Friday, August 27, 2010

A Tour of DC

Recently in reading other families’ and students’ blogs, I’ve been kinda bummed about the fact that I don’t have cool pictures of us running on windswept beaches, enjoying the natural beauty of deserts or pristine forests, or of Penny surrounded by hordes of adoring fellow teens.  She is gamely following along with whatever game plan I come up with, which frankly most of the time is the spur of the moment, but I felt like I needed to do more somehow, because although 3 weeks is a long time for her to be here before school starts, it is slipping away, and I knew I would look back and think, “I wish I had done X, Y, and Z” those first weeks.

So yesterday I got up and we were sitting around and I told Penny to prepare herself for a little trip that evening.  I am famous for my trips around the DC monuments at night, and I decided we needed pictures of Penny in front of imposing memorials and breath-taking fountains, with her unhip host mom if nothing else! :-D

We left home around 8:30 last night and got to DC around 9:15.  Driving around in the dark, I got slightly lost and we wound up on the opposite side of the Capitol as I intended us to be.  However, we were actually on the front, I think, so it worked out well.  As we pulled up, I thought she would be blown away by the nearly supernatural glow of the white dome of the Capitol in the DC darkness, but instead, she was giddily squealing over our proximity to the Library of Congress.  I was thinking, “Really?” and she begged me to pull over so she could take a picture.  I couldn’t stop where we were, so I pulled around the corner and we were lucky to find a parking space literally right in front of the Capitol and right next to the LOC.  We got out and I had to fairly sprint to keep up with her as she exclaimed how excited she was to see it.  I said, “The Library of Congress?!” and she said, “Yes!  You ever see the movie The Day After Tomorrow?”  I guess it is prominently featured, I haven’t seen it! 

Shockingly (to me anyway), Penny had no idea what the Capitol Building was.  I explained that it’s the seat of American government where the senators and representatives meet to set policy and make laws, blah blah blah, and then I realized that I wouldn’t recognize whatever the most famous government building in Bangkok was if I fell over it.  So I guess we’re even on that score!  To her credit, Penny was impressed by the building as judged by the number of “Oh!”’s and “Very nice!”’s she uttered while wandering around in front of the building.  Her primary concern however, was getting pictures and in the dark, neither of our cameras was doing a good job!  UGH! 


This was as good as it got!!! 

We went over to the other side of the street and got a picture of what I guess is the Supreme Court building, but honestly, I have no idea, it was late, we didn’t see signs, and I took a guess.  It looked like the Supreme Court to me.  Then we hopped back in the car and drove to the other side of the Capitol to try and get more pictures, but none of those came out either, so we gave up and made our way to the Mall. 

Our first stop was the World War II Memorial, one of my two favorite places in Washington DC.  On the way we saw The White House and drove past the Washington Monument.  Penny is afraid of heights but feels confident that she will someday before she leaves go to the top of the monument anyway.  We walked all over the WWII Memorial and Penny snapped a zillion pictures.

Penny, a proud new Virginian!


A self-portrait in the lights of the Memorial


Penny poses like this last picture constantly.  Recently, a host mom posted a blog called "Sign Language" on her blog about what different hand signs mean in different countries.  So I decided to ask Penny if she knew what this two fingered salute meant in the US and if it meant something in Thailand.  She said in Thailand, it just means, “Don’t I look cute?”  I explained in the US it means “Peace” in a kind of hippie context.  She didn’t much care about that. Haha!

