Independence Day Stories

4th of July Weekend is coming up, and with it the entire package of festivities, BBQs, and down days at work, which are connected to the holiday.

For all of you who do not know by now: 4th of July is a HUGE celebration in the States (you don’t have anything comparable in Germany, and NO, the day the wall came down does NOT measure up to it!), as many excited Americans are celebrating the day of independence from the British Empire. This year, July 4, 2011, will be the 235. anniversary of the date the first 13 American colonies gained freedom from Great Britain. This so-called Independence Day has ever since been a national and federal holiday, on which patriotic symbols are displayed – the American flag being among the most typical ones, of course. You find the notorious Stars&Stripes in various forms, not only in its original one, so do not be surprised if it shows up on a cake on the buffet table or is worn as a funky motive on a shirt or body painted on some American faces. Yes, the US is a very patriotic country, and this is especially revealed on their biggest day of the year.

Macys contributes to the annual insanity surrounding the 4th of July celebrations by paying over half a million of dollars for the biggest firework of the nation on Hudson River (it used to be facing the East River, but they switched locations a few years ago). It is perfectly viewable from the New Jersey waterfront, at which most camera teams and reporters tend to pitch their tents hours before sunset. The view is the best, I have to admit, and if you want to see it, go to Weehawken or Hoboken. My friend and I made the bad mistake of actually staying in the City last year and trying to catch a glimpse of the colorful sparklers at Time Square! BAD DECISION! He was double pissed, as he lives in Weehawken and could have seen it perfectly relaxed from his great window view or roof! O well, it’s never too late to learn.
So we ended up being smashed in a crowd of mostly tourists and people from Queens and Brooklyn, having to tolerate sweaty bodies, screaming infants, and ruined shoes as one foot after another tried to shove through the crowd and happened to find my bare toes. Yes, it wasn’t too nice, but now I know better. And the highlight of our adventure was that we couldn’t see half of the fireworks for the police only let us through to 10th Avenue and the massive buildings ahead of us blocked out the best part of it – or so it seemed. Needless to say that I didn’t take one decent picture from the spectacle, as it was too much of an effort to navigate my arm around the tightly pent-up crowd. Uff, just thinking about this makes my heart race again!

The day by itself had been pretty eventful: I got to check out numerous BBQs, but unfortunately nothing resembled the “real American experience,” as I like to call it. We first went to a private party in Greenpoint, to which we made our way from an overheated subway station through the hot streets of Williamsburg. In case you forgot, last year was the big heat wave season throughout the East Coast, and July was consistent with this. When we got to our friend’s house, we were welcomed by a crowd of only two people. Oooops, seems like they were let down by quite a few of their friends on that day! Well, they definitely tried to make the best out of their situation, as they had their own little BBQ going on. We ended up staying for a chat, while they switched my water glass up to an Eggnog mix, which is great to drink during the summer, believe it or not. After some time more people showed up, so we excused ourselves (my friend was bored) and returned back to Prospect Park, where we took part in a bunch of other BBQs. Since we were on the Haitian side of the grounds, almost every other family had their own party going on, and we wandered from crowd to crowd, being invited to eat and drink and thus collected an overload of corncobs, bread, juices, and other edibles in our hands.

Me holding Haitian Flag
Us taking a break from food on 4th of July

It ended up being more of a Haitian-American experience, with people dancing to their bongas and waving their national flag to its rhythms. Which was a very interesting cultural experience by itself, too, of course.

In general, it appears to be more difficult than elsewhere to have a BBQ here in the City due to reasons of space and dimensions. I know some people give a party on their rooftops but it is rather hard to have a large crowd on top of a building. That is why I am still determined to travel to other places to finally see an “all-American” 4th of July party with many people, buffets and a huge green space. Wish me luck, maybe I’ll witness this sometime soon.

It is also not uncommon that a good amount of folks likes to escape New York and take advantage of their 3-day-weekend, which they sometimes extend to a 4-day-event. Quite naturally. Such as in the case of my coworkers, who are hitting up Florida, Pennsylvania, or Maine, and who had their last day of work today. How I envy them!

What are your plans for Independence Day?

NYC Dating Carousel – Jump on Board and Enjoy the Ride!

New York is an interesting city in many aspects. Dating is one of them. It is an entire story by itself and not everyone gets the game that is being played.

In Germany, dating seemed quite easy: You meet someone on a night out, exchange phone numbers, get in touch, and then hang out. Maybe you become a couple after this. Simple, right?

Here you have to deal with various other factors. Potential problem number one: Distance. The guy you meet at a club or bar does not necessarily live in the City. He might just be here for a week-long vacation or for a two-day-stay and originally comes from any other part of the Tri-State-area. Needless to say that dating poses a problem in this case. Albeit it might be exciting to date a European for 2 weeks straight, the heart-ache will be much worse as soon as his plane leaves – with him on board and you left stranded in the City. Trust me!

Potential problem number two: Nightclubs! Most of the future candidates I have met on an eventful night out. My roommate advised me well when she told me from the beginning that I will never get to know a decent guy in a club. It took me a while to figure this out. Before this I met the guy who seemed overly sweet and caretaking. Until he asked me to “hang out” with him and his brother at his apartment in Spanish Harlem right after our first dinner together. Needless to say I didn’t stay in touch with him. The same goes for the guy who had quite an interesting life but who made it clear from the first meeting that he had a girlfriend and was expecting other “benefits” from our relationship (without letting his gf know, of course!). I had a great time leading him on and then letting him down in the very last second. Or the guy who seemed to deal with so many problems in his life that a “closer relationship” would just not fit into his “busy schedule.” Too busy to date but still enough time for a quickie? Seriously?!

I have to admit that all of these individuals sound plain nuts in hindsight (about as much as they did at the time I dealt with them). I still think that any girl who would commit to something like this must be very desperate or have low self-esteem. Sadly,though, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were quite a few (good-looking) chicks who fall for their hollow words. It is New York, after all, the city that has everything and where new life styles are made up almost instantaneously.

Therefore, it is not uncommon to not only date several persons but to look around and see what else you can get. Potential problem number three: Promiscuity and infidelity! I know people who are seeing at least two candidates at a time just to make sure they will get the best out of each of their partners and to not be involved with each person too seriously. Blond and Brunette, Black and White, Rich and Poor – you find it all here and some people don’t see any reason to go down the stony road of a deep commitment to only one individual when they can just take the easy way out. Well, why should they if they can have it all, and even better when both parties agree (and they do, at least in the beginning).

