The Exotic Side of New York: Chinatown

Before the hurricane and the turmoil connected to it, I made my way out to Chinatown to get some last-minute-souvenir-shopping done before I wouldn’t get a chance to do so this week.

I assume everyone has heard of Chinatown in New York before. It is supposedly the largest Chinese population outside of China and it makes up 100,000 of New Yorks’ citizens (legally, that is). People’s opinions range as to where Chinatown starts and where it ends, and I do not feel qualified to give you the right answer to this, either. What I can say for sure is that it tries to get rid off its neighbor Little Italy and might even succeed in pushing the Italians out of its way completely within five years or so. In days long gone Little Italy used to be the superior area size-wise, being far more impressive in area covered and dimension displayed than its Chinese counterpart. Now it is quite the opposite, as Chinatown has more immigrants than the Italian area does.

To get to Chinatown, you can easily take the train. The most common stop is the Canal Street stop on the blue and yellow line and, I dare say, it is also the most touristy part of Chinatown. Other stops are East Broadway and Delancey St on the F and M, or Grand St on the B and D. When you get off at the East Broadway stop or the Grand St stop, you can easily make your way to the notorious Chinatown buses, which I have talked about extensively here. If possible, I try to stay away from the huddled, souvenir-polluted part of the Chinese neighborhood and go straight to its heart around Grand St or East Broadway. Here you can still find very authentic Chinese cuisine (if this term can be used appropriately in this case), buy fresh fish and other ingredients hard to get outside of Chinatown (my roomies swear they have never had a bad experience with buying fish here, contrary to the initial feeling of repulse I had), and purchase old-school Chinese items for fun or for serious. It is also great to inhale life-time Chinese flair and sometimes I do believe I am transformed back into an Asian city jungle, finding myself among foreign-looking faces and within an unfamiliar chatter of words but with the strong sense that I am still somewhere in New York.

Another thing I really like about Chinatown is that everything is incredibly colorful: The signs, the decorations in some windows, the lanterns… I would really like to witness one of those famous Chinese New Year’s parades, just to get a look at the great costumes and traditions displayed during the walk. These parades typically take place in February; regretfully I ‘ve missed out on it this year, but I wouldn’t mind observing it in 2012 (gosh, does this sound far, far away!). So even during the gloomy, gray winter months the Chinese do not fail to impress here in New York.

Many stereotypes are in circulation when it comes to Chinese immigrants in the US, and even though I am not a big fan of these, I have to admit that at least one is true: Most Chinese do not speak English. It is fairly common in the Big Apple to stick to one’s language if one plans on simply staying in one hood and not venturing out. Spanish-speaking boroughs and Dominican/Haitian areas would be more examples of people who solely know their mother tongue and speak only rare bits and pieces of English. Chinatown does not pose too much of an exception to this rule, as most inhabitants live, work, and exist here on a day-to-day basis, being in constant interaction with their fellow natives. Albeit I heard there are x amount of different versions of Chinese, Mandarin being the most common one, I guess interacting with each other does not cause many difficulties.

I can also imagine living in Chinatown to be fairly an adventure. I used to have a Chinese-American co-worker who was halfway fluent in Mandarin and took on a room in the midst of it all. Her rent was very cheap, possibly the only incent for her to take it: an enviable $320 a month! When I compare this to my rent it is roughly 3 times lower, a cost that could be advantageous in the long run. However, her commute does become an occasional problem, as she first has to take the train and then a bus for 20 mins straight to get to her apartment. Buses are pretty unreliable here in New York and this does not exclude mass transit in Chinatown.

Back to my souvenir story: Of course I got off at the Canal St stop with the Q, desperately trying not to look like one of those tourists who are just there to be ripped off. I found a nice store with two figures I wanted to have and haggled the price down from $11 to $7. Until then I had only done this twice, but found that haggling is easily done here: You simply start off with half the price or a bit less than they are expecting and soon you are in the middle of a nice back and forth until they got what they want and you don’t feel stupid for paying the ultimate rip-off price. Done!
On my way out I was on a mission to get a pair of sunglasses I had wanted to purchase since the BEGINNING of this summer: Mirrored aviator glasses which I thought might be cheaper here than anywhere else. In Midtown you can buy them for some (loud-scream) cheap $3, but I was still looking for a better deal. The first guy who offered them said they were $8 a pair. Naw, I thought, and offered him $2. He declined, even backed away from me, and put them back. And so it went throughout the entire street. Sometimes the seller even laughed as if I was making fun and then retreated as if I had insulted him. “2 Dalla? Noo, I couldn’t do tat! Pah! They cost 10 Dalla, Miis.”
I really had no luck at all in buying them there. Eventually I gave up and started seeing the other beautiful things on my way to Grand St. Such as, for example, a few cute bakeries, which ultimately reminded me of the great time I had in Boston’s Chinatown. I will surely come back to try some of their pastries and get a supply of these for home. Chinese cakes are fluffy and taste a bit different than anywhere else plus you can get a good amount of pieces for a low price.

Chitown'sneighbor, Little Italy

Chitown during one cold winter
Chitown around Grand Street

During this excursion I once again noticed my lack of knowledge when being in certain neighborhoods. It could definitely be fun to spend some exciting 24 hours in Chi-town and one day I even plan on doing so!

Now, I heard there is supposed to be the equivalent of Manhattan’s Chinatown and Little Italy in Brooklyn. Up to now, I have only made it out to the Italian restaurants and bars (disappointingly small) and wouldn’t know the real comparison between these two. Albeit I hate to admit this, there is still so much left to discover here!

Stories During the Hurricane: Day 2, During and After

Hurricane Irene – have you been downgraded to a tropical storm when you hit us sometime during the night (exact time still unclear) or where you indeed doing the things a normal hurricane of category 1 does? Because if you were, you seem to have been the most harmless hurricane ever witnessed.

I woke up today around noon, after cramming in some extra night time to get things done before the electricity was supposed to go out (and as everyone thought it would). Puzzled because I did not hear the rain falling down on me, I peered out of my window and saw an almost clear sky. Still greyish and a bit windy, but clear compared to the past 24 hours.
Confused about the treacherous peace and silence outside, I opened my door and met my enthusiastic roommates, who were dancing around the apartment and screaming : “It’s over, it’s over!

Then, the first text messages came in from friends saying “most boring hurricane ever,” writing about their deep disappointment of not having witnessed the storm of the millennium. Next time, folks, next time! And what a typical reaction for a New Yorker to have, by the way.

