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Moving

After a lot of searching we found a lovely, though very large, apartment 40minutes outside Dubai in a place called Ras Al Khaimah (RAK). We’ve only been here once and it’s more of a village than a city, much more traditional. The place is smaller, the prices are lower and the culture is stronger.

It was sad to leave Dubai in a way, but I guess that’s good. How horrid would it be to leave a place after living there for four years and not feel sad? I packed for Denmark, while I was still able to locate all my clothes, put most of my cupboards contents into 2 suitcases and left the rest for the movers.

The day of the move was as my one Indian friend put it “tedious”, but by 8pm on 26 December we were in the new apartment, almost forgetting about holidays and Christmas and all of it. 27 December I was up by 5am and unpacking like craze, 8 hours later I had a room well, something resembling a room and the bathroom boxes had been located. Score!

I had been pleasantly surprised the previous evening when one of the movers called me to the front door, the neighbors had come to say hi and introduce themselves. This was a very different building culture than the one we had lived in in Dubai, there I knew of the neighbors, but we never truly spoke…

Packing up in South Africa had been a mission, going through the accumulated things of 20years in a large house had taken so much time. Our Dubai home had been rather small, in a cozy way, there just wasn’t space (or time) to hoard up that much stuff. I threw out some obsolete things, but most of my belongings came with me.

Yesterday was New Year’s Eve. The strange things was that the whole country around me was still working and shopping and moving on, even on Christmas day everything kept going. I’m living in a Muslim country… Anyway, we bought a stove and I was waiting for it to be delivered, so when I opened the door to find a man with a strong Scottish accent standing there I was rather surprised. He was inviting me and Mum to an open house to celebrate the New Year. He was our downstairs neighbor (p.s. the stove has not arrived yet).

We arrived at their apartment and the door was opened by the same man, now wearing a kilt, accompanied by his wife wearing a tinsel Alice band saying Happy New Year on it. Later all the guests were given some of these. It was a nice evening.

Our Dubai apartment had provided the laundry machine, the dishwasher and the stove. These at least the laundry machine and the stove were priorities in the new apartment. I had prepared food, bought some microwavable boxes and packed to frozen take-aways to take us through the first week, which turned out to be a brilliant idea. I forgot how tired moving makes me.

Yesterday for lunch we finished the last of this food and the kitchen was now ready to be used, I made a lovely roast chicken for dinner. The kitchen’s windows, along with all the other windows, looks out over the sea. You can hear the waves crashing down on the sand if you open the windows.

I had unpacked the kitchen almost by accident. I had heard this thing that you should unpack at least one box every day. So by moving an old study desk into the kitchen to create some more space I had thought I’d just see how much of one the box’s contents I could pack into the seemingly small kitchen. To my total surprise I suddenly found a place for everything, all the boxes were unpacked within a few hours. I felt like Billy Crystal in City Slickers, “look what I made! I made a [kitchen]!” I baked some muffins and this gave me a really good feeling of where everything was.

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change

Moving. We are moving to a new apartment 40min from Dubai in a “village” called Ras al Khaimah. I’m all packed and ready to go, but the move got delayed. Feels rather strange living out of a suitcase in my own room. I demolished my shower yesterday and I have no idea where my pens are. Busy working on an assignment in communication studies, hoping the fact that my “group members” are fictional is not that obvious!

Moving to a new city reminded me of when I moved to Dubai, I was so determined to go back to South Africa right after Dubai I didn’t give any thought to the idea that living leads to change. Now I don’t really want to go back, but I also don’t want to rule it out. I guess we should never make harsh statements. Moving to Dubai changed my perspective and what once seemed logical now seems like one of many possibilities.

I’m visiting Denmark in January and it’s getting really exciting. I’ve packed for Denmark while I was able to locate all my clothes, so that’s ready at least. Meeting up with one of my oldest and closest friends in Copenhagen, like we always said we would when we were kids. Old dreams turning into realities.

Exhausted. Working the entire weekend. Skipping Christmas till I have time for it.

Life-changing London

Taking the Piccadilly line from Heathrow to Gloucester road I found my way without trouble. I stashed my bag in the luggage room and then went on to explore the city. Kensington Gardens were nearby so I went there. It was Halloween and the city had a strange feeling, as it does every year. I had never seen Kensington when it wasn’t raining or wet or grey cloudy skies. Today the sky was blue and there were people sitting on the grass as they had done in the summer in Central Park, New York.

Back at the hostel I was just organizing my stuff while the eastern lady skyped when a young man entered. He had a strong accent which I couldn’t place. By 7pm that evening the 3 of us turned off the lights and just collapsed. I was unaware of the rest of the occupants entering, but I woke to find a European girl in the bed above mine and two teen agers in the beds at my feet. I had slept for 11 hours straight.

