It's noisy, vast, and busy. It’s sensory overload. How do I sum up the city of New York?
First of all, I went to New York City for a service trip with my student group Christian Student Fellowship, so 12 other people joined me on this trip. I had a hand in planning the trip, and I chose the organization Global Outreach to organize our time there. We drove out to the East Coast in a van pulling a big trailer. While we were there we slept in a church basement in the Red Hook District of Brooklyn, and we ventured into Manhattan and other areas for service and sight seeing.
I’ve been thinking how to convey my experience in the city that never sleeps to you my dear reader, I could post some hastily snapped pictures, ramble about the tall buildings, the people, talk about how it is a concrete jungle, and always busy. But I decided to convey my experience through the lens of the souvenirs that I picked up while in New York. Now, these are different souvenirs in that I didn’t buy them at a typical kitschy tourist booth because most of them were free. Each random object tells a story about what I did in New York.
The letter Z
I picked up this wonderful square wooden Scrabble game piece on my walk back to the subway after helping at this food shelf in Brooklyn. I picked up the letter by a wrought iron fence, on the concrete where it was stranded along with cigarette butts and various litter. (How great is it that it was the letter Z and not some random letter in the middle of the alphabet? It is one of the best pieces in the Scrabble game) At the food shelf we helped organize the storage room, and stock the shelves in the customer area. The shelter serves over 10,000 people in a month! It was not only great to volunteer there, but we had fun quickly forming assembly lines, cutting bread, and singing while we worked.
The New World Family Encyclopedia Volume Six: Dumas – Fire Worship
This is one of my favorite things I picked up on this trip.Two different days on the trip we worked at a senior center in Red Hook, where we served lunch, played games, sang songs, and just enjoyed conversing with the elderly people who frequent the center. One task we were assigned to was sorting books in their activities room, and throwing away the ripped ones. I came across the 1953 Encyclopedia volume, and its cover was torn off so it was free for the taking. Inside there are many pictures such as the eye diagram you see in the picture. I was very excited to find an item such as the book because it seems like the perfect thing to go into my future Cabinet of Curiosity.
Proud to be Irish Button
I picked up this Saint Patrick's Day find on the walk back from Covenant House a homeless youth shelter. We worked two separate days at the shelter, first time sorting clothes, and the second a game night with some of the residents. I was fortunate to talk to Michael, a guy who was only a year older than me, after he played Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on the piano. He grew up in all 5 boroughs of New York after leaving home at a young age, and on his own he saved money to move to Buffalo to start anew. Before he could leave though, all his money was stolen and now he is at Covenant house to work and save money. Covenant house plays a crucial part in giving mainly people ages 18-21 an opportunity to succeed, whatever their past may be. It was a privilege to spend time there, and helping in even just a small way.
Ah the subway. What an adventure. The loud screeching metal bullet is a great way to get around the city, and fun too. Half the fun of this trip was just finding my way around. I used the handy metro card every day on bus rides and subway trips. It's a strange experience to walk down the steps into a whole other subterranean world. There's also nothing like the feeling of walking up the steps of the subway and emerging into a completely new city scene.
Il laboratorio del gelato
The plastic cup came from an ice cream and gelato place in Soho. They had strange and delicious flavors such as black mission fig, black currant, honey crisp apple, and maple. A wonderful part of the New York experience is finding great eats, from a pretzel from a street street vendor, to hearing some good and mostly not so good off Broadway singers/waiters at the Stardust cafe, or even listening to karaoke at the neighborhood restaurant Hope and Anchor, the choices in the city are endless. The best food I had was a Nathans hot dog on Coney Island, a divine slice of Grimaldi’s pizza, and a 3" thick pastrami sandwich from Katz deli, oh be still my heart...
The MOMA ticket
Last but not least, I had to squeeze in time at a Museum, even if it happened to be the free Friday night at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) along with about, oh I dunno, a million other people!! That experience was a great end to the trip, and it literally was since we hopped into the van that night and drove through the night back to MN. The crowds of people in New York, the ever present noise of sirens and car horns, and just the perpetual sensory overload that happened every time you walked anywhere basically sum up the city experience.
I definitely did more sightseeing than I expected to do on this trip, and I ended up going to most of the major sighting destinations. (Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, Coney Island, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing Trinity Church, and walking by the Stock Exchange) I'm glad I was able to see the sights, but most of all I loved to serve in the city. My goal for whenever I travel is to do volunteer work where I am, and usually that ends up to be the best way to understand a new place because you stretch beyond the normal tourist bubble. Also as a Christian, because I claim to live in Jesus Christ I must walk as he did (1 John 2:5-6) and so I will take every opportunity to imitate the love and compassion of Jesus, even when I'm exploring a new place.