Raj: After a long flight from London we arrived in Washington and then things went a bit downhill from there. All the customs officers "finished for the day" after we joined the queue which grew to 750+, leisurely replaced by only a few officers. After being fingerprinted and photographed, a few hours later we made it through. By this time however Vikki's leg was giving her a lot of pain. We called the paramedics who checked her over and on their advice we made the decision to taxi straight to a private medical clinic bracing ourselves for an even longer day. After the hour long taxi ride I hauled all the bags and tired kids, and we took over a good area of the waiting room. A few hours later Vikki was finally seen and cleared by a doctor, with no real fix other than having to put up with the pain with the help of some meds. She's now had 3 different medical opinions in 3 countries and unconvinced of their diagnosis' it looks like she'll just have to put up with the discomfort, which has been moving and changing since her fall 2.5 months ago. As we all know, Vikki is as tough as they come and I know she'll just carryon without complaining (too much). We finally made it to our apartment in Capitol Hill, exhausted having not slept for over 24 hours (my fault for watching 3.5 movies on the plane!) The kids were exceptionally well behaved and Anouk thankfully slept anywhere. At least we got to see DC at night and the taxi driver was very helpful explaining the lit up sites.
So, that was our very difficult arrival to Washington. That, and the frustrating reality of the US government shutdown resulting in the closure of all the attractions we intended to see, especially The Smithsonian which comprises 19 museums and 9 research centres.
On a much better note, we spent most of yesterday (our first real day in DC) with local residents Fred and Sue, parents of Elise, an ex-NZTE work colleague. We enjoyed a delicious curry buffet lunch and then spent the afternoon at Mt Vernon and George Washington's House. So much history here and a worthwhile education for non-Americans as well. Thank you so much Fred and Sue for your awesome hospitality, kindness and help.
Today we had a lazy start, which began with watching Top Gear and a Mr Bean movie. Ready for another 30 degree, high humidity day, we took the metro to Union Square and then wandered some of the main streets around Capitol Plaza, National Mall, The Ellipse and Lafayette Square. I was really impressed by the large open space areas and the number of significant and well known sights in the nation's capital. The US Capitol, Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument, US Treasury and of course The White House were all really impressive. It's what you see on TV/movies and read about in books, so pretty special. Of course we could only view from a distance as everything was locked down with the government shutdown. Still, the non-federal workers have carried on and we have found everyone very helpful and polite. After a while you get used to the very large police and security presence, with hand guns and AK-47s aplenty. On our way home we stopped at a local market and saw breaking news on the TV - in the area around Capitol Hill and the White House where we had just been, someone had attempted to break through a road barrier, an officer was injured and 10-15 shots were fired during a car chase. It's a reminder how on edge the US is and that the unexpected can happen anywhere anytime, and not to be offended if armed personnel keep an eye on you, especially when you're carrying pack backs regardless of the fact kids are in toe.
Vikki: Well to say that the first 48 hours of our time in the US have been different would be telling the truth. An early start from London saw us metroing to Heathrow with a good flight on to Washington. My leg, which continues to bug me, was sore coming off the plane, and the long wait through customs did nothing to improve that. To the point that once we had cleared through with our bags I got visited by the airport paramedics to get checked out. Embarrassing to say the least, then further with a wheelchair exit out to a taxi. A 90 minute wait at the doctors endured, and still nothing conclusive from the doctor which is frustrating to say the least.
A great day with friends the next day had us learning about George Washington and some of the US history which was great. Their hospitality was fantastic and helped to make up for the previous day.
The frustration of the Government shutdown is evident, and walking around Capitol Hill today with closed doors and barriers everywhere makes you realise how "big" it is. A real shame as we have missed out on seeing some great museums and sites. Still the walk around (while slow for me) was enjoyable, the area is expansive, lots of lawn and trees, amazing buildings with roman and greek architecture (it almost seems out of place given where we have come from and what we've seen in Europe). I'd have to say for me the White House seemed a lot smaller than what I expected, but still glad to have been able to see it and the other government buildings. The people here are friendly, always happy to help out and answer questions which makes a nice change. Seeing the shooting on TV as we headed home, realising that was where we had just left seemed surreal, sure was a weird (and sad) end to our day.
Anouk: We arrived in Washington a few days ago. It's quite different from what I imagined because things aren't as strict as I thought they would be. The weather is much hotter than London and sticky like Asia.
Yesterday we caught the metro and at the station Harley and I found 11 pennies (1c American coins). We met Fred and Sue through my dad. They live in Washington and took us to a yummy Indian restaurant for lunch. They both volunteer at The Smithsonian but today they were not working as the museums were closed. Fred gave us some fossils of shark teeth found in the Potomac River which runs through Washington. The teeth are about 10-15 millions years old! After lunch Sue drove us to George Washington's House. George Washington became the first president of America, after he led an army to defeat the British. He became president in 1789 and died in 1799, 2 years after he finished his second term as president. Inside his house, it was big with many fancy rooms. The Washington's had more than 600 overnight visitors in the year before he died! This kept the servants very busy cooking and cleaning.