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!

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.

“I don’t get it.”

This week, one of my close friends “came out of the closet,” a prime time considering that same-sex marriage was legalized in all fifty states shortly afterwards.


My friend (let’s refer to him as “C”) admitted few days before the momentous day that he was uncertain about his sexuality, but knew that he was certainly attracted to men. A couple of days later, he called me again, saying that he had dated women before, and he was still attracted to women. The day after, he said he felt pansexual after being “desexualized.”

If everything seemed overwhelming for me, I can’t possibly imagine how it must have felt for C. However, what really challenged me in my limited encounters with these scenarios was the term C used: “desexualized.” We’ve talked about sexuality existing on a spectrum, and this dynamic identity that may or may not change as we age. Wanting to be supportive throughout the whole process, I was calm, understanding, and most importantly, actively listening. But I admitted to both him and myself that I was confused about “desexualizing.” I was afraid to admit that I didn’t know and still don’t know how to help C, who seeks my help and my comfort in figuring out his sexuality or even asexuality. But I felt guilty of trying to place him into a category, defining people when I don’t understand enough.

One of the many facets that allow us to differentiate from other beings is compassion.

The real life carework practiced at the organizations the Moxies are partnered with exemplify that the most human trait that we can do is empathize. And by definition, to empathize is to attempt to understand others by identifying and sharing in their feelings. But not all situations demand empathy, and it may not even be the best course of action—something I found shocking.

While I’ve always thought that empathizing would be an effective approach when comforting someone, it is also important to acknowledge what one is going through instead of trying to relate to my own personal experiences.

Even with my work at National Domestic Worker’s Alliance, before I get ready to interview domestic workers and home caretakers, I’ve been informed that I shouldn’t empathize all the time but rather listen. I’m not supposed to comfort someone who’s crying and say “It’s okay! Don’t cry, you’re not at fault!” Instead I’m supposed to acknowledge their sadness or frustration, and let them know I understand their feelings.

The road to self-discovery is not an easy one. Many pit stops are along the way: we go back on what we say, what we’ve promised ourselves; we “double think” by questioning and reanalyzing what may have been previously thought as certain elements in our lives. We may only take a certain path for a while, then switch to a different one. It may just be a phase. But as the youngest person in the Moxie group, and perhaps the most naïve, I realize that it’s okay to not know. College is the time when you question everything about yourself and what you want to do. This is the time where everything gets confusing, but instead of being afraid, I’ve come to the revelation that not knowing is a freedom, a luxury, that I can afford at this time and space.

This uncertainty that would have caused me anxiety not so long ago, has evolved into positive energy. I’ve felt safe admitting that I don’t understand. I don’t need to always need to have an answer, to speak up. Strangely enough I do find myself able to empathize, because I am also confused. That itself is a way to demonstrate my care, instead of trying to redirect someone’s feelings back to myself.

I’m confused, and I don’t know the answers. I may never know. And that’s okay.

Subway Revelations

I’d dreamt of the dizzying blur of giant, metal cages whittling by, filled with mysterious people headed to mysterious places that I would never know. I’d seen in famous movies, read in great novels of the infamous underground stations, thinking it was some great rainbow road transportation service comparable to flying across the world in an airplane. All my training on Duke buses (C3’s, anybody?) had prepared me for this very moment. And by the end of my first day in one of these magical, speeding contraptions, I could finally say that I had been inside a real subway train. A real New York City subway train.

A real smelly, crowded, fast, disorienting, jerky New York sbway train.

All this time, I had romanticized the idea of the subway–a fantastic line of trains, hidden from plain sight on the ground, but busy taking people across the state underneath the surface. Not to mention super convenient and very wallet-friendly! But as I stood inside one of these hovering cars, the realism hit me: the tangible fact that I was inside one, getting to my first day of work at National Domestic Workers Alliance…and it didn’t feel that great. To be honest, I felt a little cheated. Strange men would floss their teeth with their beards in front of me, people who smelled like they lived with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the sewer would linger nearby.

And let’s just not mention the lack of personal space. 

