Being born and raised in the Sonoran Desert, in Phoenix, Arizona, I’m accustomed and naturally prefer ‘warmth’ as opposed to ‘wet and cold’ climates. However, I will admit to a developed love for snow when as a 3 year old toddler, I began ski lessons, and despite the coldest of winter weather in ski vacation destinations like Utah and Colorado, as long as I was warm in my ski wear, the thrill of skiing down mountains with no fear precluded my love for snow and cold weather, as long as it was a short stay, knowing I would soon be returning home to the warmth and sunshine of my home state, Arizona.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
In 2009, our family decided to forgo the purchasing of Christmas gifts and instead, go on a Christmas vacation. My first choice was a Caribbean vacation, at a beautiful beach, because Arizona is ‘beach-less’. My dad, ever the adventurous, preferred a destination where we were continually intellectually and culturally stimulated by all 5 physical senses. Knowing New York City was the cultural capital of the U.S., he, and my mom made the decision to visit Manhattan. I soon began to look forward to seeing all the sites in New York City, and spending New Year’s in Times Square was something I looked forward to bragging to my high school friends about.
Lesson number one a teenage desert dweller learns when stepping off the jet way in New York during winter: ‘Lightweight jackets worn during Arizona winter’s cannot prevent the bone-chilling wind from New York winters from making your muscles and bones completely dysfunctional!!’
After checking into our hotel we immediately doubled up on undergarments and headed to Macy’s Department store to purchase ‘warm’ clothing. Lesson number 2 I learned: DO NOT GO TO MACY’S DEPARTMENT STORE IN MANHATTAN ON CHRISTMAS EVE!! I’d never seen so many people shopping on multiple levels of one department store! That was the most incredulous shopping trips I’d ever encountered!
Lesson number 3 I learned: Expect the unexpected in what you find interesting! I surprisingly found an appreciation and perspective on many new cultural experiences. My fascination of different cultures in Manhattan began as we visited each cultural neighborhood and village in Manhattan. One day, we were in Little Italy. EVERYONE spoke Italian. I’d never experienced nor seen outside food vendors with the most exquisite tasting cultural delicacies. The next day we were in Chinatown, exploring the shops. I couldn’t understand a single word of Chinese shop keepers, only sign language, smiles, and bows of ‘thank you’.
A trip to New York is NOT an adventure until you ride the subways; watch the talented performers in the subway stations performing for dollars. The best subway ride was when a man from Uganda got on our subway train sat next to us with his bongo drums and began subtly pounding out a rhythmic tune, then another passenger, catching onto the rhythm of the beat of the drums, began rapping in unison. It was the most incredible, impromptu musical performance I’d ever experienced and loved it immensely.
The most lasting impressions I will remember from that vacation were meeting people who were in one city from every part of the world, speaking many different languages everywhere we went. So, all the anticipation of what I expected from our winter vacation in Manhattan, turned out to be the most incredible cultural learning adventure I’d ever experience, but am so glad that I didn’t know what to expect; the unexpected was the most enjoyable part of our Manhattan Christmas odyssey.
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