Tag Archives: Travel

day 14, Switzerland:Last Day and Final Observations

My final (full) day in Switzerland dawned bright and hot.  We didn’t do Milan as planned, but it was nonetheless a fun time.  We returned to the city center, searched for souvenirs, had lunch in a floating house and, through it all, I managed not to rub at the five, yes you read that right, FIVE mosquito bites on my face (I have about eleven or so along my arms and legs right now, and yesterday, in the pool, since they couldn’t get to the rest of me, those little buggers came for my face).

Before I go to bed (we’re leaving for the airport at five, which means waking up around four which is less than three hours away) I want to share with you some wisdom that I’ve learned over these past two weeks:

•The switches (no matter which country your in) are the opposite of the US’s: down is on and up off. (I think I got that right… Whatever it is back home, it’s the opposite here, too tired for thinking in opposite!)

•Jeremy Kyle negates the stereotypes about the Brits being stodgy and conservative.

•The tripple cheek kiss of the Swiss might make your head spin initially.  (I dunno, but something about that extra kiss was really…  intense)

•The turns feel different in British cars (they drive on the right side).

•Swiss chocolate is divine.

•Bidets are kinda cool.

•American culture is everywhere here: from English pop in Italian restaurants, to American programs in the UK (or remade into whatever language).

•Alcohol …

• They smoke regularly, and openly in Switzerland. (Bonus: doesn’t matter what language you speak, you definitely know the word “marijuana”)

I think I had more earlier, and I definitely should’ve written them down.  But I’m sleeping, finished packing and ready for the jet lag when I get back. So there’ll be no more from me. Though, if I’m not sleeping all day (layover time included), perhaps I’ll right a post on the differences in the way Americans vs.  Europeans handle the disabled (or the things I noticed, anyway).

Well, till next time

Ci vediamo dopo

Day 13, Switzerland, I tried the Bidet…

This one’s dedicated to Lizzy, who wanted “all of the details”.

On the first day here, after receiving the house tour, one of the first things that stood out to me was, that, in the bathroom there was a bidet.  From a distance, it looked toilet shaped.  And then, later on, during a admittedly surreptitious inspection, I saw that it was, in fact, shaped like a toilet…  with a faucet instead of a flusher, no toilet seat, and…  soap?

Over the next few days, I didn’t think much of it, except for random moments (in the bathroom).  On one of these random thought days, I decided to ask Zu if she’d tried it out yet.

“No.” Her tone was outraged.  But I understood why, when, a moment or so later, we laughed about having no idea how to go about using it.  So I did what any self-respecting millennial would: Googled it.

First of all, there’s a bidet.org.  Not sure why that surprised me, but it did (the link above is to their page on bidet use).  While reading, I learned that there were different types of faucets, that it was better to sit or crouch facing it (so the reverse of the typical toilet position), and that it was used both right after you used the toilet or just to freshen things up a bit.  Armed with that knowledge, I was going to give it the old college try.  But then, my former boss/surrogate mother suggested we just ask Zulay’s aunt (why we hadn’t thought of it…  no clue).  So we were all for it until I hesitated.  For the story’s sake, I figured (and was encouraged upon suggesting it) that I should give it a try first, before asking.  So that I could give you guys every possible aspect.  And so I did.

***

I brought in my towel (to dry off), took off my pants (they’re not designed for sitting that way) and turned on the faucet.  It wasn’t one that you could adjust, so I just used my hands to wash up.  There was a bottle next to it (that had a pump like hand soap), but, being unsure of 1.  whether or not it was actual soap and 2.  if it was meant for lady part use, I only used it afterward to wash my hands.  I also want to add that I did wipe with toilet paper first for a few reasons.  First, I didn’t know how this would go, so I wanted to make sure I was my normal level of clean.  But also, since I was moving from one spot to the other, I didn’t want any drippage (#Awkward)

The only part that felt weird about that first time was washing up, not in a shower.

Okay, so, that was me hesitantly testing things out on Sunday.  Today (in the US, yesterday here) I tried again, this time with the information from tia on how to use it.  I was right about everything except for the soap.  It was meant for booty cleansing purposes (I’d definitely be grossed out if it were bar soap, so this is probably a good call as far as bidet practices go).

This time, it did feel weird.  Perhaps it was because I’m now soaping, and still, not in the shower.  But it did feel if not cleaner (I like to think I can handle my TP), then…  fresher?

As I write this, I’m reminded of a video I saw on the Today I Found Out Youtube channel about bidets, and why Americans don’t use them.  The guy, whose name I can’t remember and will probably be too lazy to add when I find the link later, made a really good point that I’d forgotten till now: if we get poop (in particular, but also pee) on our hands, we wash them, not just wipe it off with a towel; so why should our butts (and other bits) be any different?

I encourage you all to try out a bidet if you’re given the opportunity.  You might love it, or never want to touch one again.  But its definitely an experience, regardless of how you feel.

***

Tomorrow/later we’ll be exploring Milan.  It’s our last day before heading back to London, to then go home.  I’m super excited.  And, as its after 3 AM, also rather tired.  So, until you read again.

Buona notte

days 8-10, Switzerland:They triple-cheek kiss here, but at least they drive on the correct side

Day 8 finds us traveling to Switzerland, from Gatwick to Milan and then in a car to Lugano, and Zulay’s aunt is actually driving on the correct side! It felt weird—because I was starting to get used to the English driving—but also refreshing to be back to normal.  Everything else was back to normal as well: regular shower; the hot and cold tap being on the left and right, respectively; one faucet in the sink (in my aunt’s downstairs bathroom, there were two.  But now we did have new customs to get used to: a triple cheeked kiss instead of double, and the alcohol!

