Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 9 and Day 10: The Home Stretch

Our group has had a great time on this tour, but we are TIRED! Many of us have remarked how we wish we'd brought pedometers to measure the distance we have walked since we left on March 6th. The early days of the tour seem like a distant memory, and the bus feels like a second home. There is something very unique about how a group comes together through a bus tour.

Day 9:
Yesterday we had the entire day to continue sightseeing in Washington, D.C. Because the weather was supposed to be a bit warmer than the previous day, a majority of the group chose to start with the memorials: Korean War Veteran's Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, and finally the World War II Memorial. All of the memorials are meaningful in their own way. The Korean War Veterans Memorial is striking as there are many statues of soldiers actively walking through the foliage.

The Lincoln Memorial is truly moving in that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on those steps, facing the reflection pool and Washington Monument, as he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. It is powerful because of its sheer size and while it can be imposing, the statue feels empathetic and thoughtful.

The White House
 The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is thought provoking...and we overheard one tour guide telling a group that it was designed in a way to make it look like it is cascading names toward the center of the if it is drowning in names. Interesting take on it, but regardless, it is powerful to look at this wall and see your own reflection among the many, many names of those who died in Vietnam.

The World War II Veteran's Memorial was truly stunning in size and scope...and in how it is placed. On one side you can turn and see the Lincoln Monument, turn 180 degrees and then see the Washington Monument. Each state is represented with a pillar and there is a wall of stars...each star represents 100 people, so you truly get a sense of the number of people lost. Each faction of the war (Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Normandy, etc.) is represented as well.
WWII Memorial

Students on steps of Lincoln Memorial
Following the Memorials, everyone headed to the museums they didn't get to see the day before, in addition to visiting the National Archives to see the original Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. They are housed in an incredible building, with so much beautiful detail and design.
Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall
We headed to dinner at Subway and Au Bon Pain on our way to the National Symphony Orchestra Concert at Kennedy Center. (Fun fact: Our bus driver and a few students who stayed on the bus during this time report that that they saw the President's Motorcade go by). The concert hall was beautiful and the music program was as well. The concert opened with two pieces from Debussy's Nocturnes, followed by Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43" featuring Daniil Trifonov, pianist (he is in his early 20's and has already won several prestigious competitions). He played an encore after the audience continued to stand, clap, and yell "brava!". Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano, performed with the orchestra on Falla's "El amor brujo" (no standing ovation there) and the evening concluded with the sublime Respighi "Pini di Roma" ("Pines of Rome"). The conductor, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, is in his early 80's and walked out unsteadily each time he came to the stage, but as soon as he was on his podium, he exuded energy and vitality. That is why we were so surprised when numerous orchestra members stopped playing and lunged for him at the end of the 3rd movement as he began to collapse. He sat on the edge of the podium, raised his baton and indicated that the orchestra should continue. He proceeded to conduct from the seated position, resting occasionally and weakly gesturing as needed. In the 4th movement, in the Pines of the Appian Way, the music began to build and crescendo- suddenly he began to stand and resumed with more energy. It was riveting and as if the music itself picked him up, rejuvenated him, and allowed the entire audience to experience the moment between him and the marvelous orchestra. It was phenomenal and demonstrated pure professionalism for our students in attendance!
Korean War Veteran Memorial

Day 10:
Today we planned to go to Arlington Cemetery, but unfortunately there was a marathon this morning, and all roads leading to the Cemetery were blocked off. We decided to head on to Gettysburg. The battlefield is enormous and the group watched a movie about the Civil War and Gettysburg's significance, in particular, before then moving on to the Cyclorama where a 360 degree painting is installed and then the Museum. We stopped at the Cemetery on the grounds, saw the general area where it is believed Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, and took a little time to walk around some of the monuments before getting back on the bus and heading to Bentleyville (yes, the same hotel with the wooden floors!) this evening. We are overwhelmed with history and significant events! Going from Philadelphia where our country was debated and formalized in documents to seeing those documents in D.C., and then to see how our country continued to persevere through the most trying conflict -with one another- has been inspiring.
Lincoln Memorial

Heading home 3.16.14 

Tomorrow we leave early and head back to Terre Haute, hopefully missing a majority of the snow which is headed east.

We thank those of you responsible for helping to get us here, and for following along with our travels. It has been a wonderful experience, but we are all ready to come home.
*Will try to upload more pictures from the trip after we arrive home!

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