Weekend Away in DC

By Rachel Mazzaro

IMG_7438A few weekends ago my housemate Clare and I took the Megabus to DC to visit some of our friends from Hope College. One of our friends was doing a semester in DC so it was very convenient that we could stay at her place for the weekend. I wanted to go to DC during my semester in Philly and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to go while a couple of my friends were visiting during their spring break. I have been to DC two times before, once in eighth grade for a school trip and two summers ago when I was traveling around the US. Since I had been to DC recently, I was not too concerned about going to all the typical tourist spots and was looking forward to spending time with my friends and seeing parts of the city I had never seen before. One of the best things about going to DC is that almost everything to see is free! Although I did not see all of these places during my visit, here is a list of recommendations I have to see if you are thinking about going to DC, especially for the first time:

  1. The Lincoln Memorial
  2. Smithsonian Institution Castle
  3. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  5. Washington Monument
  6. National World War II Memorial
  7. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  8. US Marine Corps War Memorial
  9. The White House
  10. The U.S. Capital
  11. The Library of Congress
  12. United States Botanic Garden
  13. Walk around Downtown Georgetown

We woke up early Saturday morning and spent the entire day walking around The District. We began by walking an hour from my friend’s apartment to the National Mall. It was a beautiful sunny 60 degree day so it was really nice to walk along the trails. We briefly walked around the National Mall and saw the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and the many museums surrounding us such as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. We decided that we wanted to go the Union Market which is a year-round indoor market featuring 40 local artisans. This place was definitely a food lover’s heaven! Since we were planning on having a big lunch, we all grabbed a delicious baguette from Lyon Bakery for a steal of $1.10 to tide us over. After exploring for awhile we got back on the metro, which by the way is a cool experience in itself due to the beautiful architecture within the tunnel.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWe had made reservations for a restaurant called Founding Farmer which apparently is always packed because their food is that good! It is almost impossible to get a table without making a reservation. I ordered a herbed goat cheese and salmon farm bread which was absolutely delicious! My friend and I also decided we could not leave without splitting their basket of beignets. It was such a great time to catch up with my college friends from Michigan over a great meal!  IMG_9700 IMG_9735 National Mall

Afterwards, we headed towards Embassy Row (http://dc.about.com/library/maps/blmapEmbassyRow.htm) where many of the foreign embassies are located which was something I had never seen before. The whole time I was waiting to see the Embassy of South Africa since I spent two months there this past summer. Of course, it happened to be under construction but I was happy to see it nonetheless. I made sure to get a picture with my friend who has also been to South Africa next to the Nelson Mandela statue. I really loved seeing all the beautiful architecture throughout The District and was glad I was able to see parts of DC that I had never seen before.Union Market

My friends and I decided to take a break from sight seeing and went to Cafe Citron for a drink. To my surprise, it happened to be Salsa Friday so we all got a free salsa lesson! Although I am pretty terrible at picking up choreography (my sister has all of the dance genes), it was still a lot of fun to go out dancing with my friends. I definitely recommend checking it out if you are in the area!

We wrapped up the night by going to the Jefferson Memorial which is all lit up at night. I had never even thought to see the monuments and memorials at night and have never really stayed long enough to try but it was such a great idea! Overall, it was a jam packed day filled with a lot of sight seeing and walking so all of our feet were hurting pretty bad by the end of the night. Although we were hurting, it was so great to spend the day walking around and seeing all that DC has to offer, especially since the weather was absolutely perfect!

Further recommendations after my trip:

  1. Walk down Embassy Row
  2. Go to Union Market
  3. Eat a meal at Founding Farmers
  4. See the monuments / memorials at night
  5. Learn how to salsa dance at Cafe Citron on their “Salsa Fridays”

    Things I still would like to see:

  6. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
  7. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
  8. Smithsonian National Zoological Park
  9. Meridian Hill Park

Hey Obama, We Don’t Want No Pipeline Drama!

