Tag Archives: service trips

Day 13, last day of work, Mississippi Clarksdale

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by Kaitlyn Lee ’19

Today is our last day here in Mississippi. Over these two weeks, we met lots of wonderful people, learnt the foundation of building houses, bonded with one another through this hardship, and we have survived. In my mind, I still feel like we were here just yesterday and time flies so fast. I still remember the time I was exhausted through priming the walls in Tutwiler, till this day where my right arm is still sore from hammering the top of the house in Clarksdale.

We worked only on the second house today, and witnessed how to make the concrete as the foundation of the shed. Since we didn’t have access to the water we were supposed to have, a concrete truck came by and poured in the concrete as opposed to making the concrete ourselves. We successfully made the concrete for the shed and also the pavement for the sidewalk outside the front door. I was surprised how Ben reused the excess concrete from making the shed and turned it to the sidewalk. This was my first time actually witnessing the making of a foundation, and I was intrigued by how you turn seemingly useless dirt and cracked concrete into a brand new one. It was a very insightful experience.

After all the work, we took our group picture with Ben (our supervisor) and headed back to the dorm. We cleaned up the dorm, ready for tomorrow’s departure.

Originally, I wasn’t excited to give up my spring break in order to do service in a place I have never been to and with people I have mostly never met before. But after this experience, I understood that doing service isn’t a burdensome thing after all. I learnt many new things from people that came from very different backgrounds from me, and I enjoyed this experience of learning their culture and (of course) their unique accents. I think I also grew an interest in country music (I never thought I would say this) and understood a lot more about the history and culture of the southern part of the United States.

At the end of this blog, I would like to thank everyone we encountered through this trip, especially Valerie, Brendan and Emma for taking the time to lead the trip. Thank you for being so considerate and working so hard to make sure we enjoy this trip as much as we worked.

Once again, thank you and it’s time for dinner.

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Mississippi

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by Max Malavsky ’18

After a long day yesterday we woke up, ate a breakfast that consisted of baked oatmeal, cereal, and oranges, then we piled into the vans ready for another day of work.

We roll up to the “worksite” (the house we’ve been working on) at around 9am, hop out of the vans and meet up with Ben at the front of the house. The door is already open and the group files into our places. At this house, we worked on making face boards and frames for doors. Beau, Ben, and I focused on taking down the lengths of the frames and figuring out the correct angle measurements that were needed to accurately make a frame. After Beau found the necessary length of one side of the frame, Ben would take it out to me at the saw. There, Ben and I would find the angle that would make the frame fit. Don’t get me wrong, this process was very tedious and time-consuming, but it got the job done and Ben insisted that this was not only the correct way, but the only way that we could accurately make measurements on the frames.

We worked in the morning from 9-12. Beau and I filled the house with music, while sparking conversations about today’s rap music with Ben and the other members of our group. It turns out that Ben happens to be a huge 2Pac and Snoop Dog fan. When asked what his favorite album of all time was, he immediately replied, “Dude, are you serious? The Chronic 2001, of course.” We carried this discussion throughout our morning work until we were interrupted by Wanda. Wanda works in Clarksdale and came into our house. She was impressed with our work and by the fact that we were giving up our spring break to work with Habitat for Humanity, and decided to by us Dominos for lunch! The group gathered outside and talked about the afternoon’s activities while we were waiting for Wanda to bring us our lunch. After a few minutes of small talk, Wanda arrived at the worksite and we took the pizza back to our Habitat house for lunch.

During lunch we made major progress on our new pastime: puzzles. Puzzles and 2018 Mississippi Service Trip go together like peanut butter and jelly. We have taken puzzling to an entirely new level and have put in WAY too many hours into completing the three puzzles we’ve already conquered on this trip. We are currently trying to tackle a 2,000 piece puzzle as of now and it is going quite smoothly.

After lunch we once again piled into the vans and headed to the second house that we have been working on this week. Here, Beau, Ben, Alyssa, Jacob and I headed to the back of the house to dig ditches in the scorching Mississippi afternoon sun. We listened to music and continued our conversation from earlier in the day about our individual tastes in music. It has been great getting to know Ben over these past couple of days, he is definitely a person that I plan on writing to after this trip. During the afternoon, we worked from 1:30-4. Once we finished, we drove back to our Habitat house for some puzzling before our potluck dinner.

