What Makes Home, Home?

Birmingham is a funny city, when Christmas lights go up before Halloween has arrived, covered buildings are unleashed into hotels and debt is like a long lost sibling hanging around every street corner searching.

New York is similar in a lot of ways, I mean commercialism follows you everywhere whether you’re a fan of it or not, but I arrive here thinking ‘I know this city, I’ve seen it a hundred times, in movies and shows, commercials and pictures’ trust me when the first thing that hits you is this city is HUGE. Bigger than what my imagination already judged it to be.

Times Square is overrated, especially if you are epileptic, spending 15 minutes walking around wondering why the hell people took pictures of the same billboard 3 x in a row like something would change, realising why the last thing uncles say is ‘watch your pockets and bags’ and noticing that everyone in mickey mouse, Elmo and Spiderman costumes taking pictures with tourists seem to look like second class citizens. 

I am intrigued by this city, by the fact that the subway makes you close your eyes whether you’re tired or not, I did it too. I’d just wake up after 8 hours of sleep – usually 8 hours is the perfect amount of rest I need, but as soon as I’m on the subway I look around see that half of the people’s heads are bopping as the subway heads onto Brooklyn Bridge and I close my eyes too. Not to avoid looking into the eyes of others but to feel my whole body react to movement. I wonder if they close their eyes for the same reasons or if this city’s madness tires them out.

I love Birmingham; it’s busy but not rushy kind of busy. People are calm and friendly, have time to talk to you whilst you’re waiting for buses and ask if you’re okay if you’re caught crying or on the floor in public. There’s a calmness about New York and I couldn’t help but think although in my mind I assumed it would be full of miserable people, rush hours every hour and spilt coffee cups beside bins rather than inside bins, basically pretty much like London (sorry Londoners) it wasn’t, it was a bigger version of Birmingham with more lights, 24 hour subways (which is ace!) and an incredibly rich arts scene.

Broadway – yes. We had just finished a project with The RSC working on Othello in Birmingham, so when we arrived in New York and saw The RSC logo on Matilda we spent 3 days trying to catch the cheapest tickets. Eventually we saw Matilda (if you get a chance please go and see it in London or New York). Every penny (or cent should I say) was worth it.  How does one be so awesome?

You will feel the most British when in America, even caught ourselves saying “could I have a second of your time” – I don’t resonate with being British, I don’t really know what it means to be British. But in New York City when people ask me to repeat myself for saying ‘can I have a tissue please?’ or saying thank you when someone moves out your way, I felt like I was speaking a very formal kind of English. Mad.

I don’t drink tea often, I am a coffee lover through and through but the odd chance I grabbed a cup of tea I realised how the stereotype of tea and Britain was shining in the cashier’s eyes. “Can I have a cup of tea please?” It’s hilarious to watch.

If you ever get to go, know that a poetry night in New York City means a proper night out. This blew my mind. In Birmingham poetry nights start usually around 6pm/7pm and end around 9pm/10pm, here, a poetry night started at 10pm and finished at 2am. We thought there must be a mistake when we saw it on the website, people queued up outside the Nuyorican poetry café like it was a concert. This is poetry goals for Birmingham *calls Travel West Midlands to get 24 bus services on the road

New York City is beautiful, but Birmingham is always, in my eyes, the most beautiful city in the world. I am being 100% biased and Brummie. But this is home, where my family know routes and people are friendly, the city never sleeps because it’s always working.

This is my home. Our home. Second capital; Manchester has nothing on us. 

I promise to write sooner. 

Amerah Saleh

@Voiceofthepoets

Amerah Saleh

Spoken word artist. Head of Creative Learning at Beatfreeks. Loves bowties and creating change (not in that order).