Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—Day 291

My day in Philadelphia was spent doing great things. I got up and visited my new friends at the UPS store where I shipped home all of the souvenirs-slash-unnecessary accumulations that I have being storing up like some squirrel for the past few months and have yet to part with. Seriously, who needs to be carrying around SEVEN extra books?

With that taken care of I stopped for breakfast at this fabulous little Philadelphia born and bred diner, complete with waitresses with thick East coast accents serving up the daily special like there was nothing else on the menu. Everyone in the place was eating the daily special—the same friend eggs, bacon, toast, fried potatoes, juice and coffee—including me.

After breakfast, I called my friend Annie (whom I met while studying in New Zealand and who now works in Philadelphia) and ended up walking something like twenty-six blocks to meet her. This was entirely my own doing—she was not able to answer her phone while she was at work but I knew that she had her lunch break at noon and that she worked on 30th street. So I started trudging towards 30th, which took me just over a half an hour to get there. It was actually really nice to walk the whole way—the sun was out and the sky was clear—and moreover really interesting to see the changes (economically, socially, culturally, etc.) in Philadelphia the more you approached crossed the river over to the UPenn and Drexel University side of Philadelphia. You have to wonder if the students at UPenn even cross over to the other side of the river unless they are doing urban studies projects.

Anyways, meeting Annie was great. We only have a few minutes to talk since she had to get back to work earlier than she had anticipated. If there is anyone that I have ever met in my life who is truly, truly kind and caring its Annie. She is always just so wonderful to talk to and it was nice to be able to catch up with her for a bit while we strolled around until I dropped her back off at her office at Drexel University where Annie works as an admissions counselor.

After saying goodbye to Annie I wandered over to a place near both campuses for lunch. It turned out to be this “bubble” tea place where they serve you tea with these “bubbles” in them (I have had them before in L.A. called “boba” tea) and they are of Asian influence but are basically these chewy balls of, well, chewy stuff. They are not bad but surprise you when you forget that they are in your drink and then you suck one up. Anyways, I had a good lunch and then wandered around UPenn for a while before taking the subway (ahem, I mean underground tram—there is a difference!) back to City Hall.

I then made my way back to Philadelphia’s national park—the liberty bell and hall of independence. Its quite funny to see park rangers in the middle of the city, but don’t tell them that. They take their jobs very seriously. I visited the bell (which, if you didn’t know, doesn’t ring anymore due to the crack) and the independence hall where our forefathers signed us up for our own country. The park ranger giving the tour (which was free and very interesting—definitely do it if you are in Philadelphia) had all sorts of really interesting factoids all about our nation’s history. He kept quizzing us on different things (“Which president’s wife was named Dolly?” things like that) and it felt almost like back in elementary school where you sat in anticipation, dreading the idea of him calling on you.

On our way to the actual room where the constitution and all the other goods were signed (“the most important room in the USA” by the way) I asked the guide about how long settlers were in the USA before independence. The man just looked at me like I was nuts (I recognized it immediately—it’s the same for when you ask about hippos names…) and told me, “well, what’s the first colony of the USA?”

As I stuttered and stammered and tried to recall my American history (its been almost seven years since I had it but really is no excuse) he told me “Jamestown.” Of course, Jamestown! I remembered immediately as he said it and told me that the colony—the oldest in the USA—was just about to celebrate their 400 year anniversary.

I thanked him but before I got away from being asked any more questions he turned to me, shook his head sadly and said, “Where have YOU been?”

Well, if you really want to know…