Navigating the Capital: Tales of Ozi in DC

picture of a street in DC at night

Ozichi EmeziemMatsui Washington Fellows

September 9, 2015

Part One -- Arriving in a New Place & Discovery of a New Space!

The days leading up to my departure seem so surreal… Between classes, final projects, and preparations for my trip, I haven’t had the time to sit and think about the fact that I will be relocating in a few days. I am a Libra and change has never been comforting. I enjoy the way things are, how I know things to be, I live in the past, and the idea of evolution, transformation, does not necessarily enthuse me. Rather, it scares me. It is the unknown, nothing that I can ever efficiently be prepared for because I have no clue as to what I am truly preparing for. As a Libra, one of the major concepts that I must overcome is my fear of change; I must learn to embrace it instead of run away from it and as my senior year arises, there are a lot of changes in store for me.

My small reminder of home and travel buddy!

My last day in the Bay Area consists of hugs, kisses, good wishes, and a safe journey. It still does not occur to me that for the first time in my life I am about to set out on my own. In fact, my family has been within reach my whole life and not even college afforded me the opportunity to leave the nest as they live only 30 minutes away. I have always had them by my side, just as I have had the same friends from middle school who I hang out with on the weekends, just like I have attended school with my twin since our pre-kindergarten years, like how I call my father to pick me up on his way home from work whenever I need a dose of home and the hugs of my mom. I have never really been on my own. While I rely on myself at school, my support system has always been strong and I have never had to really push myself out of my comfort zone because I could always rely on someone to be there. If I can recall a moment, my twin and I were talking about our plans after college and I said that I wanted to move to New York. As much as he loves and supports me, he said, “you’ll never make it out there” and justified his reasoning by referring to our first year in college when I would go home every weekend because I missed my family so much... I always think about it, even to this day, will I be my own setback?

I guess not this time...this time I am leaving him, I am leaving them, and embarking on my own trip. Yet, these good-byes on my last night do not really feel...real. Am I really leaving? Am I actually pushing myself to experience more than what Berkeley could ever give me? If anything, images of what I am going to miss this semester flood my mind: my family, the incoming class of first years who lived on the Afro floor, facilitating FemSex, the yardshow, football games, and worst of all, the 21st birthday that my twin and I should be celebrating together, but I am going to D.C.… such an abstract, unknown place that I had a chance to visit in eighth grade and missed. Now here is another chance while I am older to not only explore the nation’s capital, but the East Coast! So, I say my good-byes to friends and head home to finish packing four months worth of life. I do not sleep a wink the night before and rightly so as my flight leaves without me by 8:30 am. Luckily enough, there is an extra seat on the red eye flight so the second time that my mom drops me off, after a series of hugs and an onslaught of her tears, by midnight I have been flying in the air for two hours, enveloped in sleep, bound to wake up in my new home.

Just as my departure felt so surreal, living in Washington, D.C. feels just as surreal. I can’t believe that I am actually here, it is almost as if I will just blink and suddenly I am back in California as if this was nothing but a dream. Even if it is a dream, my excitement wouldn’t change- this is a chance to broaden my horizons, see places beyond the TV or in textbooks, and also to learn and develop myself...and my first two weeks have been nothing less than enriching. I spend days exploring the city, memorizing the street names and hotspots...Rhode Island Avenue, Massachussetts Avenue, New York City Avenue, 17th Street, 14th Street, 12th Street, K Street, T Street, U Street, where there is so much life and activity. I relish in the humid nights, which seem so much more exciting than the daytime, as people roam the streets and the constant sound of cars ushers me to sleep.

Our neighbor! My first night in D.C., I thought I would drop by and say hello!

Our tour guide said that most people miss this part of the Lincoln Memorial...So, if you ever visit, be sure to stop on the second platform, right before the last set of stairs, in the center, and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the precise spot that he gave his speech. (A tip: pour water on the words so that you can see it clearly unless it blends right in and you'll end up walking right over it!)

Now that my internship has started and I am a working 9-5er, I have a chance to meet professionals who are utilizing law in a field that I am so passionate about. So, my nights consist of a little less exploring and more time preparing lunch for the next day as well as homework, but not many people can say that they worked for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which was established by JFK himself. My favorite aspect of D.C. by far is the food! It seems as if on every block, as I pass every building, there is a new place for me to try out. My friend recently took me to a South African, Portuguese flame grilled chicken joint called Nando’s, which is absolutely tasty (if you ever visit, order the Chicken Breast Wrap Extra Hot). I also love how accessible things are around here! Although I am not a fan of the Metro, which I would argue is worse than Bart, I love the fact that there are so many events happening that I can Uber to in under eight minutes. Where else can I catch events such as forums on the Iran Nuclear Deal in the National Press Building and a Caribbean festival next? In fact, my roommates and I are planning to go to Virginia Beach this weekend and New York is next on the list!

Still in shock...

Although the quality sucks, how beautiful is this gave me chills to be able to actually see this.

As I stated earlier, as a Libra, change can be scary, but this stay in D.C. with all the changes that it may bring, does not seem intimidating. I love the fact that “California” can be read on me very quickly because I love my home state, but D.C. seems to hold promises of an exciting, fast-paced adventure. These series of posts are not meant to just reflect my time in this amazing city, it will not just be filled with tales of my tourism, but also my growth, development, and the nuances of navigating D.C. as a black woman in the professional world as well as in daily encounters. I have yet to feel homesick because I want more...Stay tuned because I assure you it is going to be one interesting journey!

Until next time, Ozi.

headshot of ozichi emeziem

Ozichi Emeziem is a 3rd year at Cal majoring in Comparative Literature with a minor in Ethnic Studies. She was born and raised in the Bay Area and is grateful for the opportunity to venture out of her comfort zone. Hence, she is incredibly honored to have received the Matsui Fellowship and continue her academic journey in the nation's capital. She hopes to gain insight particularly within the legal realm as she plans to pursue a career in law as well as broaden her understanding of different issues. Most of all, she is extremely excited to see what Washington D.C. has to offer and cannot wait to share her experience with friends, family, and other Matsui fellows!