Today began with all of the STOYs boarding the bus to go to the Smithsonian Castle. We had a short program and then we broke into our small groups. My group was the Smithsonian Museum of African Art. The curator took us on a journey of all the wonderful pieces from many countries in Africa. We saw everything you could imagine and learned about how many artists studied African art as a source of inspiration. Picasso was one such artist. I got to play on camera in the teaching studio and I learned that stars make noise. Yes, stars in the universe vibrate, and we got to hear them. We even got to hold some pieces of art. Then, we got to see the parts of the museum that the public doesn’t see. We even got to travel underground back to the castle. Oh, and 96% of this particular museum is underground! We went back and networked and then had lunch. Here are a few pictures.
Then, everybody rushed to check hair and straighten ties. We were on our way to the Biden residence. One thing most of us were worrying about was our failing cell phone batteries. We had gone all day and wanted to be sure we had enough juice for pictures. We were spiffed up and excited as we rounded the corner to the mansion. There was a huge barricade. STOP This Area is Protected By The Secret Service. There was a gate and serious looking people beside it. There were more warning signs. A police officer boarded the bus and checked identification. Then another one boarded and checked us again. We went through that gate and then another. More warning signs. The bus stopped and a secret service canine was brought out to sniff the outside of the bus. They were making SURE our STOY bus didn’t get mixed up with the THUG teacher bus! Ha! We were so excited with all the buzz. It was some real 007 kind of stuff! It was drizzling and my phone was blinking that slow blink of death. We got off the bus to be searched and to walk through a metal detector. Then we waked through the iron gate that allowed us to walk up to the house. The house! Aaah! Gorgeous! We were all giggling and saying “Wow” over and over. (Or maybe that was just me.) We walked up to the house, and as we approached, a military string quartet (I think it was a quartet) began to play. A man in a suit was on the porch. “Welcome, Monica, and congratulations! We are so thrilled to host you. I’m from Texas too!” Stupidly, I said, “You know my name!” I’d forgotten all about that big white badge I was wearing. Inside, it was so pretty and homey. Their family photos were out… weddings, vacations, grandbabies, and I thought, “They seem like regular people.” In the dining room there were hors d’oeuvres (is that the correct French spelling?) The deviled eggs were divine! Dr. Biden wasn’t there yet, and we just walked from room to room eating, looking at pictures, and listening to the band. We took a few photos and pinched ourselves. The sunroom was pretty, and I put the orange ribbon on top of Dr. Biden’s book that was on the table. Then, they asked us to line up for our picture with her. There was a professional photographer, but Dr. Biden didn’t mind us having our cell phones. I was introduced to her as “Monica Washington from the great state of Texas” by the same man from earlier. She hugged me and thanked me for coming. Once we all had our pictures, she came back to the living area to speak. She said that she was proud of us. She said that she is one of us. She is giving her final exam soon and has essays to grade too. She talked about how teachers go above and beyond in a way that she doesn’t think many other professions do. She said that teaching is a 24 hour a day job. Kids are always with us… either in our teacher bags or on our minds. She spoke about each finalist and said she was honored to have us in her home. Then, she started shaking hands and hugging us. I went and told her that I teach English too. Told her that I agreed with what she said in the program. “Through writing we really get to know students.” She told us about how students have some heavy issues and often turn to us. She was so gracious. We took a group picture on the front steps and she got right in the middle of us for the picture. Then she told us that we could walk and see the grounds. I took that time to tell her that I wanted to honor teachers at home with my ribbon and she said, “Yes. Let’s do another picture.” She hugged me again and hugged my friends. I realized then that yes, she is a regular person just like us. She’s a regular person in an extraordinary position… just like us. I will never forget today.
Then, I met up with Ricky who had been hanging out with Chris Reilly all day. ( husband of the IL TOY) Katherine Bassett who is the amazing CEO of NNSTOY read my blog yesterday and contacted me this morning. She wanted to hire a driver to take the two of us to all the sites Ricky missed yesterday. So, I threw on jeans, ran down and gave her a big hug, and got chauffeured around with Ricky! I will be forever grateful. I told you a lot, but I couldn’t capture it all. This was a beautiful day. This is the fabulous network that I will be a part of for life. I got to have a once in a lifetime experience with my friends. I got to sightsee with Ricky. I have a friend in every state and territory. I got to honor you. That was a bit jumbled, but so is my brain. I love you all! Orange…Jill Biden knows about that Orange. You were with me the whole way.