USA Diaries – Day 13 – Welcome to Williamsburg

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 13, – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Late updating – Isn’t that good enough?

So day 13 was all about the visit to Williamsburg, which is only about 2 hour drive away from DC. What this means then is that we had to get up early in the morning and be ready at more or less 7:30 am. With absolutely no will to get up, I got out of bed that morning, before getting ready and heading to the van which had been booked for our trip to the place. And of course, it was a given that during the entire duration of the trip we did little else then sleep. The times in which I did wake up, I only noticed the amazing highway and the wonderful vegetation and the forest through out the stretch of the road. It was amazing the way the highway had been designed, with separate exits for food and gas every now and then. I don’t think anyone has ever been so excited about highways.

When we finally got there, well we simply couldn’t wait any longer for the day to start. So at the gate you are greeted by this big map which shows you all the major destinations that are there to be seen on the site. The map can be quite intimidating as one starts to wonder “Hmm, how the hell am I suppose to see this huge site?”. And after my experience with National Air and Space Museum, I worry about the size of these places. They can be huge!

So anyways, we proceed inside the building, we get our tickets and our pictures taken, and then we head out towards the Shuttle Service to get the bus and make it in time to see the war enactment.

The entire place is like magic, it is like you are taken back in time. Everything is the same. We took our first stop at the Capitol, where the war enactment was about to happen and we saw how the uprising was created.

 

 

Then we took a walk around and saw the various crafts that were being practiced by the people of that time, from Basket Weaving,

…the doctor office…

….the wigmaker… who was a very funny lady and joked about the poor men in town who are too cheap too afford the nice wigs….

…then the Jewellery Shop.. who was making these really wonderful spoons and ladles, ……….

 

…the dressmaker, who discussed why the fabric back then was so much smoother and wrinkle free since the plant wasn’t cut too short…

After that, to ease off our hunger we headed to this lovely tavern called the Chowing’s Tavern. The place was small and quite antique looking.
The people were dressed as if they had just stepped out of a movie. Me and my friend Amrita ordered the soup first and then the Roasted Turkey Sandwich on Potato Bread (for me) and Marble Rye (for her) with Potato Salad. Needless to say, we enjoyed the food thoroughly.

The site also had a beautiful Church, which was the oldest church in the neighborhood. It is a beautiful but humble structure, with a few graves still erected in the garden. The surrounding is peaceful and very serene.

 

The next step was the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Art Museum, which had some of the most wonderful and related to my taste collection – in other words, there was Furniture and Dresses in it. I loved every inch of that space. There were wonderful little grandfather clocks, diamond earrings, dresses, textiles, plates, soup bowls, glasses, silver, and god knows what… but as I said before, it was beautiful!

The last stop of the day – or so we thought – was the Palace. This was initially the Governor’s Palace and as such had some of the most beautiful interiors and garden. The place had been burnt down, but quite interestingly, the house had been built on the same foundations as the original house. The house had a great display of sword and guns. And not to forget, food – which, sadly enough, is cooked for the display after every few days and then wasted away.

Oh, btw we had the most amazing tour guide person, she was simply hilarious, engaging and wonderful. I loved her!

The final final last stop of the day was at River James, which is the place from where the first Europeans came into this land. The River is huge and quite calm. There were so many families that were just lying and doing their own little BBQ… how I was jealous of them. I really wanted to just take my shoes off and head into the water but sadly that was not possible. But still, it was good to stop there and just relax for a few minutes.

Two more hours of drive down the – now very busy – highway, we were back in our hotel and finally collapsed. I think we had leftovers only for dinner.

 

 

 

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USA Diaries – Day 12 – 7 million people a year is an understatement!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 12, (I have lost track of time) – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Late updating

Day 12 or this Saturday was our day off. This meant that we had the choice to do whatever we wanted to do. A few decided to go and visit their families, others thought that it will be much better that they head off to NY, while others just decided to rest. For us, the choice was of visiting more museums than what we have already seen. The day was suppose to begin at 9 ( as per our friend Rajesh) but we hardly left the hotel before 10. So at 10 in the morning, we headed off to the Museum of African Art. I had been very excited to go to this museum, since there was the display of “African Cosmos”. The first thought that came in my head when I heard about this exhibition was the starting page from the book “Roots” written by Alex Haley.

