Monday, December 19, 2011

The Visit

My recent visit to the US was quite a memorable one, not just professionally but also on the personal front. I was in Washington DC for work and had planned to visit my friend in New York before returning back to Germany. I have been to DC before and frankly speaking it is a pretty dull city for my taste. Of course, it has all those great museums and memorials etc but overall I had always expected more from the capital city of Ambreeka. This time I ended up visiting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The most interesting part was for some exhibits, they had the original ones, like the first airplane from the Wright Brothers etc. Other than that, our free time near the DC area was mainly spent on shopping. After DC, I went to NY to visit my friend for the weekend. Frankly speaking, I was quite blown over by this city. As soon as I came out of the Bus terminal in downtown NY, I was greeted with a sudden gust of stink, total chaos, loud noises, people everywhere. I think I was not ready for it so it was like a filmy moment for me. After seeing all that for a few seconds, I went back inside the terminal building to actually digest and accept whole experience. It would say, it was pretty intimidating :)

Since, I had heard stories of people being looted by NY city parking, I decided to give back my rental car in DC and use other modes of transport. I wanted to have a taste of US buses and trains. Being grown up watching Hollywood movies, I had seen a lot of those Greyhound buses so decided to take one from DC to NY. Of course there were other better options available but I had always been fascinated to see those tin-can shaped buses in old Hollywood movies. I personally believe that Greyhound for buses and Amtrak for trains is quite iconic for US alternate modes of transport. So, for my return NY to DC, I had booked Amtrak for the same reason even though it was three times more expensive than bus. I could never figure out why such a big difference. I did not faced any problems using both of them but for me personally speaking Amtrak was a big turn off. Maybe, I was expecting more from them specially after using the ICE trains in Germany. I think there is absolutely no comparison between both of them. ICE is like Porche and Amtrak like Fiat Padmini of trains.

Anyways, this post is not about DC or NY but the time spent with my friends. I am sure most of you know more about those places more than me. So these two pics would be more than enough.

The Capitol in the background:

The Statue of Liberty in the background:

So, finally the meetup ....

Friend 1: I think this trip was sprinkled with coincidences. In the first week while attending the conference, I went online on gtalk during one of the breaks and found my friend I was planning to meet at the weekend online. Just casually, he asked where was my conference hotel and to our surprise, my friend's office was just on the street behind the hotel. We laughed and decided to meet for lunch the same day. I was meeting this guy after about 8 years but talking to him did not felt like we were meeting after such a long time. It was just like starting from where we left. We were in the same batch at our engineering college. He was also my floor mate in the hostel. Unfortunately, he had to go to Chicago for work the next day but I had planned to spend a day with him after he returned. On his return, he took me to meet some of his friends which ended up in a great party in the end. I think we hardly slept that night.

Friend 2: This one was special and again a big coincidence. After the conference I moved to another hotel for work the next week. After talking to this friend on phone, we found out that his house was at 5 minute walking distance from my hotel. We met the same evening and he took me out for dinner with his wife. I was meeting this friend after 20 years !! I know how crazy it sounds but its really true. We studied together till Class 4 and then his father moved to another country. We kept in touch with each other through postal letters. Yes, those were not the days of emails or facebooks. He then moved to another country and we lost touch. We again got in touch with each other when he came back to India. And then he moved to US and since then it was only through chat and emails. I dont know or why but we somehow always kept in touch. It was a great moment catching up with him again. Again, never did we felt any awkwardness or we were out of topics to talk about. Even his wife was surprised how we kept in touch for so long and she also never felt out of place participating in our conversations. They, then took me to their house after dinner and we all had tea. Being a tea lover, it was like charging my batteries after a long break from desi tea in US. We talked and talked and finally he dropped me at my hotel at around 2 am. Next day in the evening, again he was at my hotel to pick me up for dinner and they insisted that till the time I was there, I must have dinner with them. I was really taken aback at all the warmth. It was an awesome feeling.

Friend 3: After 2 weeks in DC, I went for the last weekend to NY to meet my friend there. I was meeting him after 12 years. We did our schooling together and then went on to do engineering from different colleges. I had been in touch with him also via emails and chat. Although from the same town, we did not met so often since we never had vacations on common time. Anyways, he met me in the evening and took me to his place in NJ. The next two days he tried to give me a NY tour but we ended up talking more than seeing the places. It is usually the case with me that I tend to see less at a place where I know people than where I am a total stranger. But no complaints, I still managed to see a major part of NY in those 2 days. Fortunately or unfortunately his wife was also on vacation in India, so he also had a lot of free time to spend with me. Again, it was a great meetup and I was totally overwhelmed at his hospitality. The last night in NY, we went to dinner at a posh looking place and here is the view from near the hotel, the NY skyline.

The next day, I took the Amtrak to Washington to take my flight back to Germany. On the way, I kept thinking why did my friends met me with such joy and warmth ? After all these years gone, they could have simply ignored me or said they were busy with their stuff. And then I asked myself, what if they would have come to Germany to visit me, would "I" have ignored them .... and then I got my answer !! :)


Gayatri said...

NYC is pretty overwhelming. But I love it. I love that there is life in every party of that city. I even love the stench emanating from its subways!!! Reminds me of Mahim creek in Mumbai :)

You're right about trains in Europe being much better than the ones in US. Unfortunately, public transport is a joke in this country.

And I love meeting old friends. I try and catch up with people from school/college wherever I go. It makes my trips even more special. said...

Now, I understood how and why that slogan on tshirts started .... I 'heart' NY :D ... the place is truly unique ... would definitely like to visit it again :)