Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week Four: Tours and More, Intern Extraordinaire

I kicked off the week by giving one of my former coworkers and her little brother who was visiting a private Capitol Tour.  Unfortunately, we could not get the key to the special hideaway office but we did ride the train with John McCain from the Russell Senate Building to the Capitol Visitors Center.  He walks really fast and is a lot taller than I thought he would be.  I also gave a tour for two of my friends in my building who moved out this week.  Another friend from my building works down the hall from my office, so the two of us gave a tour to the two of them.  It was kind of cool to give the tour with someone from another office because they tell us different things so she knew some things that I didn't know, like cat prints in the cement outside the old Supreme Court room.  

It's the middle of the fourth week of our five week internship and we are just now meeting the Senator for whom we have been working for free for the last three weeks.  Based on the articles that we copy on a daily basis that mention the senator, we learned that the senator's favorite kind of dessert is a plain chocolate chip cookie.  So, all of us interns decided to bake cookies to bring in for when we eat lunch with the senator but when we passed around the plate, the senator was the only one who didn't take a cookie.  Nooo!

At the lunch meeting, we had the opportunity to ask the senator questions.  The other interns were a little shy with asking questions so I asked two that related to foreign policy.  After I asked the second question, the senator said, "So, you're the foreign policy kid?"  I replied "yes," and the senator asked me, "so, then what is the capital of Sierra Leone?"  I replied, "Freetown."  I think the senator was a little surprised when I replied with the answer off the top of my head, but the senator explained that as a child, the siblings would ask their father that question whenever the father started going on and on about foreign policy stuff.  Then the senator answered my question.  

After the lunch meeting, I sorted mail with another intern.  Sorting constituent mail is always an interesting job because people send all kinds of things in.  Some people send in the normal things like petitions, letters about legislation or specific issues, or requests for military academy nominations, but there is a sizable number of people who just send in crazy stuff.  Like the random lady who sent in copies of her divorce settlement, including all of the pleadings, with a five page letter about how she basically did not like the judge's decision and wants her senators to do something about it (I'm sorry, lady, that you're going through a rough divorce, I really am, but honestly, what do you really think a senator's office can do about your situation?).  We also get a lot of letters from angry people who are venting in often less than coherent ways about their dissatisfaction with either their representative or the government as a whole.  Since we have to categorize mail to give to the staff members who handle each issue, the "government reform" category is often filled with the letters that we don't know what to do with.  So today, we received my all-time favorite letter: "BIG RICH FAT CATS DON'T DESERVE TAX BREAKS.  THEY PARTY, PLAY GOLF, AND TRAVEL A LOT."  And into the "government reform" pile that letter went.  And yes, it was written in all capital letters.

On Thursday, I got to go to an event hosted by my former organization close to the Hill.  They had a great turnout and it was great to be able to catch up with former co-workers there.  It was also nice to be able to give myself a self-assigned project that I actually wanted to write up and thought there was a need to write something up for it.  No idea if anyone back in the personal office will actually read it or not, but at least it's been passed along, I guess.  In the afternoon back at the senate office, two of the staff members who have been there for a while talked with us about what they do and what they like about working on Capitol Hill.  It was interesting and they certainly like their jobs, but I don't know if I could handle the frustration of working really hard on all of these important issues that I care deeply about only to watch any potential to make progress on them fall apart because of congressional bickering.  After work, I went to Adam's Morgan for a happy hour at Jack Rose Dining Saloon with my former organization.  It was great to be able to spend time catching up with everyone and meet new interns and fellows.  Later on in the evening, the group split up and I went with about half of the group to Lucky Bar near Dupont.

On Friday, we kept it pretty chill at work but a group of us from the office went to a free evening show at the Kennedy Center.  They have weekly shows that are free to the public on a first come first serve basis and today, the show was a musical performance by an Afro-Colombian group, Sexteto Tabala, whose main singer was 70 years old.  The group was pretty good though and they had a lot of people dancing in the front.


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