Day 4: Ellis Island, MoMA, Top of the Rock

Only blue or black days,
Electing strange perfections in any stranger I choose

Someone New - Hozier

Day 4 was quite a full day now that I have to write about it. The morning was spent seeing the Statue of Liberty and going to Ellis island. Well, when you're in America, I think the question people would likely to ask is, did you see the Statue of Liberty? So it's like a must do. There are many ways to see it. From la Gioia, I found out she and her friends just took the free Staten island ferry. For me, I kinda wanted something more from the visit other than just taking a picture of it as proof that yes you've been there. So on googling, I found out about the hard hat tour in Ellis island. It seemed very interesting what with the installation art by the french artist JR. So that was the plan, I booked it through the statue cruises website. This is basically a ferry service which allows you to stop at Liberty island and Ellis island. They have different packages. There's a package which allows you to get up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty but this one is like booked months in advanced. The last time I checked, it was like fully booked for the next 3 months. So if you're interested in climbing some stairs, do plan way ahead. I have no interest in this. Then there's a package which will gain you entry into the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. There's a museum there I think. I chose the package for the hard hat tour. All the packages allow you to stop both at Liberty and Ellis island. With my package, I could walk the ground to get a nearer look of the Statue of Liberty. If you want to get into the pedestal or the crown as well as doing the hard hat tour, I think right now you have to double book. They are pretty weird for not combining the different packages or letting people choose what they want.

Anyway, I booked the 10:30 slot for the hard hat tour. As mentioned in the previous post, that morning on the way to the subway, I stopped to take a picture of the Banksy graffiti which I found the night before, picture of which you can see in my twitter feed or later when I've uploaded it in flickr. I think the subway ride was okay, didn't recall any difficulty, except when we're approaching the South Ferry station. As I was sitting there, I did see a notice that for the stop in South Ferry station, the door will only open for car 1 to 5. The problem is I don't know which car I was in, I looked for signs but couldn't find any. The conductor was giving that same announcement again on the stop before South Ferry, so since I didn't know where I was, to be safe I just got out and moved to the front. This was also triggered by some people who I saw was doing the same thing. Arriving in South Ferry, I wasn't sure which way to go, luckily I wasn't the only tourists and there were some staff outside the station who perhaps could see our combined confused look and they told us the direction to the ferry dock. It was a gray morning with a drizzle, slightly cold, and I was thinking on the day where I dressed light and no hoodie, of course the weather had to be crummy.

When I arrived, the ferry that would give me more time just departed it seemed. I was rather slow that morning. You had to go through airport style security check before getting on the ferry. I had read a lot about how the queue would be very long and so on. It wasn't so when I was there, I guess it's depending on the period. I'm not sure about the ticketing though, there didn't seem to be a queue when I was there, but it could still mean that the tickets were sold out. Anyway, in the ferry, I decided to just stand on the second level since I thought with my light clothing I would get too cold on the open top upper deck. Since I missed the earlier ferry, I didn't have time to stop at Liberty island. So I didn't get off the boat. Did I feel I miss it? A little bit. A thought did come to my head that if I really wanted to, I could get on the Jersey direction ferry later on after I finish at Ellis island to stop at Liberty island. I didn't though because I was pressed for time. So anyway, yeah I just took pictures of the Statue of Liberty from the ferry, didn't get off, and went straight to Ellis island.

I arrived just in time Ellis island for the hard hat tour. Just in case you're too lazy to click that link, Ellis island was an island used to process immigrants coming by ships from Europe long long time ago. The rich people got their medical check and were processed on the ships and then they're off on their way in New York. The common / poor people had to disembark in Ellis island where they went through medical check and then processed as immigrants. If they're successful, they could then go off on their way. If no, it's back to the ships to take them back to where they came from. Now imagine, I took like 20-hour flight to get from Singapore to New York and if I were to be turned back in immigration, that would suck so bad. Imagine these people who may have taken days on their journey, taking everything that they had from their old homes for the hope to be settled in America, imagine how heartbreaking it is to be turned back after such a long journey. I guess there are many people experiencing that same story these days, there are so many stories about migrants on boats. Anyway, Ellis island was pretty organized that many American could trace their parents or grandparents arriving here. The hard hat tour that I chose is a tour that explores the hospital complex. This is an old building and is not open for the public, so the only way you can access it is by taking the tour provided by the park ranger. It's seriously old with crumbling things after so many years and also disaster like hurricane Sandy, hence why we're all required to wear the hard hat and closed shoes. We looked more like some people inspecting a construction site :)

