Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Washington, DC 2013

So where did I leave off? Arriving in DC. Okay, so yeah, arrived, got checked in. All was good. I didn't officially decide that I was actually going until a week or two before I left so I ended up being in a hostel room with a bunch of strangers. It was fine. I've stayed alone in hostels before...although this was my first time in a co-ed room, but it worked out.

Monday morning we were scheduled to meet at the main hostel (we were divided between two and I was in the "other" one) at 10am to go to the Museum of National History. We walked from the hostel to the museum as a group. It wasn't all that far and it was a good time to chat with people. I connected with my friend Louise who I had spent time with in Quebec City and met two people that she had met on the bus. Jen and Taylor are both from Laurier-Brantford (a satellite campus) and they are really cool. This ended up being the group I hung out with most. Now I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed to not hang out with the other people on the trip but it's just so difficult with a large group and a very unstructured agenda and this way I got to see what I wanted to see. Still it was a tiny bit disappointing.

I could tell very shortly after arriving at the Museum of Natural History that it just wasn't my thing. I wasn't in the mood for dinosaurs and "man's pre-historic beginnings" so I convinced Taylor and Louise to go with me to the Museum of American History right next door. That was more like it. We started with an exhibit about the American flag and national anthem, which I really enjoyed since I'm hoping to write a paper on that topic, and then moved on to one comparing slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation with the Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington.

The next exhibit was on the evolution of food in America and, just like Julie I got to visit Julia Child's kitchen. My friends didn't understand how excited I was and I'm realizing I haven't actually blogged about it, but trust me, I was excited :)

After the museum (and a little trip to the security office because I lost my favourite scarf :( ) we met up with the larger group again. Taylor and I were going to accompany the prof to the National Cathedral (while most other people either went to Georgetown Cupcakes or the Spy Museum) but when we realized how beautiful of a day it was, with a forecast of rain the next day, we decided to go see some monuments instead. I have been to DC 2006 but we only had about two hours to drive around and see things. This time I was determined to get closer to some of the monuments. Specifically I wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Wall and hopefully the Jefferson Memorial if it worked out.
So Taylor and I walked most of the length of the mall, past the Washington Monument, through the World War II Memorial, past the reflecting pool (which actually had water this time! It was being renovated last time I was in town) to the Lincoln Memorial. It was pretty cool to see. I really enjoyed seeing the spot where MLK Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech and looking down the mall. We also listened to the Ranger give a talk which was really interesting.

The Wall was a little less inspiring but that is because I have no emotional connection to any of the almost sixty thousand names listed on it and I've been doing a lot of reading about memory and commemoration and had a lot of the dissenting opinions about it in my mind. That meant I looked at it a bit more critically, but it was still interesting to see.
After that much walking we were getting tired so we headed back to the hostel. We tried to take the subway but we were also trying to buy passes for the next day and our Canadian credit cards were rejected because we don't have zip codes...or the machine wasn't working. We're still not totally sure what was wrong but the attendant ended up giving us free one way tickets so that was pretty awesome. We had made plans to meet up with Louise and Jen for dinner. Two different people had suggested that I try out an Ethiopian restaurant when I mentioned I was going to DC so, on the advice of the security guard at the Smithsonian we took my car up to the Adams Morgan neighbourhood and went to an Ethiopian restaurant there. It was definitely an experience. Not the most amazing food I've ever had but I'd be game to go again. I think I enjoyed it more than they did but they were good sports. After dinner we went to Georgetown for ice cream. Well, we went in search of dessert and found the Haggen-Daaz store so ice cream is what we had.
Tuesday we met u for breakfast at PAUL, a french bakery suggested by the prof who coordinated the trip. I got confused on directions (I can handle the streets and avenues, it's the wacky boulevards that throw me off) so we ended up taking the long way there but that gave us a close up of the White House so that was okay. After breakfast we split up. Jen and Louise took a bus to Mount Vernon and Taylor and I finally made our way to the National Cathedral. It WAS raining, so it was a great day for it. The Cathedral was amazing. I'm really glad I got to see it. I think the thing that surprised me the most was how long it actually took to build. Something like 80 years but all in the 20th century. Wow. After the Cathedral (which we drove to, I have to admit, it was nice to have my car even though parking is crazy expensive) I dropped Taylor off at the Holocaust Museum and headed over to the Newseum (I think that's how it's spelled. The News Museum). I couldn't find any parking though and when I realized I was getting ridiculously frustrated and slightly irrational, I just headed back to my hostel and took a nap. It was a good decision. I'd still like to visit that museum but you can only fit so much in to each day.

