I am currently working on an article about the Philadelphia’s School District recent budget cuts and impact they are having and will have on both students, the economy and teachers. Very disheartening piece.
The first time I experienced a hurricane I was about five years old. We were living in a pink headmaster’s house in Cockburn Town, San Salvador, Bahamas. I can vividly remember the neighbors boarding their windows in preparation for the hurricane. When Hurricane Lili struck the island she came in full force, I now know it was because the eye of the storm passed over Southwestern cluster of islands that make up the Bahamas. I remember the wind blowing down a large tree, blocking any entrance or exit of our street. As the wind began to pick up our back door flew open and the birds, who were previously dealing with winds reported to have been over 100mph, flew into our small pink house seeking shelter, settling on pots that sat on the stove . As the birds and my family grew comfortable, my sister and I gathered by the front window to watch the hurricane’s wrath. We gasped as we saw pigs from the farms on the other side of the fly by, squealing. Note that according to The Bahamas Guide, the island is only 63 sq. miles. We saw our satellite dish fly across the street onto our neighbor’s property. Now this was no small feat our satellite dish was nothing like those of today, in fact it was probably over 20 times larger than the small grey dish that now resides on the roof of my parents’ home, and was attached to a black pole, much taller than our house. I remember as the winds died down, walking outside to inspect the damage with my dad. Trees succumbed to Lili’s gusts of wind and had fallen all around us. Several animals displaced, miles away from their homes and farms. I recently learned from my parents that there were no deaths on the island during that hurricane.
Fast forward 15 years later, the night Hurricane Irene was expected to hit Philadelphia, I crawled into bed and slept as the hurricane killed, destroyed and caused floods on the east coast. While many believe that the hurricane was “hyped” by the media, I believe that it was the hype that saved lives and lessened possible damages. Americans were prepared for the hurricane as those Bahamians were 15 years ago. And as the sun shines on a beautiful Monday morning, I am thankful that the media created a “hype.”
Every time I leave North Philadelphia, I experience a culture shock. I have yet to comprehend or accept the diversity and extremes that the city offers. I ventured to Olney this past Wednesday for an interview and was rather intrigued by what I saw. First I learned that Olney was a train stop away from Logan, another area that I mentioned in my research paper, an area where Cambodians originally settled. Getting off the Broad Street Line, I walked up the stairs to find a street that did not look much different from N. Broad, however the people, they were different. I saw a mixed crowd awaiting the bus, which took an hour to come. Boarding the crowded 18 towards Fox Chase, I left the train station unsure of what to expect when I got off. Multitasking writing ideas for questions to ask during the interview, I looked around at the people on the bus. I watched as a man took up two seats, one for himself, the other for his bag while a pregnant woman stood, clutching the rail. I watched as a hispanic and a black man stood in the door way, riding the ground through the bumps and stops. Here I thought, maybe this area wouldn’t be too different from New York or even North Philadelphia. The bus stopped and I got off on Olney and 5th. Looking around, I realized that I was wrong. Olney was far different from North Philly. There was an African hair braiding store next to a Korean law office. A Cambodian consulate standing in the middle of residential homes. An Asian gift store on a block with a Korean hair salon. I’m not sure if my personal life or school work will ever lead me to again to Olney, but the trip did open my eyes to the idea that Philadelphia has a lot more to offer.
Slowly progressing, but I’m currently working on my proposals. I have a definite angle for the news story and I’m working on one for the research paper as I go along. One statistic that kept popping up while I was reading on Cambodians, specifically education was that only a small percentage of Cambodian Americans go to college and according to one of my textbooks, Global Philadelphia, by Takenaka and Osirim, only 47% of Cambodian American graduate high school. I’m hoping to take a closer look at the journey most Cambodian Americans take through Philadelphia’s education system and show one or two examples of students who overcame the odds and went on to college.
I can only hope that I have a defined plan for the research paper.