Thursday, 28 June 2012

And .. Not so much fun at the Y-M-C-A...

Hasn't been a great time here. The first time I haven't felt comfortable in another culture. The black women in the hostel may or may not be friendly (its a guessing game) and alot of them have "attitude" as one guy who has been helpful puts it, and then I walk outside to the shops and I get stared by all the Puerto Ricans like they are suspicious of me. The shops are crazy too, underneath an overheard train line so it's REALLY noisy and its all messy and kind of dirty.

During the day they have Zumba classes and so forth at the Y and in the evening ppl drive around with loud music from their cars. Today the girl in the room next to mine was playing loud rap with the door open.

Feeling really fragile and tired. Was thinking about moving but just heard I have the interview on Monday so will hang on I think. Wanted to see some of the sights of the city but can't quite face it yet. Am staying at the Y cos its cheaper and close to the interviewee. Oh well.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Am actually enjoying my pink prison cell, it has a great Bukowski-esque feel to it. I can sit at the little desk focussing on interview questions and pretend I am a writer eschewing the norms in pursuit of the creative life. Alternatively it could be a room you could slit your wrists in.

Am trying to make friends with the people staying here, mostly black, or at least be friendly. Can't say as I really fit in. They are so different to any other culture I have met. If you think of all the African-Americans on sitcoms and talk shows you've ever seen, they are truly like that. But there's a feeling a bit like with Maori people, they don't really like you and you can't do anything about it. It's a bit loaded.

It's fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A

In the end missed my connecting flight to New York from Pennsylvania because I didn't realise there was an hour time difference between Chicago and Pennsylvania. Doh!

But Pennsylvania was such a busy and noisy airport and the sound of the nasal whiny accents over the loudspeaker for a few hours, made me feel like I was just over the whole America thing. Or maybe over the whole American airport thing.

Arrived in New York at a YMCA in Brooklyn only to find I had to drag my bags up two flights of stairs. And the room is little more than a pink prison cell. But there was this play outside the (prison cell) window - kids in the park playing softball in little uniforms, families walking up and down, some kind of musical jam session and Mr. Softee running around and now people are letting off fireworks. I think it might be a Mexican neighborhood or just everyone speaks Spanish, or is black. That sense of community they have.

Saturday, 23 June 2012


Got to airport this morning, couple kilos overweight baggage (I have a lot of gear) they were going to charge me $180 USD $90 per bag) plus $30 standard fee per bag ($60 for two). I chucked some gear out and walked up to a security person to let them know I was leaving some gear behind (ie. no bombs). She slightly sourly told me I couldn't do that, had to take everything with me, I said I couldn't so she walked off to find somebody. I was gonna be late for my flight so I quietly left them behind a pillar and waited in line at check in (very slow). Someone spotted the gear and asked if it was mine. I fessed up and they told me I had to take it. I said I couldn't because it was excess and I couldn't afford to pay (small lie). They looked at me unappreciatively but I carried on waiting, so they said I could put it in the garbage.

Got to the counter only to find I had missed my flight. Next flight same time tomorrow. Grrrr. Am just hanging out at the airport trying to chill. It's the first flight I have missed in my entire life. I do have a slightly dont care (or is it why bother?) attitude about a lot of things lately. But it did upset me a bit. Honestly there is nothing like an airport to make me behave my worst.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Phoned Contact Energy in NZ to get a final electricity reading for my flat and it was so funny hearing a New Zealand accent, it was like I was talking to my sister or someone really close. I feel like I sound funny here, odd, people keep saying I sound British. I don't like hearing the sound of my voice, it feels geeky and uptight compared to their broad, relaxed accents. I mean I feel like a geek anyway, but this just makes it worse. And there's always the slight worry they won't understand me. Some people say its cute. Its ironic that it makes me feel closer to my British heritage than when I am at home.
Am eating some California cherries. I feel slightly less guilty than when I eat the same in NZ because at least here they haven't flown a few thousand miles to get here. Just a few hundred.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

King Ashurbanipal

This is a bronze bust of King Ashurbanipal - an Assyrian Empire ruler - in the library of AUAF that I've been taking photos of to put in the doco. It's not the real thing, its modern, but looks pretty convincing. The guy who did it is apparently living in Mexico and is now completely nuts.