Potential problem number four: Cheapness. Some guys here simply do not care about making a lasting impression. My roommates are from Belarus, an Eastern European country, and for some reason it is in their mentality to not be invited whenever a guy asks them out. I, on the other hand, would never pay for my own dinner if on a date, unless I am not interested in the guy and want to leave the situation as soon as possible. Since so many different cultures clash together here, you run into these weird dudes who seem to not see a relation between being a gentleman and paying for both parties in the beginning. I remember this one man who asked me out several times but then was too cheap to take over the bill. There was really no intent from my side to meet up again, for who knows what else he expects me to pay, possibly his rent when it comes to that?

Yes, it sometimes is ridiculous what you walk into here. You can get to know people at meet-ups or at work (not advised), in the park or at the beach. But what it all comes out to is that most potential males here don’t seem too interested in getting to know you very well but they are more geared towards having “fun” as defined by their own standards. Or they lose their interest very suddenly, as if something else came along. The distraction rate here is quite high, in case you didn’t realize.
It goes both ways, though, as many girls do not seem ready to jump into anything in the same way guys refrain from this. In the beginning I could develop an understanding for their perspective but now I regard such behavior as simply immature. It seems that most people here are not ready to be emotionally close while facing the danger of having their feelings hurt.

New York City – a play ground for grown-ups, but mostly at the expense of deep relationships and intimacy!

Same-sex Marriage

2 years ago I took this speech class in college. It was one of the most inspiring courses I had taken to date and I felt like sharing a bit of my old writings (remember, this was me at 22) with you. Especially since the topic of same-sex marriage has been a great deal in the past few days over here.

New Orleans, about two years ago:
While a joyful parade is attracting hundreds of people on and around Bourbon Street, with its colorful masquerades and costumes, men in women’s clothes wearing make-up, high heels and feather boas, a different march is taking place in a side alley one block away from Bourbon street. It is a demonstration against homosexuality. Men in leather gear and dangerous looking equipment are waving signs with slogans such as “homosexuality is sin”, “ban homosexuality”, and citing paragraphs from the Old Testament. For me, this situation gave me something to think about, and to do some research on the topic of homosexuality in the U.S. I have been specifically interested in the issue of homosexual marriage ever since.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Laura, and tonight I will persuade you that the United States has to take measures for allowing same sex-marriage in every single state.
I will outline the basic problems surrounding same-sex marriage, the causes for some of these problems, and what steps can be taken in the future to reinforce same-sex marriage in every state.

According to encarta.com, marriage is defined as a “socially recognized and approved union between individuals, who commit to one another with the expectation of a stable and lasting intimate relationship.” Marriage has to be legally and socially approved, and it is regarded as a relationship that involves rights and benefits no other union (or relationship) can have.
Today, as cited in the NCSL.org (national conference of state legislature), in our fifty states, only 6 states issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
Ten other states accept same-sex marriages that have occurred in a different state, or offer civil unions for same-sex couples. Some of you may wonder what the difference between a civil union and a marriage is: A civil union is an alternative type of relationship for those homosexuals who are not allowed to marry, and it comes with a fraction of the rights and benefits a marriage has. However, it is not accepted equally across the States, and every state has a different definition of it. As you can tell, this constitutes a problem. Everyone knows how to understand a marriage but for civil unions, the definition is not so clear.

Now, let’s turn to causes for the opposition of same-sex marriage. They have political, religious, and societal motives.
First, as stated in the NCSL, in 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (aka DOMA). This Act refines marriage as between a “man and a woman,” and, thus, excludes marriage between same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage is not federally recognized, and the amendment gives states the opportunity to prohibit this type of marriage. DOMA has had such a strong influence on the state’s legislations, that, shortly thereafter, laws within states were passed that did not recognize same-sex marriage or marriage formed in another state.
Second, religious proponents are still fighting the war against homosexuality, in general. As I saw in New Orleans, people like to take certain passages of the bible and illustrate how these oppose homosexual marriage. Religion is closely related to societal beliefs. According to Alex Rich in his article “Same Sex marriage: An Overview,” opponents declare that homosexuality is believed to be a choice made by the individuals, rather than being biological determined. Religious preachers thus label homosexual “practices” sin, and see no relation between biological genes and homosexuality.
Third, a privilege of marriage is having legal responsibility for a child. Adopting a child is an option same sex couples consider. However, opponents strongly believe that children will display abnormal behavior when being raised by a same-sex couple. As cited in Lyonn-nore Chittom in her article “Same Sex Marriage,” it is strongly believed that each biological parent carries a different responsibility and role towards a child. As further cited, children might become confused and disturbed as which parent to turn to for assistance.

I have outlined the three major problem areas to you. Now, I will turn to look at what solutions are offered to fight harmful beliefs against homosexuals and how same-sex marriage can become socially and legally accepted.
First, referring to my last point, the APA has readily denied any harmful effects same-sex couples can have on raising children. Homosexual role models do not affect children negatively, and, most importantly, children are not confused in their sex role identity, as most opponents like to claim. Thus, a same sex-couple is perfectly capable of providing a home environment comparable to heterosexual parents.
By allowing marriage, same sex couples could enjoy the privilege of raising a child and providing him or her with a loving and caring home.
Second, considering the issue of religion and societal beliefs:
I am not here to convince you whether what stands in the bible is true or untrue, I can only say that many alternative forms of life style have been accepted nowadays, which would have not been accepted by bible standards. Cohabitation is one.
We should also recognize that homosexuals have been around as long as human beings have been around. The idea that homosexuality is a choice of lifestyle, like some opponents usually state, is biologically false.
Thirdly, the DOMA is a strong act that has had an effect on most states. As I told you earlier, only 16 states show some form of acceptance for homosexual couples in a legal way. The rest 34 states choose to follow the DOMA. It is clear that laws depend on the public opinion, and that the people belonging to the states had an effect on whether proposing or opposing same-sex marriage. However, the DOMA and other legislations taken by the states should not depend on the public opinion. It should not even have been passed those 13 years ago, since it goes against the 14th amendment.
As stated in Section 1 of the 14st amendment: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Clearly, the DOMA and any other law enforced against same-sex marriage is a breach against the Constitution. It should be abolished immediately.
Every American individual has the privilege to marry. Until 1996, it was not illegal to wed same sex couples. Because it was socially unaccepted, Congress passed the DOMA, and it is restricting homosexuals in their right to live according to their own sexual orientation. It is restricting same-sex couples in expressing freely how one feels for another.

