Goodbye Potomac and the East Coast


<Click here for America Posts series>

We were happy to attend the Sunday service at Kavitha and Vinod’s church, Montgomery County Campus of Maclean Bible Church. We praise God for every church where the gospel is presented faithfully.

The children registered for Kid’s Quest and attended another service. We grownups had our service in the main auditorium. A short meditation, time of singing, prayer, and announcements were led by the campus pastor and others from this campus, while the main sermon was conveyed to us live on a big screen from the main campus.


Saying good bye to the children, our great nephew and great niece. I believe this visit is an important one because it gives Simon and Anna a good idea about this Kiwi thaathu and ammaachi for the first time, and it will serve as a foundation on which to build a relationship, going forward.

The shuttle will arrive for us at 3:00 a.m. in time for our 5:45 a.m. flight to Phoenix via Houston. Kavitha has made sandwiches for us to take. And has set the coffee machine to turn on at 2:30 a.m.

Goodbye Simon and Anna. Goodbye Vinod and Kavitha. Goodbye East Coast.

Holocaust Museum


<Click here for America Posts series>

We set out to see the Holocaust Museum. Vinod dropped us off.



The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is the United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust. Adjacent to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the USHMM provides for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history. Wikipedia

I am not even sure if I should blog about this subject, because the subject is weighty, and I did not write down any notes. Another difficulty for both me as the writer and you as the reader would be to keep track of the place in which a particular atrocity had taken place, and then we would need to note the date.

But I shall put down what I can remember from my photos, without being too particular about the place time context, just to keep my holiday account up to date. If you want to know more, you can go to

When we entered we were asked to pick up an ID each, such as the one below. I got the ID of a lady called Helen Lebowitz from Volosyanka in Czechoslovaki. The point of it, I believe was to try find out what the life of the given person was like.


Among the books burned during the Nazi book burnings were the books of Heinrich Heine, a German Jewish poet. Ironically, he was the one who wrote: “Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”


At one point, very few countries were willing to take the Jews in. This reminded me of our current predicament with so many refugees wanting to enter countries in the West.

Even the US was not helpful. However eventually, public opinion changed.


The 14-minute video about Antisemitism was uncomfortable to watch, as a Christian. Evil, such as the crusades, where Jews were killed by people who regarded themselves as Christian was difficult to listen to. Especially embarrassing, to say the least, was the mention of the antisemitic sentiments expressed by Martin Luther, the Reformer. This is one question I will have for Mr Luther when I meet him.

Every one will give account to their Maker for what each has done. Antisemitism is totally contrary to scripture. The New Testament accounts bemoan the fact that the Jews as a group did not recognise the Messiah. Jesus Himself wept over Jerusalem. And the overriding emotion is that of sadness and love. Never hate.


A room was devoted to photographs, like the one below, taken by Roman Vishniac of pre-war Jewish life


The photographs in the tower were taken in a town called Eishishok between 1890 and 1941.


Emmanuel Ringelblum and his family were discoved in hiding and killed. He preserved many documents in metal containers like this one.


A section of the museum was dedicated to life in the ghettos – Theresienstadt, Warsaw Ghetto, Lodz Ghetto, etc.

A stained-glass wondow from a synagoge (in a place called Cracow)


Names of victims etched in glass. In this photo you can also see the design of the building with the Sky lights.


Shoes, “the last witnesses”

Journalist Edward R. Murrow said “One shoe, two shoes, a dozen shoes, yes. But how can you describe seven thousand shoes?”


Another section of the museum was dedicated to Rescuers, and there have been many rescuers and sympathisers from all walks of life.


The role played by the White Rose group in being the pricking conscience for people who accepted Nazi propaganda.


Rescue rangers who blended into the dark woods


Death Marches refer to “forcible movements of prisoners in Nazi Germany.”  . . . Although most of the prisoners were already very weak or ill after enduring the routine violence, overwork, and starvation of concentration camp or prison camp life, they were marched for miles in the snow to railway stations, then transported for days at a time without food. Wikipedia


This room played video clips of survivors.


A place to spend some moments remembering the holocaust victims


The lessons learned from the holocaust need to be applied wherever it is needed. A section of the museum described other pogroms around the world from the past and from the present, such as Cambodia and Syria.


This is a museum that everyone must see as evidence of what man can do to man. People who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.

Some of the images are very disturbing; so be it.

An observation: Sometimes in museums, when the rooms are wider, we move along one wall and do the other side on our way back. This museum is designed so that the public can go in one direction and are led from floor to floor, without ever returning. This was either not clear or we did not read a sign somewhere, judging from the fact that I met all of my family as they made their way back to something, but we all got the hang of it eventually.


