Monday, June 25, 2007

The carrot, the coffee and the egg

On Thursday June 21, my program heard from an interesting speaker. He is a very well known person in Washington and has contacts at all the top tiers of government. He is a very frum man, wears a black hat and suit everywhere he goes, and deals with many delicate issues that come up for Jews working in government.

He shared with us an excellent mashal that I thought I'd post about:

In a pot of boiling water, you put in a carrot, an egg and coffee grounds.
In the case of the carrot, it goes from being hard to soft.
The egg keeps its shell, but the inside still changes and hardens.
The coffee itself doesn't change - it changes the water and turns it into coffee.

And, the nimshal:

The boiling water is the environment you're in. Are you going to be like the carrot, who softens and loses its edge? Or will you be like the egg, which retains its protective shell but becomes hard on the inside? Or will you be the coffee, the one thing that isn't changed itself, but changes the environment it's in?

I thought this mashal was so, so perfect for the job I have now/the social situation I'm in. I've spilled much liquid (in the form of tears and blog ink) about my social life currently, but what the heck, I'll spill a little more. On Sunday, I was miserable. Absolutely taken over and suffocated with misery.

Why, you ask?

Well, a bunch of the interns planned on doing something involving water and boats. Now, when I went to camp, doing activities involving water and boats meant that you had a pretty definite chance of getting wet, sometimes to the point of your clothing becoming translucent. My decision was absolutely not to participate. I am not going to do a wet activity in front of boys that I'm not related to. No way, no how. I felt that this was a completely untzniusdik activity and would cause people to be nichshal.

However, by not going, I was left all by myself.

Now, here is where it gets sort of complicated: I don't want to do too much coed stuff. Pretty much all we ever do here is in a coed group. BUT I don't want to be alone. I hate being lonely. Being lonely makes me cry a lot. But I don't want to do things in a coed group. And so on. Basically, it's a catch-22: I don't want to be lonely, but I don't want to do the activities that would keep me from being lonely.

Aaaargh.

So when everyone left bright and early Sunday morning to go do the water sport, I broke down. I felt such an all-pervading sense of loneliness. I felt like Hashem was punishing me - I couldn't even be proud of myself for sticking to my convictions because I was so unhappy that I had done so.

And then, to add insult to injury, when I decided to go to DC to do some shopping (I've been indulging in some very expensive retail therapy recently), I locked myself out of my apartment. In my apartment were my keys, my cellphone and my SmarTrip card (the DC metrocard equivalent), and in the hallway was me with a couple baggies of Cheezits and some wet tissues. Unfortunately, since it was the weekend, the building management charged me $25 to let me back into the apartment. This just made me start crying all over again. And even though I was clearly in distress, they didn't waive the fee, which I was hoping they would do.

Muttering wetly under my breath about stingy building maintenace people, I boarded the Metro to DC. In a flash of inspiration, I decided to go to Georgetown, where I'd heard there was good shopping. And boy was there shopping! Up M street and down Wisconsin was pure retail bliss. I wandered happily from one hideously expensive clothing store to another. All the clothing was gorgeous, like candy. I wanted everything, but restrained myself. I actually found a really cute skirt when I went shopping. I was really happy to acquire it. But that didn't make up for the intensity of the feelings I experienced earlier in the day.

At once, I was angry, hurt, resentful, lonely and felt excluded. How much of this was in my head and how much was the reality doesn't matter. At that moment, that was my reality.

I felt like nobody here in the program with me even cared at all if I was happy. If I felt like I was being included. If I was comfortable.

I just felt like no one cared about me at all, with the exception of my friends, who are all hundreds of miles away. That nobody else cared that my standards are different, and that maybe my standards should also be accommodated.

This made me so angry. How dare people just disregard my feelings and emotional well-being that way? Why didn't anyone think to say, "Oh, Apple isn't coming. Hmm, I wonder why that is. Maybe she's not comfortable with this activity? Well, then, let's try and do something she will be comfortable with."

