Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ranging in Washington DC!

So I am now officially a park ranger in Washington DC! It is very different from what I experienced at Wind Cave last summer, but I think I am really going to enjoy it a lot. There is an incredible amount of diversity in terms of what I am talking about here! I am basically covering every facet of American history from Colonial America all the way through the Vietnam War! It is a bit overwhelming, but I am sure I will be able to manage. :) It is invigorating and stimulating to be in an environment in which I can both draw upon so much from my previous studies and knowledge and also learn so many new things! It is a very different experience living here, but I have found a house to live in right in the main part of Washington DC within easy walking distance of the metro, which I am using to go into work each day. It seems like I am working with a good group of people, though there are 110 rangers working on the mall, so there are many I have not even met yet! One of the other new hires actually worked at Wind Cave the summer before I did and we have become fast friends.

I just got internet access last night so now I will actually be able to check email and do things online with some consistency! And I have cell phone service! Both very different from Wind Cave!

My address here in DC is as follows....

2125 4th St. NE
Washington DC, 20002

It is rather funny to ride the metro and walk around in a park ranger uniform in the middle of the city. All the other new employees are not in uniform, but with everything I already had (including the felt flat hat which I got this last summer even though I didn't have to yet) I have been able to put together a full uniform, which makes me look much more official and legitimate! We went through five days of training and then started on the job, actually being on site and interacting with visitors. I am not required to give talks, but I really want to so of course I am! I actually gave three talks at the WWII memorial the first day I was posted anywhere and spent the entire day out in the memorial talking to people. Just that one day was an amazing experience that was filled with unique and significant moments. Here are a few examples....

-I met a guy who was in the army during the war and stationed here in the US, but was set to ship out to the Pacific theater on August 7, 1945. That is the day after we dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. So from his perspective, the bomb kept him here in the US and meant he did not have to go and invade the mainland of Japan

-I met another veteran who served in the Pacific Theater in the Navy and was a part of the naval action surrounding Guadalcanal and other major conflict in the pacific

-Another guy started talking to me about how significant the memorial is to him because of how important WWII and the American involvement of America in it is to him as a Jew. He went on to tell me that he was from Israel and that the American involvement in the war was important to him, not only because it ended the Holocaust and removed Hitler from power, but also because it led to Israel becoming its own nation in 1948. He had come all the way here just to see that memorial.

And that is just a small selection from that day, my first day on the job! In addition to the actual job I am ideally positioned to see so much of American history. I spent five and a half hours going through the Holocaust Museum on Wednesday, which was very emotional and moving. Then that night I watched the movie "Inglorious Basterds," which was a perfect movie to watch after being so angry with Hitler and what he did!

In addition to my own joy in what I am doing, it seems as though my supervisors like me and that i have made a favorable impression. That was helped very much by me unknowingly making a very positive impression on a woman who I spoke to at WWII on Sunday. It just so happens that this woman is the Deputy Regional Director for the Pacific West region of the Parks service and upon returning from the memorial she took the trouble to write to her counterpart here on the East Coast, who then forwarded said comments to the higher ups at the mall, who passed in on to my supervisors who not only passed it on to me, but also read it aloud in front of the entire night shift when they were coming on tonight. Here is what she wrote...

"On my first day in DC I was roaming around enjoying the mall... ran across many of your staff, but most notably a really great interpreter at the WWII memorial named Garrett Radke. He was engaging, very knowledgeable, answering questions and volunteering information, making proactive contacts, letting visitors know (to their surprise) that they were in a national park, where else they might want to visit, and wearing the uniform well - including flathat - in this cold weather. Very professional, made us look good. And it turns out it's his first day on the job! Good hire."

Now that's confirmation! And then after I was made aware of this, the guy who hired me, who is also one of my supervisors, told me that I am doing a "kick-ass job," which made me laugh, but also think that I am in a good place! Who knows what will happen next?   

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