Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The gentlemen on NYC

Almost three months living here and I cannot believe how quickly time has gone by. This week is what they call “winter break”. Children have a week off school which means I have both girls all week. Today we decided to go visit the Empire State Building. I realized also today that doing these tourist things is wise at the moment. Apparently they all get very busy and when I mean busy I mean 2-3 hour waits to get to the top of the Empire State Building!! We arrived and there was probably a 15 minute wait. Much to my delight here in New York like in most of the United States the disabled and parents with young children get priority. After going through once again the airport style security we were bypassed the crowd much to my delight. I have become so desensitized to the security as this city has it everywhere. I actually really like it as I always feel safe here which is very comforting.
We got to the top which for us was the 86th floor. It was an amazing view of New York and New Jersey. It also really puts into perspective the sheer magnitude of this city. Isabel and I tried to squeeze through the people glued to the sides so we could get a better look. It was hard trying to keep the stroller at arm’s length whilst ensuring Isabel could see over the top. Annika was more interested in her iPod touch and snuggled in her arctic stroller pouch. It was about -5 degrees so quite cold and a bit windy and I don’t blame her.
On the way home we got on a crowded train which is nothing new here in Manhattan. Once again as I boarded I had men get up to offer me their seats. I always get embarrassed however it’s so much easier and safer having at least Isabel seated whilst I hold the stroller in a crowded carriage. The trains can get quite bumpy too so it’s very easy for a distracted child to just fall over. I have found the men of New York to be true gentlemen. I am always just amazed at how complete strangers are always willing to either help me with the kids or give me their seat. At first I thought it may be a one off thing but it always happen.  I have had men and sometimes women always offering to help. Normally they see me struggling to open doors and attempting to manoeuvre the stroller in and they quickly jump to my assistance.
It’s so strange as this city has absolutely NO TOLERANCE OR PATIENCE yet I always get assistance. I do however follow the “rules” and that is MOVE FAST and stick to your right. It’s not unusual to be basically told off if you do slow down or god forbid stop in the middle of the side walk. You are sure to get an earbashing New York style.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lost In Transaltion

At first when we arrived here in New York I noticed I was having a bit of trouble being understood. I know our accent can be hard to understand. Is it really that difficult? Well the answer is a big fat YES! Over the telephone would have to be the worse too.
Honestly sometimes I am in a fit of laughter as I cannot believe what they think I have said. It is not that I think they should understand the way I talk but it’s just one of those experiences that makes me grow as a human being. The observation I have made is that us Aussie’s grow up with so much American influence. We all grew up with shows like the “Brady Bunch” and “I dream of Jeannie”. I think this is why we seem to understand them quite well. However it seems “Skippy” and “number 96” where not big hits here otherwise they would be able to speak my lingo.
I have quickly and efficiently learned to make some alterations to the way I say things. I have even had to change my spelling as well as they use “z” a lot where we use “s”. An example is “memorize”. I have had to learn to really pronounce my “r” like when I say Waterrrrrrrrrrrr. And then the opposite with my T’s as they are not pronounced so much like we do. It’s almost like saying “waaa-t-rrrrrrrrrrrrrr”. Hugo is a natural as I think those years at an American School in Brazil have paid off.
Anyway suffice to say I have to think before I speak but surprisingly it’s becoming more and more natural. There is also words that are different like garbage and diapers but that is all coming along nicely. The girls are also adapting well so they too can be understood. Isabel has adapted well and affectionately calls me “Mom” now. I know she does it to try and fit in and slowly I am noticing she is saying things slightly different. Annika is full on developing the American accent. She is now 2.5 and she was an early talker regardless. She is also surprisingly picking up a lot of Spanish too. Hugo is still battling on with a bit of Swedish .At this rate Spanish will definitely going to take over . The carer she has at the Gym is from the Dominican Republic and now talks completely to her in Spanish. I go three times a week so that is a lot of exposure.
I myself am also trying to improve my Spanish. The last time I used it was when I was flying for Ansett. Spanish is a second language here and its quite common to see a lot of kids fluent from their Latin Nannies.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentines’ Day here in Manhattan and wow it’s so big here. I know that it is also back at home however not as big as it is here. I remember years ago when I was young and single I used to get the red roses and boyfriends would do the romantic dinners etc. These days I am lucky if Hugo actually acknowledges it at all. Although Hugo will show affection in much less expressive ways I cannot help to be caught up in it here. Well when I say caught up not for me but for Isabel. They do a full exchange of cards and candies (lollies) at school. This morning she was very apprehensive about taking what I had given her which was a bag of individual packs of love heart candy. This afternoon when I collected her she was grateful as she also carried a bag full of cards and candy she had got from the kids. I had received and email in regard to the class policy. If you were going to take anything today it had to be for the whole class. I thought that was lovely so no child would feel left out. I also then knew to send something with Isabel so she also could join into this activity which is very American. I really like the fact that at school they teach these kids to be very inclusive of all. These kids grow up with kids from all different parts of the world and that is cool. I love the fact everyone here is proud of where they come from. Even if it’s not necessarily the best part of town they are still proud. I hope my girls are also as proud of being from Australia and all our culture.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Finally I get to a museum alone.