By Rachel Mazzaro IMG_9501

Keystone XL Pipeline Protest

On March 10th, my internship responsibility for the day was to participate in the Keystone XL Pipeline protest! I have seen mIMG_9051 any pictures on Harvey Finkle’s website, a well known documentary photographer that has been photographing Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) for over 20 years, and heard many stories of protests that PPEHRC has led or been involved in and they always seem so radical and exciting. I was really hoping I would get the chance to participate in one during my internship this semester.

IMG_9080To my luck, Cheri Honkala (my supervisor) found out that some local Quaker and environmentalist groups were organizing a protest against the Keystone XL Pipeline in front of the Federal Building. Cheri wanted members of PPEHRC to be there in an effort to unite low income communities to the fight to end the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as shed some light on the economic impacts environmental issues have on the poor. We were all demanding that President Obama would not issue a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline that would transport oil from the tar sands of Northern Canada to oil refineries in Texas.IMG_9193

The theme of the protest was to “sweep out corruption” so everyone either had real brooms or paper ones in their hands. When we got to the Federal Building, hundreds of protesters began circling the fountain chanting “sweep, sweep, sweep out corruption!”. About a dozen protesters blocked the doors of the Federal Building protesting the State Department’s conflict of interest in regard to the pipeline. I stood with other PPEHRC members near the door that Cheri was blockading and continued to “sweep out corruption” by yelling chants and taking a lot of photographs. As hundreds of people positioned themselves throughout the area, people continued to chant as the police presence began to grow. Officers began to pop up near the doors, across the street, and throughout the crowd. Many protesters wondered if there would be any arrests today or if they would simply wait us out and then lock down the building and leave. After about an hour or so into the protest, police officers began to build a blockade at the right entrance where the first group risking arrest was located.

I have never before participated in a protest where there was such a heavy police IMG_9354presence. Therefore, I was curious to find out how the police would handle the situation. I knew I was part of the group who was not risking arrest but I did not know how safe I would be. I wondered, would the police just come out and start arresting people? Or, would they make it clear when they were beginning to arrest? What I found out was that when a blockade is created, they are making a statement that if you are within the blockade, you are risking arrest. If you are outside of it then you are safe. So, once the blockade was up I made sure to stay on the outside of it. The blockade was made surrounding those who were in front of the door. The police gave them the chance to move but once they refused, arrests began. When the first group was arrested, another group swooped in to take their place which took the police by surprise. Eventually, they too, were arrested. Later on, the third group of those risking arrest were arrested when another blockade erupted on the left door of the Federal Building.

Cheri was in the middle group risking arrest which had not received a police barricade warning yet. They continued to sing peaceful songs and chant “No KXL”, when suddenly, protesters standing in front of the door were aggressively shoved out of the doorways by police officers in an effort to close the door and lock them out. This came as a shock to everyone and a couple of people fell to the ground. Cheri recalled that she thought she might get trampled. Two elderly women were knocked to the group and immediately locked their bodies by wrapping their arms around their knees in order to show their peacefulness. However, the police grabbed them from behind and dragged them inside to be arrested.

IMG_9535Due to the sudden shove by police, everyone was thrown backwards which resulted in an elderly woman getting knocked over and she fell directly on her back on the hard concrete. She was helped up and taken away by an ambulance but this would not have happened if the police had not become so aggressive. While this all was happening, cameras were going wild and everyone was shouting “police brutality” and “shame”. I had never seen anything like it before with my own eyes. I have heard of incidents of police brutality and seen videos of historic protests, however, I had never witnessed it first hand. Luckily, the aggression did not escalate due to the protesters remaining peaceful and not retaliating to the aggression of the police. It really upset me to see that people could be peacefully protesting for something they believe in and still get arrested for civil disobedience while the police officers were allowed to act out aggressively and suffer no consequences. Later on, Cheri was arrested for civil disobedience and charged with a misdemeanor and a $375 fine along with 28 other protesters.

