Monday, September 20, 2010

Experiences from Exploring

This past weekend I attended the Hampden Fest with a group of friends from my hall. Hampden Fest is a community arts festival located on West 36th Street. Led by our RA, we embarked on the hour journey by foot under the sun at its highest point. Walking through the streets of Baltimore helped me gain knowledge of the surrounding areas and the locals. I suddenly got a burst of energy and excitement when we arrived at the fair. Three stages of live music, performed by various solo artists and bands, filled my ears as we walked down the street. Tents for original paintings, vintage clothing, great food, antiques, and arts and crafts lined the four blocks. I was lucky to be able to get my hands on a 1966 vinyl record of The Beatle’s Revolver album. I was overwhelmed with joy as I hugged an original (though decrepit and weather worn) record of one of my favorite albums by my favorite band. The vendor and I had a lot in common concerning our opinions about the songs. As we walked further down, we interacted with the friendly locals selling their unique merchandise. I felt as if I was constantly looking around with eyes wide open so I wouldn’t miss a single spectacle. There was a skateboarding ramp where kids and adults alike showed their talents, a woman dressed as a traffic cone bobbing throughout the crowd, and many other street performances that entertained my friends and I.

In class, we covered works of poetry that connect in some ways to my experience at Hampden Fest. “The Mending Wall” by Robert Frost is about a man trying to understand and befriend his habitually traditional neighbor. The speaker wishes to know and understand his neighbor but he cannot penetrate the physical and mental wall that separates them. In a way, the Loyola campus can represent that barrier between being a student at Loyola and an inhabitant of Baltimore. In order to be both, you need to reach outside your comfort zone and broaden your horizons. If you do not venture outside the walls of the campus, you will never truly know the city of Baltimore. I am beginning to be able to call Baltimore my home the more I experience it. The neighbor’s saying “Good fences make good neighbors” would hold true if by “good neighbors” he meant “good strangers”. If I had not gone to this street fair, I would not have had the joy of developing a bond with the city and its residents. I would not have had a great adventure of the wonderful, cultural, and exciting exhibits at the festival.

While on line for the ATM at the fair, I noticed a homeless man begging for change on the steps next to it. This sight changed my view of the entire city. Of course I have heard of the poverty of surrounding areas, but this was my first personal encounter with it. This tattooed middle-aged man was not always homeless. He had probably grown up in a house with a family much like the rest of us. He had matured from a child to an adult just like we are doing now. However, some where at some time in his life, things went horribly wrong and now there is a striking difference that sets him (on the outside) far away from us. This reminded me of the poem “Common Ground” by Judith Ortiz Cofer. She describes the way in which we are all the same underneath it all. We are all composed of blood and bones and we will all die. The poem has a morbid tone reminding us all of our mortality. However, it shows us that no matter how different we think we are from each other, we are really all the same. This poem made me reflect on the similarities between myself and the homeless man. What I came up with was shocking to myself because I had never thought that I would have anything in common with him, or all the homeless people suffering from poverty in the streets of Baltimore. We have the same biological compositions, contain the same emotions, and have the same needs. While most of my wants are out of material gain, his are out of the necessity to survive.

Surrounded by the local citizens of Baltimore, I felt a strong connection to them because now we share the same hometown. We come from different places across the country to live in this great city. Now we are joined further by going to celebrate music and art in Baltimore by attending the Hampden Fest. My experience has broadened my understanding of the city and its inhabitants. I have come to realize that everyone is very much alike no matter what their outward appearances may be.

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