The city hums, industrious and traditional, metallic clangs and soft chimes, feels like home with different faces of many hues. The smells that waft from store fronts, street carts, clandestine alleys vary from rich meat broths, offal slices, succulent produce, centuries of rich culinary heritage. Many of them curious about my own. I wonder how many think I darkened myself with years of sun or pounds of dark chocolate. Who knows that my ancestors have worked alongside theirs for many, many generations. How many think I am from some foreign land, closer to that of my mother’s mother’s mother’s. How many think I am rich because I am simply here. Teens, Millennials, thirtysomethings hardly glance. They have seen us before, grown up with us in their social media feeds, have seen us on television or heard our songs on the radio more times than they can count. My presence is accepted, at least in front of me as I am sure my back could tell another tale. Children and middle-aged or old stare me right in the face as we walk side by side on already crowded sidewalks. No one seems to know what to make of me. Dark brown skin that won’t rub off, jet black kinks and coils of dreads beg a touch.
The city, expansive and teeming with possibility. The skyline ever-changing as the years go. Much like home, like Chicago threefold and shaded in different hues, with different languages and landscapes. For us newbies, the limits are within our own minds.
Would I do this all over again? Without a doubt. I have to stop my mind often from getting too far ahead of itself. The habit of pursuing instant gratification is extremely difficult to break considering American culture and tendencies. There is beauty in the details and the process that you can’t see if you make the time and effort to see them. The most important thing here is staying in the moment and only going as far as needed for the time being. There’s no real need to get ahead of oneself. Sitting in the airport, I calmed myself by thinking “What are you so jumpy for? You only have the rest of your life to look forward to!” This experience has started to force change within me, often much-needed changes.
Unlike anywhere I have ever been, this city is filled with learners young and old. Schools of every discipline, after-school and enrichment programs, library centers, conversation clubs. Four-year-old Kindergarteners beginning to learn English. The society learns and grows together.