Wednesday is a great day: yesterday’s MSG induced migraine is over and we are riding through Washington DC to head to Philadelphia. The air is crisp, the sky deep blue, my head clear as crystal, the traffic is light and easy. It is my turn today to see a bit of DC. We ride past the Pentagon, over the Potomac, past Lincoln’s Memorial, run parallel to the Reflecting Pool, get a fleeting glimpse of the White House, ride along imposing National Archives buildings and get close to the Capitol. We have visited Washington many times before over the years, but have usually spent our time visiting most museums. Today is different. We are slipping through, as part of our round the world tour. Time is running out. A few months ago, we would have stayed another day. We no longer have that luxury. But it is still perfect. It still feels special to ride through DC.
Our next stop is Philadelphia. On our way, we clock over 50,000kms since we left the UK 14 months ago! We have started to feel confused about how we feel about the end of our trip and when I notice my odometer clicking over this milestone, this lump in my throat suddenly came from nowhere and takes me by surprise. Yes, it was suddenly a little emotional, realising what we had done this past year. We are on a major road at the time, no place to pull over. A drive by video and photo will have to do.
Why Philadelphia? For one very special reason: to see Oliya and her kids Sabina and Samir, whom we met in Uzbekistan just over a year ago in Samarkand at her father Jamkur’s home. Oliya has lived in the US for the past 6 years and was visiting her family during her kids’ summer holiday when we met them. Oliya’s sister Aziza, who we met first at a restaurant in Samarkand, and I have stayed in touch ever since through WhatsApp. Aziza and Oliya’s father Jamkur’s parting comment to us when we left has stayed with us ever since: “part of my heart goes with you”. Seeing Oliya, Sabina and Samir again outside Philadelphia was wonderful. The welcome they gave us was so heart warming. And what a feast we had. Oliya remembered that we had enjoyed her father’s plov – a typical Uzbek meal. After dinner, we skyped home in Samarkand. The line was terrible, we couldn’t understand what they were saying, the image was constantly frozen and blurry, but we did see everyone. The image of Jamkur with a beaming smile and doing a heart sign with his hands was so special. We are so glad we stopped over to see Oliya, Sabina and Samir. We were lucky to finally meet Oliya’s husband Parviz who came home early from his evening shift to meet us. It is hard to hear how difficult it is for them as a new immigrant family with limited English. Parviz used to be a lawyer in Uzbekistan but has not been able to get a comparable position here because of his level of English which is so tough for him. But both Oliya and Parviz are doing all they can to give their children a better chance in life while also supporting their family back home. I wish people who complain about too many immigrants or refugees could spend a bit of time with them and hear their stories… Leaving your home and families is never easy (we know, and it was our choice!) and sadly many have no other option. We feel for them… It is like time time stands sill for us while we are there, somehow, we get to do so much in an afternoon/evening: Anthony plays Monopoly with Samir, I go for a walk with the Olya and Sabina, I meet the Russian grandmother whom Oliya looks after every week end, we enjoy Oliya’s feast, we all play cards, we chat while we do the washing up, we reminisce about our gatecrashing that wedding in Samarkand, we laugh – we are so glad we are here. The next morning, Oliya prepares a huge cooked breakfast for us: she managed to start a little later this morning – she normally starts at the kindergarten at 7am but is starting at 9 today so that she can spend a bit more time with us. There is no greater gift than unconditional love and friendship and this is what this beautiful family has given us. After Oliya leaves, we spend a bit more time with Sabina and Samir before we head off too.
We are now headed for Princeton, to see one of Anthony’s cousins Inger and her husband Steve who have been here for the past year. We last saw them briefly in Melbourne just before we left Australia nearly 2 years ago (already?!). It is good to see family again. And it is a good time for us to catch up on family news and clean our air filters (we did an oil change just outside Philadelphia), give our jackets their first wash in 3 months, catch up with laundry, and catch up on our blog writing. And eat some delicious and healthy meals. The food we have been eating while in the US, apart from when we have visited friends, has been pretty bad really. We have never been to Princeton before and can see why it has such a reputation. It is a beautiful place, with lovely old houses, stunning university buildings. With its university which was established in 1736, it has a vibrant and cosmopolitan feel.
It has been a lovely place to stop for a couple of nights and great to see family, thanks Inger and Steve, before heading into New York City tomorrow!!!!