It is 10 p.m. Friday night and with a spirit of adventure, I sit alone at a crowded place called The Caffebene Cafe & Bakery.
I am in Palisades Park, NJ, just across the bridge from New York City. One time known for its Famous Amusement Park Attraction, this area now serves as the largest and fastest growing ethnic Korean enclave outside of Korea.
My search for a much needed cup of tea and free wifi while I am traveling has led me to this well lit happening place. A posh cafe with seating for at least 80 to one 100 people, there are only a few empty chairs upon my arrival. Even though I have been here during the daytime hours, and am somewhat acquainted with this place, the vibe during the night hours takes on a much different flavor.
The sign on the wall tells me that they will be open until 11:30 , so I plan on being here for awhile. I spot a table against the wall, a perfect location for me to plug my laptop in to be recharged. After ordering a large tea, I take a quick look around the room to get a feel for it all. It is noticablly different. During the day it serves as more of a business meeting place, and in evening hours, "it appears" as more for local Korean Community gathering place. I am not sure how often this occurs, or if this the 'norm' for a Friday night? On this evening, it is much friendlier, notably more interactive with families and their children, and people dressed up after an evening out on the town.
Twenty minutes have passed since I entered the cafe. The long hours of the day have caught up with me by now and I am just about ready to call it a night. I decided to finish up my tea and tune into what is happening around me for a little while.
For the first time since I arrived, I realized that not one but all of the people within my earshot were speaking Korean. For someone like myself who is a photographer and highly sensitive normally to all my senses, I find this fascinating yet alarming that I had not even noticed before now. The more I listened, the higher the decimal rate of the voices seems to sound. As I survey each table to see what was happening I can see that conversations are loud but gracious and filled with charm. People everywhere are harmonious. It is clear that some 7000 miles from their homeland, this Koreans community share in tradition bonds & values.
What a different feeling there is now compared to during the day, when it can be as quiet as a library, when practically everyone is on their cell phones, ipads, or laptops. Here on this evening I feel as though I am a welcome guest at a huge house party!
I feel slightly embarrassed by my public rudeness as I looked up from my computer. Everyone is so engaged with one another and I on this evening am acting only as an onlooker. Across the isle sits two Korean families, ten in total. There are six small children with their four adult parents. I find it hard to believe now nearly 11 p.m. that these well loved children are as well behaved as only you can image them to be.
I caught the eyes of a Father sitting at this particular table. He smiled with a warm glow and then returned to his conversation. I have stumbled into one of the politest of communities in Bergen County, NJ and the more I look around, the more happy smiles I see.
Five young business men impeccably dressed just came in the front door. They look as if they just walked off a Fashion Show’s Runway Floor. They use a traditional greeting of a bow and handshake before taking off their jackets and settling in for a short while.
I am glad I found my way here this evening before calling in a night. I am leaving here with a renewed sense of gratitude for the beauty of these people, their culture and my overall experience.
For more about:
Caffe Bene: http://www.caffebeneusa.com