Saturday, August 28, 2010


Lately I’ve been trying to approach my re-integration into US society like I approached integrating in Nicaragua. The advice I was given when I spent a couple days with a volunteer during training was to accept every invitation to dinner, birthday parties, whatever and go, regardless of how tired or freaked out I was. The past couple weeks I’ve made myself do something I’ve never enjoyed: go to gatherings where I pretty much only know the host. A lot of my friends in DC are random acquaintances so when they invite me places I used to either drag someone with me or not go. But I figured it was a good opportunity to expand my friend circle and put my small talk skills to work.

First I went to my college friend Emily’s End of Summer Barbecue. There was a possibility of other folks from our school showing up but no one did. I spent a surprising amount of time brainstorming ideas for one girl’s food truck vision (food trucks are the new lunch fad in DC, I haven’t tried one yet) for her amazing canned preservatives and other random food ideas. Later another girl and I tried to explain to a guy why asking girls out on the Metro isn’t such a good idea.

Next my old roommate Melanie organized a karaoke night so I met up with her and some of her mostly work friends early at a bar that was having trivia, but we didn’t play and instead got a lot of dirty looks and a couple comments because we were talking during the game. Beware of trivia geeks, they take that stuff seriously! I didn’t last long at karaoke itself mostly because my usual karaoke partner is in South Korea.

Lastly, I went to an iftar, which is the breaking of the fast at sundown during Ramadan. The group was almost entirely women, mostly lawyers actually, and they were fun to talk to and I didn’t feel weird being the only non-Muslim there. It also made me realize that Peace Corps has made me very practiced at being in new situations so I no longer really feel that awkward when I’m kind of the odd one.

I’ve also been packing in lots of social time because a) summer in DC is beautiful and come winter I may not want to leave my apartment and b) my knee surgery was just scheduled for this coming Thursday so I won’t be able to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather much for a little while. I’m having arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus (cartilage) in my left knee. I’ll have the long Labor Day weekend to recover so I should be fine to return to work the following Tuesday, hopefully without having to crutch the four blocks to my office. I’m not too nervous but any happy thoughts you feel like sending to my knee on Thursday at 7:30am EDT would be appreciated.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Triumphant Return to DC

It really wasn't that triumphant, I flew in last week right after a pretty serious thunderstorm (got to fly through part of it, that was fun) to a welcome party of one: my now roommate Emiko. Lots of people have asked me what it feels like to be back in DC and back working at my old job (I started on Monday) and the best way I can describe it is to say that it feels like I never left, which is both comforting and creepy.

I've returned to my little office with a view of another office building to continue on as a research assistant to a rural housing nonprofit. A rural housing nonprofit in Washington, DC??? you may say... well, yes. The organization acts as an intermediary between the government and local, rural organizations. We get mostly government money to support our activities which are a revolving loan fund, technical assistance and training, and research specifically to organizations working in rural areas around the country. There are several organizations that do this but my organization is the only housing intermediary that focuses solely on rural areas.

The biggest adjustment to returning to work has been sitting .... all day ... at a desk ... staring at a computer screen. So far I've been doing the usual editing stuff I used to do, we're waiting for the research agenda to get final approval from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is where the money comes from. The one thing I do know is that I'll be working on a big report done after each decennial census. I love the census so I'm pretty psyched about that.

I had four days before work started, during which I had originally planned to run errands and buy clothes and other stuff I'd need for work. But I had Peace Corps friends in town (can't stay away for long!) so I hung out with them instead. My friend Dianne is from Northern Virginia so she came home with her site mate, Liz, and we went to Great Falls:

Dianne's mom had warned her to be careful, and it turns out she had a point - "The river has claimed another victim, don't be its next, if you fall in you will die."

I'd always heard about Great Falls when I lived here before but since you can only get out there in a car, I never went. It's very pretty!

With Liz:

Sunday we moved into our apartment (if anyone wants the address or my phone number just let me know). My plan was to buy a bed the way I did the last time I moved out here: Craigslist! But upon arrival I learned that DC, much like New York, is experiencing a bedbug infestation so buying a used bed was very much discouraged. I ended up at Ikea on Saturday trying to figure out how to buy a decent bed for less than $500 when Emiko texted me and said that her current roommate was looking to sell her nice, Certa bed fast and for less than $500! What luck :) So I'm mostly all settled, just waiting for my boxes to arrive, and as I type there are three guys building a wall to separate my room off (we have a one bedroom so my room is technically the living room). Once all that stuff is done, I can settle myself for real.

My last news is that I got the approval to move forward on getting my knee fixed. If you remember, when I was last in DC I discovered that I have a torn meniscus but opted to return to Nicaragua in order to get part of my Perkins loan canceled (which has also been confirmed!). When I got back last month I sent in paperwork to get knee surgery as covered under a part of workers comp and I just got the approval. This morning I scheduled an appointment with the same orthopedist I saw before for a quick follow-up and then I should be able to schedule the surgery.