Picnic: We bought street food and had a picnic.



Birds attracted by the food




National Museum of American History

We were tired and we had only an hour and a half at our disposal. Obviously we could not do justice to this museum, which was very informative.

Here are the few random pictures that were taken on my phone.


This is a larger-than-life statue of George Washington. It was interesting to read about the symbols included in this statue.


I would have been 10 when I read about President Jimmy Carter in a magazine called SPAN. I was amazed that he was a peanut farmer. I also remember the way his face and teeth were caricatured in the press.

This display featured all the American Presidents.


I took a hurried picture of this shiny engine, for no reason at all.


Below is the Philadelphia gunboat that was raised from the bottom of a lake, and eventually brought to this museum where it has been since the year 1965.

For more information, you can go to


Thanksgiving Day


<Click here for America Posts series>

We were having another family, friends of Vinod and Kavitha, join us for the Thanksgiving meal (lunch). Kavitha had made many dishes, many of them traditionally served with the main dish—roast turkey; I was impressed.

Vinod’s friend was happy to carve the turkey.


The three brothers were dressed similarly and did the three-monkeys pose for the camera. See no evil; speak no evil; hear no evil.



Much choice for drinks. :)


I have never had Root Beer before but have known about it all my life, thanks to Dennis the Menace. Kavitha said that it tasted like liquorice. She was right, but the more accurate description, in my opinion, would be Iodex, the pain ointment in India. When I read the contents, it actually contains the same stuff as Iodex, Methyl Salycilate.

The afternoon was spent relaxing and chatting.



and even observing deer in the garden.


At night before the children went to bed, we sang “Give thanks with a grateful heart” had a time of prayer, and this was when we discussed something about the festival itself and its origin.

Family Thanksgiving Devotion
Some history about Thanksgiving
On 6 September 1620, 102 pilgrims left Plymouth in England. After a difficult two months at sea, they arrived in Massachusetts in late November. They had a harsh winter during which nearly half of them died. With help from the local Indians, they reaped a good harvest.

On 13 December 1621, the grateful pilgrims declared a three-day feast to celebrate with their Indian friends. But till the mid 1800s, thanksgiving observances were held at the State level.

In the 1830s, a lady called Mrs. Sarah Joseph Hale made it her mission to make the national day of thanksgiving a reality. Over a period of thirty years, she contacted president after president about this matter. Finally in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. However, it was only in 1941 that Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday.

The five kernels
My great nephew Simon read Psalm 100:4-5— Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Then his sister Anna read Psalm 92:1— It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to your name, O most high. 

One exceptionally harsh winter, the pilgrims had very little food and rationed out a daily portion of five kernels of corn per person. In spite of dire circumstances, the pilgrims were thankful for God’s blessings.

Each family represented in our group had to mention five blessings of God in their lives, one for each kernel, that we were grateful for. The first kernel for us all was the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Without that, according to the Bible, we would remain in our sins and perish. But when we believe in Jesus’ work on the cross, our sins are forgiven and we can live forever.

We spent a few minutes deciding what the four other kernels would represent for each family, after which we shared these points with each other. Then Vinod prayed.

The day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday.

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Since at least the 1930s, it has been regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US, and most major retailers open very early (and more recently during overnight hours) and offer promotional sales. Wikipedia

We went shopping leisurely, starting with Costco.



Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, Times Square


<Click here for America Posts series>

Ellis Island

Vinod told us that tourists wanting to visit Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty, normally take the ferry from New York. So the ferry from New Jersey is less crowded and nicer.

Vinod parked the car and bought the tickets for us.



We then walked to the water front past the Historic Rail Road Building. On the way, we could see the Jersey City sky scrapers against the back drop of the New York City sky scrapers in the distance.




The ferry service takes passengers from the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal to Ellis Island and back again from Liberty Island. The building was constructed in 1889.  Wikipedia

We boarded the ferry. Passengers photographed the receding Jersey-City skyline.




The ferry reached Ellis Island in what seemed like a couple of minutes.

Ellis Island is an island that is located in Upper New York Bay in the Port of New York and New Jersey, United States. It was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States as the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. Wikipedia




This is what the ticket for this tour looks like.

Everyone who had a ticket could also get an audio tour to listen to.  I did not find the audio useful because in the little time I had, I wanted to read the displayed information, and the audio clashed with my reading.

But you might find it useful if:
** You had more time
** If you did not know English but knew one of the other languages in which the audio tour  is available.

We did not have much time to spend at Ellis Island, as we had many things to get done. A ferry left Ellis Island for Liberty Island every half hour.

