Friday, December 31, 2010

Washington D.C. & 30th Dec

Wow... It's 01:30 and the pictures are finally loaded! I should really be sleeping today in lieu of the long day ahead... I am also starting to notice a pattern here... Hmm.

Anyway the past day and a half has been so busy that I couldn't blog so I better do it now before tomorrow slams me again.

Wednesday morning, we started out for Washington D.C. in Maryland, three hours away.

The drive was really enjoyable and we prayed before we left for God to keep us safe during the journey. He definitely answered our prayers!

Instead of driving right into the centre of Washington, I parked at a train station thirty minutes away to save money on parking.

Our first view of of the city once we popped out of the underground Federal Triangle Station.

Checking our surroundings out.

Ashley decided to take pictures of the map in case we got lost.

Made our way out to the streets which were either filled with government-looking workers with briefcases or tourists. I'd say the majority of streetwalkers were tourists like us.

Pennsylvania Drive took us in the direction of the first place we were looking for- The White House.

The day was lovely and warmer than usual.

Passed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on the way.

I couldn't help but think about all those economics classes where we were just talking about treasury bonds and T-bills.

Passed by another one of those pretty Washingtonian buildings.

It seemed to me that almost every building in Washington was built in stone. Even the walkways were mostly tiled in some sort of stone. The whole place reminded me of the Roman forum or just some large Greek temple ground. It was beautiful but cold... and it wasn't just the weather.

We finally got to the White House.

There were secret service policemen standing around.

And of course lots of tourists taking pictures. And me taking pictures of tourists taking pictures, of course.

There were protest signs just like you see on TV, and a forlorn-looking lady manning her stall.

Off to the side also stood a man holding a loudhailer, reading and rapping scripture to an unperturbed crowd. At first, Khadeen and I had no idea what he was saying because the words sounded all jumbled from further away, so we went to up get a better listen.

He told us that he wouldn't be able to hear what we were saying to him anyway because he had earplugs on, but he wished us blessings in the name of Christ. I shook his hand because it was really encouraging for me to see someone out there reading the Word of God in such a hostile environment. Khadeen said it's not really a good way to reach people but I think someone somewhere sometime heard something he/she was supposed to hear. The man is right, he is simply sowing seeds. You never know where those seeds are going to fall and when they are going to grow!

Afterwards, we wandered off in some other direction and passed yet another lovely building.

Ashley found a great spot for a timed shot.

One of the various shots attempted that were successful!

We laughed and talked and walked and joked on.

Only to wind up on the other side of the White House. It was then we realised that THIS was the front and we were at the back before.

About three hundred metres away was this gigantic pit with a bonfire in it.

We enjoyed the heat so much that no one really wanted to leave.

Playing tag on the way to see the ominous looking obelisk. It really makes me think, don't people find this all very weird? Why is it that there is an egyptian sculpture in the middle of Washington D.C.? And why is it that there are sculptures of Roman or Greek looking gods everywhere?

Even the Abraham Lincoln memorial just looks like a Roman temple dedicated to the deity of Lincoln. It all just looked very weird to me. We didn't go all the way up to it because we were very hungry by the time we were there and it seemed like a long way to walk just to see a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln.

There was just one last place we wanted to see so we took the Metro there instead of walking to save time. The Metro stations really remind me of some sci-fi movies with its spaceship looking designs in the waffle ceilings and the flashing red lights along the sides of the platform.

Got a quick glance and a few nice shots of the Capitol. It was interesting seeing it in real life as opposed to in the movies like Independence Day or Day After Tomorrow.

With our stomachs growling and grumbling, we quickly made our way to Chinatown for some chow.

Went to some Thai restaurant. We were so hungry that we didn't really bother to look at every restaurant before we chose one.

The first appetiser that came was this Kanlaya pork on skewers. In short- it was YUMMY!

Ashley also ordered curry puffs which were close enough to the real thing.

Vegetable rolls.

Unfortunately, none of us truly enjoyed our entrees except maybe Khadeen. It didn't take long before Ashley and I realised that the cook just isn't good at cooking authentic Thai food. But because of our hunger, we were able to relish most of what came on our plates. We gulped it all down before picture opportunities even arose.

Dessert was possibly the best part of the night for me. We had this fried banana fritter with honey and cinnamon sprinkled over it. The banana/honey/cinnamon combination was just right, so that it wasn't too sweet as I anticipated.

The best however, was this mango with sticky rice dish. Soooo delicious!

