Living happily in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Heleen left everything behind and moved to a farm upstate New York. Why did she go?
Watch the video and answer the questions below.
The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.
Leaving Williamsburg from Charles Schwab on Vimeo.
1 Why did the narrator's parents manage to find a building for a good price in Williamsburg?
2 What renovations did her parents do to the building?
3 Why is 1992 important for the girl?
4 Who moved out of the city?
5 Why did the narrator's parents separate?
6 How does the narrator describe her childhood?
7 Where does the narrator live now?
8 How does the narrator's mom make a living?
My parents found a building in south Williamsburg, right under the Williamsburg Bridge in 1982. They were able to get it for a fairly good price probably because the neighbourhood was so bad. There were gangs, and drugs and it definitely wasn’t a good area (1) .
They renovated the entire building. The backyard was really my mum’s project. They took out the cement. She made a pond. She put in plants and ivy. She really turned it into this incredible green space (2). Which was such a rarity in such a down-and-out gray neighbourhood and although I don’t remember it, I’ve seen so many photos of myself playing in the backyard and spending many days there in this beautiful oasis.
So in 1992 the City of New York was going to repair the Williamsburg Bridge, they needed to sandblast to get rid of all the lead paint. Unfortunately, they didn’t follow the proper precautions and all the kids in the neighbourhood got lead poisoning, including myself. My lead levels were through the roof. I needed to get out of the city as soon as possible (3).
She came here and she didn’t have a job, she didn’t have friends, she had a young child and she had to completely start over again. It was also difficult because my dad was still working in the city [the narrator and her mom (4)], so she was essentially alone for a lot of the time. Eventually they separated because they were living two very different lives (5).
Although it was really hard on my parents, I think my mom’s decision to ultimately move here was the best thing that could have happened for both of us. I had such an idyllic childhood. The countryside was my backyard. During the summer when I had time off from school, I would spend all day outside and I got to use my imagination, and I really got to be a kid a lot longer than I think I would have if I’d lived in the city (6).
Now that I live in LA (7), I just love coming back here. I come back as much as I can to see her so happy, to get fresh air and to just be in this incredible nature. Even though the garden in Williamsburg was so beautiful, what she has here is unparalleled: Giving riding lessons, breeding horses, going on trail rides (8), it gives her so much joy.