New York City Highlights

New York City Highlights

Despite living in New York State from age 7 to age 18, I had only been to New York City for one weekend about ten years ago.  I am not sure how it happened, but my close circle of friends from Morocco and I decided that we were going to meet up in NYC to see Hamilton and hang out.  Then I had to invite my mother because I was obligated after purposely addicting her to Hamilton when she can to visit me in April 2016. Not everyone was able to make it, but this is what happens when your "squad" all live on separate continents. Literally. 

Here are the ten highlights of the week:

Escape Game:

I have played escape games in six or seven different countries now. This was by far the best that I have ever done.  We had so much fun.  It was creative; the logic made sense, and we managed not to kill each other.  We didn't win, but we came close. The game master actually lets us finish after our time ran out and it took us less than a minute to finish.  

New York City Public Library www.onemorestamp.com

New York City Public Library:

This may be my favorite building in the whole world. It is gorgeous and full of books. They also have some impressive exhibitions for free. We were able to see the Declaration of Independence. 

Proof of a Small World:

I was getting breakfast in a random health food market (organic bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches, delicious, if you want to know) when who should walk in but my friend Chris.  Who I work with in Beijing and who is not from New York City. The world is a bizarre place, and we are far more connected than we realize.

This is the look you get when you start to explai that you came from Beijing to see the play he was in. "Whaaaat?"

This is the look you get when you start to explai that you came from Beijing to see the play he was in. "Whaaaat?"

Hamilton:

It was better than I thought it was going to be and I had ridiculously high expectations. The tickets were stupidly expensive, and I would pay that much again. 

Moroccan Food-

I spent three days trying to find a Moroccan Restaurant in NYC for all of us to meet at for dinner.  Morocco might have been difficult in many ways, but I still miss the food.  It is also surprisingly difficult to find outside of France and Morocco.  Which is sad for everyone who doesn't have regular access to Moroccan food.  I.E. Me.

City Clerk's Office - Marriage Bureau in Manhatten:

Two of my friends got married in the least dramatic way possible, and I got to be their witness. This must be the happiest government department to work in. Everyone that comes in is happy and wants to be there and is excited about the paperwork. Everyone working there was so nice and went out of their way to say congratulations.  The woman who officiated the ceremony, in particular, managed to make the wedding feel special in the few minutes that we had. 

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DUMBO and the Brooklyn Bridge:

I admit it, I am a sucker for the Brooklyn Bridge.  I think that it is beautiful and it conjures up all these images of old New York for me. And that view of the Manhatten Skyline can't be beaten.

Brooklyn Brownston:

We stayed in Brooklyn because there were five of us and we needed three bedrooms.  We had the whole upstairs apartment, and it felt as if we were staying on Sesame Street. It was a hike into Manhatten, but it isn't as if we were planning on

The Met

I now have a secret ambition to eventually move to NYC and get a membership to the Met so that I can go every weekend for a year.  I might just start to scratch the surface of what is there. If you are at all interested in art or museums, give this one a whirl. This isn't a half assed collection by any means.  BTW if you download their app onto your phone, you can get the audio guide for free instead of paying 7$ for it.  Worth it!

Reconnecting-

I hadn't seen one of my friends in over three years and my mother in more than one. I love my expat life, but I do miss people. I get into a rhythm if they aren't in your life day to day but then you see them again, and you remember why you love them. I have some pretty awesome people in my life. 

New York needs a few more visits.  There are still so many parts of it that I haven't seen.  It is 100% my favorite city in America and in my top ten cities in the world so far.  I'll be back.

What are your favorite things in NYC or the things that you dream about?

The Life of a Passport- Time to Renew

The Life of a Passport- Time to Renew

I had to turn in my passport to the US embassy today.  I am getting a new one early because then my school can renew my visa and transfer it to the new passport at the same time. I got my current passport in February of 2008.  It was my second one, the first one having been used precisely three times.  At the time I was living in a small and remote Alaskan village and was planning a trip to Ireland with my roommate. I was trying to get hired overseas and was in the middle of being rejected by virtually every school on the planet.  Good times. Fun fact: teaching overseas is sort of a Catch-22 situation.  Schools are very reluctant to hire you unless you are already working overseas and you can't work abroad without being hired.  Getting in for the first time for me was 40% dumb luck, 40% living in Alaska, and 10% being willing to go anywhere.  Thus Mongolia.  

 It was three in the morning I was one of only a few tourist getting off the plane.  I honestly thought he was kidding. He wasn’t.

