Thursday, August 18, 2016

The 16thof August 2016. My alarm clock woke me up early in the morning. When I opened my eyes, my first thought was: “Oh my God! Is it a dream? Can it be true that  I`m lying in a comfortable king-size bed in one of the oldest hotels of America, which is at the crossroads of the 45th Street and Madison Avenue!  Right in the center of New York! I can`t believe it! ”
It was the second day of our stay in the Big Apple. We had already visited many of the must see places the day before and were looking forward to more. The second day was expected to be even busier for us since it was our last day in New York. Nevertheless, I had my own plans for the day.
Even before coming to the US I had made a commitment to go to St. Vartan Cathedral, which is 20 minutes` walk from hour hotel, according to Google. So I got up at 7 in the morning and having put down Google`s directions on a sheet of paper, headed for my destination. Google said that I had to go along the 43d Street up to 2nd Avenue. So I started walking in that direction and what struck me was that even at that early hour the city was still dirty: the garbage bags were still there and the air was as smelly as the night before. This was my first disappointment that came soon after overexcitement about the luxury of Downtown Manhattan.

  It took me more than 20 minutes to get to the place: once or twice I found out that I was off the track and had to go back and forth to make sure I was on the right way. But even after that I didn`t manage to do without human help: twice I had to stop passers-by hurrying to work who nevertheless kindly helped me (using Google though) to find my way.
When I finally got to the place, I was disappointed to find out that the iron ornamented doors of the cathedral were closed or at least they were too heavy for me to open. Anyway, not finding anybody around, I began to explore the churchyard and saw a smaller door, with a notice next to it which said that it was Gyulbenkyan Cultural Center. I opened the door, which was much easier for me to do, and found myself in a small office with a guy sitting at the desk. I told him I wanted to go into the cathedral but he replied indifferently that there was nobody there and that their center had nothing to do with the cathedral and that he didn`t know anything and could not help me. However when I said that I was a visitor from Georgia and was leaving the next day, his attitude changed all at once and he spoke to me in Russian. In answer to my surprised look, the guy explained that he came from Belorussia and would be happy to help me. (See how important common history is!)He led me along dimly lighted corridors into the main hall of the cathedral, explained how I could get out after I finished and vanished`.
When I was left all alone in the clean half-lit hall of the cathedral, I felt so peaceful and comfortable that I didn`t want to leave it for a long time. Finally I realized that I might be late for our ten-o`clock meeting in the hotel lobby and hurried up. I took some pictures and left.
The way back was shorter: this time I didn`t have difficulty finding my way and I dropped in at a grocery store to buy some food for breakfast. I got to the hotel just in time for the meeting appointed by Neil. Everybody was in the hotel lobby feeling excited not only about the forthcoming sightseeing and shopping events, but also by the news that Neil was going to give out some money to spend during the day.
After a short discussion of where to go and what to see it was suggested that the whole group took a ferry trip around the Statue of Liberty. Everybody agreed and in groups of five, each led by one of our trainers, we headed for the subway station. That was my second disappointment. No, I`m not saying that I hadn`t heard about the New York subway before, but what I saw was worse than I expected.  It was completely different from any underground I had seen before: a terrifying dark and gloomy place which was at the same time dirty and smelly with lots of homeless people around. I would definitely avoid travelling by subway here, especially alone.
Anyway, we  bought tickets from machines with the help of our leaders and took the train to the harbor. I can say that I enjoyed the ferry trip since we could see not only the Statue of Liberty, but also the city skyline and took lots of pictures, enough for another  book of National Geographic`s, as Neil put it. However, what made the trip even more enjoyable for me was that it was a good opportunity to breathe more or less fresh clean air.

After the ferry trip, we considered some options of where to go and split into two groups: one decided to go to the Metropolitan Museum and the other one chose to visit the American Museum of Indian Culture. I joined the last one  because ever since my first time in the US I have been interested in American Indians and their culture. Some of the members of my group said they were starving and instead of going to the museum, went to the nearest café to have a snack, while  the rest made for the museum entrance crowded by  some homeless people. However, when we stood in a line for a security check I saw that my group mates standing in front of me were made to take out all they had in their bags, even  small change. I quite understand their reasons for doing this but it`s not so easy to wait until everyone gets out their stuff and puts it back when you are almost exhausted. Besides, when I thought that I would have to do without water on a hot day like that, I somehow lost my interested in Indians and backed out.
On coming out of the museum I wanted to join the starving group, but they were nowhere to be seen and I decided to wander about the place until everybody gathered at the museum entrance again. I started to explore the neighborhood and was glad to see a nice little park just opposite the museum with benches where I could stretch my legs after a long walk. But unfortunately I couldn`t relax as I was surrounded by some really weird people so I had to get up and go. The only clean and safe place for me was the nearby stores. So I whiled away my time there and came back to the museum to find the other members of my group.
After that we walked to China Town, which was the last blow for me! I don`t even want to describe the district, otherwise my blog will turn into a gloomy and miserable piece of writing.I will only say that  by that time we were all so exhausted that we could hardly stand on our feet. The scorching sun, the unbearable smell and dirt made it even worse. On top of that some of the people would get stuck in this or that cheap store and Nana had to literally fish them out of the crowds of Chinese people. At last  everybody had gathered and we were ready to move on, when it turned out that Andy wasn`t there. It took some time to find him and when he came back with a drink in his hand he looked much happier than before.
Now I was terrified at the idea that we would have to go back to the hotel by subway and was dreaming of taking a taxi, when I heard Neil suggest going back by cab. However it was too early to say hurray as catching a cab was not a very easy thing to do in one of the most crowded streets of ChinaTown. We had to take three cabs and the first cab was taken by the teachers who were planning to climb the Empire State Building, so I had to wait for anotherone. At that moment standing in the sun sweating and breathing that dreadful air, the only thing I was dreaming of was a shower and a clean bed! Of course it was not only me who wanted a shower! You could easily tell that when Nana jumped into the busy street to stop a cab! And oh what a joy, the cab stopped! We jumped into the cab and I immediately fell asleep, in the cab!
The New York cabs was another discovery for me, because I didn`t know that they were like prison cells from inside. Of course I understand that it is for security reasons only, but they look really frightening.
As soon as I took the long-waited shower and got into bed, I fell asleep like log. I didn`t even hear my roommate Maia go out. As it turned out later, together with Tiko and Nino Khabazishvili they went to see the Empire State Building, something I was so eager to do! Not only did they see it, but they even climbed it! What a self-sacrifice!
After a good rest some of the teachers went to the Fifth Avenue for shopping but I didn`t join them. I wanted to go to Times Square because I had been there in the daytime and this time wanted to see it at night. As nobody seemed to be interested in going there, I decided to go alone and I did it! I was so proud of myself for being able to find the way (considering the fact that I`m not very good at it). Of course on the way back I went off the track a little bit.But just then I heard somebody speaking Russian behind me. It was a couple of  nice young people who  live in New York and I asked them for directions. They complimented me on my Russian and showed me the right way.

On getting to the hotel, I saw some of our teachers sitting in the hotel lobby as tired as myself. We sat there for a while telling one another about the sales and our bargains  until I went up to my room and turned off! What a long day!

That was a day from the adventures of Georgian teachers in America.

With love,
Marina Kazaryan.


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