Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

I am sitting at home writing this entry between bites of a vegetarian enchilada bowl, priced at $7.99, from an upscale Manhattan grocery store. I love finding these – they are full of real ingredients, taste great, and are worth the trip to a Manhattan sidewalk!

I obtained this dinner through dumpster diving, a practice that is all-too-easy in New York City and elsewhere. If you haven’t already, read part one of this series for an introduction to freeganism and food waste.


As stated in my last entry, I had my first NYC dumpster diving experience in November 2018. Around eight of us showed up for the Freeganism 101 meeting, through which we learned all about this idea that was new to almost all of us. Then we hit the streets, where organizer Janet outlined the common practices of dumpster diving for the evening: No one is judged for what they do or do not choose to take, we announce what we find so everyone in the group can share, we keep the sidewalks clear for pedestrians passing by, no one has to open a trash bag if they are uncomfortable doing so, and we close the bags at the end to leave each stop as neat as we found it.

With these common courtesies in mind we proceeded to a number of stores. That night’s tour included a grocery store, a bagel shop, a pharmacy, a pet shop, a bakery, another grocery store…so many places! At each stop we untied the trash bags and found what seemed like an infinite amount of incredible items. I was amazed by how little we had to get our hands dirty to find good food in the trash; many items were thrown out in large quantities by type, making it easy to find fresh food (and makeup, sunglasses, earbuds…all sorts of items from the pharmacy!) without having to search very hard. Even with almost a dozen of us sharing the wealth there was too much food and we had to leave a lot behind.

A display of all the still-good food found at just *one* grocery store.

Is it really safe?

As we walked, I spoke to Janet along with Kelly, another dumpster diver, about food in the trash. Had it ever made them sick? Why was it thrown out? Surely some of it must not be good? Neither of them has ever gotten sick from eating anything from dumpster diving, including produce, dairy, and meat products. Often food is tossed directly from the shelves to the street, and stores regularly throw out perfectly good items when they get new shipments. Plus, so many foods are wrapped in plastic, so thete’s no need to worry whether they touch other items in trash bags. I started out hesitant, but in the months since that first tour I can confidently say that I agree with their verdict on the food; I have consumed yogurt, cheese, vegetables, fruit, milk, bread, salmon sandwiches (common at Pret a Manger), salads, and even sushi with no problems.

Here are some best practices for making sure the food you are eating is fine:

  • Thoroughly wash fruits and veggies before consumption
  • Check if perishable products are cold when you find them (often they go straight from the shelves to the street)
  • Put eggs in a bowl of water to check if they are good (if an egg floats to the top, don’t eat it)
  • Be aware of what else is in the trash bag with an item
  • For sashimi or sushi, a fellow diver taught me a trick: Fry the fish to make a tasty treat and ensure that it won’t spoil

I was also curious about expiration dates. I know they aren’t accurate, but how far could you go? In some cases, food thrown out is not even past its printed date, but even if it is, it’s often still fine for weeks or months; dates are not as accurate as we imagine and often refer to peak freshness rather than safety. Additionally, terms like “sell by” vs “use by” vs “best if used by” all have different meanings. For a full breakdown, check out this article from Consumer Reports.


Expanding the practice

That night, I went home with more quality food than I ever would have imagined. I also had the contact info. for Kelly, who lives close to me. We have since formed our own little group of Brooklyn dumpster divers, and on almost any night of the week (or early evening for some spots) we might meet for a dive. We have a list of preferred spots but really it isn’t necessary; walking down any commercial Brooklyn or Manhattan street can prove plentiful.

Before dumpster diving, I saved money by buying bruised fruits and vegetables at my local grocery store. Now, the quality of produce I bring home has drastically improved; I often leave bruised apples and oranges behind in the trash bags because too many great ones are thrown away. I find myself eating fancy things I’d never buy on my own: Gouda cheese with black truffle flakes, acacia honey with pistachios, chocolate-covered figs, fresh-baked olive bread, organic coconut palm syrup, or date nectar, a tasty sugar alternative made entirely from dates. Too often I leave good food behind simply because I don’t have room to carry it. One night, my friend Sophia and I found a bag filled entirely with expensive, non-expired blocks of cheese (the average price of a cheese block in the bag was $15). We took home over $125 of cheese each, but even so we left at least another $100 of cheese behind!

