Thursday, May 21, 2020

Events in DC and back home (153Cong.Rec.3467)

Okay, this is going to be hard. In this downtime, blogging is beckoning. But the few posts I was working on all involved the fun known as "leaving my house." Initially, I thought I should wait until this is all over before I did a recap, but by that time, these thoughts might be sorely out of date. Besides, maybe this walk down recent memory lane will be cathartic, if a little bit masochistic.

I was looking forward to returning to DC from abroad for many reasons, but a primary one was easy access to many events. Events that I could learn about without using Google Translate, events that I could buy tickets for without my credit card being declined, events that I could go to without staying up way past my bedtime because they started an hour late. Like concerts. What better way to drench myself in U.S. culture than a cover band devoted to yacht rock, Boat House Row (left)? An event, at The Hamilton Live, where I didn't care about standing out as a tacky American, even though I didn't wear a leather vest (right). 
Also, events that indulged by inner groupie for people I know. Like grooving to The Porch Lights, when my friend, the lead singer, let me play much, much more cowbell (left). Like watching Forest Treas, when I swelled with pride for a former student, who was director of the conceptual play about the DC sniper (right).
And events that made me a fangirl of people I would like to know. Like walking 15 minutes from my house to the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop to watch the Taffety Punk Riot Grrrls' all-female production of Othello (top). Like hopping the Metro to the Kennedy Center to see so much funny: Tituss Burgess's musical revue with special guest Jane Krakowski (bottom left), Heidi Schreck's one-woman show What the Constitution Means to Me, and a Riot! comedy celebration for International Women's Day (bottom right). 
Plus, events that reunited me with people I hadn't seen for a while. Like at trip with friends to Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts, which was planned well before I landed back in the States (top left). After a picnic outside the amphitheater, we enjoyed our excellent seats for viewing Swan Lake with Misty Copeland (top right). Like another trip to the center, when we opted for lawn seats, so we could only see Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me host Peter Sagal's actual face on the big screen (bottom). 
Which brings me to events that made me geek out over seeing some idols, especially those from radio shows. Like a tour of the NPR building (top left). Somehow, I managed to resist stealing a souvenir (top right); I mean, it was just lying right there! However, I did not manage to be subtle as we exited the recording booth (bottom) and saw Melissa Block sitting at her desk; there was some heavy pointing involved.
Then, events that paid homage to departed heroes. I tend to avoid the Smithsonians because of the crowds (oh, cruel irony). So this past summer, I happily slid into the Baseball Americana exhibit at the Library of Congress, where you could act like a slugger in the spotlight (top left). But I couldn't resist finding a spot among the museums on the Mall, when gatherings of 10 times 10s were still allowed, to watch the Apollo 50: Go For the Moon show on the anniversary of Apollo 11 launch (top right). In order to watch an earlier pioneer of the skies, I headed to the National Geographic Museum for a recording of the Overheard podcast about The Search for Amelia Earhart (bottom).
Sometimes, events that fueled my own sense of adventure. Despite the healthy array of art museums in Kyiv, I had neglected my interest in such works for too long, so I took advantage of a free-entrance community day at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (top), where I lingered a long while amid the photographs of the anti-selfie series STEFDIES. In another version of women in the arts, I attended my first Drag Bingo, at Red Bear Brewing (bottom left), where a few artists demonstrated their, um, techniques up close and personal on the tables (bottom right). 
On occasion, events that contributed to my personal causes. I manned the registration table for the Constitutional (N) Votes for Women walking tour near Eastern Market before I participated myself in a series of tastings to celebrate the anniversary of women's right to vote (top left). The most relevant offering was a flight of wines by female vintners at DCanter, but the most tasty was the "Something Like an Old Fashion" cocktail at the Harold Black speakeasy (top right). Earlier this year, I signed up to be a volunteer with the Humane Rescue Alliance (bottom left). After training, my first official duty was handling a dog for an adoption booth at a local pet store, where I helped find Mitri a new home (bottom right).
But finally, events that relaxed and rewarded me at the same time -- and for free even! This upcoming summer, I definitely will be missing all the open-air movies, like Films at the Stone, a series at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial that included The Hate U Give (top left). The only better outside group activity might be free sessions of Yoga on the Waterfront, offered by Yoga Factory in the District Wharf (top right). And if the current situation is protracted, it will be be most unfortunate for us and ArtRave DC (bottom left), a festival in the graffiti-festooned Dupont Underground (bottom right). But then again, it just might be the events that think outside of the box that get us through this year and beyond.

Monday, January 20, 2020

They run in Brooklyn 12 mile (22Cong.Rec.)

