BLOG: Intern reaches beyond tourism to community

 

Many people are familiar with the government buildings, the museums, and the national monuments in the nation’s capital. These are the things which draw countless tourists each year and reach millions more on the nightly news.

Stump visits firemen in the Mount Pleasant community. (Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Stump)

Being in the city for the semester, I have come to realize what it means to live in the city, though. It is the things that didn’t come immediately to my mind that are really the most important to know to survive in this city: where to shop, where to worship, and what issues matter to the people living here.

Eastern Market is right down the street from my apartment. On the weekends there is an outdoor farmer’s market and craft fair. During the week there is always fresh produce, meat, and baked goods for sale indoors. I love doing my shopping at Eastern Market!

Since I grew up in the country, I was used to eating fruits and vegetables grown by Amish families and knowing exactly where and how my meat was processed. (Ok, not always, since my family does do a good deal of our shopping at Wal-Mart). The experience is still very different from city life.

Because there is no farm land, the city is a food desert. As big box stores move in, the smaller corner markets are forced to close. I believe the landscape will look very different in 10 or 20 years, although I hope the city will still have its farmer’s markets.

I have had a hard time finding a church home in D.C., although there is no shortage of options. The closest church is a block from my apartment. I have attended several times and have also been to other churches in the Capital Hill district.

Last week I attended Peace Fellowship Church in Deanwood, where MCC’s Director Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach attends. It’s a small congregation but everyone was really friendly and made me feel at home. I was lacking this feeling of inclusion in the other churches I had attended. I think it is a group of people that I will miss when the semester is over.

I have been challenged to go out into the community and find stores and churches, but also to speak to the residents of DC. I attended a city ward meeting last month and heard the concerns of Capitol Hill residents. Don’t mention putting rooftop seating in your pub on Capitol Hill! It will turn into an hour long community debate.

I also visited with some firemen in the community of Mount Pleasant. They raised some concerns of their community members which are not uncommon in urban settings: lack of affordable housing, high crime rates, and gentrification.

The community of Mount Pleasant has changed drastically in the past decade, not always for the better, and its long-time residents are being pushed out by newcomers.

These are things which are not on the radar for most visitors to D.C. But issues as small as where to shop and participate in community life, to those as influential as gentrifying neighbourhoods to debates on D.C.’s statehood matter a lot to residents.

I have not missed out on seeing the sights of D.C., but I am especially thankful for the opportunity to live in and with the community, understanding their perspective and learning from it.

Kaitlyn Stump is a senior history major.

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