I’ve heard stories and read many a a blog about the UK drinking culture, but Zu and I didn’t experience any of it with my aunt (she’s all Christiany and stuff).  At one point, she did start telling me about a wine that was 5% alcohol…  but she never got around to giving us some.  But in Switzerland…

After getting the grand tour, we were offered white wine.  Then, at dinner, we had red.  We tried a shot of grappa, a pear brandy.  And finally, we topped the night off with a shot of espresso.  I’m not sure if those cups actually have a name,  but they’re small, almost teacup like glasses that Europeans seem to like their coffee in.

The next day, day 9, Zulay’s cousins took us out to the city center.  We had ice cream (it tasted like gelato), waded a few steps into a lake for pictures (coming later), walked around some more, and then ended up at a bar.  There, Zu and I had strawberries caipirinhas, Zu had two while I had one and two shots of an unidentified drink.  Somewhere in there, I wanted water and Zu’s cousins remarked that she must’ve gotten the alcohol gene in their family.  The night before, when we had the pre-dinner wine, her aunt thought that I didn’t drink much because I was taking it slow.  After Zu explained that I hadn’t eaten in a while her aunt’s response was: “she doesn’t want to get drunk?”

While that was part of it, it’s my first day with new people, why would I want to get drunk?, responsible drinking rules have been drilled in my head and while you can take the girl out of America, unfortunately, you can’t always get the American out of the girl.  (Disclaimer: I actually really like my country, even with our delightfully juvenile commander-in-chief, but I’m also aware of our stereotypes.)

**TANGENT ALERT! REPEAT: TANGENT ALERT**

You may have noticed that, throughout this piece, I’ve been placing Zulay as the go-between for conversation.  She was the one who told her aunt I hadn’t eaten much, not me.  That’s because they only speak Spanish and Italian.  And I only speak English.  (I used to speak Spanish but then I had an Argentinian professor whom I loved, but who’s accent completely messed me up.)

The time here seems to have been the immersion I need though, as, the more days I listen to them speak, the more things are coming back to me.  And it doesn’t hurt that I’m not under pressure to respond.  I’m just taking it all in.

With that said, her family has been practicing there English.  They’re all pretty good, but no one seems confident in their speaking abilities so it doesn’t last long.  Or they forget I don’t speak Spanish, and so sometimes I understand and respond in English while others I’m so lost, and then they remember.

***

But anyway, back to the main story.  After the bar, Zu’s aunt and uncle took us out to a restaurant where we had pizza…  and it was scrumptious.  I had seafood pizza while Zu had four cheese.  We paired that with white wine (that I enjoyed, tia; I was just focusing all of my energy on the pizza and occasional water sip), followed by strawberry tea.  Yum.

The next day was supposed to be our trip to the chocolate museum, but after a pizza breakfast (the day before it was tiramisu), then a lunch of spaghetti, Zu and I decided to tap into the lazy American stereotype and just chill inside.  We never even went swimming like we were supposed to.  That night, we had pasta salad…  guys, I swear, when I get back, I’m just going to be a bowling ball with arms and legs.

In addition to all of the great food, I’ve also been taught some Italian: formagio = cheese, fragola strawberry, and cazzo voui (who needs “grazie” or “prego” when I can say “what the fuck”?).

My choice of major has been a source of confusion to the Swiss.  In England, studying English, perfectly normal.  In Switzerland, Zulay’s cousin was outraged: “why you study English when you speak English?”

I’m going to end my rambles here, I just wanted to catch you up on the things.  And while you’re reading, I’ll be working on my final catch-up post: the chocolate museum.

Till next time

Ciao

days 4-7, England: bones and church and prison camps… oh my

So…  I had so many things to write…  I just never wrote them.  But instead of apologizing and such, I’m just going to get right into it.

On day 4, we headed “into town”, which is the main part of Peterborough.  It was very quiet, but just like London, I loved the feel of the place.  We walked through a shopping mall, to get to the town square, so it was an interesting juxtaposition: modern clothing store a few streets away from super old cathedral.

We checked out the Peterborough Museum, which documented the development of Peterborough from the world’s first prisoner of war camp, Norman Cross prison camp, to the bustling town that it is today.  I loved how interactive the experience was: there were recreated prison beds (disgustingly thin mattresses and blankets included), as well as other bits and baubles, like a objects from an early 1900s kitchen, an old diesel engine, Victorian bed linens covered in blood from ill-informed doctors, who didn’t care much for the comfort of the poor. In addition to all that, there were many written pieces along the walls explaining the history of everything.

On the ground floor, they had a braille floor map.  Now, I completely forgot the layout immediately after I stopped touching it, but it was still quite cool.  It made me wonder if the written sections had braille counterparts, but I didn’t think to ask about it until the writing of this post…  about a week later.

We had McDonald’s afterward, because my aunt was starving.  And guys.  WordPress.  World.  Let me tell you: It was delicious! The burger tasted like a burger, the chips were delicious (see day 1), and the drink sizes were small.  I got orange juice (which tasted pretty fresh for something bottled), but Zu had a Coke, and first, it tasted just a bit different, but it was also not an undrinkably large size.  That may also be because, in the US, we like our drinks iced with a side of liquid.  (Ice isn’t a thing they do here.  Water either.  The prisoners only drank ale because the water was unclean, which I’m pretty sure was a problem faced by all, so the tradition of not drinking water just continued.)

That night, we had shepherd pie, homemade.  And it.  Was.  Scrumptious! Afterward, I continued my research.  I found a potential way to apply for British citizenship (the various visa options were getting too complicated) but…  it costs money.  Like, a lot of it.  So I think I’m going to stick ! studying abroad first before I go making thousand pound commitments.

