Wednesday, May 2, 2012

NYC Day #1- BAM

Brandon Mundschenk
NYC Blog Entry #1

Today was our first full day in and around the city, and it was definitely a worthwhile experience. We did do a little bit of sightseeing yesterday on the way from the airport to the hotel, but today, we were well rested and ready for a great day.

We started off the day with a trip to Ellis Island and after seeing the Statue of Liberty for a bit, we took a short ferry ride to the museum and Immigration Center. The first thing we did there was watch a short film on the history of Ellis Island and the world's largest immigration period. Before the film started, however, there was a ranger talking to some of the kids in the room and asking questions about immigration statistics. This may seem insignificant to our own learning and development in the city, but I am passionate about children and have always admired the child-like curiosity found in youth. The children in the theatre were no exception. I'll touch more on this later, but I'd like to focus the main part of this entry on my reactions rather than spending too much time on a tangent.

The immigration film at Ellis Island was very eye-opening. Even though I have learned something about immigration, in different capacities, of course, throughout all my time in school, I was still able to learn from the film today and had a much stronger reaction than I ever had in the past. Seeing some of the pictures from Ellis Island when it was used as the gateway to America for immigrants was absolutely horrifying. The way people were packed into ships like cattle was shocking and reminded me most of slave trade in later american history. In addition, the stories were also very touching and informative. I especially related with the term "Island of Hope, Island of Fear," again, mostly because of my passion for children. Hearing stories of families getting separated because one member didn't pass a test tore my heart because no family should ever be forced to split up. It must have been gut-wrenching for a parent to have to leave his or her children at such a young age.

Another thing that stood out for me in regards to immigration was the sheer determination people had to stay in America. It is understandable that getting out of their homeland was a priority due to working conditions and the fact that America provided countless opportunities; some people took that idea too far when they would jump into the river after they had been detained and swim to freedom, effectively avoiding the law. Something is coincidentally interesting is while reading the book "Fast Food Nation," I have learned that many immigrants worked in the meatpacking industry, which is one of the single-most dangerous industries in the world. Because of this, they were not able to escape poor working conditions in America like they had hoped.

After the film, we had a little bit of time to explore on our own. There were many exhibits on the island going into further detail. Learning more about my personal family history and more about the conditions and tests they had to complete and fulfill before moving to into America proper was very interesting and appalling at the same time. Some of the questions during the mental test had to do with early American culture and standards, all things someone would not be used to back home.

Next, we went to the UN building and went on an audio tour of the exhibits on display. Although some of this information was rather repetitive in nature, much of it was new and pertinent information, even in spite of the fact that our tour guide was impersonal and didn't offer much additional information. We sat in the General Assembly, Securities Council, and then walked through the rest of the tour involving the Millennium goals and other UN policies. During the eradicate world hunger and slow the spread of diseases portions of the Millenium Goals, my passion for children got the best of me again, and I almost instantly thought about what else I could do to help. I sponsor 3 children in Uganda currently, providing them with food, safe shelter, and funds for education, and I am still learning new ways to help out and my passion re-ignites every time I learn something new.

Our final "big stop" for the day was at the Ground Zero memorial and surrounding exhibits. This was, by far, the most impactful part of the day for me on many levels. I lost an uncle on September 11th 2001. He was a fire-fighter from Philly who was called in a bit later in the day in order to provide aid for those in need at the site. My dad travelled when the memorial was first opened to memorialize my uncle and give the family some closure, but was unable to find his name on the memorial. Today, I found his name and took a picture to share with my family. Looking at the exhibits today gave me so much insight into my uncle's last day. My dad donated my uncle's charred helmet and badge remnants to the city for exhibits, so I was also on the look out for those. I wasn't able to find them, but that is not too surprising because of the sheer number of items they rotate throughout the city. This was a very emotional part of my day, and I am very happy that I was able to learn so much from exhibits and provide that closure for my family.

After a quick bit to eat, learning from a couple Culver-Stockton College Alumni, and an even quicker trip through Times Square, we made our way back to the hotel to do some writing and catch some much needed rest before another long day tomorrow.

Overall, being that this is my first trip to New York, I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences from today and look forward to spending some time in this city on my own.

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