Spending My Birthday in DC

birthday picture in front of the white house in june

Two weeks ago I spent my 26th birthday in a fine city I’ve come to experience before. The one and only DC had only been worthy of one trip so far, back in 2011, where I had a humongous blast staying in a hostel and committing to a sightseeing-marathon. So for the most important day of the year, I already knew I wanted to get away from this city. I couldn’t be bothered with the hectic bustle’n’hustle of Nueva York but wanted to simply do something culturally appealing. A day trip to DC seemed like the right fit and so it was.

After spending some excruciating five hours on the Chinatown bus (read more on this bus here), we were finally dropped off in the midst of, well, Chinatown, of course. Now Chinatown in DC is a bit different than anywhere else in NY. It appears to be pretty much in the middle of town and very close to all sightseeing attractions, such as the White House, the National Mall, and the quazillion amounts of Memorials. So what could my first stop possibly be after a nerve-wrecking bus ride on my birthday? You named it! McDonalds! Yes, I know, perhaps not the first choice in culinary experiences. I also managed to snag two slices of pizza at We, the Pizza in the evening hours, which didn’t add to an elevated experience in gourmet foods.

Turkish protest in front of the White House
Turkish protest in front of the White House

However, I was here for the culture. And culture I got to see plenty! First, of course an obligatory stop at the White House. Always fun to watch the famous brick walls and wondering what might be going on inside. And as in two years ago, another protest was held outside of the gates. This time it had to do with Gezi-Park and the inhuman conditions going on in Istanbul. A nice crowd of Turkish protestors had gathered together, with a heap of onlookers and picture-takers.

Then off to the next stop on my personalized birthday tour: The World War II Memorial and its sparkling fountain! Not without forking over 2 dollars for a small bottle of water at most likely one of the only ice cream vendors lurking around the National Mall. I know, you guys can charge that much because everyone was suffering under a heat stroke, but seriously?

Yes, as you might have figured, it was hot. If not hotter as hot. Albeit not as humid as in New York. Which didn’t make sense to me, especially after my roommate later proclaimed that DC was built on swampland (new information learned each day). Perhaps Manhattan cages the heat in between its skyscrapers. However, the National Mall in DC does not have a lot of shadow because of the lack of trees. So just keep that in mind if you’re going on a trip in the summer.

Reflecting Pool
Reflecting Pool

Anyhow, the first day of June was a fine day for sticking my feet into the Reflecting Pool at the Memorial. Like dozens of other exhausted visitors, too. And here comes the tricky part: You can put your feet in and act respectful but you are not allowed to jump up and down, walk around in the water or even carry a bride through it for a good picture! One of those six Park Rangers swarming around the area made sure to warn us when we sunk our feet in the cooling water. And he didn’t make an exception for the young bride and her groom, who were ushered around by their photographer. As soon as they wanted to pose with their bridal party for what would have possibly been a superb memorable picture, he already came hurrying out of the shadows and intervened. Poor wedding couple! And they had been so good blinking into the blinding sun just moments before because their photographer had thought this to be a great shot!

Young Wedding Party at the World War II Memorial
Young Wedding Party at the World War II Memorial

After cooling off and facing the sweltering heat once again, I decided to bypass all the other memorials (the Lincoln for one) I had already seen the last time and went to the National Mall. My goal was to get a peek at a few museums I didn’t get the chance to see in 2011. I entered the Museum of National History (not without zipping and unzipping multiple bags for security) and made a round past the ancient Star-Spangled Banner. It had been sown together by multiple pieces of cloth during the war of 1812 and after the battle some soldiers had decided to cut themselves a share. Such as a star, which was missing in one corner.

air and space museum in dc

While this was an entertaining museum, the most time I did indeed spend in the Air and Space Museum just a walking distance down the road. From the history of the first man-built plane to great accomplishments in aeronautics – everything there was worth seeing.

My impression of DC’s museums so far? They are all for free, which is great. But they also tend to be a bit smaller than let’s say the Met in New York. At the same time, you have a diversity of different topics so close to each other and how could you possibly become bored of those choices? Definitely worth checking out!

The one and only Capitol
The one and only Capitol

My last stop on this spectacular tour was once again the Capitol. A few snapshots here and there and then I was over it. They have a beautiful garden you can walk. And on that particular evening there must have been a high school prom happening, as excited teenagers were posing in nice gowns and made-up appearances.

And finally, a drink at a bar in Capitol Hill with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. A nice momentum to end a birthday celebration. On our way back to Chinatown we ran into a bunch of people who were running a marathon. At 11 o’clock at night! Well, I guess craziness exists everywhere.

Luckily the bus ride back was relatively uneventful (except for an old Russian guy who loudly talked on his cell phone) and I was back in 3 ½ hours. A set record so far!

While I thought DC was already quite right for a visit back in March of ’11, this time around I was happy to have seen it during a warm summer month. Even though the cherry blossom weeks were over, other flowers had bloomed and it was gorgeous in a different sense. I also liked the fact that I was able to spend the entire day outside instead of having to warm up somewhere. I’m not sure how hot July and August get, but so far June has been the most perfect month!

[For more pictures on DC go to my Facebook page or
A Picture Every Day: A Trip to Washington DC and A Trip to Washington DC (Part 2)
]

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Looking for Roommates in New York: The Other Side of the Charade

rommate in new york

You probably have already gathered from my two previous posts (read more here and here) that renting out rooms and looking for roommates is an ongoing flow in New York. And, unfortunately, a quite frustrating flow most of the time. People leave because they move back home. Or because they feel unhappy about their current roommate situation. Or because the 2-hour-commute to work is just too much of a pain the neck. Regardless of all of dubious reasons why people move, looking for roommates is just another part of the game.

Up until recently I was mostly on the other side of the line. I was the one who had to look for a new apartment – and go through my 20-something viewings before picking the right match.

But it has been some lucky 8 months until now and, as the story goes, one of my two roomies decided to move back to California after 5 ½ years of Big Apple time. Well, since moving away from this town is never a month-long-decision, we were left rather short-handed in time to look for another roommate. Speak of 1 week. Although 1 week can be a decent amount with all the candidates looking for a home in this chaotic city.

So we start our casting early on Saturday. Still 5 days to go, no reason to panic yet. Our first one is automatically our favorite: A UK chick, who works for a scientific magazine in Manhattan. Nerd as she stands but with a lovely personality. She is interested in the community garden across the street, as so many other candidates following her. It turns out that the key the roomie purchased for $25 symbolizes the golden passage to a piece of nature right across the street.