Today I was luckily enough to be able to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The New Yorkers affectionately call it “The Met”. I woke up this morning with such a sense of anticipation as it has been many years since I have seen such masterpieces. I dropped Isabel off at school and then raced to Annika’s preschool. After a quick chat with the parents of a new child I raced over for my morning ritual Starbucks. There were no seats available which is a common thing here in New York so instead I decided to head over to the bus stop and wait for the next cross town M79. The way the buses work her is just so logical and very efficient. I was going to catch a bus that basically was going to cross over Central Park and get me to the Upper East Side. The Met is on 5th Avenue on the Upper East Side. I arrived smack bang on opening time of 9.30am. I was just about to burst with excitement as I ran up the majestic stairs into the public entrance. As much as I love being around my kids I was ecstatic that I was going to do something that was totally for me. I have always loved Art and that goes back to high School. I had a wonderful teacher called Mrs Ninni who opened up the world of Michelangelo, Van Gogh and Monet to me. I have always loved the French Impressionists especially Claude Monet. I was hoping to see some of his work.

I paid my admission of twenty dollars and then I proceeded to the Cloak room. A wonderful “rule” here in New York is that all these Museums full of amazing culture and education should be accessible to all. They have set prices which they always ask if you can pay. If you cannot they will accept whatever you can. I just love this about New York everyone can experience what in other countries is for the more fortunate and wealthy.
I started my wander through this amazing building and what seemed only a few minutes had turned into four hours of sheer delight. I ventured through an amazing collection of Roman and Greek artifacts that then lead me through to ultimately my beloved works by the Impressionists. I walked through the interconnecting rooms where the walls were adorned with works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet and many many more. As I walked into a room filled with Degas’s Ballerinas I saw in the corner of my eyes one of Monet’s “Waterlilies”.
I stood there and I felt this overwhelming feeling of gratitude to Hugo for having made this all possible. I never in my wildest dreams thought at 43 I would ever be able to be in the presence of these idols of mine. I again felt that incredible feeling of being alive and being given this second chance of experiencing something incredible.
I then realized I had run out of time and that I need to get cross-town again to collect Annika from Preschool. I stood at the bus stop and started chatting to this lovely lady. She has been living here in New York for 29 years. She originally was from Malta and also told me she had a lot of family in Melbourne. She boasted to me her eldest had just graduated from Harvard and had studied Law. I congratulated her as that is an amazing achievement. He son will go very far here in New York with those credentials as Harvard is definitely and Ivy League education which opens many doors!
I find I am always meeting new people. I don’t know if it’s that I just love to chat and people sense that. Or if it’s just that this city seems to welcome all that come to experience its magic.
I picked up the kids and started planning next week’s adventure which I hope will be the Guggenheim.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vitamin D deficiencies

