Dodging loads of tourists at huge train stations has been something of a norm for me my entire life. However, movement, the pulse of a city, is something I find incredibly exciting. And London is a city that moves and moves fast, by rail, by tube, by cycles, or by foot.
London's St. Pancras and Kings cross stations are beautiful structures and thousands of people with many different languages navigate their way with numerous pieces of luggage on a regular basis. The movement does not stop.
Similarly, Trafalgar Square (more a circle actually) is in constant motion. I stood at the top of the national gallery and shot this video below with my iPhone 6.
Check out the video on my Twitter page;
I traveled to Peru with some friends three years ago; It was my first venture into South America and I did not know what to expect. I knew of the Incas from school and the amazing feats of construction and engineering that they were known for but generally, the trip was to be completely and utterly new.
We traveled to Lima, Cusco, and Puno. Upon arriving in Lima and during our taxi ride to the hostel, we passed by several malls, highways, McDonald's and other fast food places. For a minute it seemed as though I had not left New York. Nevertheless we ventured out to eat at a sushi place and explored the city as best we could in the one day that we were there.
The next day, we departed for Cusco and when we landed in that airport, in that rugged valley between mountains, I felt as though I had escaped any reality I had ever known and entered a new dominion. As we roamed through the city streets, I was reminded of Che Guevera's quote from his infamous motorcycle diaries. He wrote about the city of Cusco, "The word that most perfectly describes the city of Cuzco is evocative. Intangible dust of another era settles on its streets, rising like the disturbed sediment of a muddy lake when you touch its bottom."
In Cusco we adjusted to the altitude by drinking plenty of mate de coca, a special tea, and exploring the neighborhood. The city center was populous and geared towards tourists- however we had the pleasure to go up horseback riding in the mountains and to visit some ancient sites away from the touristy places. History in Cusco was everywhere, in the buildings, in gravesites, and even in the people; I watched as a Quechua woman bound her baby in her garments and fastened it to her back with ease, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The children were exceptionally beautiful. I would be transfixed in watching them with their parents and friends. Family was important to them.
Our journey to Macchu Picchu took roughly 6 hours from Cusco. A train ride through a mesmerizing landscape took us into the village of Aguas Calientes (hot water). The mountains and trees around this place were green and flourishing, completely in contrast with the brown dirt in Cusco. Aguas Calientes probably started off as a small village but soon expanded after Macchu Picchu was discovered. One has to journey there and stay the night (the village is filled with many hotels), with buses leaving in the morning for Macchu Picchu. The bus ride up was scary, it took us to such heights that looking out the window frightened me. Nevertheless, the excitement I felt upon seeing those mountains, upon those clouds that we were going up into, that excitement was boundless. By the time we reached Macchu Picchu I thought nothing could make me happier. And was I wrong.
After roughly a 20 minute hike up some steep stairs, one gets the glimpse of the entire city. It was unbelievable, for lack of a better word. So many questions were going through my mind about this place, it's purpose, it's inhabitants, how it was so precisely created and engineered, that I barely listened to the guide who took us through the city. We sat for a while, surrounded by its stone walls, and I tried to understand the place. I could not and I had to leave it at that. It was beautiful, it had a quiet strength and dignity, and though the questions in my mind remained unanswered, they were pushed back. I let myself sit and enjoy the solitude and peace this city in the mountains brought to my heart and thanked the Lord Almighty that I had been privileged enough to visit this place.
My only hope is that I one day get to see it again. Che Guevera said it best, "How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?"
How often does one act without thinking, his feet moving forward, trained, and his mind one step behind or entirely closed off? Routine- it's almost like sleepwalking- every day is the same as the day before as one becomes programmed to move in a certain way.
During my morning and evening routines I am able to close off the world entirely. I can walk, get on the subway, get to work, sometimes without a serious thought crossing my mind. The conscious world becomes unconscious as I choose to believe it is not there. Humans are treated as objects, or obstructions in my path during the routine. This is where the part of a routine becomes scary- where it takes away my compassion and awareness of the feelings of others. I become rude, irritated, and even hostile when people are in my way, changing my routine.
And this is where I'd like to tell you that my heart steps in each day and reminds me that every person is important, that each of their stories are important. But I'd be lying.
It takes a real, conscious effort to recognize this, to build and rebuild this compassion day after day. It truly is a struggle to really care. We are not machines, we are not programmed. Just as we feed our bodies with food, we must feed our souls with compassion and awareness of the creatures and the planet around us. How do I do this? Through memory and really thinking about life in another persons shoes.
Though feeling compassion is only the first step. Actions are the next.
I hate crowds. It is why I avoid taking the R train from 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM in the morning and 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM in the evening. The trains are overcrowded, especially in the winter with people and their enormous coats and bags. However that is the usual grind and I've timed myself out of it.
I wouldn't be me if I didn't find something to complain about. I've been meaning to call the MTA about this for a while but I never seem to remember to do it. At Prospect Avenue, going towards Bay Ridge, there is only one exit. It is so annoying that most people who get off at this spot (myself included) have to strategically place themselves between the 3rd or 4th subway car to get out right in front of turnstile. Otherwise, one can imagine waiting and moving slowly in line for 3-4 minutes. It seems like a silly thing to gripe about however isn't it against some law (or a fire hazard) to only have one exit in a heavily populated neighborhood where majority of the people ride the subway? The other side of the station has 2 exits. So MTA, BUILD A NEW EXIT AT PROSPECT AVENUE PLEASE!
Grand Central station recently celebrated its centennial. With the new LIRR expansion, it will be one of the largest transit hubs in the world. The beauty of it remains unchanged however, the high ceilings which remind one of a church, the windows that let in an extraordinary amount of light even on the dullest and greyest of days and the constant stream of motion on the ground, these facets will always remain.
I've lived in New York City for most of my life. Nevertheless, I'm not ashamed to admit that this train station is a source of inspiration for design and for happiness on a dreary day.
I'll be adding pictures and commentary of the things I love. I am an ordinary person in an extraordinary place. There is no special purpose to this blog other than to project what I am thinking of at any given moment.
All the photos are mine (unless stated otherwise). Please do not use without permission. To learn more about me, check out my linked in profile below.