empty except for our group. I loved it and will always remember roaming around those ruins in the drizzle. These our completely different experiences then some of my good friends have had who visit these same sites during the summer or spring break and endure large crowds that damper the experience. 

I can imagine Al Hambara also may be less enjoyable with pressing crowds and although I am sure it is gorgeous in the summer greenery, we were lucky to have many of the rooms to ourselves. 
Loyal real life & travel roommate, Marina! ^ (who is living in Morocco right now!)  
^ I learned this kind of dome with what I would (in my non-expertise) call "stalactites" is in reality called a "muqarnas" and is common in Islamic architecture.  
^another more elaborate example of a muqarnas 
love love love 
Fun fact: for fans of the book The Alchemist, by Paulo Cohelo, it is hinted at that this is the city where the main character, Santiago, the shepherd boy, begins his journey. 
I loved all the geometric patterns and intricate details in the craftsmanship of every corner of the palace. In the muslim faith they don't believe in iconography, or in other words, depicting the faces of God or any of the characters in their scriptures. So instead beauty and spirituality are shown through ornate geometric patterns and carvings. Or elaborate calligraphy of scripture verses (scroll to see some pictures of examples)
Looking out from the royal gardens over to the palace 
^ arabic calligraphy 
Looking out over Granada 
Closeup of arabic calligraphy, scripture verses and references to Allah  ^
And to end on a sweet note ;) 
Churros con chocolate 

xx Jess