Exploring DC :: Part 1 (NPR Store and the Guard)

I spent this last week working in DC. I’ll write about some boring stuff, then some fun stuff.

Boring stuff. Work was done at the EPA (Crystal City office), all 3 Senate and 3 House offices, and the USDA. Participating in the regulation process (EPA) was interesting; participating in the lobbying process (Congressional offices) was satisfying (despite the drop of morale). I thought the food service was of good value and quality in the government office buildings. I was shocked at the few commercial presences in government buildings — it just felt odd and slightly wrong to see isolated retail stores. There are plenty of shopping options outside.

Fun stuff. I went to the NPR Store, the National Guard Museum (especially in honor of my grandpa. and my dad, too), the National Postal Museum (Hamilton!), and Union Station. I also participated in DC urban beekeeping. The funniest (and most fun) part of all the fun stuff is that somehow, honey bees worked into most of the places I visited.

At the NPR store, a very short walk from where I stayed, I found an entire display’s worth of bee stuff — blank journals with honey bees on the cover, beeswrap, etc. Every now and then you hear a story that mentions the two hives on the NPR office rooftop, so the merchandise is a quirky reference to them. The hives used to be part of the building tour, but tours had ceased for summer. I found a nice wall of NPR history exhibits in the lobby, too.

NPR Store

The National Guard Memorial Museum was pleasantly educational for adults (thank you to the nice random someone from the outside who badged me in, and no, thank you to the off-site radio security who kept telling me that the door appeared unlocked so I should have no issues entering). The library down the hallway had interesting exhibits, too. But don’t try to get a drink from the gold drinking fountains because they aren’t working.

Audio files were the most interactive the exhibits got, but as it was not staffed, I doubt that higher visitor engagement is the goal. (For kids and less interested adults, I would recommend our large Iowa Gold Star Military Museum — lots of multi-sensory interaction.) I walked by this place a few times, and because my grandfather (my mom’s dad) was head of our state’s Selective Service System, and my dad is retired Guard, I thought it would be nice to visit.

Two fun takeaways. 1. I am most likely too big around and too tall to fit into the historic uniforms from the years before 1940. I laugh when imagining myself being considered big and tall. 2. Honey bees can play a part in the Agricultural Development Teams today, as shown in my pics below.

national guard, honey bee suit

I was completely surprised to turn the corner and see this.

national guard, honey bees

She’s so BA — no veil, no gloves.

Last fun fact for this trip: I found my dad, kind of. 34th ID. I thought I recognized that red bull. [I didn’t read the card until today, “on loan from Iowa Gold Star Museum.” And he -just- verified for me.]

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Crazy Rich Asians :: Music, sightseeing, and dolls

audience for crazy rich asians

Waiting for showtime in the theater!

“I” of GAIN, my youngest child, and I went to see the movie Crazy Rich Asians over the weekend. She had read the book when it was first released, and as a half-Asian teenager, she wanted to support representation of Asians in Hollywood. I just wanted to see a good movie that was worth the admission.

The story was fantastic, and I loved that it caused a meaningful discussion between us that was unrelated to the storyline. We spent time talking about Asian representation outside of Hollywood.

I’ve struggled with describing representation for myself, but I think I’ve thought out the subject enough to put words to it. I think my struggle comes from living in a 99% colorblind world. My parents adopted me while they were living in Taiwan; I was a cute three week old infant. I always knew that I was adopted. I always knew that I wasn’t white. It wasn’t a big deal, still isn’t a big deal in my life. So, today, to explain the 1% and the 99% means reversing my regular thought patterns.

Let me start with an example that I hope you can relate to. I am a dancer. I form a bond with the pieces of music that I perform to. I know them intimately. The timing of an arrangement, the instruments and their cues, etc. are necessary for me to do my job well. Once my performance is over, I lose connection with that music, but if I hear it somewhere outside of the context of dance, I get a little nostalgic/excited/positive. Other pieces of music won’t make me upset, and music is not inherently bad, but certain pieces get me energized, especially ones that I’ve studied through dance.

Another example comes from sightseeing. When I see mention of a sight that I’ve seen in the media, I get a spark/memorable flashback — and feel more excited than I was before the sight was mentioned. It’s not that the rest of the news/movie/book/article/story was bad for me, but that familiarity sparked something warm and nostalgic inside my soul.

Applying these examples to the movie Crazy Rich Asians, I can remember a time when my family lived in Ankeny. I would have been younger than 8 years old, which is when we moved to unincorporated Des Moines. I didn’t like blond haired people for a period of time. Not because they were bad, but because they didn’t have dark hair like me. I had (and still have) dark hair. All my Barbie dolls had blond hair. All the Halloween costumes that I liked unfortunately had blond masks. My babysitter had blond hair. I resented blond people because they had dolls and costumes and I didn’t. I couldn’t really verbalize it, but I distinctly remember hating blond people because they were represented in the toy aisle. That energy, that spark of familiarity from certain musical selections and sightseeing, was missing.

[Salty side note: Tuesday Taylor was the only doll I had with dark hair. I have no idea if there were other brunette dolls, but now that I’ve had time to consider her in the large scheme of all toys, I’m pretty annoyed that her dark hair was optional. You see, her hair flipped from blond to brunette, so she wasn’t committed to being brunette. Midge was committed to being redheaded; her hair couldn’t change color. Barbie was blond and her hair couldn’t change, either. Did the toy makers think no one would like a brunette doll and want to keep her blond?]

My hope is that Crazy Rich Asians has a trickle-down effect for all the kids who were like me, searching for something that the toy aisle didn’t have. And I want to emphasize that I’m talking about 1% of my life. I’ve been extremely fortunate and blessed. Because I had nothing but encouragement from my family to achieve anything I focused on, I don’t feel that non-representation oppressed me, left me feeling ignored, etc. Representation didn’t influence my goals in life, but if they help some other child (or adult) who isn’t getting encouragement, then I welcome representation.

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