Capitol Goods’ Top 10 Things to Do in DC/Northern Virginia

In no particular order…..


1. Visit all the Smithsonian museums at the National Mall.

Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian

2. Eat a delicious, macaron-topped cupcake from the Cupcake Wars winners, The Sweet Lobby in Eastern Market.

Sweet Lobby's Salted Caramel Cupcake w/ Salted Caramel Praline Macaron on top

Sweet Lobby’s Salted Caramel Cupcake w/ Salted Caramel Praline Macaron on top

3. Go see the passing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery as well as the statue of Iwo Jima.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington

4. Eat a bowl of homemade Japanese ramen at Toki Underground on H street—about a mile off from Union Station Metro—but be prepared for a half hour or forty minute wait.

Ramen

Ramen….the Toki special

5. Shop ‘til you drop in Georgetown and go kayaking at the nearby Potomac River.

 

6. Spend the day lounging around the park and perusing the many bookstores, shops, cafes and bars at Dupont Circle.

7. Walk around Old Town Alexandria and be sure to visit the Torpedo Art Factory on the waterfront.

8. Take silly, touristy pictures at all the national monuments—and don’t forget to go to the Capitol as well as the Library of Congress.

9. Go hiking at Great Falls Park in McLean or have a picnic at Gravelly Point Park in Arlington, by the Ronald Reagan Airport (DCA).

Planes flying over Gravelly Point Park

10. Eat Korean BBQ in Annandale and emerge from the restaurant smelling like what is in your stomach.

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DWA: Drinking While Asian (The Unrealized Dangers of Asian Glow)

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During the summer, it’s common for us interns to have a few drinks here or there during happy hours or on weekends. And many of Asians out there, alcohol usually comes with a side of Asian glow. Unbeknowst to many, this condition can be a serious health issue. And as it turns out, simply taking Pepcid AC won’t solve this issue.


According to studies published by the Public Library of Science, people who drink but suffer from Asian glow (They can be non-Asians too!) have a far greater risk of getting cancer. Esophageal cancer, in particular, is 10x more likely for those who turn red from drinking.

For those of you unfamiliar with this glowing problem (no pun intended), what happens is that, after having one or two drinks, many Asians begin to turn red in the face. This redness can also spread to the body down to the hands and legs. A feeling of dizziness and headache as well as a faster heartbeat also arises. Doctors say that this glow is caused by a genetic deficiency that is very common among the East Asian population (around 40%). When alcohol enters your body, it is first metabolized into acetaldehyde, which is actually a carcinogen that can cause DNA damage and other cancer-promoting effects. An enzyme in the liver, called ALDH2, then turns acetaldehyde into a harmless substance called acetate, which is then further digested. But for those of you suffering from Asian blush, your body is actually lacking the ALDH2 enzyme, and acetaldehyde can actually build up in your body every time you drink!

Along with the usual health risks of alcohol, including short-term incapacitation and long-term heart risks, many AAPIs now have the added privilege of a 10-fold likelihood of developing one of the deadliest forms of cancer known to man! Now I’m not arguing for anything extreme, like prohibition. There’s nothing wrong with a few drinks occasionally. But even a steady habit as seemingly harmless as 2 drinks a day can trigger the extreme susceptibility of cancer down the line for many Asians.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa  “Should I have another?”

So if you have Asian glow, the next time you have a drink, keep this hopefully helpful lesson in the back of your mind. It’ll be an extra disincentive for you not to drink yourself into a stupor that night. Plus it’s also an additional reason for you to not develop a drinking habit/problem.

‘Till Next Week,

Dan

Don’t Call Me Fat: Asian American Body-shaming

Welcome to our second round of blog posts on AAPI issues. For previous posts on racial identity, click here.


Last week, at work (yes, at this internship), a fellow Asian-American coworker joked that I was “obese.” Another coworker chimed in that I might be considered a “pig.” You’re probably thinking that I should’ve run to Human Resources as fast as my chubby little legs could’ve carried me. Unfortunately, I was not all that fazed. You see, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before—from my Asian-American family, friends, and myself.

When I was little in China, I resembled a watermelon, which earned me the name “Fei Mei” (fat little sister). But that was in another country, where people had grown up in austerity and where Botticelli’s women might have been persecuted for excess under the Communist regime.  Certainly, the girls in China are much smaller than they are in the US: I am 122 pounds, in the perfect BMI range for my age, and I still have to wear XL or XXL in Chinese sizes. On a trip back to China, a photographer remarked to me that I must like “fatty pork” because I was so much bigger than most girls he photographed.

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The culprit.

