Monday, March 17, 2008

The Big Apple

A strange thing happened this time when I arrived in the US. I was flying into New York, which I haven't done in quite a long time. I landed, got my stuff from the overhead compartment, and realized that I felt nothing, absolutely nothing at all, about arriving in this place. I wasn't happy to arrive, I wasn't angry or upset or anything...I was....just. A strange feeling, as the US has for so long elicited such strong emotions within me, ranging from fear, anxiety, disgust, hatred, expectation, and I suppose, at some stage, though I can't recall quite when at the moment, joy and relief. More than anything I felt strange to be in an English-speaking environment. So what does this mean? That I have finally reached a point of indifference about the United States, that I have finally achieved a position of no longer living here, no longer having any ties that keep me bound here, and that now I am simply a visitor, a tourist, who comes to see friends and family and enjoy the good things that exist in this country. It took me nearly 3 years of being out of the country to reach this point.

Well, it was cold. Probably the coldest weather I've been in since Patagonia in 2004. I've successfully avoided winter and cold weather everywhere since then. Whilst living in Japan, the winter months were spent escaping to Southeast Asia. The glamourous feel of New York wasn't there, instead there were dull brick buildings, leafless trees...but a comfortable energy. On the subway to Spencer's house, I was struck by indeed, how diverse New York is. It felt good. A lot of people wear all black in NYC. People in Latin America make fun of me because I wear a lot of black, but man, New Yorkers really wear a lot of black.

Anyway, the 55 hours I was in New York this time around were a whirlwind, a maddening cloud of priceless encounters that I feel will keep me nourished for quite some time. It was great to see Spencer, who the last time I had seen him was spending an afternoon digesting an oversized Brasilian lunch in Ipanema in the scorching Brasilian sun...after my nap, I had lunch with my dad, then ran over to Brooklyn to see Aurora, this totally insane crazy inspiring bursting-with-energy girl from California that I had met in Guatemala...she got back to Cali after being in Guatemala for several weeks, decided to buy a plane ticket to LA without looking at her bank statement, and now she's just being, in NY. Her energy, smile, and laughter are contagious...what a lovely welcome back to the US. From there I rushed over to Columbus to meet Kelsey, and we spent some time wandering around Central Park...then we went over to my dad's partner's office so that I could go eat with them. Mexican food, no, it wasn't the street stalls in DF or the mercado in Toluca, but it did have some good guacamole. MMmmm. They dropped me off at Christina's house where we got to catch up a bit and I stayed overnight with her.

Thursday morning I headed off early to Williamsburg to see Aurora again, we ended up taking a nap in the marvelous bed she was in (after travelling for so long a good good bed is just so precious), and I ran to meet my dad for lunch again. After that, I met Abby at Veselka, and over carrot and orange juice we caught up on the past 6 months for both of us, which meant hearing about Ethiopia, ABC News, TIME, and very soon, Baghdad. Wow. I went home to take a nap, got to catch up with Spencer, had dinner at Khyber Pass (which has now become my favorite restaurant in NYC - Afghan food on St. Marks Place between 2nd and 3rd Ave...there Badenjan Bouranee, this eggplant in a tomato-y sauce covered with a salty yogurt sauce and ground lamb and mint...I must learn how to make it so as not to suffer in Brasil...) with my dad and his partner, then Rajiv came and got me at my dad's house. Don't really know how to put into words the experience of seeing somebody that I was very close to in High School, and completely lost contact with immediately thereafter. I sometimes wonder how this worked out for me...I had so many friends in high school that I had great relationships with, that knew me very well and I felt completely at ease and comfortable with...yet as soon as high school ended our relationships evaporated. I reckon it's a combination of factors (obvious), and I'm sure the number of deaths I was dealing with in very close proximity at the end of high school, and the first semester of college, as well as my decision to leave school and travel South America alone, which was considered completely insane and not mainstream, made me hide away from my high school friends. The majority of them were going down a completely conventional (as viewed through the eyes of the average Montgomery County person) track, college, fraternities, home for holidays, occasional getaways to NYC, Miami, and if lucky, Cancun. Anyway, wow I'm digressing. So seeing Rajiv was wonderful, because I admit that after 5.5 years of not seeing him, I was a bit concerned we weren't going to have much in common anymore, and I didn't want to have a reminiscing conversation...remember when...? You know that time when...? It was not in the least like that and with lots of giggling we tried to fill in the gaps of the last 5 years. Actually it didn't even feel like that much time had gone by, and I felt like we were exactly the same as in high school except we were now in NYC and had completely different living situations. So the night was a whirlwind of a posh overpriced Lower East Side cocktail lounge type place (thor near Essex and Rivington, for those that care), then we hopped over to a CS meeting that Aurora was going to be at. While in line for the bathroom there, I saw Alberto, a guy from CS I had met in...Sao Paulo, in January. How the hell does that happen? The synchronicities and bizarre then all of a sudden I'm speaking Portuguese with this little group of Brasilians at the bar, and I'm with one of my best friends from high school, and this crazy Guate/Cali chick I met travelling...I love love love it. So the Brasilians want to go dance, and we're on our way to somewhere in Brooklyn. Except places are empty for some reason so we end up in this kinda rocker type bar with pool tables where they give you free pizza with your drinks and Rajiv and I are hogging the steaming pies and it just...kinda feels like high school, except not. Rajiv succeeds in getting all of us drunk, and we take a cab back to his place at a healthy 4am, get pizza from his cornershop, and...pass out.

Friday morning I struggled through my pounding headache to grab breakfast with Kelsey, and it felt right. I feel like at some point, perhaps in 2004, our paths were somewhat aligned, and now it's obvious that they have gone completely different ways, but I feel really good about how it has worked out now, and it is priceless and unable to be bought or faked to have somebody that you love that really loves you and it will always always be like that (I really hope). Went home, and after another nap Rajiv and I went down to Chinatown for lunch and he came with me to Spencer's to get his alfajores. After a chat with Spencer, off I was to my bus to DC. I slept the majority of the way home. What an energizing inspiring grounding 3 days! The range of people I saw, which equates to the range of people in my life, is kind of mind-boggling and wonderful...I saw people from High School, College, Travelling in Central America, South America, and of course my dad...but the thing that really got me was how comfortable it felt with every single person, most of whom have absolutely nothing in common, and it felt like it was just yesterday...I am lucky lucky lucky and I am grateful that I chose to visit NY before trying to set up in Brasil, and now hopefully every single one of the people I caught up with in NY will buy a plane ticket to Rio so we can share again, but not in fleeces and scarves, but instead in bikinis with matte and coconuts...

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