DC Day 9: July 30, 2013

Today we visited Sustainable DC, Martha’s Table and Busboys & Poets.

Our day started off at the Waterfront. When I arrived at Waterfront’s Metro station, right away I noticed that the buildings in the area were new, compared to the area around the new area. I assumed that the place had gone under some development, and thought that it was strange how you could actually see a “border” of the developed area. At Sustainable DC, we were lectured what goals DC has planned, and what they are doing to achieve it. It was interesting to see Sustainable DC function as the city’s “brain”, constantly receiving signals from all parts of the city, and sending back reactions. I thought that their goals should be shared with more people, because actually seeing numbers and working for them makes a big difference.

At Martha’s Table we did some food-packing activities. We split up into groups and cut vegetables, fruits and cakes. I got to do the cakes. It was actually my first time doing a service activity, or as far as I remember, and it was fun. Martha’s Table also has a used-clothing store called “Martha’s Outfitters”. It was crowded with people, and I could tell that Martha’s Table was not just serving the community but taking part in the community.

At Busboys & Poets, we had the owner, Andy Shallal, talk to us. He made some very interesting remarks on how we see democracy, and that we the citizens are getting less representative without noticing it. As an artist, he also talked about art, and said that “Art is a metaphor”. He said that art makes a simple message, but makes you think deeper, and reaches people in different levels. I found this quite amazing how he explained “Art”, which can be one of the most confusing terms of all. I really enjoyed my time there. By the way, the desserts there are delicious.

S.K.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School
Japan

DC Day 4: July 25, 2013

Today we visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, walked around the Tidal Basin to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and had a discussion at American Councils with Dan Davidson, the founder and president of American Councils.

The Holocaust Museum was just perfect for visitors like me: the ones who know what the Holocaust was, but don’t exactly know how it happened. The tour guide started by explaining the economic failures that followed the end of WW1, then the uprising power of Hitler, and how he gained his power. I was just startled by how much power propaganda can hold. Today, in the 21st century, we cannot live without relying on the social media, whether we are aware of it or not. Now in Japan, politicians are now able to promote their manifests or political beliefs through the Internet. Although this is yet far from the abuse of propaganda that occurred in Germany during WW2, we must be aware that at times, the general public can be manipulated very easily by political representation, especially in a democracy.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was very different from what I had expected. The touch of boldness in the sculpture was something that was not in the other memorials. First of all he was standing straight up, secondly, he had his hands crossed, and thirdly, he seemed to look away from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. It was almost alarming. I had never seen such an aggressive monument like this before. The engraving at the side made it even more iconic, and I thought that there was no wonder why it caused so much controversy when he was first opened to the public. Another point to notice is that he is left uncompleted, with only his front side emerging from the rock. The memorial was probably not the kind of representation that most people desired for, but I thought that it sent out a strong message to the present world: “That inequality is still a very large obstacle that we shall overcome”, which makes him seem more alive and meaningful, rather than just a big remembering rock.

When I noticed that the staff at American Councils used the word “cross-cultural”, but not “multi-cultural”, I felt I had further understanding of this organization’s initiatives. Multi-cultural has now become the world standard. We are expected to be cross-cultural, not only understanding your own country from your own perspective, but analyzing your own country from the perspective of another country. At the beginning of the program, we were taught to measure the differences we would see among the different cultures. To determine what “blue” is, we must observe the “green” and know what “yellow” is. Without a doubt, a cross-cultural mindset will bring us deeper understanding of the culture. What Mr. Davidson told us today that I was particularly fond with was that the language comes before anything of the country. After I return to Japan I am planning to start a third language which will be a new challenge for me.

S.K.
Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School
Japan