As I’m writing this I am suffering from a self induced NY pizza belly ache. I had a slice before my 2:53AM drunk train back to Long Island last night. I went out with Lauren and her bf Aaron to one of her friends birthday parties. It was cliche–full of pre-gaming and waiting on a long line for a place I could care less to enter. It was one of my second outings with Lauren and her friends and every time I have to ask before I get dressed if I can wear what I’m wearing because apparently you can get excluded form entry just for being in flats. Yes, every NY woman owns a pair of towering strappy mega platforms to be worn horrendously and tastelessly with either pajama-esque shorts or dresses so tight they waddle in them. And then there is me in my high top sneakers which I wear almost intentionally just to say FU. Or more because in these dance bars with girls in super-shoes, my toes are in for beating so I wanted protection.
Everyone keeps writing me asking me how I am, how my new jobs is, if I’ve gone out on dates, etc. And it’s so hard to give any quick response back that seems genuine. The truth is so much and so little has happened all at the same time. I could give a quick quip that sums it up in 20 words. Or I could take my time to process it and write it all out like this. All my observations and everything I am really thinking.
So my last week of vacation before starting work was terrible. I was miserable being home because I felt paralyzed unable to really do anything reasonably responsible. I couldn’t read the books my boss has mailed me, I couldn’t do laundry, I could barely take care of Lorenzo. I hated the thought of being here and everything just felt so uncomfortable.
My resolved has been my sisters. I have seen a ton of them lately. We meet several times a week and gab, go to the beach, eat out, go to the gym, etc. I feel so lucky having them. Especially since it’s been entirely unexpected. We have never been close in the past. And I was honestly ready to hold a bit of grudge since they didn’t really communicate with me when I was going through all my shit in Quito. But they have been here now, which is more than I could ever ask. We don’t all entirely get each other, but it doesn’t matter. They understand at bottom of it all is that I feel out of place and they’ve been holding my hand through it. And sharing in the Ima-Venting, because my mother’s cray-cray is my largest impediment at the moment.
They thing is that it isn’t just about moving home and being a 29-year-old in her mother’s house. My mother has some serious illnesses and psychological issues, aside from an unfiltered mouth (which I must have gotten from her) that makes living with her a constant battle. Her bulimia has taken over life and spread itself into everything. Eating around her makes me uncomfortable and nauseous because her habits are altogether grotesque. What is worse though is that she is entirely unaware of it and the comments she makes otherwise to me. And because of her food obsession, nothing else gets taken care of in the house. She doesn’t clean regularly, she doesn’t put anything back in it’s place, the house is chock full of garbage because she has no capacity to sort or get rid of anything. She just hoards. It makes being here feel like being in a mental hospital. I just keep everything that is mine in my room in order to have to do as little integration with her domestic disorder.
I saw that strange boy, Michael, that grew up in my hometown 2 more times. After our epic weird date, nothing really happened. There was no cute banter and I figured he had dropped off the face of planet. I wanted to see him again for more story fodder, but I also was not interested in chasing him at all. After nearly a week of silence he wrote me “I’m having ppl over tn”. Well, I didn’t make it out there that night because I had other plans, but we made plans for the following week.
After him having planned the last meeting, I had wanted to plan the date. So I came over with a bottle of Maredsous and Chimay to teach the wine snob about Belgian beer. I rushed to catch the train, and on my way he texted that he was running late. I had an hour to kill in a random up and coming neighborhood in Brooklyn. Yay. I sat in bar and downed a tequila and then headed up to his place. He still wasn’t ready, but he was wearing the same over the top things. I had tried to “dress-up” more by wearing a blouse instead of a tank, but it didn’t compete. He had on black slacks and slipped on dress shoes with the shoe horn. Fancy. Then he put on another stark white polo shirt and a funny beige tweed blazer. I still don’t really understand his odd style. It was all sophistication, but also really mismatched. Who wears a polo shirt and blazer? Wear a button down shirt or otherwise a collarless shirt under the blazer. But nevermind. Panana hat and dark rim glasses.
He went around his apartment prattling on about all our options for the night–these friends were in this place and those ones were in that one. So apparently, I was going to meet friends. Okkkaaay. We chose to stay in the neighborhood and meet some of his college buddies. Meeting them explained everything. They were just a bunch of casual guys from California (Michael went to UCLA) in sports shirts and jeans. I began to understand that Michael’s dress code and peculiar speech were part of some sort of facade he puts on. His friends even called him “Doc”. We bar hopped with them for a while, his friends ordering beers and him ordering Negronis and complaining about them. Clearly a neighborhood corner pub doesn’t make the best Negroni, even his friends were laughing at him. It was a very strange situation because I didn’t stay at his side, I spoke to his different friends trying to make friends since I still wasn’t sure what this whole set up was between Michael and I. It’s not like he had kissed me hello or anything.
