Archive for the 'Alternative Spring Break' Category

Day 5: The Market, Serving up more than food, and a Jewish Deli

Chelsea market was the first destination. On the way we passed some important LGBT sites. Christopher Street is a hot spot for many LGBT people, especially when warmer weather rolls around. Another important landmark in LGBT history is the Stonewall Inn. The Stonewall Inn is a gay bar that was popular among people in the 60’s. Mafia-owned at the time (most legit business owners did not want to involve themselves with the LGBT community), the Stonewall Inn was the place where the Stonewall Uprisings took place, due to police oppression and this was a powerful force in the making of the LGBT liberation movement.

The Chlesea Market is a new-age vintage, industrial feeling market with a number of specialty food and craft shops. It was very nice to look at and the food was pretty good too. It is the kind of place where you could find organic, non-GMO everything.

We walked from the market to GMHC, but not by sidewalk. The High Line is an elevated walkway that winds its way in between buildings through Chlesea and other parts of Manhattan. It features many awesome works of art that really add to the already apparent beauty of the walkway. Works of art from paintings to sculptures were displayed for everyone’s viewing pleasure. The High Line gave people a opportunity for some awesome pictures, and was a great change of pace from the downtown Manhattan sidewalks. 

Our day at GHMC today was quite full. It began with a filing project from the finance department. They provide a plethora of enriching and important services to their clients. The filing project dealt with organizing their housing program. Some of their clients are in danger of losing their residence. This could begin the client on a downward spiral and they would stray away from taking care of themselves. To prevent this, the GHMC can take control of their Social Security and Medicate benefits and pay their bills for them or cover a certain amount of said bills. I talked to a client who was in this program and she really expressed great gratitude. The cost of living in New York City is far higher than in Wisconsin for example. 

Thursday was our last day of serving lunch, my personal favorite job. Everyone was quite happy to see us again, and we recognized a few familiar faces. During lunch break, as I was trying to find a table, I was flagged down by a client who had already finished his meal and was socializing with those at his table. One of the questions he asked was, “What made you give your spring break up to come here to us?” It was an interesting question, because I had never thought of it like I was sacrificing anything. In fact, I thought my spring break trip was better than most of my friends. This question also highlights the stigma this community still faces in light of all the new information and research on HIV/AIDS. We discussed a number of other things along with another person; topics like family and stigma, to politics, and even New York nightlife. It was so insightful to see New York from a native’s perspective. These are some of the most impactful and important experiences from this trip that I will take on with me throughout life. 

Katz’s Deli on the lower west side was on the menu for dinner. This Jewish diner is very popular. Kosher dishes are served here. Things that were ordered ranged from a corned beef sandwich to salami sandwiches and even a salmon and cream cheese bagel. Dessert was gay ice cream. Actually big gay ice cream. Big Gay Ice cream is a well-known ice cream shop that served up the kind of ice cream sundaes you would almost come back twice in the same night for. Highly recommend. As a whole through this whole trip, our taste buds have been in paradise and campus food is just not going to even pale in comparison. Oh well, guess we’ll just have to come back, won’t we? 

After ice cream some desired an early night and headed back to the YMCA. The rest of us headed to Chinatown to visit the Museum of American Chinese. The museum had a lot of great and informative exhibits about the immigration and assimilation process of the Chinese into America especially during a time when the American people and government did not want them here (Chinese Exculsion Act). 

That’s it for Thursday! One more full day to go. 

Day 4: European Cathedral, Ivy League, and Broadway

Wednesday means we are half-way done. No worries readers there is still a great deal of stuff to discuss. 

This morning was spent primarily in Harlem/Norhern Manhattan working our way south. In Harlem lies the Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in honor of the late Malcolm X, who was a Muslim. This may come as a shock to many but after we walked. A lot. By now anyways, most of us have built up enough calluses or tolerance that we deal with it. It New York City and we have see as much as we possibly can here in a week. 

Morningside Heights was our next destination. Therein exists a very quaint and serene park. Equipped with old willow trees, a baseball diamond and a pond, it seemed to be a popular place for jogging and walking dogs. Behind the park is the cathedral of St. John the Divine. It was just as impressive on the outside as it was on the inside. Modeled in the late 20th century neo-gothic revival style, the cathedral is comprised of a colossal main area where many art exhibits that explore and develop the idea of food. Is food a right? What role does it play on society? In the bible? The stained glass artwork here was also intricately breathtaking.

