Lost puppy?

At our last reflection dinner on Sunday, we talked about empowerment and activism. While my parents have always stressed that I am capable enough to do anything I want, and that having a strong foundation in education paves the way for a life better than what my parents had, I have to be careful. As we discussed the difference between acvitism and empowerment, I feel like my education, my interactions with people, my experiences like those gained from the Moxie program, allow me to become more empowered. However, activism demands action, and whether or not that action is demonstrated through typical political rallies or something like lobbying and hosting workshops.

But as a first-generation American, I am consantly reminded that in order to build a life that my parents dreamed of, I need to be safe.

Are we ever truly safe? I could be seriously injured, maimed, or even killed if a natural disaster were to strike. Of course I risk more when I walk around at the streets alone at 1 am. I can be educated and know that the chances are unlikely. I conquer some fear in knowing that I am able to defend myself and take precautions in avoiding trouble. However, all these things that I do are just that: precautions. It doesn’t stop me from being vulnerable. My feelings of being vulnerable are socially constructed, this I don’t deny. But I will always be vulnerable. Perhaps not on the street at 1 am, but when I am interacting with people, getting close to others. By opening up, trusting others, loving people, that makes me inherently vulnerable.

I’m not some sort of lost puppy who’s lost and helpless.

But just as any human, I am vulnerable. And to some extent I always will be. That is okay, though, as I’ve learned more about myself this summer than I thought I would and that makes me more prepared and empowered when dealing with myself.

  1. I learned how to live in the city and travel around without getting too terribly lost. Thanks, Google Maps! I hope this makes me more capable of surviving anywhere where English is the main language!
  2. I learned how to survive on a stipend and cook meals for myself!
  3. I figured out how to be independent and do things out on a whim without planning everything ahead of the time
  4. I became comfortable with being myself around others and doing things on my own when time allows it.
  5. I realized that I’m quite organized and I handle stress relatively well with big projects. I’ve realized that people get stressed doing my tasks and jobs, running around doing errands, and busy work, but I manage to do it well and with great efficiency.
  6. I am extremely efficient with time. And I like being punctual. I prefer doing my stuff ahead of schedule, although it may stress me out, but it prevents me from stressing out later from procrastination.
  7. I guess I admitted to myself that I’m kinda neurotic. Small things stress me out but big things don’t? Maybe I make myself stresed, when there’s not even something to be stressed about.

I think learning these things and accepting these habits of mine will help me become more capable and more prepared to deal with situations where I’m particularly vulnerable…Thank you, Moxie and everyone for this summer!

Gentrification: How to Make the Poor Poorer

As our time in Moxie and New York is sadly coming to an end, I’ve realized that I needed to cross many things off my “to do” list.  Surprisingly, even though we have been here for nearly 8 weeks, I realized that I had yet to go uptown to the museum area and walk around.  So, on Sunday I decided to make it my Metropolitan day.  After about a fifteen minute ride, I, now drenched in sweat and practically make-up less, thank-you New York 95 degree weather, get off the train at 111 Street and proceed to walk down to 86 Street to cross the Met off my list.  As I am walking, however, I realize that I am conveniently right next to Central Park and according to Google maps, I even need to walk through it in order to get to my destination.   While walking down the blocks, I also notice the apparent shift in scenery from more decrepit buildings to newer, nicer apartment buildings and museums. The dilapidated convenience store with the broken, flickering “Open” sign is only three blocks behind the brand new, glistening Starbucks.  I also noticed the change in demographic, from a majority of black pedestrians, to a whiter populace.  In fact, just walking about twenty blocks, about five songs on my iPhone later, I find myself in an entirely new neighborhood than the one I arrived at after emerging from the dark abyss of the subway tunnel.  Although I had planned to go to the Met, I realize that, typical me, only had about two hours until reflection dinner and I did not want to be late, so I decided to keep walking down the Park and several blocks later it is not long until I find myself on Madison Avenue.


Now, about five more songs later, I’m strolling down the Upper East Side, along with moms pushing their baby strollers all while walking in four digit priced shoes and where a sales lady, handing out samples of 24 karat gold – infused hand cream, is posed outside a luxury cosmetics store.


