It has been such a busy week and the three of us are feeling completely knackered. We are back ‘home’ in Providence and loving the sense of all that is familiar that surrounds us. As much as things can be familiar in a year such as ours. Archie, Rissie and I constantly referred to how nice it would be to get ‘home’. I had images of Strach and Robert huddled in their bed muttering to themselves with fear and loathing that three little Aussies had somehow made themselves so much at home that they were never going to leave. “We’re back” it makes me want to sing out in a really creepy zombie type of serial killer voice. I am sure that there is a psycho killer out there who sings things like that before be-heading poor unsuspecting innocents but I can not for the life of me remember one.
I think I have lived out so many moments in the last week of the movies and books that reside in my head. Princeton is the stuff of a fairy-tale American education, it is where Albert Einstein was a professor, it was once the American capital for a little while, F.Scott Fitzgerald was a student and it was the inspiration for some of the content of some of his works such as The Great Gatsby. It is truly an incredible place, complete with the bustling main street of Nassau Street and the ivy draped stone walls that would surround you as a student. In my early morning ramblings I think I lost my ability to speak or to form a sensible sentence. Princeton was nothing short of glorious and it opens your eyes to a world of privilege. I hope the students who go there are grateful for every second they are there and not selfish little turds about it all. Because that would make me sad.
It was funny with Washington D.C. as I had no expectations. Washington D.C. had not lived in my head for decades like New York City. I knew it was the capital, I knew the White House was there. The one thing on my list to see was the Library of Congress which, being the largest library in the world, made me almost weep in anticipation. The rest of Washington D.C. I did not really give much thought to. Also, as Strachan was driving us I knew I had a tour guide, so was literally leaving everything in the lap of the gods. It was funny too as a couple of people mentioned the Washington D.C. “mall” to me. The Smithsonian Museums were all located off there, the Washington Monument was somewhere in the middle of there and you could walk around the mall to your heart’s content. To be honest, I hate fucking shopping. The thought of everything revolving around a great big mall left me with little interest in Washington D.C. I did rather ignorantly think to myself, well a great big shopping mall in the middle of their Capital sounds quite American, where everything bigger is better. It sounded completely unappealing.
Like Anne of Green Gables I am quite happy to admit when I am wrong. I even can do over the top flowery apologies especially if I am so wrong that I occasionally think that I need to get out of ‘Lala’ land and stop being so bloody thick. Washington D.C. quite literally took my breath away. I was in constant turmoil between where I would live if I lived in the States – Washington D.C. or New York City, New York City or Washington D.C. Washington D.C. quite often came out on top. The things that we have no expectations of and arrive like a surprise gift in our lap are often the best. Washington D.C. was one of the greatest gifts I have received thus far in this trip. It was majestic, it was awe inspiring, it was cool, it was quirky. It was absolutely everything that you could want in a city that will live in your daydreams for the rest of your life. That ‘mall’ that I had thought of so disdainfully was in fact one of the most incredible public spaces I have ever seen.
The National Mall is over 1000 acres of green space stretching from the Abraham Lincoln Memorial to the US Capital Building surrounded by the most extraordinary monuments and places of interest such as the Smithsonian Museums (most of which are free) and the White House. And this little Aussie yokel had stupidly thought it was home to Target and Walmart. Washington D.C. I am a bloody plonker. I want to come back time and time again, it would take you years to truly discover you.
Someone said to me before I left that Ziploc bags are the traveller’s best friend. I had internally scoffed at them. Surely your undies, or your backpack or your passport would be your best friend. Once again I am a great big ignoramus – it would seem that there is a current theme to this post in that I am an idiot. Ziploc bags are home to all my cords, USB sticks, charging thingys and other technical thingys. Instead of multiple washbags I have ziploc bags. Soaps, deodarant, hair gel (for Archie), hair bands, panadol, tampons – all go in a ziploc bag. On our second last day in Washington D.C. Archie was not feeling great. I tried getting him to have a sleep but even after that he felt dodgy. With Archie I know that he just needs to have a great big chuck and then he is as right as rain. So we continued with our plans, but I was prepared and took two oversize ziploc bags.
Fair enough at lunch, one bite of his rather radioactive looking ham and cheese toasted sandwich was enough to do the trick. The poor little kid meant to spit out a mouthful but ended up having a little vomit onto his sandwich. Then I was able to give him his ziploc bag to do the big hurling. They are incredible inventions and Archie takes after his mother in that he is a very neat and silent vomiter. Don’t you just love it when your heart beats with pride? It was a little private moment that filled me with wonder – my son and the magic of ziploc bags. We were able to take him and his bag off to the toilet where we could neatly dispose of the bag in the rubbish and he was as good as new. A second ziploc bag came in handy for a little cat spew during a very long drive home. That fucking Suri or Siri or whoever that bitch is in your phone turned a three hour drive into a six hour drive. Now that was true ignorance, and unlike me she offered no flowery apologies.
Turns out the reason Archie was hurling in public places was that he had been eaten by mosquitos the afternoon before. He tends to get a fairly vicious reaction. A chuck in his ziploc bag and some antihistamine solved the problem but it alerted me in a rather timely fashion that in less than a week we are off to Costa Rica. Well fuck me. Up until now, apart from my disdain of the great big Westfield Shopping Centre that I thought Washington D.C. was going to be I have been amazingly prepared. There was so much I was meant to have done before I got to Costa Rica that I am feeling for the first time in my trip, a trifle unprepared. For example I was meant to have mastered Spanish. Well not exactly mastered it, but had a few phrases under my belt such as “Excuse me, can you help as I am horrifically lost.” “In god’s name can you tell me where the nearest bottle shop is?” “Have you got a plunger as my son has managed to block your toilet with his indestructible turd?” Just a few little essentials like that. I could panic, but I refuse to. Maybe in the early dawn hours I shudder occasionally but I am going to be rational about this. The one thing that is the most important to me is to exhibit good manners and a respect for the country we are about to visit. So we know how to say please, thank you, good morning and sorry. I think sorry is going to be a key one. Apologies might be fairly frequent. There is the small issue that I have no idea where we are staying for 10 days between Costa Rica and the beach shack, saying that I have not sorted out Atlanta either, but that is what the internet is for.
You see I am being amazingly calm considering how anal I am. The other thing I am doing is that I am expecting everything to be different. The language, the culture, the food, the people, the weather, the monsoon rains and the fucking crocodiles. So I figure if we arrive expecting everything to be different along with utilising our very best of manners then we shall be ok. That is of course Pollyanna speaking. I am not sure whether to bless her little cotton socks or belt her over the head with a cricket bat.