D.C. Day One

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Outside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Photo taken by me.

Today didn’t go as planned, but it was fantastic anyway. Our initial itinerary for today was go to Arlington Cemetery when it opened to see the changing of the guard and Kennedy’s grave, then go to the Holocaust Museum to see if we could get passes for the permanent exhibit for today. Based on what time our passes were for, we would visit either the American History Museum, the Spy Museum, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the monuments and memorials in the National Mall.

What actually happened today. We woke up too late to go to Arlington Cemetery before the Holocaust Museum opened. We wanted to go the Holocaust Museum when it opened at 10am so we could be near the front of the line to receive passes. We ended up getting passes for 11am, so we stuck around and went through one of the special exhibitions called “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust.” We only had about 45 minutes to explore this exhibition and it was not enough time to read and experience everything. My step-dad told me I wouldn’t be able to read everything while we were in D.C.; he turned out to be right. I was still disappointed. I wish we had more time here.

The Holocaust Museum was beyond words. My AP European History teacher in high school had gone into detail about World War II and the Holocaust, so I knew at least basics about almost everything in the main exhibition, but there was so much more I didn’t know. There was also the physical evidence like photos, videos, testimonies, belongings, and objects from that time. I was impressed with the technology and innovativeness of the Nazi Germans when it came to creating and organizing the census that they later used to persecute and murder millions. The organizing of the census itself was amazing. What they used it for, not so.

Notice how I used the term Nazi Germans. Meaning those that agreed with the ideology and actions of the Nazi party and actively contributed to those actions.

I have heard that for most people, the most chilling part of the Museum is the piles of actual shoes from victims of the concentration camps. When we went through it, only one side of the room had shoes in it, the under was under renovation and the shoes had been removed temporarily. I was definitely affected by the shoes. These were the shoes of men, women, young, old, grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, cousins, rich, poor, etc. However, even with these thoughts, what really got me was the smell of the shoes. While I knew that these were the real shoes of real people who had been murdered, somehow it was the smell that proved that shoes were old and had possibly been on the feet of people as they were killed. I almost thought I could smell death from the shoes.

There were other segments that really affected me. One was the testimony of a survivor who recounted how her best friend who was a non-Jew, had turned against her, had lined up to ransack her home after her family was forced to move to a ghetto. The other segment was the Tower of Faces. The first time you walk through it, you walk along a bridge that goes through the middle. You look up, you look down, there are pictures of the Jews and non-Jews, together and separate, of the town of Eishishok. Three floors of photos on all four walls, surrounding you, telling the story of a small town in which there was peace, love, and community. These were real people. The last segment that affected me the most was a reconstruction of one of the train cars that the Jews and other groups that the Nazis hated were transported to concentration camps in. The cars were tiny, yet they squished 100 people into these things. None of my family could walk through, they thought it was too creepy. I was the only one who did because I didn’t want to imagine how cramped from the outside it might have been. I wanted to walk in and imagine 100 people squished into the car, so I would have a better understanding. I don’t think I will ever forget that feeling. It would have been worse if it had been an actual train car that had been used rather than a reproduction.

I choose not to post any pictures beyond the one I took outside the Museum. Part of the mission of the Museum is to “encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy” (http://www.ushmm.org/information/about-the-museum/mission-statement). This is one place that just looking at pictures will not do it justice nor will the pictures encourage you to reflect.

I encourage you to visit and reflect.

I don’t mean to move on abruptly, but I am moving on to our next destination.

After a quick lunch at We, the Pizza, we went to the Library of Congress. I drooled over the amount of books and the architecture. My brother made a comment about how it was amazing that the builders of the Library of Congress were able to create a place so intricate and beautiful with the tools and technology of their time. I reminded him of how the ancient Greeks and Romans had had even more primitive technology than today and than the builders of the Library of Congress.

