Let’s Wok and Roll: The Grassley Gang Takes D.C.

Bring the paper map with you tomorrow. The ominous sidenote from RPC and JVW last night gave us only a small clue of what was to come. This morning, paper maps in hand, we trudged downstairs to realize we were headed on a scavenger hunt of sorts. With only the maps, the Metro, some kind strangers, and our poor sense of direction, we had to find relatively unknown locations vaguely detailed in our assignment. We had eight hours to make it work. Focusing on the overarching theme of “unexpected characteristics of DC,” here’s what we learned:

Hello from the Temperance Fountain!

DC locals are nicer than you would think. Yeah, even in the city of black SUVs and backdoor deals, you can still find some kindness. We were lost quite a lot at the beginning, and relying on the paper maps in the wind was incredibly ineffective. Luckily, we were easily able to stop residents enjoying the weather. A woman — who was on the phone — stopped to show us a cute neighborhood coffee shop just a couple blocks from the RAF. A sweet couple noticed us because the wife, although she was sixty, is a huge fan of Drake (the rapper). We ran into them twice as we looked for the Japanese American Memorial! Since they also didn’t know where the memorial was, they chose to spend their walk searching for it as well. Another couple with a cute dog stopped to answer a few questions about her nostalgia for the city. In the Midwest, we always smile at strangers and wave to passerby. I was surprised to see the culture was not so different. -Samantha Bayne

Map Wizards I had heard from former students who had been on the DC jterm that RPC and JVW were a big fan of the paper map. It came as no surprise to me when we all got thrown out into the day with only a map and our wits. We started out not so strong, wandering the complete opposite of the Japanese American Memorial. We ended up at the the Robert A. Taft monument, slowly feeling the smug a-ha we found it moment fade away. Eventually, after walking across the street, we finally managed to find the right memorial. We also managed to reconnect with a very nice couple we had already asked where exactly the monument is, they were very excited to see that we too, had found the monument. Overall, strange looks that the folks of D gave us, said it all. A group of twenty something’s, holding paper maps, no phones in sight, must have been a sight for everyone. –Hannah Olson

We REALLY thought this would’ve been on the list. Shame someone just expected us to use the map.

Tips from the Professors are really helpful, most of the time. RPC and JVW offered all of us many tips for going out and exploring the city: (1) always stay in pairs, (2) know where you are in the city, and (3) keep some money in your shoes, just in case you happen to lose your other methods of pay. All of these are good tips to follow. The first tip is important because it is a big city and it’s important and helpful to have someone to walk around with. The second was a main theme from today. We aren’t always going to have out phones and the goal of our wonderful professors was to get us comfortable enough with the city to the point where we would be able to find our way back to “homebase” without phones. The third, but not the last tip they gave us, was to put a little extra money in your shoes because unfortunate events do occur. People may lose their money or some may end up stealing it, that’s just the reality of DC. Like the good little students that we are, all of us followed the tips that they gave us, including the money in the shoes, but mine didn’t stay there. I happened to be the only one that put money in my shoes, in fact I put my money in my shoes under the insole of my shoe. There came a time during the day where I needed the money from because I guess I didn’t bring enough for the day. When I went to find the money from my shoe when the time came, it had vanished. At some point during the day my money somehow managed to find its way out from under the insole of my shoe, past my foot without it being felt, and out into the vastness that is Washington. When I realized this I was baffled because there is no possible explanation for how my money was able to get out of my shoe. So, the tips from our professors were helpful to all of us, to an extent, however, I will still continue to use the tips that were given to us, even though I lost out on twenty dollars. These tips will be essential and very useful as the next two weeks continue. -Gavin Nordberg

There’s More to see in DC. In DC everyone knows the major attractions that people come to see. There’s the White House, Capital Hill, all the Smithsonian, and of course the memorials. Today, we were able to see a side of DC that people don’t usually get to see. Of course we were able to see all the big attractions walking around, but while exploring the other side of DC we were able to see memorials, fountains, and buildings that people might not get to see or might not even seek out. The professors provided us with a list of locations to seek out and all of them, or the ones we visited, were worth it. One of the places we went to was the Eastern Market. This location was like a huge food and craft fair, but it’s there continuously, it is part of the neighborhood. The neighborhood was also super cool. It was a little ways east of the capitol and the buildings and houses around the Eastern Market gave the neighborhood an older but a younger feel. Another location that we visited was a park dedicated to Sonny Bono. Even though it was really sad and basically a mound of dirt with benches, it was still in a part of DC that people might not visit. We also visited the Memorial to Japanese American Patriots. This was a memorial that was just north of the capitol, in a location that you never would have guessed to look or visit. The point is, there are other memorial, parks, and neighborhoods that tourists have the opportunity to go to. These hidden locations have meaning to people and they are part of people’s lives. As a tourists who has the opportunity to visit places like these we should appreciate these locations for what they are and what they stand for. -Gavin Nordberg 

The city moves on, even if the government doesn’t. I was kind of expecting the city to be quiet. Not only was it a Sunday, the government is still shut down. I honestly thought there would be tension throughout the city and that most people would not be outside. But the neighborhoods were full. And the streets were trafficky. We met so many dogs and families, especially on the Mall. Some things were deserted, such as the Sculpture Garden fenced in. However, even overheard conversations were focused more on inside gossip and daily life rather than the shutdown. It was still a gorgeous day, and Washington, D.C. is a real city with real people who exist outside of the tense, polarizing world of the federal government. It was a nice reminder that life goes on, even when politics feels overwhelming. -Samantha Bayne

The nice woman who spoke to us at Kramerbooks.

Discussions with others can teach us things we have never learned before. My team had a discussion with a lady at the independent bookstore and a café which is located at 1517 Connecticut Avenue in DuPont, who talked about some exciting places that visitors will surely like to visit whiles in Washington DC. She told us about the Washingtonians; that was the first time I have heard that word. Apparently it was founded by six alcoholics, who wanted to rely on each other for help in order to be sober and at the same time help others. It was very funny and I loved learning about the Green-liners which has most of the historical venues, which will be of much interest and hang out places as well. Our interviewer thinks a lot of visitors would rather use the Red line. -Sharon Bonsu

This Was a What? Something that really stood out to me during the entirety of the trip was the gentrification of the city as a whole. Being founded in 1790, this city is OLD. That being said, over time things move and shift around, and different things become obsolete. During our travels locals really embodied this as well. One woman we talked to recalled when cab drivers were some of the most knowledgeable on the hill about political events. She longs for those days, even with the convenience of Uber and Lyft. While walking around the city, we saw plenty of plaques that said “former site of XYZ.” This was somewhat disheartening because of how the history has been rewritten. While boarding houses may be outdated, seeing a sign representing where John Wilkes Booth stayed is now a Wok n’ Roll is rather odd. –Hannah Olson

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