Traveling to different cities is an opportunity to see how others live their daily lives. Anywhere you go people are busily conducting their daily activities that make up the bulk of their lives. They hustle to work, pick up kids from day care, rush to dance or karate class and then pick up groceries at the store and head home to put dinner on the table. After dinner and baths and homework, the TV is a common companion and a welcome relief to those who have been working all day. That is when it’s time to kick back and not have to think, and just enjoy the process of being entertained.

This week while in NYC visiting one of my regular clients, I was invited to travel to Brooklyn to meet a new associate. She had a few hours and traveling into the city wasn’t likely to happen for her. I had more time on my hands that day so I offered to take the train ride to Brooklyn and visit her.

I had been to Brooklyn once before when my husband took me there to visit his childhood home. But it wasn’t the Brooklyn that I visited this week or had heard about for years before. He showed me parks and beautiful row homes and his elementary school. No, this Brooklyn was a whole new experience from the second I arrived!

The train took about an hour to reach the end of the B line, and then I departed at Brighten Beach. It was the home of the movie Brighten Beach and the home of Coney Island. When I departed from the B train, and walked down the stairs I was greeted by tons of new sights and sounds. It was different from Manhattan, although there were clearly similarities because it also had a variety of stores lining the streets. But right over head, is the train that rumbles through the whole city every few minutes. The sound is deafening and you either have to yell or stop talking when the train is overhead.

Both sides of the streets were lined with dozens of stores that had everything you could imagine in them. Jewelry, purses, clothes, toys and electronics! There were street vendors with home made Danishes and Russian delectable’s. Upon entering the store, the first thing you notice is that the prices were shockingly cheap. The selections were 100x more than what you’d find at stores in the suburbs. The first store I went in was a combination of a department store and a discount store. I noticed every color of female under garments lining the wall. I have never seen such a selection with such a variety of colors! There were about 10 shades of different colored pink, green, purple, blue, tan, cream, orange, aqua, yellow, orange and red bras in every size. The quality wasn’t at all bad but the prices were $3-$5 when most stores might sell the same item for 5x as much! The pajamas were darling and colorful and prices beat any Marshals, TJ Max or Target anywhere in the US. For $6.99 you could purchase the pants and top with different colors, designs and patterns.

Everything everywhere was cheap! The water bottles were less than a buck and the street vendors were selling their items all for about $1-$2.

I arrived a few minutes before my friend so I had a few minutes to browse around and then went to the assigned corner to wait for her. I informed her that I was wearing a red top and black pants. I realized that I stuck out like a sore thumb. Not many people wear that bright of colors in NY which I forgot when I was packing my bag early on the morning that I left town. As I stood there, a myriad of people walked by and were conducting their lives as they do every day.

A group of young guys were standing a few feet from me. It was obvious that their favorite past time was hanging and watching the girls walk by. Each time one that caught their attention walked by, the whole group stopped their conversation and followed her with their eyes while she continued down the street. Then, one of the guys started clapping to the beat that was apparently only in his head and started dancing to the beat of his hands. He grooved to his own music for a few minutes while the other guys kept up their exchange with one another. Another group of ladies were consumed with their own conversation and standing in the middle of the sidewalk and even blocking traffic. I had been standing their first but I ended up moving because people had to walk around them and the back pack that hung on one of the gals backs.

While I was standing on the corner, looking up and down the street trying to find my new friend who was coming back from a funeral and wearing all black, some young guys in a car sitting at the light about 8 feet from where I stood blared out using a megaphone: YOU LOOK LOST. I looked at them and started laughing at them and said, “I’m looking for my friend and I don’t know what she looks like. Can you yell for Marianna?” So without missing a beat, all of a sudden, in a booming voice, I hear, “MARIANNA, YOUR FRIEND IS LOOKING FOR YOU, MARIANNA, YOUR FRIEND IS LOOKING FOR YOU.” I laughed and they laughed as they drove away and then I was back with all of the people who were surrounding me, lost in their own conversations and enjoying the beautiful day in Brooklyn.