My worst episode during this “hurricane” was when water came crashing down into my room from a hole that had formed in the ceiling (as we are directly beneath the roof). At 7 AM short I was awakened by a drip drip drip drip drip. Sleepy and irritable, I didn’t know what was going on at first. Then I grabbed two buckets and was swarming around, desperate as to what to do if this devious hole would not stop letting down water soon. Somehow, after emptying two buckets, the drain did become less and I was able to go back to sleep, wishing that the rain would stop of course and fearing more outcomes of this storm. Well, as described above, there really were none, and that episode was and stayed the worst that had happened to me during the hurricane.

Most people took this entire weekend with a great amount of humor. One friend posted hourly updates on Facebook about how he would be waiting in front of a bank to see its roof come off and then steal its money (Very funny indeed! Who would ever come up with this?). Some voiced what they thought of the safety precautions taking 3 days ahead of time (They didn’t think too much of these). And then again others were just mad for buying those huge amounts of food for no reason. Yep, seems like this is the right city to be in for a hurricane.

The Hudson was the only river which eventually overflowed and caused some flooding in the West Village and along 12th and 11th Avenues. Hilarious, if you think about it! The beautiful village under water… I also wonder how many rats might be swimming in that sewage. Staten Island and Queens have power outage problems, once again a reason why I live in Brooklyn (Well, it does sound like a good reason I considered this location 9 months before the hurricane!)

The MTA is supposed to be running tomorrow again, albeit not in the morning, meaning I might not be able to go to work (No, I am NOT taking a cab just to get there!).

Today afternoon I packed my camera and walked outside, into a neighborhood that was up on the streets, doing the same thing I was: Taking in the fresh air and estimating the damage Irene had left. I have rarely seen so many happy and peaceful faces at once. Supposedly, the big thing to do was to collect fallen tree branches as a souvenir of the hurricane (always in for a trend, these people).

The following are a few pictures I took while out and about.

Now the only problem I might have is JFK and its backed-up flight schedules, but I supposed Thursday is still long enough away to have those difficulties figured out by them. Then it indeed will be time to wave this city good-bye, at least for a good amount of time!

Stories During the Hurricane: Day 1, Still Before

It’s Saturday, August 27th 2011, and New York is officially the City Without Subways. Bloomberg shut down the entire transit system at a punctual 12PM and, as cited in this article, the last train went out at 12:14 PM short. This means until Monday or later there will be no way from my house in Brooklyn to anywhere else, least say Manhattana, or back.

A busy 7th Avenue on the day of a hurricane

Since these warnings were made clear yesterday already, I didn’t even bother to hop on to stock up on extra food or make a trip to Manhattan. Instead, I wanted to get some last-minute laundry done and went to the one close-by in my neighborhood. Because the Roomies’ boyfriend had said that the YMCA one and a half block away was acting as a shelter, I thought it might be fun to take a few shots of what was going on in the hood. So, with my camera strapped around my neck, I wandered around, first asking the laundrOmat (yes, it’s called laundrO-mat here, not laundrY-mat, everything is different in New York) about its opening hours and getting one weird answer after another. After finally clarifying with the Latin lady that they would keep it open until 3PM for sure, I then quickly went up to 15th St and peeked into the YMCA. There was one pathetic school bus parked in front, maybe the typical evacuation bus these days, and as it turns out I only got to take this picture.

YMCA, the shelter!

Because as soon as I stepped in, some older ladies made sure to voice their opinion of how highly inappropriate a photograph would be and I got their subtle hint of not utilizing it at all. The so-called volunteers did not volunteer to give up much information pertaining the matter other than stating that this shelter was meant for the elderly evacuated from Coney Island and other risk areas. In my head, I could see the imaginary bubble pop in front of my eyes, as I had considered the idea of using it for our own benefit and jumping into it once our apartment was set under water. O well, we are in safe heaven now anyways, lucky us.

After this episode I sprinted back home, grabbed the laundry and went to the same location, again. This time an old, bitter Latin woman yelled at me for trying to wash my laundry as they were closing down soon. I guess she didn’t recognize me from when I had walked in 10 mins ago. Stubbornly and fighting for my right to be here I finally managed to convince both Latinas that I would indeed have all of my clothes done within one-and-a-half hours and that I really had asked them about this not too long ago. They let me stay, even though I got the evil eye once or twice. 5 mins later roomie no. 1 walks in with her boyfriend and is attacked by the same mean lady mentioned above. She tries to insult here back and then they walk away, both sorta looking at me in a confused way (why does she get to stay and not we?). Roomie no. 2 enters 5 mins after this, the mean lady is gone by now, and the other Latin woman clarifies that they will close at 2 PM (getting earlier and earlier with these folks). She then pops open her fancy iPhone and googles another location, being sent to 6th Ave by me and to 14th St by another laundry-washer.

6th Ave laundromat

Well, as it turns out we have a laundrOmat only two blocks away whose owners don’t give a blinking wink about hurricanes and other catastrophes but who do care about making their $2 a load until the last customer is out. That is where both went; maybe I should have done the same.
So, first day of rain, and I got my laundry done, what an accomplishment!

In the course of the afternoon, the Roomie stocked up on fruits and while doing this saw bunches of people populating the restaurants on 7th Ave. We were all pretty much bored out of our heads by then. The laundry was done. The house was clean. The bathtub was filled with a necessary amount of water (in case the toilet needed to be flushed during the outage). We had enough of sitting inside and thus shoved in 2 chill hours at the Steinhof.
The Steinhof used to be our bar of choice during those cooold, cuddly winter nights because it is only two blocks from our apartment. They also have a great happy hour deal going on every day of the week from 4 to 7 PM, including all draft beers, wine and some mixed drinks, which cost $3 only. Every day of the week surely includes Saturday and there were a few people sharing our thought when we walked in. Supposedly the bar plans on being open until the power goes out, so if you still want to jump into the fun, go ahead, they are not closing anytime soon.

Hurricane Specialty
Us having fun at the Steinhof and before the hurricane

The waitress recommended a hurricane drink (what these people come up with in such a short time), which is a cocktail based on three liquors and clouded up with orange juice to resemble Irene. Uhm, yeah, it was the strongest drink I had in a long time and I stuck to my draft beer after this. We sat inside, chatted away, made fun of the precautions, and watched the rain turn into a more and more worrisome drizzle within an hour or so. Then we parted, as one group wanted to go to 5th Ave and get some tacos and I went home, to save some files and write this down. As it turns out, though, the taco place was closed anyways, so I didn’t miss out on too much.

The rain has become more dense and intense as I am speaking. New York is trying to get everyone off the streets by 9PM the latest. And even though no one can really foresee the actual outcomes of this disaster, the news were advertising a power outage, even in areas not prone to flooding. To top this all, the latest I heard was an outage that might take three weeks to be fixed. Three weeks! I really hope this will not come true and I am hoping even more that flights will go out regularly on Thursday, my day of travel.

Probably this will be my latest update in a while (well, because of the power outage = internet cutage = whatever else you can think of), so chin chin! Keep on tuning in!