I left early to go and see the Peter Pan statue in the early morning light. The park was beautiful, soft and fair. In front of Peter there is a small river, the ducks were sitting on the wooden poles trying to warm up by the feeble light of the sun.

By 10am I was in front of the Harry Potter theatre. I stumbled upon it accidentally and then rather to my own surprise was able to purchase tickets to the Cursed Child’s play for the following day. I also went to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant across from St. Paul’s. The food was delicious, but overpriced. The pricing seems schematic though, the place was filled with business reps and CEO’s, and it was stylish and edgy. I also visited Borough Market. A favorite for food lovers, where I purchased cheese for a Jamie recipe and some pies for dinner. At the cheese sellers the gentleman offered me two kinds of parmesan to taste and I took the one with the stronger taste. There was an entire stall selling only olive oil. I never imagined that so many kinds of olive oils existed.

That evening I hung out in the room and got acquainted with Raul, the young man from the previous night. He was apparently Spanish, I’d never met anybody from Spain, but I liked the music he played and he was surprised at my superpower of listening to music in a foreign language and knowing almost instantly what the song spoke about. Sometimes I wonder why God gave me this gift.

The second morning my jetlag had me up nice and early. I went down put on the laundry got back in bed, an hour later I got up again and moved the clothes to the dryer. My right arm was really cold. The lady sleeping above me had opened the window and I had fallen asleep under the draft. The fresh air was really necessary though, in a room with 6 people.

While the clothes were drying I went for breakfast and Skyped with Mum. Today was the Harry Potter day. I would see Part 1 at 14:00 and part 2 at 19:30. In between there was a little gap, I spent quite some time calculating the amount of time I would have, trying to work out if there would be time to go back to the hostel and have dinner. Perhaps I should just hang out near the theater and have dinner there? My mind spun aimlessly. The show began and I focused. It ended with the dementors swooping over the entire audience and had me leaving the theatre feeling elated, but rather ominous. I took the tube to the hostel, I had time to shower and nap before going to get dinner. Raul had been in the room and he joined me for dinner.

I still can’t believe I got to see that play on stage. I had thought it would close down before I got to London and then when I realized it was still on I checked the ticket prices online and read about one person who had spent $10,000 on a ticket. This just made it seem like I wouldn’t be able to see it, then I accidentally found the theatre and almost instantly purchased ticket for 40 pounds in total!

Now I can’t remember everything chronologically, so this is more like tit-bits or things that happened.

I had to move to a new hostel for one night. I can say that in comparison to the first this one was not that nice. The mattress was rather lumpy and in a room with 12 beds there was only one shower.

It felt a little like a movie walking over the Westminster Bridge with St. Paul’s to the left and Big Ben right in front of me accompanied by the Spanish guy. Completely blank on what I did today. Think I went to Piccadilly yeah, wait no, first Leicester square, but the cheap Les Miserable tickets were sold out. Yeah, then Piccadilly and then I’m blank.

I have read Sherlock Holmes now and I love the series with Cumberbatch. Actually knowing the story made me want to visit 221B Baker Street and see the museum there. I rather enjoyed it here. But I don’t think I’ll ever want to visit a wax museum. They have a collection on the third floor of the apartment, famous scenes from the books. It’s a tad creepy having something look so alive without being alive.

That afternoon I was frozen. It was raining in London and icy cold. I didn’t have a room yet, check in time was later. I ended up going to the movies. I went to see A Street Cat Named Bob even though I had never heard of it. I loved it, the whole movie was sweet, but gripping, nothing silly or pink about it. A strong story.

The following morning I walked down the South Bank. There was a skate park with great street art. Some guy was playing Amazing Grace on bagpipes. A little distance away someone was playing Hallelujah on a violin. It was really pretty just walking there.

One day in the tube station I found a man with a Yamaha keyboard singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” a favorite of mine. As his voice echoes in the long hallway I vividly remembered the last time I had heard the song. A small clearing in a group of green trees in New York City came to my mind. Strawberry Fields in Central Park where Beatles music is played almost continually.

Here’s where I met Mo. I walked to the train and met an Algerian guy who offered to take me to Kingston, he showed me a picture I thought it looked cool and so somehow I ended up on a train with him. It was gorgeous. My South African mind kept an eye out, there were people around the whole time, he never touched my drink, I opened my own drink, and we weren’t going into a quiet place. The other part of my mind was fascinated by the beauty of the place. After a late lunch of spicy chicken I took the train back. I rather enjoyed this afternoon, but I still can’t see why it happened. We spoke of nothing of great importance, we didn’t do anything big, except that I saw something beautiful.

On my way home I really wanted to use the restroom. I had no cash, I do have a credit card, I mean no cash and to use the restroom you have to pay 20pennies… As I walked by the change machine 20p suddenly fell out of the slot and nobody was there to claim it, so I got it…

Columbia Road Flower Market is one of my favorite spots in London. It only opens on Sundays, stalls appear and people bring and buy flowers, and bulbs and plans. Loud voices fill the air and Cockney accents call out as the vendors advertise their products. Me and Mum came early and enjoyed the atmosphere.

