Bring it on, the New York adventure!
I am not sure what was the greatest shock in my first couple of days in New York.
Was it the American accent?
Was it the unbearable heat that left me with two days non-stop of vicious headache?
Was it the price of 7 peaches (11 dollars) and 6 tomatoes (ironically, 11 dollars as well!)?
No, it was indeed the excitement of receiving my press accreditation at the UN.
After issuing not less than 25000 media accreditaitons in London and more in the past; after using media accreditations in other people’s names (oh, and I can’t tell the whole story!) – here I come. My very first badge, and with a smile on it! Clearly, I can’t show a picture of it because of safety reasons. I learned well at the Games !! 🙂
[very professional picture of the accreditation office!]
But let’s go in order please!
The main thing I can say about my arrival here on Friday, I have already mentioned it.. the super hot weather. Gasping for fresh air, I found my best friend just outside the lounge door: an amazing terrace, overlooking (ok, a bit faraway) the Manhattan skyline.
But still, after two days colonising it, I gave up: Air Conditioning 1 – Gloria 0. I had to turn it on to survive the second night. Just a bit before I went to bed.. I still feel guilty!
Besides that, in the weekend I went to Brooklyn downtown, pretending I was exploring the area as a regular newcomer, but I was actually just looking for food, a new SIM card and a hat for the sun… the basics. I could not stand to be outside longer than necessary. So that’s is that’s what I gathered.
And another shock came: S-U-P-E-R-M-A-R-K-E-T.
[Let’s spell it out better, for a decision champion like me : H-E-L-L]
As Alex likes to say: welcome to the United States of America. The land of the free. The land of opportunity.
In fact: chatting briefly with a street vendor I almost got a job. Well, a part time job. Well, an irregular job. First, as I told him I was Italian and that I was planning to go back home after my two months’ assignment, he almost laughed at me and asked: Why would you want to go back to Europe?? Why don’t you stay here?” I explained to him that I came with the idea of leaving, and that anyway, I can’t work here, I don’t have the visa… and here he goes. He started giving me advice on how to find a job, and who to ask, and he eventually gave me a contact of a lady that would need occasional help. “You help her, she gives you money, nobody knows it. To live in this city you need money, everybody needs money. You see that little shop? If you come tomorrow you speak to the owner and she can help you. Maybe you can help her and she can pay you something”. I was trying to explain to him that I wasn’t expecting to work in these two months, but his dedication was amazing, I had to pretend I would do as he suggested. And then “Where do you live?” he asked. In Brooklyn, around Crown Heights. “Really?? I have not seen a single white person in that area, I’ve lived there for 27 years. And below Atlantic avenue there were only black people. But now they are coming, they are everywhere”. Where are you from, I asked. “Senegal. I was in Senegal before moving to Brooklyn”.
I left with no job, few thoughts, and a hat. Well, almost a sombrero.
[quite terrible I agree]
So this is a bit of Brooklyn:
[A weird courtyard around the block]
[Even more weird]
So, back to my first day of school… Monday morning, 11 August 2014
Leaving the Tube… the Metro… the SUBWAY station at Grand Central Station I was overwhelmed by the tall buildings.
[My head was spinning!]
And it is not the first time I visit NY! But everytime it is the same. So, I make my way towards 1st avenue – oh no, going the wrong way. And this morning it is the second time: I first entered the station in the wrong direction that resulted in me having to get out, wait 17 minutes before I could swipe in again and finally making my way towards Fulton st, change and bang – at Grand Central.
So, great excitement for having my pass – accreditation, please! – then a quick tour in the building and finally into our office – very basic and small. I was surprised that everywhere is very quiet in the building not many people around – it is August, that’s true – there are many empty spaces and lounges where you can hang out, corridors are large, escalators are narrow. The view is astonishing from the river side – I can only imagine how it looks like at the higher floors. My imagination will not live long, I bet I will go and have a look soon.