Trash bag full of fancy cheese

Dumpster diving can bring other incredible finds as well. I am now the proud owner of a fancy Korean rice cooker (I looked it up online and it’s worth a couple hundred dollars!) that was still in its packaging when I found it at an end-of-semester dorm dive; college students throw out all sorts of crazy things! I’ve found high-quality chocolate bars, protein powder, chia seeds, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, drawing pens, hairspray, shampoo, a glue gun…it’s never-ending!

How do I start?

If you are interested in dumpster diving but are unsure how to begin, consider these tips:

  • See if your there is a dumpster diving or freeganism meetup group near you
  • Check out this list of Freegan groups worldwide (you can probably google others)
  • Check out the worldwide (mostly European) TrashWiki.
  • If you’re in France, check out this app…I know there’s another one bakeries use, but I forget what it’s called…
  • Food waste apps in Europe: Too Good To Go; Olio; Karma; NoFoodWasted.
  • Food waste apps in the US: Food for All; Food Rescue Hero; Food Rescue US; GoMkt.
  • If you can’t find a group, grab a friend and look for the following spots: Grocery stores, bakeries, bagel shops, pharmacies (Duane Reade is always plentiful here in NYC), gourmet sandwich chains like Pret a Manger, Maison Kaiser, or Au Bon Pain. Bakeries or bagel shops are great places to start because bread products are easy to feel in bags before opening them and are thrown out in large quantities every day.
  • Bring a headlamp, gloves, reusable bags, plastic bags, and hand sanitizer.
  • If anyone questions you (which rarely happens), remember that trash on the curb is public property. You are allowed to be there.
  • If you’re checking out dumpsters, be careful about when and where you go; a dumpster in a parking lot is technically private property.

So…those are some tips to get started. I’ll end this post with a little slideshow of some of the crazy amounts of food I’ve found on an average night. I used to take photos after every dive but had to stop – there were too many! I also used to add up all the prices to determine how much money I saved – often one night’s haul would bring in $60-$100 worth of food! Of course, you can also give some of your finds to local shelters or organizations such as Food Not Bombs. There is way more than enough to go around!

It is 6:30 PM on a hot Monday evening in August. My friend Melinda and I stand casually outside a Manhattan grocery store, chatting as we wait for the next black bag being brought to the sidewalk. We smile at the store worker as he places it at the curb and stroll over to investigate, our carry bags ready. “This one is cold…seems like packaged foods,” Melinda observes as she feels the side of the bag. We untie the knot and discover that she is correct; a wealth of frozen treasures hide within. We sift through the bag, pulling out boxes of pizza poppers, enchilada bowls, frozen breakfast burritos, waffles, green beans, vegan “meat” strips…it is never-ending. There is no actual trash in the bag, just boxes upon boxes of still-cold frozen foods seemingly chucked straight from the shelves to the curb. I look for the expiration dates on a few items, knowing how meaningless those dates usually are but checking just in case, and on almost every item the date is approaching but has not yet passed. “I guess they had to make room for a new shipment.” I shrug, wishing this was surprising, and hand Melinda a box of gluten-free mac and cheese. We split the remainder of the items, regretfully leaving many behind. There is only so much we can carry, so we have to be picky to save room for items we want the most. I’ve collected at least $20 worth of food from just this one bag; what will we find next?

My freezer, packed to capacity with food found from dumpster diving.
Another bag from that 6:30 PM dive. None of the expiration dates had passed on these cereals.

