Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The most stressful day of my entire life.

I just wanted the ground to eat me up. I was genuinely considering buying plane tickets right then and there back home – saying see you later USA, travelling around you is just not for me. You’re too big, too expensive, and too stressful. But no, for me travelling is all about perseverance - not giving up even when the world is getting you down, it’s about sticking at it and remembering there are highs and lows. And I know when the highs come they will banish the lows.

After hunting round yet again, I resigned myself to the nearly £200 passport replacement fee I’d have to incur. £100 for an emergency passport to last six months, then another £80 for a new passport when I actually got back home. On the budget I have, that’s a HUGE portion of it, I wondered if it was even worth continuing without this money. After eating the free chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, I set out to visit the American History museum, but decided along the way I’d try one last time to find my passport – I’d go ask the police.

Thank god I did. The police had my passport. It turns out I’d left at the National Archives yesterday morning. I found that surprising as when I went through security and they asked for ID, I couldn’t find my passport – I did think I had it, but the fact I couldn’t find it despite emptying my bag made me think I’d left it at the hostel. I think what probably happened was that I accidentally left in the security tray as they were scanning my things. I must have taken everything out apart from my passport.

It was such a relief that the police had it, but, she then informed me it was located in South D.C. at a station down there. Ok, that’s a pain I thought, but no problem, I’ll go there now and try squeezing the American history museum in after. When I finally get the to police station, they inform me, with no real reason, that they can’t take things out of lost property until 2:30pm, so I’d have to go back then if I wanted it. I tried to explain that I had a bus at 4pm and I had to get my stuff in between that, but they didn’t care, and told me to return later.

Great. I wouldn’t get to go to the only museum I’d been DYING to go to. I’d already missed so much in D.C. – I wanted to go to Arlington cemetery, the Holocaust museum, the spy museum etc. but I didn’t have time for any of it. I needed to get this bus to New York so I could get the megabus to Vermont after as my parents raved about Burlington, and I knew if I didn’t get these buses it would cost me an arm and a leg to get there otherwise. Besides, D.C. was costing me so much as it was, I couldn’t really afford to spend any longer there even if I had wanted!

I decided that I would walk to the capitol building and the Supreme Court of the United States, because that’s one thing I had time to do and was dying to see. The walk I took there was about 40 minutes long and it was 33 degrees outside – there was no shade at all, the heat was killing me. Google maps was also taking me of the wildest route ever, I was going through some dodgy alleyways to get under the highway – it was all very eerie and I actually ran through some parts I was so scared.


When I eventually got to the capitol building, it was actually a lot larger than I had expected. The same can be said for the Supreme Court. I was really sad that I hadn’t done my research in advance – If I had, it turns out you can do a tour of the Capitol building, but they need time to do background checks and such like. I was able to go inside the Supreme Court though. It’s funny because the court itself is absolutely tiny! The building is huge, yet the court feels like the smallest room out of all of ones I went into.

Initially, the Supreme Court met in random locations, and actually didn't get their own building until 1935. When you think about it, that's ridiculous given they're supposed to be equal with the legislative (who have the capitol building) and the executive (white house). Also, because it was built when the Great Depression started, they had to scale back the design, so most of the carved inscriptions were eliminated, they just kept "Equal justice under law" and "Justice the guardian of liberty". 

Also fun fact, the ancient goddess Themis is the symbol of justice used in the SCOTUS. The blindfold is a symbol of impartiality, with the scales showing that she weighs the two sides of a dispute, and a sword to show enforcement is not far from her side. 

Anyway, after grabbing something to eat and drink (I though was going to faint I was so hot/ de-hydrated), I eventually walked another 20 minutes to Union Station, then got the train back to this police station. I started tearing up while I was waiting for passport in hope that they might see it and hurry the fuck up – but nope, didn’t help! It took them FORTY-FIVE minutes just to get my passport out of lost property. This lady was just wandering around chatting to everyone, and ignoring my request/ doing god knows what. This meant I had 50 minutes to make it all the way back up north, grab my bags and get to the bus station, find my stop, and board the bus.

I sprinted from the police station (yes, I must have looked so weird to on-lookers) to the metro station and waited for what felt like forever for a train. When I got off the other end, I sprinted 10 minutes again to the hostel. I was sweating like I’ve never sweated before, and I could hardly breathe because I am so out of shape and the weather made it so difficult to do anything, let alone run – and I had no water or anything to keep me hydrated. Also, running in flip flops is just not the one.

As I bounded into the hostel I had to charge my phone enough to call an uber, and thankfully I got the best driver ever who knew D.C. super well so was able to take me all the back streets and get me there 4 minutes ahead of the 4:00pm prediction. That gave me 4 minutes to run inside and locate my bus. Thankfully I’d already been there when I got off, so it wasn’t too bad, otherwise I definitely would have missed it. When I jumped on board and sat down I just sighed with relief. So angry that I’d missed so much in D.C., and so angry at myself for losing my passport, but just relieved to have made the bus and be on my way to New York City.

When I arrived in New York, I set out to find an ATM as I was down to my last dollar. Yet no, the whole world was against me I’m sure – my card was rejected. Again and again. I tried 3 different ATMs, every one spit out my card, it wouldn’t even attempt to read it. This was a BRAND NEW card that I had gotten after I lost mine in Thailand 2 weeks a go. But, after having lost it in Thailand, I decided I’d bring the card to my other account too just in case of emergencies. But what happened? That card was rejected too. It wasn’t broken, but it just was failing at the final hurdle of actually giving me the money.

There I was, once again, stressed out and on the verge of tears. No money and stranded in New York City with no way to reach my friend in Brooklyn. I was staying with Caitlin – Olivia and I met her on our Stray Asia trip the first ever time I went travelling; one of my favorite days was with Caitlin (read here). I went down to the metro and asked if the operator could try swiping my card on her machine to see if it worked – but after explaining what had happened, she just let me through the gate. I had no idea if I was going in the right direction, and just wandered around confused as hell, covered in sweat once again (29 degrees at 10pm at night – wtf NYC!), and tired/ fed-up. Eventually, after getting on and off at different stops to check I was going the right way, I FINALLY reached Brooklyn and my friends house. CUE SIGH OF RELIEF!

Empire State of Mind
Then Caitlin, the life-saver she is, agreed to take out USD for me and I could even give her GBP in return as she often visits the UK and with the currency so shitty atm it was best for her to get it now. This way we both avoided transactions too.

After catching up a bit, discussing life at Oxford (she went there for her Masters’) and her current musical endeavors, I decided it was well past my bedtime. It was nearly 1am and I had to be back in the same place to get a megabus to Vermont at 9:30am. Unfortunately, the sofa, as Caitlin had warned, was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever slept on – it was so narrow I kept falling off, so I put the duvet on the floor and tried to sleep on that inside. Frankly, I hardly got 30 minutes of sleep, as there was also no A/C so I was boiling hot too. It was horrific but I was just so pleased to have a free place to sleep and somewhere to shower/ a familiar face to lift my spirits! 

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