Ben and Nat came to our house at 5:30 and cooked until 6:45. During this time, the members of the group played with the neighborhood kids. I developed a close connection with a young boy whose name I think is “Darius” but he cannot speak very well so honestly I’m not quite sure what his name is, so I told everyone to call him D. He is a very aggressive child who loves to pull hair and threaten other kids. However, we bonded very quickly. He always asks me to carry him, he sits me down to talk to him, and gives me the occasional kiss on the cheek.

It was time for dinner, we said goodbye to the kids and sat down for a delicious meal. Once the meal was finished, our guests left and the members of the group returned to our new favorite hobby. Yes, you guessed it, puzzling.

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Mississippi

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by Susie Mott ’18

I emerged from the girls’ dorm at 8:00 this morning to a finished 1,000-piece puzzle. I admire the determination it took to do this in one night.

Today, Ben had us installing hurricane clips and assembling the wooden foundation for a shed on South Edwards Ave. The hurricane clip crew worked along the perimeter inside, thoroughly nailing metal to beams and walls such that the roof ought to remain on this house in high winds. The rest of us filed outside, where we moved a pile of wood scrap across the yard – uncovering a newt, and a whole bunch of roly-polies! When starting the shed, Ben made sure each of us got a turn with the hammer, offering mini motivational speeches to anyone who became unsure or frustrated with the task, ensuring that we finished each nail off well.

Two other men showed up to help at this site; Bill and Mark, wielding a power saw. Mark addressed us collectively as “teens.” “Hey, teens!” “Teens! Come help with this!” I spent much of the morning standing by the scaffolding as a safety measure (“If we fall, that’s our mistake. If you don’t catch us, that’s your mistake, and there will be lawsuits! Lawyers everywhere!”), and found out that they’re history teachers. They offered to let me have a go with the saw, but asked Valerie first, and she vetoed this on account of my safety.

We had the afternoon off work, so by popular demand Valerie and Emma drove us to have a look at Ole Miss. I conked out in the van, as did most of my peers, but I was aware enough to notice the shift out the window from cotton fields, patched-up houses, metal fences, mallards swimming around the trunks of trees in opaque flood water, to neatly manicured lawns and huge houses enclosed by walls. I noticed benches in town designed such that homeless people won’t sleep on them.

Ole Miss is big. Just, so huge. We left Valerie and Emma at a Starbucks and trotted off to explore Oxford, Mississippi. This involved Insomnia Cookies, a book store, a bright red British telephone booth, and the most interesting-looking shop on the square: End of All Music, a record shop accessible by a staircase in an alley. We also noted a couple of Confederate memorial statues. We piled back into the vans as bells rang “For the Beauty of the Earth” across the university.

We visited Ground Zero Blues Club for dinner and music. Morgan Freeman was there. He high-fived me and shook my hand. I swear this actually happened and I’m not just redoing Terry Culleton’s surrealism assignment.

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El Catorceavo Día

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by Mallory Fritsch’19 and Bea Feichtenbiner’19

After breakfast at Rafaela’s, we went to the younger kids school. Since it was the last day of classes, all the kids were dressed in their summer clothes, so there were kids in bathing suits and shorts as opposed to their traditional uniforms.

In the “Nivel” classes, there was a celebration on the patio.  Before the celebration began, there was music playing and all the little ones were dancing.  Many of them stood on tables and chairs while teachers and parents recorded the cute little ones dancing.  All of the little kids gathered at tables to wait for the delicious bowls of watermelon, banana, and mandarin oranges.  After the summer snack, there was a large dance party where all the kids gathered on the now open patio. They all danced around and with the helping GS students and the teachers.  Towards the end, the first grade peaked their heads out to watch all the GS students dance to American music, but also learn some traditional Nicaraguan dance.

