For aliens in New York

12 Jan
The Statue of Liberty, as seen from the Staten Island Ferry (for those doing New York City on the cheap, or for those not too interested in the lady of liberty ...)

The Statue of Liberty, as seen from the Staten Island Ferry (for those doing New York City on the cheap, or for those not too interested in the lady of liberty ...)

2009 got off to a pleasant start with a very nice ringing in of the New Year – dinner at our favorite restaurant, Cucina down the road from I-House, and a very happy couple of drinks at Ryan’s Daughter on the Upper East Side, which has definitely scored a couple of points with the girls (the Irish bartenders have everything nothing to do with that!) It was a wonderful New Year spent with a diverse group of people, and much fun was had by all – especially Sonja (no need to discuss that in detail in public!!)

Sonja, my cousin from Switzerland, was here visiting over the Christmas holidays, and I got to test my tourist guide skills out on her. I think I did reasonably well apart for the days when I had to abandon her to work on my Master’s Project (coming on reasonably well thank you, though I might be suicidal by the end of this week – first draft in on January 20th!) and the five days that I had to spend in bed, sick. This confinement was most likely a result of bitterly cold New Years weather, which I scarcely seemed to notice in my little black dress and heels (one of which broke shortly before midnight – is that a weird sign for the coming year? What could it possibly mean!)

Jackie - your stereotypical annoying tour director - leads Zee and Sonja through a tour of a chilly Greenwich Village

Jackie - your stereotypical annoying tour director - leads Zee and Sonja through a tour of a chilly Greenwich Village

Having Sonja here was a real blessing – not only because I was able to spend Christmas with family. It was also great because it reminded me of my determination when I arrived here to do as many “touristy” things as possible, especially considering the amount of time I habe here (one year at the least!) This dream came to an abrupt halt when school reached its peak of madness in November, but luckily Sonja brought me right back to exploring New York City and all the gems. I love being a tourist, and getting to explore everything New York is famous for, but I am equally happy to have had the chance to be a journalism student, writing about the realities New Yorkers face everyday. I really have travelled a lot of this city and its five boroughs in the past few months! For my Masters Project I have already been to Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens – tomorrow I am in Staten Island, and this morning I was upstate in Rye. So I can’t say I’ve been missing out.

Here are some of the things Sonja and I checked out, a.k.a some of the things I am now qualified to show you if you come to visit!

The Manhattan skyline from the Staten Island Ferry

The Manhattan skyline from the Staten Island Ferry

  • A walking tour of Greenwich City (conducted on Christmas Day nogal, it was a bit weird, but very nice to be out in the city when it was relatively quiet.)
  • A walk over the Brooklyn Bridge (stunning) to the famous pizza place Grimaldi’s (if you can withstand the queue) or the cute little pastry shop we found after walking around for an hour (benefit from our ignorance and past mistakes!)
  • A walking tour of the East Village including St. Mark’s – bring lots of money for vintage shopping and pizza.
  • A tour of Times Square, the New York Public Library, a point out of the Conde Naste and New York Times buildings (I can’t resist,) the infamous 5th Avenue shopping stretch and St. Patrick’s Cathedral can all comfortably be done in one afternoon – provided it’s not -5 degrees and two days before Christmas, which it was on the day we went … not a good idea.
  • Hanging out in cool clubs such as the Crocodile Lounge and the Beauty Baron the Lower East Side unless you forget your I.D in which case you’ll probably end up at the gay bar across the road, called “Nowhere.”
  • A walk from Broadway street to Central Park West, then a stroll through the park ending up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, then through the park again (or around) to Columbus Circle. You could substitute Columbus Circle with a walk down Museum Mile instead, visiting the numerous other museums such as the Guggenheim or MoMA.
  • The American Museum of Natural History is also lots of fun, take a good chunk of time to explore the great exhibits on climate change, human evolution, space, dinosuars …
An explanation of New York culture, photo courtesy of Sonja!

An explanation of New York culture, photo courtesy of Sonja!

