My Love for Miami Dade Transit (MDT)

I am literally only few weeks away from being done with my YAV year in Miami. And, I thought if I didn’t write at least one blog post about my experience using the public transportation, I would be leaving out a big, I mean huge, part of my year.

Can I just start by saying that I LOVE THE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION? It might be surprising to some folks who have heard me complain about the long hours it takes for me to get anywhere or occasional tardiness or even absence of buses gravely impacting my schedule, like missing an important meeting for my placement. In which regards, yes, it is not fun when I have to come to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to go to some events in time or even miss them because there is simply no way that I will get to multiple places all over Miami on time when using public transit. And, it does limit and restrict my mobility some, especially on weekends. But, I have never felt more independent and free in my life as I have done riding the public transportation.

As a person who was deathly afraid of driving and who got her driver license late in life, riding public transportation granted me an alternative opportunity to not drive but go to places at the same time. Miami-Dade Transit system is like the city’s veins, branching out to all of its corners, providing means of transportation to many people for whom this is the only way that they can go to work, to school, to place of worship or anywhere else one goes daily. This means that many things in your life revolves around where the bus goes and where it stops. Even though it may sound restricting, it really is one of the most incredible ways to know the city. It might limit the choices of places you WOULD have gone normally, but it pushes you to go to places that you haven’t thought of going before. And, this process of understanding and getting to know the city by agents other than your own limited knowledge widens your perspective of the city in ways that is just special and intimate. It’s like the city is challenging you to walk the streets that not many people walk, and see the things that it has hidden for only some.

Especially in Miami, learning the city’s diverse population and its cultures is easier in public transportation. The tiny bus captures a miniature representation of the town it circulates. If I ride the bus in little Haiti, there are many Haitians carrying conversations in Creole. If I ride the bus in Little Havana, I would meet many Cubans, speaking Spanish to me even though I panic in facing this beautiful language spoken with accents unfamiliar to me. If I ride the bus near the South Beach, I would see more tourists and visitors of the city. It really is hard to ride the bus in some parts like Doral or Coral Gables because the bus doesn’t run as often and the green bus stop signs are hidden behind beautiful trees because not many people use public transit in these parts of the town. Which means I often miss the bus stop and have to walk a long path, under a hot Miami sun. Even though I grumble through my walking through the neighborhoods, it is another chance for me to get to know that part of the city, outside of a tiny vehicle that sometimes narrows my vision to the road and road only.

Can you tell how much I love public transportation? It really has been a blessing. Nevertheless, I also recognize that using the public transportation for many people means absence of certain privileges that great number of people in this country take for granted without knowing. Having a car means you can choose to go anywhere and anytime. It means you have a safer mode of transportation when things come up. It is seen as a must in this fast-paced, busy society. It really is hard for one to keep a job, carry out all the responsibilities that many jobs require and demand, without a car. If not for my supervisor who understands and flexibility of my placement, I would have been fired a long time ago. It really is a challenge to use the public transportation to fit in today’s life styles, if you are not in a big metropolitan city like New York.

I didn’t mean to write this long of a post, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how much the public trans has contributed to my YAV experience. The MDT is connected to all my memories of going to actions and protests in the crack of dawn, in pouring rain, and late nights. It is a part of my daily life when I get so mad to see the bus passing before me but also feel so grateful when passengers see a poor girl with a huge backpack running after the bus and calls the bus driver to stop. I am going to miss Miami, but I don’t think I would have poured out so much of myself into this city without public transportation challenging me to intimately touch, breath in, and walk the parts of the city otherwise not known to me. And, I plan on giving public transportation another try at home, because I want to love and know the city in which I grew up the way I got to know Miami this year. And, that will be another adventure!

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Count the Many Towers – Discovering the face of God

Image“Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers.Take note of the fortified walls, and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.” Psalm 48:12-14

Yesterday was our last community day with Heidi, Miami site director and it was one of the most meaningful community days for me this year. In community days, all Miami volunteers, often with Heidi, would spend time together getting to know each other, getting to know the city, and sharing experiences. As some of us have left early to start next chapter in life, Michelle, Heidi, and I went on one more adventure together to explore the city we serve.   

