Sunday, 19 February 2012

Washington DC and NYC, February 2012

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.

My next adventure was a school trip to Washington D.C. and New York. Unfortunately about half way through the week I managed to fracture my wrist, but I didn't let that stop me! We went to countless different places, and it would be impossible for me to mention everything in such a short space. That's probably one of the most difficult things about writing this blog: it's just not feasible to include everything, and all the little things that add up to make up my experience just won't fit. My aim is to provide you with a snapshot of my time, so that if you were to go and experience these new places for yourself, there are plenty of little gaps to be filled in. I really enjoyed my time in America even though the weather was freezing - I suppose you can't really expect much else if you're going in the February half term week.


The NYC 'Freedom Tower' - under construction.
This was one of the most important things that I saw in NYC. It already dominates the skyline and the symbolism of such a building is simply astronomical. Upon completion, it will stand at 1,776 feet in commemoration of American independence and it is a memorial to all those who died in the 9/11 attacks of 2001. It seems to be a defiant statement to the rest of the world about the strength and resolve of the US people and the intense loss felt by the nation on the 11th September 2001. For the family, friends and everyone else who knew those tragically lost in the attacks, this must be a constant reassurance for them that their loved ones will never be forgotten. The tower is right by the site where the World Trade Centre was, and accompanied with the solemn memorial waterfalls created in the foundations of the former buildings, it goes to show that something that has happened in my lifetime will resonate long into the future. That one day will never be forgotten and has ripped families and communities apart, but the strength and resolve of the nation stands even taller than, the 'One World Trade Centre'.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial - Washington DC
Distressing, alarming and heartbreaking. I could not even begin to comprehend the scale of the loss that was suffered. I walked along the wall in silence, trying to read as many of the names as I possibly could and the wall just stretched on and on without end. All I could see was the reflection of my own face, blurring with the countless names of all those men and women who died. This reminded me that all of these names were real people, just like you or me. Having studied the Vietnam War at school, I knew what these people were sent out to die for and I couldn't forgive those who sent them. There were many more besides these who died; the Vietnamese men, women and children. This memorial to the US veterans struck me to the core and the image of all those names glaring out at me, quite literally in black and white, will stay with me. It's one of the few memorials that actually manages to go some way in expressing the sheer number of brave men and women who die in warfare, seemingly for the good of others.

The view from the top of the Empire State building.
The Empire State Building is one of the city's major attractions, and I can definitely see why! Although we did have to wait for quite a while, I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked outside. I can honestly say that I just didn't believe what I saw. I was struck by the colossal urbanisation that I saw and, to my surprise I actually thought it was beautiful. The magnitude of all the small, twinkling lights and the spectacular architecture involved in the creation of, for example the Chrysler Building, amazed me. Each one of the tiny windows that you can see in the photo tells a tale. I remember standing there (practically freezing to death) thinking of all the people behind each of those lights. A mother, juggling a career with a busy family life, a restless soul looking out and dreaming of their name in lights but stuck in an office job, an employee just waiting for the chance to go home, or someone frantically working to a deadline... I was inspired by the twinkling lights of New York City, but I'm not the first and not the last to do so I'm sure.
UN Building - General Assembly Hall
This is quite possibly one of the most important stages for the most critical dramas in the world. What fascinated me most of all was actually the translation systems that of course must be in place in a meeting place between almost two hundred member states. The main working languages that have been chosen by the UN are; Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. I spent a lot of time talking to our tour guide about how the translation works, and just how critical it really is. For the most important of speeches, the translation will be done in advance to ensure accuracy. It made me think about how important languages are and the incredible work that is done every single day by interpreters. The world literally just couldn't function without them, but often the work that they do is regrettably sidelined by others as a transparent medium of communication between states.

A photo of me in Times Square, on the way
to go and see 'Jersey Boys' on Broadway.

All in all, I can say that I learned a lot from America and there's more to NYC and Washington than junk food, malls and bright city lights. It was one of the first opportunities that I had had to implement what I had learned at school into the 'real world' and it really did enhance my experiences. The importance of translation really hit home to me alongside the scale of US loss and their incredible efforts to remember the departed. I don't really have anything negative to say, and I am hoping to return after the completion of the Freedom Tower!

Before I go, I must give all the credit to one of my school friends, Bethany Smith, for the photographs. As my camera broke whilst I was away, the majority of the photos on this post have been taken by her. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bethanyrosesmith/