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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

A shout-out to some new blogs

First, check out Dan’s new personal blog — it should keep you updated on his (and our) activities: http://wastedbrains.com.

Second, my former colleague, Kate, is on a venture round-the-world. Check out her blog, The Kate Escape. But fair warning, it might make you so jealous that you spit: http://thekateescape.tumblr.com.

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since Christmas

DCA –> TUS (Tucson, AZ) for a meeting with preparedness officials from the state health department and local health departments throughout Arizona.
TUS –> DCA
DCA –> ATL (Atlanta, GA) for a meeting with CDC project officers.
ATL — > DCA
DCA –> TPA (Tampa, FL) for a meeting to review PPHR applications from local health departments in Arizona and Virginia.
TPA –> DCA

I spent most of my time in airports, hotels, and meeting rooms. But I did walk around downtown Tucson one evening and get a chance to spend some time lounging by the pool in Tampa and walking the Tampa River Walk.

This week will be the first time since Christmas that I have been in DC for a full week. I am looking forward to some relaxation and getting caught up with the things that fell through the cracks during travel.

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check, check

Dan and I have been making the rounds on some of the tourist destinations in DC. We started getting a feel for our neighborhood early on — which took us to the (outside of) the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. Since then, we have been trying to hit a few more sites every couple of weeks. We have been doing a far better job than I did at seeing the sites in NYC. So far, we have been to the National Museum of American History, the U.S. National Arboretum, The National Building Museum, the National Sculpture Garden, the National Gallery of Art (West Building), The National Air and Space Museum, the Christmas display at the U.S. Botanical Garden, the (outside of) the White House, the Ellipse to see the National Christmas Tree, the Japanese Lantern and First Cherry Tree Planting, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the National Zoo.

Continue reading if you want to learn more about our touristy adventures.

We hit the first four sites — the (outside of) the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial — at night. The Monuments are open late and make great evening stops if you want to avoid the crowds of the day and don’t mind missing out on riding the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument (which, I have heard is pretty cool and gives you a great feel for the layout of downtown.)

We went to the National Museum of American History with my Mom, and it made a pleasant afternoon with a parental unit. The museum provides an good overview of American wars. Dan and I enjoyed learning more about the history of birth control in this country and Dan also liked the exhibit on the history of robots.

DC Arboretum

DC Arboretum

The National Arboretum has become one of our favorite places to spend a sunny afternoon. In the fall, the place was not crowded and provided an excellent location for a hike with a pup along well-maintained trails. It is one place that Dan and I consider underrated overall and we recommend that anyone visiting the city make the Arboretum one of their stops. The trick is that the Arboretum is located relatively far Northeast in the District and getting there pretty much requires a car — so if you are dependent on public transportation, it can be tough to get out there. So far we have seen the Administrative Building, Fern valley (one of our favorite areas), the Azalea collection (which provides a beautiful hike), the National Capitol columns, and the National Herb Garden, which Dan and I both like because of all of the different beautiful peppers that grow in the fall.

We went to the National Building Museum to see their haunted tour. The tour was led by a volunteer, in costume and speaking in first person, which provided an interesting historical story. The after-hours tour also allowed us onto the fourth floor, which is usually closed to visitors. With only our tour group for company, the building had some mystical qualities with only the emergency lights casting shadows.

We walked through the Sculpture Garden on our way to the National Gallery of Art. One of my favorite things about the National Gallery was the West Building Highlights page that is available in case you only have an hour to visit the museum. Despite living in DC and being a history nerd, I often find that hour in a museum is about the right amount of time. And one of the luxuries of living here among the free Smithsonian museums is that we can come back to see parts of the museums over several days. The Highlights page directs you to some of the most famous works in the museum including Gievra de’ Benci, the only piece by Leonardo da Vinci in the Western Hemisphere, The Alba Madonna by Raphael, A Lady in Waiting by Johannes Vermeer, Allies Day, May 1917 by Childe Hassam, Rouen Cathedral, West Facade, Sunlight by Monet, and Self-Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh.

We only had about 45 minutes in the National Air and Space museum before closing, but we got a lighting tour of some parts of the museum and I seriously doubt that my tech-loving boyfriend will let me leave DC without spending another afternoon at the museum and catching a show at the IMAX or the planetarium. One of our favorite parts was walking through a replica of the first U.S. Space Station.