I haven't been posting much lately because I am back in DC, so I am not jetting off to a nearby country every long weekend. However, I do want to take advantage of my domestic posting to travel within the United States, so I agreed to my friend's invitation for a weekend trip to Brooklyn -- even though it meant running a half-marathon. We drove up on a Friday night after work, but the race wasn't until Sunday, so we had some time for sight-seeing. On Saturday morning, we did a shakeout run from our place in Bedford-Stuyvesant to the Brooklyn Bridge (left). We had planned to run to the Manhattan side and back, but the path was too full of selfie-takers for that (right).
We ascended from the span into the Dumbo neighborhood (top left), where we started a walking tour of beautiful Brooklyn Heights buildings (top right). It was a lovely day to wander the tree-lined streets, a peaceful juxtaposition to the high-rises of Wall Street (bottom left). The highlights for me were the house where Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood and the greenway of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which provides amazing views of downtown (bottom right).
With the run and walk, our muscles were sufficiently stretched, but we had to do the same for our bellies with some pre-race carb-loading. We headed to Henry Public in Cobble Hill, decorated as an old-timey saloon, for a late brunch (top left). I opted for eggs benedict over Johnnycake, accompanied by a beer; unfortunately, they didn't have any coffee stouts on taps, so I went with a hydrating hazy IPA (top right). The night we arrived, we followed our AirBnB host's recommendation to try the famous Southern-style chicken sandwich at Peaches HotHouse (bottom left). After the race, I felt I had a good excuse to overeat again, but I simply could not finish my full plate of the Senegalese specialty mafe at Joloff (bottom right).
When I told people I was running a half-marathon in Brooklyn, they it was THE Brooklyn half-marathon. But it wasn't. This was the much more low-key NYCRUNS Half-Marathon, which is four loops around Prospect Park. I thought I wouldn't like the repetitiveness, but the weather and runners were so agreeable that I had a smile on my face at the end (left). In fact, the course apparently was suitable for me, as I ended up taking second place in my age/gender category, as did the bestie that talked me into doing the run (right). Thank you, RC!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

To assist Ukraine's democratic transition, and for other purposes (S.3543)

I know, with all the sightseeing and eating, it seems like I was a tourist in Kyiv, but I did actually work sometimes. But I have to be honest, quite a few of my duties were fun enough to feel like a vacation. It wasn't a holiday, but a special day nonetheless, on Bike to Work Day, when I rode from the Maidan to the embassy to promote safety, fitness, and sustainability with a commuting alternative (top). It involved a little more effort, but still a lot of fun, to join the embassy team for the Nova Poshta Half-Marathon (middle). Well, kind of, considering I only ran the 10K option. Sometimes, work can feel like a grueling rat race, but it was a rewarding and enjoyable sprint to help facilitate a speech by former Secretary of State John Kerry at a side event of the YES (Yalta European Strategy) Annual Meeting (bottom). 
Other times, my duties took me out of the capital. While monitoring the Ukrainian presidential election, I got to spend a weekend in Kherson. The city is located on the Dnieper River, on the mouth to the Black Sea, just 75 miles from the Crimean peninsula, which has been annexed by Russia for more than five years (left). As a port, Kherson is a prime spot for sailors, as shown by its Monument to the First Shipmen (right). Our final election-monitoring stop, where we watched poll workers count votes, was at a maritime university.
Another time, for a consular outreach visit, I touched down in Chernivtsi, a cute little college town (top left). The trip also took me to Kamianets-Podilskyi, which I accidentally visited due to some car trouble on a previous personal trip. But this time, I stayed in hotel right across from the town hall (top right). I also got a second look at the city's famous castle (bottom).
That allowed me a good source of comparison when we stopped by Khotyn, which is perched above the Dniester River (top left). In many ways, the 13th-century citadel is more structurally intact, especially its outer walls (top right). But for some reason, it is less well-known to tourists, perhaps because fewer of the areas, including the bell tower, are accessible to visitors (bottom left). It was enough for me to wander around the vacant fortress, soaking in the atmosphere and history (bottom right).
But by far, my favorite assignment was assisting with an American Music Abroad tour. For a few days, I basically got to be a groupie as I accompanied Seth Glier, Ryan Hommel, and Joe Nerney to a series of jam sessions and public shows (top). Since returning to the States, I have been hoping for an opportunity to see them play again because I really enjoyed their message and their music (bottom left). Ukrainians certainly shared that sentiment, and all three musicians epitomized graciousness when greeting numerous non-English-speaking fans after their shows (bottom right).  
I joined the band's tour in Melitopol, a transport and education hub, which is home to three universities (top). Nowadays, the city is known more for industry than arts, but it clearly has a history of public engagement with performance. The Soviet-era venue where the group played that first night was straight out of a time machine (bottom left). A quote from Lenin -- "Art belongs to the people" -- was even inscribed above the stage (bottom right). 
During some down time, I got to explore the everyday side of Melitopol. A short run took me past orchards in full bloom (top left) and promenades with bright landscaping (top right). I ended at the market near my hotel (bottom left). After checking out all the stalls' options, I settled on a snack of cheburek, eastern Europe's version of the empanada (bottom right). 
The next night, the band played in Berdyansk, at another brutalist-inspired performing-arts hall (left). The city is a small summer resort as it sits on the Sea of Azov (right). Of late, it has lost some of its draw due to a "hybrid war" nearby. It lies directly north of the Kerch Strait, site of a dispute that resulted in the detention of Ukrainian sailors. The region where an actual war is ongoing -- the Donbass, which is also the title of an excellent film about the conflict -- is off-limits to embassy personnel, except for approved official business. I never got to see the situation at the front line, but I am grateful for the experiences I had, such as the music tour, that revealed the nature of the war's reverberations.