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, and Other Natural Disasters

Hurricane Irene

This has been going on in the media all week long already and I think it deserves a post – before it’s over and everyone forgets about it. Two natural occurrences have followed each other within days, making me never forget this last week of August of 2011.

Last Tuesday at noon New York City experienced an earth quake. I was in my office on the fourth floor and I didn’t feel a thing but shortly after it had occurred my coworkers started to stream into the office, excitedly blabbing about how everything had shaken and how they had felt the shutter. I supposed the higher up you were, the more you felt the jitter. What was quite surprising to me was that almost every single one of my New York friends wildly posted tweets or updates of this “natural disaster” on their social networking sites (and mostly in such an irrational way I was afraid they had lost their head and mind in the shake). The earth quake was being said to have originated in first Ohio, than Virginia, and then a third, unidentified spot. Until it was clarified two days later that the quake had indeed come from Virginia, wild speculations of its origin were uttered throughout the entire City. I guess the people of Washington D.C. had felt it to a higher extent than we had, being four hours down south and closer to the source.

Following this first mood of nature, it is now being said that we are expecting a hurricane coming up the East Coast and hitting the Tri-State-Area by late Saturday or early Sunday. Not to forget, these are the major party nights here in the City and I am very upset I will be missing out on my last weekend of fun here before I am going overseas. But I guess sometimes you have to take sacrifices when it comes to your safety. The New Jersey and New York parts are divided into specific zones ranging from A to C and a “no zone.” I happen to be on the verge of a B zone and a no zone, so I don’t know what to make of this.
The areas right next to the water are the typical A zones, which means the people there will be the first ones asked to leave and look for alternative living solutions.

Despite the chaos and backwards organization, I find it quite exciting that I am able to witness this tragedy, because it is something that usually never occurs back at home. First it was the Blizzard of the Millenium in December that added to my adventurous list of nature’s quirks. Now it is a small shake of earth and even a full-blown hurricane heading up to New York. I wonder what else this year will have in storage for us…

Wish us luck that nothing too bad happens, but I seriously doubt we are in big danger. Major floods will be the main concern the city will have to fight. Bloomberg is straining to get his once great reputation as a risk manager and New York’s safeguard back and understandably he is being overly precautious during this weekend. Several hospitals and senior care homes have been evacuated in the early morning already. All bay areas have been declared mandatory evacuation. The subway, basically the only way to get around the island if you don’t have a car, will shut down tomorrow noon and will foreseeably not be running until Monday midday (as it takes several hours to shut the train system on and off). This being said, I already know what kind of chaos I will be witnessing when trying to make my way out to work on Monday and Tuesday.

Oh, and if you think those broadcasted images of empty shelves in a random New York supermarket are exaggerated, you’re wrong! I went to Target right after work and even though they had let us out earlier (4 PM this time) there was no water to be found anywhere! The Roomie texted me about a line in front of Trader Joe’s that stretched around two blocks just to get into the store, not even estimating what exactly you would be able to buy after the people were done and left remains of this massacre.
When I came home, my other roomie was seriously annoyed with all the exaggerated measures just because of a little bit of rain and a hurricane that would probably not even hit us. Well, the hurricane does exist but I also believe the City’s major problem will be the flooding afterwards. And the most current update is that her boyfriend bought bunches of water, bounty paper, four bottles of wine, two six packs of beer, a whole tub of candles (all of them so big I can wrap two hands around them!), flashlights, and other nice necessities to keep us warm and snug throughout the weekend. My, this will be an interesting time. The two roomies are planning on throwing a hurricane party, I guess I am the only other guest attending…
Another friend let me know that we are not the only one with this idea, as other people in different neighborhoods are also planning on parties, so-called “Bring-your-own-candles-”events.

Let’s hope this great New York spirit will get us through the next two and a half days with a laugh! Are there any hurricane stories you would like to share?

New York, New Yorkers, and Other Thoughts…

Considering my upcoming trip to Europe, I want to stop and look back at how New York has done so far. Here is a poem and a quotation I’ve come across and which both ultimately express and reflect the opinions I share when it comes to the Big Apple.

As cited on Hot Child in NYCity’s blog, I couldn’t agree more with E.B. White’s opinion:

The Three Cities of New York

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.

-E. B. White, Here is New York (1948)

Despite living here for one and a half years, I have come to the conclusion that I am still not a big fan of the actual people of New York. I’ve made friends with Brooklynites, Bronxers, Queenies, and even Manhattaners, but I am still not drawn to most of the New Yorkers’ mentalities. The people I can usually connect to for having the same personality or traits I consider interesting are, matter of fact, from anywhere but New York: Europeans, Asians, South Americans, West Coast buddies… That’s who I can relate to and I have the feeling those are who I will continue to feel attracted to throughout my stay here.
I don’t know what it is. But New Yorkers do have this tendency of ignorance towards other countries and cultures. Be it that they are constantly surrounded by those 350 different mentalities throughout their life here. Be it that some do not venture outside their neighborhood in the Bronx, Queens, or Brooklyn. Be it that their prejudices and complaints are a simple defense mechanism for something they are afraid of. All I know is that it is sometimes very tedious to argue with these people and I still find it unbelievable to find racist persons in the 8-million-citizen example of ethnic diversity.

There was this guy I met a few times and he uttered the following interesting words.

There are three types of New Yorkers: One who never leaves his city. One who leaves as soon as he cans and never looks back. And one who has traveled extensively and come back with an open mind.

Now, category one is easy to detect. Bronx hoodies who drag their brats behind them and consider TGIF the culinary highlight of the week (yes, I am talking about socially disadvantaged people).
Category two I’ve met on travels, so to say, but I hadn’t had the chance to talk to them extensively.
Category three was the aforementioned guy (as quoted), who did seem to display an interesting mix of cultural awareness and necessary openness. I cannot say I have met too many of those New Yorkers, though, and I am sorry I have to admit this.
I believe when being a child you are forced to be open to all the cultures going on here and you see your life as normal, possibly couldn’t imagine another child growing up differently. But after a certain age, shouldn’t you start looking behind this set mind frame? Shouldn’t you start seeing how many opportunities you have here and take them? Or is this a protection against the constant overflow of information and people you have to deal with on year-long bases?
Nonetheless, I still don’t understand how people grow up here and just take all their amazing things for granted. My friend from Coney Island has never traveled further than the East Coast and just recently made a trip out west (California, so to say). He is 30 something. I cannot imagine when he will book his flight overseas, possibly never. When I look at Europeans, I have many friends who have traveled to other countries, the furthest being Australia. I do suppose money is an issue, as in so many cases, but I also consider it an issue when you only see what is in front of you and not beyond. This is why I hate being in New York for too long and loathe the times I can venture outside. You can truly only appreciate this amazing city when you get out and see what you miss.