I found out that the General Assembly will be on during the second half of September, and I will be here! Unfortunately, I wll leave on the 30th and the GA ends much later. But we’ll see. Oh, yes, acronyms welcome back. It’s been since the beloved Olympics that I haven’t used so many – but I foresee them coming back to haunt me.
What else – the noon briefing with the spokesperson of the secretary general? Not bad at all. If only the news he delivered were a bit better… I reckon this is it- good news is no news…. Followed by the brief from the OCHA spokesperson calling in from Irbil, Iraq, and explaining the dire situation the refugees are facing.
Dulcis in fundo, Thalif: I finally met the man behind the emails 🙂 friendly and supportive now, we’ll see how he is as my editor-in-chief!!
Although the “working” day ended early and easy, my New York experience wasn’t done at all. The new route I wanted to try – all the way to Brooklyn on one single train, on the 5 express line – turned out to be too boring, and too quick. I will leave the experiment to tomorrow morning when I will have to be efficient. Tonight, I wanted to indulge in a walk-along-get-lost-take-your-time experience. Now THIS was the know-your-neighborhood trip. As Gianandrea teaches: walk, and in case, take the bus. Shame on the Subway. So I jumped on a bus aiming at going all the way down Manhattan, then Brooklyn bridge and home all over the ground. I almost got it. Indeed I did it over ground (and quite above it) but on another bridge. I can’t recall all the buses I got, But I went down to something like 10th along 3rd av, then I got of and started walking in that very nice area that is, I think, lower east. Nice places and a very good ice cream place- Gelato amore mio, maybe?? Walk and Walk and I got to the next Bus stop that I obviously missed. I kept missing buses till I got in sight of the Williamsburg bridge. Let’s cross it. The first leg was really quite uphill – I realised it looking at panting cyclists pedalling slowly while their counterparts downhill speeded down, their hair in the wind. Tidily split in the pedestrian lanes and the cyclist ones, most of the people either had earplugs in their ears or were running – with earplugs.
We were in between and above the car lanes, and the subway – that here was indeed above-way. The riders and joggers, indeed seemed skyrunners to me. While cars, for once, ran below us, we were still entrenched in a whole net of beams and iron nets.
Through a protective grid all way around, you could see Manhattan fading down and Brooklyn (Williamsburg!) rising up. In between, endless blocks of what seem to be council houses, if you can call them this way. Impressive tall blocks that would reach the bridge height, where thousands of families would be living. Or possibly, newly converted lofts, in the best gentrification process – but I bet, not yet.
I was fascinated by the harbour area, with cranes and ferries, the power plants and the skyline as a backdrop. And yes, the Brooklyn bridge, now on my right.
Once on the other side of the Bridge I was curious to see what Williamsburg was about. The gentrified neighborhood, that locals (real locas, people brought up in Brooklyn) now hate.
[In the same series: in the case of an emergency: if Fire and the Police don’t answer, your best bets are either the priest or the young girl who knows everything, knows everything…]
The place has lost its soul, every single person living in Williamsburg comes from outside, and abroad -Ohio, Connecticut.. nobody was raised there. And there are lots of hipsters – I was told by a local, a young guy who lives in Coney Island.
So I jumped on another bus that passed through the harbour, the Whyte street – where every single man walking on the street had curly peyos around their face, a beard and a hat.
I finally stepped out of the bus, passed by the house with the cat looking for the furring animal to cuddle but had no luck. Not true, I had some luck as I found two boxes of books – quite oddly assorted – laying on the street: help yourselves. Beside lots of philosophy and economics books in German, I picked a NoLogo – that I haven’t managed to read yet – and a very American sounding Fame&Fortune: How susccessful companies build winning reputations, where I seek to find some tips to uncover PR and spindoctors strategies. Good luck!
And good night!
Tomorrow is another day… (and I am still fighting with insects – mosquitos, not sure what is bugging me (literally!) from the very moment I step into the flat door). At least I won the headache!!! Was it just the morning coffee??