Ooh, what a thought.

But did anyone think this? Nooooooo. Did anyone take me aside and ask me why I wasn't coming? Nooooooo. They all just left me alone! By myself! In an apartment with almost no furniture, with no discernable plans for the day. That was not fair.

Maybe I'm being really selfish right now, thinking that I should be everyone's main consideration in making plans. But that's not what I'm asking. I just want people to take a look around, realize that other people's sensitivities and needs are different, and to try and plan accordingly.

And then, when everyone came back, they were all, "Oh, how was your day?" I wanted to scream. I wanted to say, "Oh, it was great. Just great. In fact, it's really scintillating and fun to spend an entire day by yourself. You should try it sometime!"

I think I'm turning into the egg, but I'd rather be the coffee.

And I was hurtful and mean to someone who has really tried to help me feel better and enjoy my experience more (you know who you are, and I think - I hope - that you're reading this). I sincerely, sincerely apologize. I really have no excuses. I heedlessly let my yetzer hara get the better of me and you got the brunt of it.

I am very, very sorry.

Please forgive me, for I am the egg, and I need you to help me crack my shell a little.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Of granola bars and happy days

Today I helped one of the LAs organize press clips and information regarding immigration bills. I didn't think much of it, but a few hours later, I had this instant message exchange with him (I did some creative adjustment of the actual screennames):

hisfullname: do you enjoy an occasional granolabar?
apple87: sure
hisfullname: sure is not a satisfactory answer
apple87: okay, do you have a granola bar?
hisfullname: no.
apple87: alright then.
hisfullname: you still havent answered my question
apple87: I enjoy an occasional granola bar. Occasional.
hisfullname: why occasional?
hisfullname: too much?
hisfullname: too sweet?
hisfullname: i enjoy the nature valley, honey and oats
hisfullname: what about you?
apple87: personally, I prefer the peanut butter flavor
hisfullname: interesting
apple87: but it all depends on how hungry I am
hisfullname: that totally came from left field
apple87: indeed
hisfullname: well i have a slight situation
apple87: oh no. what is it?
hisfullname: well i wanted to get you something for your help today. however there arent many kosher things (atleast that i could think of) in the cafeteria
hisfullname: so i got you a honey and oats granola bar cause its my favorite
*he comes to my desk with a granola bar*
apple87: oh, thanks so much! that's so sweet!

Isn't that the nicest?

It made me so happy.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Is my bar too high?

This is a particularly long post, so I'm going to just tell you the topics that I address in this post: representing Jews as a whole, fitting in at work (how to go about getting coworkers to like you), and being in a situation (for me, a highly coed atmosphere) where your standards for yourself are challenged.

That being said, I commence:

My program had a Shabbaton this Shabbat, and Friday night we had a roundtable discussion about being a Jew in a gentile environment. Of course, since we are interns working on Capitol Hill, a goyish place if there ever was one, the questions raised were particularly germane. The underlying question of the discussion: How much of your Judaism do you "flaunt"? Should you be openly frum in your office, or keep your customs/faith to yourself?

The discussion veered in the direction of asking how much of our role in our office is as an ambassador for the Jewish people. Personally, in the office, I feel acutely aware that I am an Orthodox Jew, and so any time someone asks me a question about Judaism, I really think about what I say, so that I don't misrepresent things or mislead people in any way. A few of the other interns disagreed, and told me that I should relax, since non-Jewish people are much more open and accepting of Judaism. But this isn't what I'm worried about - if someone is open to learning about Judaism, they'll ask me a question; if they're not, then they won't - but I am nervous about saying the right thing, nervous that I will make Judaism sound antiquated, not the vibrant, alive religion that I believe it is. I don't think that this is too over the top. If I'm the only Orthodox Jew that someone knows or has access to, I want to be the best possible representation of Orthodoxy and Jewry in general.