Despite these sometimes frustrating encounters with the “locals” I do have to say that New York is so far the only city that has triggered about as much creativity and new outlook than anywhere else I have been. I am sure I am not the only one with this opinion for this city attracts daydreamers, artists, and hopeful dishwashers from everywhere else still to the same degree it did 100 years ago. And exactly this flow of ethnically and mentally diverse people is what makes New York my New York: The good vibes combined show me many different facets I might not be able to experience in any other city.
Just to give you a few examples of these: I’ve been roommates with a singer who performed with Kanye West at one point in time. I’ve also roomed with a girl who got me invitations for my first fashion week show in winter ’11. I met journalists of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal without making the effort of meeting them. My morning radio show is hosted by Nick Cannon, who happens to be Mariah Carey’s huz and tells New Yorkers all about his new twins and life with the diva (take that, Morning Hans in Germany! Oh, how hard it will get used to those fourth–class-moderators after this…). I casually met one of Germany’s biggest TV show moderators called Kai Pflaume on a stroll through Time Square and saw him in a completely relaxed family setting (no one recognizes him over here). Filming and fashion shoots belong to the normal street scene as do beggars and homeless. I considered picking up on writing, photography, dancing, and singing – all of these in less than six months and without having the necessary background or previous interest in them.

Yes, this city is truly a whirling musical, a never-ending theater, one show coupled with another, and it has to be taken in and inhaled as long as possible. Believe me, there is nothing like New York – once you get in, it’s hard to get out!

Biannual Jazz Festival on Governor’s Island

Ever wanted to know what it looks like when a bunch of people dress up as if they were from an era long-passed and take this experience to a different level on an isolated island in the middle of the East River? I got to see just that at the biannual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island last Saturday.

So, I figured I had two more weeks of summer over here. Two more weeks in which I could try to cram in as many events as possible. My coworker gave me a good insider tip and mentioned that there would be a jazz event held for an entire weekend long. “Nice,” I thought, “I am into jazz and I would like to see what this is about.” She also mentioned that people would dress up and become crazy for two days straight. Oh, how right she was! Unfortunately, she couldn’t join me but I still ended up having a great time last Saturday. First off, going there was more of a last-minute decision. I threw something over I found in my wardrobe (which could have resembled beach clothes from the 20ies) and headed to the South Ferry Station. Second off, the day was a premier in many ways: I had never been to Governor’s Island and I had never been to a jazz fest, so that day I got to cross off two items at once.

It already started on the train
Nice hat on the ferry!

The ferry took off right next to the South Ferry Station. When I got there, I couldn’t believe it: The line to the ferry extended well unto outside! I’m not sure if this is normal, but I am thinking not, because the personal had a hard time managing the queue, too. Luckily, I was able to snatch the next ferry going and only had to wait 15 mins for the line to move. I guess they can fit quite a few passengers on their boat. The ride over to Governor’s Island is 10 minutes max, which is very short and you get to see the ugly industrial part of New Jersey as you ship out of the harbor. Once off the ferry, I just followed the excited and chattering crowd to the middle of the island. There was a fenced off part of lawn, which could be circled from the outside with the chance to peek inside from there. This openness of the area is why I hesitated to buy a ticket at first and to go in – I was able to see what was going on from the outside. Then I decided to do join the people inside, though, as it’s still not the real thing, this watching the party from the outside I mean. I went around and found an entry that did not have a mile-long crowd waiting in front to get in.

All in all, the fest was great, I have to admit! I would have never thought how creative people can become for an event held only twice a year. Most of the jazz folks were sitting on their picnic blankets and having a relaxed conversation. At second glance, I discovered their old-school picnic baskets made of bast (or any other material they used 90 years ago) and the sandwiches smeared in an old fashioned way. I even saw a three-story tower decorated with crackers, breads, and other goodies. Most of the people were dressed up (only some lone tourists or other curious people who happened to walk by and participate in the hype came in street clothes) and some of these “costumes” looked very authentic. It must be that these fellows go here every year and dip into an old world long faded. Sort of like the medieval festivals going on in Germany, even though this is a bad comparison, as the jazz event was a lot smaller than any castle fest at home. Anyhow, becoming obsessed with a passion is universal, and it seems like people want to be surrounded by like-minded others when they dress up for it.

Old school picnic basket!

I passed many stands with hats, jewelry, buttons, and other accessories in the 20ies-style until I ended up at a table filled with 15 different pies. Surely enough, I had arrived at the Pie Contest! A couple of pie-bakers had come up with these different creations for the fest and picked judges to taste them all. I am unsure as today which pie really won and it really did not matter for all of them looked unique and very authentic for the twenties. There were two pina colada cakes and one had unfortunately melted away in the sun. The best part was when the people waiting around the tables got their own slice, after the judges had tried all of their samples. And somehow the hungry crowds had bypassed this table and moved on, so many pieces of pastry were divided by twenty people only. I got a share of three different pieces until I had enough. The chocolate-peanut-butter one was my favorite, but I hadn’t tried the 12 others. Beef-carrot pie caught my eye because it was one of the only unsweet ones but I didn’t dare try it (I am a vegetarian)!

Several bands were playing throughout the day and people were swinging it on the wooden dance floor. One guy invited me for a dance but I gave up after one song. After this I figured that I certainly have to polish up on my swing skills, so that maybe next time I won’t make a fool of myself.
An old car was parked in the middle of the lawn and then I saw something even better: an old-fashioned doll wagon! How original is this? I thought very much so and made sure to snap a picture of it.

Real car
doll waggon

When leaving the fest I went on to discovering Governor’s Island, which turned out to be small but beautiful with many colonial houses built on it. After this excursion I went back to the ferry and surely wasn’t the only one who had this idea: A huge crowd had gathered around the dock going straight to Manhattan, so I opted for the one to Brooklyn, which was the smarter way out. I only had to wait half an hour for this boat (the other one would have probably taken me more than an hour). Everyone seemed exhausted from hanging out in the heat all day long albeit the twenties crowd was still up for a nice chatter, planning the rest of their night, and I have no doubt they got a few stares from the “normally-dressed” people during this particular Saturday.
I highly recommend the little excursion into a world filled with exoticness and I am glad I was able to be a part of the twenties for one day. Again, I deem it such a confirming piece of proof for the wonderful things going on in New York, New York!