Because I was the designated driver for the three hour ride home, I decided to take a nap on the thirty minute train ride back to the carpark. The other two girls made plans to talk to me throughout the drive to keep me awake.

This morning didn't dawn bright and early because I chose to sleep until I woke up naturally. That was around 09:30.

After sending Khadeen back to her brother's house, Ashley and I drove to my high school where we jogged for thirty-six minutes.

Feeling high and happy post-run, we got to building a snowman.

Which later turned into a really cute snow duck.

We tried to make dinosaur footprints but failed, so Ashley made up for it by making a snow angel.

Ta-dah! So fluffaly!

For dinner today, we wrapped dumplings with store-bought dumpling skins and filling that my mom made. The end result was so good that I must have downed at least thirty dumplings.

And why is it that it took me so long to load all the pictures and blog?

Because tonight we watched P.S. I Love You after playing a little bit with Alex and Max. By the time I came upstairs, it was almost midnight and I still had to plan our activities for tomorrow and finish the laundry.

I am really tired right now... And I am a bit apprehensive about tomorrow. Honestly, if we did not pray about the Washington D.C. trip in advance, it might have been a disaster for many reasons. We might have been stuck in an eleven hour traffic jam, I might have fallen asleep at the wheel while driving, etc... But because God heard our prayers, we were able to skip the jam and get to D.C. within 3.5 hours; and I was able to stay awake throughout the entire day.

I know that tomorrow will also, no doubt be a disaster if God were not with me. So I just ask Lord, that Your presence will be with and go ahead of me at all times. May You lead my paths and make them straight. Lift up each and every single person that will be with us tomorrow so that we may not come to harm, but always be under your wings of refuge.

He is always there... Immanuel... God with us, so close to us!

Khadeen if you are reading this, don't worry about anything, but bring everything to the Lord in prayer. Before we even ask of Him, He already hears and He will do everything according to His will. It is done in His name! All we have to do is trust and obey, praising God for the good that He has planted in our hearts and will bring it to completion. He is Lord, the Healer! He is the God that healeth thee. He sent His Word and He heals our disease. He is the Lord, our Healer! You are in my prayers tonight... :)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snowboarding & Amish Village

Yay I'm finally done uploading all the pictures!

For the umpteenth time, it's really late and it doesn't look like I'll be getting my nine hours of sleep again tonight. However I do want to get this post going while the memories are still fresh.

I had to say goodbye to my carpet flooring on Monday because my parents decided to change it to a wooden surface.

It's so odd to be walking on hardwood now. When I first moved here almost seven years ago, the carpeted floors took some getting used to. I had always imagined carpet to be the dirtier of the two surfaces. Over time though, it grew on me and I began to appreciate its insulation in the winter. However now that the floors are wooden, I can't help but miss the carpet and yet admire the new clean feeling at the same time.

This past Monday morning, Ash and I took off in the late morning after the blizzard was over and the roads were cleared.

We went to the Blue Mountain Ski Resort upon a friend's recommendation. The whole drive took about an hour or so, which wasn't too bad considering that we had to move slower than usual due to the icy roads.

We got there around 13:00 but because I was missing all sorts of snowboarding gear, we spent a lot of time gathering all of it, driving to a nearby store to get snowpants and ski goggles... By the time we got started, two hours had already gone by!

Ashley had already been snowboarding before and she's quite good enough to even do some things in the terrain park (with the special barriers to jump over). As for me, this was my very first time snowboarding and so she had to teach me all the fundamentals.

I lost count of how many times I'd fallen down, but I fell backwards twice and hit the back of my head. By the end of the third hour, my wrists and forearms were entirely sore from having to push myself off of the ground again and again.

We practiced on the bunny slope all through the late afternoon and eventually decided to rest when evening came.

Fortunately, we had packed a lunchbox of sushi and leftover Christmas ham to eat. We were absolutely starving by this time and Ashley bought us a little thing of fries too.

She liked the honey mustard and mayonnaise so much that she made her own mixture to dip sushi in. We tried our sushi dipped not only in honey mustard and mayonnaise, but also barbecue sauce and ketchup...

After dinner my body sort of shut down temporarily and I knocked out on the table.

When I woke up, we weren't quite ready to hit the slopes again so we took some silly pictures in the cafeteria.


This was supposed to be our "Pennsylvania face". Not sure what hers signifies, but I was trying to be a deer in headlights.

