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By now, we have all forgotten about the whole Yanny or Laurel recording that supposedly divided America. Some people heard Yanny, others heard Laurel. I heard Laurel yet some of my friend heard Yanny. At first I didn’t understand how they didn’t hear Laurel. It was so clear in my mind that the voice was saying Laurel. How could anyone have heard Yanny? It really didn’t make any sense to me. I actually had semi-extensive conversations about how on Earth some of my friends could hear something different than I had. They in turn, felt the same way. But here’s the interesting lesson learned after I took a step back from the situation; I realized that this whole recording goes so much deeper than what was heard from that short audio clip...
So what does this recording have to do with anything other than a short pop culture related debate? In my opinion, our approach to this debate reflects how we handle our current divisions about culture, politics, and almost everything else. Our interpretation of this recording is highly representative of our varying perspectives and how we tend to process/react to information that differs from our own. What if we took the time to ask our friends who disagreed with us WHY they heard differently than we did? They may not have been able to explain why in this situation, but what if you both took the time to brainstorm some reasons why there were differing opinions? I bet you would have come up with some creative reasons rather than thinking the other person was just plain crazy.
At one point after the initial debate we were all trying to UNDERSTAND why our perspectives were different with the recording. The key here is attempting to understand another view point. If we were so baffled by this recording enough to understand the root cause of these varying perspectives, why can’t we try to do the same in our daily lives? Why can’t we take time to understand different cultural perspectives or to understand why people believe in different political beliefs, and so on? Here's what I think....
We can do BETTER. We can be more THOUGHTFUL about HOW we approach our conversations, and actually LISTEN to what the other person is saying.
We can take the initiative within ourselves to dig a little deeper when we disagree or even when we agree on issues. We can try to have a little more empathy than we typically have on a daily basis. The thought may sound daunting, but all it takes is one tiny step in the right direction. The next time you have a disagreement, perhaps you can ask the person why they believe what they do. You may learn a little something about the person, but a lot more about yourself.
As the nation's capitol, Washington, D.C. tends to have a politically motivated reputation than being a fun city full of culture and diversity. I moved out of the city over a decade ago because I was tired of people asking me what I did for a living before asking me what my name was. This year, I made a decision to move back to D.C. for a few months. I will admit I was a little reluctant at first, but since I have been here I have noticed an amazing transformation that transcends beyond museums and monuments. Not only has Washington, D.C. been named The Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Appetit Magazine, but each neighborhood that I have explored has established its own distinct personality.
For those of you who are looking for some inspiration, I have picked seven areas that are worth checking out.
Shaw - This area is historic and hip. Weather permitting, check out one of the four rooftop bars/gastropubs that boast beautiful scenery and delectable food. Brixton, 801 Shaw, Takoda Restaurant and Beer Garden, and Nellie's Sports Bar are all within walking distance of each other between 9th on 7th streets NW. If you are in the mood to shop, browse through Kit and Ace, Frank + Oak, Ministry of Supply (for men), Bonobos (for men), Chrome, and Warby Parker. They are all within walking distance of each other and also between 9th and 7th streets. If you are in the mood to see a show, The Howard Theatre have a wide variety of engaging performances.
Columbia Heights - Many people go Columbia Heights because the neighborhood Target and Bed Bath and Beyond are located right near the Metro. But if you are searching for truly authentic ethnic restaurants, it's worth visiting Columbia Heights. If you love Laotian food: Thip Khao offers steamed fish cooked in banana leaves, goat curry, and tamarind/lemongrass infused, spicy dishes. Mi Cuba Cafe offers much more than traditional Cuban delicacies like Ropa Vieja or a Cuban sandwich. Visit this cafe for breakfast, lunch, or dinner if you want to try Cuban coffee, grilled meats, plantains or rice and black beans but with a Cuban flare. Bad Saint, is a Filipino restaurant awarded as the number two best restaurant in the U.S. by Bon Appetit Magazine. But be prepared to stand in line to get into their 24 seated restaurant space. It will be well worth the wait.
Union Market - Find an oasis of culinary delights in the warehouse district on 5th St NE near the Gallaudet NOMA Metro stop. You are guaranteed to find a craving here. Over 40 vendors offer endless food and drink options. If you love salmon, Neopol Savory Smokey offers fresh salmon lox on bagels or a Salmon BLT sandwich which will leave you always wanting more. For dessert, stop by Toli Moli to try falooda popular in the Asian subcontinent. I grew up drinking falooda, and was personally excited to try this stand, and I was not disappointed. Falooda is a healthy alternative to ice cream; it is a refreshing drink full of superfoods, rose water, and basil seeds the tastes and textures will leave you wanting to try more flavors. And, if you love hosting guests and are looking for some inspiration stop by Salt & Sundry to find small-batch foods and craft cocktail ingredients.
