Traveling has become a big part of my life. It has helped me grow as a photographer and writer, but most importantly, as a person. A few months ago, my husband and I went to California. Again. Last year we went to San Diego, this time we went to San Francisco, and spent a day in Yosemite National Park.
There’s something about California that I love. The weather perhaps. The numerous hiking trails. The greenery. The tranquility. The free spirited people. Coming from New York, it seems like the rest of the world is much more calm. San Francisco, although very city-ish, is still quieter. On a Saturday night, San Francisco’s Union Square didn’t have nearly half the amount of people you see on any street of Manhattan.
I love New York. Sometimes I think I love it too much. I thrive on the loud, the hectic, the variety, the crazy, the sleepless. But I appreciate and need the silence and calmness of the outside world. Whenever I step out of NYC, but stay within the country, I see vast differences, and consider the possibilities of living wherever I am visiting. San Diego is up there on the list. The differences I see between New York City and other states are not so apparent to foreigners. I learned that in a cab ride in San Francisco.
It was 5:45 in the morning when we took an Uber from our hotel to where our bus tour was picking us up for Yosemite. Little did I know, this cab ride would be one of the most memorable moments of our travel. Our cab driver was from Bombay, now living in San Francisco for the past 7 months. He came with his wife, following his son, as he met and married a French girl during his time in college in California. He spoke about Bombay with such love and yearning. It was beautiful to listen to and painful at the same time. We listened and asked him questions. I mostly wanted to know how much he missed Bombay, and if he saw himself returning eventually.
“My son and wife want to stay. So I’m outnumbered. But I do miss it. You can’t cross streets in Bombay. You have to hop in a taxi to cross streets” he laughed “But as crazy as it can be, it’s crazier here”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Here, people are so worried about themselves. Only themselves. Work. Making money. Home. Eating. And the same thing over and over. They don’t think about anything else. They have some fun on weekends, because they think it’s the only time they are allowed to have fun. I think they are only living on weekends. That’s not life.”
“I guess you’re right. I didn’t think it was much like that here though. We’re from New York, and I can definitely see what you’re saying over there.”
“Oh, I haven’t been to New York, but I have heard it’s worse than here.”
After talking some more about the lifestyle he missed, and the one he had now and didn’t yet get accustomed to, we started talking about politics. And this is how he described Americans when it came to politics:
“They’re not very smart. They make decisions thinking about themselves only, and then when things go wrong, they regret having made that choice. But they don’t learn from it. Because they do it again.”
I stood quiet for a few seconds. I was in utter shock listening to how someone with fresh eyes, who barely has 7 months living in this country viewed us Americans. Perhaps I should’ve been offended. But I wasn’t. I knew that so much of what he was saying was true. He wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. We were having a conversation and he was simply voicing his views and opinions, which were very valid if you ask me. He’s not from here. He is now seeing and living life here coming from somewhere else. He can compare.
When we hopped out of the cab, I wished him well. I told him that he ever goes to NYC, to stop by 74th and Roosevelt in Jackson Heights, because he’ll feel more at home with it’s vast south asian shops and eateries. As we closed the cab door, right in front of us I saw a tiny restaurant ‘Little Delhi’, I turned around so I could show it to him as I pointed to it, but he had driven away. I then wondered if he had seen it. If he would go back home that night and tell his wife they had to dine there sometime. And then I supposed he probably hadn’t, because he was working, because he was busy making money, because in America details are so easily missed. Was he becoming Americanized without realizing? I hope not.