You see in the starting page the story starts with the father of Kanta holding him up to the stars and saying something like “There is nothing above you”. I thought this was one of the most important moments in the life of that child and a seriously wonderful tradition. So I really wanted to go there. The first thing however you see as soon as you enter the museum (although that was only there for the weekend – I think) is a blue round tent. The tent is actually a planetarium sort of thing which shows the Southern Sky – or sky as seen from Africa – which we in the northern hemisphere can never see. The night African Sky was amazing.

Nancy Mcwright over at the Free and Sackler Gallery had mentioned that the use of space inside the African Art was completely different as compared to the FS, although the two buildings have been designed as exact duplicates. The first difference when you enter into the African Art is the use of the interiors. The interiors at African Art are more regional and indigenous. There is also a lot of play of colour and most importantly, there is no confusion at all. FS Galleries can be extremely confusing. God knows, that I am still confused inside it, but in African Art there is nothing of that sort.

There were certain really amazing displays in the Museum, including Jewelry, Daily usage toys that people in Africa used to make for their kids, masks, ritual clothes etc.

A Ritual dress

Mask

A Stool

 

Another amazing thing was the statue that I am sharing below. This statue done by an African artist, Ousmane Sow, shows the Haitian leader Toussaint Louverture freeing the land from repression. The sculpture is so striking in so many ways, in the way the sorrow and the mixed emotions of freedom and grief cover the face of the women kneeling before him. The sense of responsibility in the leader himself is more than apparent and has been caught perfectly by the artist.

There is also another exhibition that is worth seeing, although once again I have to say that Modern Art is still not my thing. The exhibition is a photography/mixed medium by the photographer turned Painter (or maybe it is the other way round) Leyla Essayandi. Her work is really worth seeing. We were not allowed to photograph the work therefore I have no pictures of it to post here (except one), but one should really give it a try. It is all about the position of women in the much fantasized and romanticized harems of Africa. Some of the pictures are actually truly very haunting.

The African Cosmos exhibition was not what I expected it to be. The work actually traced the way in which cosmos have been depicted in the various writings and paintings, but for some reason it didn’t hit the right spot with me. Maybe I still had Kanta on my mind when I walked through it.

My second stop was at the Hirshhorn Museum. So again this was Modern Art and not what I would normally prefer, but there were certain experimental pieces which made me both, be in awe of it and question the very thought process and his mental stability. One of my favorite pieces of course was Kandinsky – and I am so glad I can now be one of those snobs who can raise their noses up and see – “Well its nothing compared to the real Kandinsky” ! There was also a piece by Frank Lloyd Wright, which was a design of the windows that he did.

 

The Kandinsky

Frank Lloyd Piece

 

 

There was also a very wonderful installation that was done in the museum. The name of this upcoming exhibition is “Belief+Doubt” and is done by the artist Barbara Kruger. It was truly a wonderful piece. The sayings that were plastered all over the  basement level were both intriguing and definitely made you wonder.

 

The last stop of the day was at the National Air and Space Museum… now someone said to me a few days ago that almost 70 million people come to this museum every year. I really thought than that they may have lost their mind, but the fact of the matter is that I, after my visit am sure, that this number is an understatement. I am pretty sure that there were that many people only yesterday in there. There was so much crowd in it that it was impossible to see anything. You could not walk and actually see anything. You were just being swept around by the very sea of the people that was there.

 

The Museum is huge.. it is actually ridiculously huge. My friends – who decided to skip the Hirshhorn Museum and were there an hour before me took almost 3 hours to see the museum. I took 2 hours and even then I will never in my life say that I actually saw it – I just glanced through the museum. I have yet to believe myself that it took me 2 hours to just glance through it. It was ridiculous the size. There were around 8 galleries, each covering a different aspect of Air and Space. There were lines for everything – for getting in the Planetarium, the IMAX theater, the plane, the spaceship – even for the washrooms for heaven sake.

But there is no doubt that some of the stuff there was pretty cool – like the Wright Brother plane model, the space shuttle, Apollo Space Shuttle, The moon rock, the Howard Hughes Plane, the first plane that crossed the Atlantic, and god knows what. But all said and done, It was a zoo more than a museum.

The museum trip was enough to convince us that it is now time to rest. So we headed back to our place and spent the rest of the day indoors.