Monument Walk at Sunset/Nighttime - There is something so special about walking through monuments during or after sunset. The crowds are light, the atmosphere is serene, and there is a sense of reverence in the air. Depending on the time of night, take a taxi to the Jefferson Memorial. Take time to sit on the steps of the monument and watch planes fly by. From the Jefferson Memorial, walk to the FDR and MLK Memorials. Cross the street toward the WWII Memorial to see a beautiful view of the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. If you have time, walk beside the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Bring your camera; you will want to preserve these precious memories.
The Kennedy Center- You don't have to buy tickets to a show just to visit The Kennedy Center. Tours of the center are offered, free concerts take place every night at the Millennium Stage, or dine in one of the two restaurants that overlook the Potomac River. The outdoor area boasts shimmering views of the Georgetown Harbor.
U Street Corridor (Includes 14th St)- This neighborhood is full of restaurants, bars, clubs, and yoga studios. Some of my favorite selections include Barcelona, Le Diplomate, Compass Rose, Cork Wine Bar, Pearl Dive Oyster Bar, Lost Society, and Yoga District (I had to include at least one yoga studio), but there are so many options to choose from. If you are a music lover, the Lincoln Theater and 9:30 Club are historic venues where you can listen to legendary classics as well as budding artists.
Chinatown- This part of the city is well known for Asian cuisine and entertainment via the Verizon Center. I have discovered a few favorites that are worth tasting: Reren Lamen and Bar for fresh noodles and organic ingredients, and Graffiato by Mike Isabella for artisanal pizzas and Italian inspired small plates. If you are in the mood to for a little retail therapy, City Center is where you need to be.
I have had the privilege growing up in many places around the world. At the age of 16, I moved from Santa Barbara, CA to Washington DC. Since my family moved in June, I had no friends to spend the hot summer days with. But, my friendless summer turned into one of the most thrilling memories to date. As a solo traveler in my new hometown, I used the Metro to take me throughout the District. My prerogative was to learn all about America's Capital.
Fast forward 15+ years later, I'm living in the city for a few months. My perspective is still through the lens of a tourist who calls Washington DC one of my many homes, but it's now mixed with memories of what was, along with what currently is.
I will take you down memory lane to five areas in Washington DC that will always remain close to my heart, and in no particular order.
Georgetown: I used to love Georgetown for the immense amount of shopping, restaurants, and beautiful waterfront property, and I still do. If you appreciate shopping like I do, walk along M Street and up through Wisconsin Avenue. Men, you must visit Suit Supply if you are looking for sharp business and casual clothing. Women, Intermix is a hip and trendy boutique shop that I always check out when I'm in the area. Walk to the waterfront to see boats sail along the Potomac River and to watch planes taking off or land into National Airport. If you are in the mood to spend the day near the waterfront, consider buying food for a picnic from Dean and Deluca. I also recommend the kabobs from Moby Dick.
Smithsonian Museums: I am HUGE nerd when it comes to soaking up anything educational. I have always been fascinated by the intricacies of this world, and I take my sweet time walking through the art galleries and history museums. I recently went back to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs, elephants, and to learn about the underwater sea animals. Seeing an Anglerfish, especially blew my mind. I walked through the Sculpture Garden on my way to the National Mall to see the displays from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. I sat on the grass, absorbed the rays of sunshine, and spent some time reflecting and appreciating all this country has to offer. I plan to visit the National Archives this summer, and cannot wait to see original documents on display such as the Declaration of Independence. Lines for the Archives can be long, so plan to spend some time in line, or pay $1.50 for a timed visit. Visits to all Smithsonian Museums and the Archives are free if you do not pay for a timed visit.
Dupont Circle: My first international development internship was in Dupont Circle. I always loved the energy of this area; there was never a dull moment walking to and from work. I still stop and shop at some of my favorites: Kramerbooks & Afterwards Cafe for intellectual inspiration and a good book, Teaism for the most amazing masala chai and french toast, and Urbana for a delectable bite to eat.
Adams Morgan: It's true. This area is popular among the undergrad crowd, but Adams Morgan still appeals to 30-50 somethings. Bars and late night eateries like Madams Organ, Jumbo Slice and Amsterdam Falafel are foundational establishments, but the ultra laid back coffeehouse Tryst will always be my favorite place to work. The Diner offers the most amazing comfort food in a retro-modern setting, and the DC Yoga Studio takes me to a place of serenity and perspective. It is also the first place I was finally able to do a handstand, which represents years of patience, practice, and pure excitement.
Union Station: I used to commute to the Union Station Metro for my first internship on Capitol Hill. The architecture of Union Station always impressed me, and the eatery on the basement floor was to die for when I loved eating fast food. I use Amtrak quite a bit now, and I recognize and appreciate the ease and versatility of Union Station more than I ever have before. It is a hub for various modes of transportation, city tours, food, and shopping, AND it's clean.
Washington DC will always be one of the many places I call home. I encourage you to not only visit DC, but to view your hometown from a visitor's perspective. You will appreciate your town even more than you anticipated.
Do you have stories you would like to share about your hometown? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I would love to hear them!
Washington DC is the heart America's political system; however the District of Columbia is a dynamic capitol city full of history, culture, fine dining experiences, and athletics.