As I have mentioned in my last blog entry, one of the things that I appreciate the most with the DukeEngage Durham/Durham program is that it allows me to see the town from a completely new angle. This summer, I have become not only a student of DukeEngage, but also a citizen of Durham. I have a nine to four job like most white collars, and I take the BullCity Connector (also known as the BCC) everyday instead of the Duke C1 bus. it is through the details of my everyday life that made me realize how much I have missed out on during the busy semester.
Last Wednesday during the reflection, we were asked to write a sentence or draw something that depicts our DukeEngage summer experience so far. As unbelievable as it can be, the first image that came to my mind was the orange BCC bus. I have to admit, however, that taking the BCC was something that I have always hesitated initially. First, I was concerned with the safety of the public transportation and its punctuality. I can still clearly recall the nervousness when I got on the bus for the first day at work. As a student of Duke, I was often reminded of the invisible gap between the campus and “the dangerous world outside”. As a result, no mater how hard I try, there was always something holding me back from being completely being at ease when I am off campus. For that reason, during the first few days, I felt like a fish outside its tank, unable to breathe normaly when I leave for work every morning. Nevertheless, after a while, I gradually gained some courage and got used to my new habitat. From nervously clutching my bag on the first day to the small talks that I occasionally make with locals on the bus, I, too, have surprised myself at how much I have grown. Eventually, I have realized that although we should be cautious when out of Duke, Durham has way more negative stereotypes and myths that it doesn’t deserve. Many of us, like myself, have fallen victim to these fallacies that made us aggravate the current social division between Duke and Durham. As long as you treat others with the way you want to be treated, you would not be disappointed with the town outside.
In addition, the tour last Saturday morning in which we walked around the Durham downtown area also allowed me to learn a lot more about Durham. During the tour, we visited the local Farmer’s Market that sells organic fresh produce and exotic soaps, as well as sky scrapers such as the luxurious Durham Hotel. The Brightleaf Square is also a part of the town brimming with the newest restaurants and stores that seem to be open 24/7. Nevertheless, it is quite unbelievable how, just a few blocks down, you have neighborhoods where poverty rate and unemployment rate are both astonishingly high. The imprint of gentrification has unraveled itself right before my eyes, as the new and the old coexist within just one mile radius.
During our discussion two weeks ago, our guest speakers, including the Durham mayor, emphasized the speed at which Durham is growing and prospering. No longer the “often-forgotten youngest sibling” of the Research Triangle, Durham is on its way to become a major city of the south worthy of international recognition. Nevertheless, the gentrification process and the greater socio-economic division that come with the economic development are two extremely important issues that we need to address in the near future.