Dreamland Jazz organisers
Dressed up group of girls
Relaxed times
Parts of my outfit - convincing enough?!
New technology in the old world
Funky sailor outfit

Restaurant Week in New York

Ever since I moved to New York, I had one, two three opportunities to go to the notorious Restaurant Week and this time I took it.
Restaurant week started out as being a mere week of culinary experiences offered by three to five star-restaurants all over Manhattan during lunch and dinner hours (most of the time excluding Sundays) for the price of $24.07 and $35 (the lunch special being the symbolic price of 24.07). Now, I don’t know how many people make it out for lunch. I certainly feel stressed out just by the thought of having to tolerate long waits and slow waiters/cooks/other obstacles during a one-hour-break. So I didn’t bother about booking something for mid-day but went straight for the dinner option.
You see, there is this Web site, at which you can find all the restaurants participating in the bi-annually food event. After scamming through the 320-something establishments, I still had no clue where to eat out. I knew I didn’t want American food, for this is, forgive me Americans, just not the climax of culinary expressionism. I also was not too keen on Japanese food or French items, just because I had badly overeaten myself a few times before. And, since I am a vegetarian, my main focus, was not on the steak houses, either.
Thus, I asked around and listened to a few opinions. My fellow vegetarian coworker suggested Scandinavian food and the restaurant Aquavit in Midtown. I considered this option well. The Roomie, who wanted to join me under the premises that we do not go for American food (See, I am not the only one with this prejudice!), suggested Spanish food and the Bar Basque in Chelsea, which is, I am allowed to say, not too far from where she works. After switching back and forth a few times (I wanted a taste of Argentinean food in Tribeca or Puerto Rican dishes in SoHo), and canceling a reservation made at one restaurant already, we ended up booking an evening out at the aforementioned bar. I had also figured that the Roomie would be the only one of us working overtime and that we should at least go somewhere she could walk to if the worst case scenario came true.

So our Wednesday night at 7:30PM was dedicated to eating Basque in Chelsea. After running into a few problems with the unfriendly door girls and hostesses, we were finally seated at one of the nicest spots the restaurant could have chosen to convince us of themselves before trying their food: Outdoors, surrounded by skyscrapers, green bushes and flowers, and with the chance of catching up the last rays of sun light in Manhattan. What a classic setting! One bonus point for this!

Bar Basque in the Hotel Eventi
New York City feeling at its best!
the outside space
nice outdoor seating
Night view

The waitress tending our table was one of the nicest I had experienced in New York. And yes, this means a lot! 2 bonus points for her efforts of making our evening a wonderful night out and not letting us feel as if we were just cockroaches on her shiny way of earning loads of tips and being discovered as the next Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey). We still considered her belt-sized skirt a bit over the top and started pitying her half-way through the evening, but she was such a sweetheart to us straight from the beginning. Get rid of that mini-skirt, girl, you don’t need it!

Restaurant week specials offer a diversity of three-course prix fix menus: Appetizer, main dish, dessert. We were so looking forward to the dessert! But first we each choose different appetizers:
The Roomie failed to read the term “beets” when she ordered Local Roasted Beets (she was shooting for the caramilized goat cheese in it).

Beets appetizer

I got a Sautee of Spicy Garlic Shrimp and Garbanzo Beans.

Shrimp appetizer

We both found our dishes very interesting and satisfying. Two bonus points for this nice surprise!

Dinner was composed of a cod-fish dish with a sauce called garlic aioli for her. The fish was tenderly-cooked and the sauce formed the perfect match for this kind of fish.

It was golden snapper time with a sauce named sweet Bilbaina piperade for me. Both dishes were served with wilted spinach, garlic and chiles.

I favored hers but both main courses were a bit small in size. We refrained from ordering side dishes, even though we were tempted. No bonus points for this.

Now, dessert was the highlight:
She ordered the chocolate cinnamon tart served with roasted orange ice cream.

I went for the Pina Colada, a coconut flan topped with rum caramel and spiced pineapple pieces. Both dishes were so good, I have to give them two bonus points each!

Considering the fact that you have to pay taxes, tips, and drinks (if you’re one of the drunken sort), RW is really not that big of a saver anymore. They surely know how to make something look cheaper than it is. Drinks at these establishments are often two times the price than at other restaurants (a glass of wine starting at $12 at Bar Basque). You also have to take into consideration that the dishes are smaller than normally served in the restaurant and if you’re having quite an appetite, you could leave and still feel half-starved. We were fine after the dessert, because the sugar rush kept us just on the right flow. I choose not to get any drinks this time, though, maybe a wise decision.

And if you’ve asked yourself halfway through this post why I had the chance to be a part of this only a few days ago, even though RW started well before this date,well, there is an answer to almost everything: Restaurant week typically is extended up to three weeks during the summer! That’s right, six weeks. No clue why it is being called restaurant week if it should be weeks. But that‘s just New York. They make an effort to patch up their slow summer season and mostly only the locals know it’s still going on. I might just have to try out some more restaurants during the next opportunity, that would be winter-RW, and if this blog is still on I will keep you posted. For now, cheers! Indulge in the pictures!

A Few Words on Heimweh

The first feeling of homesickness showed up unannounced on my doorstep on January 15, 2011. I remember this day so exactly because it was the day I thought I would turn crazy. All the ups and downs of emotions I was going through and all the things I was trying to do to prevent this feeling from slowly taking me over – oh how I still know it all too well. I posted a long status on homesickness on my Facebook page. I shot a video about homesickness with my cell phone camera. I wrote down a journal entry on homesickness. Nothing seemed to help. I went through weeks of sadness and pain, only increased by the bland, gray winter that had taken over New York.

My Austrian friend finally gave me a good tip. She said I should not dwell on this feeling but rather distract myself with other things to do. To emphasize her point, she wrote me a few nice lines and gave me some treasure hunts to accomplish. This finally gave me the idea of discovering new places and trying out new locations in New York and around, albeit it was in a hurtful manner I took these on, for my heart was still aching every time I thought about Germany.

Up until recently I didn’t notice that I had probably never overcame the feeling of homesickness after it took me over in January. When I booked my ticket en route home a few months ago I finally felt a relief of several sorts. First, I was happy to set foot back again in the country of honey and milk. Second, I couldn’t wait to see those few friends who hadn’t made it out to a visit during the past one and a half years. Third, I was desperate to travel to more locations in Europe to check out some other big cities.

I had felt so good in the beginning, because New York had kept me busy for the first 9 months of my voyage. Even though I had a return flight scheduled for August of 2010, I never took this opportunity to go back because I felt no need to fly home after five months already. I wanted to wait until I had achieved something I could tell my friends and family about. The airline set the ticket back and determined the latest date I could use it would be March of 2011. The closer this date drew, the more I knew I would not be able to afford to go back in spring by means of time and money. Maybe this is also when I realized that the date I would return home would be indefinite and it could have triggered some negative thoughts about being stuck in New York.
Indeed, a friend from France thought it not wise to stay away from home for so long. He makes the effort of going back to Bordeaux every now and then, in intervals of four to five months. I consider this not to be a bad idea, either, when looking at how many weeks I have felt miserable just because I couldn’t take my thoughts of the question of when would I be able to return home.