***

Day 5 was church.  If you don’t already know, I’m not a huge fan of church.  They always insist on praying for me.  I know, complete a holes, all of them.  My thing is this: by asking God to “give me my sight back” your questioning His wisdom.  If He does everything for a reason, then why are you trying to change it?

But, it ended up not being so bad.  They were overly polite (so basically, very English): offering “cheers” and “blessings” left and right.  Some people came up to us, introduced themselves, and didn’t really seem to care about our names (after they found out that we were there with my aunt, “such a lovely woman”).  I even joked with our assigned babysitter, a woman, who, in the spirit of British culture, I could totally imagine drunk, not enjoying church.

The church was a Pentecostal one, so I was extremely interested in seeing how the Brits handled such high energy.  And it was definitely something.  The choir was upbeat, as was the clapping and the pastor made his sermon delightfully interactive (having his son be the David to another church member’s Goliath) yet, though they were definitely invested, the congregation remained subdued.  It was like when Zu and I watched Jeremy Kyle, all of the flare and drama were there, with the audience reacting appropriately, but they didn’t have t…  gusto, that I find in America.  The energy level was just different.

The rest of the day was quite chill, with Zulay and I on our respective devices as my uncle watched TV, my aunt bustled about the house and my cousin popped in every now and then to spice up the conversation with his entertaining insights.

***

To conclude my English adventures, I skip to day 7, as on day 6 Zu had a headache and there was another one of those intense thunderstorm showers, so we opted to stay inside, catching up on correspondence and doing laundry.  But on day 7, we took a trip to Leicester, to visit the Leicester Cathedral where Richard Iii, of York’s bones are on display.

This was another fun museum experience.  There were stone re-workings of objects like books, a scale, etc, that all held some relevance to Richard’s life.  So that in itself made it exciting, interactive and, most important, blind friendly.  There were also videos sprinkled through out the exhibit—as in the Peterborough museum—that added to the experience along with the scrolls of text along the wall (I forgot to ask about braille versions again) that my aunt read to us.

After the museum, we asked around for a good Indian restaurant.  We were directed to Mem Sab in the Highcross Shopping Center.  I highly recommend that place to English and tourists alike.  I had chicken tika marsala, mushroom pilaf that I shared with my aunt’s friend who’d driven us there, some divinely good garlic naan—it was buttery and soft, and a criminally small (but tasty) duck samosa.  The flavors were blended well, the sauce was creamy and slightly spicy.  It was just delicious.  People complain about English food (yes, I’m aware that I’m talking about Indian), but I enjoyed all of the things I had.

It was interesting to experience a restaurant setting.  I mentioned earlier that the europeans don’t use much ice. (Ice was something the rich used, but it fell out of fashion, and was too expensive a habit initially. You can read more about it here.)  So we were given ice in our drinks while we waited for a table, but not once we were actually seated.  Also, portion size, it was enough to fill me up (I was stuffed, actually) but there were no leftovers.

Looking back on this week, I really enjoyed myself.  Checking out the tube, finding braille in unexpected places, getting used to the backwardness (a light switch being up meaning off, rather than on)…  or is America the background one, since we’re younger? Huh.  Things to ponder.  But I will definitely be returning next year, if I’m approved for study abroad to see if I could really envision myself living there.

Stay tuned for the rest of the saga, when our European adventures continue in Switzerland (working on those posts now)

 

Cheers

Day 3, England: London weather and tourist attractions

WE went into London today.

We took pictures of Big Ben, in front of Buckingham Palace, walked through Westminster Square where we also took pictures in front of a Mandela statue (as well as catching the tube at Westminster station), walked through Covent Market, passed by the street/area where the Jack the Ripper shmit went down (don’t remember the name), and, finally, stood across from the Thames.  We also passed by parliament buildings, and maybe one or two other stops that I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting right now.

I really enjoyed it, though you may not be able to tell from the pictures (which I’ll post eventually).  I think the jet lag finally caught up with me: three hours of sleep on the plane, five or so the first night, two hour nap yesterday, followed by three hours of sleep last night may also be the culprit.  Or a combination of both.  So in a few of the photos I’m pretty sure I look dead.  It also didn’t help that about half the day was grey with rain—experiencing London weather to the fullest!—so I was also bundled into my sweater (hoodie up and everything) in some of those.

There were like three or four rainstorm showers, followed either by the warmth   of cloud-covered sunshine or the sun actually coming out, but with a frame of ominous dark cloud cover never too far behind.  I used “rainstorm shower” because each time it rained, it lasted no more than ten or so minutes, but it really came down each time, sometimes with minatory rolls of thunder punctuating the downpour.  It reminded me of the flash storms in the southern states (well, from what I’ve experienced in GA and FL, as I guess I can’t really speak for all of them).

Anyway, my impressions:

Despite the rain and chill (which I’ll get back to), I really liked this place.

When I went to Chicago, I was enamored by the talking buses and the feel of the place.  It’s got a smaller population than New York, and, I’m pretty sure, more square mileage (or that could just be how it feels because of the population) and an openness that I never really associated with cities.  (I’m pretty sure the wind helped with that impression of openness.)

I felt similarly about London (immediately categorizing things that made it different to New York, that also made me like it).  It felt more populated than Chicago, but less crowded than New York.  At one point, when the rain came down out of nowhere, we went into a Pret (because everywhere else was either packed or didn’t look tasty), and the quiet bustle of the place reminded me of home.  There was a low hum of conversation, that let you know you were in a city, but everything was quieter overall (not just in Pret) than I was used to.

The streets were narrower, and the sidewalks felt wider, or at least, wide enough that we weren’t held up by tourists, or slow-moving people, etc.  I think London has a slightly bigger populace, but they also have more room.  And, like Chicago, I could feel it. I can’t recognize a city just from a feeling, but I always know when I’m not in New York. However, with both Chicago and London, I was able to feel… something about them.

