This past Saturday, John and I took the bus to New York City. On Saturdays Martz offers a good deal on tickets if you ride "the Shoppers' Special". Our bus was packed full and we were fortunate to get the front row seats. We made friends with the bus driver and we all had a great time teasing each other.
The Shoppers' Special drops people off near Rockefeller Center which was just a few blocks from where our friends from Niger were staying at the Vanderbilt YMCA. Peter, an Australian, had come to the USA, first to present a paper at the UN and then to travel on to Florida to present a seminar at the ECHO program. He brought a Nigerien co-worker with him. So, John and I walked down to the Y where we had arranged to meet them.
It was raining and quite cold. The first thing we did was to take subways down to Battery Park. The first thing you see as you enter Battery Park is this ....I don't know what to call it....work of art? statue? monument? Anyway, it is called The Sphere and it used to be in front of the World Trade Center. When the towers collapsed, this sphere was damaged, but not destroyed. I thought it was really ugly because it was all bashed in on the top and I just thought it was somebody's idea of modern art. Then when I got home and read up on it and found out what it really is, I thought it was beautiful. (Which reminds me of a lot of people. When I first meet them I don't especially like them but as I get to know them and hear their story and find out why they are like they are, I begin to really love them!)
Peter and Ayouba really wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, but we all knew that with only one day to see as much as possible, going to Ellis Island would just eat up too much time. In spite of the inclement weather, the lines waiting to go to Ellis Island were very long. It seems that Lady Liberty is still calling to the huddled masses.
In lieu of going to Ellis Island, which not only takes a lot of time, it also costs money, we decided to take the Staten Island Ferry. We had been told it cost 50 cents, which sounded like a pretty good deal to us. But when we got there we found out it was free....an even better deal! The ferry took us right past the Statue of Liberty. As I stood in the wind and the cold and the rain with the boat rocking from side to side, I could almost imagine what it must have been like to have just come on a long, miserable journey from Europe, to see the Statue of Liberty, and to know that I was almost at my new home.
Our next stop was a deli for sandwiches. Peter and Ayouba were blown away by the choices of drinks. They had every kind of soft drink, flavored water, juice, and tea imaginable...many brands I had never heard of or tried. The choice of sandwich or pizza was pretty overwhelming, too. I've been told that the difference between riches and poverty is that the number of choices increases the richer you are.
Then it was back on the subway (some of New York's subways are really decrepit and disgusting) with three changes, taking us back to Rockefeller Center. We got to see the Christmas tree, the ice skating rink, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, famous places (though we didn't go in here), and Times Square. By then it was snowing and Ayouba got to see snow for the first time in his life! We stopped and got some hot drinks and soup to warm us up as we were thoroughly soaked. Then Peter and Ayouba headed back to the Y and we went to board our bus. Before doing that, though, we went to a drug store where I bought some socks to wear on the trip home. I didn't want to spend the next three hours sitting in wet shoes and socks.
The most frustrating part of the day was that so many people had umbrellas up. The streets were jam-packed with people and each person who had an unbrella took up twice as much room as people without umbrellas. Then they would push past you and you'd practically get stabbed in the eye with a spoke from their umbrella.
On the ride home two women just behind and across from me were having a huge fight. One had gone upstairs in the restaurant and hadn't told her friend where she was going. The other lady probably felt quite frightened to think she was all alone in downtown Manhattan! But they went on and on like junior highers (my apologies to all junior highers...probably more like 4th graders). The one wouldn't admit that she was being a little ridiculous and the other wouldn't say she was sorry she had hurt her friend. One declared it was over, done, they were never speaking again. The other one said she was calling her friend's mother (these ladies were in their 50s!), and one of them brought up the subject of a 3rd party who wasn't even involved in this particular issue. Old fights were brought up before they finally realised they weren't speaking and the bus was blissfully quiet for the rest of the ride home.
It was a fun day but I am REALLY glad I don't live in Manhattan! (Not that I could afford it, anyway.)