1. Research Proposal

    After a late night phone call from a long time friend informing me of his intention to move, I found myself on an early morning flight down to Florida. By eight that evening we were on the road north to the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia.

    In the process of helping my friend move, I realized that my short few hours in the city was the first time I had ever stepped foot in Philadelphia. It was surprising to recognize that fact since my family drove up and down the east coast many times. We visited Washington, Boston, Savannah, Portland, but we had never stopped here. All my time living in New York I was disappointed in myself on not visiting sooner. This city that I knew had plenty of history to explore and sights to see should have been on my short list to go. After all, I had gone to London and Edinburgh on my own to explore right after high school. I pride myself as a student of history and art to see those places I had learned about in books. Yet this city that holds plenty of both has been left unexplored.

    The knowledge of the place that I currently have predominantly comes from history classes. Founded in 1681 by William Penn, he named the city Philadelphia which is Greek for “brotherly love.” Penn being a Quaker who had experienced religious persecution back in England. Made religious freedom and open society a bedrock of the city and of the newly created Pennsylvania colony. The city quickly grew and by 1750s it surprised Boston as the largest city in British America and was second to London as the largest city in the British Empire. Philadelphia because of its centralized location within the colonies became a hub for colonial politics and thought. Philadelphia was also the home of Benjamin Franklin. The first Continental Congress met in the city before the Revolutionary War, and during the war, the second Continental Congress met and sighed the Declaration of Independence. Making the city the de facto first capital of the newly declared United States of America. After the Revolutionary War, the city would continue to be the center of finance and culture for the United States. The city would also go on to become the first industrialized city in the United States. Philadelphia would give way to Washington DC as the center of politics and be supplanted by New York as the center of finance and culture. After that Philadelphia would fall out of the general historical narrative of American history.

    Present day Philadelphia conjures images of colonial buildings and the liberty bell, but also of a cheese steak sandwich, working class families and a city in decline. But with some research I discovered that the city a fairly well-known hub for pharmaceutical companies and the medical field. The city also has a thriving art and culinary scene. The city is host to more impressionist paintings in the world, second only to Paris. The city also attracts admirers of architecture. Since many styles can be found here. From colonial, Victorian, to modern.
    Philadelphia as serves as a market place for quaker and Amish farmers to sell produce and other items. Most famously in Reading Terminal Market. Philadelphia also ranked as one of the most socially progressive cities in the United States. Being one of the first city to advertise themselves as a queer-friendly city for queer travelers.

    Philadelphia faces the highest rate of poverty out the top ten largest cities in the United States, the wealth gap is also one of the widest. Gentrification is also a major problem with means the poorest residents being priced out of the inner city and forced into outer neighborhoods. Compounding their property with a higher cost for commuting and child care. Higher rates of violent crime have also given the city a negative reputation among its neighbors. The city is still recovering from the great recession, even thou it is growing in popularity with millennials seeking a cheaper urban area than those found in New York or D.C. But the job market in the city is one of the most stagnate in the nation so that growth is slow.

    I would like to explore how the city location shaped the city and how its quaker foundations might have been a starting point for its more liberal stances. I would also like to explore how the city history has affected its current residents and if it viewed as a positive or negative.

