Sunday, May 31, 2009

To the east - again

So here I am, at London Heathrow, on my way to the east again. But this time I'm not going to the far-, but the Middle East. And I'm not going after studying the language and culture for two years and going there on holiday for a month (like when I went to Waseda University in Tokyo) but after only studying the language for one year. So I'm a bit more nervous than last time. Will my Arabic be good enough? Will I be able to navigate through all the cultural, sectarian and ethnical intricacies? Will I do well at my job as financial analyst?
Time will tell, but I'm sure that I'll learn a lot, meet great people and probably fall in love with yet another country. You'll read all about it on this blog.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Columbia Heights' diversity

I've been living in Columbia Heights for about one and a half months now, and I discover more and more great places there. Apparently it is a newly developed neighborhood, which means it was mired in poverty and violence not that long ago. Now, new retail-centers and apartments spring up everywhere, attracting all kinds of people for both shopping and living. This, however, results in so-called gentrification: white people moving into a predominantly black (or latino) neighborhood, bringing down the poverty rate and driving up the rent. So poor people might have to leave to cheaper areas further away while old, small townhouses are replaced by big, new apartment-buildings. So slowly it seems Columbia Heights is being transformed from a more historic residential area into a modern shopping district.
But that doesn't mean that there's no authenticity or originality anymore. In fact, creativity is right around the corner. First of all, the All-Souls Unitarian Church one block away is an, in my eyes, original institution combining a wide range of religious influences. Started in 1821, it still welcomes people of all kinds of religions to unite in worship (even though it seems to emphasize mono-theism). Furthermore, there are many art-institutions. There is the Art+Media House of the Latin American Youth Center, where teenagers express there creativity through paintings, drawings, murals, video's, music etc. Another center offering art-programs to youth is the Sitar arts-center, focusing on visual and performing arts. On the other side of the street, there's Hinckley Pottery, a center where people can take pottery classes to learn great skills. A while ago me and Chloe went there while they were selling work of their students, and it included some great works in Japanese, European and other styles - so we had to take some of it home!
Another great artistic outlet next-door is the drum-circle that takes place every sunday in Meridian Hill park. All kinds of different people with and without drums of all kinds come to the park to play, dance, hang around, juggle and just have a great time together. A great mix of cultures, ethnicities, generations and nationalities.
Other assests of the area are great restaurants, including the best pizzeria I have found in DC so far, Red Brick Pizza. The have delicious pizza's, a beautifull outdoor terrace, nice wines and great service. On the same street there's the most cozy and diverse bar with dancefloor Wonderland Ballroom, with both nice beers (among others Delirium Tremens) and a great - although somewhat populistic - DJ. So no reason to be bored in Columbia Heights!