Friday, August 29, 2008

Subway Rides, Lunch, Street Carts... All in a Day's Work

Post by: Beth

I’d designated yesterday as my “resting day.” In the past 4 days since we arrived, I’ve done a ridiculous amount of errand-running, walking around the city, and shopping. My feet hurt from all the walking, my back hurts from constantly wearing a backpack around, and my mind hurts from trying to keep track of all the directions and stay on the right path. It's all a "good" pain, but I’d designated Thursday, they day before our first weekend here, as a day to stay in the bed all day, read my book, take a bubble bath, and nap. Just to rest up before the weekend got here and I crammed in even more activities during the days.

However, as usual, Raja woke up about 7am to get ready for work. That woke me up just enough to stretch my arms and peek my little eyes open. They opened just enough for me to see the sun streaming in the windows, not a cloud in the skies. I shut them tightly to make myself go back to sleep, but in about 10 minutes, the sounds of the city revved up (I heard the first ambulance sirens of the day and the start of the construction going on across the street). I opened my eyes a bit again and the sun was now streaming through the tall buildings, greeting me. I closed my eyes again tightly and tried to ignore the sounds and sights, but by 7:30 I’d given up and hopped out of bed to eat cereal and make it downstairs to the gym so I could start my day early. I cleaned up a bit and did my workout, then it was time to get in the shower. I showered, dried my hair, and Raja called me and asked if I’d like to go eat lunch with him. I’d decided to walk around outside and go shopping a bit since it was so pretty, but eating lunch with Raja granted me the opportunity to a) see him and b) ride the subway by myself for the first time!!

So off I went with my piece of paper (I write down all my directions for the day before I leave the house so I can remember where everything is) to the subway station. My first ride (about 8 minutes!) went as smoothly as I’d hoped, and I got on the proper train and off at the proper stop with no trouble. Raja met me at the station by his work and we went to eat lunch in the food court of an office building about 2 blocks away. I had sushi and Raja had Qdoba.

I waited carefully with the camera, because Raja ALWAYS spills food on himself at some point during a meal. If by some chance he doesn't realize his spill during the meal, he always checks at the end to make sure his shirt is still stain-free and clean. Here he is doing the "check" that I knew would be coming:

Aaaannnd here he is so proud that he didn't drop any food on himself this time:

After lunch, we went to a store called Sam Flax... It has all kinds of organization supplies, notebooks, folders, office supplies, gifts, calendars, etc. Each day I've been carrying around that same piece of paper with day's plans and directions, so we decided it'd be better for me to have a little notebook I can keep everything in so I stop having to scribble over things, unfold my paper, try to write on it when there's no room left, etc. Then it was time to head back to Raja's office so he could go back to work.

Above: Raja's office building.

Left: Another great moment where Raja had no idea his picture was about to be taken. :) He loves me.

I shopped around a little more after that, then it was time to go home and wait for the groceries. Yes, another independent subway ride back to make my first solo round-trip subway debut complete!

After Raja got off work, I rode back to that area to meet him and his work friends. I refrained from taking photos so as not to embarrass Raja by acting like it was his first day of school or anything. For everyone else, this is just their normal daily routines and it's really nothing special anymore. However, on the way home, I busted out the camera as soon as we split from his friends -- I'm talking mere seconds of our departure, Raja started seeing the flashes go off.

We'd made plans to go by a street cart on the way home to grab dinner. When Raja lived here for 6 months, a few people told him to try the food from a street cart at this certain intersection. He finally tried it to see what the big deal was, then he went on and on about this street cart at 53rd and 6th and how fresh and delicious it was. I don't really get into eating food bought off a cart in the middle of the street, so I refused it for about 3 months. Every single weekend, he'd ask if I wanted to go by 53rd and 6th on the way home from going out, and every single weekend, I'd say absolutely not. He even made me walk by it one day just so I could see what it was like. Now, I have to say that that sort of opened the door a tiny bit, because it was 3am on a Friday night/Saturday morning, and there were about 50 people in line waiting for food from this one street cart. All of the other street carts around had maybe 3 or 4 people in line. I couldn't help but think that the 50 people waiting in a huge line for this one food cart just may be on to something. They couldn't ALL be idiots, could they?

Night after night, I continued to refuse. Finally, one weekend, Raja said "That's fine if you don't want any, but I'm going to stop and get some and you're welcome to have some of mine if you decide you want to try it." So we stood in that long line and Raja happily produced $5 for an aluminum tin full of chicken, lamb, beef, rice, lettuce cheese, pita, one tiny hot sauce, and 2 tins of this white-colored sauce. We sat at a table outside and he opened up his tin. He said "If you want to try any, you just say the word." I had to admit that it did smell good, but at this point, it had become less about the street food and more about pride. I watched him pour white sauce all over the meat and rice, stir everything together, and happily munch away. I leaned a little closer to peer inside the tin, and said "Maybe I'll just try a tiny bit of the rice." So he gave me some rice and that was actually really good. I leaned over again and he stuck a piece of chicken at me, so I ate that, too. Yummy.. I hated to say it, but it wasn't shaping up so bad so far. I sat back and confirmed that I'd had enough, but in a few minutes, Raja announced he was done and asked if I'd like to try anything else from the meal before he threw it away. I hated to see him throw it away, especially after I'd tried the rice and chicken and really liked them both. So I slid the tin over a little and picked at it with the fork, taking tiny bites, then bigger bites. I am no longer ashamed to say that I ate the rest of what was left and really enjoyed it. Everything in there is actually somehow REALLY good... I have no idea how they drag a cart out on the street, cook on it for hours and have enough fresh lettuce, chicken, beef, lamb, cheese, etc to feed all those people night after night, but they are doing something very right. 53rd and 6th became a regular stop for us after long nights out with friends, and every single person that tries it comes to the same conclusion I did: street food or not, it's incredibly yummy, and you get so much food for so little money! I've since ventured out enough to try some other foods from street carts, but it's just not the same -- Overall, I'm still not a big street cart food fan, but there's just something about this one cart at 53rd and 6th.

