Monday, July 25, 2011

Back Home and First Adventures in New York.

After a long three leg trip back home (Bali->Singapore, 3 hrs via KLM; 6 hour layover staying at an intra-airport hotel, which has what I think is the world's only swimming pool+ jacuzzi contained in an airport, though sadly closed by the time I got there; Singapore->Tokyo, 7.5hrs via Delta; 1 hr layover; Tokyo-> New York, 12 hrs, via Delta) I finally reached JFK. Got off the plane and met a real warm welcome of pushing and intense crowd anxiety.I noted many more smiles on the faces of foreign visitors vs. those holding U.S. Passports. It was remarkably depressing to be in the U.S. Passport line, even though we got to skip all the Non-residents and had much less waiting time to get through passport control.

Met up with the family, and that was just excellent. Becky is quite the talker these days. She went on and on about having a special surprise for me and missing me more than I could even imagine. Just nuts how much more a year means when someone is 4-5 vs. when someone is so much older (in terms of developmental and intellectual changes). Catching up was just perfect,obviously my parents wanted to hear some stories, have me explain my photos, as well as the different bite marks I have all over my body (i.e. remnants of leeches and other blood-suckers). My sister was dying to show me the new swimming skills she's acquired, and I was really impressed. She went from needing those inflatable arm floaters, to being able to tread water, dive and swim under water for like half of our pool's length, and also swim insanely fast using the doggy paddle method. Look out, this one is gonna do some serious damage once she refines her technique a bit. She already has what's most important, being naturally comfortable in the water.

After unraveling the many little trinkets and art works I purchased on my trips (and making clear which ones were set aside for my dorm room) I thought much about whether I could still hold on to the experiences and lessons I had garnered in my year abroad. There's certainly the fear that once I get back "on track" I may well forget all the intricacies of my time in Asia, and all the invaluable lessons that came with these rare experiences. But I'm pretty certain these are irrational concerns that won't come true. After all, I have all these photos and journal entries to help remind me of what it was like for me throughout the year. Also these experiences were just too special and mind-blowing to just vanish from my memory.

Today, I had some errands to run in Manhattan. It was a nice way to begin the process of reacquainting myself with this intimidating bohemoth of a city. The train ride alone was entertaining to me. Some obnoxiously loud teenagers, and I wondered if I was just more sensitive to the noise, if they were legitimately being out of line. I wondered how much of my subjective experience of everyday life situations had changed from spending a year in this strange, foreign land a world removed. Would hummus taste the way it tasted before? Would the city still smell of honey-roasted peanuts and car-fumes? Would the heat be more bearable than it had been before (yes, did not even need A/C last night)?

I had so many questions going into today, and I've been pleasantly surprised by my reaction to the city. I mean my approach this time around coming back is so different from when I got back in November for interviews. Back then I had a less positive attitude in a sense, and was less receptive to the overwhelming number of stimuli this city has to offer. This is why my first time in the city back then nearly caused me a panic attack, with serious chest tightening and other symptoms. Today, I had a more humorous and emotionally healthy outlook, helping me to stay calm in spite of some anxiety-evoking situations (i.e. huge crowds, honking, etc.). Somehow it felt far more manageable and ok than last time. As for my errands, I began by delivering my pee to Quest diagnostic for a drug screen, which is a requirement for starting school next month. I visited school (Mount Sinai on E. 98th and Madison), paid rent for my dorm room, and touched base with the coordinator of the MD-Phd program to figure out what I needed to do to be on track for starting next month. Then made myself acquainted with the Middle Eastern takeout place near school. I noted that back in Borneo, i would not be given napkins (you have an option to take one or two, but not a huge stack like i got in this situation). These kinds of observations have been happening very often, and it's definitely interesting to draw the comparisons. Lastly, I visited the Apple store (yep I'm planning to make the switch to Macbook) on 5th, which I did not know was open 24/7 365. Funny thing to learn my first day back. I was probably way more entertained by this than most others who find out the same factoid. Also, it was unbelievably packed in there. They may as well have been giving away free iPhones, it was THAT crowded.

And now I'm about to have Mexican food for the first time in the U.S. This is kind of an important experience that I've been looking forward to since leaving in December. It's probably going to be the highlight of my week. That's all for now. Updates from past months coming up.

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