After an arduous 26-hour journey on Turkish Airlines, I arrived in sunny Miami. A short 25-minute taxi ride brought me to my son, Taimur’s, beach-side apartment at the Deco Plage Condominium, overlooking the white sands and blue inviting waters of South Beach. Fuelled by the adrenaline that the Miami air has a tendency to naturally inject, I felt the memories of my taxing journey fade, and I accompanied Taimur to a nearby Spanish restaurant. Dining on my favourite Spanish food: Gambas a la Plancha (grilled prawns), Piscado al Horno (a kind of tawa fish), Carne Asada (BBQ beef), Paella (a pilau of seafood and vegetables), Sangria (a mixture of fruit juices and blood red wine), and Puro Havana (Cuban Cigar). This Miami food street was full of tiny restaurants, drunken noisy customers, blaring music, and an aroma of exotic spices. My knowledge of the Spanish language, though rusty, served to impress the gorgeous Cuban waitresses. Most restaurants and bars in the South Beach area are open 24/7 because of the foreign tourists that crowd the safe streets, day and night. The Miami beaches are clean, the water is emerald blue, the sea is friendly and the weather is simply superb. Located on an island and connected to the mainland by a series of bridges, Miami lies on the southeast side of the Florida Peninsula. The wonderfully restored, pastel coloured, Art Deco buildings that line the oceanfront make South Beach the most popular, albeit the most expensive strip of sand. Every morning sees a dog parade, under the shade of swinging coconut groves, as dog lovers walk their pets of varied sizes along South Beach’s famous ocean drive. Immediately after sunrise, throngs of ocean lovers are found sunbathing and partaking in various water sports, including parasailing, jet skiing, snorkelling, and kayaking. The deep blue skies are dotted with Baywatch helicopters and giant aerial banners tied to propeller aircrafts advertising various attractions to lure potential customers. Such aerial advertisement costs less than USD five per thousand persons, and reaches over three million potential customers in a single afternoon. The nightly South Beach activities I enjoyed observing from the apartment balcony, and walked amongst the shifting sands during the day. Early Sunday morning, Lincoln Road is taken over by farmers who bring in truckloads of fresh fruits and vegetables. All kinds of exotic fruit are on display, including mangoes that taste like potatoes As alluring as the sandy beaches of Miami are, my main purpose of visit was to attend my son’s film screening at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), Miami campus. Founded by Jerry Sherlock in 1992, the NYFA was established with a “learning by doing” philosophy, believing practical experience to be more valuable than years of theoretical study for filmmakers and actors. This educational model allows students to achieve more in less time, and better prepares them for the professional world. Today, the NYFA New York, Los Angeles and South Beach campuses employee 400 professionals, training over 7,000 students per year in the field of filmmaking, directing, cinematography, screenwriting, acting, colour grading and editing. Students team-up to produce short films using industry-standard, state-of-the-art equipment. Renowned directors, writers and actors, including the likes of Steven Spielberg, Al Pacino, Rose McGowan, Sir Ben Kingsley, Glenn Close, and Ron Howard are regular guest speakers at the academy. Notable NYFA alumni include producer/director Rohit Gupta and Indian actor, Imran Khan. My son, Taimur, was one of the four students selected to screen their short films on the final night to the jury, critics, and family members of the enrolled students. The screenings were followed by a degree awarding ceremony. The post-graduation celebrations started off at Grill Fish, home to the most deliciously appetizing mussels in garlic and white wine sauce. Sarah, the restaurant manager, was a New Yorker whose brother was married to a Sindhi politician. She had been put off of Pakistan due to her sister-in-law’s obnoxious nature. After befriending our group of Pakistanis, she had decided to forgo her original dislike for the country, and is making preparations to visit our land of the pure in the very near future. Early Sunday morning, Lincoln Road is taken over by farmers who bring in truck loads of fresh fruits and vegetables. All kinds of exotic fruit are on display, including mangoes that taste like potatoes. These ladies are expert juice makers who create amazing mixers to cure all kinds of ailments. They even had perfect remedies for hangovers. The cost of a large glass of fresh, exotic cocktail juice was five dollars, compared to nine dollars for a glass of beer. Little Havana is a show window of Cuban immigrants who used all means of transportation to reach Miami during the sixties when Fidel Castro took over Cuba. Calle Ocho (8th Street) is the throbbing heart of Little Havana, and is lined with Cuban restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and cigar outlets. The rhythm of Cha – Cha – Cha and Mambo, the Cuban dances of the early sixties played on conga drums, seem to be the perpetual background music of this street. Cuban specialty of Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken) and the Mexican Le Pollo Loco (crazy chicken) are a must try for every visitor. As the sun sets, the music becomes louder, the visitors become crazier, and the Cuban ladies of the night roam the streets in search of customers. These coffee coloured beauties, with heavy tops and bottoms, make bold exhibitions of their merchandise through skin-tight blouses and jeans. It was here in Calle Ocho that I met Dali, a bold and beautiful street walker, who asked me if I would like to walk her to her apartment. “Sure!” I said. “However, bear in mind; it will cost you a lot of money.” She laughed at my unusual reply and vanished into the dawn of Little Havana. Published in Daily Times, September 7th 2018.