Sunday, 29 May 2011

Asking Americans for Directions

So Helena and I tried to go to the beach today. There is a town called Milford a 10-min train ride from New Haven, which the Yale website advertises as having a beach. Furthermore, the internet told us that there is something called Silver Sands State Park in Milford, and that there are busses to the park from Milford even on weekends and holidays. Perfect! (It's something called Memorial Day long weekend down here... apparently in honour of veterans, although no one could explain to me how this differs from Veterans Day).

So, we hopped on the train, and as promised arrived in Milford in ten minutes. As we got off the train we heard gunshots. Turns out it was the Milford Memorial Day parade, and we all know Americans cannot have a parade without firing off guns as often as possible. We went down to where the parade was on the assumption that it was likely to be the centre of town, and therefore probably a good place to catch a bus.

Parade-watching Americans:

After watching the parade for a while, we asked a nearby woman how to get to the state park.

Woman: "Park?"
Helena: "Yes, there is a State Park in Milford?"
Woman: "Oh, the State Park. You can't walk there."
H: "Yes, ok, but we were told there's a bus...?"
W: "No, it's way too far. If you want water, you can go down to the harbour. Why don't you just go down to the harbour and then you can watch the rich people on their boats!"

Awesome. Very helpful. However, we thought maybe there might be something to see down by the harbour, so we headed down. But all we saw were rich people on their boats (and not even sailing - they had literally pulled lawnchairs up to their boats and were sitting beside their boats, drinking).

Then Helena spotted a Bird Sanctuary sign. Perfect! That would do nicely for a little walk and maybe a nice place to sit. There was a little road going in beside the giant Bird Sanctuary sign, and so we followed it into the trees.

Five minutes later we were looking at houses.

The "bird sanctuary" was about twenty metres deep, with a suburb on the far side.

Huh. America, hey? So, we headed back toward the harbour and stopped at a marina and asked a man sitting there how to find the beach.

Man: "Beach?"
Me: "Yes, we heard there is a beach near here. Maybe at the State Park?"
Man: "Oh, that's too far to walk."
Me: "Yes, THANK YOU, but apparently there is a bus."
Man: "Bus?"
Me: "A bus to the beach?"
Man: "Oh, the SHORE bus."
Me: "Yes! Probably the shore bus."
Man: "I think there is a bus stop somewhere in town." [sends us back exactly the way we came]

So, we trudged back to the centre of town and saw the original woman again. "Oh hi! Did you find the harbour? I could give you a ride to the park, but I won't because then you'd have to hitch-hike back, ha ha! Bye!"


We didn't have a map (mistake!) but Helena remembered roughly the layout of the town and the direction of the park. She said it didn't look too far, and we were assuming that an American idea of "too far to walk" might differ from ours. So we started walking toward the park. It was boiling hot and uphill, and after a while Helena mentioned that on the map she saw, it looked like there were beaches BETWEEN the town centre and the park. So we took a sharp left in the direction they should be and kept walking.

Eventually we came across a man gardening. Helena stopped to ask directions.

H: "Hi, could you tell us how to find the beach?"
Man (strong non-American accent): "Yes, keep going straight for about another half a mile. At the end of this road you'll see the beach, but you have to go between the houses to get to it."

Directions! Actual directions!

Moral of the story: if you need to know how to get somewhere, find a non-American.

So, we thanked him profusely and trudged down the road. We were starting to lose faith when we noticed some reeds and other waterplants behind some of the houses. This seemed promising, but we were starting to think we might never find the elusive beach. And then, as we came around a corner - silver sand! There was a sand-covered path between the houses, as promised, and then a glorious silver beach off in both directions.

So, long story short, we found the beach and it was wonderful.

While sitting on the beach, we noticed that all the boats seemed to be going in one place along the shore, and surmised that this must be the harbour. We walked along the beach in its direction, and then cut through the residential area that abutted the shore. After a short walk, we found - the end of the road we were STANDING ON when we asked the first man how to get to the beach. ARGH.

But never mind. We found the beach! And next time, bus or no bus, we can get there the fast way.

Here is a handy map of our adventures:

Red X: Talked to man at marina.
Red line: original path
Star: Talked to helpful non-American man
Smiley: Beach!

Blue line: route back to town
Blue dotted line: backtracked to check what we suspected... that the marina where we talked to the first man was just around the corner.

Please note that we were right beside the state park. Non-walkable, my foot.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Up in the air as usual

Oh my goodness, just checked the family blog and choked on my spaghetti squash. Good lord, dad. And also, naked gardening sounds very uncomfortable.

Also sad to hear about the Slave Lake fire. I donated a bit to the Red Cross 'cause there's not much else I can do. Scary stuff.

Ironically, it's been pouring here for a week. I really wondered if we were going to get floods. I walked home from work yesterday, umbrella in hand, and was soaked to the skin by the time I was halfway home. I think the rain was hitting so hard it was bouncing off the umbrella and drenching me. Even my socks were wet - boots were still waterproof, but the water was leaching down through my jeans. Yikes.

Still no word on my visa, and starting to do the hamster-wheel thing in my head. Can't make summer plans unless I know how long I can stay in the US, but there's nothing I can do about it. Doesn't stop me constantly worrying at the problem, though, and trying to think of some way I can control it. The girl from OISS (Office of International Students and Scholars) has consistently ignored my emails, and now is out for a "family emergency". Her bounceback message referred me to another person in the office. That person has refused point-blank to help me, and said the original girl will sort me out when she gets back. Whenever that is. In the meantime, Del has booked a flight to New York for the end of June, so if I can't get back into the country to meet him I will be mad.

(The deal is: my visa currently ends June 30. I have a conference in Winnipeg June 24-26. I could re-enter as a tourist July 1, but am worried they would be suspicious of someone whose J-1 visa ended the day before and refuse me entry. Or I could come back in the last days of my visa, but again am worried what the customs people would have to say about that. I can extend the visa till July 18, but that would require the cooperation of OISS no-show girl. ARGH.)

Despite all this, I've set up a summer sublet anyway for July and the first bit of August (allowed to stay in the country for 30 days after my visa ends apparently - may as well get some thesis-writing done). It's a studio, small but in a secure building, right beside Helena's building. It's pretty cheap if I take it for only the six weeks and it's very conveniently located. Luckily they didn't want any money up front. In some ways staying at my current place would make more sense, but still grouchy about being left out of the conversation about the new housemate. She has arrived, by the way. She said she'd move in Friday at 4pm, and showed up Saturday night at midnight instead. Scared me half to death, since my housemate had gone to Cape Cod and I was NOT expecting someone to unlock the door at midnight. Good times.

Things otherwise about the same. Still having a jolly old time hanging around the Child Study Centre and feel pretty lucky about the whole thing. (I suppose it's really more of a hobby anyway, since I'm certainly not getting paid!) I analyzed the EEG data from my original experiment, but it looks like we just don't have enough power (there might be effects, but it's hard to see because the data are noisy because we don't have enough participants). Need to run some more people, but having trouble getting them in. However, I've been liasing with the new RA at Guelph, who is running some experiments for me there, and have been developing a new one to run at Yale as well, so one way or another should get some good data this summer. May as well take advantage of working somewhere that encourages productivity - summers in Guelph tend to be just Asma and I hanging around the lab, staring morosely at our computers.

Spring in New Haven is insane - millions of flowers on all the trees and petals everywhere. And pollen. I didn't think I got spring allergies, but I'm allergic to this town. My eyes have been itchy and sore for a month. Sure is pretty though.