Thanks to Ashley's repeated efforts, I'd learnt how to stop facing forward on the slope without falling over. She also tried to teach me how to stop facing backwards but I was just too sore to do much by that point.

We left the place feeling high from snowboarding. Ashley had her fun up on the difficult terrain park and managed to "get her groove back" after a year of not hitting the slopes so in all, it was a fruitful day for the both of us.

Had to stop for hot chocolate on the way back at Wawa- the best convenience store ever!

We noticed the security tv and decided to take pictures of it. Obviously the cashiers and the other customers were looking at us like we were crazy. Or maybe they really wanted to take a picture of themselves on the security TV too but didn't want to look silly. Who knows?

After we left the first Wawa, I took a sip of my hot chocolate and realised that because that machine was out of hot chocolate, I'd filled my bottle up with warm water instead! Disappointed, I drove to the next Wawa to get a refill. Turns out that the hot chocolate was gone there too, but someone refilled it for us so it was fine.

And of course, we had to take another security camera picture.

Finally got home two hours later even though the drive seemed a lot faster on the way back than on the way there. I think it's because we spent so much time playing around in the two Wawas that it took us two hours instead of less than an hour to get home.

Woke up the next morning on the 28th December and could barely lift my head because my entire neck was sooooo sore! Not only that, but my arms, back, and calves felt like lead. Ashley said this was pretty normal for a first time snowboard experience, but all it did was get worse throughout the day.

Drove to get Khadeen from her brother's house this afternoon so that we could all visit the Amish Village in Ronks, Pennsylvania together.

For some reason, the drive there was brutally long. Not just because of the somewhat icy roads and bad traffic in places. My CD player had died and now makes a horrible stuttering sound again and again. It's really irritating and quite drove me up the wall! The only thing we could really listen to was the FM radio and there wasn't much to listen to since you don't get much good reception deep in the heart of Pennsylvanian farmland.

After what seemed like a million years and an eternity of loud stuttering stereos, we arrived at our destination.

The guided tour of the Amish Village is a dollar cheaper in the winter, but we didn't feel like we got any sort of value for our money this time. We got there almost an hour before it was supposed to close so the tour guides were rushing through the tour and trying to get us to leave as soon as possible so they could close shop and go home.

I'd been through this tour before a few times so I could tell that this lady was just skipping through a lot of things and not giving us the full thing. They usually show us the main room, the kitchen, the bedrooms and the basement. This time, they actually skipped the basement which was a little shady to be honest.

The Amish people are descendents of persecuted Christians, predominantly from parts of Germany who fled to America so that they could live their simple lives in peace. They are known as the "simple people" because they do not use electricity or most modern technology. This is a wood-burning stove which they use instead of the familiar gas stoves in our kitchens.

This lamp operates on propane gas and is on a little cabinet which can be wheeled around the room for light.

Instead of a sewing machine which plugs into the wall, they use foot-operated sewing machines like these. I bet this one's worth a lot of money. It's practically an antique! The Amish make all their own clothes which look like they came right out of the 16th-17th century.

This iron runs on gas as well.

I always enjoy the Amish tours because I learn something new and inspiring each time I go. This time, I was struck freshly by the fact that the Amish hold church services in each other's homes every other Sunday instead of in a church building. They will draw up to the selected house in their horse and buggy with benches and line them up in the main room for the assembly of men on one side and women on the other side.

How fun! This sounds similar to Acts 2:44-47: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

The only difference is, I'm not sure they have "everything in common" because they do have their own belongings. They did not meet everyday and I'm not sure that saved persons are added to the Amish community on a daily basis. I'd love to live with an Amish family if only for a short period of time, just to see what it's really like.

The drive home was brutal. I felt like sleeping the whole entire way and the stuttering of the stereo just got louder and longer each time.

To be honest, although it didn't seem like we did much today, I feel quite burnt out. Just being around other people burns me out. Does that make sense? Maybe because my body is completely sore from snowboarding and I didn't get much sleep last night either. I don't know. All I know is, I'm feeling really tired, hungry and thirsty tonight. I need time alone with myself, with God. Desperately!

I really need to pray about tomorrow; or rather, looking at the time now (it's 01:23), today. I was just telling my dad this morning that increasingly, I feel as if I couldn't function without prayer. From the simplest smallest things like finding parking, to the bigger things like being nice when I don't feel like being nice at all. For all things, prayer is just the first and most important step I have to take. Without it, nothing ever seems to go right. Without God, nothing can ever be right!

Ok I'm gonna go now.