We met up for dinner again that night. We had agreed earlier in the day that we wanted another ethnic experience but we wanted something close to the hostel. The first restaurant we came to was a Cuban one and it was FANTASTIC. Really. Great atmosphere, great service and delicious food. We did tapas style dining and there wasn't a single dish we didn't love. It was awesome. After that we kind of started walking...and walking...and walking. I wanted to see the capitol building and Taylor wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial at we went there via the Jefferson Memorial...make that we WALKED there. To put it in perspective, the Mall, from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial is two miles...but we didn't walk straight there. Yes it was a long trip but we knew it was our last night so we just kept going. And then took a taxi back from Lincoln LOL
And that was about it! The four of us met up for breakfast again on Wednesday before they boarded the bus. Before I headed south I went back to Georgetown and checked out some of the stores there. I didn't leave DC till after 11 and since I had a ten hour drive back to Georgia, I pretty much drove straight through. I was surprised that I wasn't more tired than I was but I only stopped for gas and bathroom breaks. I got home around 10pm and didn't sleep in all that much the next day. I didn't have class until noon so it wouldn't have been bad but still I was happy with that.
So that was my adventure in Washington, DC. This is technically my second time in the city and I'd love to go back again. There is so much to see and only so much you can absorb at once.

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's all a matter of perspective

Last weekend I went on a road trip. The History Students Association from Laurier was going to Washington, DC for their reading break and I decided to join them. Since my spring break here in Georgia isn't for another month, I cleared it with all my profs before I went. They were all really supportive of me taking the trip. (That's the problem with being a "mature" student. You actually care about going to classes.) The HSA was planning on arriving in DC on Sunday night so I decided to take a detour on my way up and visit...we'll call them acquaintances, in Hickory, North Carolina. That made it a LONG trip. I didn't really acknowledge how long but it worked out.

On Saturday I drove straight from Statesboro to Hickory. I had packed snacks and drinks so I really only stopped for gas and bathroom breaks. It was a miserable grey day through most of South Carolina and in North Carolina it SNOWED! Fairly hard. It made me glad that I got new tires before I left Ontario! I arrived in Hickory around 4pm and met up with people there. It's a little confusing but the people I was meeting was a pastor and his wife who is associated with both the church I attend in Ontario and the one back in BC. I have met them in both places but not really spent any time with them so when I called to say I was coming to visit, they didn't really know who I was. It didn't matter though. When I arrived they recognized me and in any case, they demonstrated some amazing Southern Hospitality and I get the feeling they would have acted the same even if we were complete strangers. They took me out for dinner along with one of their sons and his wife and kids and another couple from the church and then we all went out for coffee. On Sunday I caught a ride to church with another couple and afterwards a bunch of us went out for lunch at a Mexican restaurant. This is slightly off topic but going for Mexican after church is becoming a bit of a habit for me. That's where we went when I was in Ohio and the first time I went to church in Statesboro. I like it!

Anyway, at lunch I was talking with some people about my epic year. Being in Georgia followed by the study tour in Europe and three months in France. One of the girls who is quite a bit younger than me, but already married, made a comment about being a bit envious of my life and adventures. I couldn't help but stare at her and try to calmly explain that the only reason I'm going on all these adventures is because I don't have what she has (a husband and somewhere to settle). It was weird to look at someone and wish you were in their shoes while they are looking at you and wishing the same. Not that either of us would necessarily trade but I guess it's a matter of perspective. Or maybe the grass is always greener. Anyway it was strange.

After I said good bye to all my new friends I *flew* to DC. The front desk at my hostel closed at 10pm so I was really under a time crunch to get there. I'm glad the weather was clear and traffic wasn't too heavy because I wouldn't have made it other wise. It's not a process I'd care to repeat but I did make it with about five minutes to spare. And for the record, Virginia along I77 and I81 is beautiful! (it got dark after that but I'm sure it was pretty on the rest of 81 and I66 ;))

I'll put my adventures in DC in another post, with pictures. I didn't take any pictures in NC. Too busy talking I guess. Oops!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

WinterJam 2013

For Valentines Day Kayla and I decided to go on an adventure. Okay, it wasn't only for Valentines, it just happened to be that night, but it was still a great excuse and something fun for us to look forward to. As soon as our classes ended on Thursday we hopped in my car and headed north to Augusta for WinterJam 2013. If you're not familiar with WinterJam (and I can't really say I was. I just heard about it on the radio) it is a huge Christian concert that features ten acts for ten dollars. No tickets, just ten dollars at the door and you pick whatever seat you can get. They generally sell out and there was a chance that we wouldn't get in but we decided to risk in and luckily we not only got in but snagged some great seats.

