Thursday, June 25, 2009

Do yourself a favor...don't fly on American Airlines.

Not too much to write today...just lots of travel.

Was woken up this morning (the only morning I've been able to sleep in, and I was only trying to sleep until 9) by some very rude girls in the hostel. So that was lovely. Anyway, got up, got ready, got breakfast...the usual.

Checked on flights...everything appeared to be fine. Heck, even gates were posted. All was well. Got picked up by the shuttle right on time, and the driver was okay until he decided to tell us we had to fit in 5 more people even though we already had 9 people in the van plus the driver. Apparently none of us had a sense of humor.

Got to the airport, and the man at the outside check in sent me inside, saying they wanted me to check in at the inside counter for some reason, but he didn't know what that was. (I had a fairly good idea, but I didn't want to explain all that to him.) So I went inside, waited a good 20 minutes in line (again), and I still don't know why I had to check in inside...the man never did tell me that.

So I got my tickets, went down, waited around, boarded the plane...all no problem. The ride was quite turbulent, but even that was fine. The guy next to me on this flight was a veteran of First Persian Gulf, and he was very interesting, so that was nice. We talked some and I even slept for like 1/2 an hour, which I can't usually do on planes. (Darn headaches.)

So turbulent flight aside, things are going well. This, of course, is where things go bad.

I get to Chicago, and we are put at the smallest, most cramped gate ever. Mind you, it only has like 10 seats. So I decide I'm going to have lunch at the Chili's restaurant across the way so I can have a seat. Fine. I get done and they've changed our gate, thank goodness. (I have a THREE HOUR layover.) I go to the new gate, watch some CNN, get really sleepy, etc.

Then they tell us that our plane is delayed 10-15 minutes because the last plane was a little delayed, so they just have to do the safety check and we'll be off. Fine...I can handle 10-15 mins. After TWENTY minutes, they start boarding us, and I think we ended up starting to taxi out about 30 mins late, which puts us at about 6:20. Fine, I can deal with this.

Then we realize we are NINTH in line to take off!!! Nothing we can do about it, of course, so we wait. And wait. And wait. Next thing you know, the captain comes on saying we're 3rd in line now. Fine. Then we don't move an inch for like 10 mins. Suddenly, the captain comes on again...a plane HIT A BIRD ON THE RUNWAY, so they have to make sure it's clear of any foreign objects (i.e. bird claws). LOL.

FINALLY, we take off about a few mins after 7. By this time, the flight attendant has been rude to a pregnant woman who just asked for water because we had been sitting on the plane for an hour by this time.

We landed before 7:30. Yes, the flight was all of like 20 minutes. We sat on the plane, on the ground, for about FOUR TIMES AS LONG AS THE FLIGHT!!! The bus was looking really good at some points, but I guess at least we made it.

So now I'm home, and of course I came home to a disaster of a bedroom because of the water the night before I left. That was nice to remember when I came downstairs. Oh well...forces me to reorganize and maybe weed out some things. It is good to be home, though, even though I miss DC and all the people. I missed my friends and especially my FAMILY!!!

So I definitely won't fly American again, and I may think twice about flying between Milwaukee and Chicago again. (If you want to know the whole story, check out the first blog about my trip TO DC, "Airports and First Hours in DC." You will quickly understand why I refuse to fly American after my first experience with them.)

Oh, and that blog of top moments and key quotes is coming...just as soon as I sleep enough to make my brain work again...and unpack my paperwork. <3

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Well, John, do you think we can sign onto their bill?!"

