Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's on...

My view of the Empire State Building last night from the spot where I board the bus to Philadelphia.

Good morning from the east coast. I've been here for just under one week. Man, I'm already tired. It's not in a bad "I wanna go home way," but in a really good way.

There are some things that are pretty similar to what I left behind in South Korea. The most obvious thing is the ease of transport. In California, the idea of taking buses or trains to connect to nearby cities is pretty much unheard of. You have to get in your car and blow pollutants into the air and, if you don't have a car, well, you're out of luck.

It's not impossible. You can do it. I've heard the stories of friends who decided to take the Greyhound bus from San Francisco to L.A. or vice versa. It ends up that you're on the bus with ex-cons, drug addicts and goodness knows who else. So while you CAN do it, your average person doesn't WANT to do it. In contrast, in the US northeast you can be on the bus from Philadelphia to Manhattan with a drug addict, but that drug addict had to pay at least $10 to get on the bus and is probably heading into university or to work.

The prices for the trains are much steeper in the States. The train ride on Amtrak from Philadelphia to New York ranges from $45 to, get this, $143! Now the rates shift based on the class you choose and the time, but a similar hour and 45 minute train ride on Korea's KTX, their high-speed trains, are comparable at the basic level. It's around 44,000 won, so that's about the same. However, the first class rate maxes out at around 65,000 won. The prices compare for the bus system, but the coverage doesn't. In Korea, the intercity bus system is exhaustive. And this is just a link to one bus system. There is another. You can get on an express bus to get you anywhere in South Korea from Seoul. A two hour bus ride from Seoul is about the same in terms of price, so that's good. But the sheer coverage of where you can get to is truly overwhelming until you're used to it.

This transition is going to be interesting, at least to me, and I'm going to want to share it. From that perspective, this is officially now an east coast/NYC blog with a Korea blog past ;) There are so many little interesting and different things I'm seeing.

Just watching the famous demeanor of New Yorkers is entertaining. I was in the Lexington and 53rd St station. I know this because it's the same station I went to for my job interview last week. I was going back to exchange the umbrella I bought during last Thursday's deluge. One lady needed a refund or a replacement Metro card. She went to a booth where they weren't equipped to do that. Based on her reaction, you would have thought they'd called her every name in the book. I thought it was a bit odd to loose your cool over something like that.

I factor in the pain in the butt aspects of transactions these days and expect that I'm going to get a bit of a run around. That's simply because it's too expensive to keep staff standing in multiple spots to give you a refund. It was the late afternoon and the trains were definitely going to be running for many hours more. Her choice to verbally abuse the folks there just seemed excessive. Plus, unless provoked, I really am a firm believer of being nice and saying "please" and "thank you." I'm noticing what a huge anomaly that is in Manhattan. Now don't get me wrong. I've also not been in a city where the men have been hold open for me almost constantly. So some New Yorkers might be snappish but they'll help you get through the door.

I think yesterday was a bit of a challenge for me because I'd booked myself on a real early bus leaving out of Philadelphia, so I got moving around 4:30am to catch the train to 30th Street Station. From there, I realized I needed to print up my resume. I wasted both time and money taking care of that. BTW, if they offer the laptop docking station at Kinkos aka FedEx Office -don't do it. Just give them your USB flash drive. They actually charge you to doc your laptop and print. That's just such a greedy level of stupid to me that I won't do it.

After printing, I was off. I got my resume in to one recruiting agency, chit-chatted a bit, got their recommendations for lunch and headed out. I got to the lobby and *snap* the heel on my right ankle boot just collapsed. These are a great pair of boots that I got when I was in Paris. I can probably get them fixed, but that lead to a complete detour.

Good for me that I was right at Union Square and had passed a big shoe store on the way to this agency. They were having a sale: buy one get the other at half-price. Okay, I can work with that. I found a great pair of Steve Madden flats and a nice pair of black patent leather square-toed pumps with a strap. Both shoes are cute but reserved enough for interviews. Plus, I only had one pair of brown shoes suitable for interviews and needed another pair. So the boot collapse made me do something I was going to have to do anyway. It's just I'd not planned it and it ended up sucking a good 45 to 60 minutes of my day away. I could have bought shoes out here in Philly's lovely western suburbs! Believe me, the King of Prussia mall is no joke. But there are also tons of other stores like Ross nearby too.

I didn't get out of the shoe store until lunch. Inside, there was another cranky New Yorker who just couldn't wait until the cashier was done with me and went on and on about needed quarters for the meter. Good for me that I had four quarters in my wallet. Helping her out was the way to get her to hush and say "thank you". Granted, it was to me, but I just wanted her to bring down the anxiety level. Four quarters isn't worth getting everyone around you all riled up. Really, you know the deal, so grab a roll of quarters at the bank and keep them in your change purse. After that, armed with a cute pair of shoes, I got to prance through the farmer's market at Union Square and have a great lunch. However, after that, my spirits just plummeted.

I think it's because I'm starting my job search in earnest now and, as much as I love Manhattan, even for me, it's an assault to the senses, which is exciting but it's also overwhelming when you're feeling anxious. Let's be honest, searching for work under the best of circumstances is stressful. I was okay after lunch for a bit. I got to a Starbucks to leech their wifi and figure out which recruiting office I was closest to. It ends up one was just a five or so minute walk away, so that was the one. The receptionist was just not nice and that threw me into a funk. I think actually having a plan, with resumes in hand and winding my way around brought it home that I'm really doing this. Dealing with a shrew reminded me that it's really on me to hustle and do my best because the random person just might not give two cents about me. I've had it in my head since I was about 15 or 16 that I wanted to move to NYC, so the reality that I'm actually doing it made me made me a bit overwhelmed.

Good for me that there are Episcopalian churches all over the city. When I was in Seoul, I attended Seoul Anglican Cathedral regularly. When I got to San Francisco, I switched to Grace Cathedral. Yesterday, I needed to decompress and saw a church with the Episcopalian flag and was just so relieved. I went into Saint Thomas Church on 5th Avenue. It was relaxing, for a moment, but the tourists with the flashing cameras drove me away. I then decided to walk to the 5:30pm networking party I had scheduled rather than take the subway and found Saint Bartholomew's Church on Park and 53rd. I went in, grabbed a prayer book, relaxed and just collected my thoughts. I came out in a much better mood.

So just imagine me, your relocating blogger rushing into NYC's Episcopal churches to recharge. I seriously needed it yesterday. I got to my networking event in good spirits and ready to go. I was a bit amused by how serious folks were. I think one distinguishing thing about me is I really do want to smile and enjoy every possible moment, so I get put off by the folks so driven that they forget to enjoy the ride. I met some good folks, and I hope they feel the same. Maybe one or more of those connections can turn into work for me or vice versa.

Anyway, it's views like the one I snapped a pic of last night that remind me that I'm on the right track. Now that things are getting interesting, I've got a feeling I'll be updating a lot more. Stay tuned.

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