These past four weeks in Detroit have been challenging, surprising, and incredibly rewarding. I've met great people, seen amazing architecture, and have been moved by the spirit and passion of entrepreneurs eager to be major playmakers in Detroit's economic revival. Whether it be giant corporate powerhouses like Quicken Loans or small startups like those in TechTown's DTX Launch program, each venture plays its own part in writing Detroit's history.
I recently purchased a used bicycle and have been able to see more of the city and get a better grasp of Detroit's geography. On Monday, I participated in the slow roll, a weekly leisurely bike ride through Detroit with hundreds of attendees. The community of casual cyclists was so welcoming and I can't wait to go back tomorrow. I was also able to see some of the more dangerous areas of the city in a safe manner.
I also went on a long bike ride to Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River. David, Chris, and I biked along the river walk, a newly constructed pedestrian walkway spanning a 5-mile stretch of the river. Even though it was a Thursday afternoon, there were many people enjoying the pleasant weather and beautiful waterfront area.
Over the weekend, I was fortunate to be able to travel outside Detroit to the small village of Manchester. Fellow Duke Engage Detroiter Ben Heuser's family hosted us for the holiday weekend as we camped out in their backyard. It was a nice escape from the busy city life in Detroit and great to experience the small town culture, especially on the fourth of July. We went to Ben's aunt's farm and visited adorable chickens, pigs, ducks, and three-week-old goats It's incredible that less than an hour from the city, Michigan feels like an entirely different world. I was very moved by the Midwestern charm and hospitality I experienced from everyone I met. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was watching fireworks on Pleasant Lake from Ben's grandmother's house.
Stepping away from Detroit for a while has allowed me to reflect on my experience here on a deeper level. I've observed a difference in attitude between Detroit residents and those living outside the city. Detroiters almost always praise their city as up-and-coming, not as bad as it seems from the outside, and a great place to live. Outsiders, such as some Manchester residents I spoke with, seem to avoid the city altogether. It's interesting to see such a sharp polarity in people's opinions of Detroit. To an outsider like myself, it is very confusing. While I don't yet carry quite the same fierce pride in my heart as most Detroit natives, the city has certainly grown on me in the past four weeks as I have attempted to immerse myself in the local culture. Hopefully after another four weeks, some of the intangible qualities that make Detroit residents so endearing- their heart, spirit, and toughness- will rub off on me as I head back to Durham.