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“The Land of French Fries and Bald Eagles”: Bicultural US Trip (Part 2)

“The Land of French Fries and Bald Eagles”: Bicultural US Trip (Part 2)

Written by: New Ke Yue 23J14


Economic


Home to the most powerful currency and financial hub in the world, Wall Street is undoubtedly a New York sightseeing staple. The New York Stock Exchange building doesn’t disappoint; its European architecture stands in juxtaposition to the tech-heavy processes that take place within it. 



The New York Stock Exchange building


Aside from the glamour that comes with its gold reserves and good, old cash, Wall Street also had some interesting statues that surprised us. 


The first was “The Bull”, which is literally, a giant bull. 



Us with the bull! 

(Note: Don’t be fooled by the happy smiles, everyone was freezing)



The animal statue comes with an interesting story of its own, mainly because it was never supposed to be there. Without attaining any form of approval whatsoever, Italian artist Arturo Di Modica installed the art piece outside NYSE using $360,000 of his own money in December 1989. It was intended to be a kind of Christmas gift to the American people, a symbol of hope for the economic turmoil that the nation was facing at the time. 


And because of its lack of authorisation, the Bull was confiscated. And it should have ended there but well, it’s the US. Due to the relentless protests to keep the Bull, the government eventually relented so now the iconic statue sits near Bowling Green Park next to Wall Street. 


But there is one statue that got to face the NYSE directly, however. To honour the 2017  International Women's Day, Kristen Visbal created a “Fearless Girl” statue to represent the push for more gender diversity in positions of power. Today, that little girl stands in front of NYSE, with her hands on her hips defiantly. And yes, we did try to imitate the pose. 


Unfortunately, however, the prices here (and almost everywhere else in New York for that matter) are as high as these skyscrapers 😣.


Society and Culture 


Enter the High Line, an abandoned railway station turned tourist park adorned by a canopy of magnolias, sassafras, and serviceberry trees. 





The park, situated between Manhattan apartments, felt like a short breath of respite from the fast-paced hustle of crowded Metro trains. But becoming a park well-loved by locals was not the obvious future for the High Line, not in 2009, that is. Originally, the railway station was used as a transportation line for meat and then mail. At one point, the government even sent men on horses to direct the trains here! But in the 2000s, it became an abandoned location and was narrowly saved from demolition by neighbourhood residents and the City of New York. The High Line opened in 2009 as a hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design.


Aside from greenifying the city, the High Line also boasts art exhibits. We were treated to this installation “Old Tree” by Pamela Rosenkranz. 



The not-so-old-looking “Old Tree”


Next stop: Universities! 


During the trip, we had the privilege of visiting two impressive universities: New York University (NYU) and Princeton University, boasting exceedingly low acceptance rates of 12.5% and 3.5% respectively. 


Just like everything else in the US, educational institutions in the US are extremely diverse, with each school boasting unique cultures and traditions. Here are some from NYU and Princeton!



New York University 


  • Renowned for its business (Stern School of Business) and arts (Tisch School of Arts) courses 

  • Has a World Champion Quidditch team (yes, you read that right)

  • Accepts the largest number of international students in the world




Princeton 


  • Renowned for its Mathematics and Engineering courses 

  • Albert Einstein used to live here!

  • Is one of the most expensive university campuses to rent for filming 

  • Because of demand and supply – movies like “Oppenheimer” and “A Beautiful Mind” were all shot here



Broadway Musical – Moulin Rouge


Who could visit New York without experiencing a Broadway musical? For many of us, witnessing 'Moulin Rouge' live was a first, and it proved to be an electrifying experience. The show's dynamic energy, coupled with its stunning performances and elaborate sets, vividly showcased why Broadway musicals are a quintessential part of American art culture.



Taken from online because we were not allowed to take any photos


Next, museums, museums and museums! Throughout the trip, we visited a whopping 9 different museums (including the 9/11!), with each experience vastly different from the last. A few particularly honourable mentions are as seen below!


The Tenement Museum


This living history museum in New York’s Lower East Side encapsulated the immigrant experience in the early 20th century. The museum’s creative approach to restoring apartments allowed us to witness it in its original state and acutely experience what life was like in those walls. Here, we witnessed the struggles and dreams of families who sought a new life in America, as well as a play-by-play account of how the 1902 Kosher Meat Revolution broke out in the area. 


The word “tenement” is often used to describe small apartments in a poor area, and in the 1900s, was commonly associated with immigrants, hence the birth of the museum name. What I personally loved about the museum is its unique approach of offering a first-person POV; bringing the audience through the real-life stories of a particular immigrant family and showing us historical documents that we could analyse to piece the narrative together. Think Sec 2 History but more lively. 


Liberty & Ellis Island


While the Statue of Liberty was a great photo spot and souvenir collection, Ellis Island's museum, with its array of artefacts and personal stories, was what stayed with me after the trip. The poignant tales of the immigration process served as an extension of our Tenement Museum experience. 



Ellis Island


Jamestown Settlement Museum


Another highlight of our trip was the Jamestown Settlement Museum, a site that vividly brings to life America's earliest English colony. The museum not only showcases an impressive collection of artefacts and exhibits detailing the challenging beginnings of the colony, but it also features an extraordinary outdoor exhibit. Here, actors dressed in period costumes recreate the daily lives of the early settlers. 




Museum of Chinese Americans (MOCA)

MOCA stands as a vibrant tribute to the Chinese American journey, highlighting the significant history, culture, and contributions of Chinese immigrants in the United States. Employing a similar approach to the Tenement Museum, MOCA engages visitors with its creative presentation, ranging from the challenges faced by early immigrants to the successes of modern-day Chinese Americans.



Conclusion 


First of all, congratulations if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this really long article! 

As our journey across the United States drew to a close, it became clear that the tapestry of American history is woven with diverse creations and pivotal events, each leaving its unique mark in various ways. Yet, a common thread emerged: those moments in history where Americans actively shaped their destiny seem to have left the most indelible impact on the national psyche. This observation was echoed in the stories we heard, the monuments we visited, and the cultural expressions we witnessed, all testifying to a nation continually sculpting its own narrative. After all, America is a product of its philosophy.









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