l’ll Have an Olive with a Raisin on the Side, Please.

Me, dangerously off my "healthy lifestyle plan" enjoying a lot of almojabanas.

Me, dangerously off my “healthy lifestyle plan” enjoying a lot of almojabanas.

So I went to New York City this past weekend to visit my friend Courtney (who I met when I was living in Colombia) and her husband Jefrey (who she met when she was living in Colombia) and had a great time. I wasn’t expecting to have a great time because I was feeling depressed and had a bad cough, but I’m glad I went. I did a lot of walking, thinking and deciding about my life, got to spend time with Courtney and met some interesting people. Sometimes, when you’re in a slump, you just need a little trip or a fun experience to motivate and inspire you. And I must report that New York IS a more exciting place than D.C, as much as I hate to admit it.  My loyalties are to D.C, or course, and I’m perfectly happy here, but there’s just no way around it: New York has lights, skyscrapers, delis (I love delis!) and an energy level that Washington could only dream of. Plus, all kinds of people live here, from trust fund kids to bankers to artists to social workers to hot dog vendors. It seems like everyone and everything in New York is trying to be something or make a statement, which I’m sure can get very exhausting after a while, but you do see a diversity of people you don’t really see in D.C. It seems like everyone in D.C is either 1.) A contractor; 2.) A government employee; 3.) A non-profit worker. So I understand now why New York is considered America’s ultimate city and why all other American cities can only hope for second place.

I learned/contemplated several things during my trip to New York.

1.) I would be very thin in New York for two reasons: I’d be walking a lot (I don’t like crowded public transportation) and I wouldn’t be able to afford to eat much. New York City is the kind of place with lots of tiny “neighborhood restaurants” where you sit around on uncomfortable wooden stools and eat miniature portions of ridiculously overpriced but artistically presented food ($240 for tapas for six people, not including tip — so don’t let the whole “neighborhood restaurant” title fool you)! Personally, I need more than a couple of shrimp, a piece of bread and a quarter of a sausage to feel full, and I prefer restaurants where the chairs offer back support and accommodate my entire butt, but I suppose my “suburbaness” is shining through here. Also, I guess this is why there are so many pizza places around…you have to fill up after your first trendy but not-so-filling meal.

Latin Super Market.

Latin Super Market.

2.) Everyone has/had dreams. Some people live them, others don’t. As I was riding up to New York, I started thinking (because who hasn’t fantasized about moving to New York) why is it that some people say they want to work at a top marketing firm in New York City and actually end up working at a top marketing firm in New York City while others say they want to work at a top marketing firm in New York City but end up working as an insurance agent in, let’s say, Any town, U.S.A? (I bet the ones in New York don’t have student loans…especially Sallie Mae…) Some people make things happen, some people don’t. Is this more a result of obstacles we put in our own way or does it have more to do with obstacles society puts in our way? As the bus rolled down the highway, I started thinking about my various childhood dreams: A farmer with exotic animals,  a news anchor, a writer for National Geographic…I’m not sure where all these dreams went or when exactly I decided they weren’t feasible, but this is something I hope to explore in a later blog post.

Faja store. So many memories of my old neighborhood in Chapinero.

Faja store. So many memories of my old neighborhood in Chapinero.

3.) The Vamoose bus isn’t that great. I splurged on an expensive ticket ($70 round trip!) so I assumed I’d be getting luxury. I was thinking spacious leather seats and a five-star ride. Well, I just got a regular old bus. Yes, there was Wi-Fi and electrical outlets and the back of the bus didn’t smell like a Colombian alleyway on a Friday night (lots of drunk guys, no public bathrooms) but other than that, nothing special. Lesson learned: No need to splurge on bus tickets to New York.

4.) I rediscovered my love for Colombia in Union City, New Jersey, where I enjoyed a tasty Colombian breakfast of almojabanas, empanadas and jugo de lulo among other things. One of the things about being from an immigrant family is that you are never viewed as completely belonging to any place. I think I moved to Colombia because I thought I would feel right at home in the homeland, but Colombians never let me forget that I’m a gringa. And my name is too ethnic for anyone to think I’m American-American here in the U.S. Oh well. But back to Union City…apparently, this place is 84% Latino. There are Latin grocery stores on every corner, restaurants offering cheap corrientazos, faja stores, small clothing stores selling mostly cheesy and over the top clothing, stores dedicated to selling only one item (hats, shoes, cell phone gadgets, etc) and streets and buildings that transport you right back to Chapinero’s commercial district. I think this is one of the great things about New York: Every neighborhood is different and the immigrant experience seems vibrant in a way I haven’t experienced in the D.C area.

5.) Being “yourself” is not always the best recipe for success. When I think of who I am, at my core, I think of my 12 or 13-year-old self: A painfully shy, short chubby girl with bushy eyebrows who liked to read too much and knew the capital of pretty much every country in the world. Would I be any less myself if I put on a pair of heels, lost some weight, tweezed my eyebrows and spent more time socializing and less time exploring the world almanac? People who brand themselves and present themselves in a very specific, confident way probably do better in their respective fields and in life, I would guess. I finally understand what the phrase “dress for success” means. I’m not saying that conforming is the answer, just that you probably need to know what kind of image you want to present to the world because that’s the way you’re going to be treated. What does this mean for me? I need to talk more, stop being such a wallflower and aim a little higher. In New York, I was surrounded by people who seemed to know exactly who they were. Well, that’s not true…I’m not sure that all that many people know exactly who they are…they knew exactly how they wanted the world to see them. Will I have to play this game too? Probably. Time to start thinking about my image, I suppose. Anyone have any ideas what I should go for?

Categories: American Cities, D.C, Observations, The Urban Anthropologist Files, U.S Travels

Tags: , , , ,

16 replies

  1. I like this entry a lot, Ji. NYC has a lot going on. It’s super exciting and overstimulating too. Haha. I do think though that comparing cities is like comparing apples and oranges. Every city has its own charm. There are interesting neighborhoods, cultural diversity, and energy here that you don’t feel unless you live here. When people visit DC from NYC and from all across the world, they feel it too because they are visitors. I think DC might feel less exciting to you because you live here and not “here” if that makes sense. Visiting vs. Living makes all the diff in the world.

    In response to your last question – I think you are who you are and the outside should match it 🙂 ❤

    • Hey Sharon, thanks for the comment! I agree that every city has its charms. However, I also believe that some cities have more charms than others. I love D.C…I think it’s beautiful, regal, progressive, the perfect size…but I don’t think it’s a great world city the way New York, Paris or London are.

      And in response to your last statement…I’m not sure who that is!

  2. wow!! … y no lo digo por las almojabanas

    New York, New York
    I want to wake up in that city
    That never sleeps
    And find I’m king of the hill…

    …. Come on, come through
    New York, New York, New York

  3. jaja

    No, ni las empanadas ni las almojabanas

    I just… can’t get my eyes off you

  4. Estaba revisando el blog “vocabat”, donde tú hiciste comentarios.
    Hice click en el link a tu blog y listo! That’s it!


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