New York – Week Nine

Some weeks have themes- last week’s felt like exploring. And this week’s theme is relationships. My relationships with both the city and everyone around me have been evolving. Both good and bad, this much change can feel overwhelming and stressful.

The City

As my weeks here dwindle, I have been trying to do as much exploring as possible. Every new discovery, whether it be a park, a museum, or some fabulous food, has been a small gem that I will treasure forever. I am completely in love with this city, with all of its amenities and the constant flow of life around me, but I am simultaneously growing weary of constantly being on the go. I love sightseeing and trying new things, but despite my calm evenings after working filled with reading and watching tv, I am still exhausted.

All the excitement has definitely compounded, and I am anticipating finishing my internship strong and going home to tell my friends and family all about my experiences. Not to mention, trying to make the most of my time here, while also attempting to make plans for when I am home and organizing myself for my semester abroad in Morocco is stressful. I am making mental lists in my head of what I still need to do, buy, read, and then proceeding to forget everything by the time I go to write them down. I walk around repeating the acronyms of various city government agencies and to remember to buy new sneakers and read my pre-departure books in the same string of thought.

Weather

My relationship with the weather in the city is on shaky ground. New York City is currently experiencing a massive heat wave. It is either scorching, but not humid, or relatively cool (between 75 and 85 degrees), but with humidity upwards of 80 percent. For those of you who live on the west coast (and have never lived anywhere else or ever experienced humidity), when the humidity is over 60 percent, you feel like you are swimming through the air. I am drenched in sweat by the time I walk the two blocks to the subway station. Because of the weather, city council employees are sent heat advisory warning emails at least twice a day, telling us to stay inside, drink lots of water, check on our neighbors frequently, and avoid strenuous activity. I am taking this as an excuse to skip a few days of exercising (even though I just go to the gym in my building, it gets much hotter when the temperature soars), and make homemade ice cream frequently. (Homemade ice cream= mashed bananas + peanut butter).

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The day it poured at work and no one wanted to go outside to get food.

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This is what people do when it is really hot outside. A quiet street turns into a makeshift water park.

Work

I mentioned that I have a blog to my supervisor this week, and she and a friend of mine wouldn’t relent until they got the link from me. Even though I was nervous for them to see what I have written, I was incredibly flattered when they both complimented my pictures and documentation of what I have been doing. My supervisor even said that she thinks I am very brave going out to new places by myself every week, and that she respects me for it. It was quite a memorable moment to know that people outside of my close friends and family are inherently interested in what I have to say about my experiences. My friend even seemed disappointed that I have only used this blog for my adventures this summer, and haven’t been using it to write about college and my life before coming here.

This week I continued to grow closer to the people who work in my office. With the sharing of my blog I placed my trust in others that they would not mock me for my observations, and others continue to place their trust in me by telling me personal details about themselves. My coworkers and I have begun to repeatedly get distracted toward the last half hour of the work day with engaging discussions amongst ourselves, which inevitably continue past closing time. We have been sharing our taste in music, our hobbies, favorite books, advice about educational pursuits, stories of past relationships, past and present employment woes (many people at our office have other jobs as well), and complaints about friends, family, and roommates. Some of my coworkers have come to anticipate my at least bi-weekly update on the saga of my roommate’s dramatic life, and a friend and I enjoy teasing a coworker about his attempts at flirting with a girl who works at a shop he frequents for lunch. The employees and interns at our office vary so widely in race, ethnicity, linguistic ability, educational attainment, income level, current place of residence, romantic attachment, and general interests and life history, that just sitting down and talking about who we are is utterly fascinating.

A friend at the office who is a number of years younger than the other interns was talking with myself and some of our other friends, and upon realizing that he didn’t know what many of our favorite old tv shows, songs and celebrities were, we quickly went about educating him. In a similar way, a staff member that I like a lot, who has taught me a lot about our office operations, frequently introduces me to artists on the local music scene, while another employee invariably returns to classic jazz musicians when asked to choose a Pandora station. All of the variance creates a pleasant and chaotic mixing pot of personalities that make our office a vibrant, colorful place to work.

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The mural outside our office.

On that note, I am really enjoying immersing myself in the world of big city politics. I have been given the opportunity to work in a real government office, attend lobbying meetings, and watch press conferences. This is starting to feel more like a realistic career path for myself. The more I learn about this field of work, the more I gain in terms of potential future careers, as well as the development of both professional and interpersonal relationships at my office. I think I will have really decent references, as well as fantastic friends when I leave. What will break my heart most about going home won’t be leaving this amazing city, but saying goodbye to all the people in it. It goes without saying of course, that I will also miss people asking me for directions as if I were a local.