I had effectively managed to keep myself quite busy in the months before: There was so much to explore in this area that I felt satisfied just walking up and down the streets – watching the people, the buildings, and the surroundings. Truly, I felt quite the opposite way: Whenever I thought of having to return home, a feeling of pressure overcame me. I knew it was not yet my time, there were still so many things undone in the Big Apple, which had to be carried out first. I had German friends here, who brought with them the native language and the European mentality I was really not missing all too much in 2010.

On top of this all, I was distracted from the so-called family-oriented holidays because of my visitors during these crucial times: Two of my closest German friends paid me a visit during the two big holidays in fall. For Thanksgiving my friend from high school came to New York and stayed for one week straight. We had our own dinner-to-say-thanks and brushed off the chaos of Black Friday with a laugh. During the Christmas days, known as the ultimate family holiday, my friend of the past 15 years came to Brooklyn with her younger sister and I never thought about being home for a second. They also brought many German sweets which lasted a month and stilled my cravings for home-known food.

Thus, November and December were quite tolerable. January was different. January brought the cold and made me hate winter for the first time here. I couldn’t bear the thought of witnessing yet another snow fall. I was convinced I would never see the light of day, not to mention spring, in the City again. The summer seemed so far away and like another era long passed and certainly never to return. Everything appears to be more depressing during winter days over here, so it certainly did not do much in alleviating my sorrow.

After giving into my pain for a while, I jumped into the opposite direction and right onto the travel track: I made it to Boston, DC, and Las Vegas – three trips within one and a half months. I did help as I met many like-minded Europeans and other travelers from all over the world who could share my pain and distract me from my pitiful thoughts. They also showed me how to have a good time despite homesickness and opened my eyes to a world dedicated to discovering new continents, triggering dreams in me of traveling the globe one day.

Unfortunately, homesickness does not only happen to me (I am sorry to say). And New York has this thing of you being completely satisfied and occupied in the city of heaven and hell until well into 9 months of your stay. Then it slowly creeps up on you and hits you with such a force you have no choice but to fall down hard. Which makes it so much more difficult to get back onto your feet again. I heard from several other accounts that nine months is a good point in time to expect homesickness kicking in. So prepare yourself for this if you are thinking of moving to the Big Apple.

Now it is two more weeks until I will board my plane to FRA International Airport and spend 18 lovely days on the continent of Europe again. I combined a stay at home with a stay at my university town and even managed to shove in a visit to London (this has been on my list ever since I moved to New York as I am itching to compare these two cities).
Maybe when I come back I will be able to appreciate the beauty of New York once more in a way I have not been capable of since the beginning of this year. The wish of being home again has been just too deeply rooted in the back of my head.

Fire Island Beach Getaway (in words)

Remember those locations I mentioned in Ocean, Sand, and Fun? Well, I’m finally able to cross one item off this list: Last Saturday I got to check out the gorgeous beaches on Fire Island!
Ever since my roomie went to Fire Island on 4th of July, I have been desperate to go. The pictures I’ve seen and the stories I heard made it sound like a small idyllic place in the middle of the ocean, isolated from the oh-so hectic life going on over here.
I had initially planned on getting a large group of people together and to just drive over there. After waiting a few weekends, I knew it would not be happening this way. One time it was a coworker who couldn’t join in or two friends who had made other plans. Again another weekend it was raining constantly, making it a miserable idea to go to the beach. Last Saturday I finally realized that I will have only three more weekends for this opportunity, so I overcame my shadow and traveled alone. I haven’t done this in a few months, but the day turned out to be so great that I almost regret not to have gone earlier.

If you don’t have a car (like most people in New York, especially new arrivals from Europe), you are dependent upon public transportation. Now it might be different for the rest of the US, but in and around the metro area the infrastructure does not constitute a problem. Therefore, I took the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Penn Station (yes, such a classic!) and made sure to purchase the beach getaway package at a ticket vending machine. Armed with my five impressive-looking tickets I sought my way through all the annoying tourists and other people standing in my way the usual busy crowd (heck, on a Saturday!). I then discovered the secret to why a huge cluster of passengers is always grouped in front of the boards indicating the train numbers (which has until now remained a mystery to me). It’s not because they’re waiting for seats to be assigned to them. It‘s also not because they belong to the Penn Station sect. It’s because you have to wait until 10 minutes before the departure to actually find out the track your train is leaving on! I definitely consider America to be disorganized in certain aspects and ten minutes ahead of departure seems kind of late of an announcement even to me. So ten to 11 AM the sign signaled the track to be number 20 and the entire crowd rushed down the stairs to fetch a seat before the train filled up. Could turn into something slightly chaotic and maybe dangerous if larger crowds are involved. It seems to have worked out over the past decades without any major incidents, though, so I’m not going to complain about the system.

Once seated in a row of three, an old couple approached me and took their seats. I quickly revealed myself as someone who is not from the City when the conductor checked my ticket and told me I had to switch in Babylon. O dear, another complication I didn’t understand at first. He chuckled and asked if this was my first time on the LIRR and I proudly pointed out that it was my second time already. He didn’t seem too impressed by this. The old couple eyed me more closely and then happened to notice my camera I had strapped around my neck (it was my new Canon I was desperate to try out). They wanted to know if this was a professional tool and we quickly jumped into a conversation. As the story goes, they lived in Long Island but had grown up in Queens, and pointed out some insider landmarks once we were through the tunnel. I didn’t know Breyer’s used to have a huge building complex on Long Island City. Not that I ever cared to know but those things are interesting. It must be nice to be familiar with historic landmarks and to feel at home in New York, I thought, and envied them for this.
They got off soon and I had all the time I needed to look at the landscape unfolding in front of me. Long Island becomes less industrial once you get out of Queens and resembles many other places in the US with fast food joints and ugly malls. It does have its own flair, it seems, as the houses’ architecture is more on the sophisticated end.

At Babylon I jumped out of the train and into the only other one across the tracks. Fire Island has many beaches to go to, but for some reason I had decided to check out the one dedicated to homosexuals because my roomie had said there would be more going on than on the family- and single-oriented beach. She had been to Ocean Bay Park and despite having a good time she had left slightly bored. To prevent this from happening I chose the Fire Island Pines as my destination.
When I entered the upper deck of the train, I was surrounded by one gay guy couple after another. I felt like an outsider. I didn’t expect I would be the only straight person going to the Pines. So I got my little foretaste of what the day would turn into on the LIRR already and had fun observing how all those guys were hitting on each other (sometimes quite pathetically). There were these three men in front of me, who were constantly taking pictures of each other and thought they were the next hot thing too good to be true! All of a sudden one of them jumped up and recognized an “actress” popular here. I took a picture of “her” even though I didn’t know who “she” was. Another guy told me she was a biggie in the gay scene and actually a transvestite. This was when I probably met the only guy on the train who had ever been married to a German man, as when I told him where I was from he grinned widely and recalled he had lived in Essen for three years. What a coincidence! He even spoke German and this not bad at all! The guy was very entertaining and we had much to talk about but unfortunately for me he was heading off to Cherry Grove, not the Pines, like I was.

