Monday, November 21st, 2016
On this day, PRAB (Puerto Rican Action Board) and M.C.F.O.O.D.S (Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services) held a turkey distribution in the back parking lot of the PRAB building, which is located on 90 Jersey Avenue in New Brunswick.
Although the turkey distribution was estimated and advertised to end at 6 PM, it ended around 3:30 PM because we ran out of turkeys. We started off with four “watermelon boxes” filled to the brim with frozen turkeys in a U-Haul truck. There were many individuals who came after we ran out, hoping to receive a turkey.
When I was in Oaxaca, I saw and experienced an extremely strong sense of community – something that I believe we do not have. If we were to just strengthen the connection among community members, do you think we could accomplish much more? Could we have gotten more turkeys? Could we have had the resources to transport these turkeys to families rather than having them walk to the location in the bitter, cold weather? But, the biggest question is… How do we bring the community together?
Through the program, Advancing Community Development, I received the chance to volunteer at the New Brunswick Ciclovia on October 2, 2016. Although I am now a junior at Rutgers and I have heard about Ciclovia before, this was the first one I have ever attended. Overall, I thought it was an amazing experience because I believe it presents so much potential for the intermingling of Rutgers students and New Brunswick community members. I was stationed at the chalk zone located next to the Zimmerli Art Museum, where both parents and kids could draw their hearts away on the open road. Of course, I met a lot of Oaxacans and I had a lot of fun talking to some of them in Spanish.
Ciclovia was created to get the community members moving and help increase the awareness of their health as obesity has become an increasing problem in not only New Brunswick, but also the United States. More importantly, what many do not realize is that there exists a correlation between obesity and food insecurity. So, as we try to address the issue of obesity through events such as Ciclovia, we must begin to help individuals who may be experiencing food insecurity. If you have never heard about “food insecurity,” take a look at “A Place at the Table” – a film that describes the prevalence of food insecurity in the United States. I did not know that food insecurity was even an issue in New Brunswick and I would never have reached out to learn more about it if I did not travel to Oaxaca this past summer.
Along with the issue of obesity and food insecurity, Ciclovia can help us understand the importance of respecting the physical city. I believe many Rutgers students as well as New Brunswick residents fall into the bad habit of leaving trash in the streets. I believe that Ciclovia can try to address this issue in part by allowing us to associate the streets as a place for our children to play and by showing us how to respect the streets that we live on. All in all, I hope to participate in the next Ciclovia and I hope to bring my friends to join me.
Hello! I’m back! I did not realize that I would be writing on this blog after coming back from my trip to Oaxaca, but here I am! I wanted to make a few more posts about how Oaxaca has affected my life at Rutgers. Because of my study-abroad experience, I realized the importance of connecting with the New Brunswick community, which consists of many Oaxacans. For some reason, I felt a greater connection to New Brunswick than I did before my experience in Oaxaca. Therefore, I became to be a part of a program called Advancing Community Development through The Collaborative at Rutgers. This program focuses on the issues, such as food insecurity, that exist within New Brunswick and teaches students how to approach as well as address these problems. Through this program, I have had the opportunity to learn about the prevalence of the food insecurity in not only the New Brunswick community, but also the Rutgers community. I have had the opportunity to volunteer at community events and learn more about the dynamics of New Brunswick. I feel as if I received the chance to keep a little bit of Oaxaca in me.
I am finally back in the States and getting back into the groove of my daily life. I have had some difficulty switching back and forth between languages. When I am with my parents, I speak mostly Korean and sometimes English. On multiple occasions, I had to pause before I spoke because I almost used Spanish. I am happy that I was so immersed into the Spanish language, but I need to find ways to keep it up. I started reading the news in Spanish and I am trying to keep up with what is going on with the teachers’ protests in Oaxaca. I can say that my study abroad has inspired me to keep in touch with Mexico through the news.
My stay in Oaxaca is almost over and it feels “agridulce” (bittersweet). I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to be in Oaxaca and to experience the Oaxacan culture. I had a great time being the “designated Asian” as many individuals came up to me and asked me where I was from. They pointed to their eyes, saying that mine were “special.” I did not take this offensively at all because I know I look very different. Despite these differences, they were still very affable and welcoming. When I return back to the States, I want to be able to fully appreciate the physical as well as the cultural differences among different ethnicities and nationalities. And I feel that this whole Oaxacan experience has helped me to realize how to do that.