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Reisverslag Enjoying Washington DC
19 december 2012
Enjoying Washington DC
So I had the full Saturday to explore the city. At the hotel they had bikes for loan, and I got one (I declined the optional helmet because of my hair). There were no bicycle lanes on the road, so I should ride on the sidewalk. I liked that. I biked to downtown totally at ease, enjoying the great sunshine and the views of the city. Of course I went to see the White House and the Capitol, which were my main touristic destinations and I passed the Washington Monument, the Federal Triangle, and many special buildings. I appeared to be a tourist attraction myself once again. Quite some people asked me if they could take a picture of me, because they liked my hair, and I was smart enough to ask if they could use my camera as well then, so I got some nice pictures of myself at various places in Washington DC :)
I really liked crossing the city, and I went to explore some neighbourhoods as well: Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, Adams Zoo. It was said that all museums are for free in Washington DC, but I didn’t really feel like going inside. I really enjoyed hanging outside on my bike in the sunshine. I used to spend my days like this when I was homeless. I really felt very comfortable on the bike, totally me. It felt like freedom. I was very grateful that the stewardess had given me this idea. It was absolutely great. I had many short conversations with people who were passing by, old, young, tourists and residents (and photographers). And entire groups of young people dressed up like Santa Claus or Christmas-fairies, reindeers and that sort of stuff. It was incredible!! I have never seen such a Christmas hype. Hundreds of people dressed up in Christmas costumes, and then going out in bars on the Saturday-night. All the people dressed up and having fun, the atmosphere resembled a bit to the Carnaval-parties in the south of the Netherlands. It was amazing to witness this. It made me smile big time. It’s so nice to meet people. I think I will hire a bike more often when I’m in other cities. I cycled around about all day, and basically I only got off my bike to get something to eat or drink, and the rest of the day I was riding my bicycle. I had a great day.
In the evening I was going to have dinner with Shain and Lydia, who I had met via the expert meeting. We went to Chinatown, to a restaurant, where the monthly meeting of an autism self-advocate network was held from 19.00 on. I was welcome to join. So we enjoyed a plate of Asian food there, and then followed the self-help group meeting afterwards. The autism-community was worried about the media on the recent tragedy of the shootings in Connecticut (Newtown), where a boy had opened fire at an elementary school and killed 27 persons (of which 20 young children). There were rumours that some secondary media were linking this tragedy to mental illness: autism/ Asperger or schizophrenia or a personality disorder. Some spokespersons and organizations had already issued a statement to refrain from stigmatizing groups of people. And at the autism-self-advocates-meeting people could talk about this, and vent their feelings on the matter.
The second matter to discuss was the upcoming DSM-5 (diagnostic manual for mental illnesses), where Asperger will be getting the label Autism-Spectrum-Disorder , and will no longer be a separate diagnosis. It is said that there will be 3 diagnostic levels of severity in the Autism-Spectrum. The name-change and its implications were discussed and many people were worried about re-testing, losing support or losing the diagnosis. Also the name of the self-help group might need review because of the name-change of the diagnosis. However, nobody has seen the new version of DSM yet, so there remain many questions and only a few answers. The group will keep on following up on the developments regarding DSM-5.
After the 2-hour meeting, I went along with Shain and Lydia to the campus of Georgetown University. We walked there, which was about an hour walking. We petted every dog we saw on the way :) At the university campus we enjoyed music, reading and talking, and Shain had some home-made Italian food for us. That was very nice. I suddenly realized that it was 1.30 in the night already, and I had to say goodbye to them, and I took my bike and went back to the hotel. It was great.
The next morning, on Sunday, I needed to pack my bags and check-out. Then I made a quick stop to fix some Christmas-cards for my family, and I was hoping to find a mailbox to post them somewhere along the way. I basically had plenty of time to do that before going to the airport.
But when I wanted to head downtown with the metro, it appeared that there was a Sunday schedule for the metro, and on top of that some metro maintenance going on, and the schedule was totally disrupted, with only one track for both directions. So this took a lot of time.
