Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! (or, F U 2013)

2013 was a rough year for us. Although no one died and we've still got our health, we did encounter a few too many challenges for our comfort. Without question, part of the problem, like when we moved to Dundee, were our high expectations. We thought we knew what we were getting into (e.g. moving to a city we'd been to before, back in the USA) and would be safe expecting a certain level of comfort and familiarity. We were wrong.

Happily (you have no idea), we not only survived the trials of 2013 but prospered, even enjoying a good portion of it - admittedly, most of which was during the latter half - and are ending it in a much better position than when it began. As a consequence of our rough beginning though, we find ourselves a bit less confident of our decision making skills but a bit more self-assured of our resilience.

As we begin to map out our ideal 2014, we're hoping to apply the lessons we've learned over these past years to the obstacles and challenges which will inevitably befall us. Especially with a big move planned for July, we must remember these lessons so as to avoid landing in the same difficult spot yet again (fool me once, shame on you...). With that in mind, in addition to the traditional health and happiness that we always hope for ourselves, we're adding the secular sentiments within the Serenity Prayer to our annual refrain.

...serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference

In particular, the serenity and wisdom would be nice traits to acquire. And, though you might think we have courage in abundance, this year really beat it down and we now find ourselves lacking it in certain situations. Hopefully it regenerates because we'll need every bit of it if we have to make some hard choices this year (e.g. where to live).

Due to our rough year, we haven't had the opportunity to see many family or friends this year, though we're closer to most than we've been in a long while. Hopefully 2014 will bring more opportunities to see those we love. In the interim, we hope your 2013 was a good one and we wish you a happy and healthy (and serene, courageous and wise) 2014.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Snow on the morning commute
As we begin our 2013 Christmas celebrations here in New York City, I can't help but be reminded of our recent Christmases. Last year we celebrated in London; 2011 we were in Rome; 2010 we were in Paris; and, in 2009, when this trend of travelling over the holidays began, we celebrated with family in Kaohsiung. This year, similar to last year, we find ourselves staying in the city where we live, which isn't a bad thing but not as exciting as previous years.

Although not necessarily our first choice, New York City has been really great during this time of year. First of all, the city is deserted, making normal tasks a bit more pleasant. Like today, for instance, I was almost the only person on the bus during my morning commute.

Secondly, the weather has been all over the place, hitting all the extremes, providing a bit of excitement on a day to day basis. Although today it appears to be back to normal, hovering in the 30s (F), this past week was more like a Roman holiday, even hitting 70 degrees over the weekend. Two weeks ago we were way below zero and had a pretty heavy snow storm, which we didn't really get to take advantage of because we were both sick.

Christmas trees are being sold in pop-up shops on almost every corner, providing a pleasant pine scent and special festive note, allowing us to feel festive even without decorations of our own. And, surprisingly, if we avoid certain areas of the city (between Park and 6th Avenues in the 50s), we're not even overwhelmed by the worst part of the season, consumers and holiday tourists.


As we prepare to begin our Christmas celebrations by brewing vin chaud and wandering the country's number one neighborhood for holiday lights, we wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. Although we probably won't be celebrating Christmas in the traditional New York way - with a movie and Chinese food - we do plan on wandering the city, taking pictures at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, meandering through Central Park, viewing the window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney's, and otherwise just absorbing our surroundings. Even if this isn't our last Christmas in New York, it's definitely our first and we're looking forward to making it a memorable one. We hope you have a memorable and joyous holiday season too.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

November

Bronx River Trail
On the first weekend in November, we ventured north, to the border of Westchester County in the Bronx, to ramble the Bronx River Trail.  We started at Muskrat Cove and almost made it the full 9.5 miles before heading towards the nearest subway at Bruckner Blvd, just north of where the Bronx River joins the East River, due to waning daylight and no clear path across the rather busy expressway. The ramble was mostly disappointing as it's not very well marked (hence our early departure), still under construction in parts (which caused us to miss "one of the most striking features...the roaring waterfalls at River Park"), and not terribly picturesque due to all the litter.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon inflation
Moving on towards the end of the month, our Thanksgiving celebrations began on Wednesday night when we ventured over to the Upper West Side to watch the balloons get prepped for the next day's parade.  We wound up missing the actual parade on Thursday morning but still had a lovely day, leisurely wandering down to our restaurant in the Financial District.  We had such a great time stuffing ourselves full of salmon, beef and turkey that we completely forgot about giving thanks.  Though we didn't think to take a moment over dinner to give thanks, we are of course thankful that we were able to stuff ourselves full of salmon, beef and turkey.