One of my first impressions of Manhattan was that the sun did not shine as bright as it did in Sydney. After a few days I noticed I hardly wore my sunglasses which is so not me. I find my eyes quite sensitive to sunlight so I tend to wear them always outside. That has not been the case here in Manhattan.
Our Apartment is dark and its one of the bad points about it. I have become accustomed to it but at first it was rather strange coming from our house in Maroubra. I have always had to organise quite dark curtains in our rooms back home so we could sleep. Here we have a very light curtain I picked up and Bed Bath and Beyond and it’s more than enough. Hugo and my bedroom is the only room that does get sunlight when it’s around and it’s beautiful.  The girl’s room and our lounge and kitchen all need the lights on. The buildings basically block most of the natural light to these windows.

It’s a common fact that New Yorkers are vitamin D deficient and it’s not hard to work out why. I suppose the benefit is they don’t have the issues with Skin cancer we do back home. Milk and bread are fortified with Vitamin D as are most dairy foods like yogurt.  We arrived so close to winter so this has also contributed to our vitamin D starvation. Apparently during you annual medical you do also get tested for this deficiency.
Here it is customary to have an annual medical check-up with your Physician which I suppose can be a good thing. It will be interesting to see what my levels are. Our lifestyle back home is very much based on outdoor activities. We do go to the beach quite a fair bit. I do a lot of running outdoors too so this is something I am hoping to do once this weather is more “outdoor friendly”.
As yet I don’t miss the beach or the heat! I hear Sydney has just come out of a heatwave!! At least here indoors is very comfortable and there is so much to do indoors too.
I am looking to a holiday in maybe Florida or even the Caribbean?? Or even my dream destination of Mexico!
Its one of the main reasons we decided to relocate over here.We wanted to be able to travel and that we will do when the time is right.

So it seems Fur’s are acceptable in NYC

In a city that pretty much everything goes I should not be surprised that animal furs are pretty much a way of life here. Coming from Australia where I don’t think I have seen a fur for nearly twenty years it was rather eye catching. I by no means am going to pass judgment as I am far from being a judgmental person especially here in New York. This is a city where everything goes and really no one cares.
I was surprised to see how many people do wear fur. I personally have never liked them however I do see how the cold weather could be an argument. I am so accustomed to all those images of PETA throwing paint on ladies wearing fur in the 70’s. I will say it does seem to be somewhat older ladies that do wear them here. However Bloomingdale's and many other stores carry a full range of them so they are here to stay.
I have heard an argument stating that there is some animal I cannot recall its name that apparently is a pest and its fur is what they use. I would be a hypocrite if I stood on my high horse to place judgment as I own leather shoes,  leather handbags and even a leather jacket.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Broadway again

Last night Hugo and I went to see "Phantom of the Opera". It was nice to go alone and we both really enjoyed it. I found it actually better than the one I watched in Sydney many years ago. It was a Friday night and Times Square was buzzing, but Times Square is always buzzing. Its one thing to describe it and another to experience it. The billboards and the lights are truly memorizing. Its funny but I still have to pinch myself. I was sitting in this theater and I was just in awe of the beauty of the architecture. I just cannot believe so many productions so close to each other. We have vowed we are going to try and do as many as we can. Now that we have two lovely babysitters life is great!

 I have a 4 mile ( New York Road Runners) run tomorrow in Central Park which I am looking forward too. Its to celebrate the Superbowl which is another first for us. Its a shame that the New York team the "Jets" were eliminated a few weeks ago however it will be great to experience it. Everyone is stocking up for food and beer. All the restaurants have special "Superbowl" deals. It's like our grand final so its very exciting. I have no idea about the game but looking forward to these ads they all talk about??
Will update after it all happens and I understand more.....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

They breed them to be confident.