He was half right. Imagine creating floor and wall mosaics, pillars with intricate carvings, and statues with realistic quality with today’s technology. They would feel heartless. I love that the individual tiles in the mosaics are not perfectly aligned with one another. You can tell that a person actually did the labor.

We only got a glimpse of the main reading room as there were many people who wanted to see it and only one small section that overlooked it. The books were hidden behind arches that lined the walls.

Main Reading Room in the Library of Congress. Photo taken by me.
Main Reading Room in the Library of Congress. Photo taken by me.
Arches in Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Photo by me.
Arches in Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Photo by me.

I think my favorite part of the Library of Congress was Thomas Jefferson’s Library. Basically, the government bought Jefferson’s library after the original Library’s contents were burned by the British. The exhibit shows the actual books from his library.

Thomas Jefferson's Library at the Library of Congress. Photo by me.
Thomas Jefferson’s Library at the Library of Congress. Photo by me.
Information 1 about Thomas Jefferson's Library at the Library of Congress. Photo by me.
Information 1 about Thomas Jefferson’s Library at the Library of Congress. Photo by me.
Key to the Books: Thomas Jefferson's Library at the Library of Congress. Photo by me.
Key to the Books: Thomas Jefferson’s Library at the Library of Congress. Photo by me.

The International Spy Museum. Oh my gosh this place was awesome. I fully recommend going here. Unlike the Smithsonian Museums, the Spy Museum does have an admission fee, but it is worth it. The Museum is set up as if you are training to be a spy. You get a cover identity at the beginning and there are places throughout the Museum where you can test yourself to see if you remember your cover. The Museum covers the history of spying as well as the methods and tools used throughout history, as well as the new threats that we and the spies of today face. There is also a fantastic exhibit about the villains of  James Bond. Some segments included the actual props from some of the movies and interesting facts about the inspirations for some of the villains and henchmen and henchwomen.

I won’t post any photos for the Spy Museum either simply because I don’t want to spoil anything!

After the Spy Museum we walked around the National Mall to see the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. My step-dad said that every time he sees the White House, he always thinks it will be bigger and it reminds him of cake. I agree lol.

After the White House we went to the Lincoln Memorial. By this time the sunset was occurring, so the Monuments were lit up.

I stood in the same place that Martin Luther King Junior stood.
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Looking out from here was… amazing.

As I leaned against a pillar of the Lincoln Memorial and looked out at the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool, I thought:

This is a time when a camera and a blog do not do life justice. The eveninhg air is calm, despite the tourists with their never ending chatter and flashing cameras, I feel reflective. The air wet and warm like after a rain storm, comforting. There is still a glow from the sunset framing the Washington Monument. A kid with a glow stick sparks me to imagine thousands of people gathered around the reflecting pool, silent, all with a glow stick or small candle. Just together.

We were going to visit the other monuments that night but we were all tired so we decided to visit the next day.

Overall it was an amazing day. My favorite part was definitely visiting the Lincoln Memorial at sunset. I was intrigued by the statue of Lincoln, it seemed as if he was looking down pensively. I wonder what he was thinking about.

Road Trip

So for my brother’s high school graduation present he wanted to see Barcelona vs Chelsea and Manchester United vs PSG. These are professional soccer teams for the uninitiated.

Originally it was going to be just three of us going since someone needed to stay home to make sure grandma didn’t accidentally burn the house down. My mom and had a big fight about this because she wanted all four of us to go as a family trip. Basically there was some petty retaliations on both sides and the final decision, made three days ago, was that all of us were going and we’re dropping my step-dad’s mom (The Heinous Bitch) off with his son while we’re gone.

The first game, Barcelona vs Chelsea is in Washington D.C.. I’ve never been there before but my mom, brother, and step-dad all have. The second game, Manchester United vs PSG, is in Chicago. I’ve been to Chicago many times and like it a lot. I am desperate to visit the Field Museum again.

A lot of people think that I’m not excited to go see these soccer games but I really am!!!! Until three days ago I thought I was the one who was going to have to stay home so I didn’t let myself think about the trip so I wouldn’t be disappointed that I wasn’t going. Now that I know I’m going I am having to consciously keep myself from bouncing in my seat.