Then a French girl walks in, telling us about her current neighborhood. “There are only Mexicans in Sunset Park. They speak Spanish all the time!” “Oh, how do you know they are Mexican? Do you have good restaurants around your place?” my roommate who is moving out replies. Considering the fact that she is of Mexican descent, she already looks quite doubtful at this, in her opinion too honest, candidate. “No, It’s awful, no good restaurants, no bars, nothing!” French girl catapults herself right into the trap. “Well, they surely could be Chilean or Ecuadorian, no?!” my now irritated roommate insists. “No no, they are Mexican for sure!” the Frenchie insists. The male roomie is immediately drawn to her blonde hair and strong accent, trying to find reasons for her to move in. After she clarifies that she will move out in August but come back in December, I pretty much give up. The male roomie suggests that she could always find a sub-renter for those 4 months in between but we look at him quite doubtful. Nice way to bring more random people into our home!

Finally, a Chilean girl appears. She is in her 20ies, works very hard, and will barely be home. She seems nice but apprehensive. Because she is currently living with her ex-boyfriend she is seeking to move out. Of course not an ideal situation to be in, we understand. She would also like her father to stay with us whenever he visits her (How often this might be? Who knows!).

Although we both agree that option 1 and 3 are good solutions, we still wait until Sunday evening to make a decision. Perhaps a mistake, perhaps not. 2 candidates flake out, and the 2 remaining are anything but convincing. A quiet freelance writer and photographer who works in Carroll Gardens but who will be moving out for grad school in Fall (to a different state). Since we already stated in our ad that we are looking for temporary roommates, this really does not work with our schedule.

Then an overly enthusiastic girl who jumps at us from the get-go. “I’m a good roommate!” she proclaims while she flounces through the door. “I am the best in the world and will do anything to bullshit my way into this place” is what her attitude conveys. Her bio is rather not convincing: Studied in London for a while but then came back to her family in New York. Currently lives with her parents. So this overly flaky, overly ridiculous human being is sitting on our couch, patiently telling us about her “awesome” life and that the reason she is an hour late is because she was stuck in traffic coming all the way from Westchester. The female roomie drifts off, checking for further candidates on her e-mail. The male roomie and exchange glances in between. We hardly have a chance to mention what we do but are polite enough to tell her how much utilities cost. The word charade has been just invented for this candidate…

As we make our decision, we discover to our dismay that UK girl is looking for a more “social” environment (think baking cookies and drinking wine together every other night) and Chilean girl is looking for something more permanent (we figured this was a lame let-down).

rommate casting like dating

Therefore, round 3 of our roommate casting begins on Monday. Since it’s only 3 legitimate days of searching to go, we squeeze in a total of 10 candidates in one (!) evening! As the male roomie correctly states, we are starting to resemble a youth hostel. By now we have already noticed that our apartment seems to be “the next hot thing.” Conveniently located from Atlantic Terminal in a 5 minute walk, it offers all commodities of bars, restaurants, and quietness in a great area in Brooklyn! And of course the room is big, as is the price swell for such a thriving hotspot.

I select 8 candidates who pour their heart out to me in their e-mails. Two girls are not even in New York but are eager to set up a skype date or bus the 2-hour route from Philly just to look at our “great room.” I shake my head at how desperate people can seem when looking.

Luckily, I only get to see half of the people. The other half drops by before 8 PM. The other 2 roommates are there to show them the room.
I gather from their sunken faces when I walk through the door that the casting has not yet been a success. “This Israeli girl really felt comfortable around our spot!” female roomie complains. “She was jumping all over our kitchen furniture and just wouldn’t want to shut up.” – “Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever met a guy who was telling so many lame jokes at once” male roomie chimes in about another person.

Our next candidate is a 25-year-old who works in Dumbo and stems from DC. Although male roomie should be thrilled by this candidate (since he studied and lived in DC), he slumps in our chair and looks at the guy with his mouth halfway open. Think zombie-like fashion. The guy essentially is creeped out and turns towards me and female roomie. He seems to have an interesting life but the vibes are not quite right… Plus the zombie in the corner is very distracting! We talk how roommate casting can resemble dating because you have to discuss so many personal things (Do you have a significant other? How early do you get up in the morning?).

The Ukranian girl who follows next does not approve of the heater making “such loud noises at night.” We are talking about slow wavy motion hollering through the heat. And the guy who follows has awkward social skills and a nervous laugh. Finally, an Australian girl in chic fashion walks through our door. She seems to really want the room, a clear answer we are seeking for. She also seems to fit our personalities, although it is really hard to tell in those 15 minutes we are able to spend with her. We finally simply give up on the idea of interviewing more people on Tuesday and offer her the room. So now it’s another female roomie, me, and the male roomie – trying to make it work!

[Oh and what I will never forget? That one guy who was thrilled by my first response and e-mailed me a total of 3 more times trying to find out our address. “Hi, I am still walking around your neighborhood. It’s pretty cold outside and I’d really like to look at the room if you can squeeze me in!” were his e-mails to me. Get a life, stalker!]

Personality Types – Find Out Who You Are!

Recently I’ve stumbled across this cool site I found on Liz’s blog (she happened to find it on another person’s twitter – the word spreads fast!). It determines what personality type you are according to your blog. It is based on the Myers- Briggs personality tests and a pretty neat tool I wanted to share with you since this is after all a blogging community.

Because I have two blogs, I first gave in my main one, which happens to be German-American Abroad.

The result was: ISFP – The Artists.

personality type the artists

According to the description, I am NOT a friend of many words (most readers would strongly disagree since a majority of my posts are 1,000 words and above) and have to make sure that I am not being taken advantage of. Aside from this, I am very compassionate and genuinely care for my fellow human beings. I really like that last part of the description!

brain activity

I then typed in A Picture Every Day and received a very different response. According to this blog, I belong to the ESFP – The Performers.

As the description goes, I live in the current moment and experience life’s riches. I also love being around other people and have an eye for beauty and art.

personality type the performers

I guess if I were to combine those two descriptions, I would get a solid (and very flattering) observation of my current personality. It’s interesting to see how the test takes your blog and transforms it into a pretty accurate view of who you are or perhaps wish to be.

To a certain degree, the results took me by surprise. I would have thought the roles to be switched, after all my picture blog appears to be way more artsy than this one, the writing site.

Please feel free to try it out for yourselves and don’t be shy to leave your feedback!

Go visit the Typealyzer!

My First Halloween Party Ever in America!

This weekend brought a few premieres with it. Aside from the hurricane rumbling up and basically destroying our precious city (read more here), I had the chance to participate in an event I have been burning to be part of: Halloween in New York!

Yes, of course there was last year’s parade with all the craziness and drunkenness going on. Coming from other people, not me, I would like to add. No dressing up for me, no real partying for me. And then my very first year here, in October 2010, we I ended up spending the night before Hollow’s Even sipping a glass of wine with an anxious friend who was blabbing about how dangerous it can be to be out on the streets during Halloween. “You might be mugged by a lone ghost that jumps you in the dark!” he shrieked and was pleased at the effect his words had.

So this year I finally wanted to make it happen. I wanted to be drunk and made up, all messed up, dancing in the streets of Brooklyn, Manhattan, or heck, even Queens. My friends sent me a few invites to dubious parties happening throughout the entire weekend. Since Halloween is once again in the middle of the week, all the fun started early and people got dressed up beforehand. Preferably when they didn’t have to work so that they could drink and celebrate at the same time. And oh yeah, when the subways were still working, half the city wasn’t out of power, and no one was too shocked to friggin celebrate. But yeah, let’s please do not get into that!