After that people started to run on fumes, so Absolute Bagels it was. Luckily we came at the right time and the line wasn’t too long. They had a variety of options in cream cheese flavors from strawberry down to Green olive and olive oil cream cheese options. 

On our way to GMHC we passed through one of the eight Ivy League schools, University of Coloumia in the City of New York. Lush, green and groomed was the campus which is expected. T-shirts, sweatshirts and a book were bought. 

The day at GMHC consisted of behind-the-scene work. We started by helping out with data entry into computers. After lunch we came back and helped fold bags for the development department. These bags had artwork from Keith Haring, a well-known LGBT artist and the GMHC logo. The bags were sent to people who donated or increased their donation (to a or past certain threshold) as an incentive and thank you. The supervisor of the activity, based on past experiences, expected us to get about 500 bags done in two and a half hours. We, however, smashed her expections, by folding all 1500 of her bags in two hours while being a person short. She told us that she just had a group of 15 that folded only 500 bags in 2 and a half hours. She was so shocked and thankful that she gave us each two totes bags to bring home. Our record shattering group was very pleased to hear that. After that we got education about HIV and AIDS by a course called HIV 101. During this course we really got to understand the disease through an open discussion format. We debunked myths, asked questions, learned about HIV testing methods, and took a quiz to test out knowledge. Kenneth our instructor was so kind, personable and knowledge and everyone took a lot out of that class. 

Our Wednesday nights were casually spent on BROADWAY. Everyone in the group got to see a show. Trina and Erica W went to see an interactive show called Fuerza Bruta. Trina said, “The was amazing. The show was so engaging that due to indoor rain on the crowd we left wet.” Erica W agrees and adds, “It was fanatasmic!!!” The other part of the group went to Chicago. Yes, get the jokes out. We came to New York City to see Chicago. Hilarious. I know. Anyways moving on, the show very well done. The award-winning chereography was well, award-winning worthy. We all really enjoyed it. Danielle our trip leader, who had already seen Chicago three times decided to see “She loves me” instead.

I just wanted to apologize for being late with the blogs posts. I know I said daily updates, but our days were always super full. The rest should be up very soon. 

Day 6: Fresh Chicken and Market Madness

Today, we made a Guatemalan traditional dish from scratch with a local woman in one of the coffee co-ops: Pepian con Pollo.

To start the dish, you take a live chicken (yes, fully alive and moving!), put it head down into a metal cone over a empty sink (just enough so its head is peaking out at the end), and proceed to cut its throat to kill it. Although we had some eager travelers in our group that wanted to be the ones to kill the chicken, the woman did it herself, but in a way where anyone who wanted to watch could. Due to a weak stomach, blogger Richelle did not watch it, buy Austyn was up front witnessing it happen. After killing it, we had to wait for the blood to empty out.

Following this, we were told to place the chicken – feet first – into a boiling pot of water in order to loosen up its feathers in order to pick them off. Finally, we butchered the chicken and threw it in a pot to cook.

While waiting for the chicken to cook, we sliced and diced many fresh vegetables – carrots, red peppers, onions… you name it! All to be put into the dish. We de-seeded dried chili peppers and put that on a clay slab (which is only used when making this dish) with other fresh vegetables to roast – all of this would then be smashed and blended into the sauce.

After prepping all of these aspects of the dish, we were shown how to form corn tortilla shells! These were served with every meal we had, and they are made fresh for every meal, even if there are left over from the meal before – talk about delicious!

After about 2 to 3 hours of prepping for the dish, it finally all came together and we ate our wonderful work for lunch.

Following lunch, we drove to Antigua for some free time to shop and a market scavenger hunt for our dinner than night! We split up into teams to find certain items in the food market and were given 100Q (about $13 USD). We were all successful in our findings – most not using any more than about 50Q in order to get our supplies! It is amazing how far money can go here, and how well we all have gotten with bartering prices with sellers!

We went back to our house in San Miguel Escobar to prepare the food we had bought – dinner consisted of loaded nachos, papaya and mango smoothies, fresh guacamole, and fried plantains with chocolate for dessert. Overall, it was a wonderful day, and everyone was happy with their personal gift purchases.

Pictures will be uploaded sometime on Saturday when we are back in the States.

