06.10.2009 - 08.10.2009 55 °F
We spent two glorious days in NYC. I had never been and Mike had been some 10 years ago, and that was in the Bronx. NYC was so much different from what I had anticipated. First of all, I must admit that I did not realize that NYC was actually made up of little islands, several of them to be specific, which I saw upon approaching from the air. As we flew by and saw the giant skyline, I asked Mike, “Do you think we will see the Statue of Liberty?” He leaned over and after a moment says, “Yep, there it is.” At first I couldn’t find it, and then I did.
I must say that the Statue of Liberty looked much smaller than I thought…..I guess I expected the size of a sky scraper. It looks so huge on TV! The city itself I expected to be much more overwhelming, however, to my surprise it felt more like a neighborhood. My friend lives in Astoria, and we walked to several neighborhood restaurants and the fruit/vegetable stand. Yes, I was very happy to see vegetables after the dearth of the last several months. I am just happy I didn’t get scurvy. Central Park impressed me too because I imagined just a big wide open green space, but it is a park with trees and squirrels and peaceful trails and just beautiful. Mike and I walked through it from West to East so that he could take me to the Art Museum. We stopped for a cup of hot coffee which was delightful in the cool fall afternoon wandering the leafy paths of central park. I loved the old brownstones in the neighborhood surrounding Central Park. Mike promised we could live in one someday.
Being in NYC also gave us a lot of food for thought. It was a serious contrast coming from Central America. We began to notice things about being “home” that were really missed during our short three months bouncing around Latin America. I realized some nice things about “home” that were just not on the radar when I returned from Nicaragua after a much longer stay back in 2000. I guess it comes down to an appreciation of some of the little things about our culture. Simple things, like getting in a taxi without having to fight your way to an acceptable price because there is a meter in the car, like finding our friend’s apartment because there were numbers and street names visible that make up her address making it much easier to locate, like being able to go to a tourist area and not be bombarded by people bidding for your business….instead we went to a ticket counter and purchased a ticket for a fixed price, like knowing how much something costs because there is a price tag on it. Also, New York tap water was delicious and safe. Mike drank somewhere near two gallons over those three days. Yes, although I am the first person to enjoy a good challenge, Mike and I decided that we were exhausted from haggling and hyper vigilance that is unfortunately necessary to make your way unscathed around Latin America as a tourist. It was a huge stress reliever…….which allowed us to enjoy our short stay to the hilt! To add to all of this the New Yorkers that we met were all amazingly friendly and helpful. My aunt Lauren always said that New Yorkers weren’t nice, but I think she only said that to keep the secret to herself…New Yorkers were amazingly helpful and friendly.
We had the luxury of staying with our friend, Diane, from Phoenix days…..in Astoria (for those of you who know the Big Apple). You rock, Diane! We had a fantastic and economic Indian meal in her neighborhood. We went to Times Square and saw “Surrogates” a decently entertaining flick. We had cocktails in the revolving Marriot looking out over the city. We rode around in the subway. We visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Mike was particularly touched to see a father, who was obviously an immigrant taking his son to see the statue. The New York Policeman was helping him find his way. The boy was smiling and the father was very happy. The Statue did look more impressive close up, but I still was surprised that it wasn’t bigger. We very much enjoyed the history of Ellis Island. Mike’s family arrived before Ellis Island was commissioned through New Orleans, and Sara is not sure if she has family that arrived via New York, but we are from immigrant stock and the experience was moving. We also had a renewed perspective on immigration on arriving from South and Central America to add to our experience of working with family re-unification for three years at Catholic Charities. The hope and promise of the United States shone particularly bright to us and we were both a little emotional. Poor Diane had to absorb all of our homesickness and gratitude in a few short days, but I think she survived.
On our last day, we packed our bags and left Diane’s apartment to meet up and enjoy one last lunch with Diane. Our final stop in New York was ground zero. It may not have been the best pre-vacation visit, but we both felt it was important for us to visit. We took the subway to Rector Street. We had a little difficulty find the spot at first. Finally, we found a small box with a man giving directions to the museum and the viewing platform in the American Express building on the second floor.
It still was not easy to find for two non-natives in the big city. The site itself is now cleaned up and humming with construction of the new towers. It is 100% cranes and concrete blocked off by huge concrete blocks and fencing. We visited the memorial museum next to the firehouse on Liberty Street. The museum was unpretentious but managed to share much of the emotional, personal, and national impact of those horrible and violent moments. It was tasteful and somber and again left us with much to ponder.
New York is now on our list of potential homes. I hear they are hiring social workers…
Finally, we took public transit to JFK airport and boarded British airways to head to London. The plane was beautiful. The drinks… plentiful, entertainment…excellent, and staff…amazing a perfect foreshadowing of our trip to London.