I don't quite remember what was said next, but someone suggested that in order to fit in more with your co-workers, if they are all discussing the latest news on Paris Hilton, to contribute to the conversation so that they'll realize that you're "normal." No! I argued. Why do I have to ingratiate myself with my coworkers on those terms? Why should I stoop to the level of having to discuss TV and movies in order to gain their respect and liking?

Now, I used to watch a lot of TV. However, since I spent a year in Israel, during which I did not a have a single TV-show related conversation with anyone in seminary (except to mourn the amount of TV I had watched over my lifetime), I realized that actually you can have fun with people and have good conversations that don't have to hinge on a commonly shared liking of a TV show. As a result, I am trying to cut back on the amount of TV that I watch, and the TV/movies-related news that I see. Now I pride myself on being clueless about celebrity developments and what movies are coming out when. I also avoid watching movies if I can.

So why, when I am entering a summer FULL of challenges to the sensitivities that I've developed, do I have to go backwards and start educating myself about pop culture? That's not my definition of "normal."

When I started interning, one of my biggest worries was fitting in with the other interns. Unfortunately, all the interns I work with currently are boys. The guys reading this might not understand what a big deal this was for me, but I RARELY hang out with boys. And no, boys are NOT the same as girls - it's much different to talk to a boy than it is to talk to a girl. It was extremely difficult for me at first to be able to talk to them, so I kind of just didn't. I would ask them questions about their schools or something neutral, but mostly I didn't participate in any of their conversations. Also, it should be noted that they spend an awfully long time talking about going drinking and hitting on girls - two activities I don't have much of an interest in.

I'm not quite sure what happened - maybe the conversation about Orthodox dating we had and their realization that I would only marry someone Jewish - but the tension I felt lightened considerably. While I still am not best friends with the guys, I find it much easier to talk to them, although there are still some funny moments.

What's my point? I guess it would have been easier for me to "get in" with them if I had just gone out to a club with them, or participated in their conversation about the merits of jailing Paris Hilton. Going clubbing is out of the question. Period. Admittedly, celebrity gossip is more innocuous and innocent, but since I developed the sensitivity of not wanting to know about these things, I prefer not to join conversations about celebrities. However, this does put a sort of barrier between me and the rest of the people in my office - because it's one less thing that we could have in common.

But I don't WANT commonality to be on those terms.

I'd rather share the same values.

Am I setting the bar too high for myself?

Wow. This post is very long-winded and rambly and somewhat incoherent. Am I making any sense? Do you understand my dilemma? Although, to be honest, it's not really a dilemma, since I am sure that I don't want to regress in my sensitivities to pop culture and being around boys casually.

This weekend, I was feeling particularly down in the dumps about the intensity of the coed situation that I'm in, and so basically spent almost the whole day alternately crying or feeling very sorry for myself, neither of which helped to make me feel better. Someone advised me to understand that while I have standards for myself, because I'm in a situation that I've never been in before, I need to adjust my standards, because otherwise I'll go nuts trying to keep to the gedarim that I've made for myself.

But isn't the point of standards is that you draw lines for yourself that you won't cross? Although, I think that this person was right, because if I persist in attempting to isolate myself from the coed situations (which are basically all the time), I will end up very lonely. But when I think about spending so much time casually with a big group of guys, I shudder.

Sigh.

What have I gotten myself into?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

You Rule!

Alright, Ezzie tagged me with this (for which I am very honored, oh blogmaster Ezzie, when you read this), so I'll do my best. Please bear in mind that this is full of generalizations, so don't jump down my throat for assuming that it refers to any one specific place.

