I chose to walk to the downtown, so I would have a chance to see more of the Hillsborough Street, not just the junk right on the campus. From my previous bus rides down this street I knew there should be some photography opportunities and indeed, there were: few churches, several nice houses, a pipe store and a pancake house. However, before a started my urban hike, I stopped at the Starbucks on campus. The fact that they were open even on Sunday was only another evidence that the semester is almost here.
This was my only visit to the world famous coffee place and as a result of that I have no idea whether my experience was unique to a US coffee shop or whatever it would be the same let’s say Germany or Prague. In either case, I was supposed that the plastic cup for the coffee also served a sort of form. My name was put on it and also anything relevant to my order was check marked. My vanilla ice coffee choice was a perfect one and moreover, I would be leaving with a highly personalized Starbuck souvenir (or a piece of trash if you want).
Once downtown, the main project was a photography one. The Raleigh T-shirt I had got earlier has names of some of the downtown street, roads and avenues printed on it and I felt obliged to intendedly visit every single one of them and take a picture, so one day I hopefully would have a nice collage illustrating my explorations. The weather was merciful – it got little cloudy for the outdoor part of today’s trip, which was appreciated very much.
Afterwars, I paid one more visit to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Saying Good Bye to the whale skeletons on the ground floor, I headed up directly the topmost floor which I had seen rather briefly the last time. It was all devoted to arthropods, the world’s most numerous group of animals. I think they said something like a million of arthropods per each human on the Earth. That is a pretty good evolutionary achievement but such a number of insect and suchlike also sounds bit scary to me. Scorpion, centipede, ants, bugs, bright green caterpillars – they all were there.
I also stopped in the Living Conservatory and it was well worth it. The two sloths they had there were sleeping, i.e. hiding, which was slightly disappointing but other than that, the photographer in me could not have been happier. There were some unusual plants to take pictures of, including a pineapple plant I had had no idea how it looks like. The best of all, of course were the butterflies. It bet it was at least two dozens of butterfly species there – two of them particularly huge and all of them so colorful.
Another activity of my last visit to the museum was a kids-friendly lecture in the so called Windows on the World. It seemed like over the year, they focus on different topics, thus changing the little talk. Today they focused on amphibians and reptiles and the differences between the two classes. It was a nice review of my nearly-forgotten knowledge accompanied by a few living creatures to pet (except for the amphibians of course). I did not go for that options but I still enjoyed seeing a frog, a cayman, a salmon and a funny looking turtle so closely. The frog was my most favorite one.
I liked the talk very much. I though it was engaging and most of the kids were really excited to pet the animals, including the most weird turtle I have ever seen. I could also see how much the lady who gave the talk enjoyed it which made the experience extra nice. Nevertheless, I identified one drawback there. Everything was cool, cute or sweet. I though that was a rather limited vocabulary the describe the beauty and diversity of life. But probably sufficient for primary school kids.
Downtown there was one more museum I have never been to and decided that the right time came today. It was City of Raleigh Museum located in one of the nicest building downtown. I understood that it moreover was the first multiple-story building in the city and a famous Briggs Hardware store used to be located there for years. Although it was the smallest of the three museum I have visited during my time here, it was nice as well. I might have even liked it better than some of the sections in the History museum.
Right upon entering the museum, I could admire some old motorbikes including a huge Harley Davidson one. The rest of the exhibit was devoted to the city of Raleigh. I had a chance to learn about a local man who was born a slave’s sone but towards the end of his life was involved in education in Raleigh. I consider such a life story a very inspirational one. Maybe it illustrates that no matter how hard the beginning is, the hard work eventually pays off. A display of downtown maps of varying age followed. I am not good at reading maps at all, yet I still could find the Capitol and some major streets in most of them.
I was not surprised to find out the last section’s focus was the war stuff. The only aspect in which it was different from the History museum exhibition was that its focus was not at the level of the state (i.e. NC) but it focused on the people of Raleigh. For some reason Americans seem to care about the past wars more than probably whole Europe does about either one of the World Wars. While I like the idea of remembering the sacrifice of the previous generations, at certain point it gets too close to boring (at least to a visitor like me). I think it is amazing that the Native American starting with a whole trunk, could make those large canoes while their only means were fire and some primitive tools. And years ago, people native to Alaska must have had a very different lifestyle to that of people cooking down in the Southwest. Why cannot I learn about these and similar topics when I go to a history museum?
The last activity of the day was the Rec Fest, an event organized by NC State Recreation. At the beginning there was one main factor that had made me consider taking part and that was the two words: free food. However, then I realized it might be my only chance to learn about the student life in the US better and my interest grew much bigger at that moment. Both the food and student life aspects were fulfilled partially but it still was worth visiting.
I came to the location more than 20 minutes before the fest’s start, assuming it is unnecessary. However, it turned out to be a rather late arrival. There already was a long long line of Wolfpack students and it took me more than an hour to get it, also meaning that I missed the university’s band march as well as cheerleaders’ and majorettes’ performances. Once there, it was some more waiting – for a T-shirt, for a sticker, for food.
The food part deserves few lines. I gained an impression that the length of the line at each individual food stand reflected the popularity of the food. Jimmy John’s got the longest one and they were the first one to run out of supplies. And I missed my sandwich so closely – only five or so people! Another popular food provider seemed to be the Domino’s Pizza but I did not care about that one at all. Instead, I tried the food from Sammy’s Tap & Grill, a fancy-looking restaurant awfully close to my temporary home. I was given some Mexican chips-like looking stuff, bearably spicy chicken and some kind of dip sauce. It was a nice start of my last supper in Raleigh.
Done with the Mexican appetizer, I realized that (I have no idea why!) the Insomnia Cookies stand had barely any interested people waiting for the treat. It was such a sad view but a great advantage for me – a Macadamia cookie was a nice dessert for the time being. In an attempt to postpone the packing moment, I gave also a try to something called PDQ. I thought it was supposed to be a fresh fast food place (What the heck is all the other fast food made of, then?), however, I was mistaken. The right motto was: fresh food fast. This sounded much better, although it was not that fast today. It was a tender chicken, in some kind of batter and fried – of course. It tasted good though. Over the time, the situation did not improve at Insomnia Cookies, so I volunteered to pay them another visit. They apparently were desperate to get rid of their cookies as by now, the rounded, warm, nice smelling treats were handed as a couple. I came just on time to be served a Double Chocolate Duo. They were delicious but after a while, I was close to a point to reassess my so far extremely positive opinion about chocolate.
The main reason, however, was to attract students to university’s sport clubs and I sure was jealous of them. They had so many options! Football was a must, of course, followed by some pretty standard sports like volleyball and basketball. However, had I stayed longer I might have had a chance to try something not so common – e.g. sailing or equestrianism. A sport club particularly appealing to a Czech girl was female soccer team and they sure regret I could not join them!