I'll just cut to the chase--


Story time:
This morning we went to Senator Kohl's constituent breakfast, and we got to talk to him personally. He asked if we were in town visiting, and we explained that we were here to lobby for Invisible Children, etc. We talked to him for several minutes, even though his staffers were trying to pull him away. They did take him in for pictures, and when we went in for our picture, he asked if we had talked to anyone on his staff, and of course we had. We pointed out the guy who we talked to (John), who happened to be standing in the room. So Senator Kohl goes, "Well, John, do you think we can sign onto their bill?" And his response was, "I think we can!" with a big smile! (Yes, this from the same guy who was so crabby yesterday...I think he was impressed that we came back.) So hopefully...he's not on the THOMAS database yet, but FIVE OTHER Senators are! (H.R. 2478 and S.1067) Did I forget to mention that TWENTY-EIGHT Representatives were added yesterday as well?!


So then we wanted to say thank you to Senator Feingold if he was available, but he wasn't, so we talked to Peter (whose job I still wanted) again, and he gave us an update on the additional cosponsors since yesterday. THEN Lyndsey, one of the girls in our group, ran into Senator Feingold on the street, and so she did get to say thank you! EXCITING!

In other news, I also went to Union Station, the National Postal Museum (which was actually interesting, contrary to what one might think), and the National Museum of African Art (which was VERY cool) and the adjacent garden. Oh, and I had lunch at Cosi's...a DC tradition. Was a great day...many highs.

I can't tell you, honestly, how great the trip has been. I so love it here, and coming for this event was surely the best impromptu decision I've ever made.

Can't wait to return.

I'll post another blog of quotes and such from the trip when I get home, but there will be many. Stephen Lewis (UN Special Envoy) was HILARIOUS, as was Tom Shadyac (Hollywood director of Ace Ventura, etc, whose movies I don't actually like). And of course, pictures to come on Facebook. <3

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"And a shout out to my fellow Wisconsinites!"

Today was...oh my. I can't really put it into words. Probably top few days of my life.

We met on the park just above Capitol Hill this morning, and the one-and-only Russ Feingold addressed the group. It was great. He recognized the 30 of us from Wisconsin, which was really nice. Actually, all week people have been saying it's really cool to be from Wisconsin since we've got Senator Feingold to stand up for us, both on this issue and in general. (He's the one who introduced the bill that we're lobbying for in the Senate, so without him we wouldn't have anything specific to lobby for.)

Then we got ready for meetings and such in our group, and of course everyone came to me with questions. One man, Brian, used to be a lobbyist by profession. He asked me how I got to be "in charge" of Wisconsin, and I told him I honestly didn't know. I mean, I know I have experience working with people in the high school age group, where many of these people are classified, but I honestly don't know how or why I am truly leading this.

So our first meeting is scheduled to be with Senator Kohl's office at 10. We go in early and they ask for a business card, so I give them mine (odd...just ran that off...) and we waited. Now you have to picture 30 people (mostly between like 17 and 22 or so) crammed into this little office. Needless to say, if even three of us talked, the office was loud, so some people went into the hall until we'd get called. Well, it turns out the guy who we were supposed to meet with was stuck on the bus because he took it into work instead of the Metro because the lines were still down after the crash yesterday. So she asked if we could reschedule, and after a little figuring on my part, we decided on 2:30. Great.

We chilled out in the basement (ground level, actually...the basement was a separate floor below the ground level, which was below the first was odd) of the Hart Senate Office Building until the meeting with Senator Feingold's office which was at noon. We had some really interesting conversations, and I never would have expected some of these things to come from the mouths of high school students. Apparently I've underestimated them. These have been some of the most intelligent people I've met.

Senator Feingold's meeting was great. We met with his Legislative Assistant for African Affairs, who was very, very cool. I actually almost told him I wanted his job, but then I decided that was a very bad idea. Basically in that meeting we just told them we were very proud to have Senator Feingold representing us, why this issue matters to us, and to keep up the good work. No big deal...good start.