The London underground was also a pretty nifty place: the oyster (the equivalent of metro) cards that you have to touch to the machine before going through the turnstiles (is that what they’re called here?) rather than swiping, and then you also have to tap the card on your way back out (like in D.C.).  The doors of the trains stayed open for a good amount of time (so there didn’t seem to be a big rush to get on) and the announcements were generally clear.  The “mind the gap please” even sounded extra polite here with the accent.  And their “crowded” didn’t feel crowded to me.  They say that it can get worse, so perhaps it has to do with timing. But, except for what I’ve heard of Tokyo and Hong Kong, I struggle to believe that another city can feel as crowded as, or surpass New York.

The buses also speak (I think this is a thing in every city but New York), though getting onto them was definitely an experience.  You enter from the left side, touch your card, and then have to turn right to get to the seats.  So basically, the reverse of what we do in the States.

Everything’s done on the reverse here, it seems, and its definitely disconcerting.  (Seriously, even the water’s opposite: hot on the right, and cold on the left.) America’s younger, yes, but the Brits are definitely doing it wrong.

In my last post, I talked about my desire to move here.  After having gotten out, and actually visited parts of the city, my resolve has only strengthened.  So I’m going to work toward studying abroad here in the fall of next year, so that I can see if this is really something I would do.  Or if its just the honeymoon phase of being in a new place, and one that I’d been dying to visit for so long.

Whenever I read about the weather, they talk about how mild it is.  Today, with temperatures in the 60s, my aunt said it was fairly warm.  I thought it was pretty cold, but I’m also coming from 90+ degree weather so…  that’s probably relative.  But it would definitely be another adjustment, having a perpetual chill in the air.  Some transplants say it seeps into your bones…  sounds kind of ominous.  But I do also like the idea of relatively mild temperatures year round.  I tell my friends often that my ideal temperature range is around 60-80.  London will help me see if I really mean that.

With that said, I also can’t imagine myself not living in New York.  Its my city.  Perhaps I’ll get to know London (or some other English city, or an area just outside of it) as well, but it may never really be the same.

Ah well, I’ve only been here two days.  I’ve a got more yet to see.  I know this is something I will continue to obsess over in the back of my mind, but nothing can be done now, at least until next year.

I would’ve uploaded this on actual day three, but my laptop’s dead, and I’m way too lazy to get the charger.  I don’t think day 4 will consist of anything too special so I’ll be back eventually.  Perhaps to tell you all about Paris — our goal’s to visit there on Monday.

Okay, till next time

PS.  I slept for like, eight hours.  I feel like a brand new person!

PPS.  Since I took so long to upload this, my aunt just told me we’d be heading “into town” today, so I’ll be back with more observations about that.

Day 1, England: This place is weird

Yesterday was my first day in England.

I’ve been dying to visit this place since I was somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7, and was introduced to my aunt and her nifty English accent.  There were already Briticisms that I would have grown up with since my mom’s from the English-speaking Caribbean, but that love of England fostered by my aunt only served to intensify my obsession with British culture.  (Okay, honestly, it wasn’t that bad, but imitating the accent was definitely a point of pride for me.) So, after years of tentative talks and failed attempts (when I was hoping to get to England before or after Montenegro in 2016 but my aunt was busy), I made it.

No, I did not find my left eye tearing up when we landed, or my blood pumping in anticipation.  I also did not squeeze Zulay multiple times to express the aforementioned excitement.  And I certainly did not mentally fawn over each delightfully crisp accent as I heard them, while mentally filtering out anything “other”: Indian accents? I get those at home.  (Though, with that said, if it was an English/Indian blend, that’s slightly more interesting to puzzle over.) American/Canadian? Not even registering.  UK of any flavor? Here’s a link to the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah in case you’re unfamiliar with it.  (I would have accepted other European flavored English too, but they didn’t really come up.)

Okay, so, now that all that’s done with, lets get into the things.  This place is weird:

  • In the US, the driver is on the left side of the car, here they’re on the right.  That also means that the radio speakers are located on the left (almost directly in front of the passenger side).  It was kind of trippy knowing that Ken (my cousin), was driving but hearing him from the opposite side of where he should be and having the radio in front of me.
  • Units of measure: This was something I experienced on my way to Montenegro, the person in the Serbian airport telling me that something was a few meters (rather than feet) ahead.  But here, it came (and is still happening) in the form of temperature.  In Montenegro, I always just checked the weather on my phone.  Here, I’ve watched some news and listened to the radio and each time they’d say “twenty-one degrees” (or something), and I’d think “that can’t be right, it feels so warm, how can it actually be that cold?” Then I remember…  Celsius.  Not Fahrenheit.
  • The bathroom…  My God, I need a whole new line to get into that experience.

The toilet (I’m referring specifically to the bowl, not the room in which its located) has two buttons on top of the tank that serves as the flusher (is that what its called?).  That part wasn’t unusual because I’ve encountered flushers like that back home (though according to some articles/blogs this completely trips some people up).  It’s really quite easy to use though: just press the buttons, hold for a second or two, then let go.  In the articles I found, they made a point of telling you not to use excess toilet paper.  In case you are one who just takes the whole roll and wipes, or uses unnecessarily large reams of paper, this may be an important tip to note: while the UK’s pipes can handle toilet paper, it sounds like they can easily be overwhelmed.  So take care. And don’t flush things like tampons, that will definitely clog the drains (but do people actually do this intentionally?).

Okay, now, for the real culture shock…  the shower.  (Not only does it deserve a new line, but a whole new bullet point).

•British showers.  Completely blew my mind.