In conclusion, I have outlined the problems and causes surrounding same sex marriage. I have given you some solutions of how the United States can fix this problem.
Civil unions are an answer. But they cannot come up for the privileges a marriage provides. They cannot come up for the ceremony, nor the very special day two persons enjoy and want to keep in memory.
Adoption and inheritance privileges are not an option for same sex couples living together. They would not have the right to decide about any medical issues concerning their partner. Same-sex marriage has taken a leap in the last few years. Let us hope that it will take a further leap in 2010, 2011, and thereafter.

Thank you for your attention!

(Oct 2009, for UMUC Europe)

NYC Pride Parade and Other Classics

Saturday was a happy day for homosexual couples here in New York: Governor Andrew Cuemo approved the act of same-sex marriage, which will be reinforced in the 30 days following his announcement. This makes New York the 6th (!) state in the US which allows gay lovers to finally tie the knot and obtain all the legal rights connected to marriage (adoption is one; on the flip side, divorce and all the drama connected to it are now also an issue gays would have to deal with). Needless to say that bride and groom costumes were an all-to-common theme at the 42nd annual Gay Pride Parade in Manhattan on Sunday afternoon. One of the best parades I’ve been to so far here in the City!

It started in Midtown and went down 5th Avenue until concluding in the Village. I got a good glimpse of it around W8th Street, being smashed against the sign of Barnes & Nobles but happy to see all the artistically made-up people celebrating their new freedom. Even though I was there for 3 hours straight, I wasn’t bored but rather entertained. The vibes were great and there were no conflicts I experienced (unlike other parades). It was good to look at some nice half-naked trained bodies who were just enjoying showing off and being among their like-kind. I don’t consider the US to be one of the most open-minded countries when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex love. California and New York City (not necessarily the rest of the New York) might be some of the rare sad exceptions to this rule. Compared to a gay parade in Germany, this was more flamboyant and a lot bigger by size and different from the people participating in the parade. Which is a good thing – I am glad NY somehow gets to play a lead role when it comes to this topic. You should have seen the expressions of some cops, though, they were ready to “kill.” Oh boy! The after party must have been pretty rough, I can tell you that much.

Parade time is usually from June to November here in New York. Two weeks ago I had the chance to check out the Puerto Rican Parade more uptown on Fifth Avenue. Due to me being a waitress last year and missing out on all the sweet Sundays (the day most parades are held), I did not get a chance to attend it last year. This was made up for this year so I patiently waited, taking in all the energy around 80th St. And noticed I really wasn’t feeling it!
Sorry, but what is so special about pimped up rides and socially disadvantaged people showing their cars off? Since when is it in fashion to be a hardcore “thug” with gold in your mouth and an aura of non-trust? The entire hour I stayed (didn’t feel any need to stay longer than this!) I basically clutched my handbag tight to my chest and tried to avoid any eye or body contact with ANYONE around me. No joke! And man, was I glad I am not blond, otherwise those drunk wanna-be-Latinos would have been all over me (as seen with a Russian girl who was followed by quite a bunch of these). I’m sure Puerto Rico has a lot more to offer than this and that their culture has a few more interesting sides than from what I experienced so far.

Well, it was good I went and great I saw it here in New York but to quote my former boss “it is not a cultural event you would want to attend if you don’t have to.” So true! Thanks, should have listened to him.

Off to the Halloween Parade, which is on October 31 (every year) and which I still didn’t get a chance to see because of the immense crowd of people that kept me from going last year. I cam from the Union Square side and people were standing around 6th Ave from two blocks away. A slight turn-off and a reminder for me to either be there ahead of time or to go to a different spot this year.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, one of the classics for longterm New Yorkers, is held every third Thursday in November (hence the name!). I was there in 2010 with two other German girls and we were bored out of our minds. I guess it is a great thing to do if you are with children or a younger age group but nothing too interesting to watch when you are a teenager or older.

And, to save one of the best marches for the end: The German-American Steuben-Parade at the end of September! The best part about this is not the parade itself but surely the party afterwards aka as the New York Bierfest in Central Park. The Parade shows some traditional German groups but for some unexplicable reason it also includes German Karneval costumes (which has nothing to do with Bavarian tradition or Beerfeest fashion). Well, I guess Americans WOULDN’T know the difference, so be aware of this and you won’t be fooled the next time you go. The Steuben-Parade is okay if you have never seen anything German before. But you should definitely follow the hungry crowd to the tents (you do pay a fee) and get it on with good German beer. We stayed until the bitter end, six long hours, and then went on to “Zum Schneider’s” in Alphabet City. That’s where it ends around 4AM (or 5AM, depending on the bartender). One of the most eventful days here in New York so far.

A doctor tapping our beer

Now that you have a slight overview I hope you will enjoy watching a few fun parades and don’t get ticked off by some rude people stepping on your foot. It’s all part of the experience!

F and Q Train Life

A few days ago I was on the Q-Train again – after 8 months of abstinence. I used to live on one of its stops but then I moved to an area which is on the F-Train. I had almost forgotten about the Q-train’s crowd and the people who board the subway every day. I remember how I really hated getting into the B and the Q in the morning or during rush hour after work because of the people on it. However, yesterday it was a nice change to take the line again and it made me compare the persons on there to the ones riding the F-Train.

Q-Train Park Slope

The Q-train was basically my very first stable and standard train I took from my first month here until December (that’s when I moved). It goes from Coney Island all the way up to Astoria in Queens and takes commuters from the deepest point of Brooklyn to the heart of Manhattan, if desired. Its tracks lead past the Russian neighborhoods around Brighton Beach, the Jewish communities in Midwood, the Haitian families around Prospect Park, and Brooklyn’s richer elite in Park Slope all the way up to Central Park in Midtown. It gives its travelers the chance to get to work on time or to stop by at some of New York’s best sightseeing spots. Directly from the depth of Chinatown at the Canal Street Stop it takes them to the Latin neighborhoods who are enriched by their own exotic culture in Queens.
But the very best part about the Q-Train is the view you have when crossing the Manhattan Bridge. Words cannot express it as this picture will but it is definitely the sight of the Manhattan skyline so close by that still, after over one year of being here, makes my heart pound faster once the trains exits the underground tunnel and steers toward its destination. It continues to give my journey to the City sense and to take my breath away once I rest my eyes on this unique scenery. Night and day will give you two completely different views, but both are equally exiting.

