Category Archives: Washington DC

Japan in DC!

FINALLY here’s my blog that I had written about DC…..

Every year Washington has a festival in honor of the blooming of the cherry blossoms. In case you didn’t know (because I sure didn’t!) the significance behind these trees is all about our relationship with Japan. In 1912, Japan’s Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave 3,000

Cherry Blossoms grazing over Tidal Basin
Cherry Blossoms grazing over Tidal Basin

cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC. The festival honors this relationship between the two countries and this has held true throughout the years. It is an ultimate hand of peace and unity between the two cultures (something that the US is in desperate need of today actually).

Every year at spring, DC breaks out in a city wide celebration of the Japanese to highlight the arrival of the season and blossoms with a festival and parade. After being in Japan, I feel like I may have missed out on some of the raw historical culture that Japan has to offer. Well, I generally was stuck in the hotel room most of the time, but I had also read that the southern regions of the country are a little more present with the authentic Japanese customs and culture. Tokyo is so modern and fast paced in

Spectators at the Festival Parade
Spectators at the Festival Parade

comparison to what I think of Japan. But then this festival came about in DC, WITH the opportunity for me to attend! They had kite flying competitions, lantern making, geisha dancing, and taiko drummers. Saburo Teshigawara and Karas, which are new contemporary styles of Japanese dance are coming into the world today, were introduced to me and I fell in love. Some dances would tell stories while others, would show journeys of an individual. It was an incredible experience to watch. Especially to me, who wanted so badly to find that cultural niche that I had been missing out on.

I was so sad that Wayne wasn’t there with us (both me and my mom). After being in Japan, he would have had a similar appreciation to the foods and garments and decoration which we had just seen in the country itself. There were a hundred different booths with Japanese foods and crafts, and actual souvenirs that we bought on our trip here for the DC public! Everything was ridiculously authentic! Then at the ends of the street festival there were

Dancer in the Parade
Dancer in the Parade

stages for music and dances. I think I may have sat there watching these beautiful dancers (both young and old) flying across the stage for over an hour without even moving. I was so transfixed on their every move. There were so graceful and moved with this incredible delicate purpose. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The music was hypnotizing as it was so new and irregular for me. This just goes to show you that perhaps to truly appreciate a culture, you must embrace it in another

Drummer onstage at Festival
Drummer onstage at Festival

one.

Unfortunately, it was a gorgeous day and brought everyone out from every corner of Maryland. It was hard to move around and see everything that we wanted to. In fact, the festival was at the maximum capacity and there was a huge line to get in when we left.

The whole experience of the cherry blossom festival sort of trumped the rest of the DC trip for me. It was just amazing to feel like I had got a second chance at what I feel I missed.  To see this culture so embraced and celebrated made me excited to be a part of it. My

Dragon Artists at Festival
Dragon Artists at Festival

mom and I also explored all the monuments and memorials, Georgetown, and the neighborhoods that make up Washington. Whenever foreigners ask me about cities in the States that are really great “go to” places, DC really never came to mind. Of course New York, San Fran, Florida, and Chicago are so big, but I must admit I never gave DC the attention it so deserves! It is breath-takingly beautiful, full of history, and there is no way that you could ever see everything! It officially on top of my list!

White House among Blossoms
White House among Blossoms

Bad or Helpful Footprints?

I am sitting on the balcony of the hotel my mom booked for her business trip, looking out at the Washington Monument piercing the sky in the middle of Washington DC. Every morning at work I watch CNN and observe the people of the capital making some decisions that alter the lives of millions. But, what I never embrace about DC is its history and its beauty and the people. Today is going to be about 80 degrees which is

Washington Monument from the balcony
Washington Monument from the balcony

quite the change from the freezing rain I have just left back in Chicago. The sky is a perfect blue with various clouds whisping through and on the highway I can see a slight back up of cars trying to make their way into the city (no beeping horns by the way). I am ready to re-explore this city! With my Wanderlust still raging at full blast within me, I have to keep reminding myself how truly lucky I am. My Japan trip was great but just not what I had expected with the disability of my knee and now here I am miraculously in our nation’s capital to celebrate the biggest National Festival of the Japanese Cherry Blossoms. It’s as if I was given a retake of my great trip, and to ease my unfulfilled desire for my travel and Wanderlust. I have been hungry for some good ol fashion touristing. I want to go to all those touristy sites and see the Smithsonian and the monuments, but I also want to discover hidden cafes and boutiques. This seems to be the perfect place to quench my lust.

Last night my mother and I went out for some dinner after I had just arrived from the Regan airport. After receiving a city lesson from the cab driver about the rising of certain areas and the economic history of the city, he finally decides to take us to this neighborhood that was once known for its crime and bad reputation. He told us that people were (and are still) spilling into the city because the recession never touched here, so there were still plenty of jobs available and the city was still strong in the economic struggle. This area, which was once disregarded, is now bustling with all sorts of diverse restaurants, shops, and expensive condos. When I asked him the name of the neighborhood he turned to give me a strange look as if no one had asked him this question before and then responded “Navy Yards.” We were hungry and wanted to sit down together so we decided on a beautiful Mexican/Latin place, got a table on the

Drinking Sangria in Barcelona
Drinking Sangria in Barcelona

upstairs patio, and proceeded to eat and drink the night away.