  2. Amarnath Temple located in India

    Amarnath temple is a religious sanctuary located in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The temple sits on top of a mountain that is 12,756 ft from ground level. This temple is known for the ice sculpture known as “Linga” that resides in the cave of this temple as well as the backbreaking pilgrimage people make to reach it. The cave itself is 130 ft high and the trail that leads to it is surrounded by encampments made by people to rest from the long pilgrimage (Yatra). The temple has a very fascinating religious connection with the Hindu religion. Jammu and Kashmir is on the northern border of India and is rather close to the border of Pakistan which recently has seen a lot of conflict. The mountain is located in the Himalayas and is 141 km from Srinagar which is the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Currently the pilgrimage or Yatra is organised by the government with assistance from the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board. The government makes money by taxing pilgrims as well as provide local opportunities for people to earn money. There was a tax controversy in 2010 that required vehicles that are going to Amarnath has to pay 2000 indian rupees and then a additional 2000 indian rupees per day after
    This ice monument has been all over the news in India due to the religious tie in it has with the Indian god Shiva. In the Hindu religion it is believed that Shiva and the goddess Parvati were together and Parvati asked why is he immortal. Shiva tells her that he can’t say the story in the open cause people will here so he chose this cave and called it Amarnath. As Shiva explains the reason for his immortality Pravati falls asleep and the story is heard by two white pigeons. When he discovers that the two pigeons were listening to his story he becomes furious and was about to kill them. But when he was about to one of the pigeons said if you kill us then the legend of this story will no longer exist, Shiva then lets them live.
    The Linga is unique because the ice structure never disappears even in the warmest of days. It just reduces in size during the summer but still maintains its form and regains its giant form in the winter. People travel from all over the world just to visit this temple because of the religious significance it has. The mythology of this cave is that a muslim shepherd named Buta Malik was given a bag of coal by a Sufi saint and as the shepherd traveled home he then realized the coal turned to gold. When Malik went back to talk to the saint he instead found this cave with the Linga. Another legend is that Bhrigu Muni (a sage) discovered the cave, after the flooding of the Valley of Kashmir.
    There is a road that runs up the mountain leading to the temple and people actually walk all the way up to the temple. The Indian people consider this as a pilgrimage called the “Yatra”. There is also the other options for transportation up the mountain you can have someone pull you up the mountain in a cart or just drive. Obviously people cannot walk all the way up to the temple in one shot so they have motels/lodges/tents for people to rest at. The shortest route to Amarnath is through the Amarnath Valley which is 16 km long but the climb is very steep. In 2011 Amarnath received about 634,000 people participating in the Yatra which is the highest recorded visitors for the site. Some people are really determined to make the long hike up the mountain which results in a lot of tragedies. In 2012 there was total of 622,000 pilgrims attempting to climb the mountain out of that 88 people died due to exhaustion and not being physically fit enough to walk the path. Another 42 people died due to road accidents, for a total of 130 deaths. From 1991 to 1995 the act of performing Yatra was banned due to threats of terrorism. In 1996 when the ban was lifted and people started to ascend up the mountain again a blizzard claimed the lives of 242 people. In 2000 there was a terrorist attack resulting in the death of 32 people. In 2001 a terrorist in the middle of the night threw a grenade at a camp and killed 13 people. In 2002 there was 2 terrorist attacks that killed a total of 11 people and injured 30. More recently in 2017 there was another terrorist attack in which 7 people died by a gunman.
    The two questions I that have interested me since I have been researching this topic is if there is more to the religious story behind the Amarnath temple/cave? And does it have a connection with other similar temples? The religious aspect of the research I did was very intriguing, my father is a religious person, he goes to temple once a week to pray for us since we don’t go to temple at all. The story also seems like a fantasy story and I’m a big fantasy nerd so naturally it interested me with the discussion for immortality and the talking pigeons. During my research I was wondering if there were other gods in the Hindu religion with temples as well that would be related in some way to this one. Like if there was a temple dedicated to Kali or Kumbhakarna that holds some significance similar to the Linga of Amarnath.
    The Amarnath temple is rather simple in terms of what it contains, but the religious factor behind it is immense. For a religious place it had its fair share of tragedies whether it was terrorists or mother nature. Jammu and Kashmir has been the center of attention for India and Pakistan. The Linga ice structure never melts completely and the connection with the Shiva story makes it more mystical.

  3. Galapagos Island
    When I use to live In Ecuador my mother would tell me stories about an island far from the the coast of South America. She used to say that it was a beautiful place to go visit but that it was constantly exploited by fisherman and smugglers because of its diverse ecosystem.
    Everyone I asked just new a few facts about the Islands, schools will tell the story of Charles Darwin but they wouldn’t go more in dept with its past. I have been always curious to know more about this place and why it is so special to the people. This particular place is part of Ecuadorian territory located around 1,000 km (600 miles) away from the coast of South America. It contains 19 islands in which 2 areas are considered protected areas or “sanctuaries for wildlife”.
    There is two ways to reach the island. The first option will be by boat starting From Guayaquil to Santa Cruz island and the second will be the least time consuming starting from the capital of Ecuador “Quito” towards Baltra island. Galapagos island has a rich ecosystem containing unique species of animals and plants. One of the Famous species of animals known in Galapagos are the giant tortoises which got extinct In June 24 2012, The last of his species was named “lonesome George” and he weighed 165 pounds. Some researchers believe that the Galapagos island formed thanks to the movement of tectonic plates and volcanic eruptions. The east side of Galapagos contains the oldest islands and the west side contains the most recent formation of islands, with some of the underwater volcanoes still active until this days.
    The Bishop of Panama, Tomas de Berlanga, was the first known person to step into the Galapagos by accident in 1535. He was blown of course while he sailed towards Peru, When he sow the islands he claimed that the lands was a horrible place where life can’t be formed and in fact volcanic soil is one of the most fertile soils that can exist in the world due to the amount of minerals that takes with it when it erupts. After his discovery other researches went to the islands and gave it the name of “Enchanted Islands” The sailors gave the islands that name because of the difficulty to navigate around it, The sailors thought that the islands disappear and appear like magic and this caused accidents and lost ships. It was due to strong currents and frequent fog That the islands were hard to find .
    The biggest island name Isabelle Island In honor to Queen Isabel de castilla who founded Cristobal Colon’s trip to the islands. This island was formed by the movement of tectonic plates which fused together five volcanoes, Cerro Azul, Sierra Negra, Salcedo, Darwin and Wolf.
    The Galapagos Island was given the title of national treasure by the UNESCO in 1978, and until this day The Ecuadorian government is taking care of the land and its species with strict laws that will not harm the ecosystem or let the population of the islands overgrow and interfere with the natural habitats.
    What are the laws at the island?
    What are some of the species of wildlife in the island ?

