Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day 1 - Doing okay!

Hi all,

Just wanted to let y'all know I'm doing okay here. Weather's cold, some days are 0°C and high and lows are around 4℃ to even -8℃ I think. I still haven't found a place, and my friend Chern Hwei's been gracious enough to let me bunk in with him until I do.

Just a recap of what I did since I arrived:

01/16/08 9pm +8 GMT (American system mah...)

Flight was alright, for most part, took off around 9pm. Reached Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok in almost 2 hours. Then had to wait in transit for slightly over an hour. Airport food was expensive, man. And Thai baht was definitely stronger now.. I got 840 baht for RM100! Go figure. Had some Lebanese-style food, falafel kebab. Satisfying but not too heavy on the stomach, had enough of Thai food for sure. Called my friend Chee Meng who's still in BKK. After about an hour, I walked around the shops some more, and decided to check out the terminal I was supposed to check into. They had secondary security checks, so had to open up my hand carry bags, and my horn cases. But it was painless. Waited for another half hour at the waiting area before boarding. Found my seat... but my Kajang kakis joke about me sitting next to a fat guy came true! And it's a window seat! Sheettt!!! It's a Bangla fella in his late-40s... nuts. Even tried changing seats later, but to no avail, those who had extra seats took it for themselves. Biatch.

Direct flight to JFK airport was uneventful, but my runny nose from several days of not sleeping properly made it a little uncomfortable (and so did trying to get out to the main aisle to the restroom!). Sleep pattern in the plane was like... eat.. watch a show.. sleep.. toilet.. sleep.. eat.. watch a show.. sleep.. toilet.. for about three times. Next thing i knew, we've arrived! My first sight of the country was already amazing. From the plane you could see a large pool of light (street lights, house lights) that shows how big the city is! Amazing.

01/17/08 around 6am

Got off the plane and into the immigration and customs. It was a fairly long wait. They had two lines, one for visitors and the other for US citizens. And there were a lot of African people and Jews that were visiting that day. Immigration was a breeze, luckily. Officer didn't ask too many questions. Went to collect baggage. First stupid thing I encountered: I had to pay $3 to rent a luggage cart.. like WTF?? And I didn't have change, so I had to use credit card (sorry folks!). Got into customs, they asked some basic questions like: Did you bring any plants, raw food, etc. I said "No.". And that was that. I was out of the customs and into the arrival hall. YES!

Called Chern Hwei. He was late (or rather I was early as well), and he was still at home when I called. Then bought myself a cup of coffee and a nice cheese bagel at Au Bon Pain. My first American meal. Go figure. Walked around the hall a little, and waited for CH. When he came we took a cab (chinese driver, cos he said was cheaper), and straight to CH's house in Jackson Heights. It was 0℃ at the time. Chilled out for a while, then went out for breakfast with CH's housemate at Flushing Chinatown, via subway train, for some breakfast - Hot Soy milk with yao char guai! Nice!

Tried to open a bank account at a Citibank in Flushing, but they required secondary ID with proof of address. Bugger. Took a bus to Queens College and went to the Int'l Students' Office to report in, then to Admissions to change address to CH's house, Health Services to submit immunization form, then finally to the Aaron Copland School of Music to see the program director, Michael Mossman. Luckily, he was in! He signed me in, and gave me a breakdown of the subjects I'll be doing. Cool. Tried to look for my saxophone lecturer, Antonio Hart, but he wasn't in.

Took another bus and subway to Times Square in Manhattan, and saw all those tall buildings (think I Am Legend), and CH was showing me the spots that were in the movie. Saw Wall St, Dow Jones, Nasdaq, CNN building at Time Warner building (which also houses Jazz @ Lincoln Center!!), Carnegie Hall, and even Julliard School of Music. Went to the Lincoln Center building, and then Barnes and Nobles store (man.. that's huge! And all those books!!!!). Went back home to Jackson Heights to crash for a couple of hours, then we headed out again.

We went back to Times Square to the Jazz @ Lincoln Center to check out an after hours gig - Etienne Charles Quintet - at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Etienne's one of CH's friends, and he had a damn nice band, too. Dizzy's is a nice jazz spot (not that cheap though). Randy Weston's band was playing the first two sets, but we didn't want to spend too much on it yet, so we saw the after hours gig only. Etienne's band played entirely original material, and it was great. Read about my brief experience at the All Dat Jazz website, here. Met up with another two of CH's friends, both violinists. After the gig we went to a nice japanese/korean fusion restaurant. Even had some nice vegetarian varieties too. After that it was home back to bed!! Best thing about the subway, it runs 24/7. So taxis are an option!

Talk about really getting around on the first day! To top that, I was really jet-lagged AND underslept from the past few days. So I passed out really quick. At this time of writing, the effects have lessened, but still need to relax a bit more to get accustomed to the time.

Haven't started running yet though. Might do it tomorrow morning.

Anyway, that's it for today. Will write more later.

Hasta la vista...

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