I remember my first trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Sunday afternoon in September 2003. I was a 24 year-old new ‘New Yorker’, a little overwhelmed but mostly amazed by the big city. It was an interesting day because it was my first visit to an art museum, ever. The only other museum I’d ever been to was a small museum of archeology in Turkey. And to be honest, as an eight year-old, I was too young to appreciate the artifacts I saw that day. Hence, ‘boring’ was the word that resonated from that visit.
My next museum experience, however, was to change that notion forever. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I was standing across from the works of Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, and other giants. After that day, I kept going back until I had seen every exhibit. To this day the Met is one of my favorite places in the city. It is therapeutic when alone on a quiet weekday, hectic but exciting on a Friday, always a great venue to meet with friends.
When I went back there on a field trip last Friday with a group of my level 3 students, the memories of that first trip rushed back in. I saw my old excitement and fascination in my students’ eyes. Most of them had never been to the Met before. And The Met didn’t disappoint. Their jaws dropped to see Egyptian fabrics from around 2000 B.C. “Is this painting real?” one asked pointing to a Van Gogh self-portrait. They especially got excited to see Toulouse Lautrec because we had talked about one of his paintings, At the Moulin Rouge, while studying language of description. It was a lesson where they described to one another their favorite painting so that he/she could draw it without looking at the picture. They took pictures of the paintings, took ‘selfies’ with numerous pharaohs, admired the beautiful period rooms and the sculpture garden.
We walked until we couldn’t walk anymore. And then we walked a little more. By the time it was 6pm, we had seen the exhibits of Egyptian Art, 19th and 20th Century European Paintings, The American Wing, and European Sculpture. It was time to end the day. We decided to do that with early dinner at a Colombian restaurant in Jackson Heights, Queens. It was the first Colombian food for those from China and Thailand. And needless to say they loved it. We talked about spicy food, salsa, tongue twisters in different languages, and many other things. We learned more about each other. I saw Jessie’s wedding pictures and learned about Marlon’s goal to be a pilot. And they learned that I’d learned English as a foreign language. It was a nice ending to a fun and informative day.
While saying goodbye, there was already talk of where to visit next and what kind of restaurant to try afterwards. By the time I went home at 8pm, I was exhausted but glad to have had a virtual time machine experience. I saw my younger self in my students. I hope they remember this day as one of the good days they had in this city. I certainly will.