Yes, New York and Moxie program, you never fail to amaze me as I realized that I had just witnessed and physically walked through gentrification. The socioeconomic 360 is so stark and abrupt that I am still shocked as to how in a twenty minute walk I can travel through almost destitute poverty to overwhelming exorbitance.   I just walked through an area with a median income of $30,000 to one of $200,000. One with a .8% white population to one with a 98% white population.


So what is gentrification? It is a term that we certainly hear and throw around a lot.  According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the definition of gentrification is:  the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.  While gentrification certainly brings a lot of wealth, jobs, and opportunity into a previously poor region, the resources that follow the arrival of a wealthy populace do not benefit those in need.  Of course, some job creation for previous residents, such as cashiers or sales associates, may accompany gentrification, but more often than not, previous residents of an underprivileged area will not be able to afford the now sky-rocketed rents that accompany a gentrified area.  In fact, changing rent is one of the most indicative factors that an area is undergoing gentrification. In 2014, Harlem rents were up by 90%. Bed-Stuy rents rose by 63%.  Only three areas in New York have not experienced rent increases.  In some areas of the Upper East Side, rent can be $7,000 to $8,000 per EACH square foot of space a month.  Also, many shops and businesses that are owned and operated by local residents are driven out by the outrageous rents as well and are replaced by chain stores and high end restaurants.  If underprivileged residents can not even afford to live in areas that are experiencing a wave of wealth and resources, then how are they expected to reap any benefits? As a result of gentrification, families are forced to move to more distant and often poorer areas.  Parents need to commute long distances to get to work each day and children end up switching schools.  Rather than improving the lives of low-income residents, gentrification makes them even worse off than before.   New York is not an isolated example – many major cities, Boston, New Orleans, and even Durham, to name a few, that experience an influx of wealthier and typically white residents will undergo some level of gentrification.



While our society sets expectations for people to be self-supporting, we continuously create obstacles that prevent low-income citizens and people of color from growing out of poverty and becoming successful.  How can these citizens possibly achieve the American Dream if they are forced to move from their homes, find new jobs, and place their children in a different school?  Gentrification may be unavoidable as businesses and developers continue to look for new places to grow and expand.  The question is: how can we turn gentrification into a positive prospect for a marginalized community?


Week 7 In Photos

Sunday, July 19, 2015 – Shakespeare and Cronuts

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The girls went to see a show of Shakespeare in a parking lot.

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At Dominique Ansel’s Bakery

IMG_4140 Waited an hour and a half for these beauties.

Monday, July 20, 2015- Early Mornings Sometimes Makes It Better

IMG_3972It’s a Monday

Tuesday, July 21,2015 – GGE’s Workshop


Sai, Nathania, and Lyndsay during their GGE workshop on gender issues. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 – Work and Rallies

IMG_4050  Our relationship is one of terrifying each other on a daily basis. 

IMG_4061 Seen at a rally for Sandra Bland.

Thursday, July 23, 2015 – Moxie Randomness

Failing to find friends and eating our feelings away with chocolate

Friday, July 24, 2015 – Moxie Seminar

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Breakfast smoothies to prep for the Moxie Seminar!/We make beautiful art at GGE.

Saturday, July 25, 2015 – Sushi Night

Sushi Night with Andrea was delicious!

Listen Up

I’ve never been the loudest one in the group. My parents joke about the time my older brother went away to summer camp for the first time when I was 8 and they found out I could speak. In discussions with the Moxies, I sometimes feel like I just can’t get a word in. It’s not natural for me to speak without thinking through what I’m about to say, and in the time I take to pause, someone else is already speaking.
Whether it’s in a conversation with three people or a large discussion, I tend to take a back seat and listen. I can go 15 minutes in a conversation without realizing that I haven’t actually said anything. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. I’m hardly a passive participant. It doesn’t feel like I’m not contributing to the conversation because I am getting so much out of simply listening to others and internalizing. This is how I learn and process.
I learned how to listen at an early age to my talkative brother.

I learned how to listen at an early age to my talkative brother.

