Normally waking up at 6 a.m. in the summertime is a pain. But when you’re on the east coast for the first time in your life and headed to Philadelphia to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, it’s nothing but a pleasure to suck up the sleepiness.
Without a map it’s easy to miss signs that tell you where you are, but I knew that we were no longer in New Jersey and that we’d hit Philly when billboards off the freeway displayed telephone numbers with the area code 215.
There’s something special about being on the same grounds where America’s forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence. It’s a pretty surreal feeling.
The Liberty Bell
Wells Fargo Center
Being in Philly made me think about Philadelphia cream cheese and Philly cheese steak sandwiches. Unfortunately, we didn’t get either of those in their home city.
We drove through Baltimore to get to Washington DC, and passed Fort Meade on the I-295S. The facility was so covert and I couldn’t see anything but trees.
When the clock struck 10:30 a.m., the tour bus was in DC. It was such a nice environment to be in, and is much cleaner than New Jersey.
Random fact that some of you may already know: “Bones” is filmed in DC! We weren’t able to stop by the J Edgar Hoover Building (headquarters of the FBI), where Special Agent Seeley Booth (in the show) works, but I was really hoping we would. We did pass by it but I couldn’t snap a decent photo from the bus.
The biggest bummer of the day was when we couldn’t get more than several hundred feet in front of the White House.
It turned out President Obama was leaving so authorities had to block off the premises.
Anyway, here are a couple of other places we stopped by in DC:
“[Americans] have it easy”
I previously mentioned that most of the tourists in our group were Chinese, but there was also an American family from Texas and an Indian family. And when you’re stuck in a bus for hours with the same people, you start getting to know who they are.
The American family, consisted of a mother (Crystal) and father (Jeff), a 13-year-old daughter named Brooke, and a younger son named Brock.
The Indian family consisted of a mother and father, their 5-year-old daughter and their son, who I’m going to guess was a young teenager.
During some of our down time, the kids from both families played with each other, but I overheard an exchange of dialogue that afternoon.
“Are you required to learn another language?” the Indian boy asked Brooke.
“Yeah, we’re starting to learn it this year,” she said.
“You guys have it easy. We had to start learning another language by the time we were in grade four.”
The boy sounded a bit like he was boasting, but he spoke English impressively well that I wouldn’t have guessed he lived in Brunei. He had also been to India and Saudi Arabia already, and he’s just a teenager.
I’ve got some acquaintances who have never left the country in their lives. And traveling is expensive, but the Indian kids from Brunei were so evidently at an advantage in understanding the world because they’ve already seen different places.
And obviously, learning another language is best done at an early age. Both he and his younger sister spoke English and their native language fluently. (It’s a wonder why the American education system doesn’t incorporate learning a second language into the curriculum earlier on…)
I failed to write in Wednesday’s entry that after the bus broke down on the I-495, we got lost :/
We wound up circling around the city of Princeton (yup, where the famous university is located) for a few minutes. Michael forgot the address of the hotel we were staying at (and why he didn’t check on this beforehand is baffling).
For some reason, neither he nor the bus driver had a GPS, and out of desperation he jumped out of the bus, and unthinkingly approached a sedan stopped at an intersection to ask.
“Does he want to get shot?” Jeff asked rhetorically, shaking his head.
“Where we’re from, you get shot if you do that,” Crystal said.
Michael’s attempt proved no help, but Jeff came to the rescue with the GPS built into his wife’s smartphone, and we eventually found the place.