Photo of the day: A DAY AT THE MUSEUM or THE WONDER OF SCIENCE – The Natural History Museum on Central Park West in New York City is a guaranteed place of wonder for any children of any age. Their eyes widen with excitement as they enter the doors, oooohs and ahhhhs followed by “I want to see the dinosaurs! No, I want to see the meteors”! Just hand them a map of the museum with their chaperone – and set them loose!
If you have the time and extra expense, take them to the Hayden Planetarium’s theater in the round for the “Journey to the Stars”, a 1/2 hour show narrated by actress Whoopi Goldberg (on tape, not live). “Featuring extraordinary images from telescopes on the ground and in space and stunning, never-before-seen visualizations of physics-based simulations, the dazzling Journey to the Stars launches visitors through space and time to experience the life and death of the stars in our night sky, including our own nurturing Sun. Tour familiar stellar formations, explore new celestial mysteries, and discover the fascinating, unfolding story that connects us all to the stars.” The film is projected on the domed ceiling of the planetarium convincing some of my little guests that the ceiling was actually turning.
Back inside the museum you have five floors of difficult choices to make: Dinosaurs – over 2 billion bones – the largest bone collection in the world, stuffed animals from all over the world, butterflies, space exhibits, rocks and minerals, ocean life, more dinosaurs and endless fascinating gift shops.
I took my 35 students from India there Monday and they were like kids in a candy shop. Immediately the groups split up into their hierarchies. Cool girls together, science geeks together, boys who wanted to see how many fun things they could buy, the bewildered, etc, and one loner polite boy named Kavish Singh. On our trip he expressed no interest in buying anything for himself or his loved ones back home. “It is not necessary” Kavish said wisely for his eight years. “I don’t want anything, my money is just for emergency purposes.” (‘Oh boy I thought, if that woulda been me…’) I tried in vain to get him to buy a souvenir to no avail, he stuck to his earnest guns.
Kavish had kept to himself the whole trip and was always very quiet. I did discover he believed King Kong was real and that he was a very introspective, shy boy. So when we got to the museum, to my great surprise, he came up to me to hold my hand and wanted to come with me and our chaperone Ankur to tour the museum alone. “Well, you have us all to yourselves, what do you want to see? Meteors?” “No.”, Butterflies”, “No”. “Dinosaurs…” Kavish said quietly with a nod.
Ok, so up to the top fifth floor we went. As we reached the top, he transformed, his shell was dropped and he wandered ahead, his heavy back pack on his shoulders, to marvel at what he had only seen in books and movies. “Oooooh sir, are they real?” “Yes they all are! You are the boss here, you take us where you want to go!” The rest was magic. The little wheels in Kavish’s mind were spinning a mile a minute. He wasn’t the serious little man he had been, but was a little google-eyed boy. His face broke out into beams of smiles he seemed to feel safe to reveal. It was a joy for us to lead him through the giant Dino-turtles, winged serpent like creatures hanging from the ceiling, gigantic bones and then on to the stuffed animals in their natural habitats, including soils, and vegetation. “Do they ever come alive” Kavish asked sheepishly. He knew his belief in King Kong had already been thwarted, “No,” I explained, “that was only in the movie ‘A Night At The Museum'”. He wondered and thought, reflected on the animals some more, “but perhaps if we turned out the lights and left, then we could look in the windows and see what happens?” Since our bus was waiting to take us back to the airport, I advised we will have to wait for another late night to see what really does happen in ‘a night at the museum’. . .
MEET 59 OF MY NEWEST FRIENDS FROM INDIA! – Three years ago my friend Ajay Bansal took one of my NYC tours while I was working for a horrible private touring company which wasn’t very “receptive” to their guests. Ajay left that company and came to me privately to lead his student tours through New York and it has been a joyful relationship ever since. This spring 2013 tour was comprised of 52 gifted students (all boys) and 7 chaperones. Their eyes were filled with wonderment and eager with anticipation, hanging on my every word. As with most children abroad, their only concept of America and New York is through movies, videos and commercials.
Their naïveté is adorable – upon seeing the Empire State building the youngest ones asked “Ooooh, is that the World Trade Center?” “Where is the Liberty Statue?!” “Can you see movie stars on the street?” “Have you met the president?” “Do you live in a penthouse?” I simply fell in love with all of them. The age range was from 13 to 18, so the group ranged from total innocence to hip hop wanna-bees. But one thing they all have in common is a stringent politeness. It took me a whole day to stop them from calling me “sir’ and we finally settled on “Mr. Hans”.
It was a full three day schedule including: the Empire State Building, bus tours, a harbor cruise to see Miss Liberty, The 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street, South Street Seaport, the United Nations, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (who knew they had a Bollywood exhibit?!), the Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!) and of course M&M World in Times Square. It was a busy schedule. As we toured through the city several quotes come to mind:
“What are all those white boxes in the windows?” = air conditioners.
“The water coming from the sky is definitely making me wet.” = rain.
“Was King Kong really right here?” = no…that was a doll (the little boy seemed rather disappointed.).
“Is that Canada?” = no, it’s New Jersey.
“Will it snow today, please?” = no, it’s too warm.
“This food is most pleasing” = ‘delicious.’
We may laugh at some of these comments but they are terribly endearing. To have had the privilege to spend time with such innocent, polite and loving children made the tour such a joy. All the sights excited them, I think the big ‘hits’ were the Liberty Statue and the wax museum. They were fascinated that are streets are filled with such diversity “in our country – everyone looks the same.” But above all that, they had only one consuming desire and that is – to shop! (Head phones seemed to be atop most of their lists.) So Best Buy was their main goal.
Their next stop is on to Washington, D.C., and then on to Disney World. Not bad, huh? It was hard to say goodbye to them, but same time next year, I’ll have some little boy tug on my sleeve and say “Sir . . . how far is Best Buy from here…?” I look forward to that already.