USA Diaries – Day 11 – The Peru Festival is in town!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 days I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 12, 28-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Late updating

So I know I skipped yesterday diary, which is not the first time I have broken my promise of writing every day for the duration of this trip. I think it is safe to conclude that thank god there is no police that is coming in, barging in my hotel room to put me on trial.

But in all regards, there was very little to report from yesterday. So let me just walk you through yesterday quickly. The day was dedicated to Exhibit Design and we were given in the care of the lovely and really funny Elizabeth Musteen Allison. She spent 3 hours with us, and in this time, she not only showed us the Mammal’s Hall, but guided us through the entire process that went behind in the design of the Hall. The session was extremely important in my point of view, since it gave me the direction and the answers that I needed which I have been facing at my work. So much thanks goes to Elizabeth Musteen.

Carol Butler introducing Elizabeth Musteen

For lunch, we rushed over to the award winning Mitsitam Native Food Cafe at the National American Indian Museum (NMAI), which opened up in the year 2004. The Museum is a must visit, especially nowadays, with the Peru Festival in a full swing, till Monday and with the highly creative and detailed exhibition, “A Song for the Horse Nation” on display. The exhibition covers the various facet of the important of Horse in the lives of the American Indian. It is truly a wonderfully amazing and well researched exhibition.

From there on we headed to the section that is known as the ImagineNation Section. The area and section is filled with activities for the children to be a part of and how the exhibition can be extended beyond the display boards and into the lives of the children who visit the museum. Truth be told, we were running around the area as if we were 5 again… So therefore I can speak with some credibility when I say that we simply loved that place. The idea was that you get a passport and then you visit the various areas which are a part of the American Indian Culture, and on each of these stops – where you learn something new –  you get your passport stamped.

After looking around at the museum, we went and had a talk with Elizabeth Gordon, who is the Project Manager of the NMAI. She talked about her experience of working here and how it has been received by the indigenous community. Although she makes it known that she can hardly speak on behalf of the entire community, she did mention some of the problems that have been raised and have come to her. She also gave us a big treat by allowing us to go over to the terrace and enjoy the wonderful view of the entire National Mall, we took every advantage of this moment by making sure we got our pictures taken right in front of the Capitol Building – which acted as the most wonderful backdrop.

 

I have to say again, the museum is pretty spectacular and their theater is a must-have experience. The film – which we were not allowed to take pictures of – s displayed on 3 levels. The first level is that of the stone, the next one is the screen which is made out of knitted material, the third one is the entire dome like ceiling of the room. You just can’t figure out which one to look at and which one to concentrate on, but each one is simple to enhance the sense of the environment which is being depicted on the main screen.

I browsed around some of the other galleries too and had a chance to see some of the most amazing parts of the Culture of the American Indian.

 

After the browsing I made my way to the Peru Festival that was happening. The treat and the items that the local artisans had on display were truly intriguing. There was a guy there who only made jewelry out of Silver Wire, then there was an artist who was making sculptures out of clay. Then there was another one who had these wonderful doll houses and mirrors with doll borders on display. It was truly intriguing.

Oh did I forget to mention that there was a petting place where there was a kind of Lima…. The sweetheart was so adorably cute, I cant even begin to explain. Oh, and how can I forget the wonderful horse.

 

On the way back, I decided to take the Metro while the rest of the group decided to walk. It is safe to say that I got lost on the way back, which is one of my favorite things to do. Yes, I love getting lost.. cause I think it is only when you get lost that you can truly enjoy the city. So I got lost, I made stops, saw different places, before finally making my way to the L’Enfant Metro Stop.

A musician playing outside the Metro Station

The rest of the day comprised of a dinner party for some of our group members. The food was good, the company was good. Cooking the food in such small a kitchen was a disaster, but nonetheless, we had a great time.

USA Diaries – Day 10 – MSC, Here we come!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 10, 26-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 2321, Pakistan Time:27 July 2012, 0819

Today was the day when we headed back to National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) after spending 3 days at the Freer and Sackler. It was good to be back and see the always smiling face of Carol Butler. We were suppose to meet her at 9 am in front of the Constitution Avenue Entrance, but considering our lack of orientation with DC still, we stood waiting in front of the National Mall entrance for well over ten minutes before realizing that we were on the wrong side of the museum.

