Friday, 10 December 2010

The American Revelation.

I may have said this before, but I adore the USA.
So when I had the chance to go to Washington DC I absolutely had to go. (Not only for the amazing Criminology experience, but because I wanted to see if at least just one small part of America lived up to my expectations. Let me tell you, it completely exceeded it.)

Ted Bundys car. Creepy.

Of course, I went to all of my crime things; Institute of Justice, George Mason University, The Pentagon (I know! That was very very exciting :D.. And nerve-wracking), the National Crime and Punishment Museum. Which were awesome.. and the Crime and Punishment museum had Ted Bundy's car in it. (He's a favourite serial killer- I think it's OK to have a favourite only because I do Criminology and because he was very interesting.)

Then did all the tourist areas - The Washington monument (Which is astonishingly huge. Seriously.. why does everything have to be so huge in the US.. not that I'm complaining at all, it was amazing, but in England things aren't nearly so high.

A few of the Smithsonian buildings: Air and Space, American History and Indian American. Which was amazing. Except for that I was just waiting for things to come to life a la 'Night at the Museum 2'.
The Lincoln Memorial (Also ginormous) The Reflecting pool, the White House (where we chatted to some very friendly policemen who told us how many rooms there were in it. It's something completely crazy, I can't remember the number), The World War Two Memorial, The Viet Nam Memorial.

Washington Monument with Sun
We did so much in the space of a week, but I wish we had stayed for far longer. And the weather was beautiful, which was very strange seeing as it was November.

But the thing I was most impressed with, and what touched me the most, was the obvious pride in their country, the friendliness, the compassion and the expression of freedom and joyfulness. The blatant patriotism was astounding. It was also beautiful.

In America the flag flies proudly at every street corner, whereas in England you'd probably be told to take our flag down because it was offending someone who wasn't British.

NBA match
I think something that I most enjoyed was going to an NBA Basketball game in the Verizon Center.  It was amazing. So much entertainment and good spirited competition. Singing the national anthem at the beginning is something that I've never experienced. I've seen some football games and other games, but none of the English matches I've seen have ever been so.. friendly I guess.

I think friendly is definitely the right word to describe the USA. It was lovely. People asked if you looked a little lost, chatted to you on the metro, said good morning in the hotel. In England that would never happen. On the tube nobody talks to anyone. It's like an unsaid rule. And usually you'd have to ask if you didn't know where to go. Of course there are some people out there who do say 'hi', have chats with you and ask if you're OK, but it's just not the same.

Chinese in a box! (Exciting, oddly)
Also I got to sample some of the cuisine. Went to a diner (of which there were surprisingly, and upsettingly few) and had a burger. Had a Hot dog at the NBA game. Some mini corn dogs at the bowling alley (which were strange, nice, but a little sickly after a while) and had a snow cone (which was lovely in the middle of an oddly hot day.) And had Chinese in a box. Yay!

The only thing that I'd say was bad was the tax. As it's added on as you buy it, rather than already added on. So I'd already got out the right amount of money most times, when I then realised I would have to get out more because I'd forgotten about the tax. So that was a little annoying.

The White House
And the streets were confusing too. We'd walk down the end of one block only to find that we'd gone the wrong way down the street, so had to turn around and walk the other way. Of course it was fine after a week. By then we'd gotten used to it. But It's much easier when all the roads look completely different.
The worst thing was going back. Knowing that work had to be in, and that the holiday was over.
And although it feels nice to be in a place that I know, I can't wait to go back and explore more of America.

Christmas Time: Mistletoe and Wine.

It's almost Christmas.
And I love it.

I'm a bit of a Chrismas lover. Every Christmas, as soon as I hear the first Christmas song, I start to get excited. (Which is usually sometime in November.. so I start early).
I just love everything to do with Christmas.

First there's the songs and decorations around the shops. Christmas trees , cards and tinsel filling shop windows. There's always a need to go out and buy things. Some tinsel there, a bauble here, a small Christmas tree for my room..
Then there's the Christmas Markets. The German Markets. Always a favourite. Stand outside, possibly in the snow cradling a Kinderwein and a Bratwurst, wearing a big scarf, woolly gloves and a silly hat: my idea of heaven. (Although better when it's indoors next to a log fire I'd assume).

The snow. Can't get enough of it. It just looks so beautiful lying out there untouched, highlighting branches on the trees, an icicle hanging down. A blanket of white on a thatched roof. Snowflakes melting on your nose. Not to mention going out there and crunching through it, scooping up a snowball or two, or three.

Reading a book by a log fire, heating up your toes on the radiator (or by the fire, but we don't have a fireplace anymore). Then going up in the attic and hauling down the tree, the lights, the baubles, the tinsel. And tree decorating. There's always that feeling of joy and satisfaction when you put the star/angel on top.

Then it gets closer to Christmas, cards and presents are being given and received. Put under the tree or around the house for everyone to see. Picturesque landscapes scattered on the windowsill.

It gets even more festive once the local panto/nativity has been talked about or done. The Royal variety show is on TV. you're dancing around the house/shops to your favourite Christmas songs.
Then the days are upon you. Christmas Eve. There's always something delicious cooking. The presents are as yet untouched, but you really want to open one. Maybe a sneak peek, or a subtle shake of one. Sounds like chocolate. Looks like a book.
Everyone watches London burst into fireworks and the day is finally here. With any luck, it's snowing. But this is England after all, so most likely rain. You then proceed to drink the night away.
The next morning someone jumps on you/you jump on someone (Yes, that may be me this year) and excitedly yell 'PRESENTS!'. So everyone groggily gets up, someone complains of a banging headache, and everyone tears into their presents.

Then its usually time to visit the family. For me, this involves a lot of drinking, food and board games. And much fun ensues. Usually someone gets a little too tiddly. Although other families can be scrooges (and we deeply resent that people can be scrooges). More chatter, more alcohol. Perfect.

By boxing day you've got a full belly, a dodgy voice box and a small headache.
And usually more family to visit.
But there's always the added benefit that you can still catch someone under the mistletoe. ;)
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