End of Year Reflections: Why 2016 Was Not the Worst Year in History

Its’ the last day of the year 2016 and you know what that means: Time for the Year in Review!

NYE 2015/2016
NYE 2015/2016

This year has been certainly one of a kind (well, aren’t they all, the years?!). It seems that the continuous line of change, which has been a very strong part of my life since 2014 perhaps, is slowly but surely progressing. Change – in every way possible – I feel that is the code word of 2016, if any. Read More »

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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.

Here I Am!

Back again! From the land of volcanoes, duff, and mysterious moorlands. Past those historic maar lakes, wine regions, and asparagus heartlands towards dark medieval castles and knight tales.

Yes, I am back again from a wonderful time spent at numerous places all over Germany. From North to South, from top to bottom – I’ve done my own little share of traveling during the voyage. And I’ve also discovered that, albeit Deutschland does not appear to be exotic in the traditional sense, it has many cultural places to offer that can still blow me away. Especially after being gone for so long. Where else would you run across signs for bell-founding? Or an excursion to a water castle? I wish I only had the time to check out more of those fascinating things to do. Well, I guess 10 days had to be enough this time around.

So I found myself at:
A bachelorette party in Cologne, a short visit to the city of Heidelberg, a drive up to my grandparents’ house in Niedersachsen.

And, of course, the ultimate reason for my trip: A beautiful Italian-Russian wedding that ended my stay in a bang. Many memories and pictures later I can say: I’ve probably done the most out of my time there. Now let me share the joy with you and start from the beginning…

Chi- Cha- Chicago! (Part 1)

I’ve made it! I made my first travel of this year come true! And it happened to even be a plane ride away, with a good 2 ½ hours from LaGuardia Airport/ Queens.

Chicago is one of those cities which had been on my list of places to visit for a long, long time. Not only because my paternal side of family originates from here. But also because of its reputation as the city with the most culture in the Midwest. And if there couldn’t be a better time to go, I made my trip out during the year of its 175th anniversary. That’s right, Chitown is only 175 years old. A young city, indeed, with much prospect to grow and to change within the coming 175 years. Albeit its small age, it has already gone through much trauma due to two fires that have partially destroyed the older parts of the city already.

One thing I can really tell you about Chicago is that it is truly in the Midwest. Smack, right there, in the middle of the map that makes out the North of America. It is indeed so Midwestern, it shows its signs of province and suburb even in the city. When I got there, it happened to be a rainy day. Not necessarily cold, but gray, windy, and very wet. I realize that this is of course not the most ideal weather to visit any type of place. Chitown does not pose an exception to this. Instead of going on top of the notorious Skydeck, we were snapped at by a rude employee as soon as we got in. Instead of enjoying the first rays of spring at the Navy Pier, we were dodging puddles and wind right beneath the Ferris Wheel. Weather must have an influence on people’s moods, is the first thing I thought. The second, that amusement parks are really meant for the nice time of the year.

I landed in O’Hare, about 20 mins outside of the city of Chicago. Despite having heard many people finding the airport huge and confusing, I myself have to say I was not impressed by its size but rather by its inconclusive directions and the amount of people that were running in my way when I tried to get out. Even on my flight out, I still did not find this airport immensely huge or even high-populated. But that was later at night, which could possibly be the best time ever to fly out.

My aunt, my two cousins, and my cousin’s girlfriend picked me up, which was all very sweet of them. We parked in Downtown Chicago, also known as the Financial District of the town. One thing I noticed when we drove past the skyscrapers, which had a striking resemblance to New York, I dare say, was that all of the subway lines, which are also called trains, run above ground. Just as they would in Queens or Brooklyn (I know, what a comparison!), a metal frame has been built upon the streets so that the trains can ride in neatly above the traffic. The second thing I noticed about the train system is its and quaint size: The train holds about four cars, which all are small in proportion. I am not sure exactly how often the train runs in Chicago, but I assume there are a lot less commuters than in the Tristate Area, for the only train I can think of which holds less than ten cars is the G from BK to Queens. Fare, I heard, costs 2.25 a ride, but then again, I never took it, so I don’t know how it applies and how far you can go on it.

