Exchange Wk43 (Holiday Edition) – Charlotte and Washington DC

On the 12th of June I woke up nice and early to depart on the train to Charlotte. I arrived at Charlotte on the 13th of June and stayed there until the 15th of June, after which I caught another train to Washington DC where I stayed until the 18th of June.

For the next few blog posts, there will be a map of the places I’ve been so far. The gold pentagon is Philadelphia (start location), and all other locations visited will be red pentagons where the number represents the order I visited these places.

🚊 New Orleans to Charlotte 💺

I’m designating a whole section of this blog post to my Amtrak trip from New Orleans to Charlotte as this is the longest train trip I’ve ever been on, and it was… interesting.

I left New Orleans station at around 9am on the 12th of June, and arrived at Charlotte at 7:30am on the 13th of June. There wasn’t heaps to do on the train. Unlike the trip from Houston to New Orleans, there was no observation room, and to make things worse, the Wi-Fi on this train was broken! I did luckily have my Kindle charged to offer some respite from the boredom.

The seats in coach class were huge, and I luckily had no one sitting next to me for the entire journey, meaning that I could stretch out (bottom right image).

As evident from the map above, the train went through Atlanta which was the major station stop. The seats in coach class are not assigned, and instead, the conductor directs passengers where to sit. The conductor explained to me that he may have to use my spare seat for new passengers. However, knowing that I was one of the few people to be on the train since it departed from New Orleans, the conductor deliberately sat people around me so that I could continue to stretch out over my long journey. There was no need for the conductor to do this, but I am very thankful for how considerate he was!

The train had a meal cart where you can buy food and beverage items from the cafeteria. Below to the left is a photo of my nutritious lunch (including a microwaved cheeseburger). To the right is a photo of me catching up with my friends in the Christian Union over Zoom for bookclub. The connection was rocky (not helped by the fact that I was using a hotspot from my phone), but it was still fun to talk with my friends.

🐸 Charlotte 🌏

After finally arriving to Charlotte at 7:30am I was incredibly tired and just wanted to have a nap, but I couldn’t check into my room until 3pm! I still remember trying to entertain myself for those hours before I could finally go and get some rest. After refuelling with some food and free Wi-Fi at a cafe, and true to form, I went to a museum. I went for a visit to the Discovery Place Science centre which had heaps of live-animal exhibits.

One of the highlights was an atrium with wild rainforest animals living throughout the artificial habitat. I liked how all the animals were together in this atrium, and it was up to you to look through all the vegetation to spot them despite their best efforts to be camouflaged. Another visitor pointed out that they saw some poison dart frogs not far from the observation deck. This seemed quite unsafe, but on a discussion with one of the museum workers, they explained how these poison dart frogs are specifically raised in captivity to not be poisonous. The below image is one the poison dart frogs – see if you can find it!

Another highlight from the museum was watching a documentary on Antarctica in a massive IMAX dome theatre. After visiting the museum it was a pretty quiet afternoon of rest.

The next day I went on a golf cart tour of Charlotte. It was interesting to hear of some of the history of Charlotte, as well as information about Charlotte’s iconic buildings. I found it particularly interesting that parts of the Hunger Games movie were filmed in North Carolina, and the Caesar Flickerman scene where we are introduced to the tributes was filmed in a theatre here in Charlotte. Additionally, our tour guide explained how the bakery we drove by named ‘Amelie’s French Bakery’ provided the sweets shown on the tribute train in the movie. I was really keen to visit that sweets shop, but ironically it had closed down during Covid and then underwent renovations, and was opening up the morning I was leaving. Unforunately, my train was departing before it opened, so I just missed out… Overall, the tour was a great way to see Charlotte, especially when I only had two days there.

Later that night I went to see a comedy show named ‘Charlotte Squawks 18 – Barely Legal’. The show involved popular songs being remade into comical depictions of politics. Lot’s of it didn’t make sense to me as I wasn’t familiar with local Charlotte politics, however, some of the federal government skits gave me a good laugh!

These were my highlights from Charlotte! The next morning I woke up bright and early to get to board my train to Washington DC which was scheduled to depart at 6:45am.

✝️ Washington DC 🇺🇸

On my first full day in Washington, I went to the Museum of the Bible. As a Christian, I may be biased, but it was definitely the best museum that I have been to in my life! As the name suggestions, the entire museum is dedicated to sharing the history of the Bible. The history of Christianity is a long one spanning thousands of years, and so the museum had lots to offer.

My favourite exhibit in the museum was the “Hebrew Bible Experience”, which is an immersive 30-minute walkthrough of some of the significant moments from the Old Testament. Being a walkthrough, we would be guided to a projector where we would see a short clip depicting a Biblical scene, after which we would go for a short walk witnessing the narrative continuing around us. Overall, the different presentation modes were very impressive, with so much variety that the next part of the experience was unpredictable.

For example, one part of the experience was about the life of Moses. We were sitting whilst watching a short film being played, and then suddenly to the far left there was a bright burning bush (not with real flames), sharing the account in Exodus Chapter 3.

 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 

Exodus 3:2 (New International Version)

The tour was excellent, and unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos.

Another highlight of the museum was seeing old segments from the Bible that have survived almost two thousand years! Notably, the museum had on display a fragment of a leaflet of Romans 5:8-13 dates to be from 200-325AD. The fragment on display was a facsimile (pictured below), but they do have it as part of their collection, as seen here. In fact, you can browse the museums collection here!

Overall, the museum was a great experience, and I look forward to going back again the next time I’m in Washington DC!

After visiting the museum, I went to a Washington Nationals baseball game. Whilst I liked being able to go to another baseball stadium, overall, the game didn’t have a great atmosphere, and it didn’t help that most of the stadium was empty. Coincidentally and on a more exciting note, the game I went to was also the U.S. Army Day, and before the game commenced, some members of the U.S. Army parachuted into the arena!

The next day I went and did some of the typical touristy things in DC. First, I went to the National Museum of Natural History, which is the museum that appears in the first “Night at the Museum” film. The museum has free entry, which meant that it was very crowded. I appreciated the museums Australian wildlife exhibit:

Despite the heat, I also ventured to Washington Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House:

With it looming closer and closer to my time in the US coming to an end, the following morning I caught the train to get back to Philly in time for my last Church service during my year abroad…

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