Posts tagged East Coast
I woke up in the morning after the rest of New York had entered the Monday morning rush. Everyone in this city (at least everyone I know) is incredibly busy and everything is really fast-paced. With Katelyn busy with a morning meeting, I had to tackle the problem of where to park my car. I was NOT interested in driving or parking in Manhattan again, nor was I interested in paying for a garage in Brooklyn. I decided to get creative and to google “non-metered parking in Brooklyn” and found a random message board posting that listed two cross streets with parking, got google directions to that area, and drove over there. I found a residential area with parking and felt a wave of relief to be released of my obligation to constantly worry about parking my car. With no street cleaning restrictions until Thursday, I could breathe easy.
I love public transportation and was happy to be able to use it once I parked to go to Manhattan. I met up with my step-cousin Jillian near her work for some delicious Cuban food. She’s a busy working girl, but I was very grateful she could take an hour to introduce me to a great little restaurant and catch up. Monday was an absolutely beautiful day, blue skies were a welcome contrast to the gray/white tones we’ve been getting used to for the last few weeks. After lunch, I went on a 30+ block leisurely walk uptown to meet up with Katelyn and her friend, David and just enjoyed the nice weather, people watching and the bustle of NYC. I eventually met up with Katelyn and David and enjoyed a late afternoon of chatting and bargain shopping in midtown. We wanted to get out in NYC, so we met up with my friend Sade (from Harvard) downtown who had discovered an almost too good to be true happy hour where we could enjoy a low-key New York evening. It was awesome to see Sade again and our hodge-podge group of mixed friends and social groups turned out to be entertaining as always.
And a picture of Katelyn and I with David.
The next morning was another lazy one for me. Katelyn had another meeting downtown for future professional pursuits. Our re-entry to the east coast has been a reminder of impending reality of non-road trip life with meetings for both of us in DC and NYC and trying to piece together our next steps.
I had to recover my car from Brooklyn, which to be honest was a little nerve-wracking. I am already jaded about my Car-ma after some of the issues we’ve encountered thus far and I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if perhaps my car was not there when I got there. Thankfully, my worrying was not necessary, and I found my car in perfect shape and breathed a sigh of relief.
Once I got my car, I had to drive back to the upper west side to meet Katelyn where she had been staying with her friend to pick her up, but I had some time to kill so I decided to make a pit-stop in Harlem’s “Little Senegal” and see what I could find. I’ve been back in the US for just about 5 months (it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by), but I’ve spoken Wolof maybe 3 times since I’ve been back, so I was hoping for some practice. I immediately came upon a dollar store called “Thies”, which is the name of the city where I learned Wolof, so I went in to check it out. I entered the store and was immediately thrown back to Senegal with Wolof conversations all around me, prayer rugs folded in the corner, and beautifully bright Senegalese printed fabrics. I chatted a bit with the woman behind the counter, and continued on to a restaurant I had found online before I went. I wanted to have some Senegalese food, and I ordered myself Chebbu gannar (Chicken with rice) to go.
Chicken was a rare treat in Senegal, but they didn’t have the more common fish option that day. It was the first time I have eaten Senegalese food outside of Senegal, and it was really fun to reconnect with such a familiar taste (plus I love Senegalese food).
One thing that stood out to me yesterday is even when I spoke in Wolof to the people I met, they barely even blinked. I might have gotten a mildly surprised smile or two, but there was no reaction such as, “did this white girl just walk into my restaurant in Harlem and start talking to me in my native African language?” I guess I have a little bit of a bias based on the reactions I’ve gotten when I’ve spoken Chinese to a Chinese person. They are usually surprised, curious and appreciative of my efforts to learn their language, which has often lead to interesting conversations in the past. From my experiences in Senegal, I didn’t expect anyone to be excited by my language ability in Harlem. I was just content to practice a language I had been using all day every day to 3 times over 5 months and reconnect with a culture that despite its challenges was my base of familiarity for the majority of 2009.
Once I picked up Katelyn from her friend’s house, we swung back through Harlem to give Katelyn a taste of West Africa because both of us wanted to share different cultures we had explored with each other. We walked around a bit and ate some fried plantains in a new West African cafe where we soaked in the mixture of heavily accented French fused with a wide variety of African languages from countries like Mali, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. Spending more time in that area only reminded me of more cultural norms and situations like the prevalence of males compared to females in public and the style and mannerisms of greetings and interactions. Katelyn and I were definitely the minority, but it was a nice way to feel like we had traveled to a new place without leaving the confines of Manhattan.
We spent the day Tuesday exploring Chicago with recommendations from Helena for the best tourist spots. Despite being cold and windy, the weather actually held out pretty well and so long as we warmed up in stores every once in a while. We took the metro from Helena’s house straight downtown to check out the sites around there.
We checked out Millennium Park, which was awesome, especially the gigantic reflective “bean” (I don’t know if there’s a real name for it). It was an awesome site and great for interesting pictures, as you can see below.
We loved walking around and taking in the sights and sounds of Chicago. The architecture is awesome and the people that we interacted with were really pleasant. One of the most important things on our list of things to do in Chicago was eating real deep dish pizza. We were recommended to Giordano’s and found one in the heart of downtown. We ordered one of the small deep dish pizzas, and it was absolutely delicious. I have never had anything like it.
On Wednesday morning, we started our last long haul from Chicago to DC and it marked our official re-entry to Eastern Standard time and everything east coast. The drive was relatively uneventful, but actually pretty pleasant. Our longer drives are always fun despite being in the car for hours simply because we get the most time to talk about anything we feel like, sing, and usually by the end we get a little slap happy from cabin fever and end up laughing over nothing. Unfortunately, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, western Pennsylvania and eastern Maryland really don’t have much to offer in terms of winter scenery.
We arrived at Josh (my partner working on SPINALpedia)’s house in Maryland later in the evening. I had been staying here for a bit before I moved out west to work with Josh on the website. In some ways arriving here last night made me feel for a moment like I never left, unless I stop for a minute and think about the last 3 months of my life and how much has changed. I know it hasn’t been an incredibly long time since I’ve been on the east coast, but I still feel like it’s another world since I was last here. We’ll be in DC Thursday and Friday before heading north Friday afternoon.