Tuesday, December 22, 2009

in the homeland

What a few days. Jeez. Ok, lets start where I left off... in Montreal. Friday was hard, saying goodbye to the place, packing, getting a cab and really being out of there. Everything went smoothly in Montreal until I got on the plane, where we were stuck because there was too much luggage to take off (in this shitty little plane) and we waited till they took 9 bags off. 9 people without luggage. Just thankful that wasn't me.
Then it was New York, the view from the plane was amazing. I saw times square, statue of liberty, central park.. all that, lit up at night. That's about all I saw of New York, as I spent the entire weekend in Jersey. We were planning to head to the City on saturday night, but due to insane snowstorm, we ended up in a small, lovely bar in NJ where they didn't ask me for ID, getting a bit hammered. Then to have some pisco, Peruvian style. My head was quite spinny. Got the car stuck on the way home in the insane snow. Next day found orange traffic cone in the back of the car (used to get unstuck)
Leaving the states was hard. I was blubbering, felt like a fool. It's weird to think that its over now, everything I've been planning so far - the exchange, the NY trip. Holy Crap. Oh well, I know I'll be back. I have to.
To cheer myself up, I read the entire Bridget Jones book on the plane. She always makes me feel better because I AM BRIDGET. But perhaps without the insane mother. Didnt sleep at all on the plane, and am now EXHAUSTED. After finished Bridget, started getting my teeth into 'The Open Veins of Latin America' -- Brilliant.
Anyway, big mess and kerfuffle with Dublin-Krakow flight but am now safely at my aunts house, had a brilliant meal, some tea, a shower and feel better... much better.
Now, up for some eyedrops to keep my eyes from shutting, its only past 5pm..... might cave and have a nanna nap, actually.
x a

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No, don't make me go!

I'm packing right now, and I'm a mess. I'm crying so much. I don't want to go. I've never wanted to stay somewhere so badly as I want to stay here. If I could have it my way, I'd go back to August 12th and do the whole thing again. Everything. Every essay. Sit every exam again. Cry myself to sleep at the low points all over again. Get lost on the metro and subway again, almost expire from the heatwave in NY and DC and the insane cold in Montreal. Fall down drunk all those times again. Get every cut, bruise, burn and general owie again. Go through every health scare again. I'd do it all again. I want to fly into NY for the first time again, and like all those months ago, see the city and think 'Wow! this is my place in the world'. I've never felt so at home in a foreign country. Scatch that, I've never felt so at home period, as I have in the last 5 months. And as amazing as Europe may be, I wish I was coming back here, for good.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wet Wool

What a wonderful day. What I though would be a horrible day. 3 exams, -14 degree windchill factor when I left the house. Really, I'm having a pretty grand day all things considered. Exams were ok, but that's the least of it.

Its been snowing like mad, I close my eyes and think I see little flakes, I see them out the corner of my eyes; the image of snow falling has been burned onto my retinas. Its been a snowstorm... hasn't stopped all day and the accumulation is over 1 foot. However, as I was just traversing through a park and a dark alleyway, the deepest I sunk was to my knees. I think the 1 foot deep is on the footpaths where the snow is periodically swept away. There are icicles on all the cars and dripping from lamp posts. All the houses look like they came out of a fairytale! I'm expecting hansel and gretel to scuttle out of a gingerbread-looking house. Almost. And I'm very proud of the fact that I have not (yet... knock on wood) twisted my ankle while attempting to walk off the beaten path (literally) whenever possible. When I arrived home from uni today, I couldnt see the stairs into my building - just one huge pile of snow.

And despite how people complain about it, I think it brings out the best in people. People have been smiling, kids have been running around making snow-angels and lovely young men have helped me cross the mountain of grey swept-away snow on the side of the road that piles up as high as my waist. I saw two shadowy strangers huddling in the park and felt a little uneasy (I'm alone, in a park, at 11pm) but then realised they were building a snowman.

The only thing I dont like is the stench of wet wool when I unrolled myself from my scarfe and peeled off a wet beret and mittens.

...I still love it though.

Friday, December 4, 2009

'Amazing Montreal' or 'Two Weeks Left'

This time, in 2 weeks, I will probably be either in NY or NJ. It makes me sad to think I'll be leaving such an amazing city (Montreal) and an even more amazing city a few days later (NYC). However, I am feeling very 'zen'ned about it.

1. Montreal's not going anywhere. It will be here when I'm ready for it.
2. Its so easy to keep in contact with friends around the world now. I hope and also think its very likely I will see all these amazing people I've met here sometime soon!
3. I can't have it both ways:
- I can't have one more weekend in Montreal AND spend some time in NY
- I can't stay in this amazing part of the world AND see my family and friends
- I can't stay in North America AND work. At the moment. And I want to work.

