Wednesday, June 20, 2018

NYC: What I Done Learned!

We got back last last evening from our week in New York City.  It was a fascinating experience, but not for the faint of heart! (or body)

Here are a few things I learned from my first trip to The City That Never Sleeps.  If you have never been there and hope to go some time, here are some helpful hints to make your trip more enjoyable: 

--you MUST understand that the city is aptly monikered!  Take earplugs if you want to get any sleep during the nighttime hours!

--you MUST be either sufficiently financially sound to afford taking cabs, Uber, Lyft or Jupiter Car Service everywhere you want to go, OR you must be sufficiently physically fit to walk, bus and subway yourself for many miles and many hours around the city every day in sometimes intense heat and humidity.

--you MUST realize that if you are riding the subway you will see the world's most interesting pan handlers making their way from car to car: elderly male gospel quartets, drummers, singers and even pole dancers (a particularly difficult task in a moving subway car), all bearing small cloth bags in which you can dump some of the dollar bills I will mention later, although actually giving them money instead of acting like they are not really there will definitely mark you as a gullible tourist, rather than a cynical local.

--if you are riding buses and subways, you MUST pick up a weekly or month long Metro pass for sheer convenience.  At only $32 per week it is an incredible savings.  Public transportation rates are $2.75 per trip and we racked up sufficient trips during the course of 7 days to more than make up the cost of our  weekly cards.

--you MUST have a US cell phone plan that allows you to download city street maps, subway and bus routes in order to find your way around in any reasonable amount of time.  Attempting to wander about the city juggling paper maps of same is an exercise in frustration and incredibly time consuming.  It also makes you a sitting duck for Hop 'n' Ride tour bus operators looking for passengers for touring about all the "usual" tourist traps like Times Square and the Empire State Building, although the places you might enjoy seeing more than these are never on their daily routes.  Mind you, it is kind of interesting to listen to their sales patter...for the first three minutes or so of the spiel, after that it becomes incredibly annoying and distracting!

--you MUST plan on travel to anywhere in the city taking at least an hour in each direction.  Even if the trip should only take twenty minutes, subway and bus breakdowns, and other delays for accidents or unscheduled route or track maintenance happen on a regular basis, creating the need to find new routes to your destination at the last minute.

--you MUST have proper, comfortable, walking shoes.  Leave the sandals at home, even in the hottest months of the year.  The streets, unless you are planning to spend your entire vacation within the confines of the hosed off Avenues Park, 5th and Madison, in downtown Manhattan, are simply too dirty and filled with garbage for bare feet to be safe.

--you MUST carry a pocket filled with one dollar US bills for tipping buskers, street vendors, hotel housekeeping staff and just about any one else in any service industry you come into contact with.  It is all about the dollar bills.

--you MUST learn to speak loudly and clearly to the store clerks, wait staff etc. that you are dealing with.  Know what you want before you begin talking to them and don't do the good old Canadian hemming and hawing routine. They don't have time for you to be all blushing and humble and apologetic for existing in their space.  Get to the point and get there in a hurry.  It is the best way to enjoy any sort of shopping or eating experience.

--you MUST train yourself in advance not to freak out if and when you see rats, particularly in the subway stations.  NYC has rats in their subway system.  Deal with it!

--you MUST follow the rules of each neighbourhood population when out walking when it comes to crossing streets against the lights and popping in and out around and  between moving cars.  Don't stand on the corner like a ninny, waiting for the light to change from DON'T WALK to WALK.  You will look incompetent and silly and chances are that about the time you get a WALK light in your favour, it will be at the same time a moving vehicle will be forced to go speeding through the crosswalk in front of you anyway, in order to clear the driving lanes around it before the lights change again. 

