Sunday, March 6, 2016

Adventures in the Lower East Side

            We met at the Horace Greeley statue park, a sweet reminder of the moments before the last day of the Warrior Vision Quest, when we were still untainted City Semester novices. This time around, however, we felt a little more like we knew what was coming, even if only to a small degree. The wind was whipping and the dark clouds were growing. We were already, unfortunately, prepared to accommodate for rushing.
            In anticipation of this trip, a self-organized tour of the Lower East Side, we all, as always, prepared group presentations. The point of the trip was to actively learn about immigration and the trying journeys that come along with it. A rather relevant theme, given that we, America, still haven’t figured out exactly how to handle it... However, our current curriculum only revolves around the first immigration wave to NYC, from mid 1800s to 1900s. Our groups’ focuses ranged from inter/intra-ethnicity behaviors and social politics, housing, culture (focus on food), economics and employment, and markets and commerce.
            While walking around, we were faced with an exemplary representation of a New York characteristic. There are so many different types of places/neighborhoods in such a small radius. Throughout the whole trip we travelled maybe a collective 1.5 miles. But, we walked through the outskirts of Chinatown, found ourselves in industrial areas, “financial” areas, and calm, well-off residential areas, to name a few.
            After a couple presentations that took place in areas students thought to be most appropriate to their topic, and after running into a Fieldston alum (Gotham class alum, no less), we made our way to a nice 10:30am dim sum lunch. Mr. Meyers claims it’s some of the best dim sum. It was the first time I’d ever had dim sum, so I concur. I will say though, that the adorable toddler who plopped down in the seat next to me also influenced my opinion. In terms of the restaurant itself, English was essentially absent; communicating with the waitresses about food was mostly a series of nods and shakes and pointing, and we only vaguely knew what we were eating. My favorite dish was a type of sweet pork(?) bun with onions and other things.
            We left and walked to our next stop, while beginning to endure the ice rain that had just started. We taught each other about the feuds between the Irish, German, Chinese and “whites”; we taught each other about the windowless tenements the immigrants attempted to cope with; the shocking conditions of the factories they worked in; newspapers that they created and propagated; the rich guys who helped them; finally, the food that they ate.
            The weather rudely prevented us from completing our journey, but we came to a pleasant end at Kossar’s Bialys and The Pickle Guys. These two shops reminisced of the community that the immigrants found in the wild and mean monster that New York could be to them. They’re quaint neighborhood spots, and both extremely welcoming to the bombarding of hungry high schoolers.

            We all then rushed home to get out of the freezing rain, and once finally dry, settled with full stomachs, tired legs and stirring minds.

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