You rule, Oh Clique-iest Clique of High School Girls! Without you, who would know whom to snub, what definitely, like, not to wear, and which barrette goes best with the uniform? Your amazingly keen sense of nerdiness and how to stay far, far away from it surely helps keep your perfect little outfits from any sort of contamination. You're not mean, or standoffish - you just have a deeply-felt sense of self-preservation. We understand. So when you don't talk to us, or look at us, we know that you simply are trying to communicate to us just where we are on the social totem pole. That way, we won't misstep our place or anything, which could be fatal, for us and for you. Thank you, clique-y ones, for allowing us to know our status in life. Thank you for introducing us to the world of perpetually glossy hair, weekly new wardrobes and Goachi bags (you know, fake Coach + fake Gucci). In fact, to thank you, we'll give you a no-contract cell phone, so you're not locked into any of those icky plans or anything. And when the shoe style changes next season, you can change your cell phone plan along with it. What more could be better? Oh, and for an teeny extra fee, we'll throw in a cell phone cover to match your handbag. So run, don't walk, because supplies are limited to the first fifty girls pushing and shoving to get this great deal. Competition will be fierce, ladies, so remember to file those nails and wear your extra-pointy shoes so that you'll have some, uh, clawing and scratching leverage. Buh-bye now!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dinner at the Supreme Court

That's right. Mm-hm. I had dinner at the Supreme Court tonight. Oh, and I took a picture with Justice Samuel Alito. Uh-huh.

HOW COOL IS THAT??

Okay, so the organization that I got this internship through is having a 2-day lobby mission to Washington. They invited all the interns to participate in as much of the programming as possible. And the major highlight of today was having a dinner reception at the Supreme Court and then being addressed by Justice Alito.

So I left work early today (more about what I did today later), and headed out of Rayburn, the House building where I work, up Independence Avenue and left on First Street down to the Supreme Court building. The Court building is just a gigantic marble edifice, really a beautiful structure. I met a few other interns and we walked around to the Maryland Avenue entrance, through a small grassy area with some benches and flower beds. Then we went into the Supreme Court building, where we walked through a metal detector and put our stuff through an x-ray machine. About every forty feet was a new guard, presumably to keep people from going nuts and trying to get into the offices of the justices or something.

Anyway, we rode up one floor to the East Wing Conference Room, where a buffet dinner was set up (the food was AMAZING and totally beat cereal and milk). I noticed a man who wasn't wearing a kippa walk into the room, but I didn't realize that he was Justice Alito. First of all, he's young. Like fifty or so. I always associate being a Supreme Court Justice with being somewhat ancient and decrepit, so his youthfulness threw me off. By the time I understood who he was, though, he was so surrounded by people that it wasn't even worth it to try and talk to him. And the truth was, he didn't remember anyone after he saw him/her. When so many people are thrust in your face like that, it's all just a blur. So even though I didn't get to talk to him, I don't regret it at all. What would I have gained, anyway?

Am I regretting now that I didn't talk to him?

Well, too late now.

I got a picture with him, at any rate.

After dinner, we all filed into the chamber of the Supreme Court, where Alito spoke to us. He didn't talk for so long, actually, and answered a lot of questions. I took notes of his speech, but because I'm assuming that no one expected that it would be published, I won't write what he said. Sorry - I keep leaving these tantalizing little bits of information that I can't expand upon. The truth is, Alito didn't say anything too earth-shattering. He talked about how fighting for religious rights is important to him (this was tailored to his Orthodox audience) and didn't really give such personal answers to a lot of the questions.

It was mostly just fascinating to actually BE in the Supreme Court, and to look at the bench, and realize that we were sitting in one of the most powerful bodies of government in the United States. Major things have happened in that room - Brown v. Board of Ed, Miranda v. Arizona, the recent partial-birth abortion ban - things that changed American life, that affected the way that things like school, and police arrests, and reproductive rights are all run. THAT was incredible.

And the building itself! All gorgeous, clean marble, open space, huge pillars - it lends a feeling of power and strength to the whole experience, which is of course what the architect intended.

At the same time, I tried not to be overawed. True, it's the Supreme Court of the United States, where major decisions and verdicts are handed down. But there's no kedusha to it, no inherent holiness, and it's an institution that prides itself on being divorced from religious influence. That's not a Jewish concept. There is never an occasion in Jewish life when an observant Jew purposely separates him or herself from the influence of halacha and hashkafa (okay, okay, I'm talking about an ideal life here). What makes us special is that we don't integrate Torah into everyday life - we integrate everyday life into Torah.