I had read about another market, Brick Lane Market. After the flower market I thought I would go there, trouble was I had no idea where it was. At the bus stop I had a strong feeling I might be very near it, so I started asking around. Yes, say an Asian girl, it’s only 10min from here. I greeted mum and went to the market.

It was fascinating. I found a vintage stall selling real 1918 cups and saucers, there was vintage clothes and fake art and jewelry. Leather jackets and silver along with junk. All these stalls filled up this little old street. I liked walking up this street, buying a little silver ring and then I walked down an alley into a small parking lot and found street art more beautiful then I’d seen before. Faces were painted on garage doors. The size helped to show the beauty.

Different artists had worked together in this small space, you could see them answering each other’s work. The artists had enormous talent, but their work wasn’t paid or seen, it was hidden away in a place where the homeless sleep at night. I asked directions to the tube station or bus stop, any way to get home. This was when somebody told me that Jack the Ripper had lived in Brick Lane!

I met Mum at Trafalgar Square and we went to have lunch at a pub type place before going back to the hotel. I had some kind of salad and still wanted to review the place, but of course, the next day I couldn’t remember the name.

Oh, sometime in the past few days I went to see The Lion King on stage. Our hotel was 5min from the theater and it seemed silly to watch it another night, when I was so close now. I liked the addition of “He Lives in You” which was in the second movie, but I liked hearing it on stage.

Raul had never been to the theater, I loved going to Les Miserable. I invited him and so today I set out to buy the cheap seats before they sold out. These tickets can only be bought on the day and there’s a limited amount of cheap seats so it’s good to get there when they unlock the doors. These aren’t bad seats either, they’re just higher up, but still have a good view of the stage.

One afternoon on my way home I got off the tube and was trying to transfer to another train to get home. A station official was telling everybody to get out. The train wasn’t working, as I left the station a police officer came running in. I started jogging feeling unsure, suddenly I heard a helicopter approaching the station and 2 police vans passed me. A bomb? A terrorist? A gunman? Theories chased themselves through my mind and I tried to get my way home.

Later on mum told me that it had been somebody who was injured. The helicopter had been an ambulance and the train service was stopped until they had rescued the person. No attackers, but an injured human. How horrid it is to live in a world where bombs are the first thing to come to mind.

A mentally disabled man told me which bus to take and I found my way home very easily. When I got off the bus I went into a tiny, very quiet pub. There was only one other occupied table, a young man with orange hair and his boyfriend who had bleached blond hair and great make-up, were having lunch with an elderly gentleman who was wearing a button-up shirt. The elderly gentleman was the father of the orange-headed young man. I found it really beautiful that all three of them wanted to have lunch together.

On one of my days in London I met Mum at Harrods for tea and scones with clotted cream. Quite an interesting store. The British version of what Macy’s use to be in New York. The scones with cream were really good and I understood why it was a famous British thing to have this with tea.

I really wanted to go to a viewpoint I had heard about, I told Raul and he said he knew the way. I met him in Camden and we walked up to Primrose hill, the entire London stretched out in front of me. St. Paul’s, the London Eye, you could see everything from that hill. It was beautiful.

I had managed to get a ticket to Ian McKellen’s version of No Man’s Land. If you had told me back in South Africa that I would be seeing the actor who played Gandalf on stage so close to me I could probably have touched him if I tried, I would have said its craze. The play itself was strange, it’s an absurdist piece, but I felt I could understand parts of it.

I read about Brixton market, and so I set off to find it one mid-morning. Found the best spicy chicken there. It’s influenced strongly by Afro-Caribbean culture. It’s got a great food selection, fresh fish and veggies. I passed butcher stands with heaps of tongues and calves feet. You could buy almost part of an animal there. Chickens hung from hooks still with their paws and heads. You could buy small buckets of chilies.

Me and Mum went to see a stage play and then got on the train home with a group of really drunk Scottish high school boys. I had spotted many Scottish men in the streets today wearing kilts. I went to ask one of the boys why there were so many Scottish people in London today. It’s because of the football he told me. Right, sport, ok. One of them was holding a glass of bear on the tube. How he had walked away from the pub and onto the train while holding a glass I have no idea.

A man who seemed to be the father of at least one of the boys was treating the compartment like a pub, talking to everybody. By the time they had to get off the train he greeted everybody. I enjoyed them, drunk and silly, but happy.

Mum took me for a walk down Fleet Street. There was a store called the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I remembered the cover of the Johnny Depp movie. Never had I thought that it was a real street, but I ahd also never watched the film. We passed many fascinating building and went into the Royal Courts of Justice for a moment. Mum also took me to see the Knights Temple Church. Incredible that it exists and is still standing.