After giving Zu and I the grand tour, my aunt started taking out towels and washcloths for us.  That’s normal, right? Even her later saying: “Oh, let me show you how to work the shower” wasn’t too unusual.  Sometimes faucets, whether they be the one-knob turners or two-handled, have their quirks.  This, was beyond a quirk.  This, was a process.  This was, as I later learned, an electric shower.

First, you pull a string outside of the tub that activates it or something.  Outlets here have on/off switches, and since this is electrical, perhaps its how you “turn it on”, for lack of a better word.

Then you step into the tub (which was like knee height, so pretty high) and go to the box thingy beside the adjustable showerhead.  On the box are two dials and a button.  The topmost dial adjusts heat, the second water pressure and the button turns it all on.

Sound confusing? Because it was.  I took all of the necessary steps but forgot to pull the string.  So I had to get my aunt who walked me through it.  I’m going to shower once I’m done with the post, so wish me luck that I get it right the next time.  Here’s a link on electrical showers if my description was completely confusing, or you just want more information/visual examples.

•Locks.  In the articles I mentioned looking up (I wanted to find out why the showers were so weird), I learned that in many home bathrooms don’t have locks.  Its just understood that the door will be shut fully if someone is inside, and if you’re uncertain, you knock and ask.  My aunt’s bathroom does have a lock (though its like a bolt some inches above the knob, rather than the twist/button locks we usually see on the doorknob).  With that said, I don’t know if they (my family) use it as the door’s usually left ajar when no one’s in there.

After the bathroom discoveries, Zu and I hung around our room for a bit before being called down to dinner.  We had fish and chips and it.  Was.  Amazing.

The batter was crunchy, the fish fluffy, and the taste was scrumptious.  The chips (cough cough, they’re fries) were very potatoey.  As in, they tasted like potato.  And were kind of thick.  Even the “tomato ketchup” was a grand experience.  It was slightly spiced and just…  it was delicious!

After dinner, we sat around the table discussing everything from politics (American and English) to Star Wars and fantasy novels.  It was all punctuated by my aunt giving us a little square of mint chocolate.  Yum.

Zulay was dozing long before the conversation ended (I’m not sure if it was jet lag or just her natural sleeping talents).  I fell asleep around midnight (7 pm back home), woke up two or three times in the night, before getting up for good around seven.

The ride from the airport (since they live in Cambridge), took about two hours and while Zu dozed (it was an all day affair), I tried to power through.  I was trying to do all of the get over jet lag things: soak in the sunlight (of which there was much) and stay up to try to get to bed at a decent hour.  (Fun fact: jet lag is worse when you travel east because you lose hours and sunlight, which makes it harder for your body to adjust.) It all seemed to work until I took my two hour nap today.

But all in all, day one was a good day.  I’ll be posting about day 2 shortly) (i.e., as soon as I finish writing that post).  So stay tuned.

First day PS (I made sure to jot this down before going to bed last night): Their Netflix has Fresh Prince.  I’m never leaving.

PPS, I was hoping to upload this on Aug.  9, but its now after midnight here, so though this is about day 1, its actually day 3.

Kay, see you soon

No Amount of Good Energy Will Stop You From Face-Planting Into Some Construction

This happened on Tuesday, but I didn’t finish the post till now…:

 

My morning started as most of my mornings start, with me getting ready and then heading to work. And, as is also typical of these mornings…or any minute I’m outside, really, I encountered a number of overly helpful people.

First, we start with the guy from the train. As I walked to one of the many staircases in Grand Central, he called out to me, asking if I was alright.

“Yeah,” I answered. “I’m fine, just looking for the stairs.”

“Oh, well you’ve found it.” He said, Middle Eastern accent thick. “You’re doing great.”

“Thanks.” I always feel awkward responding to comments like that. Just like when people offer blessings. Thank you feels inadequate, or inappropriate. But I guess it’s an all purpose word.

“Yeah,” the guy continued. “You are doing wonderfully. You found the stairs.”

He said this from the bottom, as I was halfway up. I muttered another thanks and kept going.

At the top of the steps:

“You need help Miss?” Another guy asks. “You know where you’re going?”

I always wonder why people ask this while I’m in motion. They always make it sound as though I was just standing there, or walking around confusedly. People actually seem to just completely disregard me when either of those things are happening. Maybe there’s something about unsolicited assistance that warms a person’s heart.

But anyway, I told the man I was fine. He said okay but rushed ahead of me when he saw that I was exiting to open the door. (Not complaint about that part, I’m not that much of a knit picker)

The rest of my walk goes fairly well: one person trips over my cane, I stumble over a suitcase, someone offers to help me cross the street. All very usual. Until I get to 44 street. There I stop to adjust my shoe and a lady to my left offers assistance.

“If you can just tell me when I can cross,” I tell her. “That would be great.”

“Which way you headed after this?”

“I’m only going to 45.”

“Oh, that’s just one more block. And then are you going left or right?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

“I’ll just help you out if your not going that far.” She says. “We can cross now, do you want to take my arm.”

I was so delighted that she didn’t’t just grab my hand and start crossing, or hold my arm. That’s the only excuse I have for what happened next.

“So where are you headed next?” She asks.

“I’m going left.” I was heading to a Starbucks that I only knew about in theory, so I figured if she really wanted to be helpful, well, I’d let her have it.

AS we walked, she told me about the amazing energy I had. She felt it standing beside me and just knew that she had to help this lady. What’s my sign? A Libra? Oh, we’re lovely people. She’s a Gemini. Our signs are compatible, she hoped that I had some Geminis in my life.

After we entered Starbucks, she wondered if I wanted her to wait with me. She could help me to work. She was on break from her own job and helping me was more important anyway.