As a college student, you are constantly hearing that you need to find your passion. You should be passionate about what you study and you should be passionate about the work that you choose to go into. When half of the class comes into the first year pre-med and is dead set on their life plans (although of course this quickly changes for many), it’s difficult to be the one to admit that you don’t quite have it figured out yet. I’ve had people ask me what my passion is and I’m not quite sure how to answer. Once, I came up with the best answer I could think of at the time and have since been sticking with it. My passion is people.
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What does that mean? Is that even a passion? When I say my passion is people, I mean I love listening to people. Getting to know a person is one of the most exciting and intriguing things to me. Everyone has a different story and perspective. I want to take note of the names they mention so I know who they are in a future story. I listen to the way they pronounce certain words that I’m not familiar with and learn what they mean. From each person I listen to, I am able to better understand others and myself. I am able to analyze, assess, and learn. If a person chooses to seek me out and asks me to listen to them, I value this and take it as an opportunity to grow.
I owe a lot of what I know about intersectionality to listening to my friends’ experiences. Coming from a predominantly white neighborhood, I was exposed to much more difference than I had ever been used to upon coming to Duke. I immediately befriended people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, religions, and financial statuses. I must admit, I didn’t quite understand how much of a post-racial society we don’t live in until I started hearing what my POC friends had to say. I’ve listened to quite a few rants about “white people” and am able to better understand how the intricacies of race play into everyday life.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don’t take the time or put in the effort to pronounce words or names from different languages and/or cultures correctly. Because I have an American name, I don’t have to deal with people constantly mispronouncing my name, but a lot of friends at Duke deal with this on a daily basis. I have several friends who go by nicknames that they don’t particularly like but it’s just easier for people to pronounce. Others go by the “white” pronunciation of their name. This is so frustrating to me. In my experience, if you listen to the pronunciation of the name just a few times and say it to yourself, you will learn it! It’s not that difficult, and it makes all the difference for the person whose name you are no longer butchering.
Why is this relevant?
Because through listening to someone, you can understand their experience and change your actions. Because you have the power to be a more culturally aware and mindful person. Because you have the ability to learn and expose yourself to difference if you choose.

Yes, I’m quiet, but I’m going to apply what I learn one day to create change.

Listening is so important, but that’s just the beginning. What I listen to drives my actions and motivates me to be a conscientious person. This is critical in the advocacy work many of us are doing this summer, especially when the target population is so diverse. You cannot begin to understand someone else’s experience unless you pay attention and listen. Sometimes, even the smallest amount of effort can make a world’s difference.

What No One Tells You About Independence

Last week I took notes for a joint meeting between the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Hand-in-Hand, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. During a break, I went to use the restroom. As I washed my hands, one of the meeting’s attendees and her assistant entered the bathroom.

Usually, I wouldn’t think twice about this sequence of events, except for one detail. The woman brought her assistant with her to the restroom because she uses a wheelchair.

After an initial look around the space, the woman realized that one assistant would not be enough. The dimensions of the toilet stall in combination with her wheelchair meant that she could not close the stall door if she wanted to use the toilet. She needed one person to help her get on the toilet, and another to stand by the main door of the restroom  to prevent people from entering until she finished.  Due to my proximity to the situation, she asked me to stand by the main entrance.

I spent the next several minutes standing guard by the door, informing a few very upset women that they had to wait to use the bathroom.

As she and her assistant left the restroom, the woman thanked me profusely for ensuring her privacy. Then, we both returned to the meeting and continued with our days.

I write about this ten minute interaction because it was the first time I felt connected to the difficulties that people with disabilities encounter. An act as routine as using the restroom became an ordeal involving multiple helpers. I–as I’m sure many people do–take for granted how easily I navigate this world. Riding the subway, using the stairs when the elevator breaks, or walking along a gravel path cause me no anxiety. For those with physical or mental disabilities, however, the simplest actions can require an enormous input of energy and resources.

Aside from realizing how privileged I am to have a fully functioning body, this experience also showed me that our society does not always value, and–at times–even resents the existence of people with disabilities.

When I stood watch by the bathroom door, the women I told  to wait could hardly contain their frustration. They expressed no compassion for the woman in the wheelchair who had to deal with a poorly constructed toilet stall as well as the embarrassment of having to inconvenience others.

Although the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act , passed in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities, disabled people still face a stigma in the United States.

Society often assumes that disability is something to fear or pity. Consequently, all disabled people lose opportunity, no matter their individual impairments. Like many other minority groups, people with disabilities face economic insecurity and are perceived as a danger to groups in power. Additionally, society’s emphasis on health and attractiveness, which we generally attribute to individual effort, means that a prejudice falls on those who do not meet popular standards of beauty–someone in a wheelchair, for example.