Sleepy Hollow, Old Croton Aqueduct trail
We rambled the rest of November away, venturing north to Sleepy Hollow to walk the Old Croton Aqueduct trail and out to Queens to visit the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Westchester County, from Tarrytown to Irvington, was just lovely.  The people were super friendly, the towns we passed through were super charming, and the vibe was super artsy (craft ales, art house theater, etc.). We can't wait to venture back up to Tarrytown again, this time heading north to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve and beyond.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge was disappointing.  The refuge itself was hit rather hard by Superstorm Sandy and parts of the main loop trail were completely washed away.  Though the view of Manhattan was rather interesting, the views in the other directions were dismal at best, with a lot of orange construction tape in the bay on one side and JFK airport on the other. Overall, I couldn't believe this was actually a national park. We went to a similar arrangement in Mallorca, the S'Albufera Natural Park, which was exponentially more impressive in regards to the facilities alone. One would expect a national park in New York City to be better maintained than a similar situation on a small island in the Mediterranean, far from any major city. Very disappointing.

Lyndhurst, Westchester County
As we wrap up November and begin the final days of 2013, we'd like to wish everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving, a delayed Happy Hanukkah and a preemptive Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Happiness and good health for all!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

October Travels

Our October was filled with travel.  The fall colors have been particularly intriguing to us and we're doing our best to see them before they're gone.  Beyond the changing leaves, the weather has proved very interesting as well.  The month couldn't decide if it was summer or fall, which caused much confusion for the locals.  It'd be 70 degrees (F) and you'd have people commuting to work in their winter coat, boots and scarves because the day before was in the 40s.  Poor confused locals. Mike & I, for our part, are doing just the opposite.  Holding tightly to summer, we're the ones wearing short sleeves and sandals when it's 40 degrees out.  We're awesome.

Bear Mountain Oktoberfest
Our first trip of the month was up to Bear Mountain for their Oktoberfest celebration.  We took the bus up early one Saturday morning, hiked to the top and then celebrated upon our return to the base with some delicious beer and brats.  Bear Mountain is gorgeous and it was such a fun day out.  Definitely a highlight and something I'd definitely like to do again.  If we were staying, this would be an annual trip.

Watkins Glen State Park
Our next trip was up to the Finger Lakes region for Columbus Day weekend.  We were particularly interested in Watkins Glen state park.  We had seen a picture of this park on the subway, as part of the NY tourism campaign, and were so enamored we immediately began making plans to check it out.  It was as amazing in person as advertised.

Ithaca Falls
We stayed in Bath, just south of Keuka Lake. Though we didn't have a chance to explore Keuka Lake at all, we did enjoy roadtripping around Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. We also had a chance to explore Ithaca and the beautiful Cornell University campus.

The Finger Lakes region is well known for its wineries but we didn't have the opportunity to check any of them out. Since we were driving, and the wineries were charging for tastings, we opted against investigating this aspect of the region.  Hot tip: not one of the many wineries we visited in the Sonoma region of California charged tasting fees.  They're samples, folks. One shouldn't charge for samples.  Nor, for that matter, should one be willing to pay for samples.  Greedy vintners.

1999 (left) and 2013
On our return drive from the Finger Lakes we noticed we would be traveling very near where we had honeymooned back in June 1999. Thus, we made a slight detour.  It was fun returning to the area and discovering that our memories were surprisingly accurate.

Oyster Bay, Long Island
Our final trip of the month was out to Oyster Bay on Long Island for the Oyster Festival. Oyster Bay is beautiful and, although it was a relatively short distance from Manhattan, felt like a world away.  It was such a great way to spend one of the last summer like days of the year.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Waning Days of Summer

Yankee Stadium
I remember Labor Day being only a symbolic end to summer, as schools tend to start just after (or just before) and as all calendars are beholden to those of the schools'.  Apparently though, in New York City, and perhaps the whole of the Northeast, Labor Day has proven to be the actual end of summer.  Seriously. Almost to the day our weather started to change and everyone suddenly started sporting scarves, sweaters and jackets.  I didn't lose faith though. I knew summer would return.  It couldn't be over just like that, without a long and drawn out farewell. Right?  Well, I am happy to report, as I write this in the first days of October while we're basking in 80 degree days, my faith was not misplaced.  Summer has returned.

One of the highlights of our September was getting to go to our first Yankees game (vs. White Sox). Mike got some free tickets so we grabbed a couple of friends and proceeded to have a riotous good time watching the Yankees clinch it in the 9th. What a great night!

FĂȘte Paradiso
Another highlight was finally getting a chance to hit FĂȘte Paradiso on Governors Island.  We've been meaning to get out there since it opened earlier this summer but I'm glad we waited until one of its last weekends.  We wound up going on a lovely day and, most importantly, missing the crowds.  We were able to ride a few rides, play (and win) a few games, and enjoy some good music.  It was an event not to be missed and entirely worth the trip out.

