Luray Caverns in Shenandoah Valley

Heard about Luray Caverns from a neighbour and decided to check it out when gal pal Liz flew in last weekend. It’s one of the many commercial show caves in Virginia that do guided walking tours through the caverns, brightly lit with dazzling yellow lights to feature spectacular speleothem formations that you’d never see anywhere out in the open air.

A mini adventure in semi-darkness, more than 100 feet below ground? Yes please! Continue reading

How Does a Traveller Define Home?

“No New Year celebrations as there is little meaning without you and others around. I miss the family togetherness every once in a while maybe because I am getting on in age.”

When I read this line in this email from my dad awhile back, I gulped with guilt. Here I was, blissfully involved in my own world here in the D.C. area. Nary a thought for my dad’s feelings. Still, I stuffed away his words into the deepest crevice of my mind and carried on.

Recently, a post on the International Herald Tribune’s Rendezvous blog, which was titled, “Dark Side of the Expat Life” made me think of his email again. Continue reading

You Say Tomaydo, I Say You Need To Adapt

From behind a glass screen, a young man in a grey green apron and baseball hat, in charge of putting together ingredients for my turkey sub (sandwich bread) asked what I wanted on my sandwich. “LeT-Tuce,” I said. But the response I received wasn’t quite what I expected. A blank stare, a couple of blinks and a moment of silence before he seemed to register what I said. People behind me looked on, waiting for a reaction. “OH. You mean leD-Duce,” he finally answered, shooting me an accusing look as if displeased that I’d put him in an awkward spot.

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The Legendary Peacock Room in Freer Gallery

peacock room freer sackler shermian limThe hallway leading to the Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery is dimly lit, just enough for you to see where you’re heading. This only heightens the anticipation of walking into a magnificent room first built in 1800s London, displayed in a museum, then sold to a 1900s Detroit homeowner before being gifted to the Gallery around 1919.  Visitors that came sauntering into the Peacock Room spoke in hushed tones, eyes full of curiosity and wonder as they approached the room. For good reason.  Continue reading

Burial Site of F Scott Fitzgerald

burial site of F Scott Fitzgerald The release of the movie Gatsby has heaped fresh interest on the burial site of F Scott Fitzgerald, the book’s author. Along with the mound of old articles about his final resting place, a pile of new ones have popped up. (Ok, enough puns.) The early 20th century writer, who was known for his penchant for alcohol and glamorous world capitals, interred in a suburban Rockville graveyard, surrounded by concrete buildings and beside the intersection of busy highways? How absurdly mundane!

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Inauguration Day in Washington D.C.

Riding into the city on the morning of Inauguration Day, I could tell which of my fellow Red Line passengers were headed in to join the celebrations — the ones who were dressed like they were going on a ski trip. Clad in wool hats, thick gloves, heavy shoes, and North Face jackets, they were also armed with maps, bottled water, additional blankets and consumer friendly DSLR cameras. Snippets of chatter overheard were about getting to the vast lawns of the 146-acred National Mall as quickly as they could. “We’re almost there, get your Metro cards out. Don’t be fumblin’ for em at the turnstile,” said one mother to her two kids. “Metro Center is gonna be slammed. Let’s get out at Farragut North. The lines won’t be as long,” said a bearded man in a black furry hat to his friends. Continue reading

Stop for the Yellow School Busses

American school bus shermian lim

Without any snow days, the winter break ended has ended for D.C. area school kids, so you may have witnessed this scene a little earlier than usual: A yellow school bus parked on a neighbourhood street; its’ octagonal red-and-white STOP signs robotically swinging outward from both sides of the bus, to the tune of high-pitched beep–beep–beeps. Then comes a clatter of sneaker-clad footsteps as schoolchildren tumble out, laughing and chattering, glad to be done with school for the day. Cars rolling up behind the bus come to a halt, as do vehicles coming from the opposite direction.

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Musings on Thanksgiving & Black Friday Traditions

In a three-bedroom apartment in State College Pa., a pan of creamy green bean casserole and a pumpkin pie sat on the faux marble breakfast bar, both dishes still untouched. The aroma of couscous simmering in a spicy, tomato-based broth rose from the pan and wafted through the kitchen. Past the oven — where a large, spice rubbed turkey was roasting — and into the living room, where a Christmas-themed movie played on HBO. Thirteen-year-old Semi sat crossed-legged on the carpet, eyes glued to the TV set as she recited movie lines from memory. Ade, her older sister and my college roommate, shook her head endearingly, then bustled back into the kitchen to check on the turkey while fending off her little brother, Aziz, who declared he was hungry; when could he eat Thanksgiving dinner?

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Derecho Chaos in the D.C. Region

Flickr: woodleywonderworks

For a thunderstorm that lasted barely an hour and half, last Friday’s derecho sure caused a lot of havoc in the D.C. region. Most people were quite likely enjoying their Friday evenings like they always do. I was at home, getting ready for a trip the next day, when it hit. The sound of gushing winds prompted me to leave my packing and look out the window.

Wish I hadn’t, because I immediately felt like I was on a ship, riding angry waves and beating back relentless wind and torrential rain. Trees were swaying wildly, making disconcerting crackle sounds as they went. On Rockville Pike, cars were going slowly; a couple of drivers had stopped on the side of the road, unsure of how to navigate in the storm. I hadn’t paid attention to news about the weather lately and thought that we were being hit by a hurricane. I panicked.

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