Before my work this summer, I had always dreamed of what it would be like working for a non-profit organization. Saving the world during the day, feeding children and families by night. What would it be like serving in the non-profit, doing the most noble work, helping those who can’t help themselves?

And I found out. By the end of my first week, I’d put together information packets, run errands, organize deposit slips, eat lunch at my desk, make seating charts, deal with demon printers from hell. I hadn’t saved any domestic workers. Or their children. Or fed any of them.

I had become one of those mysterious people headed off to mysterious places that I’d dreamt of, but I wasn’t riding a unicorn to work every day. I wasn’t saving any lives by keeping the office tidy and getting supplies.

But as NDWA drilled in the meetings and interviews I attended thus far: all work is valuable. Sure, I’m not doing some grand gestures with the underprivileged.  But just as domestic workers assist with the basic work that keeps families running, I am helping the people who help domestic workers fight for their human rights. The administrative and events planning I do serves as a foundation for the work that the other staff can build upon. Without this helping hand, there’s more work for the staff, and less time assisting the needy.

The subway trains aren’t whimsical hovercraft shuttle services, but #funfact they transport over millions of people a day. They may be stinky and crowded, but they get everyone where they need to go, on time and safely, without going bankrupt.

As a tourist and a student intern in a completely foreign place, I do have to abandon my comforts and expectations of my subway daydreams. But it’s through this demolishment of the romantic that allows me to truly see the makings of the world–in particular, the non-profit world.

It would be ridiculous to claim newfound understanding of the care sector; but within this week and a half, my vision has only grown. And who knows what more I will discover about charitable work and myself.

And with that, I should probably get off at this stop! 

Until next time,


Confessions of a Secret Feminist:

Andrea is a sophomore at Duke who will be working with the National Domestic Workers Alliance this summer.

Hey! Hello!

My name is Andrea Lin and I am a rising sophomore studying Biology and Music Performance, and as you can probably tell, my interests are all over the place. Born and raised in Arizona, I didn’t really understand why so many of the people around me didn’t consider themselves feminists. But, I didn’t want to be that one weird kid, so I never brought up feminism until I came to Duke where so many of my peers openly discussed racial, gender, religious, or political issues.

As I prepare for New York with the Moxie Project this summer, I look back on the mind-opening experiences of my freshman year and confront my old hesitations of openly admitting my support for feminism.

Aristotle once claimed that there is only one way to be “good,” but many ways to embody evil. Plot twist: I don’t agree with Aristotle. #sorrynotsorry

Despite movies depicting the flawless superhero and the corrupted super-villain, television shows about the mean girl and saintly underdog, tales marking the hellish monsters that plague our planet and worlds unknown, we know that “IRL” good versus evil is a cloud of “un”absolutes, no black and white line discerning the most good and most evil. I’m sure some of us would say: Murder itself is bad, but we consider the scenarios (self defense?) and even then, the greatest evils are even called into question—in which we can go into philosophical debate about sometime later.

It took me some self-contemplation to realize that even if we are different–just as I felt different calling myself a feminist amongst my peers–it doesn’t make us “bad people.” We often associate people who are different as people who are wrong, and by extension, people who are bad. Naturally I paired my anomalies with being “bad.” But now, my exposure to such open conversation, I consider my hesitation “bad.”

My mission this summer with the Moxie Project can be traced back to this internal conundrum: I’m not a bad person just because I am unaware. When I, along with so many, grow up in a culture that allows and encourages men to treat women the way they do, how are you supposed to know that it’s wrong? We trivialize so many of these actions that we don’t even recognize it as a problem.

I don’t want to become a cynical, man-hating, party-pooper feminist. The kind of extreme feminist that both certain women and men alike don’t want to be associated with. But I do want to become a feminist that is aware of the inequalities and equalities between the sexes. I want to become aware of the demand, the push of so many people fighting for their rights over the course of time…the uncomfortableness of reform, I want to understand.

I am afraid of this change that may come during my summer with National Domestic Workers Alliance and with the nine other Moxie girls–to admit that there’s so much that I don’t understand and to still want to be part of.

Bigger plot twist: I guess there is one thing that I can agree on with Aristotle: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”