TRAVELING THE WORLD

Well, today I am off to Jackson Heights in Queens.  It is only a 20-minute subway ride from the confines of the Upper Eastside yet it is a world away.  At the moment my wife and I are living in a 500 square foot studio in NYC.  Upscale – typical NYC residential.  Big adjustment from 4,000 square foot home on an acre of property in Purchase NY.  One of the most expensive zip codes in the US.  Home to captains of industry and investment bankers.  Making a million a year in Purchase, you were poor.  Everyone was driving a sports car and the SUV of the moment.   We are surviving in the studio as yours truly is reinventing himself and climbing back notary closing by notary closing along with my other activities

Let’s get to Jackson Heights!  This is the most ethnically diverse area in the world. It is documented that there are 167 languages spoken in the confines of the 300 acres with a population of over 117,000. I have been in single homes with over 300 acres of property.  One end of the world to another; all in the travels of a trekking notary.    Getting off the E train at Roosevelt Ave. in Jackson Heights is like a time and travel warp at light speed.  The sounds of different languages and the colors of 100’s styles of dress of native garb paint the streets and the sky in vibrant ways.

The streets are filled with vendors hawking food, jewelry, and trinkets.  The smells and fragrances of open-pit barbecue, hanging dried fruits and meats dance in the air.  This trekking notary had walked into an open-air flea market and bazaar; a subway ride away yet you feel you are a world away from NYC for sure.  Many Middle Eastern men are walking, talking, and smoking hookah’s, traditional pipes. The aromas of Arabic and Turkish coffee enveloped the streets.  I also saw young teens in ripped jeans hanging out and smoking American cigarettes. The intermixing of men and women dressed in traditional garments and young girls in tight tops and shorts was striking as the old-world clashes with the new- world.  I had walked into the third world, 20 minutes from the million-dollar apartments of NYC.

I walked into the bank and met a middle-aged Afghan man; whose name was Rashaan Neasham.  His wife sat meekly at his side dressed in typical Muslim garb; covering her from head to toe.  The husband was wearing a turban with a western suit and tie.  Rashaan was bridging the world he left and the world he was now part of.  I felt like I was watching a movie before my eyes yet I was part of the actual scene.  Of course, Rashaan had a long unkempt beard that flowed onto his bright blue tie. The wife spoke no English and the husband took the lead in haunting broken English.  We engaged in small talk as I tried to get all to relax.  They looked to me as if I was someone important.  In the proudest manner and posture, they told me they had three American children.  Two were at Stuyvesant HS and wanted to be Engineers.  The third son was already at Columbia in pre-med.  I listened intently as the American dream was unfolding before my eyes. This was a common story that I encountered over and over again with new immigrants.

Rashaan continued with their journey and life story.  I was told they came to the US 20 years ago penniless.  They lived in a village in the mountains with their extended family.  They were farmers and eked out a living as their parents and grandparents had done before them.   Their village in Afghanistan was overrun and terrorized by the Taliban.  Rashaan made a decision with his new wife to come to America for a safe and new life. They told me how they trekked over the mountains and paid off smugglers to flee first to Europe than to the US.   I felt like I was reading a novel and how we both used the verb “trekking” in our personal journeys.  Well, today this immigrant family was living the American dream. The closing went smoothly and as we talked about America and our families.  When we finished, they insisted on taking me to an old-world Afghan coffee house around the corner. I was traveling the world on a notary’s pay.  Once inside they bought me a very strong coffee that was like rocket fuel and delicious pastries filled with dried fruits and nuts.  We sat for 20 minutes and they kept blessing America and me for being so kind.  They were living the American dream.  They insisted on tipping me $50.  I refused many times.  They told me I would be showing disrespect if I did not accept the money.  I relented finally as I thanked them.  They thanked me 1,000 times and told me Allah would look after me.  Now I have been blessed and covered by the Pope, Allah, and Jesus.  All the same all good.   For a fee of a notary closing, I travel the world again and again and connect with real people and real stuff. We all come full circle as I am paid 1,000 times over in my understanding of my humanity and the respect and value of life.