Four huge suitcases, four carry-ons, four backpacks, and a partridge in a pear tree (which happens to exist exclusively in my imagination) was all we took for our five-month sojourn to the European Continent. I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to pack everything I wanted to bring (and keep it under the twenty-two kilogram limit) but to my relief, the agent at Austin Bergstrom International Airport checked my family’s suitcases with no problem.
It was clear skies and smooth flying for the four-hour flight to JFK International Airport in New York City. We walked cheerily to the baggage claim, picked up our checked luggage with ease, readied ourselves to hop onto the elevator and…screeeech.
I wrestled with my huge suitcase, pushing with my knee to get it to turn forward…argh! Now my carry-on is running away, and my backpack on top of it threatening to fall! I sighed as I finally managed to correct both suitcases, rubbing my left bicep which had been slightly sprained from a couple days ago.
The arm certainly did not help me navigate my suitcases through the crowds of many rude travelers, and going on and off air-trains (and basically everywhere) proved more exhausting than I had imagined. Every little bump, every little crack was an obstacle that I had to overcome with muscle-power and lots of huffing and puffing. Yes, twenty-two kilograms is heavy!
Finally, there was the…I don’t know what it’s called, exactly, but it was the place in the airport where we were going to store our suitcases for a day while we sightsaw NYC. Just needed to cross two more streets, and voila! Into the airport, where I could get rid of my arm-aching baggage.
Unfortunately, sidewalks have more bumps than you realize.
After slicing through pushy crowds while: 1. maneuvering my bulky, heavy suitcases so I don’t run over anyone 2. keeping an eye on my parents so I don’t get separated, and 3. watching my lagging brother to make sure he’s safe, we finally made it.
But I only got about five seconds to breathe before we plunged inside the airport and it was chaos again. However, soon enough, fortunately, we found the storage place, where Micah and I promptly marched off to collect some water for our empty bottles.
The barely trickling water fountains did not help in that department.
It turned out that we could only store our four big suitcases, since the additional carry-ons were not worth the cost. I didn’t really care, since compared to Miss Bulky, my carry-on was much easier to maneuver.
Shortly after, we hopped onto an Uber car (which, as I was stunned to find, arrived at the congested airport in three minutes) and drove to the city. The traffic was, as expected, not great, and the way back to the airport was even worse with construction. However, I enjoyed the extra time, as it gave me the chance to take in the huge skyline with wide eyes.
My home city was nothing compared to the great expanse of…mankind. Shining skyscrapers so tall that I could not see the top of them from my seat in the car. Masses of people swarming the sidewalks, all busy with somewhere to go. Metal rods and blinking lights wherever you looked. It was impressively overwhelming, but I had one thought: where are the trees? And the grass? Flowers?!
“Oh, thank God,” I breathed when I saw a park covered from above with arching branches from white beeches. They stretched out like arms decorated with leaves shining golden in the afternoon sun, providing a comforting atmosphere to the park below. Still, I could see no flowers, and minimal grass that looked suspiciously fake in some places.
We arrived at our hotel, called The Hotel @ Times Square, and dropped off our bags before heading out once more.
My feet were protesting, since they were tired from walking all over the airport and standing in line, but I ignored them, eager to see the bustling metropolis.
It was definitely bustling. People crowded the sidewalks, hurrying to their destination while they either looked at their phones, talked with a companion, stayed silent, or, in the case of one man I saw, read at his own risk. Because if you get distracted by something like the majestic buildings soaring above your head, you will…yeah. Sorry, lady-who-got-run-over-by-yours-truly.
We turned around a block, and with delight, I saw a street band playing some catchy jazz music. There was an electric guitar, drums, and, to my fascination, a shiny saxophone!
Further on, Mama suddenly exclaimed, “Look! It’s the Fox News building!” There at the corner, across the street from us, was a high-rise with red headlines circling the base. Inside, I caught a glimpse of a news anchor reporting, um…news.