4. Whatever I'm worried about loosing and missing, if I loose it or miss it, it means I wasn't meant to have it. Simple.
5. You're supposed to feel bad leaving a place. If I felt nothing, this whole trip would have been a waste of time and money.
6. I was lucky enough to have this experience. I worked hard for it and deserved every bit. I feel I've aged a year to every month I've been away (in a good way, not in the 'making business for Olay way), and am a better person for it. I have more direction in my life right now and it seems everything is going in the right direction.
7. I feel I am in the eye of a hurricane of inspiration, direction and opportunity. It is not for me to wonder where it will spit me out. As long as I'm happy, it's where I'm meant to be.

And I'll stop there. 7 is a good number.

In less philosophical news, I am amazed by this weather. My face did feel rather cold when I stumbled into my appartment today, but I love this weather. Its still above zero and snowing a bit everyday. It feels like its below zero due to montreal's crazy windchill. I never really check the real temperature, it means nothing that it's +2 when the 'RealFeel' is -10. You need to dress for -10 if that is the case. And I love snow. My Belgian friend was making fun of me today because I was practically skipping through the streets when the tiniest sprinkle of snow started. The other day was the best though... huge white flakes that accumulated a few centimeters. Didn't last long but was amazing. I feel so alive when it starts to snow, as corny as that sounds. Doesn't matter how cold it is, or how tiered I am, I am a happy happy girl!!! We'll see how I feel later on - perhaps after a few weeks of heavy snow, I'll feel very differently.

Today, I bought myself a new moleskine diary for 2010. I painted the world map inside and painting always makes me feel productive. So instead of watching another crime show in TV, I got off my ass, wrote a pressing email to my professor, now I'm going to finish this entry and go back to my nice, warm bed and chew my way through a bit more of my study.

x a.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

So, it's American thanksgiving and I have a lot of shindigs to get to this weekend in celebration. Having never celebrated thanksgiving before (not even Canadian thanksgiving in October), I have decided to make a list of what I am thankful for and really get into the spirit of things;
Here goes...

  • I just finished one of my classes forever today
  • Avocados were on sale, 2 for 99c
  • I get to hang out with Judith tonight at her roommates thanksgiving dinner
  • Tomorrow, it's time to see Imogen Heap live
  • On Saturday I'm going to Bonnie's Potluck thanksgiving feast
  • Even though I am leaving Montreal so soon (and I dont want to), I will be going to NYC
  • And although I dont want to leave NYC, I will be going to Poland to see all my family
  • And then friends in Barcelona and Paris
  • Greyhound fixed up my ticket snafoo
  • My house is clean
  • I have amazing friends and family all over the world that make me smile
  • I have lately been feeling a good 'right-down-in-my-gut' feeling of possibilities and opportunities that are going to come my way soon
  • In 2 months, I will be in Marseilles, and almost en route to Portugal
  • I am living my dream here in Montreal right now (and just dont want it to end!!)

So yessum, I have lots to be thankful for. And I am. I could get used to this celebration... put me in a jolly good mood... even the impending task of doing laundry cannot make me feel bad :-D

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Warm Shower, Hot Tea and Burning Study

Its well and truely crunch time here in Montreal. As it stands, I have 1 quiz, 3 papers, 3 exams and a take home exam due in the next 3 weeks. Holy Moley!

Yesterday I moved into my new room... my roommate is back in Calgary, which sucks because I wont see her before I leave, and the new roommate has moved into my room. And me, well, I'm in Merriah's room while she's in Calgary. I love this room... it's furnished properly, not just hap-hazardly because I didnt have money for furniture, I'm sleeping on a proper bed, first time since... a long time. Before, I had a teeny ikea matress on the floor, now i have a mah-hoosive comfy bed with lots of pillows and space for all my stuff.

Oh, how I want my own appartment. To furnish and decorate as I please, with kooky textiles and funky prints and awesome wallpapers. I'm in turbo-decorate mode since moving my stuff... decorating for now has been limited to hanging my prettiest dresses and glittery necklaces off door frames and dresser drawer handles. One day, I'll have an appartment in SoHo or Chelsea or Greenwitch Village jammed full of vintage love and indie art. And fairy lights.

With Christmas knocking on the door, fairy lights are on the brain. And snow coming so so soon!! (Saturday) And the neighbours putting up pretty christmas decorations. It feels like a proper christmas.... one where you're freezing your ass off instead of sweating it off. I love a northern Christmas.

Speaking of freezing one's ass off, the furnace in my building went kaput so the heat was off all day yesterday while the messieurs put in a new one. Thank the good heavenly beings that this happened while it was 0, and not -20. The heat is back, hot water is on and I had a lovely hot shower before I get stuck into the Roman Art study with a hot cup of chamomile.