I interviewed a young guy here named Ashurbanipal. His mum refuses to shorten it, so he gets called that, the whole thing. Ashurbanipal. Assyrian nationalism; I love it.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Strange Day

Went to a meeting of Assyrian groups with the U.S. State Dept (did I know what this was? Nope). From this I got an invite to go and interview the same lady in Washington DC. Score.

But what she was saying was this: no, the U.S. Govt is not going to help the Assyrians get a safe area in Iraq. I felt quite depressed afterwards because a big part of the film is about trying to get this and a lot of the people I have been speaking to since I have been here talked about their efforts to try and get this.

Drove into town to get my tripod fixed and this took twice as long as the GPS said it would because of peak traffic (starts at 3 in afternoon), finally I arrive only to be told the guys who could fix it have left for the day. Buy some camera filters because I want to take photos of the Assyrian relief carvings at the Oriental Institute, so the voyage is not wasted. Begin the trek back and the traffic is depressing, arrive half an hour late bringing the hire car back. Feeling, well, why bother with anything?

The "bigness", too, of everything American is starting to seem ominous. Everything is a brand, a chain, a package and shouts louder than the reality of what it contains. Nothing is individual or specific, except individuals themselves.


Stop into Starbucks and start chatting to a man who is interested in the doco, him doing photography himself.

Catch the bus, a relief from driving, then stray into a huge dept store, Macy's, for some retail therapy. The lady who is serving me is Assyrian and she invites me to come back and have coffee sometime when she is working. Walk out with 3 pairs of shoes (30% off when you buy 3!) for winter in Iraq, cos I know they will have crap shoes but still feel a bit guilty. Get home and like the shoes, retail therapy works sometimes I guess.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Ad for Trilogy.

I'm not really one for using beauty products, but I bought this Trilogy travel pack, and it's great. The sizes are really small but you don't need much so they last for ages and they are yummy smelling and remind you of NZ.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

An all-American Diner

Although I believe America is essentially responsible for a large number of evils currently practicing in the world, when I walk around this city I do feel a sense of solidity and relaxed confidence that I really like. It makes me feel at home, among the brick buildings and wide roads and all American restaurants. But then it's possible they are the same thing. The relaxed confidence of being the most powerful country in the world and you can pretty much get what you want and nobody can say no.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Update on "Little bit high, little bit..."

Finally heard from the lady who I wanted the interview with, after I suggested we do a stripped down version. She has agreed. I am so so so happy.

Making the switch

Today I hired a car and was very brave and managed to not kill myself, driving on the right hand side of the road. Feeling quite proud.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Nice view

Currently in a corner of the top floor of a tall building, trying out time lapse on my camera which I found out it can do. Trying to up production values. Here's hoping it works and I didn't spend 5 hours up here for nothing.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

With the Chicago AUAF

Very generous and welcoming people. Awayah Isho and Homer Ashurian ( head of Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation) in the Ashurbanipal Assyrian Library.

I go there a lot for a coffee and chat about Assyrian things. Among other things they help me with.

Somali taxi drivers, it's global

There are so many African Americans here I just about fell over when he said he was from Somalia. Somali taxi drivers are such an iconic Wellington thing. It was so nice to see! I thought all Africans would be the same but the African Americans are so loud and loose compared to Somalis, I think.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Por favor

I've found this Mexican food market on my way to the AUAF (Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation) which is cheaper I think than the other big supermarket but also less 'American' (ie. less processed fattening food and more interesting ethnic stuff) and it fascinates me the different kinds of canned beans you can get so I just wanted to share.

A little bit high, a little bit ...

Met this lady today, she represents an Assyrian organisation that lobbies the US government. She would be perfect for the doco - articulate, really intelligent, attractive ( always good!) and her interview would be integral to the doco, I reckon. Had a two hour meeting with her, then said she wasn't sure about doing an interview. Man i get so many highs and lows from doing this thing. She will let me know tomorrow. Shall I cry if she says no?