A few weeks ago I read an article by Eva Feder Kittay called “When Caring is Just and Justice Is Caring: Justice and Mental Retardation.” Kittay examines disability through the lens of philosophy. More specifically, she deconstructs society’s current concept of personhood and how it affects the way we view disabled people, and their claim to rights.

Basically, we think of people as autonomous beings, and we value them based on their ability to be “independent.” Disabled people may be seen as less valuable because it seems as though they rely on others more than an able-bodied person.

But, who is really independent?

Almost all of us depend on others to produce the food we buy, to build and run the cars, trains, or buses we take to work, and to maintain the places where we live. Dependence is inescapable–it is the ultimate unifier.

If a web of dependence connects us all, then why have our laws and our attitudes often assumed that able-bodied people are more entitled to rights, respect, and opportunity than those with disabilities? Why are only certain workers protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and others–like domestic workers–excluded? Why do films, advertisements, and books rarely feature disabled people? Why do bathroom stalls in downtown Manhattan fail to accommodate a woman in a wheelchair?

As a society, we need to reconceptualize personhood. If we think of our selves in terms of our relationships with others rather than in terms of our autonomy, then we will be on a path towards valuing all people.


Week 6 In Photos

Sunday – July 12, 2015 – Enjoying The Little Things

IMG_3510 Central Park reading days.

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Umm… Can I have them all?


Monday – July 13, 2015 – Oh Weekends How Short Thou Art…

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We all handle work stress differently. That’s okay. Moxie is a safe place for everyone. 

IMG_3583 If I could have one super power it would be to have April’s energy.


Tuesday – July 14, 2015 – Oh, Hi Sai…

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Sai, you are a great fellow GGE Intern. Thanks for showing us how to de-stress at work. 🙂


Wednesday – July 15, 2015 – NYC does not know how to deal with rain.

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April finds us amusing/GGE & Hollaback’s building flooded due to rain -___-

IMG_3630 Hehe so cute. 


Thursday – July 16, 2015 – #Skills

Sai got to see some of her favorite artists!/April teaches Julia how to carry groceries. 


Friday – July 17, 2015 – Site seeing with some Dukies 

IMG_3666Artwork at a cafe near GGE

Learning about fashion at the FIT Museum. IMG_3704Some incredible designs featured at the FIT Museum.


Saturday – July 18, 2015 – Ground Zero 

IMG_3771View from the top of the Freedom Tower

IMG_3835 Underneath the 9/11 Memorial



I’ve been a flaming liberal for as long I can remember. The more I try to figure out the origins of my views, the more I realize that I’ve been leaning left since I was old enough to lean. Even in Coach K’s 6th grade social studies class (Keathly, not Krzyzewski – the GOAT never taught at my middle school), I had trouble understanding why everybody seemed to see socialism as an evil form of governance. My brace-faced self proudly supported Obama in 2008 and even more vehemently in 2012, on the basis of social issues and a belief in the power of bottom-up economics. Since coming to Duke, my views have only solidified as I’ve become more informed. I’m not only a registered Democrat, but a staunch radical feminist.

(I know what you’re thinking.)

But I used to downplay that. I’ll enthusiastically engage in debates with my public policy classmates and fellow Moxies, but rarely, if ever, would I have expressed my views on gay marriage or abortion – or god forbid, tax cuts – to an acquaintance from high school. I pretended like it didn’t bother me that some of my best friends were entirely uninformed about politics because they found it simply uninteresting or “irrelevant” to their lives, and refused to pay attention to the social issues that I’ve always felt passionate about. I acted as though politics were simply an entertaining sideshow to me, when in reality I was consumed by the moral and practical implications of the philosophies that drive the different parties. I wanted to be “moderate.”

News flash – I’m not moderate. I’ve never been moderate. I’ll (probably) never be a moderate. And acting as if I don’t care about the things I care about, doesn’t make me care about them less – it just makes me uncomfortable with myself for something that I shouldn’t ashamed of.

A friend told me that she’d spent her entire life wondering when was the best point in a relationship to divulge that she has two moms – how well should you know a person before you drop that piece of info? – until she finally figured: As. Soon. As. Possible.

