Somebody mentioned the phrase ‘effortful attention’ the other day to describe the mental exertion involved in getting to know a new culture. It sums up perfectly my own experience over the last few days. Every day I add new events to my repertoire of understanding, so that gradually I adapt to my new life. I notice that people cross the road even when the red hand is showing, and now, instead of waiting obediently for the green signal, I too assess the situation and walk quickly across if the road is clear. I like the fast walking as it makes me feel youthful and native.
I am bold about asking if there is a student discount in shops ( there is, in many) and have already found a hairdresser who gives a whopping 20%. I like the way New Yorkers are ready to open up a conversation. Yesterday a woman canvassing for the primaries next week offered me a leaflet. When I apologised, saying I was new to the city, she said “Hey we spoke the other day!”. It was true. She had stopped me at the Farmer’s market on Saturday’ for another candidate. She asked me how I was getting on, introduced me to the candidate, and wished me well.
Yesterday was learning-intense. I went from the bank (opening an account), to declare my arrival to the International department ( follow up appointment this morning) , on to the financial departments to check my money is on its way, and finally to the department orientation meeting. This was a full sensory experience with high octane welcomes and detailed information delivered at speed. Imposter syndrome kicked in briefly as i was introduced as part of the testing team but I smiled and waved, convincingly I hoped. Afterwards I had an appointment with my supervisor, a clever, big-hearted man who has taken on this ripe doctoral student with an extraordinary disregard for convention. More meetings with other members of staff to sign contracts and fill in more forms, this time for anti-discrimination and tax reporting. I leave at 5 needing a long walk, so I stride down Broadway (this has become my beat) to finally set up a telephone plan. Last box of the day ticked.