Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Anti-War Protests

Since this blog is political in nature, I thought you might be interested in seeing some pictures of the Iraq protest that happened this Saturday. I found the protest interesting not so much for the day's events, but for who attended. Most of the people there were my parents' age. These are people that remember Vietnam and are still angry that our government participated in that war. It was not today's college students cheering Cindy Sheehan (who was arrested this weekend, by the way) and chanting peace slogans. Enjoy the pictures!

Code Pink Rally

Creative Signage

Older Crowd Rocks the House

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pumps and Pumpkins

Today I went to work wearing a collared shirt, nice skirt, nylons and cute black pumps. With my badge, I looked like the ideal capital hill upstart. When I arrived at work, I was immediately handed a hand cart and told to go to the loading dock. Today was Farm Day!
Farm Day is when the senator invites farmers, wine-makers, restaurateurs and a whole lot of important people to experience the variety of the state's culinary wonders. The event wouldn't start until the evening, but the interns would be working on it all day.

So off I went in my heels to haul several cart loads of crepes, apples, and maple syrup from the loading dock in the basement, to the Caucus room on the third floor. I helped set up tables, unload carts, clean 500 wine glasses, and show all the chefs around the kitchen (yes, interns work in the Senate cafeteria now, too). This was actually pretty fun because I got to talk to people from all kinds of backgrounds and learn about all things culinary.

The best part of the afternoon was when the Senator decided to do a video about Farm Day. It was my job to provide the vegetables that would be in the background. The vegetables were down in the caucus room on one side of the building on the third floor. My senator's office is on the other side of the building on a different floor. This gave me the opportunity to drag a huge pumpkin and a crate full of bell peppers and shucked corn down the hallowed halls of a public government building.

Pumps, pumpkin, skirt, bell peppers, nylons, corn. Oh my. I got about half way to the elevator when all of the corn (who had been plotting since we left the caucus room) counted to three and leapt from the crate and scurried down the hall. Fortunately, a camera man (who must have played foot ball in high school the way he tackled that corn) grabbed the escapees and, laughingly, helped me regroup. I finally go to the conference room where filming was to take place. The vegetable arrangement was a success and I made it back to the caucus room without dropping anymore produce.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I Am Iron(wo)man!

What do sexism, Medicare, JoAnna and the number 110 have in common? Walking into work and noting the mountain of boxes outside the correspondence office, I was destined to find out.

The task of the day was to pack, label, and haul to the post office 110, twenty-five pound boxes of Medicare pamphlets. Now think about this: This summer I worked at a factory doing pretty much the same thing. So I am extremely good at the heavy lifting, packing, and taping of boxes (here's my modesty showing through). But this summer, I got to wear jeans and steel toed boots. And I was paid. And the postal truck came right to the door to pick up the boxes I packaged.

That's not how things work in the senate offices. Thus for the next four hours I dragged boxes down the freight elevator on a cart, twelve at a time. I pushed them down the hall, gathering speed, and then struggled up a ramp to arrive at the post office. There I had to lift each box on to the counter to be labeled.

The purpose of me telling you this is not to complain. Instead it is to note the incredible sexism that exists in the very buildings in which our government resides. As I pushed the boxes down the hall, every man I walked by asked me "who is making girls do this kind of work?" and then asked if they could push the cart for me. I really wouldn't have minded if they had just asked to help me out. Instead of that vote of confidence, they underestimated me because of my gender. What do I have to do, let them feel my biceps? Have them watch me do 100 pound squats wearing heels?

Needless to say, it's scary to think this kind of behavior runs rampant, playing tag and duck duck goose in the offices of our nation's leaders.

