Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Memories from D.C.

Washington, D.C. is the only city where you can run into the Magna Carta on your way to read the Declaration of Independence. It's the only place where you can listen to oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court and then chat with Justice Scalia weeks later. It's the only spot where you can stumble across the grave of F. Scott Fitzgerald in a small cemetery by the freeway. It's one of the only districts where tango dances are held in libraries, where everyone reads the newspaper during morning metro commutes, where people listen to jazz and ice skate in sculpture gardens.

During my semester in D.C., I learned that the city has an identity apart from the White House, Capitol Hill, and the National Mall. Washington is not a strictly professional and political district, as I originally thought, but a personal capital where government employees head to happy hour after work, where the classy streets of Georgetown are converted to a costumed bar crawl on Halloween.

Here are the people and places that allowed me to see D.C. beyond its museums and monuments:

My Internship
I interned at a whistleblower law firm and non-profit organization that represent high-profile clients such as White House employee Linda Tripp, FBI Agent Bassem Youssef, and lead Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino. Despite their heavy caseload and reputation as some of the best whistleblower attorneys in the field, lawyers wore T-shirts and jeans to work when they were not scheduled to appear in court. Everyone knew my name. Doors were left open and questions were always welcome. The lawyers liked to discuss politics, painting, sports, and gardening. They were human. They made the law seem less intimidating. I felt like I was a member of a family rather than an intern at two legal organizations.

Fittingly, the law firm and non-profit center are located in Georgetown townhouses decorated with the attorneys' own artwork. My days began with a 20 minute walk from the Dupont Circle metro to the firm and not-for-profit organization in the heart of Georgetown. Everyday, before I passed a row of Victorian style houses, I waved hello to a worker selling French crepes. I felt like a Washingtonian instead of a city visitor.

Favorite Internship Memories:
  • Teaching attorneys to cha-cha and sampling vegan food at a lawyer's house party
  • Listening to Christie Hefner speak at the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards
  • Exchanging music and listening to Phil Ochs with my supervisor
  • Hearing a leader from the Philippines discuss the challenges that whistleblowers face in his country
  • Group lunches from Wisey's and homemade ice cream from Thomas Sweets (also has some of the best fudge in D.C.)
  • Reading intake forms from whistleblowers across the United States and reviewing their claims with the firm's lead attorney
  • Talking with law student interns, my supervisor, my supervisor's mother, and my co-workers about everything ranging from law school to fashion
  • Drinking tea and listening to panel discussions at a whistleblower seminar at the historic Willard InterContinental Hotel
My FriendsThe group of friends that I made in D.C. were as diverse as the district's population. Together, we represented Oregon, California, New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Missouri, Boston, Korea, and Mexico. Although we all came from different states and countries, we understood each other well and I felt like we were together for years instead of months. (My friends still liked me after they learned of my garden gnome fetish, for example). I loved meeting new people, trying different things, learning about other cultures, and hearing fresh opinions.

Favorite Friend Memories:
  • Cruising under man-made waterfalls and eating pizza with vodka sauce on our trip to New York
  • Listening to slam poetry and going to a hip hop concert on U Street
  • Grocery shopping and cooking our own turkey dinner for Thanksgiving
  • Watching Giselle at the Kennedy Center
  • Conversation hours with a friend from Mexico
  • Salsa dancing at CafĂ© Citron and tango dancing at the West End Library and Chevy Chase Ballroom
  • Taking a ghost tour of Old Town Alexandria
  • Eating Indian food at Adams Morgan
  • Farewell dessert at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a historic oyster bar and grill near the White House

After my semester internship in D.C., I know that I want to apply to law schools and I am aware of the steps that I must take in the admissions process. I return home with a new confidence that comes from working in an office, living independently, and socializing with different people.

Now I'm off to the other Washington to finish my senior year of college. Farewell, D.C.! I'll be back.