Exploring Philadelphia, Part I

By Rachel Mazzaro

First Fridays 1When you’re in a new place for a short period of time, a bucket list is always a must. My housemates and I have been continually adding things that we want to do before the semester is over to make sure we take advantage of everything the city has to offer. Below is the beginning of a list that I believe are some great things to do during a semester in Philly.

  1. Reading Terminal Market
    If you are a food lover like myself, then you absolutely have to check out Reading Terminal Market. The first time I got the chance to explore this market was during orientation and I have been back several times since then. There is a variety of food vendors selling anything you can imagine such as fresh bakery goods, meat and seafood, Thai food, hoagies, cheese, coffee, oysters, tea, smoothies, Chinese food, pizza, cheesesteak, sushi…okay I think you can tell thatProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset they have a huge variety! Two of my favorite vendors are Salumeria which has delicious hoagies and the Famous 4th Street Cookie Company.
  2. First Fridays in Old City
    This is an event that happens every first friday of the month in Old City where art First Fridays 2galleries are open for exploration and are often serving free snacks and wine. My housemates and I went in February so the weather was a bit chilly but i’ve heard that the streets are flooded when the weather is nice! Two of my favorite galleries were The Center for Art and Wood and The Clay Studio.
  3. 9th Street Italian Market Italian Market
    Since I live in Bella Vista, I often go to the 9th Street Italian Market to pick up some cheap produce. There are also some great little shops along the market that sell spices, homemade pasta, cheese, fresh meat and seafood, etc. It’s a great place to go if you’re looking to spend some time outside and load up on produce for the week. Many of the produce is fairly ripe so make sure you have enough time / stomach room to eat everything you buy during the upcoming week.
  4. Go Thrifting
     Philly Aids ThriftSome of our favorite thrift stores happen to be located throughout South Philly. They helped us fill our kitchen cabinets with dishes and silverware and furnish parts of our apartment for cheap! I have also been pretty lucky with some of my clothing finds at Philly Aids Thrift which included a $1 Gap parka jacket in mint condition that I gave to my roommate Sam since I already had one but could not leave the store without such a steal, a $7 Urban Outfitter sweater, and a $1 Patagonia black vest.
    Before coming to Philly, I did not realize how much I have been missing out in lifeProcessed with VSCOcam with m4 preset by not going to brunch more often. There’s something about brunch in Philly that allows people to stand in line for over an hour, waiting to get a seat in one of many delicious brunch places around the city. I am now one of those people. Below are some of my favorite brunch places that I have tried so far along with a couple I still would like to try!
    Honey’s Sit N’ Eat – My recommendation: Honey’s Platter with potato latke
    Sam’s Morning Glory Diner – My recommendation: Any special they have, a Fritatta, or anything that comes with a biscuit!
    The Gold Standard Cafe — My recommendation: Eggs Benedict
    Sabrina’s Cafe — I still need to check it out!
    Green Eggs Cafe — I still need to check it out! [editor's note: RED VELVET PANCAKES!]
  6. Find Your Coffee Shop
    Since we are taking classes along with our internships at TPC, it’s always nice to find a local coffee shop to go to get some work done while sipping on a delicious drink. Below are a few of my favorite coffee shops here in Philly:Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset
    Chapter House Cafe
    Good Karma Cafe
    The Last Drop
  7. Eat a Federal Donut
    Ever since I was a young girl, I have been a donut lover. One of my personal favorite places has always been Dunkin’ Donuts which unfortunately was no where to be found when my family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Dunkin’ Donuts is literally everywhere in Philly. Although Dunkin’ Donuts is alwaysProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 preset great, I have discovered something EVEN BETTER and it’s Federal Donuts! The website itself is worth going to if you want to hear a catchy tune as donuts and chicken come flying towards you out of the galaxy. This place is famous for three things: donuts, coffee, and firied chicken. Yup, I just said chicken. Clare, Sam and I woke up early one morning and walked 20 minutes to get our hands on their famous “fancy” donuts since we heard they run out fast! I decided to get the cookies and cream donut and it was hands down the most delicious donut I have ever had. We plan to go back some day and see what this chicken craze is all about.
  8.  There is a lot more that I can add to this list but I am going to save some for a later post!



