Atlas Service Corps fellows had a memorable Monuments Tour, winter edition last Sunday January 15th in Washington DC. It was the first formal group event for my amazing Class 23 Fellows. Could you believe I met Lincoln and Martin Luther King in less than 10 hours of my arriving in the United States? I did and so did new fellows who arrived Sunday morning, such as Marina Bulavsky, Maxsalia Salmon and Abeer Pamuk.
With about 20 new and old fellows in total, turning up for the social event, the tour was as interesting as it was educative. It was wonderful how new arrivals like me had it very easy locating the meeting point– a restaurant called Così at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, DC. In my pretty case, my housemate and co-fellow, Anna Safranova had been my eyes in DC since the minute of my arrival earlier in the day. With her and another fellow from Class 22, Victoria Rubanovich, we met Atlas founder/CEO Scott Beale and about 14 fellows in a group circle at the walkway set-off point. Up we began with our founder-turned-tour-guide in charge of the group trip. Scott made the entire tour warmly interactive. He would ask us to figure out which monument was which, and true to Atlas Corps Fellows wonderful byname of “superheroes”, we had super motivated memories! Many of our guesses about locations of the monuments came to be as accurate as the plaque that marked their historicity.
We began the sightseeing with Scott educating us about the White House, which we got to know was actually a series of executive houses on Pennsylvania Avenue. We toured the National Mall, Washington Monument, Capitol Hill, Black History Museum, Martin Luther King, Jr “I have a dream” speech ground, Lincoln Memorial, and host of other American national landmarks.
Although our own Scott is from Delaware, he knew virtually everything about District of Columbia, including the friendly squirrels in the parks and even why the water fountains were quite in National World War II Memorial. Despite the visiting restrictions placed around a few monuments due to upcoming Presidential inauguration preparations, Scott made sure we didn’t miss the gist of the winter outing. And what was it? Atlas Corps Fellows Class 23 needed an outdoor orientation for class members who were almost collectively new to the capital city.
Did I mention that we were even lectured about the artists that designed these bevy of historical monuments? Scott taught us on why the George Washington Tower had two colors of exterior finishing, the material it was made from, and the cracks it had had during a freak earthquake. The familiar design of this “world’s tallest stone structure” became a subject of pride to not just the only fellow from Egypt, Wafaa Heikal. We learned that memorial monuments are designed to narrate a visual story and preserve historical events. Their sculpture is a lesson on art, history and a subtle reflection of their period in history.
We also got to know background knowledge of the significance of design and materials used in building national monuments. As well, we practically fathomed the instrumentality of their architecture, and the weight of meaning they bear to generations of tourists seeking the shadows of the ancient. All these spurred me into thinking of what an “Atlas Corps monument” will possibly look like, if Meredith, or Class 23 or even Mazhun decides to have one raised in the near future. Your guess cannot be more amazing!
We ended the DC monument tour on a solemn note, with the darkly chilling facts about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was an elegic array of inscribed names of United States fallen heroes in the stalemated war. Talking of “names”, one lasting memory of our first day as Atlas Corps Fellows was the brief individual profile introduction we had in the beginning of the tour at the Penn Avenue café. Each fellow had introduced themselves by their brief bio of name, country and host organization. At the end of it, all of the fellows and I came to have a list of nineteen pleasant sounding names, with not a few being tribal names of curious sounds and spellings. Why do I bother about peculiarities of our individual names? I guess I was not alone. Whatever, I have always loved to understand the subtle and curious association between peoples’ names and their region or country of origin. “Kpanha (pronounced Kpanya)”, was one name that stuck to my memory like the chilling breeze of DC street. Like every Atlas fellow I have met thus far, Kpanha was as cool as the country of his birth, Cambodia!
P.S. Watch out for more amazing facts about Atlas Corps Fellows Class 23 who are way too record-breaking, including the fellow who had traveled countries equal to the number of her age!