We continued walking, gazing up at the mesmerizing buildings whenever we could. The height was dizzying, though whether it was because I was exhausted or not I would have to find out later. Finally, standing elegantly in the middle of all the metal and steel, I caught a glimpse of St. Patrick’s cathedral, all white and glistening in the sun, as if it was popped out from somewhere in Europe and placed in the crowded city.
Its many spires and curved arches were all very beautiful, but what caught my eye was the round emblem in the front of the church. It had spirals and twirls that made it resemble an elegant flower and a cross at the same time, with clear mosaics in the background.
The elegance was magnified on the inside, with white columns lining the center aisle and pews, leading to a beautiful, shining golden structure over the altar, decorated with more spirals. In the arching windows were colorful mosaics of twirling patterns or Bible scenes.
We arrived just in time for the blessing of the Body and Blood of Christ, and as I lined up some time later for communion, I could see the golden structure more clearly, and realized it was much bigger than it looked from afar.
After mass, I glanced back towards the ceiling where I knew an organ was, but I gasped at the sight.
It was a warm, dark brown wood, gilded with twirls, with a perfect accent of silver pipes. But behind the organ was the back of the emblem from the front, with gorgeous blue mosaics shining from the sun outside. I took a couple quick pictures before the next mass began, and we left.
We walked back a few blocks until we arrived at a fountain area in front of a bank, where a couple food carts were parked. Mhmm, New York street food! I had a Phili Cheese Steak Sandwich, which was savory and filling.
After dinner, we headed to Rockefeller Center, and before we reached the elevator, quickly filled our water bottles at lifesaving water fountains that gushed out throat-quenching H2O.
We boarded the elevator, which was packed with other visitors, and made our way to the top at a floor per second, so it took about a minute. Blue lights blinked in the tunnel above, with colorful lights dancing across the ceiling. Ding! We arrived, and I was very surprised it was that fast, though one worker informed us it was slow compared to others.
“Wow! That’s so amazing!” We stepped outside, to be stunned by the view and the sudden chill.
We were on the east side, so we saw a tall, chimney building and, in a huge, green rectangle that seemed out-of-place in the city, was Central Park. After some pictures, I suddenly wondered where all the people were, since they seemed quite few on that side. When we entered the building and exited on the west side, I realized why.
Through the crowds, I saw the Empire State Building, the tiny Times Square far below, and away in the distance, Elis Island with the Statue of Liberty, all illuminated in the light of the setting sun. With some work and smiling, I made it to the glass pane where I got a wonderful view of the city underneath the sun, the fluffy clouds turned a soft orange and pink.
A bit later, when the sky darkened, lights blinked on the Empire State Building, and I went for another round of photos.
But high above, beyond the mass of colorful lights was a crystal orb that shone brighter than any other. C’est lune!
We climbed up yet another level where the crowds were thinner and I saw an awe inspiring picture of the moon and Empire State Building side by side. It was then that it suddenly dawned on me that, though works of mankind like skyscrapers and bridges are magnificent, nature created by the master Designer far surpass them all. The iridescent moon, the rivers, the plants-that-barely-exist-in-NYC and even the clouds give a sense of pure beauty that the best accomplishment of man cannot compete with.
We left Rockefeller Center with sore, aching feet, and rested while devouring a warm, soft pretzel.
Previously, I felt like I was on a boat rocking back and forth, about to tip over, but my head cleared slightly after I finished eating, with just enough energy to make it to Times Square.
A lovely aesthetic pole right in the middle…
However, though I had been excited to see it, it was just not as amazing as I had thought it would be, perhaps because it was suffocating-ly crowded, or I felt overwhelmed. Pictures are more than enough to experience Times Square, without the hustle and bustle, loud honking and chattering, and crowds (I can hardly imagine it on New Year’s Eve!).
I finally collapsed into bed at eleven, thoroughly exhausted, with my feet demanding me not to misuse them ever again. They weren’t happy for the next twenty-four hour day where I was awake and pressing my weight on them as I continued to explore New York City.
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