On my last day the weather was beautiful and dry. I met Raul and we bought some food from Tesco and went to have a picnic in Kensington Gardens. The next morning I was on a plane to Dubai. While I was in London my life in Dubai seemed surreal, and when I got back home London felt like a dream.

 

Social media

A while back I saw a picture on Facebook of a really lovely home with the caption “would you give up social media if you could live here?” I scrutinized the house. It was a lovely family place, the kind of home which deserves people enjoying it. I’m not addicted to social media, but giving up social media would be almost impossible unless I wanted to give up many of my friends.

My people are scattered across the globe. My people, not family or friends, but the collection of humans I care about don’t fit into that lovely family home, they are scattered. They exist in different cultures and languages, crossing time zones and oceans.

Most of my family is in South Africa, my American friends just relocated from Dubai to Mississippi. I have people in New York and India, some of my favorite people live in Denmark and the Philippines. The beautiful home in the picture on Facebook was meant for those who have most of their people near them. Must say I do love having such a diverse group of people in my life.

Shopping in New York

Written in the third person.

 

It was their second evening in New York. The Indian man and the little boy scrutinized her basket. “You must be a tourist” he commented and she asked what gave her away. He told her that nobody else would be buying shampoo and flour from the small store. She watched him, unblinking. He seemed new here, like he didn’t belong, just like her, but also that he didn’t belong in the of tourist or traveler. If he stayed in New York he would learn that this was normal.

She didn’t belong in New York either, but 3 years of regular travel had left a mark. The skills to blend into a new place were there. This helped especially when trying to ward off pushy sales people. If your attitude could convince them you belonged there they wouldn’t bug you that much.

New York consists of many individual shops. You couldn’t buy everything you wanted from one place. The liquor store sold liquor. The cheese shop had cheese. The newsstand sold papers and cigarettes. There were many of these places, they were scattered across the city. The wine products available at convenience stores were not wine, merely a sweet drink containing some wine as an ingredient.

It felt like a little bit of a time waste, having to walk from one place to another. Yet this was New York, this was part of what made this great city so wonderful. Every store had a different vibe. The convenience store on the corner of 8/ 48 was acceptable, but the guy behind the counter communicated with grunts the entire month she shopped there. In contrast the store next door was so different.

Against the counter a gangly teenager stood, he had the cockiness of Joey Tribiani seeming confident enough to try his luck with this college student even though he was 16 years old. A few African American men sat discussing Melanie Trump’s disastrous speech. The atmosphere was relaxed, like they were regulars. After discussing the speech they started listing elegant first ladies. The verdict was Eleanor Roosevelt.

So it was with the other stores as well. The diners too, you could move from one to the other not actually changing the quality of your purchases, but the hedonic value definitely.

Pictures aren’t the only proof

I don’t take pictures of everything, I don’t have an Instagram account and I don’t write about every kind and charitable thing I do. This lack of evidence, however, does not mean it doesn’t happen. If I start taking more pictures, it’s for memories, because I want to remember life, not to prove that I’m living life.

I cook, I live, I donate. Some of the homeless in New York were surprised at my natural kindness, which astonished me. I was just being who I am, but apparently I’m very different from most people if people remark upon it.

I have shared my pizza, sat down on the sidewalk, bought tickets, smiled at strangers, payed for food. Cooked for 2years and lived a pretty ordinary life, or well, a life which I call ordinary. Don’t judge what you cannot see, just because there isn’t proof doesn’t mean you won’t find evidence when you talk to those who have crossed my path. Don’t feel the need to prove every small act. Do it for yourself, for the person in the queue next to you, not for the picture, for Instagram or for Facebook. If you document something, do it for the memory.

Finger vs. food processor

On September 1 I decided to bake a cake. The ingredients included chopped nuts. I used a food processor to chop the nuts and somehow also managed to chop right through my left index finger, slicing the nail into 3 parts, exposing the bone and, apparently, crushing the tip of the bone.

The blood started gushing out, and I immediately put my finger into my mouth. After a full minute I thought I should probably look at it. Where seconds before there had been a functioning body part there was now a mangled mess of flesh.

Mum was out shopping, so I grabbed my headset, my handbag and as an after-thought a cloth. There was no way that I could put pressure on the wound, but I was thankful that I had taken it later when I realized the cloth was drenched with blood.

I called mum and got a taxi to the hospital. I wasn’t in pain, I was in shock. The nurse took some pictures of my finger with his smartphone and sent them to the plastic surgeon, before sending me for an X-ray. The pieces of my nail was just sitting there, connected to nothing, but not removed either.

The surgeon came to see me and mum and explain what would happen next. He said that I should sleep in the hospital that night. The worst pain came from the disinfectant, I had to put my finger into this brown liquid for 15min, brown liquid with burned and hurt more than the actual injury.

