It’s hard to place when exactly my desire to explore the Unites States started. Was it sifting through the ‘what’s on’ pages of my grandmother’s New Yorker magazines, which often arrived – ‘par avion’-airplane – at an eye-watering premium and after the events had taken place? Perhaps it was when relatives traveling overseas would send back little gifts from America — Big Red gum, brightly wrapped chocolate bars and sweets I had never tasted.
In my penultimate year of high school, my class went on an art history trip to New York City and stayed in the Harlem neighborhood. Dripping with sweat and with hair in a humid frizz, we caught the subway to The Frick Collection, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we sketched diligently in our pads, not wanting to miss a single detail.
I broke free from my group and got lost in Alphabet City. I wandered alone into La Perla, a lingerie store, and flicked through the racks longingly. Everyone in the store (including me!) knowing I could not afford a thing.
I bought a durag, a cloth used to cover your head, and wore it without irony on our school trip to Times Square. I walked to the gates of Columbia University and begged a security guard to show me around. I stood at the podium of an empty hall, exactly where former presidents had stood. “One day I will come back,” I told myself.
But then I grew up, lived my life, traveled and studied in my home town. It was not until years later when I did my postgraduate degree that I discovered the J-1 visa. There was no question in my mind that I had to go and finally live out my childhood dream for a little while.
In May 2016, I packed my bags and moved to New York City. Nowadays I get my New Yorker the day it comes out, at market price, and I even make some of the events in the ‘what’s on’ section.
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