Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Summer Encounters in English

As the temperature drops in NYC, we look back nostalgically at a summer of exploring not only Manhattan but also Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx…and learning English along the way.

Escaping the Heat in the NY Jungle

The various parks in NYC, including Central Park, were the star attractions for many of our younger students.  We went fishing in its waters, searched for native birds and creepy crawlies in the shady nature reserves, floated across a lake in row boats and cooled off in the water playgrounds.

Our older students escaped the heat along the harbor and on rooftops and beaches.  We discussed water purification using oysters, sustainable agriculture in and around NYC and American ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit as we explored a NYC undergoing a green revolution.

NYC Treats 

There was always something to taste in the neighborhoods.  At a farmers’ market on the Upper West Side, we discovered that honey was being made on the rooftops across NYC.  How cool is it to get honey from as diverse places as the West Village, mid-town Manhattan and Prospect Heights!

On the Lower East Side, we tried bagels with cream cheese (Can  you believe that some of the students had never ever tasted this?!), cherry soda, and Pop Rocks. Our Chinatown visit included soup dumplings from Shanghai, our Brooklyn excursion salted chocolate and our Harlem walk fried chicken and corn bread.  And then there was the cactus and Dominican chicken and rice in Queens!

Of course, in every neighborhood, there was pizza. Enormous and served in slices, we had them in Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan.  The jury is still out on which is a Hi-New-York favorite!
Fridays were days to say good-bye to new friends and to trade email addresses with promises to keep in touch.  Always a part of the parting were the Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies and Oreos.  It was amazing to see how popular Oreos had become around the world.  Apparently, it is sold in Brazil, Spain, Germany, France, Italy…everyone seems to know and love them!

Encountering the Familiar and the Unfamiliar

There is much in NYC that is familiar to those who live outside of the US, thanks to the numerous movies which have been filmed here.  One young student, upon emerging from the subway in Times Square, exclaimed:  “This is just like the movies!”.  She then saw herself on the big screen above and squealed with pleasure.

There are a few things in NYC, however, that are unfamiliar to foreigners.  A walk through Wholefoods required a stop by the cut fruit section with a discussion on why people would choose to buy what is obviously more expensive than whole fruit.  The next stop was at the breakfast section where a student admired the various pancake mixes.  He was French and couldn’t get over the fact that we would buy a pancake mix instead of throwing together the very few ingredients required to make them.  I think he would have been floored if we had taken him to see the Dunkan Hines cake mixes (in a supermarket other than Wholefoods of course!).

Tipping is also something that bewildered the parents accompanying our young students.  They didn't know when to tip and how much to tip since this is not an accepted practice in most of the countries outside of the US.  They asked:  Why do you need to tip the hairdresser? Aren't you paying them through the price of a haircut?  As much as 20%?! 

Using English to Build Bridges

Hopefully, our students understand better the American way of life after spending time with us in NYC.  Many visitors only scratch the surface of NYC; there is so much more to the city than the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.  To those of us who call NYC our home, the city is as diverse as the people who live in it, and it gives us great pleasure to share ourselves and the city’s many facets with our students. Let's keep in touch!