This passport has taken a beating.  It is grubby from being handled for hours on end while I wait in lines, lines, and more lines.  The outside battered due to my losing my favorite passport cover about a year ago. It holds my ten-year Mongolian visa which incidentally runs out in a couple of months.  There are six pages dedicated to Ausbildungs from my time in Germany and even more for the innumerable Chinese VISAS that I have collected over the years. I have an unofficial stamp from my trip to Manchu Pichu and another from the Post Office in Lichtenstein.  My Vietnamese VISA was accidentally printed sideways, and the Moroccan passport control would just turn to the last page and blindly stamp, so the last two pages are a dizzying pattern of Moroccan entry and exit stamps.  Few were stamped with enough ink, and none of them are legible. In Zanzibar I paid 100$ for a guy to write in ballpoint pen in my passport ZANZIBAR VISA- PAID.  It was three in the morning I was one of only a few tourist getting off the plane.  I honestly thought he was kidding. He wasn't.

It doesn't hold all my travel secrets, of course.  Many of my European travels were conveniently passport control free. I am still secretly disappointed that I don't have stamps from everywhere that I have been.  In 2011, I ran out of pages and had to get more added.  Apparently, you are not allowed to do this anymore and have to get a new passport instead. Because of the sections that I had added, I have four pages at what was once the last pages of my passport filled with regimented rows of green ger shaped entry stamps from Mongolia.  

My pages have filled up.  Given my life choices, they couldn't help it.  I finally memorized the number. Almost ten years overseas, fifty-three countries, six continents, and one husband later this particular passport has come to the end of its journey.  I wonder what the next one will bring.

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Maybe this Time: Returning to Australia

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I spent eight months in Australia when I was 19.  It was only the third time that I had left the US (not counting Canada because I am from Buffalo and Canada is right there.  Fun Fact: I took a Canadian Studies class in high school.) It was the first time that I went without family or a friend.   This week I went back to Australia with my husband to visit friends and to see more of Australia. 

Of course, we had an excellent time.  So much fun but it made me think back on who I was the first time I was in this country. That was 15 years, several degrees, and 50 countries ago. Australia may have changed a bit, but I have changed a lot.  I remember Australia being pretty challenging.  I had some pretty intense culture shock:  Swearing! Unisex bathrooms in the dorms! So much beer!  It seems tame now but 19-year-old me was completely overwhelmed.

I wouldn't take back my first Australian experience. It was the set up for pretty much the rest of my life.  But I would be lying if I told you that I was able to take advantage of the time there.  I am both intensely introverted and shy.  Over the years I have learned to deal with my shyness, but I was still a mess of insecurity while living in Australia.  Having to deal with human beings in the smallest ways caused me intense distress.

I lived on campus in Rockhampton.  Australia had the decency to only have single rooms. I spent a lot of time in that room.  A full load of courses in Australia was much much less than in America.  I had a lot of free time.  You would think that I would have used it to explore this new country/city.  Nope.  I went shopping a couple of times and to the beach a few times, but for the most part, I was within walking distance.  I did get to do some traveling during the school holidays. I was able to go to Sydney, Brisbane, Carnes, Canberra, and Adelaide. But the majority of my time was spent alone in my dorm room.  It is where I read Harry Potter for the first time.  The university library had a "children's section" and a nonfiction section.  I like nonfiction, but it was only a matter of time before I was reading MG and YA.  I rekindled my love affair with YA here.

I remember there was a formal sit down dinner at the dorms.  I am not sure why.  I signed up but didn't get assigned a seat. I think I was supposed to choose and didn't know it. The cocktail time was okay, but then I couldn't find where I was expected to sit.  I thought I found it, but it turned out to be the seat of another girl named Tara.  I still get sick to my stomach when I think of how embarrassed I was when she had to ask me to move. I faked being all nonchalant while I made my escape from the humiliation of being displaced and then I snuck back to my dorm room and hid there. The rest of the weekend.  With the lights off because omg people could not possibly know that I exist and am lame. I even snuck into the bathroom like a spy, peering around corners and running down the hall. If I recall correctly, I also cried on and off for a few days.  

That was a slightly more dramatic example, but even things like being able to get a soda from the machine in the common room meant having to gear myself up for an hour beforehand. It wasn't until the last three weeks in the country that I was familiar enough with the people around me that I started trying to make friends.  

It wasn't until years later that I was able finally to  overcome my shyness. I say overcome like it is a dragon I had to slay.  But to be honest, the shyness is still there I have just learned to work around it, ignoring that voice inside that tells me to fear the judgment of others eyes.

Even though I know that it is me who has changed, it still feels as if Australia is different this time.  I was so out of my depth before.  Everything seemed strange and scary.  I was self-conscious about being American. I look back at myself agonizing over packing, being weirded out at new food, and unable able to speak over a whisper to strangers.   I hardly recognize that girl.

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