A long-lost “friend” sent me an invite over Facebook (yes, I am back on the devious site). He probably also sent it to the rest of his 300 something friends, but I thought it would be fun to crash the so-called Club 305 Party in the midst of Williamsburg. Oh had we just known better….

The day before the party, on Thursday, I met up with my one friend to go through one of the biggest costume collections at the New York Costumes around Union Square. I feel that these random Halloween shops pop up all throughout New York the month before the event is scheduled to start. I really don’t know how they manage to rent out a space for 4 weeks only, but after Halloween they are abandoned warehouses or buildings.

Now – the New York Costumes is located in NYU territory, meaning many students were seeking out a fantastic and spooky outfit the night before the weekend started. After shoving through the masses, my friend and I had enough of all the junk and decided to call it the quits. I then met up with friend no. 2 in the noticeably less crowded Ricky’s around the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was here that I managed to snag some fiery red, devilish-good looking accessories for my costume on Friday. My friend bought a “Hipster” outfit for the proud price of 20 (!) bucks: fake glasses, a bow tie, and suspenders… Feeling slightly ripped off, we were nonetheless still happy to finally have found something.

Blurry picture of us on the train

On Friday, we all started in a happy mood: The Hipster, the devil (me), and Roger Rabbit (a cartoon character from 1988, in case you didn’t know). While wandering around Chinatown to look for the right train going to Marcy Ave, we got some curious looks and a mistaken “Easter Bunny” comment (my friend was furious!). Club 305 turned out to be house number 305. We rang and rang and were wondering if it really was worth all the trouble just to crash a party where we most likely did not know anyone…

Then we heard people on the roof and a guy opened the door. “You are trying to get upstairs? Sure, just come up!” It became apparent what kind of party we had crashed: A gay and transvestite party! But what a party it was. After the initial shocking silence, the people resumed their talks and only eyed us every once in a while as we scurried up the steps to the roof in order to get some fresh air. Here we met a friend of a friend someone who knew the friend who had invited me. The guy, as it turned out, had gotten trashed at an after-work-party and was never to show. We, however, had the time of our lives, and our empty vodka bottle proved it at the end of the night.

Surprisingly amazing house party

Since the theme of the party was “Film and Movies,” Roger Rabbit fit right in. She got so drunk that we almost had to carry her back to the subway station when we called it the quits around 2:30 AM. All of us would have never expected to stay at such an extraordinary party for so long but it really was a great time. We met some fun people (not everyone there was gay, evidently), danced with the transsexual host, and were able to feed on some home-delivered cheese pizza. All in all, quite a success story!

Now, party number 2 got all our hopes up just because of how hyped up it was to begin with: 12 bucks just to enter. 2 bands, a live DJ, and mixers… Bam! What a great party this would be! Or so we thought.

At 10:30 PM, while my friend and I sat together and pre-gamed, she received a text message from one of the guys in the first band: “We are re-locating to the Financial District due to unforeseen circumstances!” was his short message. The party was to go down in Midtown and both of us were quite perplex at how suddenly it had been re-scheduled and in what area it was supposed to take place.

Sometime after 11:30 we showed up around Johns Street, ready to have a great but already thoroughly confused evening. With our printed tickets, we marched to the bouncer, just to be blown off from the start: “What is that? Which party are you here for?” he barked at us. A girl standing next to him pulled us to the side and verified our information. “Oh yes, we had to reschedule” she nervously exclaimed while putting yellow bands on our wrists. “It’s all the way on the roof now! I hope you have fun!” she chirped.

Kraftwerk band

The first band, dressed up as Kraftwerk, was having a hard time getting up the stairs with their heavy instruments. We looked at each other. Then we looked at the crowd that seemed mostly underage. And then we go to see two other parties going on while passing through three floors on our way up. There was a hip hop party, most likely with a few drugs here and there. On the roof, people were already drunk. Or on drugs. Who knows. The band was confused as to what to do. A girl dressed up in a blue cop uniform was hopping around, then she squat right next to us and peed all over the band’s instruments.

Grossed out we jumped to the side. Word had it that the cops were downstairs raiding the place. All of a sudden a detective in a suit opened the door to the roof, shone a flashlight into everyone’s eyes, and yelled: “Party’s over! Everyone go downstairs!”

Cops raiding place
Cops trying to get rid of people

What a shock! And what a hot mess! We were scrambling to go downstairs. As we were making our way down, we stepped through a few puddles that looked like more pee. Since there was no bathroom anywhere, people had decided to just go out into the staircase and…
While passing the second floor, we saw about five boys lined up by two NYPD cops. They had their legs and arms in a typical spread-eagle pose while they were standing against the wall. So I really got to see an arrest before I left the place.

Everyone was confused as to how the evening should continue. We ended up in a loft party in Williamsburg where 100 other people had found their way to. I decided I had enough of Halloween until next year and left around 3 o’clock. Boy, what a night! And the best news: Sometime after I left, this place was also raided by the cops! A spontaneous, noisy party in Wburg – go figure!

Bummed out Roger Rabbit

So that was my Halloween in New York. I got to dress up, was drunk, and hung out with some friends. I also got to pay for a really bad joke of a party but now I know that the best parties are probably the free ones! Or the house parties!

Happy Halloween y’all!

A Day in Jersey City: Weekend Glories

Wide streets framed with high trees. A typical American diner serving silver dollar pancakes to big families. A not too crowded park that leads you through the jungle to the open water.

Last Sunday I spent a day in New Jersey together with my friends who showed me around. They are a couple and moved into their new apartment at the beginning of this year. Because they wanted to be close to the City but couldn’t afford the outrageous one-bedroom rates of Manhattan, they choose Jersey City as their new home destination. I don’t think they’ve ever regretted crossing the Hudson River ever since. They were simply over their shared apartment situation in Bushwick and NJ was exactly what they needed: A peaceful area with affordable rentals and lots of opportunities to travel in and out of New York.

Now, there are several ways to get over to New Jersey. You can rely on a bus or New Jersey transit, a train that will take you from the main stations, such as Penn and Grand Central, to the bigger cities. The easiest means of travel is most likely the PATH: An underground train that you can catch throughout Manhattan and that catapults you to the Garden State within minutes.