There was a range of acts. None of them are my absolute favourites although I really like Matthew West and I like him even more now. The headliner was Toby Mac. I'm not particularly a fan of his music but as we suspected, he puts on an a-MAZING show. I was pleasantly surprised by Jason Castro as well. Remember him from Idol? Well he has a new record and the lead single is "Only a Mountain" which I've heard on the radio and really like. I purchased both Jason and Matthew West's newest cd's for $5 each. The top photo is Jason Castro, still sporting the dreadlocks :)

 There were a number of other acts as well: Sidewalk Prophets,a rock group called "Red" that neither of us enjoyed. The pyrotechnics were cool but the music was just loud and we couldn't understand any of it (does this mean I'm getting old?) Jamie Grace seems like a sweetheart and she did a great job. The lead singer for "Royal Tailor" was an amazing dancer. He reminds me of what a young Michael Jackson would have been like, complete with the moon walking :) There was a local group called Capital Kings who were pretty fun and another group called "OBB" who did sort of a pre-show. The whole thing was hosted by the guys from NewSong and they had a set as well.
Overall it's just a great night of music. The speaker Nick Hall talked about "resetting" and "recharging". It was basic stuff but I enjoyed it. Kayla and I agreed that our favourite act was Matthew West. He had some video testimonials from the people who's stories he had based some of his songs on and they were incredibly moving.

As I mentioned, Toby Mac (left) puts on an incredible show. Even so we left a little bit early so we could beat the crowds because we both had class in the morning. I'm glad we went though. It was a ton of fun.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wormsloe Colonial Faire & Muster

Have you ever had a weekend or an event where it was so perfect and dreamlike that you didn't want to take the time to try and capture it with words for fear that you wouldn't do it justice? Well that was last weekend for me.

In the past few years I have realized a lot of dreams but this one was extra special. How many times have I answered the question "History, what do you want to do with that degree? Teach?" with "No, I want to work as a costumed interpreter at a historical site". Well, I present this first picture. A dream come true.

Last weekend was the Colonial Faire & Muster at Wormsloe. I was mostly just an extra body, although I was "assigned" to the cricket pitch for the afternoons (more on cricket later) but I didn't really stay there because they had lots of people and there were things I wanted to see. I think the most dreamlike part of the weekend was when I'd be looking at something or standing by a house or cannon (like the tourist I am) and someone would ask if they could take my picture. ME! My picture!!! *I* am usually the one taking pictures!!! It was awesome.

Of course I wasn't the only reenactor. All the staff were in costume (on the left is my boss John and in the middle is his boss Chris) and we had a bunch of local reenactors who only come for the Faire there as well.

Mostly I just spent the weekend helping with whatever needed to be done. On Friday John and I moved hay bales and barrels, washed 40 pounds of oysters, and I raked a bit and Chris taught me to play cricket.

During the fair I helped out a lot in the Visitor's Centre in the mornings, played cricket (some) in the afternoon, and wandered around handing out programs/taking in the festivities for the rest of the time. In the photo above John and Chris are marching in the noon day parade. It happened both days and there were speeches by reps from the Georgia Historical Society and reenactors portraying General Olgethorpe and John C. Freemont (the featured Georgia Historical person this year) as well as various sponsors. Following the speeches there was a musket firing demonstration although those went on all day along with cannon firing.

This is Chris's son Wyatt. The cutest colonist there!!!

