A couple of random New York pieces from my travels:
Our first three weeks in Washington had been a lot about crossing “to dos” from our list of responsibilities. Most days involved taking care of something essential in order to keep the wheels of our transit turning, if only for an hour, and also there was a great deal of shopping to accumulate the vast amount of supplies we needed for the next two years in Nepal. However, between obligations and purchasing, we walked – alot – exploring blocks and blocks of DC’s many shaded, wide pavements. I really missed that kind of freedom to walk and explore in Manila.
Once we got to New York City our most of our shopping was done, the packers had come and gone, and Latham had departed, so it was just the two of us and the streets of New York to explore.
I had lived ten years previously in New Jersey and yet rarely took the hour train ride into New York, staying overnight only once in all those years. Now I was looking forward to getting to know the city better and our new two-week home on the Upper West Side, close to Central Park, was a great area to start.
Central Park is big and there is so much to see and do. It really is the heart of the city and there’s always something going on. We visited frequently and yet I feel I only saw a few corners of it.
After all these years, I had never explored Central Park and was really surprised at how many buildings, monuments, bridges, ponds and attractions there were. It was crowded some times more than others, of course, but never so crowded that I wanted to leave.
After almost three years overseas, returning to DC felt like closing the loop on our Manila experience. I have visited on and off over the years or to see Robert when he was in training but not more than a couple of weeks at a time. Our last stay was the longest and I l learnt to find my way around the city and the metro a little.
So when Carla came to visit at the beginning of our stay I was able to act as tour guide — at least a little. I happily planned three loosey goosey days of activities starting with the sales. After almost three years in Manila I needed new stuff – I couldn’t buy clothes to fit there — and Carla very kindly helped me tackle Ann Taylor to stock up. Its so hard clothes shopping only every couple of years or so for a different place that you’ve never visited. If you’re too hesitant then you end up wishing you’d bought more…too gungho and the credit card takes a hammering and you end up with stuff you don’t need. What to buy…what to buy?
The next day we spent some time at the American History museum checking out 1950’s transportation, Julia Childs and the history of American food…all one floor I might add. That place is big! Then did one of our walks through downtown DC, past the White House and all the way back to Dupont Circle where we were staying. We both like seeing cities on foot!
Day three was at the wonderful Washington zoo. Latham had his new camera and took loads of pictures testing out his new equipment. We went early on a rainy day and avoided the summer crowds. Free admission makes it so easy to go for a short casual trip and go back more times.
The house and location really made our stay and it was great having Carla come and enjoy it with us. We especially enjoyed basil-laced gin and tonics on the deck and watching the darkening evening sky….despite Ugly Naked Guy….a dip or two in the hot tub. Next stop….New York City!
Its sort of overwhelming returning to the States after almost 3 years. I expected the vast choices and the higher prices. I expected to be shocked at how much everything cost, and I was. It was like blow to the gut paying $4.50/lb for something that I used to pay 99 c/lb three years ago. Between the recession, normal inflation, center city prices and my newly acquired (but skewed) Filipino sense of cost, shopping stateside seems filled with crazy store owners making up prices to see how high they could push me me before I said no! A short shopping trip around the wonderful Dupont Circle farmers market cost $60 for the week’s vegetables for two people. That’s about half my totally weekly shopping allowance in NJ three years ago. For carrots, peaches and lettuce, really?! But then again I took them home and stored them well in the fridge and they stayed fresh and beautiful all week. Dewy fresh, beautiful and tasty. Goodness knows how much money I wasted in Manila on “cheap” fruits and vegetables that started to rot within 24 hours no matter how carefully I stored them. I often threw away more than half of the produce that I bought because we didn’t use it immediately. A real crime anywhere, but especially in a developing country where people don’t have enough to eat.
Restaurant portion sizes are huge here and so is the tab. But again…if the cheapest lunch item on the menu is $15 and it fills you up or you can share it between two… and the quality is there… that’s pretty good value. In Manila we often order a “family size” pizza just for Latham or ordered him two dinners. At that rate the prices were the same as DC but for lower quality. It often wasn’t truly “cheaper” to eat out in the Philippines. What was a real deal were the drinks. Local beer was $2 a glass in a fancy restaurant. Here we’re paying $6-9 for a bottle in a neighborhood place. Then there’s that weird flip on the meaning of local. In Manila local meant cheap. Here in the states it means artisan and expensive. Managing my financial expectations is taking some resolve and the occasional deep breathing exercise.
I’ve found that value for money changes meaning for me all the time. Cheap and value for money are not the same thing, but sometime its cheap that gets you what you want and other times it’s something expensive (that lasts) that you really need. Here on home leave pivoting back and forth, on the road, on the run, shopping is not for the faint of heart!