Then finding a mailbox was very hard, nobody seemed to know for sure, but they pointed at the same direction generally, and finally I found a post office with a mailbox in front. Then I made my way back to L’Enfant Plaza where I waited for the airport shuttle bus, which also had a Sunday schedule. Anyway, after all I arrived at the airport, and I had plenty time to have some dinner there, before my flight took off with a slight delay, just after 19.00. I had one stop-over in Detroit, and that was perfectly timed: when I arrived at the departure gate, the boarding for the flight started.
It was a long flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, about 8 hours through the night, arriving at 12 noon Dutch time. Most people were trying to sleep. Me too, because my plans upon arrival still weren’t really made up. I happened to have 2 tickets for a concert of Muse on that same Monday night in Amsterdam at Ziggo Dome, which I bought months ago. This trip to Washington had come as a surprise, but it was still possible to plan it both. Unfortunately my friend had to cancel, so I had a spare ticket, and possibly a jet-lag, and no time to go home before the concert, because the concert started about 6 hours after my landing. My options were to sell the tickets, or to go there after an exhausting 20 hour-trip from Washington DC. I had tried selling the tickets to friends, but I hadn’t succeeded, so I still had 2 tickets, but I was on my own, quite tired and carrying luggage. Also going home to the Netherlands was somehow depressing. I didn’t really know what to do. (I couldn’t invite someone if I was going to sell the tickets. But if I didn’t succeed in selling, I would need to invite someone. It gave me stress).
It was quite a magical moment that followed. I started to feel fed up with it all. I didn’t manage to solve the ticket issue yet. Also I got bullied in Amsterdam because of the way that I look (people yelling at me, even a guy spit at me while saying “ajax” which is a football club). I felt in need of something positive, because after such a great trip I didn’t want to arrive home with a sad feeling… and then I realized I held the key in my own hands. I could go to the Muse concert, and forget about the rest, forget the stress, and just be blown away by great music, until I’m floating in a magical world. It’s a great recipe! It all turned perfect again. Like a very intense puzzle that finally fits, so perfect. I really laughed about myself then: I had reinvented the wheel (how I deal with stress), just in time, just a few hours prior to the concert. Isn’t that bizarre! I still get a smile on my face when I think of the moment that I realized I shouldn’t feel bad about the tickets, but just feel how lucky I am to have these tickets in my hand, to enter the door to a great experience. It’s hilariously stupid to forget what these tickets mean. How could I have felt bad about them? Lol. It was intensely great.
A friend, Henk, was already on his way. He supports my activism and we are in contact by social media, and despite some attempts, we had never met before. So I took him to the concert, to have a good time together. He hadn’t seen any live shows for about 20 years, and he didn’t know Muse. He was very much impressed and we both had a great evening. It was very special altogether. I came home really late, and then I took a day off to sleep and to do some necessary stuff.
So today I’ve started digesting all of the intense experiences of the past week. I’m still loaded with positivity. It has been so intense. I need to reflect a bit more on it for myself, because so many things that were said in the expert meeting, and I was so excited to hear the things about my personal case, and then the travelling and the Muse experience. Many things to think about.
I’m proud to say that this last “gig” activity of the year 2012 was a great experience, and I think it was successful, and possibly even beyond any of my expectations.. Just a few days before my Washington trip I had done some more attempts to find a Dutch lawyer and got rejected again, and even at the expert meeting I was still asking around if anyone knew a Dutch lawyer on mental health issues.. And then I had my personal conversation with Juan Mendez , and maybe I will have a “legal judgement” now even without having a lawyer!! It’s incredible. It’s shaking up my world. I’m waiting for more information, because I don’t want to be disappointed, but it feels like there is a confetti-bomb inside, the party might break loose. It’s positively bizarre, it‘s somehow unreal, and very weird. Things are happening in my body, in my entire being. I don’t know what’s happening. I’m carefully waiting for the mail. Going to Washington DC has been a very great experience, and to me it was a kind of climax after the many things I did this year. It feels like a golden glow :)
So for everybody, enjoy the good vibes, happy holidays and have a great new year!
Foto's bij verslag (7)
4 januari 2013 12:30 | Door: Jolijn