Adventure in Normal Life / Journeys


Thursday began with a beautiful swoop in to NYC on a small plane. I saw the rows of neatly arranged light brown buildings , precious little snow, (ahha! I escaped!) and a fascinating skyline.

I had spent most of Wednesday night – hours – cramming as many liquids and creams into my 1-quart ziploc as possible. How do people travel and still manage to look good? Well, good thing I had hours to prepare – there is a science to professionals traveling. I cannot remember the last time that I had traveled with a carry-on only. Perhaps it has never happened. I didn’t cram my suit on its hanger in to my carry-on 20″ suitcase until Thursday, 5 minutes before I was supposed to get to the airport and alas, it did not fit. Frustrated, I pulled, and tugged and eventually, I just stuffed the whole thing in desperately and decided I’d have to deal with the consequences later.

[ About the suit:my roommates can vouch that I spent nearly a week agonizing over what color to bring. Although my normal clothing wardrobe is anything but plain, I knew my interview attire could not be what my dad refers to as “red category” – literally, red, and all its associates. So, I had a black suit, or somehow what I consider to be adventurous was a light gray fitted suit.  Eventually, I settled on the light gray with a sapphire blue button-up. When I fretted and wanted to bring both suits and several shirts, one roommate just told me to limit my choice of outfits and bring only one. Simplify the life. Great idea. ]

So, I’d never been to NY, even on vacation and had this vague view of streams of socialites strutting in and out of bars, delis, restaurants, cafes jumping into cabs while yellow taxis zip past me, timidly trying to flag one down (without getting hit, thanks). The apprehension of being in a BIG city for a very focused, intense, and driven event (you’ll hear about in Friday post) grew steadily so that when I touched down at LGA, I sucked in my breath and got ready to call my first cab in the US of A (first cab I ever took solo was in Paris on Bastille Day at 3 am – that’s another story in itself).

Well, I chickened out, upon glancing at the long line of travelers in front of the yellow cabs, and afraid that there was a cab queue that wound around the block, I ended up scheduling a private car service, because it was cheaper – $28 – into Manhattan.  I’m not much of one to make conversation with strangers, but for some reason, I was fairly conversational over the 45 minutes or so. Perhaps because I go into “hostess mode” all the time now, which means, keep everyone entertained and comfortable. The driver was probably in his mid-thirties, big boned and slightly overweight, from Pakistan. When I told my mother that I was probably going to be venturing around the big city on my own and taking cabs, she was admittedly frightened (“just you and the driver???????”) so I was unconsciously aware of her fears and truly hoped for the best, non-awkward situation.

Well, that wasn’t quite possible.

I had grown up taking company cars whenever my family would travel, I think we got discounts because of work, so I wasn’t much fazed by the concept. But for THIS car service, they take down your name, mobile number, and then the driver calls you – from his personal cell phone. A little unusual, admittedly. Especially when he saves your phone number…

We talked about snow, weather, education, psychology, writers, his wanting to go back to school and saving money to leave the country, and then he pulled out his phone and scrolled through text messages to find the one from the car service with my name in it and then, realizing where I was from, began to inquire about my origins…and then the subject of GOD came up. And on that topic, we stayed. I never said I was Christian but spoke about my own experience and especially of being cold towards God and how my heart became soft towards God. That really surprised him! I have spoken to a number of Muslims about faith, and one interesting and consistent theme is that several of the ones I spoke to believe that God does not need man for anything and that He finished all His work before and now we are just left here as servants. Oh, but on the contrary, God’s heart is that we would know Him! How I tried to convey that, in my story of my personal seeking and gradual warming towards God as more and more faith came in to my heart. The rest of the discussion was faith-based. He said if he had married someone of a different faith, he would never have kids. (interesting…) Then he wanted to talk about how he almost married a Chinese chic and had moved to China to learn Chinese and decided he would become Chinese for her…and then, it didn’t work out.

It was kind of odd that he picked up on an aura of my being troubled and he started to encourage me to not let life’s problems get me down, in many words. He then charged me a way reduced fare, dropped me off, told me I could save his number, and continued to send text messages the following two days… On the one hand, they were valid points of encouragement but I for sure feel VERY uncomfortable with that.So far, no text today. As long as he doesn’t show up around the hotel on his breaks hoping to catch me leaving sometime, I’ll be safe. RIGHT???

Okay, so I think I’m pretty unfriendly in general. (if you don’t already know me). But whenever I’ve traveled lately and been even slightly cordial or friendly, I somehow end up in these kinds of situations…making friends I didn’t want to make, or causing trauma, drama, and tears when I don’t have a fiber in my being that can respond to foreign male professed, sustained, insistent public confessions of love that were not from lack of knowledge of English, but had advanced way too far in his head and never left… Sometimes I try my best to be unpleasant. Somehow, it doesn’t work. Weird, yes? I’m sorry  –  but after meeting someone once – maximum of twice, I wouldn’t want to jump to marriage. Reasonable, I believe. Although, I was a bit shocked after spending a whole weekend with my fellow Ph.D. applicants in Nutrition that in all of their relationships, they have no long term view, in general. Boyfriends are an added benefit – with good jobs –  to support poor Ph.D. students with lavish gifts and expensive dinners (# what in a string of suitors?) and $200 floral arrangements (which she rejected because he couldn’t arrange it himself or get the right kinds of flowers). Ok, maybe I’m just thinking of one in particular. The only guy applicant, who also happens to work in Boston, proceeded through post-interview time taking every opportunity to become drunk by finishing off any remaining alcohol left, self-admittedly is a man-child. I guess all that’s pretty normal, these days. And, nutrition students are weird : ) we eat out, and we talk about how all the food is going to kill us in the end. And then we eat it anyways.

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Anyway, I arrived at my hotel, and C met me after work. We went to Arte Cafe and had Italian food. I was tired. I had no confidence to go out on my own, so I was glad when we both went together. The waiter loudly glided around the restaurant (which turned out to be fancier than expected…) and boomed “the Tiiiiiiiiiramis-u. How about the Tira-misu? Some tea? some coffeeeeee?”

I fell asleep reading profiles of professors I would meet, bright and early, the following day… the BIG DAY!

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