When I was afraid I might finally have some time to get bored, Mrs. C came with the following offer: a train ride. And I accepted it and enjoyed it very much.
New Hope Valley Railway was located in the town of New Hill, about 22 miles southwest of Raleigh, and I struggled to google anything about it. The primary reason for going there was some kid’s birthday party and I hoped to see some of the town after the train ride. Based on my preliminary research about the town, there might have been nothing to see and I thus ended up being in a company of more American families than ever before. And it was not a bad alternative at all – I got a whole new exposure to the American culture, especially when it comes to families with small kids.
The rides by Triangle Train seem to be rather popular and it is therefore smart to book the ticket in advance. That is exactly what Mrs. C did. Yet, once on the spot our receipts were exchanged for real tickets to hand to the conductor on the train. So far so good. It looks like Americans have a clue how train rides work.
Next to the ticket booth, there was a railway model with a few trains. Two of them stood out to me: m&m cargo train and the one whose engine had eye moving in the rhythm. Poor American kids – they will be in a terrible disillusion one day. That is what I though to myself, later Mrs. C told me it was supposed to be a popular cartoon character here. OK, hopefully they will be fine.
They had a steam engine there but we got on the diesel one “only.” However, it did not make much difference to me and the little I. seemed excited enough no matter what power source was employed. The ride was described to me as scenic which alerted me immediately. Good I did not expect to much – there was no room to be disappointed then. I did catch a glimpse of a few US houses – well mostly shacks – but most of the view were trees, trees and trees. Some more trees came later on. A Czech person would go hiking there. So what is so exciting about having a train ride here? However, in not too long I realized it was fun to be on train just for the heck of it, without having any destination in mind (such as school or airport) and without being stressed about a delay. Just ride! Moreover, in a company of such nice people – little I. even decided to sit next to me for like half a minute!
Yeah, I definitely was the oldest kid (Am I technically a kid at all?) on the board and had a slightly embarrassing moment there. From all of the sudden, a cute girl with blond hair showed up and decided to give me hug. She was so nice but I had absolutely no clue what an American child expects to hear or to be done at a situation like that. A somewhat older girl decided to check the stranger little bit later. Wearing her Batman T-shirt, she proudly showed me her Superman sweatshirt. That girl definitely needs to set her priorities. But since she decided to talk (in the contrast to the first companion), it was a nice brief visit.
I have no idea how long the ride took but apparently it was long enough to require taking snacks with (a little one’s parent’s description). Big girl fortunately did not care at all and off the train, she was ready to take some pictures: the leaving steam engine (And it whistled and puffed out black clouds!) as well as carriages of various purposes spread all over the place. The train eventually left and there were no more carriages to take pictures of, so the only activity left was the lunch. Mrs. C was nice enough to think about me once again and prepared a sandwich for me. The truth is that, by mistake, I got the baby one while I. had to handle what was supposed to be my lunch. However, I think we were both satisfied in the end.
While working on the sandwiches, the birthday party got finally prepared. Indeed, the family of the three-year old birthday boy rented a railway carriage to held the party there. I never checked it but it looked like it was primarily a refreshment storage and all the eating and chatting took place outside. What I saw from the birthday menu was so American: sandwiches and goldfish. On the other hand, some fruit was provided, too.
What I though was cute was that all the important stuff was inspired by train. The place of the party, the T-shirt of the birthday boy, the cake and finally, all the invited kids got train gifts to take with them.
The very end of our time there was short visit to carriages parked all over the place, namely caboose and mail car. The older guy (I bet he was a volunteer) in the caboose knew lots of interesting information he was more than glad to share with us and the mail car was one of the most picture-suitable objects of the day.
Thanks to Mrs. C’s invitation, I got an exposure I would have otherwise hardly gotten. It was a bit of English practice to talk to few adults as well as listen to kids’ English. Besides that, it was interesting to compare the way of upbringing of 1990s Central European child and 2010s American kids. I am 100 % sure some things would not work in my home a couple of decades ago, yet the parents did not seem to be stressed at all (which does not mean my parents were/are!).
Later in the afternoon, my Friday resolution was fulfilled. I took care of a little task in the lab, so I can actually work on my last Monday – rather than wait for bacteria to grow. Let’s hope for some more progress in the upcoming days, so I can say that Mrs. C has been feeding for no purpose!