--you MUST realize, should you decide (foolishly) that you want to rent a car and drive in NYC that you need to have prior experience in big city driving, perhaps somewhere like Mumbai, where leaning on the horn for hours at a time, driving into the oncoming traffic lane, full speed ahead and horn blasting, in order to get around delivery vehicles parked in the middle of the street, or circling the same city block for a couple of hours waiting for a parking space to open up is the norm. No, there aren't public parking lots, or business provided parking spaces, for the most part. The same rules for speaking apply to driving: decide where you are going and then get there as quickly as possible and don't let any of the other cars and drivers get in  your way.

--you MUST realize, if you are taking a bus, that most of the time, particularly in the business areas of the Burroughs, there are other vehicles parked in the bus lane right by the designated stop and so you will likely have to run out into the street while the bus is still moving toward you and jump on through the fast opening door at the first opportunity. Do not expect the bus to come to a full stop unless it is obvious you are not physically capable of  jumping onto a moving bus while its driver is honking the horn to let the traffic around him or her know the bus is slowing down for the sake of some pesky passenger.  Expect to be dropped off the same way, SOMEWHERE in the general vicinity of the marked stop, often finding yourself stepping out the bus door onto the road, less than one foot away from a parked car, requiring your to squeeze yourself out like sausage from a casing, hoping there is no driver in that parked car attempting at that exact moment to force his car away from the curb and into the bus lane you are entering on foot.

--you MUST realize that garbage collection is rather sporadic in the Borroughs and there will be many unpleasant sights and smells as you walk along the streets, particularly after some of the bags have either been ripped open or have leaked liquids all over the sidewalks. Such is life. There are no back alleys, so all garbage goes to the front curb and sometimes, if you are lucky, most of it actually stays there for a few days before it starts blowing around and leaking who knows what all over the place.

--you MUST realize in advance that while the idea of travelling to NYC may not be that appealing if you are unused to large international cities, once you are there you WILL fall in love with NYC and find it very difficult to return home at the end of your vacation.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Hope My Family Won't Be Too Disappointed

Ever since we decided to go and visit our son, all of my family members have been so excited for us, particularly about all the sights we will see and all the tourist attractions we will be able to enjoy.

Weeeeeellll.....we are not really going to sightsee.  Other than a couple of art museums, we are pretty loosey goosey about sightseeing...ambivalent even.  We are not going to any Broadway shows and likely won't even get much into Manhattan area.  Our "own" neighbourhood where our hotel is located is plenty interesting enough to explore on the day or two our son will be working.  We may not even make it into Central Park or on the Staten Island ferry tour to the Statue of Liberty.

Going to see him is the only priority for this visit and anything else we see will be an extra treat for us. 

We are not certain if or how tomorrow's historic summit meeting between President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un could effect our border crossing, the attitude of the people of New York over the coming week, etc. We don't know if the recent post G-7 Summit kerfuffle between the US president and our own Prime Minister will effect border relations or if it will be meaningless to one and all.

Whatever....it is our son who is the centre of this visit for us once we get there.  New York City has never been a place of interest for us, so no matter what we see, no matter how insignificant to the general tourist scene, it will be wonderful and exciting for us.

Thank you for praying for our flight times and our health and our safety.  Thank you for the encouragement that we should take this trip.  We will be in touch as soon as we get back.

PS Here is a Christian website I have been enjoying lately:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Is Becoming My Favourite Day of the Week

I am grateful for all that happened today!

Church was really wonderful.  The sermon was about being God's Viceroys: in other words, representing God in our care of ourselves, each other and the earth God created.  It was edifying and encouraging.  The music was particularly lively this morning and that is something I always appreciate.  Visiting before and after the service was deeper than the usual "Hi, how are you?" chatter and that was particularly good for my husband.

The wind was pretty strong when we came out of the church building, but I was still able to take a minute to converse with my favourite street guy.  The other fellow who waits for handouts is coming to the church before the service now, so between the two of them they have the panhandling covered for Sunday morning at that location. hahaha  They are both very interesting to talk to. 

