Monday, October 30, 2006

A hiccup

Many of you have been contacting us, interested in the lack of blogs lately. We have had a little "hiccup" in our time here and have been sorting it out. The night we arrived home from Washington DC, we received notice from our sublessor to leave our apartment and return the key by 6pm. We didn't arrive home until 8pm! John and I were broken. What were we to do? Return to Canberra where we had friends and family? Move into a hotel for a couple of nights? Camp out on the floor of friends' places? Having Colby with us made our problem so much bigger as 'dog friendly' places are harder to come by at short notice. The sublessor wanted us out and was refusing to return the three months rent she had (last month plus two-month security deposit). We were VERY concerned about a financial loss like that. We wondered whether it would be better to count our losses and head home, or to stick it out and take another risk on New York City. We managed to convince the sublessor to give us a week to find somewhere new (also to buy us time to find out what our legal rights are).
The next day at work, everyone was great. We had people praying for us, people on the phone to lawyers connected with the school, and people calling their landlords to find vacant apartments.
Legal advice told us that we did not have to vacate the apartment until the landlord had a court order. We also realised that the sublessor was actually in the wrong as she had not followed legal requirements in the terms of the contract. We were told that we should be able to have our money returned if we were to take it to Small Claims Court.
One of my friends from work had an apartment available in her building. It was being renovated, but they said they could have it ready for us. They were okay with us having a dog (it even has a small backyard for him). We said we'd take the apartment, even though it is in a different part of town and is smaller than what we originally wanted. We're really just glad to have a roof over our heads. While we could have stayed in the other place, we didn't want the court order! We thought we'd have a better case for getting our money back (and getting a new apartment) if we did all we could on our side.
After meeting with the sublessor again, she agreed to return 2 months rent and the third month after 30 days, minus any cleaning/repairs costs we incurred.
We are amazed yet again by how God has taken care of our situation. We have even had furniture provided by a number of people in response to our need.
We now live in the yuppie part of town - The Upper East Side which is a pretty area with shiny, expensive shops and happy families walking dogs. I'm sure I'll grow to love it, but I do miss the people of the Lower East Side - real people with real problems making the most of life in New York City.
So, we've come out the other side now. Things are back on track. Work's going well. Halloween is around the corner. And John has work on a film in Maryland. I still love this city!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

John's Blog - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly


The Good…
On October 13 we went to Washington D.C. for the weekend. We had a great time, and saw most of the touristy things. We were amazed at how big the Lincoln Memorial is, and how big the Iwo Jima Memorial is. The Washington Memorial (or the Clinton Memorial if you watch Futurama) was pretty boring, but we didn’t get to go up inside it… so maybe it’s better inside.
There is heaps of cool war history there, and it was great to see as much as we did.
We did, however, notice a few odd things…
The walk/don’t walk signs count down to zero when they change to walk, so you know how long you have left to make it across the street. This is a good idea I reckon, but it means that you look at the opposing side while you are waiting and sigh and say ‘a whole 45 seconds till we can go… aww’.
As we were coming in from the outskirts of town (but still in Washington D.C.) there is a sign that says “U.S. Capitol”, with an arrow pointing down the street that leads to the city centre. Do people really drive all this way, pass all the other road signs to Washington D.C., get there and go “really, this is the U.S. Capitol”?
Similar to around the Embassies in Canberra, the streets as you enter Washington D.C. are named after where they come from. So we came in on New York Avenue, and we passed Florida Avenue.
The subway system in Washington is very different to that of New York. It feels like it is a whole class higher, with carpeted floors and polite conductors. As opposed to New York, where the conductors try to shut the doors just as you arrive (you are usually running to make the train, and you may run face first into the closed door… if you’re a retard).
I’ve been still working on movie sets, but things are drying up here as we move into the colder weather. I have also been doing some other odd jobs for cashola, which keeps food on the table (and alcohol in me).