We started the day with breakfast at Coral Bagel, local breakfast place where we had a short devotion from Psalm 48, getting ready to go out to different parts of Miami. The passage foreshadowed our own counting towers, taking note of the fortified walls, and touring all the citadels of this great city so that we can share what we have learned and have seen with those who will come to serve Miami this summer. We went to Homestead and Northwest Miami, stopping by organizations and ministries that are hidden in small corners of places that I wouldn’t have noticed normally if Heidi didn’t intentionally point them out to us. We just drove around the city, talking about brief history of these organizations, partnerships with them, and the people being served through them. These ministries attempt to address the issues like homelessness, at-risk youth, poverty, discrimination, and many others. And, they do this in partnership with many others who not only see the issues, but also the people behind them. They were somehow all connected.

As I reflect on the passage of Psalm 48 which urges people to look around the city of God whose greatness can be glimpsed through the strength and beauty radiating through the city walls, I think about what we have seen in Miami yesterday as just that: Seeing the face of God in the city. Except where I have seen God’s presence this year has not always been the towering buildings and glamorous city lights but in people’s struggles, isolation, and sufferings. In my own failures and despair. Also, in people’s humility, love, and solidarity despite the challenges. There is a message of hope that is greater than our struggles. He shows His goodness and love in these times, offering invitation to join Him when it seems bleak and hopeless. And, sometime it is too good to be true and I hesitate to accept it. But, God uses His people to encourage and love on us. I’m ever so thankful for my brothers and sisters who help me see God’s great call of love when I can’t and His hand prints in things that are broken.   

  

A year in Miami — A call to “suffer with”

It has been more than a month and a half since I last blogged. I’ve been meaning to multiple times in past two weeks, but I had to think whole lot about it before I could actually sit here and write (And, my laptop refused to connect to wifi many times too).  Honestly, I still don’t know what to write.

Definitely, a lot of things happened since last blog post. I left home to go to orientation at Stony point, NY on August 19th (Wow, that was almost a month ago) and met many wonderful people in person, including my amazing housemates (Kelly, Lanier, Michelle, and Molly) and incredible site director, Heidi. And, two weeks ago I came to Miami, settled in Club Shirley (our house name), prayerfully decided on my placement at South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice and started working there.

The whole experience so far has been an emotional, spiritual roller coaster, if that makes sense. Not just because I left home and miss home (which I do — miss my family, my church family, friends, Charlotte as a whole – the season change, dancing trees, fireflies, and the list goes on) or because I don’t like Miami (which is not true because I love Miami with its diverse cultures, people, and beautiful ocean!) or even because I don’t care for my housemates (this also is not true — my housemates have been great blessings in this whole experience).

But, more so that God pushed me to be in places where I HAVE to entirely trust Him or otherwise I will crumble to pieces. He certainly has nudged me to open my eyes and heart bigger so that I can see what He does in this city, among people, and in the world. He shone light in my heart and faith to see the fear, walls, and vulnerabilities. I have been kicking and screaming, resisting every way to not trust Him. This sounds so horrible to me because I have prayed for so long that I can trust Him with anything in my life. And, once again, when all the strength left me to resist, conviction comes so that I can really listen to what God says. And, He seems to say, “suffer with” people around me.

As I listen to many people around me who have walked different paths of life, I do see many hurts, suffering, and pain just as much as joy, passion, and love. As I listen to the stories of faith journey with other believers, hear the news of those in our society being neglected and taken advantage of, and walked with workers on poverty wage strike last week (a cool and overwhelming experience of solidarity that I need to share, perhaps in another blog post), I hear God say, have compassion and suffer with people around me. Even if I do not have solution to fix their problems, even if I do not agree with every decision they have made or values they hold, even if I cannot experience the same thing they do physically or emotionally. I should be with and suffer with people. This is one of the hardest call to be in. The ministry of being present. Standing still, knowing that He cares and loves. And, I care and love because He does. That is being His hands and feet at this moment. I’m not good at this and it’s hard. His invitation to join Him in His ministry – not a church program, community outreach, or any other ministries that I could think of but other places that He works in daily – is incredibly difficult at times. But, I try to remember that He wouldn’t call me out to be harmed, but to be with Him, just as I asked.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

On a much lighter note, I am going to work on writing more regularly. Aside from these internal reflections, I do have really fun adventures at Club Shirley and all over Miami, navigating through public transportation and new job. But, for tonight, this would suffice. 🙂

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