Best,

ASB Guatemala :)

Day 3: Cake Boss and 9/11 Reflection 

Today the brave group Lexi, Sam, Erica S, Jenna and I (Max) took the PATH to Hoboken, New Jersey to score some of the one and only Buddy’s, the Cake Boss, pastries. The Cake Boss is a show on the TLC network that showcases the trials and tribulations of Buddy Valastro and his family of running this ever busier bakery; Carlo’s Bakery, where they make amazingly creative and delicious cakes for their customers. Some of  the things that were bought among group members were Lobster tails (the pastry, because everyone keeps thinking we got up at 5 in the morning to go get real lobster tails from a bakery….in New Jersey), donuts, cupcakes, two pound tray of cookies and a individual cheesecake. Since Hoboken is across the river from Manhattan, we were able to see the skyline during the sunrise on a clear day. T’was glorious. The other members of our group had other plans. Trina and Erica W went out to breakfast at Good Enough to Eat, with Erica’s cousin. Gary and Kateri seized the opportunity for some additional much needed shut eye.

Constant running around and little sleep finally caught up with many. Getting this much done on 5-6 hours of sleep is exhausting, but with a little help from good ole caffeine we manage.

The group of 10 returned back to GMHC on Tuesday to get a little more hands on volunteer experience. We, alongside regular volunteers, served lunch to the members of GMHC. Assembly line style, we each manned a certain station and got the chance to chat with people there. GMHC generously offers all of their volunteers free lunch, which as we all agree is delicious. Our lunch breaks us gave an opportunity to really connect with people; to hear their stories and watch them as they light up to hear ours. Everyone has a story and they are all different, because HIV/AIDS has no face. Me personally, I really loved how an awful disease/condition could really bring people together. Everyone was social and nice. But what really stuck out was their appreciation. They always went out of their way to genuinely thank us and were so happy to have us there.

Next on the list was the 9/11 Memorial. On Tuesday nights the museum is free but that also means that is becomes full very early on, even 14 something years later. This really speaks not only to the quality of the memorial, but also the impact it has had not only on New Yorkers but Americans as a whole. Unfortunately, we did not get in. But outside still stands two massive pit fountains which are encircled by marble which bares the names of the 3,000 of the lives lost etched into its cold surface. It was truly touching and moving with its quite, yet powerful symbolism. Weirdly enough Brussels suffered from a terrorist attack on the same day we visited the memorial, and in the survivor tree (the only tree that survived the 9/11 attack) were a letter of condolence and the flag of Belgium.

The rest of the night also followed suit and did not go to plan. The restaurant we planned on going to was far too busy for a group of 10, but being the resilient Midwesterners we are, we found another place to eat; the Shake Shack. The name of their game is simply awesome burgers and decadent shakes. There seems to be a pattern when we all sit down to eat. We talk waiting ever so patiently until our food arrives, as soon as it arrives the sound of people trying to get that last bit of food into their mouths is the only hear you’ll hear. I mean do you blame us with the amount of walking we do on a daily basis here?

Stomachs full and eyes glossy, we all decided it was time to retire for the day.

  
 
  

Artisan workshops!

Yesterday was packed!

We started the day finishing up our construction projects! After showers that involved lots of soap and scrubbing to remove cement we all split into three groups to attend artisan workshops.

I attended the textile workshop and met Eliva who told us of how De La Gente was able to help her get a loan so she could quit her factory job and start making purses. We got to pick out traditional Guatemalan fabrics for our bags. She let us practice with her sewing machine..which I broke right away. Typical me. It was an easy fix, Eliva just needed to replace the needle.  It was pretty clear that sewing is not in my skill set! We all got to help sew our bags and we ended up buying a lot of extra products from her!

Eric and Crystal in our group went to the iron working workshop! They each got to outline, cut out, hammer, and paint iron lizards. They by far had the most labor intensive workshop, and were sweating afterwards! The hike to the top of the workshop wasn’t even the hardest part! Cutting out iron with scissors turned out to be pretty rough. “Tough?! Near impossible!!”-Eric. Carlos their teacher has made an entire house out of iron! They also found out that chickens aren’t pets here….check out our next post for more about that….

Shelby, Danielle, and Molly went to the wood working workshop! Where they met Jorge a wood worker. They learned how to use different tools a got to make wood serving trays! They got to pick out traditional fabrics to enclose in their trays. Next up was sanding and staining the trays. After the trays were finished, they got to go look at his shop and see a bunch of wood furniture with looks of detail that he had made by hand!

It was great to come back to De La Gente at the end of the night and show off all of our new products!

See ya,

ASB

 

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