What I appreciated about her was that, after discovering that I was interning, she asked what I was studying in school. She didn’t pity me, or even, as we walked, talk about my vision as a sad condition. I wasn’t patted on the back for navigating the big city all by my lonesome, or prayed for so that I would continue to stay strong. And, perhaps, most importantly, as we spoke, she didn’t take on that patronizing tone that some people use with me.

Her overhelpfullness in walking me all the way to my destination was a little odd, yes. But part of what goes into my complaints is how the person reacts to me. Besides, guiding me, she acted like I was just a normal stranger she’d met on the street (who happened to have this amazing energy). It also helped that her assisting me to the Starbucks didn’t actually put her completely out of her way.

It was a little odd when she offered to wait with me until I got my drink and then walk with me to work. But when I told her I was fine, she didn’t push, wished me a nice day, and left.

But of course the good energy could not last forever.

During my lunch break, I decided that I really wanted some pizza. My fellow intern saved me from using Siri to navigate by giving me instructions to a pizza place he’d passed on his way to work. The pizza place was actually a few stores down from the Starbucks I’d visited earlier.

After exiting the building and crossing the street, I found my face walking into some construction…. ow.

I appreciated that there were no pointy bits, just a series of horizontal bars. But I did hit my eye. Again, ow. But after rubbing my eye a bit, I kept it going.

After having walked past the Starbucks, slightly in pain, I found some strangers to ask for the exact location of the pizzeria.

“Um, is this the front of the line?” I ask the person nearest to me after entering the store. “Or, rather, the back. Where does the line end?”

Here is fine.” The stranger tells me.

I text and think about my eye for the next few moments until the guy tells me I can order. I move to the counter. No one says anything. The silence stretches, and then a few feet away, I hear the man at the counter asking someone else for their order.

I’m annoyed. So you won’t let me know your there but you’ll move onto and talk to the next guy?

“Are you going to order?” I’m asked finally.

“Yeah,” I say. “Can I have a veggie slice?”

“We have steamed vegetables, is that all you want?”

“Well, a veggie slice with pepperoni.”

“We chicken.” He says. “And rice.”

“Um,” I feel less frustrated now and more confused. “I mean a veggie pizza slice.”

Oh!” He says. “The pizza counter is over there.”

“Where?”

“On the other side of the store.”

“Is that to my left or right?”

“Nevermind. Don’t worry about it.” And he moves around the counter and calls out to another guy that I want a veggie pizza slice.

Evidently, the counter was directly behind me. I continue to wait there though, because the first guy tells me that pizza guy will bring it to me. But as I wait, multiple people  ask if I need help. Even another employee.

“You need help, Miss?” The employee asks.

“No, I’mfine.”

“You know where you are? (insert restaurant name)”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

But as I say that, the first guy tells her that I’ve already ordered.

Why do people think I don’t know where I am? Give me some credit. Blind ≠ clueless.

Eventually, I’m given my pizza and brought to the right counter.

The slice was tasty, but I’m not yet sure if I’ll return. Maybe I should go back on a day of normal energy levels, and when my eyeball (the one that I can see out of, by the way) isn’t gently throbbing.

Just another rant… sort of

“There’s a staircase coming up,” a man says from a few feet ahead of me.

“I know, thanks,” I replied, assuming he was talking to me.

Why did I make this assumption, you ask.  Because, having a cane means that, when people aren’t grabbing my arm to forcibly assist me, they’re shouting information to me.  Why they assume I’ll realize they’re talking to me, I have no clue.

As with most instances, however, I knew where I was going.  If I didn’t I would have asked.  But, because I was heading into the subway, the staircase was my goal.

I stepped down, my cane extended and brushed someone’s feet.  After a few seconds, I tried again but she still hadn’t moved, or maybe she was moving but slowly.  Whatever the case, she did not seem to like the repeated probing of her feet by my cane and turned around angrily.  How did I know she was angry? Because she whirled around with a shouted “Jesus Christ!”

I don’t remember what she said after that, but she was so riled up that she walked back up the stairs (quickly, I might add).  But I was too busy being happy that I could walk down at my pace to really care what she was saying.  People are always speaking at me.  So as long as I made it downstairs and through the turnstile before the train came, I would be happy.”Miss.” Someone called out behind me, as I walked.  I stopped and turned back.  “You’re too close to the right.”

I shrugged and turned back around.  I was constantly arguing with people about how close was too close to the edge.  I wasn’t on the yellow warning strip, and I also did not want to trip over the feet of people sitting on the bench, so I was somewhere in the middle.  I was comfortable, which is what really mattered isn’t it? People often tell me that it would make them more comfortable if I did this, or they’d feel better if I did that.  That’s great for you, but I’m the one traveling.  You’re only with me for these few moments.

“She needs to learn how to use that stick,” the woman from the stairs muttered to the man.  “She nearly tripped me on the stairs.”

No, I don’t know how to use this “stick” that I’ve had with me since at least elementary school.  (Well, not the same one, obviously, since I’ve grown considerably taller since kindergarten and have had…  accidents, but you get the idea.) She is so right.  Including the part where she called it a stick and not a cane.

So badly did I want to walk back and express any number of thoughts along those lines.  But I didn’t, I let the anger, that was probably an overreaction go and waited for my train.

It’s annoying, more annoying than I realized when people talk about my abilities as a blind person.  Telling me I need an aid, arguing over my ability to cross a street, attempting to drag me into the train without ever saying a word.  With regard to the latter, yes, I realize what your doing, and I know it’s well-intentioned but would a simple “the train is this way” or “let me help you to the train” hurt? And if we’re speaking can you ask before tugging?

Not everyone does this, but, with that said, not enough people grasp that I’m OKAY.  I know, you can’t fathom travelling while being blind.  There’s often a sense of relief upon learning that I do have some usable vision, as if this makes my plight easier.