Isabel has been at school now for almost two months. We received her first report card and she is doing very well. She is behind in maths mainly because they are ahead of Australia it seems. I am working with her and her teacher to get her up with the rest of the class.
I have started to make observations in general about both the parents and children’s attitude to education here in New York. I think that my observations are extremely generalized and will probably change as time goes by. I also feel that the attitude New Yorker’s have would be somewhat different to other parts of the USA.
The first observation I have made with kids here is they are very confident. Most actually shake your hand or acknowledge you when speaking almost adult like. At first it was so strange to watch them all shake their teachers hand as they were dismissed. It was funny watching my very shy Isabel also doing this with her teacher Alanna. They refer to their teacher by her first name no “Miss”. That also was strange to me but children here seem to also be somewhat very mature almost at time adult like?
I know it’s a cultural thing and I have to say I have enjoyed talking to some of Isabel’s classmates as they are lovely kids. Her class is a total mixing pot of cultures. As I walk through the school during drop off’s and pick up’s I hear every language imaginable. There are many ex pat families living in our area so we really fit in.
The other thing that really surprised me is how much extra curriculum activities these kids do. They have an after school programme. At first I thought it was like out “after school” which is basically babysitting till 5 or 6 pm. Once I investigated I could not have been more wrong. They are programs that the kids do after school. They vary and just to quote a few from Isabel’s schools website to give you guys an idea:
Young Minds Do Einstein A hands-on approach to the scientific
process, taught by noted science educator and author Mary Carson,
working with education specialists from the American Museum of
Natural History, Riverside Park and others. Like last year's awardwinning
program, this term promises a terrific mix of scientific
facts and exciting hands-on activities. Kids love this class!
Ice Skating/City Adventures A Ice skating in the rink at Rockefeller
Center or Bryant Park until April and then -- what’s your pleasure?
Boating, bowling, or a home sport in Central Park? Or maybe it's
the zoo, the wax museum, or the Intrepid's flight simulator? There
are wonderful opportunities for city adventures all over Manhattan,
and we're ready to explore them! Teachers include experienced
Monet, Matisse & Me (Studio Art/Sculpture, 2+) This exciting
hands-on program will introduce students to a variety of famous
artists and the media in which they worked. From Matisse tornpaper
collage to Calder mobiles, children will learn to appreciate
art in their environment as they create their own artwork inspired
by the masters. Focus will be on three-dimensional art, including
sculpture projects using clay, wire, and decorative paper. Taught by
artist/educators from Children's Museum of Manhattan.
Let's Speak Spanish (Language/Latin Culture,Gr. 2+) A practical
and fun inroduction to Spanish language and culture, taught
by native Spanish speakers and educators. Emphasis will be on
auditory learning of basic thematic units taught through in-class
and museum explorations of games, music, arts, food, and cultural
traditions of countries throughout the world where Spanish is spoken.
Taught by experienced dual-immersion enrichment consultant
and teacher Gloria Zwick, with dynamic 2nd-grade teacher Ana
Elosegui, so you know your children will have fun as they build
comprehension and confidence and gain appreciation for language
acquisition as a vital skill for the world of today and tomorrow.

There are many more!!
These commence from 3.30pm and finish at 5.00pm. Isabel is doing the last one (let’s speak Spanish) and she starts next Thursday.I only want her to do one but most kids do two to three a week!!
I find it amazing that these kids want to do some of these classes but they do! These kids seem to want to learn about so many topics that seem so mature to me. These kids seem to be so cultured and so exposed to everything the world has to offer. It excites me that Isabel has really embraced this and that she also is able to take part in all this.

There is a real focus on educating kids young. It’s all about making the grade and achieving. They are a culture of very high achievers and this is where Australians and Americans are so different. I suppose with this population you have to be able get the best marks so you can get into that Ivy League College?
There is simply the process of elimination in the education system here. If you fall behind you miss out. And here in New York you just would not want to NOT have a college degree otherwise you would not get a decent job or career path. These kids know this from a young age and they are groomed for this. I would never push my children to do what they don’t want to do. I do like the fact that my shy little girl is becoming somewhat more confident. There is a change in her attitude. She has really taken an interest in science and why would she not? We have the Museum of Natural History at our door step.
She is also impressed by way the children have interacted with her. She feels they have included her in a way she has never felt before. Hugo said he certainly can identify with what she is saying. He attended an American School in Brazil when he was young too. I am not quite sure what she means but she is very happy here more so than I have ever seen before.