Back to my first love: Part II

So back to the actual story. Three of my friends from South Africa and one of their friends were heading to a wedding in New Orleans in April, but not before spending a short week in New York over Easter weekend. It also happened to be my birthday on the 29 of March, so as a gift to myself, I decided that I had to get in on the action…

I booked my tickets for the 24th of March and among the 5 of us, the planning commenced. Lists upon lists were made – what we HAVE to do, what is not as cool as you might think, what have some of us already seen, what would be cool to see if we had any free time, what things we could do for free, etc., etc. Already I could tell that this time would be different than the first – I was not use to planning out the days hour by hour 2 months ahead of the time, but the excitement made me buckle under the peer pressure.

As the 24th of March got closer and closer, I didn’t even want it to arrive anymore, because I knew the time with my friends would just fly by within the wink of an eye. But the 24th did come, and before I knew it, my Uber dropped me of at Salt Lake City airport, and I was on my way. I flew in to Newark airport and took the train to Penn station where my friend, Hannah’s bike messenger from work (I know, so New York right) would bring me the keys to her apartment in *Brooklyn (*always say Brooklyn the Trevor Noah way). The moment I stepped out into the City from the station, I was undoubtedly in New York: Crazy individuals were talking to either themselves or their invisible friends, the streets smelled of fresh urine and a very smooth young man was trying to sell me a ticket to a bus tour – it was like I was falling in love all over again! Just kidding – that really happened, but I was falling in love in spite of all that. If I remember correctly, I literally did I twirl with my arms spread out wide, smiling from ear to ear and breaking my neck looking up to the very tips of all the skyscrapers that are part of probably the most famous skyline in the world. This was what I was dreaming of getting back to, and there I was! I got the keys from the messenger, and hauled my luggage up and down several sets of stairs taking the subway to *Brooklyn. Since my friends were only arriving later in the evening, I sat working on my laptop in Hannah’s apartment, like a modern day, *Brooklyn version of Carrie Bradshaw (minus the men throwing themselves at me). I was trying to imagine if I could live there, like I so often do, but the consensus on that is still out.

I took the subway back to Union Square, where most of the girls were staying with the sister of the soon to be bride.It was so surreal meeting each other at someone’s house in New York City, but this was our life now – just casually meeting friends from South Africa, Namibia and England in New York, that’s just how fancy we are. We babbled so much switching between being well mannered and speaking English, and not caring about anyone else and screaming at each other in Afrikaans. We kicked of our first night by going out to one of the maaany Irish bars in NY, called Finnerty’s. We had such a blast catching up and meeting new people and decided also that the night called for some karaoke, so we headed to Sing Sing Karaoke where we all just continued screaming into mics. To conclude, we screamed a lot. Then the long way back to *Brooklyn lay ahead for Elizma and I.

For the days that followed, I will give a short layout of what our days looked like (that’s what happens when you write a blog 4 months after the actual event).

Friday: Early a.m. was spent waiting in line to buy Broadway tickets to Something Rotten! Later a.m. was spent taking pictures of the Wall street Charging Bull, going to the National Museum of the American Indian for 5 minutes, and strolling around in Battery Park whilst waiting for Charne’ to get back from her job interview (now that’s some real Carrie-ing). Early p.m. was spent eating Chipotle in Bryant Park (Mariska in Bryant Park = overflowing heart) and eating cannolis at Carlos’ bakery (Mariska at Carlo’s Bakery = overflowing baker’s heart). Late p.m. was spent seeing Something Rotten on Broadway, which was an uh-mazing experience, totally worth the whole it left in my wallet!

Saturday: Early a.m. we strolled along the Brooklyn bridge, Starbucks in hand, gazing at the daytime skyline. Late a.m. we took the Long Island Ferry, to, well, Long Island, to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Early p.m. we ordered a couple of pizzas in Brooklyn at Williamsburg Pizza and munched away at Hannah’s apartment while playing with her cat, Willie. Late p.m. we thought we deserved some wine, and ordered a couple of bottles at the Union Square Cafe’.