Some other highlights included getting to see two of Mike's cousins, in town for a short visit, and venturing over to Jersey for the first time since we moved here in January.  Who knew Hoboken was so freaking cute?  On a separate trip, we ventured farther inland, surviving a night out in Newark.  It's so easy to get to Jersey, only a PATH ride away and only $2.50 each way, I'm not sure why it took us so long.

Kayaking on the Hudson
September finally saw us out on the water too, kayaking the Hudson for free thanks to the Downtown Boathouse.  We also ventured to north Manhattan for New York City's only renaissance festival, which was a freaking blast!  And, to round out our lovely month of awesome, I won a kickass camping chair from REI, bringing our total furniture count up to 5 pieces.

Although we can't prolong the inevitable coming of fall, we're not letting its slow arrival deter us from enjoying these waning days of summer.  Knowing the weather's about to turn gives us extra incentive to make the most out of these days.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Summertime, and the living is easy

outside the Staten Island ferry terminal
So, if it's not clear by now, I am absolutely loving summer in New York.  We're having the best time!  We started off August, and ended our Urban Camping adventures, with an overnight stay at Blue Heron Pond park on Staten Island.  This was our first time on Staten Island, beyond the ferry terminal, and it is lovely.  I'm not sure where its bad reputation stems from but I'm thinking it's like the naming of Iceland, self-perpetuated propaganda to keep out the riffraff.  Blue Heron Pond park was such a nice camping adventure and a great one to end with.

Voice Tunnel at Summer Streets
Among some of the other memorable events from August was definitely Summer Streets, a street fair on Park Avenue.  This year the showcase item of the event was Voice Tunnel, which shut down the Park Ave tunnel to cars for the first time in its history.  It was pretty cool.

One of the major treats of the month was having our buddy from Dundee come and visit; our first house guest since Seattle.  We got to play host and take him to our favorite bars, to a free Toni Braxton concert in Brooklyn and to The High Line.  He even came to watch me teach my ESL class at Columbia.  It was so much fun having him visit us we can't wait until he returns (he's promised he's coming back before we leave next year).  House guests are fun (especially if they don't care if they sleep on an air mattress in, basically, a corridor)!

enjoying The High Line with
our first NYC house guest
Speaking of free concerts, in addition to the awesome Toni Braxton one, we also got to see Huey Lewis and the News perform at Coney Island. They're currently touring for the 30th anniversary of Sports, playing the whole album from start to finish.  They were awesome!  We had so much fun dancing and singing like it was 1983.  At the end of the concert, after an encore, Huey Lewis says, "I'm Huey Lewis and you've just heard the news" and then lights went out and the show was over.  He's so cool!

Old friends in Southport, CT
There are a couple of other highlights from this summer that must also be mentioned.  One, our old friends from Seattle (the same ones we lived with prior to moving to the UK) were on the east coast visiting family and, because being on the east coast is much closer than where they're usually located, we got to see them!  We met half way in Southport, CT and proceeded to have a lovely evening, picking up almost precisely where we had left off almost exactly 3 years earlier.  New friends are amazing and fun but nothing beats the comfort and joy of being surrounded by old friends.  GD we've missed them!

Road Trip!
The other highlight was definitely our first mini-break since returning to the States.  Over Labor Day weekend we rented a car and headed north, into the Adirondacks.  We stayed in Lake George where we experienced rainy and cloudy days which allowed for lots and lots of scenic byway driving.  We spent nearly the whole trip driving around and exploring an area we've never been to before.  It was fantastic!

at the fair
On Sunday afternoon we made our way to Syracuse where we spent the day at The Great New York State Fair.  It's been so long since we've been to a good ole American state fair and we were really looking forward to it.  Our main reason for going was to see the demolition derby, though we enjoyed the farm animals too.  Unbeknownst to us, the demo derby also included Figure 8 races, which I can't remember ever having been exposed to before but which turned out to be our favorite part.  GD I love watching cars crash (when safety harnesses are in use and no injuries occur).  Merika!

Figure 8
And with that, now we're up to date.  Though there's hopefully still many more days of summer remaining, I can't help but acknowledge that my favorite season's demise is imminent.  I'm not sure how New York handles autumn but I'm expecting brilliant colors and crisp days along with the requisite griping about the weather and how short the summer was and can you believe it's already fall.  But, not to be deterred, we already have one day trip planned and purchased and we'll hopefully have at least a few more before the end of the year.  Now that we're able to afford them, getting out of the city is almost as fun as being in it and, if all goes to plan, we've got less than a year to explore this part of the country and we've already wasted 8 months.  We've definitely got to make up for lost time with no more time to lose.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

July in New York City

Camping in Queens, Alley Pond Park
July was a lovely summer month here in New York City.  We did experience what one expects from a New York summer (e.g. suffocating heat paired with stifling humidity and the constant stench of stale urine) but, surprisingly, that was apparently an anomaly because most locals were decrying it as abnormal (at least the weather bit; the stale urine bit is normal).  To prove their point, the high heat and humidity only lasted a couple of weeks and the rest of the month consisted of absolutely lovely summer days including something we've missed terribly since leaving Utah, warm nights, no jacket required.  Man, have we missed these warm nights.

