‘The city is like poetry; it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines.’ – E.B White
After 21 hours of mixed emotions, I had landed at JFK International, New York. It was late afternoon yet so bright in the terminal that it was almost blinding. The walk to airport customs seemed like it went on forever and the line wasn’t any better.
American Customs Officers are quite intimidating, standing around in their uniforms without a hint of a smile, they stood proudly in their respective areas with eyes moving swiftly from one end to the other. The closer I got to the beginning of the line, all my travel documents in my sweaty hands. The officer behind the counter yelled next, I walked quickly towards him so that I don’t waste his time, without a smile he asked me for my papers, my visa, took my photo and said ‘Welcome to America’ – I had waited hours on a plane only imagining those very words being blurted out of the mouths of every American I met that day, it felt almost liberating. in other words, it gave me the feels.
Grabbing my luggage and pushing my way through to find my name on a shiny white piece of paper held by a man in a black suit waiting to drive me to the hotel was so exciting, I was living a movie, seriously.
We walked out of the airport and my first thought was what am I doing in Downtown Jo’burg. People power walking past you, rubbing their shoulders against yours to get to places one can never know. Yellow cabs dodging pedestrians and huge black SUV’s. It was like introducing a new-born to the world outside of their comfort zone, a big world filled with chaos and noise pollution.
Forward about an hour or maybe longer, because that’s how long it took us in peak hour traffic to get from the airport to Newark, New Jersey. I was so tired yet so excited that I went from getting a few seconds of sleep to jolting up to take in the city. As the sun began hiding behind the skyline, slowly disappearing, I had butterflies fluttering rapidly in my belly.
My head hit the pillow as I wandered through the images embedded in my mind.