I had a fierce debate with myself about when I should choose to arrive in DC. “Get here as soon as possible!” I said. “Carpe Diem! Seize the day!” Well, to get here as soon as possible required taking a Saturday night red-eye flight, resulting in me writing this journal entry at 2 AM on Monday morning when I haven’t slept since Friday night. And truth be told, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’m glad I gave myself ample time to let everything soak in, starting the moment my plane landed at 4:30 AM. I sat in the airport cafe, watching The Life Aquatic starring Bill Murray (hilarious, that Bill Effin Murray), but moreover eagerly anticipating the arrival of my fellow UC Santa Barbara Gaucho with whom I had arranged to share a cab to the UC Washington Center. What would the people here with me be like? Surely the elite few chosen to participate in this adventure would be something out of the ordinary compared to the average college student.
After almost 24 hours in Washington DC, I can easily say that the highlight so far has been the people I’ve already met, and I expect nothing less going forward. From my fellow Gaucho and lingual enthusiast who split a cab with me, to the early early bird who shared his tales of limbo after arriving eight hours before check-in and being banished to the lobby (boundless enthusiasm, good show ole’ chap) , from my fellow Smithsonian interns with a knack for having a good time to the American Association of University Women intern from Michigan who shares my love of journalism, from my late-arriving roommate who I instantly built a rapport with (The Dodgers-Padres rivalry will be intense) to the group of light-hearted UCI Anteaters who asked my opinion on the identity of their mysterious absentee roommate, everyone I have had the pleasure of meeting so far has been intelligent, enthusiastic, interesting, thought-provoking, and friendly.
But anyways, back to my first day. After dropping off my bags in the room and finally getting the opportunity to rest my eyes, I was overcome with the urge to go exploring and survey my new neighborhood. It was when I walked outside that I noticed the first big difference between DC and Santa Barbara: the cold. But it wasn’t an uncomfortable, freezing cold. There was no blistering wind battering my face. It hit me, pardon my cliche, like a breath of fresh air. It was the second wind I needed to get out there and see what’s good with the town after suffering through a sleepless night on a cramped flight.
I must have wandered for three hours. I covered a 5 to 10 block radius in any direction around the UC Center, starting with my first visit to the outside of the White House. However, after gawking at the iconic palace for a couple minutes, I was distracted by a hippy in a colorful, flower-covered tent just past the school tour I was following. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep or if he was actually as well-thought-out and articulate as I thought he was, but he made some very compelling arguments outside of the typical “make love, not war” jargon that we’ve all heard a thousand times. I was definitely surprised by the apparent enlightenment of a gentleman living out of a cardboard box. The main lesson I learned from that encounter: in DC, everyone has an opinion, and they’re all right (or at least they’re thoughtful enough to make it seem that way).
After a whirlwind day of exploring the facilities here at the UC Center (I love the fourth floor study lounge already, I think I will make it my home base), scoping out the bar scene in the area (can’t wait to hit Happy Hour at that Italian Restaurant), reacquainting myself with the Underground Metro System (much nicer and less crowded than I remember), stocking up on supplies and Five Guys Burgers with a buddy from UCLA (Cajun fries for days), and showing up late to the first unofficial dorm social of the quarter (the knowledge I gained from the concurrent conversation was as valuable and thought-provoking as any I had heard all day), I find myself here, in my room on the 7th floor, feeling at home already. It’s going to be a hell of a ten weeks. Let’s do it.
~Josh Fiacco: Adventurer, Insomniac, Citizen, Journalist, Gaucho
P.S. It’s my new friend Sam’s 21st birthday tomorrow. After orientation you should all come help her celebrate.