Week 1: Welcome to Miami!

Hey folks! Surprisingly I’ve been writing a lot, and I’ve been meaning to post. I just edit way too much, second guess my writing, and write humongous posts. So to solve this I’ll be posting a blog a day/ every other day to show what I’ve done each week in bullet points, and putting it into different sections. I hope you enjoy it! I’ve got 9 or 10 weeks to post about so get your eyes ready!


August 31st to September 6th



Nature

(As Will Smith says)

  • South Beach and the eye-piercing white sand and beautifully blue ocean.

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(Our first time at south beach…. and it was immaculate.)

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(Quinten literally testing the waters!)


Art

  • Wynwood, and it’s awe-inspiring murals. The Wynwood district isn’t like anything else I’ve ever experienced, and to be honest… I am in love with it. This district has definitely brought Miami’s art score up in my books.

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(One of the massively huge amazing murals at Wynwood)


Food

  • The Food experience’s here are unlike anywhere else. Many times during this experience Natalie has said how “nothing has tasted bad”, which is undeniably a fact. I’ve dived into the world of Venezuelan, Cuban, and many other Spanish cultures cuisines, and to be honest I don’t want to be rescued if I drown in their deliciousness. Another super fascinating thing is that hearing all the different accents, and dialects being spoken when I go to these restaurants, which is something I had no idea about before I came to Miami. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I was at Doggy’s (so yummy!) eating Venezuelan food, and Michelle (our YAV Miami leader) pointed out the dialect of people around us, and how they differ from different Spanish-influenced cultures. Which I guess is a lot how the south talks as compared to the North. How fascinating fun, right?
  • One of the foods that has captured my heart would have to be the Pepito!, which is a street food in Venezuela. This thing is basically amazing, and truly a treat whenever I get a chance to devour it.

Pepitos!
(Peppitos! my first Miami love)

  • Coffee: Another thing we’ve grown to love is coffee here, which is crazy since no one of my housemates has ever drinking coffee on purpose. 
  • This drink is so amazing, and it only costs like 2 bucks, which is meant for 6 friends. It’s called Colada, which is a Cuban coffee, and will make you certainly feel energized. If you care about sleeping, or being a human being the next day then I recommend not to ingest this nectar of the gods.

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(Colada, the downfall of my sleep)


Culture Blending

  • One of my big goals of my YAV year in Miami is to adapt to the culture around me. A culture that was hopefully going to be foreign to me. Lucky for me that culture is quite prevalent in certain parts of Miami. The culture is the Hispanic culture. One of the big ways culture immersion happened the first week was whenever we went on our first stop in the church tour to the all Spanish First Presbyterian church, where I got my first experience of being in a mass setting where I had no idea what they were saying (Sorry Africa and Korea). This was quite something.

Through doing this; I noticed a couple of interesting things about the culture

  • they do the hug and kiss on the check thing, which was pretty nerve wracking at first, but now I’m basically a pro. It’s especially something when you’re 6 foot 5, and having to bend down, and cheek kiss a little old Spanish lady.
  • Small thimbles of coffee are served (shots) at lunch times, and pretty much everyone partakes.
  • It could have been just the church we went to, but they have little wafers with crosses on them, which I thought was pretty neato.

Wafer time!

(I don’t think I’ve ever seen this religiously adorable)

Here is the church:

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(First Presbyterian Spanish, Our first church!)

And here’s the whole group

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(Squad life)


Assimilating

All throughout this week I was thinking and asking myself “how will I really get to know Miami, and know what the locals do so I can get the really authentic experience?” The best answer I came up with was to go to a local barber shot, mingle with the locals, and hopefully learn what’s off the beaten path of what tourists would normally know about.

So I turned to my good friend Reddit, and went to the first one people recommend. It was this quaint little place right next to Wynwood, which after finding that out I knew I had to go there since I was wanting a hip cut. While there I popped the question of “What should I do?” to all the barbers, and people in there. “You do the same stuff you you do in every city” is the reply I got back. Laughter erupted, but outside of that joyous noise it hit me like a ton of bricks that realization that maybe activities that are done in each city are the same, and maybe there’s nothing really different in each city. It’s just a different place with different people.

Luckily though, after prodding some more, and letting them think some more they gave me some helpful tips. Some things like going to the Everglades, and checking out some local events like Wynwood Art Walk Hopefully though I’ll be able to see what really makes this city shine all on it’s own. I also got a haircut that would help combat all of this heat, and humidity:

Before, and after hair pics
(Bring it on Miami!)

I heard from a past YAV, Patrick, that one of his housemates during his year in Belfast didn’t cut his hair at all,  It would certainly save money, and contribute to simple living, which is a big part of our year of service. I guess only time will tell if I’ll be able to handle all of this extra heat and humidity in my life, and will eventually have to chop off my hair.