This weekend is going to be AWESOME. Friday = Imogen Heap. Saturday = Pot Luck Thanksgiving Dinner

And I'm in a good mood today, despite some teeny problems (like study) that need to be adressed. I have a lot of things to be thankful for.... happy american thanksgiving :-)

Friday, November 13, 2009

5 weeks left

Exactly 5 weeks left in Montreal. How sad! I'm thinking of going to Quebec City next weekend perhaps, and perhaps a day-trip to Ottawa. I'm looking up greyhound buses at this very moment. It's only $37 return to Ottawa.

In exactly 5 weeks, I will be on my way to the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau airport here in Montreal, boarding a ComAir flight to JFK.

I'll be staying in New York/New Jersey for the weekend, and back to JFK on Monday, 21st December for a cheap-assed 8 hour flight to Dublin, where I will not be offered food so I'm packing on the bagels... one last taste of NY over the Atlantic. I will arrive in Dublin at 5:20am, and only have an hr and 20 minutes before I board another cheap-assed, non-breakfasted flight to Krakow, arrive just before lunch and see my mum and sister, and most of my crazy family.

I'll stay with the family till the 4th of January, when mum, Julia and I will catch a train to Warsaw and I'll leave the next morning for Barcelona. Thankfully, the Warsaw airport is not so far from the city.

The rest is pretty set - Barcelona, Paris, Geneva, Marseilles, Porto. I'll be adding 2 new countries to my 'List of coutries visited', which at the moment, stands at 20.

I need to study. Quiz next week and exams approaching fast, not to mention essays and research papers. I skipped my Ancient Roman class yesterday, because of a $5 open-bar party for international students on Wednesday night. It was a mess. And there was a guy dancing in a bunny suit. As of this moment, I have finished just under half of my semester assessments. HOLY CRAP! that's not a lot, and only 5 weeks to cram in over 50% of a semesters work.

That's all the motivation I need... hitting the books... NOW

I also made a very interesting discovery a few days ago... I can count to 10 in 8 languages, say 'hello' in 18 languages and say 'I love you' in 9 languages. Made me feel pretty special.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New York, Montreal.... Europe?

Last weekend, I was in New York. I was going to lots of galleries, eating great food and engaging in amazing conversation. When I got back to Montreal, the comparisons were kind of devastating. Coming back from such a weekend to a dark, empty apartment with a vacant fridge is not nice. Having a horrid week after is also not nice. But ice-cream with friends and a bottle of Chilean white wine makes it better. Also, a good nights sleep cannot be underestimated.

But anyway, focusing on the good parts - had a great weekend, saw NY and parts of NJ and Albany, and (really, despite having a shit week) I love Montreal and my life here. Which leads me to think of how sad I am to be leaving so soon. Only 6 weeks. I don't want to go, I want to work and live in the States or Canada, but the possibility of a work visa is just too impossible. I applied for an internship in NY which would be so very brilliant, but I know the chances of me getting it are very very slim to put it nicely.

So, with finances dwindling, I need a Plan B. And, wanting to travel around north and south America... I also need a Plan B. So here it is.... Travelling around Europe from 22nd Dec to begining of Febuary. In Febuary - move to Madrid, Seville or Valencia to get a job teaching English and work on learning Spanish (which would be handy in the US and South America), or, in France working on my French. My gut says Spain though, and has been saying Spain ever since I watched a travel show about the country early this year. S-P-A-I-N! Plus, spain is so close to Morocco... a trip to Africa is very much on the cards (to tick off another continent).

Anyway, so, I'll work in Spain until May. In May, I'll hit up the eastern US (NY, Baltimore, DC, Annapolis, Boston, Philly etc), cross up to Canada to Montreal and Ottawa then back States-side for Chicago and up to Toronto to FINALLY SEE TORONTO then onto California and down to south America (thinking Peru, Colombia and Chile and perhaps Argentina, finances permitting). Brazil - I'll have to save for another day. One of my friends here in Montreal travelled through south America last year and says Colombia is beautiful, as is Bolivia. Time for 'South America on a Shoestring' by Lonely Planet, me thinks. And 21st in the US just sounds too good to be true!

OK... so I'll be back in the land of the euro around July/August to travel a bit before September. Thankfully, europe is cheap if I stay with friends and family. And then onto work somewhere new. If Spain is a go-go first time round, I'll go to France, Portugal, maybe even Greece or Italy. Somewhere with low taxes and C.O.L but high wages (economic impossibility... I KNOW!). Learn a new language, earn some more euros until xmas 2010, which will def be a Polish affair before NY in NY?? possibly. Or anywhere States-side. And hang out there till Feb 2011 when (and I'm going to be kicking myself for this when I am stuck on a 15 hr straight flight from California to Australia) I'll take that plane back to kangaroo-land and try to graduate by November 2011, then.... who knows.

Vague ideas, exciting plans. Knowing I'll come back makes the prospect of leaving easier...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Perfect Start to the Day...

Despite only a brief 4 hours, if that, of sleep last night, I am up and ready to face the day.

