Sunday, September 13, 2009


Last weekend I went to the zoo, and the white lipped deer and the rhinoceros are impossibly far apart. And the white lipped Deer are disappointing.

I found out on Tuesday that I will be working in a school called "Howe", a middle school. Whereas the elementary tutors read from scripts essentially all day teaching kids how to read, I will be reading through books with them and facilitating some sort of discussion about what the books mean to the kids and digging in deeper than just merely "I before E except after C". I will be in a classroom 90 minutes a day doing this sort of thing as well as whatever the teacher needs from me. In the mornings I will be calling kids who haven't shown up to school and find out whats going on. I'll tell them they're missed and encourage them to come learn, because learning is cool.

On wednesday, we left for basic training retreat at the YMCA camp Duncan. We did low ropes the first day to build our new school teams. My team is pretty awesome, I think we'll get along great. I only have one team leader, everyone else has two except the one other middle school. But she's cool. Cool enough, I guess. There's a lot of personality in the group, and a lot of openness. After the awful camp food supper, I played two hours of ultimate frisbee. I don't know what the score was, but it was an amazing game. One of the senior Corps members was even inspired to work on a league for City Year so we can play. Because we can't fraternize without our boss's permission. This makes me frustrated, mostly because they're reasoning for it is flawless.

Anyway, the next day was pretty intense. We did a lot of racism and sexism awareness. We also did a privilege line where we all stood in a line and held hands, then Jewan, my bossman, read off statements, and if they were true of you you had to step either forward or backward. The questions were usually along the lines of "have you ever been denied ____ because of (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation)" then step back. some of the step forward ones were "did you go to a private school, have hired help in your home, eat together as a family, etc." Needless to say, I was one of the top twenty privileged people in the line. Some people were way back there. It was eye opening for both ends, and also heartbreaking. When all was said and done, Jewan held up a $10 bill and and said whoever could get it first could keep it. Only one person moved, a senior corps member who wasn't greedy, he just participates in everything to the best of his ability. He was in the front of the privilege line, so he got it easily and quickly. We talked about it later, and the people in the front mostly didn't move out of guilt, the people in the back because they would never make it, and because of the tension in the air because of the exercise.

We talked about all of it as a large group for a while, then split up into smaller groups and talked about it for longer. We did this thing in our school teams the first day where we put down six things that shaped us as people to this point in our lives, and this exercise certainly highlighted some people's events that had changed them. I don't want to go into specifics, for their privacy, but it brought us closer as a team most definitely.

The afternoon after the privilege line, we split the whole group into male and female, and wrote down stereotypes of each gender, then discussed them. We then "played a game" in which a staff of City year would ask a question, and if it applied to you you had to stand up. With 125 people, this got intense. They were all questions about sexism, for the men they asked questions involving violence, embarrassment of perceived "manliness", and other male stereotypes. It was incredible how many people stood up during some of the questions involving violence towards them, from them, or that they witnessed. For the Females, they asked about if they ever felt pressure to diet to look better, make up, and so forth. Eventually we did another round involving sexual abuse, and amazing amounts of people stood up on both sides, giving and receiving anything from catcalls to rape. A lot of tears were shed that day.

We split up into our small school teams again to debrief, and became more of a team.

All of these things were interspersed with fun and games, of course, it is too taxing to handle all those emotions with out a break. All in all, the three days we spent were more than worth it.

This weekend, Bradford and Christian came to visit, and we spent way too much time waiting on the red line for the train to move because of "an emergency situation at the Sheridan stop" Also it was a Cubs game day, so there were too many people crammed into the cars. It happens.
At night we went to Chens, where Greg and I got $100 worth of gift certicficates from because they were giving them away. We had sushi, and it was fantastic.

Today I went shopping with Greg, got a costco membership, and bought a lot of food, which was then transported home via bus. That was interesting and difficult. We made pizza, and now im drinking chammomile tea to combat the sickness I picked up at camp Duncan. Tomorrow I'm applying for food stamps, because they gave us all a half day off to do so and gave us letters recommending us for food stamps from City year.

Also I was in an awkward parade on sunday, involving lots of people shouting "viva Mexico" I felt out of place. But it counted as my service to the CTA so I can get free train/bus pass for the next month.


  1. Ben,
    Sounds like you got yourself a challenging year to look forward to. I'm proud of you. I know you can do it. Stay true to your values. Love you lots. Mom

  2. thanks for blogging. hope everyting goes well.