The discussion today was a general orientation to Smithsonian and especially to the Folk life Festival that the Smithsonian holds each and every year. The discussion was kicked off by Robert Leopold who is the Consortium for World Cultures. He talked a lot about how it is important to make things relevant, considering that the Smithsonian is an organization that is being run by the taxpayers. And therefore, when organizations such as theirs go to the Congress, they need to know and have the answers to what purpose are they serving. He also talked a lot about the many different projects with which the Smithsonian is currently involved in, like the “Our voices on the air” which brings together the many different indigenous voices on Radio on a single platform. I have to admit, by the end of it all, I had a serious crush on the man.

Robert Leopold

The second part of the discussion was led off by Diane N’Daiye who looks after the Folk life Festival. Now this is the first time that I have ever heard of the Folk life Festival, and when I say “this is the first time”, I mean since the time I have been in the US. The Folk life festival brings together the various cultures and voices from all over the world onto a single platform where people from across the borders can engage with each other. This is no doubt something very close to her heart, since she narrated her own experience about how hard it was for her to understand as a child. She shared with us her childhood memory of how in a discussion with her friends who were telling about their Thanksgiving experience, which of course, rotated around Turkey, she felt like an outsider and cried about it, since she only had Curry and Roti.

She also talked about how it is important in her job and line of work to engage with the various practisers of culture. I like that word, although I don’t think I completely agree with it. See for me, culture is not something you practice. It is something that is embedded in you. But I can understand in which context she was talking about.

The last part of the discussion revolved around question and answer session, in which I asked a few questions which were really bothering me. What I really liked about this session was the fact that these people actually encourage question, and they don’t just say “good question” for the sake of saying it. They actually listen to it and will even come up to you later on to say the same. They will never claim that they know the answer but nonetheless, there is a general understanding that until a question is asked, it can’t be answered.

After this discussion, we headed off to the Staff Canteen for Lunch, and from there we went to get out shuttle to MSC, Museum Support Center. The MSC is a storage and a research facility for the Smithsonian NMNH and some of its other institutes as well, and this place is simply amazing. The place is simply huge and I bet you can spend the next 5 years of your life in there and still not be done seeing everything. We were shown around the place by Dave Rosenthal and Jake Homiak – both of those guys are incredible; Jake Homiak is simple hilarious. We were shown around the entire facility and I am simply in awe of the place. We first toured the more simpler facilities, the photography section, conservation lab etc, before we headed to the main treasure island – the Storage Unit. Apparently, there are 4 pods, each pod being on 4 levels, and with each containing almost ten shelves in a row. People, the Smithsonian Collection is no joke. And this is just the anthropological and ethnographic collection.

Jake Homiak

Dave Rosenthal

A letter which we saw in the Paper Conservation Room written by Alexander Graham Bell.

The most interesting highlight or fact of the day: Jake shows us the Archives Room and tells us that the paper in this room will be, if stacked, will make five time the height of the National Monument. Yet… this is hardly the biggest collection in DC. In fact, this is one of the smallest Archives; he reckons that the Congress library has just their record book room as big as this. Can you even imagine? I know I the hell can’t!

After this, we were taken by the lovely lady Rae Beaubien to the Museum Conservation Institute and shown the various facilities and laboratories that they have. I have to say, they have the most dedicated people that I have every seen in my life. I loved her, and the tour that she gave us, although I do have to say, that it was a bit exhausting.

The day ended at around 4:30 pm when we again took the shuttle and headed back to our hotel. The rest of the day was pretty non-exciting, with us simply loitering around. Although I did get my laundry done today, and I must say, my clothes smell nice 🙂 Not to forget, this was my first experience with these sort of machines and the dryer and all. I liked it!

Dinner was a weird deal, with our hunger getting the best of us, and us relying simply on Mashed Potato, Noodles, Leftover Rice and Mac and Cheese.. it is as weird a combination as it can get!

