Friday, May 07, 2010

Hanging out in NYC

Paul and I drove back to NYC after Maryland, with Jannie in the backseat. It was great to be able to spend some quality time with her since the wedding weekend was a whirlwind (for her, since she was a bridesmaid) and we had so much catching up after 3 years!

We stopped in Philadelphia on the way back to Brooklyn, which was an unexpected bonus for her! It was super hot and sticky, so we made our stop pretty short- lunch and a little walk around the historic neighborhoods. I guess to an Aussie, Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, and Betsy Ross had no significance!

Coincidentally, the Japanese guests at Bryn and Liz's wedding were also coming into NYC on Monday, so we had planned on meeting them at their hotel that afternoon so we could show them around town. It was completely random and took a lot of communication to make the plans, and I couldn't believe it all worked out!

Jannie and I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, hung out in downtown Manhattan, saw the World Trade Center site, and hung out at the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City. Then we headed uptown to meet up with Junko, Yoko, and Ippei.

Only then did we find out that they were only planning on being in New York for less than 24 hours! So, in typical Japanese fashion, they wanted to cram as much as they could during their stay as they could. The one thing they insisted on doing was watching The Blue Man Group and seeing Times Square, but first, they wanted to eat- and they didn't want anymore "rich food in huge, American portions".

So I brought them to Pho 32 where they finally got some fresh vegetables and refreshing noodle soup while I bought the tickets. It was their first time having Vietnamese food, and I was glad it was a hit! Ippei stopped at a B of A ATM for the novelty of withdrawing US$20 from his credit/ATM card- even though we warned him that the withdrawal fee was the same whether it was $20 or $200. There were a lot of photos of the transaction and the huge smile on his face when the machine spit out the cash was well worth it. Ahh, simple pleasures... :)

Then we hit the ground running- literally... We started off at 32nd Street & 5th Ave and headed up to 34th Street to see the Macy*s flagship store and the whole Herald Square craziness, up 7th Avenue through the Fashion District to... Times Square!! woahh!! sensory overload!! more photos and videos and pointing and gaping... we were at the red TKTS steps for like a half hour... and the triple-story (!?!) M&M store!! tourists!! street vendors!! ahhh!! We continued up Broadway to Columbus Circle and finally entered the peaceful sanctuary of Central Park. Since we were short on time, we were only able to wander around the south part of the park... It was about 30+ blocks of walking, not including all the walking around the m&m store!
Then we took the subway down to Union Square (another novelty- buying subway tickets took about a half hour- but the machines actually translated into Japanese!), walked down to the East Village (where we passed the only Ippudo ramen shop in the US), and along St. Marks. We shared a few orders of dumplings where Jannie and I got a few laughs over their amazement at the twist caps on their bottled drinks (so we didn't need a bottle opener)- lots of "hehhhhhhs", giggles, photos, and videos). We finally met up with Paul at the Astor Place Theatre in time for Blue Man Group's 8pm show.

The show was fun and super interactive- and I think they were so thrilled that they were actually able to score tickets to the show! Jannie was awesome and actually "shouted" the tickets for everyone (the tickets were all on her). After that, we walked to a nearby Indian restaurant on E. 6th Street (another first for the Japanese group) where we ate dinner accompanied by two old bearded men playing traditional Indian music. It was a late night! By the time Paul, Jannie, and I said our goodbyes and headed back down to Brooklyn, it was after midnight. Junko, Ippei, and Yoko still had plans on visiting the Empire State Building (apparently open until 2am!)
The next few days with Jannie were much more mellow. I had to work most of the other days but we met up in the evenings/after work, and one night we met up with Leigh, another former JET who lived in our area! As a generous thank you gift, Jannie treated me and Paul to see the Broadway production of Mary Poppins! Despite being surrounded by children and teens, we had a great time, and I was thrilled to finally see the show, since I've actually never even see the movie! We capped off her last night in NYC with a fantastic Greek dinner at Uncle Nick's.
Having these guests in town reminded me of how proud I was of New York!

I had so many experiences in Japan where total strangers went out of their way to take me into their own homes, drive me to my destination, or simply be generous and thoughtful of a visitor in their country. It was a blast to meet up again with Jannie, and to feel immediately comfortable hanging out with Junko, Ippei and Yoko. I heart NY!!

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