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West Meets East

Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital. Former home of some of our world’s most instrumental historical leaders. Current home to more than half a million people. Workplace to approximately 1.3 million. Home of beautiful, marble monuments and quaint, all-American residences. And home to graffiti and dangerous ghetto neighborhoods. Home to scores of churches. And home to approximately 78 Starbucks (Yes, I counted).

This city — quirks, chaos and all — is my new home.

By the grace of God and the generosity of people I have never met before, this born-and-raised California girl has the privilege of living and working in Washington, D.C., through the National Journalism Center, for 10 weeks this summer. I was lucky enough to be placed at the The Washington Times, one of the few conservative voices in a media marketplace inundated with liberal ones.

To turn back time, I first considered pursuing journalism in D.C. last September. Filling out repetitive applications, gathering my old newspaper clippings and scrutinizing my resume consumed much of my Christmas break. I had all but forgotten that NJC was on the lengthy list of internships I’d applied to when I received an unexpected e-mail from them in January. One thing led to another, and here I sit now, typing this post from inside a Starbucks mere blocks from the White House.

I have now lived in this beautiful, albeit muggy city, for exactly three weeks now. Although I had visited twice before — once in eighth grade with my family of four and once my senior year of high school with my best friend — merely visiting doesn’t provide quite the same experience as living somewhere does.

One can tell the tourist from the local about 95 percent of the time here. I hope I am succeeding at least most of the time in pulling off the “local” look. However, every so often I sabotage myself by lugging around my hefty Canon SLR camera to capture the sights. This, of course, blows my cover as a “true” local entirely.

Very rapidly, I learned a few things about surviving in this city:

-Always tote an umbrella, no matter how tame and harmless those blue skies may seem. The weather out here on the East Coast can turn on you literally in minutes, and your unsuspecting self will be stuck to run with your groceries in the rain. (No, of course I’m not speaking from personal experience. =P)

-B.Y.O.B. No, I am not advocating alcohol consumption. B.Y.O.B. means “bring your own bag.” Unlike any other place I’ve ever visited, in D.C., plastic bags are 5 cents a pop when you buy food items. That means I reuse bags until gaping holes in them force me to play along and pay up.

-When you are offered free food, eat it. And eat as much of it as you can possibly stuff in your face. Food out here is marginally more expensive than it is out in beautiful Southern California. It all adds up — fast.

- Wear deodorant. Lots of it. And just hope others do the same. The humidity in D.C. is almost intolerable in the dead of summer. Overly crowded Metro trains don’t improve that situation much. I’m just waiting for the heat to reach its pinnacle in July…

But those are petty things compared to the pleasure of living and working in a place with history — and history in the making — around every corner. And although I may not agree with much of the policy that comes out of this humidity-plagued, congested place, it hasn’t taken me long to fall in love with this city.

Weeks down: 3
Weeks to go: 7

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