Times Square

           My first time in time square was something that was incredibly memorable. It crazy how you can live in New York but never been to Times Square. that was my case. I lived in staten Island for 7 yrs and i had never been to Times Square.After coming to college in August my roommates always tried to convince me that the trip would be worth while. i finally decided to go with them. It was mid October and it was a Thursday. We decided to take the walk to hillside ave to take the F train. Doing the whole trip the only the only thing i was thinking about was that was the trip really worth it. I thought it was just a whole bunch of hype behind it.

            The trip was about 45 mins to Times Square. We were under ground but the moment i stepped out from the subway to Times Square I knew i made the right choice. Times Square was incredibly packed  on a Thursday in the middle of October. I was amazed by all the bright lights and the billboard signs everywhere. it was around 8pm at night but in Times Square the lights lit up the night sky. We walked to the intersection of times square where the streets are shaped in the form of a “Y”. there where so many stores that i wasn’t sure which one to go to first. i decided to start at the end and walk my way up. the first store was the Hersey chocolate factory which had my favorite brand of candy. After that one of my friends i was with she wanted to go to Forever 21 which we did and it had about 3 floors in it. Going in there i saw they had a Men’s section too which i never knew so i learned something new about Forever 21. After leaving we went into other stores like toy r us which was huge also. it seems like every store on Times square was about 3 times the normal size you would see anywhere else. 

         Walking on the streets alone was interesting. There were a lot of people singing or dancing or even dressed up in a superhero costume. we say a tall batman who wanted to take a picture with us but for a price. we saw a chubby spider-man and we also saw the famous naked cowboy. After seeing all this we head back to school. but i can truly say that going to Times Square was a memorable experience that i wish i didnt experience sooner. 


Christmas Spectacular

Maria Marquez
DNY – Professor Hala
Blog Post

Christmas Spectacular

It’s fast approaching that time of year where everyone is bustling about Christmas cheer and busy finding the perfect gifts for their friends and family.  To get into the holiday cheer my suitemate and I purchased tickets to the Christmas Spectacular through our St. John’s discount.  We had to get to Radio City without anyone else.  This would mean we would be travelling without the guidance of someone more familiar with the location like we did normally.  I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to use our shared knowledge to get there using public transportation.  During the beginning of the year I would feel worried of getting lost and not being able to find my way through the MTA.  However, when we went to Radio City I felt more comfortable and at ease travelling using a subway and a bus.  That alone is phenomenal for me because I have such a terrible sense of direction.  It amazes me that it’s only been one semester and I’m already that much better with the public transportation system.

When we got to our stop, we decided to eat before watching the show because we knew we were going to be hungry and the food there was going to be too expensive.  I took my suitemate to eat Halal on 53rd and 6th.  I had gone on several previous occasions and believe that everyone should have the chance to enjoy such a meal at least once in their lives.

Upon reaching the actual Radio City venue I was struck with sheer awe as it was my first time ever seeing such a sight.  The ceilings were high and there was a giant rotating chandelier in the center of the room.  The magnitude of the building was really impressive and only added to the experience of actually watching the Christmas Spectacular.  While we were sitting in the third mezone our spots were still appreciable as we were able to get an excellent view of the show.  I was really amazed with the lighting and movement of the set pieces along with the actual coordination of the dances.  Overall this experience has made my holiday season that much better especially because I have never been to such a spectacle.

Encountering Strangers.

Encountering Strangers

            Talking to strangers never really was my thing. I may seem as the type of person who could bravely go up to any person and spark up a conversation, but in reality I am pretty shy. For starters, I’m scared of how the conversation can go. I build up all sorts of scenarios in my mind that could make the conversation go wrong in so many ways. Would the person feel offended in any certain way by the question I’m asking? Or do they say one thing and their body language show another.

            For this assignment I first chose to interview the old school Italian barber around my home. My neighborhood was one of the unlucky ones to get hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Either way, people around the community showed lots of unity by helping each other out in the midst of darkness. Trying to get my life back to normal, I decide for a walk around the neighborhood with my adorable Airedale Terrier. I see the old aged Italian barber in front of his shop. As I see him from afar I don’t know what exactly he’s doing but as I get closer to him I hear the mild sounds of weeps. Immediately, my caring gentle side takes over and I ask what’s wrong. He responds by saying he’s had enough. I ponder at the response and he shows me the damaged done to his shop. The clear glass of the shop that has written CLIP JOINT is shattered and the barbershop seems to have some slight flooding. I have the audacity to ask how his home is and I wish I hadn’t. The poor man brakes down in front of me and says his wife is in the hospital because she had suffered a heart attack during the hurricane. He added by saying his brand new car is complete wrecked and the water damage in his house is so bad he’s staying over at a shelter. Immediately I felt compassion for this man and couldn’t find the words to say to him. I wished him the best of luck because I knew staying there any longer would soon bring tears to my eyes. He thanked me and I went on my way. Not once did we officially introduce ourselves but I sure did feel a lot of compassion for this old man.