Of course, like any good event, the real fun started after we shut the gate. (Remember that I live a good hours drive from Wormsloe). On Friday I went in as soon as my class was finished and then came home around 6pm or so. John told me I could leave earlier (because I usually end at five) but I told him I'd finish what we were doing and then head out. He laughed and replied "right, because you're getting paid and everything" (which of course I'm not. My intern-suretudeness was a big joke all weekend. That is John's way of combining "Intern" and "Indentured Servant".) Saturday after we finished a bunch of use went into downtown Savannah for dinner. Almost all the staff were there, some volunteers and many of the reenactors. I drove a few of the people that were there from out of town and by the time we got back to the site it was after 10pm. I could have driven home. I wasn't actually all that tired and that was the original plan but when I heard that a few people were staying in the museum overnight, I decided that sounded good for me too. I borrowed some blankets that John had in his truck (he went home for the night) and a pillow from Adam and Adam, Jesse, Paula and I slept on the floor in the museum over night. It was a literal "night at the museum" and it was fun. Low key. I mean we're historians after all. We argued about our favourite presidents! And Jesse read us Mark Twain from his iPhone. It wasn't the best sleep I've ever had but it was far from the worst and even though I had to run to Walmart in the morning to buy a toothbrush, it was worth it. Plus I saved a ton on gas.

So that was my weekend. The best part? Just being there. Being around all those people who love history as much as I do and LIVING what I'm learning. At the end John asked "So is that it? Will we see you again?" I told him that until I'm forced to go back to Canada he can expect to see me every Friday if they want me. And even if they don't, I'll still hang around :D I've way exceeded the 10-12 hours that I had to do for my course (heck I had that by noon on Saturday) but I love being there and I think they kind of like having me around as well :)

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Joy of Saying YES

This is fun. I already do this somewhat at Starbucks and other places but I'm really being stretched at Wormsloe. Today I arrived and John suggested I help Chris at the Cricket pitch. Me? Cricket? SPORTS? Sure! Why not? LOL It was actually a lot of fun. I have the basics of the game figured out and I managed to hit the ball a few times too. I'm not a horrible "bowler" either (bowling is what they call pitching). Tomorrow I'll be helping there for the better part of the afternoon. Okie-dokey!

Then I donned some colonial clothing and basically just shadowed John for the day. We went and picked up some barrels and hay from the maintenance area and dropped them off around the park. (Throw around 20 pound bales of hay? Got it.) And I raked some and swept the stage and then went with John to buy a 40 pound bag of oysters. I let him carry them but I carried the empty coolers and we got ice from the big house and then I stood and sprayed them all clean. By the time I left at six I was soaked but it was so much fun it was okay. I'm usually only there till five. Around 5:30 John mentioned the time and said I could leave any time. I just shrugged and said "Meh, all my friends are gone this weekend so I'm just going home to do homework. I'll stay and help finish with these. Besides, it's kind of fun." He laughed and said "And the best part is, you're not getting paid!"

Maybe that's the key. There's something fun about doing volunteer work but I think that if I can be paid to do random tasks like this, I'd like it just as much. And I'd be just as willing to help out with whatever it is that they need me to do. Just tell me where and how and I'll get it done. Not super fast and maybe not perfectly but it frees other people up to do other things. After all, that's what an indentured servant does...although he started introducing me as "intern" today and that definitely sounds more official ;)

Monday, February 04, 2013

Exploring Savannah

On Friday John asked me “so what do you do on weekends in Statesboro?” I laughed an replied “um…get out of Statesboro?” Now that isn’t always true…actually…it is. LOL This is my fourth weekend here. On the first weekend I went into Savannah with Kayla, Ben and Max. On the second weekend Kayla and I went to Florida. Last weekend I stayed in Statesboro which was fine but I have to admit, I went a bit crazy. So yesterday I headed into Savannah again. Kayla was doing part of her volunteer placement and I didn’t really talk to anyone so I just went on my own which was good. It was funny, as I was leaving I thought to myself, “I should take the route I took the first time” (sort of a secondary road rather than the main interstate that I take to Wormsloe when I just want to get there) but then I decided against it. Except as I was debating with myself I somehow took the wrong road and ended up on that other route anyway!
Anyway, once I got to Savannah, I stopped in at the visitors centre (something I’ve been meaning to do for weeks) and then actually drove right through Savannah to Tybee Island. My goal for the day was mostly just to explore. To get a better feeling for this city that everyone speaks so highly of and to see what I could find. I had some school work with me so my ultimate goal was basically just to find a place to study. The first place I pulled out my books was on the beach at Tybee. It wasn’t particularly warm but I was dressed for the weather and the sun had some heat so it was okay. I think it if it was much windier I wouldn’t have been able to handle it but as it was, it was almost perfect. The beach has these swings along the dunes and I claimed one and set up camp. It was lovely to sit and enjoy the sound of the waves while reading. I was there for two hours (which is how long my parking spot was good for) and then I headed back into Savannah.