In the “Grado” classes, all the students got bowls of fruit, complete with mangoes, mandarins, jocotes, watermelon, apples, and bananas. As the finished their fruit, students ran into the hallway and began dancing to the music. At one point, Sidney and I started a conga line that was so long that the beginning was practically touching the end. Students got picked up at 10:00, which is 2 hours before the usually do, so we used the extra time to paint baskets for the dance teacher, Roberto. Then we, of course, had dance class and we all perfected our dance to perform the young students tomorrow.

After a brief break for lunch, we returned to Nicaraguita to spend the last day with the older students.  We all conversed and danced around while waiting for the the goodbye ceremony. The ceremony, similar to the Welcoming Ceremony, was complete with dancing, poetry, and English speaking from the older students.  Us George School students also had to perform the dance we have been working on in dance class. This took us by surprise since we didn’t feel that we were ready. We all struggled lining up in the pairings for our dance, and when we began the dance, the song wasn’t the right version!  We all made the best of the situation, trying our best to still dance to the music playing. Luckily for us, the students laughed with us at the misfortunate performance.

The eleventh grade students then walked us back to Rafaela’s, where we ate dinner and got ready for our last party with them. After a dinner of tacos with barbecued meat, we sat outside as a group, just hanging out and listening to music since it was one of our last nights together. At 7:00, the eleventh grade came to pick us up and walk us to one of their houses for the party, where we all danced and hung out. Since it was Alyssa’s birthday, we had a cake both at Rafaela’s and at the party. When it was time to leave, we all got a little emotional, especially, Hadley, because we didn’t know if we were going to see all of our Nica friends tomorrow. We’re still not sure, but we don’t think so. We’re all sad about leaving, but ready to go home.

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El treceavo dia

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by Zachary Wander ’18

Today was another work day. We were going to a Habitat for Humanity site (Hábitat para la humanidad), called Los gutierrez, located in San rafael del sur.

We had to be at Rafaela’s house at 6:30 to be able to eat, leave and arrive on time, so we were all pretty tired. At 7:30, we all boarded the bus, and took a 1:40 drive to where we were going to be working. There, we learned exactly what we were going to be doing for the rest of the day: we were going to be digging. Specifically, we needed to dig out a hillside, in order to prevent the nearby house from flooding when it rains. The dirt we were to dig out was going to be used to redirect the water to the side of the house, while the extra space between the hill and house acted as extra protection.

Before we started, though, we had to put on a lot of safety gear. Because we were using pickaxes to loosen the dirt and clay, we all needed to wear hard hats to prevent injuries in case of a stray swing. It was also recommended that we wear back braces (which we all did), so that the constant motion of swinging an axe or moving a shovel wouldn’t cause any damage.

Once we started (around 9:30), it was already very hot, and there were no clouds in the sky at all, so it just kept getting hotter. But we all persevered and worked through the heat, pickaxing out dirt, chiseling the sides of the cutouts we made, and moving the loose dirt farther up the hill. We were told that the best way to dig out the area was to divide it up into sections, making 2-3-foot wide troughs to dig out and level (2 had already been started when we arrived). It was surprisingly slow work. Even after 2 hours, we hadn’t even finished 1 trough.

At 12:00, we took a break for lunch, starting again at 1:00. The plan was to leave at around 2:00, so it was pretty obvious we weren’t going to dig out the whole area. However, in that hour, we did manage to finish the 3 troughs, all of us tired and covered in dirt.

We got back to Rafaela’s at around 4:00, where a lot of people decided to make a trip back to their homes to take a quick shower. After that, we ate dinner, and then waited to go to another party at Kevin’s house. I wasn’t planning on going, so I left at 6:30, but the rest waited until 7:00 to leave.

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Mississippi

by Ben McCormick ’18

Day 8 BBKings bandDay 8 BBKings dancing

A day of pause began with an 8:45am wake-up call in room 231, one of the rooms where our group was staying in the Hampton Inn. The thirteen of us grabbed a quick complimentary breakfast and left at 10:00am sharp to visit Memphis, TN before driving back to Clarksdale, MS for our second week of service with Habitat.