Sunday: I joined Hannah’s family for the Easter service at the Saint Patrick’s cathedral. This was really special to me, as I was actually going into a service as apposed to taking pictures of this stunning building from the outside. It was also the first Catholic service that I’ve ever attended and unfortunately I embarrassed myself a couple of times, even though I think I was the only one who noticed. After that I met my friends at Smith’s for brunch, which I can highly recommend! We then headed to the Met in the late a.m. to see if we could make it for the free entrance. Uhmmm nope, the line was just a cool 7 hours long…so to the gift shop it was (which was like a whole museum anyway), but not after taking just a couple of Gossip Girl inspired pictures on the stairs of the Met! We got our early p.m. caffeine fix and headed to Central park for a stroll and people watching. By the way, since it was Easter Sunday, the dogs were OBVIOUSLY all dressed up in bunny ears. Central Park was filled with bunny dogs. After Central park we headed back through Times Square (a much dreaded but much needed stop), took one picture and got the hell out of that tourist infested ant hill (yes I know I know, I’m a tourist too…). We then headed to a stand up show at the comedy cellar with Melissa and her friends and got a last round of drinks at a bar close by. Again, the trek back to *Brooklyn awaited Liz and I, but not before saying goodbye to Maryke, as she was heading back to Maryland the next morning.

Monday: We decided to go to the Macy’s early morning and see the flower show there. Shopping commenced. The size of that store still blows my mind (I got lost looking for the Aunt Annie’s pretzels inside the store). At around lunch time, we headed to the Grand Central Terminal and spent way too much time in the whisper gallery. For lunch, we stopped in at the Central Cafe’, and Charne’ got her Turkey Burger fantasies satisfied. Liz and I decided to go back to Central park, to explore it by Citi Bike, and enjoyed it a little too much, making us a little late for our Top of The Rock slot. We made it though, and watched the sun set from above, while drooling in the general direction of the Chrysler building. From there, we were on our way to Rosa Mexicana, where we had an early celebration for my 26th birthday which was the next day. Liz and I decided to spend the night at Melissa’s in Union Square, as everyone was heading to DC the next morning, except for me.

Tuesday: My BirthDAY commenced with us getting a cab and driving to the bus station, where I had to say goodbye to my friends and goodbye to speaking Afrikaans. Sad times indeed. I was going to spend my birthday on my own, but I was in New York City, so who cares! I did meet up with Hannah though, and she treated me with a lovely breakfast before she had to get to work. After she left, I made my way to the Fashion Institute of Technology, where they had a Fairy Tale Fashion Exhibition. My day was spent exploring parts of New York that I hadn’t been to before, and I made a last stop and Barnes and Noble, where I treated myself to quite a few gifts. Hannah and I then met up again and went to a Barbecue joint in Williamsburg, called “Vette Sau” which translates into Fat Pig. Perfect. We sat next to a German Family, who as per usual, started to converse with me in German, as soon as they heard that I was from Namibia. As a side note, many thanx to them and Hannah for insisting on singing happy birthday to me. Hannah and I went back to her apartment, were we reminisced about old times and she taught me about the endless possibilities of Snapchat early into the morning.

Wednesday: At five a.m. Hannah and I were up and headed to the nearest Subway Station, where we said our goodbyes and I was on my way to Penn Station. I wish the story ends here, but it doesn’t. I pulled a classic Ross, and went to Newark, instead of Laguardia. Let’s not dwell on that too long. I’ll just blame it on the fact that where I’m from, there aren’t many different options for Airports, so obviously the one you’re coming in with with is the same as the one you’re leaving out of, right? Why would I even check my ticket before going all the way to New Jersey? That would be almost as stupid as going to the wrong airport…

Aaanyway, after a long day, I was back in Park City, where my next mission commenced:

To be continued in “The Other Side of Town”

Things I want to explore more on my next trip to NYC:

Brooklyn

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Back to my first love.

No, this post is not about me finding my way back to my first boyfriend (she writes with a puzzled face as she’s trying to figure out who that technically was). Nope, it’s about a love way bigger than that, a love that left me breathless and in awe for the last 4 years and left me searching for a way to get it back – or rather, to get back to IT. I’m talking of course, about New York. The Big Apple. The City that never sleeps. You might be thinking that I’m exaggerating when it comes to my feelings for this place, but I’m really not. Remember that for someone from the other side of the world and who comes from a country where the exchange rate makes it all the more difficult to travel, places like New York often seem like an impossible destination. And then when you actually get there, it’s like you’re in a movie. The saying “everything is bigger and better” describes New York City the most accurately to me.

