And there you are - a highly insensitive and, for the most part, incorrect title for you. I have no experience of walking through minefields. I've never been to a developing country (unless Thailand counts, although I'm pretty sure it doesn't, and the way I holidayed in Thailand certainly doesn't) or anywhere ravaged by war, and even if I had, I don't think I could begin to comprehend what it would truly be like.
But this isn't about my travelling failures, this is about my failures to be a New Yorker, by way of an incredibly hyperbolic simile. They are only minor failures, to be fair, and it is all a learning curve - but YEGADS, I am exhausted just from trying to assemble a life in this madcap city. Every day I fall down onto the sofa, mind and feet pounding from the constant mental and physical running around that is currently necessary, and try to relax - a near impossible feat, seeing as we are still in the soul-sucking environs of the dreaded corporate apartment (it's actually not that bad, it just pales in comparison to our maybe apartment).
Yes, the maybe apartment is still a maybe, it's virtually a sure thing but I'm not counting my chickens until they're hatched, despite having paid over the better part of a house deposit (an Auckland house deposit that is, further down south you could buy a small town for that same sum) and several body parts to secure said fowl (hmmm, analogy getting out of hand?). We've even signed a lease (I say that so flippantly, as if it were no big deal, but trust me, if Tolstoy were still alive and writing this lease agreement would be his follow up to War and Peace. When the man who took our money (I'm not sure of his actual job description, renting an apartment in New York involves a long, long chain of people) put it down on the table, the entire room shook. And this was a well constructed room, not a cardboard/MDF knock up like our previous apartment) but still, the apartment is not definitely ours. ARGGGHHHH.
My yoga-style breathing is getting more and more of a look in these days.
Actually, it would all be fine if everything else wasn't so convoluted and difficult. A simple supermarket trip to pick up some dinner can take me hours, as I trawl the aisles, looking for something - anything! - even slightly familiar, and reading the back of countless packets to ensure I'm not eating anything too odd. And yes, also because I sometimes stop and laugh at some of the less obvious combinations considered acceptable, decent foodstuffs, like Chocolate Chip Cookie Crunch breakfast cereal (I'm not making this up, I promise). Nothing seems to be called the same thing here, even vegetables (in the supermarket around the corner, a sweet potato is a yam, a capsicum is a bell pepper, which is grouped with an extensive range of hot peppers that look the same, so utmost caution is required, and a courgette - which I always thought was a zucchini in America - goes by the total misnomer of English Cucumber (yes, capitalised). I'm not sure what Americans think goes into cucumber sandwiches or Pimms, but it does seem worth finding out).
Take a simple, if lengthy, shopping trip and add H1, and you're doubling the time, the remainder of which is spent repeatedly telling him to put back the Chocolate Chip Cookie Crunch cereal, and find some muesli (granola). If we work up the energy to go to the gym, we spend equal amounts of time working out and just standing beside machines, eyeballing them with shifty glances, trying to work out what they do and how you make them go. There are many, many more machines in our local gym than we have ever seen in a gym before.
This must be what it's like for people from the deepest, darkest corners of the south who move to New York. In fact, New Yorkers probably see us casting worried looks at gym machines and vegetables and think we are from the deep south. Our accents would only confirm it (not a whole lot of New Zealanders in this city, I must say. It's not a recognised accent).
Buying lunch is a challenge. Eating lunch is a challenge (such big meals - it's a stereotype for good reason). Tipping is a challenge. OH don't get me started on the tipping. Our terror of looking cheap battles with our desire not to end up bankrupt every single day. I keep a stash of ones in my purse, which I tend to burn through frighteningly quickly, frantically peeling them off and thrusting them in the startled face of pretty much anyone who crosses my path.
I don't remember ever feeling this clueless in London. I probably was, but with the naivety of youth, just didn't realise it. It actually weirdly helped that London's not known for its friendliness - I just went with the flow and if I was doing the wrong thing, people would ignore it, and me. Or they would tsk me. Either way, it wasn't at all hard to deal with, and I did, with a smile on my face.
And there's one of the cruxes of the problem (yes, it's a multi-cruxed problem). Used to be I was too nice. Here I am just not quite nice enough. Until I pull the ones out of my purse.