The Tour

These past two and a half weeks have been unpredictable and crazy. My mom flew out from Hawaii to visit us on October 5 with the intention of leaving on October 13, but her plans to visit friends totally fell through. She is now staying with us until the 24th which means…

19 days total with mom. In one small house. With one small bathroom.

Since it would cost $300 to catch an early flight home, mom decided to go on a tour instead with me as her side kick (beats sitting around the house). “What kind of a tour?” you ask. The Korean kind where you sit on a bus with thirty other foreigners who don’t know a drop of English. This was gonna be one mega touristy ride. I could already smell the kimchee. Destination: New York City, Washington DC and Niagara Falls! WOO!

On the day of our arrival, we only stayed in Manhattan for one or two hours before heading out to New Jersey, but the buildings were spectacular. To be honest, the streets looked grubby and wet, but I liked the mix of neoclassical and modern architecture. It was like a city that had aged but didn’t. On this trip alone, we covered six different states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virgina) before hitting up Canada.

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History! With exhibitions on dinosaurs, insects, osteology (human bones), crystals and…diamonds (my mom’s favorite part). We were lucky to catch a glimpse of the Hope Diamond, a deep blue diamond of 45.52 carats, which has passed through the hands of kings and queens on a 350-year journey. Notorious for being “cursed”, it’s traveled from India to France to England to the United States and is the second most viewed object after the Mona Lisa.

In memory of the American soldiers who fought in the Korean War, located just outside the Lincoln Memorial. Salute!

Seeing the Washington Monument made me think of one thing…”Jenny! FORREST!!!” Sadly, the reflecting pool was empty and under construction. And now, jumping right into…NIAGARA FALLS! There are two sides to this gigantic natural wonder, one located in the US and the other in Canada. We visited the Cave of the Winds first which lies directly opposite of Canada.

A statue of Nikola Tesla who “designed the first hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls, New York which started producing electrical power in 1895. This was the beginning of the electrification of the United States and the rest of the world. Today, Tesla’s AC electricity is lighting and powering the globe. Nikola Tesla is the genius who lit the world.” (http://www.teslasociety.com/victoria.htm) I have a lot of respect for this man. So glad David Bowie played him in The Prestige.

Now, I thought the Cave of the Winds was awesome, amazing, stupendous…until I saw THIS on the Canadian side.

This last picture is an aerial view from a helicopter. Yes, yours truly and mom went on a helicopter ride. It was like something out of a movie. I have pictures to prove that it happened but…I’m still not sure it did. The view – amazing. The ride – jerky and frightening. I thought we were going to die.

The next morning, we visited a winery before going on our Niagara Falls boat ride. I kid you not. This Ice wine, produced by Reif Estate Winery, is the best dang wine I have EVER tasted. Ever. It is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine, meaning that is has a sweet aftertaste. One bottle sells for $60 if you buy it at the winery, but try to buy it in Korea and it’ll cost you $200!

And now…the boat ride on the Maid of the Mist! They weren’t kidding about the mist. There’s a reason why we all wore silly-looking blue panchos. This waterfall is probably the most powerful thing I have ever witnessed and it was beautiful…double rainbow and all.

The drive back to Manhattan lasted seven hours. That was one long, uncomfortable ride. But on the upside, I watched a super touching movie called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale starring Richard Gere which is based on a true story. Let’s just say it ended with me discreetly wiping away tears in the corner of my seat. I watched the movie in silence (literally, the sound wasn’t working so I invented a sad musical score in my head and attempted to read lips). I WILL buy this movie.

The following morning, we went on another boat ride with three hundred or so other Asian people. Yes, that’s correct. Three to five hundred other Asian people all crammed into one boat like a pack of overly-excited sardines. The guide who spoke to us over the microphone asked us to raise our hands if we spoke English (I rose mine but she didn’t see me because I was on the top deck). I remember her saying “No one here can understand me anyways…I can say aaaaanything I want…”

And last but not least, we ended our five day tour with…The Empire State Building! Like the Washington Monument, all I could think of when walking into this building was that one episode of Doctor Who when the Daleks attack Manhattan. The most awesome part about this attraction was the Sky Ride, a virtual tour simulator where you sit in these seats that move, shake and jerk around in sync with an 18-foot high definition screen that takes you around New York City. But the best part is the narrator of this 30-minute adventure – Kevin Bacon :) Also hearing mom yelp and make sounds of excitement was pretty funny.

Sad part about this trip: We got to the top of the building (86th floor) and we couldn’t see a thing. The whole balcony was covered in mist, clouds and rain! Just when we thought it had been a waste, we went to the 80th floor and was able to see this outside the window. Just enough to say we saw something.

I’m so grateful that I got to spend this time with my mom and make memories. I realize that once I start to work again, I won’t have the liberty to just pick up and leave on a trip. So I end with this awesome quote by Iris Murdoc: “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” So true.

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