    When I began to pursue my ungraduated degree at LaGuardia Community College I thought I would become a Veterinarian Technician because I wanted a change from my office job and I wanted to work with animals. It took me two stressful and expensive semesters to realize I was just settling, I would never make enough to keep my financial anxiety at bay, and I would most likely deal with humans more than animals. Then I met with a woman who encompassed all that I wanted to be. Dr. Holly Porter-Morgan is the director of the Environmental Science program at the college and mentored me throughout my time at the school and is the reason I joined the major. Dr. Porter-Morgan conducts research at Newtown Creek every year in partnership with a local advocacy group and allows students to participate in weekly water testing in her lab. I participated during my final semester and felt like I was on the right path. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that research and testing at a site typically mean you’re dealing with an area that is in dire straits.

    Newtown Creek is a 6.0 km waterway that flows between the Northwest portion of Brooklyn and the Southwest portion of Queens. The Creek is an inlet from the East River as it is flowing South to the New York Harbor. It separates Greenpoint, Brooklyn from Long Island City, Queens at its mouth, branches off first behind the LaGuardia Community College campus then passes under the Kosciusko Bridge. It continues to flow along the edges of Bushwick, Brooklyn and Maspeth, Queens where it eventually branches off with two heads leading towards the industrial areas of the two neighborhoods. The surface area of the creek takes up approximately 140 acres of prime, and quickly developing, Brooklyn-Queens real estate.

    During the seventieth and eighteenth centuries, the Creek was used for agricultural purposes by Native American and European settlers. At this time, the Creek was fed by freshwater streams that mixed with the salty sea water from the East River. It was a vibrant estuary ecosystem that supported many species of fish and shellfish which attracted a wide variety of birds to its shores. A major use for the land and water was for agricultural and recreational purposes, the rest of the Creek consisted of salt marshes lush with plant life. During the time of the Industrial Revolution, the Creek become a resource for manufacturing and commerce. It was stripped of its natural environment, cut off from the freshwater streams, and manipulated to accommodate humans. For navigational purposes, the Creek was widened by removing the natural shorelines and even the island that popped up out of the center. The basin was deepened for the influx of cargo ships that were importing and exporting goods, but also oil to and from more than fifty refineries. Soon the Creek become a dumping ground for toxic and radioactive contaminants, raw sewage, and garbage. In 2010 Newtown Creek was declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency, making clean-up and restoration of the Creek a federal priority.

    According to research carried out by the Newtown Creek Alliance, around 30 million gallons of oil has been soaked up by the soil surrounding Newtown Creek. In addition to toxic contamination from its industrial neighbors, two billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water is dumped into the Creek from sewer outfall pipes on a yearly basis. New York City functions with a combined sewer system which collects rainwater runoff, domestic and industrial wastewater in the same pipeline. The wastewater is then transported to a treatment facility like the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility where it’s treated before discharged into a nearby water body. However, when rain exceeds as little as a twentieth of an inch, the treatment plant may reach its capacity and untreated sewage is discharged directly into Newtown Creek. High levels of bacteria within the Creek are a hazard to the health of local wildlife and humans who may come into contact with the water.

    I have many questions for Newtown Creek because I care deeply about natural environments that are struggling to survive in an impermeable urban environment. My first question is which anthropogenic activity got the Creek into the position it’s in today? The impact of the damages doesn’t necessarily exist on a timeline, and even if the Creek is in the middle of remediation from industry isn’t that negated by the City’s neglect to upgrade the sewer system? My second question is what effect does this activity have on future plans for the Creek? A few years ago a nature walk opened up in Greenpoint and visitors can walk or sit along the banks of the Creek and learn about the different species of flora and fauna that inhabit the Creek. Now, plans are underway to completely transform areas of the tributary into public parks. If the health of the water can also be restored the Creek may open to the public for recreational use. Professors from LaGuardia Community College, as well as nonprofit advocacy groups such as Riverkeeper and the Billion Oyster Project, have already begun to use bioremediation as a technique to improve the water quality. Primitive plants that would have flourished in the once marshy body of water have been replanted along the edges, and floating docks with mussel cages have been put in place to help naturally filter the water.

    Doing research at the Creek was a pivotal moment for me in my academic career because I worked alongside people who were passionate about this small marine ecosystem that had been so badly abused so long. The volunteers and advocates make their voices heard at community board meetings and work tirelessly for grants to continue testing the water. They also organize community outreach programs and host educational youth programs. It’s the kind of company I always wish to keep and most importantly find myself intertwined with. When I started at LaGuardia Community College my focus for everything, even when it came to writing papers for English classes (not much has changed), was coexisting with wildlife in urban environments. Everything about those six words excited and intrigued me so when I would walk from the college’s campus, dodging cement trucks, climbing over (potentially dangerous) trash mounds from a tool and dye shop, and fetched the water samples from a volunteer in a kayak, I felt like I was doing exactly what I had left my mundane office job to do.

