A Legal Alien – A South African in New York (sorry Sting!)

Ian Glover

One of the privileges of being Alec Hogg’s ‘hand langer’ is that I get to go to amazing places, learn lots and meet wonderful people.

When Alec first went solo, Ian wrote to us to congratulate him on his blog and invite us to dinner whenever we were next in New York. As it happened, we were on our way to Omaha via New York so we took up his kind offer. He suggested things we could do and places to visit while we were there – he just seemed to know what South African ‘country bumpkins’ would want to see in the Big Apple. Dinner with him and his fiancé Ada was the highlight. This adventurous, ambitious, proudly South African young man is a credit to his family and his SA roots – Jeanette Hogg

By Ian Glover*

In South Africa, I woke up around 6am, and rushed out the door to beat the swelling Joburg rush hour traffic. Here, I live near Central Park to be able to ‘escape’ from the concrete jungle and have a quicker, better commute.  As I start my day, I need to pinch myself to make sure I am actually walking through Central Park on my way to work!  “Fall” is finally approaching, and it is my favorite time of the year.  Mornings are crisp and fresh, and I particularly enjoy my stroll in the months when the hot steamy summer has lifted, and the frigid winter has not yet set in. Despite the weather not always being ideal, I don’t own a car and find myself walking a lot – the city is so accessible.

This morning I treated myself to Starbucks for breakfast – there’s one on every other corner – and I grabbed a bagel and coffee before arriving at my midtown office.  The view from my desk once again makes me blink.  I have east bound views of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) patterned roof below me, and the famous 5th Avenue at the end of my block. I am surrounded by buildings towering over me, and I tower over others. Down below, the city is bustling with thousands of people going about their day, with an ever-present murmur from the crowd (even from the 25th floor, you can hear it).  Every time you step onto the street you’re reminded that you’re at the center of global commerce.  The atmosphere is fast paced, intense at times – everyone, except maybe the swarms of tourists, is in a rush.

Lunch (and dinner) is a big deal for most New Yorkers with thousands of options to choose from. Sadly, I am not a ‘foodie’ and so New York’s culinary offerings are often wasted on me, but today my colleagues researched and debated multiple options until it was decided: ‘Let’s head to Dig Inn downstairs…they have great healthy food!’ (and they do). This is a favorite spot, but probably won’t go back for another few weeks– not because it wasn’t good but because there so many other options. When we arrive the line is twenty five long and out the door, yet within a few minutes I am inside.  Trying to keep up with the servers barking options in the tiny, cramped space is overwhelming, but in another 60 seconds I am out the door with my lunch. When I first arrived in the city I questioned my sanity after experiences like this, but somehow it is starting to feel like a new ‘normal’.

Work starts later than it did in South Africa, and I usually stay later too. On a typical evening, I might walk back home in time for a jog in the park, then pull my computer out to send off a few more e-mails.  While work is demanding, I also do my best to take advantage of all of the social options the city offers.  Last night I traded my quiet evening for dinner with a business associate at a favorite French restaurant.  The night continued with drinks at a networking event downtown, before finally heading home. Tonight, there is happy hour with colleagues on the calendar, and tomorrow some friends are hosting a wine tasting (assuming all of the work gets done).  Despite having been here for five years, I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of the city’s restaurants, shows, museums, performances, sights, and sounds…at first the city overloads your senses, but you adjust (though sleep is still something that is often illusive – this is, after all, the city that never sleeps).

Finally home, I can still hear the city alive around me.  While the South African nights are still and quiet other than the occasional dog barking, NYC continues it’s ambient noise – with distant, hooting, and screaming trucks and fire engines alive all night long.

I originally planned to be here five months, but five years later I am still amazed by this place. I hated it at first, but now am in love. Despite it’s obvious shortcomings, there is something inexplicably compelling about NYC. Perhaps it’s the diversity, the people, the options, the energy or the fact I know I won’t be here forever. It gives and demands a lot simultaneously, and is always stimulating and energizing. I never forget how privileged I am to have the opportunity to be here and want to make the most of it!

 *Ian Glover was born in Zimbabwe, raised in Johannesburg and now lives and works in New York City. 

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