I value the vision I have, and sometimes wish it were better, not necessarily twenty/twenty but more than I have.  But I also appreciate the information that each of my other senses offers me, and I might not have if I grew up with “perfect” vision.

I feel I write variations of these thoughts more often than I should.  And I will probably continue to until there is a significant change in understanding and portrayal of blind people.  Within my life time (only twenty and a half years) there’s been a lot of change.  And hopefully I can be one of many who helps facilitate more.

People are often caught up in their own worlds and can’t seem to fathom what doesn’t fit; for example, being blind if they have full sight.  Consequently, they don’t think to deal with a situation in a “normal” manner, their reactions often exaggerated.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

To Margaret and Roman: Two of My Favorite Strangers

This was originally posted on May 7, 2016, at 9:00 AM on blogspot.

***

Hello my dearest readers,

I know, it’s been nearly a month since I wrote to you all.  But this semester has been more trying than the last (which is something I feel like I’ll be saying every semester).  I’ve also, as has happened in the past, been having trouble coming up with things to write about.  It’s been a lot easier rambling on camera for the vlog than sitting down and writing.  I hold a far higher standard for my writing than I do for my videos-which, of course, isn’t to say that my videos are of poor quality-but I am a perfectionist when it comes to my main craft and it is so easy to digress on camera.

But the final day of classes is the 19th, and while I’ll be taking a summer class, I’m going to be a lot stricter with myself with my “at least one post a week” rule.  And I will try to make it consistently on Saturdays.

But anyway, I’ve managed to digress from the reason behind this post: Margaret and Roman.

A few weeks ago, I went to a Yankees game with my sister (she was given two tickets at work).  It was actually my third time going to a baseball game: the first in fifth grade where the Mets lost to the Yankees 0 to 1, then came the camp trip when I was thirteen or so (it was the Staten Island Yankees) and I never got to see the game because it rained, and then this event where the Yankees won 6 to 3 against the Tampa Bay Rays.

On my way back to my dorm that night, my sister and I were in a different part of the train than I normally ride in.  So when I got up stairs, I was slightly disoriented.  I knew which intersection I was at, I just wasn’t certain of my direction: so which way was east, west, etc.  As I pulled out my phone to check maps, the kind lady who’d helped me find the turnstile when I was in the train station, offered me further assistance by orienting me.  The kind lady, who I later came to learn was Margaret, and her son, Roman even went so far as to walk with me the entire way to my dorm.  I was going to take the crosstown bus (because though it was a rather nice night, I was feeling lazy) but she told me that they were headed in that direction anyway.  So after a brief bout of indecision (that’s one of my personality traits) I agreed and we set off.

On the walk-which involved crossing four avenues (for my readers who have never been to New York, an avenue block is the equivalent of anywhere from one and a half to two and a half regular city blocks)-the three of us talked about all manner of things with school and books being two of our main subjects.  Nine-year-old Roman is an avid reader (a trait I hope you never lose) and Margaret as well, so we traded names of authors and books we liked.

I think one of my favorite moments was when I asked Roman if he’d read the Percy Jackson series and he said “yeah, I read that a long time ago” (or something to that affect).  I definitely had an older person moment because I thought something along the lines of “really dude? How long ago could it have been? My long ago was about four years ago when I was fifteen, and you were probably just past toddlerhood.” Of course this was thought good naturedly.  I think I then went on to think something along the lines of: “kids” and how different time is depending on your age.  Then I reminded myself that I wasn’t even that old, only nineteen.  And I laughed at myself and resumed our discussion.

Once we’d reached the point at which we were to part ways, Margaret offered to just walk me all the way home.  It only put them about two blocks out of their way, but it was still an extremely nice gesture.  And then, upon arriving at my dorm Margaret realized that this was the location where she and Roman came to swim weekly (the school rents the pool and gym to outsiders).  And that was an exciting coincidence.

As they walked me to the front doors, she also commented on the beauty of the tulips that were blooming outside of the building.  I made a point of stopping and checking them out in the daylight the next morning, and they are quite lovely.  So thank you for mentioning them, because it might have been a while before someone else pointed them out to me.

Upon entering my room after leaving them, I called my sister to let her know that I’d arrived and about the pleasant strangers I’d met and promoted myself to (by telling them about the blog).  I then talked to one of my friends, who I also regaled with the story of my walk with the strangers.

“They walked me all the way home,” I told.  “And we spent the entire walk talking but it was neither awkward or frustrating.”

“Oh that’s good,” she responded.  “I was actually going to ask if they were annoying.”

And I’m delighted to report that you were not.  There are so many people who offer assistance to me and, when I take it, talk incessantly about things I either don’t care about or don’t have that much to say about.  I realize that that may sound unkind, but generally, when I accept assistance from people it’s because they were being pushy and I did not want to argue.  How I feel about the chatter is also dependent on my mood.  As I told Margaret, I don’t care that your best friend’s boyfriend’s cousin’s ex-wife is, was, or is going blind.  Well, actually sometimes those stories are interesting.  Or if the person is going blind, I can offer up information about resources.  But generally people just throw the information out there with no real purpose.  Usually causing me to respond awkwardly “oh, that’s cool” or “really?”.  And after the person says “yes” or something to that effect as response, it doesn’t lead anywhere.

On Thursday, someone asked if I needed help crossing the street, upon shrugging and saying sure, the guy said “my elbow is here”.  When I looked up in surprise, he was like “my mom’s blind, so I know what to do?.  Then we crossed and parted ways.  That was a cool interaction; it was short, sweet and the relationship to the blind person was relevant.  There are other people that know to offer their arm/elbow because of helping other bl/visually impaired people or maybe from observation or the assumption that offering one’s arm is less strange than holding hands.

