Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Sunday Fair and the Results

Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy, what a week we had! Sunday we were involved in an Asian American for Equality Summer Festival, on Bayard St.-, which was exciting because three weeks ago we interns had suggested Hester Street could participate in a community fair as a means of raising awareness of the mission of Hester Street. A table was rented for last Sunday’s fair in Chinatown. We spent the whole week preparing for it. Tuesday and Wednesday us men constructed a wooden frame to display posters. All of Friday was spent on xeroxing and printing postcards, newsletters, posters, and the blog. The xerox machine and I are not colleagues anymore. We are enemies.

On Sunday, we packed up everything and setup shop on the corner of Bayard St. Leslie from Leroy Street and Dominick’s friend Alena came to help Anne and us interns. As you can see, I had made a sketch of all of us at the table. I had imagined that we would have had a hard time passing out flyers, but it was quite the opposite. I don’t know if the residents understood what it said, but they took them. The little old Chinese ladies were especially happy to take free stuff. They took our paper clips from the table, and one asked if she could have our only pen. I grew up knowing about that sort of behavior, but pens and paper clips?

Dominick and I had a problem handing them out, but the ladies did a marvelous job. I guess people that pass by can’t resist a nice smile. Alena single-handedly was able to draw in two pages worth of contact information for the mailing list. But it’s not to say that the guys did nothing. Dominick was very charming to the people his own age that spoke primarily English. Since I was the only Cantonese-speaking member of the group, I had to act as the Hester Street representative to the Chinese Community. I’m a very, very shy kid and not too knowledgeable with Chinese, but I tried my best. I explained to the bewildered people of the organization’s desire to have the youth of the community to help restore broken down areas and replant flowers. If I had more time to prepare, I think I would have described Hester Street more correctly. But, the adults understood what I was getting at, and were excited to hear of available activities for their kids.

In the end though, we managed to pass out all of the papers and postcards. I was so glad that the day was finally over. I thought I was going to eventually faint from an anxiety attack.

Today Anne, Dominick, and I explained to Alex, Jenny, Susan, and our littlest member Jesenia of our experience. We broke into teams to brainstorm on methods and activities to improve on future conventions. Generally, most of us wanted to have an activity involving children, possibly either a hands-on project or a game. We voted on the best ideas, and Alex pulled out the ones that sounded reasonable to do. Each of us volunteered to work on one activity. We will explore methods of educating children and their parents about Hester Street, methods of gaining information from the community and new ways of getting people involved in Hester Street, and improving the community. My assignment is to find ways for participants to gain knowledge of Hester Street by transforming postcards into a three dimensional piece that represents Hester Street. Presentations will be given on Friday. Wish me luck.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Journal Entry By Susan

Today’s day of work started out a little differently. Instead of going to the garden first, Jenny and I went to the office to plan out our next garden-related agenda. That didn’t really happen though. We worked on something else that was just as important.

It was really early, around 9 a.m., but we were already up for some researching. Chelsea Garden Center had promised Hester Street Collaborative some donations of plants for the garden weeks ago. They haven’t arrived yet and it was getting pretty hard to be patient since I wanted to plant them. We thought the problem was that it was hard for the Garden Center to contact Jenny, the one who convinced them to contribute to the garden. Or maybe the problem was the transportation of the plants. My job was to research on van/truck rentals with enough storage room at an affordable price. I had some help from William, Dominick and Jenny, but still we couldn’t decide on a vehicle. Well, this could wait until later since we didn’t even know the amount of plants we were going to get.

In the garden, the mosaics were a big issue. Everyday we always trying to take another step in finishing the mosaics. When I arrived, I immediately started work on the mosaics. In other words, I cleaned the tiles by scraping off pieces of cement glue sticking out that prevents us from filling spaces with pieces. I used a hammer and “the claw” together. It was hard work. I had to twist my wrists in different angles. It tired me out. While I was cleaning, others were trying to finish the river mosaic and the pieces that contrast against it. We were concentrating, so there wasn’t a lot of conversation going around.

