Friday, April 18, 2008
Once upon a dream: Spring Break in D.C
All of us have dreams. From winning the million dollar lottery to a honeymoon in Paris, we want our dreams to come true. One of my many dreams was to go to Washington D.C. and be where history’s heart beats loud and proud. It’s a history lover’s dream to go there, and in this Spring Break I made that dream come true. In early March when my mom was vacationing in Nicaragua, I heard about a conference being held at the Holocaust Museum about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since I wanted to learn more about the Congo and see Washington D.C. with my own two eyes, I jumped on the chance to go. With a lot of support from my dad (who himself went with a friend in the sixties and actually saw Kennedy in a bathrobe) mom agreed to go with me as my “Babysitter” And so we set off the bus (plane tickets were too expensive and I’m not too fond of flying 30,000 feet) driving passed Georgia, North and South Carolina, and to our final stop Arlington, Virginia. Along the way, we stopped by gas stations and food joints meeting a plethora of folks. In Georgia mom and I experienced the talked about “Southern Hospitality” with some friendly store clerks striking up a conversation while getting some grub for our journey. When we reached Arlington, I found out that our hotel was a long way off the Holocaust Museum: Maryland! Mom wasn’t too happy with my act of utter stupidity. This was one of many lessons I learned about traveling and getting ready, but more about that later. We took the metro rail to Maryland and while there I asked some students how to get to our hotel and suggested we go to the visitor’s center at the University of Maryland. The campus was absolutely beautiful! The pink spring blossoms fell softly as groups of students walked without a care in the world. Despite the fact that the hotel (which they looked up the address on their computers) was a 40 min walk, they were so kind and helpful. Ok, I may be boring you so I’ll skip this and go to my first visit to the Holocaust Museum. When I first laid eyes on the grey building, I felt such a pure joy. I know I may sound morbid; of course the subject matter is a tragedy. A tragedy beyond description! Anyway, the permanent exhibition they had outlines the whole history of the Holocaust. Before entering, each person gets a passport and it tells the true story of someone who either survived or died during the Holocaust. My passport tells the story of Eva, who was born in Romania and went into hiding with her family until the end of World War II. All the different artifacts-a Hitler Youth uniform, a anti-Semitic children’s book, documents, letters, photos-seeing them was like breathing in another reality. Something that’s so close to the touch, but yet far away. After the exhibition, I went to one for children called “Daniel’s Story” who tells the story of Daniel and his family before and during the Holocaust. It’s an interactive exhibit that the kids are allowed to touch things from Daniel’s home and room. Then afterwards, mom and I went to the Hall of Remembrance where there were a section of each of the death camps and it had candles to light in memory of those who died. It felt very nice to walk in procession with other people, but it was also a time for personal reflection. Now let me go straight to what happened at the conference. It was a cold and raining Monday and I cursed at the rain for wetting my straight (semi-poofy) hair along with ruining my business attire. But all that was forgotten when I walked into the conference. Most of the speakers were from the DRC (sadly I wouldn’t have a chance to meet Romeo Dallaire since I was informed that he had to cancel. Bummer) The atmosphere was very friendly and diverse since most of the speakers came from the Congo, donned beautiful dresses bursting with color. During the introduction to speakers, a man came to sit next to mom and I knew he looked familiar to me and then read his name tag “Jimmie Briggs” He is a journalist and author of one of my favorite books “Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers go to War” When I met him he was such a gentleman and took a picture with him!!!(I guess this was compensation for not being able to meet Sen. Dallaire) I learned so many things about the dire situation in the DRC. Millions of people have died since the 1990’s making it one of the worst humanitarian disasters since WWII. One of the speakers described the Congo as “the trigger of a gun” and how now even after Mobutu’s iron grip over the country still remains in chaos. It was a bit overwhelming to hear all of this so I needed to go outside and see the cherry blossoms. Being surrounded by thousands of tiny blossoms was absolutely breathtaking. For someone who appreciates nature, I think D.C. is very environmentally friendly. On our last day in D.C., I decided to have a last hurrah and see even more. Mom and I went to the Smithsonian, U.S. Capital, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, and more cherry blossoms. It kind of sucked that we had to leave, I felt so at home in D.C. But of course, my heart cried for home and I missed my dad a lot. I would like to think now that I had left a piece of myself when I left Washington D.C. I look forward to returning to the place so rich with history, kindness, and a place to find your true calling in life.