The Big Green Lady

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, October 6, 2008

New York is one of those cities that has been so ingrained into the collective conscious that it feels as if I have already been here. Every other American movie is set in New York, and I found out that the New York stereotypes are, in fact, mostly true. Abby's apartment is at the extreme northern end of Manhattan, so we take the subway (don't call it the metro or you'll get mugged) all the way down the 200 streets to the south end. It takes a while.

Being back in my home country after so long, while at the same time being a tourist, is very strange. It does seem weird that people are speaking American English on the street (and with weird accents), so weird in fact that I find myself eavesdropping in fascination. But New York is different than most of the cities we've been in. There are Peruvians in Lima, Indians in Delhi, Chinese in Beijing, Thais in Bangkok, Egyptians in Cairo, and Kenyans in Nairobi. But in New York there isn't that distinction. In fact, our subway trip from the airport was almost like travelling around the world. The train was full of Central and South Americans, Indians, Jews, Chinese, African Americans, and all flavours of Europeans, all speaking in a babble of languages. And they were all American as I was. Something that had been second nature to me before was now brought into focus: how much of a melting pot this country really is.

Abby had reserved us tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty. We got off a few stops before the end to wander through the financial district down towards the water. We came up right next to Ground Zero. A little over seven years after the disaster, what used to be the World Trade Center is still a construction site. A few resting cranes stand as a memorial to a lack of decision-making. Apparently no one can agree on an appropriate way to redevelop the site. We walked to the east side of the island to get a glance at the Brooklyn Bridge, then we walked down Wall Street to the New York Stock Exchange. Apparently there were big protests here last week due to the looming global economic crisis. No one is very happy with Wall Street right now. We had some fun with the bull statue and then went to get our tickets.

Security is understandably tight for this trip, so we had to wait in a very long line. The boat took us around Liberty Island for a very nice view of the NY skyline and the statue herself. We got off and joined a free ranger tour of the island. I found this place surprisingly interesting, and we stayed here for quite a long time. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France to the people of the US (no governments involved). In fact, it would have been something small (perhaps a paper weight), if the brains behind the operation hadn't met a sculptor with a hankering to build a colossus. In fact, he had originally wanted to build his huge statue at the mouth of the Suez Canal, representing Egypt bringing light to Asia. The Egyptians didn't want to pay for it, so he scrapped the head covering and transformed it into Lady Liberty.

The statue is hollow and made with thin sheets of copper, about the width of two pennies. The green color is a protective oxidation that makes the statue pretty self-maintaining. The people of France fundraised the money for the statue, but the people of America were supposed to contribute the pedestal. There was almost no interest in this project. It wasn't until Pulitzer offered to print the name of everyone who donated on the front page of his paper that he raised the necessary funds.

A little known fact about the Statue of Liberty is that there is actually an Eiffel Tower inside of it. Yes, our good friend Eiffel designed the amazing support system with an advanced tower and various supports that conform to the inner shell. It really is a wonder of art and engineering. The exhibit showing the exhaustive techniques by which they cast the copper was also interesting.

You used to be able to climb all the way up to the torch (stopped in 1916), then to the crown, but after 9/11 it was closed. You can still climb up, but security is tight and you can only go as far as the top of the pedestal. It's funny that there is less security to enter 28 countries than there is to get into the Statue of Liberty. But the statue is beautiful and so is the amazing view of the skyline from the island.

When we finally made it over to Ellis Island we didn't have much time left. We made a beeline for the section about arrival procedures at the island. It was interesting to read about the various stations that immigrants were sent through and the tests they had to complete. Of the people that were processed through Ellis Island, less than 2% were rejected. Pretty good odds, as long as you didn't have a contagious disease.

We caught the last ferry back to Manhattan and Erin made Abby some lasagna for dinner. She didn't complain.

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