Then we all talked some more and I got to meet a girl named JoLeah, who I had lunch with. (Well actually, she had lunch and I watched, then I had lunch and she watched, lol.) We were talking about taking risks and coming out to DC, careers, and her experience as a Roadie for IC. (For those who don't know, those are the people who go around the US in vans doing the movie screenings at different locations every day or two. Incredible.) She had so much good advice and was so sincere and caring. She kept telling me to decide what I want to do and do it. She said (for about the 50th time that day) that I look like I should work on Capitol Hill, would be really good at it, and also should be a Roadie. I have no idea how those two things would go together, but she was such a sweetheart and it was amazing to have someone I literally just met be so caring and supportive. Really, these are MY PEOPLE.

So then we meet with Senator Kohl's office. While we're waiting, I see Senator Kohl get off the elevator, and I SWEAR he was walking around with his eyes closed. Anyway, after I tell the couple people who were there early with me that it was him, they decide that we should go into his office and find out if he could sit in on the meeting or at least stop in quickly. They said it depended on his other meetings, which were scheduled back-to-back. Fine; that's what we expected. His staffer (legislative correspondent) seemed...I don't know...bored and generally not happy with his job. But we met with him, and he said he'd pass on our message. As we were leaving Hobie (bless him) asked if there was any possible way we could meet with the Senator himself tonight or tomorrow. She said he actually had time tomorrow morning and we could have breakfast with him!!! So we're scheduled to have breakfast with him tomorrow at 9am. EXCITING!

Then we had a little more time to kill until the meeting at 5:15 with Congressman Sensenbrenner's office. (Please note my feeling about him: UGH.) I did a few things to kill the time, then went over to his office building early. Good thing I was poorly numbered. I don't know why people can't just number rooms the right way, but I digress. We assembled the group and met with a representative from his office. The Congressman was supposed to meet with us as well (I didn't know they even worked that late!!!), but he had to go over to the Senate building to deal with some amendments, apparently. So we met with him, and he was very attentive. He had some odd/tricky questions, but we could answer them all, which was good. He gave us some positive remarks about supporting the bill, so it seems that even that meeting went well.

Then went back to hostel, changed, went to the closing concert/rally. It was great, but it's sad to see everyone go. Honestly, this event was probably one of the best, if not the single best thing I've ever done. There are amazing people here and throughout the country and world, and I can't wait to keep in touch and meet more of them.

So I get back to the hostel after walking like 12 blocks each way to the rally (because really, some Metro stops are pointless and inconveniently placed), and I was great. Then I got a phone call from The Shawn Schmalken, someone I met here. Was bad news about one of the girls that he met here who was staying where I am. Just brought the day down.

So tomorrow holds the meeting with Senator Kohl and hopefully good news about Liz. But let me reiterate one thing: This was, quite possibly, the best and most worthwhile thing I've done in my entire life.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that we've added at least four cosponsors to the bill since this morning?! :-D

Monday, June 22, 2009


Tenacity - not giving up; not taking the easy way out.

This is the word of the day. Ending this war has not been easy, nor will it be. We've waited days out in the rain, circled the globe five times...and now we're preparing to march down the halls of Congress to convince our representatives of the importance of this issue. The LRA and child soldiers are number 200 on a list of priorities of this administration--we need to be in the top ten for anything to happen. We can do this, but it won't be easy.

Today was such an amazing day. It was so good--so sweet--that I can't imagine better. And then I think about tomorrow and know I'm on the eve of possibly the best day of my life.

But today...after all, I'm enjoying every second of my time here...

Today started off early with breakfast and a trip to the convention center. It was good stuff, and I immediately made friends with people from around the country, including Suzanne and her brother Ramsey, Jessica, Emily, and Lindsay. Seriously, these are my kind of people--especially Jessica. She interned (on her own, not through a program) with the State Department this past fall. Just a very cool girl from California. Anyway, we waited in line for a while before the conference started, but then I was privileged to listen to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Court. He was brilliant, and I really enjoyed listening to him.

Then there was a panel of Stephen Lewis (HILARIOUS!), John Prendergast, and the Ugandan Minister of State, whose name I will include in a later blog when I talk about what I learned. (I can't possibly include that here because I'm exhausted and it's extensive.) Anyway, really all of the presenters were fantastic.