Expecting Memphis to be as typical as any other city, I was pleasantly surprised by the rich musical history and Southern qualities that made the visit a unique experience. Ironically unlucky for the group, the streets were engulfed in the remnants of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. When I say unlucky for the group, I specifically mean Elenor, who stepped in vomit while admiring an adorable puppy tucked away in a woman’s jacket. We continued to explore the streets in groups despite the misfortune. We first stopped at the nearest souvenir shops, which seems to have become tradition these past few days, and then continued down to the banks of the Mississippi River.

By the water we saw a large pyramid that seemed to glow in the distance. The time read 11:25am, but Valerie asked for everyone to meet back at B.B. King’s Blues Club for lunch at 12:30pm and we knew we had limited time to reach the building. We decided to seize the opportunity and accepted the journey along the river to meet the pyramid, which held Bass Pro Shops.

With limited time after arriving 25 minutes later, we raced in and were greeted by hunting and fishing gear galore along with many tasteful candies and arcade games. What specifically caught our attention was the gigantic elevator that led to the top of the pyramid. Admission to the top was shockingly $10, so we decided to shop around downstairs anyway. Our purchases ranged from snapbacks to camo hoodies. If you know me at all, you know that I would never wear something camo or that is typical to hunting or fishing, but this was a special occasion. In my mind, I see this as two things: one, an impulse purchase, or two, that the South is really changing me in small ways. Valerie and Emma were kind enough to come and drive us back, and I happily embraced my new hat for the entire five minute ride to the restaurant. Then I realized I can’t pull off hats.

B.B. King’s Blues Club greeted us with fantastic live music, courtesy of Flic’s Pics, which featured a Grammy nominee on the drums. The food was equally as terrific as the music was compelling. After we finished our meals we had to dance to the music, and we were greeted by a pro on the dancefloor.

Our time in Memphis was a success, and we began our journey back into Mississippi by pausing to place our feet on the grounds of Arkansas and then to immediately pile back into the two crammed vans. We arrived at our new home in Clarksdale after an hour and a half in the vans. The small light blue house was surrounded by energetic children riding their bikes, who I look forward to getting to know throughout the course of our stay. Before truly settling in, we took another trip to Walmart to shop for groceries.

Tortillas and nachos were the featured entrees to our home-cooked meal that evening. While Beau, Susie, and Jacob prepared guacamole, I sliced and diced some veggies to make the salsa recipe my mother taught me, Emma prepared nachos, and Julia perfected tortillas. The joint effort between all of us made this dinner special, and the confusion of the others who were piecing together a puzzle a few feet away added to the home-like environment. During dinner, there was not a single person quiet, and we were all enjoying the food and our new home. Tomorrow we begin our first day, and I know we all are anticipating the new work that lays ahead.

 

 

 

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El Decimo Dia

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by Alyssa Taliaferro ’19

This morning was pretty great because we all got to sleep in a little more since we didn’t have to meet to for breakfast until 7:30. After eating breakfast we all piled onto the bus and made our way to pueblos blancos. We arrived at this ceramics school where we had the opportunity to buy different ceramics pieces. A man there went through the process they use to make all of their ceramic pieces. It was really cool because they didn’t use any electricity. They used their feet to turn the wheels, natural pigments to make the paints, and rubbed seeds on the pieces to make them shiny.

Next we went to Catarina where we had a great view of Laguna El Apoyo. We went through a guided tour of the area where we learned the uses of all the plants. There was this one plant who’s name translated to skunk because of its horrible smell. Everyone in the group was trying to get me to sniff it because it is supposed to help with congestion. We also stopped to look at all the monkeys that were sleeping around in the trees. After our tour we stayed in the area to some souvenir shopping.

We went back to Masaya but this time visited another market for those who still wanted to do a bit more shopping and then made our way back to Rafaela’s house for dinner. My host mother picked me up at around 6:30. I went home, caught up on the 3 journals I had forgotten to write then went to sleep.