Before we drive to Washington D.C., we’re going to the birthday party of my step-dad’s grandson in a suburb of Chicago. He turned 6 yesterday. So we’re driving to Chicago,  then to Washington D.C. then back to Chicago. Totally makes sense, right? It’s all good, we get to drop The Heinous Bitch off and see some family before starting the 11 hour drive to D.C..

I really want to spend time at the Smithsonian Museum….. but there are seven in D.C. and we don’t have the time 😦 My step-dad made a point to tell me that we won’t have time for me to read every plaque/informational board there. I am the history buff in my family besides my step-dad, add to that the fact that I love to read and you have a woman who consumes time without realizing it as she absorbs every written word around her.

My brother wants to go to the Holocaust Museum again. It made him very sad when he first went there im eighth grade but he still thinks it’s a intriguing and important place to visit.

My boyfriend thinks we should go to the newest Smithsonian Museum that’s about Native Americans. I’m skeptical about this one because of the ongoing Repatriation debate within the Archaeology, Anthropology, and other academic communities. I’ll make a post specifically about this topic later.

We’re going to visit all the usual places in D.C. like the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Wall, and Arlington Cemetery to see the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,  among others. I know I will feel humbled after visiting these places.

Anyway,  at the moment we’re in the car on the way to the birthday party. I’ll post more about D.C., Chicago, and the soccer games later 🙂

Ever After High

I mentioned in the about me part of this blog that I love new versions of fairytales. This includes worlds like Ever After High by Shannon Hale.

In summary, Ever After High is about the children of famous fairy tale characters as they go through high school, learning how to fulfill the same roles as their parents did in their stories. If they don’t follow their destinies of reenacting their parents stories, then they will go poof. However, Raven Queen, daughter of the Evil Queen from the story Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Apple White, daughter of Snow White, is afraid that Raven going rogue will cause everyone to go poof.

There’s some obvious plot holes in EAH, but I still love it. Like, how are all the stories going to continue if each original fairy tale character needs an heir?

My first example is Beauty and the Beast. Rosabelle Beauty is the daughter of Beauty and the Beast, but who is going to be the Beast when Rosabelle graduates and needs to follow her story? The obvious answer is Beast’s son. But that would be the Beast’s son, Rosabelle’s brother… ew. There is no son mentioned, yet, in either the books or the webisode series. Either way, there’s a shortage of heirs without going to incest for answers.

The books and webisode series do try to answer this by having a family Charming, with two sons currently attending the school, Daring and Dexter. In the webisode Blondie Branches Outthe Charming boys present a chart that demonstrates how they are not related to the Charmings of Nottingham Forest or the Charmings of Neverafter. Dexter and Daring’s sister, Darling Charming, has her own narration in which she lists off all the different branches of Charming families in the book Ever After High: Once Upon a Time: A Story Collection (Hale, 2014)  So there are plenty of Prince Charming’s to go around. Also in the book, the Charming siblings Daring, Dexter, and Darling attend a Charming Family Ball. It is basically a family outing that would be a picnic or barbecue among other families, but since there are so many Charmings, they call it a ball.

Dexter Charming’s narration also explains that Charming prince’s story destinies are assigned by whatever highest-profile destiny is available the year students are assigned destinies (their second year at Ever After High). Daring, Dexter’s brother, is the highest profile Charming in their year and the highest-profile destiny of this year’s students is the Prince Charming of the Snow White story. So it’s obvious what destiny Daring has, but Dexter has no idea. Dexter wonders about the other destinies available to him, like Beast or the Marsh King. Dexter’s narration indicates that not all roles are directly hereditary but can be filled by fairy tale successors who fit the requirements for each particular tale.