I was lucky to have a de rigeur chat with my bestie this morning (her evening), wonderful comme toujours. Nothing like launching into intellectually stimulating conversation to start off what is bound to be a productive day. Couple this fantastic event with one of the best croissants I've had in my life for breakfast and it is the best possible begining to a saturday. (Although, it is still caffeine-free... must fix that soon)

Now, I'm going to get ready for a trip to the train station, the subject of my Canadian Architecture paper for Wednesday. Afterwards, and despite the dreary weather, I'll head to little Italy, around the Parc Jarry area to see another part of Montreal and purchase the last little thing for my halloween costume.

Although the damp and heavy clouds outside make me want to crawl back under my warm blanket and snooze for just a while, the prospect of a new novelty hat, a new part of montreal to discover and ticking this paper off my 'to do' list (which is growing exponentionally) is plenty of motivation to get dressed and get going.

Just a nice cup of tea firt......

x A

Friday, October 23, 2009

Snow, Borscht and Boots.

It really is Murphey's law... just the other day, I got an email from Berlin where it has already been snowing. Outraged, I articulated my disbelief that central Europe got snow before Quebec, although mentioned that I shouldn't tempt fate, I may have bought winter boots but I do not yet have a warm enough coat. Well, last night I left the house to get some snacks at the bakery, it was 1'c and SNOWING. I was frozen. I came home shivering but smiling from ear to ear. My jacket was covered in snowflakes, my hair was damp, and I had gotten many a sour look from people I passed on the street as I grinned like a cheshire cat and caught snowflakes on my tongue and giggled as they got caught on my eyelashes. This morning, my hands were chapped and red, for lack of gloves suited for snow but I was still happy. Enjoying the first snow of the season was so worth it. I was quite devestated when I woke up this morning (more like afternoon, but that's just semantics) and there was no soft white layer of snow covering the world yet. However, I did get compensated by the fact that it was a gorgeous autumn day, the sun was shining and the tree-lined streets of Notre-Dame-de-Grace were all the shades of yellows, oranges and reds. I totally love my life.

Today I also bought my tickets to New York. I'm staying for 3 days and 3 nights which include Halloween. Checking the weather in NY and NJ, I was quite disappointed to learn there would be no snow, and summery temperatures over 15 degrees. (Yes, I said summery... perspective changes here in Montreal). To continue the theme of weather... it's now 3 degrees and I walked home thinking '3 degrees is not cold'... and it's not. Thank god I am coming to this realisation now, psychologically preparing myself for the temperatures to come, which promise to be well below freezing before I fly out of here. I leave on what is technically the first day of winter, December 21, but every quebecois I speak to assures me I will not be leaving without a good taste of a Canadian winter, it will easily reach -20 by then.

In other news, I have finished midterms and am utterly ecstatic with that fact. Now, just have a lot of papers and take home exams to write. Unfortunately, I need a textbook for one of my take home exams (worth 45%), an essay exam due on Wednesday and it was sold out at the bookstore and I have to wait till Tuesday to get it. Meaning, I wont be sleeping on tuesday night. At present, I have finished a total of 30% of my Concordia semeseter. Still a long way to go, and it's going to be hard work.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to get up early and head to the train station to do some field research for my architecture paper. It's only 500 words but I have to visit the site which I've chosen to write about - the train station in Montreal. I'll be able to finish it by dinner easily. I'm also going to take some photos around NDG and downtown with the gorgeous autumn colours.

Ok, that's enough for now.

x A

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

hot chocolate or hot chips?

It's 11:30pm. I had an exam today. I had an exam yesterday. I have an exam tomorrow. Thankfully, it's ancient Roman art, and I've already done most of the studying, but I'm still bloody exhausted and still have a lot to do and I think I need a treat of some sort to keep me going; tea, hot chips or hot chocolate? Decisions! Decisions! Just think, in 13 hours I will be FREE. From exams, that is. And only until December.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Squashed Cheese

I made linguine tonight, al tonno with fetta. I wish it would count as study for my greek and roman art midterms, because it's damn good. Alas, no. Back to the books.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A few notes about boarder control....

A post based on a recent chat with my roomie. I was talking about how hard it was to pass boarder control in the US and then into Canada. Well, not hard, but time consuming, an opinion based solely on the amount of questions you get asked when coming into the country.

Compare with Europe, where all they do is stamp your passport, no-one cares if you have a return ticket, or if you know anyone, or even if you've got a place to stay. In the US, they wont let you in unless they know you're leaving, you need to present evidence that you're not going to overstay your visa. The reason being quite simple, they don't want you to overstay your visa.

Canadians take a different approach. They want to know that you're leaving too, but the exit tickets are not 100% required. Canada is a huge country, the second largest in the world. And with one of the most relaxed immigration policies. Or so I've heard. It's easy to disappear in Canada, so the focus of boarder control questions is more like 'If you do end up staying, are you the kind of person we would want in our country'. Take for example a story my flatmate told me, a woman's husband got a letter saying he will be deported in 48 hours, his visa had expired. He moved into the local church for a week (they can't arrest you while you're in a church) but no-one ever showed up. He now has his citizenship.