After four stops we all got off the train at Sayville and entered a shuttle bus to the ferry. The advertised “colonial taxi” turned out to be an average looking coach, nothing too impressive. The ferry station offered a nice bar with drinks to entertain the waiting passengers. I looked around and saw two more couples who seemed to not be homosexual. This could be a fun day, I thought!
The ferry took off and I got a splendid view over the small harbor of Sayville. As I was shooting away a guy sat next to me – possibly the only straight guy on the entire boat. He was heading off to a jazz show in Fire Island and didn’t know what to expect either.
The ferry ride took 20 minutes and then we drew close to the Pines. The harbor area had a few restaurants which were already crowded by drunk-looking people. Once I hopped off, I was anxious to go to the beach, of course, but I also wanted to check out what this island was about and so I wandered a bit off the beaten paths just to discover beautifully laid out houses with nice pools and garden areas hidden behind wooden fences I had to peek through. The buildings are made of wood (possibly the only material that did not have to be imported from the mainland) and wooden paths led my way through the forests and housing area.
Then I finally approached the sand dunes and when I turned around the corner, an even more beautiful scene evolved in front of my eyes: White, powdery stretches of sand with green-blue water so clear I could see my feet in it. The last time I had witnessed this was in Florida and this beach came very close to what the Gulf Coast had to offer those days. I spent a few nice hours just lying on the sand, observing gay guys playing beach volleyball or Frisbee, wearing only a hint of pants and checking each other out. A world turned upside down to me but nonetheless very interesting to witness.
My new straight friend joined me in the evening since he had a few hours to kill before his gig in the theater started. We walked around a bit and decided to try to check out Cherry Grove, supposedly only 20 minutes away from the Pines. As we made our way through the forest, we saw a deer jumping out. What else could be the ultimate manifest of peacefulness than this?!

Cherry Grove was more of a half hour walk through forest that turned into sand dunes and then wooden paths again. Here too there were a bunch of cute houses. We occasionally wondered why we were the only white people here and I found out later that something called the Black Out was going on: One weekend during the summer dedicated to African-American gays and lesbians only in Cherry Grove. The Grove had more going on than the Pines did and we ended up at the Cherry (surprise!) Restaurant where we ordered miserable-tasting American bar food that made my stomach ache afterwards. It was entertainment at its best and I couldn’t take my eyes off the crowd: Transvestites dressed up to impress, older men hitting on boys, boys warding off older men, rich people bragging about their money, the waiter who had dressed up like a whore with his black make-up and black, torn-up shirt. What a circus! I thought everything was a bit too extreme and made up, but then again, I am not gay and cannot judge these things. I also thought that the entire evening would end up in one huge orgy I wouldn’t want to witness. A band was playing nice ocean tunes and large crowds of people were waiting for the ferry back to insanity.

It was time for me to leave at around 9 PM, so I walked back to the Pines area, which had turned into a night-club pier filled with drunks. While sitting down for a few minutes, three gay guys joined me (they were taking a time-out from drinking) and asked me if I had come here by myself. They were surprised when they found out I had indeed traveled alone and deemed me very courageous as they would have been too scared of making the trip out (we’re still talking about gays). Well, what shall I say? You’re not going to see the world if you stay at home, so traveling alone is fine to me.

A setback to the trip was when I got off the ferry and the so-called colonial taxi and the LIRR would not show up for 50 mins straight. So the 2 and a half hour trip turned into a 4-hour-voyage and I got home at around 1 AM, too tired to think of all the crazy things that had happened on this secluded part of Long Island but very happy I had gone by myself!

Now it’s two more weekends of summer in New York and I have yet to see if Jones Beach is an option. I think I am giving up on the Hamptons this year, but I heard of something better on the far end of Long Island, and that is a village called Montauk. Perhaps, perhaps…

My Best-Kept Secret in Brooklyn: Rooftop Love

I have a rooftop in my building. It faces both Brooklyn and Manhattan. It offers the most beautiful panorama in entire Park Slope and it comes for free (well, or with the rent, however you like to see it).
When seeking out locations, the room and the roommates were not the only reason I took the apartment I am in right now. On the day of the room-seeing, my roomie-to-be said I should take a look upstairs after I was done talking to her. Not expecting too much since we were in Park Slope and I couldn’t imagine anything off from Williamsburg to be known for its views, I climbed up one staircase. When I opened the door, my first image was a nice white area wider than I had thought. It showed a view over our Brooklyn neighborhood. Then I turned around, peeked around the corner – and was dumbfounded: I saw the entire Manhattan skyline spread out in front of me. What a great surprise such a breath-taking panorama was, and how stupid would it be of me not to consider a hidden treasure like this.

During the day
At sunset

Luckily enough I got the room but that was during the winter. The winters are cold, windy, snowy, and unbearable here (more about this in a different post). Hence, during the winter I was not up there quite as often (translates into almost never). This was for practical reasons, too, though. The door that led upstairs was knocked in with snow and it was hard to open it. So no luck and really no desire to go up there in January and February. Then the spring came along in March and with it some nice mild days. May was finally the season that started my real rooftop love: Hanging out on top for hours after work, just eating, contemplating, inviting friends, writing down my thoughts, doing some serious work… And for three months straight I have had my rooftop now and my rooftop has had me.

To give you a specific idea of what I am talking about, our roof is made of three roofs combined into one nice area, only separated by small walls you can easily climb over. The rooftop to our left is fancy: Our neighbors built a complete terrace area with seating and planted a green garden next to it. It makes our part look rather bland. But then the roof to our right looks as equally bland, if not even blander, because their door is slightly broken. I really love the small courtyards which I can look down on from the top. It reminds me of Roman architecture for some reason I cannot fully explain.

The fancy side
Our part
The cute courtyard

If the landlord would agree, we could use all three roofs together and have a huge party here with a DJ and open bar. If life were that easy. The space would be big enough and I’m sure the roof would not collapse. But life isn’t that easy. Technically we aren’t even allowed on the roof for safety reasons.
Aside from the amazing view onto the Manhattan skyline, I can also see parts of Staten Island and New Jersey. And sometimes, if I scoop around the trees which are planted in the way or if I wait until the trees don’t have any leaves anymore, I can even see the Statue of Liberty.

