Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Crowded Capital

Our day started at 7:30 AM when we woke up to prepare for our adventure around Washington D.C. We met up in the lobby at 8:30 with Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Mannix, and headed to breakfast at the hotel restaurant. The restaurant featured an all-you-can eat buffet with eggs, meats, pastries, doughnuts, fruit, cereal, yogurt, and beverages. During breakfast we discussed our plans for the day. We decided to first go to the White House, and then to the Holocaust Museum. By the time breakfast was over, it was 9:30. Mr. Mannix decided to swing by Whole Foods to get sandwiches for dinner. Last year, getting dinner was near impossible, as all the restaurants and vendors were closed down for the day.

The Executive Office Building
At around 10:30, we caught the Circulator and got off near the White House. On the way to the White House, we passed by the Executive Office Building. I had never seen this building before, neither in person nor on television. I was quite surprised, given that it is such a beautiful and historic building. We can up with only two possible explanations: 1) It is just too big to show well on TV. There are lots of trees that block the building, and to show all of it, you have to take a shot like I did. 2) Not a whole lot of national newsworthy events happen at this building, so it was not reason to be on TV. 
Soon enough, we came to the White House.
The Front of the White House.
Outside the White House fence was the most crowded spot we had seen so far. We had to wait a solid ten minutes to get a spot to take a photo. We started out with a picture of just the four of us, but eventually got other tourists to take a picture of all six of us. Unfortunately, I do not have that photo at this time, but I am sure others will post it. After seeing the front of the White House, we went around to the back.
The Back of the White House
As I mentioned before, our next stop was the Holocaust Museum, which as unfortunately across the mall. We were fine with the walking, but the Museum was on 14th street. In order to get to the block with the museum, we had to cross Connecticut Ave. where they are having a parade. We got to 14th and Connecticut and  watched for about 30 minutes. By that time, everyone was thirsty. Some of my cohort members were so thirsty that they paid a street vendor $3 for a bottle of water. We asked a security guard where we could cross the street. She said we could cross at 7th St, or wait for the parade to end. We decided to go to 7th street, as we did not want to be in the sun longer than necessary. Remember how my friends bought water for $3? Every other vendor we walked by (about 15 in total) was selling the same water for $1! It was a long, sweaty walk, but luckily we got to cross 2 blocks early at 9th St. Then we had to walk back to 14th St. on the other side of road. It seemed like such a waste. We could have easily crossed between floats at 14th St. if the security guard had allowed it. Anyway, we soon arrived at the Holocaust Museum which had air conditioning!!! The only bad thing about the Holocaust Museum was that there was no photography allowed what so ever, not even no flash photos. The only photo I could get was of the sign outside.

As you would expect, the Holocaust Museum was very depressing. Even though I had been there before in 8th grade, and learned about the Holocaust just three months ago in World History, much of the information and images were very disturbing. This trip to the Holocaust Museum, I got to see two 14 minute videos that I had missed last time. These videos provided lots more background information about how the Jews were treated and why. I had no idea that Jew have been prosecuted by since the creation of Christianity, which branches off Judaism. Prosecution does not makes sense at all to me, especially in this case where Christians prosecuted Jews, when their religion is based on Judaism. 

The most interesting part of the exhibit was a section on how Hitler came to power. In my World History class, we covered almost all the other events/topics in the museum (boycott, ghettos, deportation, camps, etc), but not really how Hitler became powerful. Hitler was a member of the German army initially. He was upset with the government, and wanted change, so he joined the Nazi party, and soon became their leader. He tried to be elected President of Germany, but he lost. Later on, the President needed a new Chancellor, and his cabinet convinced him to get Hitler to do it, saying that the President could easily control Hitler. As Chancellor, Hitler used his power to eliminate any barriers the Nazi party faced. Later, Hitler planned a secret attack on the Capital building. Everyone was afraid of more violence, so the Senate voted Hitler emergency powers. Soon Hitler had his own police force removing any opposition, and eventually, Hitler became President of Germany by force. He then made all political parties illegal except for the Nazi party. I really like to know how things started and where they went wrong so that the same mistake in not made in the future. The main mistakes in this scenario were making Hitler Chancellor, and giving him emergency powers. Without these two events, Hitler would not have risen to power, and the Holocaust would have been prevented. (Well, theoretically prevented, given that he could have also come to power through alternate means.)

