Sunday, 6 March 2011

Goodbye civilisation

(This has been on my desktop for a few days and haven't had a chance to upload.)

Well, haven’t I been lazy with getting one of these up lately? So where have I been the last two weeks since leaving Quebec City? I ended jumping on the Greyhound (who might I say have the worst customer service I have ever encountered) waved goodbye to the snow and made my way down to semi-sunny New York.

So New York… Big, massive, hectic, overwhelming…. The amount of superlatives you can use is pretty much endless, but generally, they all point to the same meaning. From my perspective, a lot of things I’d heard about New York were true and many others not so much. The first Hostel I booked In New York was in northern district of Harlem. The only thing I’d heard about Harlem before my arrival was the Harlem Globetrotters, and I didn’t expect to see them spinning basketballs on their fingers any time soon.  A quick google of the place and a few reviews of the hostel quickly suggested Harlem is no American Utopia where everyone gets along. Most of the phrases tossed around were “dodgy area,” “Didn’t feel safe walking at night” and “suspicious looking people in the streets.”  I was set to arrive at my hostel around 7pm, just after sundown, so I was preparing myself for an interesting journey in trying to locate the hostel in my perceived post-apocalyptic, every man for himself warzone.  Not surprisingly, it wasn’t like that at all. Harlem is a massive melting pot of cultures that has developed its own distinct personality. I had the pleasure of staying in West Harlem, which is considered the black area and then found myself in the eastern area, which is considered Spanish Harlem, due to its large central American and Mexican populations. The places weren’t dangerous at all and luckily for me, gave me a great view on some of the “real New York.” Walking around and just listening to the locals speak with each other is like being in movie.  At the end of one drunken night out, I managed to successfully negate central park alone and find the fable white castle at 5am in the morning unscathed so it can’t be too dangerous. (Please don’t try this if you visit New York.)

A taste of some of NYC's best buskers
During my time in New York I did all the touristy stuff, which I won’t go into too much (any?) detail about. One thing that I think is worth mentioning though is the New York residents. I found them to be a great bunch of people who are proud of their city. I didn’t really have a single negative encounter at all and on numerous occasions people in the street would just begin chatting with me out of the blue. They really do come across as a genuine bunch and have to be some of the friendlies people I have met. They have certainly improved the image of American people in my eyes.  Riding the subway is just an adventure in itself. The amount of things you see on it are just down right bizarre. The one that tops the list is the dancing/rapping 10 year old buskers on the Lexington 4 train. 

I did manage to get myself to a few museums while I was in the place including another contemporary art museum, the MOMA. I have now promised myself from now that I will now completely avoid contemporary art. It was great to see the Andy Warhol pop art, which was about 1% of the gallery, but the rest of it just made me feel stupid.  I just can’t see how some of this stuff, which includes a black & white video of someone blinking on loop is considered art. It just comes across as a torture mechanism to get suspected terrorists to speak.  I apologise to all the contemporary artists out there, but my uneducated view of the stuff is that it belongs in a serial killer’s lounge room.
If it means contemporary art, then I have to agree.

Before I left New York I also visited the Bronx zoo which was hugely disappointing.  In the colder weather basically every animal is removed, so hardly anything was on display except for the animals nobody wants to see anyway, like the peacock. The absentees included the Honey Badger, much to my great disappointment. I guess I will have to continue to the search in India, where they do roam wild after all.
I also made the 5 hour journey down to Washington DC to check out the capital. I was surprised at how small the white house actually is and how close you can get to it. As a capital city, it certainly puts Canberra to shame.

Potentially me if I can't find this vaccine.
So I’m typing this from my hotel room in Mumbai (Bombay) severely jet lagged after the 17 hour flight. My body doesn’t even know what time it is and I haven’t felt tired once. It was the first time I’d successfully slept on a plane so when I got off it, I wasn’t tired for once. I think I’d have preferred to be knackered when I got off than have been awake, after the last 24 hours.  My first impressions of Mumbai are that it’s completely and utterly chaotic. I’m not even sure why there are traffic lights as the cars just do what they want. I think the horn must be connected to the accelerator as they honk incessantly.  I have now consumed two curries – a Chicken Masala and a Chicken Moghali and they have both been incredible. They were both for the measly price of around $2/£1.40. I’m currently in the process of trying to track down some vaccinations as I was too lazy to do it in the UK.  I managed to locate the Hep A vaccine, which comprised of me asking for it at a chemist, then them handing it to me with a sealed needle and a block of sealed medical ice. The guy honestly expected me to inject myself! Thankfully there was a hospital over the road, which administered it for $3. I managed to track down the Typhoid vaccine, but the Polio one still eludes me.  I can’t have them until Monday anyway as my immune system is currently in battle mode with Hep A. 

So, better get back to battling the Hep A vaccine and my jet lag, the next one will be quicker.