Life Lessons from New York City

By: Qinhua Peng, China, Nazareth College

Qinhua Peng 3October 3rd and Oct 4th were reading days at Nazareth College and they’re connected with Saturday and Sunday, so in total we had four days off. My friends and I arrived in Manhattan at 7 am, Oct 3rd. The bus tour was a little tiring but we were so excited that we didn’t care. I’m not so sure if it was the cool air in the early morning or the cool colors of the steel and concrete buildings that made us feel cold. We were strangers to this city, but we tried to figure out what she looked like.

Our first destination was the Statue of Liberty. Taking the subway took us quite a while since we were unfamiliar with it, but we finally made it and became accustomed to it. The subway system in Manhattan is not that different from the system in China, it’s actually simpler. However, I suppose it’s because of its old age that it didn’t look clean. In contrast, the subway system in Shanghai is clean, tidy and comfortable with air-conditioned facilities, but it’s so complicated that one can easily get lost.

Qinhua Peng

When we finally arrived at the Ferry Station, we were so disappointed that the island was not open, however it was fortunate that the ferry still operated. We took the ferry to Staten Island. It was a great pity that the Statue of Liberty was too far away. Unfortunately, it is small and invisible in pictures.  But it’s really exciting to take a ferry across the Hudson River. A couple of days ago our history teacher was talking about the history of Hudson River and New York City, and then we were there, imagining what it was like many years ago. What was Hudson thinking when he sailed on this river and viewed these lands? Did he think it would be like this today? No one knows and the river flows as it did a thousand years ago.

Qinhua Peng 2We continued to move forward, the next site was Wall Street. It was not a long street but had a lot of great architecture! I prefer Romanesque and Gothic style buildings, therefore, it was not only a walk in the world’s financial center but an enjoyment in appreciating architecture. I love Trinity Church, but it was under construction so we left there soon.

After that we visited the Brooklyn Bridge and Chinatown. It’s interesting for a Chinese person to visit Chinatown.  Indeed Chinatown to some extent is like China, but there were also many differences. What impressed me the most was the stereotype of inferior quality of goods made in China. There may be some reason for it. Chinatown was not like modern Chinese cities that much. Those cities in China are more tidy, pleasing and developed. And there are many replicas sold in Chinatown which were of low quality.  Those stores form a poor impression of China.

After Chinatown we went to the Empire State Building and unfortunately it was closed.  We decided to go to the hostel to rest.  The location of our hostel was great, it was next to Central Park on 8th Avenue, within a 3-minute walk to Lincoln Center, the place I want to go to the most in the New York City. I told my friends, I would walk around the streets and would be back before 9:30 pm.

It was a wonderful night. My opinion about travel is not whirling through landmarks and taking tons of pictures, but experiencing the local life and truly understanding the lifestyle and culture. I enjoy visiting different places not because they have landmark buildings but due to their unique cultural atmospheres. Thus, that night I went out alone and they went to the Central Park. I wandered through the streets and enjoyed the peaceful beauty of a night in Manhattan, the weather was pleasing and suitable for taking a stroll. I felt I was just like the local people who came out of their houses just to discover a fancy view.  After walking for 30 minutes or so, I stopped and stepped into a restaurant randomly and it turned out to be a Spanish one. I could not speak any Spanish but the waiter was very nice. His smile made me like this restaurant. The food was very delicious and after the meal I tipped the waiter the first and the highest tip I had ever given. It’s not merely due to the great meal, which really made me happy, but also for his attitude towards service. He was a young man, I assumed him to be a student like me and waiting as a part-time job. He loves his job, and he loves his life. I could tell. I couldn’t help thinking about the younger generation in China. I seldom see a waiter in China who loves his job and life. The consensus in China would regard a job like this indecent. Our generation shoulders too much pressure and is in a constant state of anxiety. Where is life in that?

With a good-bye to the waiter, I walked slowly, enjoyed every street and went into some stores when interested. When approaching the Lincoln Center I heard someone playing the saxophone, it was “Ode to Joy.”  And when I got close I found it was a middle-aged man. I stood in front of him and listened to the melody he played, it’s good. I smiled at him and he smiled back. When the song was finished, I put some change in his case. There was nothing inside. Sadness suddenly came to me. Was he standing there all day and not even earning a cent? He was so nice and he said “good night” to me. I should have stayed and helped him, maybe he didn’t eat anything that day? I deeply regret not doing that.

All the people I came across in Manhattan were nice. When I returned to the hostel I met a painter in the elevator. One of them said,”Be careful,we’re dirty.” I realized that he was referring to his clothes, so I replied they were not dirty. It’s just dust. The  expression on the worker suddenly softened and he smiled at me. He wished me a great night when I left. I received so many kind wishes from local people.

I know there exists discrimination toward workers with labor-based jobs due to the gap between the rich and the poor. However, I firmly believe there isn’t any difference between individuals and everyone deserves respect.

Qinhua Peng 4The second day was refreshing after a good rest. My friends and I separated into two groups, three of us who went to the National History Museum and two of us who went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There is no word to describe my love for this museum. It was awesome and fabulous and I did not want to leave. So many pieces of work that I could only see from books were in front of me. I didn’t dare to draw breath. It’s a pity that I didn’t have time to visit all the wings of the museum. My time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art was my favorite part of my trip to New York City. How I wish I could have stayed longer.

Our journey came to the last destination: Times Square. It’s an area full of neon lights and huge advertisements, “hustle and bustle.” After walking in the crowds for a while we found a quiet corner to have a rest. I looked up at the sky and found no star in sight, only the skyscrapers. I don’t think there is much difference between this place and other prosperous Central Business Districts in China’s metropolitan cities, they all make me feel tired and dizzy.

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Now I have returned to Nazareth College. Looking back at this short trip, I discovered a new perspective of viewing life.  I discovered that China, Rochester and New York City share something in common and each city can boast its distinctiveness. China is developing at a high speed, but the general life quality for common domestic people is not as good as in U.S. This difference does not lie within the skyscraper or booming cities and towns, but the degree of happiness we all share.  In my point of view, happiness can be found everywhere as long as we devoted to enjoying life. A life can be called a life only when it is decorated with art, music, nature and affection between folks. Living such a lifestyle is what I am doing.  I will never forget these precious memories during my New York City journey. Due to this trip, I have a new lease on life!


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