We parked in a garage that offered a flat-rate fee of ten dollars for the rest of the day. This I found a really good bargain, as we were close to about everything worth seeing and we were not charged an arm and a leg for the excellent location.
Our tour took us past many landmarks of the city. First the Picasso Statue, which was exhibited in 1967. It is an untitled sculpture made by Pablo Picasso and is also defined as the first major public artwork the downtown area of Chicago ever had. During day it shines red but unfortunately there was construction going on all around it, so I couldn’t get a closer look at it. Second, the Willis Tower. Most people, including me, are not familiar with this name. The Sears Tower might ring a bell. It was bought up in 2009 by the Willis Group Holdings and has held that name ever since. For me, it will always be the Sears Tower. To date it is still the tallest building in the US, standing 108 floors high, and blinking at us with its two alien-looking antennas.

Our initial intention had been to go on top of the Skydeck, just like millions of tourists had done before us. However, due to glum weather, fog, and rain, we all came to the conclusion it might not be worth spending 17 bucks on a trip to the top. As soon as we entered the lobby door, an employee was hopefully pushing the elevator buttons, eager to get us in.
“How much can you see once you are on top?” we carefully inquired. “0 to 5 miles visibility today,” she hopefully responded, and thought this answer would satisfy us. It did not, so she eventually tried to kick us out by claiming we were blocking the entrance hall. So much for customer service! Later-on we met with the cousin’s friend, who worked around the Sears/Willis Tower and who said we were right at not taking that expensive trip up, as he could not see much of a view from his office window throughout the entire day. Thumbs up to making us feel better, Mike!

Anyhow, I am still eager to go back to the Skydeck – the top of the Tower. It is the ultimate tourist attraction of course: A square box built entirely out of glass, which makes you feel like you are walking above the city! It must be breathtaking as well as frightening at the same time, but I am nonetheless ready to take in the amazing view featured. Maybe next time!

Next, we walked back towards State Street, a mile consisting of shops and stores. A quick stop at the Art Institute with its beautiful and quirky lions in front. Then along Michigan Avenue, the posh street of Chicago (roughly comparable to the fancy 5th Ave in NYC). Then all the way through Millennium Park, with its main attraction, the Bean. This I had indeed seen in my friends’ photographs before, and I had really been looking forward at taking pictures of it. It is a highly reflective, mirror-like sculpture in the form of an enlarged bean. Standing there in its finished form since 2006, it has attracted millions and millions of people ever since. Not only because everyone likes to look at themselves through a distorted view, but also because it reflects the Chicago skyline on one side and the park and Michigan Lake on the other. Its creator, Anish Kapoor, might not be a native Chicagoan, but he added a great figure to the overall pretty Park, defined by culture throughout the entire year.

[For more pictures of the Bean, go to The Chicago Bean on A Picture Every Day.]

[For more pictures on Chicago, go to Chicago – the Windy City on A Picture Every Day.]

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.

The Versatile Blogger Award

Alright! Time to redeem this thing!

You might recall that Ginger Couturier awarded me with the Versatile Blogger in the beginning of June, 2011. As I checked my pages the other day I was painfully reminded of this metaphorically dead body in my cellar and that I finally have to get it out to the crowd. The main reason I have struggled to pass it on to other promising bloggers is because I really had a hard time digging deep and finding some blogs I consider worth this price. Time issues might have played a significant minor role, too.

Therefore, my list of blogs and people might be shorter than usual but I do believe that these are the valueable golden nuggets of the blogging world.

Many thank yous go out to Ginger, for giving my blog a chance at such an early stage in its development. I had started writing down my stories, experiences, and thoughts on New York and the US in early May and she was with me from the beginning baby steps of my works from the third week on. I really enjoy reading your life stories and I wish you luck in your battle with your disease. My best wishes go out to you and I will hope to hear more from you, be it personal or not, but let it be at least some written words soon again!

I have to mention another blog at this point, the writings of the Blogject aka Holly from London/England. She found me through Ginger and has opened up her world to me as I hope to have given her a bit of an insight into (my) life in New York .