Manhattan Skyline from the Q
Manhattan Skyline from the Q
Manhattan in the fog
Manhattan in the fog

As you can tell, the Q-train is originally diverse. I have seldom seen so many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds than on this train. And surprisingly, I have even less witnessed a fight on the Q despite these different backgrounds being squeezed into each other each every morning and evening, forced to look a complete stranger in the eye or being exposed to a body distance that can be regarded as uncomfortable in other circumstances.

The F-Train hosts a very different crowd. Forget about the Haitian, Russian, and even Latin groups. What you have left is a standard ride on this transportation. Just like its yellow counterpart, it also leads from Coney Island all the way up into Manhattan. It doesn’t stop at the border of Queens, though, but goes even further and hereby forms the train that leads the furthest into Queens with its final stop being Jamaica. From here you can access a bus or take a taxi to get to the airports LaGuardia and JFK.

I live close to two of the stops the F makes in Park Slope. When I enter the train in the morning it is usually already crammed full and I can barely get a seat, of course. On my way to Midtown, the train makes several interesting stops: Cobble Hill, Dumbo, the heart of Chinatown at East Broadway, and along the Village and Chelsea up to Herald Square. The Park Slope stops are home to people in their twens or parents with younger children. You get to hear French fathers practicing conversation in their native language with their stubborn childs or dark nannies taking care of blonde infants. The snobbish and stressed people get in at Cobble Hill and they take almost every single standing spot left in this train. From there on, the ride turns into an adventure of trying to find your balance while searching for something to hold on. A crowd from the midst of Brooklyn joins at Jay-St Metrotech, coming from the A and C lines. Even though both blue lines don’t have a great vibe, the F train is not affected by this through its newly-gained commuters.

Some creative people walk into the train in Dumbo at York Street. If you get off here, you should take a nice stroll down to the Brooklyn Bridge and the two parks around it. The commuters who are the most interesting come into play in the Lower East Side: Unique looking, younger artists, bartenders, or simply people who have the air of enjoying their lives.
At W4 the madness starts as travelers are jumping out of the car to either dive into an express orange line or to run upstairs to catch the blue lines, which are running along 8th Ave.
During the entire ride you don’t see any skyline or view on Manhattan. You get to know Brooklyn better from Smith-9th St on, because the train sometimes runs above the ground from then on.

A positive thing about the F is that its energy is decent. The Q was transmitting angry vibes on most mornings I took it. I hardly even wanted to bump into anyone because I was scared this might make some Haitian woman yell at me. From Parkside Ave on the doors let in socially disadvantaged mommies with their not-very-well-behaved children. I hated it! I didn’t know where to look and what to think of these people. On the F I feel more like where I belong. Sure, you got your share of rude people, I’ll give you that! But as long as you don’t experience the fear of being harassed or screamed at, you’re good on your commute.

When I took the Q again earlier this week, I felt that their crowd might still be very much interesting and it is definitely still unique in my eyes.
Trains in New York- they tell their own story.

Starting Out New: Cell Phones in the US

When moving to New York, you will have to figure out a way of how to get in touch with people. Looking for a room or apartment, seeking out job offers, communicating with new friends – all these things will be hard to accomplish and to maintain if you don’t have a cell phone yet.

The second day I got here I went to a random drug store (CVS, if I recall it right) in Queens and got a pay-as-you-go phone. The idea is to pay as you do your calls or send off your texts. In Germany we have something resembling the idea of a prepaid phone. A pay-as-you-go phone is slightly different, as you have to update your balance when it reaches a certain amount or else your phone will be shut down by the company after some time has passed – you cannot just leave it on zero. Be aware that you pay not only for outgoing calls or text messages but also incoming data, which makes your conversations priced double the amount than you are used to and will add to your balance being close to zero far sooner than initially thought.

After two weeks of this, I was tired of it and I decided to get a contract. Only knowing the bigger companies and not really having informed myself earlier, I walked into the next Verizon store, set up a 2-year-contract, and walked out with a “free” (after mail-in-rebate) phone and an additional $40-bill added to my monthly expenses. When looking at my account balance one month later, the amount had changed to a whopping $60 each and so far it has refused to go down.
I don’t know if you noticed already, but you don’t get what you signed up for here in the States. Be it clothes, apartments, or cell phones – there is always a hidden added charge you didn’t think about in the beginning, especially if you’re a newbie from Europe. Usually it is the sales tax (or, in case of housing, electricity bill) that applies extra. Same case here: On top of the monthly $40, Verizon charges me the normal government tax fee, but also adds some extra surcharges to all of this. My plan only gives me 450 free minutes and 500 free text messages each month. I will repeat: It will go both ways! If you have a friend who likes to text or an angry Ex-boyfriend who knows you are on a limit and tries to bust your bill, then good luck with that. I myself have felt obliged to point out my limit to a few friends on a few occasions in the past. My best threat is still that I will send them my cell phone bill for them to pay if it goes beyond my monthly average. This warning really does work, by the way.

Anyhow, it will take you some time to adjust to your newly gained “freedom” of having a cell phone and the quirks connected to this. Data plans are extra, of course, and if you’re looking into buying a smart phone or Iphone, you will definitely be able to purchase these at a lower cost here than overseas (thanks to the Euro-Dollar-inflation that has been going on in the past years). My friend bought his Blackberry from a vendor and had it jailbroken (I’m not sure if this is legal); then he got a monthly contract with T-Mobile. It seems like a reasonable idea. If you buy a smart phone the usual way, you will always be bound to a 2-year-contract. To get out of this contract might be more difficult, as you have to pay a fee (starting with the cheapest phone and with the biggest time difference to the contract end, the fee is $150 with Verizon; I’ve heard of $300 fees when purchasing a smart phone, though). Verizon and AT&T are both compatible in terms of reception and prices. The latter used to be the only provider selling Iphones but Verizon has caught up on this deficit and is now offering the Iphone 4.

Monthly contracts can be signed with other companies, such as T-Mobile. This means you pay a flat rate fee which is relatively low and you can get unlimited access to the Internet along with calls and texts. I believe you can get this plan for $50 or $70 to $80 if you want access to European texts.
Too good to be true, you might think? Well, the pitfalls are that you will have to buy your own phone and the reception might not be the best. T-Mobile and Sprint are both known for working well in the New York metro area but they might not be as reliable when it comes to different parts of the States.
They still work, though, unlike “Metro PCS:” This is a provider which is mostly common around bigger cities and metro areas (hence the name). Metro PCS can provide you both with a cheap phone and cheap service. But beware if you live outside of New York City, such as New Jersey or Long Island: You won’t have any or only sparse reception. I guess it is a great idea for people who will never leave the city or who don’t have the means to leave yet (such as older people, teenagers, or individuals on a budget). However, a big advantage of Metro PCS is that European numbers can reach you – at no added charge! For someone who is homesick and wants to talk to friends and family on a daily/weekly/monthly basis – the ideal solution! With my current Verizon contract, I have to pay 30cts or more per message if I send or receive international texts. Calls would cost me $1 per minute (remember, it goes BOTH ways!).