I first got the chance to travel to New York in 2012 and fell in love with the city and everything it had to offer right away. I still remember, my friends and I had New York passes (https://www.newyorkpass.com/En/?aid=12&gclid=CPjb0sPwncwCFQJsfgodSF8LxA)  which means that we filled our days with amazing activities between the hours of 7am and 11pm (when we would go back to our hostel and pass out, exhausted). By the way, I would really recommend getting a pass especially if it’s your first time. We were in NYC for only 4 days and financially the pass was totally worth it – it also makes you more organized with planning out your days, which is necessary in a big city like this. Back then, my favourites included chilling horizontally in Bryant Park, Bike rides in Central park, yacht trips on the Hudson, the NBC studios and spotting Jimmy Fallon at the Rockefeller square (#comediancrush). It’s also important to say that the first time I also LOVED Times Square.

I was so obsessed with New York, that I once forced my mom to leave the JFK airport with me on our way back home from Kansas. We only had a couple of hours and I was sure that I had the subways figured out (my friend Imke made it look so easy) so into the city I went, almost literally dragging my mom with me. I just wanted to skip over the lawn in Bryant Park once in a Sound of Music Maria-esque fashion, because I thought that it might be the last time that I’d ever be in New York. That didn’t happen. Instead we got so lost, and my dream of skipping and laughing was replaced by us buried with our noses in maps, walking through construction sights and finally just getting onto the first bus heading back to the airport. By this time, we were cutting it quite close to make it back in time for our flight to Qatar. I’ll never forget our trip on the Q3, which took us back to the airport, but not after stopping at what felt like every single person on the bus’ actual house in Queens. We started having fits of laughter due to stress, disbelief and exhaustion, so at least I got my laughter.

So back to the actual story. Three of my friends from South Africa and one of their friends were heading to a wedding in New Orleans in April, but not before spending a short week in New York over Easter weekend. It also happened to be my birthday on the 29 of March, so as a gift to myself, I decided that I had to get in on the action…

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It’s all about festivals

Who doesn’t like a good festival, right? I basically love any type of festival – sports, food, art. Music festivals are probably at the top of the list though. Anyway, so when I saw that there was a chocolate and cheese festival in Salt Lake City (which is only about 30 min away from Park City by car), I new that I had to get me a piece of that sweet chocolate pie. So on Sunday morning, after I made us some pancakes – seeing as I was in a pre-festival moo – Kyra and I took an Uber to the Utah Natural Museum of History. This was the first time that we saw the Museum and I must say, I think it’s a beautiful building!

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Front of the Museum

Honestly, it wasn’t a very big festival and it felt more like a Chocolate and cheese market, but it didn’t disappoint none the less. We were immediately drawn to the vendors selling anything made from caramel. Personally I love cheeses too, but I always feel like I’m not enough of a grown-up to buy cheese anywhere other than at the supermarket – don’t expect me to explain that logic. So the selections basically varied from an array of caramels, cookies,cheeses and chocolate bars, truffles and all sorts of baked goods to spreads, jams and some shweet drinks. I think it took us about 2 hours to wander through all the vendors before we decided to go and sit down for our 2nd breakfast for the day: Cupcakes and coffee. While munching away we took inventory of what we had bought and here’s what was most popular with the 2 African girls:

Millcreek Coffee Roasters,  Sugared Caramel Candy,  Cupcakes by Kasthuri,  Chocolot,  Fillings and Emulsions,  V Chocolates, The Chocolate Conspiracy, Xocai Healthy Chocolates  and  omNom Chocolate.

Seeing as we already had passes for the museum then, we decided to check out the gecko exhibition which lead into the pigeon exhibition. Yeah. Gecko feet are the cutest.

