Saturday, May 19, 2007

Back In The Land of Filter Coffee and Killer Cocktails

I've been back in New York for a little more than 48 hours. Since arriving home, I've marveled at how positively manicured Queens looks in comparison to India, enjoyed three cups of luscious Starbuck's coffee, had my hair highlighted twice (the first time it looked like I had a cheap faux leopard print hat attached to my head), walked down by the East River and soaked in the organized, industrial feel of the city, caught up on last month's Heroes and Lost, made a weak attempt to clean up my room, fallen asleep in two cabs (one because of jet lag, the other because of way too many drinks), discovered an awesome new bar, tried 5 new cocktails including one with tea infused gin and elderberry essence, kissed an attractive 28 year old male who looked like he was at least 32, flirted with a bartender, gotten lost while trying to find my apartment, and nursed a killer hangover while watching episodes of SATC and Sopranos.

Word to the wise: Fancy cocktails, even when infused with antioxidants, should not be consumed 5 at a time, on an empty stomach, while suffering from jet lag after not drinking hardly any alcohol for over a month. In addition, I would advise against ever attempting to drink really expensive scotch (mistakenly) as if it were a shot. Scotch does not go down well at high speeds.

Apart from the wicked hangover - that lasted for 6 1/2 brutal hours until just about now - it's been pretty great, though slightly surreal, to be back. There's definitely a bit of cultural shock. I seriously can not get over how clean and tidy everything looks. All of the houses and buildings lined up in their little rows, yards fenced off meticulously with chain link fences, garbage packed away in bags out of sight. No tarp cities, no beggar children looking up at me with their huge pleading, sad eyes, no cows ambling down the streets, no rick-shaws, no street gutters running with foul-smelling, toxic looking brown water. Shiny gleaming beautiful glass, swept pavement, filter coffee available on every corner, cute little shops, and blissful, peaceful, calming silence. Relatively speaking. New York has never seemed more quiet to me.

Away from the constant, intense, clamour of India, looking at this city with different eyes, I understand in a way that I didn't fully before why so much of the world looks at the U.S. as if it's a paradise. In many ways, it is. We are so incredibly privileged on so many levels here. We have so much. Looking around at the people on the subway, everyone immersed in the individual sagas of their own lives, listening to their ipods, reading their novels and newspapers, checking their watches impatiently, I wondered if any of them truly appreciate how lucky we all are. And, how unlucky so many others are.

Photo: Tibetan prayer flags in Darjeeling, India.


Starshine said...

Welcome home, Buttercup! I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that my weary traveller friend is HOME!

It really says a lot to hear you say that NYC feels like blissful silence. Wow.

You are right about how blessed we are to live in this country. The poor here are not poor by the standards of many other places in this world.

Can't wait to talk and to see more of your pictures!

Artemis said...

New York City silent. :) Wow!!!!!! I think that is the first time I have ever heard that! Glad to hear you made it home safe and sound - I imagine the culture shock will be quite crazy for a quite a while still. I found it when I travelled around Europe, but can't even imagine the culture differences between India and North America.

gravelly said...

Great post!! I took the USA forgranted when young, and then lived abroad for nine years and slowly discovered how fantastic a country America is. Although I lived in a much more advanced country than India, I noticed how the USA is presented in an uncomplimentary way: one example of this was when I was learning the new language, our workbooks had reading lessons and little stories (all relating to America, though the people in the class were from Poland and other places) saying that in America everyone has guns and goes around shooting everyone.!! It was very disconcerting and I was amazed how a country could dish out lies (I was very naive and young.)
So glad you are looking at America and NYC in a different light. Welcome back! Good luck tomorrow!! Stor kram!

Starrlight said...

Welcome home! I can only imagine the culture shock of India vs the US. Glad to hear you had a great time, and watch out for the scotch ;)

i love ny, too! said...

Gravelly, I know what you mean.

I lived in Europe (a continent that I love) for a time, and it was disconcerting how America is talked about there. On the one hand, I can understand the sterotypes of the "ugly American" tourist because, let's face it, they do exist. On the other hand, though, it often felt like the general sentiment toward America was one of jealousy. I just wanted to say, "Stop picking on us!"

I think one of the many things I grew to appreciate while living in Europe was America's industriousness. While American culture certainly has its weaknesses, we know how to get things done, and I appreciate that! Of course, we have so much "plenty" here, so the resources go a long way.

Travelling did a lot to broaden my view both of the rest of the world and also of my homeland. I think every country has it's good and it's bad.

Buttercup, one time I took the NYC subway to a place called Flatbush, Brooklyn. It was like getting off the subway in a very scary corner of the world. When I got back to Manhattan, I practically wanted to kiss the ground. It seemed so clean and safe there!

Buttercup said...

Starshine and Artemis - I too never expected NYC to sound quiet but compared to the incessant horns of Kolkata it's down right tranquil.

Gravelly - It's true that the U.S. is sometimes presented in an uncomplimentary fashion. This time what I found was that our government was viewed negatively by almost every single person I encountered, but most people seemed to have no negative feelings towards the American people per se.

Starrlight - I so prefer bourbon.

I Love NY - I think you're right that there is a bit of jealousy out there. But, more than that I think there's an understandable desperation and a view of American as the land of almost limitless opportunity. Frankly, if I had been born in India into the poverty that is rampant over there I could imagine myself feeling similarly desperate, jealous, and wanting to get what Americans have. It's only by chance that I was born into the family that I was and not into a family elsewhere in the world.

Gypsy said...

Welcome back!!

Sparky Duck said...

yayyy!! your home.

just because a cocktail has Sobe, its not healthy. Scotch is meant for sipping, though I too love bourbon more.