Full Circle

By Emma Dittmar

I woke up from my post-work nap, and I needed to get out of the house.

Remembering the promise I made to buy myself dinner after my degree evaluation from Hope marked all my credits as fulfilled for my general education requirements, both majors, and credits needed to graduate (it’s done, yay!) I quickly threw on my coat and shoes and stepped out of the house into the warming night air. It was busy outside, as Friday nights often are, but at least it wasn’t the house. Sometimes you need space, a different kind of quiet, a kind of anonymity and aloneness that even lying in your bed in your room cannot provide you. Peace needs to be found in the comfort of others who don’t know and don’t care who you are. They are walking, you are walking, there’s no pressure or constraints. There’s just the sidewalk, the lights from the tall buildings in the distance lighting up the city.

I just walked. I walked and thought about how nice it was to get a moment to be inside my own head, comfortable with where I was going and hearing the sounds of the city. It is something different at night, the warmer weather drawing larger groups of people out, so many all around, so many that you become lost in the general passerby, knowing that the disinterest with which you view that random person is the same which they show you. It is a poignantly freeing thing, to know nobody in such a crowded place. That, I think, is the real gift of the city. You can escape; find what you want and what you need with relative ease, without having to make deep commitment or connection. Some people are looking for that. I am not. And that is the root of my discord with the city. However, when I want to disappear, I can.sushi hokk

After I walked for about fifteen minutes, I found myself back at the sushi bar, Hokkaido. Being of sentimental character, I wasn’t particularly surprised at myself. It was the first place my uncle took my parents and I when I first arrived, and where I treated myself again during the first week when we were still in a hotel (right across from the sushi bar). It was as perfect a place as any to celebrate my upcoming graduation.

Sitting down at my own table, I ordered what I knew would satisfy my needs: the Hokkaido dish that consists of a tuna roll and eight pieces of chef chosen assorted sushi, and a prequel of miso soup. The warmth and simplicity of the soup, offset by the clean and fresh filling sushi was exactly what my body and mind were aching for. I felt like I had come full circle, from those beginning stages until now, when the end is very much in sight. And I realized that I really am going to miss these little places of escape and solitude, the ease of walking in the night, the people I work with everyday. It will be a blurry, lukewarm stamp in the history of my young adult life, and it’s about time I had one of those.

The Spirit of the Fight

By Emma Dittmar

The act of training in Philadelphia is very reflective of the act of living in Philadelphia. trainThe two correlate and draw off of one another in a symbiotic manner, helping to reveal qualities of each other, and how they can be used to make sense of the experiences that happen here. Moving from one type of life to another, leaving things temporarily behind that you would rather not, and adapting too quickly to a surrounding without the type of struggle that forms deep, lasting bonds, creates a disconnect. You become very, very comfortable in your surroundings quickly, make friends easily, navigate without issue, do well at work. The flip side is that it is hard to feel on a deeper level. Your heart and your ability to be in the now is left in the last place you were able to experience such depth, and it is a struggle to retrieve it back. How I get it back is through physical struggle and utter exertion.

Let me take you through the entire process.

I get home from work at about 5:20 or 5:30, usually spent, my eyes dry, and my mental capacity drained near to empty. I am satisfied and content, but exhausted, so I fall into bed and set an alarm to wake up for training. Actually getting out of bed and getting changed to train is the first struggle. I am overwhelmed with the desire to stay in my comfortable bed in relative quiet. The victory of standing up keeps me going. If I leave the covers and stand, the rest is easy. Like the rest of my life here, if I just take the first step, leave the comfort of what is set, what I know, and push forward, the rest falls into place.

The walk there is much like my walk to work. Headphones around my ears, mental preparation for what is to come rooted deep in the subconscious. The less I actively think about the coming period of life ahead and the more I focus my current feelings and sensations into a particular state, the more relaxed and more equipped I am for the work ahead. If my mind is in a good place, my body will follow and things will get done.

