Everybody meet Josie! She’s a domestic short-haired cat and my landlady just adopted her. She’s very affectionate and loves human contact and interaction. She is also really smart! When I want her to leave my room, I just need to open the door and wave for her to leave, and she will jog out. :O
Clara, my very good friend from secondary school stayed over last week (: I haven’t seen her since 2012 I think and it’s so good to finally meet her again! It’s funny because Josie arrived when Clara was still here, and Clara is allergic (and scared) of cats. So she spent most of her time hiding in my room haha.
On her last night here, we went to this indian food place called Doaba Deli and it’s on 106th and Columbus Avenue. It’s literally a hole in the wall, very small so not much sitting room. But we were fortunate and we managed to have our dinner there (: It’s mostly naan, chapati and curries. It was vegetarian too!
This week I tried cooking chicken thigh! So most people would bake chicken thigh because they are really thick and so pan-frying them would not really cook the insides well. Either that or by the time the insides are cooked, the outsides are burnt. So that was what happened basically. I had semi-chaoda chicken for my dinners this week. But the taste was still pretty good ((:
Anyway, for those of you who are reading this, please remember me in your prayers if you can as school has been getting busy for me, and there has been so much repertoire to learn so it gets overwhelming at times. I’ve been enjoying the journey though – but as journeys go it’s not always smooth-sailing and can get trying.
October has arrived! And I know because there is suddenly Pumpkin Spice everywhere – from Starbucks selling their Pumpkin Spice Latte, to candy shops selling pumpkin spice sweets to bakeries selling pumpkin spice pastry. It is also starting to be sweater weather except for today which was oddly warm.
Last week was a sluggish week for me, not sure if it’s because I’m still getting used to the colder climate (it’s harder to get up in the mornings) or perhaps I’m just feeling like my routine is getting tiring. Nonetheless, last week was still rather enjoyable as I was able to catch the Lion King on Broadway!! Katherine won the Broadway tickets lottery so we only paid $30 each for our tickets – tickets usually cost at least US$90 each and they sell out very fast. Apparently you can join the ticket lottery for $10 Hamilton tickets too :O
It truly was a visual spectacle! The way the actors imitated the movement of animals is so amazing – they made it really realistic!
Then last Saturday K and I decided to go watch the NYC Ballet perform George Balanchine’s Jewels (: NYC Ballet is part of the Lincoln Center complex and going to there will always be exciting for me – so much music and art being made there it’s just incredible. The ballet was in three parts representing three gem stones – Emerald, with music by Faure; Ruby with music by Stravinsky and Diamond with music by Tchaikovsky.
It was a good week to stay inside for some music appreciation as it was generally gloomy and rainy ): Perhaps that was why my week felt sluggish. Since it was raining hard outside, I stayed in to watch yet another concert by MSM’s Philharmonic Orchestra. They were playing songs by Charlie Parker featuring Saxophonist Vincent Herring. I think it’s really cool that MSM has jazz, musical theatre, opera in addition to the Classical music programme. Meeting people who are studying other genres of music has been very refreshing.
Apart from that I’m just spending most of my days in classes, practice, concerts, church, eating, sleeping and also enjoying the dynamism of this great city.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” Galations 5:1
The temperature in NYC went from mid-/high- twenties to about mid-/low- tens last Saturday! Went to sleep on Friday night when it was still about 25 degrees celcius outside, then woke up in the morning to a 16 degrees celcius :O Amazing what a night can do.
Ch and D visited NYC last week and it was sooo nice to be able to see familiar faces again! It’s always a nice feeling to see people from home when abroad (:
School has been getting busy! And sometimes I get anxious, but then when I remember the God who’s in control, I start to look at things from a different perspective and I become less worried.
“And who is this mediator – true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous? Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God”Heidelberg Catechism 18
According to the meteorological services, autumn is officially here – 22 September!