I parked up near Forsyth Park and explored down from there (down means towards the river which is actually North but it’s how the city works). I wandered through the park for a while, watched some firemen playing Frisbee for a bit and made my way towards the main fountain. There I noticed that a wedding was just about to start so, along with a bunch of other strangers, I took a seat and watched. I had my book out and I was reading but I ended up chatting with the lady beside me (not during the ceremony of course ;)) and got some tips on places to see and to go eat in Savannah and the area. Once the ceremony was over and I had read a good bit of my book, I continued on my wandering and explored the four most northern “Squares” that Savannah is so famous for. I eventually want to see them all but not all on the same day. Breaking it up is good.

I had packed snacks and food so I had been eating all day but by that time I was a bit chilled from being outside so I decided to find something more substantial than the salad I had left. I ended up finding an “Atlanta Bread Company” which is very similar to Panera and I had some delicious butternut squash soup and half a Panini sandwich there. The best part was it was really quiet so I could spread out and get even more studying done. I have my first midterm on Wednesday so I need to spend as much time as I can going over things. Going to Savannah didn’t give me a huge amount of study time but I sure was able to enjoy what I did have. And I am sticking to the pledge that I made even before I left Ontario - that I wanted to make a point of getting out of Statesboro and getting to know Savannah. So far so good. 

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Truck Got Stuck

I'm trying to decide how to approach this entry without making it a novel. I guess with basic facts. Part of my  exchange is the Directed Studies course I mentioned in a previous post. Part of that class is a volunteer placement. I did my homework before I left and landed the most fantastic PERFECT placement for me that I couldn't have even dreamed up. When I suggested it as an option I hadn't even considered that I would get it or that it would fit me so well. But I did, and here I am. I am working as a volunteer (or, as I like to refer to myself because it is historically accurate, as an Indentured Servant) every Friday at Wormsloe State Historic Park in Savannah. Today was my third visit. The first two were sort of orientation. Taking tours, reviewing the information about the site (which conveniently is exactly what I'm learning in class all week) and getting to know people. Today, in anticipation of the Colonial Faire next week, I had some "get your hands dirty" kind of labour. A site beautification project (that makes it sound cool LOL) which essentially was raking an area outside of the visitors center and piling the debris in a truck. I filled that truck bed three times! I am SO sore now but it was incredibly rewarding work. I was able to spend some quality time with my supervisor John while we were riding in the truck. I am writing a research paper based on Wormsloe and he gave me some good information and resources to check out. The third time we went to empty the truck I went with a guy named Jesse and we had the unfortunate experience of getting the truck stuck. John and I had unloaded so many leaves that when Jesse backed onto them and then tried to pull forward, there was no traction. We tried putting boards under the tires but ended up having to have someone pull us out with another truck. Oops!

Anyway, even though I spent four hours raking and scooping debris I enjoyed every minute of it. Wormsloe is incredibly beautiful and peaceful. It brings out a poetic side in me that I didn't even know existed and just being outside in that wonderful space was amazing. I have already been fitted for colonial clothes for the Faire next week. I don't know if I can communicate exactly how excited I am with words. Being in costume at a historic site is something I have dreamed of for YEARS. It's my goal with my education and the type of work I want to do. Yes this is only a volunteer placement and it's only for a few months but it will go on my resume and help to get me a job like this full time. In the meantime, I'm going to live my dream at this amazing place.

One more paragraph. I mentioned in a previous post that I have "found a name for what I want to do". Essentially it's "Public History". That is the term I have been looking for. The best way to describe Public History is "history that is outside the classroom or academic sphere". It's a similar discipline but with a focus on making history more accessible to the public (pretty simple right?) This includes historic interpretation (where I am focusing for the most part) but also includes museum and curatorial work, some forms of archaeology, as well as documentary film making and even corporate or government historians. It's an incredibly broad filed with a ton of opportunities and I'm super excited about it. As I mentioned the professor that is serving as my advisor for the paper on Wormsloe and who got me the placement, is developing a Public History course at Georgia Southern for launch in September. He's really encouraging me to consider applying when I'm finished my undergrad. I have to admit I'm not stoked at the idea of more school but at the same time, I am freaking LOVING this work and I can actually see myself considering something like that. The fact that it would bring me back to Georgia and is generally funded, only makes it more appealing. But that's way down the road. When I finish in Georgia I still have two years of school. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy every minute of my time here, even if it is raking and getting trucks unstuck :)