The finger was bandaged and wrapped up all nicely to await the next day’s surgery. I had an uncomfortable night. Odd phrases kept coming back to me “finger reconstruction” “skin graft” “bone exposure” “physiotherapy” “crushed finger”. I fell into an uneasy sleep with strange dreams about shadows. The glass panel next to the door let in all the light from the hallway and the sleeping mask did not help.

The next morning I called the nurse and she wrapped my hand in plastic so I could shower. My room was a single room with a private shower. Very Dubai, more space and luxury than is actually needed.

I was wheeled into surgery and only remember waking up with a rather sore throat, due to the intubation. It gave my voice an excellent quality, I could sound like Fenrir Greyback from Harry Potter.

Checking out took longer than I ever thought. It was more than 3 hours after the surgeon had seen me and told me I was cleared to go home that I was finally able to leave. I had some hospital food, it was actually quite good, or I was just so hungry that I thought it was good…

I left with my arm in a sling and both my index and middle fingers wrapped in tight bandages. I don’t know why both fingers were wrapped together, I guess it was to keep the injured finger company. I also had a really large plaster on my thigh. This covered the area where they had cut some skin to reconstruct my finger.

The following Wednesday (7 Sept.) I went back to the hospital. The bandages were removed and my middle finger would no longer be wrapped up. New, loose bandages were placed over the wounded finger. The skin graft looked like a piece of chicken skin to me, but the doctor seemed pleased.

Another week later (14 Sept.) the metal wires which had insured my finger bones healed correctly, where removed and I was sent to physiotherapy. The finger wasn’t swollen, but it looked swollen due to the local anesthetic that the doctor had injected before pulling out the metal. The physio gave me “exercises”, yes, finger bending exercises. I couldn’t make a fist, I couldn’t bend the top joint of the finger, no matter how hard I tried. A few days later (17 Sept.) I could finally bend the finger a little further.

Without my finger, I could not cook or clean or vacuum or make my own bed. I could not cut my food, pour my water or do anything which I was so use to doing automatically. It felt weird asking for help for perfectly ordinary things, like making coffee.

Yesterday, some of the scabs and dead skin came off, revealing beautiful new pink skin under it. Still waiting for a new nail to start growing. The nail bed was totally destroyed by the food processor, so I really hope and pray that a new nail will grow again.

My finger will heal again, but this just gave me a fleeting glimpse of what it might be like when you injure yourself in a car crash or get an amputation. It’s weird, you know you’re hurt, but you still feel like living life as if you aren’t.

 

Cooking tit-bits

I use to be exceptionally squeamish about food. Even that little bit of meat juices use to bug me when I ate steak. My insistence on cooking every single thing in at least one Jamie Oliver book has over come this. I have a recipe coming up which requires a “jointed rabbit” and I just watched a how to video very calmly, I didn’t even flinch when the guy decapitated the carcass. I’ve also touched a dead fish’s eye and ripped the meat off a duck’s carcass. This book has removed my squeamish streak.

Cooking this way has also lead to having a really well equiped kitchen. My beautiful and really cute pasta maker arrived today. I bought everything I needed for every recipe and our kitchen is now a lovely place filed with almost everything you could ever need while cooking Western food.

 

My month in New York

After a 24hour flight, lay-over and delays we arrived in New York. First day was a jetlagged blur. I tried a few different things, but ended up having breakfast and lunch at the same place, close to home. I also over estimated myself and walked far too much, because I knew how to walk, but not how the subway works. New York is built in a grid with numbered streets, so it’s easy to figure out where to walk, but working out the subway took a few days. Got a great tan from all the walking though. Looks brilliant.

 

  1. Union square market

The second day was better, much better. I didn’t get lost once, but that might only have been by accident. I started the morning by going to the Union Square Green Market. I had only 3 things on my list for Jamie Oliver’s recipe of cubed roasted potatoes. I needed garlic, rosemary and, of course, potatoes, special potatoes. Jamie had written “waxy potatoes” and I had no idea what this would be.

I passed flower stalls and cheese filled tables. Stands with bread stacked high and rows of huge cookies. Vegetable stands and a fish counter. Carrots in every color along with rainbow rhubarb, seriously, rhubarb in all the pride colors.

I lifted a small bunch of very fresh rosemary out of some water and paid for it. The garlic still had its “top” on. Like the leafy part, when I bought it the guy removed that. Looks different than the ones at the store.

I walked all around the market looking for “waxy potatoes”. Finally sitting down and reading that waxy potatoes are also known as “new potatoes” among other names. Now, almost every vegetable seller had new potatoes. I just hadn’t known what I was looking for!

 

  1. Central park

I’m certain today’s visit will just be the first of many. I actually intend to spend much time there. It’s only one stop from our apartment, so it’s easy to get there.