USA Diaries – Day 9 – The day we hopped to Pentagon City!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 9, 25-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, (Late updating)

This is yet again a late updating, which is much due to the fact that the day was simply exhausting. It was to be our last day at the Freer and Seckler and thus filled with many things to do and see. At 10 in the morning, we simply headed off to our first workshop of the day, with Jeffrey Smith. He is one of the most sweetest man that I have ever come across, and it has to be said, that this was one of the most useful workshops that we have attended so far. The main reason for this was most probably the hands-on experience that we got in the workshop. With Jeffrey we had the chance to explore this software which is called the TMS – The Museum System. And this is a fantastic system. It is easy, the interface is clean and with so much detail. Me and Jeffrey had a chance to talk for a while, in which we discussed the need to sometimes understand that certain things are beyond our control and that we can’t be perfect. After the class, it was once again, maybe for the last time, off to the cafeteria of the Energy Department…. sigh.. I will miss all that food. 

After lunch, we had a meeting with the Archivist, David Hodges, who was an amazing guy. And was sweet enough to show us some fantatsic stuff that they have in their Arhives. This included a Palm Leaf manuscript, which one guy from our group even got around to translating.

After this, we all went to pursue our appointments, mine with Kelly Swain, the exhibit coordinator. She is one of the most sweetest lady and I have a whole new level of respect for her…. the lady gave me a free gift. What do you expect then?

She showed me the exhibit “Shipwrecked” that I was much interested in seeing, since she had talked about it in her presentation. I have to say it was a totally different thing from what I have seen in the Smithsonian Museums.

After our classes, we decided to head towards Pentagon City. IT was a really cool place and some of the shops were not so bad. I had a good time there.

And do you know that DC is beautiful at night?

USA Diaries – Day 8 of 30 – Something was in our Drinks!

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 8, 25-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 0801, Pakistan Time:25 July 2012, 1717

The day started off as any typical day with me getting out of bed after as much delay possible. When we finally did reach our destination, we were early enough for me to walk around the National Mall. There has been an AIDS Event going on all over DC nowadays, and Smithsonian has been involved in with with its “Quilt Project”. I have already talked about this before and it is according to me one of the most amazing campaigns. These quilts can be seen at a number of locations, from community halls to Museums.

Yesterday was our second day at the Freer and Seckler Art Museum (FS). And as soon as we reached the lobby, we were escorted to our respective signed up workshops. I had signed up for the Workshop on “Social Media and Marketing” which was all bout Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and a special event that FS does every year called “Asia After Darks”. The Class was led by Amanda Minie Williamson and Amanda Peck, and two of their interns. Now as much excited I was about the workshop, there wasn’t much that I thought came out of it. It was good how they are always engaging with their audience but it wasn’t something new I felt. I would have preferred more to come out of that workshop.

 

After the workshop we again headed off to the Energy Department for Lunch, which was fabolous as usual, and incidentally I took more than I should have. But well, its food.

Since we had some time on our hand yesterday after lunch, we decided to explore the Museum a bit. I headed straight for the Freer Gallery, much due to my impulsive behavior which requires I start from the beginning.

 

Oh and who can forget the Peacock Room! It was one of the most amazing places ever. Apparently Freer had the room bought and installed in the Museum after he saw it in the house of someone.

 

 

The second workshop of the day was about ImagineAsia and how hands-on activities can be designed in relation to a certain exhibition. I have to say this was one of the most interesting approaches that I have ever seen to an exhibition. They are suppose to have this really wonderful activity this Sunday at 10 am and then again at 2pm and I am really trying hard to get in it. Lets see if I can make it or not. We ourselves for this class did these superb activities. We are given this Moraqa in which we were suppose to paste our pictures and color the detailed illustrations around it. It was brilliant fun.

 

 

 

 

 

USA Diaries – Day 7 of 30 – Adventures at Hotel

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 7, 23-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 2301, Pakistan Time:24 July 2012, 0759

Today was the first tough day that we encountered, and it was enough to make us conclude about the type of days that are to follow. Today the true training started as a matter of speaking. Our day started off early today, that is at 0700 hours, which seemed like the most appropriate time to us to wake up if we wanted to be on time for our 0900 assumed appointment at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, which too is a Smithsonian Institute. However, it was only when we were about to take the Metro that it was told that our appointment at the Museum is not until 1000! So what is one to do till then? This particular Individual decided to roam the Mall. I wanted to go to the African Art Museum, but that too was to be opened at 10, so I simply went to the “Castle” and signed up for a membership there. That is definitely Money well spent.