  5. Athens, Acropolis – Rachel Jerome
    Αθηνα, or Athens in the English language is the capital of Greece. The ancient city with rich history and mythology attached to it was once home to a powerful civilization and empire in ancient Greece. I chose Athens for this research proposal for a variety of reasons, I am partially of Greek decent and am interested in learning more about the places my family originated from and in turn learning more about myself. After having visited Athens this summer and meeting some amazing people who live and study there Athens has piqued my interest. I am interested in digging into the land in Athens, beneath the surface where archeologist are digging up the remains of structures from ancient Greece. I am also interested in exploring the connection between mythology and the land, has Greece lost their values? Do mythologies hold answers to some of the problems Greece faces.

    Greek culture and the places in Greece are heavily influenced by folk lore and mythology. Similar to our analysis of “Wisdom sits in Places” Greek history was passed down through stories of mythological characters that inhabited and impacted the land. It is said that the way Athens got its name was from a battle between Poseidon the god of the sea, earthquakes and horses, and Athena the goddess of war, wisdom and courage. A top the acropolis the two brought forth gifts to offer to the people of Greece. Poseidon struck his trident into the ground and a water spring gushed out. This gift was to insure the people of Greece an abundance of water. Athena’s gift was an olive tree, this gift was to insure the people resources like food, oil and firewood. The people of Greece chose Athena to be there patron as they felt the olive tree would be better for them rather than Poseidon’s salty water. Although this is all mythology and there is no actual proof that this has happened, simply folk lore and stories past down through generations these stories are symbolic to the land and the people who reside on it. Like the Native American who worshiped the land they lived on and passed down many stories. As I was reading about the mythology of how Athens got its name I learned that some speculate that the drought Greece suffers could be a result of Poisoned anguish against losing the competition, taking back the gift the people took for granted.

    Much of what we learn in history is stories that were pass down generation to generation, pictures and statues many of these stories do not have credible evidence behind them, but they give life to the land we live on. When I visited the acropolis this past June 2018 I was not aware of the story of Poseidon vs Athena, I did not know how Athens got its name. Now that I know this story it brings a new perspective to what I witnessed in Athens, I see the land as a person, as a purpose. More than just some dirt and rocks and I believe that is what these stories and mythologies do for the lands and for its people. Reading mythologies about a land is similar to reading horoscopes for a person’s zodiac sign. We can have our own impressions about places and people before reading them but once you do read them your understanding of the place or the people changes, almost as if you understand them more, why they are the way they are, or why the place is, the way it is.

    Across the street from the acropolis is a museum that preserves ancient statues and history of Greece. As you walk in there is a glass floor where you walk over dug up ancient structures. One of the questions I had when walking over the glass was what are these structures? And what happened to them that they were buried? The museum was huge and had so many artifacts I felt as if I was in ancient Greece. The marble statues were beautifully preserved, and the exhibits had large windows you could see all of Athens. What fascinates me about Athens are these statues, these artifacts. The art, music and schools of thought in ancient Greece were ahead of its time in my opinion and to be able to walk and learn about the land in which these people came from was truly amazing.

    What also interests me about Athens and Greece is the religion, politics and the economy. Ancient Greece was a time of polytheism but over time those beliefs changed. The mythologies civilians once swore by have now become fun stories to tell children and Greek orthodoxy has become the primary religion. The change in religion and beliefs now changes the perspective of the land. A question I do that is do people still pass these stories down? Do people still look at the land through the lenses of mythology? Mythologies help paint a picture, create a world like no other, but these stories took place in real places and were influenced by real things.

    Athens is also known for being the pioneer of the democratic system we know today. However, we learn that in ancient Greece Athenians were not all that democratic. The Peloponnesian war was a civil war between Athens and Sparta. Athens was a democracy while Sparta was still ruled by two kings. The war was not a fight to push agenda but to conquer land, as more land equals more power. A connection I made when learning about Athens is that Athena is the goddess of war and the Athenian army fought ruthlessly despite being at a disadvantage against Sparta. During wars the land in Greece was crucial as it could be used at in advantage or be the disadvantage.

    Athens today looks much different than what it was in ancient Greece. Athens has an underground subway station which is one of the few in Greece. The acropolis and Parthenon are no longer used for official business and warship but is preserved and on display for tourist to visit. As Greece’s economy is not good right now they rely on tourism to bring in money. It is extremely competitive to study at a university in Athens, students from all over Greece from many different islands go to Athens to study. Athens is a beautiful place that speaks for itself, and has speaking for itself for thousands of years. The mythologies, histories and architectural gifts that reside in the land tell the stories of land. I am interested in further exploring the structures and land in Athens and the mythologies that try and explain them.

  6. Fiji
    A place that I would like to explore and one day visit is Fiji. Fiji is an island country that is located in the South Pacific Ocean and it is part of Oceania. It is located near Australia and New Zealand. What got me interested in wanting to explore Fiji is I’ve heard many things about there. I heard Fiji is a beautiful place and the scenery is amazing, and I’ve also always wanted to visit Fiji and learn more about it, and this research will allow me to do so.