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Haiti Day 1

Day 1

by Jackie Coren

The students on the trip are Nadia Arenas-Purvinis, Andrew Arth, Michelle Bronsard, Rebecca Campbell, Brandon Christian, Eamon McEwen and Khy Zungu. The leaders are Jackie Coren, Barb Kibler and Rosey Rosetty-Wagner. One thing we learned at the outset is the Taíno, word for Haiti, which is Ayiti (“High Places”). The Taíno were the indigenous people of the whole island and the preferred name here. For our first week in Ayiti, we’ve been in the mountain village of Gwo Jan at the N a Sonje community. N a Sonje means “We will remember,” and the foundation’s mission is to introduce visitors to the people, language, culture and history of Haiti in order for Haitians and visitors (particularly from the north) to come to know each other as real people despite more prevalent stereotypes. All work activities and learning sessions are designed around this idea of building relationships and a wider community. The founder and director of N a Sonje, Carla Bluntschli, is a committed and imaginative teacher and a veritable Energizer Bunny!

Language and Culture:

In addition to the initial greeting from the Carla’s “team” of local Haitians in the first evening the students met their “twins.” Each GS student is paired with a young person in the village with whom they do language and cultural activities together as “siblings” and as a large group. They have all become good friends and it’s wonderful to see that. Our first evening all together was spent listening to personal stories from Carla’s team and the “twins” of what it is like to live in Ayiti and of our sharing why we have been drawn to come here. Everyone spoke freely and movingly and the evening set the tone for the rest of the stay here.

In their own words—Michelle and Rebecca:

A striking part about our trip has been learning about the culture and Kreyol language of Ayiti. Ever since we arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport, we have been greeted in an extraordinary manner. In Ayiti, we learned that it is customary to greet everyone you meet with a smile and a “Bonjou!” This tradition in itself is representative of the Haitian culture of community, integrity and respect. When we first arrived, in order to participate in this culture, and “feel the ground and be on the same level as the local villagers,” Carla had us get out of the van in the mountain village of Gwo Jan where we are based, and walk the remaining ¼+ mile. Upon arrival, we met with local members of her team and our “twins” (“marasa”). The twins are local village youths who take part in the N a Sonje Foundation community. They have become good friends. The existing language barrier was partially broken through mutual Kreyol and English exchanges and lessons. To practice and develop our knowledge, we played charades and a form of “Hangman” in the opposing languages. Overall, the experience with our twins and the Gwo Jan village has allowed us to gain and deepen our insight into the rich Haitian culture.

Food and Village Encounters—Khy and Nadia:

To accomplish the tasks mentioned below, we both worked in the kitchen at N a Sonje and also walked to various homes in the village–about 1/4 mile up and down some steep footpaths. All of the food we helped prepare appeared at one time or another in a meal we ate.

In their words:

On Sunday, we split into 2 groups of 4 to do 4 different activities. We rotated after about an hour at each station. One stop was coffee-making at the home of a villager. We learned how to roast the beans from berries, then coated them in sugar. We waited for them to cool, then ground them with a wooden mortar (hollowed out tree trunk) and pestle. It tasted delicious. This was the same coffee that we drink at N a Sonje.

Another stop at a villager’s home was cassava breading-making which was amazing. We watched how it was made and each of us had a turn at grating coconut with a grater made by punching holes into the side of a used metal can. Cassava is a root that is grated, pressed, and dried. The bread, a sandwich-like bread is our group’s favorite so far. It’s usually eaten with sugar and coconut, and sometimes with herring, onions, and tomato. In our group, cassava bread is also used for our breakfast and night. Nadia, the “pickiest eater” of the group, said that the herring cassava was her favorite. Another stop was roasting and grinding peanuts for peanut butter; and at another, we sorted beans and grains of rice.

Other food we eat included rice, beans, sweet fried plantains, pork, beef, chicken, salad, freshly-roasted and ground peanut butter (another station), breadfruit and freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice.