The scenario described above is not uncommon in New York City. Outside almost every grocery store, bagel shop, bakery, specialty food shop, etc., on almost every night of the week, perfectly good food is thrown away. Eight dozen eggs may be tossed because of a single yolk messing up the cartons, $300 of fancy cheeses discarded because of upcoming sell-by dates, scores of apples sent to the curb for minor bruises, bulging trash bags filled solely with bagels because new batches will be baked in the morning.

I discovered the food wasteland of NYC a little over a year ago after hosting Benny and Mira, two lovely couchsurfers from Australia. They get almost all their food back home by dumpster diving and were wondering what the scene was like in New York. I knew very little about dumpster diving but was intrigued by their description (it does not require literally diving into dumpsters…unless you really want to), and a quick google search revealed a secret side of NYC – and of most cities – that I’d never known existed. I took the plunge by joining the group NYC Freegan Meetup and registered for an event, “Freeganism 101 and Trash Tour,” eager to learn more.

Freeganism 101

I attended my first “trash tour” on Friday, November 2nd, 2018. I met the group at 9 PM at a public meeting space in upper Manhattan and was offered an array of treats collected from the trash: Cookies, cake, yogurt, crackers…the quantity and quality of snacks present at that meeting blew my mind. Then we got down to business: An introduction to freeganism followed by a trash tour of the area. Here are some of the facts I learned there and in the time since about food waste (collected mainly from freeganism.info and from the NYC Mayor’s Food Waste Challenge to Restaurants):

  • 40% of edible food is wasted in the US, while over 50 million Americans live in poverty. (source)
  • NYC sends four million tons of waste to landfills every year.
  • Of that four million tons, roughly one third is food waste.
  • When food waste degrades in landfills it produces methane, a greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming.
  • In her article on dumpster diving in NYC, Eillie Anzilotti states that 16% of New York City residents are food insecure, meaning they may not know where their next meal will come from or if they’ll be able to afford it.
  • Dumpster diving is one aspect of freeganism, a movement based around “limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.” (freeganism.info)
  • Freeganism is built on the following principles:
    • Waste Reclamation: “The practice of recovering useable items from dumpsters or street curbs that have been needlessly discarded.” This mainly includes dumpster diving, the act of rummaging through trash bins, dumpsters, trash bags, etc. of retailers, residences, and other facilities. Picking up a discarded chair or set of dinner plates from the curb is as much a part of dumpster diving as collecting bagels from a streetside trash bag; any items put to the curb as public trash are available for taking.
    • Waste Minimization: Freegans try to live a zero-waste lifestyle, always recycling, upcycling, etc. This also includes acquiring/contributing items from/to freemarkets, etc.
    • Eco-Friendly Transportation: Rather than contribute to pollution by driving an automobile, part of freeganism includes finding alternative methods of transportation, such as cycling.
    • Rent-Free Housing: Some freegans convert abandoned buildings into community centers, work spaces, or living areas, but rent-free housing also includes the exchange of living spaces through programs like Couchsurfing, Warmshowers, Hospitality Club, and even ones that require the exchange of services such as WWOOF, Workaway, Trusted House Sitters, etc.
    • Going Green: This mainly includes growing food, participating in community gardens, foraging, etc.
    • Working Less: By acquiring basic needs without spending much money, freegans are able to reduce the amount of time they need to be actively making income in the “money economy” and can devote more time and energy to the “core economy” (home, family, neighborhood, community) through volunteerism, activism, participating in TimeBanks, etc. Worker-led unions are an example of the freegan spirit within the workplace.

Learning about freeganism was very cool – I realized I’d been practicing many aspects of freeganism for years and had never known there was a term for it. Armed with my new knowledge, I followed event organizer Janet (who has been dumpster diving in NYC for over a decade!) and the rest of the group out into the cool Manhattan night air. It was 9:30 PM and we were about to discover just how wasteful NYC can be.

Stay tuned for Part II for more info. about dumpster diving, tips for getting started, and photos from some of my diving experiences. 

