It’s always fascinating meeting new people – especially our Lokafyers, one of whom I had the great pleasure of meeting last weekend on a trip to New York. Paula is a flight attendant by trade, and an adventurer by day. Since taking to the skies she has visited 4 continents, spanning across 34 countries and countless cities. You could say she’s well travelled.
New York has always been one of my favorite places to visit and having frequented its streets many times, I was keen to discover something new about the big ol’ apple. Much to my delight, Paula was more than happy to oblige, insisting that we visit the borough of Staten Island where she grew up.
The ferry ride takes me across the upper-bay and from afar, Staten Island looks like somewhat of a mystical land. After 20 minutes we approach the dock; Paula leaning up against a pillar with a great smile on her face, springing up cheerily to welcome me.
Our first stop is the 9/11 memorial; paying tribute to the firefighters and policemen of Staten Island who lost their lives during the tragic event. Built in 2004, the marble wing sculpture represents a series of postcards to loved ones; each victim honored by an engraved tablet.
I comment on the fantastical image of the island and she confirms my suspicions. From across the shore in a New Jersey home, a young George R.R. Martin gazes across the bay, dreaming of a land that would be the setting for a entire world of treachery, deception, and pure magic. Game of Thrones would come to creation by the end of the 90s.
We move into the center of the island, talking and sharing stories of our life, careers, and travels. She had lived on the Island her whole life; her parents having moved from Poland as second generation immigrants in the 80s. After attending Binghamton University and graduating in 2013 with a Bachelor in Business Management and English Literature, she felt the urge to travel and discover. An air hostess training program was therefore the next step, and in 8-weeks she had completed the American Airlines air hostess program.
She generally carries out 20 flights per month; making 4-8 trip sequences that last between 1-4 days. Staying grounded amidst such a turbulent lifestyle is therefore important to her and for this, she thanks her boyfriend; a lawyer in the city who is a much needed anchor in her life.
Walking around Staten Island I notice that the entirety of the inner-circle of the Island is dotted with communal gardens. She notes that it has always been like this and is what makes Staten Island special; a town-like haven on the edge of a bustling metrpolitan center. Staten Island reflects her character and despite her nomadic lifestyle, she remains true to her roots. The gardens offer a dose of normality to her surreal lifestyle and upon arrival in a new country, is almost always her first stop. As we enter one of Staten Island’s many gardens, she points out a species of flower that is missing this year.
We continue on our tour, stopping intermittently amidst discussion to contemplate the tranquility of the town. A set of buildings stand on the edge of the gardens, offering a perfect view of the promenades below. She explains that each year they commission a group of student-artists to live and paint within the residences. Their work is displayed several times a year; offering them the opportunity to showcase their talent at community fairs and for the rest of the year, hang from the ramparts of the building.
We finish the tour with a late lunch, stopping at a Jersey-esque bistro that serves gourmet sandwiches for the price of a Manhattan bagel. Here you get a sense of the community that lives on the island; a population of service workers slightly forgotten by the Manhattan mayhem, but full of life nevertheless. We bid our farewells, sure that among travels we will meet again soon, and as the ferry pulls away from the shore, it is hard to not imagine a place more suited to be a setting for King’s Landing.