Am I getting preachy? I think it's maybe because I spend most of the day in a very goyish environment - bad language, casual talk about drinking - that I almost need to go to the other extreme and very clearly delineate lines between myself and such behavior. That is not the way I talk, not what I do to enjoy myself, and not an okay lifestyle for me. I'm sure that there are people out there who would vehemently disagree with my approach. But that's what's best for me, the Apple, as a halachic, hashkafic Jewish girl working in an environment not necessarily conducive to or encouraging of Torah values.

On a lighter note, here's what I did the rest of the day and on Monday:
This morning started off soooooooooooo slowly - no phones, no faxes, no mail, nothing - and all the interns were sitting around practically ready to scream with boredom. Then Kelly (the intern supervisor) gave me a big ole stack of constituent letters to update, so I had something to do. And wouldn't you know it, the second I start doing a lot of work, the phones begin to ring, people come in and out of the office to meet with staffers and the Congressman, and in general the pace picks up.

Then - and this was embarassing - apparently the Congressman was going to be introducing some homeland security amendment that would be debated on the House floor. Well, apparently no one felt a need to tell the interns about this, but we started getting all these phone calls about the amendment: "Is the Congressman going to issue a Dear Colleague about this?" "Is this the Congressman's amendment?" "Can I speak to the legislative aide about this amendment?" The problem was that I didn't know what the amendment had to do with, and Kelly wasn't around, so I danced around the questions. Actually, I transferred a bunch of people to the press secretary's voicemail, which was incorrect. Oops.

Oh, and I bungled a call to the Chief of Staff. She wasn't too pleased.

And I kept forgetting that I should IM staffers rather than go over to them. I know people don't mind too much, since I'm still relatively new, but I don't want them to think that I'm dumb. One of my favorite quotes from All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot, is when one veterinarian says to the other, roughtly quoted, "This job affords you some great chances to make a chump of yourself." Well, guess what. So does interning in Congress, apparently.

MONDAY:
Finished calling ALL 232 Democratic offices in the House and getting the name of the trade LA (this was a feverish two hours of nonstop phone-calling).

Spoke on the phone to some psycho constituent who yelled at me and then subsequently at everyone else he spoke to. He was really nutso - he had written a letter and gotten a response back, but was mad about the response. He had written in about the comprehensive immigration bill that the Senate was trying to pass and was really p.o. that the government was trying to increase the number of highly-skilled workers in the country.
"Why do we need so many highly-skilled workers, huh?" he yelled at me.
I felt like saying, "Because they're highly skilled, duh." But I didn't. And when I kept saying, "Okay, okay, and may I have your name please?" he snarled back, "Okay? Is that the only word you know in the English language? Why you trying to get rid of me? Huh?"
Finally I just snapped and said, "Because you're being rude and abusive and I don't want to be spoken to that way!"
Then I hung up. He was really mad and called again. Because he had been so rude, we transferred him to the tax counsel and then the legislative director, who proceeded to have a great conversation with the constituent during which he pointed out to him that this country was founded by immigrants. The constituent didn't have much to say after that.

Answered the phone (what else?)

Did a crossword puzzle (in my downtime, i.e. when the phones don't ring and the faxes don't come in).

Handed out newspapers and Congressional newsletters to all staffers

Went to a briefing on China's success in the world economy (snore, snore, snore. In fact, it was so bad that I left after half an hour).

Made the cover for the weekly press clips packet.

***
All in all, it's been a full two days. Tomorrow I'm taking off of work to participate in more programming with the organization, so we'll see how it goes. We're going to meet with top Senate leaders and then we're off to the White House.