There’s no point in trying to become very close with somebody whose views are entirely incongruous with your own. My political beliefs are informed by my worldview, which are intimately influenced by my values and my life experiences – and they’re important to me. Being a radical feminist, and being a Democrat(ic socialist) are cornerstones of my identity, and anybody who isn’t going to accept that part of me is somebody that I don’t need in my life. Sure, I can be friends with somebody who’s planning to vote for Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz (just not D-Trump, please), but I should never hide my own support for Bernie Sanders in order to make myself more palatable to somebody else. A friendship that began with the assumption that I’m conservative (not too much of a stretch, considering that I’m from Texas) would be built on a foundation that would undoubtedly crumble as soon as we became closer. Recently, a boy I’d been talking to told me that SCOTUS made a “huge mistake” legalizing gay marriage – and I only wish he’d said that before I started to become interested in him, because upon having a conversation about our  views, I realized that he was against everything I stand for as a feminist. More importantly, his surprise at my own strongly held views on gender roles, sexuality, and the patriarchy, made me realize how much I’d downplayed my passions at the cost of misrepresenting myself completely.

I’m done waiting until I’m close to somebody before I expose my feminist/socialist side to them. I’ll campaign for Bernie,  I’ll introduce myself as part of a radical non-profit, I’ll wear my left-ist badge loud and proud because it’s an accurate representation of me. An affinity based on a fib is worse than no affinity at all, so I’d rather be my honest self from the get-go. No more hiding who I am.

When did I become an adult?

Year 20.

In my 20 years I have lived through historic highs and historic lows. I still remember 9/11 and cheering on Michael Phelps in my living room when he won all 8 medals.

I have lived through 1 earth quake, 1 fender bender, 1 serious relationship, 2 family members passing, 2 moves, 15 years of education, 2 trips to europe and 1 trip to Nepal. These are but a few diverse experiences I have shaped me and I have kept with me into my adult life.

Yes my adult life. I can officially call myself an adult. Admitting that I am a full fledged adult has been a confusing journey. Possibly this stems from the fact that there are multiple definitions of what an adult consists of.


According to the United States, you are an adult when you turn 18. Unfortunately I can’t agree to this hard and fast rule of 18. At 18, I still had limited knowledge of the patriarchy, politics, the economy and society. My all-girls private education and my father had shielded me from really having to confront these issues, which I blissfully avoided. In retrospect I am happy I was too young to vote in the 2012 election, because I know that I would not have been intellectually equipped with the power of the vote.
1. a person who is fully grown or developed.

According to a quick search on google, an adult is defined by a person who is fully grown or developed. Physically, yes I have to agree, I have not grown an inch since the 11th grade. However this definition still doesn’t capture the essence of becoming or being an adult. No one is fully intellectually developed, and if they think they are… they are wrong. Living in today’s society, our views are constantly challenged, people do things that make us think differently, technology forces us to exercise new ways to connect and relate to one another every week. Look at my grandmother, the easiest way to reach her is on Facebook.

People grow, and people learn.

Here is my own definition:

Adult: A person who has come to understand that they are members of many different units, societies, and systems that are functioning simultaneously. This person recognizes that their actions have consequences and ramifications on lives outside their own.


Yes. That is a long winded definition for a seemingly simple concept.

No. There is no one event that transforms a child to an adult.

So when did I become an adult?

The easiest and most logical argument for many of us would be that going to college creates and instills enough independence to become an adult. I have to argue that adults and independent people are not the same. There are some adults that are both physically and emotionally dependent on others and there are some children that I have nannied that can take better care of themselves than I can take care of myself. Yes, college (supposedly) creates independents, but not necessarily adults. Many college students are not adults in my eyes. They do not recognize the impact that their everyday actions and fail to connect the problems that they encounter everyday on a systemic level. There are many people who are better at being adult because they did NOT go to college. College has created another private bubble for many of us, myself included, to wander intellectually but never experience other people’s diverse lives and experience.

To truly be an adult, one has to make the classic aristotle vs copernicus switch. An adult sees themselves as an active connected member in the mess of our society.

If it wasn’t moving thousands of miles away than what was it?

One does not become an adult over night. Instead it was a lengthy list of experiences that forced me to recognize my own identities, and take control of my own position in relation to others in society.

It was deciding that I was no longer pre-med and saw that my own skills would be better invested somewhere else.

It was forcing myself to cut some people out of my life because of how they treated me and how they encouraged stagnation instead of progress.