Advantages of cell phone usage in the States are certain “deals” you would have to pay extra for in Germany: Starting after a certain hour a day (7PM with Sprint and 9PM with Verizon) you get unlimited minutes to ANY network until 6AM the other day. From Friday night to Monday morning you get the same. With Verizon you can call or text any other Verizon user on an unlimited basis (unfortunately my friends decided to go with any other provider BUT Verizon). Adding another line when you have a family or trust a friend enough to share your bill will cost you not much here. It might be something to consider if you feel comfortable and can rely on this person. AT&T offers roll-over minutes, meaning anything you did not use the previous month you can use the next month and so on. A pretty neat concept! This way you can save up for the “hard” times.

I recommend doing your research when it comes to getting hooked on a plan or contract here in the States. Some companies even charge you a fee (Verizon took $150 from me), which they will redeem to you after 12 months only. I guess this can be seen as a security deposit. Prepaid phones and pay-as-you-phones typically won’t last you long and communicating via your European provider will tend to become too expensive in the long run.

Celebrate Brooklyn!

Celebrate Brooklyn/Latin music

Remember those wonderful outdoor events I was talking about in NYC Gym Search Craziness? Well, it finally happened! I was able to go to my first open-air concert in Prospect Park last Saturday. A Latin band and its guru called “Larry Harlow Latin Legends Band” performed with and against the violin experts “La Excelencia.” Together the performance was named “Larry Harlow Latin Legends Band: Battle of the Salsa Violins with La Excelencia” and they played for 3 hours straight. 3 hours, can you believe that?! The musicians must have been very exhausted after the show and so was the audience – in a good way. They lured a good amount of visitors (with a number well up in the thousands) to Prospect Park and had an own area dedicated to the people who wanted to give into the vibes of the music and dance until they drop. It sort of resembled the idea of the “Summer Stage” in Central Park, but of course the spot was smaller due to spatial reasons.

I went with my roommates and we had fun until the end. It took us a while to get used to the intoxicated happy people who were bouncing around and shaking it off in front of the stage. The music really made it easy to swirl around and invent your own creations of Samba, Salsa, or Mumba. No one cared what you did as long as you didn’t just stand there and play plain bored. At events like this you get approached by random persons, usually guys, who invite you to dance a song or two. Don’t worry if these individuals are well over 60, they are just trying to have a good time. And some are still one of the best dancers out there, really. I’m guessing the experience factor comes into play here…

The crowd was mixed, as it did not only attract the Prospect Park inhabitants or the people living in the neighborhood but all sorts of ethnicities from Brooklyn and beyond. Celebrate Brooklyn was initially meant to induce people to come back to Prospect Park after years of neglect. First held in 1979, the festival has accomplished to entertain crowds of spectators with 1,700 artists and groups, some among these who are well-known such as Norah Jones in 2010. This summer it will be hosting many more more musicians. Some shows will be held in the park, some have already happened at the Brooklyn Bridge in Dumbo (be sure to check these out in May of next year, as they are typically earlier than the events at Prospect Park). A great diversity of bands will be awaiting us in the following one and a half months and I cannot wait to seek out a few more. The entire festival will be going on until August 5th – time enough to dwell on jazz, British music, and many more musical fine tunes. For an entire list of happenings, click here.

The place is easily accessible by train: Take the F or G to 7th Avenue and then walk up two avenue blocks, or take it one stop further to 15th St/Prospect Park and walk down six street blocks. If you’re in the area, you might want to hang around earlier in the day and attend a BBQ or two (or give your own one). The park is always nice for a stroll or to lie down and relax from New York’s hectic life.

I was unlucky enough to miss out on all of these events last year but I will make a point in going to a few this year. Alas, what else is the meaning of living in the Slope? Thumbs up to free summer events!

“Viva la YMCA” or “NYC Gym Search Craziness”

This week I put my membership with my local gym on “freeze.” Because summer has finally cared to show up, I don’t see any need in sweating inside a hot room without any AC on when I can run through Prospect Park or do sports outside. I had the choice to choose between 1 and 3 months of taking a “time-off,” so I decided to go with the maximum amount and took 3 months of “vacation.” This gives me well into mid-September until I will be back for my 3-4 times a week of working out.

Finding a gym in New York was a story by itself. When I first moved here, I lived on the other side of the park in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. Since I came in March and just missed out on the cold, icy winter months, I went straight from inside weight-lifting to outside jogging. It went well until about September, when I decided to check out my options of joining a serious fitness studio. Albeit I loved to jog in the park, it tended to become really hot during July and August and I had to run either in the early morning or late evening hours.

If you know me a bit better, you are aware that I am not the person to stay persistent with any type of sports. Therefore, I love the gym because it gives me the variety I need and options to choose from. Although running is nice once in a while and Prospect Park is one of the best sceneries I could imagine, I am not the type to jog in the winter (frosty!) and I need my entire body to be challenged. Experimenting around with weights and taking some courses has proven to give me the diversity I need and to keep me motivated in pursuing my fitness goals throughout the year.

So it was off to finding a sports house that could satisfy my deepest desires, wasn’t too far from where I lived, and wouldn’t impoverish me through its fees. Sad to say, this was harder than it sounds. New York has an array of gyms to choose from, of course. There is the (tada!) New York Sports Club (NYSC), one of the most popular ones out there. You can find their branches practically in every part of Manhattan and sometimes even on almost every street corner, depending if you are in a highly populated area or not. They are not as densely represented in Brooklyn, but Park Slope has them, as I have walked past them many times. Crunch is another biggie, but I have only run across them in Manhattan, not so much in Brooklyn.
Other notable fitness centers are Equinox, Bally Sports Club, Citi Fitness, HRC, Cross Fit … the list goes on! What I didn’t like was the high prices of most of these fitness gyms and I thought I misheard or misread the pamphlet at first when I read a regular membership cost around 100 Dollars or more a month! WAAAAY overpriced! David Barton was offering a “special deal” in September 2010, which almost lured me into his fangs, because of its 65 Dollars per month membership. Still too much!