For a start, let me state the

Rules of Accepting the Award:

This award comes with two conditions: 1) share 7 things you didn’t know about yours truly and 2) pass on the award to other wonderful bloggers.

Now, off to the raw diamonds of online writing. I have included one or two blogs from blogspot, and though I am unsure if this will break the rules (heck, who mentioned it only has to be WORDPRESS, right?!), I found these to be really entertaining and you shouldn’t miss out on them, either.

Travel/Life:

A Highway Habitat

If a book has ever been inspired by a muse, then this is what Sarah and Amanda have been to me: The inspiration to start blogging! They started their blog about a year ago to write down their travel experiences on their seemingly never-ending roadtrip through the US. After graduating from college in 2010, they saved up those $$$ to make their dream of seeing almost every single state of the US come true. I hope to hear from you guys on a regular basis again and I am oh-so-glad to welcome you back on board!

Courtesy Laugh

Two fine guys from Pennsylvania, one living in New York, one still in PA. They were featured on freshly pressed not too long ago and this is how they caught my attention. By far one of the best-phrased blogs I have come across and it is always a pleasure reading their opinions on various matters of time. Oh, and I hope you will have enough money one day to finally get started on your videos! 😉

IStillJustDontGetIt

She still does not get it! A girl living in Bohemia, dreaming of her dreams coming true one day and writing about her life in a way I couldn’t help but keep on reading. Be it going for breakfast by herself, quitting her job, dating the wrong man for a period of years, or racial issues – adorable! Oh, and I am curious to read on what the New World is about…

Impossibiliydrive

Indian-rooted but born and raised in Norway, he seems to fetch the plane/train/car to many places in and around Europe. His writings are short but witty and have cast me in his ban not too long ago. Some entertaining stories about different cultures, marrying via skype, and other goodies.

Cooking

Cinnamon Buns

Natalie is originally from the West Coast but studies in Boston now. She has traveled to a good amount of places all over the world and likes to sum up her adventures with the undertone of some delish cooking ideas. I specifically like this blog because I, being a vegetarian myself, get some great ideas for re-cooking some of these dishes at home. Way to go, Natalie!

New York:

Biting the Big Apple

This is the feared blogspot blog. *haha* A French girl who moved to New York years ago and still has so many things to talk about and to share. What an inspiration, indeed, and I find tons of good ideas to do after going through her blog. It helps to read fellow New Yorkers adventures, you might be inspired to copycat these!

Last, but not least, I want to mention two inactive blogs, that have highly appealed to me because of their contents:

Welsh Alien in New York

A welsh woman who has moved to New York, stayed for two years, and then discovered that she is better off on her British Island – at least for the time being. If a Highway Habitat has sparked an inspiration, then this blog is what has made me want to make my intention come true: After reading through her well-phrased stories and experiences, I was eager to start my own project. I felt with her, could relate to her problems in the city (to some extent) and shared some common European attitudes to being in a city like this and dealing with the nutcases people that sometimes come around. All the best to her and her journey in UK. Maybe New York will be waiting for her at a later time.

The Heimweh Safari

Same language, same continent, almost same country: Austria and Germany have their vast array of similarities and I have many Austrian friends I like to visit when I go back. So this was a really entertaining blog to catch up on, when I came across it on the expat community. He lives in New York but doesn’t like it here, at least some points about it, and I can UNDERSTAND! The fact that he stopped blogging half a year ago makes me hope he is still here and found some good things in this city!

If you are still with me at this point, then I would like to fulfill the core requirement of this blog and mention 7 random things you might not know about me (yet):

1) I love writing but my real passion lies in photography. I am saving up to buy my first DSLR soon and to take breathtaking shots from New York and other places.

2)Gina Vicenza: This is my second personality I need to justify my rudeness here in New York. And no, I am not crazy, I got this idea from an article from the Village Voice. 🙂

3) I still dream of moving to the West Coast: LA, San Francisco, San Diego – anything in California. I cannot wait to wave good-bye to the rude people over here and surround myself with folks who are nice and respectful, in a state that is sunny and dry (not humid, yuck!), and where life is a bit slower then here… One day, guys, one day!

