One night late last year, I was working from home in Heidelberg when a colleague in New York pinged me. “I just want to through (sic) something out at you,” she wrote. Luckily I have learned to suppress my inner grammar Nazi. Because she threw the opportunity of a lifetime to me.
For some time I had been looking for an opportunity to relocate with my job. Sydney, Singapore, and Shanghai were all options at different times. I was always interested in returning to Asia. It had never crossed my mind to consider the United States. Yet as luck would have it, the chance to work not just in another country but in the world’s most exciting city came completely out of the blue.
New York is not exactly a hardship post but it did mean leaving my family behind. “I’ll be a single girl in the city!” I told friends flippantly. My only relative in New York is an uncle, who is an 88-year-old priest living in Flushing.
From Eppelheim, Germany to New York, New York. Here are some of the differences:
- I used to leave the house, get in my car and drive 15 minutes to the office. Now I walk everywhere or take the subway.
- The price of food is insane.
- The restaurants are amazing.
- Shit don’t work: Keys don’t fall smoothly in the locks, windows leak cold air, the heating belches and billows either hot or cold, the toilet in my apartment has overflowed twice, the laundry emerges sopping wet from the washing machine.
- Winter is brutal but can be beautiful (evidence below).
According to a colleague in Singapore, the lucky numbers for this year, the Year of the Sheep, are two and seven. She mentioned this in case I wanted to purchase a lottery ticket – something I have never done before but will consider now. Because after short reflection, I realized it was 27 years ago when I was 27 that I left Montreal, bound for China with a one-way ticket. Double lucky! I never looked back. It was the beginning of my life as an observer abroad. And the next chapter has just begun.
At that time I asked my friends what I should take to China. Music, said one. Something to remind you of home, said another. Something to make you feel beautiful, said the wisest. I took a squat bottle of musky scent with a lilac cap, purchased on Rue St. Denis. Not only was it beautiful to look at on my bare shelves in Beijing, it smelled divine. I also took a black lace bra and fine black linen shirt that I was wearing the night I met my husband. But I digress. Moving to New York, I brought a bottle of Annick Goutal fragrance, a Christmas gift from my husband. Plus three suitcases. Forty-four kilos of luggage. Next time I travel, I swear it will be with a bar of soap and a toothbrush.
I feel positively electrified by this move. It made me realize how much I thrive on change and newness.
The Park Row Diaries are named for my building (below), built in 1899. Since Park Row was previously known as Newspaper Row, I feel a certain serendipity about returning to blogging with stories from the greatest city in the world.