We arrived in D.C at round midnight. By the time we made our way through the train station we were all so weighed down by our fatigue that we could barely take in how gorgeous an empty Union Station was at night. We got to our dorms at George Washington University and passed out.
Our first stop in D.C was to visit the important capitol buildings. Of course there were tons of tour groups and we all were herded from one historic room to the other like cattle, our heads all turning and dipping and gawking in unison as our tour guide took us from room to room. I certainly have an appreciation for history and for historic sites but I find the company of hundreds of other people to be a distraction from all of the important things we saw on the tour.
I am quite glad that I have gotten to understand the way that the United States government operates better since doing this program. I feel a bit more competent as an American citizen now. Anyway, after seeing the capital building we went to the Indonesian Embassy in D.C to meet with the ambassador. The embassy was one of the most beautiful buildings that I’d ever seen. The Indonesian Ambassador was so incredibly friendly and down to earth. He was so funny and was just a really likeable guy. We met with him for about an hour and then posed for some pictures where we also got to meet his beautiful wife. They seemed like some of the coolest people…ever and I kinda didn’t want to leave 😛
So after our meeting we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then went for a walking tour of the monuments. We got about less than halfway through the tour before the exhaustion and pain of walking around for hours forced us to call it quits.
The next day was a lot less packed, we went to Arlington cemetary and saw the exchange of the guards. I had never been to Arlington before and there really is nothing like seeing a sea of white headstones to make you understand the horrors and senselessness of war. The entire time we were on the tour all I could think of was “were all of these deaths really worth it?” I think war is a horrible thing and it makes me sad that we have been in this one for so long. I won’t go off into an anti-war tangent but having that visual representation of all of the young lives throughout history that have been lost because of war just makes me angry.
Seeing the exchange of the guards was a real treat…not just because they were cuties. It was interesting to see how precise and involved getting off your shift at work can be. But really it made me feel a sense of pride and patriotism. The American military fascinates me. We also saw the Kennedy’s memorials and I got to learn a little bit more about their place in American history from Jack and Debra. Of course, I was not anywhere near alive to understand all of the drama and tragedy that followed the Kennedy family so it was interesting to hear them from the perspective of people who grew up during that time.
The next day we spent in D.C was relatively low-key. We went to the Holocaust museum which was an amazing museum but also a very difficult museum to visit. The museum was huge and it really took you through life before during and after the Holocaust. The exhibits gave you an idea of what it would have been like to be a Jew in Europe during that time. There was even a video that had real Holocaust survivors talking about what their experiences were like in the concentration camps. As they were telling their stories of all of the horrific things that they had witnessed, I couldn’t help but appreciate the strength of the human spirit. The idea of genocides and ethnic cleansings is so deeply disturbing to me and it sickens and saddens me that such terrible events are still happening in the world today. Once we left the museum we went back to the monuments to finish our tour. It was a much welcomed slower pace to the day and we ended with a nice dinner at a Tapas restaurant in Georgetown.
The Fourth of July came and excitement was in the air. I managed to put together a red, white, and blue outfit and we all set out to watch the parade. The parade was nice but slow-moving so we left before it ended to have lunch. Later that evening we put together some classic American snacks and headed to the Washington Monument to watch the fireworks. One fun fact about me…I am terrified of fireworks. Most people think they’re beautiful and fun, I think they’re horrifying and dangerous. So as much as I could appreciate the opportunity to be in the Nation’s capital on the 4th of July I was honestly pretty shaken by the fireworks…embarrassingly disturbed.
But they didn’t last long and after they were over we headed back to our dorms and prepared to pack up and say our good-byes. It was so hard to part ways with everyone, however, I feel confident that we will see each other again. This has been one amazing experience and I feel so fortunate and appreciative of all the wonderful people I’ve met and all the fantastic things that I’ve gotten to do in one amazing month. Thank yooouuuu soooo much to everyone who made this trip possible!