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Washington DC

Culture section of National Museum of African American History

From Africa to America: The National Museum of African American History and Culture

I’ve just returned to Joburg after two weeks in the United States. I spent most of the trip trying to stay warm (this was my first dose of American East Coast winter since 2010), running errands, and spending time with family and close friends. I didn’t have much time for cultural pursuits, but I did achieve one major Washington D.C. tourism goal — a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (I’ll call it the African American Museum for short), located prominently on Constitution Avenue right beside the Washington Monument. The museum opened in September 2016. Read more about the museum’s award-winning architecture here. I feel it’s important for me to write a post about this museum, as it links the two halves of my life together in a couple of ways. First, the African American Museum was designed by acclaimed British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, who also designed the Hallmark House building in downtown Johannesburg. I stood in the same room with David at the Hallmark House media launch a few years ago but was too shy to talk to him. I regret that now, as I’d like […]

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Anti-Trump signs

2Summers Reporting From Washington: A Trumpkin Halloween

I’m in the United States just in time for Halloween, and also for the peak of American presidential election madness. (Don’t worry, I’ve already voted. I dropped my absentee ballot safely into a U.S. Postal Service box last Saturday.) It’s quite a circus. I’ve been watching CNN for the past hour and other than commercials, there hasn’t been a single second of anything other than Donald Trump coverage. When my dad called this morning and told me Donald Trump was appearing at his new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., I grabbed my camera bag and hopped on the Metro. I wanted to see some Trumpkins — the term Dad uses for crazy Trump supporters — with my own eyes. Trump’s new hotel is in the historic Old Post Office building, which used to house an eatery where I ate lunch back in the day when I worked in this neighborhood. Ben Franklin, America’s first Postmaster General. A Trumpkin from Manassas, Virginia. The sign in her right hand reads “Dogs for Trump”. The Trumpkins in attendance were mainly ladies. Sorry lady, I don’t think Maryland is for Trump. This lady frightened me the most because she seemed really normal. There were some male Trumpkins […]

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Reflections of a Jet-lagged Woman Between Continents

Over the past month I have been to the following places: Graaff-Reinet, and about seven other small towns around South Africa, Reunion Island, Istanbul (only for eight hours — will explain in a future post), Washington D.C. (I’m here now.) Fall leaves in Washington. I arrived just in time. Johannesburg is the one place where I haven’t been very much during the past month. As I’ve said many times before, I love traveling but I also hate being away from Joburg, especially for extended periods. I’m really grateful to be back in the United States at such a beautiful time of year and to reconnect with my American friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen for years. Every time I come back to Washington I’m surprised by how lovely it is, how quaint the houses and shops and restaurants are, and how liberating it is to step out onto the street and just walk. Jeez, I miss walking when I’m in Joburg. People in South Africa often ask me if I “miss home”. My usual answer is no. I miss specific people and I miss certain things. But as I go about my day-to-day life in Africa, I don’t […]

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Statue-Hunting in the Historic District

Everyone knows that Washington D.C. is a historic city. But unbeknownst to most of the world, D.C.’s history extends far beyond the monuments and museums around the National Mall and the Tidal Basin. Looking south down 16th Street from Columbia Heights, toward the White House (further away then it looks) and the Jefferson Memorial. Last Friday I went running through Meridian Hill Park — in Northwest D.C. between 15th, 16th, and Euclid Streets — and noticed how pretty it is. I decided to go back the next morning to take photos, and my friend Bob graciously agreed to accompany me (rising far earlier than his normal Saturday wake-up time) to provide some historic background on the park.

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Between Two Summers

It’s interesting that I chose this particular time to return to America. Summer is drawing to an end here, while it’s just heating up back in Joburg. It’s around the same time of year that I moved to Joburg in the first place, which is how my blog got its name. I woke up this morning — back in Washington D.C., crashing on Bob’s and Tim’s air mattress — feeling not only between seasons, but also between continents and lives. For the first time since my trip began, I had no particular plans. I kept today open on purpose, thinking I might need a break from the errands and family time and socializing. But the gap in my schedule made me anxious and depressed.

