Posts tagged NYC
I’ve accumulated quite a few good ones in my day.
This past weekend in NYC visiting Katelyn, we were enjoying an evening in Manhattan, strolling around, chatting and people watching. Eventually we decided to go into Walgreen’s to get a drink. I walked through the door, and I unexpectedly registered recognition as I saw my friend Lucy from Harvard (who actually lives in Boston) standing at the register.
(a picture of Lucy and I from senior year)
After excited hugs and laughter, Lucy informed me that it was Harvard Alumni night at the bar around the corner, making this an even funnier coincidence. It sounded almost too comical to be real, but needless to say, Katelyn and I stopped by the bar and I saw some friends and some other familiar faces.
It’s always funny to look back and consider all the factors that led to the chance encounter at Walgreen’s. What if we turned right instead of left out of the subway? Or what if we spent a few extra minutes listening to the drumming group in the park? There are so many seemingly unimportant decisions whose consequences that piece together perfectly into a random, fun story.
In my first attempt at a blog when I first moved to Madagascar, I shared a small world story so that others could share that “wow” feeling that so often accompanies less-than-traditional coincidences and run-ins. I wrote this back on January 6, 2009: “this story is just a little crazy but worth writing about, but mainly for those from PA. i was on the main avenue of town around new years where there were carnival games and tons of people, but i was at a booth and i look to my left and i saw a springford sting sweatshirt, hailing from collegeville, pa written on the back. not only was i stunned to see collegeville, pa on a sweatshirt halfway around the world, but katie u., one of my friends from high school played for sting!! unfortunately my lack of french kept me from talking to the guy and my slow hands kept me from taking a picture, but i told katie that the shirt said ‘sarah’ and #21, apparently one of her old teammates ironically enough, so she emailed sarah, and sarah apparently left it at a goodwill at some point, so i will leave it up to all of you to decide how the heck it got to anatananarivo, madagascar on a guy standing next to me.”
How about this one?
While hiding away from the political revolution in Madagascar, there was another American named Sawyer who by chance had connected with our group and was staying with us to avoid the drama and violence downtown. I didn’t get to know him very well because it wasn’t long after he arrived that I left Madagascar.
(photo as I was walking out the door to leave Madagascar, Sawyer is the one on the right.)
Fast forward to Senegal about 2 months later. I was visiting a Peace Corps volunteer for the first time in her home village on the coast to explore more of the country. Our plan for my only night in the area was to meet some other Americans for dinner who worked with her on environmental projects. When she mentioned what organization they came from, I recognized the name. I casually mentioned that I knew someone who worked for that organization in Madagascar (Yes, Sawyer). My friend then proceeded to inform me that the guy she was referring to was originally stationed in Madagascar. I guess you can imagine where this is going, but basically, it turned out to be the same person. He still had no idea I had figured this out, so I decided to surprise him. When he finally arrived at the restaurant and saw me sitting at the table, I laughed as I watched his eyes twitch with recognition then light up with laughter looking at me from across the restaurant. Needless to say it was fun to reminisce and marvel over the fact that we went from hiding in the same house from a coup in Madagascar to a small village in eastern Senegal without ever communicating in between or really even knowing what happened to each other after Madagascar.
Now am I a magnet of coincidence or am I a victim/beneficiary of the artistry of fate? I doubt I’ll ever know, nor do I need to, because I always enjoy my small world stories.
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.
On Saturday, Katelyn and I got ourselves organized before heading out for the second-half of my homecoming in Bucktown. As we approached “downtown” Bucktown’s main slash only intersection, I felt another nice wave of familiarity.
In the afternoon, we went out to see Shutter Island with my dad, which was fun. After that, we hung out at my dad’s house too. Alex played electric guitar and piano for us (he’s getting really good!), and we introduced Katelyn to the Martin Family Specialty that are Nerf Battles. These are a common occurrence at our house once we discovered that Dad could use the guns perfectly fine without moving his fingers. Usually it’s Alex and I against Dad, Alex and I crouching behind the recliner in the family room and Dad in the kitchen, firing as fast as possible until we’ve expended all of our darts. With Katelyn in the mix, we split boys versus girls and needless to say, Katelyn (despite being a novice) and I were victorious. We a picture was necessary to capture the real “tough” nature of these battles.
After staying at my dad’s, Katelyn and I headed to Philly to get Indonesian food (Katelyn’s birthday was the 28th, but we celebrated Saturday night). We had a great, long meal with some of our friends, then headed out to Old City Philadelphia. I called some friends from home and we pieced together a big group of people, which was a lot of fun. Once the clock struck midnight, we got a large group to sing happy birthday to our birthday girl.
On Sunday we started our trek to NYC, planning on making a pit stop in New Jersey to take my grandma to lunch. Our time schedule was a bit thrown off because yesterday was a very rough “Gee I miss my GPS” day. Thank goodness for patience and persistence otherwise we might still be crying somewhere in no man’s land Philadelphia having given up on our quest. Thank goodness also for Grandmas because once we actually did make it to our lunch turned early dinner, we had a wonderful afternoon eating delicious food and having some good old fashioned girl time. The restaurant even brought out a candle for Katelyn’s birthday with our dessert and I was glad we had such a nice afternoon to brighten our day.
After lunch, we continued to NYC and had a little more luck with directions than the first leg of the journey. With only minor complications, we reached our destination. Katelyn stayed with a friend of hers in Manhattan and I made my adventurous solo journey by car to Brooklyn to hang out with Khary (friend from Harvard). Driving in New York might have been added to my top 10 list of things I hate last night, but once I got there I was happy to have a low-key, enjoyable night getting to catch up and re-connect with a good friend. The last few fast paced days eventually caught up with me though, and I was grateful for a good night’s sleep.
Sunday marked 3 weeks since we’ve begun our adventure, it seems very hard to believe. We’re going to make the most out of our last few days.