Volunteering in New York City

by Jackie D on August 25, 2015

high line nyc“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” -Arthur Ashe

When I was stuck on a cargo ship for 27 hours off the coast of Nicaragua a couple years ago (the story goes downhill from here), I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30. I’ve never really had a general “bucket list,” just a handful of dream trips and a few vague goals for my life, but there’s something about being absolutely miserable and stuck on a boat that makes you reevaluate the direction your life is headed. So I made a list.

(PS: if you’re only interested in the list of volunteering opportunities and not my very touching and brief backstory, scroll down)

The funny thing is this: after putting so much thought into that list and really thinking about how I wanted to better my life before I turned 30, I ended up forgetting about it as soon as I returned home.

I found the list after I moved here to New York, almost two years later. And it wasn’t right when I moved, either — it was pretty recently, a couple months ago, which made rereading the list even more delightful and surprising because, you know what? One of the things I wrote down was that I wanted to volunteer somewhere for a year straight.

Some of you may remember when I announced I had started volunteering at Housing Works Bookstore in New York. Fast forward almost 6 months later, and I still love it as much as I do when I first started! It’s hard not to love being surrounded by good books, good coffees, good beers, good people, and good events/performances. I volunteer on Monday nights after work, and it always puts me in a good mood right at the start of the week (until the subway inevitably does something to aggravate me).

It’s a great feeling to see something on my bucket-ish list manifesting itself without even much effort on my part — and by that I mean it just sort of naturally came about rather than me aggressively forcing it to happen just because I wanted it to (which is generally how I approach most things that I want: brute force).

And now that it’s been a few months, I’ve been looking for more volunteering opportunities. I like the people I’ve met so far — all of us showing up to work one night (or at an event really early in the morning on a Sunday) because we said we would, not because anyone’s paying us. I like being able to go somewhere and wash some dishes, organize books, serve a few beers, just actually use my hands after sitting at a computer all day. I like being around other people who are doing the same thing.

My next task: volunteering at the New York Marathon! My mom and sister will be coming to New York to actually run the marathon, but since I am not that impressive of a human being, I will be on the sidelines with the water cups and maybe a witty sign.

If anyone is interested in volunteering in New York (or in other cities, in which case this list could just be a general brainstorm), here are a few of the opportunities I’ve found:

Housing Works Bookstore & Cafe (many positions are available: you can be a barista like me, or help with online sales or in the bookstore itself)
New York City Marathon
The Lower East Side Girls Club (wait this sounds really fun — you can mentor, tutor, lead workshops on a certain skill, lead museum visits, etc)
Planned Parenthood (they have monthly volunteering nights for things like assembling pamphlets and mailings, which is awesome if you don’t have much spare time but want to do something and are not Republican)
826 NYC (this is amazing. They have one in Chicago and San Francisco — a couple of my friends volunteered here in Chicago — and I don’t even want to describe it. Just go read about it.)
Met Museum Tour Guide (I would totally do this if it didn’t require a three year (!) commitment)
Madre (this is a group that organizes the sending of essential medical and living supplies to women in conflicted areas like Sudan, Iraq, and Haiti — and they they need some good word of mouth advocacy, so even just throwing a party/dinner to raise awareness of their cause would be helping them out)
MillionTreesNYC (for those of us who want to show the environment we are sorry for, well, killing it)
Time’s Up (for bike nerds)
Manhattan Young Democrats (election season, people)
New York Young Republican Club (in the spirit of being fair)
Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (dog walking needed! Also, apparently you can go sit and “socialize” with the cats for a few hours…so, if you need me, too bad, I’ll be there for the rest of my life)

Not exactly volunteering but almost:
New York Cares Coat Drive (it looks like they are doing this again this year?)
Delivering meals on Christmas Day (several organizations do this)
Prom dress donation (my mom took a few friends and I to do this in LA when we were in high school and it was the best. There are several places in NYC that do this, according to my Googling: Donation Town, Operation Prom [you can even just donate if you don't have a dress!], Becca’s Closet)

Volunteering Resources:
New York Cares
TimeOut NYC: Where to Volunteer in NYC

PS: That photo is from the High Line

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Snapshots of the Calanques & Port of Marseille

by Jackie D on August 21, 2015

calanques marseilleIsn’t it weird how sometimes the spur of the moment stops in certain cities or towns end up being the greatest parts of a trip? On this recent trip to Paris and Provence, I changed the last 48 hours of my vacation at the very last minute — literally at about 10pm the night before, while sitting in the pool with my laptop (ill advised? Perhaps. Glamorous as it sounds, as long as nothing goes wrong and you’re wearing the proper amount of bug spray to combat the mosquitoes? Absolutely.).

