New Orleans

I left New York for a few days to discover New Orleans, Lousiana. I wanted to see something completely different in the States and after some research I was sure this was the place I wanted to go.  I contacted my Canadian travel partner and ex-Barcelona roommate to see if she was up for a trip. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and the cocktail. Nowadays a lot of people go there to party, especially during Mardi Gras.

The trip started with my flight getting canceled in New York because of the snow storms so I left a day later. When I arrived at the airport I had Frederique waiting for me in the gate. We took an Uber to our Airbnb and the first thing I noticed was the amazing accent sounding like ‘ How y’all doin’. The Uberdriver told us to be careful in the city, something I heard before as there is quite a high crime rate. The weather was great and there were palmtrees everywhere so we were happy already.

We arrived at the Airbnb which was amazing! It was an old French House full of art with a small garden close to the city center. The house was owned by a cute lady with two dogs.

We headed to the city centre straight after as we were so curious. The walk there alreay was amazing with beautiful, colorful houses, palmtrees and flowers.

As New Orleans was founded by the French, there are a lot of French influences such as French street names everywhere and some French buildings. As I am learning French and  Frederique is from French Canada this was a funny detail for us we didn’t knew about.

By accident we ended up on Bourbon street, which is the party street of New Orleans with literally only bars open every moment of the week and there are party people every times of the week. We didn’t know about this (I guess we prepared pretty bad. jup.) so we were both shocked and amazed as this was the complete opposite of the pretty streets we just discovered.

After a glass of wine and a burger, we roamed around the streetwatching all the completely drunk people we ran into an outdoor jazz performance at Cafe Beignet. We were basically listening with open mouth as it was an amazing performance and we were just sitting there outside with a glass of wine listening.

The next we went to discover more of the centre. There is literally music everywhere and so much talent. There are complete 7 man bands on the street at 12am.

Voodoo museum which was both weird and interesting. There is lot of voodoo beliefs still, ecending from spiritual folk traditions from Afro-American religions.

The following they we last to explore some other parts of the city. We went to a pretty upscale part of the city with boutiques and vintage shops.

IMG_4058

While we were in an modern art centre, I found out my flight for the next day got cancelled too, again because of storm. Usually they put you automaticcally on a new flight a day later but they didn’t so I got a little nervous. I called the airline to get me on another flight a day later so I needed to find a place to stay. Frederiques flight was fine as it went over the other side of America. I got a new Airbnb somewhere in the suburbs and we were good to go.

IMG_4089

At night we wanted to eat the typical dish jamboree’. For me as health freak at some point my stomach started to hurt as there is only greasy food and not a lot of fresh products. Still we wanted to eat the typical dish which is meat mostly.

At night we went to an amazing place which is pretty remote from the city but so worth it called Bacchanal Wine. If you are planning to visit New Orleans you should absolutely go here as we loved it. It’s basically a wine bar in a backyard with live music. When you enter it looks like your in a wine shop. You pick your wine, you pick your cheeses which they will plate nicely with olives etc. and you head to the backyard where everyone is drinking wine and listening to jazz.

IMG_4006
Jazz for lunch

The next day Frederique was leaving already so we went for breakfast and to eat beignets, the famous food from New Orleans. So sad to leave her but I’m sure we will see eachother again at a new destination. I went to my new Airbnb, in the suburbs, not even in New Orleans anymore but called Metairie, I thought it was so American, with big cars and showing who they are voting for. I stayed with a guy and his three dogs who was really nice and had some other travellers staying in his house.

The next day it was already time to go back to New York, I would have loved to stay longer not only because of the weather but the city is a bit like the Carribean in America, with a lot of fun an great people. I have never been in a place like this before but I completely understand people are so fond of  New Orleans.

Advertenties

Thoughts on living in New York

Obviously this is just my opinion based on observation after spending 9 months in New York and others might completely disagree. I’m simply just answering the questions that a lot of people are asking me on my opinion on (working in) New York, Americans and America in general.

I think in the end everything turns normal and even an absolutely crazy city like New York feels normal and I feel at home in the city. Dance performances in the subway, people rude and screaming at you, people being so nice it surprises you, saying the word ‘like’ 15 times in a sentence and a tiny glass of wine for 13 dollars, it’s everyday life now.

