It is an incredibly sunny afternoon. In the dead of what is supposed to be winter, we have somehow hit temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius (close to the 70s in Fahrenheit). This positively balmy weather calls for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood, and many ISH residents have heeded the call. But on this day I curl up by the front desk, writing thank you cards for the people who’ve been a part of my Washington journey. Upstairs, some ISH residents are watching the NFL playoffs between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans, and we can hear their shouts of despair and excitement, alternatingly, from my perch at the lobby.
My phone beside my displays the score. This, if anything, is a sign that ISH has made its mark on me. Not only do I know who is playing in a sports game, I am even slightly invested in the outcome, because of a fellow ISH Resident who is a major Chiefs fan. Occasionally, I look up from my writing to distract my friend at the front desk with random bits of conversation.
Later, I manage to coax a fellow ISH resident away from interminable readings for a walk around the city. We wander past the Masonic Temple, admiring its remarkably symmetrical architecture, discussing the political situations in our countries. Somehow the walk takes us all the way past the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and we start to compare notes on what we both know of these institutions. Arriving back at ISH, we plop down in the dining hall and are joined by a couple of other ISH residents. The conversation quickly turns into a discussion of the benefits and disadvantages of current approaches to international development.
This is how I passed my last Sunday at ISH. It is an ISH tradition that at your last Sunday dinner, you stand up and say your goodbyes. But when the announcement came asking if it was anyone’s last Sunday, with the eyes of half of the room on me, I didn’t think I could do it.
So this is my thank you instead. My final Sunday represented what I liked the most about ISH – the quiet, steady feeling of everyone going about their day, but still very much together.
Because even as a US strike kills an Iranian General, even as tragic bush fires rage on in Australia, even as passenger planes are shot down from the sky, even as the globe is threatened by a new epidemic, so many of us from all around the world still find a way to come together, coexist, and thrive. Hours after dinner, you can still witness conversations between residents on the effects of colonization in Africa or the best way of getting involved in international development. You may not know anything about sports, but somehow still get sucked into watching the Superbowl. (As I suspect many ISH residents will be this weekend- there will be a watch party in the Great Hall complete with Pizza, and from what I have seen of the poster it looks like it will be a lot of fun). If you’re too bogged down with work or school, there will always be someone to drag you out of your head in order to explore yet another museum, or art exhibit, or performance.
It is strange to be leaving behind my identity as an ISH resident, but I am already fully embracing being a part of the ISH Alumni, which I am sure will involve many visits to and from other ISH Alumni. This process has already begun– I recently visited a couple of former ISH Residents in Mexico City, and there are plans for more to visit me in Singapore.
So in the meantime, all that is left is a very big thank you to all of the ISH staff, board members, and residents who help to create and preserve the very special melting pot that is ISH.