Memories and Spice

Posted: February 21, 2019 in Food, Musings
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Taking a little break from travel blog writing to bring you a cheesy, personal post. Enjoy!


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What you see before you in this photo is an empty container once full of cumin powder. Not very special at first glance, but this particular container holds a lot of value.

At this very time six years ago, in February 2013, I was midway through my second year of service as an AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) member. I was living in a basement apartment in downtown Albany, NY (perfect for late-night vibraphone practice sessions) and spending my days advocating for refugees and immigrants of the Capital District. I remember this time fondly, feeling very much like I was making a big difference in the community by organizing workshops, running volunteer trainings, presenting benefit concerts, tutoring English language learners, and just generally spreading awareness of the presence of such a large, diverse, and wonderful refugee population in the area. The refugees and immigrants of the Capital Region, and everyone who works so hard to support them, will always hold a huge place in my heart.

At this same time I was attempting to a) Figure out how to spread my SNAP-assisted budget to make it through a month (AmeriCorps members are provided with a stipend that allows them to live 5% above the poverty line) and b) Expand my horizons as a meal-prepper, with my brother hundreds of miles away constantly reminding me that I wasn’t a great cook. To stretch my food budget I often bought things in bulk because of the cheaper unit prices and long-term value, so one day I walked into the local Price Chopper, saw a large container of cumin on sale, and decided to buy it.

If memory serves me correctly, I bought that container of cumin early into my second year of VISTA service. Back then I didn’t have a huge spice collection, so every time I walked into the kitchen it stood out. I often found myself staring at it as I prepared dinner after each day of VISTA service, reflecting on my experiences, the stories of the refugees I was working with, the passion and selflessness of the advocates who gave their time so willingly, and what I could do to make the most of each day of my service term. I had some great, solo reflections there with that cumin bottle, and came up with some ideas that proved to be extremely worthwhile endeavors, such as organizing a benefit concert for RISSE and the decision to start tutoring a young woman from Japan learning English. I was also a little lonely; by that time many (but not all) of my college friends had moved out of Albany, and while I still had people to hang out with, I spent many nights home alone (happily practicing my vibraphone, of course). So…that giant cumin bottle was like an extra friend, who allowed me to vent about/reflect on the day while adding new flavor to my cooking.

VISTA was amazing, but all good things must come to an end. After my service ended I took on a position on as a VISTA Leader, mentoring VISTA members organizing hurricane relief efforts on Long Island. I moved back in with my parents and my cumin came along, but since my mom had her own large spice collection it stayed packed away for the entire year.

Next, graduate school! My VISTA Leader experience came to a close and I moved to Brooklyn, where I would live (and still live) while attending graduate school in Manhattan. Out came the cumin bottle once again, now accompanied by a beautiful spice rack inherited from my grandmother (rest in peace). After a year of not seeing it, that cumin bottle instantly brought back memories of my VISTA life, and of the refugees and advocates I knew and loved. Over the next four years, every time I opened the cabinet and saw it, I would think of VISTA.

It is bittersweet that I have finally used up the last of that cumin. It has lasted so long (I use it often enough, but I am only one person and I like to travel, as you readers know, so it has stretched a long way). I almost don’t want to recycle it, because I love the connection it brings to my refugee work, a hugely inspirational experience in my life which I miss dearly. Ironically, this same week that I am saying goodbye to the bottle, I’ve said hello to some faces from those VISTA days, reconnecting with old acquaintances and learning about updates in their lives. Perhaps reuniting with those people is a sign that I will continue to find ways to keep those memories alive, and maybe even return to refugee advocacy work in the future.

Thank you, shukran, and asante sana, cumin bottle. The memories you’ve brought me will live on.

As promised, here is one bonus post about Vietnam. I’m writing this aboard an Air New Zealand flight from Melbourne to Christchurch. Onward for adventures! More about Australia soon, but first I’ll finish up a bit about Vietnam. If you just want to hear about my adventures feel free to skip this post; it’s mostly just information on food, etc. and, for the sake of time, I will add in photos later. 