Anyway, some friends asked how long we had been dating. Awkward. And others talked Michael up, “He’s a really great guy”-style to reassure me I was getting involved with a quality man. Stranger. And then I ease-dropped on Michael talking to a friend on the way to the next bar where they were discussing what type of place it was as Michael wasn’t familiar with it. It got described as neighborhood gastropub–not a great place for meeting people. And Michael said, it doesn’t matter because he was with me. I can picture myself walking ahead of him and my eyebrow perking up at the odd thought of all this. Eventually separated ourselves from his friends and went up to the rooftop of his new building admiring the view. Finally alone I began to put the pieces together. He went on several monologues about life and criticizing things. It was fun getting a peek inside his head since he is obviously very intelligent. But he also admitted that all the things he’s done and experienced in NY, one that he hasn’t is being in a relationship. And he started to explain to me that he wasn’t sure what he meant by inviting me out for a drink and wasn’t sure what he could offer.
As per my previous “date”, I didn’t know what to say really. Was I suppose to respond to his awkward declaration? I was pretty drunk–1 tequila and 2 gin and tonics into the night. But I tried to be articulate and explain that truthfully I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I lied and said I was attracted to him and honestly said that he intrigued me. Mostly, that I’d like to spend time with him and whatever comes of it, does. But also went into my opinions on sex and not delaying and putting it off as something special. I like sex and I find it an integral part of any non-plutonic relation. It was good or it wasn’t, and I am past the phase of trying to teach bad fucks how to communicate with me physically. So I prefer to get involved horizontally early on to see how we mesh. He didn’t seem in disagreement but it didn’t excite him either.
Needless to say, we got physical that night. It wasn’t bad but it was very far from mind blowing. It was kind of like our first kiss–it was nice in that it felt good. But I am used to the nail scraping type. He was much too concerned in trying to please me to even really get into it himself. He couldn’t let himself go. He was too much in his head than the moment. I slept over again, this time in his bed but left early in the morning, 730am, to go meet Lauren and go to the beach. He woke up too and got his computer and told me to come out later again as he had mentioned he was having some sort of birthday party (his bday had been during the week).
I had plans to go out with Lauren and her friends that night, but I figured I would maybe stop by. Unfortunately, Lauren and her friends bored me to death playing what I can’t call anything more than Long Island in the City. They all looked like carbon-copies of themselves. Same giant black strappy platforms, white pants with black top or black pants with white top. It was like a dress code of eye sores. Pants too tight or in crop tops showing off tummies that needed more covering up. Everyone should wear what they want, I don’t care if someone wants to show off what they’ve got. But it just hurts to see people wearing things because they are trendy and not because they are flattering in my opinion. But nevermind. They drank and pre-gamed at a crowded apartment and then of course taxied (I am not used to taxis in the city still) downtown. I got a text from Michael on the way to the bar so I decided to continue on to Brooklyn instead of joining the mid-twenty somethings “getting their rage on” as they called it.
Michael had told me he was having a rooftop party, so I expected a big things. Nope. It was me, Michael and 5 other people. 1 of which I had also gone to high school with. We quickly shook hands and then he ignored me the rest of the night. They weird a disconnected group. One from is soccer team, the one from my hometown, one co-worker, another wine buddy, etc. I had a hard time keeping a conversation with any of them honestly. They were all snobs in different ways. They were all having conversations about things I know little about such as NYC real estate, where they buy their wine and their favorite sommelier, or this DJ they love. Even when I was just listening, I had a hard time not chuckling to myself. They’re all Brooklynites, which means they are on the tip of neighborhood trends. They use Brooklyn like an adjective. For example: “I met my girlfriend as a Brooklyn house party.” Not I met her at one in Brooklyn. The fact though that it took place there means of course that it was hip or underground or something. Or this one guy started blabbing about a restaurant he owned in Pittsburg, so I asked what type of place it was and he said “European” as if that clearly implied something. That isn’t a type of food specifically, so I asked what he meant. His answer was that it was more of a vibe or atmosphere than a cuisine, as if everything that is Europe could be summed up in one word. I didn’t say that though, I just nodded like I knew exactly what he meant.
Every one finally left and we were all pretty drunk having spent the night on a Pastis fix. But Michael was especially in for it so I sent him downstairs with ibuprofen and his Soda Stream soda water. As I was kinda of tucking him in he started complimenting me on how I got along so well with everyone both that night and also the previous one. I just hushed him with a thanks because it was such a strange drunken comment. Michael had made no effort to really chat and get to know me in the social scene of his friends. Both times I felt as if I had been invited as an unnecessary accessory. Something else for his image, as I imagine his friends may have asked who I was. I can’t even imagine what his explanation must be, I’m the charity case NYer, but not, that he is trying to reintegrate into society. Anyway, I cleaned up the rooftop in my own drunken state and then got in bed next to him. I left in the morning before he even moved.