The Bad…
Before we left for Washington we wrote an e-mail to our landlord telling her that we were going away for the weekend, and we’d be back late on Sunday. On Saturday our dog sitter called us and said that while he was watching the baseball at our place, he heard keys in our door. Thinking it was us coming back for something he was not too fussed. When our landlord entered he was quite shocked (particularly because he doesn’t know her). She left without doing much. When we got back on Sunday at about 7pm we checked our e-mail and saw that there was one from our landlord saying that we had to be out by 6pm… d’oh. We spoke to her and got till the next Sunday. She was not very nice and threatened many things. After a little while on the internet, and a few phone calls, we knew most of our rights and while trying to accommodate our landlord we were not going to be bullied. The end result is that we got 2 of our 3 months rent back (we’re waiting a month for the 3rd month), and we got out on Monday. The situation sucked, but now we have a new apartment, and a new neighbourhood to discover.
Our new place is a studio apartment… with a yard! It’s on the Upper East Side, which is a bit higher class than the Lower East Side. Here we feel safe at all times, and there are no areas that we don’t go at night, which is nice. We felt safe in the LES, but still a bit apprehensive at times. The new place has nice polished floor boards, a new bathroom, and did I mention a yard?
The new bathroom is nice, but like all American tradesmanship (we’re finding out) it has been done fast, not good. We have already replaced the shower head, and now it’s the size of a bread plate, and it’s like in Seinfeld when Kramer can’t make it to the tap because of the pressure. It’s fantastic.
Our old place was partly furnished, and this place is completely bare. It’s amazing how much crap you need when you start, and how much it all costs!
We’re planning a BBQ with our upstairs neighbours soon, as they helped us get this place (she works with Pen) before it was released on the market.
One of the other places we looked at was about 350 square feet (you can do the math, it’s very small). It was so small that there was no room for the bed, so they built a mezzanine (called a loft here) and put the bed on that. But the ceiling is still only 8 or 9 feet tall, so there is no room. The shower was in the kitchen, which was really intimidating no matter whether you are bathing or cooking, and the bathroom was out of the apartment and down the hall! The funniest thing was that there was a queue down the block about 100 meters to see the place! People who had seen the place were walking down the line telling people about it, which made most people want to stay just to see such a thing. The 2 people in the line in front of us started talking (as we all were), and one of them was looking for a room-mate, so the other gave her his details and they both left! Things in this city seem to only happen by word of mouth, which is why we were lucky with this place.

The Ugly…
There are many free newspapers available here. My favourites are Metro and AM New York. Where I’ve been working this week is about an hour’s commute each way, so it’s nice to have the paper to read on the way (if I don’t fall asleep). So on Monday October 23 I got the Metro and read it on the way to work. I found a few quotes that I thought were great:
On a story about how a diplomat to the Middle East said “history will decide what role the United States played [in Iraq]… I think there is a big possibility… for extreme criticism and because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq”. The quote I loved was from a senior Bush administration official, who said “… those comments don’t reflect our policy”. What did he think? That we all thought that it WAS their policy to be arrogant and stupid in Iraq?
On a story of funny quotes – “Depopulation should be the highest priority of foreign policy towards the Third World, because the U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries”. Henry Kissinger.
- “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”. Ann Coulter.
- “There is nothing wrong with doing something that benefits all humanity, but that is, in a sense, a second-order effect”. Condoleezza Rice.
- “I will never apologise for the United States of America. I don’t care what the facts are”. George Bush Senior.
- “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we”. George Bush Junior.
These are the people who are in charge of running this country, and whether you like it or not, these people think that they run the world. Shouldn’t they be paying someone to stop them from saying things like this?
And one last one… on Thursday 26 October in a story about a male teacher who was caught buying some drugs, the newspaper called his father… {When asked if he thought his son was abusing drugs, Dillon replied: ”Oh no doubt about it, he sleeps all day”}. So there it is people, the way to find out if anyone is abusing drugs is to find out how much they are sleeping.