It was correcting someone when they said something extremely sexist and not feeling bad about it at all.



It was coming to NYC and participating in this program. No other experience has challenged me to think multi-dimensionally, multi-laterally and further than, “it’s because of the patriarchy.” I have met amazingly smart, witty, intellectual women who have challenged what I thought I knew to be true.

When did I know?

When I realized I truly loved listening to NPR.

me when listening to NPR

My entire childhood, I would complain  that NPR was playing on the way to school. Now, reading the newspaper, listening to NPR, and watching the nightly news has become both a habit and enjoyable past time. This love makes perfect sense. I have found a way to learn more about the systems that I am part of and how they are changing each day. As an adult, I feel a responsibility to understand and think about the issues affecting my community and society.

All of these experiences have allowed me to transition from an angsty teen to a self-proclaimed adult. Becoming an adult was not an easy thing to do. It required many failed attempts, many fights with my father, and many moments of uncomfortable unsureness. Like anything in life, adulthood comes with both drawbacks and benefits. No one is going to believe that you are actually asleep in the back of the car, and bring you to your bed. But as an adult, you can advocate for your beliefs in small and big ways, help your friends and family members on their own life paths, and live with a fierce intentionality that reflect your beliefs. Adulthood brings with it the challenge and ability to constantly change, develop, explore, think, and act.

It think it is a challenge I accept.

Money or Morality?

An expose in the New York Times earlier this summer revealed the horrifying reality that hundreds of immigrant Asian and Latina women endure each day as forced laborers in some of New York’s nail salons.  Many of these women make well below the minimum wage and some don’t get paid at all.  The article explained that many of the women are trafficked from overseas and forced to work in debilitating conditions with barely enough money to survive.  Are you surprised though? How can “employees” possibly be making even minimum wage off of the $19.99 mani/pedi that is advertised in many salon windows? Thousands of women and especially immigrant women or women of color are trafficked either within the United States or brought in from abroad to perform multiple forms of exploitative labor for little or no pay.  The average age that a girl is trafficked is just twelve years old. At Legal Momentum last week, we attended a seminar in which we learned about the shocking prevalence of human trafficking within the country and especially in the New York area.

On the hood of nearly every taxi (and trust me taxis are all over New York), there is an advertisement for a strip club.  We never stop to think that the women on these advertisements may actually be victims of trafficking and forced to perform degrading and physically damaging sexual acts.  Many clubs, massage parlors, and escort services have workforces of trafficked girls.  While New York may be progressive in addressing human trafficking, even passing a law in 2007 which treated traffickers as felons, other states, not so much. In fact, in several jurisdictions, judges will actually refer to girls, some even younger than twelve years old, who have been coerced into performing horrific sexual acts, as “prostitutes” and even criminalize their behavior.


Although trafficked women are arguably subjected to the most exploitative and dangerous forms of labor, millions of women across the globe work in conditions that are, in some cases, just as bad.   As a result of globalization, poor women and especially women of color are forced to labor at factories on their feet for sometimes eighteen hours a day. Many of these women are deceived into thinking that factory work will be their gateway to freedom and mobility outside the home, but instead find that they are indebted to their employers and forced to work until they suffer from life-crippling health conditions.

Being in New York, its hard not to do a little retail therapy and living right next to Fifth Avenue is extremely dangerous, especially given the fact that we live two blocks away from a two-story Forever 21…


Browsing through the stacks and piles of tank-tops, sweaters, jeans, and dresses, I do not even register the massive amount of labor that went into producing each article of clothing. The cheap, disposability of the clothes completely contrasts with the long, back-breaking hours that women spend manufacturing them.  We have distanced ourselves quite literally (the women making these clothes are thousands of miles away) from the exploitation that goes into creating that $10 t-shirt, so that we can shop without any moral reservations and continue to feed this system of excessive consumption.


It is unfair to just blame Forever 21 for contributing to the exploitation of women overseas, now every time I use my iPhone to navigate the city, bend down to tie my shoes, or throwaway an empty coffee cup, I realize that I am benefitting from another woman’s exploitation. How many hours were spent making my shoes? And why did I pay $50 for a pair of sneakers when the women making them were paid less than two dollars for the entire day? How many fumes did the women working at plastic factories inhale just to create cups to supply my coffee habit?  Most women in technology factories lose their eyesight at age twenty-five from spending fourteen hours a day staring through a microscope connecting wires for microchips. These microchips will only be broken, lost, or disposed of within a few months since we constantly damage or upgrade our technological devices. Cheap, exploitative labor is so entrenched into our nation’s economy that we do not even realize the horrific consequences to our excessive consumption and instead turn a blind eye to the working conditions behind that “made in china” or “made in mexico” label.

