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Bringing the East back to the West

I shop at Safeway, I pump Chevron gas and I can still order a No. 2 McDonald's breakfast whenever I want.

Sometimes, I forget that Gallup is somewhere very different from where I grew up.

But everyday things remind me where I am. Like when the sun rises over the mesas as I cruise down Highway 491 to work. Or when I visit students' hogans and explain that it really doesn't bother me that there is neither heat nor electricity. Two weeks ago, I was reminded how very far away I am from home when I told my students that I was going to New York City for the weekend. Their mouths were agape. Their eyes were incredulous. Ms. Shyu was going to take an airplane to New York City.

Growing up in the D.C.-region, New York City was a place to meet friends for a party, the prime location for good Chinese food, and a weekend trip destination to see a show. But the looks on my students' faces reminded me that most of them may never have the opportunity to see a city I take for granted. They begged me for pictures. They made me promise to tell them what it was like. They reminded me to come back.

At first I felt ashamed. Why didn't I arrange a field trip for my students to the East Coast? And then I felt guilty. What made me deserve to go to New York City more than any of those kids? And then I told myself to get over it. Even if my students never make it to the Big Apple, they could at least get a taste of it.

And so that is why eight huge slices of New York-style pizza were carefully double-wrapped and tucked in my suitcase Sunday night. That is why we ended math class half an hour early last week to have a surprise birthday party for my assistant complete with cake, presents and New York pizza. And that is why I am reminded every other day by students to bring back another pie (or two, or three) when I return to New York in the spring.

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