Friday, October 6, 2017

Autumn in New York

I was fortunate enough to take a long weekend trip to New York City recently. About six to eight months ago I started hatching a plan that, then, I had no idea would would come to fruition. Each October, a group of 40 students from the high school I taught at in Japan take a class trip to New York City. For one week they experience Manhattan, Princeton, New Jersey, and Ithaca, New York. Knowing I would only be staying in Japan one year, I knew I would be back stateside when this year's trip came up. How cool would it be to fly to New York to meet my students in my country?, I thought. 

As the date got closer, I had to decide. Just do it I thought. I didn't have a job yet when I chose the dates and purchased the ticket, but I planned on just working around it when the time came. Before I knew it I was on a plane to New York City and my long-running pipe dream was coming true. 

More was wrapped up into this trip than a reunion with my students. My cousin Ellery has lived in Manhattan for two years now. I hadn't gotten the opportunity to visit her there and this was another perfect reason to go. 

I arrived on a Saturday afternoon and after many hugs, Ellery and I walked to get some lunch. Then I raided her closet for something cuter than what I had brought to wear during our outing with our other cousins Melissa and Brian. After catching up at their apartment and getting hugs from their two boys, the four of use we out for Mexican food and to two bars afterward. Being parents of two young boys, Melissa and Brian don't get out on their own much, so the four of us had a blast together.

Sunday, Ellery and I had a slow morning followed by some lunch and some exploring in Central Park.

Monday my Spidey-senses started tingling because I knew my students were landing in New York that morning. Melissa and I met up and went to an exercise class that kicked our butts. We then had a very Japanese day by visiting a matcha tea cafe, shopping at Uniqlo (a Japanese clothing brand), visited an Asian market, and had a poke bowl lunch (very similar to the sushi bowls I used to buy in Kanazawa).

After we parted ways I went back to Ellery's apartment to change my clothes then hopped on a Citi Bike to ride the five miles uptown to the American Museum of Natural History. I love this museum because of the movie Night at the Museum, when it comes alive at night. Though I also love history and learning more about the natural world. Of course I enjoyed the Hall of Asian Peoples, where I got to hear Japanese music and read about rural Japanese life. Thanks to a member card from Brian I got to visit for free.

I spent a little more time in Central Park before heading to the Watson Hotel where my students were staying. I met their teacher, Miss Niwa, just outside the hotel and we discussed how I would surprise the students. None of them knew I would be coming to meet them.

I had been dreaming about this moment for months and months. Now that I was just seconds away from having my big surprise moment, I was very nervous. They were all congregating in the hotel lobby to eat dinner so I thought I'd wait until a bit past their meeting time so they'd all be there. Should I wait for the teacher to announce the "mystery guest"? Should I sneak into the hotel restaurant and be waiting for them as they enter? With the anticipation becoming unbearable I finally realized I likely would never have the perfect entrance. With that, I simply walked in the front door.

In a domino effect, one by one, my students started seeing me and realizing what was going on. I got many beautiful bright faces, smiles, yells of my name, and hugs. Everything had been worth it! We spent about 90 minutes together eating dinner in the hotel restaurant. Then a small group of students hung out with me in the lobby as we talked about their trip and took pictures.

Leaving my students was no easy task. For a while we were just standing in a group and though they all realized they had to go to bed and I had to leave, no one would budge. My feelings of elation that they didn't want to say goodbye can't be matched. Then the followed me to the door and in a big group waved and I told them I love them. As I walked away I looked back, twice, to the still waving group of Japanese teens I love.

I swung through Times Square on my way home, still one of my favorite places in the world. I sat in all the lights and sounds and reflected on the beauty of my life. I got back to Ellery's apartment, high on life. When asked if it was sad, I really couldn't say yes, because I was so happy in my fortune of knowing those kids.

Tuesday was a finally day of exploration as I visited the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, again thanks to Brian. And I rounded out the trip by heading to the farthest south tip of the island to view the Statue of Liberty. My four-day trip was complete!