These cultural differences are expected and understood; my expatriate family might seem like the epitome of excess to our friends back home. What’s disturbing is that these remarks and attitudes don’t just stay in Asia—they seem to have migrated along with our immigrant parents and are still pervasive in our American communities. I can’t count the number of times that my parents or their Asian-American friends have remarked that I have gotten a little plump, or that my baby fat was going away thank goodness. These kinds of statements are made in earnest, and supposedly for our own good: how was I supposed to attract a husband, without being stick-thin and white as a lotus flower?

In my Asian-American community, being fat was a sign of shame. Whenever my friend Raina’s* mom picked us up for tennis practice, she would compare how skinny each of were and lament the fact that Raina was the heaviest, leading to some of the most awkward car rides ever. At some point, I realized that these fat-shaming attitudes were rubbing off on me: suddenly, I looked down on Raina for having extra arm fat, and I would weigh myself constantly to make sure that I wasn’t gaining any weight.

While it’s true that all Americans are obsessed with dieting and losing weight, I can’t explain to my American friends that it’s a whole different ball game when it comes to AAPI’s. Americans want to be slim, but the AAPI’s that I know want to be microscopic. For some AAPI fashion bloggers (Stylishpetite.com and extrapetite.com), being able to fit into XXS sizes is a source of pride and the reason for their blog popularity. Some AAPI girls even diet before they go home for vacations, just so that their parents won’t call them fat (http://www.xojane.com/issues/fat-for-an-asian-the-pressure-to-be-naturally-perfect) . Not only are we constantly expected to uphold the ideal “small and delicate” Asian-American stereotype, but because of the shame involved in discussing our weight, we never get to have a healthy conversation about body image issues. All these factors add up to a maddening, inescapable circle of shaming and purging, all for a beauty standard that doesn’t make sense.

What’s more, I feel like body-shaming is the one topic that I cannot talk about with my non-AAPI friends, despite the fact that it’s the one that affects me daily. Any other topic about AAPI’s, including racial discrimination and hate crimes, leads to intelligent debate among my pals, but when I complain about Asian-American body-shaming, I am met with blank stares. “If you are fat, what am I?” my white friend would ask, to which I have to stammer that she is at a perfect weight. Which is true—even though she is 30 pounds heavier, she might be at her perfect weight for her culture. Whereas I am on the fat side “for an Asian”. However, there is just no way to bring up that issue in non-AAPI company without making it seem like I am humble-bragging.

The lack of discussion over this pervasive body-shaming has led me to feel estranged from both American and Asian cultures. While Americans admire curvaceous girls with golden tans, Asians are obsessed with skin-lightning creams and petite figures that look good in a tight qipao. I am both too chubby for my parent’s liking, but too skinny to fill out a bikini top. I tan easily, a fact that my American friends are jealous of, but I still carry an umbrella to block out the sun so I don’t tan too much, or else I will “look like a Mexican.” I am caught on the fence between two cultures, and what makes it worse is that staying on the fence makes me feel like I don’t belong in either.

I can totally fit into this qipao—if they don’t zip up the back.

As you can probably predict, this kind of cultural priming has probably contributed to thousands of eating disorders among Asian-American women. I was anorexic for a while, but I had to say “F that”, because I just love my fatty pork too much. That’s the reason I consider myself one of the lucky ones, because I can still have a good relationship with food. I can’t imagine the other Asian-American women who are out there counting calories and crying over a heartless comment by a loved one, women who can’t be happy with who they are because they are constantly bombarded with conflicting views of what to look like.

There is no easy solution. For most of us, the damage is done. I will never forget my Asian-American coworker’s astonished “You’re a HUNDRED AND TWENTY-TWO POUNDS?” for the rest of my life. And I’m scared that I might be guilty of transmitting these poisonous attitudes to the next generation, if my children ever see me compulsively dieting.

So for now, I will laugh off the comments (although I did talk to one of the coworkers about being insensitive, and he did apologize). I’ll eat my Mexican cheesy fries, and I’ll go to the gym for hours later to make up for it. It’s not an easy compromise—but since when has being AAPI ever been easy?


*Names have been changed. To read more from Brittney, you can visit her blog at Another Beautiful Thing.

Snippet Thursday: Crabs!

Located on the Southwest waterfront directly under I-395, the Maine Avenue Fish Market, known simply to locals as “The Wharf”, is the oldest continuously running fish market in the United States. Fresh and/or live seafood is sold on floating barges that line the pier on Water Street. Not only is The Wharf an historical landmark, but it’s also one of the best places to get great seafood for outstanding prices.