And that is not all: Most gyms don’t get you with their high membership costs but with the registration fee. Another 80 to 200 Dollars (the average is around $130) on top of this, even though it is a one-time fee but you won’t ever see it again.
Quite understandably, I wasn’t in the mood to join any gym after doing a bit of research. On top of this, the Flatbush area does not offer anything close-by at which I would want to stop on a regular basis, which meant I would have to check my odds of traveling to the city a few times a week for my daily workout or at least find something close to work.
And as if everything was following a certain plan, I moved to a nicer area in December of 2010, joined my local YMCA only one month after this and consider myself happy as a bird when it comes to sports!

When I switched locations to Park Slope, my roommate was able to convince me of going to the gym right around the corner and I am still thankful for the circumstances. I, coming from Europe and all, couldn’t connect the YMCA to any sports activity when I first heard the term. To me it was the theme of a well-known song from the 70s, but that’s about it. Well, the YMCA has A LOT more to offer than this: It provides its members with a gym, rooms for classes and courses, and a great inside track, where you can run your rounds and play basketball and pingpong. In short: It is geared towards families with children – low in cost, but high in fun! Sometimes the YMCA even has a pool – just another accessory added to the list. The one I go to, or rather went to, regularly is only 2 minutes walking distance from my apartment.

It costs me $42 Dollars a month and I didn’t pay the $75 registration fee, because they had a special from mid-December to mid-January, during which you could enroll for free. To top this all, I have the choice between 20 very different classes and have already tried out a few. My favorites are yoga, ballet, and zumba (a mix between various different Latin dances, and, depending on the instructor, really great work-out!). I am eager to try out spinning, thai chi, and boot camp, but that will have to wait until the fall.
It is also a matter of cramming your fitness schedule into your normal after- or before-work-schedule. This is partly a reason why I am abandoning the YMCA for the next 3 months: Summer has so much to offer in Brooklyn and the City, that I just know I won’t have the time to go to the gym. Too many free concerts, happy hours at rooftop bars, or other activities going on.

It took me a while to get used to the crowd in Park Slope. I live in an area, that is geared toward young families and homosexuals, but since it is the only acceptable gym nearby, it seems like some people come from the other side of the park, too. This accounts for a very diverse crowd. I had my troubles in the beginning, of course; had thought it partly weird but also amusing to be checked out by 55-year-old Lesbians or 17-year-old teenagers. The weight room is still a male domain, and occasionally the concentrated power of pure testosterone hit me when I walked right into it.
I adjusted to men dancing ballet and not finding themselves silly. I got used to girls sometimes being very mean toward you because they think your body is more attractive or you are more good-looking then they (come on, get over it!). But in the end, I am glad I found this secret treasure so close-by.

Their opening hours are from 6AM to 11PM on the weekdays (way to go!)and from 7AM to 9PM on weekends and holidays. They have a changing room but no showers (which is absolutely no problem when you live only moments away or in walking distance) and the staff is really friendly. Check it out, I am sure you’ll find it an affordable option for your first time in New York and maybe beyond!

Biting in the Apple

A fellow blogger asked me not too long ago if New York is worth moving to. Bummer!
While I am still pondering out a meaningful, representable, and objective answer to this question, I will give you a great blog to read. I found it through the expat community, and it was posted on Biting the Big Apple’s site (which is a really insightful blog on posts all about New York, by the way! In case you get tired of reading just my single opinion and stories, do not hesitate to switch over to her!).

So, here we go…:

“When you move to a city, you become meaner.

You are harder. Less optimistic. Tough. Do not make eye contact with anybody in the subway. Read the book you’re kind of halfway through, listen to the terrible music you hope you’re not playing loud enough to hear. Pretend you’re the kind of person whose feet doesn’t move when the train makes a turn. Don’t look up, just push and shove and move. In the city, you are the most important person you know. Dislike and accept that. Walk that way, walk so fast and eye roll when somebody slow is walking up the stairs as you are trying to switch trains. People will ask you for money on trains, drunk people will piss on themselves, babies will cry and you just have to pretend they are not there. It’s a subway. You don’t know anybody.

Strut down the street briskly when you are only getting a bagel, a slice of pizza, or a gin drink that will take the edge off of being alone all the time.

Dress like an idiot. When you end up in the suburbs or you end up home you think ‘why the fuck am I wearing so much black and where did these accessories come from?’ Take a long shower, eat your first big meal without alcohol in years, and try not to brush anything and everything off your shoulder. Find yourself afraid of trees.

Still, in a city filled with so many people, you must not acknowledge them. This becomes somewhat difficult because there are so many interesting and attractive things, most of them wearing plaid or shorts. Grumble while eating a falafel or some kind of street cart food. When somebody talks to you at a bar, coyly laugh when they are a part of the city you just don’t venture to. Know a lot of people, just barely.

Be afraid of ‘nice guys’ because you are no longer nice. Be afraid of things that last longer than two months. Get nervous whenever you enter some part of the town that ‘that guy you hung out with’ lives. The city is big, but it is small. Never see anybody again, except some kid you went to high school with. They have a new haircut and you kind of brag about your life because you are nervous. Send e-mails to people telling you how excited you are to be in the city. Be terrified of your bank account as you furiously eat money with no utensils. Bury your head in your hands when nobody is looking. Think about how stupid you were in college, abandon those dreams and make new ones. Find fog really romantic. Find employment really romantic. Drink on Tuesday nights. Meet people on those Tuesday nights that you high-five but never get their number. Make friends and never keep them. Take personal days in the tiny kitchen that is filled with jarred spices, condiments, and a bag of chips. Learn about sushi. Have a small circle you already knew before you moved here, the kinds of people you always complain about your love life to. Hold onto and love those people fiercely. Find friends of friends you think are cute, get annoyed that you meet people this way like in high school. Have numbers in your phone that you don’t need. Preface those numbers with ‘that night at (bar).’ Find it impossible to meet anybody until you do.

Roll around with that person in a small room in your overpriced apartment. Feel like this is an accomplishment until you feel restless. Feel like being restless is a thing you should feel. Try to fix it by getting a pet. Dance in a stupid club and tell everybody the next day you can’t believe you danced. Have ‘spots’ you think are ‘the usual’ except the bartenders never remember you. Fall in love with a new kind of ethnic food and fall more in love with brunch than you thought possible. Make connections with dogs on the street. Spend too much time contemplating life on long concrete walks. See the sunrise more than you should. Barely see anybody you like during the day. Get annoyed at couples grocery shopping and miss making out in your basement. Forget to buy paper towels and use napkins to clean the table. Take cabs at 3am. Pretend to clean your apartment, pretend you are going to eventually do laundry.