Side Notes

  • Another big thing we did this week was go to all of our different placements, which was super exciting! Everybody’s non-profit seemed pretty great, and I could really tell that they were doing some amazing good in the city. I had a place called MVP (Most Valuable Protégés, Quinten has a place called Gate,
  • We also got to experience all the different parts of the city. It reminds me a lot of NYC with all the different Burroughs they have up there (Brooklyn, The Bronx, and whatnot). There’s Coral Cables, and Coconut Grove for example.
  • Michelle introduced us to an amazing gelato place that actually serves there gelato in cones. I guess dreams really do come true, ehh?

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(
Gelato in delicious cones… who would have known!)

  • Upon moving to Miami meant the DOOR/YAV house has changed to a new area. It used to be in Little Haiti, but now we are in Little Havana! This means though that we have no internet. Did you read that right? No internet! So this has made us flock to the local library, and spend our internet time there.
  • We have also shown our Korean housemate the magic that is Will Ferrel in the highly acclaimed movies of Anchorman and Elf. I was a little worried that she would hate them because the humor can be kind of really dumb at times, but I think she kind of liked them.
  • As a house we also created a house covenant, and went on our first grocery trip together (nobody died, yay!).
  • We also got to conquer the public transport system for the first time. Michelle surprisingly sprung it on us that we would be using it to get home after our last day of group orientation. Luckily we pulled it off in the end though!

What an interesting first week it was. I really can’t wait to see what this vast culturally vibrant city has to offer!

Well, until next time WordPress!

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(Yeah, that’s right. That’s a Manatee warning sign.)

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Six Weeks… A Recap

Miami Skies

(The sky, and clouds are unreal here at times)

(This song, and album has been some of the main music that has helped me through my YAV year. It reminds me of what the beach feels like, and what is like to drive around with the huge sky above. Hit play, and let it be the soundtrack to this blog).


Well hey there world, it’s been a while hasn’t it?

It’s officially been a month, and two weeks since I’ve started my life as a Y.A.V. in Miami. Things… have been interesting to say the least.

So far I’ve experienced so many things. It would be too many to name, but I’ll try my best.

To start it off let me tell you about the food in Miami. Whenever they say Miami is one of the most culturally diverse places in the U.S. they aren’t lying, and you can definitely tell with all the food options this place has to offer. There are so many flavors here that it’s unreal at times.

For instance; so far I’ve had the pleasure of tasting:

  • Cuban Food
  • Cuban Coffe (Colada!)
  • Venezuelan Food (Pepiitos!)

Pepitos!

(Pepitos, a Venezuelan street food dish, which we’ve fallen head over heels for)

  • Haitian Food
  • Argentinean food

There are still so many things to try though like Puerto Rican, and Brazilian food. I’m really excited to dive into all these different cuisines because pretty much everything I’ve eaten has been super tasty.


Another thing that I’ve been doing a lot is going on a church tour every Sunday of all different kinds of churches the Miami area. We’ve done this for the past 6 weeks, and it’s been really fascinating just to see how all these different denominations do their worship. We’ve (YAV house and our site coordinator Michelle) experienced pretty much everything under the ginormous Christianity-denomination umbrella. For instance the first weekend here we went to an all-Spanish speaking Presbyterian church, and then last weekend we went to a Lutheran Church.

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(The all-Spanish church service where I understood everything 100%.. and it just so happened to have been opposite day as well)

This has been a little tiring, but it really makes one think about what they want out of a church community, and service.


Another part of my YAV experience has been Community Day Fridays. On these days I’ve gotten to learn about crucially important things affecting the world. I’ve also got to volunteer at some pretty rad non-profits.

The things I’ve done regarding that:

  • Worshiped at a catholic soup kitchen, and then helped them feed the homeless afterwards.

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(A statue of the Virgin Mary outside of the soup kitchen. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but at least I got this!)

  • Learned about gentrification, and watch a video that talks about Wynwood, which is a super hip up-and-coming part of Miami (here’s the video if you want to watch:https://vimeo.com/110682099).
  • We went to Easter Seals, which is a place that helps people with many different mental disabilities. While we there we helped with the part of it that deals with people with Alzheimers, and different levels of Dementia.

Now I bet you’re wondering what have I been doing while in Miami. When I came here I actually already knew what I would be doing, which was nice since at orientation a lot of the YAVs I talked to didn’t know what they would be doing. Since then though some things have transpired which have led me to not being associated with that non-profit anymore. I didn’t get fired or anything. It’s just that some things happened, and now I’m waiting for the next placement. Because of this I have had the opportunity to volunteer at a lovely non-profit called Branches, which is basically an after school program where I help kids with homework.

Besides that I’ve also gotten the chance to help DOOR with their Discover groups (a part of DOOR where they have groups come in for week long mission trips) like last week. During this time I was an assistant to my site coordinator Michelle, and helped her out with various things. I also got to go back to Easter Seals, which was kind of a heartbreaking experience since the people I met last time has no idea who I was even though we had like a two hour conversation, but more of that some other time!


Since this post is already getting kind of huge I’ll stop right now, but I’m going try my best to upload more so please stay tuned.  I’ll leave you though with this

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Thanks for reading, and until next time have a great day!


P.S. If you’d like to donate to my Y.A.V. year then there is a nifty little donate section on my blog up top!
There you will find all the info on how to make a contribution! Thank you very much if you decide to do this. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.