    Fiji in its early years were referred to as the “Cannibal Isles” by European sailing ships back when sailors would avoid it due to its fierce warriors and treacherous waters. The first inhabitants on Fiji came from Melansia about 3,500 years ago and they established a hierarchical society based on clans. Little to nothing is really known about the islanders history before the arrival of Europeans in the mid 17th century. The Europeans established plantations and this caused friction between the Fijians and the Europeans. In 1874 Fiji became a British colony. A large number of workers from India were imported to develop a plantation economy. This help accounted for today’s present ethnic mix in Fiji. Fiji gained independence in 1970 and since gaining independence they have been politically unstable resulting in a lot of political friction.

    Fiji is a group of many volcanic islands. Of its 332 islands only 110 of them are inhibited. The two main islands Viti Levu and Vanua Levu account for about 87% of the population which is about 850,000. The capital of Fiji is Suva and is located on Viti Levu. Almost three quarters of the entire population live on Suva. Important towns in Fiji include Nadi which is the location of the international airport and Lautoka which is a seaport. Other important islands include Kadavu Island, the Lau Group, the Mamanuca Islands and the Yasawa Islands. Most of Fiji’s island were formed through volcanic activity and there is still some geothermal activity still going on today on the islands of Vanua Levu and Tavenui. Due to Fiji’s abundance of forrest, mineral and fishing resources it is one of the most developed economies in the Pacific Island area today. Natural resources include timber, fish, gold, copper, and offshore oil and hydropower. Fiji also has a large amount of tourism with many people choosing the islands of Nadi or Denarau Island as their preferred destination. A large of the tourist that to come to visit Fiji come from Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.

    Fiji has three official languages which are Fijian, English, and Hindustani. About less than half the population speak Fijian as their first language, while the other half speak it as a second language. Most Fijians are mostly Christians and the Indo-Fijians are mostly Hindu and Muslim. Fiji is a very multi racial and multi cultural place. They welcome visitors to join them in church and other religious activities. The Fijian culture is a relaxed and friendly culture, but they do take their customs very seriously and it is important to respect them. They have customs like when you are invited into someone’s home you must be gracious and thank your host and take your shoes off before entering and leave them at the door. In the Fijian culture it is considered a insult to touch someone’s head. When you greet someone you must be polite and shake hands. Kava is Fiji’s most well known social custom and an important experience. Kava is a unique ritual and if offered to join it is a unique experience and there is a drink that has a unique numbing effect. As a sign of thanks it is tradition to offer a gift. Fijians are very friendly people and they are are sometimes very eager to invite you into their home but it is always important that you respect their tradition and customs.

    Most people usually go to Fiji for the views and the clear water and white sand beaches which, yes, are all beautiful, but there is so much more to Fiji than the aesthetically pleasing views it provides.Fiji offers so much to learn about such as the culture, food, geography and the history. I’ve always been interested in learning other people’s culture; the way they live currently and the way they used to live their lives. Since I’ve never been outside of the U.S. I want to compare their lives to my own. I want to visit the Fiji Museum, the Colo-I-Suva Forest Park, the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, and more they all share more and more information about the life in Fiji. Continuing with the exploration of their culture I am also curious about the food they eat, and which meals are everyday meals and which meals are made for special occasions such as holidays, birthdays, etc. Not only do I want to try the food but I want to see how it is made. Since life in Fiji is so different to life in America I want to see how they make their food, with what materials. For example a popular dish made called Lovo is cooked in an underground oven, and the Lovo pit is created by the person first digging a hole in the ground and heating up special stones on the bottom layer which helps cook the meal. I also want to interact with the natives of Fiji. I want to see how men and women dress, how one village compares to another etc. Learning the way another group of people live their lives and comparing it to my own is something I want to experience to help humble myself. Observing how others have little use of technology in their lives and how they interact with each other is the main reason I want to explore Fiji; especially as someone who has lived in New York their whole life. New Yorkers live in a bubble, we live fast lives and take everything we have for granted and never stop to realize that there are hundreds of thousands of people all around the world who don’t live life the way we do and are perfectly fine. Experiencing this first hand would be an eyeopener, and help me realize that living in America is a blessing.

  7. Research Proposal- Redo

    *My first proposal was on the Japanese art section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I handed in a hard copy in class and did a Power point presentation on that topic. After reading your comments, I decided to change the location to somewhere else that I could find better information on the actual place. The Taung Kalat Temple is a much larger place than a particular section in the Met so it allows more leeway to write about the different aspects about it.