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Just a couple of pigeons

We were quite beat after our day at the museum, but we decided that since we were in Salt Lake City already, we might go do some some shopping while we were at it. Joke’s on you, was the response that we got from the City. Everything, as in everything is closed here on a Sunday. We learnt that this was because everything that we were close to, was owned by the Mormon church. Another thing owned by the Mormon church though, was not closed – Temple Square. Since we wanted to go and see the square anyway, that was our next stop. These buildings are soo beautiful, and it was definitely very interesting getting to walk through them. Salt Lake City was founded by a couple of Mormon followers who extensively cultivated this arid valley, that according to some of the people we spoke to, nobody else wanted. Salt Lake City is home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  and is host to one of the biggest Mormon communities. If you are like me, interested in History and Religious History, it’s a pretty informative and cool place to visit. We were super tired by now, and got some Starbucks and got out of there, back to Park City after a pretty successful day exploring SLC.

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Temple Square

Things I miss: My Friends, not having to convert everything in my head to a different unit and sunshine.

More differences…

A babysitting culture:

Since I got here I have been approached by at least 10 different people who are in need of a babysitter. They only know me through the family that’s hosting me at the moment, but other than that they have no clue as to who I am. Of course they get to know me a little before I babysit and sometimes ask me for references, but I still find it so mind-blowing that they trust me to look after their toddlers. I know that I’m good with kids and that you can basically trust me with your life when it comes to taking care of your kids, but I often realise that they don’t know that and that means that they are just naturally very trusting. I don’t know if that’s just the case in Park City, but I find it so interesting sometimes. I guess the reason why this is so weird to me is because babysitting is not a big thing in Namibia at all. I’ve always really loved babysitting, but growing up in Namibia, nobody ever really needed anyone to babysit. Maybe its because most families live in such close proximity to each other that they can usually just ask the grandparents or other family members to babysit, but I also think that parents trust other people less easily with their children there. That’s just the way we grow up there though, I can’t remember being babysat once in my life by someone that I didn’t know really really well. What is cool about the American Culture with regards to that though, is that most parents still go on weekly dates or to events with friends very often, and the kids are mostly so good with new babysitters too, because they’re used to it I guess. The kids are so different too. American kids are mostly super confident, well spoken and unapologetic whereas kids back home are often a little more shy and please and thank yous are law.

Tips on living abroad:

1.Join a sports club and the league or another specific group – it’s the easiest way to meet a lot of people fast!

Coming up, my week in New York!

Absoliefde,

Mariska

 

How it all started

In the beginning of 2015 I applied for a job at a company called Tennis Analytics, which is situated in Park City, Utah. I got the job shortly after that, but then about 11 months passed before I actually got approved for my visa and could start making traveling plans. So on the 31st of December, 2015, I was finally on my way to my new home for the next 18 months.

I remember the hours before I left my home in Windhoek (the capital of Namibia) so clearly. By that time, I already had to say goodbye to my family and friends at our holiday home at the coast, and everything was so quiet and depressing back in Windhoek. No people, no pets, just my parents and I. We were sitting outside drinking coffee, and I was trying to take mental pictures of the surroundings on that perfect summer day (I was about to travel to temperatures of -15 ‘C). Suddenly I couldn’t understand anymore why I ever wanted to leave that place, but I reminded myself that I felt very excited about my new adventure not so long ago, so I convinced myself to follow past Mariska’s dreams, instead of current Mariska’s.

I’ve been to the states a couple of times before, in fact I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places before, and I went to University in a different country too but this time it’s different. This time, I’m doing the grown -up thing, starting a new job and basically a new life, in a place where I don’t know a single soul.  In this day and age, that’s really not a surprising thing anymore, I mean, a lot of people are doing it and because of that, it actually doesn’t seem to be a big deal anymore. The more I think about it though, the more I realise (yes that’s the British way to spell it, which is how we as Namibians are brought up) that it is actually, a very big deal. Yes, technology makes it a lot easier than it was for people who did it 10 or more years ago, but still. For some reason you expect yourself to be fully adjusted within a month, and that’s just not realistic. I keep getting flashbacks of my friend Karlien telling me to give myself 6 months to adjust (which at the time  I thought was ridiculous) and I find it really comforting that someone who adjusts so easily to new surroundings and who is such an extrovert and such a social being told me that it’s OK for it to take a while. Some days it feels like you’re completely settled in and have everything under control and on other days you feel like your failing at this epic adventure that you had in mind. That’s life though, everything is temporary and so are the harder times which must be out shined by the good times!

