Thursday, July 2, 2015

Day 19: In Which It Rains, and Justin Wins

Today's Distance: 100 miles (round-trip - we're back in Virginia Beach)
Total Distance: about 5569 miles
Today's Destinations: Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Today we went to Colonial Williamsburg, a place I have longed to visit since I read my first Felicity book when I was 7 or 8.  I actually had been there before, on our 2007 road trip, but we got there too late to see much (it was only March, and it was getting dark in the afternoon), and I don't believe we bought tickets so we couldn't go into the buildings.  I bought a bell during that trip, which I broke about a week later.  Justin promised to one day take me back to Williamsburg so I could get another bell.

Be careful what promises you make. (This is foreshadowing.)

We arrived in the morning, and in all the hoopla of trying to find the right place to park, forgetting my phone (with which to take pictures) and going back for it, I forgot one minor detail which was that the weather forecast had mentioned a chance of rain in the afternoon. (This is also foreshadowing.)

Day passes to Williamsburg are way expensive - still less money than the San Diego Zoo, but more than anything else we've done so far on this trip - but they are worth it if you can spend all day there!  We toured the Governor's Palace and learned all kinds of stuff, not only about the history of the house and the governors who lived there, but also about the last royal appointed governor and many of the events which led to him and his family ultimately fleeing the house and returning to England in 1775!  Our tour guide was very lively and energetic and made it all so interesting that I think even children would be very engaged.

Governor's palace

apparently my camera didn't want to focus on her though

Another very cool place in Williamburg is the Bruton Parish Church, which is still an active church today with over 2000 parishoners and four services every Sunday!  The guides in the church, rather than being dressed in colonial garb like the employees of the town, are just church members who will tell you all about the history of the building, the famous people who worshiped or were buried there, and other very interesting facts.  They also will let you ring the bell if it's time to call people to prayer (they have a prayer meeting every day at noon) - and after a few children gave it a try, Justin and I each had a turn as well!  It was very exciting.

explaining how to ring the bell
gorgeous church - the big marble slabs are grave-markers
Bruton Parish Church from the outside
Side-note: the churchyard is also the graveyard, so there are headstones all over the church.  Some are very very old and you can't even read the writing.  I took pictures of as many as possible to see if I could identify which one is most likely to be the ghoul-gate (this is for people who have read Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book).

maybe this one? There were a few like it

Another interesting place was a museum about African/African-American religion.  This place told about the religion of the African peoples, and how they tried to preserve their beliefs when they were first taken as slaves, and how they embraced the gospel because of its teachings about equality before God, God's love for all mankind, and the promise of deliverance (if only their masters had been listening to that message as well!).  So the combination of this new Christianity and the preservation of their old spirituality created a sort of fusion, what some people call "Afro-Christianity."  It was all very interesting.  The museum also mentioned the formation of the first black denomination, the AME, which was the kind of church where the Charleston massacre took place so recently.

view of inside - lots of material to read while recorded music, mostly African-American spirituals, played

We also went to a lot of the shops - blacksmith, silversmith, milliner, wigmaker, leather britches-maker, apothecary, printer, weaver, a kitchen, and more.  The people will talk to you about their trade and answer any questions you have.  I was very impressed to find that in many of the trade shops, they actually use the products they make in the village.

apothecary - doctor, physician, midwife, surgeon, and all without medical school!
You had to be committed to wearing a wig, since you shaved your head (male or female!) to do so.  The price of beauty.
It's called the tailor and milliner shop, but it's also a mantua-maker because they make ladies' clothes here.
a silversmith apprentice

Spinning was not a profession in the colonies because they could buy thread; they just showed it so you could see that part of the process, and because they use homespun thread in their weaving

Some of the employees are actors and there are scheduled times when they will do skits in the street.  While we were waiting for another event, there was a skit in front of us where one man was celebrating the upcoming hanging of a black man who had run away to the British (year 1781, during the Revolutionary War) and then been captured and sentenced to death for treason - but then another man (a black man) came up and questioned the justice of this verdict, given that black people were considered property, and how can property be loyal or disloyal?, plus if the government doesn't consider you a human being, much less a citizen, how is it possible for you to commit treason? and there was like a 15-minute debate between them, during which they would sometimes appeal to members of the audience watching.  It was very interesting!

a great debate

One of the last things we did was a play called "A Gathering of Hair" which I understand is a new play/event.  It's three African-American women acting out a story based on real women's lives in the 1770s - one is a free woman who works as a laundress and two are slaves, and all three are getting ready to go to a broom jumping for another friend (that's a marriage ceremony).  During the play you learn about their lives, their struggles, their relationships, and their hair. ;) They talk about what beauty is and what society says beauty is, the hardship of bearing children as a slave, knowing you are essentially expanding your master's property, the quandary of a free person wanting to marry someone who was enslaved, the stresses of working for their masters or mistresses, their response to a mistress's well-intentioned, though misguided, attempt to help an enslaved black woman look her best for a wedding.  Justin and I really loved this and would recommend it to anyone who goes to Williamsburg.  These reenactments and dramatizations give you a window into what life, perhaps, really was for the people of this time period.  It humanizes history.