But anyway, I went completely off track there (so much for my words at the beginning of the post, right?).

As I arrived at my dorm yesterday, the public safety officer stopped me and told me that Margaret and Roman wished him to give me their regards.  I was very confused initially so he began to hesitate a little:

“Margaret’s the mother,” he said slowly.  And after another second, the lightbulb snapped on.  And I was excited.  As was the security guard (I guess for it not turning into an extremely awkward situation).

He said that Roman had read through all of my blog posts and that he was extremely enthusiastic about it.

Awww.

So I hurried to my room and immediate began writing this post…  and then I laid down, watched Jeopardy!, fell asleep and finished this at 2 AM (with clips on The Tonight Show’s Youtube as my soundtrack).

So I wanted to write this post to let you know that I did receive your regards and that I wished to send my own in return.

Well till next time “Adieu, adieu

To you and you and you?”-Sound of Music

I Miss Making Rolie Polie Olies

This was originally posted on March 4, 2016, at 4:40 PM on Blogger.

***

All right, first, there will likely not be a post tomorrow because

1.  I have no idea what I’m going to write about, and

2.  I’ll actually be behaving like a stereotypical teenager, so I’ll be “out”.

So you’re getting your post early.  (As usual, be forewarned of the needless backstory).

* * *

I have two classes today, the first one, at 11:10, was made optional (for today only) because we have a paper due in a few days.  So my professor decided to use the time to work on her Masters thesis and to conference with any student who felt they need help.  So, though I woke up a few times between 6:00 am and 9:00, I didn’t actually get out of bed until around 10:15.  I then paced for a while before finally beginning to get ready for the day.  And I ended up leaving ten minutes later than I was supposed to (this is what happens when you’re schedule is messed up).  But I still would have gotten to the second class in time had it not happened.

As I’m leaving the dorm building, one of the security guards comes up to me and offers to walk with me to the gate.

“It’s slippery,” she says.

Though I’m pretty sure I would have been fine, I nodded and murmured my agreement.  She takes my arm and I correct her; I’m supposed to hold her arm.  And we start moving.

Upon reaching the gate, she tells me to have a nice day and I wish her the same.  She kept using my first name, and I was proud of myself for not correcting her each time.  I’ve grown a little more comfortable with it over the years (out of necessity, since there are some people who either forget or simply refuse to call me Lily).

But anyway, after the guard—whose name I don’t think I ever knew—and I parted ways, I turned right, heading toward First Avenue.  As I walked, I had my head turned slightly to the right (I can only see out of my left eye, so I usually have to turn my head to see things on the right side).  I was looking out for the City Bike rack, I always have to remember to look out for it so I don’t stumble over a bike tire.  I see the person move up beside me, but I think nothing of it as I continue monitoring with my eye and sweeping my cane from left to right.  It’s New York City, there’s always people.

Then my cane jerks.  I pull it closer to my body, and pause mid stride.  I think the person tried to cut in front of me.

Did they fall? I ask myself.  It doesn’t look like it and I didn’t hear anything.

In the seconds it took me to mentally ask that, and continue walking, they’re on the ground…  and rolling (they roll onto my foot a little), and I see them hunch in on themselves.

WTF? I think.

I’m a little stunned.  I thought they were fine.  Did they fall in slow motion like eyenurse? It’s times like these when I wish my vision was a little better, not twenty/twenty, but just enough for me to have seen the fall from start to finish.

My lips curl upward (well, I’m always smiling, so I guess, to be more accurate, the upward tilt widened).  I wanted to laugh…  she freaking rolled! Which then made my think of Rolie Polie Olies.  And I had to try so hard not to laugh out loud.

“Are you alright?” I asked, my voice hesitant and not quite loud enough to cut through her moaning.

Did I forget to mention that? Yah, she was moaning.  That’s how I figured out it was a woman.

“Hey! Are you alright?” A man walks over to us.  And then a girl soon after (I think she’s a fellow dorm resident).

The man went to the lady, who wasn’t speaking English, but a language that sounded like some flavor of Asian while the girl just stood there, the only thing she’d said was “oh my God” when she first arrived.  He kept asking if she was alright, and offered to help her up.

“Okay,” he said, voice strained.  “On three.  One, two, three.”

She didn’t get up.  She said something in her language and then rolled over and lifted my cane, tapping it as she did.

“It was this, it was this.”

Honestly, my first thought was:

Why the F is she touching my cane? No, it was not my cane’s fault, it was yours.

My next thought was berating myself for being a terrible person.  Then I shrugged it off.  And I started fidgeting, wondering if it was appropriate for me to leave yet, I had to get to class.

The guy tries lifting her again, and she’s up this time.  I turn to leave and then stop.

The lady says something in her language, then the guy tells me that everything’s fine, and I can probably go, while the girl touches my arm gently, reiterating his words.

There was a quick second wherein I wondered why she was touching me, I didn’t feel it was necessary.  But I got over it, smiled pleasantly and went on my merry way…  to be nearly twenty minutes late to the next class.

* * *

Later, as I was getting off of the train (I was heading to work) someone was rushing past me off of the train and also tripped over my cane, this time knocking it from my hand.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said. “Are you okay?”

I just shrugged and was like, “yeah, can you get that for me?” as a very adamant Caribbean woman began yelling at him.  He handed me my cane and I left the station.  The woman seemed a little offended when, upon turning to me and asking if I was okay, I just shrugged it off.  It happens.  Which is my usual attitude.  Except for this morning.  Where I was extremely annoyed.  Irritated.  One of those words…  but not angry.

Well, till next time (i.e.   next Saturday, or sooner)

Adios

Addendum:

Here’s a rant about another person that tripped on my cane. It happened an hour or so after this post