Alastair Cameron's Letter from America

News, views and opinions from the one kiwi expat sent to New York University on a Fulbright Scholarship to study his masters of law.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Time's up

I'll be somewhat surprised if anyone reads this post, with most having long since given up checking for new material over the past four months. Nonetheless, it felt necessary to do a final posting to round things off. As it happens, I did attempt a new posting a couple of months ago, but technical problems got in my way. In any event, this is a short closing post before I return to New Zealand. It'’s really just to highlight the highlights from my remaining time in the US, some London moments and subsequent travels.

As for the US, I had a nearly three weeks to fill-in following graduation before leaving for London. Many good times, but notably:
  • Brother and sister in town, with their respective girlfriends, and fellow travellers. Lots of fun, including an evening with Candyce. Celebrated Dunc'’s 30th with brunch, free mimosas and a New York style cake!
  • Six Flags Amusement Park in New Jersey - rode so many roller-coasters that I felt nauseous.
  • Visiting Boston with my German friend Sylvia, and staying with my kiwi friend and fellow Fulbright, Jo. Walked the Freedom Trail (Boston is, you see, "The Cradle of Liberty"). Had fantastic time with Jo (thanks so much), plus Joshua (another kiwi Fulbright). Really liked Boston, would go back. Bought some shoes.
  • John Forde arrived into the City; we rendezvoused on a street corner in Chelsea and immediately got accosted by a (Jewish?) woman carrying two trays of Krispy Kreme donuts asking us if we were Jewish. When we said we weren't she proceeded to tell us all about the intracicies of her life anyway, including what she was cooking for the dinner party she was having the following Wednesday (for which the Krispy Kreme's were the dessert - bought on a Sunday...not very fresh!). I don't know what she would have said if we had replied that we were Jewish. A very New York moment.
  • Fire Island -– sun, sand and homos galore at David & Barrie'’s beach-side bach (well, mansion really). Drinking cocktails from early afternoon, ended up in the pool, to another party, seriously hung-over by 8pm. Quite an experience. Thoroughly recommend it.
  • Hanging with my fabulous friends David and Lara who I met in Miami previous March. Tremendous fun.
Manue, me, Kirsty, Duncan and Catherine on the corner of W 3rd St and MacDougal, my old address in New York City

I wasn'’t too sad to leave New York since I was really looking forward to London. If I'’d had nothing particular to go from New York, I think it would have been a traumatic parting. As it is, I love London, but I do miss New York. The city itself, of course, with its buzz and everything it has to offer. But mostly the life I had there and the friends who remain. Being a student again provided for a great nine months. I didn'’t have much money, and had a lot of work to do, but my time was very much my own and I was the master of my own destiny. I like the routine of a job, but the change of pace in New York after working was tremendous fun.

Speaking of London, it'’s been a fantastic summer. My internship at FIELD was all it was meant to be - lots of climate change and energy work plus a bit of biodiversity, mostly new stuff so I learned a lot. Some work also included climate change issues as they relate to Pacific Island Countries -– perfect. I also met interesting and dynamic people (including Mary Robinson, the Chair of the IIED Board) and understand more the role these kinds of organisations play on the international scene. Main mission accomplished.

