Despite the charming 7am wake up call, we all gathered bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ready for an eventful day three with three meetings. After befriending the security guards at USAID (in other words, we didn’t), we met with two very passionate members of the Asia division: Matthew and Joseph. USAID is a government agency for international development and has presence in all developing countries in Asia, working through a country development co-operation strategy. We learnt about the various projects and New Zealand’s role as a donor community.
Next stop was the Senate. We were all in awe of the vast hallways and important pantsuit-clad Hillary wannabes roaming the halls. When we excitedly met with Francisco Bencosme, he led us through to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing Room. If our mouths were not already agape they definitely were after hearing about his humble beginnings and road he took to the marble floors of the Senate. His amazing backstory inspired us all. This meeting was a definite highlight of the trip so far. It concluded with us running around the room and taking photos at the chairperson’s desk with their gavel. One delegate sat in Rubio’s seat and claims her bum will forever be connected with his and life changed forever because of it.
We dispersed for lunch, exploring the wide range of food options in the business district in small groups. Two hours and one attempt to order tea at a local café later (American’s don’t understand the concept of sharing a pot of tea between six), we reunited outside the brand new Oxfam offices for a thirteen-story elevator ride. Oxfam is a privately funded charity that operates globally out of offices in seventeen countries, that strives to provide solutions to hunger and poverty amongst disadvantaged peoples across the world. We were greeted by three staff members upstairs, who shared with us Oxfam’s work on climate change, gender empowerment, and policy development. Learning about the complex factors involved in organisational decision-making and creating policy was a real eye-opener into the operations of a global charity, and we enjoyed the opportunity to meet people who were as passionate as we were to make a positive difference in the world.
After a cheeky group photo with one of our hosts, we meandered back to the hostel for a spot of free time and the chance to sort out our outfits for the evening’s dinner. We dined at Old Ebbitt Grill, a classy restaurant famous for its history of presidential patronage. Unfortunately we did not bump into Barack, but this disappointment was more than made up by the excitement of meeting our dinner guest, Ben Contreras, a UN Youth alumni. He engaged with us in discussion about Kiwi perceptions of American politics and culture, as well as some banter about the Democratic primaries.
Following departure from the restaurant and our farewells to Ben, the night wound up with a jaunt down to the corner burger joint to partake in the classic American ‘shake’ experience. From Oreo to S’more to Salted Caramel, the flavour range did not disappoint. We returned to the hostel tired but content, ready to rest after a long but rewarding day.
Written by: Matt Schep and Nikita Bartlett