4) I want to take one to two years of my time and exclusively devote it to traveling! I want to see every single continent on this Earth and am especially drawn to South America, Asia, and Australia.

5) I miss food, people, cultures, languages in Europe. At the same time I fear that living over there will just bore me out of my head and not satisfy me.

6) I grew up in the country and when I say country, I mean it! My first village of habitat consisted of 400 people, my second one (from when I was 13 years on) had a jaw-dropping 60 inhabitants. New York is definitely a change to this.

7) I want to improve my French. I want to get it on with my Spanish. I want to learn at least one more language. I have come to find that speaking a native’s language will earn you more respect in that particular country and it will make it easier for you to get around without being ripped off.

One Hella Weekend

Referring to my list of Things I love about New York City, it’s time for an update in the party and nightlife category. Last weekend was one of those innumerous great examples of how unexpected and unpredictable a night can turn out to be.
The Roomie and I had decided to meet up on a rooftop bar in the City. Until this date it stands undefeated as the best rooftop location I could find, read more here. On this particular Friday the Sky Room offered a special deal during which you could get one free drink when you RSVPed early enough ahead of time (this means simply sending an E-mail to the party hosts) and showed up before 8PM. I was one of the last ones to dive through their elevator door and to order their advertised Bacardi mix.
My drink in one hand and my camera in the other, I made my way outside and met this sibling couple from New York/New Jersey. I believe it was her 22nd birthday and they were trying to have a fun time just hanging out in a bar before hitting up the clubs. I still wonder why they picked this one, as drinks were pricey and they didn’t seem to want to spend too much money, but then again, the view is just gorgeous. We decided to go all the way on top, which was open to general customers this time (they usually reserve it for private parties during the week) and where we took in a wide view over the Island, with many comfortable seats, benches, and couches to sit on. It really cannot get much better if you want to inhale Manhattan air and flair, I’m telling you!

Over there, through pure coincidence, I met a son and his mother from GERMANY, and in addition to this, they weren’t too far from the town I am originally from, so many homeland feelings were evoked in me during this evening. Both Germans were lovely and entertaining. If I remember correctly, the son, about my age, had bought his mother a one-week-trip to New York for her 50th birthday and they were finally redeeming it (I know, many birthdays going on in this blog). We talked a bit and after a while of being up there along came the Roomie. At this point in time, the free drink deal had evidently expired and she got kind of bored at listening to a foreign language she didn’t understand. Understandably she wanted to leave and I didn’t mind, so we said our goodbyes. The sibling couple invited us to join them in a club around Times Square and at this time we were seriously considering the possibility of catching up with them.

The view from the upper deck at Sky Room

The birthday kid with her RED shoes!

Another amazing view by night

Well, of we went, on our way to Hell’s Kitchen first and with the best intent to check out another rooftop bar on 12th Avenue. On our walk over there, I remembered that Rudy’s was right in between and that we should maybe get a cheap beer before we head off to bars that have drinks for the normal insane price of $15 and above. Rudy’s offers a normal-sized pitcher for $7 and more, and it doesn’t taste that bad, either. For all those who care, you can snag unlimited hot dogs, too – I heard they taste descent enough. Rudy’s is a classic since 1933 and it’s funny because I only discovered it this year for my Austrian friend was told to go there when he was visiting me. I suppose it is handled as an insider tip in tourist guides, and you find foreigners mixed with hard-core Hells’ Kitcheners and other classic New York stereotypes in this establishment.

