Wednesday, September 25, 2013

DC and long lost friends

Twelves years ago in August I moved to Shanghai. I spoke no Chinese and my friend who had taken me from Hong Kong to Shanghai had moved on to Beijing. Needless to say, I was a bit lost. Living in a country where you don't speak the language is overwhelming, but  you still have to eat, so out the door I went. One night I was standing on the corner ordering food off a cart and practicing the one phrase I knew, "What is this?" The man cooking the food kept chattering back to me in Chinese. I was fully ready to nod and point and hope I liked what I ordered when I heard someone call out to me, "Do you know what he is saying?"

"No!" was my desperate answer. The woman who had called out to me invited me to sit at her table. Catherine had just finished her classes in English at the school where I was soon to be teaching and she was celebrating with her friends. They pulled up a chair and I sat down. Since that time, Catherine has become one of the dearest people in the world to me. When we realized that we share a birthday, we decided our meeting was fate.

Eleven years ago, also in August, I stood in the driveway of my housing unit, handed Catherine the last of my renmenbi (the Chinese currency was not traded on the open market and so couldn't easily be exchanged outside of China), gave her a hug and left for the airport. Though we chat and send emails, I haven't seen her since.

In October, Catherine, her husband and daughter will be touring New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. This is their first trip to the US and I'm driving up to D.C. to play tour guide. So far we have a lunch cruise on the Potomac planned and I'd like to take them to the National Museum of the American Indian. Catherine requested to see things she couldn't see in China and the exhibits and cafe at that museum fit the bill. Depending on what's playing, we'll check out one of the free shows at the Kennedy Center.

Have you visited (or lived) in Washington, D.C.? What do you think I should make sure they see? If you've not been, what would be on your list to see?


Mary Preston said...

A fortuitous meeting.

I would not know what to recommend, and not even sure what would be on my itinerary. I do hope we get to see some beautiful photographs.

Kaelee said...

I haven't been to DC but the Smithsonian is something I've heard a lot about. I think the museum that you have planned to visit is part of it but my niece said you could visit it for days. Maybe there is another part your friend's family would be interested in seeing.

Do the cherry trees turn color in the fall? If so would they be turned by now?

Unknown said...

@Mary Preston:

I'm so excited to see her! I hope I remember to take pictures. I'm pretty bad at remembering. I think Catherine is better at it.


We talked about going to some of the other Smithsonian museums, maybe the one for American History? Sadly, I think the cherry trees don't turn pretty colors, but that's something to look for. They'll be up in Massachusetts for the first of October, so maybe they'll see some fall color there.

kris said...

Jennifer, I can't begin to imagine how much courage it took to head to Shanghai without speaking the language. I am in awe, and so very glad you made this connection.

There is a very cool National Geographic museum in DC: I think it's not as big and overwhelming as some of the Smithsonians, but it was very interesting when we visited.

linda s said...

I vote for Macy's - sooo American and a real treat to tourists.

Anonymous said...

I love the sites in Washington DC
The Lincoln Memorial, The Smithsonian Museums, The Washington Momument and The Vietnam Wall are my favorites.

Unknown said...


I didn't know that National Geographic had a museum! I'll have to put that on my list. As far as moving without speaking the language--I was young and stupid and I'd do it again in a flash!


Maybe Macy's. Catherine did always like to shop.


Those are all on our list. I hope we have enough time!

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