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.
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.
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.
Bright and early, before the sun greets New York with its warm hello, we are on our way. Breakfast had us revisit Chinatown with a stop at the Taipan Bakery. Many rejoiced at the sight of reasonably priced coffee and pastries. On the other hand, many were left scratching their heads on what exactly they were ordering. Some went on a more traditional route, choosing fried doughnut like things, and others tried things they weren’t quite sure of. Like mango rice balls. Yup, a ball of a soft rice mango mixture and a sweet filling, and I can tell you it was pretty decent. While slurping/slipping coffee and consuming our chinese breakfast experiments, we made our way to the Brooklyn Bridge.
A light snowfall from the night before left the bridges walking surface slippery. Despite that, dedicated bikers and joggers still took to the bridge for a chance to grab fresh air or simply make it to work. We walked the length of the bridge and back. The bridge gave us gorgeous views of the eastern Manhattan skyline and we also got to take a close look at the architecture of the world’s formerly largest suspension bridge. We then scurried down to the financial district to see the economic heart of America. Banks were plentiful here, but we soon had to leave.
As I was talking to my dad on the phone the other day, summarizing my day’s events and such, he said, “That’s nice and all, but are you supposed to be volunteering?” Why dad yes, yes we are. And that all changes today with orientation at the GMHC. GMHC stands for Gay Man’s Health Crisis and was found back in the early 1980s to combat the rise of a new disease that was killing a lot of gay men. Today they are one of the world’s largest AIDS/HIV non-profits in the world. We continued our worldly theme with the Manhattan Macy’s which boasts it is the world’s largest store. And it is hard to disagree. It takes up what feels like almost a block and has 9 stories. This Macy’s had every brand you could possibly think of and more. Then of course the Empire State building was next.
Today was a jam-packed day with about 13 hours and 20,000 steps spent exploring New York City. We began our adventure where all of our adventures will begin, Harlem. Some things we got to see around Harlem were Strivers Row, Abyssinian Baptist Church and even special access, thanks to some every kind police officers, to the Harlem Hospital Center’s art exhibits. We continued down numerous blocks with crisp New England air testing our patience. We made it to the Apollo Theater which is a venue that has hosted so many famous figures throughout the years, especially those of color. Our last stop in Harlem gave us a chance to appreciate the Harriet Tubman Memorial Statue. Afterwards we took a ride down to enjoy the natural beauty of the world renown Central Park. Endless, winding paths carve their way through this city’s treasure.
Walking around the streets of Harlem you get a good sense of their strong, proud black history which was beautifully shown through various murals and restaurants throughout Harlem. None better than Sylvia’s to show us how soul food is done. The most popular dish of the group was chicken and waffles. All senses where active here, as we were serenaded by some soulful live Gospel music. The singer went around to each table and asked where everyone was from and the diversity of New York was in full affect. We of course had people in the house from different states like Lousiana, but even more surprising was the number of international people there. Some of the nationalities were Swedish, Danish, French, Spanish, Korean, Argentina just to name a few and this took the entire group by surprise.
After lunch we wandered in Chinatown which might as well be a different country. Vendors lined up as far as the eye can see peddling their goods onto the ople and visitors of New York City. We even received many offers for Louis Vuitton bags from random corner hustlers! How exciting! We ventured on into the Mahayana Buddhist Temple which was awesome. Many cool buddhist relics where bought; little porcelain cats and karma bracelets.
Next part of our adventure brought us to the Staten Island Ferry, bringing us close enough to the Statue of Liberty to talk many groups pictures and plenty of selfies. Trust me when I say, we have enough selfies to last us a while. Then we ended the day with some New York style pizza at Lombardi’s and italian pastries from Ferrara Bakery. All in all a pretty busy, yet satisfying day.
Today was the big day! After the whole group met up at the airport in Milwaukee, we checked in and boarded our Southwest Airlines flight with little wait time. We were one of the last groups to board, leaving many with the dreaded middle seat as the only option. After only a 10 minute delay due to light snow, we were off. After we landed everyone picked up their bags and we took a bus to the Harlem YMCA. The trip actually went very smoothly without any major delays or “events” (thank god). The first night here was our first big exposure to the hustle and bustle of New York City. We rode the subway from Harlem down to Times Square, where we had dinner. Now I cannot speak for everyone, but Times Square is definitely something you have to see for yourself, because pictures cannot capture the essence, spirit, and energy of it all. Gigantic HD TV screens sprawl out in every direction filled with more information than you can take in. You hear people speaking all different languages and accents. I think we all laughed when we heard the brooklyn accent for the first time. Dinner took us to Guy’s (Fieri) American Kitchen, which everyone agrees, was absolutely fantastic. Dishes from burgers with mac n cheese to hawaiian style chicken were ordered and the table went silent as everyone shoveled copious amounts of delicious food into their stomachs (the bacon mac n cheese with rotisserie chicken was to die for if you ever get to go, just saying). After dinner the crew strolled around Times Square at night snapping pictures, doing some New York style shopping and eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Overall, an amazing way to start the week!
After months and months of waiting, it is finally here! Tomorrow at 12:35pm we will depart with Southwest Airlines from General Mitchell International Airport and arriving at La Guardia International Airport. Please stay tuned to this blog for a daily update starting TODAY! This is your best source for all things Alternative Break: Healthcare and Diversity in New York City 2016 volunteer trip. For those who are unfamiliar with what we are doing, this trip is an opportunity for UW-Oshkosh students to get out of Oshkosh and experience the world first hand. We will spend a great deal of our time volunteering at the GMHC, which is an organization that advocates for the prevention and provides the public information about HIV and AIDS. We I would like to take this time to introduce to all of you this year’s participants.
Lexi Kobishop: I am a Biology major with a Healthcare Science emphasis. I currently work as a scribe (physician’s record assistant) in the emergency department at Theda Care Medical Regional Center – Appleton (or Theda Care – Appleton) and at the information desk in the Reeve Administration Office. A hobby of mine would be walking my two dogs Ollie and Nala. I am excited to learn about the GMHC, interact with people there and visit all of the amazing sights in New York City!
Jenna Marie: My major is Human Services Leadership with a minor in Criminal Justice, I currently work at the Day by Day warming shelter and the University Police Department, my biggest hobby is working out and I’m most excited about being surrounded by unfamiliar places and faces, learning about the history and different cultures and everything else New York has to offer!
Erica Wienke: Major: Nursing
Current Job: Certified Nursing Assistant, Student Worker in the College of Nursing Undergraduate Office
Hobby: riding (NOT driving) on motorcycles
Most excited about: Working and learning about people who are more diverse than the people I can encounter from Oshkosh, WI or my hometown, seeing the sights, going to GMA once (maybe more than once)!
Samantha Walvort: Major: Dual Elementary and Special Education
Job/Hobby: I love any opportunity to volunteer or work with children of all ages.
Most Excited For: I’m most looking forward to meeting and interacting with the people of GMHC to hear their stories. I also can’t wait to experience the New York City life and see all of the sites that it has to offer.
Trina Do: Major: nursing
Hobby: I’m really good at watching hours and hours of the Office.