“…Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” – lines from the sonnet ‘The New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus – engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the Statue of Liberty.
Having been in 15 hours flight coming to this continent somehow the 5 hours flight from LAX to JFK in the morning of Nov 8, 2010 was a breeze. The airline process was a mess but one thing funny though when the flight steward made the initial announcement regarding the plane’s individual monitor he goes…. “Please be reminded that what you have in front of you is a ‘touch’ screen not a ‘punch ‘screen…” and prior to this announcement I happened to hear his colleague asked him if he was ready then throws imaginary ‘fairy dust’ all over his body… fairy dust! fairy dust! her motioning like the blue fairy, and him turning around accepting the dust… hmmmmm…life is such…
The freezing cold greeted us on the way out of the airport, to add more inconvenience to our end the weather was gloomy with occasional rain showers and one of our travel companions was sick. Well, all of us want to slip into a comma with this kind of unforeseen temperature. My kiwi friend from Christchurch who came for a visit already mentioned to me that it was cold…. so note to self: if a non Asian friend told you it was cold in a country you are vacationing…he is not f*cking kidding! Bring more protection than a leather jacket, idiot!
We managed to book an airport service to bring us to my friend’s place. We passed by New York going to Jersey City where we are going to park for 4 days. I had a glimpsed of the Brooklyn Bridge and passed thru tunnel connecting NY and NJ and the sight was wicked because it was just like in the movies.
My friend Tesa was kind enough to accommodate us and show us around. Her friend Sonia lends us her apartment for the rest of our stay. It was as overwhelming as we never really knew her except for our common friend. Nevertheless, we are very grateful for this hospitable act, nobody does this every day right? Handing their keys to complete strangers? I need to mention that her place was so cool it was so ‘American’, the same apartment you’ll see in TV series and the newly renovated kitchen was just perfect!
I met Tesa (or Aset, Mam Tesa in the earlier days) back in May of 1997; she was my boss, ‘the boss’ and project manager of my first job. She was the head of the TODASIN and when she speaks everybody listened (TDAS is the project we are working on for a client and so we called our group TODASIN in honor of the 70’s gag TV show TODAS). Sometimes I wonder… if I haven’t landed this job and not being in this group I wouldn’t probably survived the workforce. All I can remember was being in this team always made me want to come to the office even on a Mondays. Although I can’t remember the details and some of the stuff we’ve been thru was blur now. all I know that it was all fun, the out of towns, the gimmicks and the bonding. Long after the project was over, long after the team got scattered and some ran and worked in the US, we all became such good friends and hang once in a while.
As there are occasional showers and the day was glum we decided to stay and rest to keep ourselves warm. So our first day in New Jersey was spend at Sonia’s Kitchen reminiscing and catching up stupid things we’ve done in the past and still doing, people we once knew and gossip about. And to top it all , while we are all having the best conversations of our lives we are eating Chinese takeout and now I know why the gang of big bang theory loved Chinese takeout so much. The food was tasty!
The next day, we went on a ferry trip to Ellis Island, a small island in New York Harbor located in the upper bay just off the New Jersey coast. On our way to Ellis Island we passed by Miss Liberty. We positioned ourselves in the top deck of the ferry to prepare ourselves for this awesome sight and I was star struck and gawking at this famous landmark. Though I asked why in most disaster movies the destruction of this statue symbolizes the end of mankind and why she or NY City is the first to hit by the meteors, the tsunamis, Godzilla or the UFO making the viewers more convinced that when the world ends, this place is going get it! Big time! Well at least, I have seen it while it’s still standing, in all its glory and let me tell you this, no matter how many movies and photos you have seen of this lady … up close she continues to be an amazing site.
Samuel Ellis purchased the island in 1770 and from 1892 to 1954; over twelve million immigrants entered the United States through the portal of Ellis Island, within the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Despite the island’s reputation as an “Island of Tears”, the vast majorities of immigrants was treated courteously and respectfully, and were free to begin their new lives in America after only a few short hours on Ellis Island. Only two percent of the arriving immigrants were excluded from entry. The two main reasons why an immigrant would be excluded were if a doctor diagnosed that the immigrant had a contagious disease that would endanger the public health or if a legal inspector thought the immigrant was likely to become a public charge or an illegal contract laborer.
Today, Ellis Island is a museum. The once was gateway to America made its walls rich with stories. The voices and faces and the promise of freedom for thousands of real immigrants can still be heard and seen in this land mass.
Inside, I was struck by one quote from an Italian immigrant who said: “They told us America was paved with roads of gold. When I came to America, I found out 3 things: there was no gold, it was not paved, and we were expected to build the roads.”
After a couple of hours in Ellis Island we took the same ferry to Liberty Island. To get a closer view of a statue of an upright woman dressed in a flowing robe, wearing a 7-point spiked crown said to represent the seven continents or the seven seas. My friend try to book tickets to get inside and top of it but the tickets was fully booked until January.
Lady Liberty holds a torch high over her head in the right hand, and holds a tablet close to her body in the left hand. The tablet contains the text “July IV MDCCLXXVI” meaning July 4, 1776, commemorating the independence day of The United States of America. In the movies she seems very big but standing in the island she was not that big at all. Lady Liberty’s color is now green because of a chemical reaction process called oxidation that happened between the metal’s reactions to the seawater that surrounds it.
The statue was a gift to the United States from the people of France, a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law). The statue was built from copper sheets mounted onto a steel framework. The massive steel structure that holds the ‘Statue of Liberty’ together was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Gustave Eiffel is the same person who designed the world famous ‘La Tour Eiffel’ (Eiffel Tower) of Paris. The Statue of Liberty’s face is said to be modeled after the sculptor’s mother. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has become an iconic symbol of freedom and of the United States.
The statue rapidly became a landmark. Many immigrants who entered through New York saw it as a welcoming sight. Oral histories of immigrants record their feelings of exhilaration on first viewing the Statue of Liberty. One immigrant who arrived from Greece recalled, “I saw the Statue of Liberty. And I said to myself, “Lady, you’re such a beautiful! You opened your arms and you get all the foreigners here. Give me a chance to prove that I am worth it, to do something, to be someone in America.” I realize, she has that effect you know, not just for those immigrants even for tourist like me, her presence made a big impact.
For a quick trivia : The Statue of Liberty faces southeast and was strategically placed inside of Fort Wood which was a perfect base for the Statue. The Statue’s position was also perfect for ships, entering the harbor, to see her as a welcoming symbol. Some say, she faces toward France, where she comes from, and in France they have a 38ft tall replica that faces right back towards Miss Liberty in America.
Is the Statue in New York or New Jersey? The Statue of Liberty is on Liberty Island, federal property administered by the National Park Service, located within the territorial jurisdiction of the State of New York. A pact between New York and New Jersey, ratified by Congress in 1834, declared this issue. Liberty Island is situated closer to New Jersey that to New York (but is a part of New York).
The following are my flashback upon seeing the Statue Liberty:
- The dramatic ending of Planet of the Apes 1968
- Superman 3 where he rescued Lorelei on the statue’s crown but it’s actually a plot by Lex
- Ghostbusters 2 the statue came to life and saved metropolis
- And lastly, after a visit in NY in 2001 of a colleague of mine and telling me that the Statue of Liberty’s color was mint green… I dismissed the information because I always believed it was white and I remember saying to myself “one day I will see it for myself”…and so 9 years later I did! And thanked God I did! And I gladly admit I was wrong… It was indeed mint green (as per my research the statue was not green from inception, it turned green due to atmospheric conditions, the main being acidic rainfall.)