Anyway, It’s been a while since I last blogged! That’s because my Surface Pro was having some technical problems so I sent it back to Microsoft for repair. My Surface could not perform the latest updates and the thing about Surfaces is that it absolutely needs to be updated regularly, otherwise it will start to hang ):
Nothing much exciting happening over here, I’m just going about the typical schedule of a music student – eat, poop, practice, sleep. Ok I kid, life is more interesting than that. But what I love about being a music student, and musician, is that each day is unpredictable, and that’s exciting. I will never know what problems I will encounter in my practice, and what new nuances I can bring out in my pieces each day. Nerd talk, I know. But since starting lessons with my harp teacher, my approach and attitude towards practice has changed quite a bit, for the better. And this stems from my teacher encouraging me to think more carefully about the function of each note – and as a result how each of them should speak. I used to shy away (or rather laze away) from thinking that much about each and every single note. It’s always easier to just ‘get the feeling and note accuracy’ of the piece. But these days I’m learning that making music professionally is a lot more than the general picture – it’s about going so deep in detail that you yourself are deeply convinced by your own interpretation of the music. (We are not always naturally convinced by our own interpretations).
Also, I spent my first Mid-Autumn Festival away from home! Dan bought a mooncake from the MSM cafeteria – US$4. It did not have a yolk – sad. And did not have lotus paste either, red bean paste instead. But it’s ok, I still got to eat a semblance of a mooncake.
This past week I’ve gone for a beta group social from church and the Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship at MSM. A beta group is basically cell group at Redeemer Presbyterian and it a newly formed, (a beta group that has been around for at least a year is called a community group). The beta group social was the first time all of us who signed up for this beta group met! We had cheese, crackers, hummus, salami and sushi on a rooftop!
I managed to do some exploring around the vicinity of MSM. And compared to the Midtown area (Times Square, Columbus Circle etc), it is so much more peaceful and nature-y.
MSM is located in the neighbourhood called Morningside Heights, together with Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. It is also located just beside Riverside Park and the smaller Sakura Park.
So this humongous blown-up balloon rat sits here every morning facing the gate of Columbia’s Barnard College. At first I thought this was a campaign to educate people about hygiene in public spaces. But then I found out that it’s actually a protest against a staff member in Barnard College for the unfair treatment of maintenance workers!
I also managed to catch up with some friends, and meet new ones over meals (: Thank you God for sending good friends to share good food with (both very important and essential to life).
And then my cooking adventures again, I’m getting good –
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who cam from the Father, full of grace and truth… Out of his fullness we have all received grace.” John 1:14, 16a
So it finally feels like autumn (or ‘fall’ as they call it here) is on its way. Last weekend was HOT, I think it was actually warmer here in NYC than in Singapore
To make matters worst – some cabins on the subway do not have air-conditioning. Just imagine a crowded MRT train in Singapore with no air-con, and it’s 33 degrees outside and everyone is sweaty, smelly and sticky. Yup – that was the situation here last weekend.
But anyhow, if the weather app is trustworthy (which usually isn’t), today will probably be the last day that temperatures will go above 30 degrees (Celsius by the way, in case any of you reading this are Americans) till the next Summer comes again. Now temperatures average at 25 degrees which is very nice.
Last weekend was fun as I managed to catch up with some Singaporeans and YSTies who are not in MSM. Met up with CJ and WR last Saturday for some dessert in Ktown yumyum! Super happy that I have wonderful people like them whom I can speak singlish with, and talk about home (Sg) with.
Several people asked me about my experience of spending 9/11 in NYC. Honestly, I did not notice anything different, life went on as per usual – no big protests or mention of what happened 15 years ago by the general public. But I think there was a memorial at the site of the Twin Towers – that now stands the Freedom Tower.
Anyway, that evening I went downtown to West Village with V and XX. Wow, I must say that after being in NYC for about three weeks, I finally feel like I’m in New York. West Village oozes rustic charm – the buildings there are shorter (as opposed to the skyscrapers uptown), and the shops more hip. The crowd is also younger and more laid back, dining at chic cafes and bars screening sports matches. What’s cool about West Village is that it is home to many of NY’s jazzclubs!