On the corner was an ice cream truck with the soft ice cream cones which can get dipped in delicious chocolate and toppings for an extra 50 cents. When my friend arrived, we indulged in an ice cream cone and started on our walk towards the boardwalk.

We walked a couple of blocks to the beach and boardwalk, took off our shoes and walked on the sandy beach. We sat down right on the sand and ended up talking and sharing for the next hour or so. The beach was full of people laying in the sun with a few people swimming in the mild surf. There were quite a lot of people with incredible bodies and it was evident that it was a cool place to show off your wears.

Through talking, we discovered that although she was of Russian descent, and I was a pure mixed American, we found so many similarities in our personalities, and life ambitions. We talked and talked and finally got up to go and search for the perfect gift for my son.

We walked around and did some window shopping, I saw items that I’d never seen anywhere. There was a flower store that had hundreds of beautiful dolls in the windows and the one that struck me as the one that was a “fairy” with beautiful shiny wings. I thought about my sister in law who collects fairies and thought that one day, that’d be the perfect gift for her. I found a gift for my son, a Batman car that has something that shoots out of it, and felt it was nearly perfect. We then walked her to the YMCA where she was conducting an acting class for a bunch of teenagers.

Everywhere around me people spoke in Russian. It’s a huge Russian community and I met many people who spoke no English whatsoever. When I asked for a bathroom, I had to speak with several people because no one knew that word. Finally, after pointing downwards, one gal asked, “Restroom?” I don’t know. I found that shocking.. with the thousands of people who walk up and down that block every day, she didn’t know where a ladies room was located. I ended up buying a cheese Danish from her and found a Walgreens with a ladies room and then headed to the train to head back to NYC.

What a fun trip it was! I was there for about 3 hours, but in that time, I was able to take a tiny peek into a whole new world of how these thousands and thousands of people live. It didn’t even seem like the U.S because hardly anyone spoke pure English. The food, the merchandise, and the culture all seemed so entirely different from what I’d experienced before. The women even looked different from American Women. They were fair skinned, with petite faces. They were very feminine and girlish which seemed different to me as well. It clearly had a very strong culture attached to this town, and it was such a joy to experience it and I felt alive with gratitude for the chance to be able to share a part of their lives for the short time that I did.

Sitting on the plane next to me is a lady of Russian descent who shrugged when I said how great Brooklyn was. She said, “naw.. it’s okay.” She said, it’s unique to you because you haven’t lived there for 27 years and I agreed. She’s on the way to Florida to pick up her 10 year old daughter who stayed with the grandmother for the summer. She’s excited with anticipation upon seeing her daughter so both of us held excitement in our attitude when we talked after sitting down. Me about her home town, and her about going to my home state!

What an advantage to be able to experience other cultures right here in the good ol’ U.S of A. I got a little taste of a bustling Russian community and enjoyed it very much. I realize that so often, I just go about in my daily life, visiting the same stores, and traveling the same path to my daily activities day after day. I listen to the same few radio stations, talk with most of the same people, and meet my associates at one of the 3 Starbucks in town. Most of us do the same, and every day that we do that, we’re living our lives. The days stacked together turn into weeks, the weeks into months, the months turn into years, and very rarely do we step out and drive intentionally out of our comfort zone and experience something new.

It was a wake up call to me. There are probably new places to visit within driving distance of my home. Perhaps this weekend, we’ll go somewhere new for the weekend instead of the usual beach we frequent. Perhaps we’ll attempt to do a new activity or try some different foods. Perhaps I’ll turn on some jazz instead of popular easy listening music and go to a different grocery store from my usual shopping stop. I want to live, and to explore the world, to keep my mind fresh with ideas, and open for opportunities of new experiences.

Brooklyn. The home town of my husband, now takes on new meaning. Now I have an experience of Brooklyn and that memory now lives in me.