Travel to US and Europe – Reflecting on the morning of hope

Travel to US and Europe – Reflecting on the morning of hope

We had a good time in New York. We did what we could reasonably do in about a week. As planned, we left New York on 29 December for Washington by bus which I booked online before leaving Canberra. It was a Vamoose bus we took from near the Penn Station at 9.30 in the morning. The Penn station is not far from the Grand Central Railway Station and is a short taxi ride from Hotel Hyatt where we stayed in NY.

The morning was cloudy and cold when we stared the bus journey. I thought it might rain later on our way to Washington. While on the bus near New Jersey I called Iftikhar Mostafa, our friend and host in Washington. He said to me, “Quader bhai, it is sort of snowing in Washington D.C. and hopefully it will continue and probably you will be able to see it”. The news was exciting as we did not experience snowfall in NY during Christmas. My seven-year old granddaughter got especially excited about the prospect of seeing snowfall in D.C.

The three and a half hour journey was wonderful with the sightseeing from the windows of the bus – rivers, bridges, trees shedding leaves and industrial towns coming our way. The bus arrived in Bethesda on time where our friend and host Iftikhar was waiting to collect us. As we were six people we had to hire a taxi as well. It was a twenty-five minute journey from the bus station to his home Maryland.

To our disappointment, there was no snowfall when we arrived in Washington. We were told it was snowflakes falling for a while so as they melted quickly. Anyway, coming to our friend’s home we felt relieved from some kind of buslag (like jetlag!) with the comfort of warmer temperature and cosy atmosphere inside. After freshening up we had a quick lunch and took some rest and later got ready to utilise the rest of the day outside. We headed off to do some quick sightseeing as the evening was approaching with a shorter winter day.

I said to Iftikhar, “What about the White House?” He replied, “OK, not a bad idea, let us visit one of the iconic buildings first in Washington”. To all intents and purposes, the White House symbolises the world power and American might.

From the outside the White House is just an unassuming building – to me it looks like a manorial home or sort of a big zaminder’s palace in Bangladesh in olden days. As we know, the White House is the official residence and main workplace of the US President and is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington D.C. This citadel of power bears testimony to many Presidential executive decisions – the good, the bad and the ugly – that had significant and transformational impact on world history affecting the US and other nations too.

We took a number of photos with the White House in the background as tourists generally do. As the sunset was gradually approaching and feeling a bit tired we thought we better go home and relax. Our host loves cooking and he cooked a couple of wonderful dishes for us in the morning before our arrival to D.C. After dinner my wife Alice asked me “What is our travel plan for tomorrow and how we should visit places of interest”. I said, “Leave it to our host as we are at his disposal and you know he will take care of us very well. Don’t worry, we will enjoy our stay in D.C”.

The following day after breakfast some of my family members decided to go out separately while Alice and I took a ride in the car of our host to visit few national monuments in Washington. A good thing about Washington is that it has a compact museum district which is mostly accessible by walking, dotted with wide streets and a low skyline quite distinct from New York. The Tidal Basin has area has so many national monuments with tree-lined walking paths to move from one to the other.

Our car travel from home to the Tidal Basin was pleasant. We saw many things on the way unfamiliar to us and the car travel along the Potomac River was a memorable experience I suppose. It was a not-so-cold morning and we did not feel uncomfortable as there was no chilly wind coming from the river.

It took us a while to get a parking near the Basin. Iftikhar advised that in summer one has to come early in the morning to secure a parking spot and also it could be a long wait to get inside some memorials. This is understandable as we got the same message from people everywhere we visited – for instance, Rome, London and Paris. Travelling in winter is not too bad if the temperature remains bearable as one can easily move around with lesser number of tourists and visit places of interest in big cities.

In Paris, visiting the Eiffel Tower in the warmer months in summer with so many tourists gathering from around the world and also from within France could be a nightmare. One of my work colleagues told me later that she and her partner went to have a ride on the Eiffel Tower in July. They waited for three hours on the queue for tickets for the elevator ride to the top observation deck, but could not manage the tickets. Getting frustrated, they left the queue without further bothering to wait any longer.

Our first stop was Jefferson Memorial. The Memorial is a white rotunda to honour one of the founding fathers of America, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was the third US president and author of the Declaration of Independence. The Memorial is elegant bearing the marks of Roman architecture. It contains a 19-foot tall statue of Jefferson and many of his writings that inspired the nation. It also has a number of artefacts depicting his life and the turbulent times he went through. Jefferson was a highly intelligent political philosopher and a man of enlightenment and believer of limited federal government power. This boils down to his strong conviction in human liberty.

One of Thomas Jefferson’s writings inscribed in the walls of his Memorial epitomises the spirit of liberty with justice. He said, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever”.

I reflect “How long will justice continue to sleep in my country of birth?” The challenge is how to awake justice from its deep slumber. Will not the morning of hope come out of the night of despair?

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