USA Diaries – Day 14 – A Butterfly sits on me!

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?

The day was quite unclear to us! But I think this has been more to do with some people feeling that the course that we are going through is irrelevant to our context! What is my own point of view about this? I think that this is an opportunity for us to broaden our horizon! This is a chance for us to go and see what the world is doing and how is it that they work. How far along the world has come and how far behind we are still. There is so much to be learned from them! But this is not a spoon feeding session! It is for us to understand how to apply all that we learn in our context. For the time being, I am just glad to be learning and seeing the world!

Well, coming back to the original topic, the day started off in the library section where we were introduced to Nathan Erwin, who is the Insect Zoo/Butterfly Pavilion Manager and who is also know taking care of the Education Centre Project. He talked on a topic which seemed and appeared to be very much close to his heart – Citizen Science or a more appropriate word, Participatory Science. He showed us this project in which the citizens designed the Coral Reef – and that too using Croquet as a medium. Of course this meant a lot of research and training with regards to the details of the Coral Reef and how they work and the way they are shaped in the underwater. He also shed light about how Scientist and Researcher have taken this new approach to take their research out on the internet and then asking people to help them identify the various species or animals or varieties. This indeed is becoming a great way to get to know so much more about what they have and aid in their research. I thought this was such a different view and approach to take in regards to Pakistan where everything is “Top Secret”, or a “Matter of National Security”. And here are these people who are so much more advanced than us, have so much material and they put it out there for all to see and discuss and help.

Nathan Erwin

Nathan discussed the Coral Reef project done through Participatory Science

The second part of the first half was taken up by Amy Bolton and Rebecca Grey (I hope I got the name right – I don’t have Rebecca’s card with me). They talked about “The Education Centre” which will become a place where kids and teenagers can come and actually handle and have hands on experience with the collection and different specimens that are in the collection. The Centre is due to be opened next year and will have all those materials in the storage which has been de-accessioned and is now available for the children to expand their vision. The vision is that they should get to know in real what Science is all about and what is consists of. They want to make them know that Science is not only in books and labs but is beyond that as well.

And then it was lunch time, where I had Cheese Pizza but I did get a chance to try the food that my friends which my friends had ordered, including Three Cheese Calzone, and Roasted Chicken and a Chicken Soup. I have to say that the variety at the Smithsonian Café is not so bad, and the food is reasonable enough as well.

Since we still had time on our hand, we headed out to different galleries, and for me the stop was Butterfly Live Pavilion. Okay, so I am not so comfortable with animals, in fact I am actually scared of them. But when I saw this big huge thing with so many butterflies flying inside, I simply could not stop myself and just bought a ticket – which was around $5. But it was truly a wonderful experience. There were so many of them in there just flying around, and I have no shame in admitting, my legs are shaking like anything and I was amazingly scared – my mom’s comment when I told her this story were something like this “For heaven’s sake, they were just butterflies, not elephants”. Ya well still! The most ironic thing then was that the most beautiful butterfly, which belonged to the Amazon Jungles and had wonderfully blue wings, came and sat on my shawl. It was amazing, and scary and wonderful, since this one had been the favourite which everyone was trying to catch a picture was. Obviously, instructions were issued to me that I cannot move and have to remain still. But after a while, I decided to move around but that butterfly didn’t move. It was like she befriended me and stayed with me for the rest of my time in there. I moved around and took photographs all while she sat on my shawl. As per Amrita and Bengali tradition, if a butterfly sits on a girl, she is bound to get married within a year….. Hmm! Well let’s begin the countdown shall we!

I also got a chance to roam around in the Gem Gallery, and a few of the treasures from there I am sharing below. The most hilarious comment I heard in there was by this guy to his wife “Hey, when you have seen one diamond, you have seen them all”. I thought it was funny! But there was some really wonderful stuff in there! I mean wow!

The Hope Diamond

The last session of the day was with Donna, who is the Volunteer Manager and with Maria – we don’t have their last names since I didn’t get their card. These two ladies form the most amazing team which I have ever seen. They are amazing and wonderful and a force to be reckoned with. They provided us with not only a background of how to interact and get volunteers but also about how the Smithsonian processes the various applications that they get. The most wonderful perspective however was from Maria. Coming from Peru, she was able to provide us with a context which was very much relatable. Her’s is a country which faces the same problems – people don’t come to the museum, think of it as an elitist story, are poor, lack of awareness. So she shared her stories, some wonderfully inspiring and thought provoking, making me once again believe in the power of change and will power. She shared a lot of other stories, which I would love to share here and I plan to do that really soon.



After the session again I decided to roam around the galleries, but had to stop in the middle since I knew that I was too tired to enjoy this experience anymore. However, I did enjoy the Human Origin Exhibition. They have traced from the very first humans who stepped on this earth to the last evolved form of the human race. The exhibition makes one real wonder, about questions like Evolution and Creation. They have covered the ground in every single way in defining the various stages and ways in which humans have evolved, from the size of the brain to the size of the human body, the change in social interactions. The exhibition is hauntingly thought provoking, and really makes one wonder, “How can anyone ever doubt Evolution?”

Anyways, so these are some more photos… I am starting to think maybe I should get a Flickr account finally, since I have too many pictures here.

So finally, the day ended, and on the way back, I decided to make a stop at the “Sweet Lobby”, but not before exploring the area a bit. I mean I have never been to that side of this neighbourhood and this was amazing.

And the cupcakes from “Sweet Lobby were simply divine! I had been craving dessert like anything. And this is what I got back! I love sweets….!

Dinner was a simple affair, with all-time favourite alo(potatos) and of course rice on the menu. I think the day was long enough!


Day 3 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, 19-7-2012 – In my hotel room, Washington DC, Local Time: 2248, Pakistan Time:20th July 2012, 0747

Today was the first day of our course, which is taking place with the coordination of the Smithsonian. The day started off for me at 6: 30 am when I woke up after a 12 hour sleep – which was enough to cure any jet lag that I may have had. After that, we had a complimentary breakfast, before our in-charge took us to a local pharmacy to get our metro cards made, and then after that, we had our first metro ride. We took the metro from the Eastern Market stop all the way to the Smithsonian and then explored the National Mall a bit, before calling it a day. Afterwards ofcourse, we decided to take a walk around the block to find a place where we can have dinner. The place we stopped was a Thai Food place and I had duck – my first ever duck.

Here are some of my pictures from the day