Wednesday. The halfway point of the holiday.
My friends and I left the house by car today, in order to take advantage of the parking offered by churches. In this way, we avoided each paying the separate one-way fare for the metro.
We decided we’d devote our first few hours of sightseeing to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. At least an hour was spent admiring the intricate ceilings, the differing alters, and the overwhelming sense of peace and sanctuary.
I found myself in quiet awe of the mosaics and statues, reflecting the time and effort of many hands joined in faith.
From the Basilica, my friends and I drove the short distance to the campus of Gallaudet University. It is the world’s only university that has programs and services that are dedicated to those who are Deaf or hard of hearing. In taking a Deaf History class in freshman year, I had hoped to see this college someday.
While ongoing growth and construction is occurring, the campus still reflects the early days, with Chapel Hall and College Hall reminiscent of castles, and the Peikoff Alumni House dating back to 1881.
The Alumni House was actually once the site of a gym, but is now used for small gatherings, and houses strings of banners that represent each class year.
The chimney on one side of the upstairs includes the signatures of individuals throughout the decades.
Another key part of the Alumni House is that it was the site of the nation’s first indoor swimming pool. At the time, it was noted by the tour guide that the pool had to be drained between use by men and women, due to limited sex education. It was believed that men and women could not swim together, due to the risk of pregnancy.
We walked through several campus buildings, glimpsing the striking match of buff and blue tiles that marks the school colors.
The school bookstore was our final stop before lunch, where I found a new logo folder as a keepsake. However, I did find the titles of books that I hope to read further on.
Lunch was at the strongly recommended at Union Market. For anyone who’s been to North Market in Columbus, Ohio – the feeling is similar. Lots of trendy and delicious food vendors. Essentially, something for everyone.
I found a Craft Kombucha vendor selling local kombucha on tap. I found myself enjoying a slightly pricey, but refreshing blue lemongrass kombucha float with dairy-free vanilla icecream. Kombucha makes my body and soul happy, so I have no regrets. I did ogle a coconut donut as well, but my wallet was firmly decided.
My friends and I sat and enjoyed our lunch while learning a few signs of ASL from my friend. He hopes to pursue his Master’s at Gallaudet. Perhaps teaching science for children as an interpreter. I hope he does this, as I consider him perfect for that role. I can already see him studying at Union Market.
We left the university feeling more than fulfilled by the tour. We headed to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. The monastery housed replicas of the tombs and catacombs present in Rome and the Holy Land.
My friends and I managed to catch the last tour of the day. It was fortunate, since you can only see the catacombs and underground tombs with a guide present. We were lucky. From experiencing the dark passages here, I can say with certainty that I would like to visit Rome’s to the see the extensive network of catacombs in person.
Our last trip of the day, was to explore Chinatown. My friends bought multiple packages of mochi as I watched a women mix herbs for tea.
We wandered the streets. While we felt that the Chinatown here was small in size, we found an Irish pub, sipped carrot ginger lemonade from Hip City Veg in the blustery breeze, and found a three-story Walgreens.
At the suggestion of my friend, I ended up trying Ma-Po Tofu for the first time. However, my main dish was noodle soup with handmade noodles that made Chinatown Express a great find. There was plenty of vegetables and noodles in a bowl of piping broth that was less than $8. Delicious, filling, and slightly similar in concept to Xi’an Famous Foods in New York. My friends got the noodles pan-fried with a platter of handmade, wrinkled dumplings.
From Chinatown, my friends and I went home to have a Mochi Party. Essentially all of us in one room huddled in velvety blankets eating red bean, sesame, peanut butter and taro bites of mochi. Quite the event.