Upon arrival in Vietnam, something striking is how rare English is; it’s not on the signs, it’s not on restaurant menus, you don’t hear it around you (in fact, one day I recognized a familiar melody filling the air through a speaker: “Love Potion Number 9” in Vietnamese!). You can tell when you’re in the touristy – and more expensive – areas of the country when you do see/hear English. For instance, in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City you can find more English than any other district in the city but you’ll pay for it; the average pho costs 20,000 dong elsewhere, but 40,000-60,000 in D1. Likewise, a bottle of water – 8000 – 10,000 dong elsewhere – is 20,000! Beware the tourist trap…

To avoid high prices and hold your own in non-English areas, it’s good to learn to recognize basic words. Here are some that are fairly easy to learn and which I found to be most useful:

Food words:

Bo = beef

Bo = avocado

Bún = a particular soup meal

= chicken

Chả  = pork

Cơm = rice

Cơm tấm = broken rice (uses fractured rice grains)

Ga = fish

After learning to recognize these, it’s time to learn to speak a couple words. I recommend xin chey (sounds like sin chai, means hello), com on (sounds like come on, means thanks), and some basic numbers so you don’t get scammed. Here’s a video my host in the Mekong Delta, Danny, suggested to practice numbers 1-10.

Foods of Vietnam

I had so many good meals in Vietnam; I felt absolutely spoiled. If you visit, here are some of the foods you shouldn’t miss:

Snacks/drinks/desserts:

Chè: This word is used to describe many Vietnamese sweet drinks/puddings, all delicious and usually containing mung bean, tapioca, etc. Here are some examples. 

Avocado smoothie: If you make avocado smoothies already (like I do) this won’t be anything new, but the price can’t be beat..and if you make avocado smoothies then you probably already love them. 😉 

Chanh Da: Vietnamese lemonade.

Yaourt trái cây: This is essentially just yogurt, fruit, and ice, but it’s a great combo.

Nước mía or mía đá: Sugarcane juice. Man oh man…this is so refreshing on a hot day, and very fun to watch as the sugarcane is squished up to get all the juice out. Definitely drink this.

Any kind of smoothie: Seriously…fruit is so fresh and cheap in Vietnam that you could just live on amazing smoothies. Yum yum yum!

Peanuts: In Vietnam there are some amazing peanuts with a crunchy coating. They are sold in an airtight package and coated with a little coconut oil, which gives them a great taste. I don’t know if they have a special name but you can find them at almost any little store. 

Durian: This fruit is just amazing. That’s all I can say. 

Milk tea: If you haven’t already had it, might as well try it in Vietnam!

Vietnamese coffee: This is hard to explain. You use a drip filter to let the coffee slowly filter into your mug, and it’s very strong and caffeinated. I’m not a huge coffee fan but I enjoyed this, especially with a little condensed milk (very common in Vietnam). 

Meals:

Pho: The staple. There are many soup-based dishes in Vietnam, but pho – particularly beef pho – is basically the national dish. 

Bún thái : Thai noodle soup. So many flavors in one bowl! This was my favorite meal aside from Quynh’s cooking. If you are familiar with Thai food, this is the Vietnamese version of tom yum. It contains seafood like fish, squid, shrimp, along with some meat, lemongrass, green onions, noodles, bean sprouts…I think there was more? This soup was so so so so good. I can’t recommend it highly enough. 

Canh chua cá: Sweet and sour fish soup. This is one of the meals Quynh cooked, and it’s delicious. It’s very hearty, containing fish with loads of vegetables, chili sauce, and fish oil. Served with rice. I think of this as a great meal to get when you want something comforting, warm, and filling. 

Cơm tấm: Broken rice with ingredients on top, usually grilled pork chops, onions, some sort of herb like mint, and sometimes extra stuff like egg, cabbage, peppers, etc.

Bánh mì: This word means bagueVietnamese sandwich found on almost any street corner for 10,000 dong. If you see it for more, you’re probably overpaying! Typically this is a baguette filled with pork and veggies, but could be chicken, beef, etc.