There was no time for lunch; nor was I hungry. This was too EPIC. Now usually, that word doesn't just get thrown around, and I'm not about to use it just for the heck of it. Really, this was EPIC. Look it up.

Then this evening we got into groups based on what state we were from, and Wisconsin was quite a few of high school and college-aged people, so I pretty much immediately took charge. I introduced myself and didn't want to step on anyone's toes, but I do know a little about how Congress works, so I gave some pointers and delegated who should discuss what in our meeting. Then I changed around the agenda for Senator Feingold's meeting because he's already doing what we want him to...we just need to let him know why it's important to us that he keeps doing it. So I'm proud to say that I am LEADING WISCONSIN into the Congressional halls tomorrow.

As if this leadership weren't enough, I was about to be, quite literally, bumping elbows with some of my heroes. Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole, the founders of Invisible Children, threw a party for US, some of the top supporters through the TRI Campaign. Now, I'm not the type to go up and just start talking to any one person. Yes, I can definitely lead a whole group, but I have trouble making conversation with a new individual.

Next thing I know, I'm standing there at this party and Jolly Okot, one of the Ugandans who was instrumental in founding Invisible Children, was standing like 15 feet from me, and I went and said hello. No big deal.

THEN, I'm upstairs thinking about how I'd like to meet the founders and talk to them for a couple minutes and what I'd say to them if I ever got the chance. Not three seconds later, Laren is standing literally like 6 inches from me. So we say hello and go on our way. I turn around and Jason is right in front of me, so now is my chance. I introduced myself, told him where I'm from and that I admire their work. He thanked me for coming and I told him how I see something new each time I see the films and that the most recent time I saw "Rough Cut," I realized it was all about taking risks. Then I told him about how my life is changing and they've had a part in it. He was SO incredibly cool and proud and then ASKED IF I WANTED TO TAKE A PICTURE! That's right...HE asked ME! Seriously, coolest guy ever. So we did that and he asked me my name again (as if he really wanted to remember it) and then we parted.

THEN, Bobby isn't more than like 5 feet from me, so I decide, "What the heck?!" So I go and talk to him, and we shot the shit, too. Talked about all kinds of stuff and apologized for asking to have a picture as well, but he said he was flattered. Was just incredible.

So anyway, these are seriously the COOLEST GUYS in the ENTIRE WORLD. I will post the pictures later, but it was an amazing day.

This brings me back to TENACITY. No, it might not be easy for me to walk up and introduce myself. No, it might not be easy to end this war. But both are OH SO WORTH IT. <3

Sunday, June 21, 2009

DC Local?!

This morning I woke up SUPER was very odd and not very comforting. I drank a LOT of water, though, and I feel better now. (Don't worry, mom. I'm drinking lots of water and being aware of my surroundings. And thanks, Jen, I'm staying safe.) Anyway...

Once I got my wits about me I pull out stuff to get ready for the day, and I ended up meeting some really cool girls from NY in the bathroom, of all places. Apparently I have a tendency to meet really cool people in weird places. I let the one girl borrow my hairspray after I heard her ask someone else, and she said that would never have happened where she lives...people are rude there. (Must be like Chicago.) Then she kept singing "I Just Can't Wait to be King" from the Lion King soundtrack. (I told you, she was a cool girl.) It was hilarious, but then I listened to the lyrics, and they were pretty telling of this trip:

No one saying do this,
No one saying be there,
No one saying stop that,
No one saying see here,
Free to run around all day,
Free to do it all my way!

Also, I learned something new today: In my study, approximately 90% of foreigners have milk in their coffee. (Said study was done during breakfast, of course.)