Stay tuned!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Feelings about Washington

Well, my other post was really technical, more like a sort of diary of what I've done (read my other post, My First Day and Beyond, before you read this one. Sorry, I don't know how to link from one post to another. Can anyone give me a tutorial in HTML?). In this post, I want to share more of my feelings and perceptions of Washington and Congress.

First of all, an important concept to understand about being an intern in Washington is that you have very little preparation for what you're getting into. You're thrust into the middle of an office without any clue about the office dynamic, who should be talked to when (or not), who likes whom, who hates whom, who controls the office atmosphere. I was lucky, to an extent - I talked to a girl who had interned in the same office the summer before, so she was able to give me some advice. However, there was some personnel changes that took place in between this summer and the last, so not everything is the same.

Someone described to me all 535 offices in Congress as being 535 distinct businesses. To a certain extent, things are run similarly (meaning, there are basic positions in every office, such as a chief of staff, a legislative director, and legislative aides), but HOW the offices are run is wholely dependent on the personalities occupying it. For example, in some offices, the interns are all buddy-buddy with the paid staff. In other offices, the paid staff is NOT TO BE TALKED TO by the interns. Each office is different.

My office is sort of a combination. A few of the interns are buddy-buddy with the staff, and joke with them and things like that. I don't. First of all, I'm a girl, and most of the staff are men, so it's hard to know how to balance it. Also, I want things to be professional, and I want to give an impression of professionalism. Not to say that I want to be standoffish - I just want to be seen as serious and hard-working. Also, I'm still trying to work out people's personalities, and who likes to be approached by the interns and who would prefer not to be talked to unless they speak to us first.

Because of all this uncertainty, at the beginning, I really was very unhappy. I was unhappy being the only girl intern (what would YOU talk about to a bunch of boys who spend their free time drinking and partying?), I couldn't tell if the staff thought I was intelligent or stupid (even though we're expected to make mistakes, you want to come off as mistake-proof as possible), and I wasn't thrilled with the commute. Now, thankfully, it's gotten better. As the days go on, my rapport with the other interns gets better, they understand me a little more (although they still don't know about shomer negiah, which can be awkward at times, as one of the boys is constantly brushing my arm), and they are more friendly to me. As far as the staff goes, I think I'm overall doing okay, but they may think that I'm still standoffish.

Above all, I really hope that I'm making a kiddush Hashem for everyone in my office. For a lot of them, I'm probably the only Orthodox Jew they ever came into contact with (and for some maybe the first Jew, but I know that for sure one of the staffers is Jewish). It's really important for me not to give them a negative impression of Orthodoxy and Judaism in general.

I tend to eat lunch in the office, just because since I have to bring my own lunch anyway, there's no point in going to the treif cafeterias. I bring a sandwich every day, which means that I have to wash and bentch. No one has asked me anything about that yet though. We'll see what they say if they do.

I haven't had a chance to explore DC at all. At the end of the day, I'm really tired - the schedule is very draining - and I don't have the energy to walk around. Also, I don't want to go alone - DC isn't the safest place, especially later in the day. At one point, I want to stay in DC at night and walk down from the Capitol to the Washington memorial. It's supposed to be beautiful.

That's basically a good summary of what it was like to adjust to the whole office atmosphere and Washington in general. I'll be adding little thoughtful tidbits as they come up and will try to be better about posting.

Toodle-oo!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

My first day and beyond

Wow. I am, like, sooooooo exhausted.

It's been a rough first few days.

I don't know if I can describe the overwhelming, body-swallowing feeling of panic that you have when you first step into a Congressional office as an intern and don't know what you're doing.

I came into the office at 8:55 a.m. Monday morning, totally and completely petrified. I didn't know what to expect, I was scared to meet the staff, I didn't know who the other interns are at all, and I didn't know what I'm supposed to do once I actually get inside and sit down. I said hello to the receptionist and identified myself as a new intern. She smiled back at me and extended her hand for me to shake. I sat down on the couch and read through the intern handbook that the receptionist had handed to me. It was all sort of blurry . . . how to answer the phone . . . how to sort the mail . . . how to schedule a tour of the Capitol . . . (This booklet is essentially the intern bible, since we refer to it all the time when we need to know procedure.)

