Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Christmas in January

What do Abe Lincoln, the real Star Spangled Banner, and Bill Cosby have in common?

(Imagine the Jeopardy music playing in the background while you try to think of the answer.)

Well, the answer is ..... these are all things of which we partook last Saturday.

Saturday was Christmas reprised - sort of. That was when Barb took Dan to dinner and then to see Bill Cosby, both at the Kennedy Center in DC. This was her Christmas gift to Dan one month earlier. We had a wonderful evening - the food was wonderful, and had a good view because the restaurant was at the rooftop level of the Kennedy Center. And Bill Cosby is hilarious! He sat on stage for about an hour and forty minutes and told stories (he's not a joke-teller but a story teller) that had us laughing almost non-stop. At one point Dan had to massage his face because it hurt so much. We had great seats - third row left! People and events are much more "dressy" here, and we enjoyed getting dressed up for the evening. Barb looked great in her new purple blouse and slacks, accessorized with her blue sapphire pendant and earrings. Dan, dressed in a long sleeved merino sweater topped with a John Clarendon jacket.

(OK, OK, the fashion commentary was a bit over the top, but we really do enjoy the dressy atmosphere here.) Prior to that we spent a couple of hours at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. There were several interesting exhibits, but the two most interesting were 1) Abraham Lincoln, his life and his writings during the Civil War, (in celebration of his 200th birthday this year), and b) the real Star Spangled Banner. On display was the actual flag that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the war of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song, "The Star Spangled Banner" (later to become our national anthem). For more information, read this:
or this:
All in all, Saturday was a great day!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Inauguration - Epilogue

What more can we say about our experiences during the inauguration? During the week we talked with family and friends around the US - and Cindy in Malaysia - answering questions about what it was like to be here. It has given us a chance to reflect some more about everything we did. Writing this may be more for us than you, but read on if you wish as we describe some of our greatest impressions and memories ....

.... such as the crowds, huge crowds. How there were people of all sorts, some wearing fur coats and suits, some in every-day wear, some looking like street people, some waving Kenyan flags and singing. And despite the crowds, how orderly and friendly people were. How there was a real sense of celebration, camaraderie, and history in the making.

.... such as how massive the security was. The entire parade route fenced in, check points where people were searched prior to entering, police two-deep along Pennsylvania Avenue, bomb-sniffing dogs on patrol, military police helping out, helicopters continually circling overhead, bridges into the district closed, sniper-spotters and sharp-shooters on the roofs of buildings. This is only what we saw, not to mention under-cover security and hidden cameras and who knows what else. And despite this, we found ourselves occasionally anxious about the safety of our President, especially when he was walking along the route.

.... such as Julia, with whom we ate lunch and talked for quite a while ... a black woman, somewhat older than us, who grew up in Florida during some of the dark days of segregation. How she shared some of those experiences, told us that her sisters were the first to de-segregate a high school in Florida, that store-fronts had signs that read "Negroes enter in the back", and how her father taught her how to get through the barriers without hate, malice or prejudice to those who might mistreat her. How she never thought she would see a black president in her lifetime. And how, almost in passing (and certainly not boastfully, rude or pretentiously) she said "and that is why this day is so important to me."

.... such as how we well up in pride and emotion at almost every inauguration we watch, as it is the essence of US democracy for parties to peacefully transition power to one another. And how, even though we did not back Barack Obama, nor believe his were the best policies for the country, nor vote for him, we accept the outcome and recognize him as OUR President.

.... such as how fortunate we feel to have been able to experience this at least once in our lifetime. No, we didn't get tickets to view the swearing-in, and, no, we didn't brave the cold to stand in the mall and watch it on jumbo-trons amidst a sea of people, but we were there, in DC, and could feel the palpable buzz of excitement.

We will pray for our leaders, especially the President, because our country needs wise leaders now as much as ever. We hope you do, too.

May God Bless the USA.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration - Chapter 3

Well, we did it! We made it into Washington, D.C. for the inauguration! What a day! We decided if we were going to try to beat most of the crowds, we should probably leave home fairly early. How early?? Well, we left home at 4:17 A.M.! We thought we would go to the closest Metro station to park and take the Metro in to the city, but when we came up to the exit, the line of cars were backed up on the highway at least 1 mile from the exit and they were at a standstill. So we went to plan B and drove to the Boeing building in Rosslyn, parked the car there, and took the Metro just 4 stops in to the city. That ended up working very well! We DID end up getting there at 5:45 A.M., but at least we beat most of the crowds. We spent the next 4 1/2 hours sitting in a coffee shop reading the paper, having our lattes, and people watching.
The crowds did come!! There were security points set up to get into the parade route and people started showing up we heard around 4:30 A.M. I thought WE were crazy!!! We at least were warm!!
We had been invited to the Air Transport Assoc. offices where they were holding an inauguration day reception. We showed up at about 10:45 A.M. and were on the 11th floor overlooking the parade route. We watched the presidential motorcade as they made their way from the White House to the Capitol building for the swearing in ceremony. We then watched the ceremony on a big screen T.V. After the ceremony, the helicopter that took Former President Bush and Mrs. Bush to Andrews Air Force Base, flew by our building. Then we had a delicious buffet lunch while we waited for the parade to start.

The streets were lined with police and the building we were in and one next to us had sharp shooters ready for any trouble.

We were then ready for the parade to start with binoculars in hand!

Before the new President drove by there were several military groups who went by.