  • Amateur night at the Apollo (Sonja’s idea – do the tour as well, it’s fantastic, and Amateur Night is a blast)
  • Cheap shoppingin Harlem – my favorite past time (next to sleeping), and a treasured speciality of mine!
  • If you don’t want to pay to go to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty, take a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry and watch Manhattan melt into a famous skyline.
  • Getting some beer, wine and popcorn and watching football either in your pyjama’s at home (for us, the big screen TV in the pub at I-House) or in a bar (you could be in your pyjamas too but then you would distinguish yourself as someone who doesn’t take football particularly seriously, and that would be bad) – this activity is particularly fun during the playoffs.
  • Sonja did a walking tour of the Financial District (including Ground Zero) and went to the top of the Rockefeller Center – she said both were great, but somewhat overcrowded with tourists. The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center is a treat.
  • A tour of Morningside Heights, the area I live in, which includes some pretty cool restaurants, the university (and the J-school, unmissable,) Grant’s Tomb (14th Prez of the US) and the world’s largest gothic cathedral – St. John the Divine (or to some who find it’s 100 year old yet-to-be-completed architecture humorous, “St. John the Unfinished) and of course, the Hungarian Pastry Shop!
  • Malia took Sonja to Chinatown to pick up someone coming in on a Chinatown bus, I think that going to Chinatown with someone who speaks Chinese is much better than going by yourself.
  • A visit to either Braai in Manhattan or Madiba in Brooklyn (WHERE I SAW FRESHLYGROUND EATING BUNNY CHOW!!!!) – these South African activities you have to do for my sake so I can stock up on Rooibos tea and read the Pick ‘n Pay advertisements plastered on the wall of Madiba. You’ll vrek at the price of things, but believe me, it’s not New York City if you’re not paying $17 (R170) for a boerewors roll and pap. Yes, I’m serious.
Sonja looks touristy on the Brooklyn Bridge - we picked a beautiful day for it as well!

Sonja looks touristy on the Brooklyn Bridge - we picked a beautiful day for it as well!

Of course, there are about a million more cool things you can do in the city, which much cooler hustlers than me will know about – but the list above is not bad considering I’ve only been here for 5 months and have spent most of that time exploring Crown Heights in Brooklyn or ensconsed in the J-School! Now you guys have a real description of what you could look forward to if you came to visit.

Justin and Sonja chill out (literally, it was freezing that day) and play soccer on the grounds of St John the Divine

Justin and Sonja chill out (literally, it was freezing that day) and play soccer on the grounds of St John the Divine

Otherwise, things have been running pretty smoothly. We’re back at school next week and hitting the ground running, starting our seminars / workshops / electives / skills classes, panicking about jobs, handing in our Master’s Projects and cringing in anticipation for the response and enduring the cold weather (I almost killed myself on the ice this morning, walking to the subway –  though I was in heels which is not recommended when it has snowed lightly the night before.) Things are pretty good except for the odd bouts of terrible homesickness – almost half a year away from home … my, how the time has flown. (Yes, I meant to rhyme there…)

I’m glad I now know what it means for the Giants to lose to the Philly Eagles (Justin my dear – you have my full and unending sympathy, for at least the next 24 hours!) and how to order a coffee properly without having to repeat myself. I haven’t confused uptown, downtown, express or local trains for a while now, and I know the best way to reach Newark, JFK and La Guardia airports. I have a good idea of the difference between the west and east sides of Manhattan, and how Brooklynites distinguish themselves from other borough residents. All in all, I think I’m doing good.

But my heart is still with Jozi – and I look forward to seeing it again some time soon! Love to you all 🙂

Jax

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2 Responses to “For aliens in New York”

  1. Archie January 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    Hey Jax! Love the coat.
    Was in London for Krismis, so have a vague idea of how freezing it was in Big Apple.
    Now back in Big Smoke. Love the warmth.
    What was I doing in London? you ask.
    Performing at the Royal Albert Hall.
    I kid you not.
    I was singing there.
    With a full orchestral back-up too, ek se.
    Me and about 3000 others singing carols.

  2. Lyn January 13, 2009 at 12:29 pm #

    Hey Jax

    Great to read about all the things you did with Sonja. I am really happy that she was there with you. We miss you too. Please stop wearing high heels in the snow – you will get frostbite and your toes will fall off!

    Love you and miss you too.
    Lyn

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