The Start of Something

The Start of Something

So it probably (and by ‘probably’, I mean ‘definitely’) wasn’t a good idea to hold off on my first blog post until three weeks into my time in D.C., but as fate would have it, for the first week and a half I was here I didn’t feel like I had much to write about it, and obviously as soon as I did have stuff to write about I became far too busy to do so. Currently however, I am sitting on my porch wishing I had a better view than a undeveloped piece of real estate to look at, but I am thankfully at the RAF relaxing on a well deserved day off after completion of an arduous two week long seminar at my internship. But now for some formalities; my blogging supervisors tell me it is customary to offer a brief introduction on your first blog, so for those that don't know me, my name is Austin Perea and I am currently a junior at the University of New Hampshire where I am majoring in Political Science with a focus in international relations. I am also very interested in the politics of the Middle East and am thus also minoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Economics as well. My internship in Washington is at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in the National Defense University, which is itself located at the Coast Guard Headquarters on Fort McNair base (which will be referred to as "NESA" hereafter). NESA is essentially a US Defense Department think tank that acts as a platform for military officials, foreign dignitaries, ambassadors, etc. from the Near East region to come to the US and have dialogues with US professors, military officials, and foreign service officers to gain an understanding of US foreign policy. These past few weeks we have been hosting the first seminar of the year entitled "Countering Transnational Threats", which seems to be pretty self explanatory, but let me add that this seminar does not simply address just different faucets of terrorism, but also issues of counter-narcotics, human trafficking (for both sexual and labor purposes), piracy, international crime networks, and anything else that could be perceived as a transnational threat. NESA operates under Chatham House rules, which means that nothing anyone says can be attributed to anyone publically, which leads to some very interesting discussions. Thankfully for them (albeit unfortunately for anyone that follows this blog) that means I can't disclose much of the information I hear, but no worries, there will be plenty to talk about. As far as my duties go, the other interns and I are under program planning, which means that we help in setting up these seminars and take care of a lot of administrative work, but we also sit in on the seminar discussion and take notes, which are later used by professors for their After Action Reports (AAR). These guys love acronyms. But enough of that, let's move on to the cast of characters!

 

Nuclear Proliferation Protester in front of White House

 

For the first week of my internship it was only me and my French Canadian pal Valerie, but were quickly joined by Clint (who also happens to be Canadian, albeit from a little slice of heaven called Regina in Saskatchewan, which he insists is not pronounced like it looks) and Sayyakhat, who is from Tajikistan but goes to school in Idaho. Clint and I are the only brutes that don't speak another language, as Val's first language was French, and Sayya (being an ex-Soviet and all) speaks Russian, Tajik, Farsi, and English as well. This obviously turned out in the girls' favor, as many of the former Soviet republics all speak Russian (our Uzbeki and Turkmen friends in particular), and of course, much of the MENA region experienced at least some European influence during the 19th and 20th centuries. Particularly in our seminar the Moroccans, Tunisians and Lebanese all spoke fluent French, but many speak English as well so it did not prove too difficult to have good discussions with the participants. Anyway, I used to have a picture of me and the gang in front of the White House but apparently this website doesn't want me to post it, so instead, here's a picture of a crazy lady in front of the White House.

 

A little side note on the crazy lady though. Apparently she's been there for 29 YEARS. How ridiculous is that? What's even more ridiculous is why she's there, which is to stop nuclear proliferation. What a kook, huh? Talk about absurd; she's obviously never heard of pax automica. Everyone knows nukes are awesome, just ask Iran.

 

Getting to know my roommates has been really awesome too. I am lucky enough to be living with people from all over the world who all have very different interests. Eric is Jersey boy and an aspiring doctor who spends his time working at the VA Hospital. Diego is a business major from Monterey, Mexico and is interning at a real estate firm, and last but certainly not least is my direct roommate Shaurya, a grad student from India who actually was just guaranteed a job when he gets back home in May. Unfortunately we haven't had time to all hit the town as a group yet, so I have no pictures of the 314 boys all together, but I'll be sure to record our shenanigans this upcoming weekend. Until then, here's a couple pictures of the trip so far.

 

 

The boys chillin' on the balcony

 

 

A lovely view of some real estate from our deck

 

 

Standard picture of the Lincoln Memorial...

 

 

The view from my Arlington, VA hotel: some strange pentagon shaped building

 

 

The Hope Diamond at the Museum of Natural History...

 

 

Uktam and I in front of the Big Guy himself. Uktam was one our Uzbeki participants from this seminar. As the youngest guy there (he's a 25 year old leading research fellow in Uzbekistan) he was able to relate to us much easier, so Clint and I had the pleasure of enjoying his company very frequently.

 

 

This was the first event Val and I went to. It's at an ambassador's club called the Cosmos Club which is near all the embassies in D.C. on Mass Ave. The topic of the luncheon was on the importance of policy decisions addressing non-nuclear WMD proliferation. I guess that crazy lady has an audience somewhere huh?

 

 

Coast Guard Headquarters; the 4th floor all belongs to NESA. Behind it is the rest of the National Defense University of Fort McNair

 

 

The best for last...

 

Compliments to Valerie and Sayya for a couple of these photos; I didn't have my camera cord until last night. My next blog post will have many more pictures and will go into the details of the CTT seminar, so stay tuned!

 

-Austin

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