    Tung Kalat Temple is a Buddhist temple located on Mt. Popa in Myanmar (Burma). It is a large tall building on top of a volcanic plug, with a city of short homes below the mountain. The volcano is four thousand nine hundred and eighty feet tall. The temple is located in central Burma and can be seen as far as thirty-seven miles away on a sunny day. There seven hundred and seventy-seven steps that lead to the top of the temple, and along the way there are locals who sell drinks, snacks, and trinkets. It is a hike to the temple, but it is aesthetically beautiful and is open to the public. The path to the temple is known to have animals like monkeys who live on the steps, who can pick-pocket you for food on the way up. This has become a popular tourist site, with railings and covering on parts of the stairs for safety measures. Most local people visit the temple for its location and for the thirty-seven spirits that live there. The spirits all have statues along the stairs. The roof of the building is a brilliant yellow gold.

    The location piqued my interest because of my friend Phyo. He is Burmese and often goes back to visit relatives. The Burmese dishes I’ve eaten with him are delicious and unlike any other type of food I’ve had. Seeing his Instagram photos of him with a shaved head and traditional clothes monks would peak anyone’s interest. He loves visiting and even brought back a gift for me, a skirt regularly worn by women in Burma. The flattering long length and deep warm purple and gold design is stunning. I even loved the white plastic bag he gave me it in with bold bright blue words in Burmese. The font and style of the letters looked really nice. I was told to wear it in the summer. Although it is technically incorrect to continue to call the country Burma instead of Myanmar, I continue to casually call it Burma since Phyo uses that name when using English. He considers himself “Burmese.” For the sake of it being shorter and easier to say, he just calls the country it’s previous name of Burma in English, as do I for the same reason.

    In 1989, the ruling military government changed Burma’s name to Myanmar. The 8888 uprising in Burma is one of the bloodiest protests including men, women, children, monks, physicians, etc. with over ten thousand casualties. The protest was on August 8th, 1988 or 8/8/1988. “Since 1962, Burma had been a one-party state ruled by General Ne Win and his repressive Socialist Programme Party. The party’s ideology, institutionalized in the Burmese Way to Socialism, combined Soviet-style central planning, Buddhist beliefs, and superstitious decision-making to disastrous results: almost every industry was nationalized and Burma quickly became one of the world’s poorest countries.” Many other cities within the country also changed names. Burma is considered to describe Burmans only, so Myanmar became the politically correct term, which is supposed to include everyone that lives in the country. The name change got rid of the British colonial influences in the country. Because of the recent name change, it causes confusion globally, and many people use the name interchangeably.

    I decided to do research on a temple on Burma with little background knowledge on the country itself and little no none about Buddhist temples in general. This place piqued my interest because of how unknown it is to me, and I hope to learn a lot more about the popular, beautiful temple and its environment. The idea of temples and monasteries always piqued my interest since they are common words when talking about interior design. Many people who try to create minimalist homes or calm homes for relaxing often compare it to a monastery. Clean, simple, beautiful, and surrounded by nature. A popular show on television years ago was Avatar the Last Airbender. All the calm auras, beauty in the environment, and strong intuitive in the characters from the area made this American television show stand out. This may be an example of orientalism, and beyond the façade depicted, I will not be surprised if Taung Kalat Temple is a lot different than the world I am or want to picture. The all-around nature and location of Taung Kalat Temple is enough to make me want to learn more about what really goes on there and about Burmese Buddhists in general.

    Buddhism is practiced by ninety percent of the population in Burma. In the temples, males can be ordained as monks and women as nuns. All must shave their head when being ordained. Burmese people are open to people from all over the world and share their culture. If you visit on a retreat, you can be ordained as a monk or a nun for your stay. Outsiders who visit the temples have actually described their experiences there to be quite noisy and loud at times and physically demanding since they watch the monks work hard to do everything for the temple themselves like fixing anything broken,cleaning, and traveling to collect food donations from local towns. Certain temples in other locations do vary.

    I’d be lying if I said I was not intrigued by the monkeys, the many temple steps, or the big beautiful temple that shines in the sun. The idea of a time for silence and meditation is very attractive. It is a place I would like to visit if given the chance at some point in my life. Every country has dark and bright histories, and Burma is no different. I do not want to see the place as just a fantasy land. Taung Kalat Temple holds ancient history that needs to be known and respected. The learning, sacrifice of secular goods, and restriction that the monks and nuns at temples experience on the path to enlightenment are admirable. It is fascinating that the top of a volcano can be made into a place of spiritual energy.

    Through research, I’d like to ask the questions why the people of Burma chose Mt Popa as a chosen place for the temple, as I am sure there are many reasons. Learning about the temple also means learning about the volcanic plug it resides on. I’d also like to ask why the temple is so open to the public and tourists. I understand tourism brings money into the temple and country in general, but it is more of a question as to why Burmese people are so open about something that seems so solitary as an individual finding personal enlightenment. I want to know if they are truly activists like missionaries spreading their religion, or maybe it is a simpler answer. Some religions just seem so closed off to the rest of the world despite having large congregations that study the same text together.

