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Published: December 21st 2011
Greetings from the US of A, the land of the Americans, the Wild Wild West (well, not quite just yet). But yes, writing this one from the USA, Washington DC to be precise, and having just a great time so far indeed. Jet-lag just about over, this trip has got off to a great start, thanks in no small part to my friend Doug who along with his family have been extremely welcoming and hospitable, making my first few days in the States memorable indeed.
I arrived in DC late on Sunday evening – the plan was to arrive sometime in the afternoon, but Newark Liberty International Airport in New York was having none of it. Only having a one and a half hour transfer time from my London to DC-bound plane, the flight was half an hour late already. I don’t think I’ve had such a rushed, stressful hour in my life before – this involved a long queue at immigration upon arrival, asking 4 separate immigration officials whether it would be possible to move to the front due to my short layover time, only the 4th
one was helpful enough to point out the desk
to which I should refer my query and get fast-tracked through immigration (the 3rd
delightful lady said she was on a break, and doesn’t even work in that section). The immigration official who stamped my passport was pleasant enough, but the system crashed while he was checking me in, so had to do the whole thing again, including a re-scanning of my fingerprints. After this, picked up my checked-in bag as you have to do this to take it by hand through customs (I was transferring to a domestic flight) and then tried to locate the monorail which would take me from Terminal C to Terminal A. Unfortunately upon finding it, I got on it going in the wrong direction, so much swear words later I was able to get off at the next station and reverse my direction. Upon arrival at Terminal A, was faced with a humungous queue for security just to get to the Gate area, with only about 20 mins left before my flight took off. When bringing up the nearing proximity of my departure time and the possibility of fast-tracking again, the officials here were having none of it, and I seemed not to be
Iwo Jima Memorial
In honour of the US Marine Corps
the only one who was on the verge of missing their take-off. I had to force myself to breathe slowly as the queue shuffled along, then whip my belt, shoes and coat off to go through security, finally arriving at my Gate 3 minutes (THREE MINUTES!!) before departure time. Only to find out then that the flight was delayed in its departure. Not only was it delayed, we actually ended up spending half an hour on the tarmac due to a “mechanical problem”, before heading back to the Terminal and getting off while they switched planes for us. Eventually, 3 hours later, the plane took off for the final 40 minutes of my journey (sitting next to a rather dodgy moustached guy whose dodginess I won’t go into detail about here), to Ronald Reagan Airport in DC, where the gracious and extremely patient Doug was waiting for me – what a palaver!
But since this first stressful day, everything here has just gone swimmingly, and I’ve enjoyed the last 3 days’ sightseeing around the capital immensely.
DC is a capital the US nation should be proud of, and indeed I believe it is, with a passion! There are
Back of the White House
endless regal white marble monuments scattered around the 2-mile central Mall which passes through the centre, from the Lincoln Memorial in the west to the National Capitol building in the east. Indeed, strolling around these places I almost wished I was American, just so that I could feel the pride of being an American – what a great country this is!
Each memorial is dedicated either to a past US president, or those who have lost their lives in recent 20th
century conflicts – most notably World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I am so touched by the way in which the Americans honour their fallen heroes, put so much into their military, and pride themselves on being the beacon of freedom and liberty in the world. No, I have not been brainwashed, I just feel there has been too much knocking of what America does for the world over recent years, and not enough praise. Certainly in this blog I hope to be able to express my gratitude to the country in leading the world (cos it would be a bit odd if I did it to every American citizen I met…!) – they might not be perfect,
but they’ve done a darn good job of it, better than any other country would do I have no qualms about saying. And it’s certainly something we Brits should learn from, as we guiltily muse over the “shame” of our colonial history – rather we should pride ourselves in having done so much for the world and its people, as the Americans do here so well.
So yeah, just a few thoughts which have been running through my mind these last few days.
To be more specific about my trip so far though, the first day I did the sights of the west-side of the Mall – the White House, though sadly no Barack in view, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Korea and Vietnam War Memorials, the newly-inaugurated Martin Luther King memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. In the evening went for a nice meal with Doug and some of his university friends in the quaint and fashionable district of Georgetown. Tuesday was spent with Doug doing the east-side of the Mall, namely the huge Capitol Building, again no Barack to see, and the intriguing Air and Space Museum, housing various US Spacecraft including the Apollo 11 spaceflight manned
by none other than Neil Armstrong and company. After this, on the way home, we happened upon the latest anti-government demonstration in the US, this one called Occupy Washington DC - certainly not a cause I believe in, but interesting to see. And today, the more sobering sights of the Pentagon, including the Pentagon Memorial built in memory of those who died there in 9/11, who are sadly often overlooked as the World Trade Centre is remembered more frequently, and the nation’s war cemetery, Arlington, where 300,000 of the nation’s fallen heroes are buried, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Finally a side trip to the nearby Iwo Jima Memorial, that most-famous of US statues with 6 US Marines hoisting up a US Flag and pole over enemy territory.
Thus concludes, more or less, the first part of my US trip, and what a great start it has turned out to be. Definitely a good idea starting in the country’s capital, where I have certainly got a feel for the American nation, people and ideals. Tomorrow I head up north by train towards Princeton, NJ, to spend Christmas with my distant cousin, Alex, and from there my journey
So will leave it here for now, and upload some photos from this most regal of capital cities.
All the best, and will write again soon.
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