Chả lụa: Sausage wrapped in banana leaves. One day, Marlyse, Nolan, and I accidentally bought this thinking it was a sort of Vietnamese dolma. We were sadly disappointed when we unwrapped it and found a giant hunk of sausage.

Spring Rolls: Vietnamese spring rolls come in many forms, all delicious! 

Summer 2010, I traveled to Alma, QC, CA for the “French and Music” immersion program (aka “French band camp”). I met wonderful people who I’ve tried to keep in touch with over the years. In 2012, I flew to London to visit Heather. Summer 2013 brought me to Toronto to reunite with Eva, Amanda, and Marlyse. This summer, I took a “staycation” and hosted my first long-term guest in Brooklyn: Marlyse! This was only her second time visiting NY, and we had a blast.

Sunday, August 24th:

Marlyse arrived, we got caught up, and then we went about the arduous but fun task of planning our week.

Monday:

After getting groceries we visited Union Square’s Greenmarket, one of many giant farmer’s markets in NYC that run year-long. We sampled local fruits and veggies but couldn’t eat too much because of what was next…

After visiting Washington Square Park briefly, we took a tour by Free Tours By Foot. They offer FREE tours of the city, and you choose how much to tip your guide at the end. Very affordable way to learn about NY. We chose the Greenwich Village Food Tour and made stops at five delicious eateries:

Mamoun's Falafel: The oldest falafel shop in NYC.

Mamoun’s Falafel: The oldest falafel shop in NYC.

Artichoke Pizza: The most delicious pizza I have ever tasted. I can't even describe how amazing this was...definitely one of the best foods I've ever eaten.

Artichoke Pizza: The most delicious pizza I have ever tasted. I can’t even describe how amazing this was…definitely one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten.

Bantam Bagels: A variety of bagel holes with delicious fillings. Dried tomato with pesto cream cheese, French Toast with cinnamon filling, whole wheat with veggie cream cheese, etc.

Bantam Bagels: A variety of bagel holes with delicious fillings. Dried tomato with pesto cream cheese, French Toast with cinnamon filling, whole wheat with veggie cream cheese, etc.

Bleecker Street Pizza: Voted best NY-style pizza three years in a row. I haven't yet decided if I agree...

Bleecker Street Pizza: Voted best NY-style pizza three years in a row. I haven’t yet decided if I agree…

Sugar & Plumm: A sweet shop known for macarons and crème brûlée cookies.

Sugar & Plumm: A sweet shop known for macarons and crème brûlée cookies.

After the tour we headed to The High Line, a park built above Manhattan on old subway tracks. Great place to relax and enjoy the view. 

Next, we went thrift shopping in the East Village. The best by far was a place called Cure Thrift Shop, which I will definitely return to. 

Panna II...the craziest Indian restaurant in NY.

Panna II…the craziest Indian restaurant in NY.

After that, we bought wine to take to a BYOB Indian restaurant called Panna II. Holy moly, what a crazy place. Lights everywhere, a billion people, and the fastest service imaginable. The servers literally took Marlyse’s appetizer away before she finished, and our tablecloth was whisked off as soon as we payed. “Very busy, very busy,” our waiter stressed as he rushed us out the door. What an experience…everyone should go there once just to be dumbfounded and confuddled as you quickly eat your food before you have to leave. I think we were there a total of half an hour, and when we left we exclaimed “What just happened?!”

After our insane Indian adventure (I’m not dissing the place; the food was decent and it was fun, it was just such an out-of-this-world experience that you have to visit to understand), we stopped at Starbucks (always reliable for a public bathroom) to change before heading to The Back Room, one of only two speakeasys in NYC still open today which was operational during the 1920s. The Back Room does not have its own address; it uses the address of the building next door. From the outside it’s silent, but as we descended a dark staircase and a long, dimly-lit hallway, we heard music. I see how this place functioned for so long during Prohibition; you can’t hear a peep from outside. Inside however, is a different story. Live jazz, people laughing and dancing, and everyone drinking “tea” out of large ceramic teacups. The place has a great atmosphere and I’m glad we experienced it. Plus, no cover! 🙂

Tuesday

Phew! I can’t believe we did ALL that in just one day. Incredible.

