Busboys, Poets, Ball Games, Bars, Maryland, Philly, Atlanta

Busboys & Poets is a restaurant, cafe, and open mic central located in Chinatown of Metro Washington, D.C. Its U Street location was the hub of a progressive renaissance, drawing together black, white, gay, straight, young and old alike. The name is a tribute to Langston Hughes, who was working as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel in the 1930s when he slipped three of his poems on the table of Vachel Lindsay, a famous poet, who proclaimed in the papers the next day his discovery of a β€œNegro busboy poet.” It also happens to be my latest obsession!

To those visiting D.C. between the hours of 9 to 5 on Mondays through Thursdays, D.C.’s professional culture is most apparent (outside of the various sightseeing opportunities it also offers). The personality that this city has tucked away in the name of starched collars, matching ties, and pearl earrings finds its eccentric release in places like Busboys & Poets. Artists and aficionados alike unite here for a cup of java, wining/dining, and a weekly poetry slam. There aren’t enough place like this here, but it’s a start.

A big part of me needs this. Last weekend, when I went to New York, I felt that this sort of culture is missing in D.C. Happy hours seem to be a commonplace escape from the 9 to 5 here, but music/poetry/coffee&art beat out alcohol in my book any day.

Coincidentally enough, I had just purchased a Harlem Renaissance poetry book two weeks ago.

Take me Out to the Ball Game

First baseball game I’ve ever gone to, and it’s in D.C. I was told the two teams that played each other (D.C. Nationals vs. San Diego Padres) both suck, but it was somewhat of a symbolic opposition for me. “Home” team took on a different meaning today!

Cool thing about baseball games in the city is that everyone comes out and the Metro is backed up for hours after the game ends. It will take you forever to get home unless you call for a taxi. Crowds of people, clouds of B.O.

Also, I volunteered to be part of the cheering section for a softball game this week. My supervisor has a group of friends who play softball regularly, and staffers from our office also participate. It’s like any other softball game. Except your opposition includes people who work for the FBI, EPA, and other government acronym-ical organizations.

playing ball on the National Mall
coolest interns on the Hill (biased opinion)

nice view of the rotunda on the way to the National Mall for softball

Bar Hopping, No Stopping!
Went bar hopping in Dupont Circle with a friend on Friday night and walked all the way up to Adams Morgan, did more bar hopping and dancing, and made it home. I crashed on the couch and have no idea how I made it to my bed in the middle of the night. Awesome. Total score: 5(?) bars

Jumbo slice – the best!

Wheaton, Maryland
I found a place to live next year, thanks to a few friends at the APALRC (Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center), who have been so welcoming ever since I got here. It’s off the red line in Wheaton, Maryland, and is so close to my work that I won’t even need to take the Metro at all. It’s in a house, and I get my own room/bathroom. Rent is very close to what I’m paying in Irvine. The people are awesome, and it’s close to grocery stores, a mall, and a Target. I’m good. Also, the demographic in the area is much more ethnic than in Metro D.C. I’ll be living in the community that I’ll be working with in the following year with AmeriCorps as a community organizer.

In West Philadelphia Born and Raised for my Pre-Service Orientation…
Taking the train to Philadelphia tomorrow to attend my PSO for AmeriCorps. Everything is coming together! I can’t wait to try a real Philly cheese steak sandwich, visit the Liberty Bell, and see what this city of love is all about!

Atlanta, Georgia
uNAVSA-6 this weekend to learn more about leadership, challenges in the national Vietnamese community, human rights, and ways that we can affect the aforementioned. And a whole lot of fun, as usual!

[[ On a personal note, I feel like I am living life as I want to. In the past few months, I have known loss (and how to cope with it), questioned what lies within my soul, made decisions about my future and been proactive about setting up the steps to get there, familiarized myself with a once-unfamiliar city, traveled to other cities, added to a network of close friends, kept up with my physical fitness, learned more about poetry/music/art/science, and maintained relationships with those who mean very much to me back home. This sounds crazy, but after having experienced the emotional roller coaster that has been these past few months, I am not afraid of death. If I were to die tomorrow, I would have no regrets about today or yesterday. In hopes that this will not be the case, though, I still plan to live every day to its fullest and make the most of what I have been given. I feel very blessed to be where I am.]]

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
–Langston Hughes


My Life Aquatic

Had I known this morning when I gave a passing glance to my umbrella exactly how desperately I would need it later on during today, I would have grabbed onto it for dear life and never gone back!

After work, I found myself caught in the rain, soaking wet (flip flops and all) seeking refuge under a tree with my supervisor and his girlfriend while we were on our way to the National Mall to watch the softball game. Eventually, the rain let up and we got there okay (though it was a bit muddy). After the first inning, I headed home and found myself caught in the rain yet again after getting off the metro. This time around, I didn’t even try to avoid it and walked home soaking wet without anything over my head. Haha. The reactions of people passing by me ranged from pity to tickled by my aquatic state.

