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It's a Beautiful Day

I really do love travelling. I’m not as experienced as some of my friends who have been to Australia, China, and Italy for months at a time, but I do love visiting new places and meeting new people. Washington D.C. has been an amazing place to travel and I hope you’ve enjoyed the “Washington Special” on my blog this week as I’ve shared my adventures with you. Whether or not you’ve been to this beautiful city, I think every American should see the foundations of our country. I have so much more appreciation after seeing all the documents, pictures, and buildings with my own eyes. I feel so much more connected to the history that has brought me and the other 310 million Americans to where we stand today.
My mom and I started the day off visiting the National Holocaust Museum. While I’ve seen Schindler’s List and I’ve been to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, this museum was another reminder of how real and tragic the Holocaust really was. It is nearly unimaginable that such a man like Hitler could come to power so quickly, that so many people would fall prey to his power under the banner of propaganda, and that so many lives could be lost without a trace. What is even more heartbreaking is that genocide still happens today. It is not a memory, it is a current event. My mom and I pledged today that we would take a stand against hate, and I said that I would do that specifically through the use of my blog. So here I am making that pledge again: may we treat each other not only with an attitude of tolerance, but of acceptance.
We then traveled down the street to what I thought was the Mint, but it is actually the Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving. This is where they print money, not coins—which is in fact the Mint. The Bureau makes a billion dollars on a daily basis and it was so interesting to see the money go through the elaborate machines to avoid counterfeiting. I wish I could say more, but hey, it’s top secret! Not really…but no photography allowed or the “federal government would take my camera” so I didn’t want to risk it.
The next part of the day was a favorite. I’m an avid animal lover, so you can imagine that I was especially excited when we made a trip to the zoo. Washington D.C.’s zoo is especially special because they have panda bears (yes, I know San Diego does as well). The pandas were precious (hence the excessive gift shop spending) and we had so much fun watching them eat and sleep. What a life. I also loved seeing the tigers, baby gorilla, and cheetahs. It was an impressive zoo but they gave their animals a little too much space—we couldn’t find a lot of the animals!
Lastly, we stopped at the National Cathedral. Wow; what a sight. It’s the largest cathedral in the nation, and we were lucky to stumble upon a service with a singing choir. Hearing those voices ring throughout was a beautiful sound that brought sheer peace. There was an overarching sense of contentment.
Also, we traveled by Metro today. I was proud of my mom and me for looking like semi-citizens rather than full-on tourists with fanny packs and tennis shoes by taking the Metro. We have one more day left in D.C. and I’m sad to go—we’ve had such a wonderful time!
I hope that you did, do, or will enjoy your spring break! Be sure to take a break!
Keep shining,
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Freedom is Not Free

Freedom is not free. As my mom and I visited Arlington Memorial today, it became very evident how expensive freedom really is. You can’t put a price on an invaluable life, and so many of those lives have been lost in the name of freedom. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of graves was daunting. There’s nothing like seeing it in person; the history books, after all these years, just didn’t do it justice. It was especially moving to see John F. Kennedy’s grave and the eternal flame. To think that Jacqueline Kennedy lit that grave about 50 years ago is surely something to envision.
Watching the changing of the Guard was also a touching experience. We learned that they only have eight volunteer Guards; all of whom guard the tomb of the Unknown Soldier 24 hours, all day, every day, rain or shine. It was such a ceremonial process and as we watched in silence, I realized the steadfast solemnness that such a service requires. I am so thankful that many men and women bear the duty of defending our country; they are some of the most courageous people that our country has.
The next part of our day was much sunnier. We took a tour of George Washington’s home (or mansion I should say), Mount Vernon. It was such a beautiful house and farm and my mom and I loved learning more about this amazing man who was so essential in our country’s founding. With a view of the Potomac River, the home was huge with 21 bedrooms. We also took a walk, actually more like a hike, around the grounds and we saw the slave quarters, Washington’s tomb, and the crops (Washington was a farmer). We also saw a lot of livestock; everything from sheep to pigs—I do love animals!
My mom and I love all the sight-seeing but we’re also taking time to just relax. It is spring break after all! We’re not quite sure what we’ll do tomorrow but possibly New York? Who knows where the day will take us!
Where will your day take you?
Keep shining,
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

E Pluribus Unum

The overwhelming theme for the day was this: out of many, one. E Pluribus Unum. It is our nation’s motto and as my mom and I explore the United States’ Capitol, I think it is a perfect saying. It is so inspiring seeing so many people venture here to study our nation’s history; every age, ethnicity, and accent (from Wisconsin to Texas) is present. You really feel  like you’re a part of something here; so many have come before and hopefully many will come after.
Unfortunately Washington D.C. is not as visitor friendly as I hoped, though. I guess my high school classes left me with the impression that I could just sit in on a Supreme Court case and watch my Senators debate a bill in Congress. This is sadly not the case. If you want to see anything up close, you usually have to show up three hours in advance or pre-order tickets months before hand. While we did get to see the Supreme Court, we weren’t able to actually see a case. Which is a bummer considering how I gave a pretty good rendition of Justice Thomas in my twelfth grade class!
We then went on to the Capitol building where thankfully, we did have tickets to see the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers. The bad news? They were on break. So close, yet so far. That’s alright though, we still had a great time seeing the Rotunda and the beautiful sculptures. The best part though was seeing one of my best friends and sorority sisters, Nivedita. It was so ironic that we were both at the Capitol building on the same day; of course we had to get a picture! It was so meant to be.
Right on the way was the Library of Congress. What an impressive building dedicated in Jefferson’s name. Two of my favorite sights were Jefferson’s library with over 6,000 of his books and the Guttenberg Bible. It is incredible that they can preserve such dated documents from the 1400s; not to mention the immaculate penmanship of the authors of that time!
We also ventured to the Botanical Gardens which was absolutely stunning. The gardenias smelled heavenly and the Hawaii segment of the garden brought back a little piece of heaven.
Lastly, we spent the evening in Georgetown. What a fun and lively city! Of course we had to stop at the TLC DC Cupcakes show shop, Georgetown Cupcake. I had their famous red velvet cupcake (after waiting 20 minutes). We had a great time exploring the city and we even took a little stroll around Georgetown University.
More adventures to come—my feet need a break from walking and my hands need a break from typing!
Keep shining,
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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