Am I Actually in America?

It’s been a whole month. A month! But alas, my European adventures have come to an end. It’s been a quite confusing transition coming back to New York.

For my first two days back, I stayed with my awesome friend in crummy New Jersey. It was nice though. We rode our bikes to a nearby lilly pad pond, explored the grounds of an abandoned German Club building, saw wild bunnies, ate fresh mulberries for the first time, and played Super Mario Wii until all we could communicate to each other when we weren’t playing was “AH!” and “Press A. PRESS A!”

His family is so generous and they fed me vegan food, telling me I could stay as long as I want…though I think the mom just misses her daughter and wanted to latch on to me. They have two beautiful cats, one Persian black haired beauty, the other sleek and sassy. I enjoyed eating oatmeal on their green-house-like sun room watching ducks swim by in the river down from their yard. A lovely place to come home to after being away. But, unfortunately I had to come back to reality at some point. The reality I’ve been dreading.

I left my friend behind, two seconds away from begging him to not let me go. I had to carry two darned suitcases up the stairs to the train platform. When I respectfully declined after an old black man offered to help me and I heard him behind me go “Damn, you fine,” I knew I was most certainly getting closer to New York.

At the New York Penn Station, I caught the subway to downtown Manhattan, and had a bout of culture shock. Americans are so loud! Jesus Christ! Every single passenger was fricken talking. For some reason, even though they were sitting right next to each other, they all felt the need to yell. I couldn’t believe my ears! In Copenhagen, no one talks. It’s so quiet you can hear each other breathe. Same thing in Hamburg. Nobody talks. But if they do, it’s not much louder than a whisper.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any louder, a group of young men on the train roared with cheers and applause whenever a new passenger would hop on the subway. They asked me to participate in their game, but my stop was next, so I told them to applaud me as I left. As I walked off at Chambers Street, they obliged with grins, and I took small bows and thanked the people.

I got to stay with my friend in Queens for two nights. We crammed a mattress into her already small room and I counted the ambulances that screamed as they passed by outside her window. Her place was a little dirty to me, her roommates taciturn and snobbish.

My friend, who I don’t know that well at the moment, but hope to as time progresses, was so kind to me. She bought me jackfruit before my arrival, because she knows I’m obsessed with it. While I was there, she let me eat her food, in fact, she encouraged it. It makes me want to be more kind. All these people who host couch surfers for free, and people who feed you like you’re their own child make me feel so grateful, yet awful. I think I can be selfish…probably because I am broke. Yeah, that makes sense. But I want to try to be more selfless. Most of the time I think I do a pretty good job.

I couldn’t stay there any longer because it was crowded and her dunkel landlady charged me $20 per night. YEah…broke. All this morning I feverishly emailed couch surfing hosts like crazy, looking for anyone to take me in. I of course applied the same intensity to contacting people renting rooms. I emailed half of New York and called every given number I could find. One guy actually picked up and sounded nice, so I made arrangements to go see the place today.

New York is hot people. HOT. I normally don’t dress like a cheap saloon whore, but today was the exception. I was wearing skin over my clothes. HOT. I had to walk a billion miles to the subway cause the closest one doesn’t operate on weekdays (what the mother of crap is that all about?!), and then when I got near the apartment, I couldn’t find the house number and walked in circles in the sweltering cocktail of heat.

Finally I found it! After calling the guy 3 times. The stairs up to the apartment were grimy, and that got me thinking a simple NO already. But inside…it was immaculate! And they take their shoes off in here…which if you know me, that’s a big deal.

It’s in Astoria! Which sounds more magical and ethereal than it really is. It looks like Brooklyn, but less crummy…with a hint of South La Brea in Los Angeles. So it’s okaaaay on the outside. But I’ve been so spoiled with the rich colors of Rodos, the vibrancy of Copenhagen, and the cobblestone antediluvian luxury of Hamburg that this place looks like what I leave in the toilet bowl after binging on junk food.

But you know what? My apartment is lovely and clean. It only has two other people. It’s waaaaay cheap for being so close to Manhattan. Which is my other pro point—it’s like 20 minutes to the city! That’s crazy talk. It’s STILL New York, the subway is a 1 minute walk away, there are stores nearby, cafes, a bank, a grocery store…. And I just met the female roommate, and she is so sweet. Judging by the apartment, she’s into health food and travel. I think we’re going to be good friends. That makes me happy, cause I don’t like being lonely…I’m excited to have roommates. The male roommate, who’s kind of like the landlord’s minion (he collects our rent) is from South America, where I want to go so badly!

I get my own room, and decent space for my things. Plus a big screen tv to watch movies on in the living room! It’s a safe area too.

But I am trippin out because it feels almost like I’m still in a different country. I walked around the neighborhood after I paid my first NY rent (!), and went into a few different shops. One was an Indian store, and had veggie options. I picked up tortillas and the woman didn’t understand a word that I was saying when I asked her how much they were. At the grocery store, I found CACTUS PEARS. What the heck are those?! They look like figs with spikes. Well, the name suggests exactly what it is. They are fruit that grow on cacti. I’ve never tried that before! So of course I bought it. Just because it looks similar to a fig, doesn’t mean you can bite straight into it. Please, don’t make the same mistake I did, unless you want to scrunch up your face in response to the bitterness and look like Renee Zellweger, peel the damn fruit. But how cool! Cactus Pears! They also sold dates still on the branches and tons of natural breads that I could actually eat that weren’t frozen or stamped with a bible verse. Hooray!

Someone told me that Astoria is considered “Greek Central,” which is marvelous, and beautifully coincidental, seeing as I just went to Greece. I was dazzled by the AMERICAN grape vines hanging over a garden down the street from my house, as a woman eyed me suspiciously.

When I ate at a restaurant with my New Jersey friend, I was amazed at how many people were speaking English, and I felt so rushed in making a decision to order my food. The waitress was so persistent. nd my mind was training to be a Danish soldier, and so now when I have to say “Thank you,” and “excuse me,” instead of “mange tak” and “undskyld,” it feels so wrong! I have to pause and think for a second before I say the English words. I don’t like it! The way I pronounce “L” is weird too. In Danish, you stick your tongue to the bottom teeth like you’re going to hurl, but here it’s the top teeth like you’re going to gleek. I MISS DENMARK! And all I can think about is traveling. I never want to stop. Just go go go go go.

BUT IT’S SO HOT. GAH! I need to buy a fan. I’m excited to decorate my room with posters and black and white photos of my travels and flowers to make it homey.

I have the apartment to myself right now! Male roommate is at work at an Italian restaurant. His accent is confusing, I thought he was Italian before he told me he was from South America and works at an Italian venue. And my lovely friend roommate is at her sister’s tonight. I can prance around naked if I want to! And in this heat, I probably will.

Still no job though…. Interview tomorrow. Lots to do this week. Gotta get all my stuff out of storage and organize it in my lovely new living quarters. Then I gotta attack the music scene full force!

Time to make a burrito from my cheap nutritious groceries and watch some television near the window.

I think I’ll take an ice bath tonight.

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