During the summer, live blue crabs are sold for less than a dollar each! And to top that off, the fishermen give you the option of having your live crabs steamed and seasoned with generous heapings of Old Bay Spices on the spot. Apart from crabs, fresh fishes, shrimp, oysters, mussels, lobsters, etc are all sold here for great prices and are freshly caught. The Maine Avenue Fish Market is a must-see destination for both tourists and locals, and YOU should definitely check it out during the summer!

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FEED THE INTERNS: Five Tips for Eating Well on an Intern’s Budget

1. Set a monthly budget for yourself.

Interning in one of the the country’s fastest growing food capitals, it is all too easy to burn a hole in one’s wallet by eating out at the many fine restaurants that dot the DC/NoVa landscape. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep track of your food expenses by setting and adhering to a budget.  If you’re a finance dork like me–or just really anal about your spending habits, you should create a Google or Excel spreadsheet, save your receipts (or remember the amount you spent) and record the amounts.

 Here’s a peek at mine(conditional formatting, FTW):

 

Note: If you also have a sweet tooth like me, you’ll want to set aside a budget just for cupcakes and macarons [I will literally starve myself for a week just to destroy a six-pack of those suckers–don’t tell my parents].

You should set two budgets–one for groceries and another for eating out. I eat at the pace of a gerbil, neglect to eat meat and vegetables and love my carbs, so a budget of $90 for groceries should tide me over for the entirety of my ten week internship. For the average adult, however, I would recommend $60 for a month’s worth of groceries and $70 (or less, preferably) for eating out. Another alternative for the smartphone users out there is Mint, a (free!) online budgeting tool that you can link to your bank accounts, credit cards and etc. to keep track of your spending.

2. Keep some basics in the pantry.

There are a couple inexpensive items that every intern/college student/broke graduate/starving artist should always have on hand. Peanut butter, Eggs, Milk, Bread, Oil, Pasta, Tomato Sauce and the requisite ramen. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few meals/snacks you can scrape together with just these ingredients: peanut butter sandwiches, egg sandwiches, egg noodle soup, peanut noodles, french toast, croutons, spaghetti and more. When you’re broke, you’ll eat anything (trust me…) and you’ll find inventive ways to create meals. This quote from one my favorite French authors, sums it up nicely: “L’esprit de l’homme est capable de tout” or the mind of man is capable of anything. Spill that tea, Maupassant.

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My “pantry” (above), Brittney’s pantry (below)

ImageFact: Brittney subsists entirely on teriyaki sauce and Lean Cuisine

3. Mayonnaise is your best friend.

On the topic of mayonnaise, you can never go wrong if you have this condiment in your fridge (unless you’re like Mama June). It pulls the simplest things together in a form that you can throw onto a sandwich or roll. Got any leftover rotisserie chicken? Shred the meat, dump it in a bowl, add a dollop of mayonnaise with a shake of pepper (heck, throw in some diced celery if you want some texture), mix it all together, slap that shiz in between two pieces of toast and you got yourself a meal! If you see that your eggs are expiring soon, boil those bad boys, chop it up and repeat above. Chicken salad, egg salad, potato salad, salad salad–take your pick!

 4. Cook everything in bulk.

As an economics student, I maximize my utility/happiness by refraining from cooking as much as I can help it. Swear to god, I am almost too lazy to function (but not nearly as lazy as Daniel). Anyways, here’s the dealio: cook up a pound of spaghetti (lasagna, pasta salad, kimchee fried rice, whatever!), store it all in tupperware (sauce and pasta in separate containers), pop it in the fridge or freezer and nuke it in the microwave when ready to eat. Follow the above steps and you will be set for the week for less than the cost of a burrito bowl. Cha-ching!!

5. Follow these other tips.

  • Browse and take advantage of the circulars/weekly specials/coupons of popular supermarkets in your area, such as Safeway, Giant, Trader Joe’s and Whole Stipend Foods.

  • Pay attention to expiration dates for dairy and meat products. If an item is expiring soon, such as a roll of sausage, cook it as soon as possible and store it in the fridge for later consumption. Milk and eggs are usually good for a week after the sell by date–you also have the option of freezing your milk or any anything else for that matter.

  • When ordering a dish at the restaurant, immediately ask your server to pack up half the portion of your meal in a to-go container and serve you the other half. This way you won’t be tempted to gorge on your food–plus, you’ll have another meal for later.

  • Attend company or organization-sponsored events in DC which often provide FREE catered meals as well as plentiful opportunities to network with interns and stay informed about current issues. See: Brookings, National Journal, OCA. Also, be sure to RSVP to these events. Shout out to the CAPAL-sponsored WLP, every Wednesday evening at 6:30 in the Capitol Building!

Hope these tips are helpful and that these tips save you a couple bucks…or pennies, at the very least!

Until next time, fellow un(der)paid interns!

Laura