People who entered the country between 1892 and 1954 had to register here first.


This picture shows you that some things have not changed. The floor was the same as the one I was standing on when clicking the picture. The windows were the same.


Another exhibit that I found interesting was about the sermon preached by the puritan John Winthrop in the 1630s.


A quote from the sermon is: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.”

Upstairs is the large Registry Hall


Among the different passports of the period on display was this one of a Sikh from India.


By this time, it was very late and we did not have time to read about the various displays. We took some fun pictures instead for the last few minutes.





Time to take the ferry to Liberty Island


Statue of Liberty


The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, in the United States. The copper statue, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, was built by Gustave Eiffel and dedicated on October 28, 1886. It was a gift to the United States from the people of France. Wikipedia


As we embark from the Jersey City ferry, we can see the crowds lining up for the ferry to New York.

The statue of Liberty through the trees, a view obviously possible only in winter.



From just outside the Statue entrance


The door at the entrance


From just inside the entrance, a replica of the torch that is part of the Statue of Liberty


Interesting displays of replicas and historical trivia pertaining to the Staute were on display.


This exhibit was meant for touching.



Experimenting with feminine figures before arriving at the final design


Some notes on how how such a stable structure was possible. Note the pylons for the main structure and a little one for the hand.


Then we took the stairs to the pavilion.







I wonder how the photographs of the others have come out


Time for a selfie


Time for lunch


We then went to the Liberty Island store and bought souvenirs, before boarding the ferry.


In a few minutes we were back at the Rail Road Terminal in Jersey City.



Passing near the 9-11 Memorial

Vinod drove through one of the tunnels under the Hudson River to reach Manhattan.


On the way we pass a sign pointing to Brooklyn but do not go in that direction. Instead we pass by the 9-11 memorial.


Where the World Trade Center buildings once stood.



GB worked as a librarian in Brooklyn Public Library for two years in the early 1960s. It was here that Mrs Nelson worked; she was his boss. I have writen more about her in my first America Post.

Vinod was kind enough to drive through Brooklyn. The houses looked a bit like the Cosby-show house. I was sitting on the left side of the car and the moon sailed over the roof tops of the houses as they went past. The GPS took us to a building that it recognised as Brooklyn Public Library. It was a lot smaller than I imagined, shockingly so in fact. It took me a while to realise that Brooklyn Public Library had many branches, and I was looking at one of the smaller branches.

The Brooklyn Public Library is the public library system of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. It is the fifth largest public library system in the United States. Wikipedia

We did not have the time to go to the Central Library. But that is OK.

Times Square

Intoxicatingly vibrant and colourful.

Times Square is a major commercial intersection and neighborhood in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets.  Wikipedia



I don’t think Sekhar Annan realised that he’d been looking like Moses all evening.


Can you see what I mean?



Vinod helping a stranger get a photograph of himself













We wanted to have some street food. Started with caramelised nuts.


We took our time and finally decided to get Chicken and Lamb gyros from the Halal cart at the corner of 46th St and 7th Ave. We did not have the time to eat the food, so we took it home and finished it later. (Both the chicken and the lamb gyros were excellent.)



After a long drive, the tired group reached home. Preeti Akka suggested that we all clap hands for Vinod, our patient tour guide and driver. We all did.

City of sky scrapers


<Click here for America Posts series>

Driving into New York
The first sighting of the city and its skyline invokes awe. And then the first impressions of the streets as we drive through them.

a120151123_121824 a320151123_121923 a520151123_122537 a420151123_122457

Walking on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan


The Empire State Building, as we walk past yz20151123_123859 This was an art piece displayed on the street, outside a handicraft shop, for sale.yz20151123_124009 yz20151123_124033 yz20151123_124201

yz20151123_124210 Surendar Annan and Vino outside the Empire State Building.yz20151123_124357 yz20151123_124432

Pizzas in New York

Vinod guided us across the road and took us to a pizza place for authentic New York Pizzas.





We noted that one customer ordered a pizza similar to this one and ate it all.


The Empire State Building

We’d already seen and photographed the Empire State Building, when we were walking along the road. We wondered whether it was good to spend thirty something dollars per head to go up and see the views from there. We decided to do it; we do not come to New York every day, you know.

We had felt that security was tight in DC, but it was even more so in the Empire State Building, and rightly so, considering the climate of the times. The problem was that that we were cold and had various items of clothing and accessories that had to go on and off in a particular order. Every time we came through security, we had to go through the same rigmarole of putting them all on again, not to speak of the intellectual exercise this entails.