After almost a year here I can say there are still a lot of aspects I don’t understand of this country because the contrasts are so big. The only thing on television and newspaper is politics yet nobody talks about it. I have seen a lot of jobs divided by race and there is still a lot of discrimination in daily life. People are either really well off or pretty poor without health insurance and they refuse to see a doctor. I’ve seen someone panicking because someone called him an ambulance but could not afford it. I have seen a lot of homeless people and honestly many of them were in really bad shape mentally and physically. From men to veterans, to a lot of (young) women. I just don’t understand the social system in the country and how it can be allowed that people are treated like this. It seems like life is more uncertain than I am used to. One day I had to help translate a conversation where a woman got fired on the spot at the end of her shift without any prior warning or a  bit of time to find something else.

We Dutch people might be direct, and Americans think we are but I’ve found people many times being very rude at me, especially guests and clients. Screaming in my face or being very angry. On the opposite, many times people approach you on the street if you’re lost to help out or a friendly stranger starts conversation with you which is pretty rare in my culture. When I travelled to New Orleans the people were extremely nice but also a little wary of tourists (although I can’t blame them).

Another question a lot of people asked me is whether it is possible to make any friends. Well, I think everyone in New York is really caught up in his own bubble and people mostly work. In general, I think it is a lot easier to make contact with someone than in Europe (West Europe especially) and it is really easy to get into a conversation or even coffee with a stranger, or go for drinks with people from work. However, I think it is a lot more superficial and you don’t just have close friends in New York.  For some people this works though, I prefer to have a few close friends. Also, a lot of people work six days a week or several jobs so people have other priorities like getting promotion. So yes it is easier to meet people to go for a drink with but I found it hard to build friendships with Americans. I did made some great friends but they are all foreign.

Don’t get me wrong, I love New York and its energy, its interesting and talented people, the opportunities, the endless amount of things to do and explore. It is challenging to work with the staff and the guests but that is also what makes it interesting and in the end it depends on your ability to adapt because you are the foreigner.

 

Internship in NYC

After being home in Holland only a month and a lot of paperwork it was time to move on to my next challenge. After some days off, a jetlag, visit to the social security office and an attempt to adjust to this hot and humid climate I had my first day as intern. I got a looot questions what I am exactly doing and who I work for so I will explain it quickly:

I am doing my graduation internship of 12 months (and thesis) in Hospitality Management for STARR Events, a company that does all sort events & catering for cultural institutions such as Carnegie Hall, New York Historical Society and art museums and institutions. My location is the New York Botanical Garden. There, we have about six food & beverage outlets where I work at wedding venues, restaurants, food trucks and events outside such as concerts and exhibitions. I actually have 2 positions: event supervisor and food&beverage supervisor.

I have done two weddings and they are impressive! People pay here between the 30.000-50.000 dollar for a wedding with about 150-300 guests and the standards are high. The first week I worked at a Jewish wedding and the second week at a (Long Island) Italian wedding, a bit like the Godfather. During the day florists come in, the band, wedding planner and so on so this is quite an organization. I already experienced rain (the ceremonies are outside in the garden), a crying bride and so on.

Our job is basically that everyone can keep doing his job. The band needing electricity, the kitchen needing stuff, the servants running out of food, the bars needing ice, the mom of the bride who is hungry etc etc. During other days we do more financial stuff and smaller events.

ny

In these 2 weeks I already experienced a lot of differences with Holland. The first weekend I thought; wow is everyone doing sports here. Turned out people wear sportswear but without intending to do any sports. This is called ‘active wear’ . Then, New York is expensive as hell. I already knew it as I have been here before but wow I am shocked again.

At work there are much more ‘rankings’.  People don’t do jobs of the people ‘below’ them. For example, if I ask a server to clean something, they probably refuse because it is an houseman’s job. If I ask someone ‘Can you do this for me’, I am rude. I need to rephrase like: ‘Oh hi could you do me a favour could you please move over the chairs? That would be great. Thank you so much I really appreciate it.’ Me as Dutchie really need to adjust!

20214391_101607467195228_1527898065380311040_n(1)

I am very excited about the fact that the second language here in New York is Spanish, even sometimes the advertisements so I am speaking it a lot. Yesterday I got taught about the history about salsa and merengue from my Dominican Uber driver and some people at work only speak Spanish.