In the very act of training, the good and the bad (which is not truly bad) both have things to offer. This past training session was a practice in meaning and humility. I was overwhelmed in every sparring session I had. I was overpowered, beset, out-smarted, outweighed, and technically dominated on the whole in every single roll. But you need the right mindset. A “bad” day of training on the surface is a well of growth and learning experience at its root. A lock that I’ve never been put in before was latched tight onto my arm. My familiarity with the cautionary strain on my elbow and my practice in humility allowed me to tap early enough to avoid injury in a situation that I otherwise absolutely would have sustained one. That experience and caution is a life lesson. In another situation, I was able in every match to defend against and thwart an attempted choke. Defense is not always a bad option, especially if you are outmatched and you know it. Training with a taller and much more experienced individual, I found myself briefly in a dominant position, and very quickly transitioned into a submission, one that is undoubtedly the best in my arsenal. I tried my hardest to secure a finish, but his arm strength thwarted my ability and technique in isolating his arm. But every time he tried to upset me by sitting up, my technique and leg pressure was so on, I was able to push him onto his back time after time after time. I never secured the submission, but that control and that knowledge that I had it, was a victory. It teaches me that anybody, anybody, is vulnerable. If you have one strength in your arsenal that is honed to near perfection, even just one at the time, anybody can be beaten.

At the end of the night, I walked home with an aching foot, stiff neck, bloody elbow, sore nose bridge, painful ribs, and throbbing body. But I put my headphones back on, and I walked home in the cool air. You don’t lie down after being beaten, being overthrown and being pounded into the ground. You get up on your own, get your mind straight, forget the pain, and walk on to the next challenge and the next day. Defeat isn’t permanent unless you make it so.

Sunny Saturdays in South Philly

By Rachel Mazzaro

Basking in sun

When the sun comes out, we go out! 

Two weekends ago we were granted another beautiful sunny Saturday. Clare, Sam, and I decided to spend the day exploring the South side of Philly. With the sun shinning, I left my warm coat behind and happily threw on my jean jacket. As we walked out the door we couldn’t help but take a moment to bask in the sun that we have desperately been missing. I got a great picture of Sam and Clare during their moment of basking! Sunshine definitely equals happiness. 

We walked down South Street for a while until we came across Magic Gardens. We still have yet to actually go inside but we explored the alleyways surrounding the garden Magic Garden 1which are covered in beautiful mosaic designs. As I was taking pictures a man walked passed with his dog toward the building and asked if I had taken some good photographs. I looked up and said that it was absolutely beautiful and that I got a ton of great photos. After I replied, I suddenly realized that standing before me was the Magic Garden artist himself, Isaiah Zagar. That was a cool moment.Record Store

As we headed towards East Passyunk, we took a stroll through the Italian Market where I found a really cool record store called Molly’s Books & Records. My parents bought me a record player for my birthday this past year and I have definitely been missing it since I could not take it to Philly with me. Inside,  I found a record by The Temptations for my collection back at home as well as a cute little store kitty to pet. There are a ton of records stores all over Philly if that’s something you’re interested in and you can also find a lot of records in various thrift stores!

Since we have been in Philly, we Rita Water Icekeep hearing about this phenomena called water ice. Water ice looks similar to a snow cone but it is much smoother and made with real fruit. Us mid westerners are more familiar with the frozen yogurt craze but we decided this was something we needed to try. We happened to walk right passed a place called Rita’s that sells water ice so we thought, okay let’s go for it! Clare got pina colada, Sam got lemonade, and I got mango. I’ve got to say, I am now a huge fan of water ice! It’s definitely something everyone should try — and is a perfect treat for a nice sunny day.

