A Visitor in Los Angeles

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Maccabee on a graffiti tour in LA

My family has never been a group to go on long trips or vacations. That is, if you do not count the eleven moves I’ve lived through (for of them being across the country). My most recebt move from state to state was five years ago when my my family moved back to the sunny state of California, more specifically, Los Angeles. So, you could imagine how excited I was when i figured out one of this years AWB choices was bere in my hometown! I was so excited to be ‘that kid’ who says things like, “Oh, the Hollywood sign? Yeah that thing? Sure, I guess its cool.” You know, the typical LA native. But too my surprise, its been nothing like that. I have become a visitor of my own city.

Starting immediately with our beginning opening peula (activity), I was astounded to hear such shocking facts about LA and the dark reality of our homeless probelm. The excerpts of the documentary we watchd the first night were about the Infamous Skid Row and the homeless community that lives there and has been there for ages. Not only had I never heard these facts before about the homeless rates, but I hadn’t even really heard of Skid Row at all, let alone its residents. I had no way to describe my feelings other than purely shocked and honestly a little embarrassed that i had been so blind to this situation right at my home.

Today when waking up, those feelings still fresh in my mind, I had no idea what I would embark on today. The same feeling of eye opening and slight shame were brought back as we literally walked the streets of the 50 square block radius known as Skid Row. Looking at these civilians, living in the same city as me, I felt shocked, a little uneasy because of my higher position given to me by my priveledge. This are was less than a mile away from one of my favorite spots in LA, the Last Bookstore, and yet I still felt like I had no idea where I was.  But I also felt an odd kinship towards these people as we were both Angelenos just living in our great city.

Another touching part of the day for me was after the Graffiti tour, having the opportunity to volunteer and mingle with tbe residents at the PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) inner city location. In my groups time at that location we cooked hhge amounts of delicious meals for the residents and chill with the people there by exchanging life stories, sharing jokes, and just finding comfort in each others’ company. Again, my identity as a local shined through as I made refereces the are of the San Fernando Valley I live in and made fun of our public translortation system.

Going into this trip I was convinced that I’d assumes the re of some unofficial tourguide. I could not have been more wrong. I am constantly being bombarded with educating and eye-opening experiences in places I’ve never been before. I am just so excited to see how much more I will learn about my great city, human nature, and myself on this trip.

~ Maccabee Raileanu – 10th Grade, Los Angeles, California