The Castle – A close up

The Castle

Interiors at the Castle

When the museum finally did open, we were greeted by Dr. Nancy Micklewright who is the Head of Scholarly Publications and Programs at the Freer Gallery of Art. The Museum and Art Gallery in itself is spectacular as is its history. Apparently, Charles L. Freer was a Detroit business man who made his money from the booming railroad business of the 1900s. He was also a man with much taste for the Chinese Art Pieces, and thus had a huge collection which he finally donated to the Museum with a condition – the museum can not loan or accept any other collection or artifact. This was how he sought to maintain his legacy in a place strictly dedicated to only his collection. It definitely says about the love that he had for his pieces.

Freer/Arthur Gallery of Art

View towards the Courtyard

The class started off with Dr. Nancy Micklewright talk who gave us an orientation about what our time at F/S will be like. We were then allowed to choose our interested workshops, more of which I will discuss tomorrow after I am done attending them. We were then taken in the authority of Alexander Nagel, who is the Assistant Curator of Ancient Near Eastern Art. What I loved about the guy is his open and warm attitude towards everyone and how he is ready to admit that he doesn’t know somebody and asked us to explain things to him. His learning and curiosity doesn’t seems to have an end. He is basically an archaeologist working on sites in Iran, but has been now working with F/S for almost 2 or 3 years (I cant recall exactly). We were given a tour of the galleries before we were rushed off to a talk by him about the work that F/S does and the various departments that are in the galleries, which include a in-house Workshop, to build showcases etc, Photography Studio, and one of the oldest conservation lab for Asian Art.

Nancy giving her talk! (Bad picture I know)

Alexander Nagel

After the talk by Alex, we headed out to the Energy Department, which is a Federal Building, which we were told will provide us with ample choices for food. Now it has to be said that that statement was an understatement. There was so much variety that it was almost insane. And that too all affordable.

Don’t be confused.. those are three different bars of food!

We headed back to the rest of our session, which was kicked off by Senior Exhibit Coordinator Kelly Swain. She showed in her presentation as case studies two of the panels that they have designed and how and what was the though process behind it. Her presentation left us all amazed and I have some more questions for her, which I plan to get an answer for tomorrow. The second presentation and talk that we got was from John Tsantes who heads the Imaging and Photographic Section. I can say it for everyone today with a lot of confidence that we were simply taken aback by the vast amount of cameras and equipment that they had. It was simply amazing.

Kelly Swain

 

Above: John gives a talk, Last picture: The equipment that they use was simply amazing.

The last talk of the day was from Carol Huh, who works as the Assistant Curator of Contemporary Asian Art. Now I don’t have any interest in Contemporary Art, but it needs to be said, that the discussion was pretty engaging. Questions were raised about how to draw a line between what is contemporary art and what is someone just putting a flush seat in front of the audience.

Carol Huh

The night ended with us decided for ourselves that today is the day when we will cook ourselves. So I decided to cook this baked potato, while Amrita – a new friend of mine – decided to give the Classic Mac and Cheese (packed) a try. I did also make these tomatoes with cheese in it which I ha gotten from the Farmer Market. The night ended with Rajesh – another friend – doing the dishes for us in his own hostel style.

SO far everything is simply perfect.

 

 

 

 

USA Diaries – Day 6 of 30 – Hello Farmer’s Market`

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 6, 22-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington  (late updating)

Today was to be the last day that Mark was here in Washington DC with us, and therefore most of the time left with him had to be fully utilized. And how is one suppose to do that? Well you wake up at 6 am in the morning and get dressed by 9 and head off to Dupont Circle for the Farmer’s Market. Now this, undoubtedly, was my first ever experience with a Farmer’s Market, and it was truly spectacular ( I know I am running out of adverbs day by day). It was everything I can ever dream of, with fresh cheese and flowers, and fruits and vegetables and Cheese, and god knows what. And everything is a local produce using natural methods.

After the Farmer’s Market, Mark took us around the main circle, before we made a stop for me only at Capital Teas. The shop had the most amazing teas ever that I have ever seen and also one of the most amazing interiors.

The fountain at Dupont Circle

Capital Teas

That day we decided to take things easy and relax. Therefore we returned to the hotel and rested for a while, before finally heading out to Penn Cameras to conduct a survey about the camera prices and all. Lunch was a pathetic affair, as we dined at the amazing McDonalds. Can you even believe it? I know I sure don’t.