My friend, Martin (who has just released his book onto his More than Footprints website) says it perfectly about situations similar to this neighborhood. The cab driver last night kept insisting that DC was one of the best kept secrets of the nation, and now it is being overrun and ruined because it has been “discovered.” Well Martin’s whole focus with his book is the question of whether or not the discovery of new places by tourists helps or hurts a culture. Places in Asia that had been little untouched towns in the sixties, are now today common getaway vacations for the rich and western people. Fisherman have lost their shores to big five star resorts and are now working in the maintenance department for the hotel guests. Little shops that once made their own jewelry or clothing are now selling souvenirs and postcards. Is this healthy? Should these people who lived through their culture now live through the tourist industry overtaking their home town? Is something similar to this happening in DC? Our cab driver certainly seemed to think so. Although, I couldn’t help thinking that it should mean more business for him and other small businesses in the city. And I understand the inflation of cost of living, but doesn’t it also mean that it is more success for you? It’s hard to tell what is right and what is not in situations like these. I do understand the side of the driver in the fact that he has lived his life in this city one way and has accustomed himself to knowing his city as that way, and it’s difficult to allow other people come in and try to

Malaysia Gentleman selling authestic Malaysia dish on the street...
Malaysia Gentleman selling authestic Malaysia dish on the street…

change it over. Small treasures, as the cab driver once saw DC, are so rare in our world and it is disappointing to see them changing. But, our world is changing all the time. Soon the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the grandest world wonders, will soon be gone and I am terrified that I have missed my opportunity. Are there other towns and wonders that I am missing out on because of our ever changing world? Am I missing my opportunities to discover my own hidden treasures in a country I have never been to? There is so little time and so little finances. I feel like I am never going to catch up. Life is short as they say…so go make some big decisions.

Meeting Washington

My grandmother, whom I called Marmie, hated to fly. Hated it. In my time with her, I never knew her to fly anywhere. Perhaps she had when she came to see me or my cousins when we lived farther away, but she had an enormous fear of flying. Although, nothing would keep her from seeing her grandchildren and her children. She was a major customer of Amtrak (which is a train company in the United States). I’m not entirely sure why, but the United States has still not taken part in the

Mom outside a high speed train in Belgium
Mom outside a high speed train in Belgium

high speed train industry. Our trains are quite slow. When my dear friend Martin was coming from Fiji to America, he was very excited to see the vast lands of the United States and was insisting on taking the train. I tried to warn him on how slow it actually is, but he did it anyway. Yes, you are able to see the desserts and mountains and forests and lakes and plains, but it takes days and weeks to get somewhere.

Well, in the summers my Marmie would take me on these trips when I was a kid to see my cousins. It was important that I spent time with them. Not only were they my family, but they were female cousins of my same age. They lived in North Carolina while we lived in Chicago, so it would take us a couple days. Sometimes on our route we would have to take a train to Washington DC and transfer to the next train down to North Carolina. I have been to DC several times and I only have blended memories in which I cannot differentiate the time between them. But the one memory that is still so clear in my mind is the Lincoln Memorial.

Marmie was making my cousins and I write reports on Washington DC landmarks before we went there. I am cursed with this evil brat self within me and it comes out sometimes without warning. I have gotten a hold of it now at the age I am now, but when I was young it would appear often and loudly. When the brat had come out, I screamed and cried how much I did not want to write the report. How it was unfair and I did not need to do it. Eventually Marmie got me to write it. She had a very magical way about her and I wrote the report on the Lincoln Memorial. When we arrived in Washington DC, my cousins took turns reading their reports at the national landmarks we each researched. When we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, I was so incredibly nervous because I wanted mine of course to be the best and to read it without messing2012-03-02 11.30.24 up. I got through it and everyone told me how good of a job I had done. Marmie gave me a big kiss and squeezed me tight, telling me how wonderful I had done.

To this day, I do not travel anywhere without the researching first. Next week I will be visiting Washington DC once again with my mother. Coincidentally, it is the annual Japanese Cherry Blossom festival in DC with all sorts of Japanese artists, and performances. The Japanese gave the United States a gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to represent the good relationship between the two countries in 1912 and now every year there is a festival to celebrate. After the trip I had with Wayne, I was somewhat disappointed I did not have the opportunity to do and see all I wanted to because of my injury. Perhaps I was always meant to experience more of 2012-03-02 09.19.47the Japanese culture than I had and now I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to have a second chance. The universe guides us on mysterious paths. Especially those who have this wanderlust addiction deep within their beings. Sometimes we are meant to go or see or meet people in a certain place.