Our guide was Andrew whose dad hailed from Italy and was processed there. He said his dad took 6 hours to clear the process. He already had a job waiting for him, so that was a straightforward process. If you looked sick or if you didn't have a job or a sponsor, things could get very complicated. The ticket that the people bought from Europe to go to America include a free ticket back if they were denied entry and there were cases like this. There was an appeal process and since these people came from different parts of Europe, there were many translators to help them plead their case. So we toured the hospital complex and it was very interesting. There were also many volunteers here at that time to help with the language issue. Some things were still there like the machine they used to wash clothes and sinks and tubs in some of the rooms. I saw the morgue which has these steps for medical students to sit. This is because the immigrants may come with diseases unknown in America at that time, so the bodies were used to teach students. Then there were rooms used to hold people with tuberculosis. I remember there were 2 sinks there designed in a way so that the disease could not be transmitted to outsiders. Andrew talked about some of the diseases these people had, the treatment for many of them was horrifying. We ended at the compound used to house the doctor's family. It was seriously very interesting and the building design itself was pretty nice, I particularly like the corridor with view of the garden. The JR's installation art are these photos from the days Ellis island was used to process immigrants being blown up and pasted on the walls and they helped you imagine what it was like back then. Really really clever.

After that guided tour, I was hungry. Ate a cake, then I explored the Ellis Island museum. There's a free audio guide, but I didn't take it. Being in Ellis island with the history of so many people arriving there recorded for their generations to come made me think how sad it is that there's no such thing in Indonesia. For example, I would like to know how my grandparents ended up in Indonesia or in Bangka for that matter. Anyway then I realized it's already getting quite late and since I had many things planned, I decided to just go back without stopping at Liberty island again. On the ferry back was the first and only time I heard Indonesian spoken during my trip. It was faint and I wasn't quite sure, but it was indeed Indonesian spoken by these 2 young adults who didn't look like tourists, well at least the guy didn't seem like a tourist. I didn't say hi and I wonder on seeing me if they thought I'm Indonesian. I've been thought as a Singaporean during the Philadelphia trip (whaaat?!?!), then in Brooklyn Botanical Garden a Chinese dad asked me to take a photo of him and his son (I think) in Chinese. I replied with the chinese word, keyi. So weird, when you get out of Asia, people just think you are Chinese even though here I am often thought to be not Chinese. Anyway, pictures from the Ellis island trip can be found here.

Arriving back in Battery park, I successfully followed my map to first find the charging bull. There were many tourists taking picture with it. It was very hard to get a picture of the bull without anyone. Then I went to the 9/11 memorial. There were signs that say something like it's not a tourist attraction and visitors should be respectful and such, but just like the Sistine Chapel, people were just happily taking pictures without much reflection going on. I felt pretty sad there seeing all the names, especially when it's a name of a woman and the line with her unborn child added after it. I glanced through the names trying to see if I can find an Indonesian name, but because I didn't read one by one, I couldn't find any. There were some flowers left on some of the names. I imagine it must be still very painful for the family and friends of the victims. It must hurt so much.

After that seeing that it's already quite late, I decided to get going. On the train, I think it happened that day though it perhaps could be another day. I think it happened that day and on that particular ride that I took to go uptown. There was suddenly this noise and it turned out it was this young guy preaching about Jesus. I have to embarrasingly admit that I kinda smirked hearing this. It was this young black guy who's quite handsome actually, like a young Will Smith perhaps? I got to sit down and I wondered why a young guy like him would be doing this, something that would get people, people like me to roll our eyes. I think someone asked him how Jesus changed his life. Then he talked about how before he was a drug dealer and he's in a so much better place now because of Jesus. I think seeing the 2 older black ladies sitting in front of me nodding and saying words of encouragement like amen kinda changed my mind a bit. Then his friend, a black girl, also talked about how Jesus changed her life, before her life and self worth revolved around having boys, but now she looked like a really nice young lady. Then they asked all who knew the song to sing Amazing Grace in which I ended up kinda mouthing along. Then when they prayed, I actually said amen at the end. Then suddenly the girl came to me, to all of us actually, but when she came to me it was just so sudden, she asked if I wanted a prayer. I said no. She told me her name is Julie by the way. To be honest, a prayer would be great, but at that time I think any prayer for me would end up with me crying, so I said no. Then Julie asked other people. A white mother said yes, a prayer for her young son. The son looked uncomfortable throughout. I wondered what he thought, maybe he thought it's so weird or if people think he's such a naughty boy that her mom asked for a prayer from strangers in the subway. Anyways, the group exited the train not long after. In that short ride, I changed my mind from smirking to thinking that yes it's perhaps weird for them to do so, but I think they are doing a good thing. Someone could be so depressed in that train, in need of a hug or prayer, on a verge of doing something really bad like taking drugs again or committing suicide, but when they meet these people, maybe that one encounter could change their lives. So yes, there could be people like me whose first impression is perhaps to roll our eyes, but maybe like me whose opinion was changed in that short train ride, there are others who would come to appreciate the good works that they're trying to do, to let people know that there's hope. If someone needs God or just someone to have faith on their behalf that everything will be alright, these people would be there to help give those. Bottomline, as strange as it may sound coming from me, I'm supportive of these people preaching on the train. They're very brave to do so when there are so many cynical people like me. The odds of them reading this is like zero, but just in case this happens to reach them, I guess I just want to say God bless and it may feel like it doesn't make a difference a lot of times, but there could be people who feel so thankful that you guys were in the train on their worst day :)

So anyway had lunch in Times Square area but didn't explore it because I wanted to go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and it was getting really late. I think I arrived there after 02:30 pm and the museum closes at 05:30 pm, so I really didn't have much time. There wasn't really a queue when I was there and luckily MoMA isn't so big and I think I explored all the rooms. Didn't manage to go to the Björk exhibition because it's full and it's not accepting any more people. It's alright since I'm not a fan. MoMA has its installation arts thing which is always very hard for me to fathom, but it also has nice paintings.