My Roommate

My roommate seems to be on the uptick this week. As her time here grows to a close, she seems more content with what she has and has not accomplished, at least at work. As a general pattern, we frequently delve into immature, passive aggressive behavior to express our dissatisfaction toward being forced to live in a room with our opposite, but mitigate this with moments when one of us initiates a conversation in which both of us participate in a relatively civil discourse. However, while our relationship runs hot and cold, recently she and I have made attempts to negotiate with each other when we are feeling frustrated. This week she even listened to me explain the difficulties that immigrants, minorities, veterans, and the disabled face in finding housing and employment in the city, which that I have learned about this summer at my internship. She then expressed what appeared to be genuine empathy toward the homeless and less fortunate living in New York, especially during times of extreme climate occurrences. I count that as a small victory.

Weekend

Friday

After work on Friday I dropped my stuff off in my room and took the train down the the South Street Seaport to go to an outdoor film festival. They were showing an independent movie made in Saudi Arabia about a young teenage girl who wanted a bike (girls are not supposed to ride bikes there), and everything she went through to get it. I got there an hour early because they were supposed to be giving out free food to go along with the theme of the movie (in this case, a Lebanese restaurant was catering), but when I arrived the line was already 45 minutes long.

Instead, I bought a fancy grilled cheese sandwich, made with gruyere and apple slices, from one of the artisan food stalls. The South Street Seaport was hosting Schmorgasburg, a traveling food festival where chefs and bakers can bring food from their shops and sell it to the public from stalls. This is a popular concept in New York City during the summer, and if you are out walking you are likely to stumble upon something like this every ten blocks or so. The South Street Seaport is particularly well suited for this type of event because the stalls are set up on a stretch of cobbled streets which are closed off to cars. Along the cobbled streets are some of the first buildings built in Manhattan, which have recently been renovated and turned into shops and restaurants.

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A food stall at the Schmorgasburg Food Festival at the South Street Seaport.

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The Milk Truck menu at Schmorgasburg.

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A gruyere and apple grilled cheese.

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Wood oven pizza at Schmorgasburg. It looked delicious, but I didn’t have any.

The South Street Seaport is adjacent to a set of piers along the East River at which both old boats and modern river taxis dock. It also has a small pier allocated for pedestrians, on which they have placed a patch of grass and some lounge chairs. I sat and watched the sunset over the East River and the Brooklyn skyline as I was waiting for it to be dark enough to play the movie. The movie, called Wadjda, was absolutely fantastic. It was in Arabic with English subtitles, and was shot entirely in Riyadh, by a female Saudi director.

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A back alley market at the South Street Seaport.

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A popular bar along Front Street at the southern tip of Manhattan.

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The Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, as seen from the East River Esplanade.

 

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The Brooklyn skyline at sunset, as seen from the East River Esplanade.

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Wadjda, on the outdoor big screen.

Saturday

On Saturday I slept in and stayed in my room until about 2. I then got on the train to go to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, intent on doing some walking through actual nature trails. The park is very large, and I was the only person on many of the trails I walked. Most of the trails in the park are not well maintained, and since the park is badly designed and there are highways running down the middle of it, walkers are forced to find the few underpasses to navigate between the various sections of the park created by the highways. While it was nice to spend time amongst some greenery, I got fairly lost in the park, even with a map, and I don’t think I would go back if I had other options.

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A panorama of the main lawn at Van Cortlandt Park.

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The only place in New York City I have seen people playing cricket.

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Exploring nature!

 

 

 

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The moment I realized that I’m terrible at reading maps.

After leaving Van Cortlandt Park, I took the train down the Inwood, a neighborhood at the southern tip of Manhattan, and walked down Dyckman Street in search of something to eat. Despite my best intentions to get something substantive and perhaps healthy, I ended up at two different bakeries where I picked up a brownie and a guava-compote filled pastry. I took them to For Tryon Park and sat on a bench overlooking the Hudson River to enjoy them. After finishing my pastries, I wandered through the park and took pictures of the sunset over the river and New Jersey. The Cloisters, an old European monastery owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and used to display some of their ancient art, is perched on the hill, but it was closed that evening, so I was only able to see the buildings from a distance. On the way home I stopped the watch the projections of endangered species on the Empire State Building and took a lot of photographs. While I was watching the show, I spoke with another woman on the street who was there for the projection show as well. She told me that she grew up in New York and returned to the city after going to law school. She was very nice and I enjoyed talking to her.

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Outside the Cloisters.

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Guave compote filled pastry. This was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.

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A decent, but not spectacular brownie.

 

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Looking out over Inwood, at the northern tip of Manhattan.

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Sunset over the Hudson River and New Jersey seen from For Tryon Park.

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The George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River and New Jersey.

 

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The gardens of Fort Tryon Park.

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An adorable, antique subway sign.

