5.01.2008


I could probably count on one hand the number of times in my life that I've felt truly overwhelmed.

Now is one of those times. NYC is, quite literally, overwhelming me.

There is so much to do. There are youth leader interviews with the students for the Uganda missions trip this August, and then there's trying to figure out where I'll be and whether or not I'll be able to join the trip. There is setting up the electricity and cable/internet for the new apartment (not to mention the last week spent finding it, doing the applications, getting the deposits in, signing the lease, getting the keys, finding out there's no deadbolt, and trying to get a hold of the super). There is moving in. Likely in the rain. There are friends coming to visit and many more still here that I have yet to catch up with. There are the parties - somehow I forgot about the nearly constant parties - at this person's new apartment or that rooftop bar or what-have-you. There is working late to catch up on training since I've burned precious daylight hours on the moving process. There's trying to remember to stop and eat when I'm leaving the office. There's dry-cleaning to be dropped off and picked up and laundry to be washed and folded. There's an AC unit to order and have shipped. There's a new couch to find, and carpet for the downstairs too. There's booking the travel for training in Chicago in a couple of weeks, and then there's updating the resume and the constant search for the next project. There's trying to figure out if it will be in the US or maybe Moscow.

Perhaps even more distressing, however, is the sheer volume of options. Everything is open at all hours of the day, once again. There's 6 million different places to eat. There's the bank 5 blocks north or the one 2 avenues east. There were 10 or so viable apartments to pick from, and even once narrowed down to 4 it was still a tough decision. There were too many foreign beers to choose from at the bar where we made our decision. There were too many bars in the neighborhood where we made it, too. There's 5 different church service times to pick from on Sunday. There's the subway or the tram, or the bus, or the ferry, or a taxi, or walking - all depending on where you're going, or how fast you need to get there, or how much you have to spend on it, or some confluence of the three. There's 2 offices to work from (pick the one you can wear jeans to). There's the endless toppings for your salad at Hale and Hearty. And the packaging, the endless packaging - everything comes wrapped in plastic of some sort, and then you get a paper or plastic bag to carry it in, for no charge! There's cable TV with 200 some choices, and the regular high-speed cable internet or the extra-super-high-speed cable internet (guess). There's 3 airports to choose from and 100 or so flight combos to choose from for a simple RT to Chicago. There were 3 different free newspapers being hawked to me at the top of the stairs to the subway. There's 6 different kinds of metro-cards, and today I bought my first ever monthly unlimited (deciding between which credit card to use), and spent the ensuing ride wondering if I'd get 40 rides in during the next 30 days to make it cost efficient.

At least this this time I didn't get lost on the subway.

The other day I was trying to get to the uptown F-train platform at the 34th street station and I literally became lost, for a moment, in the station. Probably the station I'm most familiar with in the entire city, and there I stood on a down-ramp looking around like I'd just lost my horse or found a rope. Looking like a tourist, for crying out loud.

Why do I not remember feeling this way the first time I moved to NYC? Everything just kind of gelled. Even getting lost was part of the experience, then. Getting lost now, though, like I did again last night, trying to get through the West Village to Nic's place, seems strange in a hard-to-describe manner - like wandering into your back yard and forgetting why you came there in the first place.

I'm somewhat apprehensive to leave the office late at night and face the plethora of possibilities that await me. What is this strange fear?

And if coming back from Africa is this difficult for someone who's lived here before, what's it like for someone who's never faced such a deluge of option? How does that person not just shut down?

Somebody told me that reverse culture shock would be worse than going there was, and I shrugged that off, but they were right.

Things I miss:

People greeting each other before starting a conversation. This I miss most of all. I start my deli-counter experience here with the standard "Howr you?" and have YET to get a response from anyone - its like here, ignoring the question altogether is germane. There's an unspoken "I'm fine but you aren't asking because you really care so I'm not going to pretend to respond to your fake question." I don't like that. Did I used to do this? It feels rude.

Cheap food.

The constant warm weather, and the elevation. Its almost as if being back at sea level makes me feel heavier, more weighed down.

Good surf within a day's travel. I miss Cape Town and in retrospect realize that I should have spent a lot more time there, and if I get back, that is what I will do.

Simplicity. You get used to limited options and there's a general this-is-how-things-are attitude of acceptance. There are lower expectations and fewer reasons, for lack of a better way of putting it, to get bent out of shape.

New stamps in the passport.

Running alone in the morning with the local blacks on their way to work. Also the genuine kindness of many of the Afrikaaners, notably my client.

Days that start at 5am and end early too. Being awake when most of the US is asleep.

Things I don't miss:

Toilets that need repeated flushing.

People pretending to use language barriers to their benefit. Corrupt police.

Living complacently, just south of the disaster in Zimbabwe.

Jack Daniels priced as a luxury brand.

Not being able to walk around at night and feel safe. If there's one thing I do not miss about ZA it is the prevalence of crime. Being able to stay late at the office without having to think about the precautions I'm going to take to get home safely is a nice change.

18 hour cattle-class flights.

3 comments:

gwyneth said...

you have successfully made me not want to come to NYC...

so many PEOPLE. AAAAACK!

Dawn (Alba) said...

oh the joys of reverse culture shock...

Anonymous said...

So o o tell your blog readers, how you are doing now!
Val