Saturday, July 28, 2007

Days One and Two

Day One: was hot and exhausting. We visited Heifer Ranch, which I always love, but it was probably 145 degrees outside and we had been driving all day and we had the chiggers and mosquitoes so everyone was sweaty, itchy, and cranky by the time we left for Little Rock. But then we pulled up to Central High School where a throng, (well...pretty much) of reporters were there to meet us! We'd sent out press releases to all the cities we're visiting so it was really cool for the students to all be meeting with reporters from the AP, Dem Gazette, radio stations, tv stations, NPR, etc.
We had a fun night out on the River Market. We ate at Flying Fish seafood. One of the students came up to me with a huge bowl of salad. "I wanted chicken," He said, "But they gave me this big bowl of fresh leaves." You have to imagine it with a thick Kenyan accent. Another student wanted fish but couldn't get the guy taking his order to understand, so he drew a picture of a fish (like the Jesus fish) so he was brought an entire whole fried fish. Another funny moment of miscommunication and language barriers. Everyone had a great sense of humor about it. I fell into bed and slept like a log, a log who has depressingly vivid dreams.

Day Two:

The visit to the Clinton Library was better than I expected. One guy working there is from South Africa and is about to enter the Clinton School of Public Service to earn his Master's Degree. What an amazing program. We walked over to the Clinton School building and learned about the program, which I thought was a great idea seeing as how these students are ideal candidates for the school. You study for a year in Little Rock and then do internships all over the world working on your "capstone" project that you'll take back to your targeted area. There are people working at AIDS clinics in Uganda, in tsunami-stricken areas in Indonesia, all over the place. It made me want to go back to school to work on something similar!

We then had an amazing time (in my opinion...I'm only slowly getting feedback from the students - they seem to need a bit more time to process and think about things before they are ready to give full opinions) today at the Davies Plantation, a fully-restored and authentic original plantation. A local woman, Barbara, prepared an entire lecture series for the students. We had a local author who writes historical fiction give a talk about slavery in the area. Then another woman who gives historical tours and who personally lived through the civil rights era in Memphis talked about her experiences going on all-day sit-ins and marches in the '60s in Memphis and Alabama. It opened up a great dialogue about how to create healing between races. Powerful stuff. A South African student came up with the idea of an American organization that could be created solely for the purpose of helping African-Americans trace their lineage back to Africa. The speakers seemed to really take to that idea. I really can't quite describe how intense and special it was to me to think about all of us, sitting in this original plantation dining room...where slaves had worked and served food to the owners, discussing the history of Africans in America with Africans, African-Americans, and white Americans. We then walked the property, looked at the cotton plants (it's a beautiful plant up close) and looked at all the original buildings.

Later we had a fun evening out on Beale Street and heard some jazz and some of the students ate fried green tomatoes for the first time....and even liked them!

Tomorrow we're going to Al Green's church for a full gospel service, the National Civil Rights Museum located at the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, seeing an underground railroad site and then driving to Birmingham, AL.



5 of 9er said...

I had fried green tomatoes this weekend... one of the perks being married to a southerner. :)

Anonymous said...

I wish I was on this trip. It sounds fantastic! But I'm not African...but hey wait, neither are you! I smell something fishy here.