Coming from Brooklyn, I took the PATH from the World Trade Center Station. It is a little bizarre to get there via this route because you first have to take the R to Cortland Street and, instead of switching over to the PATH underground, you will have to walk out of the subway station, a few blocks past the new Liberty Tower, then take a left to finally enter the train station. Got it? Exactly! It took me two tries to get there. In case you get lost, there are a few stingy signs on the way but unfortunately it is easier to orient yourself on the hectic crowds scurrying ahead of you then relying on the scarcely written words. Of course the PATH can feel like you are transformed to a different universe at times, especially since so many people from New Jersey are taking it. While they are not completely foreign, the vibes you get on the PATH are just so very different than anywhere else in the city. The funniest costume I’ve seen on it so far was the Bird Man: An eccentric-looking guy who dresses in fluffy, uni-colored outfits every day and either walks the Brooklyn Bridge or travels over to New Jersey. Back in February he had his red outfit on as he was was buying a ride over to NJ. Right when I got this awesome shot of him.

Other than that, a PATH ride can be rather uneventful. Compared to NYC subways, of course. To get to Jersey City, I got off at Grove Street, which catapulted me into the center of this quaint town (or so it seemed). Especially since it was the weekend, I saw people walking around fruit and veggie stands as soon as I was above ground. Perfect timing for a weekly green market in the middle of the town.

While taking a look around and walking towards my friends’ house, I discovered a good indicator of having left the Big Apple for sure: The streets were wider, the avenues longer, and everyone a bit happier. Jersey City can also easily convey the airs of a hipster town or college student center, I have found. When walking through the streets, I have sometimes been struck by a striking resemblance to Park Slope, except for that the roads are further apart. “No wonder you felt that way!” my friend explained to me. “The brownstones you see here are from the exact same era than the brownstones in Brooklyn. Together with the trees lining the streets and the occasional dog and baby stroller, you can surely have the impression that you are still in the Slope.”

Jersey City graffiti

In the beginning I really did not feel like I had left my neighborhood. Until I saw the restaurants and bars. A neighborhood group gathered around huge TVs. Or the Sunday brunch crowd. Just so very different than in Breukelen. On Sunday my friends wanted to show me how huge the portions are you get in New Jersey. Therefore, they picked their favorite diner only minutes from their apt. “We really love that everything is close-by. You don’t need a car – unlike everyone wants to make you believe when you mention you are moving to Jersey. Bars, cafes, restaurants – everything is so close and we don’t even leave the town anymore on the weekends unless we have to”, my friends were eager to point out to me. True, the PATH was a good 15 mins walk away. But everything else was about as close as it could get.

Such as the Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory diner, for example. A few blocks over and close to the park, we entered it on a busy Saturday afternoon. Early lunch time. Big families with infants and babies who were devouring huge portions of scrambled eggs, and pancakes, and bacon … you name it! My mouth was watering just by looking at the food. “This is our favorite spot” my friend proudly announced as he heard my stomach growl. “And the best thing about it is that it is just so much cheaper than Manhattan!” Well, in Manhattan you would not find diners like these. I am sure they would be boycotted by some green/go-vegan/preserve-the-originality-of-New-York kinda group. Which is absolutely fine, that’s why New Jersey offers a close compromise, where you can devour a family-sized breakfast and not feel guilty. For ten bucks I got a cheese omelet, silver-dollar-pancakes (how original is that!), home fries and some fresh orange juice. What a meal! I was able to finish about 3/4 of it until I finally gave up. Thumbs up to that!

Huge brunch in New Jersey

After our marathon brunch we were a bit stuffed, so my friends decided to go to one of the biggest parks in town. Their little dog Beija accompanied us and stuck her tiny nose in about everything she came across. On our way to it, she discovered a small snake lying around on the road. I never thought of New Jersey even having snakes, so I learned something new that day (one out of many things, actually).

Liberty State Park is an extensive green area, ideal for walking, hiking, yachting, and sightseeing. So pretty much anything you feel like doing on a weekend. They have cute little benches that overlook the skyline of Manhattan. They also have a historic train station which is now out of service but can still be visited for purposes of photo shoots or simply exploring. That day we saw three different wedding parties posing with their bridesmaids, groom helpers and families in front of the red brick walls of the train station. Luckily it was a gorgeous day out, with a high of 75 and no sign of rain on the baby blue sky.

Liberty State Park
My friends at Liberty State Park

Aside from the old wagons, the green trees, and the towers of Manhattan looming in the background, my friends showed me a very special spot of which I and most likely other New Yorkers had no idea it even existed: The 9/11 Memorial, Jersey-bound. Jersey City built the so-called Empty Sky and finished its construction at the same time the Manhattan counterpart opened to the public – on the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11. Its most predominant features are two opposing walls with the victims’ names, through which visitors can walk and see themselves in mirror-like fashion. These kinds of memorials always give me a huge gulp and I was touched by how every city close to New York seems to remember that one awful day in 2001.

New Jersey’s version of the 9/11 Memorial

Aside from the memorial, the town is connected to New York via ferry route. A boat goes out to Liberty and Ellis Island on a regular basis, which emphasizes the crucial role New Jersey withholds in the Tri-State relationship to New York. Often people, visitors and citizens, tend to forget this.

I was happy to have the chance of seeing Liberty State Park and spending an entire day with my friends whom I have a hard time meeting in the City nowadays due to different work schedules and other hectic hobbies. It was an honor for me to be their private photographer and take in their routine of a typical Sunday out in New Jersey. I am sure that I will one day come back to this mysteriously charming place, and if it’s just to see the skyline for the small fee of a PATH train ride.

Liberty Harbor is always worth seeing

For more infos on Liberty State Park, go here and here.
For more pictures on Beija, the beloved dog, go here.
For more pictures on Jersey City, go here.

Beware Psychology Students: Why Everyone Wants to Talk to You

For some this is not a big revelation, but others might have not known until now: I majored in psychology when I completed my Bachelor of Science a few years back. Psychology is one of those few matters that have drawn me into its realm and kept me there for the past 6 years already. When I was first in college, I was a rather confused human being, not knowing exactly where my strengths lie and what to flow with. After taking a few courses here and there in boring technical areas, I lost my interest for some professors and, unfortunately, also for some topics completely. Languages have always attracted me, but my school did not offer anything resembling translational studies or other language careers at this point in time.

Then I took my first course in sociology and immediately liked the areas that were covered. Out of pure coincidence I decided to take Intro into Psych only two months after this, although I thought I had decided on what to major in. After an initial course in the study of human beings, a decision came easily to me: Psychology it would be, from now until the next two years. And with every course I took from then on, no matter how difficult the teacher and how dry the themes, I kept remembering that one class I had in the very beginning: Taught by a young professor who was eager to show us how interesting the study of human behavior can be and what areas you could apply your knowledge in.
Fortunately for me, I had more inspiring professor than uninspiring ones, and yes, most of these were psychology professors. So when I graduated with a Bachelor’s in this subject area, I was able to say: I learned a lot in school. I most certainly have to go back to get a graduate degree one day!

A bit of time has passed from now until then. But one sentence that has still remained to be very true and which my first professor told me is the following: “People don’t care if you are a professional therapist or if you have close to zero experience in psychology. As soon as they hear that you majored in it they will want to talk to you.”

