It had been some time since I, DC (Don Clymer) visited our nation’s capital (DC), so when the chance arrived to take our Swiss relatives there, I was eager to return. We had many interesting experiences during our day-and-a-half there.
We started at the Lincoln Memorial continued along the reflecting pool until we arrived at the Washington Monument. Everywhere I looked, there were veterans with their button-decorated vests and hats. It wasn’t until we reached the WWII memorial that I realized that it was Veteran’s Day. The wreaths set up within the memorial were dedicated to relatives who had lost their lives during the great war.
From the Washington Monument, we headed north to the White House. It was time for lunch, so we stopped at one of the food trucks and found some Asian owners who spoke NO English. We could barely communicate with them except for hand motions. Too bad we didn’t realize that just two blocks away there was a much larger variety of food trucks. Who knows if they spoke English or not—during our stay for nearly every server in every food service location English was their second language. At least there would have been more variety in food selection.
On my tour around the White House I encountered a handsome, distinguished black man in a light tan suit and tie. I needed to ask him some directions, so I approached him and asked him if he was FBI. He looked the sort. He grinned and said, “No, I’m a lobbyist.” He was super friendly and provided me with the needed information. I didn’t ask him for whom/what he was a lobbyist.
In fact, every person I stopped to ask for information was extremely polite and helpful. Since there were so many tourists around us, I always prefaced my questions with this statement: “Are you from here or just visiting?” I was overwhelmed with the hospitality I was offered by Washingtonians. Perhaps they were just in a good mood because their Nationals had recently won the World Series.
In front of the White House, I encountered a Hispanic family trying to take group pictures in front of the iconic building. They kept taking turns, but never was there a group shot with everyone in it. I approached them and asked them in Spanish if I could take a picture of them with everyone in it. Their smiles of delight carried over to their group picture. In my conversation I discovered that they were from Oaxaca, Mexico. We had a delightful conversation discussing their trip of a lifetime and my own experiences in Mexico.
From the White House we took the metro to Arlington Cemetery. This would not have been my choice, but one of our Swiss visitors really wanted to see all the graves lined in patterns along the hills. I did get to see the eternal-flame memorial to John F. Kennedy as well as a memorial to his brother Robert. That made the visit worthwhile. I discovered that some 400,000 people are buried there. What a sobering thought. We also saw the changing of the guards.
By the time we were finished with our visit to the cemetery, we had put countless steps on our pedometers, and were bone tired, yet still wanted to see the capitol at the other end of the mall. I decided to use an Uber for the first time in my life. I was walking out of the cemetery grounds looking at my cell phone to order the Uber when I encountered a step I wasn’t expecting, and immediately fell to the ground. Anticipating the fall, I rolled in order to protect my bionic knees andended up sprawled out on the pavement. I was immediately surrounded by a group of people suspecting the worst—an old man breaking a bone or suffering a heart attack. An Asian couple was the first on the scene, then two security people from the cemetery facility. They helped me up and asked over and over again if I was all right. I assured them that I was and walked away with the only an injury to my ego. Again, the hospitality and helpfulness of strangers impressed me of the goodness of humanity.
Our Uber driver was a delightful man from West Africa who spoke excellent English as well as French, Arabic and his native tribal language. He had been a diplomat in Morocco for his country and learned Arabic there. My niece, one of the Swiss visitors with us, was able to speak with him in French. To imagine him going from diplomat to Uber driver was a stretch for me. I can’t imagine what made him want to (or have to) emigrate, especially with our current political situation, and I didn’t have time to ask. Our ride was a very pleasant one.
Our evening meal provided another chance to experience the international flavor of DC. It also provided an additional friendly local. We were looking for a place to eat, and as I checked out the menu on a restaurant door, a local woman entered. I stopped her and asked her opinion of the restaurant. She told me they served the best pizza in DC and her family was frequent clients of the locality. Later, after we were settled in our seats, she came over to us with her whole family and we had a nice chat while we were waiting for our food. For some reason which I cannot remember, I said something to them in Spanish.
Our waiter who was from Honduras, the very country I had lived in for nearly three years, picked up on my use of Spanish and began speaking to us in his language. A wonderful conversation about his life ensued. He was quite surprised and flattered about how much I knew about his country.
The following day, we took the Georgetown-Union Station Circular bus route to explore the city. On K Street, just before we came to the White House, a motorcade with tens of police cars escorting a very important official screamed by. Locals on the bus remarked that it was the president. Since he was in New York for a Veteran’s Day speech, it probably wasn’t, but it was interesting to speculate.
My Swiss relatives were impressed, if not disheartened, by the contrast of extreme wealth and power exhibited by the buildings and the homeless sleeping on park benches in frigid weather as well as those seen in Union Station.
DC had a great visit to DC. Reminded me not to wait too long to go again.