Although we found the high heat and humidity very uncomfortable, we didn't complain.  We've loved every minute of this summer weather because it's exactly what we wanted when we moved here.  Heat.  Real heat.  And a real summer.  It's been great!

Coney Island desserts
Besides the lovely summer weather, July also introduced us to our favorite part of New York, Coney Island.  Having just discovered it in early July, we've already been countless times, even forcing a visiting London friend to join us on one of our midweek treks.  (He was just as enamored as us, by the way.)

After discovering the Urban Park Rangers family camping program in mid-July, we've since camped in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island via this program.  We really enjoyed these urban camping trips and they've successfully reignited our joy in camping, which our last camping trip, to Yosemite (a very long time ago), had extinguished.

Enter the Dragon in Brooklyn
Mike accepted a long-term temp assignment in mid-July which has allowed us to start planning holidays and mini-breaks again, something we're really excited about because there's a lot we want to see in this region before we move abroad next year.  With Mike's new job and our new apartment, July is the month where everything appears to be coming together for us.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Urban Camping

Marine Park, Brooklyn
Summer is quickly becoming our favorite season here in New York City.  Overlooking the constant and intrusive smell of urine, and even with the suffocating humidity, New York City is really coming alive right now and our calendar is just filled to capacity with all the free cultural events and outdoor activities on offer.  From outdoor movies and concerts to kayaking on the Hudson, the free activities are vast and plentiful and we're doing our best to experience them all.

Nature hike
One of the highlights of this summer will no doubt be last weekend's urban camping adventure.  New York City Parks and Recreation has this great Urban Park Rangers program which I just stumbled upon because, much like Coney Island, the coolest things occurring in this city are well kept secrets.  The Urban Park Rangers program offers many free, ranger led activities, including canoeing and birding, and this past weekend we got to participate in the family camping component.

The family camping program is designed to expose city kids and families to the experience of camping and occurs in city parks throughout the five boroughs of New York.  Our urban camping experience took place at Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park in Brooklyn.

making s'mores
The program was supposed to begin at 6pm on Saturday night but our subway train was delayed and we didn't get there until 7pm.  Luckily, they waited for us before beginning (the whole night was really friendly and welcoming like that) with a couple of ice breakers for the group of twenty one (though another family of four did join us later in the evening).  After learning everyone's names, we headed out on a ranger led nature hike through the marsh (with ranger-provided binoculars for everyone), including a stop at an osprey nest with three chicks and two very protective parents.  We got back to camp and set-up our ranger-provided tents and had a dinner of ranger-provided MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) before heading out on another, much shorter, night hike to hear the sounds of the night creatures whilst allowing the rangers back at camp the opportunity to set up for s'mores.

Salt Marsh Nature Center (our campsite)
Bedtime was called at around 11pm but the nature center was left open for private use throughout the night.  We were woken up at around 6am the next morning, packed up camp and were home by 8am.  The whole experience only cost us the $2.50 subway ride (each way, per person) and allowed us the opportunity to camp again without having to re-outfit ourselves nor rent a car.  What a great program and what a memorable experience!

Mike & I hope to do at least one more of these family camping nights before the summer is over.  The registration process is via lottery and, though this one was under-subscribed, I get the feeling that's probably not the case for all of them.  If it turns out the program is as popular as it should be then we'll consider ourselves very lucky to have gotten in on our first try.  We had a great time.  Also, those MREs are really quite tasty.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

June

Our first mini-break (with a friend)
We've had a very eventful June.  Mike got a job and then quit the job (the same job), we started volunteer teaching our Adult ESL classes for Columbia University's Community Impact, we went on our first mini-break, we were almost killed during Tropical Storm Andrea, we moved to East Harlem and we celebrated 14 years of wedded togetherness. See. Very eventful.

We didn't do much to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  We don't really celebrate it.  We do celebrate the day we met, which happens on July 3rd, though.  The day we wed is arbitrary but the day we met, that was destiny.  Still, we did enjoy a lovely Vietnamese meal of Bun Xuong Nuong to mark the occasion.

