Mmegi Online :: The New York state of mind
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Thursday 20 September 2018, 12:14 pm.
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The New York state of mind

NEW YORK: This has to be some of the world’s stunning arrivals. A view from the window seat on the grand Airbus A350 airplane making its final approach on to the JFK International Airport, from across the Atlantic Ocean, in the horizon I could see the Manhattan skyscrapers protruding above the clouds. Then the poetry of the huge aircraft touching down on the JFK tarmac, announcing our safe arrival in New York – the city of dreams.
By Thalefang Charles Fri 31 Aug 2018, 12:08 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: The New York state of mind








I wanted to listen to some rap music. Jazy Z and Alicia Keys, New York State of Mind, that is what I wanted to hear, but I decided to hold up the celebration, there was that small matter of Immigration. That ‘Admitted’ stamp is sometimes never easy, especially on this Trump administration times. He could have tweeted something that morning and blocked all Africans from entering his ‘Great America’.

After the long queue with immigration, I got that coveted ‘Admitted NYC’ from Homelands department – it is time to party. At the JFK arrivals we are welcomed by a beautiful bunch of Batswana living in the US. They were carrying their Botswana flags and ululating loudly in the airport. They had volunteered to pick us from the airport incase we did not have a ride to the hotel. So these women travelled over 30km just to make sure that their homies are not stranded at the airport – Batswana are so courteous to their own.

But before we could leave the Arrivals with the Batswana party, we discovered a lone Indian man holding a placard written ‘Charles Thaefang’ from the Dial 7 Select Car & Limousine Service. We did not really need him, but we just had to accept the honours. I told our Botswana-US welcome reception that we should meet up at the The New Yorker Hotel – our home for the few days we would be following the IloveBotswana Ensemble’s Broadway dream.

The New Yorker Hotel is on the corner of 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, downtown Manhattan. When the woman at the reception, identified as Diana, learnt that I am a “photographer from Africa” she offered “the highest room with a good view”. So from my west window, I could see the famous Empire State Building, Madison Square, Pen Plaza and the Rockefeller Tower - just to mention the famous few. And on the other window was the The New York Times building at 620th on Eighth Avenue and the concrete jungle around it – for all the night I was inside that hotel I never closed down the curtains.

My hotel was just a short walk from the B&H Photo Video shop on the corner of 34th Street and 9th Avenue. This is the shop that is every photographer’s paradise. It is the largest non-chain photo and video equipment store in the United States. All the best camera deals are found in there so before I even freshened up from my overnight flight, I was already getting gear from B&H.

From B&H I took a walk with the IloveBotswana

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Ensemble cast members on their way to the group’s first rehearsals at the PlayStation Theatre on Broadway. These were a bunch of Batswana traditional dancers, literally walking through Eighth Avenue to their dream performance on Broadway. On those mean New York streets, with lots of fast paced, fast talking people; some homeless begging for a change, others trying to sell you ‘stuff’ together with dozens of Yellow Cabs, unique yellow poles of traffic lights at intersections and black and white signs of ‘one way’ - there is that suction feeling, that pull into the whirlpool when you are around all that.

It is not simple for a Motswana, fresh from the plane to walk well through the crowds of people in the heart of New York’s Times Square. Not that we are rural but because Americans drive on the right so the pedestrians tend to keep their right when walking unlike in Botswana where we naturally keep our left because we drive on the left. So we kept awkwardly bumping onto New Yorkers and some getting irritated while others just thought we were some mean homies from Harlem.

After the rehearsal, those home-girls who gave us a Botswana welcome at the airport brought another surprise when they treated the whole group of Batswana with home cooked Setswana traditional food. The ladies, we learnt later, went out and cooked pap with mangwinya, chicken and some special beef for Batswana. Although I was looking forward to indulging into all the bad fatty and sugary foods of the US since I was travelling, I found it such a humbling gesture to be treated to our home-meal far across the Atlantic in the Big Apple.

Everyone could tell that Batswana living in the US are really homesick – well at least the ones we met. One of the ladies even got possessed by sedimo at the end of the last performance by the IloveBotswana Ensemble (See Arts & Culture section).

But at the end of the last show we asked our homesick hosts, “please it is enough with these pap meals, may we please get some of that New York indulgence”. We wanted to get into the New York State of mind. And that is when we bar hopped around Manhattan until four in the morning. At some point, I think, we got into a gentlemen’s bar and somehow it had some naked women dancing on poles. But I have a vague recollection of this – it could have been just a dream because I was in the New York state of mind.

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