Who knew that a Thursday could entail so much misadventure? Only in D.C., I tells ya. It’s true, though. I learned today that sometimes you really do have to laugh to keep from crying! Oi vey.

Thankfully (and ironically), The Life Aquatic was waiting for me on NetFlix, and I had myself a warm meal and some tea to unwind.

Other updates
…(in no specific order)

  1. I get to give a tour of the Capitol tomorow! This is my favorite part about my internship. I LOVE being able to meet constituents from back home and show them around our nation’s Capitol.
  2. I saw Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi! Today when I got lost looking for the Speaker’s Lobby, I accidentally ventured toward (but not into) Speaker Pelosi’s office. In the corridor, I saw Speaker Pelosi walk out with her staff. πŸ˜€ Like I’ve told a lot of you on the phone, D.C. is a sort of Hollywood for politicians. Each time you see one, it’s like a celebrity sighting and I find myself getting all giddy.
  3. I found a place to live next year! This place is 15 minutes away from where I’ll be working next year in Wheaton, Maryland. It’s not too far away from the Metro stop either, so I’ll be able to easily go back into the city a few times a week to work with the DC office. AND I checked – it’s close to a Target, Jamba Juice, and Forever 21. What more could I ask for, really? I’ll only be paying slightly more than what I paid in Irvine, BUT I get my own room, my own bathroom, indoor washer/dryer, and internet! This is, how you say, sweet deal. Considering how rent is up the Wazoo here in D.C.
  4. Traveling to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Atlanta, Georgia this coming week. I’m going to Philly for my Pre-Service Orientation for AmeriCorps. I’ll get to meet other VISTAs and learn more about my position this coming year. Then uNAVSA-6 is that same weekend, so I’ll be jetsetting once again! This time to attend workshops on Vietnamese human rights, community development, and to meet more of my peoples. Fa sho.
  5. I love my fellow Team Loretta interns. Like seriously. I get incredibly homesick, but these girls bring home to me and keep me sane in this bustling city. In the office, we work together and help each other grow, learn, and relax. Unfortunately, since we came on different cycles, they’re all leaving before I am.
  6. I’m reading Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam. This is the book that inspired the movie October Sky. It takes place in the 1960s in a small mining town called Coalwood. The protagonist is a boy who develops and interest in rocket science after seeing Sputnik from his backyard and decides to build a rocket with his friends. Simple setting, simple story with all the nuances of the Cold War, space race, the value of family, power of education, and the American Dream and all that jazz.
  7. Arrested Development is the best show ever. I am addicted. Thank you, Kiren Ahuja. Thanks a whole goshdarn lot. The end.

Until next post! I miss you all very much. Check your mailboxes!


New York Minute

This weekend, I hopped the Chinatown bus and headed to New York. Although I’ve been to this city multiple times this year, it never gets old. Whether for a weekend getaway or an extended visit, your experience is never the same as the last.

One thing in particular that I experienced differently, though, is the fact that the people in New York have so much more personality than those in D.C. Colors, lights, sounds. It’s a city unafraid of being itself, and to hell with anyone who dares criticize. The last time I went to New York, I hadn’t yet experienced actually living in a metropolitan area. Now that I have, I feel that if I was given the choice, I’d choose to live in New York out of all the other big cities I’ve visited.

More often than not in D.C., I’ve felt like I’ve given into conformity. I hate to admit it. People here seem so focused, so driven, so serious – which, I can be. But it’s not what I want to be all the time. I doubt it’s how other people want to come off either, but one can’t help but be conditioned into that sort of lifestyle here, given the fact that most people are here to work, to get things done. The weekend brings out the lighter side to people in crowded bars, clubs, and restaurants. However, not much seems to elicit creative energy. Even the museums seem reserved solely for tourists.

Am I compromising what’s unique about me in order to pursue a line of work I’m interested in? If I am, is it worth it?

The allure of places like New York took on new nuances this past weekend. While there, I found it easier to laugh, sing, think, and connect with others. Now, I find myself wondering whether I’d like to spend a long time in a place that is not so conducive to this.

On the Job

Today I sat in a briefing on Vietnamese human rights with Loretta Sanchez herself, some of her staff, members of USCIRF, and Representative Joseph Cao. Watching Loretta, you learn a lot about confidence and how far it gets you. Observing and learning about different leadership styles is one of the most interesting things about being here.

Also, you get constant exposure and access to information and research. C-SPAN is constantly on in our office. We get authorization to research policy and issues using the Library of Congress database, which is not open to the public. Briefings and hearings are constantly happening while Congress is in session.

