FOR THE SECOND DAY OF THE TOUR, we were taken one and a half hours from Comfort Inn to Western Virginia’s Shenandoah Valleys. The name Shenandoah came from the Native American language meaning ‘daughter of the stars’ and was historically used as a migratory trail for tribes. We’re here for one of the notable caves, Shenandoah Caverns.
I was asleep during the journey, but when I woke up, the breathtaking views of green around me tells me that we’re far away from the city. The caverns now has a wide big elevator that takes visitors down below to the stalactites, stalagmites and stala-whatever formations. The caverns are naturally cooled to an all year temperature of 18 degrees Celcius, which we welcomed happily. The one hour tour is given by an unenthusiastic lady in her twenties, but the walk was kind of cool. We did see the popular ones, such as the bacon strips, the Grotto of the Gods, the underwater reflection, the Capitol dome and etc. The formations look normal to me, but the lights do lit them up magically. Another thing to see is the numerous trolls that are placed here. Here’s one telling you that you’re in Rock City, and a couple telling you not to touch the rocks or else you’ll go bankrupt.
ONE COOL THING ABOUT TRAVEL, is that you get to know places you never thought you would know, see cultures that you may or may not fancy about, and get to meet with people, and I mean all sorts of people. The nice man sitting by my side for the trip is a Chinese phD student by the name Xinyang. (My bad for not getting a photo with him). He is on the trip with his parents who came to visit from China. This new friend that I made, was really engaging in all the conversations we had, with issues from studies, to religion, to family and stuff. He kept reminding me that I would become a kind and compassionate doctor in the future, and I hope I get to live up to his expectations. As he quoted me saying ‘The world is smaller than we think it is’, I believe we will meet in the future.
ALL I KNOW ABOUT BALTIMORE before this trip is from Hairspray’s opening number ‘Good Morning Baltimore’. Luckily, I get to see the ‘fantasy and symphony’ but not the ‘flasher who lives next door’. Anyways, another thing I just happened to know is that John Hopkins hospital, the always ranked as number one hospital, is here in Baltimore. And everyone knows that crabs are Baltimore’s pride (too bad they don’t have vegan ones). The only attraction we are going to see (or rather going on) here is the Cruise, which will take us on an educational tour around the harbor and Chesapeake Bay.
This city was once a manufacturing industry hot-pot, with steel being its main exports. But now as the industry fades away, the city is known for its effort to rebuild the city (they kept repeating that during the tour). The largest employer in the town is John Hopkins hospital and university, and I believe the people’s health are definitely in good hands. The cruise boat took us around the harbor to see some of the attractions by the bay. It is a good way to relax and get some sea breeze (and an extra sun tan), but I don’t think the tour gives enough information to tourists to know Baltimore better.
The tour ended in 75 minutes, and that officially ends our itinerary as well. I had stuff to do back in DC (will explain later), and so I had to leave my bus, and try to get back to the nation’s capital, where another Tzu Chi homestay family is awaiting me. According to the friendly guide at the Visitor’s Center, the last bus has already left and the only way to get back is by train. So, I travelled from the harbor to the train station by light rail, which was very clean, and I had the train to myself. The light rail is probably a hybrid of the metro and the bus because although it travel on rails, the train is ON the ground, and you have to press the yellow tape to have it stop, just like a bus.
I paid $27 for my first ride on an Amtrak train. The insides of the train looks just like an airplane cabin. The seats are wide and comfy, they have magazines just like they do on a flight, and the coolest thing is that they have sockets on every seat so that you can recharge your battery or use your laptops. The trip back to DC was not too long, but I still have to catch a metro to the station where they would eventually pick me. The metro here is very much cleaner than New York’s and Boston’s, and most of the platforms are fashioned to look like a great big arch, and completely efficiently cooled with air conditioning. I DID get my homestay’s house in the end, and I will talk about it in the next entry. This day is just day of experiencing the different transportation from bus, to underground trails, to cruises, light rails, trains, metro and ending with a comfortable ride on a car.