So after getting back to my apartment after the outing at West Village, I was up to my cooking shenanigans again. This time I tried stir-frying chicken. Wah, the whole house smelled of garlic, oil and ginger. The thing about NY apartments is that they generally do not have a door that separates the kitchen and the rest of the house, so the sounds and smells in the kitchen will definitely drift to other parts of the house. This is a problem because I generally start cooking only after my landlady sleeps so when I put my raw ingredients into a pan already sizzling with oil – you can imagine that the loud ‘frying’ sound might actually wake her up .
Ok – school has started full swing! I actually have readings to do……. and the lecturers here are generally more ‘old school’ in their teaching methods. They don’t use powerpoint or much technology for that matter unless they want to play us some music or videos.
Some random views:
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10
This week I started cooking! I must say that cooking is not as difficult as I thought it would be, but I also did not expect that much washing to follow I cooked five portions of spaghetti last Sunday night, so that I’m covered for five dinners during the week. I know what you’re thinking “The same spaghetti for dinner 5 nights in a week?” Yes, yes indeed, anything for efficiency and saving money. When you’re a poor college student, any effort to save time and money, no matter how unsound – counts. So today is Thursday and I have already eaten three portions of spaghetti, sauce is Prego tomato-based containing mushroom and pork by the way. Yes, I am already bored but I must finish what I started. There is always the option to keep the remaining two portions till later weeks but I won’t do that because 1. freshness matters and 2. School cafeteria does not open for dinner on weekends so I should eat my spaghetti on Saturday and Sunday nights to prevent spending (exorbitantly) on outside food.
Last Sunday, I had an exciting breakfast – pancakes! I bought Aunt Jemima’s ‘just add water’ pancake mix to try. I was skeptical because how can yummy pancakes emerge from just water and powder..? But they did! Coupled with Aunt Jemima’s maple syrup, mmm it was good! I shall make pancakes again this Sunday but this time probably with blueberries yum.
This is also the first week of school! The Manhattan School of Music is such a huge school, population-wise. It can get quite overwhelming seeing so many people along the corridors and in the cafeteria, YST was just a small fraction of this. The most memorable class I have had so far is Dr Edward Green’s “Music of the 1920s”. WOW I love his style of teaching, the content that he provides, and the musical examples that he plays in class. He also has a child-like enthusiasm for music that is so contagious, and one that he encourages us to never lose throughout our professional careers. Major lesson with my harp teacher Ms Mariko Anraku was also great!
So now I am in the midst of hunting for cheap textbooks.. so far I need two of them, one costing about US$85…. The annoying thing about Amazon is that they increase the price of textbooks during this period, used and unused, just because the demand is now very high. MSM’s bookstore also ran out of used textbooks so I might have to resort to buying unused ones which cost a lot. If anybody out there know how/where to get cheap textbooks please help a sister out.
Woo! Half-boiled eggs and I miss Yakun
Ugly but yummy
My five portions of spaghetti hehe
Now with sauce
Only in NYC: Duke Ellington Boulevard
With my harp teacher Ms Mariko Anraku!
Dr Edward Green.. amazing professor
Viva la crepe with Valerie and Jaslyn!
Finally meeting Valerie after so long and in NewYork!
Manhattan School of Music – And so a new school year begins!
So word has been spreading among MSM students that Trader Joe’s is the cheapest place to buy groceries.. it’s not! Based on my shopping list at least. Trader Joe’s is also always so crowded so checking out is a pain. Victor and I, fed up with the long queues, trekked up from 72nd St where Trader Joe’s is situated, to Fairway at 74th. The shopping experience at Fairway was definitely less atas and ‘clean’, but for cheaper prices I’d put up with it. I bought 3 packets of Dececco spaghetti and a bottle of Prego sauce! Now I actually need to start cooking. Cooking may seem like a trivial thing, but for someone like me who hasn’t really cooked before – apart from cup noodles, instant pizza, half-boiled eggs, white rice – cooking is actually quite a daunting task. What should I cook? What ingredients do I need? Do I need salt for everything? How do I even start? what’s the first step? How should I store this half-opened can of peas? OK I shall blog about my first cooking experience when it happens. But it must happen soon because eating out is expensive in NYC!
