On January 8th, 2016, NWCCI students boarded an airplane to visit the Capitol of United States for the first time. Full of anticipation, curiosity and wonder, the flight was for many of the students, just their second time on an airplane! Their flight from their home country to the U.S., their first. Isabeau Malan is an NWCCI student studying business management at Edmonds Community College. Isabeau’s descriptions of her visit to Washington, D.C. poetically capture the range of emotions and curiosities that many visitors to the DC must feel while touring some of the most prominent buildings in America’s turbulent history for the first time.
As Washington DC came into sight, it was easy to see why it is the Capital of the US.
With the history clearly visible on every street corner, one has to wonder where the current present fits into this beautiful, historic place.
As we were taken from one memorial sight to the next, there was a sad energy that walked with us past the different names that have been carefully carved into the black marble. In a sea of names, one name jumps out, then another and another; it feels like the names will never end.
For a moment in time, we were stuck in the past with thousands of others who have long since passed on.
It was in that moment that I wondered, “How can the present live so close to the past?”
Washington DC has become a place of statues and memorials, it keeps the past very much alive, and from a foreigner’s perspective, I wondered if these memorials represent a sad past for the Americans, as it did for me.
Does it make them sad to know that so many lives were lost?
Does it make them angry that some of these wars could have been avoided?
Would DC be different if these memorials were not erected?
All these questions with no answers…
As our group moved from one memorial to the next, listening to the story of the memorial from our tour guide and the past that goes with it, you can see that the past is still kept very much alive in the minds of the American people.
I felt a feeling of absolute loss, a feeling that these wars could have been avoided and innocent lives could have been spared. The faces around me were somber and sad from seeing the names and the statues. There was a silence that filled that first night’s’ air and as the days passed, it seemed to follow us where we went.
A feeling of loss and sadness stayed in my heart and I was left feeling that Washington DC is built upon loss, death and sadness: the worst feeling to carry with you, while this beautiful place stands before you. This was supposed to be a symbol of freedom and life in my eyes, not a city of death and loss.
The Arlington Cemetery with the white tombstones were a symbol of loss, a symbol of death and sadness, it was the most heartbreaking thing to see.
Almost as if the present came swooping in, the White House stood in front of me, this was not only the past, it was the present and future for the American people.
The past took a step back and the future was before me, the symbol of a bright future and the present for the American people stood there showing me that the present and future is just as alive as the past.
The White House represents a new and brighter future for the American People, all the ideas and future decisions will be made there. The past is taken into consideration, but the focus is on a better future and a brighter one than was in the past.
Future leaders will take residence in that building and build the future for a country, and that is where the past and the present meet, and ultimately create the future.
The Newseum, with more recent news, still has a feeling of the old, but I thought that this might be a place for people to realize that past and present walk hand-in-hand and help each other to create a better present and future.
We visited different museums, such as the Natural History Museum, which looks at the past and present. This museum shows that history is not only stuck in a certain period of time, but can also be used to help the present.
With each new place we went, we learned that due to the past, America has put certain things in place. The Pentagon showed this perfectly, it rebuilt the section that was hit by the 9/11 attack and created a new wing.
There is still a piece of the past stuck in this modern building, but the end goal of the Pentagon is to work towards a better future.
I realized that all these memorials were there to keep a positive idea of a better future in the minds of the people who work so hard to achieve it and all the efforts of those who have passed on. It is not in vain, it is merely a work in progress to a better future.
This is only another stepping stone to create a better, more peaceful future.
The biggest lesson I learned was that; the past is always looking at the Capital, keeping watch and reminding the people that you need to be aware, cautious, and respectful. You need to make better decisions than those that have been made in the past, and avoid any more heartache and bloodshed. There is an underlying sense that the next memorial that should be erected, should be one of hope and promise for a better future.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.