Tag Archives: education

Washington DC

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The Grand Hyatt in the centre of Washington DC is just wonderful! A stones throw from the White House and Capitol Hill it could not be more child friendly and generally welcoming. Which is lucky because when we rocked up in our crazy child filled car with a roof box on which needed dismantling and storing separately in order to fit in the tight city car park, a friendly welcome and patient help was just what we needed… and got.

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The Old Post Office is soon to be turned into a Hotel. The view from the top of it’s tower is amazing.

Yesterday we visited the National Museum of American History. With three tired children and time limited by an appointment with our bank we just picked a couple of areas that interested us and wizzed round them. Having just watched the TV series Revolution it was fun exploring the section about Edison and invention of the light bulb. We also went around the transport section and got to see original Model T’s. In the Naval section we learned about the slave ships and also about pirates. Here are four facts about pirates that we learned:

  1. They don’t tend to go “Arrrgggghhhhhh” – that myth is thanks to a couple of pirate films
  2. They did have parrots. Not generally on their shoulders but certainly lots in cages on their ships
  3. They did drink lots and lots of rum, all the time.
  4. They didn’t make people walk the plank… again from films, the reality of the tortures and murders they committed where far more violent and gruesome.

Today we visited the Lincoln Memorial and the visitor centre at the U.S. Capitol. It’s hard not to be impressed by the stunning architecture of these important places. But more impressive is the history, which by UK standards is virtually yesterday. Appreciating what this young nation has achieved in such a short time helps us understand the current psyche of the people here. Given what they have overcome for their freedom, just a few generations ago, it is easy to understand their obsession with independence and personal liberty.

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The Capitol

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The Capitol (sunny side)

I am impressed by their humble, open discussion of the more shameful parts of their history, in particularly the slavery which built so much of the country. Far from shying away from it they openly talk about it and display the brutal facts, lest we should forget. They admit to the columns of the Capitol having been created by slaves and the statue of Rosa Parks is clearly their most prized piece within the building which buzzes with statues of impressive figures. The UK is not quite so willing to openly discuss their atrocities and that’s a problem with our nation as to better our selves we must learn from the past, not deny it. People will always make mistakes but we can strive to be better.

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Rosa Parks… the most famous statue in the Capitol. People visit just to see this statue. Today is International Women’s Day so a particularly special day to see this work of such a great woman.

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Emancipation is a major theme in the Capitol buildings

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The Lincoln Memorial. Alfie asked if he was really that big!

The Lincoln Memorial is equally overwhelming and inspiring. It’s purpose is clear and effective as you can’t help but leave utterly determined for equality….

Okay so I’ve just been totally distracted from blog writing by a knock on our hotel room door… Our waitress from dinner sent us up a card with a bottle of wine and some cakes and desserts! How wonderful.

And now I’ve been distracted by Orla having done explosive diarrhoea all over her cot… Housekeeping brought new sheets but have to come back for the s**t covered stuff… nightmare…

Signing off to finish sorting poo bed clothes and cracking the wine open after that! I’m rather lost my train of thought on Lincoln and Rosa Parks but I’m sure I’ll pick up the tread again in the next few weeks. Now I’ll leave you with this rather interesting photograph I took today… Bon poo et bon nuit

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Fitting in the Appalachians

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The USA is vast. Just getting across it will take so much of our time. We only get 3 months on a standard visa.

I’ve been listening to an audio book by Bill Bryson in which he describes the Appalachian Mountain range and an email this morning from a fellow blogger who lives in those parts has left me thinking perhaps we should cut out the south and explore the central mountain region between Virginia and Kentucky more. The history of the region is fascinating, shrouded in mystery and intrigue and has played a key role in American history as a barrier to East to West travel. In 1999 a BBC correspondent Richard Lister talks about his journey to Sneedsville and the history of the Melungeon people of the region… I wonder if much has changed in the last 14 years – if the town is any easier to reach and if the knowledge of the first settlers to America is any further forward, perhaps having empowered the people as he suggests? I’m intrigued! The idea of such independent people living self sufficiently in the mountains commands huge respect. Yet their reasons for developing such self reliance is down to persecution and prejudice.