Otherwise, I'’ve enjoyed the summer buzzing around London on the free bike I managed to score, hanging out in the fabulous parks with my many friends, and even travelling a little. Mentionables include:
  • A trip with my fantastic friend Louise up to Manchester, the Ribble Valley, the Lake District and Blackpool. We stayed with Val, Louise'’s mother, who generously drove us around the gorgeous country-side. The stone fences and rambling hedges were as English as imaginable. Manchester had a very easy feel, the Ribble Valley and Lake District were stunning, and Blackpool was, well, worth saying I'’ve seen. Big thanks to Louise and Val.
  • Europride, the parade along Oxford Street, main party Ruby, and the benefit concert at the Royal Albert Hall -– all larger than life and fantastic fun. Post-parade drinks in Soho Square were like a gay-Wellington reunion as I bumped into faces from the past at every turn - nice to see you, Sam & Brendan. It was a star-studded line-up at the Albert Hall: Stephen Fry, Sir Ian MacKellan, Graham Norton, Elton John, Sandi Toksvig and Julian Clary among others. And of course the London Gay Men'’s Chorus, who provided sensational back-up for the person who probably stole the show -– Heather Small from the M-People (whose concert in the Wellington Show Buildings was my first ever music concert, incidentally).
  • Numerous picnic dinners in Kensington Gardens with Karlis, my NY buddy and fellow Costa Rica traveller. Sad when he left for home.
  • Toast New Zealand in St James Park with Duncan and Catherine, Jordan Carter from home, and many many others. Many faces recognised, but no names able to be put to them. Remarkably well behaved for a large group of drunk New Zealanders.
  • Spain -– travelled to Alicante with ten other NZ Labour people to attend the International Union of Socialist Youth World Festival. 4000 people all up from all over the world. All young socialists and social democrats. The workshops and panels were interesting and thought provoking. The social events were hilarious. What else would you imagine with 500 Spaniards, 400 Italians, 300 Germans, 200 Swedes and 100 Dutch among others all on their (subsidised) summer holiday looking for fun. The tent city was quite something...
  • Brighton -– went down to see my friend Kate and to check-out Brighton Pride. Kate (whom I'’ve hardly ever seen in NZ, but have hung-out with in Mauritius, New York, Costa Rica and now Brighton) was in fine form and showed me great hospitality. She displayed great humour even though I accused her of being conservative, reactionary and pessimistic. I retracted all three after considered discussion. I liked Brighton itself and could happily live there if I worked in London. And Brighton Pride was fantastic -– the best I'’ve ever experienced. 120,000 people from all walks of life, all out in a big open park with fair rides, food stalls, clothing stalls, fake tattoo artists, large dance tests, performance spaces. It was a big old mix, straight and gay -– you name it, they were there. A model to follow.
  • Being treated to a fabulous cocktail at the Long Bar in the Sanderson Hotel, one of London's trendiest drinking establishments, some public performance in Trafalgar Square, and a very memorable meal at the Oxo Restaurant on the Thames waterfront by Nick, a (now) very good friend I met through IIED/FIELD. The black muscat stood-out (and how lucky am I to have been given my very own bottle by Nick for my birthday!).
  • Cambridge for a day to see my German friend Moritz and his Canadian boyfriend Gavin. Super people, lovely town. Happened across Jean, with whom I did undergrad Latin at Victoria University of Wellington, on the petanque lawn of Corpus Christi Graduate Housing - very random!
  • Handel's Julius Caesar at Glyndebourne - very posh but a great experience.
  • Meeting Hamish at Heathrow after 8 months apart - phew!
  • Farewell dinner party at Jonathan's. Cooked for 20 people; quite a feat. Thanks to Hamish and others who chipped in on the night to make it one to remember!
Me, Mikey, Chris, two friends of Kevin whose names escape me, Kevin and Stu at Seven Dials (the Box) in Covent Garden one sunny Sunday afternoon (Hamish behind the camera)

From London it was on to Paris, Spain and Morocco with Hamish. Great to be together again, of course. Barcelona was groovy and cool. Ibiza great fun and something marvellous to have done. Super expensive with club cover charges of E45.00, and a bottle of water costing E8.00 (NZ$16.00)! Moreover, the buggers salt the water in the bathroom taps, so can't fall back on that classy option. The Alpuharras were beautiful - love to Rich and Hannah for putting us up. The Alhambra was magical (of course), and the souqs in Marrakech and camel trekking in the Sahara something to remember. It was a fabulous six weeks, but I think both Hamish and I are ready for some routine and no longer living out of a suitcase.

OK, so not such a short post afterall, but still a flying overview of the past four months. Thanks to all my readers, it's been a blast.

One last photo...taken above a Kasbah next to one of Morocco's amazing oases.


At 4:10 AM, Blogger NYC TAXI SHOTS said...


At 6:01 AM, Blogger G. said...

Alastair, I feel so privileged for having spent a few months with you in New York City (and a few days in London lol).

You are a great person. And you made my time in NYC so valuable.

Now I am back to my Europe and you are back to your NZ.

But I am sure that life will give us another chance to be together, to talk bs together, to have a beer a word, to be friends.

Best of luck,

Gianni De Stefano

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Dean Knight said...

some of us still check for updates...

looking forward to a boozy welcome home dinner party in welly-wood soon...

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