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Archive for the ‘New York travels’ Category

At last NYC and I are finally coming to terms. I’m becoming more adventurous and the city feels less forboding to me. I never venture to the city unless I feel properly attired and have a plan. Someday I’ll be more spontaneous, but for now, we are slowly creating a peacable relationship. I suppose it wouldn’t be like this if I dove headlong and had a whirlwind tourist adventure for a couple of days. Then I wouldn’t have time to feel intimidated. But I keep having time to reflect after my short trips. But it is getting better.

So, if anyone knows me well, they would know that I’m kind of an Egypt fanatic. Well, Egypt’s past fascinates me. The present Egypt depresses me a great deal. I’ve always been fascinated with King Tut and the miraculous discovery of his tomb by Howard Carter. Though, who isn’t fascinated by that story and the treasures of the tomb?

So when I heard that a special exhibit about King Tut was coming to the Discovery Times Square Building, I had to get tickets. My husband convinced me to get a babysitter for the two youngest, which was the most brilliant idea EVER.

As usual, I prepped my kids with documentaries, books, and discussions. I devoured a few interesting books along with articles on the subject in preparation for our big trip.

It was an unusual experience taking just the three older boys to the city. They were totally silent in the back of the car as they read books and listened to the radio. Driving through the city was a breeze without cries and complaints coming from the rear quarter of the car. We found our parking garage and the exhibit easily and prepared for an interesting afternoon.

(As I’ve learned, it totally pays to do your homework and buy tickets online. I bought prepaid parking, which was a good deal and saved us time trying to find a place to park. And we avoided all sorts of lines and waiting. And our tickets were discounted. SCORE!)

We had some time to kill before our visit to the exhibit. The kids saw a Toys R Us store and asked if we could go in. We said sure, expecting that it would be a run of the mill toy store. But I’ve started to learn that when something is in NYC, it will not be ordinary. Toys R Us in Times Square has 3 levels, a full-sized ferris wheel, a candy shop, ice cream shop, and all kinds of toy displays. Not to mention all the Black Friday shoppers. It was rather crazy, but since the boys were so good, we wandered around a bit. It was fun.

We didn’t stay long since we wanted to get some money and something to eat. We found an ATM, got some pizza, and then went to the exhibit.

The King Tut exhibit displayed 130 funerary items. All the items were connected in some way to either relatives of King Tut or from King Tut himself. I liked the way the exhibit was arranged and appreciated the way the exhibit tried to put King Tut in context with his ancestors and with the people of Egypt.

After walking through the exhibit, I have such a greater understanding of how extraordinary the Egyptian empire was. Pictures do not do the items justice. You can’t appreciate how delicate and exquisite the craftsmanship was for so many of the items. The jewelry that King Tut was adorned with was gorgeous. The boxes, chairs, alabaster vases, cosmetic tools were lovely and beautifully crafted.

One cannot look at the multitude of hieroglyphs decorating a coffin without beginning to appreciate the complexity of their written language. Nor can one dismiss the Egyptian culture are simple or barbaric. The complex religious structures and complicated death rituals suggest a highly advanced civilization. It was simply fascinating.

As we moved around, the boys and I chatted about the objects and their signficance. There were several instances where other parents stopped to listen to our discussions and tell their kids to listen as well. We even had people ask us questions. I guess we looked like we understood what we were seeing. At point, a man stopped us and asked us about Shabti. My oldest son, who is 11, rattled off a very accurate statement about the purpose of Shabti. Shabti were tiny statues placed in the tomb with the King. The Shabti were to serve as servants to the King, doing all the work he required.

My oldest son recently read The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. The Red Pyramid is the first in Riordan’s new series about Egyptian mythology. As always, he is very accurate in his information, but weaves it so well into the narrative of the story, the kids don’t even realize they are learning. I realized this when we were looking at some prominent hieroglyphs and my son said, “That’s an Ankh sign. It means life.” He then pointed out other signs and explained their meanings. And he was totally right! Thanks Rick!