At the end of the day only Jenny, Jesenia, Le Wen, Zi Yi, and I were left in the garden. The garden was a mess, but by each of us taking on a certain task, we were able to finish in about a half an hour. I know that seemed like a long time, but for us, it was pretty fast. The mosaics seemed more complete and cleaner than before

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Gardening Today by Jenny

Hey. This is Jenny again reporting on the work in the garden. Today’s session has contributed to the construction, as usual. And as usual, today’s session has its pros and cons.

Well, lets talk about the cons first. What happened today that drove me crazy was when the little volunteers kept mistaking the real plants for weeds. We ended up having to replant several flowers. They didn’t know what a weed look like, so we tried to explain it was anything that looks like grass or has a red stem. It was so cute when this little girl replanted the leaves because she thought that it might grow into a tree. Others also became confused with the fact that grass is a weed. I guess we should have been more specific.

I guess another con would be that we could have better organized the gardening tasks for that day. We only fixed up the part of the garden that looked as thought need a lot of attention. Although that does help maintain a tamed appearance, nothing drastic has changed.

What I thought most improved today was the little kids from the camp kept looking through the fence and asked if they do some gardening, even though they were in the middle of playing dodge ball or basketball. I was so glad that kids just came in interested in working in the garden with us. Especially since it would take a pretty long time for 5 or 6 people to finish the gardening ourselves. I was hoping from our last session at the garden that we could influence the kids who volunteered last time to help out again, if it seemed more enjoyable than other activities. We could make friends with them so they wouldn’t hesitate to come help again. From today, I guess it was a success since so many kids came to garden. Some didn’t even tolerate the fact that they had to leave to eat lunch.
We were able to fix up parts of the garden that we always neglect, like the area under the bushes. We raked up all the leaves under there and surprisingly it made was a big difference. I didn’t think that people could tell that there were leaves under a bush. Well, the hard labor of raking paid off, so I hope the leaves on the bushes will stay there.

Gardening Today by Susan

The very first thing I remembered, when Jenny and I finally showed up to the garden, was people telling us that we were late. We arrived at approximately 10:30 am. That seemed early to me. Anyways, we came earlier than we did on Tuesday, so we were off to a good start. The kids from Henry Street Settlement were already there, along with everyone else from Hester Street. For what seem like a small garden, there sure is a lot to do – especially when it comes to weeding and cleaning. I tackled that job today with the help from almost everyone.

Near one end of the garden there was this plot of flowers that was 99% filled up with weeds. Jenny, William, three kids from Henry Street and I weeded that container. At first, the job went really slow. We had a problem distinguishing plants from weeds. As a result, many flowers were pulled. To stop the massacre, we organized ourselves into smaller groups with different responsibilities. Some weeded, some discarded the piles of weed, and others replanted the flowers that were pulled by accident. (Must save the flowers!)

After we became a little more organized, we had a lot of fun. It wasn’t awkward at all. We talked, joked, laughed and worked at the same time. Later on, others joined in wanting to help too. I guess one thing successful today was that we learned to work together and get along. It wasn’t that hard.

After that big job was done, I went to help clear leaves and garbage from behind the benches. It required a lot of careful handling from everyone involved because we didn’t want to kill plants, or accidentally dig up seeds. It was kind of frustrating, since the plants were all tangled in garbage and they snap easily. However, it was all worth it because a lot of people thought that it looked cleaner.

Our teamwork was super, but something we need to improve on is cooperation between other groups. For instance, it could get really nasty if someone was picking up trash in the soil and suddenly someone waters the area they’re at. Not only would they get soaked, but also wet dirt and mud is not pleasurable to work in.

Oh yeah… At the end of our work in the garden today, we all pitched in to clean the materials. Anne made me realize that I have a problem with trying to be a perfectionist! I guess I have to learn that garden work does not require every single job to be done perfectly.