In the evening, we headed out to a Mexican Restaurant, and tried some Sea Enchiladas with some Chicken Tacos. I have to say the food was simply amazing. Oh and Washington has one of the most beautiful evenings ever.

Enchiladas for Appetizers.

Quesidillas

Tacos

Chicken Tacos

Sea Enchiladas

USA Diaries – Day 4 of 30

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 5, 22-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 2150, Pakistan Time:23 July 2012, 0648 (late updating)

The exhaustion of the entire week and the constant travelling and sightseeing finally took its toll on me yesterday night and thus the lack of updating on my stay in Washington yesterday.

Yesterday in itself was pretty exciting with the responsibility of our tour falling on the wonderful man and genius himself, Mark Kenoyer. The day started off with us first heading towards Union Station. I am finally getting the hang of all the Metro lines and the stations and how to go about around the system.

The first stop on the agenda that day was Union Station, which we were taken to just to fimilarize ourselves not only with the Metro System but also to show us the place which can connect us to the world outside, meaning it is the place from where you can get trains and buses for anywhere in the US (there are plans in the air for taking a trip to NY one of these days).

Right as you step out of the Station, you can see the famous bell – and the only reason I know about it is because of the movie I saw, called National Treasure. The original bell, with the crack, is in Philadelphia and this was a replication of that bell.

The Postal Museum, also the part of the Smithsonian was the next stop on the agenda. The Museum is cited in the most beautiful building ever, and as per the lady on the reception, the beauty of that particular Museum is that it is quite. The beauty of the museum for me was how it traces the entire background of how Mail has been transported through different means and methods and every single one of them was then replicated and bought into the main lobby space of the museum. The other exhibits included the Security that is involved in transporting mail, before ending the entire story of the Museum on the emergence of the American Postal System and how it is working and has evolved over the years.

 

After the Museum, the next stop was the Building Museum. The history of the Museum was told to us by a Mr. Jeffrey, a friend of Mark who had worked at the Smithsonian for a number of years. The Building Museum was actually the pension office for the victims and the families of the casualties of the Civil War in America of 1812. The number of casualties of that war is still the largest number that America has lost in any war. Therefore the need for a large structure was felt. The lobby of the building is one of the biggest that America has ever seen and the columns in it are the most magnificent columns that I have ever seen. The building now holds various exhibitions and programs related to Building Material and the general Urban concerns.

 

Mr. Jeffrey  had taken an appointment for us at the Tudor Place, which was the residence of George Washington’s step granddaughter. George and Martha never had kids of their own, but Martha had her own kids from her first marriage. Upon the death of Washington, his granddaughter inherited a lot of money as well as furniture, which included decoration pieces as well, from the Washington himself. The house covers an entire block in Georgetown, which is the original historical district of Washington. DC itself is built on a swamp and since Georgetown is located on a hill, it therefore became the perfect place to have the residences of the rich and the elite of that time, and has been one of the main places that I wanted to visit. One of my main questions remains even after my visit is that why would the residents of the house decide to call it the Tudor Place, considering that Tudor is a word which is quite specifically used for the British Monarch. Unfortunately, there is no evidence which leads us to the answer of this discovery.

 

You are not allowed to take picture inside the house itself, which is a shame. But the museum in itself led to a great discussion between us. The discussion included the differences between this sort of Museum or a House Museum as compared to a  Smithsonian Museum. There was also a debate about how they conserve materials. Another interesting debate that was launched was the need to touch things. Mark pointed out to us that in USA, it is taught that you can not touch displays. However, this is the sort of discipline that has yet to be introduced in our society and museums.

We took a walk around Georgetown as we tried to find something to eat for ourselves. And I have to say, that it is as posh a area as I have ever seen before. The place on which we settled upon for food was Paolo’s, and again Mark ordered for us a wide variety of stuff so that we can have a taste of the various flavors which are there. We started off with our Appetizers which included Bread with this delightful Chuntey which had all the flavors of Asia in it, a Watermelon Salad – which of course I didn’t try, then there was a Eggplant Fried – which I thought was absoloutly brilliant, A Green Salad – which was too acidic and lemony for my taste buds and the final wonderful thing was the Calamari – which I was told is  a squid and was the most wonderful thing of all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At night, we randomly decided to step out and thus was fascinated when our random trip turned into a completely discovery of a “Paowo” – the celebration of Native Indian Culture and Customs. It was one of the most amazing things that I have ever heard with the most fascinating music. The music I felt were more or less like animal calls, and it is suppose to uplift your spirit and make it one with that of the universe. It is truly breathtaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 of 30

This diary post is a part of a 30 day trip that I am taking this month which it also happens to be my first ever International trip. So for the next 30 years I will be posting here all my weird thoughts and commentary. 