So last night was our first visit there during our stay in New York this time... I took plenty of photos so all our readers can see how this does NOT look impressive upon first glance. The line wasn't too long last night at all, but when the line is long, it's amazing how quickly and efficiently they move people in and out of the line. They definitely have it down to a perfect system!

As for the walk home, it was another gorgeous night, so we took our time and I got to take some pretty photos.

Here's Raja figuring out the best route home:

And for the subway system, look, Chris -- I took 2 pictures just for you of nice policemen standing by in the subway ready to help if there is any danger. (She was worried about me taking the subway myself.) See how nice and capable they look, Chris? No need to worry at all, yes? :)

Raja on the subway:

And me, after our day's adventures:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pretty day in the city...

Post by: Beth

Today was a gorgeous, sunny day in New York -- The weather is great up here right now. The mornings are breezy and a crisp cool, and the day warms up but doesn't get too hot, even during the middle of the day. The night settles back into just the right temperature for walking around and being comfortable outside.

It was a much more successful day for me -- I had a lot of things I'd planned to do today, and I didn't get lost at all! The first couple of days here I got turned around quite a bit, and I always sort of had a nervous feeling that I would get lost and end up in a bad area. I didn't have that feeling today -- a sure sign I'm already getting more comfortable with navigating the city streets. By foot, anyway... Raja and I did practice the subway last night, and tonight I led the way as we rode to Chelsea to pick up some things after he got off work. I found the way to the right subway train, got off at the right stop, had a little trouble finding the proper exit, but overall did pretty well! Tomorrow may be my first day to ride the subway by myself -- It doesn't sound like a daunting task, but there are LOTS of trains coming in and out of the stations around our apartment, and they get very crowded and have lots of tunnels that branch off. I'm sure I'll get used to it with practice, but it's still a big step for now.

Here are some photos I took while walking around today -- I went to Macy's in the morning, then Express, Staples, the library, Gap, Office Depot, and finally back home. Perfect weather for walking around, so all in all, a great day!

This is the view as you exit the library.

The Chrysler building is my favorite building in New York, so you'll probably see lots of pictures of it. I have to walk by it everytime I go to the library.

This building actually curves inward from the front and back as it goes up... It's really strange to see a building that gets smaller as it gets higher.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Our First Dinner Out in NY ..

Post by: Beth

Okay so I realize my number of recent posts is bordering on ridiculous, but I'm really excited to be in New York and I know we'll only be here 5 wks, so I feel this need to capture just about everything. Plus I don't have a whole lot of urgent matters to attend to during the days, so it leaves me lots of time to take photographs and create blog posts. Our moms appreciate it at least. :)

Tonight, we went out for our first dinner since we moved in.. While Raja was at work, I looked up a sushi place near our apartment that would be easy to walk to for dinner. He gets sick of my never-ending desire for sushi, but it's healthy and yummy, so it's right up my alley. I ply him with Japanese beers and he usually gives in. Such was the case tonight.. yey for me :)

Here I am on the way to dinner, so excited that my love of sushi is being accommodated once more.

Here are some pictures of the street we walked down to get to the restaurant.

Here are some photos from the restaurant, Toyama.
Look, Raja's actually smiling for the camera! -- Can you believe it?!

Aaaaaanndd to end my captivating and oh-so-exciting blog post for the evening, here are the photos we took on the way back to our apartment. Riveting, no?

Our New (Temporary) Home

Post by: Beth

I got to take some pictures today of our apartment here in NYC... I like it very much, and somehow we fit everything in here! It's very strange to wake up in the morning and look out a huge window by the bed to see buildings that are 60+ stories high. It definitely makes you want to get up and see what's going on outside and start moving around. I don't know if we'll ever really have "lazy day weekends" during our time here because the sounds and sights just make you want to go out into the streets.

I also was surprised to see the floors in the apartment; they're old hardwood floors and it's sort of neat to feel crickety hardwood beneath your feet, but look outside and see one of the most modern cities in the world right outside your window.

I've started exploring a bit, but NYC can be as frustrating and intimidating as it is awe-inspiring for a newcomer. It's very easy to get turned around and think you're walking up the avenues only to realize you're going down in numbers instead. Things open and close very quickly in New York as well, apparently.. Yesterday I went on a 2.5 mile search to find a certain candle shop, only to find out that they just recently moved out of the building. I also try to rely on the GPS system as much as possible, but New York boasts so many different shops, restaurants, and establishments that they can't all be covered by the GPS. My GPS only lists about 30 establishments at one time. This is a huge amount in a normal city -- For example, if I look up "Indian restaurants" in Birmingham, I get 3 listings, and they are all spread out over a 20 mile area or so. In New York, if I search for "Indian restaurants," I get 30 listings but they list only the closest ones, so I get 30 restaurants in the 1 mile radius in which I'm standing. So if I'm looking for a particular restaurant that's more than 1 mile away, I have to guess in what direction I need to move, then re-search on the GPS to see if it's finally in a 1 mile radius at this point.

I have yet to give the subway a try without Raja... I've made do by finding things within walking distance, which is really simple here. Tonight, I think we're going to try to make sure I'm acquainted enough with the subway system to go places further away on my own. Wish me luck....

In the meantime, here are the pictures of our apartment. The order got all jumbled up so the pictures are in a weird pattern, but I'm using Raja's work computer and it doesn't let me manipulate things as easily, so sorry about that! The pictures of the buildings are what you see out of our windows.