Reflections of an American in Washington, DC

We’ve been home for a week now and both kids are back to school.  I’d been hoping to do some updates while I was in the US and time just got away from me and it’s been the same since we got back.  So I’m hoping to get on the ball now and get up to date!

While we were in the US, I made a quick side trip to Washington, DC to visit one of my best friends to help her celebrate her upcoming 40th birthday.  It was a super fun few days and to top it off, I’d actually never been to DC before so it was also a great chance to experience our nation’s capital.

Being an expat, I often see our country from the outside looking in.  It’s a perspective that I never anticipated and it’s been an interesting several years that we’ve been away.  I can’t say that I’ve been a proud American when I see all of the violence, school shootings, massive issues with quality of food (MSG, preservatives and a general lack of natural ingredients), an alarmist media, a lack of work/life balance and let’s not even get into the insanity of the current presidential election (I’m looking at you Trump) – and so much more.  It is a massive country with a huge population and I understand that we need to look at things proportionally, but even in doing that, I have lost my pride in being an American.  However…

That changed when I got to Washington, DC.  First off, my friend lives outside the District. I had no idea just how many forests there were just outside the city limits – I mean it’s just so much green!  And stunning.  I was in constant awe because I expected a much different version of suburban sprawl once you crossed outside the city boundaries.  I was very wrong.  And it wasn’t just the scenery that surprised me.

Just being in Washington, DC makes you feel like a proud American.  There was something in the air.  It literally brought tears to my eyes several times.  The people were incredibly friendly and welcoming.  And the history in every direction was enough to make your head spin.  But it was the history that made me feel good again about being an American.  It was a great reminder of how we began and how far we’ve come – we are still a very young country with so much potential but like any “child”, lots of growing pains.

There is so much to see and do in Washington, DC.  The day and a half that we had wasn’t nearly enough.  This is a city I need to go back to and explore thoroughly.  It takes time and it takes patience.  It also means wading through a lot of crowds.  That was the only downside of being a tourist in DC – with all the memorials, it’s hard to sit back and digest the impact of what our forefathers did for our country when you are amongst hundreds of others doing the same thing in the same spot.

We started off going to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  I think I could have spent days in this museum.  My favorite parts were those about the history of food in our country and of how modern transportation literally changed the landscape of the country with highways and the creation of suburbs (for use beyond farming).

A day in Washington, DC isn’t complete without seeing places like the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool or the Lincoln Memorial.  But we also had a chance to spend some time at the (relatively) new WWII Memorial as well which depicted the war, it’s victims and it’s heroes in such a beautiful way.

After the WWII Memorial it was an easy walk down to the Lincoln Memorial.  I was not prepared for how magnificent and how massive this memorial was.  You could actually see Lincoln from quite a distance – a representation to me of what a large presence he had in shaping our country’s first years.

While we didn’t get to every memorial in Washington, DC (that would take days), we did make it to the ones that were nearby the Lincoln Memorial, including the Korean War Memorial.  This, to me, was one of the most magnificent memorials that I saw.  It was haunting; it was elegant and it was something that made you take a moment to stop and think about what it represented.

And of course, let’s not forget the White House (which you can only see from a distance unless you’ve made an appointment which we had not) and the Washington Monument.

A few other favorites were the FDR Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. All were set off from the hubbub of all the tourists – which gave more opportunity to reflect on the setting, the men and what they represented and how they changed our country.

We walked a lot in those 2 days.  Washington, DC is a walkable city, but it’s quite spread out.  I loved being with a local who could show me the side that I might not have otherwise have seen.  And explaining the differences in things like the Smithsonian and how there are many buildings in different areas of the city that make up this massive museum.  We also got to go to some fabulous places for lunch and dinner each day that were off the beaten path and devoid of tourists.

In addition to being an awesome few days with my friend celebrating her big birthday, I really enjoyed the time to reflect on what I saw in DC.  The memorials were poignant and I believe that many of the quotes that were etched in stone still apply today – if anything, I think they are even more significant in today’s turbulent times.  These were a few of my favorites…

While I recognize that there is no perfect system in this world, I am saddened by how the morals upon which our great country was founded no longer seem to exist in this world full of media scare tactics, racial discrimination (though of course during our founding times that was clearly an issue too!), political games and everyone out to make a buck instead of focusing on the human part of the equation.  We’ve lost our humanity.  Maybe if every American were able to go to Washington, DC for a “refresher”, they might feel differently about how we treat our fellow man.  Or even just taking some time to reflect on our forefathers.  I, for one, came away feeling proud to be an American and with hopes to be a part of the change that we so desperately need.

Love,

Julie

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