Little did I know how right she was…

Every time I tell friends or freshly made acquaintances that I majored in psych, an “oh” look appears in their faces. Usually I get a nice story presented right away, but sometimes I have to wait until the second or third encounter. A good example of this is a friend whom I just met a few weeks ago. We were sporadically talking about our Bachelor degrees outside of a bar. Then she told me about her boyfriend who had been depressed and described a few instances of his dis-ease (in case you haven’t noticed: we call it exactly this because it makes the person feel not at ease. Makes sense, right?!). I patiently listened and secretly thought: How did I get myself into this again?

Then a coworker and I came to speak about our pasts not too long ago. She also was rather pleased by my major and immediately started a lengthy conversation about someone she knew who had developmental problems as a child and teenager. I patiently listened, nodded a few times, and then phrased out a few questions in just the right moments. The truth in both instances was: My perplexity was only overwhelmed by my curiosity and my urge to not interrupt these people for fear of hurting their feelings.

Sometimes I don’t know what triggers people to think that psychology students are almighty and must know every single fact about this disease or another. It’s just a study area! We are no experts. Not even a licensed psychologist is an untouchable entity, just so you know. Psych is one of those lovely gray area matters and that is precisely why I have come to like it so much. My teacher’s favorite phrase has quickly become mine, as well: It depends!

No one can say for sure why your boyfriend became bipolar. Or why you experienced difficulties with your parents when you turned 30. Or how your partner developed into an uncaring lover from one day to another. Sure, we know more than the average college student. We even know more about it than a Colonel in the Army would (an example my professor used so frequently). But there are too many factors involved and frankly, as much as I am interested in hearing stories, I consider these way too personal to be discussed during a first encounter. Save them for later. Save them for your best friend. Heck, save them for Internet forums!

I get it! It feels good to relieve your worries and doubts onto someone who you think knows a bit more about them than the average American. But at the same time, you are still talking to a complete stranger. And this stranger is about as helpless as you are. And perhaps he does not deserve your blind trust yet. Not even psych students are interested in listening to problems 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ve had enough case examples throughout that clinical psych and counseling psych course we were required to take at some point in time. Believe me, when we are out drinking a beer, we want to do just that: chitchat, have fun, enjoy ourselves. Not think about all the troubles this world has to offer.

I thought this post to be interesting for current psych students. I also thought it to be interesting for everyone else. Please don’t take my opinioned writing too personal! After all – it does depend!

How People Find My Blog: Analyzing Google Search Terms

After more than a year of blogging I have come to find that fellow Internet users have clicked this blog because of some of the most peculiar search terms. Below is a small selection of the most entertaining keywords and phrases from the past few months.

Does Luna Park have water rides?

It always amazes me but also makes me jump in circles when people find me through this search term. There must be a quazillion other blog posts on Coney Island, yet my three ones (Off to the Beach, Coney Island Reloaded, Coney Island on a Sunny February Afternoon) have somehow made it through the net of stories on water splash fun and family observations. Everyone who has been meticulously following this blog knows how I love the beach and how I love Coney. It’s a once in a lifetime experience – this old amusement park on the Atlantic Ocean. The wooden Cyclone, which still exists despite its historic age. The never-ending renovations on aforementioned Luna Park. The joy all of these rides must bring to the children and have already brought to me. Coney, you rock!

German roommate new York

This one wonders me. If Germans were looking for a “German roommate” wouldn’t they spell this out in, you name it, German, perhaps? Why on earth would any English or foreign-speaking persons search for this? What do they hope to find? Do they have a German-roommate-fetish? Do they think we are cleaner/ more responsible/ pay the utilities on time? If that is your motivation of why you want the species “deutsches Fräulein” oder “deutscher Herr” as your roommate in an insanely diverse city as this one is, I will tell you right away (before you get your hopes up): I have lived with the possibly dirtiest, most irresponsible, craziest, and unwilling-to-pay-utilities on time individuals. Yes, all of these were Germans. In actual Germany. And if you think New York is going to change that, I should introduce you to my German friend’s roommates. All who have fallen for the same stigma and must have been severely disappointed. Because my German friend never cleaned the shower, was ten days late for his rent, and had the lousy habit to stagger around the apartment on a normal weekday. No more beer for him!

Life after deleting facebook/ i feel alive again since i deleted my facebook

This deserves no vicious comment! Bravo to everyone who manages to feel “alive again” after getting rid of the social network site. I still remember the times I spent way too much time seeking through other user’s online profiles. And believe it or not, there really is a life after deleting Facebook. And it’s so much better than instead of being glued to the laptop 24/7, I can tell you that much!

Bar Brooklyn sanitary grade

Well, to be honest with you guys: I have not yet blogged about the sanitary grades here in the City. I would love to, and many times I’ve been tempted to, I just haven’t found the right moment and time to sit down and discuss these on here. Ever since my former roommate from Florida visited me with her girlfriend, I’ve been grossed out by even the greenest B plastered to a window. This girl was from Cali and she had some real horror stories to tell about New York’s kitchen statuses. More to come soon. I can feel my fingers itching to share…

i used to be online on whatsapp all the time but niw i dont too becauae am heartbroken

Disregard the fact that the statement is completely misspelled (I feel so much better now as I see I am not the only one mixing up those “i’s and ‘o’s, hehe). Just the sentence by itself is pretty …. interesting. Not to point out I cannot recall a single post in which I even mentioned “whatsapp”. People have real problems nowadays, is what the above search means. Instead of clinging to their perfumed love letters or tearing them up and thrusting them into the fire place, they now have to deal with a smartphone app that can easily be deleted from their repertoire. Boy… get a life!

guy in the bronx has foot fetish craigslist

Ever since I mentioned “Foot Fetish Ads” in my favorite piece on NYC Craiglist Ads and other Scam Stories, people have actually stumbled across my blog by purely seeking out foot fetish addicts or foot fetish parties. While I am flattered that such an unrelated topic is attracting hits to this site, I can just imagine the frustration on the seeker’s face once he sees what this blog is actually about – earning a hard living through honest jobs and not seedy foot prostitution. Unfortunately for these individuals, I am nowhere close to publishing a post on my foot fetish (in)experiences, so if you stumble across this one, now you know!

pee on train seats

Yes! I knew people would be looking for this one! Ever since I came up with the brilliant post of Creepy People on the Train, I was waiting for the clicks. For people whb have also experienced this phenomenon. Waaaait, how awful! I really don’t care how many more fellow train riders have dealt with the incontinence of crazy subway passengers. Hold on… Maybe it is more common to see this phenomenon in other countries, though? After all, there was this one day I had a few statistics from Timbuktu…

a**hole at far rockaway surf

I really wonder who they were looking for! I’ve only had good experiences with the ‘holes’ at Far Rockaway Surf, but then again, you never know whose tail got brushed up in the wrong direction now, do you? I am puzzled but maybe also complimented to see that even one year after my initial Far Rockaway Ocean post, people can still find me thanks to my detailed observations on how to surf at the beach. I will always keep this fun day in memory… And maybe one day I’ll find out who the real ass is on the beaches of Queens.

what is living in new york like

Yes, sometimes I wonder the same. And to clear my head, I blog. About my current life in New York, about my plans in New York, about my past in New York. New York is everywhere, surrounding me and us, and that is just how it’s going to be for the next few stories.

is there a place called montreal in Germany
I can assure you, there is certainly no place in Germany called Montreal. German towns have German names with a lot of –bergs, -dorfs, -stert, -ligs, -gaus, -heims and –steins. Depending on where in Germany you are, of course. While rural Southern towns tend to have –dorf in their name, big cities are rather unique in their constellation. Look at HamBURG and MünCHEN, for example. Same size, completely different structure. Yes, but one thing you can be assured of: You won’t find Montreal in Deutschland. Trust me, I googled it… It’s just too French.