Two very different approaches, from two of the most amazing countries I have visited. I can easily see myself living in the States, or in Canada, and being a very happy little vegemite while doing so.

Friday, September 4, 2009

'Welcome to hell' OR 'A stroll through Quebecois Bureaucracy' OR 'Why is getting a metro pass harder than going through boarder control'

Insanely long title for an insanely long day.

Yesterday, I thought I'd be clever and get all my cards and papers sorted out. I registered at uni and worked out my health insurance the day before so it was time for a student ID and metro pass. I thought I'd skip the lines and arrived at 8:30 when the ID card production starts at 9am. I was only 4th in line. I was out of there by 9:10am. Oh, how industrious I felt, a precursor to a smooth day... how wrong I was.

I asked the lady at the ID card booth how I get my metro pass now (also known as a personalised OPUS card). The instructions were simple, download and fill in the form off the STM site, get it stamped at the Birks centre then go to the Magill station for your photo and your card. Simple, right?

It took half an hour of fruitless searching on the internet until I gave up and figured they'd have a copy of the form in the Birks Student Services Centre, where I'd need to go anyway to get it stamped and signed. It was 9:40am, Birks only opened at 10am, so I waited in an already staggeringly long line to get to into Birks, to then wait in line some more only to be told 'we don't have any forms here, go to the Berri-UQAM metro station and pick one up from there if you can't find it online'. So, off I go, annoyed as hell already, towards the Latin Quater and the Berri Station. Strangely, you actually have to exit the metro to get to the place with the forms. Then, you have to buy a new ticket. Bye-bye $5.50 and useless waste of an hour. The woman gave me the form in French, and I misread and mis-translated and signed in the wrong space. FUCK.

Back to the library to (now that I had the official title of the form) google stupid form which is meant to prove I'm a student, because a student ID won't do. When I found stupid form, it wouldnt print. GAH, one must first buy a printing card to print at concordia, but, a small ray of luck, the librarian printed it for me for free! So, back to Birks to get it stamped and signed. Hideously long line at Birks by this time, at least I bought a novel.

Finally, form completed and signed. Another $2.75 for the metro to get to Magill to get the bloody pass. But, alas, there is a mile-long line of people OUTSIDE the photo place, and the photo place itself is as packed as a tin of canned fish. 'Mademoiselle, prenez un numero, sil-vous-plait'. I prenez un numero 756. Now serving 345. Only ONE register. OH. MY. GOD. Ok, novel out, I'll survive somehow.

But soon, the monotony of useless lining up is broken when STM information officers walk past, asking to see everyone's documents. (What the hell, is this Russia!?!). I show my completed papers, student ID and passport. 'Preuve d'Address, Madame?'.... QUOI?!?!?! Oh yes, the form doesn't mention you need a proof of address, to prove you live in Montreal. How does one get such proof??
'Go back to Concordia and get them to print out your details, stamp them and sign them.'
Ok, another $2.75 and a good hour at Birks. Another $2.75, back to Magill. Thankfully the information guy remembered me and let me go straight into the photo place. Great! How foolish I was, thinking I was almost done. Another 2 hours pass, and a lot of swearing under my breath at the people infront of me, who didnt have the right papers, who wanted to pay half on card then half by cash, oh but then they wanted a plastic cover for their metro pass too. When there are 300 angry students and pensioners behind you, trust me, you don't need a plastic cover for your metro pass.

So, it's 3pm. All I have acomplished was a metro pass and a student card. It cost $16.50 in metro tickets and 6 hours of my time. Not to mention the $13.50 that you need to pay for the card, nor the $37 that will now last me untill October. Today, I refuse to stand in lines.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Appartment finding...

Woohoo! I've got some appointments to see some apartments in the next few days. One (which is a little pricey for my liking) today, but in a place full of art students with everything included and a big room. And one on the weekend to see a very very cheap place which is a bit far out (like 45 minutes on the bus and metro) and a very small room.

So I dont know. Guess I'll call home today to see what they think.

But yes, it's looking up :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I arrived in Montreal on monday night, 2 hours late (damn boarder control) and I already love the city, and I am so happy to be living here for the next 4 months. Just a touch of a worry about finding an appartment but I'm sure I'll figure something out.

The city is so relaxed. They've really adopted the french joie-de-vivre attitude, which I just love. I could just sit for hours and watch the people walk by, which I did on the main square in Vieux Montreal yesterday. There were vine-covered french-style buildings, an old man playing the accordion and a stall selling everything maple (we are, in fact, in Canada).

Also, the nightlife is spectacular (and cheap, compared to the US). Going out on a tuesday and paying around $6/drink = a great night. I cant wait to see this place on a Saturday night.