To sum up, if you are going to be in the DC area on October 1st (this coming Saturday) you should come to American University Women's Initiative's Breastival. The festival focuses on Breast Cancer Awareness but also addresses a variety of women's issues (including sexism). See you there.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Medallion and a Yarmulke

So, looks like Roberts will be the senate's pick, doesn't it? Anyone who finds that scary, raise your hand. Raise your hand again if you are terrified about the possibility of Bush nominating another justice. In my opinion, we are putting our reproductive and civil rights in unreliable hands. Did I tell you that I tried to get into the nomination committee hearings last week? Even with my badge the secret service man wouldn't let me in. He told me to "go stand in line for a pass like everyone else." Sigh....

Today, I was given the job of sorting through all the gifts that people send the senator. We are only allowed to accept gifts that cost less than $50. Everything else gets sent back to the giver. If it is $49.99 or less, it gets logged in, a thank you letter is sent out, and JoAnna gets to sort through the strange assortment of goods that people thought the senator couldn't do without. This included a giant drawing of the senator, several knitted fun-fur scarves, a tapestry, a bracelet from a department store, and a music box. My favorites, however, were a hand painted (with puffy paints)yarmulke and a heavy medallion displaying the ten commandments.

The blankets, t-shirts and other clothing will be donated to some charity group. No idea what will happen to the yarmulke. Local synagogue, maybe?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Can I Sit Under a Tree?

So, today I showed up at work and the first thing I saw was eight children and their parents, several men in military garb, and a room full of men speaking some African language. The first thing I heard was, "JoAnna, briefing in 5 minute!"

Apparently, today was a photo shoot day. Every now and then several groups of people come all at one time to get their pictures taken with the Senator on the steps of the Capitol Building. And who better to take care of them than the interns?

I was put in charge of the "men speaking some African language." They happened to be a Parliamentary Delegation from Kenya here to observe the John Roberts confirmation hearings. The delegation was basically Kenya's version of a Judiciary Committee. I was to take the Committee down the hall, down the stairs, out of the building, across the street, and through the construction zone by the capitol building and then arrange them in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. The senator was supposed to be able to step in, have the picture taken, and step out without any problems.

Here's what's troubling about this situation: A single US senator goes to an African country. What happens? There are secret service everywhere, the president of the country comes out to the airport to meet her, there is a big celebration (or at least a dinner honoring them).

Now answer me this. What happens when a WHOLE DELEGATION of Kenyan senators comes to the US? They are met at the airport by two guys (only one of which can speak their language) and brought to a senator's office where they are told to stand in the hall. At that point, an intern with two days of experience takes them out in the hot sun to wait a half hour for a senator to show up.

Can you imagine how frustrating and embarrassing it is for me, let alone for them, to have a national leader have to ask an intern if he can sit under a tree to get out of the sun? I can not believe we treat people from other countries this way! We should take an active part in other countries' parliamentary processes. We should be encouraging democracy, not denigrating other countries' officials to the level of interns and 2 minute publicity shots.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Senate Faux Pas

Today was one giant adventure. It started with me getting a security badge. Now I can ride the underground tram between the senate buildings and the capitol building, get into the staff section of the gallery, and sign for things at printing and graphics. Now that's power.

I spent most of the rest of the day answering constituent mail. But towards the end of the day, I was asked to do a sort of scavenger hunt to find all the important places that I will frequent as an intern. These places included the stationary shop, cafeteria, all three committee rooms my senator visits, and the senate post office. Then I was asked to find rooms in the Capitol. Here's where I made my blunder.

The tram between the senate buildings and the capitol is a string of 5 mostly glass cars that anyone with a badge (as well as tour groups) can use to get from place to place. The first car is for Senators only (so that they can get to their floor votes without dealing with hoards of people).

I climbed onto one of the back cars and watched as two men in suits climbed on and sat down in the seat across from me. They were very relaxed, slouching in their seats, laughing and joking together. Of course a terrified, young intern draws a little attention (I think people pity us), and the two men starting talking to me. They asked who I intern for, where I'm from, what I was doing today. I loosened up a bit and was joking and laughing with them. Then came my "Anne-of-Green-Gables" moment. I asked, "So, what do you do here?"