Friday at Governors Ball
Tropical Storm Andrea kicked our asses.  We didn't hear any music at the Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall's Island due to the pounding rain and gale force winds but we still had a good time volunteering at the Doing Art Together booth and we'd probably do it again.  Maybe.

After the hardest apartment search ever, we finally found a place to call home.  It's a railroad apartment in East Harlem, "El Barrio", at 1st & 106th, on the 4th floor of a walk-up.  We've now spent just over a week there and our first impressions are that it's much more "neighborhoody" than our old place (sidewalk BBQs, evening conversations lingering outside open shops) with a ton less tourists.  It's also an easier commute to my job at East 43rd and much closer to Central Park (where I've always wanted to go running).

Our new apartment
We went on an evening passeggiata in our new neighborhood the other night but were diverted by our first "salvaging" opportunity.  We wound up grabbing a lovely desk and two chairs off the sidewalk, all solid wood and quality pieces.  Now we have four pieces of furniture to help our new place feel like home (we bought an air mattress earlier).  Hot tip: the end of the month (aka moving day) is a great time for salvaging.

The first half of 2013 has proven to be much more challenging than we had ever anticipated.  But, now that we have a permanent place to call home, maybe other things will begin to fall in to place as well?  Wouldn't that be nice?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Summer Volunteers

Columbia University campus
Mike & I are starting our summer by making a couple of volunteering commitments.  I've been hankering to volunteer since our Dundee days but pickings were a bit slim in that small town and we were far too busy being super popular in London to even contemplate the idea (except, early on, we did volunteer one day in the Carshalton lavender fields).  Now here, where we seem to have nothing but time, we decided to see what was available.

Well, as I suspected, opportunities abound and everyone wants a piece of us.  After a few interviews and inquiries, we've selected one long-term commitment, teaching English as a second language to adults at Columbia University's Community Impact program, and one shorter commitment, working the beer booth at the Governors Ball music festival for Doing Art Together.

We had our first teacher orientation at Columbia last night.  It was a lot of fun and we're both really excited to get into the classroom.  Classes start on Wednesday.  We chose ESL because we expect Mike to spend at least his first 9 months in Hong Kong teaching English and we want to make sure it's something he enjoys.  We chose Community Impact's adult ESL program because it's Columbia University and will look great on our resumes.

Doing Art Together is a short commitment, just this weekend, and gives us free entrance into the music festival on the days we volunteer.  I'm not a huge fan of music festivals (see this post) because they're crowded and there are long lines everywhere but I might enjoy myself if standing safely within a beer serving booth.  For charity. Also, it might take me back to the good old days of helping The Cascades Conservation Partnership at festivals throughout Seattle during the summer of 2001.  I saw Billy Idol, Lyle Lovett, Burt Bacharach, Chris Isaak, plus many others that summer, and all for free while volunteering for TCCP.  It was a great summer.

Although this weekend is supposed to be ensconced by Tropical Storm Andrea, and there are flood warnings and thunderstorms predicted, I'm sure we'll still have a good time.  It's a rare event that can surround us with beer and music and not produce a couple of happy Furnesses.  Make it free and it's damn near unheard of.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hong Kong Calling

It's been a week since we started considering a move to Taiwan.  We had settled on Taipei but then we spoke to Mike's brother and he planted another seed, why not Hong Kong?  We briefly considered it before returning to the idea of Taipei.  But, upon further consideration and after exploring visas and housing, it appears as though we've settled on the idea of Hong Kong as our next move.

As you may know, ever since our trip there in 2010 I have been promoting the city as one I would move to "in a second".  It is easily one of our top 5 favorite cities (though, as we've discovered with New York, visiting a city as a tourist is very different from living there as a resident) and we're really looking forward to this next adventure.

picture in The New York Times
Recent events have made us realize that we had considered London our home, though only there for a short time.  As we approach the 6 month mark for our time in New York (equivalent to the last stretch spent in London) we are nowhere near the feeling of home we had there.  To that point, I saw this article in today's New York Times and was reminded of my post from about this time last year.

Besides the picture, the article talks about the emerging art scene and otherwise just speaks to me.  I think if you played it backwards it would say "Mike + Desi should move to Hong Kong" (and, maybe also, "Paul is dead"). Hong Kong wants us to move there.  Clearly.  And we will.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Adventure Isn't Over

enjoying a pitcher whilst conversing
Last night was a lovely spring evening in New York City and, due to Mike's work schedule, the first opportunity we've had to really talk in a long while. We don't often discuss our personal struggles with each other because they're rather rare and usually temporary, gone with the day, but we really should change that behavior because when we do have real conversations they're very therapeutic and often enjoyable.  Last night we were able to have one of those real conversations.

