Monday, August 1, 2011

Staten Island: The Under Dog Across the Harbor

This blog comes from one of our high school apprentices, Travis. I’d like to add that Staten Island has a beautiful minor league baseball park and that taking the ferry at least once is a must-do for every tourist, and native, too.

It’s 6 a.m. I wake up, brush my teeth, and get dressed. I go down to the kitchen and open the blinds, only to be greeted by a mass of foliage, birds, and the smell of trees just starting to awaken for the day. It’s funny to think that, within the time span of one hour—via express bus 15—I’ll replace walking on suburban tree-lined streets with the hard pavement of a fast-paced, concrete jungle. So by now you are probably thinking I’m some strange nature lover who lives in the woods with animals. Not to worry, it’s just Staten Island.

Contrary to what other New Yorkers might believe, Staten Island is not just a place one drives through to get to New Jersey. In true New York City fashion, the Island plays host to some unique cultural institutions. These include everything from Tibetan gardens, hidden in the hills behind a restored pre-revolutionary village, to a children’s museum with a mission to encourage curiosity by utilizing all five senses. Ghost stories also come alive in this borough, which has a reputation for being one of the most haunted places in New York State.

However, having lived in the “borough of parks” for the past decade, I can say it’s a far cry from “the city.” The neighborhood I live in is one you would be more apt to find in New Jersey or upstate, and the span of water between Lower Manhattan and the St. George Ferry Terminal might as well be the distance between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. So on my first day of work as a High School Apprentice at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, I was definitely experiencing some regret about exchanging my pool time for office time. What if I get lost? What if I miss the bus? I had way too many “ifs” and not enough definite answers. Yet, my biggest fear was being an outsider, since living on an island reachable only by ferry, or a tunnel and bridge combo, doesn’t exactly provide one with optimal social interactions. However, the High School Apprenticeship program is run and cared for by people who make the Museum a place where you can belong, no matter where you are from. My fellow HSAPs are truly a group of diverse kids who also live up to this philosophy of acceptance. After two weeks, the stigma of going from houses to skyscrapers has faded, and I know this experience is something that I will remember for a long time, and is a program that has given me the opportunity to meet exciting new people, and be introduced to an interesting new world beyond the “forgotten borough.”

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