Our neighbors have hosted many small parties during the summer. They also use their terrace for just sitting outside when taking in their dinner. On 4th of July this roof was witness to a nice assembly of people as all three roofs were taken: To the left, the family of 3 apartments had gathered. On our roof, some people from downstairs together with their friends were anxiously awaiting the fireworks. And to our right, some old man took up the space. We weren’t the only ones around celebrating Independence Day. Practically every other roof in our neighborhood was packed. Some even blasted their patriotic songs across Park Slope via boom box. It was fun to be part of this. For the second time already the fireworks did not go off over the East River (this would have been a splendid view!), but on the other side over the Hudson River. It’s good to see the spectacle from New Jersey. Since we do have a view onto NJ, we all had the same idea and were trying to figure out if the fireworks were see-worthy from our building. They were but only partly. I have to tell you, though, that it was still better than last year, when I had been in Times Square and all the buildings had covered up the night sky.

I usually show everyone who visits us our hidden treasure. And all visitors have been impressed so far. You just cannot beat this view, unless you live in a loft in Williamsburg right at the waterfront (and pay three times the amount of rent you would pay here).
The roof is the spot to hang out, have a glass of wine, or to remember what I came here for.
I can still hear the streets but all sounds are dampened by the heights. It’s sometimes entertaining to lean over the edge of the roof and look down at Park Slope’s hasty crowd.

With a glass of wine in May
My first impressed visitor in the winter

Much to discover, such as this fire escape ladder
All three roofs at one glance

Now if I could live on a bridge because of its stunning view, it would be on the Manhattan Bridge, but unfortunately, this is not allowed, so I seek refuge on my rooftop. Not bad, either, what do you think?

And I will continue on enjoying it to the bitter end!

My Golden Fifty!

This is it! This is THE official 50th post. The golden number, the accomplishment, the five and the zero!
When I started this blog about three months ago I would have never thought it would take me this far. Really, fifty is not that great of a number. But coming up with fifty different topics one week after another – I call that quite an accomplishment. Here are a few things I would like to share with you, dear readers, while thanking you for the time you actually took to weed through my sometimes clumsily phrased posts. The things I’ve learned about blogging for three months straight are:

1) Different outcomes than intentions
I intended this blog for my friends back at home in Germany, and for a few Americans I know here. So far, it hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, I met random people from UK, Pennsylvania, California, Asia, Nirvana – anything but. So I guess my initial goal was not met. Which is fine. I guess my friends are less computer-literate than I thought. I forgive them. They gave me a great opportunity to dip into other people’s lives!

2) One new topic after another
I never understood how people can write and write and write… And now I am one of them! The ideas keep on flowing and there seems to be no way I could run out of topics anytime soon. Sometimes I come up with three different things to talk about during one entire day. New York is good about this, as it gives me many inspirations and incidents to write about. You remember that list I recommended in 7 Tips on Blogging? Well, I still have 25 topics on mine and in the last two months the number has not gone done, even though I crossed off a fair amount of items.

3) It just won’t get boring
Disregarding the writer’s block, this is an interesting hobby I have pursued over the past three months. And contrary to my initial beliefs, I am for once not bored with this activity. Which I consider a mighty good sign. I discover new ways to express myself every time I write and I cannot imagine giving this project up anytime soon. Not until I have finished those 25 ideas still waiting on my list. And more!

4) Recognizing other people’s hard work
Writing is not just simply putting up a few sentences every other day and reading through your reader comments. It involves hard work! It sometimes has to do with doing some research, taking pictures, and phrasing your words in such a way you won’t offend anyone you don’t intend to. It involves overcoming shyness and emotions and talking about topics you might have troubles with. It involves staying put to a “project” albeit you sometimes don’t feel like it. I see how many writers are struggling to get their opinions out there from time to time and I acknowledge their hard work. I can now see that this is more than just a few posts, it is a revelation into their own (vulnerable) world.

5) Feeling for others
Writing can be therapeutic. I like to keep my blog a bit away from topics too personal (sometimes not very successful). However, I can see how other bloggers are talking about topics disturbing to them – not to get attention but to heal their wounds and to get advice. So the longer I have been reading other bloggers’ posts that I am following, the more I feel for them. Be it illness, personal events, downfalls, failure, happiness – the more I become involved in these persons’ online life, the more I can feel their pain and experience their joy.

6) Blogging community – what a positive thing!
Let’s admit it: It’s great to have a blogging community! Where else can you easily connect with people from all over the world (online dating does not count). It’s a great opportunity to dip into completely different worlds, to clash with different views, and to discover new, different things. I am not saying that this is a substitute for face-to-face relations or friendship (even though some bloggers have taken their experience to another level and met in person and become friends!). But it certainly gives us the chance to create an image of our own and to feel comfortable with this. It might be a refuge for stories we want to discuss with someone who is more distant than our partners or best friend. And we like to hear advice from people from all walks of life. So yes, in this sense, the blogging community is a helpful and positive invention!

7) Improving your writing
I don’t know if this applies for others, but I feel more confident in writing letters, applications, or other correspondence in the language of English now. And I do think that this is because of blogging. Writing four posts a week makes me look up English vocabulary, grammar quirks, and expressions I have never heard of before or couldn’t use in the right way. So yes, I believe if you really want to, then blogging can improve your writing. I don’t want errors dominating my works because there is nothing more annoying to me when reading through a work filled with mistakes. It makes me wonder if the other writer is taking his/her own work seriously and, to be honest, it does not make the author look very educated. This is why I myself aim for writings which are close to flawless.

8) Discovering many new things
I’ve come to find that cooking vegetarian does not have to be pricy or tedious but it can be fun and creative. I’ve also discovered that there are many fascinating ways of taking pictures and aiming your camera. And of course graffiti art in Berlin is about as original as street drawings in Buenos Aires are. There are so many different areas of interest in this world and blogging has brought me closer to them. I can now confidently find my own way in putting my interests together after I have seen how other people manage to do so. More importantly, I can see that I do not have to be flawless in doing so but that experience will help in finding things out.

9) Uncensored writing
The good thing: I can write what I want when I want and how I want. Freedom times three. This is not a job I’m trying to accomplish but this is my own work I am getting out there and I have all the rights to do whatever I want to do with it.
Despite all of this, I have also arrived at the conclusion that blogging can hurt others in a way not intended. Certain topics should have been chosen more wisely by me and maybe certain aspects should have not been mentioned at all, for in the long run they will do neither party any good. Therefore, I will try to keep a more objective view on controversial themes and keep the emotional part out of it. (hint: Life As a Reporter is a good example of this).

So off it is, to hopefully 50 more posts, and in the end I might be able to say: Yaaay to the glorious 100th! Keep on reading, folks!