One of the things we discussed was my recent sad post and my belief that the adventure is now over for us because we're back in the US and that we're just supposed to pick up where we left off and carry on as before and how I'm having a real hard time accepting that.  And, because the fight in me comes back every once in a while, why do I have to accept that?

Adding to this new idea that I don't have to accept that the adventure is over, Mike's new job isn't working out.  He's tried his hardest to make it work but the guy he works for is a maniac and treats him terribly.  Additionally, my job isn't working out either.  Of course, mine isn't as bad as Mike's but it was supposed to be my dream job and is instead just a huge disappointment.  We both still love New York as a city but the professional culture here is light years away from what we have experienced or expected and it's just not a good fit.

Earlier this year, when we were pretty sure New York was going to be another failure for us and we were about a month away from packing up and moving to Mike's parents' house, broken, weary, and poor, where we would be ensconced in their safe arms and be able to forget about the cruel world for a time, Mike's brother suggested an alternative: why not move to Taiwan (where he has lived for most of the time I've known him)?  Though we didn't seriously consider it at the time, because burying our heads in Mike's parents' house sounded so much better than trying and failing yet again, the seed was planted.  Now that we're a few months removed from those dire days and have found that we can survive in New York but we're questioning whether we want to, we're revisiting the Taiwan idea.

Taipei 101, circa Jan 2010
If we did decide to move, this might be our smartest and best move yet.  We'd probably target the latter half of next year, so we'd have at least 14 months to prepare.  Mike would have a job prior to our moving (teaching English), so no mad rush to find employment upon arrival.  We've also been there before (we visited Mike's brother there in 2009) and would have family nearby, with plenty of experience to help us navigate.  Seriously, this just might be our best move yet.

Having just started this line of thought last night, I'm already feeling so much better about everything.  This possibility has given me a new perspective on our last few years.  If we hadn't given up everything to move to Scotland then Mike wouldn't have his degree and moving to Taiwan wouldn't be an option.  If nothing else, I'm no longer feeling like a failure.  I feel like an adventurer again.  It's a good feeling.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Missing Europe and What Could Have Been

Mike enjoying the fruits of his labor
(yes, that is a bride at a bar mitzvah)
Mike has been working some crazy hours.  We think this is what happens when one becomes an adult.  We don't like it but we're accepting it, for now at least.  Since Mike started his job in mid-April, he's been working six days a week and at least 12 hours each day.  Crazy, right?  Happily, this past weekend was the last event he has on until September and yesterday we received word that the end of these crazy work hours just might be nigh.  More importantly, we're looking at the possibility of actually getting some paid time off over the July 4th holiday.  I was initially very excited upon hearing this news because I love to plan our holidays but, after just a few hours, my excitement has turned into a whole bunch of other feelings.

I'm not sure if I've discussed the utter devastation we experienced last year when the UK eliminated our visa scheme, essentially destroying our 20 year plan.  Perhaps due to the mind switching into survival mode, and all our efforts being focused on our forced return to the US, I may not have mentioned our heartbreak, or at least not harped on about it.  But, now that we've come out the other end and staunched the downward spiral, I would like to state, for the record, how utterly devastated I am that we gave up everything for only a two and a half year experience.  I could've accepted the absolute loss for a 20 year adventure but for just two and a half years?  Perhaps time will change my mind but right now I'm not fully convinced it wasn't an absolute failure.

To be honest, Dundee was horrid.  Even with my sweet government job, we were still two people living on one person's very low salary in a horrible small town surrounded by scary hillbillies.  We lived in almost complete isolation during this time and, with the bulk of our two and a half years abroad spent there, this may explain my feelings of resentment, remorse, and anger.

Once we got down to London our fortunes changed immensely and, had we not had to save every penny for our imminent transatlantic move, we would've been living quite comfortably.  We had an apartment we liked, great friends, and jobs we both loved.  We were able to experience what could have been for about 6 months, and it was very nearly perfect and exactly what we had hoped it would be.  Losing that reality is no doubt the source of my sadness.

The Plan had us living in London for two years where we would've, with no doubt in our minds, been very successful.  If The Plan had been allowed to continue I would've accepted every sacrifice as having been worthy but that's not what happened and today we find ourselves worse off than we were as newlyweds, back in 1999.  I can't help but compare where we were to where we are.  Living abroad is different; because we had never been there before we had no basis for comparison.  But, starting over in an American city; we've been here before.

