Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's hard work being a big sister ...

I have started bi-weekly sessions with my "little" as part of the "Big Sisters & Big Brothers of New York" mentoring programme I signed up for .

I'm not sure what I expected exactly when I am well aware that I find it hard to relate to children at the best of times.
With my favourite topics of conversation ranging from music, politics, travelling, all the way to relationships, Richard Dawkins' evolution theory and shoes, it was always going to be hard to find some common ground with a child!

The early ice-breaker that the organizers set up involved us sharing what our favourite books, movies and hobbies are.
But how do you explain to an 11 year old child that your current favourite book is "One hundred years of solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez? That you really liked "Brokeback Mountain"? That one of your most regular pastime combines a rooftop bar, friends, cocktails and cigarettes!? Well, you don't ... but I have to thank Harry Potter for crossing the generation gap!

The fact that she's shy, clearly a little intimidated by me and replies to most of my questions with just "yes" or "no", doesn't help either. I will persevere of course - I can't (and would never) just walk away from the commitment, no matter how frustrating the 2 hours we have to spend together are sometimes.

It will take a little while for her to open up and for me to re-discover my inner child but I'm sure we will both learn from the experience.

In the mean time, I'll be raiding my local Barnes & Nobles children's books section to get up to speed and tune my DVR to Nickelodeon!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The French Invasion - Round 2

I always expected my parents to be overwhelmed by New York and I was right - after all, they are happiest when they are in our country house, in a tiny village surrounded by forests. So the scale of the buildings, the crowds of people and the dirtiness were a little hard for them to get used to at first.

But above all, they were overwhelmed by the constant noise, yearning for some piece and quiet which is impossible to get, not even in the confines of my apartment which overlooks busy Broadway... The taxis' horns, the constant sirens varying from the alarmist to the comical, people's tendency to chat loudly in restaurants, the rattling of the subway ... the noise was deafening to them and I realised that I had never really paid attention to it before. I was too busy marvelling at the energy to be annoyed by its by-product - the incessant sounds of the city.

But in their first couple of days, I managed to give them a feel for the different aspects of the city and show them why it is so special - from the madness of Time Square, to the quaint streets of the West Village, the luxury right next to the squalor of the Meat Packing district and the neighbourood feel of the community gardens in the East Village. They loved Central Park and Dad even rowed us on the lake before our gorgeous lunch at the Boat House.

They embraced the lifestyle much more than I thought they would - shopping for groceries at Zabar's, tightly clutching tall Starbucks coffees while walking around the city (this is from the people whose country demonstrated when Starbucks opened its first shop in Paris!), eating out almost every night (sadly, I was hoping for much more of mum's fantastic home cooked dinners), drinking cocktails on rooftop bars, eating sushi & Cuban food (where Mum got hilariously tipsy on one Mojito), enjoying the live performers in all the parks we went to, walking around the antique markets in my neighbourhood, falling in love with bagels in a big way ... They did manage to bring a little bit of France with them though - buying baguettes from Balthazar's bakery and shopping for cheese in Dean & Deluca. I even managed to find an Irish pub playing the rugby match for my dad to watch - I felt so bad about leaving him there on his own but he came home happy (if only a little disappointed by the result of course), with a broken voice from all the shouting and lots of new French and British friends.

They made me feel like I was a child again, my dad insisting on taking a picture of me as I was leaving the flat to go to work in my work attire ... just like he did on the first day I went to school!

It was wonderful having them here - they finally got a (parents-safe) glimpse of my life, know that I'm safe and settled and are completely won over by the city.

It was also an eye opener for me to realise that New York is not necessarily easy to love - you have to take the rough with the smooth ... I seem to have embraced both with equal fervour and can now make anyone fall in love with NY in 2 days flat!