I traveled to New York City a lot when I was younger, but growing up my own lack of culture and worldly knowledge denied me of any sort of appreciation for the giant metropolis. It was just a huge, dirty city that never ended I thought, where consumerism and crime alike was rampant. While the latter points may arguably be true, it is an incredible place that I only now am understanding. My latest trip left me stunned and exhilarated that such a place lays just eight hours away from my home city of Toronto, and I'm anxious now to return there. I suppose when I was younger I wasn't really given the opportunity to explore, and I didn't really know what to look for anyways. Now having spent several years traveling, the internationalism of New York City, and its appeal to global wanderers has become obviously clear to me. New York seems to have something for everyone, no matter who you are or where you are from. It is the epicentre of all things human, the epitome of modern day civilization.
I couldn't believe as I strolled through a neighborhood in Queens that I was in the United States at all. I suddenly found myself back in Latin America, surrounded by tiendas and comedores, groups of old men sitting outside in the sun, vendors selling cheap items on the street. I went looking for a clean razor shave with my brother and after passing about five peluquerías we finally settled on one where a group of young Dominicans in matching barbers robes laughed and spoke in their fast tongued native spanish as they carefully lined up other Latinos´ hair. They spoke to me in spanish, english was not an option, it didn´t seem to be anywhere in this part of the city. I was given a perfect shave and left a tip for the caballero, he deserved it spending extra time lining up my beard just perfectly. I then walked out and we hopped in a taxi, and of course the driver only spoke to me in Spanish. Even though he knew exactly where my hotel was located, as we headed there chatting and laughing I became lost, unsure if I was in NYC or back in Guayaquil, not wanting to leave that cab and those memories behind me.
That night I attended my cousin´s wedding and had an amazing time, bonding with my extended family, reminding me of why its so good to be close to home again. The next day, after a night of great festivities, we went exploring in a completely different part of the city, the place where most tourists seem to flock. We drove to Manhattan and strolled through Central Park, eventually making our way to Times Square. It wasn´t quite how I imagined it to be, my imagination lacks scale apparently, because everything was so much grander and larger than I expected. The giant flashing screens and lights, the towering buildings. There was so much to take in, a lady posing in a bikini in the middle of bustling traffic, the activist shouting about the war, the military recruitment station with doors wide open.
My time was so limited and I had to hop on a plane home that same night. Sitting in the airport waiting, like I have so many times before, left me feeling confident and happy about where I was, both in that moment and in life. I look forward to exploring NYC much more in the near future, I know that I have only touched the surface.