On Thursday morning, I left for the nation's capital. As I indicated before, the NSF requested my presence and expertise to help them decide how to evaluate one of their programs. It was a beautiful day, in the 70's both here and there. But, I had read the weather report, so I packed some warmer clothes for Friday and Saturday, because it was supposed to get down below freezing.
On Thursday evening there was a dinner, at which we were all introduced and the next day's schedule was discussed. I was seated next to an NSF division director, and I had fun talking with her. She was really nice and I felt very encouraged to see a woman in this position of power. I asked her about her career path, and she explained how she had gotten where she is now. I liked her because she was so friendly, but also she was really interested to hear about my precious son, a surefire way into any mother's heart.
On Friday, we had a long day of meetings. I had discovered on Thursday that I was recommended to participate in this process by someone I knew as a graduate student, who now works for the NSF on this program. I was a participant in this program as a graduate student, which is how he got to know me. Other panel members were professional evaluators, educators, and professors. So I had a unique perspective that I believe helped to inform the program evaluation.
Friday night, I went out to dinner with my cousin Carrie, a resident of D.C. By that time, it was really cold and snow was falling. But I was really thrilled, because I have not gotten a chance to experience that kind of bone-chilling cold and snow since my last winter in Illinois. So while Carrie, like any sensible person, was decked out in a hat, scarf, and gloves, I was wearing a warm sweater and a fleece jacket but no hat, scarf, or gloves, and enjoying it greatly. Carrie had made us a reservation at a very nice Italian restaurant. I had pork with red cabbage and gnocchi. I don't know what they did to that red cabbage but it was really tasty. We rounded out the meal with some incredible bread pudding that melted in your mouth.
The next morning, I met Carrie at the Metro station near her apartment, and she showed me the city. She kindly allowed me to leave my bags at her place, and also to use the internet to try to check on my flight, which I thought might be canceled because of the weather. The D.C. area was not hard hit, but oftentimes flights originate further northeast and land there before continuing south. But I could find no information about my flight being canceled or anything, so we just went on as if it were still as originally scheduled.
We went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and saw the Contemporary Folk Art exhibit, which was just fascinating. One exhibit, in particular, was absolutely incredible: James Hampton's The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly was constructed over the course of fifteen years, made out of found objects and scrap, and he did it on evenings and weekends after work. It is amazing when viewed in person.
Then we had lunch at a restaurant that serves tapas. For those of you who are Philistines like me, tapas is a Spanish concept, where you eat many small dishes, kind of like appetizers but not quite. Anyhow, we ordered five of them between the two of us, and they were really good. There was spinach with raisins and bits of apple, kind of stir-fried, and that was tasty. There was a bread with special tomato sauce and special cheese, and that was good too. Then we also had rice and mushrooms in a wine sauce with cheese on top, and that was delicious. And we had some sort of stuffed red sweet peppers, which was surprisingly good. But the one I liked best was cubes of potatoes kind of fried crispy like hash browns, with a spicy tomato sauce on top. We finished out the meal with a chocolate-hazelnut torte.
After that it was time for me to go to the airport, so I got my stuff from Carrie's place and headed to the airport.
My trip home deserves an entry of its own.