And then it was time for President Obama and his family. We were excited when we saw on the T.V. that he had gotten out of the car to walk, but unfortunately he got back in before he got to us. He is in this car in the back right hand seat. Barb was able to see him through the binoculars waving through the window! His car was surrounded by Secret Servicemen.

Vice-President Biden and his family DID go by on foot. He even looked up and waved at us on the balcony!
By the time the President and Vice-President had gone by it was getting later then we thought so we decided to brave the crowds on the Metro to get back to the car. It was jam packed, but people were in a great mood.
All in all, the 3 days were an amazing experience and we are so glad we braved the crowds and the weather to take part in this time in history!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration - Chapter 2

To begin Chapter 2, we have to go back four months in time. In mid-September, we had just arrived in the DC area and already people were telling us how exciting it will be here, come January. So with a rare stroke of foresight, we contacted the office of Jay Inslee, Congressman from the first district of Washington (where we lived for almost 30 years) and requested tickets to the swearing in ceremonies and/or other inaugural events. We were filled with great hope when the Congressman's aid wrote back that we were 5th on the list .... 5th!! We thought that put us in great position to get some tickets.

Fast forward to December. It seems that the election of one Barack Obama so excited the country that demand for tickets exploded. Alas, Mr. Inslee's office had to conduct a lottery, which rendered our great list position worthless. And to no surprise, we did not win in the lottery. : - (

I think Congressman Inslee felt bad about this - having raised our expectations only to dash them. So last week, we received a personal invitation to come meet the Congressman in his office on Monday, Jan 19. Oh, we were so excited that he was going to try and make amends!!!

Well, the joke was on us! We didn't get invited to a private meeting. Nooooo, it was an open house - an open house for anybody from his district who was in DC for the inauguration. And to make matters worse, this was the day that EVERYBODY in the US had to go get their inaugural tickets from their own congressman. The lines at the House Office buildings were LOOONNGGG! We had to wait over 30 minutes in line in the cold January weather just to get in to see Jay (and that was the short line). Here is Dan giving Jay Inslee a piece of his mind about the injustice and inconsiderability of it all:

Actually, while much of the story is true, this account may have exaggerated our frustration just a tad. We knew it was an open house, and we had a very nice, albeit brief, conversation with him. We really made nice. See how friendly we all look here?

After this, Jay's staff offered us donuts and coffee! What a deal!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration - Chapter 1

At the risk of being too philosophical, here's a question for you to mull over: If you go to a major happening, but only watch it on a jumbo-tron (or diamond-vision, take your choice), were you really there?

That's what happened to us Sunday, Jan 18. The kick-off event for the Inaugural celebration was the "We Are One" concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was a star-filled celebration (there were about 30 actors and singers there) that started at 2:30. People apparently lined up really early. By the time we got there early afternoon, we had no chance of being within eye shot of the Lincoln Memorial. The crowds were CRAZY ...

The Mall area around the Washington Monument was the designated overflow area, equipped with jumbo-trons and loud speakers. We made our way there and tried to stake a small piece of territory. Our main aim was trying to make sure Barb could see the screens. (At 6' 2", Dan had no problem.) People just came pouring in, until the crowd looked like this:

All told, there were an estimated 400,000 people there. And for those of us not close to the Lincoln Memorial?... We all watched the show on the jumbo-tron. So were we really there, or were we not?? Methinks we were.

I spent a lot of time just watching other people, though, and not necessarily the show. The mood was pretty festive and people really enjoyed the being there. You could really feel the sense of, well, Obama euphoria among the crowd. And when the show was over, it was an absolute mass of humanity moving away from the mall. The lines at the Metro stations were EXTREMELY long, so we found the nearest restaurant in Georgetown to go eat and wait for the crowds to diminish.

It was experience, to be sure. It will not be often that we will go looking for 400,000 people to hang out with, to crowd through the streets with, and to cram into Metro stations with, but we have to take in events while we are here.

But wait, this was just a dry run for tomorrow. How many more people will show up for the inauguration? We have heard estimates from 2-4 million. What kind of crazies would go get mixed up in a thing like that, of their own accord? Apparently, we will. We have an invitation to a parade-viewing reception at the Air Transport Association, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue along the parade route. So tonight we are trying to figure out what time to leave to get there on time.

Stay tuned for our next blog entry and we'll let you know how all works out.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Christmas/New Years 2008

Christmas has come and gone, but boy did we have a wonderful one! It started out a little challenging with our flight being cancelled because of the snow in Seattle, but thankfully we were able to get in by Christmas Eve. We were especially thankful because we only had a short amount of time to spend with Nate and Michelle since they left Christmas night on a cruise! So, we all gathered together Christmas Eve night to celebrate and exchange gifts. We had a delicious Fondue dinner, one of our family favorites! Christmas day while Matt and Callie went to the Peterson's and Nate and Michelle went to the Hasten's, Dan and I went to Bruce and Joellen's to spend the day with them and all of Joellen's family. Kacie joined us mid-afternoon and the rest of the kids came for dessert. They showed up just in time to shovel Kacie's car out of the snow (Nate in his shorts all ready for the cruise!). The rest of our holiday consisted of spending time with Matt,Callie, Kacie, Bruce and Joellen; eating out, playing games, and seeing movies, and meeting Kacie's new roommate, Stevie. Barb was able to fit in a lunch with her co-workers from school, and we had a wonderful dinner with our former Bible Study group and we spent a relaxing dinner with Matt's parents, Mike and Bonnie. We weren't able to see everyone, but we expect to be back soon!