Meet nice people somewhere you didn’t expect. Have a conversation with somebody you never thought you would meet. Talk to somebody out of the blue. Enjoy these moments of fate immensely. Have more faith in humanity than you did when you lived wherever you came from.

Come home late smelling like smoke. Wonder how that happened, but really you know exactly how that happened. Promise you won’t spend too much money, expect free drinks but really only get shitty weather. Send texts to everybody you miss who is not in town because you are nostalgic for everything. Be single, ‘kind of single’, and ‘sort of single’ for months. Find somebody you like enough to watch movies with. Send bills in late. Revel in the fact that this is what youth is. Barely eat fresh vegetables anymore. Loathe the summer because it is too hot and miss it when it is gone. Get to know yourself and be surprised by it. You’d never bite your nails, you think, until you bite your nails. Forget all the great reasons why you moved here, fall in love with the reasons you didn’t think- cool breezes, car honkings, and knowing how to get places. Revel in being alone, revel in learning a city. Hate every job you have. Hate every bar you go to. Love both of these. Love everything. Have really, really good days. Stare at the city like ‘I got this.’ Swear you will eventually leave.

Then you stare at the skyline. Hate it. Be satisfied.”

 

Re-read the post on its original site, published by the original author here. All these people have moved here for various reasons. I am, therefore, still surprised to meet like-minded people when it comes to certain topics. New York is definitely one of these. I am glad that I am not the only one who shares the love-hate relationship to the City, which is so hard to explain to people who have never been here or only visited for 2 weeks.

Choose Life, Not a Career!

Two weeks ago I met a Canadian girl in my local neighborhood bar. We came to talk about what we do and what we have accomplished job-wise in New York. When saying our good-byes, she uttered one sentence that really struck me. I will try to quote: “Find out where your heart lies and go from there.” These words triggered a thinking process in me. Find out where my heart lies?! A mission that seems way more complicated for some people than it is for others. From what I understand she has been here for almost 10 years and is working in the interior design business. She has always known that she was going to embrace the creative path career-wise, as she recalls a story of her teenage years in which she tore her parent’s bathroom apart and tried to remodel a new one in accordance to her ideas. When she came to New York, she was lucky to start off in an interior design firm right away. She now owns her own business, which had its down times, of course, but now she is even able to re-employ a few workers on her own. I consider this a great life story but for me it is just too good to be true.

I read an interesting article just yesterday about choosing your career path and finding out what to do. You can check it out here. To summarize its main gist, the author proposes that, albeit it might sound great to do what you “love,” for most people it is just not doable and not healthy to choose this as an ideal career path. She suggests to rather follow what you are “good at” and find a job in accordance to this. It is an excellent piece of writing that brings us closer to the reason of why young adults in their early twenties undergo life crises and even depression because of the self-fulfilling ideal they are trying to chase. Our society is geared towards the idea that everything is possible nowadays and that achieving one’s dream is finally doable. What it doesn’t necessarily take into account, though, is that most people in their early twens are utterly confused of what exactly they want to do with their lives, how they want to use their potential, and what in detail they are good at.

I’ve met so many young people who have tried to evade their strict lives by shouldering their backpacks and traveling the world. Who would rather give up the jobs they had until then and take a break of pursuing whatever career they had “chosen “ in order to explore other cultures, different mentalities, and various continents.

You think burn-out syndrome only happens in fast-paced industries? You’re wrong! It can happen in every job and the people who are mostly affected are not only people in their late 30ies, but also a fair amount of persons at a younger age. I will restate: People who feel burned out are also younger than 35. How weird, you might think, what is there exactly to be burned out at when you are young and have a promising future to look ahead to? It’s the pressure some individuals impose on themselves (or think others impose on them) for pursuing something that is not in accordance with who they are but rather who they’d like to be and how they’d like to be seen by their peers.

Life is not about a career. Life is about everything else. It is about exploring where your strengths lie, redefining yourself, and meeting many exciting people along your way. It is about knowing when you want in and when you want out. When I graduated from college I felt split: I had the feeling that many of my fellow students knew exactly that they wanted to become a therapist, a business manager, or a lawyer. I, however, didn’t know what exactly to do with the potential at my hands and decided to give travelling and readjusting to another world a shot. I haven’t regretted moving to New York ever since.

Then, when I came here, I was all into meeting creative people and being inspired by their vibes. To artists, the entire world revolves around self-fulfillment and doing only what you love. It was a different outlook from what I was used to and it was equally attractive. But I came to see that singers and drawers have struggled to “make it here,” that some would rather perform on the streets than utilizing their school degree to get a job that will pay the bills.

Don’t get me wrong. You ought to pursue your dreams. You ought to do what you love. And a job that is just a waste of your time is about as frustrating as not working at all. But does it really have to be your “dream” job that will fulfill you in its entirety? Or will it be rather your hobby that will impact your world as well as other people’s world, and make you feel good about yourself?

A Post on the Chinatown Bus

Getting around outside of New York without possessing a car or knowing any drivers is not as complicated as it may seem at first.

For one, transportation close to the City has deemed itself pretty reliable, even in parts of New Jersey (I would, however, not recommend living too far out in the Garden State without a car; this is, after all, still Henry-Ford-country!). Second, you have a few nice options to choose from: Train, bus, and even plane (there is something called a “shuttle” from Boston do New York and I had the chance to check it out while heading back from Vegas). Third, some means of travel are pretty cost-effective and don’t necessarily take much of your time. On my quest to look for affordable transportation to Boston, Philly, and DC I stumbled across this thing called the “Chinatown Bus.” A former roommate had recommended it as she was heading out to Boston quite frequently. I, however, was still a bit averse to it, for I still have in mind how unpleasurable of an experience the Grayhound buses can be and how bad their reputation is. In the end, I cannot really compare these two companies, but I think the Chinatown buses are worth trying out if you are broke but still want to see the cities surrounding New York. They are not the most luxurious devices to get around with, but they get you from A to B and sometimes even C. I first took it while heading out to the cousin in Philly. Philadelphia is about 2 hours from the Big Apple and my trip during the winter was pretty much ok. The price was what really got me: 20 Dollars for a round-trip ticket from here to Philly and back, and all of this in a decent amount of time. During December the coach was well-heated and enjoying the ride didn’t pose a problem. I was even lucky enough to make friends with an American-Indian girl and to get to know her life story a bit more. This was the only real conversation I had on the Chinatown bus from then on, though.