As I begin to plan our first real holiday since returning to the US I can't help but recall our recent past and how it could have all been very different.  If we'd gotten to stay in the UK, I'd be comparing Portugal to Croatia or Finland to Austria.  Instead I'm comparing Boston to Providence and Maine to Vermont.  There was a time when our current situation - living in New York, comparing east coast cities for upcoming holidays - would've been acceptable and exciting but after everything we've been through I can't help but feel like a giant failure.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Being A New Yorker

Random 8th Ave Street Fair
So, I just experienced my first street fair as a New Yorker.  I did stumble upon one as a tourist back in 2008 and we've passed them since we moved here earlier this year but this is the first time we walked out our front door and our main avenue, 8th Avenue, had been co-opted by street fair merriment, complete with entertainment stage and police placed traffic barriers.

In the days leading up to this event there were no signs announcing that 8th Ave would be closed on Saturday from 9am to 8pm; there were no advance warnings.  We just start Mike's morning commute at 8:50am and see a few portable toilets, barriers being placed, booths being erected and hear a dude screaming, "you want me to fuckin' respect you, you better use your head" to some guy for some inexplicable reason.  I believe, my friends, this is what being a New Yorker feels like.

I just returned from visiting my local street fair and feel more like a New Yorker than I did when I left the house this morning.  First of all, this is my neighborhood and there's a certain level of pride I have in the fact that I just walked down the street and was able to partake in a freaking New York City street fair.  Secondly, the New York Times had a booth and I signed up for my Sunday delivery, with my 10011 zip code, which I will get delivered to my freaking NYC brownstone basement apartment beginning next Sunday.  Additionally, not only did I get a golf umbrella and tote bag (emblazoned with "The New York Times" for my trouble) but, and how fun is this, I got to deal with a super crazy old time New Yorker in the process of subscribing for said delivery.

Super crazy old time New Yorker lady was in front of me in line at the booth but didn't believe that it was a real New York Times booth.  She wanted everything in writing and kept asking, "how do I know you're real?".  It was awesome.  Apparently, even though she doubted their legitimacy, the tote bag and umbrella were too good for her to pass up.  But, she still made those poor staffers work for their wages.  And, after about 3 minutes of her shenanigans, I decided to jump the line and said, "I believe you" which almost instantly resulted in my receiving their full attention.

Crazy New Yorker lady didn't like my impertinence or the fact that I was a more welcome customer than her.  She responded by stating, "can you help me first since I was here first?  I'm sorry I'm being difficult but I'm a New Yorker.  Now, can you put everything you've told me in writing along with your first and last name?"  The two New Yorkers working the booth (and myself, thank you very much) just continued as before.  Lesson of the day: crazy does not equal New Yorker and New Yorker does not equal crazy.  Crazy equals crazy.  But, all of it equals entertainment.  And that, my friends, was perhaps one of my best New Yorker experiences since moving here.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Awesome April

Three whole months after arriving, could it be that our lives in New York City can finally begin?  After failing twice to secure a real job at the Ford Foundation, I was fortunate at least to have made a positive impression during my attempts and was offered a long-term temp assignment within the Democratic Participation unit.  Monday was my first day and it already feels like home.

In addition to having my dream job, my commute is quintessential New York.  I get to ride the 4 or 5 express from Union Square to Grand Central where I exit the subway station through the Chrysler Building.  Seriously.  How cool is that?

Mike also received some good news of his own this past week.  After a pretty rough job search he finally scored with what could possibly be his dream job.  These are early days and he's still within the trial period but to even get the opportunity to audition, especially after these last few demoralizing months, is just amazing for him.

Now, before we can truly begin to celebrate our new life in NYC, there is the small matter of finding a new place to live.  The lease on our furnished basement studio on West 15th is ending in June.  We would love (LOVE!) a one bedroom in the East Village or Lower East Side but we don't know how feasible that is.  Apparently, getting an apartment in New York is a competitive enterprise and we're not really prepared to compete.  We've got bad credit, no savings, poor employment history, and equally dubious address history.  Yeah, we're screwed.  So, until we can beef up our game, we may have to settle for something less desirable and who knows where that will be?  Otherwise, our rebuilding year is looking pretty close to officially beginning and we're getting pretty excited about our future again.

One observation to note, since returning from abroad we've both recognized that we now consider ourselves adults (though we technically became adults nearly two decades ago).  During our time abroad we somehow managed to shed our adolescent need to eschew convention.  These last three months have especially made our new adult statuses apparent and we now find ourselves ready to wear blazers, work late hours and toe lines.  Although we still have fires in our bellies (and reserve the right to rebel against the establishment), we're much more welcoming of, and grateful for, the opportunities we have and we're not going to discard them quite as thoughtlessly as we once did.  Perhaps that's one of the lessons one is supposed to imbibe from the college experience?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mid-March Update

Here we sit.  It's now March 14 and we don't have much to show for it.  We're still both unemployed.  As I suspected, I failed at my first attempt at my dream job.  Luckily, they saw my potential and offered me the opportunity to interview for another position within the organization.  I had my final interview for that position this past Monday.  Sadly, I won't know if I succeeded this time until next week.  Preliminary reports say I 'interviewed very well' so I'm cautiously optimistic.  Mike's had no luck whatsoever though.  Poor guy.

Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge
We're continuing to explore our city on foot to help fill our days.  We just discovered that there is pedestrian access on more than just the Brooklyn Bridge so we've decided to walk across all the bridges.  We started this past weekend with the Williamsburg Bridge.  With fewer people than the Brooklyn Bridge, and separate paths for bikes and pedestrians, it made for a much nicer walk across the East River.  It's also somewhat protected from the elements and has the added bonus of being used for the J train.  The pedestrian and bike paths are above the car and train traffic so you get to watch trains pass below you while walking across the river. I thought that was fun.

Bumping into a friend from London in the LES
While walking from Chelsea to the Lower East Side for our Williamsburg Bridge walk this past Sunday afternoon we bumped into a friend from London.  We're just walking down Bowery when someone yells my name.  It was so awesome!  Seriously, what are the odds?

This has happened to me once before though.  We were in Washington DC in 2008, staying at a small B&B in Columbia Heights, when one of the few people also staying there turns out to be someone I went to high school (or junior high) with back in Utah.  Crazy how small this world is, right?!

Anyway, that makes two friends from London and zero friends from the US.  I'm not sure why that's something I'm keeping track of.  I just find it interesting.

Hopefully next week brings good news for our family.  We need some good news.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bring On March

Our second month in New York City is coming to an end and, unfortunately, both Mike & I are still unemployed. My temporary assignment, though meant to be long-term, was not what I was looking for so, in my infinite wisdom, I quit. My thought process was that being unemployed would be better than working somewhere that wasn't my ideal. Well, this is week two of unemployment with no other job on the horizon. Well played.

Mike did have one interview we thought went well but it's been over a week and he hasn't heard anything yet.  I had four interviews at my dream organization, the last one just this past Friday, but I haven't heard anything since and my pessimism is setting in.  Mike did get a short-term gig by exploiting a connection he made whilst in London.  He's spent the last couple days helping to set up an exhibition at a Chelsea gallery.  Otherwise, the job hunt continues.

Mike's art in our flat
We've extended the lease at our current apartment until July.  We're really loving our neighborhood and, though we hope to never live in a basement again, we're really enjoying our flat.  We do dream of living a couple floors up in a one bedroom in the East Village though.


Williamsburg Bridge, East River
Since we have so much free time, we're spending a lot of time walking around the city.  We prefer the East River over the Hudson, though both are attractive.  The East River has lovely bridges whilst our part of the Hudson has views of New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty.  As previously mentioned, we like the East Village more than our current area but that might just be a 'grass is greener' mentality.  Honestly, we haven't encountered a neighborhood we wouldn't enjoy living in.

Steve (from London) and me
The High Line
Unlike our move to the UK, where we didn't get our first US visitor until the tail-end of our 2+ years there, we had our first UK visitor here in early February.  Our good friend from London was here for business and we were able to spend an entire Saturday with him, definitely one of the highlights from February.

Happily, February has been more fruitful than January was and, though we have no employment prospects and our savings is dwindling, we're rather calm about the whole thing.  When the boredom isn't affecting us, we're rather happy and in good spirits.  Who knew unemployment and poverty could be so enjoyable?


Sunday, January 13, 2013

We're NYC Residents! What?!

Central Park
We made it!  We're back in the States and we're loving every minute of it!

Our journey started on 2 January, around 6:40am.  We took all our worldly belongings to St Pancras train station for the Eurostar to Brussels where we would be spending our last night in Europe.

Our last visit to Brussels, back in June, did not leave us with a favorable impression.  We actually hated it.  But, third time's the charm and, after spending another day and night there, we now have a much more favorable opinion.  However, our recommendation would be to not spend more than a day there.

Our new home
Early on the 3rd we made our way to Brussels Midi station for our train to Dusseldorf Airport where we would be catching our Air Berlin flight to JFK.  Our flight was pleasant enough and we arrived in our new city around 4:45pm.  We took a taxi into midtown Manhattan, seamlessly checked into our apartment, and were home by 7pm.

Our studio apartment is located in the basement of a brownstone in the Meatpacking District / Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.  Our neighborhood park is The High Line, definitely one of our favorites.  We love our new neighborhood.

My lunch spot
We had the weekend to wander as tourists before hitting the job hunt on Monday morning.  True to form, I had a job by Wednesday.  My office is in Rockefeller Center.  I walk past the Today show filming on the street every morning.  My lunch spot is the sunny bench overlooking the ice rink.  I'm loving NYC!
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