Friday, January 23, 2015

The preschool game of NYC

Zoe's arrival here in NY is closing in and hence, I have been introduced to the preschool game of New York. Or maybe it is even an art, I'm not sure yet. What I am sure of is that it has taken me the better part of the past two weeks to research, call, visit and get rejections from several preschools. The great advantage of the free market is that you have choices, and many of them, particularly if you are willing and able to pay a lot of money. The downside when it comes to the free market of preschool is that they also have choices and sometimes the don't choose you.

I had been emailing with a administrator at one creme-de-la-creme-de-la-Chelsea Art preschool who finally asked me to "come down to fill in an application" at 11 am one Wednesday morning. Now that throws off my day quite a bit and I ended up having to stay at work until 8pm. Never mind that. She had ignored my request for a tuition schedule, she had also been vague about any details of hours but I took the chance anyway. There is a huge difference in price though with anywhere from 15.000 to 25.000 dollars per year (okay, I know my scandinavian readers now are gasping in disbelief). I walked into a reception like area and received the application. On that I had to list different details, for example if I was married, divorced, bla bla bla and religious affiliation. I realized it was a religiously affiliated school although it didn't seem to have much weight in their everyday activities which were illustrated with brightly colors and pictures on the wall. I handed over the application and let her know the dates I needed the preschool for. Yes, they had one spot in the classroom I was looking for. Two hours later I received an email notification that they did not have any spots after all. I was rejected (I say I, not Zoe, because they never even saw a picture of her). I got really annoyed and wondered if it was the non-religious affiliation or the single divorcee status that I had, which had gotten me rejected. I complained to a NY friend who simply said I shouldn't take it personally. I tried not to but I was so annoyed that this woman stole my time without being clear on any of their criteria. And why wasn't I good enough anyway? The irony of it all of course being that I had been on the receiving side of 'special treatment' when I got Zoe's private trilingual daycare in Stockholm, being invited for a meeting and not until the director had seen me and talked to me, been told that there was a spot for Zoe.

My continued investment in finding a preschool led me to a university (loosely) affiliated place where I met the most helpful woman in NY. It turns out that she is the savior of all incoming parents who dare go against the regular academic system of September starts, and knows prices, places and tricks. I called up two more places and went to visit. It turned out that at one place I qualify for subsidy of the tuition fee, which would make the price almost comparable to Scandinavia. Well, almost. So here are my non-sugar coated final choices:

  • The university affiliated place in a new building with plenty of room and 15 kids in a class. However, they are all 1-2 years younger than Zoe, only one boy was almost her age. It is 10 minutes walk away.
  • The community care in an old (but charming) building with 22 kids in a class, all Asian and African American. Zoe would be the only white kid in the class. However, I saw at least 2 or 3 girls her age whom I cannot imagine she would not get along with. The place is a subway ride away and a bit of a walk on each end.
  • A private place that I'm seeing on Monday. It is also 10 min walk away and they provide lunch. She assured me that there were children her age.
I'm strongly leaning towards the community care because, and these are some of the (perhaps politically incorrect) thoughts I have had before when she has been in these types of daycares (because these are the only daycares that will take kids temporarily): As a well-educated parent with a smart and articulate child, who is doing really well developmentally and personality wise, I think I have a duty to 'give back' to the community. It is all very nice to donate money to the poor and bla bla bla, but I actually think another way is to integrate more. I don't want to be the goody goody white woman who just dives in and buys the cookies at the neighborhood fund-raising fair. Zoe could be a fresh breath of air in the classroom where the diversity is much bigger than in her upper-middle class Swedish daycare. Besides, she has plenty in common with them, they are all bilingual, speaking another language at home, having different roots. The place was rough on the edges but everyone was as nice as all the other places I had visited and well, kids are just always cute no matter what tone of skin. 

After a week of hard work, I now just have to go and see the one on Monday before making up my mind. But it has to be amazingly perfect and super-crazy good to beat the community preschool. I can't wait to tell Zoe all about it when I see her next week in Stockholm

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New York living

I have to admit that I love jet lag this way. I'm not a morning person but 6 hours time difference makes me into one and within the first week of my New York adventure I managed two 7am yoga classes. Not only were these yoga classes a great way of starting my morning, they were also some of the best yoga classes I have ever taken. Perhaps this was simply due to me being able to fully understand exactly what the teacher said because the past three years my random Vinyasa has been in Swedish and it was hard of me not to laugh when the teacher sad in his/her singing Swedish '...och hunden' (literally "...and the dog"). Just like ballet is in French (it's a different story but when I took ballet class in California I missed out on half the movements because the teacher pronounced all the French terms with a thick English accent), yoga is in English.

But jet lag doesn't last forever, especially not when going to secret speakeasy clubs on a Tuesday night, drinking bourbon. My healthy, hip lifestyle got ruined in one fun evening leading to a hangover on a week day. Luckily I am moving to my "permanent" apartment in the West Village where no yoga class is to be found before 9am. Which makes it hard for me to go because I like to get a good start to my working day sitting at my desk at 8:30am. Or at least that's my plan here.