I have made a couple of observations about the place:
-Primarily, its French. People speak English but most things are in French
-7 years of French French study doesnt prepare you for Quebecois French.
-The quebecois swear... a lot.

I think that's it for now. I am going to resume my lazy day of sleeping untill 2pm and maybe possibly head out for a scoop of Ben and Jerry's icecream later on. I just wish that bagel I still have from New York could fly up to my bed so I wouldnt have to get up to eat it. Perhaps an Iced Tea too... Hmmm. Lazy day.

I think I'm still exhausted from the intensity that was my fortnight in the States.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I miss reading...

Oh, how I love to travel. I really do. I feel so good here that I don't often feel the need to eat (yet, this afternoon's amazing rendez-vous at Le Pain Quotidien on the Upper East Side was totally worth it). Travel, the new experience, the overload of art is all the sustinance I need (that and a good falafel roll from the place near the MoMA and the Harper Collins building in Midtown). I feel alive, I feel fulfilled. I love travelling alone for the quiet contemplation in my mind that rivals this absolutly anything-but-quiet city outside me.

However, there are some things I am looking forward to when I get my own place in Canada.
1. Reading - I havent been reading much. I have been too busy hopping on and off subways to read anything. There is too much to do, too many people to meet, I can't spend my time reading.
2. Films. I havent had the chance to see any. Why? Because I am too busy cramming as much of New York into a week as I can. Sitting, motionless and passive for two hours, devoid of interaction besides that between myself and the screen seems --- ludicrous, when there is so much to see and do.
3. Creating. I have been going too fast for my own good, being pummelled day in and day out with art, art, and more art. The only drawing I do is the sketching of things in gallery corners. My brain is still digesting. But I want to create something original and mine. Something that is me but not me, a me living beyond me, and yet not living but inanimate. But not soul-less and therefore semi-living, but yet not.

In other news... I want to live in SoHo. And I am convinced that the Met is just a ruse to get your time. You go in to see the 20th C. European painting and then you end up whiling away the hours amazed by the Ancient Greek and Roman art, the Ancient Near Eastern Stuff, and the European Renaissance Sculpture, not to mention the myriads of reconstructed rooms.

That is all.

-A xx

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The New York Metro (or Subway, always Subway, if you say metro they won’t understand you) is a complex and intricate thing, and one wrong staircase can land you on the other side of the East River in Brooklyn. In my two days in NYC, I have had plenty of experience in getting lost. So here are a few tips for you all to follow;

  1. The best way to get lost, and by far the quickest, is to forget which direction is uptown and which is downtown. If you are a bit directionally challenged this can be quite natural. However, forgetting that ascending street numbers mean uptown and descending mean downtown is a good way to do it. Say for example, if you want to go from 53rd St to 58th St (in Midtown), you would be going UPTOWN, but to get lost, you must forget and go DOWNTOWN. On certain lines this will land you over the East River in Brooklyn.
  2. Another sure-fire way is to confuse Brooklyn and Queens. Brooklyn – Downtown, Queens – Uptown. Very similar to method no. 1.
  3. Also, there are many entrances to each subway station. In the larger ones, getting into the wrong entrance can be rectified by a few down staircases, an underpass and an escalator. However, in the smaller ones, once you’re in the wrong entrance, you have 3 choices
    a. Risk death, injury and/or fine crawling across the tracks
    b. Exit and pay another $2.25 on the other side
    c. Ride the subway till a bigger stop comes up and then change directions.
  4. Just because a train goes past a station doesn’t mean it stops. Even if both 5 and 6 trains run past 96th St/Lexington, doesn’t mean you can catch both 5 and 6. Catching the 5 will land you very close to Harlem.
  5. When one line intersects with another on the map, doesn’t mean you can change trains at that point, because it is (not so clearly) not a station, unless there is a dot on the intersection of the two lines. Misjudging this will land you at the harbour, most likely and 10:30 at night when most people look like they are carrying guns. Catching the train out of a sticky situation like this may also prove a bit worrying, because (knowing your luck) you will get stuck in a carriage on your own until the next station where two frat-like guys will get on, sit directly opposite from you and stare intensely until their stop at NY University. In such situations, and unless they are incredibly good looking, it is best not to make eye contact.

Love, -a

Monday, August 17, 2009

About America

I am currently on the train from Baltimore to New York. My trip to Baltimore totally helped me to understand the ‘real America’ in my point of view, as I was staying with a family in suburban Ellicott City. They are friends of my parents, and so incredibly nice, they’re Polish immigrants but gave me a lot of information into the American way of life. So, I have decided to share a few.

