Saturday, July 16, 2011

Washington, D.C. Redux

Today turned out to be more fun than I had originally anticipated it to be. Today we visited Washington, D.C. Considering this was my fourth time visiting our capitol, I felt right at home. The difference this time was that I would be spending my time with new friends and people that I had never visited D.C. with, except of course Brian and Julia. I had an excellent time seeing the capitol.

We woke up at 7:00 this morning so we could board the bus at 7:45, which was the planned time of departure. Once we started driving, we did not stop for another two and a half hours. It was a very long drive. Half the bus was sleeping, and the rest were either listening to their iPods or watching Inglorious Bastards. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and sleep a little bit more. I woke up with about half an hour of driving time left. Soon we had arrived in Georgetown, where we left the bus behind and hiked to Georgetown University.

We were given about an hour and a half to do as we wished in the Georgetown area. We could either take a tour given by Elliot (one of our RC’s), wander the campus on our own, or walk around the college town area and grab lunch. We opted for the latter and decided to go into the college town. We ate at a restaurant called Georgetown Wings Co. and then got free popsicles from West Elm Furniture. This was basically all we had time to do in Georgetown because of the long walk between the campus and 30th Street, which is where we could go to hang out if we weren’t touring Georgetown. We regrouped at Healy Hall and gathered at our respective busses and headed for the National Mall.

We were allowed to roam for about two hours in the National Mall so we had a lot of options with what we could see. The eight of us, Brian, Julia, Richard, Abheek, Onur, Alison, Fred, and I, decided to walk around and take pictures before visiting any museums. We walked around in the middle of the Mall on the fields of grass and took pictures of each other in front of various buildings and monuments that were actually off in the distance. We also sat at the edge of a long pool of water across from the Capitol Building for quite some time. After taking photos we made our way to the Air and Space Smithsonian, which Onur was very excited about visiting. Unfortunately my camera died almost immediately after entering the museum so I was unable to get pictures of all the amazing pieces of aeronautics history. The eight of us split into smaller groups depending on what we were interested in seeing. Alison, Richard, and I viewed the Hall of Apollo, which was completely dedicated to the history of the Apollo moon landings. Richard knew so much about the planes and shuttles in the museum he could have given us a tour. It turns out he has been fascinated by planes since he was a child and has learned a lot about them over the years. His passion was evident in the museum. We also viewed toured the area dedicated to intrepid American pilots such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. Once it got closer to 5:30, which is when we had to regroup at the buses, we decided to check out the gift shop. We concluded our visit in the museum and made our way back to the buses.

Onur, Richard, and Alison with the Washington Monument in the distance.

Fun on the Mall

Alison wants our capitol to live long and prosper.

Our nation's glorious capitol.

We were brought to Union Station for dinner. We had about fifty minutes to eat so we had to make haste. Brian, Alison, Fred, Onur, and I ate dinner together. Brian and I got Subway, Alison and Onur had massive gyros (which I learned is actually pronounced hero), and Fred got Taco Bell. During dinner we all discussed what we saw in the Air and Space Smithsonian and what our favorite parts of the museum were. I enjoy picking my friends’ brains because all of our perspectives are so different. Afterwards, we got dessert from Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s before returning to the busses.

Our bus ride home seemed much longer than the first, but that might be because I did not sleep for two hours of it. Regardless, I sat with Onur and we talked for a long time. I also reflected on my experience so far with Penn. I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what I do and do not like about the school. I’ve decided that a completely urban environment is not right for me. I do not feel like I’m on a college campus when I’m outside the quad, rather I’m just moving around a city going from building to building. I like the feel of a college campus. However, if a campus is set deep in a city but is secluded from the city streets, I would like that. This is something I really liked about Columbia. However, there are also a number of benefits to attending Penn. For instance, I really like all of the academic opportunities that I would have at Penn. I am interested in studying green energy in college and Penn offers a number of programs that would give me the tools I need to advance my knowledge in that field. I’m still on the fence about Penn, but there are certainly things to love about it. On that note, I’m signing off so I can get some rest before tomorrow’s ice skating excursion.

The Nation's Capital

Today was trend-breaking; it actually felt short. I think that can be accounted for by the total of five hours we spent on the bus to Washington, DC most of which I spent napping to make up for the slight lack of sleep I've been getting these past couple weeks.