It took us about two hours to go up and back down again. No, we did not take the stairs. The queue was very long and snaked its way into all kinds of rooms, hallways, and escalators.



At some point along the way, photographs were taken of every group, and these photos were sold as a little kit along with a DVD on the way down, to anyone interested. They must be making millions this way, for the photographer did not even give us a second to compose our smiles. To be fair, that was all the time he had to do the job.

At the top, the sights of the city below us and all around was quite something. And so was the cold . . .  and the wind. Who goes to the top of the Empire State Building in the beginning of Winter, in the evening!






We were guided down by another route, and this time through the Stores. But we were strong and did not buy anything.

Do we regret having spent so much to go up and down like this? No
Do we recommend this to others? Not sure

The Brunos’ Hospitality

We reached the home of Ashok and Hannah in Tinton Falls in New Jersey at about 8:00 p.m. Shortly after that, we sat down to a lovely Indian meal.



After dinner, we gathered together in the lounge for a chat. When the conversation moved to old times, one by one everyone left, leaving only Hannah and Ashok with Philip and me.


We spoke about God’s faithfulness over the 29 years since Hannah and I last met.

In the morning, after breakfast, we were ready to continue on our tour. Just before we left, we took some group photos with Hannah.


Just for old time’s sake, we sang ‘If the skies above you are grey,’ and Vino took a video recording of it. This was a favourite during Church of Christ Bible Camps in the 1980s. No one can know the memories that the song brings up, except the faithful Lover and Keeper of our souls, who does all things well.

I wish I had been able to spend time with their children. Maybe they will visit us in New Zealand.

Syracuse University for GB’s sake


<Click here for America Posts series>

We left the house in Niagara Falls in good time, around 7:00 a.m. Do we go to New York city via Corning or via Syracuse? If we went via Corning, we would get to see the Corning Glass Museum. The problem with taking the Corning option was that we would not be able to spend enough time to justify the the purchase of the quite-expensive entry tickets.

So we decided to go via Syracuse University where my father GB had done his M.S L.S. in the early 1960s. About how he got there, he says:

“. . . My destiny was New York City, the world’s largest city, via London. From London, I was scheduled to fly.  Everything was in the travel package that I had procured.  Cochin to London via Italy by ship, by auto-boat from Dover to a port town in England, from there to London by electric train, and from London to New York by flight.  That was the arrangement. . .” 

On our way to Syracuse, it snowed. I have seen snow on the ground before, but this was the first time many of us in the car had seen snow falling. It was interesting to see the snow flakes dancing in front of the wind screen.


When we reached the University entrance, we were asked about the purpose of our visit. Vinod said that we were tourists and that we had come to see the buildings and take some photographs. Photographs were OK, we were told, but we could not park the car inside the campus. So Sekhar Annan, Philip and I got off the car. Vinod said that he would drive by in a short while and pick us up from the same location.

In the hurry, we did not bother to ensure that we had enough warm clothing on.

The buildings around us were grand. My dad’s photos, which I remember vividly, of the university were beginning to make sense. It was cold. We took some photographs.






As a Library Science student, GB must have spent considerable time in the University Library, we figured. We asked a few passersby and found out where the library was. It was becoming unbearably cold as we made our way to the Library.



Sekhar annan said that his gloveless hands were becoming numb from the cold. I found a pair of man gloves in my bag and gave one each to him and Philip.

Here at last was the Ernest Stevenson Bird Library and reason enough for a few more photos.



As we walked back to where Vinod had dropped us off, I knew that we could not stand the cold much longer. Was there some way of contacting those in the car? The roaming arrangement with Vodafone had not worked for me at all throughout this trip. But the cold made me want to try again. I tried to call Kavitha in DC, so she could call Vinod. I could not connect.


We passed the point where we had been dropped off. But Sekhar annan kept walking ahead and we followed. A little distance away, we came to a semi-covered bus stop. I suggested that we should get some shelter there. But Sekhar annan continued walking, pointing to cars parked in the distance. Being colourblind, he mistook one of the cars to be ours.

I could see no shelter in the direction in which we were heading. I actually envisioned myself lying down on the partially snow-covered grass and closing my eyes.

Suddenly I remembered that Philip had the hither-to-almost-useless phone we had bought in Seattle. Sekhar annan rattled off Vinod’s number and Philip was able to connect. They were already on their way towards us.



Vinod dropped us off at Bruegger’s Bagels on S Crouse Ave, not far from there; he would park the car and join us. We had bagels for breakfast and hot chocolate.


We set out again.

Apart from this pit stop on the way, we were headed for New York.


