onsdag 26 augusti 2009

NYC and American Dream

11 days ago, I landed at Newark Airport.

I had to wait for my travel companion Maria so we could take the cab together. The waiting hall of Newark Airport was not as spectacular as the rest of the building. From the masses of people wandering about, you can clearly tell that NYC is a city of diversity. A Chinese guy with jeans and white shirt walked around aimlessly, as if looking for a friend. An Indie guy was poking on a machine that sold prepaid telephone cards. The Chinese spoke to the Indie: "Where you want call? Where you want call? You can borrow my cellphone. But not to India." The Indie replied: "I call to India." The Chinese guy returned with a smirk, "too far away." Indie families walked past me. They really looked like Abu's family from Simpsons: ladies wrapped up in sari and had piercings on their face; men talking with that "classic" Indie accent; old father with turban being pulled forth in a wheelchair. Asians were definitely not a minority there, as they are in Scandinavia. Students who came "fresh out of China" blended well in the crowd, just like the ABCs. Later, I saw something even less expected for a person from Sweden: jews. White men dressed up like Amish people and fashions full, untrimmed beard and a curl of hair. With this scenery in front of you eyes, anybody could tell the difference of demography between North America and Europe.

It's been 11 days since I landed. I must recount all the days that dissappeared down the memory lane, all the people I met during this period of time and all the things I experienced. I will skip lots of things here. You will hear their stories later.

Now something about the American Dream.

Some people believe American Dream is about living in prosperity, with your family, condo, cars and puppy. Others see the huge repertoire of opportunities the American society offers to individuals. On the first day we arrived at Cornell, I tasted a bitter but realistic version of American Dream.

In von Cramm Co-op where I live, I share my room with a Danish guy. Once inside the room, I found only one bed. Alex, our house president told me that I had to retrieve another bed frame from the attic, which is something of a burning furnace during daytime. I went up there and couldn't stay for more than 5 seconds. Ithaca is extremely hot and humid during summer. There were neither fans nor air conditioners in the rooms. The house was a total mess. On that very day, me and my fellow Swedes finally realized how indulged we were. Back home, we could live in our own little rooms with bathroom and we still complained.

This reminded me of a Chinese movie by Feng Xiaogang. The protagonist, a Chinese immigrant in US, tried everything to earn his living, even tourism. When confronted by discontent Chinese customers, he waved them off by telling them America is a place of hard labor rather than material luxury. And every newly arrived Chinese who strived to get an employment on the Wall Street ended up washing dishes. I concur to that.

Before going to bed, I muttered to my roommate:

"So this is what the American Dream is about: everybody starts at zero at the time they arrive, and work their way up."

Equal opportunities to everyone, it's a fair system, isn't it?

3 kommentarer:

  1. Hey, a room with a bed is sure better than tents, which a lot of the new students in Lund are living in at the moment ...

  2. This reminds me of an old Chinese serie called "Beijinger in New York" which is about a young Beijing couple and their new lives built from scratch in NYC. America sounds like a harsh and unforgivable place but at the same time I'm sure that the diligent will be justly rewarded. Looking forward to your next blog entry!


  3. Well, I do believe that I'll be "justly rewarded" here. At Cornell you can do things you never thought possible in Sweden. Ppl are quite easy to chat up, among other things. I've been here for two weeks and I can tell you I that I like it here.