The Capitol Building at U.S. Botanical Gardens

The Capitol Building at U.S. Botanical Gardens

The holiday display at the Botanical Gardens is magical in that holiday way — the kind of place that makes you wish you had kids to take with you. There are lighted replicas of famous buildings around capitol hill made entirely of plant material and surrounded by poinsettias. It took more than 600 hours to create the replica of the U. S. Capitol. There is also a train room full of miniature trains surrounded by a fairy village. The gardens are open late on certain weeknights through December and have live musical performances in the main room with the large Christmas tree. One of the coolest part about the late nights is that relatively few people visit the gardens during after-hours and not only are the holiday displays open, but you can walk around the rest of the indoor areas of the gardens with relatively few other visitors. My friend and I enjoyed walking around the second floor of the rain forest and exploring the desert and Hawaii rooms.

National Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree

We saw the National Christmas Tree at the Ellipse.

FDR Memorial

FDR Memorial

We passed the Japanese lantern and First Cherry Tree planting on our way to the FDR and Thomas Jefferson Memorials on the opposite side of the Tidal Basin from The Mall. I am sure it is a breathtaking area in early spring. The FDR memorial is my favorite memorial in DC so far. It feels built into the natural surroundings, rather than imposed on them. The quotes illustrate FDR’s desires to ensure full employment, preserve the natural world, and bring peace to all countries. While I recognize his imperfections, and I felt Dan’s eyes role as we walked across the part of the memorial that signified the beginning of his fourth term, FDR is my favorite president.

ZooLights

ZooLights

Lastly, we went to the National Zoo for ZooLights. I highly recommend ZooLights. Not only were the lights fun, but we were also able to get in to view several of the animals, especially those that tend to be very popular during regular business hours, such as the monkeys and pandas. Tai Shan, the four-year old panda that was born in the U.S. will be headed to China early next year, and it was an excellent opportunity to watch him eat some bamboo. Tai Shan is on loan to the U.S. from the Chinese government and must be sent back to China as part of the agreement, likely to enter their breeding program to aid their species conservation efforts.

Happy Holidays to you and yours; we’ll be hitting some more of the sites in the New Year.

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Famous, again

Having a few weeks off, 6 specifically, allows one time to do some things that she may not have gotten to otherwise. This is especially true, because for the first time in years, I am not using this long period off to skip out of the country. In speaking to friends who have also taken furloughs, I have determined that perhaps because Americans scoff at the idea of short workdays and five weeks of vacation common in other developed countries, it becomes necessary to take prolonged periods of time off, not every year mind you, but perhaps every few years. On top of all of those things I mentioned doing in a previous post such as selling things on both craigslist and amazon.com and submitting a link on reddit to drive people to my blog, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Denver Post, and what do you know, it got published:) The letter is on the proposed redesign plans for DIA (you need to scroll to the second letter). The biggest tasks, besides finding a good job, that I want to get done before my entrance back into the real working world, are to clean out my gmail inbox and update the look on my blog. I have made progress on both, but neither are done and I am beginning to feel the pressure of the end of my furlough approaching. However, I have spoken with others who have taken similar amounts of time off, who had similar small tasks they hoped to accomplish, and failed to, and still haven’t. However, those people still smile thinking about the things they didn’t get done and the time off they enjoyed sitting by a pool. So, while I hope to get a few more things done, I am trying to remember to occasionally enjoy a margarita on a sunny roof, which I got a chance to do yesterday, to celebrate my little brother’s 23rd birthday.
margs_on_roof

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Re: “DIA redesign in works”

Re: “DIA redesign in the works”
Don’t take the Great Hall away from unscreened DIA travelers. Many of the redesign plans, such as adding a new FasTracks train station to the airport, would be beneficial for both Denver residents and tourists. However, prohibiting unscreened passengers from entering the Great Hall would be a tremendous disappointment for Colorado residents and add little benefit to those traveling through DIA. Currently, the Great Hall provides an opportunity for grabbing a meal with loved ones and saying a calm goodbye in contrast to the chaos that is usually found around the ticket counters. Denying Coloradans these dining and service options would be a substantial burden. Further, few transfer passengers would use the services in the Great Hall. When arriving in unfamiliar airports, passengers make their way to their gate as quickly as possible, and look for dining and shopping options only once they arrive at their concourse. DIA should be prepared for the current redesign plans to actually decrease use of the services in the Great Hall, as Coloradans are unable to use the services, and transfer passengers continue to prefer those services located on their concourse.

