Monday, February 15, 2010

The Boston Experience - Part 1

This past weekend I, along with my classmates, was dropped off in the middle of Boston. My group consisted of Marion, John and Katherine. We each had on our person $2, something patriotic we were willing to relinquish, an article of clothing we were OK with giving away, an item to barter with, $40 in a sealed envelope and one charged cell phone to be used to communicate with our instructor and/or emergencies only. Upon arriving in the city, we were handed a large packet explaining the actual assignment as well as a 2 page list of scavenger hunt items. Each item was worth a predetermined amount of points. I'm not sure how to go about telling you the tale of 24 hours in Boston.. I couldn't possible give you ALL of the info from this amazing experience. I am determined to do my best to relay to you the journey we took, the places we went and to tell you a little bit about my thoughts post event. The major assignment was to investigate, on our own, the large disparities in the socio-economic status amongst the residents of Boston and Cambridge. We also needed to explore the many different cultural communities of the city and explain how they contributed to the fabric of social/cultural/economic life in Boston
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The bus from Durham brought us right to South Station where we received our assignment. After viewing the scavenger hunt items, we decided to head to China Town first give its proximity to our current location. Before going there, we scoured South Station for a free map of the city. Imagine if you will being dropped off in the city with nothing more then $2. Part of what makes a city tick is the idea of consumerism. Everywhere we turned and looked right from the get go, we saw nothing but people spending... spend spend spend.. and for the first time in the hundreds of time I've been into this city I could do nothing more then watch it happen. It's hard not being able to participate in it.. and frustrating just the same. We finally found a few free maps that would do us just fine, after time spent browsing through maps that cost anywhere from $4-15.

Form South Station we made our way into China-Town. We decided that our first task was to buy some Egg Noodles (4 points). We walked the streets of China town and really had an opportunity to see how this neighborhood works. There is a hustle and bustle here, fueled by both the Chinese and tourists. We ended up walking into one of the many markets on the hunt for our noodles. We found some here for $1.. and I decided to spend one of my $2 on the bag of dry noodles all the while taking in the scene of chinese culture in Boston.


Back on the street, my team mates were trying to find us a place to volunteer at. This was one of the bigger point getters of the hunt.. to volunteer at a place for 30 points for each half hour. We had to do work that would not normally earn someone a pay check. We were pointed in the direction of the local shelter and continued to walk the streets. China Town continued to be an interesting place.. I won't tell you what restaurant this little piggy went into, nor how far it travelled in the basket, nor how many times it was touched in an unsanitary way.

We made our way into the St. Francis House. Upon walking into the front door we encountered a medal detector as well as a few guards who were scanning people down. We explained our desire to volunteer some time to which they allowed us to enter. I set the metal detector off, given the fact that I had a knife in my bag.. they never even looked. After walking through the metal detector we stood next to the Front Desk being manned by Boston Police. As we stood there it wasn't hard to think about how the underprivileged/homeless were being treated like criminals. (More on this later) The director of the facility came down to talk to us about volunteering. We immediately discovered the volunteers have to go through an extensive application process. In other words... volunteering our time for an hour was NOT an option. Instead we asked if Social Justice was a part of the mission of St. Francis.. it is.. and how the woman would define Social Justice. Her definition was basically "providing people with basic human needs with a sense of dignity." This statement became the basis of my weekend.. my every investigation was centered around human needs.. and dignity. After an interesting discussion with a male prostitute.. still trying to figure out what he said, we made our way back out onto the street and headed north.


We walked through Down Town Crossing, past the Old South Meeting House. I stopped into a gold shop to get my bartering item appraised.. convinced I'd sell it there to get money for food. The gold dealer laughed at the watch I gave him.. what I thought was an expensive Christmas gift turned out to only be worth $10. Thoughts of re-gifting floated in my head. We continued to make our way towards Fanuel Hall/Quincy Market. Fanuel Hall had it's usual luster today. Tourists walking everywhere, looking for ways to needlessly spend their money. I'm all ready beyond disgusted with the idea of capitalism. I'm disgusted with people... I'm homeless broke.. and my mind is spinning. We walk into Bill Rodgers Running Center where we acquired a piece of Boston Sports Memorabilia. I took this photo of Rami the Salami.. something about how simple it is to share a smile.. in this case with a young one.

We then made out way over to the Holocaust Memorial. Our task was to find a quote there that resonated with us. Such a sobering place to walk under the pillars of the holocaust memorial. We stopped and read everything... even finding the quote that matched perfectly with this adventure... and perhaps even the adventure known as life. So I found this one.. that moved me deeply.

"Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world where your entire possession is ONE raspberry and you give it to your friend."

We left the memorial and headed for Haymarket where one of our tasks was to buy something from a vendor there. I was starving at this point.. and I used my last dollar t buy 10 Bananas. Yes, 10 (TEN) Bananas for one dollar. I carried the bag away form Haymarket sharing my new wealth with my classmates. We started to think about plans for a place to stay for the night.. we had none. While some of my classmates brought food and had friends to call in the city for a place to stay.. I was determined to experience the life of poverty. We left Haymarket and started heading for the North End.. our adventure still new was only just beginning. We've been wandering the city for a mere 3 hours... with more then 20 to go.

Continue to part 2