I headed down to Virginia for a family wedding barely a week after I had returned home from Indonesia. The wedding was beautiful–which I feel goes without saying, when two people who love each other have a day to celebrate that with family and friends–and I had a wonderful time hanging out with my mom, my brother, and my brother’s girlfriend.
While in Cape Charles, we spent quite a bit of time by the water. Many of my family members in the area are fishermen (as in people that make their livings via fishing; I think the correct term might actually be watermen, but I confess I don’t actually know). I loved seeing the crab pots piled up along the dock, the boats gently bobbing in the salty Atlantic waters. At first I was disappointed by the lack of color in the boats, after having spent so long in Southeast Asia with its rainbow of water vessels, but the nets and crab pots made up for the gleaming white sides of the fishing boats. I don’t know what it is about the sea that inspires humans to surround themselves with color, but it is something I have always appreciated.
Virginia is a state rich with history, and I have many memories from my childhood of visiting places like Jamestown and Williamsburg. Even though we were only there for a very fleeting visit this time, my mother and I did pop over to the Barrier Islands Center and Almshouse Farm.
The Almshouse took in “inmates,” who for various reasons were down on their luck and homeless from 1804 to 1952. There are three main buildings on the ground: the large farmhouse (built in the 1890s after the original burned to the ground); an outdoor kitchen which, if I remember correctly, is still the original building from the early 1700s, when it was still just a family farm; and a smaller building in the back, built in 1910, which housed African-American “inmates.” The main farmhouse has been preserved much as it was (the African-American section has been converted to offices and event space, which I feel says something about how we treat African-American history as a whole), and contains various artifacts from the people who lived there: clothing, photos, letters… you name it, it is there. Parts of the farmhouse have also been set aside for artifacts which give insights into life in the greater barrier island area, both from the past and today.
The center is run by a few lovely people, truly dedicated to local history, and is completely free. Tiny historical sites like this one are some of my favorite places, and I highly recommend checking this one out if ever in the area.
Due to college and working and running off to other countries, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to visit the Cape Charles area. I had almost forgotten how rich and wonderful a place it is, and I am so thankful I had to the opportunity to be reminded this summer.
 Fun fact, the Atlantic Ocean is actually saltier than the Pacific Ocean. I’ve always associated the ocean with being overwhelmingly salty, and I did not feel this way in Indonesia, and could never quite determine why. Turns out, it simply literally has less salt in it.