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Dan and I spent spring break in the Dominican Republic (DR). We have a difficult time explaining to people what we did during our vacation, because in truth, we did very little. It might have been the first time I traveled anywhere and didn’t do a single “cultural” thing. No museums, no real time in the capital city. Pretty much we sat on a beach, reading, laughing, and drinking the occasional mojito. It was also the first time I donned the infamous resort bracelet. You show-up, check-in, and get your bracelet, which means you are allowed to use the fancy resort beach chairs and drink and eat everything you want – the type of set-up that leaves little motivation for exploring the indigenous culture. The trade-off being that you can find crazy good deals (as we did) and don’t ever have to worry about what you are going to do for dinner. Dan and I did walk around the town a fair bit, we even ate one lunch in town; but our plate of shrimp (which were good) cost us 30 (American) dollars, so we ate the rest of our meals at the hotel.

One afternoon Dan went on a one-tank dive while I got a massage on the beach (much better for my sinus infection.) It also gave me a chance to get into an interesting conversation with the Dominican working the towel check-out — “Your from New York City? New York City is my dream.” Gathering from the tremendous number of Dominicans in my neighborhood, it is apparently a very common dream. But standing under a cloudless sky, looking through the palm trees at the pristine beach, all I could do was shake my head and say, “New York City is cold. New York City is really cold.” He said, “It is my dream. I need to see it.” Feeling the warm, clean pavement of the pool deck under my bare feet, I simply could not understand his dream to go to the city. But then again, here I am sitting on my bed in New York City as I write this, listening to the rain, which has fallen for weeks and will continue to do so, so maybe I do understand. Dan and I also spent one day going on a snorkeling/boating/beaching adventure with a bunch of Italians. Dan has the pictures up on his blog. Most of our days, though, were spent doing virtually nothing. Our biggest stress was always how we were going to play beach volleyball, get a mojito and get seated in a beach chair in time to watch the sunset and then get showered and changed in time for our free dinner. Very stressful. I am a bit of a sun worshipper so the sunset was always an important part of my day, though admittedly these particular sunsets were usually weak. The volleyball game would end and we would grab our drinks and settle into our chairs, my eyes full of the glimmer of hope from the last rays of sun and Dan would say, “It’s going to go behind the clouds.” He was usually right.
sunset in DR
one of the best sunsets

While it may sound like we didn’t do much, I did spend a week learning how to take a deep breath again. My sinus infection cleared and by the end of the week, I was able to sit comfortably in a chair and just chill. Before the trip, I was really stressed about midterms, leading trainings for new intramural leagues, and about my lease ending in 10 weeks and not having much of an idea about where I would be next or what I would be doing. I am generating similar stress for Dan because he cannot hardly make plans without knowing mine. My lease now ends in 8 weeks, and the situation has only gotten more stressful, but at least I spent a week sitting in beach chairs, which helped to give a little perspective maybe, or at least let my blood pressure come down a bit.

The area we went to, Bayahibe, was crawling with Italians, which was hilarious and awesome. Despite Italian being the language I first gained real proficiency in, every time I hear it now, I think, “man, that Spanish dialect is really hard to understand.” Playing beach volleyball helped me remember how to count in Italian, at least up to 25. When we went on the snorkeling trip we were greeted with “Ah, tutti Italiani” when we unloaded from the van. (Ah, everyone’s Italian). I tried to explain that we were actually from the U.S. So, while on the boat tour, the guide gave the explanations in Italian, and a kind older man sat behind me trying to translate into Spanish, which I (poorly) translated into English for Dan. I still get dizzy thinking about it. People from lots of different countries visited the region. I was most often greeted in French, rather than English, and while I cannot understand a word of French, I took it as a compliment. Dan and I walked into a shop in town and after characteristically being greeted in French and then explaining that I spoke Spanish, the shop owner explained in Italian to the other customers that my face didn’t look Spanish. Everyone in the store spent several fun minutes trying to explain Kleenexes (which I still needed) in a mixture of 4 languages before finally finding the Italian word, which I still remember, “fazzoletti.” It took me 3 months to learn the Spanish word for toilet paper and I don’t think I ever got the word for tissue, if there is such a thing. I could have maybe looked it up, but my Spanish dictionary is currently precariously holding up my bookshelf that split in half, so it didn’t come on the trip. Eventually the shop owner smiled and handed me some wet wipes.

On our last day I finally felt like maybe I had sat around enough and so when the call went out for “Aerobica! Aerobica!” I joined in. I thought I was doing pretty well, it didn’t seem like I had lost much form in doing lunges since I had last done them (When was that? College? High school?) But then I couldn’t walk right for 5 days.

Dan and I have been abroad together four times in the last three years. That is pretty sweet. Dan says I make a good travel buddy. Between the economy and the crazy moving that will take us somewhere in 8 weeks, we might have to cut back, but I hope not.
dressed for dinner in the DR
dressed for dinner

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Oklahoma City

The poor man’s Hawaii.

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