One Week in Wash. II

Second-Cousin Eli
and Uncle David
Shop in Thrift Store
Washington, D.C., USA
August 11, 2012

Why do I keep passing through this town? I used to always route myself through New York City to see friends. But in recent years I've been coming more often to Washington, D.C.. The reason is simple: fewer friends live in New York and far more people I know live here in this city, nowadays.

I could have skipped the leg through the U.S. and flown directly back to Canada after spending this past month in Europe. Instead, I decided to maximize my summer break. There are still more than two weeks remaining before the next term of my language program back in Québec begins. The air ticket I used for the legs of travel across the ocean was flexible: a frequent-flier freebie. So, though I flew outbound from Québec City to Tallinn, I chose to fly directly back from France into Washington, D.C. to spend some days visiting with friends and relatives here.

Here's how everybody's doing:

D.C. Relatives

When I come visiting people these days it's often with limited time and occasionally on short notice. Most everybody--particularly those who live in this city--has a fully packed schedule. So, I often just ask friends and family what they'll happen to be up to over the time I'll be in town. Out running errands? Doing chores at home? At work all-day but with an hour to grab a quick lunch? I try to accommodate by stating that I'm happy to hang out alongside, doing whatever it is they already have scheduled to be able to squeeze in time together.

Second-Cousins Share Bubble Tea
Melding schedules meant hanging about one afternoon with Melodie and second cousins Isaac and Eli as they went to the optometrist. In a fortunate twist for spending more time interacting together (though in an unfortunate twist for assessing my second cousins' eyesight) the appointment was cancelled upon arrival on account of a paperwork snafu.

We took advantage of our unexpected free time to drive around the corner of the shopping mall from the optometrist to another part where a tea shop offering sweet, milky tea with black tapioca pearls was located. The remainder of the afternoon was spent at home with Isaac and Eli teaching me how to play Yahtzee: a game it had always seemed everybody else in America except for me had played since childhood.

Cousin Melodie and
Isaac in Tea Shop
I'm always happy to see Cousin Melodie and her boys carrying on. Melodie is especially fortunate that her part-time job in a local HR department has allowed her to take most of the summer off to spend time with her sons until the school year resumes in a couple weeks.

Melodie's parents--my Uncle David and Aunt Nancy--managed to drop in for an hour or two before I had to leave. They've both retired since I last passed through town just a few months ago. What a difference not working makes! When Aunt Nancy stepped through the door she looked not just far more energetic and lively but somehow years younger than the last time we met. In his retirement Uncle David has evidently, among other distractions, shifted his focus to scouring through thrift stores to find bargain objects to resell on eBay.

Seem like all my D.C. relatives are doing great.

Mala, Vega, David, Coffee
and Eggs Over-easy

Mala and Vega

Mala and Vega have moved house since I last saw them. They're now in a smaller apartment in a more central part of town closer to Vega's work. Though the two households have never met, I find it amusing that Mala and Vega now live only a mile from cousin Melodie and her family. It certainly made it easy for me to get from one commitment to the next.

I was fortunate to catch Mala and Vega twice over this visit. Our first time catching up was over a quick breakfast at the deli down the block from their new home. I'm always happy to eat a traditional American breakfast of sausage, eggs, and hash browns, especially as it had been about four months since I was last here in this country. Our second time meeting up was over a candlelight vigil held in the park across the street from the White House to honor people slain in a Sikh temple across the country several days prior.

I always feel inspired whenever I see those two. They're continually focusing their life into channels they believe will bring improvement to the world.

Allison and Jason

Allison and Jason
Play Fill-Or-Bust

Fixing a place to meet up with Allison and Jason was difficult until I hit on just the right suggestion. They're both at busy stages of life as GWU graduate students. Allison is in the middle of her Ph.D. in Political Science and preparing to leave for a year's research in China. Jason just finished his Ph.D. in Philosophy and is preparing to teach this next term. Where and when could we arrange to meet?

"How about coffee anytime, anywhere around town?", I suggested.

"How about somewhere near campus after I finish proctoring tests?", Allison countered. I agreed.

Then, while on a return visit to the Sackler Gallery some days ago I chanced upon a hall being set up for an exhibition to open this very morning, my last day in Washington, D.C.:

Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan - August 11 - November 12, 2012

I suspect a tiny percentage of people would find an exhibition with that title compelling. But, I knew that Allison would be among them, what with her study of Turkic languages and area ethnicities. She's just returned from a third consecutive summer in the place where we initially met, language school in Bloomington, Indiana.

We met at the Sackler to take in the exhibition. Before driving me to Union Station for my ride out of town (I am once again riding my beloved Megabus north) we managed to take lunch at off-campus staple burger joint Lindy's where we played a couple rounds of my present game of choice: Fill or Bust.

Good luck continuing through academia, Jason and Allison! Though, I fully expect you to set aside the intellectual pursuits again for a re-match of the cards and dice when- and wherever we next meet!


Naomi Encounters Pet Pig
It again worked out that Naomi was the last friend I saw when I left this country and the first one I saw when I returned.

Perhaps it's on account of her mobility. She bought a new car a few months ago. Perhaps it's because she's willing to make long-haul drives across metropolitan D.C. without a thought. Though, in this case I think the main reason I was able to see Naomi so immediately is because she now lives in an apartment not ten minutes from Dulles Airport. I texted her upon clearing customs. She left home and pulled up to the curbside passenger pick-up area outside the airport just a few minutes after I stepped out.

She seems to be doing well. Her apartment is now cozier and more fully furnished than when I last visited. She's transferred to another position within the company which sounds like a role for which she'll have far less stress and far fewer hours to work. She seems far more relaxed about the state of her working life than when we last saw each other last spring.

Naomi's cat Dagny, however, has changed little. She remains grumpy and anti-social. Though, to Dagny's credit she didn't attack me by either fang or claw over this stay. Unlike with any other cat, I keep my distance. I think Dagny and I are gradually coming to an understanding of each other...

Truce with Grumpy Kitty
At one point Naomi and I were reminiscing about a conversation we held many years earlier, back when I was still living in China and she was still living in Seattle.

"Do you remember that time we were talking on the phone for an hour when we couldn't get together once when you were visiting from China? Do you remember what the last thing you said to me was?", Naomi asked.

"Was that when we were talking about Sir Mix-A-Lot... ?", I said, trying to recollect that particular conversation.

"No. I don't think I've ever had a conversation about Sir Mix-A-Lot," Naomi replied. "What you told me was, 'If you ever want to get out and go somewhere faraway and exotic just track me down. Because that's where I'll be.'"

"Did I say that! I'm not sure whether that sounds totally suave and cool or completely ridiculous and embarrassing. No... I don't remember saying that."

"Yes, you really did! It's actually what I quote when I describe you to people."

"Okay, then. Well, my memory isn't as accurate as it used to be. I guess I must have said something along those lines: you actually did take me up on that offer six years later. Do you realize it was just around this time one year ago we were traveling around Germany together?"

I am always happy to see you anywhere, Naomi. I can't promise where I am will always be faraway and exotic, though. But, I would say that where I'll be living for the indefinite future--Québec City--does fit those criteria...

Next stop: New York City