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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Monday (10/29/12) and Tuesday (10/30/12)

This hurricane really surprised us all here in New York City. I didn't think it was going to be a bad storm, but sadly I am mistaken. I wrote about it for 

 I am lost for words tonight. The destruction Sandy has caused is unprecedented! MTA subways are shutdown until further notice, there’s limited bus service in all five boroughs; some bridges and tunnels remain closed as well as LaGuardia airport. People lost their homes due to flooding, fires (like the massive fire in Breezy Point, Queens), uprooted trees toppled on houses and cars, the list goes on and on. Sadly, many have lost their lives, children as well. I’ve been watching the news coverage since Monday morning and throughout the night. My area was affected but not as bad as other areas near me. Here in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn we have some downed trees and fallen scaffolding. The vacant lot is completely vacant with scattered debris and its door torn down.  My heart goes out to friends who were affected by this storm. I’m grateful to the First Responders and volunteers who sacrificed their lives to help others. I’m grateful to be here because none of us were exempt from this storm.

It’s times like this that really makes you stop and think about the important things in life. The petty BS we tend to focus on, the prejudices we inflict on one another, the unnecessary hate, doesn’t matter when we are all in the eye of a storm. I have been personally affected by prejudice as of late, and it made me sick, literally. It’s one of those situations I don’t like to discuss, because in this day and age it shouldn’t happen. The color of one’s skin shouldn’t determine who should get respect or not. Everyone should be respected. After feeling upset by this latest occurrence and the arrival of hurricane Sandy, has humbled me and made me wiser. Nature’s forces are bigger than us. In times of need, color, race, culture, sexuality, weight class, tall or short, none of those things matter when Nature makes her presence known. None of us are an exception; we are ALL in this together.
I signed up to volunteer in the recovery efforts of Sandy’s aftermath. I pray I can be of some comfort to people whose experienced great lost. 
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lunch hour

It's 1 o'clock on a Wednesday. The sun is out. The computer automatically locks itself, she grabs her bag, puts on her headphones and proceeds to leave the office. Walking on the cobblestone, she observes a man taking pictures of a bicycle. Her initial thought was, "Why is he taking a picture of this bike?' As she got closer she realized why. The message on the bike was about bullying, an anti-bullying campaign on a bike. Captivating. She took a picture also. A few more steps ahead was a bus full of messages about love and kindness. She took a pic of that too.

As she entered the park. she observed people walking with their bikes, sitting on the bench eating lunch, or standing around admiring the view. She walked along the rocky path remembering her rock collecting days. Quietly calling out the names of each rock, she smiled realizing she hasn't forgotten her beloved hobby. She went to a nearby bench and sat down. Tuna fish sandwich and an iced tea was lunch, not sure if that's what she wanted. As she takes a few bites, she hears some cheers. To her left was a couple who just got married. Both the bride and groom looked stunning. The photographer was directing them in taking their portrait. He was speaking in Cantonese. Admiring their smiles and attire, a woman approached her with a camera in hand. She didn't speak much English but did say "picture" pointing at her and her boyfriend or husband. She said "Sure," put down her sandwich and took the camera. They stood by the railing which was a great shot of them with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. Suddenly, the man lifted her up in the air and both laughed. The pictures came out nice. They said thank you and giggled as they walked away. She smiled at the couple and proceeded to eat her sandwich. Moments later, another married couple arrived with a photographer taking their pictures. She admired their attire, especially the bride's dress. She looked beautiful. An older couple walked by and stood in front of her pointing at the Manhattan Bridge. They looked happy.

She finished the sandwich, drank some of the iced tea and looked around. Her smile slowly changed. She could feel her heart sank inside her chest. The couples had left and she was alone. The wind picked up speed and the water's current picked up some waves. She removed the headphones from her ears. There was silence. Her thoughts began to roam. She could hear her own breath and quiet sighs. "I don't want to be alone anymore," she thought to herself. Love resurfaced.

It was five minutes to 2 o'clock. The lunch hour was over.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's good Brooklyn?!

Tuesday-Friday (10/9-10/12/12): Hey Brooklyn!

I started working at my host site, Brooklyn Community Foundation as a volunteer initiative outreach coordinator. I connect volunteers with community organizations through our website  in an effort to promote volunteerism in Brooklyn. It's been a good week of learning, meetings with staff members, and connecting with organizations in Brooklyn I had no idea about! The amount of need in communities within Brooklyn is endless. There's always a need for volunteers. A lot of neighborhoods are under served which leaves its residents not knowing where resources are, or who's there (organizational wise) to help them. A sad reality, but hopefully through us that will change. I am also seeking more volunteer opportunities so I can give back to my community, and be an advocate for people in need. Through  my work, I'll be able to attend a variety of local events. I'm excited by the opportunity, because it'll allow me to network and promote volunteerism in Brooklyn. And I can let my personality shine while meeting new people. Never know who you'll meet.

Saturday 10/13/12: Bed-Stuy Food and Family Day

Courtesty of Super Foodtown 
I, along with a colleague of mine had the opportunity to promote our organization at the Bed-Stuy Food and Family Day. It was a great turn out with several Brooklyn based organizations promoting their services to the community. There was free breakfast and lunch, tours to the local farmer's market, and a tour of a large local supermarket to discuss healthy eating and buying healthy food on a budget. The people who came to our table were nice and interested in what we do at BCF. I felt like a spokeswoman showcasing our brochures and expressing what we do. I enjoy talking to the public. I was talking from the time I got there to set up at 8:30am to when we finished at 2:30pm! I loved it. I hope to do more local events like this, it's fun and very informative. Also, it felt great doing something for my community, Bed-Stuy.