I found an African American guy singing under a bridge. The arch made the acoustic fantastic, so even without a mic his voice carried. He has real talent and a strong voice, along with an audience of one. I sat down, cross legged, and rested my very tired body. After two or three more songs he asked my name and sang me a song. He’s really good at freestyle, he made up the most beautiful song. The lyrics included “Maria… beautiful… star… welcome to new York, welcome to New York… Maria…” He and his Yamaha keyboard stand there making wonderful music for passersby. Nobody else seemed to truly listen.

I didn’t record him or take a bunch of pictures in the park. I saw a squirrel in the park, about 5 or 6 other people saw him as well, nibbling a tiny piece of food. I was the only person who didn’t take a picture. I actually looked at the squirrel and after all the cameras had clicked and their owners had left, I still watched the squirrel. I’d like to add that I don’t mind pictures, but we miss reality.

A girl in “an itsy-bitsy, teeny tiny, yellow polka-dot bikini” sat on the grass rubbing sunscreen all over her body and sunbathing in the middle of the park.

 

  1. Christopher Park: 

Currently sitting here next to George Segal’s life-size sculptures of a lesbian couple. It’s really tiny. The statues are beautiful and seems to portray two people just being together. If I hadn’t known it was meant to represent a lesbian couple I’d have thought it was just friends. I like how he portrays the LGBT community. The streets in this neighborhood are really pretty. The first pretty streets I’ve found so far. The other streets are interesting, but these are cute as well.

 

  1. Friends building Located on the corner of grove and Bedford St. Is the building used in the FRIENDS series. I came here not only because I loved the show but also due to the location. It’s very central and easy to find. In the 5 min I’ve been sitting here at least 6 others have taken their picture in front of the building and walked away without truly looking. I watched as a group of tourists came by with a guide. They seemed to be on a movie walking tour.

 

5.      West Village Stroll. I had thought that west village and Greenwich were two different places.  It seems to be the same place with two names. It’s quite pretty though, with lots of trees which create a rather relaxing environment. NYU is closed, because it’s summer, maybe if there where more people it would feel different.

6.      Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Waiting in Brooklyn Bridge Park for this pizza place to open, apparently there are two. Grimaldi’s is the touristy one and then right next door is a better pizza place. I waited in the park and shared my Atkins bar with a squirrel who then persistently returned to see if I had any more food. The pizza place is so busy that after placing my order for their smallest and cheapest pizza (which turned out to be quite large!) I had to wait outside. Within 10min of opening the place was packed with people queueing outside and waiting for their turn to have some pizza. I ordered mine as take-out and then carried it back to the park where I shared my very large pizza with a homeless guy and continued reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

  1. Brooklyn Bridge Bridge/Tunnel: “A drive-through cathedral” is how the journalist James Wolcott described the Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York’s noblest and most recognized. And I just saw the statue of Liberty for the first time in my life. The bridge is much bigger than I expected or, well, I did expect it big it just took me longer to walk over than I thought. Tip: go with cash there are a couple of artists selling pretty sketches for $10. Got some good sun exposure, so I’m not Dubai white anymore. Interesting experience.

 

  1. Staten Island Ferry Every day, some 70,000 people ride the free ferry to Staten Island, one of the city’s outer boroughs. We were on the ferry early this morning. It was nice seeing the statue up close and on the return journey you have a great view of the Manhattan skyline. We spent no time on the island but just took the next ferry back. The statue was not as big as I’d expected. Ellis Island seems to be a tiny spot of land. From the ferry I saw lines of tourists standing waiting to go up the statue.

 

  1. The cloisters

We came here rather early. There are two ways to walk from the station, firstly you can walk along the road or secondly you can walk through the park. The park gives you flashes of the Hudson River and its lovely and green and quiet. Quiet, I’ve discovered a new trick: There’s so much noise pollution that I’ve started wearing earplugs. New Yorkers talk really loudly, louder than necessary. Everything is loud, so I’m wearing earplugs! Anyway, the cloisters were pretty and really relaxing. The kind of sightseeing you can do while on vacation. It’s beautiful there.

 

  1. Bryant Park: I came here partly for the park, but also for the New York Public Library. In this library is the original Winnie the Pooh teddy bear. I hung out in the park for a while, until some dancers decided to start their very loud music and disrupt the rather peaceful environment.

At some point a “Christian” man walked passed me preaching something while walking. What he said seemed to hold no connection to my perception of Jesus and he was the one people would hear, not me… Later on another man came and sat down and just started rambling to me, he said some nice things, but I scurried away, not sure if I should talk to him.

Saw the Empire State Building from far away as I passed the library, which, seeing as it was Sunday morning, was closed. Came home for a decent nap. Some people had managed to nap in the park on the grass, but I just couldn’t see how, maybe I’ll acquire it.

