New Jersey

My bags have certainly gotten heavier since I arrived in New York  and navigating interstate on public transport with a fair bit of walking was one of the hardest things I’ve done on the trip. There were certain points where my arms got so weak I could barely move my fingers let alone pull bags along. Even though Newark is about the same distance maybe even less than JFK was from Manhattan, the New Jersey public transport system is more expensive. It cost $5.50 one way or $11 daily; in comparison the public transport in other cities that has always been <$5 daily. The trains are good though, they are more like coach travel than public transport. One car of the train had no A/C going, I sat in that one because there were few people and then I wouldn’t have to worry about my bags being in the way.

Upon arrival at North Elizabeth station, I was greeted by a run down parking lot with the station’s windows being punched out and glass all over the place. Once I was out on the street, a grubby looking guy on a bike pulled up beside me and asked if I spoke English. I hesitated for a moment and said yes, he then launched into a speech about how he fell asleep on the bus with his pregnant girlfriend (who he pointed in the direction of, but there was nobody there) and he needed $3.60 for a bus to get back. He told me he had just found the bike… I wasn’t believing this for a second of course, but I was feeling a little threatened with nobody around and all my bags containing everything I own on this trip with me. I reached into my pocket and just grabbed some random change, I didn’t want to pull my wallet out. Once I agreed he suddenly said he needed $3.60 for each of them… I quickly handed him whatever was in my hand and hustled off. So, needless to say New Jersey was off to an interesting start.

Next challenge was to the get to the hotel, it was getting pretty hot, over 30 degrees I’d say and I knew it would be a fair walk. I got to a point where I thought I should be turning off, but there was no street sign confirming the name and it wasn’t really a street, it was a highway. I went into a store and bought a drink just so I could ask for directions. I got confirmation I was in the right place and started heading down the road, after a couple of blocks the sidewalk completely stopped. So I asked an old guy how I could get around to the hotel, his response was random jibberish and animated pointing…It was starting to become a bit surreal and weird what was going on.

After walking around in a circle and starting to drip with sweat I was forced to walk down the side of a highway with oncoming traffic flying past me for about half a mile. If you could just imagine how ridiculous I looked a man in a funny hat and a Harvard t-shirt with all these bags walking head on into traffic. The first gate of the hotel was closed, so I had to walk even further, eventually I got here. By this time it was midday, check-in time is 3pm and they don’t do early check-ins. I dropped my bags off and went back in the same direction I came towards a supermarket I had seen on the way. I picked up a few supplies and headed back, stopping for lunch on the way.

The café was pretty empty when I got there, but the time I’d finished it was buzzing and there was not one word of English being spoken. I don’t think I’ve even seen a Caucasian since I got here actually. The menu that was existent on the wall was all Spanish so I had to ask for and English one. Lunch was good though and now I am back here sitting in the lobby waiting to check-in. There was supposed to be free wireless, but I can’t seem to get onto it. It looks like food is going to be a bit of a challenge around here, I don’t particularly want to walk those streets after dark looking for dinner so I’ll have to be prepared. The good news is, it isn’t that far to walk to the train station when you don’t have heavy bags so the trip into New York a few more times shouldn’t be a problem. I’m starting to count down the days to getting home now, I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and who knows maybe seeing the Lions make a run for the finals.

I am really bummed that I missed the Collingwood game last weekend, I have used the wonders of the internet to make sure it will be on my foxtel IQ to watch when I get home. I wish I’d recorded the West Coast win a few weeks back as well. Finals are a fair way off and we have a tough fixture with Kangaroos, Hawthorn, Geelong and Sydney, but we have the momentum and a few home games. If only we hadn’t drawn with Richmond, I’d be a little more optimistic given our excellent percentage.

About the Author: Andrew Ferguson

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