With my original plan to explore 2 prehistoric caves I wanted to see, I would be spending all day on trains and buses, and that didn’t really sound so appealing to me all of a sudden. I canceled my hotel and train reservations, booked a new hotel, and hopped on a fifteen minute train ride from Aix en Provence to Marseille.

The new plan was this: beach, food, beach, a walk or two by the waterfront, beach, sleep in my comfy hotel bed.

When I got to Marseille in the morning, I dropped my bag off at my hotel and then made the 20 minute walk to the waterfront, where a lot of the action is. As I was strolling along the pier taking some photos of the boats, I noticed a sign for a 3 hour cruise to see the Calanques, and I decided to try it out. (I am going to use Wikipedia’s definition of a “calanque” here, because I just spent several minutes trying to reword the definition and I cannot: “a narrow, steep-walled inlet that is developed in limestonedolomite, or other carbonatestrata and found along the Mediterranean coast.”calanques marseilleI will, however, add this note to that definition: the Calanques are one of the most stunning natural wonders I’ve ever seen, either in a photo or real life.

The beginning of the boat ride was pretty rocky — kids were vomiting, we all got drenched, an older lady was thrown from one side of the boat to the other (and laughed hysterically the whole time, thankfully — no apparent injuries). Those of us who could stand upright had a great view of the port of Marseille as we were heading out.

Once we got out far enough, the first part of the Calanques we saw were mostly rocky — not much greenery — but this meant that there was more room for beaches and sun-bathing, which the locals were taking full advantage of, as you can see.port of marseillecalanques marseilleAs we got further in, it got greener and less populated. We did see the occasional beach house every now and then, and I think that must just be absolute heaven. Can you even imagine? To have your own little summer house out in a place like this? If I am ever rich, I am adding this to my list of outrageous rich person purchases.

And another thing — as you can see in some of these photos (though none can capture it perfectly, obviously), the water was two-toned — partially a darker, stunning turquoise shade and partially a lighter, still stunning turquoise shade. Not a photo edit.

We did see a few more locals along the way — there was a group of teenage boys who’d climbed up a fairly tall rock and they were all goading one of their friends to jump off into the water. We all joined in, yelling, “Allez! Allez!” which means “GO!” and although he looked pretty terrified, he did indeed do it! Sadly I did not manage to get a good shot of this.calanques marseillecalanques marseilleport of marseillemarseille portThe cruise from Marseille lasted about 3 hours and was about 20 euros per person — highly, highly recommend if you want a relaxing way to spend the afternoon or catch a break from the heat. If you get seasick really easily, though, you might want to reconsider — literally saw a person turn green for a second.

More Snapshots:
Snapshots of a Weekend in Paris
Snapshots From Provence

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Weekly 7: August 16

by Jackie D on August 16, 2015

blog photo 21. When I was wandering around Paris on my last afternoon in the city, I came across this art gallery/cafe that looked really familiar to me. When I stepped inside, I realized I’d seen it before on Instagram! Social media, you win again. I wanted to buy all the art (especially the print above), but I was worried about carrying it back on the plane. Will probably order this print while drinking wine some evening in the near future.

2. Ok at this point this shouldn’t come as a shock to any of you: I’m deep into another apocalypse-focused book series. This series has 3 books, and they detail a small New Hampshire town as it faces the reality that an asteroid is going to strike Earth and kill most if not all of humanity in 6 months. It’s as fantastic as it is depressing.

3. Recent impulse purchase: this lamp DIY kit from Brit & Co. PS: if anyone wants a Brit & Co discount code, here you go: JACKIE15. There are only 3 of them and you have to use it by today. No pressure.

4. Latest quote written on a post-it in my planner: “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” -Gloria Steinem

5. My friends and I are counting down to a night in Palm Springs next month, and we may or may not all be bringing food-shaped pool floats with us… anyone guess which one I’m bringing?

6. As soon as August 1 hit, I realized that summer was almost over and I hadn’t seen enough rooftop bars yet. So now I am basically in rooftop bar overdrive. Next up: this one that serves popsicles dipped in glasses of Prosecco.

7. Right now I am doing a lot of math and trying to make sure I’ll have my finances and vacation days in order to take another big trip next year, probably in May over Memorial Day Weekend. I have narrowed it down to sailing the Greek Islands or seeing as many weird things as possible in Tokyo. Many hours of Pinterest to follow.

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