Rudy's mascot

Rudy's during day

The Roomie and I enjoying our pitcher of Rudy's Blonde

We had just ordered our pitcher of Rudy’s Blonde when we decided to take a seat at the second half of a table that was already owned by a mixed group of folks: A Mediterranean guy, a punk-rock girl and a blond Hipster-looking dude didn’t mind at all to share the space with us. As it turned out, we had seated ourselves next to an interesting bunch. All three were passionate travelers – but not just that. They belonged to a very special species of travelers called couchsurfers, meaning they are courageous enough to stop by at random people’s houses and use their couch as a hotel bed.The dark-haired guy was originally from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn and had met a freshly immigrated New Yorker girl from Russia who had stumbled upon a traveler and dancer from Australia. What a “coincidence” to meet just these folks in a random overcrowded Manhattan bar. We all had a pretty good time and decided to continue the night together at Hudson Terrace (the aspired rooftop bar). Unfortunately, the bouncers are unbelievably strict when it comes to guys and dress codes (not a great mix in New York anyways!), and because one guy was wearing shorts we didn’t make it in. No regrets, though. We waved good-bye to the Russian girl at Times Square and then went on to a gig in the Lower East Side. This turned out to be one of the best ones I had witnessed so far in New York. Thanks to the Aussie Benji, for making friends with the right people and being able to show us this hotspot!

The location hosts a soul music band introducing new artists to the crowd every Friday night (probably only during the summer). This time a shy Carribean singer from Montreal tried her luck and was met with enthusiastic waves of applause from a thrilled audience. Good for her! Her voice was impressive and it went well with the funky tunes of this particular band. A goodie was saved for the end, as there was a keyboard player who sang about masturbation and how good it feels… Yes, this is New York, you need a “shocker” like this once in a while. Considering the topic he’d chosen, he was able to convey it in a nicely worded song and it was a real hit with the audience. The entire one-hour –show in this location was for free. You just have to know where to find these things…

Soul Jam with a strong singer from Montreal

2 PM came and went and the Roomie and I were pretty tired from our week of work, so we decided to call it a night and save up our energy for the next day. (On Saturday night we completely avoided the City and tried out the Williamsburg crowd, but that belongs into a different post.)

For your information, we didn’t get a chance to catch up with this sibling couple from NY/NJ, but I hope they celebrated her birthday well and had a good time during the weekend.

I am also still impressed at how easy it is to bump into fun people on a random night out and how some of these acquaintances turn out to last for a longer time than expected. Benji, the Australian, joined us for a fun surf trip to Far Rockaway two days after this and ended his stay in New York with a hopefully fun time. Thumbs up to New York City nightlife and the adventures they lead to!

New York City Fleet Week – May 25 to June 1, 2011

Marines holding random guy

Yesterday was the time to wave 10,000 sailors good-bye as they boarded their ships and went off to their next deployment or duty station.

For one sweet week the City was filled with Navy guys, Marines, and Coast Guards all along Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. I am not sure if they made their way up to Queens and the Bronx, but as far as I can tell they were well dispersed throughout entire New York. It was an interesting time to see uniforms and groups of disciplined people marching around Manhattan among the usual crazy/extravagant/over-the-top people. Maybe it was just me, but they gave this town a feel of both normality and exoticness at once.

To me, being surrounded by uniforms has been a crucial part of most of my life. I grew up around a few military bases and went to college on casernes in Germany. The Air Force and Army has been daily routine from an early age on: Showing my ID card at the gate before entering, buying American products in Dollars (tax-free), speaking English with Americans, and celebrating all major American holidays in this little American community. This was about the only way it was possible for me to grow up bilingual AND bi-cultural, because if you don’t experience it from childhood on, you will never feel like you are a part of it all.

Fleet week brought a piece of these home feelings back to me, unintentionally. Only one year ago, I was sick and tired of seeing “douche bags” in uniforms walking around, and I couldn’t stand the sight of something I had successfully erased from my mind. But now, after being away from bases for well over a year, and having gone through some episodes of homesickness and despair, it felt good to look at people who impersonate discipline, who do stupid things with their groups when they are drunk, and who can have a normal conversation with you (without making you feel they are fake/flaky/or plain dumb).
From Wednesday to Wednesday many events were hosted. For a full list, check out their schedule here. Noteworthy was the parade of ships. I got the chance to check out their boats on Memorial Day and took a few pictures to post. Their size is impressive: The USS Iwo Jima counts 844 ft. length, 110 ft. beam, and 30 ft. draft, and holds up to 1,900 Marines. She also carries 30 helicopters.

Pier 88
Not the USS Iwo Jima but the impressive Intrepid.