Aside from the google search terms and other referrers, I really love to check out which nationalities are attracted to this little blog of mine. A friend once had the theory that a small country in Africa still speaks German and would therefore be able to read my blog if I were to ever write it in German. He certainly did not take into account that African countries tend to be poor and thus don’t provide great internet access to their eager readers who still have to go to school to learn the alphabet…

What are your favorite search terms? I am all ears!

Traveling This Country: Greyhound Stories

Many means lead from New York to Canada. One is Amtrak, the slowest national train service I’ve witnessed so far. 11 hours from the Big Apple to Montreal and this only once a day – that just didn’t sound too efficient to me. True, I heard the ride up was supposedly drop-dead-gorgeous and the seats comfy. I was still not satisfied when it came to losing an entire day just to travel to and fro.

So I checked my other options. Rideshare via the suspicious craigslist – not really what I was looking for either. Unfortunately, a $500 plane ticket was also out of my league. Megabus would have been my first choice, but the company only runs inside the country.

Sadly, I opted for the last back-up plan I made: The dreaded Greyhound Bus. Now, I am usually not against buses, don’t get me wrong. Check out my post on the Chinatown Bus to see how I usually embrace getting from A over B to C throughout the Northeast Coast. However, I’ve heard comparably bad stories about the Aging Dog. Such as a news report that went on a few years back when a young guy was brutally murdered by a fellow passenger (read more here). A German friend of mine had taken it up to the Niagara Falls only recently and she assured me that they had increased bus security and that her ride had been rather peaceful. It was solely her word-to-mouth-say and the small price that convinced me to get on a Greyhound after all.

It all started on that particular Friday evening when I decided to get in line a full hour before departure. I barely got to Gate 26 at Port Authority when I was already halted by a long queue reaching far beyond. Evidently, I had not been the only passenger who decided to be over-punctual. It also looked to me as if the previous bus had been severely moderately overbooked and involuntarily forced people to take a later bus.

After fighting for my spot in line as a single passenger and trying my best to occupy myself for another 45 minutes by doing absolutely nothing, a random French-Canadian thought it appropriate to sneak ahead of me and everyone else just to be one of the first to get on the bus. Of course his behavior was not tolerated. The fact that he was a full-grown man with a ten-year-old child did not matter to anyone. A young Montrealer behind me verbally lashed out and started a dispute in … French, how could it else be. I couldn’t make it all out but I believe the gist was that everyone in line is equally frustrated and that he has to go in the back where he belongs. This caused many angry glares between the two but luckily the older guy finally gave in and went to the back of the line – or somewhere in between where people didn’t care as much.

Right then the line started to move and I already considered myself lucky to almost be through with this. But only two people ahead of me the conductor stops everyone. “No more room! Only one spot free! One seat! One seat!” The couple ahead of me is severely disappointed. I volunteer to grab the last seat and off I am – hopefully to Montreal and never to stand in line again.

By now I am very tired and hope to catch some sleep on the ride up. But two hours later we are disrupted from our sleep. “Everyone get out! Albany! Everyone take all your stuff and get out!” the Chinese driver screams into his microphone (as if the fact that it already enhances one’s voice is not enough to get his point across). We are then led into an over-cooled waiting room and have to endure half an hour until it’s off to the border. No more sleep after this. The grimly looking border officers are not making matters easier, either.

While on the way to my destination there were only two stops (which were already brutal enough), the Greyhound managed to stop for five full times on the way back. I believe we must have taken with every New York town of insignificance, no matter how many people joined us at each stop. While it wasn’t so much the people I found annoying, we did manage to have a drunk guy from Albany back to New York, who only sat a few rows up. This time the bus was chauffeured by a burly, serious-looking driver, who certainly didn’t have much sense of humor and liked bluffing at us through the microphone every once in a while.

I believe the next time I will simply have to self-host my ride up (rent a car) or take the despised Amtrak, which loses too much time but maybe lets me sleep for longer than a few hours.

The Greyhound – an entertaining but rather desperate means of travel in case all back-up-options fail. I am sure it is better on shorter rides but 8 hours up and not being able to sleep at all was just too much for me. I thought it was just me and my small-minded view of things. Then I met a lively Cali girl in the hostel who was trapped in between a window seat and an overweight passenger on her ride up, which wasn’t too much fun for her either. The stories one can tell…

Don’t let this gorgeous view fool you…!

A Magical City Called Montreal (II)

At the St. Josephs Oratory I found wonderful flower beds and old-looking steps. Three flights up and I finally noticed a sign: “Reserve aux pelerins qui montent a genoux.” Meaning this section is reserved for pilgrims who will have to kneel their way up. At the far end I could even see two piteous looking women who were absorbed in their prayers and kneeling from one step to another. I couldn’t imagine this being the most comfortable way to ascend but it certainly looks impressive and worshippy.

A group of Indian tourists must have had thought the same. As I descended again, with a nice view ahead of me, they were on the bottom steps, praying towards the monument. I already found this rather amusing, even though I was able to hide my smile in the very last minute. The next thing I know another old lady decided it is time to kneel her way up the midsection. She goes down on her knees, ignoring everyone around her. The group of tourists, once done with paying their respects to such a foreign piece of religion, see how she goes about. At first they are a bit confused. Then the women of the clan start imitating her. They bend down, hold their arms out in worship and kneel up one step at a time. The children soon follow. So do the men. I can see their painful expressions when old bones rub against the what-must-be extremely uncomfortable stones. I am too baffled to intervene at first. Then I hold back. I feel stupid for telling another cultural group that this is not necessary to pay Montreal its respects. People are circumventing the group and using their legs to walk up the stairs. The Indian children look around, I can see the question forming in their mind: “Why do we have to kneel and everyone else gets to go up normally?” As far as I can tell, they followed the kneeling woman up all the way to the top. A total of four excruciating and painful staircases of stone, especially for the elderly. One observation I have taken from this misunderstanding is that their culture seems to be respectful of other nation’s rituals and that they couldn’t stand to make a mistake in public or disrespect the rites and passages of another group.

