Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hot, Fast-Paced New York

Today began as a much more relaxed day, and when we left the hotel, we had planned on having it stay that way. But New York had other plans. That's not to say I didn't have another fantastic day. Trust me, I did; I am only saying that it didn't happen quite the way we drew it up.

As I said, today began much more relaxed than the previous days. We woke up at 9:30, not 6:30, and in no hurry whatsoever, boarded the 1 for a few stops down to Times Square. We've actually passed under Times Square on the subway 5 or 6 times, but have yet to see it, and today would be the same, as we then took the S to Grand Central Station.
Aboard the 1 heading downtown

Grand Central Terminal
We ate at Grand Central Terminal, which, I must say, is a magnificent place, and soon after, we boarded a train going north to Yonkers for a visit of Sarah Lawrence College. 
Also, I didn't mention earlier, but today was, according to Mrs. Kronenberg, the hottest day of the year so far in New York. World of mouth told me that schools scheduled to end tomorrow (Thursday) made today the last day of school instead, and many even let their kids out early, all to avoid today and tomorrow's brutal heatwave. We had begun to feel the heat on the walk to the subway earlier in the morning, but when we got off the train in Yonkers at around midday, the heat really hit us. For anyone who hasn't experienced East Coast heat, it's completely different from heat on the West Coast; East Coast also comes with a great deal of humidity, which, if you don't like it, can create sort of a suffocating feeling, similar to being cooked in an oven. Personally, though, I absolutely love the heat and love the summer weather here in New York, humidity and all, and I would spend the rest of my life in 100 degree humid heat if I could.
Anyway, we got off the train and took a taxi to Sarah Lawrence College's front entrance. Their campus was very green, full of trees, plants and grassy areas, and was located on a hill (as a result, everyone on the campus is in great shape from walking up and down these hills). I also was very impressed by some of their buildings, although they weren't quite as impressive as the architecture on Penn's campus. Still, though, the setting of the campus was fantastic in my opinion. I wasn't huge on the fact that it wasn't in a very well-populated area, but its proximity to New York (roughly 30 minutes) makes you feel like you're still close to an urban area if you need it (and I feel I do).

Some of Sarah Lawrence College's dorms
Another thing I really loved about Sarah Lawrence was the freedom you have as a student to make your education be exactly what you want it to be; there is no core curriculum, only a few very broad requirements. I'd say I was neutral or favorable toward everything at Sarah Lawrence except for one thing - its size. Sarah Lawrence has only 1300 students and is not in a very well-populated area. I am somebody who loves to explore and see new things everyday, and Sarah Lawrence just doesn;t fit my personality in the sense that with its size, I may not be seeing something new every day. This is just a personal thing, and it may mean nothing to somebody else, but it is very important to me to be discovering new people, places, and things every day. I can say, though, that Sarah Lawrence is afantastic place to go to school for anyone who prefers a smaller setting. I also got a lot out of my visit (and yesterday's visit to Penn as well) in regards to my new interest in schools with loose core curriculums and class requirements.
At the conclusion of our tour, we called the taxi service that promised they would have all 7 of us at the train station within 5 minutes of our call. When we called about 15 minutes before our train left, they told us that they could have 1 taxi, not 2, at Sarah Lawrence in about 15 minutes. About 30-40 minutes after this call, they showed up with one taxi, and we missed not one, but TWO trains back to Manhattan. This wouldn't have been too big of a deal, I was really enjoying myself, but we had a dinner to be at later that night. We got the train back and hopped into a taxi at Grand Central Station, which turned out to be a bad idea during rush hour; traffic was terrible. Also, New York's reputation for having some pretty gutsy drivers is very well-deserved. When all was said and done, we arrived at the hotel with 15 minutes to shower all the sweat off and dress up in a suit for a fancy dinner. Within 10 minutes of leaving the hotel, though, walking through the 99 degree heat in a suit, it was as if I hadn't even taken a shower. And this goes without mentioning the furnaces that are the subway stations.
The dinner, which took place at Brasserie 8 1/2 on West 57th Street, was once again extrememly delicious. It turns out that prime steak tartare is raw meat, which was a complete surprise to me, but I gave it a try and it was very good. As a main course, I had the Crusted Maine Halibut (I'm a huge fan of fish; I'll probably order a lot more over the course of this trip) over some sort of risotto (I don't really know what I'm eating half the time), which was also super delicious. The best part of the dinner for me, though, was the great conversation Lenny, Tomi and I had with Lissette Duran, who graduated from Penn and is currently studying law at Columbia. We discussed tons of the things we love about Penn, including its diversity and cultural integration (although this is not always the case), along with its amazing campus, academic freedom and the flexibility of Penn's system in relation to the social and academic lives of its students. Along with Penn, though, the four of us also had a great talk with Mrs. Kronenberg and Mrs. L about the power of teachers and theiur tenure, Teach for America, the Ivy League Connection, how we can make students in our district more aware of college oppurtunities, and most interestingly in my opinion (although it was all interesting), the relationship between the Constitution and many of society's issues today. 
Well, I have to sleep now; we've each been running on barely enough energy for the past few days, and if I delve into things in any more detail, tomorrow, which includes two two-hour train rides and even hotter weather than today, will not be too easy. We've been doing so much each day that these blogs take forever to write; there is so much to write! I'm having an amazing time so far, and we'll do it all again tomorrow at 6:30!

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