 

  1. The Met – I spent about 10minutes here, looking at the sculptures and the Greek pottery. It’s really beautiful and I was amazed at the style of the art, because other art I’d seen from that period in Rome was much more stick like. These figures had movement. I didn’t stay long, since it’s so big and I had no idea what else I wanted to see.

 

  1. Grand Central terminal

The amount of detail on the ceiling was interesting. It’s so high that you can scarcely make it out, but still somebody cared enough to make sure it’s beautiful. The roof was much higher than I had remembered.

 

  1. Jane Carousel – I don’t really know architecture or carousels very well. So this work of art was entirely lost on me. I was walking through Brooklyn Bridge Park and just saw the sign pointing to it and I’d read all about how special it was so I wanted to see it, but I didn’t get it.

As mentioned I am still cooking Jamie Oliver’s book. For a duck pasta recipe he requests half a bottle of Barbera winewhich I couldn’t find in Dubai, not even a substitute. So, on my way home from the Jane carousel I walked into a liquor store, just to check. There is was, one bottle left on the shelf. I bought it instantly and carried it from Brooklyn to Manhattan and then packed it in to Dubai – now I can finally make the Duck pasta as intended. I love shopping for this book. It opens up the world in a new way.

 

  1. Appellate Division Courthouse next to Madison Square Park: I think I saw it, but I’m not sure. Apparently there are two figures on either side of the door representing wisdom and force and I did not see them, so I’m still not sure. I tried to find it though, but then I passed the subway and well Union Square Market was open so I just went to buy some vegetables.

 

  1. Top of the Rock – Great view. It gave me a good idea of where I was in the city. You see the whole of Central Park and then the statue of Liberty on the other side. I wasn’t sure from such a distance which bridge was Brooklyn Bridge, New York has more water than I ever thought, so there are many bridges to see from the top. I like going up towers, and seeing the city in a new perspective. There are two tickets which I liked, one lets you go up only once and the other one is “twice in one day” so you could go back at sunset or late at night and see the city in a completely different way.

 

  1. The Highline – This was much smaller and narrower than I’d thought. It’s an old unused train line which has been turned into a park and then leads to a lovely indoor market. We passed a yoga class, and some joggers everybody trying to get into the little bit of green that there was. The walk was short, but nice and then we went down to the Chelsea Market.

 

  1. Chelsea Market – It didn’t look like I had expected a market to look, it was more an indoor shopping center selling food, but it was great once I got used to it. I bought all the vegetables to make Jamie’s Red Mullet recipe. There was large bunches of basil with such large leaves and many different kinds of chilies and yellow tomatoes and an entire wall filled with different kinds of coffee beans. After this I visited the fish store, which now said it didn’t have red mullet. The manager came out and asked whether I wanted something in the same size or flavor as red mullet and I said flavor, he recommended bluefish and it was delicious.

 

  1. Bergdorf Goodman – This is a department store, with Macy’s changed and Barney’s franchised, this store is now the high end department store to go to apparently. I thought I’d have a look, I prefer souvenirs in the form of home ware and clothes, not the stuff they sell at the tourist stores. After about 10minutes in the store it became clear that I didn’t belong there and that stuff wouldn’t suit me. There was little heart-shaped necklace in the kids section I thought would be nice, but it was $6000 and made of real diamonds and white gold. This made me leave rather quickly.

 

  1. Arthur Avenue – Also known as the true little Italy of New York. Beautiful, but tiny. I was standing outside a café trying to google if they were any good and I looked across the street. My eyes fell on a café with 4 Italian looking men chatting outside and smoking, instantly I knew the place would be good and I wasn’t wrong. I ate the most delicious cannelloni there along with a perfect espresso. A man with an authentic Italian name came to chat with me and asked me if I had ever asked my smartphone a question it couldn’t answer, when I said yes he told me that meant that I was smart. I liked that, because a while back in a lecture the teacher asked “when was the last time your phone couldn’t answer you?” and I thought “5min ago” but the teacher was trying to prove how great technology was. Anyway, the cannelloni, the espresso, cigars, chatting, wonderful. PS. I’ve been searching for Amaretti cookies for almost 8 months for a Jamie Oliver recipe – I found them! Beautiful streets, more run down and dirty and plain than Manhattan but really nice. Don’t come if you don’t have anything else you want to do in the Bronx. Took me an hour to get here from Manhattan. With walking and the express train.

PS. After 2weeks back in Dubai I found the same Amaretti cookies on a shelf here. Standing there all innocently as if they hadn’t been eluding me for so long. But I don’t regret visiting little Italy and am happy to know that I have the best version of the cookies. Thus far Dubai’s baking has rather disappointed me.