  • College is intense. Jacob, their son, is a senior this year. It’s not about grades. It’s about sports. It’s a lot easier to get into ANY college, for ANY degree if you play sports well, then if you get good grades.
  • The tuition fees for college cost an average salary a year. Most college’s have tuition fees around the US$40,000 a year, not counting books, extra expenses, rent or food. And we complain about HECS. For example, a medical degree is 8 years, so $320,000 in tuition.
  • Most colleges also require you to live on campus, so there is not much room for money saving.
  • The food is big. A small cup of tea/coffee is like our large. An appetiser is a full meal. The reasoning is based strongly in tradition. When the pioneers came over from Europe, a lot of them were suffering from starvation and malnutrition. The big servings are to symbolise that this is the land of plenty, the land of opportunity, etc. Fair enough, but to me it seems a bit wasteful.
  • They are seriously strict when it comes to drinking. If you are under 21 you cannot even HOLD any alcohol. Say for example, if you are helping a parent carry the shopping, the assistant will not LET you carry the bag with the alcohol. In some states, like Kentucky (of all places), buying alcohol is a biiiiiiig run around. You cannot simply go into any liquor store and buy some booze, you have to first join the ‘club’ at the store 5e(pay a $5-$10 joining fee) and then you can buy liquor. By state law, it is illegal to sell alcohol to someone who isn’t a member. In other states, it is illegal for you to see your alcohol being poured at a bar. You order, the bar staff go into another room, pour it, bring it out to you.
  • I asked Ania and Jacob why they are so strict when it comes to alcohol. Reason is simple, America was settled by puritans. And it’s not just alcohol, so many of America’s laws still have a very strong puritanical basis.
  • Don’t ask, don’t tell: more than just the policy in the armed forces when it comes to sexuality. You do not talk religion. You do not talk politics. Period. It is tabooed. You do not ask people what they think when it comes to politics, or why they do or don’t go to church. You do not go yammering about. You do not say ‘Iraq’ in public.
  • Due to this, most of what hits the news back home and around the world doesn’t hit a chord here, for example, Sarah Palin’s famous ‘I can see Russia from my house’ statement is unheard of here. We care more about American politics than they do.
  • Obama’s victory was a shock. Everyone thought McCain would win.
  • Due to the stupid Electoral College system, Bush got elected to a second term having less votes then Kerry. Kerry had, in fact, received 300 votes more than Bush but Bush still got the presidency. Put it this way – One state has 55 Electoral College votes. In that state, Bush wins 51% to 49%. He gets all 55 votes. Another state has 10 Electoral College votes. In that state, Kerry wins 99% to 1%. He only gets 10 Electoral College votes. So, you can have the majority of the votes, but still have less Electoral College votes. Makes sense? No? Good.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Baltimore and Washington DC

I think I'm getting into the time here. I slept in untill 6:30am. Which is good considering I have been waking up at 4am. I guess I was also so exhausted from an intense day yesterday.

I caught the 8am train from NY to Baltimore, it was less then 3hrs and really empty, I had enough space for all my luggage and to stretch my legs. Wunderbar! I also had a typical NY breakfast, bagels! I caught a cab to Penn Station in NY mainly because I just couldnt be bothered lugging my crap around the subway. It was only $13 inc. tip, not bad. And I got to drive down Park Ave, see all the museums and embassies and wish I lived there. On the train I was busy taking photos, and they're all on FB. It's pretty amazing how many states are crammed on the East Coast. From NY - MD, I passed through New Jersey, Philadelphia and Delaware before hitting Maryland. Unbelievable.

I was picked up at the BWI station by our family friend, Ania, who is pretty much the nicest person on earth. We then went to this amazing Indian place for lunch, and headed to DC to check out some sights. God, it was so so so hot. But amazing, none-the-less. While we drove into DC, we saw pretty much everything from the car; Capitol Hill, White House, Washington Monument. We walked around and saw them all up close anyway. What a trek!! In that blasted heat too! But it's all really pretty and clean, so I didnt mind. We meandered our way through from the Regan International Building to the Treasury, the White House, The WWII Memorial and the Washington Monument.

If that wasn't exhausting enough, Ania and I then went shopping to Macy's and H&M in Columbia.... I want H&M to be my wardrobe. Just... love. and cheap. and amazing. I'm keeping a lookout for a nice dress to wear for a christening back in Poland/Christmas/NYE/Just out because it's pretty. Found some nice ones, and fair cheap too. (I enjoy being a size 10 in US sizes). However, I need a few more intensive sight-seeing days like the last few to get a comfortable size 8, or even 6!!! (WOW.. I love america and it's sizes).

In fact, I just love america. I totally see the hype now. People are friendly, its so nice, it's pretty, there are SO MANY things to do. Granted, I have only seen the East Coast. A guy I met at the hostel spent some time in LA and said it was the worst decision he had ever made; "California is a collection of everything that is wrong with America" -- direct quote. Well, ok, I love the East Coast. New York and DC are both beautiful. I would love to live in NY... perhaps one day. :-) For the time being, I am snoozing a bit before breakfast.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

New York in a Day.

This is how to see NY in a day, with maximum stuff, minimum cost.