After spending three hours at the Holocaust Museum, we went to get lunch. (Well, by that time you could almost call it dinner). We ran into the problem Mr. Mannix had last year. There were virtually no food place open. We eventually found a Hungarian Restaurant set up in the Mall. I ordered a delicious salad with cucumber, tomatoes, onion and feta cheese. After our meal, we said goodbye to Mr. Ramsey. (He had to go back to the hotel and rest to be ready to fly back home early tomorrow morning.) Once we found Mr. Ramsey a cab, we went to see some of the memorials on the East end of the Mall. The initial plan was to go to another museum, but it was too close to their closing time to bother walking over there.

The first memorial we visited was the Lincoln Memorial. When we arrived, there were already hundreds of people staking out their spot to see the fireworks. Once we got up the steps, it was not as crowded inside. (But still definitely very crowded.) When we went back down the stairs, we realized that there was an exhibit in the base of the memorial, with many of Lincoln's famous (and not so famous) quotes, and some biographical information.

The Lincoln Memorial at about 6 PM, with all the people camped out early for the fireworks.

The red, white and blue wreath.
Next on the agenda was the Korea War Memorial. There are 17 statues of soldiers in this memorial. Originally there were supposed to be 34 (because Korea was divided at the 34th parallel), but due to space constraints, they only did 17. If you count each soldier and it's shadow, there are 34. Also at the memorial was the number of dead, missing, captured and wounded soldiers for the US and the UN in the Korean War. This really opened my eyes to just how violent this war was. I knew that it lasted 3 years, but I did not realize that 54,246 US soldiers, and 628,833 UN soldiers died. The other numbers are staggering too: 8,177 and 470,267 missing, 7,140 and 92,970 captured, and 103,294 and 1,064,453 wounded. Because it was the Fourth of July, there was a red, white and blue floral wreath at the memorial as well.

The third and final memorial was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. I had never been there before, so it was very interesting for me. I thought is was very cool how he is carved out of a stone, and on the side of the stone it says, "Out of the mountains of disappear. A stone of hope." I thought the quote added a nice touch to the statue itself. All around the memorial, many of Dr. King's famous quotes were carved in the marble for all to read. It is hard for me to really say which memorial I think is the best. They are all great in there own unique ways, but are all based on the same concept: Stone carvings of the people they represent. By the time we visited all three memorials, we had to head back to Lincoln to stake out a spot for the fireworks that started in 30 minutes. Surprisingly, we found a pretty good spot near the water in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The only problem was the high number of bugs flying around us, which was very annoying. We ate the sandwiches Mr. Mannix bought in the morning, and waited for the fireworks. The fireworks show was the best I had ever seen. I had high expectations for this show, as it should be the best in the nation. My expectations were completely blown away. There were lots of interesting combinations of fireworks, as well as some I had never seen before. These new fireworks (well, new to me at least) included ones that exploded in a smiley face pattern, ones that exploded to look like glitter falling from the sky, and ones that exploded into numbers and letters. (Towards the end of the show, they wrote 2013 USA with fireworks. This received lots of applause from the crowd, and was the only time they clapped.)

Getting back to the hotel after the show was a disaster, and the only reason I regret seeing the fireworks. As soon as the fireworks ended, everyone got up and headed out of the Mall area. It seemed everyone was going the same way, and it was pretty much true. Our original plan was to walk to a nearby bus stop, and take the Circulator back to the hotel. Once we got to the bus stop, we we waited 10 minutes for one to show up, but it did not. (We figured this might happen due to traffic from the fireworks show). Since we were only a mile from the hotel, we decided to walk the rest of the way. By the time we got to the hotel, the back of my shirt was drenched in sweat, and we were all ready to hop in the shower. We even fantasized about jumping in the hotel pool, but we knew that was not an option because it closed at 9. After spending the day outside in the high humidity, I have a renewed appreciation for California weather. I may be hotter in California at times, but you don't end up sweating just from standing outside even on a cloudy day. 

Tomorrow we head to New York to check out Columbia University. I am really curious about what engineering majors they offer, and what there financial aid situation is. I'll find out tomorrow!!

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