I fried up some fish for lunch, but I don't think I will bother buying fish here any more.  The fresh fish isn't and the frozen fish can be fresher, but this batch wasn't at all fresh. Blecch!  I washed it thoroughly, seasoned it well, but the stale taste was still present and we didn't especially enjoy our meal.

About the time we had to leave for our out of town friends' house the clouds came up to signal the predicted storm.  The forecast has been dire.  The storm systems moving across Alberta yesterday that left such a mess from wind and heavy rain was coming this way and hitting a wind system moving up from the south east.  However, as we drove away today there was only a bit of "spitting" and the storm warning for both Regina and Moose Jaw had been lifted.  Apparently Regina got 15 minutes of said "spitting" and that was the end of it.  In Moose Jaw there wasn't a drop of rain, just some mild wind gusts that didn't stop us from eating our BBQ outdoors as planned.  We ate and drank, we played bocce ball, we ate and drank, we visited, we ate and drank, we prayed together, we ate and drank, oh and we ate and drank....there was a TON of eating and drinking.  I was so full it was uncomfortable sitting in the car to drive home. haha That kind of discomfort I can handle on occasion!!

If even half of my "month of Sundays" is this great every month I will be thrilled!  I have given up some hopes and dreams that I had in terms of church here and God has given me new hopes and dreams that I am all ready seeing fulfilled.  Amazing what happens when you just allow him to have his own way, right??  Of course right!  He's my creator. He knows what is best for me.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

3 More Sleeps

My husband is REALLY enjoying his holidays this year.  Today he was cheery as he began his research into what sorts of markets and restaurants are somewhat close to our hotel in Brooklyn.  We are staying in a Jewish settled area and there are some wonderful looking deli's and fresh food markets all within 2 to 6 blocks from where we are staying.  There are two synagogues of differing sects, one on each side of our hotel.  His delight in researching is starting to break through to me and I had some glimmers of excitement this afternoon.  I have been feeling completely overwhelmed by life for the past few months.  Developing an interest in travelling anywhere at all has been too much work emotionally.

This afternoon, as I was enjoying my husband's happiness about travelling, I think it finally finished sinking in that we are going to see our son.  It has been 18 months since we last saw him.  

As the realization is hitting me I am starting to get just a wee bit more joyful about this venture.   

Our son....I get to see him.  Who knows how long it will be before that happens again, so I had better be darned grateful for this trip!!! 

While I have been feeling peaceful about the travelling, it is kind of nice to actually feel a bit of happiness about it as well.

Please Pray For Our Friends

Hello praying friends and family.  We have some dear friends who have just suffered a rude shock with the substantial loss of some monthly pension income that was supposed to be guaranteed.  Over the past couple of years they have suffered some unexpected and unexplained serious health issues, losses of various kinds and now this punch in the gut.  Their faith is going to be tested through this trial and so please pray that God will make himself very evident in his dealings with them.  

My husband and I have been through this kind of nasty financial surprise so many times, but our friends have not had to face income loss this major before. To face it for the first time in retirement years is even scarier than when people are younger.  It is more difficult to work through mentally and spiritually.  None of us know why this particular pension has not been protected through government legislation. Court cases are akll ready pending. It is a royal mess and our friends are trapped in the middle of it.  

Thank you for your prayers. To protect their privacy I will call them Mona and George, just because I realize it is sometimes easier to pray using specific names. 

Thank you prayer warriors for all your concern for the people I love.  It is good to have so many family and friends who enjoy taking on prayer burdens for others. God bless you.

Getting Down to the Wire

My husband finally secured our shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel for next week.  To the best of our knowledge, we have done all we can do ahead of time to ensure some sort of smooth transitioning and travel on this trip.  I am still feeling irritated by the cost and I know it is because I still have residual stress from the rest of what is going on in our lives right now.  Most of my stress has been dealt with, but once stressed, immediately taking on pressure over every detail of life is a difficult habit for me to break.  I suspect that once we are actually in New York, I will be more excited than anyone. That is usually the case.  I was dreading moving to Japan years ago and that turned out to be the happiest year of my life thus far!  So....here's to breaking out of the day to day stresses and thoroughly enjoying myself and my family!!

