Sunday, September 18, 2005

The DC Metro is a perplexing mode of transportation; like any subway it allows for somewhat rapid subterranean travel, but it strikes me as the baby of real subways. The Metro certainly stops all over town, but, for the most part, it leaves its passengers in the most familiar and well known areas of the city: Capitol South, Metro Center, Dupont Circle, Smithsonian – all reek of tourism. My objective is not to see DC through the lens of fanny packs and Mickey Mouse sweatshirts, but to find the city I must now come to know as my own.
With this mission in mind I leave the maps and disposable cameras behind as I embark from the Woodley Park – Zoo / Adams Morgan station. I walk over a bridge towards one of the few areas of DC that is active after eight o’clock in the evening, but on Adams Mill St. I decide to change my course. I look to the right and notice a slightly less populated by infinitely more “local” neighborhood. I quickly find this to be one of Washington’s Hispanic areas and it feels as if I have entered a new world.
Spanish is shouted around me, and I am slightly proud of how much I can pick up with just my high school training. Children play ball in the back alleys and I pass “The Grill From Ipanema,” a interesting restaurant with a trendy name but less than trendy dishes; Alligator, Brazilian sodas and other Ethnic cuisine complete the menu and I can the sweet smell of cooking meat and vegetables rolls out from within the eatery. I thought it odd that a Brazilian restaurant would find success in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood, but I suppose it is just a testament to the diversity of Washington.
The sun is setting now as I walk past “Banco Americo” and the children are moving indoors; I can hear mothers yelling from apartments, beckoning their “niños” inside. A calm breeze seems to whip mosquitoes into the evening air, and I pick up my pace back to the Metro. This was the first night I understood what it means to “wander” in a new city- to see something special in the place I now live. I am starting to realize DC is not just a tourist Mecca, but also the place that more than half of a million people, including myself, call home.

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