Victor checking out juices at Fairway
Maoz Cafe – this is a chicken shawarma in pita bread + free flow salad. This cost me US$9.
Busker playing a bagpipe…. it was LOUD. Funny cos it was so loud most people were running from him so not many were willing to go near enough to give him money.
One of the things that I really look forward to living in NYC is being in such close proximity to the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet, Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Jazz Club etc. There is so much art and music all around – it truly is very exciting and stimulating for a music student like myself. Because it is summer and the weather is generally very pleasant, the Met Opera screens its operas outside their concert hall. Chairs are placed facing a huge HD screen, so it is a really comfortable experience too (: I attended Wednesday’s screening of the opera Lucia de Lamemoor. A big part of why I wanted to watch this opera is because it has a huge harp cadenza and I wanted to listen to how it fits into the opera. The harpist in the recording is Deborah Hoffman, she was the principal harpist of the Met Opera. Unfortunately, she passed away 2 years ago. But wow, her rendition of the candenza is so so so beautiful. I don’t think I’ve heard a version more beautiful than this one. She has such a beautiful sound and such immaculate phrasing too which is just perfect for this cadenza. Listening to her play the cadenza really changed the way I thought about it – which is good – because this is what I came to NY for, to be musically inspired and challenged.
Large screen outside the Met Opera
Harpist Deborah Hoffman
Anyway, on Thursday I took a trip to New Jersey to visit Aunty Siew Mui and family! It was nice to be in familiar company amidst so much unfamiliarity lately. We went shopping for some household items that I needed (towels, tupperwares etc), of which many of them Aunty Siew Mui already has in her basement – or what she likes to call her Y2K Zone haha. I also had the chance to savour her bak kut teh awyisssss. Anyway, went to Van Dyk’s ice cream with Michelle after dinner. It was so good!! And they’re so generous with their portions too.
The next day we went to have Dim Dum at Chinatown, the restaurant is called Jing Fong and it’s at 20 Elizabeth Street. They serve up pretty legit dimsum! The only thing that was not good was the mango pudding – it was not served with milk as it should be, and it does not even taste like mango pudding come on who are you kidding. But I really enjoyed the beancurd (douhua) and the prawn dumplings (hagao). We went to get Gongcha after that whew all that eating!
Michelle taking a picture of some baby deer!
The whole family was hanging out too!
At TJ Maxx shopping for winter boots. Did not get any in the end, did not find anything suitable ):
Van Dyk’s ice cream! This was salted caramel.
hahaha no smell one
Chinatown. Almost everyone on the street was Asian, and cantonese-speaking.
Dim Sum! Probably the highlight of my week.
Good news! MSM has an intervarsity christian fellowship group (: Thank God for sending people my way to lead me to a christian community on campus!
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Finally, today was orchestra audition day. It was interesting for me as it was my first time taking a blind audition. What this means is that the panel of judges and the candidates are separated by a screen to ensure a more ‘fair’ judgement. haha I thought the screen helped me feel less nervous to a certain extent. I could do weird/wacky movements to help me feel more at home in the audition hall, you know, just to relax more. There was a point in the first Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements excerpt that I flapped my arms ever so slightly to help myself internalise the beat :)) But overall, the audition was eh, ok I guess. Some things went well, but some things I wish went better. But it’s ok, we all learn from our experiences.
After the audition, I’d thought I give myself a little breather, to get out of the school building and to explore the city more. Well, more accurately I needed to bring my Surface Pro to a Microsoft store to get it checked. It’s completely new, barely a week old, but it has hanged twice in the past two days – and that is unacceptable for a new tablet! So I brought my Surface to the nearest Microsoft Store at Columbus Circle and the wonderful technicians there assured me that all I needed to do was install updates regularly so that the Surface Pro can work more smoothly! So current and future owners of a Surface Pro, remember to update your tablet regularly!