One for the first room I entered was this room filled with Jacob Lawrence's works. It was really really cool and I'm glad I got to know him. The paintings were not very big, but they told a story and below each of the painting there's some text. If they are compiled, they can form a book which I think kids and adults alike would enjoy. Since I didn't have much time, I didn't read all the texts, but I really really like his works. Then I saw a lot of Picasso. In this trip I seriously saw a lot of Picasso's than all of my previous trips combined. He's a really really talented person, his paintings are so wide ranging in style and he did sculpture too. This is his painting called The Kitchen.

Other works I saw, saw 2 Salvador Dalí's paintings which turned out to not be very big. I'm not a fan of his weird paintings. Saw a painting by Frida Kahlo because her painting is so identifiable. Interestingly there's a mirror next to the painting. I think she made the frame. I also saw some Gustav Klimt's, Gauguin's, and Van Gogh's works. Some of these works are so distinct in their styles that I could identify them without looking at the card. That made me feel good about myself, but then with the so many other artists that I don't know I feel that I have soooooo much more to learn. It feels like a blessing to be able to see the famous splatter of Jackson Pollock or to see a Takashi Murakami's work or to see this Claude Monet's triptych of the water lilies pond which is so big. Looking at this, you have to wonder how he was able to envision it and paint it.

Before I left, I went to the garden section. It's not very big, but it has pretty nice sculptures. Overall, it's a very interesting experience in MoMA and since it's not humongous, it made for a nice visit. Too bad I didn't have a lot of time, so I was pretty much rushing through it. For pictures, you can go here. One more thing, museums in America sometimes have this weird rule in which you cannot bring a backpack, like the case here in MoMA and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. That's quite an inconvenience, so just remember to bring a non backpack bag as I did when I went to these 2 museums. Alright to be fair, I believe this is the same rule in Uffizi in Florence and Basilica di San Marco in Venice, but both places don't allow photography either so I was quite okay with it. I did remember it made for a surprisingly nice visit for me because I felt light without anything to carry. It's just when photography is allowed and when our camera is rather big, we just need a bigger bag and a backpack is very convenient and when you already have guards checking the bags and in the rooms to make sure we don't get too close to an object or touch them or knock them over, I'm not sure why the need for such restriction. I can understand if it's for really big bags, but I thought a normal backpack should be acceptable. Okay enough complaining.

Next, I had a booking for Top of the Rock which is the observation floor at Rockefeller building. The New York thing to do is of course getting up to the Empire State Building, but I read the queue is always long and since this one could be booked in advanced online, I chose Rockefeller building instead. Managed to find it without much difficulty. The thing is when I booked it I didn't remember that Survivor was shown on Wednesday and I wanted to watch it so that meant I kinda had to rush this visit so that I could get back in time. I was wondering if I could enter earlier than my time slot, but after exploring the nearby area, in the end I entered roughly at my time slot. There's a few different levels to see the views and I like the most upper one. It's outdoor and we had a blue sky that afternoon and I was thinking how beautiful that day was, especially considering the gray drizzly morning. On the north, north east side you could see the expanse of Central Park. With the blue sky it was so beautiful.

The sun was making the Hudson river kinda glittered and it was really nice. On the other side, you see Midtown Manhattan. I think the Chrysler building is actually much nicer than the Empire State building, however from Top of the Rock the Chrysler building is blocked by another building, so you couldn't get a full view. There is this unobstructed view of the Empire State buildings though and it was nice.

Another notable thing I saw was actually not the view, there's this group of family who huddled up together and just hugged, I think they lost a family member and perhaps the person wanted to be there or something like that so they were there to remember that person. It was quite moving. I saw some of them crying, but since it was obviously very personal for them, I didn't try to eavesdrop. So anyway, I think I only spent like half an hour or so and then I decided to go back. By the way, the lift to take you up and down has this short light and sound presentation thing on the ceiling, it's short because the lift is very fast.

On getting back, God darn it, I made the mistake of taking the express train, again! Just when I thought I got all this subway thing figured out, I still managed to make a mistake :( Luckily I arrived just in time for Survivor. Still I wasn't that focused in watching because I was watching it while doing other things. Kinda funny when I think about how last year in the New Zealand trip, I was happy to be able to get to my room in time to watch the latest episode of Survivor and this year it's the same thing too. It never changes, since I was little I am obsessed with TV. Yes, I am that insane. Okay, that's about it peeps, day 4.

:) eKa @ 10:47:00 PM •


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