I’ve already been here 2 months now, so that means that I’ve already experienced a lot of firsts. The first time I saw snow, saw what a snowflake looks like up close (this amazed me for the whole first month), first time I went skiing, first time I went to a film-festival (Sundance) , first time I went to a Superbowl party, first time I thought I got frostbite, etc. What interests me the most though, are the cultural differences that I notice. I have always been very interested in cultures and diversity and believe that we have so much to learn from each other and that sometimes you don’t even need to learn something from someone else, but just appreciate how different they are.

Here are some of the things that I noticed:

1: Something I find very convenient is the way that everything here (in the USA) is made so easy for the consumer. Cheese- already grated/sliced. Fruit-already peeled and cut. Basically you can get any type of food ready-to-go:Rice, baked goods, whole meals. Sure you get ready-to-go meals back in Namibia too, but this is just a whole different level! DO Americans think it’s weird when they get to Africa and they need to grate their own cheese? And I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m making fun of them, because I’m really not, I just wonder about that. Personally, I’m a big fan of the grated cheese thing, but it’s always fascinated me! Back home, we actually have a person assigned to grate the cheese when we make sandwiches. It’s someones job! Anyway, moving on from the cheese, there are some things that I do find ridiculous, like a snowball maker? When did that become too hard to just make snowballs with your Jesus snowball makers, aka your hands? All in all, the amount of products here are just astounding – I don’t know if I will ever look for something here and not find it (although I wish there was Bovril and 5 roses tea here), or not be able to have it delivered right at the front door, which is not the case at all back home. Since I’ve been here, I’ve already had a couple of requests for things that I need to bring back home because it couldn’t be found in Namibia, or in South Africa (our go-to for anything not available in Namibia).

2: Public transport here is amazing! In Park City, the buses are free and it takes you all over town, which makes it perfect for someone like me who just started out here. Life without a car here is very doable even if it is less convenient at times. And in the other states that I’ve been to, the options range from buses and trams to subways and taxis (cabs), you just take your pick. In Namibia the public transport options are unfortunately quite limited and also quite expensive and definitely less prompt. I have to admit, that in my 25 years of living in Namibia, I have never used the bus and have maybe used a taxi 5 times, so I might not be the best person to comment on the system. In South Africa there is a much larger demand for public transport than in Namibia though, and traveling by train, bus or Uber has become quite popular there.

3. Saving the environment. It is so interesting how differently people think about this. Growing up in Namibia and probably most other places in Africa, everyone knows how important it is to never waste food or water. Demand for meat is the biggest contributor of Carbon Monoxide emissions by cows, and therefore, throwing away something like meat is considered a huge waste and rather selfish. In Africa, and most places in the world, there is always someone in need of your left-overs anyway so food rarely goes into a waste bin if you don’t feel like eating it. In terms of water, baths are only ever drawn to a certain level and kids mostly share their bathwater. Watering your garden is done with consideration to how good the rainy season was. Taps are NEVER left running when you rinse something, or brush your teeth or wash your hands. Washing (of dishes and of clothes) is done as water-efficiently as possible. Overall, we just grow-up with the mindset of “water is a precious thing”. Needless to say that is not the case over here. I will admit though, that I probably also would have wasted water and food had I grown up here, because if you grow up in a place where the water is so abundant and you never see people who go hungry, obviously it will not be on your mind in the same way. With regards to letting food and water go to waste, I think that that is actually one of the things that Americans can learn from Africans. Then, when you look at things like environmentally friendly products, America has it all and really tries to make a difference in that aspect. Everything, from clothes to packaging to transport is made to be more friendly towards the environment and they have so many campaigns that work towards improving the quality of the environment. Did you know that green cars get better parking spaces here? Like I mentioned before, the public transport used a lot, which decreases the amount of harmful emissions by cars.

Things I’ve missed about home:

Tea-time. Braais. Binnelanders. Afrikaans.

  • Just to clarify, I don’t mean to ever generalise. All Namibians are not like me and all Americans are not like you.

I want to conclude by saying that from now on I will try to write a little every week, with the goal of sharing things that I learn by living abroad and sharing the adventures that I embark upon. I plan on sharing personal reviews of wherever I go, tips and more interesting things about the culture. Since I will be writing more often, my future blogs will be more specific in terms of events and people and will also contain pictures.

Absoliefde,

Mariska