The dirty worn out shoes made their way down the aisle, their owner slowly shaking a used Dunkin Donut’s coffee cup. There are probably about two dimes in the cup. He starts off telling his tragic story: lost job, no family, hunger. The woman across from me clutches her Louis Vuitton purse tightly; the teen next to her pulls out a mirror to apply more lipstick. The man next to me turns up the volume on his iPod, and his son continues to play Scrabble on his iPad. The poor man nearly falls over the woman with the purse, and she does not even look up. Everyone is tuned into his or her own lives, not worrying about the starving man begging for money on a crowded train. The least they can do is listen to his story.
I would like to start off my introduction with an illustrative account of a lively multicultural area but I cannot. That will not encapsulate the reason why I’m going to Senegal this fall.
A girl from the South Bronx going to Senegal… you don’t hear that often. It’s out of the norm; it’s a change. A change I longed for because I lost interest in flashy materialism. Money and fast cars—the whole façade—have always been a “glamorous” lure for teenagers in the Bronx, but breaking piggy banks to buy new handbags was not one of my hobbies like it was for other girls. It was this kind of materialism that determined their characters and every move. I was not one of them; at least I try not to be. It is this excessive consumption that makes some apathetic to poverty, as I saw that day on the train. One cannot blame them, for they have never seen anything else but the Bronx. It’s an unfortunate case of insularity.
I did not apply to Global Citizen Year to escape the instant gratification that consumerism buys. That factor did lead me to apply, but I applied mainly because I want to see a change in myself. I am not perfect; perhaps I am no better than those materialistic teenagers. We all need a time to tune into something other than our quotidian lives. Although I may not be absolutely ready, I’m starting to feel prepared for the future move.