Our Big Apple correspondent Claire waves goodbye to the city that has stolen her heart for the past year as she begins her trip back home (lucky for us, we get her back!).
October 9th 2012. That was the day I landed at JFK Airport, ready to make New York my home, eager to discover the “je ne sais quoi” of the concrete jungle. Now, more than thirteen months later, the adventure is coming to a close.
Over the past couple of weeks, as I worked through my to-do lists, as I frantically tried to compress my life into a 23 kilo luggage allowance, I have become rather impressed with myself. What I have done is no small feat. Knowingly tooting my own horn, I remind myself that I moved to the other side of the world, away from family, away from friends, to live in New York City for a year. I survived a New York winter, a Christmas and birthday away from home. I experienced temporary homelessness and learned first hand some rather harsh budgeting lessons.
I admit I did have a number of coping mechanisms. My fortuitous choice of flat mate allowed me to briefly escape the bitter winter in exchange for ten days of Hawaiian sun. This was soon followed by a visit from my mum and Aunty, and later by a trip to Africa with my siblings. That’s all to say nothing of the retail therapy, the endless array of food options and multiple chances to see some of the biggest names in music (Jay Z, Coldplay, Beyonce, and A$AP Rocky to name a few). The (self-proclaimed) “greatest country in the world” certainly had its perks.
But it was more than these perks that occupied my final month in New York. Knowing you have a whole year somewhere gives the illusion of endless time to work through all of the must-sees and dos of the city. It took me all of thirteen months before I finally took myself across the Brooklyn Bridge. Despite fighting through crowds of tourists and sidestepping rushing angry cyclists, I can see what all the fuss is about. Standing between Manhattan and Brooklyn looking over the East River, down at Lady Liberty, it’s somehow serene as you inhale the impressive view of the two boroughs. All the while the constant rush of cars beneath your feet reminds you that the world ain’t stopping for no one.
It appeared too that “fall” was an ideal time to visit the 9/11-memorial site. With the autumn leaves and the morning sun falling on these impressive monuments this is certainly something that everyone should visit, tourists and otherwise. On the simpler side, I did also enjoy a final few luxury meals (including newly opened kiwi restaurant, The Musket Room), made the most of the $8.50 manicures, took several strolls through Central Park, and had one final go at ice-skating (tear).
What I’ll miss…
– Everything open 24 hour: the gym, the deli, the subway; it’s bloody convenient living in a city that never sleeps.
– Everything delivers: what do you mean I have to leave my house to find food? This has saved me on many a lazy hungover afternoon.
– The diversity and endless choices: with people from all walks of life, it makes sense that there are options provided to accommodate. Be open minded and there’s an endless array of new experiences to be had (yes, I am mostly referring to food).
– Sports matches: although I only recently made it to my first Brooklyn Nets game, there is something to say for watching sports at Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden over Eden Park – the fandom might even surpass that of NZ’s Allblacks enthusiasm.
– My favourite bartender Pauli and his far too generous gin and sodas with cucumber. Pauli is soon to be re-opening his kiwi restaurant Nelson Blue so make sure add this to the list when planning any prospective trips.
– Holiday enthusiasm: Halloween seems to last for all of October, and Christmas decorations emerge in early November – even for a Grinch like myself, there’s something rather special about the madness.
But I am happy to say goodbye to…
– The Laundromat: the novelty of this one wears off pretty fast and then you are just left traipsing to and from the Laundromat using up your precious days off.
– The loud morning banging that comes with living in industrial Bushwick.
– See ya New York winter, what’s up NZ summer; talk about timing.
Having said my goodbyes to friends, both new and otherwise, I know there are some who I will never see again. Many of course I will see in a few months when they too are forced to return to New Zealand. For now, I look out the window of my cab as it drives through Brooklyn traffic to the JFK airport. I shed a metaphorical tear (there are no real ones for some reason) for what I am leaving behind and what I am going back to: New York to Auckland? I’m sure it sounds worse than it is. Lucky for me, the blow is softened by a few weeks in Europe. Think I’ll take my time coming home.