On Tuesday morning I had to go to The Graduate Center for orientation, so Marlyse went to Williamsburg and I met her there in the afternoon. We walked all over Williamsburg and Greenpoint, visiting thrift stores (we love thrift stores, if you didn’t pick that up) and taking in the sights and sounds of “hipster-ville” and “Polish town”. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and you can definitely tell what sets these two areas apart from the rest of Brooklyn. Marlyse and I both enjoyed the vibe, the stores, and the food (the best store we visited was Buffalo Exchange, in case anyone’s planning a trip). 

After shopping (I bought swing dancing shoes, hooray!), we took a train to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone and walk along the beach. Marlyse wanted to see many sides of the city during her stay, so Coney Island was a must. I can safely report that the Cyclone is still functional after all it’s been through.

Wednesday

Strawberry Fields...just "imagine" the colors ;)

Strawberry Fields…just “imagine” the colors 😉

Such a fun day! We started out by riding bikes through Central Park and stopping at the landmark spots along the way. Of course that meant taking the same picture as everyone else at Strawberry Fields. 

After Central Park, we walked to the New York Public Library to catch the library tour. Caution: If you plan on taking the 2 PM tour, it’s smart to arrive half an hour early, otherwise the spots might be filled. Since we missed out, we met my friend Megan on her lunch break (she works there) and then explored the exhibit on children’s literature. Very cool.

Next we strolled down the street to Ellen’s Stardust Diner in Times Square, where Broadway stars and hopefuls work when they’re not performing. They take orders, bring food, and burst into song every couple of minutes. Definitely a tourist hotspot, and since this was my week to be a NYC tourist, why not?

After that, we stopped at a coffee shop to change (seems to be our theme of the week…) for the event we were both looking forward to: The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway!!! Ahhhh so amazing…I’ve performed the music of Phantom, but to see it live was incredible. I have a feeling this might be my favorite Broadway musical forever. It’s such an intense and unique experience and I loved every minute. And with the low price of the discount tickets we ordered, I’d seriously consider seeing it again. Definitely one of the highlights of our week.

Thursday

We started the day in a touristy fashion by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, getting breakfast at Leo’s Bagels (Marlyse’s first NY bagel!), and riding the Staten Island ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. The boat was very crowded and neither of us felt too strongly about taking touristy photos, so we watched our Lady of the Harbor for a bit and then sat in the sun to enjoy our bagels and talk about immigration differences in the US and Canada. Funny how a statue can lead to such weighty conversation.

We continued our discussion as we rode the train back towards Broadway for our second show of the week (seriously, discount tickets rock). This time, we saw Cinderella. I played drum set for a production of Cinderella a couple years ago, so it was exciting to see the pros perform the same show. I have to say…of course the Broadway version was better but the middle schoolers I performed with definitely did it justice. Great job, kids! 

From there, Marlyse went back to Central Park while I attended another orientation at the Graduate Center. Afterwards, my friend Elaine and I met up with Marlyse in Harlem, where we ate Mexican food and drank wine on the roof of Elaine’s building. The skyline was incredible and the experience was a great way to end a truly awesome week.

Friday

Friday morning, Marlyse and I rode to Penn Station so I could see her off. It was sad to see her go, but I’m confident that our yearly reunions will continue and I look forward to the next one. I’m still so impressed with everything we fit into such a short period of time without getting worn out or spending too much money. In my opinion it was the perfect use of every minute, and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Marlyse cycling through Central Park. Taking a photo backwards while riding a bike is not easy!

Marlyse cycling through Central Park. Taking a photo backwards while riding a bike is not easy!