During our journey I am hoping to learn far more about the history of racial clashes from both long ago to present day and it’s something we hope to teach our children about. Knowledge and understanding of conflict from both sides are the tools we need to arm our children with so as to prevent perpetuating the ignorance which is the ultimate cause of most prejudice. But this can’t be done through education alone… diversity must be experienced.

Living in ethnically diverse England, albeit in one of the least ethnically diverse and more racially prejudice regions (possibly the only thing I don’t like about Cornwall), I am somewhat sheltered from the racism in the rest of the world and our children are thoroughly under exposed to alternative live styles and cultures (except perhaps of the hippy variety). Yet to move forward as a united race of people we must teach our children to respect and indeed welcome diversity and allow them to experience as many races and cultures as possible in a positive and enjoyable way.

The geology of the mountain range is fascinating too, having been born 480 million years ago, they were then almost entirely eroded to flat plains before being up lifted again. The second uplift rejuvenated the springs which had caused the erosion and are now, again, following ancient folds and faults or carving out new canyons through layers of hard ancient rock, exposing the layers and features.

In addition to a rich human history and stunning geological features it is also an area rich in diverse wildlife. The southern stretch of the Appalachian Mountains was never touched by glaciers and therefore is home to a range of “slow growing” species such as salamanders and interesting snails. The Ice Age induced extinctions in the north of the mountain range didn’t occur in the south and therefore the rivers in the region are rich with crayfish and mussels. There is also incredible bird life there from bald eagles to the scarlet tanager. And as for mammals… well, as the boys keep reminding me… “mummy, you’re scared of bears!”

So the question is… do we cut out Memphis and the Mississippi in lieu of the mountain trails, wildlife and people of the Appalachian Mountains – Or do we wizz through them to reach to south, to the culture, music and cuisine, to join poor boys and pilgrims with families, down the highway, through the cradle of the civil war, to bounce on in to Graceland?

Make hay while the sun shines!

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We are being asked a lot about our motivation for heading off around the world with three such small children and although I gave a brief explanation in my initial post I though I would take the time to give a bit more detail.

Rob and I didn’t really travel much in our youth. Although I had been on some amazing family holidays, the idea of back packing never really appealed. I didn’t have specific interests enough to have gone to particular places, it would have been aimless and wasted in hindsight. Our early twenties were spend studying for our degrees – Rob’s in Environmental Conservation and Countryside Management and mine in Nursing. After that we got married and had kids. Due to a pregnancy related condition I suffered with, the 6 years it took to have our 3 children resulted in a total of 27 months of bed bound misery for me and a housebound prison for Rob, my nursemaid and in pregnancies #2 and #3 a single dad.

Now that our youngest is walking and nearly talking and we certainly aren’t having any more, the world seems our oyster! Getting out and going places with three kids is positively easy when you’ve had 27 months of barely getting down the stairs or out of the front door.

As is the natural way of getting older and growing up, the last few years has seen us honing our interests and hobbies. Luckily for our marriage our interests have grown and developed together and so our aims for what we want to get out of our travelling experience are mutual.

Although we have long been into bird and nature watching we have both become fascinated by geology and natural history in just the last couple of years, along with a developing passion for science and astronomy. Britain is lucky enough to be host to an incredible array of birds and wildlife but lets get real… to really experience the natural world we need to pack up and move on.

But what about the children? Why don’t you wait until they are older and can remember it?

Well, what if we wait a few years until Orla is old enough to remember it and something happens and we can’t do it? Not wanting to sound morbid but who knows what is around the corner – from cancer to car crashes, childhood illnesses and mental breakdowns. Right now we have our health, we can afford to do it so why wait! Yes I know Orla won’t remember much of it, but it will help to shape who she is and you know what… when she is my age and has a family of her own she could take off and see the world with them and learn about the things that interest her.

The kids are young enough for me to home school them – it’s just a bit of reading and writing and their maths will soon sharpen up with a bit of pocket money. They aren’t overly fussed about friendships, their own space, fashionable clothes and so on. They eat what they’re given and don’t require vast amounts… They’re pretty portable really!

And so there you have it. That, in a nutshell, is it. When asked why? my answer is why not? The sun is shining right now… so lets make out hay now and it will feed us for the winters ahead.