For now I am very happy how everything is going although it is hard work and a longgg commute. I walk around 10-12 km a day according to my iphone ;).  Especially doing other stuff such as visiting rooftops and going for drink is a lot of fun but tiring. I will be moving a bit closer within 2 weeks and we have our first work trip planned with the management team to Hamilton, New Jersey. Everyone is really friendly and a bit crazy at times so I feel right at home.

To get an idea:

Final months in Barcelona; Marseille, Andorra and Tarragona

Trips to Marseille, Andorra, Tarragona, rounding off uni and internship preparations, time flies! I am back already but I really enjoyed my time in Barcelona.

group

Marseille
I went by bus to Marseille for 2 nights. It took 6 hours with a stop in Montpellier. Beautiful city and great opportunity to practise my French and drink a lot of wine.

Balcony of Catalunya and Andorra
Me and my travelpartner in crime Frederique went on a day trip to Andorra. We did a stop at the Balcony of Catalunya, impressive nature! It felt good to breath in some fresh air as Barcelona is really polluted. We continued our trip to Andorra.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-10 at 10.53.51

Andorra is strange but interesting! It felt like a combination of Austria and Spain with the main language Catalan, Spanish food and a lot of advertising and shopping malls (the tax rate is lower).

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-10 at 10.53.52

Barcelona
Finally, after living in Barcelona for the second time I visited the Sagrada familia. Although I have seen many churches this one is very impressive and different.

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-10 at 10.36.41

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-10 at 10.58.23My mum and auntie visiting, lot of fun drinking a lot of wine and showing my place and favourite parts of the city. We consumed a huge amount of pan con tomate.

As like everyone in Barcelona, my phone and driving licence got stolen. I lost all my pictures. In the second week I lost my debit card and it took a month to get a new one. The final week we got cockroaches in our appartment. They are huge and red, I was so done I just didn’t enter the kitchen anymore. All part of the experience I guess?

What I love about Barcelona that you end up at random amazing things. I ended up at a concert under the ground, a rooftop party, a few street festivals and so on. I also met up a few times with Larissa, who I lived together with a few years back in Barcelona, and by chance we both lived there again. As she is a singer now I even went to her (Brazilian) concert!

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-10 at 10.36.38
Random Catalan fiesta

I finished all the exams and suddenly it was already my final night in Barcelona. I went with my roommates and friends to a cool hidden bar in El Borne. As every night in Barcelona, we came back extremely late and needed to eat a lot of Spanish ham. I had to fly back home a few days earlier because of my American embassy appointment in Amsterdam. Sad to leave this city but as I already came back the second time I am sure I will be back.

 

 

 

Morocco trip

What an amazing country! Friendly people, great culture and food. We went with a small (Spanish speaking) group and guide, consisting of Mexicans, Chileans, Argentinians, Spaniards, me as Dutchie and Frederique as Canadian, which was great for us to be speaking Spanish all the time. The accents really varied though and I am much more used to Spain-Spanish but I managed to understand everyone. Sometimes I didn’t and it resulted in funny situations.

We left on Wednesday morning for a 2,5 hour flight from Barcelona to Marrakech. We spent the entire day in Marrakech which was amazing! Its chaotic but I loved it. People on donkeys, horses, cars, scooters anywhere and so much noise.

Thursday morning we left the city on time with our bags and headed to Kasbah Ben El Hannou. We drove for a while with several stops at amazing places. Kasbah is a famous movie location where films like Prince of Persia, Games of Thrones and Gladiator have been filmed. During the trip we ate a lot of Tagine with chicken and lemon or beef and prunes. The food is very tasteful with a lot of spices.

We arrived in our very very traditional hotel just at the bottom of the Atlas Mountains. It was so cold!! We had some huge extra blankets.
IMAG0294

When we arrived at the desert, we had to leave the bus and continue by jeep because we couldn’t get there. Then we changed to camels and walked for an hour further into the desert. We arrived the camp and watched the sunset in the desert. Although I have been in the desert in Egypt before, this was very different because the sand was orange and it all reminded me of Alladin.

We had dinner together in the big tent and we had a desert party with music, drinks and some food. A lot of tequila was offered the Mexicans but I managed to turn most of it down. We ended up all listening to Reggeaton and dancing in the middle of the desert!

 

Sleeping in the desert, what an amazing experience! It was a Berber tent and I think we actually slept on sand. During the night all the lights went out and it was completely dark. At some point at night I had to search the bathroom when everyone was asleep. It was completely dark and quiet but when I looking up I saw this AMAZING sky full of huge stars. I stood there for a while, so impressed with what I saw I didn’t even realize how cold I was!