Our first stop was Georgetown and since Brian, Alex and I had already taken a tour of the campus we sat down at a crêpe restaurant for lunch instead. The service was a little slow and we didn't have much time in town, so we unfortunately didn't get to see much but the free Popsicles we got at a store opening on our way back more than made up for that. After lunch we walked back to the campus and waited on the grass for the buses. It was very relaxing.Next up on our DC tour was The Mall, where we got to take a look at the capital buildings and a bunch of really interesting museums. We spent the most time in the air and space museum. It was a good feeling being able to understand so much of what the displays showed about how telescopes work and the ways we understand our solar system because we have been talking so much about it in physics.For dinner, we went to union station. I ate at a hamburger shop in the food court with a girl from my physics class and some of her friends. It was surprisingly tasty and the ketchup dishes they gave us were adorable. Unfortunately, we again did not have much time to look around or shop, but it was a good trip none the less.Before I knew it, it was time to get back on the bus. The ride home was long and the seats started getting pretty uncomfortable at the end there, but the scenery was beautiful especially once the sun started going down.

We didn't return to the quad till after 9, so we lay down on the grass, sang some songs we knew and some we made up, did some wheelbarrow racing to get rid of all our excess energy, and attempted to toss a Frisbee around in the dark. After that, I went to bed excited for tomorrows ice skating.


You might guess that after working all week that we would have the weekend off to be lazy. In fact, you would be guessing wrong because our weekend days turn out to be as if not more busy than the week days. Because we were both up late the night before, Alex and I tried to get some extra sleep so we woke up at 7. We got our stuff packed up and then headed down to the local store to grab a quick breakfast for the bus ride to Washington, D.C. The bus ride was pretty much business as usual, I enjoyed my breakfast, talked for a while, and then read my book. Occasionally I took the time to look out of the windows to enjoy the lush countryside. I enjoyed seeing how green everything was even though it’s summer because there is actually a sufficient amount of water here to grow grass during the summer unlike California. By the time the two hour ride was over, I was quite ready to get off the bus to stretch my legs for a bit.

We first got off the bus at Georgetown University. One of our Summer Discovery counselors Elliot who has worked at Georgetown programs before was kind enough to offer to give people a tour of the University. Although Alex, Julia, and I skipped it because we had toured Georgetown only two weeks ago, we heard good things about the tour later. In lieu of the tour, we took the option of walking to the town part of Georgetown where we ate lunch. We agreed on a modern-looking restaurant that specialized in crepes and burgers. The restaurant had a nice loft area upstairs that we sat in and waited for our food. The service was a little bit slow, but I really enjoyed the dish that I ate which was a chicken sandwich. After lunch we had a bit of time left before we had to return to the bus so we took a look at some of the local shops. In particular, being the hungry teenagers that we are, we were drawn to the house wares store that was giving out free popsicles. After realizing that none of us needed new ceramic alarm clocks or fancy sheets, we left the store and walked back to the University. Once again I was impressed by the beauty of the Georgetown campus while we waited underneath a large tree on the lawn for the busses to arrive.

The next leg of our trip took only about half an hour for us to drive to the National Mall. We were all excited to do a bit of sightseeing and to enjoy the Smithsonian Museums. The first thing we did was to stroll down towards the Capitol. I was with Alex, Julia, and several international students who had not seen the Capitol building yet, so it was a fun first-time experience for them and a pleasant repeat for us. After a bit of debate, we decided that we would all enjoy spending the remainder of our time at the Air and Space Museum. I visited here once on a school trip in 8th grade but since then I have become a lot more interested in airplanes and the technology behind them. I’ve always enjoyed planes, but recently I have toyed with the idea of making a career out of it. Watching events such as the Atlantis Space Shuttle completing its final mission and seeing the absolutely incredible images that are beamed to Earth by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes has made me want to get involved in these sorts of projects. I don’t yet know if I want to go for a degree in aeronautical or aerospace engineering or something like that yet, but simply getting exposure to my interests is very helpful in getting me to think about what I want to do in the future. For that reason as well as the fact that planes are just really cool, I enjoyed my time at the Air and Space Museum a lot. (I feel like I could make a silly simile here about how my hobbies are like a piece of film because the more time I am exposed to them the more developed my thoughts about what I want to do with my life become.)

Anyways, after I was pulled away from the countless airplanes in the museum, we hopped onto our bus that seemed very slow compared to say an SR-71 Blackbird. While the traffic prevented us from going Mach 5 all the way home, a combination of reading, watching a movie, talking, and dozing off made the return trip pass quickly. I really enjoyed the time we spent in D.C. today, and I’m looking forward to ice skating tomorrow. Until then, it’s time for some well deserved rest.