He texted later that day to laugh about us dancing on his rooftop and that was it. When I started work on Monday I tried to start up the banter but he didn’t take my bait. And the conversation entirely died out. Again I didn’t hear from him for days and days so I kinda of figured maybe that was it. I had gotten a bit perturbed since even though it didn’t bother me that things would fizzle out from a romantic stand point, I did kind of like the game. We had pretty much stated that this wasn’t a relationship, it was two people that saw each other as opposites trying to teach one other about their worlds. And I kinda liked the stop and go of it to a certain extent. But after 5 days of silence I actually deleted our conversation from Whatssup so I wouldn’t be tempted to initiate any conversation with him in my boredom. I figured it was GAMEOVER, maybe one of his friends had planted a seed of dislike about me. Or whatever, he had exhausted his interest in me.
And then last night while I was out with Lauren on yet another NYC rooftop, my phone buzzed. “I think I may have just completed several consecutive days of nonstop ‘prior commitment’ attendance.” What the fuck does that imply? I asked Lauren what to write. She said just send a question mark, so I did. “Saying sorry for being out of touch, and that I’m going to lay low for the rest of the night tonight. Text u tmrw.” So it’s tomorrow, and nothing. Lauren thinks I should just stop while I’m ahead since all the awkwardness of this boy is getting boring. And I half agree. But then again there is nothing else and I’m too lazy to actively search for anyone else while I am still transitioning back to life here. So I’m just letting it be.
So now about my job. This week I finally started and it has been both a blessing and a curse. I was waiting for it already to just begin because honestly, sitting at home doing nothing in it’s anticipation was disheartening. And now that it has begun I have only more things to whine about. There are spurts of goodness in it, and it does the greatest thing of filling up the hours in my days so that I think less. But the mundane of working and being surrounded by uber-Americans that are their jobs kind of kills me. A little bit each day.
I wake up at 530 in the morning, having prepared everything the night before from my lunch, my shower, and laying out my clothes so that I just go through the motions. Personally, having to wake up any time before 6am is a personal low. It is an hour of inhumanity and its scathing to look at the clock in those early hours. My first day of work was so painful I quite well may have given someone a black eye if they had chanced speaking with me. But no one did.
Drive to the train station. Park. Wait for the train. Take a metro uptown. And I finally arrive at work around 730am. That’s the bad. But there really is a lot of good. So I’ll start with that. My fellow Hebrew staff is a motley crew. Some religious, some not. Ashkenazi and Sephardic. Years in the US and some newcomers. It’s interesting. All different political opinions. I think it is such a beautiful representation of Israeli society as a whole. It feels special and everyone is really awesome. Really open and friendly. I feel really comfortable and excited to among so many people that I really value. Among them are two people though that really make me happy.
One is my boss, Alona. She is one of those amazing people that inspire you because you want to be them. She is so passionate about her work and she really understands it and is able to impart that knowledge in an interesting and comprehensible manner. But the other parts of her as a person are apparent despite her role. She is a mother and a feminist and a lefty and so many things. She cuts her own hair and doesn’t wear a bra. I have a girl crush.
The other is Netalie, a girl that seems to have lived a parallel life to mine in Tel Aviv studying literature there and waitressing, leaving suddenly and questioning that choice. She is one of the only people I think that really gets me here in NY. She’s the only one that isn’t all career-minded in her ways. We have a lot in common. She’s still a little weird but we connect and I think we’re both so sensitive that it makes it easier to fall apart in front of each other. We sat up in Morningside Park up on this balcony that looks out over the city and we shared stories. We both came back to NY for the wrong and the right reasons. She buried her boyfriend and lost her father in the same year. My pains seem silly compared to hers. But it was cathartic to share and cry and look out on Manhattan reminding ourselves where we are. Oh, and her mother is a bit tra-la-la-la too, so she commiserates.
The rest of the staff is very young. Which is nice. But unfortunately my critical nature doesn’t let me get close to most of them. It’s not for lack of trying, but it is like dating. You know usually in the first 10 minutes it they’re your people. And they’re not. The Americans are obsessed with their jobs. They brag about taking their work home. And the self-righteousness of working with children makes it all the more obsessive and “look-at-me”. We even had a conference about professionalism. And my colleagues agreed that we need to be professional not only in our work place but also out of it, because you never know who you will meet. I wanted to walk out right then and there. I wanted to scream NOOO! Absolutely not! I am not only teacher! If anything I think that we need to be recognized more as people in the workplace. I have a life, a personality, concerns, issues that have nothing to do with my job and often explain who I am in my role as a teacher. But it is a useless conversation. They don’t get it at all.