Day 3, 20-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 2312, Pakistan Time:21 July 2012, 0759

Day 4 has some to almost an end but it has been one of the first days when we really got the chance to explore Washington DC. The day started off with Professor Dr Mark Kenoyer arriving in DC and then meeting us at the hotel in which we are staying. After the initial “hi”, “hellos” and checking in (for him of course), we headed out towards the National Mall, where we got our personal tour with Professor Kenoyer. What more can one ask for.

We started off our day with the the S. Dillon Ripley Center, where we were told that to protect views to the Smithsonian Castle, the entire building has been made on underground 3 levels. The most amazing part however remained how all these buildings are then tied to each other. For example, with the single entrance to the Ripley Center we were able to find our way to the African American Museum, The Arthur M. Seekler Gallery, Smithsonian, etc.

 

 

The journey then took us past many levels and corridors, but some of the most interesting thing that we were able to see during this time, included of course, “The Names Project – Memorial Quilts for people with AIDS” and the installation based on the Chinese story “Monkeys grasping for the moon”.

 

The next stop in the trip was the stop over at Smithsonian Castle, where we were showed a bit around as well as taken to the Burial ground of the great man, James

Smithsonian himself. It is really amazing to think about what people’s love and dedication can make them achieve in life.

 

 

We then headed off for our class, but not before stopping off at the Smithsonian Canteen, where I had the test of my first Turkey Sandwich, and the truth is that I actually did like the taste of it a lot. The food at the Smithsonian was fresh and lively, with no pomp or show about it. It was healthy food, being served with consideration for the taste appeal of the wider population. One of the amazing thing for me however, was seeing the amount of people that are coming in everyday in the Museum to see its exhibits. The number of people that come to the Smithsonian everyday is more than the number of people that we can get in a Pakistani Museum in an entire year.

 

The class today was on the understanding of “What is Cultural Heritage?”, a discussion in which we touched many of the concerns that we seem to share with regards to Museum Professionals. These included asking questions and trying to find solutions to “How to make museums less intimidating an experience for the average man”, “How do we deal with the concept of Cultural Identity for those Indigenous Communities whose source of Identity is linked to crafts which don’t seem to be relevant in the Post-Industrial Age”, “How to deal with the idea of the modern world in which everything is digitilized and how that may effect the capability that we have to trace records from letters and other such sources?”, “Is biological tissue linked to the greater idea of Cultural Heritage?”. These were all questions which raised some very interesting points in our minds.

After the class, it was time to head out again, and first we went to the Gallery Station or the China Market Stop to get our Sim Cards, and then we finally headed down to Dupont Circle, where we had the chance to do some real shopping and some window shopping. We stopped at this lovely little shop called “Bedazzled” which is all about these amazing beads from all over the world and at “The Second Story Bookshop” which I just have to visit again no matter what.

 

 

 

 

The day ended with us taking refuge for dinner at a place called “Bangkok – Thai Dining” and I was able to try a number of things here, again thanks to the wonderful suggestions of our tour guide and the genius man, Professor Mark. The things we tried included Spring Rolls, Minced Chicken with Roasted Rice, Chicken Satay, Raw Papaya and the main entree for me included the “Tilapio in lime Sauce” which is a sort of a fish which was much recommended by Mark. I did try some of the other things that everyone else ordered, but the highlight of the day was I think, food wise, Sticky Rice. It was the most wonderfully new thing that I have ever had in my life.

 

The day ended with a drive down the rainy roads of DC back to our hotel and now as i lie down with eyes heavy with sleep, i finish my last obligations of the day, by writing down about my day. Oh there was another unusual sight for me today, which I can only expect to see in Washington DC. As we waited outside the At&t for our Sims and all and especially for other people to get free, i caught sight of a bride and a groom all of sudden come up to the Metro and get their wedding photos and shoots being taken. It was one of the most wonderful sights I have ever seen.