            A couple of weeks passed by and I decided to go to see this years Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. That place is a complete mess. There were tourist everywhere and I began to regret coming in the first place, but I knew I had to at least talk to someone for this assignment. I settled for one of the people on line for the ice skating rink. He was the typical good-looking European tourist with the Abercrombie and Fitch clothing to go along with his good looks. At first I was hesitant to talk to him, I guess it was his good looks scaring me away. I introduced myself and explained the whole project for DNY and he agreed to answer any of my questions. The first question I asked was if it was his first time in the big apple. He smiled and said “Yes, and I am loving it”. That’s when I notice someone equally good looking next to him. I ask if they came together and he responded, “Yes, he’s my boyfriend. We want to ice skate for the first time here at Rockefeller Center.” It’s only then when I remember, of course, gorgeous men tend to be gay. I end the now awkward on my part conversation by saying farewell and thanking them for their time.

            I decide to forget about my interaction with the gay men by walking into an H&M. I love shopping and this is one of my go to places. As soon as I walk in I see these adorable pants I must have and I ask of the workers for help. Her name is Stephanie, and she looks quite flustered when I approach her. She apologizes when I ask her for a size 26 in the pants and says all small sizes are gone. It is then I take the initiative to ask her if she likes her job. She responds by saying, “I used to love this store but now that I actually work here I hate it. Honestly, I’m only here for the money. I need it to pay tuition. Between you and me, I should be getting paid double during the holiday season, but I’m only making 7.60 the hour!” I know exactly what it feels like to be in debt because of college and I feel a bit of sympathy. I give her a reassuring smile and say, “I know exactly what that feels” and walk away, because in reality I do. I hate minimum wage and wish college were just free like in the Scandinavian countries.

            During my encounters with these three strangers, I noticed that strangers seem more lenient to tell you more about themselves than they probably would let someone closer to them know. A great example of this would be the attractive gay couple at Rockefeller Center. They were open about the sexual preference with me, and I’m not even a tad bit close to them. In all, apart from being a overall shy person, I kind of enjoyed doing this assignment. 

ASL Reaction

In mid-November, I completed part of my Academic Service Learning hours at Kehilat Sephardim Food Pantry. I’m sure many of you are aware of this establishment since it is so close to campus (maybe some of you have also done your ASL requirements here). I was a little surprised by what I saw. It was a quiet, homey-looking establishment, certainly nothing like the food pantries I’ve worked at before. The interior was almost like a house, with a kitchen, but where the living room would be, there was a small little synagogue of sorts.

After filling out the necessary paperwork, we were led out to a small garage in front of the building and were instructed to pack vegetables into bags. “If someone comes by asking for food”, the manager noted, “You have to refuse, because we only distribute the bags on Sundays”. I simply shrugged it off. I didn’t think anyone in the area would be that desperate for food (yes, a silly thought on my part.) But sure enough, an elderly woman with a thick accent rattled the garage door a bit, asking for three potatoes. My roommate, who was completing her ASL hours with me, was the one to speak up and tell her that we could not fulfill her request. The woman cried quietly in desperation, which certainly didn’t make me feel any less guilty. Sometimes we forget that there are people in need, when we live somewhat sheltered on our campus. The few hours I put in at this food pantry certainly reminded me of that truth.


(This was on all of the boxes)

Negotiating Public Space.

Jessica Castillo

December 2012

Discover New York- Professor Nicole Hala


Negotiating Public Spaces

            Thanksgiving is notorious to bring even the worst families together. Many people around the states travel hundred and thousands of miles to be together with their loved ones. The love for food brings everyone together, while food comas mean only one thing, ‘stories from long ago’. For others, Thanksgiving means getting together and planning your Christmas shopping list. Black Friday, ironically is the day after Thanksgiving, where most Americans say things they are already thankful for. Yet they still find the time to get on these ridiculously long lines over night to get their Christmas shopping done. This year I not only got to experience a lovely dinner with my family, but also got to experience the craze of the Back Friday shopping.

            We had spent a wonderful dinner at home, and honestly I was ready to sleep at about 11pm that night thanks to the food coma. Just as I head upstairs to my room I’m informed that we are going out to buy an unnecessary television for the basement. Notorious for great Black Friday specials, Walmart had a great deal on a flat screen LED television, and my brother had his eyes all over it. He convinced my father and sooner rather than later we appeared at the huge line at the Gateway Mall Shopping Center. I decided to tag along not just for the experience but rather thought it would be a great place to observe the crowd for my DNY assignment.

