American novelist Thomas Wolfe said “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” It’s a welcoming thought but I didn’t feel I belonged from the moment I stepped off the plane. I felt overwhelmed. I felt excited. But I felt like a stranger in a city of strangers. The other school of thought says you have to earn your stripes as a New Yorker. Well, the 25th of this month marked, to the day, my arrival in New York two years ago. And I now feel I belong. This amazes me. I have been living in New York for two years!!! I had the dreams that many have of experiencing New York  but I never imagined it would be the city I would come to call my second home.

So I would like to make a toast, to the greatest city in the world:
Here’s to waking up one day and seeing the beauty in the city’s dirty streets
Here’s to once living in a room with one window, and to views of brick walls.
Here’s to thinking a studio the size of a walk-in closet is a great find.
Here’s to my five-floor walk-up.
Here’s to hailing down cabs in peak traffic. In the rain.
Here’s to cab ride stories. And to the enviable driving skills of the drivers.
Here’s to cheering with the audience at Bryant Park when New York is mentioned in a film.
Here’s to wearing black.
Here’s to knowing where to get the best cup of coffee.
Here’s to the best bagels in the world.
Here’s to Saturday brunch in the village. And runs along the Hudson. To late night dinners and later night parties.
Here’s to a city that never sleeps.
Here’s to the delicate intricacies of the different neighborhoods. To countless cities on one island. To discovering a different world on your doorstep each day.
Here’s to getting around without a map. To knowing which way is uptown. To understanding the subway.
Here’s to the one train. To the art of jaywalking. To waiting inches away from speeding traffic rather than waiting safely on the sidewalk to cross the street.
Here’s to New Yorkers. To those that make you laugh. And cry. To those that drive you insane. To those that make you know why you live here.
Here’s to my Mexican flower vendor, my Israeli grocer, my fellow South Africans, my Italian super, my Korean postman, my Japanese flatmate, my Canadian best friend and my American friends, my Chinese laundry guy, my favorite Croatian bartender, and my Indian newsstand man. To the strangers. And the people I’ve yet to meet.
Here’s to the firemen. And the gentlemen. And the whistles of the builders.
Here’s to fire escapes. And rooftops. And to Central Park.
Here’s to not noticing sirens anymore. To a silence that never is. To sweltering summers and subzero winters.
Here’s to extremes.
Here’s the changing colors of the Empire State Building at night. To the lights above the skyscrapers, the closest thing we have to stars. To infinite possibility.
Here’s to you, New York.

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