Sunday 10/14/12: "Hello my teacher"

I started my first ESL conversation class which I call "ESL Conversations: where speaking English is fun." About ten people showed up, all former students of mine from classes I taught in 2007 to present. I even saw my former co-worker and friend which I haven't seen in a while. There were a lot of hugs, "I missed you" comments, and "I am happy to see you" remarks. I was so happy I could've cried because I've always wanted my own class. How good it felt to say, "Good afternoon class, welcome to ESL Conversations, the first time I'm teaching my own class." The students smiled and said hello. They all introduced themselves to each other, and shared their experiences in my class. There were a lot of "wow" responses when some stated they were in my class in 2007-08. Sometimes I don't realize how many years I've been teaching. I brought donuts to celebrate the day, and we practiced directions using subway maps and Metrocards. They had a good time and said they will come back. My response, "There will always be a seat waiting for you, you are always welcomed." This class is free and voluntary. Each week is a new topic for discussion but it's flexible. It's student-centered, meaning whatever the students want to talk about we will. There's no textbook, I provide all materials, and there are no tests or registration process. Just come, talk and have fun. Welcome to my class.


It's been a good start being a NYC Civic Corps member, a volunteer coordinator, and teacher. I'm excited by what's to come, but I'm aware that there will be challenges. In helping communities, one will face adversary and frustration, but I'm willing to give it a try. There's a lot I want to do and I believe this is the time to do it. I look forward to starting grad school and already wrote a tentative schedule of class and study time (yes I'm over ambitious). In this process of promoting change, advocacy, and social justice, I won't forget to take care of self and do things that make me happy. The best part of this new position is I'm by the waterfront. Starbucks is close by for whenever I want a pumpkin spice latte. Most importantly, I have God by my side and He will keep me strong when things get hard. He is keeping me focused on what's important in my life, everything else is secondary. Cheers to a good first week!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Happy October, welcome back to NYC Civic Corps

Second Chance (Week of 10/1-10/4/12):

I am back to being a NYC Civic Corps member. I was a member last year but only for a short time. Once I became ill and found out I needed hip surgery, I had to exit from the program. Disappointed, I collected my things and signed the exit form. I shook hands with my coordinator and the director of Civic Corps thanking them for the opportunity. Since then, I've kept Civic Corps in mind and knew I wanted to reapply. And so I did and thankfully was accepted. The first day of orientation was on Monday and before the day was over I hugged my former teammate (who is also my friend) and thanked the director and chief officer of the Corps. I told them I am humbled by this "second chance," and appreciate them for accepting me again.Their smiles told me they were happy too. I liked the vibe from this group, because everyone seemed friendly and welcoming. The following days were fun and interesting.
Tuesday, I met more Corps members, learned about upcoming projects, and pulled weeds in a field out in Brooklyn. The goal was to untangle the weeds from growing trees that can be harmful to them. I haven't done this kind of work in years and I remembered my environmental days in high school. However, mother nature had another plan for us. It began to rain hard and my nicely done hairdo became an instant afro! In pulling the weeds, I almost fell into a bush, and joked about my bad hip. My teammates looked at me in awe by my many jokes including my afro. We laughed a lot. Later that afternoon, we went to the main office to pick up our "swag" which are Civic Corps bags, hoodie and T-shirts. I was already wearing the hoodie which was the talk of the bus ride. I explained that I received it last year and said how comfortable it is. One teammate said I sounded like a spokeswoman. I think I did too! *smile*

Wednesday was our neighborhood walk where we explored a neighborhood in one of the five boroughs. In my team, we explored the Lower East Side (and some of lower Manhattan). I had a chance to meet my new partner at our work site, as well as, other teammates. Everyone was so friendly. I had great conversations with them all, and of course took pictures (which was also part of our assignment). Some of my teammates are new to New York, and since I was familiar with the area I had a chance to share some of my experiences there. I showed them where I used to teach at, and recommended a restaurant for lunch. They loved it and I spoke some Cantonese. I've been practicing or should I say, "Gnaw yut yut leen-jop gong Guang Dung Wah" (I practice speaking Cantonese everyday). A teammate told me, "You have a nice personality. I can tell you're a genuine person." I felt honored. It was a nice day.

Thursday was our last day of orientation. We were in the Bronx, which is a borough I rarely get a chance to visit. There were workshops and valuable information shared from Civic Corps alum and guest speakers. I really dig that kind of stuff. During lunch and break times, I went around the room meeting people and exchanging contact information from my teammates. Networking is so important and a great way to get to know people. Eventually, we will all be working together. I stepped out of my comfort zone by taking the lead on getting to know people. It felt great and allowed my personality to shine.

I look forward to begin work on Tuesday and to involve myself in a variety of projects. I'm also excited because next Sunday is the first day of my ESL conversation class. My students are excited too; it's going to be like a mini reunion. I can't wait! 

Did I mention that I drank the best latte at Starbucks? You guessed it, their pumpkin spice latte is not only popular but super yummy!