Otherwise everything is going well, we can tick off a State from our ‘To Visit’ list, I now run Colb’s in Central Park (well I have once… but I’ll do more), and we are constantly entertained by the Americans. This year really is just a long trip to the zoo.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Washington DC

In mid-October we took off to Washington DC for the weekend. I had Friday off work because the church needed to use the building for a conference. So we organized a dog sitter for Colby and purchased return bus tickets for only $35 each. The bus left from Chinatown, just down from us about 8 minutes (we had 8 minutes to get there when we left the apartment!)
The bus trip took about 5 hours and I got really frustrated with the people behind us. They were annoying American spoilt snoots who like had like so many like problems with like family and friends! At one point I was about to crack and only just managed to pull out my MP3 player and headphones in time!
We were amazed by how similar Washington DC was to Canberra. There were all the parliament buildings and war memorials, museums and art galleries. And then, there wasn't much else. It wasn't easy to get food like it is in New York.
It was cool to see all the famous buildings and to wander through the Smithsonian which is a stack of museums etc that are free to get into. It's like Disney for the thinking person!
We got to see the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. They had faded quite a lot, but I enjoyed looking at the signatures.
We also rocked up at the Pentagon just to say we'd been there (you can't do tours). As it so happened, there was an Air Force Open Day thing that was in the huge carpark. Most people there had tickets, but somehow we slipped through and wandered around looking at all the aircraft. We even got some photos of the Pentagon in the background (usually they don't let you photograph it).
We really enjoyed catching up with Trin, Angus and their kids Amy and Luke. It was fun to be part of a family for the weekend. We even had pancakes for breakfast on Sunday morning!
As great as it was to see Washington DC, it felt really good to come home to NYC. There's just something about this place that we LOVE!

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial (isn't it huge!)

Arlington Cemetery (you know the one in the war movies)

The Air Show at the Pentagon

The Whitehouse

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Hi All,
To save us heaps of individual sms' we decided to tap out a quick blog.
We are not affected by the plane crash. It happened at around 72nd Street, we live below 2nd Street, so it was no where near our place. Both Pen and I were at 57th Street around the time that it happened, and all we saw/heard was many sirens going everywhere (which is not that much different to every other day in NY), and heaps of people standing at shop windows watching the news.
It appears that the only person in the plane was a Yankee's pitcher. How hard can it be... steer away from the ground if you're in the air.
Last we heard there were 4 dead.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lunch and Sewing Circle with friends

On Saturday I went out to a friend's house in the Bronx for lunch and a sewing circle. We had sweet tea and three different pasta dishes, followed by homemade strawberry ice-cream (delicious). My friend's place is much prettier than ours. She has a lot of stained wood furniture and the kitchen was very nice.
We did lots of chatting and a little knitting (I took some mending) and just generally hang out for a while. My friends in the photo above (from left to right) are: Cole, Elena and Amy.


Last weekend we also went to an exhibition called Nextfest. It was HUGE! It covered technological advances in the future of exploration, security, transportation, communication, design, green, play and health. There were some really cool things on show. I particularly liked the robots (see the pictures). The blue and pink things were dancing robots that I suspect are designed to dance with a human partner. The male robot had face recognition software and has a personality that can be communicated with online. He had some problems on the day due to the number of faces he was required to store!

This invention is supposedly the future of motorcycles. I sat in it and it felt nothing like my bike! They also had a few cars on show that looked much like cars of today, but ran on electricity and used cameras instead of mirrors etc.

I lined up to have my picture taken as an astronaut! It was all done digitally (gone are the days of sticking your head through a cardboard cut out!). It probably wasn't worth the wait, and check out the expression!
Something I thought that was really cool, but didn't get a photo of, was a game called brainball. Two players sit across a special table wearing brainwave-detecting headbands. The headbands monitor each player's stress level indicating alpha and theta waves, and report the data to a computer that directs the ball away from the stress and toward the calm. So, to score and win you need to stay mellow and in control!
We also got to try a new Coke product that is a coffee flavoured energy drink. It wasn't bad, but needed to be very cold.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Food, Glorious Food