My boys liked the chariot and the mummy replica. The most interesting items in the collection to me were the coffinette that held the mummified organ of the king, the tiny coffin of one of the infants found in the tomb, and the chariot. After death, the king’s organs were removed. Then the heart, liver, lungs and intestines were mummified and placed in individual conffinettes with the King’s image. The coffinettes were then placed in a small square shrine. Two tiny mummified infants were buried in the tomb with King Tut. It is believed that they were his daughters, both born stillborn. Looking at the tiny coffin made the King feel more real and personal to me. He was a real person and faced real tragedy in his young life. And finally, the chariot was huge and more intimidating than I had ever imagined. There were four complete chariots found within the tomb. Recent evidence found from CT scans of the king’s mummified body suggest that he suffered a very serious injury to his leg which became infected and he died from the infection. It is possible that he fell from his chariot while out in the desert on a ride and seriously injured his leg.

As I’ve done more research on King Tut, I’ve gained a lot of respect for Dr. Hawass, the head Egyptologist for the Cairo Museum. He has initiated some very advanced research about King Tut. Because of Dr. Hawass, scientists have conducted extensive DNA testing of King Tut and his relatives. This DNA evidence has helped us better understand the family relationships of the pharoah. Dr. Hawass also conducted CT scans in a revolutionary technique to get a better understanding of King Tut’s cause of death. He is an excellent writer and has published extensively. For the layman, his articles for the National Geographic have been riveting.  A recent documentary showed the CT scan of King Tut from start to finish, detailing all the challenges and extraordinary findings.

Okay, I think I have put all the masses to sleep. I’m such a nerd, but I love this stuff!

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I’ve been skirting a big issue for the past year in my blog entries. I’ve been reluctant to write about it because I wasn’t sure how to deal with it myself. I have countless drafts where I tried to grapple with what I was experiencing. Always, words failed me and I stopped writing. My issue is that it’s taken me a long time to transition back to living in the U.S.

I fully expected my transition to be simple and quick. After all, I didn’t have to contend with a new langugage, cultural differences, transportation difficultes, wrangle with the social security office or choke down strange food. So it would be easy, right? Well, it hasn’t been.

It has puzzled me for a while. Then last week, I received an email from a friend who had lived in Sweden and then moved back to the U.S. She talked about finding herself in the last year. And it dawned on me. I’ve been trying to find myself.

Five years is a long time to live in a different country. During that time, I forged an identity for myself. I was the adventurous American mother of four who bicycled around a charming  old city. I was involved with the schools, helping other international parents transition to a different culture. I was secure at church, aware that I was needed and appreciated. I hobnobbed with people from all over the world. I thrived from the experience. It was such an intense and meaningful time in my life which changed my outlook and aspects of my personality.

I’ve struggled to find myself in New York. The perimeters I had set around myself and my identity have changed. The hardest part has been realizing how many people really don’t care that you’ve lived abroad. They don’t really want to hear about your experiences or changed perceptions. I found that as I stopped talking about my experiences I felt that I was closing off that part of my life. I suppose that is ridiculous because those experiences have really shaped me and the person I’ve become and the person I’m becoming is still influenced by my foreign experiences.

In this struggle to understand myself better, I find that I’m not entirely comfortable. And hopefully, this discomfort will push me to go outside of myself–to explore once again, pursue friendships, and create new experiences.

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      I don’t know why, but whenever I visit New York City, I feel like the most provincial country mouse from a tiny podunk town in Wyoming. I’ve puzzled over this feeling because it baffles me. After all, I’ve traveled more than some, can speak another language, and lived in Europe for 5 years. But there is something about that city that makes me feel provincial and insecure. When I went to London, I felt as I finally found my literary home. Jerusalem intriqued me with the feelings of the ancient history, religious conflicts, and interesting mix of people. Paris was a delight to explore. Copenhagen charmed with its architecture and proximity to the sea. Stockholm was so clean, beautiful and accessible, despite being Swedish.  Amsterdam shocked me with its dirty streets and earthy feel. Any cowboy who rides the rodeo circuit would have been at home in Amsterdam. But New York makes me nervous. I feel as if Stacey and Clinton (of TLC’s What Not to Wear) are lurking around the corner ready to pounce on my practical choice of athletic shoes, jeans, sweatshirt and practical warm hat. (I do wish they would choose me though. I really could use $5000 to purchase a new wardrobe.)  Perhaps it’s the pulse of the city, business executives briskly moving to make a new global deal that will change the economy, models ready for the next big shoot, reporters ready to write the stories that shape public opinion or sophisticated urbanites planning their next intellectual gathering in their expensive apartments. Somehow in that pulse, I, an insignficant housewife, herding my brood of four children, seem out of place. But I digress. Regardless of my feelings of inadequacy, we had a great trip to the Big Apple.

