Every student here at Emory is in a hurry to plan his/her winter break schedule and destination. Like them, we monastics at Emory are excited to spend our first winter break in the States. But, we get different plane to visit different location: some prefer to go south, some to west and some to east, and some even want to go out of the States. So, Florida, California, New York, and Canada are our pinned destinations for winter break. Three among us include me are one who plan for New York. Actually, I am the last one who decide where to go at last minutes.
“How small and tiny those skyscrapers building down there?” I think while looking down from the flight window. The sky view of New York is amazing, and it is like gazing at a city model. I could catch the entire city in my eyes. Those driving boats on river and giant cruise ships park at river bank make me feel “waooo”.
It is around 8:30 am, a cousin brother of one of my friend comes to pick up us at LaGuardia Airport. We headed towards Jackson Heights. Ladakhi (Ladakh is my homeland located in northern India) music in the car and Bangali and Tibetans name on board sign at shops and restaurants make me feel like I am back in India. At a Nepali restaurant, we stop for breakfast. We have Indian food in a Nepali restaurant which looked like those in India. Seeing Bangali, Indian and Tibetan around make me lost in thinking that “Am I really in New York or am I dreaming?” even those police officers around have a very familiar Indian face. The only thing that makes me feel certain that I am in New York is those car license plates.
The next day we plan to visit Manhattan, where those skyscrapers are located, and many other interesting things that found in many Hollywood movies that might have interested one. Century old subway metro is still on its duty to serve people with on time transportation. It is the first time in my life to see many people from different culture and race in a same subway coach. Our first day touring Manhattan starts with sight-seeing of the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park. We have to skip the ferry ride to Liberty Island where the statue is situated because of cold weather.
The sky reaching the new World Trade Center building is easily seen from Battery Park, and the closer we get, the taller it becomes. A group of monks in robes are marching towards the landmark Twin Towers, like a herd of geese following one after one, taking photos here and there, for remembrance. The World Trade Center building stands sadly, and watching in solitary down at the twin tear pools. The site brought a feeling of sorrow and mourning for those thousands of lives lost after the 9/11 tragedy. After reciting prayers for those innocent lives, we march toward Brooklyn Bridge.
On the first evening of 2018, we visit Time Square, worldly known for New Year’s count down celebration. After experiencing the chilly and windy cold, I am amazed by those crowds who have been here since the evening before, yesterday, to celebrate New Year Eve. These avenues between tall buildings make a huge channel for wind to pass through. Even after covering ourselves with layers of clothes, it is not enough for us to gain little warmth with this forceful freezing wind. If we don’t get a cup of coffee and donuts from a Dunkin’ Donuts café at a corner, we might have froze easily.
Before we travelled to New York, I felt that we could easily face the freezing weather, but it seems like the Himalayan DNA in us is not working well enough here. We can handle it easily in snowy mountainous place like Ladakh, even in temperature below negative 20 to 30-degree Celsius. Here it is different. This cold doesn’t physically comfort me. I really miss Atlanta, and I want to go back there. I am here in New York at the wrong time. New York would be more awesome in the warmer weather, so I know where to be during summer break.