The younger of the two men holds his breath and looks expectantly at the other. The older man cocks his head, hesitates and, as a grin spreads across his face, slowly says, "oh, not much...I'm just a senator."

Yes, I'm an idiot. The men I had been joking with (not with deference by the way) turned out to be a senior senator and his aid. Worse: I had no idea which senator he was. After I had stopped choking on my fleeing dignity, I had to ask which state he represented and which senator he was. Mercifully, the tram had arrived at its destination and the Senator had to hurry away for a roll call vote. I was left to trudge through my embarrassment to my next destination.

The rest of the day went well. With the help of Capitol Security and a couple of plain clothes secret service officers, I was able to find the gallery, the cloakrooms (both the democratic and the republican), and, my favorite, the rotunda. The rotunda is the big dome you see in pictures of the capitol building. Many of you have probably been on a tour there and seen all of the huge, gilt-framed paintings of famous people, the marble floors, and the painted inside of a sky-scraping, hollow dome. But to stand in this room, by myself, realizing that I am one of a tiny percentage of people that will ever get the chance to do so...It took me minutes to breathe normally again.

I am not the girl that loves history or maintains an overwhelming sense of patriotism. I am more likely to protest against our administration than participate in it. But every time I walk into the capitol building or even into the dingy Dirksen offices, I am in awe of how much work gets done, how brilliant the people are, how amazing our government really is.

Let's just hope (cross your fingers) that if I ever work full time in the legislature that a certain senior senator doesn't remember the silly intern he met on the senate tram.

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Day In the Life of an Intern

The first day of my internship was both exciting and nerve-wracking. I have to admit that although I can do speeches in front of hundreds of people or take calls from scores of angry customers at work, the thought of meeting important people like senators and diplomats was enough to make me want to throw up. Surprising, huh? I can see Janna exclaiming right now, "JoAnna was nervous!?!?!" Yea, yea I was. You try it.

The pure nervousness was increased by the fact that I had neglected to scope out my office building beforehand, and didn't know how long it would take to get from AU to Union Station. The answer to the latter question is....A really, really long time. I can get a solid chapter of constitutional law read or a nice nap in the time it takes me to get downtown.

The three Senate buildings are all unique, each with its own "personality." The Hart building is large, open, and airy. The floor to ceiling windows and 7 story tall modern art sculpture make you think you are in a corporate bank headquarters. Barack Obama's (one of my favorite people) office is in this building. Dirksen Senate building is Hart's older and more modestly dressed sister. It reminds me of an urban county courthouse: I am always waiting for someone to tell me to pay a parking ticket or join a jury or something. Russell Building is what you would picture the building of our country's highest legislative body to look like. Grand marble stair cases, echoing hallways and state flags outside the heavy, wood-paneled office doors. I love click-clacking down the halls of Russell in my high heels, looking for the "prettiest" senate office.

The first day was all about the mail system. One of my jobs will be to read, categorize and respond to every single piece of mail that comes into the office. It is a daunting job that takes up most of all the interns' time. We use a computer program that generates form letters and inserts people's addresses for us.

Later this week, I will learn how to use the phone system and will hopefully get my security badge (right now I am walking around semi-illegally). Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Interns: Wearing Many Hats

Interning for a US Senator is often viewed as one of the most prestigious, experience-building, coolest things an undergraduate can do. And I have to agree.

But there is a lot behind the scenes that people don't think about. For example, most senate interns are not getting college credit for their work (meaning they have a full class schedule to attend and do homework for). Also, interning involves a variety of jobs, from letter writing, to research, to giving tours, to answering phones.

Barring any complaints from the Secret Service over content issues, I seek to bring you the inside scoop on the multi-faceted job of Senate intern.

Note to Secret Service: I am sure you have done a complete background check on me by now and know what my grades were in 8th grade, that my favorite food is rice krispy treats, and that I need to go shopping for new panty-hose. Thus, if you have issues with this blog, please feel free to give me a call (since I am positive you have my number). Thanks!