 

  1. Most days include Central park and watching the sunset from our balcony. Last night the sunset was a lovely yellow. It had rained in the afternoon and by sunset the rain had cleared up and the sun was shining through all the clouds. I love going to the park in the day, it’s just green grass, trees, blue sky and white clouds – everything Dubai doesn’t have. Yes, Dubai has parks, but it’s different… I come to the park and I don’t want to listen to music or read a book, I don’t want to be transported, I’m in love with where I am and I don’t want some story to interfere with that. I have tried to read, but I don’t get further than two pages. All I truly want to do is just be there. I want to sit, watch the people, drink in the scenery and just be. It’s a perfect place, at least for me, for now. Sheep’s Meadow is my favorite spot. Many morning I also visit the church to pray.

 

I go to Central Park and I just sit, I think, I don’t think, I watch the people, I ignore them. I try to read, but the park is so wonderful, I don’t want to be transported to Hogwarts or Middle Earth. When I’m tired I lay down on the grass and have a quick nap. First I put my shoes down, then my bag on top of my shoes and then my head on my bag. This should stop people from stealing my stuff without me realizing. The patterns of the green leaves against the blue sky fade as my eyes close and after about 30minutes I sit back up and continue my relaxing time. It’s my favorite place in all of New York, based on very limited exposure.

 

  1. WalMart – As a tween I loved the Olsen Twins and I had read that they sell their clothes and make-up at Walmart, later the store was referenced in many movies, including The Sisterhood of the Traveling pants and also my Jeff Dunham. In my business books I’ve read about how effective Walmart is and how great their business plans are. After all the references I thought it might be an interesting thing to visit Walmart. I knew it would be a store, but I thought it would be interesting or special or something to make it so well known. I searched for the bus, waited at the wrong gate, then at the right gate. I tried to get on the bus, but didn’t have the right ticket. More than an hour after I left home I was at the right gate for the right bus with the right ticket. New Jersey has a very different vibe from New York. Walmart was just a store, like Game in South Africa or Carrefour in Dubai. Nothing to make me get why it was so well known. I walked around for a few hours, picked up some things I needed and then came back. The place I had wanted to see for so long was just a normal place, it wasn’t special in any way, it was just big.

 

  1. Food – I use to love pizza but can hardly stand it now. It’s so tasteless, even at places which are well-known and receive good reviews. Sadness… I cannot believe the things in the stores to eat. Things that people want to eat. It’s rather disguisting. I tried Twizlers, just like the Gilmore Girls, and they are terrible. I bought a pretzel and it was tasteless. I bought wine which turned out to be not wine, but a wine product, meaning it’s wine mixed with water and sugar and sometimes high fructose corn syrup! It’s terrible. All the sugar and carbs and processed foods and refined carbs. I had a hotdog and, being use to real food, I couldn’t believe people think it’s good. I bought a corndog. This I liked until I focused on what was in my mouth, the added sugar in the corn flour clashed dramatically with the salty sausage.

 

  1. Nails – I thought it might be interesting to get my nails done in New York. See something different, experience it the American way or something. Turned out to be exactly the same as in Dubai, a Nepalese lady painted my nails with Essie polish and there was nobody else in the salon. I thought maybe I’d get my nails done and idk have Monica and Rachel discuss Ross next to me or have Emily Gilmore enter the salon, but no, it was the same experience I’ve had in Dubai. At the very end a business man walked in and asked whether the salon did mani/ pedi walk-ins and then sat down to have his nails done. The Emirati men in Dubai are meticulously well taken care of, but there is a separate salon for men and women. This was the first time I shared a salon.

Cooking crab

I went to the fish market yesterday with mum  and bought 1kg of blue crabs. I went to wait for the crab to be cleaned and mum was still looking around. The fisherman told her “you wait, mamma” and ushered her to the bench where I was sitting.

Today I followed Jamie’s recipe on how to cook and pick crab. This took me 3 hours. I spent the first hour relaxing infront of the tv checking the water waiting for it to boil and then waiting for the crabs to cool down.

Then I sat down and started with my lobster cracker, crab pick and crab scissors. It took me  the better part of 3 horus to get all the meet out. I hurt myself a few times as I was trying to tear off the claws and legs, blue crabs have thorns like roses do.

It was fasinating though. I have only ever seen the canned crab meet in the store. Never bought it though. But the process of buying, cooking and shelling something was very different from buying a can of some shredded white meet.

In the end I tasted the fresh crab meet and the canned crab meet I had bought and there was no difference. I couldn’t believe this, so next time I will be using store bought crab meet and saving myself the crab picking, but I’ll never regret today and all that I learned.

Dinner was Jamie’s Old fashioned potted crab. I tried a few bites, eating it with nothing else. It’s good, but has a really strong flavour. Stronger than I expected. It tastes very fishy.

Working with crab has done one good thing though, I no longer fear working with lobster. I’ve worked with claws and eyes and weirdness and I was fine. I think sometimes we run from the unfamiliar and it’s not even that scary.