After that, I told her we would walk to the Lincoln Memorial.  It is a bit of a hike, but she is young and skinny and I am old and fat, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem for her.  Of course, this is the kid who asked me how she was going to get to the bus stop, which is at the top of the street, exactly 2 houses from here, and when I suggested she was going to walk, her eyes got as big as saucers and she said, “Oooooh!”  But there’s really nowhere to park near the Lincoln Memorial any more, even for those of us cool enough to sport handicapped tags, so walk we must!  We walked along a semi-lighted pathway, which was lined with Porta-Potties for the upcoming tea party rally this weekend.  As we finally got close to the Lincoln Memorial, we saw all the pavilions up for Glenn-Beck-A-Thon 2010, and Penny made the mistake of asking, “This is for some kind of rally?”  Only on account of the fact that Asians really do switch their R’s and L’s when they speak, I had to ponder for a second what she meant by “This is for some kind of Larry?”  But I realized what she meant and then it popped into my head what was going on, and so I said that it was and she was interested to know more.  Without putting too fine a point on it, I think Glenn Beck is a gas bag, so I attempted to indicate my feelings about the whole thing without being disrespectful in case Penny is quite conservative, which I doubt that she is really anything based on the conversations we’ve had about politics thus far (when we picked her up, she was wearing a shirt that read “Political Minded”.  I asked her if that was true and she asked me what it meant.  I explained and she said, “Oh no, I just like this shirt.”).  The whole thing seemed a little over her head, which was fine with me and if you want to know what I told her it was, you’ll have to look on my Facebook album in the comments section :-D  And don’t say you weren’t warned if you happen to be a great lover of the tea parties and Fox News.

Anyway, as we were walking up to the Memorial, which was drawing Penny in like a moth to the flame, two men stopped us and asked if we’d like our picture taken together.  Of course!  They snapped two for sure, and we were just thrilled to have a mother-daughter shot on our big night out.

P1080105Penny announced that she wanted to climb the steps, not take the wimpy elevator up to the top, and I am proud to say I made it! Once we got inside, she was so impressed by the statue of Abraham Lincoln.  We had tried showing her the battlefields in Fredericksburg and explaining the Civil War, but let’s face it people, if you were 17 and not an American, would you be all that interested in an internal conflict that went down 150 years ago?  So we are educating her little by little about American history, but since she is about to take both US history AND government in school, she will come out well educated.  Heck, I might even read the books just for fun.  It’s been a while!

P1080113We left the Memorial and I took her to the Korean War Veterans Memorial which I think freaked her out a little bit and then the Vietnam Wall.  She was starting to fade out a bit (by now it was well past 11), but she did gamely cross the little bridge onto Independence Island and then we finally made it back to the WWII.  She was starting to sniffle and shuffle and I asked her if she was OK and did she have it in her to have one more visit to my ultimate favorite spot in DC?  She said, “No” but she said it laughingly, and I really didn’t know what to make of her response.  She said, “I cannot walk in a straight line.  How far is it?”  So I told her it was across the park and we would drive there.  She didn’t disagree, so I went for it.

Once we got there, though, I realized I had pushed her a bit too far.  Disappointingly, none of the fountains was turned on, so it was a bunch of rocks and statues in near darkness.  I took her down to the Tidal Basin to see the city, and she walked through the memorial, but her heart was not in it.  Oddly, though, on the way back, she perked right up and wanted to take pictures with all the statues!

P1080119 P1080120

She was interested to know who Eleanor Roosevelt was although she didn’t care too much about who FDR was.  I got her back to the car, and almost immediately, she was out cold. She perked up when I put the radio on and Katy Perry came out of the speakers, but other than that, she was the kind of tired when your head flops forward and scares you, but you just keep putting your head back and sleeping anyway.  We got home at about 12:45AM, and I think she was asleep before she hit the top of the stairs.  I, on the other hand, had to pack lunch for the mister and check in on the wee one before bed.  I may be old, but apparently, I’ve still got boundless energy! ;-D  Penny did make me promise that I would take her back to DC this week, particularly to take pictures of the LOC, so we are hoping to get up there on Wednesday.

Taking Penny around DC was a special time for me.  Not only did I get to see the delight in her eyes as she took in our beautiful and historic landmarks, but I realized in walking around and thinking about my feelings about what was going on around me (the rally, people stopping to ask me for directions, watching other people enjoy the sights, strangers saying “good evening!” [which Penny finds hilarious, by the way]), that I am really proud of my country and to be living here.  I disagree with a lot of crap going on this country right now and I have a lot of issues with the way it’s being run and the way it has been run, but I don’t live in fear of saying so, and we enjoy great freedoms.  It is truly a beautiful place to live and visit and I look forward to loving our country even more as I travel with Penny this year!

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