    Another interesting part of Taung Kalat Temple are the legends that surround it. These legends use similar imagery to the bible and the ancient Greeks. It is difficult to find dates on when it was built or even the architecture, but I do see a lot about spirits and legends. This kind of reminds me of Wisdom Sits in Places by Keith Basso. The Native Americans do not find the dates to be the most important part about places, so maybe I should not either and try to look at it from another perspective. Even looking up the history of Taung Kalat makes it that more interesting and mysterious. There are three main festivals that take place at the temple that have locals hike up for a full moon in the spring months of May and June called Nayon and one for the full moon of winter in November and December called Nadaw. Thingyan is a festival that takes place in April, which marks the new year in Burma. Taung Kalat is a temple that brings many together throughout the year.

  8. Brandon Beaman
    English 162W
    Prof. Riazi
    RKO Keith’s Theater, Flushing, New York

    Throughout New York City, there are a multitude of places which are vastly historic and prominent. These places have both sentimental and historic significance, which garner worthiness of exploration. One place which I would personally like to explore and learn more about to gain a further contextual understanding of the city in which I reside would be RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing, Queens. RKO is chock-full of historic aspects, including those who have performed there, the architectural style which it was built with, the later corruption which led to its internal demise at the hands of the owners who purchased it after it’s doors were closed, and the possible rejuvenation at the hands of the current owner. The RKO Keith’s Theater has sat for more than 30 years in a state of disrepair, which has garnered a vast amount of exploration of a place which once was a thriving vaudeville and movie theater with artistically formed interior consisting of a beautifully painted blue sky. Due to the many interesting and historically significant aspects of the RKO Keith’s Theater, I have found a unquenchable curiosity regarding the former glory of what once captured the minds and hearts of past generations of Flushingites.

    RKO Keith’s Theater, which was originally named Keith-Albee-Vaudeville, opened its doors on December 25th, 1928 at 1 P.M. As the last stop of the the Flushing Trolley, this theater was built on the former site of the Flushing Hotel, a tavern which allotted a place for people to relax and recuperate their horses and themselves after traveling east to west on Northern Blvd.(Forgotten-Ny) As I began to research into the history of RKO, I found myself questioning who performed in the RKO in it’s vaudeville years as well as what prominent classic movies may have been shown there. The first acts which were shown at the theater include “Three Weeks End” starring prominent flapper Clara Bow and a vaudeville act known as “The Honey Troupe in an Amazing Interlude of Gymnastics” as well as 11 other performances. This theater began as a subscription house which sold season tickets and performances would be adjusted per week to meet the high demand for entertainment.(Gray) The theater had various performers grace their stage throughout the years it was active including Marx Brothers, May West, Burns & Allen, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and many more prolific entertainers. While RKO had many live performers, movies were also screened on the singular movie screen present in the theater, including Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, King Kong, and many other works which were prominent and sure to draw a crowd. RKO Keith’s quickly grew to be the centerpiece of Flushing, having an architecture style like no other in the area and being one of the first places people would see when entering the town. Even if the performance wasn’t to a person’s liking, the atmospheric interior was sure to draw interest.

    The theater was built under the guidance of the architect Thomas Lamb who was one of the premier architects of 20th century theaters. The Theater cost $750,000 to build and seated 2,794 people.(Collins) The theater was built in the Spanish Mission Revival stylistic manner which was elegant in nature, replicating the architecture of Spanish missions in California. At this same time, the interior was adorned in Spanish Baroque style with a painted blue sky with bulbs imitating stars glistening in the atmosphere.(Gray) Lamb also fortified the depiction of the sky by projecting clouds which appeared as if they were moving and kept lights at a low level to keep appearance a gloomy twilight-esque setting. The ticket lobby had a 2 story high ceiling with a mahogany ticket booth, and was filled with gold painted plasterwork. A Grand Foyer of 75 feet width had a large fountain with 2 parallel marble staircases leading to a balcony area, allowing for a closer look at the aesthetic which decorated the ceiling.(Columbia) The artistic interior designs included: complexly decorated gold painted plasterwork, spiral columns, alcoves situated with urns and other statues. The main auditorium consisted of these same decorations and also elaborate cut-glass chandeliers and scenic Spanish-style murals.(Gray) In the 1970s, the RKO Theater was renovated to include 3 movie screening areas rather than the past singular movie screen. All of the architectural stylistic choices have made the RKO Keith’s Theater a sight to be seen in awe.

    The Theater ultimately was closed in 1986, with the ticket lobby and Grand Foyer being granted landmark status in 1984. After reading about the closing of RKO, the question arisen regarding who owned RKO after it’s closing to the current epoch and what was their intent behind purchasing the property in addition to whose actions led to the current state of the RKO. With the closing of the theater came the yearn for real estate development by the new owner Thomas Huang, who purchased the property for 3.4 million dollars. Huang sought to reconstruct the RKO into office space or a shopping mall and could not due to the landmark status of certain parts of the building such as the ticket lobby and Grand Foyer. This led to illegal actions taken on the part of the owner, in hopes of destroying the interior to force the city to allow him to demolish the theater and build on the site.(Fung) Various landmark parts were found destroyed or in disrepair under the ownership of Huang, including the gilt spiral columns. Thomas Huang went as far as to dump 10,000 gallons of waste oil from an oil furnace in the basement and lied stating they were successfully dumped and cleaned the waste oil under the supervision of the Fire Department. This led to his eventual arrest and indictment on 2 felony charges, receiving 5 years’ probation and a fine of $5,000 with a stipulation that he must repair and restore that which he demolished to avoid jailtime. He never made these repairs, and to this day much of the interior remains in disrepair.

