This was always going to be an odd week. Week one with 90 strangers, from different cultures and backgrounds, chucked into a hotel together and watched to see how well they gel together; how much initiative they use to interact; how they cope with no WiFi because it costs $5 for 30 minutes – it’s 2015, what hotel doesn’t have free WiFi?!?!
It’s like the Hunger Games of social experiments.
So, naturally everyone made their way to the nearest pub and the week began with an overpriced, tasteless, Bud Light. But on a fancy roof top bar with an impressive view of the Empire State Building.
Arriving in the Big Apple
Day one was a bit of a blur. Starting with a 3.30am wake up call, then the fear of how overweight that one suitcase was going to be (still impressed it all fit), followed by a 60 minute connection after circling Heathrow for 20 minutes.
Then disbelief that sitting still in a metal cabin in the sky for eleven hours had actually taken us to New York, the city of opportunities, and the start of a new adventure.
The city doesn’t feel the same as when I was here nearly three years ago. Maybe that’s the mentality that it isn’t just a holiday this time, it’s work, it’s life, soon I’ll be able to call myself a local – if only for 12 months. Maybe being a little older and better travelled had an impact. Knowing what I would find at the end of the street. Or maybe just sheer exhaustion had stopped my brain from comprehending I wasn’t in Edinburgh anymore (Ha, I feel like Dorothy, “we’re not in Kansas anymore” – except I don’t want any red slippers to take me home).
The next two days were filled with orientation – essentially being talked at for two days straight – but there were two highlights.
- New York safety briefing with Officer Damian, NYPD. I can’t say I felt even remotely safe by the end, especially after being told, “if someone pushes you on the tracks of the subway, lie between the lines under the train with your arms crossed over your body, but not the outside line or you’ll fry” – right enough that’s what I’ll be thinking!
- Getting a shit load of free cheese and wine when the two days were finished – not quite the ‘cocktail party’ that was described, but I’ll never complain about cheese.
Welcome to the big bad world
The real adjustment came on Thursday. Day one of the job.
One day of handover, with the objective being: to pump my brain full of so much information that it explodes. By lunchtime I just wanted to curl up in the foetal position under the desk and cry. When I was asked if I needed the toilet or wanted to go to lunch I just didn’t know anymore.
This also wasn’t helped by the fact it was the last day for my predecessor, another Mountbatten Intern. Who was obviously very much loved and appreciated by the department. Leading to me wondering if I could live up to the standards set before me.
At the end of what felt like the longest day of my life, I took myself to a café to get some peace and quiet. A little bit of breathing space. To release some of the tension inside my head onto a piece of paper.
Plus, phoning my mummy. Nothing like a call home to make you feel better.
Before of course going to spend another night in a bar.
Day two in the job took a slightly different approach, still with a lot of introductions and explanations about the company.
Starting with what I thought would be a 30 minute meeting about my role, turned out to be a three hour – yes, a three hour – in depth discussion of every element of the Episcopal Charities, the Diocese of New York, the history, and hierarchy, and how it came to be what it is today. It may be a young company but damn its got a lot going on.
Then the discussion went into detail about what I can do to be a good intern, how I can make a difference to the company, what other Mountbatten’s have done well, how I could do better (no pressure).
This was probably one of the best approaches to an introduction to the team I’ve had. Not just sharing a lot of information, but telling me how I can use it. What I can do for them. And what I can do for myself.
The main perk of the day. A tour of the grounds, home of St. John the Divine Cathedral, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world.
Initially designed as a Roman Cathedral before changing architect. Forcing a gothic architect to modify and build in a different manor from any other Gothic Cathedral. Aiming for consistency the structure is almost seamless, with high ceilings and long corridors (the length of two football pitches).
One of the quirkiest bits about the cathedral is that it has hosted art exhibitions and concerts. And in November I will be part of the team that host a benefit dinner for 800 people.
A Friday night mixer between the new and the old intake was only ever going to end one way. In a big, messy, piss up.
I found myself throughout the night, taking a step back and people watching – one of my favourite hobbies.
It was fascinating. People’s expressions. Uncertainty. Joy. Excitement.
As they introduced themselves; discovered shared interests; realised they were from the same city; have the same mutual friends and had no idea; were going to be flat mates; etc.
I have no idea what the conversations were about, I can only assume. I just saw the changes in expression and body language.
It has been incredible to see how quickly we have embraced the situation and made an effort to talk to each other. Everyone is in the same situation – the newbie, a small fish in a big pond – and have opened their arms wide to welcome each other.
Made easier by being so like-minded. But I guess that was bound to happen when we all took the leap and applied to live and work in New York.
We’re all as crazy as each other.
Finally a day off
After what felt like an eternity. It was finally Saturday, opening up an opportunity to chill out and explore New York.
As a wanderer I had been dying to get out and explore the areas of the city I hadn’t seen before, find new haunts, see where the locals go. And I think I made a good go at it for one day.
Lennox Hill, West Side, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, who knows where else – I hate using a map.
The best find was a cute little street at NYU – part of the language school – with a variety of little houses, with a plaque stating a language outside, along a cobbled street. So unexpected for a big city.
Extreme exhaustion called for a quiet night. But that all went downhill when I couldn’t sit still and it was Saturday night in Manhattan.
Another 4am bed time before what is likely to be an extremely painful moving day.
That will call for another update – but I think I’ve said way more than enough in this one.