America is not new to us. We know so much about this nation ever since we were kids. We even know the places to explore and visit in the United States. Why not. We’ve seen them in books, magazines, television, movies and of course, the internet.
Thought of as the land of milk and honey, USA is a country that most people would ever dream of. Growing up, I’d seen US as a wonderland where opportunities abound.
When we’d learned that our plane would land in JFK Airport in New York City, we became excited. This airport we’d heard is one of the biggest in the world. But more than the size and name of JFK Airport, knowing we were going to see New York City thrilled us even more.
Unlike the Asian crew who used to greet us every time we walked out of the plane from Singapore to Philippines and vice-versa, when my wife and I went out of Delta Air Lines, American staff welcomed us on our way into JFK Airport.
The walkway of the airport loomed over us and when we walked ahead, it seemed unending. We hastened our pace a little bit more, inclined to move with quick steps as we saw the other passengers strode faster. Some of them were hurrying up because they still had connecting flights to catch for their destinations.
Right after we came out and walked to the waiting area, we felt relieved and thankful reaching this far. The preparation we did was not that easy. I remembered what the officer of PDOS in Manila who conducted the orientation for immigrants said that the moment we stepped out of the airport is already a big celebration for all the things we went through.
In the waiting area, a crowd of people assembled themselves in one place. They faced in our direction where passengers came out one after the other. A middle-aged Indian-looking guy asked us if we wanted a taxi. I spotted a few Chinese, some more Indians and persons who looked like, in my eyes, Malays, who turned out to be Mexicans. In Changi Airport in Singapore, I used to see Malays who resemble Filipinos. Here in JFK Airport, I saw a lot of Mexicans; because of their brownish complexion, in my first glance, they appeared like Malays.
At one end inside the airport, a queue of people formed a line that snaked out into the taxi stand. I heard the guard announced something about traffic jam in the city. The yellow cabs looked attractive. I’d never seen such taxis before. The time was past 4 pm. While we were looking for the public phone, we could still not believe we already stepped on the ground of US.
Marc, the good cousin of my wife, arrived around 5 pm from work. He was there to fetch us to their place in New Jersey and would soon also tour us around.
Outside, the day was bright and sunny, the weather warm. They say our timing was good because we arrived in New York during spring, when the leaves are growing and the fields are green. Also, we have enough time to adjust ourselves in the four seasons, winter, spring, summer and fall, of this part of the US.
On the road, my wife and I became speechless for a moment while we let everything sink in. The expressways are wide and by that time, the flow of the vehicles was seamless. We became more excited when we got closer to the city proper. Marc pointed to the Manhattan area where we were heading. We saw unfamiliar road names and directions down the highway, different cars with plates bearing the names of their states, towering skyscrapers and old buildings emboldened with graffiti. The statue of Liberty is standing somewhere in the distant vicinity of the seaside.
Shortly, we entered into the Battery Tunnel. This underground roadway is long and large that also leads to the site where World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood. Now, a high building known as the One World Trade Center formerly Freedom Tower is erected in the area once popularly referred to as the Ground Zero.
As we continued our ride in that part of New York City, we noted numerous old buildings, some made of bricks, in every corner of the streets. The Big Apple is an ancient city, thus, it’s common to see the remnants of past structures still standing.
So the first impression I had while looking at the structures around was that New York City is old. Besides, it’s the city in world that never sleeps. Anyway, that’s the charm of New York City, I think, an old heritage right in the heart of an upbeat city life.
We stopped at many traffic lights tinted with striking yellow. Like any other busy cities, a significant number of streets divide the entire City of New York. Yellow cabs; American and Japanese cars like Jeep, Hammer, Ford, Kia, Honda, Toyota and others such as Mercedes Benz, BMW and other American automobiles; bikers, pedestrians teemed the thoroughfares.
We then went into the Holland Tunnel and came out to the side of New Jersey. Yap, New York and New Jersey are two neighboring states. We tried to take note of every structure and names our eyes met on the road. One notable phrase was Manila Avenue.
Soon, we speeded up on the Interstate highway. This freeway brought me back to the Philippines. Imagine you’re in a car or bus running on the North Expressway going out of Manila.
The time was past 7 pm, but brightness still illuminated the sky. When summer comes, it will be brighter until 9 pm, another awesome thing to know. The big trees densely lined the highway while rapid cars overtook one another.