A Navy cover-music band entertained Time Square on Saturday afternoon. The crowd enjoyed the show, I found the acoustics negotiable. Their attitude was great, though, so much spirit!

After their first night out, sailors were on a curfew due to a tragic accident on the West Side Highway. A Marine was hit and run over by a bypassing car when trying to get back to the head quarters early in the morning. It seemed curfews were kept stricter ever since that incident happened and, for most of the enlisted, the fun ended at 12:30 to 1:00AM. Therefore, a big percentage of them hung out around the piers, preferably on 10th and 9th Avenue. The bars were jammed full with white and green uniforms. Some made their way out to 2nd Ave, a good walk from the other side of the island. It was a great change to meet them – and I am not even going to mention all those American girls going crazy about guys in a uniform – (which seems to be a generalized reaction throughout the world. Why is that?), to drink with them, and to hear some of their stories. And to realize that they, too, are pretty normal people who carry their very own weight just like everyone else. For example the 22-year-old crew chief, who had just gotten separated from his year-long-fiance because their relationship couldn’t make it through the extensive deployments. It seems rather common for Marines or Navy active duties to break up or separate, especially before and after deployments.By the way, crew chief is similar to pilot (yes, unlike the Air Force – it is a different type of job there) and you have to go through one and a half years of training to make it there.

All in all, everyone was just trying to enjoy New York and have a good time in the Big Apple. We welcome you next year again, and stay safe until then! Ahoi to Fleet Week!

Reflecting Thoughts on a Year Abroad

Samar and I @ Brooklyn Bridge
Sushi Bar Tribeca
Magnolia Bakery

My second year in New York has come around about 2 and a half months ago. It’s weird how it differs from the first 12 months over here.

The first year abroad was crazy, chaotic, and stuffed with one event after another. Every season had its different highlights, and different things to do. Especially this time of the year was very eventful. First of all, it was the beginning 3 months, and so much exploring, job-seeking, apartment-hunting, friend-making had to be done. Just the thought of having to stay in my apartment for longer than necessary made me feel at unease because I was convinced I would be missing out on life outside. To give the weather some credit, it was one of the most amazing early springs and summers you could dream of for your first stay in a new city. As far as I remember, the end of April and the beginning of May were hitting it off well in the mid-80s (equivalent to 26 degrees Celsius and up). Just a beautiful atmosphere for sightseeing, wandering around, and discovering new parts in the City. Not to mention an early beach visit in April already and tanning by the end of May. You definitely couldn’t top that, even though it was the precursor for the many, consistent heat waves New York was suffering in 2010. At the same time Europe and specifically Germany was not having too much fun in their summer months, which made me appreciate NYC’s weather even more.

Second, it was also a time of turmoil and many deep reflections. The beginning phase was the most crucial one as it was about deciding on the length of my stay: It was up to either a six months time limit or a stay lasting one year and longer. As you can tell, I took the second option and am still here. But I have to admit that it is still a time of reflecting and thinking when it comes to determining how long I will be in New York. I know I will not stay forever or for long – those 8 years of New Yorkness I have seen in others scare the crap out of me.
It is up to the future, of course, and the opportunities that will come around. Finishing up with school is a crucial factor, which I cannot and will not push off for too much longer, and, therefore, it is just a matter of time when I will hit the road again. However, one of the initial feelings has stayed with me until now: The insecurity and indetermination when it comes to knowing when this experience and adventure will end. Which gives me a different feel for life over here. I consider it to be the base of a better, more positive outlook than the one I had before, especially when living in Germany. It gives me the strength and the perspective to appreciate everything that comes along and to see things in a brighter light, even though times are rough over here on occasion. I learned that the present moment is the most important part of our journey and that there is no need to place too much emphasis on the past and the future. Most of the things I need to be happy I already have or I am dreaming of. And dreams are there to be chased.