My second example is Ashlynn Ella. In the book Ever After High: Once Upon a Time: A Story Collection (Hale, 2014), Ashlynn’s mother is still clearly alive, though Ashlynn does sadly acknowledge that someday her mother will die in order for Ashlynn to become the new Cinderella and fulfill her destiny. I am glad that the books acknowledge this sad truth, but the webisodes certainly do not. Further, there is no mention of Cinderella having gone to EAH or of her knowing that her mother would have to die in order for Cinderella to be Cinderella. Also, in the webisode Ashlynn’s Fashion Frolicher two step-sisters show up and steal her fashion show. This implies that Ashlynn’s story has already begun as she has two step-sisters. they had been referred to as her “future step-sisters” in the webisode, it would have worked out, but they weren’t. So there are some discrepancies between the books and webisodes.

My third example is that it is rarely ever mentioned how far back the fairy tales have been repeated. To use Blondie Branches Out as an example again, Blondie does show a family tree, but only mentions her mother as being a part of the story Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. The audience reading the EAH books knows the fairy tales used in EAH as the original stories (well, mostly the Disney versions) and recognizes the names of the EAH students’ parents as being the names of the characters in the fairy tales. My point is, the audiences’ beliefs are that the EAH parents are the originals, though the books imply that there are generations before them that have continuously lived out the stories. An example to clear this idea up is Cinderella. If Ashlynn’s mother is Cinderella, then wouldn’t she be the original from the story? If that is true, then how would the story Cinderella have been repeated for generations?

In summary, my issues with the Ever After High books are about how some of the students are going to fulfill their destinies by following their parents’ stories but there are some essential characters missing because of successors being related and the haziness of whether or not the stories have been repeated for generations or not.

However, I also think these plot holes are on purpose. Two other characters in the books and webisodes are Milton and Giles Grimm. The Grimm brothers. What we know from the books is that they’re centuries old and Milton founded EAH in 1812, though one of the webisodes shows that they do have parents and were once children. Milton Grimm is the Headmaster at Ever After High while his brother Giles is for most of the first three books imprisoned in the Vault of Lost Tales with a babbling curse set on him. Milton Grimm takes pretty desperate measure in both the books and the webisodes to cover up the plot holes I just discussed and to convince the students at EAH that they must follow their destinies, even if the EAH world might be better off if the children of evil parents didn’t fulfill their destinies.

Milton’s desperation has me convinced that the fairy tales stories do not need to repeated over and over again each generation in order for them not to disappear and that everyone can choose their destiny. Personally, I think this will be revealed and spell the ending of the series.

Heavy Hair

I want to chop it all off! However, it’s been a life long goal of mine to donate it.

Up until Kindergarten I had really long hair. But then I decided I wanted my hair cut short to look good for school pictures. When mom took me to the hairdresser and she was all done… I hated it. I pretended and told the hairdresser and my mom that I loved it. But inside I loathed it. I vowed then and there that I wasn’t ever going to have short hair again. I broke that vow much later though.

I told everyone that I wanted to grow my hair out to donate so that they wouldn’t question me why I didn’t want to keep my short locks. Eventually my excuse became a real goal. I saw stories about kids and adults with cancer feeling much better because they were able to receive wigs from people who donated their hair. I wanted to help someone gain back their confidence and a little normality. So the hair donation goal became real.

So I continued growing my hair until my senior year of high school. You would think that it would be down to my knees or somewhere close if I hadn’t gotten it cut since Kindergarten, but that wasn’t true. I really should have gone to the salon regularly to get my hair trimmed, but since I went so erratically with extremely long breaks in between, when I did go, I often had to get inches cut off to rid myself of split ends. So my hair never really got a chance to grown past the small of my back.

