We didn’t get much time to settling into Washington – the first night we were there, our whole group headed back into the city to do a walking tour of the monuments by moonlight. Unfortunately for me, this is the part of the trip where I crashed. Part of being me is having ups and downs, but this was a big down. I found it hard to talk to people, I felt disoriented and sick, I wanted to cry for no reason, I sorted of drifted around with the group feeling disconnected from everything. I tried taking selfies in front of the monuments and even though I thought I was smiling at the time, it’s pretty clear how low I was feeling. Luckily, it passed. I had big reservations going into the trip about whether I could cope emotionally, so I felt pretty proud of the fact I could recognize what was happening, still participate, and get past it. Anyway, on to the monuments.
It was an amazing walk, even though I barely had the energy to get myself home afterwards. We don’t really have anything like this in Australia, with so many huge monuments grouped together – they seem to be scattered throughout different cities, in various parks and squares and things. The monument that affected me the most was the Vietnam War memorial. Glenn, our professor, had warned us before we walked through that it was a very emotional experience, but it still didn’t prepare me for how many names were on those slabs.
Death seemed to be a bit of theme in Washington, because we visited Arlington Cemetery a few days later which was even more heart wrenching. It’s such cognitive dissonance to be in such peaceful surroundings – lush green lawns, graceful sloping vistas and shady trees – and know that every one of those little white markers stands for a violent, horrible death.
It was a sobering experience, and honestly, I was glad to get out of there. The whole place just made me so sad.