Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Oct. 12, 2007

The hassles are worth it

Sometimes flying seems like more trouble than it's worth. On a recent business trip to Norfolk, Virginia, I had to get up at 4 a.m. to be sure I was at the Manhattan airport in time for a 6 a.m. flight. When I arrived, I found out that the flight was delayed until 8:30. That meant that I had to make other arrangements to catch my connecting flights. I arrived in Norfolk tired, yet with enough time to make the evening events - but my checked bag did not. However, I've learned from experience that it's a good idea to be prepared for just such an occurrence, so I had packed enough clothes in my carry-on to get by for the first day of the conference.

But it's not just the delays that are irksome. I realize that security measures are necessary, but having to take off my shoes, being allowed only one zippered plastic bag with three-ounce bottles of toiletries and hearing constant reminders that the terrorist threat is at level orange take the fun out of flying.

But those things will never keep me from getting on those big birds. The trip to Norfolk showed me, once again, what an adventure it is to explore new places.

During my brief three-day stay in Norfolk, I discovered the city's "mermaid parade," a whimsical collection of the mythical creatures on street corners, along a pier and atop buildings. Blue-green mermaids were even woven into the carpet at the airport. I saw the Battleship Wisconsin and petted sharks at the Nauticus Museum and was dazzled by glassware, textiles, paintings and archaeological objects at the Chrysler Museum of Art.

We also toured Jamestown Settlement, a living-history museum of 17th-century Virginia, and nearby Historic Jamestowne, which is the actual site of the first permanent North American English settlement. The 1607 founding of Jamestown is being commemorated throughout 2007 with special events and with tours through an "Archaearium" - an archaeological museum.

At the settlement, we saw reconstructions of a Powhatan Native American village and the 1610-1614 fort and replicas of the three ships - the Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery - that carried the English settlers to North America. Actors dressed in period costumes were available to answer questions about what life four centuries ago must have been like.

As we approached the ships, our tour guide suggested we, "just imagine being in a cargo hold for four and a half months. Imagine eating a biscuit - kind of like one you've left under your bed for 30 years - and dipping it in a broth brimming with maggots and worms. At least you'd get your protein."

She also described the "starving time," the period when drought had depleted food supplies and the Englishmen resorted to eating snakes, rats, the bodies of dead comrades and boiled shoe leather.

We later traveled to Historic Jamestowne, the fort that until 1994 was thought to have been lost to the James River. Archaeologists with the Jamestown Rediscovery project have found the outline of James Fort and remains of parts of the walls as well as several buildings, pits and wells. Only a small corner was eroded by the river.

More than one million objects - beads, pottery, tools, coins, leather shoes and even the skeletons of a man and a woman - have been unearthed so far and many of them are housed in the Archaearium. According to one brochure, "these artifacts tell the stories of the conflicts and contributions of the English, Virginia Indians, Africans and other Europeans as they suffered to establish the beginnings of America."

We didn't have nearly enough time on the site - where the first representative government assembly was held and where the American system of free enterprise started - but it was enough to get a glimpse of its significance in our history,

Sure, I've read about these things and seen programs on television, but the up-close and personal tours gave me a better appreciation for my country's beginnings.

So, despite the hassles getting there and the very bumpy ride home on the 18-passenger plane from Kansas City, I'll continue getting on planes to discover new and exciting places.

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