Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sometimes we take field trips in the middle of the day...

*I’d first like to apologize for my excessive use of the word “we”, but this is a collective program and that’s kind of just how WE roll.

The day began with our Solidarity class. We discussed our reading assignment “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities” by Eve Tuck. We were asked to think about the definition of “damage-based research”, along with its various implications and alternatives. Most of the class participated and challenged their own perceptions of what it means to “help” a community by gathering different types of information about them. The homework assignment for the following solidarity class was to think about Eve Tuck’s notion of "desire-based" research, and whether or not the service centers we visited on our infamous Vision Quest are in line with what she feels is an appropriate way to go about assisting communities that we believe to be disenfranchised. Then, we briefly met for morning coffee (which is some what of a Q&A period, until we all get fully adjusted). That being said, we are starting to get into a flow, and beginning to adopt the idea of being disoriented.

Following morning coffee, we had a culture class in which we discussed the Russian community that lives in the area surrounding Brighton Beach. We were given a brief reading “The Everything Guide to Brighton Beach” which included fun lines such as “narrowly passing a man in a fake Gucci shirt and a rabbit hat hawking caviar from a foldable outdoor table” and “nightmare-inducing geriatric speedo displays” while learning truths about the history of this particular neighborhood. The class was  then asked what we knew about Russian weddings (which was not much) and we were informed of their festive traditions and elaborate, circus-like style. After this activity, we brainstormed all of the words that we could associate with culture. Some of them were: beliefs, values, food, music, literature, style, vernacular, religion, education, superstitions and conflict resolution. Our personal favorites though, were hats, swag, and facial hair. Ms. Furfey then asked to choose the words that best describe how we feel about our own cultures. Not how our families feel about them, not how we think we should feel about them, but was is currently most prevalent in our lives. I personally chose: institutions, rules/authority, relationships, interests and dynamics, which I explained further in my placebook.

THEN the real journey began. We embarked on our two-band trip to Inwood Park (Possibly the place where New York was bought for $24). After arriving there, and learning about Mr. Waldman’s past as a park ranger, we discussed the systems that were present. We learned that the area that most would refer to as “residential” was actually a desert, and the area that most would call “the grassy part?” was actually a savanna. Hm. We stood by the large body of water in the center of the park and described the various trees and birds we saw. Seagulls, (which are not really seagulls because there is no such thing as a seagull, but rather many different types of gulls, the ones that we noticed in particular were ring billed gulls – who knew?), house sparrows from Europe, Oak trees, pollution-resistant London Plain Trees, Sweet Gum Trees and Tulip Poplars. The Tulip Poplars were located right next to the “ACESS-THIS-STREAM-IN-CASE-OF-CATACLYSM” water that was trickling down from a cute little hill.

Mr. Meyers and Mr. Waldman asked us to think about whether we could ever return to the Native American way of life, without much of what we have established in modern civilization. Many of our advancements have been made through seeing the land as having an exchange value, rather than focusing on the use value. The land is valued for a number of reasons: strategic, commercial, leisure, location…etc. Currently, the city removed this land from being a commodity (which caused the trouble in the first place) to being used for leisure, which can be expected because it is not broken up into a grid and quantified as other parts of the land that are more urban. Before leaving, we had a brief history lesson on a hill, where we were advised by people that were enjoying the park to FEEL it. Not only to learn about it, which I thought was an interesting addition to think about when considering the way in which we address the trips we have taken and will continue to take this semester. (Sidenote: two of THE CONCRETE KING’S spirit guides, The Straus’, had a house on the land which is now Inwood park)

After returning to school, we had English where we discussed our opinion on the use of magic realism in the book “Forever” by Pete Hamill, as well as our feelings on the ways in which vengeance can be self-serving (while eating Raspberry icream). The book forces us to think outside of our normal “Fieldston English Book” experience, to think about bildungsroman and stories that relate to leaving home and learning about yourself through that adventure while overcoming obstacles. We then went our separate ways for the rest of the day. (We don’t care about non-city semester activities, do we? No, no we don’t.)


  1. Great work, Bianca. Next time we will stop and chat with the folks we meet...

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