We are on day 16. That’s 16 out of 1095, if we were to stay here for exactly three years.
The difference between being a tourist and being a resident somewhere, however temporary, is that you do have to really adjust. And, even though we know that we will eventually leave, it’s still a ways to go before we head back to Germany. You realize that all the things you don’t like about a place, you just have to accept. And, all the things you love about a place, you get to embrace.
I am embracing the nature. It is just gorgeous around here. Lakes, marshes, rivers, mountains and hills, not to mention the sea, which I haven’t yet seen, it’s all here. And we are having the most blessed Indian summer. I’ve taken full advantage and have done quite a bit of exploring. Went to the Emerson Woods, the Tenafly nature center, the Pacific Palisades, hiked up to Bear Mountain, drove down the Seven Lakes Drive – twice, have even walked around that little bit of wilderness inside the City – Central Park.
A huge part of any exploration around here is the driving. Which I still need to accept. It is difficult to get anywhere around here without a car. Mind you, this area is one of the better connected ones in all of the United States. All the small towns have railway stations and you can get to town on a train. But, it is so much more convenient to drive here; these streets were made for driving.
Richard, Bärbel and I spent many days during the summer exploring the beautiful nature around Munich. Sometimes I drove, but many times we simply used trains and buses and walked on foot to reach the many Kodak corners of Upper Bavaria. Wandering around using the public transport outside of the big cities in Germany is easy. Not so here.
Speaking of cities, I do embrace the City. The Big Apple will take a bite out of you, but it also gives many bites in return. Literally. Driving in at night for a bit of Indian food, as in gluten-free, dairy-free curries with a massive dosia? Yes, please! Gluten-free goodies just a few steps away from the Park? Korean BBQ, Shake Shack, Kosher ice cream, phó, Eataly, and a thousand other delicious diners – they are all right there.
I do have a hard time accepting the noise of the City, which is part and parcel of one’s experience there. It’s loud. Day and night. Your only sanctuary would be your apartment, with the windows closed. Or some posh place with $1000 wines on their list. So for now, I am very happy living out in Westwood where I can literally hear, right now – as I type these words – the chirping of the crickets, and not much else.
What I do find really really cool is the fact that I can be atop Bear Mountain during the day, and be in Shigure in downtown Manhattan at night, sipping sake with other alumni from the American School in Japan, catching up on 25 years of life.
Yeah, we attended my high school’s 25th reunion in Manhattan last Saturday. How crazy is that? First, that it’s been THAT long since we were all in high school, and second, that the reunion took place barely two weeks after our arrival in New Jersey, and that I could actually be there. What a kooky coincidence. There were actually quite a few people there. Eric, Graham, Chris, Jessie, Dan, Jim and many others whom I actually didn’t spend much time with in high school whom I recognized and who, surprisingly, recognized me too.
I was saying to Alex on our drive back about how surreal our time in Tokyo seemed. Especially for those like me, who were only there for two years. These years made such an impression on me, and shaped the rest of my life in so many ways that it’s hard to describe. (And it’s not as if I’ve been stuck in the boonies all my life.) So it was good and actually quite important for me to know that it all really happened. That it wasn’t just a dream, and if it was, it was a magical one, shared by others.
And so I’m guessing this is how Alex and will feel in 16 years, when we look back on our time here.
On that note, below some photos from some of the picturesque places we’ve visited so far.