Sometimes I just can't believe my luck. Things just come to me, perhaps because I try hard or because because people recognize me as a good, honest person. Or perhaps because the moon is looking after me. Perhaps because when all comes down to it I'm a positive person and I am more happy about the great things happening to me than sad about all the crappy things. In any case I managed to score the most gorgeous apartment in the middle of everything. It is exactly five blocks away from where Friends were supposed to take place (yep, I checked the building in the show and it is on the corner of Bedford and Grove Street) and 20 minutes walk from my work. My bedroom window has a view of the Empire State Building. It's bigger than my place in Stockholm, it even has a separate bedroom. The lady who has the apartment is the sweetest thing ever, and her books and art make the place a living place. I'm paying 500$ less than what others are paying in that area because she "rather wants someone she can trust" than a lot of money. I got the keys today and walked over after work, just to take in the place. It's typical New York with non-adjustable heat, a bathroom with broken tiles and windows that are unable to shut completely, leading to a constant draft. There is no hall way and no place to put shoes and coats and one of the ceiling lights is not working. The view from the living room is across a tiny backyard, two meters from the other wall and the other windows, so you really just want to keep the blinds down the whole time. But it's New York and it's mine. And I love it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Flying high above the Atlantic, Frank Sinatra's New York, New York was the second song my 104-song play list decided to play. I took it as a sign that this is going to be good. New York is going to treat me alright.

I have always wanted to live in New York. Ever since I knew what it was, since I found out that Copenhagen was not the center of the universe (although I did grow up thinking that for a long long time), ever since my English teacher in 7th grade told me about her walking around in Harlem (which was not that clever in the 80s and that was the moral of the story, yet my interpretation was 'wow, I want to go there'), since I watched movies and TV series depicting a dirty rushed city with people from everywhere, ever since then I wanted to move there. When I finally went to New York in 2001 I instantly felt at home. The mix of friendliness and business suits me better than anywhere else; the atmosphere is a mix of American straightforward friendliness and European big city mind-your-own-business. My first visit was a tourist visit of ten days with my then boyfriend. The very last day we went up in the World Trade Center and had lunch. What a view. It was like being on an airplane. Eleven days after I got home I saw on TV one of the scariest thing in my life: two airplanes flying straight into the buildings. I was in utter shock along with the rest of the world for weeks. But I never doubted that I wanted to go back and live in New York.

In 2002 I moved to California. The problem with New York and me is that I chose the wrong research area. Instead of studying something that actually has a presence in New York, I chose something that no university in New York and surrounding areas has on it's course list, whatsoever. Instead I called California my home (on and off) for almost ten years. And California is great, particularly the Bay Area where I have numerous friends now and where I could see myself living again. But I still feel more at home in New York. So at every tiny opportunity I have passed by New York and I honestly can't remember the number of times I have visited but it is certainly closer to 15 than 10. I have friends here now too (one with a daughter Zoe's age) and two babysitters for Zoe. I know which area I want to live in (and I already got a good deal) and I know my way around. It is going to be easy for me to make myself at home here. I know I can make it here, because I can make it anywhere.

The flight was rather uneventful except for ten minutes of violent turbulence that in one instance made the plane fall freely for a split second resulting in screams from some passengers and folded hands praying from other passengers, like me. I gently reminded God that we have a deal. I'm Zoe's mom and she needs me. And I need her. We landed to an icy cold air but no snow and I stood in line only for 45 minutes to enter the US of A on my J1 visa. Welcome, the immigration officer said in a friendly but firm tone. Thank you, I smiled. Thank you.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


If anyone ever asked me advice on divorce or marriage, I would say Stay. Stay together. It's not worth it. Divorce is the most stupid thing anyone ever has invented, particularly in our modern society of fleeting relations and fleeting love. I used to say that people split up too easily and that people weren't willing to work enough on their relationship. I still think this more than ever. I think we didn't give our relationship the chance it deserved, but I guess I mostly think he didn't. I initially moved out because things weren't working at that time but I never wanted to be divorced and I never wanted not to be with him. But after three months he apparently didn't want to try anymore. I didn't believe him when he said that but should probably have listened. Because he was never the person who said that people don't work enough on their marriage, he was never the one who said people got divorced to easily. So there you go, I married a guy who didn't learn anything from me. I learned one thing: Trust no one.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year resolutions

Many years ago I made a "new years resolution" that I was never going to make any promises for the new year because they were only just gonna be broken. I would try to live healthy for two weeks, then back to my usual regular chocolate and too-busy-for-the-gym lifestyle or I would promise to work harder, get up 6 am each morning to write a bit more on an article, only to do it for three days before I got back to snoozing until 7am (I do actually recall two enjoyable weeks where I did get up super early and went into our freezing kitchen our California apartment with a shawl and a cup of coffee to write on a particular paper). But I do better without telling myself that this year will be different, this year will be better because I know I do my best every single day. I do the best that I can do that very day and that might be different for different days, but I rather want to think that I'm good enough, just the way I am. Every day.

But I do wonder how I ended up in such a ridiculous situation as I'm in. I should be excited and happy, I am certainly better off than many others (why do people always say this btw? If I should be happy just because I have a permanent job when many others don't, if I should be happy just because I have a stable place to live when others don't, then when all comes down to it, nobody would be allowed to be unhappy or *strive towards more* unless they were close to starvation with no family or friends. I honestly hate people who tell me I should just be happy with what I got); but I'm terribly unhappy. My brother asked me yesterday if I had any New Years resolutions and I told him, as usual I don't. Instead I have wishes. Wishes for two big things that I hope and pray will come true this year. Two things that will make me happy and make up for all the things I have lost the past couple of years. And no, love is not one of my wishes. I'm nowhere near over my marriage and still wish that we could figure things out. I wish he hadn't given up on me after three months, but that's what I got. It seems to me that guys move on swiftly if there are any problems and never look back.

My New Year wishes will be expensive but I'm not giving up. In fact I have a large printed poster in my living room with those words: Don't give up. I'm bringing the poster to New York.