Yes, it's a holiday today. Memorial Day, to be exact. But when every day feels the same while you're stuck indoors, it hard to feel like there's a national holiday to be celebrated. We've only been in Virginia for fifty days, but it seems like it's been much, much longer. Things are slowly beginning to open up in our area, but it's still pretty quiet outside. This is how it looked from our balcony at 1325 hours EDT on Monday:
As I write this, the death toll from COVID-19 in the United States stands at 98,169. On this Memorial Day it's worth noting that figure is greater than the American death toll from the Vietnam War, and is rapidly closing in on the count from the First World War, which stands at 116,516 (an interesting side note: more of those casualties died from disease than from combat during WW1, largely due to the 1918 flu pandemic!). But people are understandably anxious to get on with their lives, and you can't keep a population locked down forever. I'm in favor of gradually opening up for business, provided strict safeguards remain in place (face masks, social distancing etc.). But as these news articles from the BBC and CNN show, it seems there are too many people who are willing to risk greater outbreaks in their rush to get out of their homes.
Our situation is complicated by the fact we shouldn't even be here in Arlington. Our return to Addis Ababa አዲስ አበባ depends on when Authorized Departure is ended; when consulates and embassies in Africa are reopened for routine services; and when the Ethiopian government ends (or at least modifies for diplomats and their families) the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entering the country. Until then, we continue to wait things out in the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
So, what do I do when I'm not teleworking?. On weekday mornings I go for hour-long walks after breakfast around the neighborhood. There usually isn't much to see. While there are a lot of very attractive tres Americana brick or wooden houses (many dating from the 1940's and '50's) in this area, it's the more modernist structures that tend to stick out (namely by clashing with their neighbors), like this beauty. Just look at those southern exposures!:
There are also the occasional historical markers to show how much things have changed (not to mention how much change remains to be carried out):
On weekends (i.e those days when I don't need to telework), I get more ambitious with my outdoor strolls. Our apartment building isn't far from the Custis Trail, and each weekend I go for gradually longer walks on the pathway. From an initial one-hour round trip, I'm now up to two hours. This past Saturday I learned that one hour on foot from our residence will take me beyond the Custis Trail and onto the Mount Vernon Trail and Theodore Roosevelt Island (the latter which my family and I first visited back in the summer of 2012). Next weekend I plan on stretching that walk to two hours and ten minutes, and so on until the day we can finally return to Ethiopia. It's the only exercise I'm getting:
The return route from Theodore Roosevelt Island took me through the streets of the normally bustling business section of Rosslyn. Very little is hustling or bustling these days:
I'd forgotten it was the Memorial Day weekend until I passed by this sight on Sunday morning:
Speaking of Sunday, that afternoon (while the girls were out grocery shopping) I took a walk to the Fort C.F. Smith historical site, 43 minutes and 2.1 miles (3.4 kilometers) from our apartment building as the rabbit hops. Birds, squirrels and bunnies are getting bolder as people continue to stay indoors:
The highlight of the park is the Hendry House, which is normally available for weddings and other functions. I don't need to tell you that things aren't "normal" these days, do I?:
The various localities in the northern Virginia region have done a great job of creating and maintaining parks and other public lands. If it wasn't for the sounds of traffic from the nearby Interstate 66, you could almost feel like you were deep in the forest, instead of being in one of the most affluent suburbs in the country:
On the way back from the fort, I passed by this rather charming house, with its covered elevated walkway connecting the carport with the front door. Echoes of Frank Lloyd Wright...:
On the other hand, however, there was this place, with its English lions and American and Australian flags:
This morning (Monday) I headed over to the famed U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, only 47 minutes and 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) away. En route I passed by the Belvedere Condominiums. According to this website they date from 1987, though they appear more like something out of the 1970's to my untrained eyes. Get a load of those "Romeo and Juliet" balconies:
It certainly wasn't my first time to the memorial (see here, here and here):
Around the base of the memorial is etched the names of wars that have involved the Marine Corps, a depressing litany of conflicts that demonstrate this country seems to be on a permanent war footing:
Before heading home, I looked over the wall at the rows of headstones in Arlington National Cemetery, another sobering reminder that peace remains elusive in a country operating under the aegis of a military-industry complex. It wasn't for my "freedom" that many of these men and women supposedly made the "ultimate sacrifice":
I'll continue to walk until this lockdown ends and we can return "home" to Addis. Hopefully it won't be too much longer - I'm beginning to develop a hole in one of my left shoes (an unfortunate and expensively common occurrence due to the flawed way I walk).