So I got out this morning, and after going to CVS (the ONLY time I've been hit up for money, so far!) I went to the National Archives. Was great. All the signs say the wait is going to be like an hour to even get in, and I waited like 20 mins, max. So I get in and I saw all kinds of things, including a short film that was oddly inspiring. I want to research something at the National Archives just because I can! (I may actually do that--just something simple--on Wednesday just because.) Of course I look at more things and read everything. So then I get to the part where you can see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Now you have to imagine ME doing this. Of course, I am super excited. The guard lets me in specially because he says,
"The single visitors I just let go right up to the floor." (He was very cool and let me up through his special rope guide dealy. So there I am, beyond excited to see the founding documents that changed the course of history. My excitement comes crashing down when this mom goes to her son, "Look, the Declaration of Independence! Can you believe this was written in 1779?" INSANE! Of course, I want it to be my job to correct her...but I refrain. That kid's going to be screwed up.

So I eventually leave there and go up to Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street. It's supposedly Bill Cosby's favorite place, and it was quite good (though spicy). It was the most crowded restaurant I've ever been in, though!!! I'd recommend it.

Then I take the Metro back down to the White House Visitor Center. Okay, so, it's nice that it's there and all, but I thought it was lame. I'd much rather just stand in front of the White House and look at it than have the video show me rooms and look at plaques. I'll just say I was underwhelmed and expected better. So needless to say, I left there pretty quickly.

Then I went to the National Gallery of Art--first the sculpture garden and then the East Gallery. This was a LONG walk because I didn't get back on the Metro. (It's not like there's a stop close the the Visitor's Center anyway.) Saw some very cool art, some of which I will upload pictures of later. Now, by this time it's like 6pm and I've been walking for like 9 hours. So I go back to the hostel for...actually, I can't remember why. I think I just went back there after I got frustrated with Cosi's. (It was still open...I called and asked. But the street door--they're in a building suite--was locked. Strange.) I sit down on my bed for like 2 mins and crashed. Woke up like 2 hours later and decided it was really time for dinner now, since it was like 8pm. So I called Oodles Noodles, this sushi and asian noodle place I had heard about, and they were open til 10. (Remember, everything closes early here, so I've learned to call ahead for hours.)

So I find it (with the help of my sister and the internet because this place wasn't on my map), and it was awesome. Great sushi, great noodles (which I actually have leftovers of...mmmmmm!), and a FABULOUS drink. Yes, a drink. I SO deserved it. Rum, cherry liqueur, cranberry, and orange juices. Bacardi Tu Tu Cherry...mmmmmmmm! Oh, and it turns out the name of the place is actually Noori, but I liked "Oodles Noodles" better. :-)

Other notes from the day:
1. I forgot that I don't like the tap water here. Oodles Noodles had good water, though, too.
2. I cannot go like an hour without someone asking me for directions or the like. Apparently I walk around here like I know where I'm going or something. :-) I love it when I can answer confidently. <3
3. The high school girls I met today called me a "lady." That was odd. I am not that old, nor that much older than she is.

Think that's about it...still loving it. HOW IT ENDS starts tomorrow. I am SO PSYCHED!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Airports and First Hours in DC

Oh, what a day!

My flight this morning was…interesting. Was supposed to leave Milwaukee on a 7am flight to Chicago, then take a 10:20 flight to DC-Reagan. No big deal, right?! Of course it was! Needless to say, this did not happen. After standing in line for over FORTY (yes, 40!) mins with my mom who wanted to make sure I got my luggage onto my flight without having to check it and trying to self-check-in, I finally made it to the counter when the woman told me my flight was delayed until 9:25. (This I already knew.) I asked her—very politely, mind you—if I could get rerouted through their 8:35 flight to Chicago (which would clearly still get me into Chicago well before the “7:00” flight would have landed at 10:10). She promptly snapped back that it was already overbooked. My fault? Clearly not.