Chinatown in Boston

When I took it to Boston in March, it ended up getting stuck in a traffic jam for one hour straight, so the trip took me almost 5 instead of the proposed 4 hours. Still not too bad. And a round-trip to Beantown cost only 30 bucks, who would have thought? My ride back was better, as it took me 3 and a half hours. And not to forget the crazy, homeless guy, who sat two rows behind me and was interchanging in between mad bellowing, cursing, or just whining. Eventually he fell asleep and everyone was grateful to have a relatively normal ride after all. I still wonder until now who paid for his return ticket back to New York and why on earth he would decide on coming back here, because Boston seems like a more peaceful city to be homeless in and I am sure the shelters aren’t nearly as dangerous as they are over here… O well, I was too intimidated to ask him about this. Maybe the next time!

After this came DC, and boy, what an experience. First of all, the owners could not decide whether or not they would coop us up with the people driving to Philly. Supposedly the bus stops half way and then goes directly towards the capital from there. They decided that, after all, we were way too many, and took two buses – our luck?! It had already made some weird sounds on our way, but when we stopped in Philadelphia, some more people got on, and then it went via the highway directly to DC. All of a sudden, after only 20 mins of being on the road again, the driver pulls into a dead end bus cemetery and everyone exchanges nervous glances. Are we going to be robbed? Will we ever see DC alive? The driver says something in his incomprehensible Chinese-English before he exits the bus. Twenty minutes later we are shooed out of the mobile and into another one. This one smells very badly and has every right to still be a part of the cemetery. But to our advantage, it seems to work well and might get us safe to DC. So we continue our trip. One “joke,” as I like to call it, is that the drivers pull over fairly well past half-time (on a 4 hour trip this would be after 2 hours) and let us “eat” or use the restroom at a well-known-fast food chain. So just 30 mins before we are entering the capital, he has the guts to stop close to Wendy’s and asks us if we are hungry. This almost topped everything, especially the people’s overstrained nerves, and some passengers almost yelled at him to bring them the heck out of here. No stop at Wendy’s! Not this time! Too bad!

And the trip back was an experience, too, of course, for some passengers had forgotten to pre-register their name on their online printout. So they had to jump out of the bus, which had its engines running, and drop by the ticket vending office, to clear away this “necessary” formality. Gee, and you think German bureaucracy is strict? Don’t mess with the Chinese! *cough*

I think the language barrier is the number one problem on most of these trips, though. I still cannot get this imagine out of my head of the Chinese collector woman who was literally yelling at me for showing her the “wrong” ticket (I showed her the return instead of the departure ticket). My, we all have to learn to calm down here in New York!

And where to find these lovely means of travel? As the name already suggests, in Chinatown, of course! They are close to the F, B,D, and Q train (East Broadway, Delancey Essex, Grand St, and Canal St stop). At least the ones I had taken, but I am sure they are all over. Their Web Site says that you should show up 30 mins ahead of time, but I have arrived 5 mins prior to departure on occasion and still gotten a round-trip ticket. You don’t have to book it online, but can just head into their office and pay directly (which I think is more convenient, as I rarely know the exact time of my departures). Don’t try to haggle them down, though, as they tend to get angry with you. They typically run every hour, which makes the opportunity to take them very convenient. The best part about this, though, is that they truly run from Chinatown to Chinatown.

Chi-Town in Philly

And I consider Chi-town in Philly a lot more authentic than in New York. Even Boston has a very representative city side of its Chinese immigrants. Maybe it’s just a fascination of mine, hard to tell.

Please do not let some of the points in this post discourage you from taking the Chinatown bus. It is really an adventure sometimes, but I would always prefer it over a plane ride, and price-wise it is hard to beat. There were some incidents in which one passenger had her throat slit open, but I consider those unnecessary horror stories and hardly representable of the general statistics. So a big “yay” for Chinatown buses and just go from here!

Birthday Bash? Not Really!

Last week was my birthday – an occasion I consider well worthy of spilling out my thoughts on!

I turned 24 – hallelujah – such a natural age. And to answer your initial question, I DO NOT feel older, nor do I experience other emotions some people seem to fight once they hit 21 or above (albeit I have to admit I have met more Europeans who are going through these age issues from an early time on as opposed to Americans).

I deeply feel that I couldn’t imagine myself being anywhere else at this point in life and I would have never been able to forgive myself if I hadn’t tried very hard to stay in this city. Therefore, I am glad I am still here in New York. Technically, it is my second birthday I have been attending to in the Big Apple. Last year, it was a smaller celebration, this year it was none at all. I spent the day at the beach, it was a nice premature summer day, and the ocean spared enough refreshment, making up for the heat. Overall, a very nice day. But spent by myself almost entirely.
To draw a conclusion from this, what I have come to see is that even after one year of being here it continues to be difficult to find people you can rely on. I, for example, haven’t been able to form close relationships that last longer than a few months or weeks during this entire year.
Yes, there are other factors involved, too, of course. People come here, then move away again. Other friends have changed to a degree to which I just didn’t want to deal with them anymore. Again others have distanced themselves from me.

There are many reasons. And relax, all of this sounds sadder than it truly is. My theory is that there is always a trade-off in being at a place you passionately love or having people with you who you can count upon. I am 100 percent positive that I am NOT the only person out there who has gone through this, especially in a city like New York. It is easy to meet new people – agreed – but it is hard to connect to someone here and have a deep relationship with him or her. This especially applies when you are tired of the casual small talk and shallow promises which are so prevalent in American culture.

All of the persons I can count upon are still at home, in Germany, and that is good as is. All the things I want to accomplish are here, though, and that is good in a way, too. Birthdays and other holidays just make me wish I could share it with someone I feel a deeper connection to, and that describes the situation I was in last week.
But hey, no worries, I am over it, I am not traumatized, and I am definitely not going to curse out my new year. It’s not that much of a deal to pull me down. I just hope that I will be able to spend my big 25 either with my real friends or to go to a great travel destination. Ideally, I will be able to accomplish both, but that is only to be hoped for.

So, happy birthday to myself, and off to the next year of excitement. Welcome to 24!
Tell me your thoughts on this and what you did for your 24th, it might make me feel better…?!