But that’s just the people. This week was all Professional Development, and as it has become clearer what I am doing, I am loving it. So the school I am working at is a bilingual school that teaches the core curriculum in English, but has a Hebrew co-teacher for every class. Co-teaching in and of itself is pretty awesome. It isn’t just another teacher in the classroom, it is a witness to it all and I really like (the idea of) it. I am paired with this awesome chica named Tammy. She grew up in the Bahamas and down South and has moved up to NY to be with her fiance. We really get along, and I think we’re gonna have fun working together in the classroom. But aside from that, I am teaching a language acquisition approach called “Proficiency” that really agrees with how I see language teaching. They talk about second language learning as the same really as mother tongue language acquisition. The process is first Input, just a lot of listening. Like babies, they hear the language and understand it long before they actually speak. So this would be me just talking, but in simplified sentences and with lots of visual cues, body language, etc. Then Intake, which is the words a child actually absorbs from all my Input. Then Developing Systems in which a person actually start understand the language and making sense of it in their heads. And lastly there is Output, being the spoken language. The goal for our students is obviously “proficiency” but the approach understands this requires time. They grade it in hours, that for example X language requires Y hours of immersion to reach proficiency. My job, besides 1 hour a day (for 3 classes) of actual Hebrew lessons, is to be with the students and blast them with Hebrew in authentic situations. I also get to plan a lesson every day with Tammy in science or social studies that has to include both English and Hebrew.
And I got to peek already at the Social Studies curriculum and its so cool, progressive, and well thought out. There is a section on Israel and they teach it through families and they’re all so “politically correct” but in a great way. The families are mixed Ashkenazi and Sephardi, like it Israel. They have an Ethiopian family and the mother is a nurse. They have an old “grandparent” couple who lived in Israel prior to its establishment and their bird has an Arabic name. Things like that which are all so authentic to me and also teaching the important multicultural values to the students. Especially since I understand from colleagues that my students are going to be similar. There are tons of kids from the neighborhood from African-American or Latino backgrounds among which some come from lower income backgrounds. There will be as well upper middle class kids whose parents are professors at nearby Columbia. There will be all different religious backgrounds, practicing and not. Kids from families with same gender parents. Maybe I’m more excited about my students background than I should be, but I find it fascinating.
The down side to it all is probably going through all the motions not even having my next vacation planned. I find it hard working without something imminent and exciting to look forward to. Something that explains the moments when I question the point of it all and can at least say that the life I love costs money and money comes from my salary and my salary comes from the pointless job I am doing right now.
I must say I have been really good about budgeting. I found a super cheap super market, albeit a 30 minute drive away into a more “ethnic” area of Long Island. I spent $98 on a month’s worth of groceries. 1 pound of turkey breast for $3.39 is unheard of! I unpackaged everything and put it into weekly sections and froze it. This way I can pack my own lunch and endless snacks to eat, since I’m always hungry. I saw already my first week that it’s easy to fall into the pitfalls of buying a coffee here and a bag of chips there. It adds up quickly. And I’d much rather save it and spend it on a good dinner once a week (at least) out with my sisters. I have a ton of places I want to try after having added NY foodie blogs to my Reader. Hehe.
Last week I already tried one. I dragged my sisters to one of NYC’s best burger places creatively called “Burger Joint”. It’s a tiny little dive inside a posh hotel that you wouldn’t know of unless you were looking for it. They have hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fries. That’s it. So good. I hope I can keep up with getting my sisters to come out with me. They seems to like my initiative for now. Let’s see. I’m hopeful.
Life is mostly good on an individual level. It’s only when I feel grouped with other Americans that I start to feel so out of place. My opinions and outlook are different. And the way I dress seems to warrant opinions. Especially my hair. Everyone says I need to cut it and calm it because it’s too frizzy. Lauren literally yanked my jacket off me at the bar last night complaining that if I wasn’t going to dress up, I should at least how some skin. Bah. I had bare shoulders, but that didn’t seem to attract any more men than with the cardigan on.
I think Lauren is going to try to play makeover with me. She insisted one night this week that I come over and she try to style my hair. If it makes her happy, then she can go ahead. I know I probably come off weird or like a hippy of some sort. Even one of my Israeli co-workers asked me this week if I play the guitar. I said no, why? She said I just look like I should. Apparently, I look like some earth-crunchy music teacher. And that is after my wardrobe overhaul my sisters insisted on the week prior. I have the calluses on my feet to prove it, damn new shoes.
But I don’t care. I refuse to become like everyone else. Even if it makes me lonely. Even if I get labeled things that I don’t associate with myself. I’ll continue to make the friends that are right for me. And if the average man is turned off by the fact that I am 5’3″ (160 cm) and walking around without heels, then he’s better off not coming up to me at a bar. Take me or leave me.