 On Education– Eamon and Brandon:

Tuesday, March 13, was our “Education Day.” Eamon and Brandon write about House of Hope, a school at the Foundation Ecumenic for Peace and Justice. This program is for children and youth living as indentured servants or “restaveks.” As most restavek children have minimal to no schooling, the Foundation works to provide a primary education to children living as restaveks. We had a long session with older children and youth and adults in a vocational sewing program in which we exchanged questions and views on a range of topics, from the personal to the political. It was a wonderful exchange. It’s important to know that the restavek situation is not an officially sanctioned program, but rather an unfortunate consequence of the economic realities of the country. There are a number of social programs working to reduce the number of restavek children and hopefully some day eliminate the practice altogether. After this we went to Quisqueya University and met with Sara Wolf (’99).

 In their words:

We went to one of the best private schools in Port-au-Prince. At the school, we visited with some of the students. They were well-versed in the politics of Haiti. The students we met with were in grades 5 and 6 and also included profession classes. In the profession classes, we found that ages ranged from teenagers to adults who have children. The school seeks to ready the students for society. In grades 5 and 6, the school teaches many common courses, such as math, cooking, language, etc. While we talked to them, they brought up the topic of second-hand clothing. Many people in Haiti buy second hand clothing [donated from other countries] because it is much cheaper than buying new Haitian-made clothing. As well as taking away from the local economy, the clothes take away from the culture of the Haitian people. They take these classes so that they can be able to make and sell their own clothes which have traditional designs. We also went to another school and learned [from Sara Wolf] about an innovative education experience she and her team have created for Haitian schools. She told us about a morning routine which excites the kids about learning instead of through fear. They gained support from companies like Kellog and partnered with the university they are stationed in. They do data collecting on the education system in Haiti and are starting a data center, which is the first of its kind in Haiti. They are teaching educators around the country about the new process of teaching, which through the data, they proved has been working. The Ministry of Education in Haiti has not done enough in recent years in the way of improving education, so InnovEd has taken initiative to better the education opportunity in Haiti.

 History—Kairo and Andrew:

In addition to Kairo and Andrew’s account, the students re-enacted a guided mimed historical play that Carla and her team created called “Three Innocents and a Spirit.” Over and over in our conversations with people, the history of Haiti is emphasized, and the importance of recounting and remembering. N a Sonje means “We will remember.”

 In their words:

On Monday, March 12 we focused on the history of European colonialism in relation to Haiti. Carla read excerpts of Christopher Columbus’ personal journals, Howard Zinn’s interpretation and other historical texts. The overlying theme of the lesson that we were taught was telling history from non-traditional perspectives. After completing these readings, Carla led us in a discussion in regard to these alternative perspectives, lending additional facts when necessary. For example, we discussed the United States occupation of Haiti, specifically the negative impacts this even has on present-day Haiti. As this topic is rarely emphasized in the American education system, our knowledge of this was quite minimal. This led to not only an intriguing discussion, but an overwhelming informative one as well. In addition to learning and gaining knowledge, our lessons were also emotionally enriching. For instance, Carla passed around a real chain and shackle, found and dug up from the land nearby. It was from the days of brutal slavery in Haiti. This deeply impacted our group as we all saw and held it and reflected on the severity of slavery in Haiti and its effects on the people today. All in all, our new-found knowledge and appreciation of Haitian history will be something that not only impacts the remainder of our time here, but on our lives when we return back home.

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Mississippi Day 5

Day 6 Elenor birthday 2

by Elenore Wang ’18

When I was woken up by the alarm at 8:30 in the morning, I felt exhausted from last night’s work. It was the aroma of pancakes that gave me strength to roll out of bed. Valerie had made us delicious chocolate chip pancakes for our last morning in Tutwiler. Tomorrow we will be moving to our next work site at Clarksdale. This means today is a day of cleaning up, saying goodbyes and leaving a memento.

We were informed by JD that we should design our memento and he would help us cut it out. After a discussion, we decided to use cut dry wall into the shape of the letters “GS” and write our names on it, then cut out a separate rectangular board to hang origamis with strings. The origamis would be vessels of our memories. Together, we made a list of inside jokes and significant moments we want to write on the origamis. Some of the items on the list include “lost car keys”, “Beau’s dry skin” and “sports with the neighborhood kids”. JD did an impressive job of cutting out the letters precisely. In addition, Jacob decided to step up our game and hang the origamis in a way that from one angle you would see them forming the shape of “GS”, from another angle you would see the shape of “2018”.