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“We Are The World”

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A whale projected onto the Empire State Building.

Sunday

On Sunday I got up early and got an egg and sausage breakfast sandwich at Murray’s Bagels before doing my weekly grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. Once I finished putting my groceries away, I took the train down the South Ferry, on the southern tip of Manhattan and got on the ferry to go to Staten Island- it’s free, and the 20 minute ride over is gorgeous! I wanted to go to Historic Richmondtown in the center of the island, and was delighted to discover that the Staten Island Railroad runs north-south along the island. I got off the train and commenced walking to the old village. On the way I stopped for ice cream to cool down, because it was already scorching out.

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Egg whites, pepperjack cheese and sausage on a pumpernickel bagel from Murray’s Bagels. 

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Pulling out of the South Ferry terminal at the southern tip of Manhattan.

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The Hoboken skyline seen from the bay between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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Cinnamon cookie crumble ice cream from a shop in Richmond, Staten Island.

Once I got the Richmondtown, I bought an admission ticket and took a look around before my scheduled tour time. I was dismayed to learn that since this historic village is surrounded by quiet suburbs and a large nature preserve, it is not very popular. There is so little money being contributed to the preservation of this town that very few buildings are open to the public. To go into any of them you must purchase a ticket, and then there are only two buildings which have staff (volunteers) in them- the town museum and the wood shed. The others sit locked up and largely untouched unless you request to go in one.

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I spent over an hour in the wood shed talking to the old man who represents the original farmer and owner of the town. He is the sole volunteer remaining from the cast of people who used to dress in period clothing and act out farm life in each building for visitors. He told me that nowadays the old town is cared for by a committee headed by a man in the entertainment industry. Most of the allocated “preservation” money goes toward budgeting for cheesy community events and hosting the filming of tv shows- a series of unsuccessful attempts to bring attention and visitors to the town. Apparently the glory days of the town are long behind it, forgotten after the short resurgence of public interest in history, surrounding the celebration of the United State’s Bicentennial.

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The wood shed in Historic Richmondtown.

 

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The man in the shed, even though he is a volunteer historical actor, actually makes all of the wood items in the shed himself.

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Items made by the wood shed volunteer.

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This man was incredibly kind, and told me many stories about Staten Island of the past. He spends most of his time alone in the wood shed waiting for visitors, and making a lot of wooden home goods, which are for sale to visitors.

After my tour I took a few more pictures, and with a sigh of sadness, departed Historic Richmondtown for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk along the east coast of the island. As I trekked back to the Staten Island Railroad station, I realized how hungry I was, and stopped in the only open shop I could find. It closely resembled a convenience store at a gas station, and upon looking around at the cheap, pre-packed breakfast pastries and pitifully tiny piles of bruised fruit for sale, I was skeptical I was going to find anything remotely appetizing to eat. However, the shop was called The Bagel Depot, and the bagels looked large, fluffy, and oddly enough, fresh, so I bought a whole wheat everything bagel and the least bruised apple in the store. The apple turned out to taste great (I must have been pretty hungry), and the bagel was spectacular! It was definitely the most flavorful bagel I have ever eaten- the outside was chewy and the inside was doughy and magical. I wish I could go back there and get one in every flavor! I learned later, upon googling the shop, that this place is well known across Staten Island for having the best bagels anywhere. Apparently appearances can be very deceiving. Boy, am I glad I stopped there!

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The BEST bagel ever.

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An old Anglican church buried in the middle of nowhere on Staten Island. It had a large cemetery, dating back to the 17th Century.

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Adorableness seen on my walk through the suburbs of Staten Island.

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Opulent homes in an affluent suburb of Staten Island.

The walk from the Dongan Hills train station to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk was long, but worth it! It was a gorgeous afternoon to be by the river, if only for half an hour. There were couples strolling by the beach, families fishing off the pier, and old Italian men playing dominoes  on picnic tables in the shade. For such a beautiful beach recreation area, it was pleasantly quiet (although it was a Sunday evening close to 6). After taking a bunch of pictures of the Verrazanzo-Narrows Bridge from the pier, I walked back to the Staten Island Railroad station and got on a train to the ferry terminal. I caught the 7 pm ferry, and made it back to my room by 8. As soon as I got back to my room, I collapsed on my bed. I was so exhausted and my feet hurt sooo much! It was a fantastic weekend of adventures, and I was able to get an amazing plethora of pictures.

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Me in front of the fountain at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk.

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The Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk.

 

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A man fishing on the pier at Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk.

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The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn.

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Men playing dominoes at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk.

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An old ship and the Hoboken slyline.

Up next… my last weekend is New York City is looming. I have no definitive plans yet, but they will definitely involve lots of eating out or ordering in, as my roommate is moving out this Friday and taking all of our cooking supplies with her.

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