During the industrial revolution in America, immigrant women received minimal pay and were responsible for laboring in dangerous sweatshops for long hours.  The tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York demonstrates the terrible working conditions that were a daily reality for most women. And before the turn of 19th century, enslaved women were responsible for creating garments. Our nation has always relied upon cheap labor and exploitative practices to fuel our economy.  Today, we simply export that labor overseas and traffik individuals illegally to provide goods and services.  Stopping the age-old practice of cheap, exploitative labor will require extensive and dramatic shifts in policy. Since both witnessing and experiencing the massive consumer culture present in New York, I am struggling to come to terms with the fact that I may never fully be able to escape contributing to another woman’s exploitation.

What I learned in boating school is…

Lie #1: New Yorkers are grouchy, soul-sucking, rude people.

Before I came to the Big Apple just over a month ago, I was pretty intimidated with the well-known perception of how rude native New Yorkers were. The reputations of fictional characters had implanted themselves into my mind as people who I’m supposed to be aware and afraid of running into while in the city.

Granted, I ran into (and away) from people who would ask me for change relentlessly in the subway station, or have people shove me along on the streets as I try to understand the chaos of Times Square.

But with time and repeated encounters, I learned that the rush of the city can be quite relaxing. People are nice if you ask for directions, and I haven’t been cursed out yet! Mostly I’ve learned to stay out of people’s way. The Big Apple’s residents are quite forgiving, as long as you’re not a bumbling and disruptive walker.


Lie #2: You need to have a huge budget.

With a limited stipend, I thought I’d have to be extremely conservative in my purchases. But living here with the mentality of actually living here, is much more affordable than coming to New York with the mindset of coming to visit on vacation.

Using the metrocard to get from place to place, choosing free events to explore in our free time, figuring out how to stock up and navigate a cramped kitchen with healthy and wallet-friendly foods, and checking out the most awesome food trucks has saved tons of money instead of the ways I would typically spend my budget whilst on vacation(eating out daily and  buying tons of souvenirs).

I’ve come the realization that because I have about two months living here, I don’t have to go out every single night, and that sometimes just walking around sightseeing offers just as much fun instead of going out to watch a movie. (Apparently you have to buy your tickets before you even get to the theater.)

Lie #3: You must have a schedule

Despite having a schedule of Moxie events and work hours, I’ve found my stay in New York extremely different than the other trips I’ve made. Almost like attending a tour, every place I’ve visisted, I’ve composed a list of activites on a day to day basis. Here, I find that in my free time, I think about things I want to do and I leave most of that time flexible for me to explore and walk around aimlessly.

My map reading abilities allow me to wander about without the fear of being unable to return back to the dorms. But to be honest, I’ve learned how to rely less on the map while on the streets, and instead try to memorize my path before I head out. Now, instead of feeling rushed all the time, I can enjoy the arbitrary views I stumble upon while heading to my next stop.

Lie #4: Location, location, location

I might be heading here and there, but instead of just walking around everywhere, an expectation I had before actually coming to New York, it has now hit me that not every landmark site is within walking distance. Thanks to movies, television shows, or even advertisements, it appeared that the Rockefeller Center was twenty seconds away from Times Square which is only half an hour away from the Statue of Liberty which is right off the shore of Central Park.

I love walking everywhere, but I’ve realized that my skewed perception of New York thanks to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Gossip Girl means that I can’t teleport. And not everyone takes taxis everywhere. No matter where you go, though, its not some relaxing quiet little cafe or bar. I’m looking at you, How I Met Your Mother. 

There is no place that is not crowded. From finding seats for a group of people in a Whole Foods, to trying to sit on a few steps out in the park, there hasn’t been an easy place to just sit and chill in a quiet space. The media has made restaurants and hanging out in New York, friendly, easygoing places where you can just stumble upon a table to plop down with your friends without shouting at each other across the table.

But as Taylor Swift sings, “welcome to New York.” I sure feel welcomed now that I actually know New York for myself.