USA: Washington DC, 2018 | Part I

I never thought that writing this would take such a long time… probably because it’s the first post for the trip and I’m trying to make it good. I’m sorry that it’s gonna be a long word post without any photos, because I never used my DSLR the entire day. anyway, you can follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Bloglovin’ to get the latest update from the blog or if you wanna read through my USA story: click here to teleport.

after passing by the set of swing doors through the train station countless times, I finally walked through them. despite a few waiting passengers, it was peaceful and quiet like in Spirited Away and everyone seemed to be minding their own business. I made my way to the table with lotsa brochures to see some bag tags, good, I never thought of having one. I noticed that my two trolley bags made a lot of noise against the small, red tiles.

according to Amtrak’s terms, I was supposed to check my baggage forty-five minutes before my departure but there was no one behind the train counter. shit, was I late?

calm down, I told myself and began to weigh my luggage. It’s an extra step, really. it’s not like the weighing scale here would miraculously make it 0.2 pounds lighter. Ash and I had actually weigh them multiple times in my room and I knew they were slightly overweight because we argued what to eliminate when I was packing. I even took my toiletries out to weigh them again and made sure they’re more than 0.2 pounds so if shit happens, that had to go.

so I grr, grr, grr, grr, grr, grr-ed my way to the other end of the station to the bus counter—mama said never to leave your belongings unsupervised. worriedly, I asked the receptionist if there’s something I should be doing, and she told me to wait for the train guy to come back. so, I grr, grr, grr, grr, grr-ed my way back to this end of the station and saw the sign that said the train guy would be back fifteen minutes before departure. good obversation, Ruo Ling, good observation.

having nothing to do but only to wait, I opened my notebook and penned down my memories, occasionally staring into space to teleport myself to the there and then that I was trying to recall, my tear-streaked face clearly noticeable by the other passengers.

when the train guy was back, I let him know I wanted to check-in my luggage so he asked, “have you weighed them?”


“How much does it weigh?”

“23.2 lbs.”

“You’ll need to take that 0.2 lbs out. Then go out to the platform and wait for me.”

so, once again embarrassing myself by making lots of noise, I began Operation Tetris and re-organized my stuff. the thing was, my big suitcase had all the space, but it’s overweight. on the other hand, my small suitcase and my backpack were packed to the brim. I desperately took my phone out and read the terms again, “passengers are allowed two carry-ons.”

smart, Ruo Ling, smart. the packing time was shortened down to one minute as I took said toiletries out and chucked them into my extra tote bag.

later when I told this story to friends, Zoe said, “see, don’t see this girl macam so smart, in fact, sometimes she is naive.” I know right. I could’ve told the train guy that it is 23 lbs. but, hear me out. I lied to an acquaintance once a few years back… ok, it wasn’t even a lie to most people! I said I was at the restaurant we’re supposed to meet when in fact I was 20 meters away walking towards it and I got busted. 20 meters. from that day onwards, I told myself I’m never gonna lie anymore.

when the train arrived, I didn’t know which door I should get on. “Logically speaking, the carriages near where I’m standing should be first-class, right? My ticket is the cheapest one, so maybe I should go to the end?” With only three minutes for passengers to board, the conductor told me to get on the train when I showed him the tickets. This weak heart of mine can’t take that bothered face he gave me. I don’t remember the last time I took a train to another city being such a stressful task I actually wanna cry???

road trips aside, the mode of transport that got me the most excited was taking the train. I mean, c’mon, dining car! that aside, silly of me, I know, I have this romanticized idea that maybe, just maybe, I would bump into my Jesse like Celine did on that train from Budapest in Before Sunrise. haha. no, but seriously, Malaysia’s trains are either brightly lit or creepily dim, there’s no in between.

now, you may have wondered, why is this post all just words? I love the countryside view outside my window, especially that they’re washed in the golden evening light. though funnily, I hadn’t thought of capturing it with my DSLR. the scenic views all live in my iPhone.