Doing the laundry today so we can pack up the day before we leave.  I am so looking forward to our day tomorrow when we only have to enjoy the day, enjoy church, enjoy dining and visiting with some friends.  If the weather is as bad again as predicted, well, we wil just have to continue soaking up water with old towels on the basement floor and getting them dried and set up to spread out again before we go.  I have a huge amount of extra bedding that we mostly only have used for covering up furniture when we load up moving vans during our various moves. That will be a great way to cover the basement floor while we are gone.  A layer of sheets and two layers of towels should contain the disaster to some extent.  Knowing we are leaving our basement open again to more flooding while we are gone is not relaxing, but there aren't any other options. My husband considered spending today doing more patching and sealing of the basement walls, but they haven't dried out sufficiently for the products to adhere and there are three days of rain coming starting tomorrow. We woke up this morning to a world obscured by thick, wet fog.  Yikes...FOG?  On a morning in June???  HUH???  What is that all about?

Well, I have been wondering how to stow my rather heavy rain jacket in my carry on luggage and now I don't have to worry about it.  I will be wearing it to the airport as it turns out that is a rain day here.  Easy peasy....another silver lining for me! 

I have to make a salad to take to our BBQ dinner tomorrow, so after lunch I will wander over to the store for a few extra fixings to pad out the lettuce and cucumber and red pepper I still have that must be used before we leave.  I need a bag of prunes as well that I can take on the plane. They are such an easy snack for me and take a long time to digest.  I think I have sufficient filling for the pretzel bunwiches I am taking for my meal times.  This is the only time having diabetes is a real hassle.  I HAVE to eat a certain amount at certain times and since there will be no food available on the planes during my meal times it is up to me to take my own.  Well, at least I know I will be eating in a healthy manner!  Yet another silver lining.

"Singing I go along life's road, praising the Lord, praising the Lord.  Singing I go along life's road for Jesus has lifted my load."
(from an old hymn I remember hearing somewhere long ago.)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Down to a Mere Trickle

Well, it took many hours today, but the water coming into the basement has been mostly dried up.  The towels are all washed and ready to put down on the floor again Sunday afternoon before our next heavy rain and wind hits Sunday evening.  Sigh....

Where there is an underground trench from ancient telephone installations that leads directly into the worst of the cracks in the basement wall, there is still a small trickle of water draining into the pail.  Some of it was able to escape along the wall and behind the dryer before we realized it was still seeping, but the good part of that is that in the process of pulling the dryer away from the wall to mop up the water, my husband discovered the dryer hose had detached itself some time ago from the outside vent.  So, he was able to reattach it and clean up a growing pile of lint that has been accummulating back there for apparently some weeks.  That is a great silver lining to this messy situation.

My husband was very tired today and so was I after our interrupted sleep last night.  However, although we stayed fairly close to home all day, I was able to get out this morning for some errands, for a short walk to the grocery store after lunch and then after dinner tonight my husband wanted to return to the IMAX for the film we missed last evening.  It was like most of the other IMAX productions we get here: unsure as to what sort of film it was supposed to be; kind of a cross between an informative documentary and the story of a particular person/incident. However, we are glad we went.  We both prefer sitting in the small theatre with a very small audience for a short quasi-documentary film than in a big theatre for an overpriced Hollywood movie we rarely enjoy and in the midst of noisy patrons.

By the time dinner was over the sun finally made its late afternoon appearance and the temperature soared into the low +20'sC for a wee while.

Tomorrow is laundry day and if I get going soon enough I will have the clothes needing to be ironed dry in time to get that chore done in the evening.  Sunday will be a day of morning church and driving to Moose Jaw for a BBQ with friends in the afternoon.  Having a full day's break from thinking about and preparing for our trip should guarantee we get our packing done easily and happily on Monday.


Here's to a grand weekend before the rains come again.