The rest of the day went by in a whim. Checking in at the hostel. More French dialects, a long line of young people. I felt that even though I am only in my mid-twenties I am among the oldest guests. This might also be because Canada has an official drinking age of 18. I was still a bit at unease. My room was shared with a variety of people: Two students from Boston. Three German girls from Stuttgart, who disappeared the next morning, not without knocking down a few beds and waking everyone up. A newcomer from Melbourne, who is scheduled to study in this city for one semester. A nice chick from New Jersey, who spontaneously joined her friends up to Canada. As you can tell, a nice intercultural mix making up for a typical hostel life. I really would not recommend staying in this accommodation in Montreal otherwise, though. The beds were pretty shaky, the bathroom was tiny, and the breakfast selection rather moderate (no free food).

While I had missed out on the Osheaga, the greatest music fest in Quebec county which took place only one week before, I did manage to stop by during a Heavy Metal festival. Supposedly, there was a concert series on Isle Sainte-Helene and many American and Canadian metallers had made it to the city to see Marilyn Manson and other icons. None stayed in a hostel though, as they camped out in the woods to defend their tough reputation.

The afternoon was well spent on Montreal’s main shopping street: Rue Sainte-Catherine. I had more opportunities to embarrass myself when ordering coffee in French and painfully noticing that my French skills have rapidly vanished within the past years I’ve been away from Europe and out of school. I’ve also had the chance to go into a real Canadian Aldo, to disappointingly see that their prices are still not comparable to New York sale bargains. It doesn’t make much sense to go on a shopping spree in Quebec, because even though the French-Canadian fashion style is different from what you find here, the prices are not too convincing. After all, the Big Apple is simply known for being a fashion mekka and for finding great deals.

Along the Rue Saint Catherine I must have ran across three different churches until I finally made a right down to Chinatown. This city has many churches, domes, and chapels, which make this town even more adorable. Le Quartier Chinois is small but quaint. Of course anything regarding Little China is disappointing after having been to New York and San Francisco. It’s still great to check out, maybe grab a bite, and then settle of towards the Notre Dame. And yes, Montreal has the same-named basilica Paris has. They even look alike, which makes matters even more confusing. The Canadian Notre Dame offers a light show at night and it’s also worth going inside during the day to marvel at the great ornaments and other decoration. It plays a significant part in Franco-Canadienne history and signifies a true milestone in this city.

After this rather eventful day I was too tired to explore Montreal’s nightlife on a Saturday evening out. I geared up for another day in little France and snoozed off for a good ten hours.

A Magical City Called Montreal (I)

Montreal was truly a magical city when I first got there. I arrived at the Berri-Uqam at 7 o’clock in the morning. Let’s not talk about the ride up, that’s reserved for another post. Let’s not mention my confusion when it came to finding the way from the bus central to the subway and then heading back because there was only one restroom. Let’s disregard my initial fear of walking the streets around the bus station and ending up being begged at on every street corner…

My first real stop was Mont Royal. I thought I could get a fantastic view from the city in my first two hours of being here. After walking around the deserted market place, I asked a friendly-looking jogger, whom I took for a local, for specific directions. “You ‘ave to take the bus uep!” she exclaimed in a charming French accent. “It will take yu one ‘our to walk up othervise!” she went on.

I was first rather surprised by her accent and then I was appalled of having to walk up with my heavy traveler’s luggage. I therefore opted to take the 11 bus, which held just in time when I got to the stop. After asking the bus driver for directions, I ended up sitting next to a helpful lesbian Australian chick with chopped off grayish hair. She recommended I get off at the second stop on the hill, not the first as the driver had initially told me to. “It’s a much better view and you can see 180 degrees of Montreal” she advertised the platform. I thought her to be fairly knowledgeable in the whereabouts of this town and wanted to know what else is worth seeing. She mentioned a fountain here and there and then headed out because her stop was due. Not without banging against the window of the bus and giving me her e-mail address before we drove on. The friendliness of random strangers continued after I was stranded at the second stop up the hill.

I found myself helplessly looking through the gates of Cimetière Mont Royal , until turning the other direction and heading towards the green area. A guy with a dog was jogging and exercising along. Meanwhile, it was 8 AM and I was probably the only tourist around shooting pictures of the scenery. He stopped and asked if I was looking for something in particular. He then gave me directions to the ultimate platform of sight-seeing and view-intaking.

I made my way through the foggiest morning I’ve seen in a while. Mystical mists rising from the grounds, covering half of the path in front of me. After following another sign towards the platform I was standing above the city. At first everything was wrapped in fog. No view to be seen from either side. Then, slowly, the haze cleared. I saw a skyscraper here and there. 10 minutes later and I had a beautiful view on Montreal. Since I had all the time in the world, I could observe the people jogging around early in the morning. A lady with a dog stopped nearby. I asked her if this is just a special part of the town or if there is another spot in Montreal where I can catch a better panorama. Baffled, she told me about another platform where I can see more of the forest. Then she wanted to know what exactly is wrong with the view in front of me. I explained to her I cannot really see many tall buildings. She laughed and responded these are all Montreal has. Montreal looks like a small city from so far above. It has about five tall building that stretch up but the rest resembles a flat valley.

I decided to explore more of the Mont Royal, since I was there already and unlikely to return in the next two days. The tourists had awakened. I was not the only one with a camera and taking annoying pictures. A group of Japanese students noticed a squirrel in the trees and made a big fuzz about the small creature. I found it funny to take a photo of them gawking at the natural “wonder.”

Then it was off to the Oratory. Another stop on my way to the hostel. Check-in was at 1PM, I had a lot of time to kill. It was getting hot in this town. I started to notice that a summer in Canada is not always as cold as their winters are known to be. I had only been in this town for a few hours but I already cursed myself for not having brought more T-shirts and short pants. Of course I had a fat vest and sneakers but those will do no good once the temperature hits its 80 something degrees. Not only is the entire East Coast of the US humid but also Canada. Now that you know, don’t make the same mistake I did!

The Impressions of New York

It’s always an experience to get back to this city even when gone for just a few days. Every time I witness my return differently. Mostly I am not at all pleased but sometimes I am happy to be back. Yet, coming back from Canada was different in so many ways. When I saw the skyline from far away, I was thankful at once. Away from the awful greyhound bus, away from the travel on the bumpy road. It almost felt like home to embrace a city I’ve been in for so long. Home – a very tangible word.

However, my initial euphoria changed quickly after entering the subway. First, the endless wait for an express train at 3 AM around Times Square. I had forgotten how drunken people can act on a Tuesday morning out. Being stared at by random guys when you absolutely do not feel like meanly glancing back at them until they finally look away. On top of this, of course the N-Train that decided to switch over to the R on the last stop in Manhattan. The long walk over from Canal Street to where the Q stops. Having the Q shut its door right in my face. Fidgeting around for another eternity. It takes some long 20 minutes for another train to come when it’s the middle of the night.

