I have traveled from a quiet “city” that is ninety percent whiteness to a city of vibrant diversity to a city where ninety percent of the people are black and everything else is bursting with color.
When I make these comparisons I do so from a couple of perspectives: if you have ever been to State College, PA you know that there is very much a majority population—one that is invested in preserving and asserting its majority status in every sense of the word. They drive around with confederate flags on their monster trucks, sport “NOBAMA” bumper stickers on those same monster trucks, blast conservative public radio in public places and hunt deer for as long as they possibly can. Just before I left we had a bit of a snowfall so the ground of this very white city was covered in white. The skies were gray and it was about 20 degrees.
I hopped on a Greyhound Bus at the station at ~2:30 loaded up with my one big suitcase, my trusty backpack and another bag with my dinner of arroz con pollo and sautéed kale. The driver, though a bit quirky, was courteous and considerate. After collecting our tickets he told us to sit back, take a nap if we liked. He then put in a video of a movie called MVP. There was something about a genius monkey, a deaf Canadian girl and a losing high school hockey team. I dozed off.
About 5 hours later we arrived on New York’s 42nd street. If I didn’t have so much luggage I probably would’ve explored the city a bit. As I was I just wanted to get to my dear friend, Nazalima’s house so that I could shed my baggage—literally and figuratively. 7:30 was the tail end of rush hour, although, of course, no matter what time one gets on the subway there are sure to be a good number of people trying to get from point “a” to “b” to “c”…
There were so many people of so many different colors and shapes and sizes and styles, each doing their own thing in their own way. It was beautiful and grotesque and exciting. I was anonymous and special at the same time. I think the ability to evoke such feelings is unique to New York. Even when I was in Washington, D.C. a couple of years ago I didn’t experience such a level of freedom.
It was really frigid in the city, but there was no snow on the ground. Nazalima and I went to a little restaurant in Brooklyn called The Fence. I had fish and chips—not memorable. But, as usual the conversation with Naz was great. I always laugh so much when I’m with her.
I finally went to sleep at ~ 1 am and then was up at 5:30 to get to the airport by 7:30. I had a very talkative taxi driver from India who was a born teacher and felt the need to impart as much as he could to me in the half hour that we had together in the car. Without my caffeine, I was, of course, not feeling very talkative. But he was so sweet and eager to share his admiration for our president that I couldn’t just close my eyes and make believe he wasn’t talking to me (a skill I have perfected).
The flight over was a bit wild as the plane was full of Haitian people. Haitians have a very different way of flying from say, Americans. Though I arrived at the gate a full hour before my flight was to depart, as soon as I sat down with my very mushy egg croissant from…wait for it, Burger King, the call to board was made. A sense of profound calm and accomplishment washed over me as I realized that I understood everything that the airline official was saying in Kreyol. My name was then called and after waiting about ten minutes for someone to acknowledge my presence I found that my seat had been changed—I get upgraded from 32 something to 10a. Not only was I up front with lots of legroom but I also had a window! I sat next to two lovely older Haitian gentlemen, one of whom asked every two minutes whether we were up in the air yet.
The flight was very lovely and four hours later we touched down in my beloved Haiti. My friend, Jean picked up and had a nice air-conditioned 4×4 waiting. We changed some money, got to the hotel, I changed my clothes and then we went exploring.