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New York City through new eyes

New York City is overwhelming, vast and has a way of making you feel like a tiny speck of humanity in a big sea. Our son goes to college there, and we have learned to love it while not letting it overwhelm us. If you get down close, really break it down into blocks and sections, each portion is a neighborhood in and of itself.
 
When our pastor asked us if we would lead a small group of International Volunteer Exchange Program people that live in our area to New York City, we pondered whether we could give them the experience they deserved. We said yes.
 
On a Friday morning we loaded up and took Deuzoumbe, Mizinga, Nasly and Rocky to the big apple. They are here through MCC’s IVEP program and are respectively from Chad, Zambia, Colombia and Bangladesh.
 
They are currently living with area families throughout their year in the United States. We instantly connected with them, our different cultures a touchstone to learning, and the eight-hour drive went by quickly with lots of laughter.
 
We were booked at the Menno House, a guest house in Manhattan. From their website, “Menno House is a residence and guest house in New York City. We provide housing for church volunteers, students and nonprofit workers, and we have three guest rooms for NYC visitors.”
 
We had stayed at Menno House several times, always having a wonderful experience. We arrived Friday evening, our son Hunter waiting to greet us on the street outside the guest house, and after some hugs we checked in.
 
That evening we were on a mission to get some real New York-style pizza. Hunter took us to Artichoke Pizza, where we had some stellar slices, thin crust dripping with succulent toppings. There is nothing better than New York pizza.
 
Our crew seemed taken with the city, staring in wonder at the buildings and people. Our area is a quiet, peaceful place, and they seemed to awaken from a slumber as the bustle surged around them. Hunter zipped us around on the subway, and we found ourselves in Times Square, where we meandered for the evening, snapping pictures like the tourists we were.
 
The next day we went on a bus tour and spent nearly six hours with the most informed and fun tour guide. We had a fun group as we got on and off the bus at different points of interest: Rockefeller Center, the Dakota and Strawberry Fields, the 9/11 Memorial, which is a reflective and important place.
 
We took a small cruise around the harbor with the tour, seeing the skyline from a new perspective. Hunter, having lived in NYC for four years now, has never been to the 9/11 Memorial nor seen the skyline from the water. He grew a new appreciation for the city that you can miss in the daily grind head-down-and-move style of life.
 
The Brooklyn Tabernacle was our Sunday morning destination after eating breakfast at a diner (my favorite part of the city), and we were blown away by the amazing choir and message. Our squad was singing and taking in the power of the songs. It was an unforgettable experience for all of us.
 
When it was over and we filed out, the many people pressing around us, we funneled into a place to sit and have coffee and milk shakes, decompressing from the energy the Tabernacle had filled us with. We said our goodbyes to Hunter, our invaluable tour guide throughout the weekend, and headed back to Manhattan on the subway to check out of the guest house and head home. Whirlwind weekend isn’t even the right word.
 
It was our distinct pleasure to usher these wonderful people around the city. Seeing it through a new set of eyes is like a fresh wind blowing on your face. I found it interesting that although their first language isn’t English — still speaking it well — many of them know up to six languages with the intent of learning more. Hearing them speak other tongues was something special and challenged me to expand my knowledge.
 
I speak English and Spanish, but do I strive to learn more? They noticed other cultures and religions in the city just by seeing other’s faces, pointing out people and diversity to us that we may not have noticed with our American eyes.
 
They taught us to embrace the wonder of new places and to continually seek out new experiences in an unassuming way. I will cherish our time with them and the blossoming of New York City to me afresh. We should all see the world through a new lens, allowing ourselves to learn from others humble, intelligent ways. Keeping ourselves open is the key to growth.
 

Published: April 16, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180419957