Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Highlights

Finally: real American holidays, after four years of making-do abroad. Here are some of the highlights.

Halloween: Real pumpkins, decorative cupcakes, and panda costumes. Or raccoons according to our trick-or-treaters.

Andrew's 28th Birthday: A surprise party at Brooklyn Brewery with friends, beer, board games, cheesecake, and...more beer. Best moment was Andrew's look of surprise.

Thanksgiving: When in New York...go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! We decided not to get up at the crack of dawn and instead showed up at the start of the parade. This resulted in poor visual range and smushed toes from all the pushing. After freezing our butts off, we headed to New Jersey to have Thanksgiving dinner with Andrew's friend Andrea. Unbeknownest to us, dinner was Chinese style, which was fun but left us craving turkey, so the next day we cooked an 18 lb. turkey for our own Thanksgiving dinner. We just finished up the last of the turkey a few days ago.

Christmas: Santa brought us an early Christmas present this year: the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Feldman! It was great having some time with them away from the wedding chaos, and their arrival meant we got to do some fun touristy stuff, too. We went to Macy's and sat on Santa's lap and got to see Rockefeller Square with its giant (but slightly unimpressive) Christmas tree.

For the first time in about eight years, I spent Christmas with my family in Missouri. It was a bit hectic, leaving New York City on Friday, December 23rd at 5pm in our rental car and racing to get to Pacific in time for presents on Christmas Eve. Six states and one speeding ticket later, we arrived just before the kids (and my "adult" siblings) were about to tear the tree apart. I was especially happy with the gifts we prepared this year. Andrew and I made homemade family name signs for my mom and step-dad, Andrew's parents, and my dad and his wife. I also managed to finish a pair of fingerless mittens for my mom en route.

It was great meeting my new niece, Isabella, and spending time with my other niece and nephew. Mostly I was just happy to be home for Christmas and see my mom. I wish my Nana could have come out, but the cold usually keeps her in Southern California this time of year.

New Year's Eve: We had been anticipating NYE in NYC for a long time; indeed, it was a deciding factor in moving to New York in the first place. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be for 2012. We arrived around 3pm to Times Square to find that the streets were filled to capacity up to 53rd Street. Times Square is on 42nd St. After waiting around a bit, it was clear that if we stayed, we wouldn't be able to see or hear anything. Instead, we went home and watched the festivities on our new TV. Next year, we'll come prepared!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Life as We Know It

Sorry for the blogging sabbatical. Things have been...well, I won't say "busy," because that really isn't true, but let's just say that there's been nothing to really brag about lately. I'm still on the job hunt, and my prospects are still as drab. After applying to a job at the American Museum of Natural History, where I volunteer, I received a call from the hiring coordinator, asking if I realized that I was extremely overqualified for the position. I refrained from telling him I couldn't get another job. And it's not like it's a bad job; it is at AMNH, afterall. Hopefully I convinced him I'm not crazy and I'll get an interview next week.

So, what have I been doing with my liberal time? First, volunteering. I work four hours a week at the American Museum of Natural History in the Children's Discovery Room. It should be a pretty fun job, and sometimes it actually is, but most of the time it's a test of how tactful and polite I can be. Not because of the kids. The kids are great! It's the other volunteers. All of them are older women who have been volunteering for years, and they seem to see their job description as "terrorize children" instead of "play with them." It's frustrating for me because I feel like one of the best resources of the museum, its hands-on room for kids, is being wasted. I spend my time there trying to engage the kids and get them interested in learning; they spend their time screaming at the kids to pick up the toys and lower their voices. It's a bit depressing, really. But the museum is pretty awesome, and I can get free tickets for people, so it's nice to have those benefits. Also, it gave me the opportunity to submit job applications in person with some priority as a volunteer.

Just last week I started volunteering at Discovery Times Square, my (so-far) favorite museum in NYC. If you remember, DTS is where we saw the Harry Potter and Pompeii exhibits. Right now they have The Dead Sea Scrolls, which is, of course, right up my alley. Since DTS is staffed by people who are there to take tickets, and thus have no background in museums or history, this makes me the resident expert in a way. Because it's a temporary, traveling exhibit, there isn't even a knowledgable curator on hand. Therefore, there's a need for docents.

In some ways I already prefer volunteering at DTS. Not only do I enjoy the exhibit, but the hours are better and I didn't realize how much I needed stimulating conversation with adults. Working with kids is super fun, but mentally draining, and not in a good way. It's really nice to be able to share my knowledge about history and archaeology with people who get it. It makes me really eager to go back to school. Then I read my Facebook feed and see how all you poor grad students are suffering and I decide differently.

The third museum I work with is the Bronx Children's Museum. Here, I can actually use the word work, because I (theoretically) get paid to do it! The museum hasn't technically opened yet (not until 2014), but they have an old school bus that they've designed to look like the Bronx River, complete with flora and fauna from the habitat. We drive this bus around to schools in the South Bronx, a notoriously impoverished and neglected area of the Bronx, and take Pre-K and K children on it to learn about the Bronx River, which is the only fresh water river in all of NYC. Now, this program is really new, and thus is still a work in progress, which leads to the best part of my new "job:" I get to have a say in how we use the bus! I've kind of offered myself to the Director as her all-around lackey, there to do whatever she wants: make name badges for the educators, email schools and schedule visits, and create materials to be used with visitors. It's really nice, because while we haven't figured out how I will be paid for this time, it gives me great museum experience and awesome leadership qualifications. Officially, I'm going to be titled "Administrative Assistant" or something like that, because I'll be handling all the emails, the mailing list, picking up supplies, and designing materials. The only downside to this job, besides working with huge groups of 3-5 year olds all day long, is that currently we only take the bus out on Fridays. This is partly due to funding and partly due to staffing. I've been kind of pushing to expand the program to other days. It pays great, and it would be awesome to get paid even for just one more day of work during the week.

So that's my museum life right now. In addition to that work, I spend most of my time cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping. And watching tons of Law & Order: SVU on Netflix.