Senior year of high school I finally felt like I was ready to chop it all off. I absolutely loved Emma Watson’s pixie cut and I wanted to cut my hair like that. Buuut, prom was coming up and I knew I wanted an up-do hairstyle for that. So I compromised and had my hair cut to just above my shoulders. Honestly I was also pretty scared about having my hair cut short after my disastrous experience in Kindergarten. I loved it. Having shoulder-lenthish hair was fantastic. About two months after I graduated high school I finally made the next step and gained a pixie-cut. It looked awesome! Also, washing and styling my hair took so much less time! The decrease in weight on my head and neck was nice too 🙂

I grew my hair back out again though because I still wanted to donate my hair. It’s been three years since my pixie cut. My hair is definitely longer than 10 inches, but I’m waiting to cut it until it’s 10 inches past my shoulders so that I can immediately go back to the length I love best now. I also have to wait for my layers to catch up with the rest of my hair. It’s a pain in the butt to style right now. I really don’t want to look like my middle school self.

I really can’t wait to cut it. I’ve been getting headaches a lot lately. I know the weight of my hair isn’t the only cause of the headaches, but it’s definitely one of the leading factors. I’m getting quite fed up with my hair and the headaches. I’ve been so close to just chopping it off now before it gets to the right length for donating. But I’ve been wanting to donate it for so long. That’s what’s keeping me going right now. That I’ve had this goal for so long, and imagining the feeling someone might get when they receive a new wig made from my hair.

I would feel so awesome just to know I contributed in some small way to make another person happy.

Adulting

Things I need to pay for in the next two months:

  • Deposit for my apartment this fall
  • New phone (mine is nearly kaput)
  • Textbooks

Also, starting in August I begin paying rent again. Checking my bank account…. Maybe that date night out wasn’t such a good idea. It was fun though! Note to self though, spend less money on fufu coffee 😛

Traveling Abroad

Photographing the Photographer by KatHearts
Photo by me

I have always wanted to travel abroad for a few months. I went to Greece for about two weeks after I graduated high school, but those two weeks weren’t enough and I was on an itinerary. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my time in Greece and all the places I got to visit. I got to visit ruins, the Acropolis in Athens and the museum, visited a few islands, swim in the Mediterranean…. many amazing experiences.

However, I would love to live out of a suitcase and travel for a few months throughout Europe. Even if all I did was go to the United Kingdom. I have relatives in England whom I could stay with/use their house as a base and they would also be excited about taking me to different castles around the country or just traveling with me in general. My aunt and I would talk books, and I would trade sarcasm with both my aunt and uncle. I’ve read way too many historical fiction novels about the United Kingdom and I would love to see the places that my books describe.

I also feel like traveling abroad and fending for myself in a country unfamiliar to myself would help me grow and discover new things about myself. I just have a thirst, a need that resonates within my body, to travel. The feeling is almost like if I do not travel, I will die. Extremely melodramatic, I know. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling. It’s not just physical, but emotional and spiritual. I mean physical in that I feel like I need to travel as much as I need food, water, shelter, etc. to survive. Emotional as if it is the only thing that will keep me sane. Spiritual like it will focus my center and give me a purpose in life.

I made it my goal to travel abroad in the next year. So by July 6, 2016, I need to be in a different country.

Internship??? Honors Senior Project???

As a Non-Profit Administration Minor I’m required to complete an internship for credit. I have already completed an internship at a children’s museum near my university but I didn’t do it for credit. I really should have done it for credit. This last year of college would be a lot easier if I had. Anyways, I need to find another non-profit internship, hopefully for the second semester.

I also have to do an Honors Senior Project in order to fulfill my Honors College requirements so that I can graduate With Honors. I’m almost tempted to quit honors, but then I would have to redo all those credits that it fulfilled for gen eds…. Not happening. Senior Project it is then. Question is, what do I do for this project? My boyfriend helped me do some brainstorming and I think I have some ideas now. Next I need to talk to the people in charge of honors projects and find a professor willing to be my adviser. This is where I wish I had spent more time taking advantage of my professors’ office hours.

I want to do the honors project during this first semester so that I won’t be doing it at the same time as my capstone class for my major. However, this means that I would be doing my internship during the second semester. I don’t really want to do the internship at the same time as the project, but it will be difficult to do during the capstone as well.