Saturday
Saturday we had a very intense drive of 10 hours all the way from the desert to Marrakech. It was very long but the amazing thing is we saw every type of landscape driving through the countries. We drove through nature and small villages which gave us a look at the local and traditional life, donkeys, children selling herbs, man drinking tea etc. People wanted to take a picture with my because of my blonde hair. We arrived back in Marrakech and had dinner. The main square of Marrakech on a saturday, what a chaos!! Frederique and me just couldn’t cross the street so we asked people to cross with us. They took our hands and there we went!

IMAG0292

Sunday
In the morning we did a tour with a Moroccan guide who could tell us a lot about the country and the culture and I could ask all my questions. We visited the main palaces and markets. What makes the city so beautiful are all the colors. Later, we bought some stuff after proper negotiation of my part. ‘Several questions like ‘what are you, a businesswomen?’  and they hoping to get American tourists after me because they would make much more money.

17494061_1424861574200524_8014511568219799552_n

Monday we travelled back to Barcelona, which is still an amazing place to get back to after this trip. I could definitely recommend Marroco to anyone who loves great food and friendly people.

IMAG0310

Cultural differences ES -NL

Please note that these are just observations, it is not meant in a negative way, only to point out differences.

The university is very different from mine, it confirms the difference in punctuality between the Dutch and Spanish culture . In the beginning I was afraid I would be too late when my class started at 9.00 and I would go enter at 9.05. Now, I take my time, buy some coffee, todo tranquilo, and enter the class around 9.15. However,  I am still early and I just chill and wait. When the class starts, students enter now and then around 9.30. In terms of deadlines the rule is different as well. In some classes you can submit your work later and there will be 10% of your grade deducted every day.

Teachers talk a lot. We have classes of 3 hours and in some cases the teachers talk most of the time. They talk a lot about not that much. A lot of examples. A lot of jokes. No interaction. When no one listens they keep talking. Sometimes a lecture of 3 hours could be done in 30 minutes. We Dutchies are used to having a full speed lecture in 45 minutes, so it took me some time to adjust to it and not get distracted.

I have stayed in Spain many times and what always fascinates me is the cleaning culture. It seems to be very important that the hallway is perfectly clean including the entrance, the glass and the stairs at the outside (the part other people see). Inside the houses there will be cleaned with a broom and a mop, I have never understood how a house will become clean this way and because of my dust allergy I am no too happy with this custom.

Spanish people love their benches. Despite the weather, there are always Spanish people chilling on benches outside everywhere. Especially the elderly love it. It is busy around the benches, sometimes they are full and I see people looking out for other benches. People sit down and do nothing. Nothing. No phone, no music, they just sit down and watch. We can learn from this! What I really enjoy is that people, again despite the weather, start entering the terraces around 11.00 or 12.00 and start drinking beer. Then at 15.00 or 16.00 they order a full 3 course lunch including more drinks. For both the benches and terraces, it does not matter if they are next to an extremely busy and noisy road.

The majority of the doctors do not speak English. I had to visit a doctor because of an eye infection and I decided to go to the doctor at my university. Although my Spanish level is quite high, a medical visit requires a different and specific vocab so it would be just easier in English. Much later I got the papers and I had to go to the pharmacy to pick up the medicine. The lady handed me the 2 types of medicine without any explanation and she replied in Catalan. I had the feeling she did not want to speak in Spanish although she knew I did not speak Catalan (Note this is an assumption). I asked her very politely in Spanish to explain the use of the medicine because I did not understand the paper in Catalan and I was not in my own country and I didn’t know what to do. Then, she changed her attitude and explained me the medicine in Spanish.

The Spanish-Catalan topic is a sensitive one. It seems to be slightly comparable with the Dutch and Frisian language and culture. However, a lot of horrible stuff happened in the past so I am starting to understand it is more than just a pride thing. People want to speak their own language. However, I have also learned that some teachers don’t know Spanish well enough to feel confident enough to do their class in Spanish.

Every female will be greeted with guapa or carino a lot, although this does not mean the person actually seems to think you are good looking or cute. I have seem people being greeted with guapa of which I am quite sure they are not cute. It is still good for your self- esteem though 🙂