Filmmaker Focuses on DC’s Chinatown

director-Yi Chen

Credit: James Burch

This is one in a series of interviews about our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

February 3, 2013, Washington, DC: “Do you know who else you should meet?” I hear that a lot conducting interviews for Neighborhood Nomads, and I love it when people suggest others who have a story perfect for the blog. It’s in that manner that one interview tends to lead to the next. It seems people who care deeply about their neighborhoods and have a positive outlook on their communities typically know other people who do too, whether they live next door or across the country.

That’s precisely how I recently met Yi Chen, a filmmaker finishing her MFA at American University. Chen is completing a documentary focused on DC’s Chinatown in time for next month’s One City Film Festival, and she’s spending the next few weeks raising money on Kickstarter to fund the remainder of the project. At Chinatown Coffee Co. on 5th and H St. NW, Chen told me more about how the film has bolstered her own sense of community and belonging as she pursues her passion thousands of miles away from her native Shanghai.

Read on for more about Yi Chen’s efforts to document life in Chinatown…

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Miles From Monday: Inauguration Day

Inauguration Day 2013, The Sweet Lobby, Washington, DC

Miles from Monday is a travel series focused on venturing out of the spaces we inhabit during our work week and retreating to landscapes that feel far from routine.

January 21, 2013, Washington, DC: We’re heading out the door shortly to explore this morning’s Inauguration. I’ll post more photos here throughout the day to share the events as they unfold through the eyes of a DC neighbor. Before we go, I invite you read my reflections on the Inauguration and to take a look at these images from yesterday. It’s been a truly amazing weekend on Capitol Hill, our first Inauguration weekend living in the neighborhood. Living blocks from the action, it’s impossible not to get swept up in the spirit of the occasion, to happily give directions to the visitors spending the weekend here, to enjoy the fact that we haven’t moved the car since Wednesday as the neighborhood is increasingly locked down. On a run around the Capitol yesterday morning, four of us wove through obstacles and security checks, watching crowds grow on the National Mall. A Sunday afternoon bike ride across town to a friend’s house stands out as one of my favorite DC moments to date, the entirety of Pennsylvania Ave. lined with flags and closed to everyone but pedestrians and cyclists in preparation for today’s parade. Sound checks filled streets with jazz music as I pedaled home, the sun setting as I made my way back up the streets of an empty Hill, past the Supreme Court, heading home.

We are miles from a typical Monday, but just blocks from a celebration experienced by no other city and no other neighborhood in the world.

Now updated with photos from Monday…

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Inauguration Through the Eyes of a DC Neighbor

Inauguration 2013, Washington, DCJanuary 19, 2013, Washington, DC: Those of us who move around a lot experience many ceremonial and formal beginnings. We are accustomed to looking back and remembering the bookends — the day we arrived somewhere, the moment we settled in, the afternoon we packed up and drove away. It’s easy to recall the commencement of something new, to call up the morning the transition ended and we began again.

Inauguration weekend in Washington feels like a fitting time to recall these memories, not only due to the nature of the tradition, but because my own relationship to Washington tracks so closely with President Obama’s.

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Remedies, Wellness & Cures

flowers january

January 7, 2013, Washington, DC: Country music played on the radio and the clean white lines of the Memorial Bridge stretched over the Potomac River at low tide as I snaked alongside it Saturday morning and wound my way up Rock Creek Park. I was on my way to say goodbye to a friend moving to New York City, where a fresh start in a new city would await. Something about those moments of transition, whether mine or someone else’s, make me nostalgic and appreciative and sharpen my senses all at once. The city looked truly alive that morning — bright and happy and healthy. It looked and felt well, better than ever, and the feeling was magnified given that I felt well too. After spending several days buried under the deep fog of flu, I was finally ready to emerge and embrace the New Year.

Early January is a natural time to take stock of our wellness. With a fresh beginning upon us, we are full of resolve to be well and happy and healthy in the days ahead. For me, that includes taking note of how our homes, neighborhoods and cities impact on our own well-being. Does where you live make you feel good? Do your surroundings provide you with what you need to feel mentally, physically and emotionally well? Do you fill your home with elements that make you feel healthy and happy and dispose of those that ail you? Do you seek out places that facilitate a healthy lifestyle? And have you ever packed your bags certain the remedy was someplace else?

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Miles from Monday: Top 10 Travels of 2012


Miles from Monday is a travel series focused on venturing out of the spaces we inhabit during our work week and retreating to landscapes that feel far from routine.

December 31, 2012, Washington, DC: A cabin in the woods. A seat in the upper deck. A familiar chair in the window at Royal Ground Coffee. Neighborhood Nomads covered extensive ground in 2012 and from each vantage point, we saw the world from a new perspective. Read on for a list of my top ten travels of 2012, then go out and enjoy a happy and healthy 2013! May your New Year be full of the adventure of travel, the comforts of home, the power of place, and the joyful and curious spirit of nomads everywhere.

Best wishes,

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Small Talk on a DC Street

street capitol hill dcDecember 28, 2012, Washington, DC: The older woman walking down the sidewalk just ahead of me this afternoon slowed down and turned to wait by the board game shop.

“Do you live in this area?” she asked.

“I do,” I said.

“How do you stand it?” she asked with a laugh.

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Living in Brooklyn Heights: Sarah’s Room of Her Own

brooklyn heights studio

Photo Credit: Sarah Baker

This is one in a series of interviews about our neighborhoods and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

December 11, 2012, Washington, DC: I don’t remember the exact moment we met, but I’m fairly certain it took Sarah Baker and I less than 10 seconds to become friends when she arrived in San Francisco. Despite our nearly one foot difference in height, we had a lot in common: a common dear friend; failed dreams of becoming a gymnast; a love for eating bagels while sitting on the sidewalk and watching the neighbors stroll by; and a tendency for everyone we know to call us by both our first and last names. Sarah Baker had moved to San Francisco after spending several months in Australia; I’d lived in Australia just a few years prior. She had a great enthusiasm for traveling and exploring the City By the Bay. She had a sister named Kate.

We soon shared an apartment too, which brought about a shared experience in cluttered living. The three of us who lived there had a lot of stuff, and many of Sarah Baker’s belongings happened to be purple and glittered. We decorated the refrigerator with alphabet magnets and hung an inflatable green alien in front of the window overlooking Polk Street above the washing machine.

Safe to say we’ve come a long way since. Today, Sarah Baker — dear friend, former roommate and loyal blog commenter — is featured here as an example in streamlined living.

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