I feel like I went about the whole study abroad thing the wrong. Instead of going my Sophmore or Junior year like normal students, I’m going between my Senior and Masters. I guess it’s not so bad. I spent the other summers exploring potential careers in finance and programming startup companies. They were definitely worth the early insight on that search for the job that fits me. And since I’m not jumping straight into finance for my first job, my paths all stay open as I buy more time to decide.
I’ll be alone in Japan for the research project and sightseeing as well. I’ll probably say this when I return, but I already know what I’m getting into. “Traveling is about the conversations and the company, not always the destination.” I’ve been living in the greatest city for 4 years and I never went to those touristy areas. In fact, I’ve never even set foot on the statue of liberty or gone to the top of the empire state. Even broadway shows and comedy clubs. These were the main attractions to all us long islanders/ites to what we deem reasonable cost and time effectiveness for taking the LIRR. Maybe there were museum trips now and again for nerdy dates, but those were all relaxing and in good company.
Who would have thought that the underground life is so much more exhilarating? There are so many different themed bars and lively concerts that are glazed over by the tourists and even by most of the city’s inhabitants. Some people are so caught up in their careers and families, that they miss some of the best experiences of random nights out with good friends. The city never sleeps, and the unpredictability of a homeless person harassing you for money at 4 in the morning leading to a slew of lies about being an ex-marine from North Carolina named John is always a thrill. (Don’t worry about it if you don’t get it.)
The thing I’ll miss most about the city is not the fact that everything is open all the time and everything is walking distance, but instead the small mom and pop restaurants sprinkled throughout the city. I’m pretty sure you could spend everyday of two weeks straight going to different types of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve actually spent about 2 years personally reviewing different restaurants every week. You can call me the citysearch of the east village to midtown. Oddly enough, I know little italy and k-town more than chinatown. Canal St. was always too crowded and sketchy for me to walk around.
My mom taught me a trick that worked really well with going to expensive restaurants by yourself. This mostly works at 5 star places with a single dinner spending about $40. Pick out a nice restaurant on citysearch. Go dressed in a sports jacket and a polo shirt with nice jeans and black shoes. Wear the most sophisticated glasses and be sure to bring a pen and notepad along with you. Sit down and spend about 15 minutes with the menu, jotting down notes and reading everything in detail. From there, you ask the waiter about specials and talk to them specifically about the different cuts of meat or asking for their personal suggestions. Order a glass of wine and taste test appropriately – swirl, smell, settle for at least 30 seconds, taste carefully, pass judgment delayed 15 seconds, and comment on the smoothness, aroma, etc. with a nod or smile. Always ask for dessert, and always be sure to thank the waiter and the chef.
I’ve done that routine with a few places about 8 or 9 times and it has worked well. The waiter thought I was a critic or blogger or whatnot, and gave me exceptional service. I was offered appetizers as compliments from the chef and I wound up giving the places good reviews on citysearch. Discounts are rare, but even if they give it to you, it’s courtesy to tip them the extra saved. Be sure to leave cash for the tips instead of filling it in on the credit card so they don’t get shafted with the taxes. Anyway, that was random and probably could have been an entry on it’s own… moving on…
I can only hope that my travels to Japan are not masked by the so-called tourist attractions. It is much more exclusive if I see those hidden treasures, and if I meet random people to join me in the upcoming adventures. There is so much to look forward to, but I am nervous, scared, and excited all at once. Preparations have been completed and there is nothing left to do but worry.
I’ll be updating this journal for the 3 months to come, and pictures will be up on facebook. I’ll be sending postcards for those who want them. Plane leaves in 2 hours. I’m off.
Deep breath :).
~See Lemons Fly