The next flight leaving Milwaukee for Chicago wasn’t until after noon, so she tells me I can take the bus. Said bus leaves in TWELVE minutes. I ask what the cost difference is and she says I have to pay for the bus! Excuse me?! It’s not even raining and there are no late arrivals, so I have no idea why my plane is delayed, but now I have to pay for a bus?! I think not. After more questioning, she says they can either pay for the bus for me ($26) or refund my flight. In that case, yes, I will pay for the bus and get my refund. I agree to pay for the bus, so she prints off some kind of ticket I have to send in to American Airlines to get the refund. Fine. Then she searches high and low for at least 3-4 minues for some special envelope I have to send said ticket in. Okay, got it…and I’ve got like 3 mins left to get to said bus. So she shows another delightfully hilarious girl and me where the bus stops. After going all over the place, we get to the bus stop, and, no lie, pretty much immediately the bus pulls up, takes tickets, and we drive away. That was lucky. (The next bus doesn’t leave for an hour.)

The bus driver says the lady is full of crap…the bus takes longer than she says, so the delightfully hilarious girl is going to miss her next flight to Richmond, though she has now had two chances to make it. Luckily, I should still make my flight.

Bus ride was uneventful. Chicago was…well, rude. Because basically, it’s Chicago. I do not enjoy it there. Pretty much I read Army Wives and watched people run through the airport.

So finally they start calling people to board flights. They go through the zones, and they finally get to mine and I give my ticket to the woman, and she starts to give it back to me, and then she goes, “Oh, there’s a problem.” Extremely uncool. Turns out, the woman in Milwaukee (who seemed a little off to begin with) didn’t notify anyone that I was taking the bus, so they marked me as a no-show. This then cancelled my reservation on the flight to DC! So I explain everything that has happened and she rebooks me on the flight to DC. Fine. Then she has to redo my reservations to come back because those got cancelled as well!!! She says it should all be okay, but I should make sure to check online tonight. Now that my flight is completely rebooked, I can leave to DC.

The kid next to me on the plane was bugging me, but other than that it was fine. No one seemed to realize, though, that some people need to get off the plane in a hurry—namely, me. Found a restroom, got to the shuttle, met some really cool people here for a charter school conference, and all was good. I’ve made it to DC, and boy did I forget how much I love it here!!!

So the people on the shuttle…I ran into them again! What are the odds?! I’m just walking down 11th Street NW, minding my own business but aware of my surroundings, when all of a sudden I hear this voice… “Hey! Hey! Um…Invisible Children girl!” I realized the shouter was talking to me! See, they asked if I was here for the charter school conference, too, and I said no and told them why I’m here – to lobby Congress for Invisible Children. So yeah, in a city this big with this many people, I was shocked.

Went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History today after walking past the Archives, which were PACKED!!! I hope to go there first thing tomorrow, then to a few other things to be told later. Anyway, the museum was very cool, but I only saw a small portion of it. My favorite part was about the military history of the US…it was touching. Also very interesting and unique Presidential artifacts.

Then was trying to go to Ben’s Chili Bowl for dinner but decided to see what was actually in the Old Post Office Pavilion. Turns out, you can actually go up inside of it, all the way to the top where the bells are!!! SO cool. Then grabbed a bite to eat in their food court dealy and hiked (only like 5-6 blocks) back up toward the hostel, stopping at a couple stores along the way. Good stuff.

Things I remembered within the first 6 hours I’ve been here:
1. Everything closes early.
2. There is a Starbucks on every corner. Literally.
3. Just how much I really love this city. <3

New things I learned about DC within the first 6 hours of this trip:
1. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY prefer to stay downtown. HIGHLY.
2. When the museums close, everyone goes to H&M and Barnes and Noble.
3. Even “extended summer hours” end early.
4. You can meet really cool people on shuttles.
5. Summer is really different from winter. Fewer deadbeats in summer, many MANY more tourists (all people in shorts), and lots of music on the streets.
6. This hostel is a BAZILLION times better than the last one.
7. People at this hostel like to stay in, even in the middle of the day. LAME.