Looking up when an aggressive group of teenagers walks up to you and the rest of the tired commuters. Spanish yelling, waving of the arms from their side. Everyone is staring in disbelieve rather than reacting sensibly. I even got pushed by one of the fat mildly overweight Puerto Rican girls. At least she said “excuse me” after striking my upper body. I was too startled to think of much to do. I thought it rather a bad idea to pick a fight with a group of four when all I have to defend myself is my heavy bag of souvenirs. So many underage people out on the streets and of course I ran into another group of chicks on the train, once it came. This time I kept my calm. Ten minutes later I was finally home. The thought I had when falling into bed was that this city is hideous, the people have ugly personalities and I want to get out of here right now.

The next morning. A beautiful day. The people still being a bit weird but manageable. I felt more like an anonymous commuter that day than someone who has to stand up for herself in New York. Peace of mind. But the ride back home complete chaos – again. A tunnel in Brooklyn that decided to catch fire, leaving the entire subway system turned upside down. Walking down the steps to the Herald Square underground I started wondering why there were more masses than usual accumulated on the platform. The B and the D were only running to W4. Even after heading over to the N and the Q, I was in no luck. The first one stopped, spat out a chunk of evening commuters and then announced it would be backtracking straight to Times Square (42nd St). The R came and announced that 14th -Union Square was its final stop (it usually runs to Bay Ridge). No one knew what to do. I decided to squeeze into an overpopulated subway car and try my luck towards downtown. I gave up after being held in 23rd St for ten minutes straight. A crackly voice over the intercom blared that all trains were currently held in the station due to the high volume of traffic ahead of us. I was one freaking stop away! And then the conductor laughed into the speaker. He actually cracked up! It made me smile. If people can still make fun of such an absurd situation, no matter how vicious their intentions are, you still have to see the comic of the circumstances. And how ridiculous is it to be stuck in Manhattan on a random weekday? Squeezed against hundreds of other commuters? I got off and wandered the streets of the Flatiron district. Eventually I made it to the 4 and 5, which thankfully ran underground and were unaffected by the sudden fire in Downtown Brooklyn. Of course a few thousand other people had also been forced to dodge towards this alternative. I have seldom felt so happy to get off the train than during this day. Atlantic Ave was jam-packed with masses. And I’ve seen it during a normal rush hour; yesterday was three times as many people.

Today I was more confident in the way of how to handle matters. I didn’t feel like an awkward piece sticking out of the grey masses of the City trying to fit in. Today I actually did fit in. And instead of feeling frustrated as I had before this trip, a different feeling overcame me. Happiness comes when least expected. It may come when you are sitting under a roof of leaves in Madison Square Park, clutching an umbrella with one hand, writing your thoughts down with the other. It may also come when jumping from puddle to puddle, finding your reflection in one of those. It’s an abstract concept but it brings back the memory of a time when everything used to be easier.

10 Things You’d Wish You’d Known Before Coming to New York (Part II)

(continued from Part I)

6) It’s easy to meet people

One thing I always tell newcomers: Go out by yourself! Experience the nightlife, the shows, the concerts – and if you don’t have anyone to join you, then just go alone. It is not like in other cities, where no one will ever talk to you and eye you as a weirdo or outcast. Here, it is easy start a conversation with people, even when you are just nipping on a beer at the bar by yourself. I am not talking about sleazy pick-up lines from desperate men. I am talking about having intellectual talks with either gender. In the beginning, if my friend or roommates did not want to join in to the fun, I found myself torn. Torn between either missing out on the entire fun by staying home and not doing much or mustering all my courage to go out by myself and have the best evening in history. Luckily for me, 99 percent of the times I chose to experience things alone. And ended up meeting new people in a zing. Sometimes I still have to convince myself that going to the museum alone is not the worst case scenario. It’s easy to forget the courage from the past. But the fun experiences have been engraved in my memories and I am happy I can pass this little wisdom on.

7)But it’s hard to find true friends

While meeting new people is no hard feat, it is difficult to stay in touch with these people and form long-lasting relationships. Yeah, you go out a couple of times, put some more experiences on your friendship resume, but in the end it is about the quality time spent with soul mates and so-called friends that make out for a great stay abroad. Unfortunately, New York is known for being a tough town when it comes to relationships and friendships. I so far can count all of the true friends I have ever possessed in this city on one hand. That’s about five, just so you know. And two thirds of these people are not even in the City anymore. The Big Apple can be lonely at times. It can tear you apart from what you thought was so important because it offers constant entertainment. Finding friends that want to and will stay in your life – it’s hard!

8) Possibilities only limited by yourself

There are so many different paths offered, so many different careers to pursue, and so many exotic things to experience. It might become overwhelming and challenging to pick what exactly to opt for at the moment. As mentioned in Point 5, flexibility is easy to live out in NYC. And what is even better: The possibilities that exist are truly only limited to yourself and what you are willing to make out of them. But, since Point 2 and 3 also exist, your mind can sometimes play some vicious tricks on you when it comes to making the right more justifiable decision. I truly believe that this is the city where class and cultural issues are of no prevalence and where you can work yourself from washing dishes to being a millionaire. But of course you will have to work hard towards this goal. And part of this is overcoming your inhibitions and stop worrying about the potential outcomes too much. Sometimes just accepting the current moment is all it takes.

9) You have to get away once in a while

This city is exhausting, overwhelming, loud, crowded, polluted, mean … All reasons to not stay here eternally. But even after 2 and a half years, I have come to find that a little trip elsewhere mostly does big wonders. Just a hop over to Boston or DC on a weekend. Or up to Canada and down to Florida. Maybe even across the state lines to the West Coast. Either way, leaving, if only for a day or two, will set your mind straight and make you breathe more freely. Because breathing sometimes becomes very hard in New York. When everything is not going as planned, it’s best to simply escape for a little bit. “New York is only as good as you can afford to leave” is a valuable saying. Even though you mustn’t be a super-rich prick who drives out to his summer residence in the Hamptons all summer long.

10) You need experience for everything

A portfolio for being a showroom model? References for volunteer work? A resume for waitressing? Yup, the truth! Ridiculous, but the truth. And once again, this leads back to the high competition and art of bullshitting this city so readily offers. I walked into my first bars in the beginning and was already slowed down because I was missing a piece of paper that was utterly useless to the businesses in this city. Experiences all over Germany but no American contact number? What good is it for newcomers to even write it up? Well, they want to know you did something here, and the more experience you can show, the better. This is why it’ s important to keep in touch with every (work-related) contact you ever had, in case they happen to back you up for a specific job. It appears that experience gets your foot in the door, but of course you have to endure several training days and other ordeals until you finally have what you wanted. So even though you might have a fancy resume, you still always have to prove your money’s worth in the end.

Yet, there are numerous other daily hassles I could point out. Don’t ride the subway if a guy across from you is repeatedly rubbing his crotch. Don’t’ get in fights with teenagers that outnumber you and are willing to follow you home. Don’t assume picking your nose in public is acceptable! Ever!

But I will leave it to this Top Ten for now and am expecting you to add more points in your comments starting now…