            Observing people really isn’t my thing. Yea here and there we all do it in order to be cautious of our surroundings but I have noticed people really don’t like to be looked at in this city. I decided I had to go about this in a very discrete manner and I thought I accomplished my goal quite well. On line, I noticed a lot of minorities especially African Americans. They didn’t look the type to be from a high class in fact I’d say they were probably low middle class. They kept mentioning how great it would be if they could use their ‘food stamps’ in their shopping’s. The clothing the men wore was quite stereotypical. Big, chunky, flashy chains with baggy jeans that revealed there preferred boxers for the day, and the Ralph Lauren tee or sweater. The women were more of the tight jeans that made some either look like they had the best body in town, or a stuffed sausage. They seemed more concerned with their hair more than anything. Most had their hair bright red, typical after Rihanna introduced the craze. The people behind me made small talk with me. They looked like they were in there forties and explained they were only there for the fun of it. They told me their story about how the got to this country and how the land of new opportunities wasn’t meeting their expectations. My background ‘music’ was the sound of hoodlums shouting and cursing, and I saw the disgust in the men’s faces. I knew they were still not used to that behavior, while for me it’s more of a norm even though I despise it. Once inside I saw something that quite shocked me. Two young African American males making quick cash. Not only did they have about 15 flat screen TVs but sold each one to desperate consumers in the chaos inside. The TVs were hard to get a hold of, and people did just about everything to buy one that day. Nonetheless, people were bound to go to these two young males and pay the price to have it in order to actually purchase it.

            At the end of the day we were lucky to find the television my brother wanted without paying the guys extra cash just to actually purchase it at the register. Everyone at Walmart was going crazy, and not only was it annoying to hear people scream but the feeling of someone’s breath was quite irritating as well. This was perhaps the first and only black Friday experience I will ever have. I decided that the reactions of many people weren’t much to my liking, and for me standing on long lines for something just doesn’t cut it. 

Negotiating Public Space

            During Christmas holidays, people follow such strict social norms that it is almost strange to see someone not following them. For example a social norm is to decorate the inside and outside of your house with lights and Christmas trees. During this time of year driving around you will not be about o drive down 3 blocks of house without seeing some type of Christmas decorations. This time of year also bring a social norm that affects people internally which is happiness and kindness. People feel the need to give and share the Christmas spirit with everyone which spreads happiness like a plague. Social norms like Santa Clause comes out when children expect to receive gifts on christmas mornings. Children have been taught to walk up early Christmas morning and “Santa Clause” would have brought the gifts already under the Christmas tree.

          I decided to look a the social norms in my local mall in Staten Island New York. I sat down in the middle off the mall where most people walk by to get to the other side of the mall. Just by sitting there i noticed a norm already, there was a huge Christmas tree right in the middle. people walked by me with a cheerful spirit and i notice that people i didnt know came up to me saying hi but on a regular day no one came up to me. people are more welcoming during the holiday than doing a regular day. People were dressed in Christmas colors and wearing red Christmas hats. There was also a mall Santa that children wanted to take pictures with. I also noticed that the stores had discounts on their items which came with the holiday.

            My favorite norm was that the mall has a chorus singing christmas songs. All this was done because of tradition of a social norm. i Believe Christmas has one of the most used Social norms in society.


Hurricane Sandy, when it hit I was in my dorm room and looking out my window it didnt look as bad as it happened to be. I was watching the news forecast a day before the hurricane and they said it was going to be a category one hurricane. I was think that wasnt bad and it wouldnt do damage. It started to get windy and it seemed cool at first standing outside in the wind but it it started raining hard and I got a warning on my phone that it wasnt safe to go out.

After the storm had died down, my roommates and I went outside to go to 7/11 and on our walk there we saw the damage the storm had done outside the campus or out own little world. Trees were ripped from their roots and power lines were done. I remember we tried to go through on of the trees but thank God for one of he public Safety officers stopped us and told us that there were live power lines in the tree. Who knows what would have happened.

I used to live in Staten Island which is surrounded by water so i decided to call my friends and family there. they sent me pictures of the after math of Hurricane Sandy in staten Island and it was horrific. Water levels had risen past car levels and walking on the streets was dangerous because of fear off being swiped away. My friend told me he had to use his small boat to navigate the streets that was how bad it was. i got a picture from a friend about how the storm had lifted up cargo ship from the ocean and dropped it on the land. I was surprised on how strong the storm could be.

Even today people are still struggling to get back to the life they once knew before Hurricane Sandy. Many houses were lost or damaged but one thing I know about New York is that we are very helpful when it comes to others. So i know that people will get by this but with the help of others.ImageImageImage