After this was over, we were pretty tired.  Plus, I still wanted to go looking for a bell, and the place to look was on the complete opposite side of town.  As we started walking back, it started to rain.  Not much, and not for very long.  By the time we reached the Market Square though, it had started up again - hard.

If you are an American but have never lived in the South, you do not know what "raining hard" is.  It is like great heavenly buckets that never empty being dumped down on earth.  It's like every person who has ever died is hurling snowballs at earth with all their might, only they melt (because it's the South) before they get to the ground, producing huge, hard-hitting pellets of rain.

This picture doesn't give you a very good idea.  You could literally see the sheets of rain in the air.

Justin was really tired by this time, so we decided he could sit in a covered area while I went across the street to look for a bell.  This shop didn't have a bell and the cashier directed me to a shop at the other end of the street.  I went out, trying to run to get there quickly, but I couldn't find the shop she had mentioned.  And then I couldn't see.

I haven't mentioned this, but I've been wearing glasses for the past several days because I forgot to pack a spare pair of contacts.  It hasn't been a big deal - I bought a pair of sunglasses that can go over them and all - but today, with the rain streaming down and getting into my eyes and all over my glasses, I couldn't tell where I was going.  I tried to keep looking for a little bit, but mascara was starting to get into my eyes (I can't wear waterproof), and I just started to feel completely defeated.  I made my way back to where Justin was waiting and told him I couldn't see where to go.  By this point I was cold and tired on top of wet, and did I mention I was wearing a white shirt?

So what does Justin do?  He gets up, tells me to stay put, and goes out in search of my bell.  Even more tired than I was, and also wearing glasses, he went out into the torrent and he came back - it must have been 15 or 20 minutes later - with the last bell in the shop that had the name "Williamsburg"- and a T-shirt so I didn't have to feel so uncomfortable.

Justin totally won today.  I'm not sure what he won or what he defeated, but to me, what he did was a FTW moment.

cold and wet but happy!

We managed to take a tour bus back to where our car was parked.  A man on the bus mentioned that we were at the south tip of a storm and that once we got a few miles south we'd be out of it.  He failed to mention that the storm was moving south (you thought the foreshadowing was over, didn't you?).

So pretty much all the way back to Virginia Beach, we were either in the middle of the storm, or sitting in traffic waiting for it to catch up to us - which it did three times.  Driving in this kind of rain is a little scary, but if a big vehicle passes you quickly, it's REALLY scary because for about three seconds your entire windshield is WATER! and you can't see anything.  Windshield wipers can't prevent this.  Like I said, it takes three seconds before you can see again.  Fortunately, this didn't happen to us at that time.

But we made it back safely.  Virginia Beach was still dry when we go there, and after blasting warm air for an hour and a half, so were wee.  We had made plans to go out to dinner with Justin's mom after coming back.  About three minutes before we left her house, the storm - you guessed it - followed us, announcing its arrival with the impressively loud percussion of the rain pounding against the roof (this is a two-story building).   We stepped outside - we were instantly soaked.  Again.  Worse than before!  We took umbrellas.  It didn't help.

So we started driving toward the beach to go to this seafood place we visited the last time we were there.  The rain was pretty impressive, and it was at this point that we had that experience of car passing, seeing nothing out the window but WATER! for three seconds, followed, thankfully, by resumed normalcy.

The restaurant has valet parking, but it seemed to be taking a while, so Justin's mom had to wade outside to check on the status a few times before we could get out of the car.  At this point my jeans were soaked up to my knees even though the puddles were only ankle-deep.  When we entered the restaurant, we found out that there was a 45-minute waiting period (it was maybe 7:30 or 7:45 by this point).  So we said no thank you, got the car back before the valet even parked it, and went to Red Lobster instead.  No puddles and no waiting there.

I tried to eat and drink as many hot things as I could to warm up.  I had real crab for the first time in my life - I don't recommend it as a first-date food unless you are really skilled, but it tasted good.

um, how do you eat this stuff?
After a nice long delicious meal, we went back out and were happy to find that the storm had passed, the air was warm, and although we were still wet, we at least weren't getting any wetter.

So now I'm in my pajamas in front of a nice crackling fire while Justin has already gone to bed.  I need to check on the status of our clothes that are in the dryer before I follow suit.

During the entire raining experience, one thought kept me going: we wanted to make memories on this trip, and we certainly succeeded today!

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