It’s Friday 25th of January 2013. As I sit here, there is an exciting level of snow falling outside, covering the ground in a decent layer of future snowball fight ammunition. The Australian flag I bought at the dollar shop back in Sydney is hanging proudly on the wall next to me from wall hooks I bought on special at CVS. I’m in a particularly good mood because my Washington Wizards vs Chicago Bulls basketball ticket just turned up in the mail, fashionably just a day before the game. Section 210. Row H. Seat 5. Obviously you won’t get yourself courtside with student discount tickets, but I’ve got a good feeling about this seat getting picked for the half-time blindfold shot, so it’s all good. Tune in next week for the epic conclusion to this gripping tale.
In this, my first blog post of the trip, I hope to accurately record some of the highlights of my first four weeks in Washington DC and reflect upon the intense experience we have had so far. And where better to begin than the most exhilarating event of our first night here: shopping for groceries at Wholefoods. My roommates, Andrew, Alex and Aaren (“Triple A” as they are more uncommonly known), and I embarked upon a two-hour trek through this wilderness, impulsively deciding upon ‘essentials’ that would be required to maintain good health and nutrition over the next week. Spoiler alert: we did such a bad job that first night that we returned no later than the very next night with a proper shopping list and a better idea of what foods people actually eat. Below, for the reader’s enjoyment, is a picture of Aaren showing us all how it’s done with his trolley full of winning products. You can tell from the look on his face that he’s very satisfied with both the quality and the everyday low prices.
I would have to say that another big moment for me that week was the following Sunday night, when Andrew and I cooked butter chicken for dinner. In my diary that I have been using to keep track of notable events each day, I wrote: “It was awesome.” Less is more, apparently. Speaking of which, that night I certainly learned that less rice pre-cooking is certainly more rice post-cooking. You see, Andrew and I were very much improvising our way through the recipe (although we did learn how to properly slice an onion from Jamie Oliver on YouTube), so when it came to measuring out how much rice we would need, we decided that four cups for a four person meal would be appropriate. I will admit that Andrew was convinced that two cups would be enough, but I was adamant that I could easily eat a cup of rice, so we went ahead and cooked more. That wasn’t a good decision. About forty minutes later when we were stuck with about twenty times more rice than we could possibly consume, we drew upon our shared passion for Masterchef and decisively concluded that if you get the presentation right, you can put as much rice on the plate as you want, because it’ll just look like it was meant to be there. So, using rice and cereal bowls similar to how one might build sandcastles on a beach with a bucket and sand, we constructed one mighty fine main course (pictured below).
The last experience I think I should describe would be that of waiting in freezing cold temperatures from 3am to midday to witness the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. I had three layers of clothes on, an Australian flag over my shoulders and a burning desire to get to the very front row of the 800,000+ people that would swamp the grounds outside the Capitol building to watch the President deliver another awe-inspiring speech. At 3am we woke up to a bone-chilling Monday morning and, at 4am, our little group boarded the first train of the morning. At 4.30am, we arrived at the first of many gates to get access to our area (we were lucky enough to get hold of these very rare tickets thanks to our friends working for congress members who managed to secure some leftovers). There were already about fifty people queued there, but by the time they opened the gates at 7.30am, this number had risen to about two thousand, so we were content to be amongst the first. And we had a plan to get even further ahead. Nothing intricate, but bold enough that we thought it might just work.
When they opened the gates, we sprinted. We caught those Americans by surprise – I think they were still complacent from their domination at the Olympics and consequently wrote us off as serious competitors. But our plan went off perfectly, and we arrived at the second gate (the one with metal detectors and body searches) literally at the very front of the queue. By then, however, the Americans had caught on to our dirty tactics and, when this gate was opened about twenty minutes later, we had a serious race on our hands. It was like the 1983 America’s Cup all over again. Except this time we had no winged keel – just the knowledge that, for most of us, this would be the only opportunity in our lives to get this close to an inauguration. So we pushed ahead, reached the front of crowd, claimed our spots and took millions of photos. Below are a few of my favorites from the whole morning.
The seats (pictured below) are reserved for important people. This is pretty much as close as you can get if you’re just ordinary.
In all, I’ve had a fantastic time here so far. We’ve done lots – so much more than I’ve written about here – and there’s still plenty more to do. I’m definitely looking forward to the next few weeks.
Signing off for now.