We finished the memento in the morning. After lunch, we went into the cleaning up phase for our work sites. In the midst of picking up trash from the floor, I stood up and took a look at the interior of the house. It had never occurred to me how much the house had changed due to our work until that moment. I was very proud of the instillation I did on the ceiling, but I was prouder of the hard work that we put in as a group. I wish we had more time at Tutwiler to actually finish the houses. It was a hard goodbye!

Our evening was spent in the community center with Lorenzo and Tony. The community center was huge and equipped with basketball, volleyball, hula-hoops and jump ropes. While Max, Brendan, Lorenzo and Tony engaged in a competitive basketball game, our less athletic folks played our own game with jump ropes. We revisited some kindergarten games such as Octopus. I am perhaps the least athletic person you’ll ever know, but I enjoyed the games surprisingly much.

I noticed that Julia and Ben had left the gym early, but I did not overthink it, so the birthday party really took me by surprise. When I stepped into the dorm, the first thing I saw were streamers, a birthday cake with candles in the shape of “16” and a sign that said “Happy Birthday Yueyao!” I was so confused because neither was it my birthday nor was 16! Nevertheless, I thanked Ben and Julia. Turns out that Ben was inspired by the birthday supplies at Dollar General and just wanted to throw a birthday party. Somehow this impulsive idea was not only carried out, but also successfully hidden from me for days. I couldn’t believe that Ben and Julia baked a cake without me noticing. They even brought me a tiara which made me feel really special. We played music and laughed. It was perhaps the best night we had.

We are leaving very early the next morning for Memphis. I would say that the birthday party drew a nice conclusion for our staying at Tutwiler. We will definitely miss JD and Lorenzo, but I’m glad we are able to have made some changes to the neighborhood here.

 

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El Octavo Dia

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by Alexandre Cartier ’19

Today was very similar to every other day, the night was sprinkled with mangoes falling on my roof. I woke up at 5 to the delightful sound of my alarm clock as we had to be at Rafaela’s house at 6am. After I took my morning shower and got my backpack ready for the day, I helped a bit my family to prepare for their day of selling tamales which are a corn and beef filled leaf pocket classically from Nicaragua. I set up the outside table for the restaurant part of the store. My host father then brought me to the house of Rafaela where we had a quick but as usual delicious breakfast of galletas and juice. We then took a bus with many of our Nicaraguans friends to go to the finca where we were going to do service for the day.

After a 1:30 ride where i shared with sole the difference between the US, France, and Chile (in Spanish of course) we arrived at a very simple house where many women started their usual day of work. They explained to us what they did here and why. We found out that this was an organization only made of women where they proved to other people that agriculture can be made with respect to nature and my women but at the same time be effective as a real business. They explained to us they techniques that they used to corn both corn and beans which is to created multiple beds of plants with a tree at each end. They then showed us what the GS group from last year did which was a pig pen.

We then separated into two groups to each go to a field and create one of the corn and bean bed. This seemed very easy but considered to heat which made us be tired very quickly and made the ground be extremely dry took us a good hour to finish. Then we harvested a large number of beans in order for the workers to plant them later. Because of the heat we were unable to stay for the afternoon and do more service so we left and had a very good lunch made of classic rice, meat, and corn tortilla.

As we had the free afternoon we decided to do to visit the close-by city of Leon (which in Spanish means Lyon). We stayed at the main plaza of the town where many little pop up stores were so many of us bought more souvenirs and refreshments. Near the plaza was also saw the beautiful cathedral in the center of Leon. We then returned to the house of Rafaela, the bus ride was extremely silent as everybody was sleeping from this morning’s work. We ate dinner very early at 4:30 and then talked for an hour until our host families came to pick us up. My host mother came to pick me up at around 6:10.

When i arrived at the house all of the family members were starting to leave to their respective houses. Most of the 800 tamales were almost sole. I helped to clean around and then went to my room where i talked for an hour with my host brother. I then quickly went to bed as I was very tired.

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