anyway, when I’m not taking in the view, me being me, I tried to do ten thousand different things but ended up getting nothing done during the entire train ride. I tried to read, I tried to write, I tried to organize my photos, I tried to eat Cheetos. it’s something that I took on since young. I remember having to bring my notebook, my novel, and my sudoku book all at once while waiting for my ENT appointment. you know, just in case.

at one of the stations, an Asian-American family boarded the train—three young adult sisters and a mom. they’re noisy, though not to a point that irritated me. I tried to listen what they’re being so noisy about, turned out they’re just bickering like my sisters and I usually do at home. “Mom, you should sit here.” “Mom, where did you put the candies?” “Sis, why?” “Sis, please.”

once, I chatted with a man at the water park where I worked. seeing that I’m from halfway across the globe, he asked, “don’t you miss your family?” I said, “sometimes, especially when I see families in the park, you know?”

I can almost picture my sisters and my mom in this train. “Mom, take this shawl, you’ll get cold.” “Er Jie, where did you put the power bank?” “Da Jie please, take the aisle seat, you pee a lot.” “No, I don’t.”

being the paranoid that I am, I checked my GPS often to make sure I was on the right track—a trick I learnt from two foreigners on the bus to Tioman. at one point when I checked, the train was travelling on water. I thought I was the only one who noticed this, until I heard the Asian sisters laughing at it, “mom, look, we’re actually travelling on water!”

I waited at the designated area of the train station for my luggage, all the while holding tight to my claim receipt, making sure that I don’t lose it. jeez, why is travelling alone so much hassle? I have to remember where I put everything, Er Jie is not here. realizing that I was the only one who checked-in my luggage, I already felt embarrassed… but soon I would get used to that embarrassment for my entire trip.

as I made my way out of the station, I stopped and marveled at the grandeur of the architecture. train stations at home damn sure won’t be this impressive. I mean, C’MON. at the same time I was thinking, you know what, that’s the kinda perk of travelling alone. pretty sure no one would stop to just take in the hall for a moment when travelling in a group. it was too much trouble to take my camera out, so I settled with just taking a few photos of it with my phone.

well, well, well. here came the problem. my Uber promo code didn’t work. I know, it’s not such a big deal. but then I didn’t wanna break my budget on my first day. so, bus or e-hail? can my luggage even fit onto the bus? God, what should I do now? UGH. maybe I should… walk? no? spoiler alert: I called an Uber in the end.

the driver was a nice middle-aged guy. mama said, “when you’re out there, (for chrissake) make conversation.” I’m no conversationalist. I remember my first time being in a car alone with only a strange driver in a foreign place, I tried asking him about the weather. and that was that. boring. no new information. dry. so, this time I tried asking what’s his favourite food to get an idea of the place. then, I asked him ‘bout DC and how long he’s been here, things like that. slightly better than my first time, at least I know he’s been in DC for thirty or so years. way to go, Ruo Ling!

the entrance to my dorm didn’t look like a… dorm. it’s a small door wedged among coffee shops and hair salons which were closed by then. the driver helped to carry my luggage onto the sidewalk and went back to the car but didn’t leave until he made sure I was okay after I was done struggling and shoving my giants into the dorm while holding the door with one hand. the gesture was small—a pair of worried eyes, but I find it sweet in this lonely, lonely journey. (oh c’mon it’s only Day 1) *heart melts anyway*

inside the dorm, I was greeted by a steep flight of stairs. After getting my check-in done, the receptionist offered to carry my hugeass luggage for me. (YAS!) it was my first time staying at a dorm and I tried to not be as awkward (as I already am .____.) when I was done settling myself down, I wrapped up the day as I lay on the upper bank in the dark room, noticing that the room was slightly warm because there’s only a ceiling fan, no A/C, which I didn’t mind really. despite the conditions that I wasn’t used to, I fell asleep easily in the heat from the tail of the summer.

I’m sorry there isn’t any photo that I can show you from the day so I’ll make it up with this photo from the next day.

till the next post, which is coming very soon… by soon I mean in a few days. cheers.