Anyway, we chatted for a little bit and then she asked me if I had any questions. I felt like asking her to hold my hand and tell me exactly what to do, because I felt really, really lost. The trouble was, of course I couldn't ask her to do that - I just had to wing it!

I sat down at the intern desk, completely clueless about what to do next. Thankfully, the other intern in the office had been there the year before. From now on, I'll call him Patrick. He was really great - right away he started showing me around the office and pointing out the different things an intern would need to do. Patrick is from Boston, but goes to some university in South Carolina (don't ask). While Patrick was tutoring me, two other interns were taking a couple of constituents on a tour of the Capitol. I met them when they came back. Sean looked just like Patrick - big, blond and Irish. Jerry was a big guy, dark (I found out later that he's Persian). (By the way, these are all pseudonyms. And the receptionist's name is Kelly. Also a pseudonym.)

Anyway, I won't bore you with the excrutiating details. Here's a list of what I did the first day, Monday:
Wrote a tribute to a constituent for the Congressional record (how cool??.) The constituent was turning ninety and had apparently voted in every local and national election since becoming of voting age.

Researched two issues - alcohol tax and water quality (oh my gosh, talk about an initial disaster. The water quality one took me FOREVER because I wasn't sure what I should use as a resource. The next one was easier, since I remembered that there's Congressional Research Service - an amazing resource of accurate, nonpartisan information that is provided to all of Congress.)

Answered the phone (like a zillion times. I'm a pro now!)

Ate lunch in the Rayburn cafeteria by myself, which was sort of sad, but my friend from Israel called to see how I was doing and that cheered me up enormously

Made the cover page for a packet of press clips – every week, the press secretary gathers any articles that have the Congressman's name in them or where he's quoted and compiles them. Then - and this was AWESOME - the press secretary asked me and Sean to work with him on a project to collect non-Congressman-related issues that are about hot topics. This might sound sort of stupid, but any time a paid staffer asks you to do something it's considered a major honor.

People were dressed VERY casually – jeans and sneakers, except for the interns, who were dressed more formally. The reason for this was that the Congressman wasn't going to be in (I think he was in California, but I'm not sure).

TUESDAY:
Got my ID - me and two other interns waited on line for an hour to get it

Went on tour of the Capitol with two interns (we went up to the gallery and Democratic cloakroom, where legislation gets dropped off)

Entered the legislative director's contact info into Microsoft outlook off of business cards

Drafted a floor statement for H.Con.Res.152!!!!!! This is a resolution recognizing the 40th anniversary of the 6-day war. Basically, this was how I got the job - when I finished entering the LD's contact info into the computer, I gave him back his business cards. He seemed really surprised that I had done it so quickly. Fast forward about five minutes: the LD came over to where I was sitting and asked me if I had any particular interests. I said foreign affairs, specifically Israel, and he sort of ruminated for a minute, then called out to the press secretary (PS), "Hey PS! Should we let her write a floor statement?"
I was FLOORED, to say the least. Anyway, I wrote the floor statement and they really liked it.

Answered phones

Drafted letter to constituent about tax on beer

When I was sitting at the front desk, I met the Larouche people – wackos! This is a lobbying group that is full of "brainwashed teenagers," as Patrick put it. They're EXTREMELY liberal and basically came to the office to let me know that Dick Cheney should be impeached. I was like, riiiiiiiight.

Fixed the tribute to the constituent (can you say b.s.?)

WEDNESDAY:
Went to a hearing on immigration. My Congressman was a witness - it was the first time I saw him/heard him live. I positioned myself strategically so that when C-Span focused on him, you could see the corner of my shoe and a little bit of my right hand.

