It turned out really helpful for us to fly into New York with one whole family day to figure out public transportation before Ayo and I were left to explore the City our own. We decided to use the day to do some grocery shopping for the week in the morning and to visit Chinatown post naptime using the New Jersey bus system from our house, then the subway from the bus terminal and our feet thereafter…
Chinatown was so fun – we ordered bubble tea in Mandarin and later cheap dumplings with pork and chives, watched marinated ducks being hung and fish scaled under the shadow of the imposing Chinese flag. The sights, the market smells, the “watch, bag, dvd?!” sounds and even the speckled marble building façades looked like they were straight out of the Middle Kindgom. In Chinatown, the McDonalds signage is written in Chinese characters and Starbucks is nestled inside a traditional Chinese building, just like in Shanghai’s Yuyuan gardens and bazaar. We hated them for abusing tradition in China and love them for it stateside: go figure!
What was far less enjoyable was … our commute! As compact and minimal as we had kept things, we found it such a hassle to heave our stroller, diaper bag, kid and coats through the subway turn-styles and up so many flights of stairs… especially when realizing we had just gone the wrong way. After being yelled at for not knowing to stow the stroller below the bus or missing our train because we were busy lifting gear up and down staircases, we decided to reassess the equipment I would use for my solo time with Ayo. It was simply not doable being this pregnant (3rd tri, yo!) and lifting what we both did yesterday. Many locals may have strollers, but come to think of it, you see most of them above ground. So, pictured below is the result of our extreme stream-lining: an ergo baby carrier and a backpack of essentials (diapers, wipes, bib, snacks, water, cash, phone). It worked surprisingly well on either side of Ayo’s almost 29 week squished ‘sibling-in-progress’.
We had figured out what bus number to take, where it might pick us up or drop us off (turns out, asking the driver only results in partial truths), vaguely how the subway works and how to transport my offspring. The realization made for such an easy day today. The only unchecked item remaining was to savor time with Ayo. Thus we could fully take in the underground train ride (probably his favorite thing to do at present) and then share a morning coffee, where his cuteness was rewarded with a free pastry. We enjoyed chatting with each new person who sat across from us and later, did some nanny watching (okay, investigating). Let’s just say that I would seriously consider a “nanny cam” after watching several with earbuds in ears, newborns with bottles balanced on their face or toddlers shushed so they can continue chatting on the phone. Yeah. Anyway, from the coffeeshop that Ayo raced out onto the busy street to the “watch out! catch him!” voices behind me, I walked a further 13 blocks to the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMoM) where we planted ourselves for a day of playing with blocks and balls, feeding dragons letters or sliding down tongues. I truly loved watching him discover.. and run freely in a safe area. He cried when he was given a ladybug stamp on his hand so we could return after lunch, frantically shaking his head and saying his new cute nasal “non non non” with scrunched up eyebrows and outstretched lips. He didn’t like the stamp on his hand. It was clearly exhausting to skip a nap and run around playing all day. After lunch, we returned to discover the rest of the museum floors after a quick bite to eat. There we played for another hour before Ayo was tripping over his shoes, the stairs (see one instance pictured in front of the 3D building exhibit below) and small objects. It was time to make it back home under the pouring rain. This worked in my favor as he slept the whole 50 minute bus ride home. A lovely first solo day featuring soaking wet feet, a sore back but so many special mama-son memories.