   Brent had a hankering to see the big Christmas tree at Rockerfeller Center. I thought we could combine our sightseeing with a trip to one of New York’s many museums. We weren’t able to manage the trip before Christmas, but the next week seemed ideal. We decided to drive and park in the city. I have to interject a comment about trains, subways and buses. We actually prefer public transportation to driving as it is much more efficient and easier to get around a big city that way. But taking the train with our whole family to the city is still more expensive than driving and parking in a garage. So we braved the taxi jungle and crowds people to drive through the city.

    I have no idea if there was a special event around the Rockerfeller Center or not, but traffic was insane. There were policemen at the corners, managing the crowds of pedestrians. We soon realized that actually getting out to see the Christmas tree might be impossible. We had to drive at q slow crawl by the center and got a pretty good look at the tree and some of the decorations.

     Then we pressed onward to the American Museum of Natural History. Apparently, several other thousands of people had the same idea to visit the museum. It was packed. We didn’t dare let the kids run ahead or explore at their own pace for fear they would get lost. It was a lot of fun to explore the museum, despite the crowds. We enjoyed the spiral walk through time after the Big Bang, the exhibits on the geology of the earth, the dinosaur section, african mammal exhibit and the origins of human life. I was awed by the dinosaur skeletons. When I visit museums like this, I feel so impressed with the complexity of the earth and the life that inhabits it. We stayed at the museum until closing time.

    We decided to drive by Rockerfeller Center Christmas tree again. The drive through the city at night during the holiday season was magical. I loved the lights, the decorations and wonderful holiday store-front displays. I must confess I found the city much more charming during the night with all the holiday decorations.

   All in all, I consider it a successful trip. I will conquer my feelings of being a provincial country girl when going to NYC, or die trying.

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Sorry it took me so  long to post this.

Our first foray to New York City was so much fun. Both dh and I have always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. We were short on time and so made the Statue the focus of our adventure.

While I was searching for parking places, subway times, ferry times, etc., I realized that I learned all these skills while living in Sweden. I think if I had moved to NYC from the west without any experience in Europe, I would have been completely overwhelmed by timetables, parking garages, etc. So I was pleased with my ability to arrange it all.

We drove into Manhattan, parked at a garage by Lincoln Square, walked a couple of blocks to the subway station and took the train to the South Ferry station. The kids and I had a fun time talking about the buildings and about our friends who used to live in NYC. (We sure wish they still lived in NYC. . . we miss you guys!

The subway ride was a normal subway ride.  People got on and off, foreign languages peppered the conversation rhythm, couples made out, and over-excited tourists shouted at one another. We got off the train at South ferry, walked up the stairs and joined the hordes of people waiting to take the Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is free and takes you pretty close to the Statue of Liberty.

Tourists crowded to the sides to catch a glimpse of the statue while tired locals took seats in the middle, checking email on cell phones, reading books, or napping. I admit, I was a bit disappointed with the locals. It’s hard to imagine passing everyday such an important symbol for our country and cooling ignoring it. Most of us are the products of immigration and I rather consider the Statue of Liberty the ultimate symbol of immigrants.

Sorry for the tangent! Anyhow, the Statue is beautiful and I felt sentimental as we passed it.

So we got off at Staten Island and found a pizza place. We were transported back to Sweden with the setup of the place. It reminded me so much of a pizza/kebab stand in Sweden except for the signs. Instead of pictures of kebab offerings (gyros in the U.S.) different pasta plates were shown. The pizza was really good.

Then we walked back to the ferry, rode it back to Manhatten, and took a train back to our car. We walked by the fabled Central Park. I wish we would have had time and money for a carriage ride.

When we got back to our car, we decided to drive by the Manhattan Temple. I plugged in the wrong address and so we took an unintended tour of Manhattan. It was so fun to see all the people, the buildings, and everything. Driving can be crazy in the city, but not any worse than driving in Paris with the GWB.

Can’t wait to visit again for more adventures.

 

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