Then, I headed to Central Park for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Summer time is a busy time for Central Park! Even though it was during office hours, there were still people of all ages jogging, cycling or just chilling out on the grass. There were some cool jazz bands busking in the park too. And of course – horses, with their carriages in tow, strutted by every once in a while.
Horse carriages in Central Park
Central Park – a nest of green amidst a concrete jungle
meh I tried to do a panorama shot of Columbus circle, but I need wider angle lenses
One of the many things that I have to learn how to do on my own, now that I am an international student, is budgeting. This is especially important for students in Manhattan because the cost of living here is really high! If one is not careful, you Will bleed money. Without a doubt the thing I spend the most on is transport. The world-famous NY subway (famous especially for being referenced to a lot in pop culture – it is believed that Marvel superheroes once fought upon fast-moving subway trains!!) is the main mode of transport here in NYC and it costs US$2.75 per trip, regardless of the distance. So a round trip between my home and school would cost US$5.50. That’s pretty steep compared to what I pay back home in Singapore. So, yesterday I decided to walk from home to school to see if cutting out transport costs is a possibility. Home is on the 86th st and school is on 122nd st. It took slightly longer than the timing google maps predicted – the walk took about 45 mins. This is fine if I have time to spare or if the weather is good. But if I have early morning classes this is probably a no-go. But I’m glad I walked, I had the chance to see a sleepy NYC slowly awake to a breezy Saturday morning.
The results of placement exams are out and I’m very happy to say that I passed out of all four semesters of keyboard skills and 1 semester each of theory and aural skills. If there are any MSM students who are reading this – please be assured that I’m not a brag, it’s just that this blog is probably the most convenient way for my family and friends in Singapore to know what is happening in my life so I want to be quite informative 🙂
I went to Redeemer Presbyterian church this morning and was pleasantly surprised that Timothy Keller was preaching (picture below to prove it). I say pleasantly surprised because I’m under the impression that Keller is kinda busy in that he shuttles between the three different branches of Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC, so he may not necessarily be preaching at the branch that you are at.
Naruto ramen!! Cool name, I wanna try it someday
Blue skies on Saturday morning
In NYC, Jazz has their own newspaper say what.
Reverend Timothy Keller
FDNY in action
Dining hall of MSM!
Practicing in the organ room
My neighbourhood in the evenings.
“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” James 5:7-8
This is my third morning waking up in the big apple, still jetlagged so I can be up at 6am writing this. The past three days have been a whirlwind of administrative work to settle – finally got my US mobile number and opened a bank account here so at least the parents can transfer cash to me now 😀 Placement exams also happened two days ago! These exams are to determine if we are allowed to ‘skip’ some lower level modules and just enter the higher level ones. They were a good mix of easy and hard so, ok la not too bad.
To be honest, everything has been overwhelmingly new! I mean apart from the obvious new country and new school, I’m still getting used to a new practice schedule, food, transport, and general way of life. I want my Chicken Rice, Nasi Lemak, You Mian and Cai Fan. I wanna be able to go to sleep without hearing police/firetruck sirens each night. I wanna be able to shower without having to negotiate the right balance between the hot and cold tap so that I do not freeze to death or get scalded. I also wanna be able to let myself slack (read: relak) and just utter singlish without having to worry if people can understand me or not.
Nonetheless, I do feel incredibly blessed to have been given the opportunity to study here and better myself as a musician (and person, hopefully). NYC is great city for artists, it is so stimulating if you know where to look. Manhattan School of Music is also a really bustling music school that even has jazz, musical theater and contemporary performance departments so it has been very interesting meeting people of different disciplines, it helps me see beyond my own artistic interests.
Some pictures from Changi airport:
And the only 2 pictures of NYC I have for now:
They literally said “On Wednesdays we wear pink”. It was Wednesday, 24 August.
Also, they were performing for me some Broadway classics haha.
ok not a great picture, but this is a street corner on the Upper West Side.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
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