Concrete Jungle

By Natalie Copeland 

Concrete Jungle March Intensive at Grand Central Station. Taken
by their NYCOB leader Ali. 

Naturally, I signed up for the March Intensive courses I presumed to be the most fun. I was not necessarily looking for an intense leaning experience. I wanted to take the opportunity to spend a week with my friends doing something such as working for Habitat for Humanity in the sun or kayaking through the Everglades. Yet, as I found myself sitting cross-legged on the carpet in a Sikh temple in Brooklyn, wearing an orange bandana to cover my hair and listening to the sounds of the prayers and chants resonate throughout the large room, I realized I was partaking in a real learning experience. For my March Intensive, I went to the New York City to participate in an Outward Bound camp for three days.  Looking back, I can truthfully say it was an amazing journey. 

Britt Lebaron-Brien exploring NYC. Photo
courtesy of Natalie Copeland.

Our concrete jungle group consisted of just over twenty girls which eventually split into two groups. On Tuesday we traveled to New York City, leaving from White River Junction by train. After a long seven hours, we arrived at Penn Station, hungry and groggy. There we met our Outward Bound event instructor, Elizabeth. She led us by subway into Queens where the Outward Bound office is located. Our first night in New York City we experienced a beautiful rooftop view of the surrounding city, lit up as far as we could see. We also saw 5 Pointz,  a block in Queens where all of the walls of each building are covered in graffiti art. The brilliant colors, creativity, attention to detail, and accuracy of the graffiti were mind blowing.  Finally, we returned to the Outward Bound Center, which is where we slept: altogether, in one room on the floor, in our sleeping bags and without pillows.

Wednesday morning we split into two groups and went our separate ways about the city. My group started the day by venturing through an Indian village which is part of Queens, and then we visited an organization called Women in Need, located in Manhattan.  Here, we did arts and crafts with the children of single mothers who have bad living situations and rely on this organization in order to find jobs and move away from their old problems. It was touching. After we left Manhattan, we found our way through the subway to the South Bronx, which is currently the area with the highest youth crime rate in the country. Here, we spent the night at a community center, called The Point, dedicated to changing the neighborhood into a better, more positive place. 
5 Pointz graffiti artist. Photo courtesy of Kamille

Thursday, we began our day in Grand Central station. Here, we each had an hour of solo time. In every Outward Bound program, whether it lasts half of an hour or three days, there is always a solo; this is done in order to give each participant time alone. During this solo time, we wrote letters to ourselves.  We were asked to include anything important to us which we wanted to remind ourselves of later; we will receive the message in six months. After, this, we traveled through Chinatown to make our way to the Brooklyn Bridge. We all walked halfway across the bridge blind folded, holding onto the person’s backpack in front of us. After this adventure, we finally reached the Sikh temple. Here, we were welcomed with food and hospitality. We received a presentation explaining the basic beliefs of their religion and had a discussion with a young Sikh woman about how Sikhism influences her daily life. We also learned to make a traditional Sikh breakfast, which consisted of a potato like pancake.  We eventually ventured back to Queens to receive our Outward Bound pins, which we all had to earn by representing qualities such as self-reliance and compassion, among others.  

Trekking through New York City, carrying all of my belongings in one huge hiking pack, learning how to navigate through the city by the subway, and not showering for three days, was a very new experience for me. I hope for the sake of my peers that March Intensive continues, and others will have the opportunity to experience a similar journey as mine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>