Did research on a bunch of consituent letters for the legislative correspondent - scholarships for students with disabilities, tax paid on employer-provided tuition, the lack of contract for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection police, and one thing that I passed off to another intern about Lt. Cpl. Chessani (anyone heard of him?).

The LD gave me a job - to call all the Democratic offices in the House and find out the legislative aide in each office who deals with trade. There are 232 Democrats in the House. Ahem. That means a lot of phone calls.

There was some other stuff too, but I've forgotten it.

THURSDAY:
Went to a lecture with two other interns. The lecture was the first in a series of lectures specifically for interns. The speakers were the Secretary of the Senate and the Senate Historian, who both exuded an incredible sense of Senate superiority over the House. Hmph. While we were waiting for the speeches to start, one of the interns started asking me about my contact with boys. Here is the conversation:
Mike: So, where you go to school, are there any boys?
Me: Um, no. But my school has a boys' counterpart.
Mike: Oh. So do you guys ever mingle?
Me: Well, there are coed events.
Mike: Do you go to them?
Me: No. I don't really hang out with boys.
Mike: So you don't date?
Me: Well, I will only date for marriage, so I will only date when I feel ready to get married.
Anyway, the conversation continued in this vein. I think they basically learned that I'm off-limits, so they feel more comfortable around me. In fact, they tell me about their success in hitting on girls. Hmm. Kind of awkward.

Umm, what else happened? I made more phone calls to the Democratic offices (to find out the trade LA's name) and started entering business contacts for the Chief of Staff (CoS). She had many, many, many business cards. Answered the phone, distributed faxes, etc - all the usual stuff.

Ooh! I just remembered - we all had a meeting with the CoS. She basically told us to take advantage of being in Washington, if we want to take off a day to explore, go for it. The office is very happy to have us, blah blah, and the way that they like to communicate is through instant messaging so they don't have to keep getting up and they can say things privately to each other. Only catch: I don't have IM, and had kinda promised myself that I would never use it. Oh well. Now I have to, for the sake of my job. But I only use it during the day, for professional reasons.

Funny side note: one of the interns had seen a picture of the CoS on her window sill, and thought she was about 50. Um, that picture was of her mother, and the CoS herself is 31 and pretty. The boys were all really surprised.

FRIDAY:
I thought I wouldn't come in at all because my supervisor had promised us all a day off. But at the end of the day on Thursday, the foreign affairs legislative aide told me about an AIPAC briefing. Anyway, I thought I would go, so I decided to come in and go to the briefing, and then just leave right afterward. Of course, I forgot to go to the briefing, but here's what I did on Friday:

Entered in business contacts for the Chief of Staff (like over a hundred. It's the most tedious thing you can imagine.)

Entered constituents' name off a petition into the computer to see if we could dig up their addresses (it's a complicated program, so I won't bother to explain it. Suffice it to say that the program is designed to store the addresses of constituents that the office writes to, so we were entering the names off the petition to see if there was an address stored under the name. Again, supertedious.)

Researched the voting results on three bills for one of the staff. He needed to know who how the votes turned out and also how the "New Dems" had voted. I don't really know what the New Dems are. Maybe I'll check them up on Wikipedia.

Okay, I've been working on this post throughout the week, and I'm getting kind of nauseous of it. Hopefully I'll post every day about what I do, so it won't come in one big chunk like this.

Any questions or comments?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

I'm really sorry!

Okay, I'm really sorry that I haven't posted anything about my internship yet. We don't have internet in our apartment (grrrrrr), so I'm sneaking a little opportunity to go online at my office (shh!). I don't have time now for a full post, so I'll just say that it's been overwhelming.

More as soon as I have proper internet access!

Friday, June 1, 2007

It's coming

This is it, people.

In less than 48 hours, I will be going down to Washington, D.C. as a Congressional intern.

This should be a wild summer, so I hope you'll hold tight and join me for the ride. I'll be blogging about the ins and the outs, the ups and the downs, and all the stuff in between.

Here I go . . .