    Since 1981, there has been various groups which have arisen from the dilapidated ruins of the former theater, in hopes of restoring the RKO Keith’s Theater to its former glory. One group which has fought to maintain RKO, and repurpose the space as a performing arts and convention center is that of the”Committee to Save RKO Keith’s Theater of Flushing, Inc.”(Gray) In more recent years, multiple Facebook pages have been created including “Save The Flushing RKO Keith’s Theater,” which bolsters thousands of followers hoping to save RKO from being demolished and with that demolish the removal of 90 years of history for Flushing and the entertainment industry, alike. They call upon city officials to intervene and save the crumbling interior before it’s too late. Sadly, their efforts have been hindered at the hands of the multiple owners who the property has switched hands to throughout the years. In 2002, a Brooklyn-based developer named Shays Boymelgreen bought the theater in hopes to build a condominium but succumbed to debt and defaulted on his mortgage, which allowed Patrick Thompson acquire the property for $20 million dollars in 2010. (Fung) In 2013, JK Equities purchased the property from Thompson for $30 million and sold the property to Xinyuan Real Estate in 2016. Xinyuan plans to build a 16 floor glass apartment build with almost 300 apartments for rent while preserving the landmark status Grand Foyer and ticket lobby within the confines of the building. The Landmarks Preservation Commission ultimately approved the proposal for this building to be developed in 2017. A prominent architect named I.M. Pei has been named as the architect in charge of preservation of the parts of the RKO which will be left unscathed and possibly rejuvenated.(Curbed) These plans are ongoing, and no start or completion date has been provided for this possible project. Though there are many who oppose this new building and rejuvenation of the 2 landmark sites, many have accepted that it would be impossible for a full restoration of the theater due to crumbling infrastructure, graffiti riddled walls, and the high cost to repair the basement and take out permits to work.

    The reasonings in which I would love to explore this place would be the historic significance it holds upon NYC, and my home neighborhood of Flushing, Queens. I would also greatly enjoy to see the complex architecture and atmospheric interior which is adorned with gilt plasterwork, chandeliers, murals, and lavish décor. I would also enjoy greatly to explore RKO theater during it’s peak, especially during the vaudeville years and the silver screen era, which piqued my interest with the vastly different approach to entertainment than what we are used to in our current epoch. I also am extremely interested in this site due to its significance amongst Flushing residents throughout the time it was open. Many residents reminisce upon the time they spent enjoying the shows, or watching movies on the silver screens. The memories which have been had there add exponentially to the character of this decorative theater. I also draw curiosity in the many prominent and historic people who have shared the stage of the RKO at one point or another. The RKO holds a key to the past, a time in which I would love to explore, and to learn a better historical and contextual viewpoint of the town which I hold so dear to my heart.

    Works Cited:

    1. Gray, Christopher. “A Magnificent, but Mutilated, Palatial Landmark. (RKO Keith’s Motion Picture Theater, Flushing, New York).” The New York Times 1990: R8. Web.

    2. Fung, Amanda. “Rental Building may be Ticket to Revival of Flushing RKO Site.” Crain’s New York Business 27.10 (2011): 2. ProQuest. Web. 2 Mar. 2019.

    3. Lobby of RKO Keith’s Theatre in Flushing, N. Y.. Postcard. Seymour B. Durst Old York Library Collection, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. Columbia Digital Library Collections. 02 Mar 2019

    4. Collins, Glenn. “Parts of Ornate Theater in Queens Included in Condo Plan.” New York Times, 25 Feb. 2004, p. B1. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.queens.ezproxy.cuny.edu/apps/doc/A113583910/AONE?u=cuny_queens&sid=AONE&xid=df9d8a8c. Accessed 2 Mar. 2019.

    5. Gray, Christopher. “STREETSCAPES: Flushing’s RKO Keith’s; A Magnificent, but Mutilated, Palatial Landmark.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Apr. 1990, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/01/realestate/streetscapes-flushing-s-rko-keith-s-magnificent-but-mutilated-palatial-landmark.html.

    6. “MAIN STREET, Flushing.” Forgotten New York, 17 Oct. 2010, forgotten-ny.com/2010/10/remember-the-main-main-street-in-queens/.

    7. Rosenberg, Zoe, and Tanay Warerkar. “Flushing’s Landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater Will Soon Be Engulfed by Glassy Condo.” Curbed NY, Curbed NY, 16 May 2017, ny.curbed.com/2017/5/16/15643646/rko-keiths-theater-landmark-redevelopment-queens.

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