Third, the degree of contact is another thing I have come to notice in terms of relationships and keeping in touch with my friends from overseas: It has, sadly, diminished over the year, but, on the bright side, this doesn’t seem to affect our feelings we have for each other. I have had a few visitors over while being here. Some were friends I hadn’t seen in 3 years, mostly UWF folks

Sarah and I in Midtown

(thanks, Sarah for stopping by, reconnecting, and introducing me to Amanda!), some were acquaintances I hadn’t really been friends with from the beginning, some were family members who decided to reconnect on this part of the world (thanks, cousins!). Others were friends from Germany I hadn’t seen in a year and who I had known since kindergarten or high school. But I hadn’t had the chance to meet most of the folks from Europe again, since I haven’t paid my home a visit – yet. However, E-Mails and Skype helped a lot in the beginning. Not only in eliminating home sickness, but also in keeping each other updated on everyone’s progress and life. I have come to find, though, that those people who really want to stay in touch, always find a way to do so, and that those who have gone on to a different stage of life have found a way to lose sight. Which is perfectly fine, this is the normal cycle of friendship, I suppose. After one year it seems hard on both sides to keep writing updates and telling each other some new stuff. However, I know that I will always be able to rely on certain people, even though I haven’t heard from them in almost six months (yes, you know who I am talking about! haha). It is more important to be able to have a good time when meeting up again and feeling that, albeit many things have happened, not much has changed, and not much will affect the relationship. I am proud to say that I do have some friends who will fit into this category and this makes me master the hard times over here so much better.

The older I get, the more I come to see that it is easier to meet new people, start some small talk, and maybe even keep in touch than it was when I was younger. I have been able to find some new friends over here, too – some of which have stayed, some of which have gone back to their home country. However, I cannot shake of the impression that my purest and deepest friendships have their roots in the past and have been formed many years ago. Which makes the circumstance that I am still friends with some of these even more special. And if a visit to far-far-away has made me form this conclusion, it was definitely worth the trouble. I therefore thank you for being there, although you are not here in person. You have helped a lot!


The Beginning…it has to start somewhere!

“GermanAmericanAbroad: For what will not be written down will be forgotten.” -Laura

First and foremost, this blog is intended for my family and friends overseas, who could not join me on this whirling trip of life and who are therefore excluded of all the chaos connected to moving to another continent, adjusting to an 8-million-citizen city, and figuring out what to do with this enormous potential at my hands.

While I was considering blogging in German (since most of these people are, yes, you guessed it, still stuck in Germany), I figured that it would  just create another communication barrier for my attempt of keeping this blog wide open for any possibility out there and sharing my experiences with a variety of people from other countries. Also, I consider this an excellent (!) opportunity for you folks to polish up on your English skills and to, hopefully, have an entertaining time in following up on my posts. The creation of this blog (more of a creaction, if you know what I mean) is a mere attempt of me trying to avoid writing each and everyone one of you a personal update on my recent trip, my new job, my breath-taking experience, or anything else that seems to happen over here every other day – or so it seems. I know I know, this is not the most elegant way to let you know that I have become literally a bit burned out by writing lengthy E-Mails, never-ending Facebook updates, and numerous text messages just to let you know THAT I AM FINE! It appeared that once I send that one E-mail, I still had at least ten others ahead of me and, even then, there was no end to updating everyone on some new events. In conclusion, take this as a beginning effort of me conveying to you what I have and will go through in New York and the rest of the world without getting too personal and without addressing you directly. Nonetheless, I have to start somewhere.

Second, but not less important, this also goes out to all the folks who do not (yet) know me: I am a 23-year-old German-American blogger (new to the business but eager to learn), who has moved to New York City 15 months ago. I figured that writing things down besides into my personal journal would give me the advantage of looking back at the things I have accomplished, the things I still want to accomplish, and other dreams I am pursuing. You might find this page entertaining as it offers some insight into the German culture and how this reacts with a year-long-stay in the “so-not-European-at all” East Coast metropolis. Maybe you will also find two or three topics you will be able to recognize as something you have similarly gone through and you might agree with a few opinions I share.  If this is the case: I am ALWAYS curious to know your story of life, current living situation etc. etc. I consider this not only a great opportunity for creative writing but also a great chance for exchanging parallel or completely opposing ideas.

This being said, I cannot wait to start and update my very own site!

Cheers to all,

Laura

Manhattan Skyline