Fresh from the City of Sin and Laughter (Harrismith, Free State, South Africa – you didn’t know?), where I’d spent my first seventeen years, I arrived in New York with Great Expectations.
I was READY – more than ready! – to see the big wide world. After landing we – the gang of Southern African Rotary Exchange students -were bussed to a hotel in Queens. Someone (a Rotarian, I guess?) checked us in and then left us to go to bed for the night. Early the next morning we’d be boarding different planes to the various states we’d been assigned to.
Go to bed?! Fuhgeddaboudit!
But most did! I was horrified. “Excuse me, no WAY I’m going to bed. I’m in New York, the city that never sleeps!”. Even in Harrismith I would not have wanted to go to bed in case the Holiday Inn was still open! Only one other guy (was he Gary or was he heading to Gary, Indiana? It’s so long ago now) joined me and we went to the night porter. “Right! Where can we go for a night on the town, sir? We want to go for a walk, which way shall we head?”
Oh, I wouldn’t advise you did that, he drawled, I’ll get the hotel bus to take you someplace.
So off we went, noses plastered against the windows, fascinated. Our personal chauffeur dropped us off at a brightly-lit truck stop and asked when we wanted to be fetched. “Three Ay Emm” we said, pushing our luck. Check, he said without blinking. So we sat and watched a New York night go by drinking beer and eating burgers n fries till he fetched us as arranged.
After three hours sleep, we were taken back to JFK where we split up. Some of us boarded a HUGE helicopter for the hop over to La Guardia airport from where I would be going on to Oklahoma – and adventure!
Here’s my truckstop mate striding to the chopper:
In Oklahoma my nearby exchange student colleagues were (memory sketchy here!) Evelyn Woodhouse from Durban was stationed at Fort Cobb, Helen Worswick from (I think) Marondellas in Zimbabwe, Jenny Carter from Bromley in Zimbabwe, Jonathan Kneebone from Australia. And there was Dotty Moffett who been to Cape Town, South Africa the year before. She was from Ardmore in OK.