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


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?
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