Saturday, September 14, 2013

Thomas Friedman, Ethiopian Food, and the Four Seasons Hotel

I told myself I'd be consistent with my blog posts this time around, vowing to write each Friday about my weekly experiences. Unfortunately it's only week four and I've already broken this promise. So for that I apologize, but in my defense this week was particularly busy and there are so many things to talk about.

Adams Morgan Day Festival and Ethiopian Food at Meskerem
This past week began last Sunday, September 8th, with the annual Adams Morgan Day Festival, a day-long event located about 20 minutes by foot from our apartments in Woodley Park. As usual, it was a hot, humid, and cloudless day in D.C., and a couple of my international friends from my class and I took a stroll at around mid-day to take a look at everything that was going on. We definitely weren't disappointed, and noticed as we approached the festival that throngs of people from all around the area were beginning to congregate at 18th Street NW, between Florida Avenue and Columbia Road; it was blocked off by the police, and even from a distance loud music could be heard. We had arrived.

The blocked-off street was divided in two by a long line of vendors selling everything from greasy fried food and refreshments like lemonade and smoothies in coconuts, to clothing items like shirts, belts, and any other type of merchandise you can think of. At various locations along the street there were performances from local artists--indie bands, rap artists, and the like. As we navigated through the droves of people devouring food and intermingling, we passed by myriad coffee bars, nightclubs, and ethnic restaurants. None of us had eaten, and so the sight of all the food at the festival naturally made us hungry, so we decided to try something a little different: Ethiopian food.

Eating meat dishes with injera bread at Meskerem during the festival.
We entered a restaurant called Meskerem on the right-hand side of the road and took a seat at a small table that gave us a perfect view of the street; it was a great location for watching passersby laughing, eating, and hauling their newly acquired gifts from place to place. The walls were lined with large paintings of Ethiopia and of people eating infamous injera bread (think thin and crepe-ish) and different types of meat. The place itself was quite ornate: red and yellow sun rays sprawled out across the vibrant room; the walls were covered with Ethiopian trinkets and paraphernalia of different shapes and sizes; and fancy embroidered cloths were placed across all of the tables.

We learned that in Ethiopian restaurants--and I imagine in Ethiopia itself--guests order their food individually, but all of their orders are placed within the same communal bowl so that everyone has the option of sharing food from one another. The large bowl is lined with injera, and the food is eaten with the hands: you can either rip off a piece of the bread from the bowl, or take pieces from side bowls that are offered, and scoop up your food with it. It was a really fun and exciting experience, and it's always fun to try food from around the globe. The great thing about D.C. that I've come to realize, and that I continue to emphasize, is that there is an endless amount of places to visit and explore--whether it be different ethnic restaurants, embassies, museums, landmarks, or coffee shops. And speaking of coffee shops, there is a worryingly limited amount of Dunkin Donuts in the D.C. area, and I may be experiencing withdrawal. I may make this topic an entirely different post in the future. Keep a look out.

Interning at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
On Monday and Tuesday, I had my first intern orientation at AEI and found out what I would be doing there for the next couple of months. The Institute is fantastic, and the lives of the policymakers who work there are pretty nice (understatement). I learned that AEI is the second-oldest think tank in the United States, bested only by the Brookings Institution, as well as the third most cited think tank in the nation. Needless to say, being able to work in that sort of scholarly environment with constant exposure to so much consequential policymaking--and the policymakers themselves--is quite amazing. To put this in perspective, I'll give an example. As an intern I work on the 10th floor at a little designated area for the other interns working for the various scholars in the Institute. On that same floor there are research assistants, usually recent graduates and/or former AEI interns, and of course, the scholars. I work on the same floor as well-known figures in foreign policy like Leon Aron and Frederick Kagan, the brother of Robert Kagan. Above me scholars like Paul Wolfowitz, former president of the World Bank and deputy Secretary of State, work on important issues like diplomacy, economics, security, and education. Politicians Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney are also associated with the Institute and have walked through AEI's doors many times in the past.

After meeting my supervisor, I was given assignments to do research on chemical and cyber warfare. My entire day generally consists of looking through databases and reading articles on these issues, and expanding the list of sources for a possible future book or scholarly article. I am learning a lot about different types of warfare, and the historical usage of things like mustard gas in World War I and why chemical warfare in general was largely absent in World War II. I've also touched upon topics like international law, which has been nice as I'm finding many similarities between what I'm reading and topics I learned about in my International Law class I took back at Bowdoin.

The interns at AEI are also extremely nice. There are part-time and full-time students from places like American, Georgetown, and George Washington, but also places as far away as Yale and the University of Michigan. The breakfasts and lunches are entirely free, and the food provided is wonderful. There is a fancy dining room on the 12th floor of the Institute overlooking the city where all of the interns and scholars congregate and can socialize. There will be many Intern Happenings and networking events available about every other week. There is also an intern dinner at the end of every semester where interns are celebrated for all their hard work. I recently learned that we're able to invite one guest, and so my girlfriend from Bowdoin will be joining me for the exciting festivities! It will be so much fun to reconnect, and to show her all I've learned, and all of the amazing places to see around D.C. It makes me more and more excited about getting back to my family and friends over winter break and during the school year back at Bowdoin in the spring.

Thomas Friedman, The Four Seasons at Georgetown, and the Middle East
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, our days consisted of nothing but talk and discussion of regional issues in the Middle East, with a focus on developments in Egypt and in Syria. The first two days were spent in class with our professor, who happens to have his specialty in Middle East relations. He gave us a history of how these relations have developed, and why things like religious ideology and natural resources like oil have played a large part in the current conflicts plaguing the region. We had lengthy question-and-answer sessions that were really informative.

The week concluded with a day-long event on the subject of Egypt hosted by the Middle East Institute (MEI)  at the five-star Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown--home of the renowned Georgetown Cupcake, and of course, Georgetown University, alma mater of figures like former POTUS Bill Clinton and current Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia. We arrived early in the morning at around 8:30 a.m. looking snazzy in our suits and ties, and helped ourselves to unlimited quantities of coffee before our first of four informational panels began. There were four panels in all throughout the day, each lasting an hour and a half and moderated by well known individuals such as three-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. In-between panels we had an hour-long lunchbreak and were able to sit outside with one another and socialize with other guests who were attending the event--journalists, MEI scholars, and other students like ourselves. After six hours of discussion on Egypt, the freedom of the weekend that followed immediately after was definitely
Coffee and myriad desserts during our lunch break at the Four Seasons in Georgetown.
Next week, we talk about Turkey.

No, not the bird.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, great, you followed up on the Ethiopian food tip!