Friday, 13 January 2012

Hello America!

I became a "permanent resident" on the 20th of December, landing in Boston to spend a couple of weeks with family in New Hampshire before heading to New York City.

I set up a bank account with TD Bank a couple of days after arrival (fortunately a foreign national doesn't need a social security number to set up a bank account, but you can't get paid without one and I'm currently still waiting...). All seemed to go smoothly but after a couple of days my card was blocked, when I went into the branch to check why and seeing my details on the computer they had somehow put my middle name as my surname! So I was actually Mr Richard... this was a level of incompetence for which I was unprepared. The account took a little while to get sorted and I had a few other cards blocked over the next couple of weeks, hopefully it's sorted now!

That inconvenience aside, christmas is usually a period of time where vast quantities of food are consumed, this also happens to be the case whenever we visit New Hampshire. A combination of the two led to an ascension of gluttony that would cause Jabba the Hut to blush.

I didn't want to purchase too many things while we were still in New Hampshire as we'd only have to cart them across with us, but while in Bullmoose (I hate to think how much money I have spent in there over the last 8 years) I saw the Stax/Volt 1959-1968 9-CD singles box-set for a good price. It was actually gathering dust so I really had to give it a loving home.

The in-laws have a new dog since we last visited (as well as goats, a horse, chickens, ducks, guinea fowls and probably other species I'm forgetting) called Redford.
a rare moment when Redford is not terrorising me...

We arrived in New York on the 4th of January and made our way to our apartment in Ditmas Park. Greeted by a friend of the landlord who showed us in, after a nervous few minutes where none of us could get the keys to work we finally managed to enter and set our things down. The apartment is great (though the shared heat in this building is brutal, need the windows open and fans going most of the time we're inside and it's January!) and the area seems pretty convenient (I suspect I will do a separate blog about it at a later date). We're about a 20-minute subway ride to Union Square on the Q-line (of course!). Here's a view from our window.

So far we've gotten out and about quite well, experiencing many areas of Manhattan. Had a nice walk along the Brooklyn Bridge (best to walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan for better views, though parts of the view are obstructed due to repairs), drinks in the East Village (and onto Williamsburg, getting home at 3:30am...), record shops in Greenwich Village, and various moments of gawking at the various buildings in the city (and the general prices of just about everything).

Also nipped a bit further south to Coney Island, taking in a visit to the New York Aquarium but not before trying a Nathan's Hotdog and a stroll along the boardwalk.

The Bronx Zoo is a real treat and you need a whole day there to just about squeeze everything in. We were quite lucky because the Red Pandas were on real form, and I'd never seen a Polar Bear or Snow Leopard before. Other highlights included a Mouse Deer (too dark to get a decent picture), Fossa and many others.

I'm not getting these events in order, but in any case. We had a nice walk around Central Park (and we also had a long walk around Prospect Park near where we live), both will obviously be more impressive later in the year, but they're pretty immense as it is. From Central Park we took in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is huge, we whizzed around as much as we could in a couple of hours but you could spend days in there and still have plenty to see.

I obviously haven't had time to indulge in the usual myriad "best of 2011..." lists (though I'll hopefully fit in a music compilation of sorts before the end of the month). My first day of work will be the 16th of Jan (which is a public holiday here for Martin Luther King Jr. day, but our office is still open), by which point I'd have had 4 weeks off, and will have forgotten what it is I'm supposed to be doing! So far it has seemed like a long holiday so it's still too early to tell if I am missing things back home too much, though obviously I'm a little anxious at the lack of (real) football, we don't have any TV channels here (just a DVD player) and I had the misfortune of watching a game of "American" football, which seems like watching real football if only it were played constantly with set pieces, with the ball only being in play for a few seconds at a time. I'm not sure how anyone manages to get through a game without getting extremely drunk. It also proved quite difficult to find an electric kettle!

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