After looking through some cute shops off East Passyunk, we decided it was time for some real food. We were in the mood for Mexican so we spent some time searching for a cheap place to go but eventually gave up. We knew there were good places around but the idea of waiting awhile for our food led us to decide it was time to eat a cheesesteak. Although the lines are long, they move super fast! We decided to try Pat’s Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetKing of Steaks with the traditional cheesesteak covered in cheese whiz (I know, cheese whiz sounds so weird but its delicious!). We were three very happy campers with the famous cheesesteaks in our bellies.

We ended the day with some quality thrifting at Philly Aids Thrift and Retrospect and we felt very accomplished by knocking off some of our bucket list items! And yes, we are well aware that most of our bucket list items seem to revolve around food! What can we say, Philly has some amazing food!

Bucket list accomplishments for the day:

1)  Eat a cheesesteak from Pats – CHECK

2)  Try water ice – CHECK

For Women’s Day: The Female and the City

By Emma Dittmar

Up to this point in my blog, there have been a lot of good and exciting things to talk about.  There is so much good in this city, or any city.  I try to look at the faces or in the eyes of people I pass by, men and women, and attempt to find some sensation of comfort, sameness, or spirit.  I walk the streets of this city in the chilly, yet slowly warming air, music in my ears, at ease and so comfortable in the large area in and around the Center City area.  I hardly think about the direction I’m headed or the path I take from place to place-it can change every day.  I know my way, I recognize faces, I know where I am with a total ease of mind.3_14_14yarntree

As beautiful as the city setting is, as wonderful as its people can be, and as comfortable as you can get where you live, there are always things to be aware of, things that become very clear when even the smallest of incidents happen to remind you where you are, and the reality of the society we live in.  How under the most mundane seeming words, the most casually repeated insults and the most perpetuated ideals is a poisonous root seething with injustice, inequality, and the potential for horrifying consequences.

Coming from a very small town, and then attending college in a small, highly community-based and friendly town, you get used to a certain kind of surrounding.  This includes: people knowing one another (directly or indirectly), a high sense of community solidarity and security, and feeling safe all the time.  Before I left the comfort of Hope College and Holland to study abroad a second time, this time in Philadelphia, I wasn’t aware that I would be exposed once more to a discomfort experienced in Jordan, or then to notice how it is a web of attitude that crisscrosses across the entire globe in different forms.

“Bss bss bss ya halweh!”

“I see you skinny! I see you, skinny girl and that a** walking away!”

Oh, right, the only times I’ve been majorly cat-called or ever felt uncomfortable walking around at any time in public has been in cities.  I feel like there is some kind of major social disconnect that separates the city from any other kind of area.  In the city anonymity is huge, there are so many people, social lines and boundaries are more obscure, lines of accepted behavior thinner.  I’m not saying cities or their people are inherently, in some way degraded, I am saying there are a lot more people, and a lot more opportunities for those types of uncomfortable situations to arise.  Getting cat-called walking home the other day was a flashback to Jordan, and a reminder of the universality of misogyny, the objectification of women, and the resilience of rape culture.

I am not writing this piece to deter women from going to a city and then missing out on the unique life and the beautiful history and culture that they have to offer.  They are stars of our civilization and symbols of our ability to live together and endure.  I am trying to give young women who may venture out of their smaller towns and sheltered neighborhoods into a much more chaotic environment a glimpse into real life realities that may face them.  A woman faces discrimination, judgment, and shaming anywhere she will go.  I find that these issues are simply more acute in a city environment, and it would be unwise, truly unjust as a woman to not highlight these realities to incoming students.

Some people (and this breaks my heart) might ask me, “Well what were you wearing that prompted such comments?”  Not that it matters, because I’m a human being and demand to be treated with the respect inherent to that quality, but I wasn’t even dressed in my weekend best.  I was in sneakers, loose jeans, a long-sleeved and zipped up jacket, and a backwards hat.  I was all but obscured in what some would say are the most unassuming clothing options available.  It doesn’t matter what you wear, no one deserves to be made a thing, an object.  If I were with one male companion, I am sure nothing would have been said to me, and that is a discouraging thought.  We shouldn’t have to belong to a man to save us from men.  We should be enough.