Hierarchy of our office:
1. Representative Loretta Sanchez
2. Chief of Staff
a. Press Secretary
b. Scheduler
c. District Office staff (in our case, the staff in Garden Grove)
3. Legislative Director
4. Legislative Assistants
5. Legislative Correspondent(s)
6. Staff Assistant
7. Interns

As you can see, interns are at the butt of the hierarchy, but we’re important too! There are tons of interns on Capitol Hill who do the work that other staffers would otherwise be doing if we weren’t around. Since we are around doing some of the grunt work, they can focus their energy on getting back to constituents, organizing briefings, research, and sometimes YouTube. πŸ™‚

Some cool things I’ve done so far:

  • Attending briefings on interesting issues like Mexican drug cartels, border security, health care, and education
  • Sorting constituent mail. It’s a reminder of the fact that citizens do care enough to attempt contacting their representative about issues that directly affect them.
  • Watching the voting occur on the House floor
  • Assisting in giving staff-led tours of the Capitol
  • Helping our legislative assistant for Vietnamese affairs do research about ma’ peoples!
  • Navigated the tunnels system that connects the office buildings to the Capitol
  • Discovered an ice cream creamery, dry cleaning, bank, and post office at the tunnels level. You literally never have to leave work.

The other parts of my job include the typical clerical, administrative duties like taking phone calls, organizing papers, and running odd errands. But I enjoy the environment, and the work is interesting. This is enough to keep my motivation high for a very long time.

The people I work with are also awesome. The Team Loretta interns hung out a few times after work, and I’m glad to be sharing this experience with them. I’m going to be the only intern for most of August, so I’m sad that they’re leaving. But we have a good time when we’re all together. Getting ice cream during breaks, helping each other out with different projects, and dancing in the office when our supervisor is gone. Good times.

Good week. I met some people simply by sharing my music (playing guitar in a stairwell), ate sushi with my fellow interns, saw Harry Potter tonight with my roommate Stephanie. This weekend, I’m going to New York for a day. Hopping the Chinatown bus and sticking it out for the four-hour drive to get me some NYC. Living life!

the beautiful sushi the interns ate after work the other evening

I miss you guys at home, though. Hopefully you’ve received the postcards and letters I’ve been sending out! I’ve decorated the wall around my desk with your letters and postcards. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

The Rhapsody in You

I just met more people tonight playing the guitar than I have the entire time that I’ve been in Washington, D.C.

I brought Mickey Blue from home this time and decided to practice in the stairwell for the flawless acoustics. Some students from Berkeley heard me playing and asked me to come sit with them on the terrace. More and more people began to join us after a while until there were 8 of us sitting around in a circle sharing music, stories, and jokes. Another guy brought out his classical guitar and played flamenco for us.

Warm, sticky summer evening on the rooftop, chai tea, 8 strangers, and two guitars.

Up until this point, I had been hesitant to go out and meet people. Me alone in a stairwell expressing myself pretty much sums up my social experience here in D.C., especially because of everything going on in my mind lately. But who knew that it would be music that would once again connect me best to others? I am so thankful, so glad, to have music in my life. Over time, it has made me less shy, more open minded, and brought me closer to the human spirit.

To sum up the night in song:


Counting Them

My blessings.

Those of you who are close to me are keen to the events of the past few days, and I thank you so much for your being there. It has meant the world to me to know I have a support system outside of my family that stays with me despite my being thousands of miles away. Thank you for your phone calls, your text messages, your simply being there. Thank you for your letters, your cards, your hugs, your flowers, for seeing me off at the airport when I thought I was going to have to go back alone to D.C. with grief lingering on my mind. Thank you for staying up late with me to listen to my stories. Thank you for singing to me. Thank you for reminding me to smile. Thank you for sitting with me at work. Thank you for understanding that sometimes silence is best, that no words are needed. Thank you for everything.

He was there, and then he wasn’t. He passed on Tuesday morning. July 7, 2009 at 8:15AM.

He was there for my first breath. I was there for his last. He went in a room full of his children and grandchildren. After having a life dedicated to his family, I don’t think he would have preferred it any other way. I miss him very much, but he will stay with me for much time to come. With his courage, he taught us to smile in the face of adversity and to overcome it with the knowledge that death is a natural part of life. That people come and go, but it is love that continues on long after we pass.

This time has reminded me how much I love my family. I have been very fortunate to be raised with so much love and emotional support in all that I do. Without my family, I couldn’t be where I am today. When all else fails, I know I still have something good to come back to.

Also, having my grandfather in my life and observing his relationship with my grandmother through the years has shown me that true love exists and that it is possible to find. At the end of the day, I couldn’t ask for more.

A Fourth in Cypress

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

The ground is littered with relatives. Most everyone made it back to California for my grandpa’s birthday. The walls are warm with the presence of company. My callouses are toughening up again from my guitar strings. It feels good to be home.

Happy birthday, America. Happy birthday, Grandpa.

I’m having trouble sleeping. It’s restlessness, I know it. We all know why we came back, but no one speaks of the elephant in the room. I find comfort in knowing that this insomnia is collective.

This year, there were no fireworks. We had a quiet dinner with family all around. In a lot of ways, I couldn’t be happier.

carousel on the National Mall

I’ll be back in D.C. on Wednesday. Taking the red-eye on Tuesday night. I don’t know when the next time I’ll be in California will be. I’ll miss this.