Tryst with Canada


<Click here for America Posts series>

Sunday devotion
Normally, Sundays are set apart for the Lord—for church and so on. But today was different.

I am glad that the whole group was able to get together after breakfast for a devotion. We first listened to half of the following sermon by John MacArthur
<Why We Believe While Others Reject >
The sermon’s text was 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. We then discussed what we had heard. We finished our short devotion with a prayer.
Another trip to the Falls
This time, we parked in a different place. On our way to the Observation Deck, we came across this sign. Everyone turned around pretending to go to Canada.

Some pictures taken on the Observation deck


You can see the Canadian Horseshoe Falls between Philip and Vinod.

You can see from where last night’s colourful Falls pictures were taken.

On our way to the Visitor’s Center, peering through the railings of one of the bridges we saw a pretty rainbow.

And scenes like this

I took this picture of Surendar annan outside the Visitor’s Center. He looks dangerous but is in fact anything but.

Also just outside the Visitor’s Center, a monument of someone important from Yugoslavia.

While we waited for the group tour of the gorge, we looked at some pictures on the wall.

A time when water did not flow:
In 1969, the Niagara river was diverted from the American side of the Falls. During this time, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers strengthened a number of faults to slow down the erosion of the American Falls.

A time when the water froze:
I am not sure when this picture was taken, but even in February this year, the Niagara Falls experienced this phenomenon. Experts say that the Niagara Falls has far too much water to actually freeze completely.

The group was taken by elevator over 70 feet down and along a corridor,

and outside for a bit,



till we came to a spot with a fantastic view of the Falls


Although the temperature was less than zero degrees, our walk to the car was pleasant enough.

And included signs, monuments, and even flags, but we did not stop for a closer look.

Vino discovered that when using the phone one need not be gloveless in one hand.



Surprise from Canada
Ever since we reached the East Coast from Seattle, we knew that a surprise had been planned by Kavitha. Our family is not great at keeping things secret, and so we were given more and more clues, mostly inadvertently.

So, we knew that someone was coming to meet us from Canada.

Not long after we returned to the house, David (or Mano Annan as he is known to us), the cousin of Sekhar annan, Surendar annan, and Philip, arrived with his lovely wife Rosalind.

It was a wonderful time for everyone to reminisce about old times and get facts of family history right. Theirs is a remarkable story of a 31-year strong marriage, arranged by a friend between a young Anglo-Indian girl and an almost-Anglo-Indian Tamil boy, from the Railway Colony in Madurai, India.

We had lunch together.  Good Indian food from a restaurant nearby plus parota that we had brought with us from Potamac.



But it came time for them to leave. We are friends on Facebook.


Some pictures taken of the house and street (Willow Ave)



Another surprise from Canada

Those connected with the 1981 batch from my school, Clarence High School in Bangalore, are on WhatsApp in a group. This includes those who started out as toddlers in this batch and later left for various reasons. It also includes those like me who joined this batch much later.

When I realised this afternoon that coming over from Canada was doable, I asked this WhatsApp group if any of the “Canadian Batch-81 Clarencians” would like to come over. Astonishingly, one friend Carrie and her husband decided to do just that! We hadn’t met since 1986.


Carrie had started out with the 1981 batch but had left in 1976. I had joined the batch over a year later in 1978. So we did not know each other as classmates in school. But we had been in Sunday School together for a while and had attended VBS together. I remember going to her house to play with her and her sister. I remember their mother’s tasty beef preparation. I remember being astonished by their fruit-laden Jackfruit tree.

Later in College, in Mount Carmels, we were in different disciplines, she in Commerce and I in Science. But we did get to meet every now and then.

<Digression start> Allow me to digress for a moment. One time , we were part of a group of girls who sang “Step into the sunshine” for a competition. We sang really well for the Semi finals, raising the expectations of many.  I can still see the disappointed cum perplexed (even fed-up) expression on the face of one of the English teachers at the Finals when we killed the song. I vividly remember that Carrie was standing just behind me, mumbling something about how bad things were turning out. If I remember correctly, I found it all hilarious. <Digression end>

It was an unexpectedly warm gesture for them to come to see us. When they came, they invited us all to dinner, and Philip and I accepted. They took us to an Italian place in Buffalo called Olive Garden. We had a wonderful time of Christian fellowship.


Turns out Carrie’s husband and I have many friends and even experiences in common. Although we do not remember each other per se, we were part of Sala thatha’s Violin classes for Lutheran kids the year it was held in Pavanasar Lutheran church in Bangalore. We’ve been to the same BCM Tamil Bible camp run by Jesudoss Annan and Violet Akka.

We had much to talk about, including the way God had guided us in our lives.