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My Nation’s Capital at Night

So here I am, back in America. I landed at Dulles Airport yesterday morning. I’m really happy to be back in Washington D.C. — much happier than I expected to be. I’d forgotten how much I like it here. I’m staying with my friends Bob and Tim in their lovely apartment in Shaw. I didn’t know much about Shaw, which is in the Northwest quadrant of D.C. near Howard University, before this trip. It’s a beautiful part of town with an interesting history. Hopefully I’ll tell you more about it in a future post but at the moment I’m too tired. Last night we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant nearby. (Again, I’ll definitely have more to say about that in a future post.) I snapped a few pictures of the neighborhood during our walk back home.

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Where to Caffeinate in Washington D.C.

Today was my last day in D.C. Before leaving town I had hoped to visit (and blog about) the brand-new Martin Luther King Memorial. (We love our memorials in Washington.) But time and weather weren’t on my side. MLK will have to wait for my next trip home. Instead, I’ll leave you with some pictures of Filter, one of my favorite D.C. coffeehouses. Filter is hidden away on a residential street, just north of Dupont Circle at 20th and S. I’ve spent many happy mornings sipping coffee at Filter with my friend Bob, and that’s exactly what I was doing when I took these photos. A skilled barista brews me a single cup of Ethiopian Sidamo. Filter serves single-origin coffees from around the world, roasted locally in Annapolis, Maryland.

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What I Miss Most about Washington

Washington D.C. commuters love to complain about Metro. And the D.C. subway system does have its faults: rising fares, rush-hour delays, malfunctioning fare card machines, and surly station managers. But I spent thousands of hours riding Metro in my day, and all in all I think it’s pretty great. It’s fast and convenient, and makes it possible to get around this city without a car. Plus, the Metro stations are beautiful. Especially on quiet, nearly empty Sunday evenings.

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Tattooed in My Nation’s Capital

Dear Mom: This post is going to freak you out. Please read at your discretion. And please don’t write me out of your will. Love, Heather ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦ I’m in a taxi with my dear friends Claire and Michelle, riding toward a bohemian neighborhood in northwest D.C. called Adams Morgan. We’re meeting friends for drinks at a legendary blues bar called Madam’s Organ. Madam’s Organ, in Adams Morgan.

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Talent-Scouting in Pretoria

Pretoria, which sits just north of Joburg, is smaller and tamer than its neighbor to the south. Some Joburgers consider Pretoria to be a boring backwater, while many Pretorians see Joburg as a crowded, wild place that’s best avoided. (I grew up near Baltimore, Washington D.C.’s northern neighbor. A similar rivalry exists between those two cities.) Pretoria City Hall, one of many historic buildings in Pretoria. Pretoria is the capital of South Africa. Well, sort of. The country actually has three capitals: Pretoria, where the president is; Cape Town, where the Parliament is; and Bloemfontein, where the courts are. Sort of. South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, actually sits in Joburg. But Joburg isn’t one of the capitals. Go figure.

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Jozi to Pretoria at High Speed

Joburg and Pretoria are about 60 kilometers (35 miles) apart. Rush-hour traffic between the two cities is legendary. If you’ve ever driven from Baltimore to Washington D.C. at 7:00 a.m. on a weekday, then you know what it’s like to drive between Pretoria and Jozi. On a bad day it can take hours. And until today, the freeway was the only option. Friday afternoon gridlock in downtown Pretoria. I’m a big fan of train-commuting. I spent 10 years as a D.C. suburbanite and rode the train to work every day. Believe it or not, I miss those train rides. I loved having that daily hour (or more) to myself — to read, sleep, listen to music, or just space out.

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A Cuppa Joe in Jozi

Note: A “cuppa joe” is an American slang term for a cup of coffee. I’ve just been informed that people outside the U.S. might not know this. When I left Washington D.C. for Joburg, I thought I was leaving coffee culture behind. I was under the impression that South Africa, like many other African countries I’ve visited, is ruled by tea drinkers. I was dead wrong. People take coffee seriously in Joburg. And unlike D.C., where most people (including me when I lived there) get their caffeine fix from flimsy cardboard or styrofoam containers while driving or hurrying down sidewalks, Joburgers tend to drink their coffee from real, washable coffee cups, stirred with metal spoons, while sitting on actual chairs.

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