WAKE UP: 8:30, get ready for free breakfast at the hostel at 9am
10am - leave hostel, buy a metro card - 4 trips for $8.00 (save $1.20)
10.30am - arrive grand central station. Take lots of photos, act like an yuppie tourist with mouth hanging open the whole time.
10:45am - get lost... try to figure out how to get to central park
10:47am - buy a bottle of water and an apple-flavoured snapple (disgustingly sweet flavoured iced-tea drink that americans love and have in about 20 flavours) total cost : $3.00
11:00am - 12 noon: walk up 5th avenue, look at the expensive stores, ask questions about things you could never afford, like $10,000 De Beers Diamond tennis bracelets. Don't ask if they serve breakfast and Tiffany's - it's been done. Stop off at St Patricks Cathedral (free entry). Buy cheap postcards at Barnes and Nobel -- $3.27
12 noon - 1pm: wander aimlessly in the rain between 5th, Madison and Lexington. Somehow end up at Crate and Barrow homewares and pretend you're decorating your NY appartment. Wander towards Bloomingdales. Get lunch at Green Cafe. Egg and Cheese Roll with free cup of tea. Total cost of lunch including tip: $4
1:20pm: Go to Bloomingdales. Get scared. Look like a lost rabbit. Leave.
1:40pm: Catch the Subway to 8th St/NYU. Look around east village. Walk to the Forbes Collection (free entry)
2:30pm: get an apple from street vendor: $0.60, Catch the train headed to brooklyn. look a little worried on the ricketiest train in the NYC subway fleet. Get off at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal stop.
3:00pm: Catch the free Staten Island Ferry.
3:30pm: Visit the SI Museum. Student Fare $1
4:45pm: Return to Manhattan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The long, torturous trip to NYC

Well, I am here in NY and I love it. However, I am so screwed up that I would love anything that is not a plane, or a helicopter or hot air balloon. Anyway, I am glad to be on solid ground. So, lets start from the beginning.

I woke up at 3am today, which was really yesterday, because today is tomorrow. (It makes sense, ok?!) and headed to Adelaide Airport, and yet another surprise, EVERYONE was there!!! I was floored. Thanks to everyone who made the hideously early journey to the airport to see me off. I was sobbing quite a while into my melb flght. In melb, I spoke to the wonderous Amelia for quite a while, as the bloody Syndey and Aukland flights kept getting announced over the PA. However, no amount of annoying PA stuff would save me from the inevitable - a Qantas fuck-up!

My flight was an hr and a half delayed, and as I only had an hr and a half in LA --- I thought I'd miss my flight to NYC. However, since there were about 20 people on the same transfer, they waited for us. (how lovely). No matter how lovely it was, or how nice the new A380 Airbuses are, with individual touchscreens, new bathrooms and skycams, 14.30 hrs on a plane is torture. Especially because I felt sick, had the window seat so had to keep pushing past the two lovely californian ladies next to me (one of whom had the worlds cutest kids!) and Qantas didnt feed us for ages, I thought I would pass out!!! And, all the novelty of the new plane fades quickly especially when the jerk infront of you reclines his chair so you can barely eat your mushy, chalk-tasting vegetarian meal (and yet breakfast was lke rocks... go figure!)

But, I finally made it and had to quickly go through customs (no probs), get my luggage and check in again. It was rush, rush, rush with a 27kg suitcase, a 10kg backpack and a book-filled handbag. I was sweating like crazing in humid Los Angeles. While flying into LA though, I found it so ugly!! But it was so nice to see something that wasnt black and water (even though we flew over the Christmas Islands and Hawaii, it was night and who would see them/care anyway, it's all ocean). I only slept for like 2 hours on that blasted flight.

The flight to NY was wonderful though! Even though I was at the very back on the plane. The views over California, Nevada and Arizona are just amazing - deserts, canyons and mountain ranges. I had some amazing photo ops.

And New York!!! MY GOD! I love it. I was in the bus with my mouth gaping open, it's just like in the movies. It's amazing. Except the people are actually nice. And everyone in America is SO BLOODY HOT! Its like an insanely disproportionate amount of hot people in NY.

I was lucky enough to miss the first bus I could get, so there was amazing views as the city lit up through the fog. The skyline is amazing. Total tourist; mouth gaping like an empty thearte stage. Grand Central Station is also just breath taking. There is a reason they call it GRAND. And on the subway, I constantly had someone to help with my luggage, at the hostel the guys helped me get my shit upstairs. But now, I am so so so HUNGRY.

Peace, guys.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Countdown... 6 DAYS

So, this is my travel blog. Its only a few days until I really do fly away. Only 6 days!! I have so many things to get sorted, and I've told so many people already, I am getting bored of myself. So, I am not going to think/write/talk about them. I have got my NYC guidebook and I am loving it, making notes and calculations and also just getting more and more excited. I guess this is going to be like my little updates from my travels, my notes and stuff. Hopefully, a little more articulated then this. Yes, keep checking back for other bits and pieces.