Friday, November 6, 2009

Day 24 - New York City

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a bus anywhere in North America, so I was pretty impressed with the one we travelled on to get from Washington, DC, to New York City. Not only was it comfortable, but it had electrical outlets and wireless Internet connection for people who wanted to use their laptops to work or surf the Net while travelling, which about half the people on the bus (including Kathy & I) did. And it was free! Well, okay, it was probably part of the ticket price, but it felt good to not have to pay extra for it :)

Once in NYC, we headed for the hostel at the Vanderbilt YMCA. It cost significantly more than even a room at Motel 6 in other cities and gave us significantly less value for the money (a pretty basic room painted institutional yellow with communal toilets down the hall), but it was close to where we wanted to be: the United Nations.

We must have looked like yokels fresh from the boondocks as we walked along the streets, craning our necks to look up at all the tall buildings, ogling all kinds of interesting shops, businesses, and street vendors, and navigating our way through the greatest variety of people I’ve ever seen. First we grabbed something to eat, and then we headed off to get temporary passes to the UN and an appointment with the UNESCO person responsible for literacy.

The next time I come anywhere near the UN, I’m going to have to remember not to wear a coat, not to carry anything in my pockets or my hands, and especially not to wear a belt to help keep my pants up. Every time we wanted to go into a building to do something or see someone, we had to go through security, including metal detectors. I got especially tired of having to remove my belt and put it back on again so many times!

For supper, we decided to take advantage of NYC’s incredible ethnic diversity and find a restaurant whose type of food we’d never eaten before. We chose a restaurant that served food from Afghanistan. And we were not disappointed. The food was delicious! Even the atmosphere was great. The restaurant was decorated with articles and artefacts from the Afghan culture, and the music sounded like it was from there too.

Getting a good night’s sleep was not easy. We could easily hear doors to neighbouring rooms opening and closing, closet doors banging, and people loudly talking. Whenever we did manage to get to sleep for a while, the hot water pipes running into the room’s radiator would start pinging and then banging until we were wide awake again. But it seems like we fared better than our colleagues who had a room across the hall. They were on the street side of the building. Not only were they privileged to enjoy the same noises we did, but they were also treated to the sounds of loud groups of people walking by, and the garbage truck making its rounds in the early morning hours.

This morning, we went on tour of the UN. We didn’t get to go into some of the important parts of the building, like the Security Council chamber, because they were under renovation, but we did see the main chamber where delegates from the 192 member countries sit to hear speeches and carry out their deliberations. This is the room featured in the film “The Interpreter” with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn (if you haven’t seen it yet, I’d recommend it). Our guide even pointed out the interpreter booth that Nicole Kidman sat in for the film. We looked for and found the seat for the delegate from Burkina Faso. Fortunately it was close to the back area where we were permitted to go, so we were able to take a picture of it.

Our final appointment was with the culture & education officer of Burkina’s permanent mission to the UN. This lady was very friendly and talked with us for about half an hour. I think she would have liked to talk more, but she needed to get back to the meeting she was skipping out on to see us. She gave us a list of key people we could get in touch with back in Burkina in order to promote the use of minority languages in the public school system there.

This evening, our last in NYC, Kathy & I decided to have supper at a place I’d recently read about in a book by Danny Meyer, the famous restaurant entrepreneur. The place is called “Blue Smoke” and it’s an up-scale BBQ joint. I’m not usually a rib fan, but I had to try them here. We ordered the rib-sampler plate for two, featuring three different kinds of ribs. Even I had to admit they were pretty good! The only downside was that the meal actually cost us and extra $10 more than the price on the menu. Well, not exactly the meal. It was actually for cab fare. We were just too full to walk all the way home again!

Tomorrow, we catch a plane back to Canada. I’m looking forward to catching up on my sleep. Between the heating pipes and the guy that keeps slamming his door down the hall, I don’t think I’m going to get much here tonight! But hey, what do you expect for $125?

No comments: