I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the U.S. of A in December 2013. To be honest, I never felt the urge to go see the States, because of what I have seen on the television. Horrible accents, boastful attitudes and unhealthy food. And coming from Africa, we are always judge on what the Americans see on their TV about Africa – they think there are lions walking amongst us and that we live in grass huts, well of course that is not true. And I can honestly say that what you see on TV about the Americans, are not all true. I have never been greeted by so many strangers in the street in one day, restaurant service is AMAZING, friendly staff and good food (although unhealthy and WAY too much, I had a very good time eating out).
My journey started in Reston, Virginia – It was cold and I arrived at the airport from Thailand in shorts and flip-flops.
We only spend 4 nights in Reston, Virginia, but I absolutely loved the area. The beautiful woods, the lovely cozy houses and the peaceful walks we had around the lakes surrounding the residential areas. But when the time came for us to go into the D.C. I wanted to visit as many monuments, museums and city sites as I could, as we only had 12 hours in the city.
I really enjoyed walking around the city of D.C. – it was cold, but it was bearable, coming from Thailand’s heat. I have a soft spot for any museum, art gallery and historical monument. And I was so grateful that I had a chance to see these sights. I’ve also always been interested and intrigued with the Holocaust and this day we actually made it to the Holocaust museums – WOW!! What an experience. It was such a surreal feeling to “walk through that time” and it was unbelievable what those poor Jews went through. We didn’t have a lot of time and if I ever get the chance to go back to D.C., I’d love to visit the museum again for the whole day and slowly go through everything again. I was very upset when a child in a stroller next to me played on his iPhone while I was crying my way through the museum, I gave the parents a few glares!
I had an amazing time photographing around the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial….
Next we walked over to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The United States joined the United Nations forces against Korea in 1950 till 1953. To the men and women who served, the Korean War could never be a forgotten war. It was dead quiet as we wandered around the big statues of the soldiers and I couldn’t even imagine what war must be like. The Korean War Veterans Memorial honors those Americans who have fought and gave their lives for the “cause of freedom”. I personally am not a supporter of ANY war, I think it is pointless and devastating to have families fall apart and lose loved ones, all because of greed, but let’s not get into that!
Visitors approaching the memorial come first to a triangular Field of Service. Here a group of 19 stainless-steel statues depicts a squad on patrol and evokes the experience of American ground troops in Korea. Scrubby bushes and strips of granite suggest the rugged Korean terrain, while the windblown ponchos recall the harsh weather.
A black granite wall is situated on the south side. It’s polished surface mirrors the statues, intermingling the reflected images with the faces etched into the granite. The etched mural is based on actual photographs of unidentified American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The faces represent all those who provided support for the ground troops.
The memorial is staffed daily except December 25 by park rangers who give talks and answer questions. The rangers we chatted to was extremely friendly and very informative.
From there we visited the Arlington National Cemetery. And again, what a somber moment. Americans are truly proud of their country and you can feel it wherever you go around the States. When we arrived at the cemetery, it was “the changing of guard” at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guard is changed every hour on the hour Oct. 1 to March 31 in an elaborate ritual.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier refers to a monument in dedication to the services of an unidentified soldier, Marine, airman or sailor. The Tomb of the Unknowns stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater. On the white marble tomb it reads: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God“. The guards guarding the tomb, 24/7, are all the same height, the same build and the also kind of look the same.
The Tomb Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process. After the turn, the sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed — the 21-gun salute.
The Arlington National Cemetery is open:
7 days a week, 365 days
from 8am-7pm (April-September)
My 12 hours in Washington D.C. came to an end after we walked through the cemetery. It was sad seeing so many graves of fallen soldiers who gave their lives for their country, but it was an honour to have visited the famous resting place with the white headstones.
Even though we only spend a very short amount of time in Virginia and D.C. my trip in the US had only begun… next stop was Austin, Texas!