12 April 2012

A Whole New World

The United States of America holds expectations for many people, not to mention the thousands of people that risked life and limb to live in a country that's supposedly full of opportunity and prosperity. My travels took me to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, which gave me an incite to the arrival of America's mass immigration site. 

This escapade showed me a slice of what the asylum seekers of yesteryear went through. The United States, well New York welcomed a large proportion of newcomers through the Ellis Island Immigration Centre. Along with Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty welcomes people to New York to this very day. Two monuments that are still standing proud making history and holding stories of people who mad their journey to seek 'A Whole New World.'As I took my Statue Cruises ferry journey over the Hudson River, a feeling of curiosity passed through my mind. Seriously, how many people had made the journey to Ellis Island with a dream of a new life in the promised land? The weather couldn't have been any better, with the sun shining over the Hudson Bay my discovery would be perfect. So my vessel called 'Miss New Jersey' sailed forward to the famous Ellis Island Immigration Centre and then onwards to the formidable Statue of Liberty. Now, let's see what trial and tribulations these immigrants went through. 

History can be a very interesting thing, I must admit that what I learnt from seeing these two landmarks proved to be a thought-provoking experience. I was so ready to be at one with one of New York City's most famous attractions. Who knows if I would find a long lost relative in the passenger lists of yesterday at Ellis Island's Immigration Centre? Unfortunately, I sadly failed! But even though my efforts didn't contribute finding a link I still know that a distant relative made her way across the Atlantic Ocean from a places like Poland to escape from the Nazi anti-semantic wave across Europe. It no secret that the United States of America has the title as 'the land of the free' but what seemed so alluring to the thousands of asylum seekers who wanted to remain in America? I'm living in America to work at Newark Liberty International Airport for one year on a visa that allows me to be here for that time only, I don't want to be an American citizen but I'm aware of the struggle that people still go through to seek the 'American Dream'. 

Ready for my new discoveries I explored the Ellis Island Museum to see what the arrivals experienced in their first moments of being the United States of America. It's an astonishing feeling to stand in the arrivals hall where hundreds of thousands of people were detained for screening the moment they would have viewed as a foreign and unknown setting. A sterile and still feeling passed through the air throughout the exhibits of the museum. Audio accounts of people who had made their way through Ellis Island spoke of their first memories of a life with a chance to start over again. These people chose to leave their homelands because of famine, war and hope for a new beginning. I learnt that families made the perilous journey from places in Eastern Europe like Poland and Lithuania, but obviously people came from more places across the European continent. Who knows if it wasn't for Ellis Island would the East Coast of America boast such a rich tapestry of cultures, nations and people? 

Looking towards the here and now I live in Newark's Ironbound District, a neighbourhood that boasts a large South American and Portuguese community that makes living there so exciting. The Portuguese and Brazilian settlers bring a wide range of delicious restaurants that serve amazing food and strong drinks. Away from the Ironbound I encounter a myriad of cultures and languages as I explore another new part of NYC each time I visit I have the opportunity to eat Vietnamese food in the Canal Street area of the city or have some Dominican food in the Bronx. I don't want to spiral into a deep trial of thought but all these people made a journey to reach the United States of America. Ireland had their depression with the potato famine so that brought unprecedented numbers of people from the emerald isle to Ellis Island to be processed into their new life. I wonder what it would of felt like to be in an alien setting waiting to be given a path to a better life? Migration into NYC hasn't stopped yet, but I have a feeling it will just continue! 

Not forgetting another meaningful sight on this discovery, a very special lady awaited me on Liberty Island. Standing tall with her bible and torch the Statue of Liberty stood tall before my eyes, a sight that stopped me in my tracks for a good few seconds. If I had to give her a second title to sum her personality up she would be the 'Glamazon of New York City.' Our Lady of Liberty stands tall protecting the harbours of New York and New Jersey poised with her torch to guide the lost ships that sail in the night through the nearby waters. Looking past the current building works that were going on it didn't take away the prowess that the Statue of Liberty possesses. I had to pinch myself! Referring back to the masses that made their way to Ellis Island, the many liners that passed the statue must have made people stop, look and then gasp?! Bow down to the Statue of Liberty!

Personally, this adventure of mine left me thinking how inspiring it would been to arrive here in America, looking for a whole new world! So, saying that I want to search for 'a whole new world' too because I want to travel as much as I can throughout America and Canada this coming year! I just can't begin to imagine how these new immigrants felt as they entered the procedures of the Ellis Island Immigration Centre and as they captured their first moments and memories of the 'Lady of Liberty?!' I would just love to know if I had relatives that made their over the Atlantic Ocean or if they were planning to cross the pond but decided to settle in Liverpool, England. I don't think I'll ever forget my random day to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, it was an experience I shall look back on and cherish for a long while yet!  

Lady of Liberty! You Better Work! 

Joseph Harrison 

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