From my parents’ home in West Virginia, DC is only a 6-hour drive through the beautiful Appalachian mountains. The steering wheel continually rotated left and right. The cruise control fought up and down steep grades. Green forests stood like fortress walls all around us. Every now and then I would prompt the kids to look at the view. They obliged for a tenth of a second before returning their rapt attention to the zombie-making DVD player.
I love driving through different parts of the country. The variety of landscapes provides amazing views to appreciate. However, I do feel the casual stop for gas or food is not as casual as it could be if you are an ethnic minority in small town America. This is particularly true in the age of the Yelp app where instead of stopping directly off the highway you find yourself driving a mile into the tiny town wondering if you will be the first Asian to step foot in (and hopefully make it out of) that particular local eatery. Maybe it is all in our heads since no one made a scene or even stared too long. Fortunately, our Spidey sense did not deter us from getting our fill on something other than a happy meal. I will gladly have to face this fear than trade in my race. After all, if it were not for my Asian ethnicity, I may not have all the family and close friends who are doctors graciously giving us medical advice and care quicker and easier than a Jimmy John’s delivery. I may not have always felt this way growing up in a small town, but I am definitely so thankful God made me who I am for reasons beyond trustworthy medical care.
We spent a weekend with my bosom friend (Anne of Green Gables fans need no explanation). Joann and I were matched up as prayer partners our first semester freshman year at Cornell. We spent every Friday night criss-crossed on her pink rug sharing and praying for so long that we would have to rush a quick Balch Hall dinner before racing across campus arm-in-arm to large group meowing our way through Les Mis songs. (If you don’t know all the words, meowing comes in handy.) Through all of life’s joys and pains in the past two decades, our friendship has deepened and endured. The boys were in heaven playing with the Carter boys and their toys. Joann’s parents took us to heaven also: dinner at an all-you-can-eat Korean and sushi restaurant, something hard to come by in our current city. Joann and I were able to take a morning jog together. Compared to Albuquerque, it was not as strenuous with lower elevation and level ground, but my clothes were thoroughly soaked with nasty sweat because the humidity made me feel like I was running through a rainforest. As with every visit, the time was sweet but too short. Still, we are so thankful to have had it.
Back in the days when Nelly was telling us to take a ride with him, Tricia and I were singing along in da Lou. She and her husband hosted a delicious dinner for us and the Han family who were in our small group in Chicago. Nathan treated us to his bartending skills. The boys had a blast with little Andrew. It was another great night of fellowship and fun.
We explored the city sites. With young children, we knew we could only expect to cover a few key items and allowed Ethan to prioritize them for us. The sequester prevented a White House tour that he really wanted, but we were able to see his other top choices: the Lincoln Memorial and the Natural History and Air & Space Museums. I wanted to see the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and we stopped by the Korean War Memorial on the way. We ate lunch in Chinatown where Mike got his fill of sea cucumbers and I got my fill of seeing Asians and African Americans everywhere, rare in our current city. We also found the world’s biggest macaron cookies at Paul’s for our grateful boys.
We trekked out to the outer rim of the DC burbs and were treated to another delicious dinner at Shannon’s. We both grew up in the small town of South Point. My childhood would not have been the same without her and the Maynard family. It was great hanging with her family, savoring lifelong relationships and the joys of where our journeys have taken us thus far.
We met up with Joy and her family at Peking Gourmet Inn. The food was awesome and we finally got to meet her husband and baby. Joy was in our small group in Chicago and the kind of friend one can call at 4am to come watch your son while you go give birth to your other. I thought nothing of her going to the restroom after dinner until the plate piled with fortune cookies was completely bill-less. She had pulled off the old I’m-going-to-the-bathroom-but-also-paying-the-bill trick. Mike comfortably thanked her while I shook my fist at her sneaky ways in defying the older-sibling-must-pay Korean policy.
We thoroughly enjoyed seeing DC’s sites, but even the boys knew that the best parts were being with friends. We do not get to the East Coast often and are even further away than ever, but we cherish the opportunity to be face-to-face with such good people. Life is not rich because of the means for opulent shopping at Tyson’s Corner but because of the many treasured relationships we have the privilege of having across decades of years and hundreds of miles. We are sultans indeed.