I realise it's time for a food update. I've been busy 'trying new foods' lately. It actually isn't too hard to find an excuse to eat something here! My best excuse is that "it's all part of the experience" but as my sister has pointed out, I have a year to try it all. There's no reason to rush things!
I've now tried the large pretzels and the Nuts4Nuts that are sold at the stands throughout the city. We found the best donuts in the world only about 5 minutes walk from home. They are a little like Krispy Kremes but softer (if you can believe it) with a sweet creaminess through the centre of the ring. And John discovered "Bubble Tea" - a cold tea (with milk) that has little tapioca balls in the bottom. You suck the balls up with a thicker-than-normal straw and so you get to eat your drink too! As one of those people who likes to play with her food, this is a big bonus to me.
John loves Panini sandwiches which are made with thin pita-like bread (called panini I guess!). You can buy them at the delis here.
Broccoli is a feature in Asian dishes. You can get chicken and broccoli, shrimp and broccoli etc... I've never been that much of a broccoli fan!
Last night I went down to Chinatown and got some egg rolls (a little like spring rolls but bigger) and 3D Chow Fun (wide noodles with various meats). It was good but not spectacular. Maybe I'm not a big fan of Chinese food after all.
Mexican food is great and in abundance. You can get double layer tacos that have a hard-shell taco with a soft taco smothered in cheez whiz on the outside. The guacamole is delicious and I love the rice and beans that come in the burritos.
As you can imagine, my waist is growing and I'm not running quite enough. But, hopefully it will balance out at some stage!

"Field Trip" to Central Park

In the last week of September the kindergarten and first grade classes went to Central Park for a field trip. I did a practice walk-through on the previous weekend to see whether it would all work out. John came for the practice and it was all good. (The park really is very beautiful!)
When it came to taking all the littlies their poor little legs weren't quite as prepared for all the walking! My goal for the trip was for the children to experience nature close up and develop an appreciation for the genius in God's creation. I planned to head toward Belvedere Castle where we could get discovery kits for the children to use as we walked through The Ramble. After that I thought we could have lunch and a play in the park.
Things didn't quite go to plan, but it still worked out really well. We paused a lot along the way to feel the bark on the trees, collect acorns, feel the spikiness of fir leaves etc. We stopped for a break earlier than planned and the children ate their snack in a large walkway section where a busker was planning his saxophone. The kids danced around and kicked up all the gravel so that we had a delightful little dust storm. It took quite some effort to then convince them to lift their feet when they walk rather than shuffle them!
We then continued our journey toward Belvedere castle with the frequent "Are we nearly there?" and "Where IS Belvedere Castle?" When we finally arrived one group got the kits (with bird watching manuals, binoculars and clipboards) while the other group looked at the education center in the castle. The Ramble was a lot of fun but only because we had the kits. The kids were looking through the binoculars (with no real idea of how they worked etc)and writing down what they 'saw' on their clipboards. They were very cute!
After we were all done, we ate, bathroomed and headed back to the school. The kids were VERY tired by the time we got back to school and the chaperones even more so.
But, as far as I was concerned, it was a great first field trip.


I seem to be finding it difficult to stay awake when I am sitting quietly for more than 5 minutes! I used to only have trouble when I went to see a movie, but these days it can be anywhere. Last Sunday we went to a baseball game - Yankees vs. Toronto. We had really cool seats with a great view of the field. I had a brilliant time and really got into the game. However... for the last 20 minutes or so I kept drifting off to sleep! There was nothing I could do to pull myself out of it. Then today, I kept dozing off during the sermon at church. I think I need more sleep!
The baseball game was at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. John picked up the tickets from someone through Craigs List. We rode the subway out there and took some of our own snacks as we knew the food would be expensive. I think that beers were $8.50 and cotton candy was $4.50 just to give you an idea of prices. It was very cool though, because they threw the snacks to customers just like they do on TV/movies. They really do sing that song "Take me out to the ball game" too. Like I said earlier, I had a brilliant time. The Yankees have now been eliminated from the "World Series" which isn't really a 'world' series at all. The Mets are still going for the time being though.

Names in New York

One funny thing both John and I have noticed here is that people often refer to each other as he/she, his/her instead of using their names. For example, when I arrived here the office administrator said to the gate keeper "I'll be back in a moment I'll just take her down to her classroom." In Australia we might say this, but it would be after using their name first. Here they seem to skip the name part. The weird thing is that John and I fall into the trap of it too now! Sometimes it's great when you don't know the person's name. It just doesn't feel right though. More stories later...