Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not Enough To Tide You Over

I'm home and trying to catch up on work and laundry and housecleaning and cooking and hugging D. and Stella and loving on the animals.

But here's the view looking up into the rotunda of the Capitol building:We saw John Kerry! We walked right past us, made eye contact, gave a little wave, and then was whisked away by the media. Exciting!

Here is the group around the back side of the Capitol building, walking to the subway stop.
Library of Congress. Some day I'll get lost in there. And like it.
Washington D.C. might be one of the most beautiful U.S. cities ever, from an architectural standpoint. This is just down the street from our hotel.
Check out this horrendous hotel art! It was all over the place! And ours was fairly upscale. The artist must be the owner's daughter or something; that's the only explanation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Still Need Time To Reflect And Write

So these pictures will have to suffice. These are just my favorites, so far, of the many I've been taking.

The students stayed awake all night the night before we left on our big bus trip so the first thing they did was sleep. I think this one of Glory and Noor is very sweet. Both are from Kenya and didn't know each other prior to this program. Boniface, from Kenya, sleeping.
Thulani, from South Africa, writing about his experience at the Central High School Historic Site in Little Rock.
Betta, from Nigeria, rides the escalator at the Clinton Museum & Presidential Center.
We enjoyed a really nice al fresco lunch (the weather on this trip couldn't be better...for July in the Deep South) at Boulevard Bread in the River Market in Little Rock. Here is Emmanuel, from Nigeria, Gwen, my comadre (thanks, Phil! Can you tell German was my 2nd language?) and lead instructor for the program, and Winnie from Kenya.
Beale Street at dusk.
The Lorraine Hotel sign, at the current site of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
Nice color study across the street from the National Civil Rights Museum
Outside the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. After the somber visit to the site of Dr. King's assassination, it was great to visit this museum. We danced our whole way through it.
In fact, after the Stax Museum, we put on our new soul music CDs and had a dance party on the bus. The first year I went on this trip we had several dance parties on the bus. It was the perfect release and very fun.
16th Street Baptist Church, command center during the protests in Birmingham in the early 60s, and site of a bombing in 1963 that killed four young girls.

This sign in Kelly Ingram Park was just too much. "No Dogs Allowed" in the park famous for protests during which police would set loose attack dogs on the rioters. Too weird and ironic....
Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama - location of "Bloody Sunday" and the beginning point in the Selma to Montgomery marches.
I love this photo, taken in downtown Selma near the bridge, of Betta from Nigeria, Yarima from Nigeria and Jacob from South Africa.
The whole dange group in front of the Maya Lin-designed Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. Right up the road is the former White House of the Confederacy.
I like this photo of Gwen and me in a rare moment of repose.
Southern Poverty Law Center building. Isn't it beautiful? Too bad we were there on a Sunday and couldn't go inside.
Ebenezer Baptist Church at the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site in Atlanta. It was under construction so we couldn't go inside. When we went two years ago, we could sit in the pews and listen to recordings of Dr. King's sermons.
Oh, I Love this photo for so many reasons. Many of the students like to hold hands with us when we're walking around. It's such a sweet, warm gesture. I love it. This student, Noor, from Kenya, has just started opening up and wanting to hold hands with other people. Here he is with Gwen walking back from the King Center to the bus.
On the recommendation of a former Atlanta resident, we took the students to Mary Mac's Tea Room for lunch. Lip-smacking, belly-bustin', delicious Southern food! I had collard greens, fried green tomatoes, okra, and butter beans. Oh my...
Building in downtown Atlanta. I just like the shape of it.
Tomorrow is our last stop on the road trip before we head on to Washington, D.C. I will be excited to be in D.C. but sad to be off the bus, also. It's already well past 2am and I have so much more to say and tell y'all....but don't worry: I'm taking lots of notes and turning them all over in my head like a rotisserie chicken....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Just Imagine 100,000 Words Being Used...

...to describe all of this.

In the meantime, I'll just have to link to the Flickr page.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Southern Comfort

Today was an all-around great day. I can't help but compare this trip to the one we did two years ago. This trip is a billion times easier. I am more relaxed. I've done this before. I know what we're doing. The other teacher on the trip is fabulous. We're simpatico.

We loved our hotel in Memphis. We're loving all our hotels and wishing we had more time to spend in them, but duty keeps calling. This morning we went to the National Civil Rights Museum first thing. It's in a newly-gentrified part of Memphis (biggest clue: the American Apparel storefront around the corner) and chock full of kitschy-chic retro diners, boutiques, and older buildings. I know I already wrote about this museum two years ago but I can't reiterate enough how overwhelming and heavy it is to go through the incredibly detailed and wordy exhibit displays that cover nearly every aspect of the entire American civil rights movement...there is a LOT of reading...and then all of a sudden *boom*, you're standing five feet from the spot where Dr. King stood when he was assassinated. Although there were many other groups at the museum with us, when I got to that spot I found myself completely alone for at least five minutes. I stood, staring outside the window to the balcony, thinking of how quickly everything can change and how change occurs even when it shouldn't. Yet again, I was overcome with tears.

Across the street, there is another exhibit dealing with the murder itself and the aftermath. There is also extensive attention paid to current civil rights struggles and how far we've come (and have yet to go). The combined exhibits are time-consuming, wordy, weighty, and somber.

After that we were sorely in need of a pick-me-up. Thank goodness I'd scheduled a visit to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. From the opening film and for the next hour, the music and raunchy, fun, boogie tunes kept all of us in the best of spirits. All 23 of us danced our way from one exhibit to the next. The collective favorite was Isaac Hayes' turquoise Cadillace with 24 karat gold detailing, shag carpet throughout the interior, and stocked wet bar. Many of us bought CDs and as soon as we boarded the bus, buoyed and renewed, we put on some Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Rufus Thomas, and Al Green and had us a bus dance party as we drove out of Memphis. It is most certainly a memory that will stay with me long after the students return home (a moment I don't even want to think about right now).

We drove onward to Birmingham, Alabama where we are staying in the nicest hotel yet. If you ever visit Birmingham - you must stay at theTutwiler Hotel. The prices are quite reasonable, especially considering the exquisite surroundings, excellent service, and really great amenities. We ordered a bunch of Chinese food to be delivered and got all the students in a conference room so they could work on their presentation for the Washington D.C. conference. Then G., the lead teacher, and I retired to the bar for a much-deserved and appreciated glass of wine. I'm now nestled into one of the most comfortable beds I've encountered in a hotel room. I won't want to leave in the morning!

Good night, all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fulfillment

Two years ago I went on a bus trip with 20 African students. I am very excited and happy to be on the trip again this year. This program and this trip are very near and dear to me. When I had only been at this job for a few months, my boss asked the staff if we had ideas for a grant from the US State Department that would bring students from Africa to study some aspect of America for a month and had to include a travel aspect. I immediately thought of the Civil Rights Movement and touring throughout the South. I had always envisioned a final trip, echoing the Freedom Ride, ending in Washington, D.C.

Two years ago, this trip cemented my commitment and love for my job. This year it is a reward for working my ass off these past few months. This is our last year for this grant, the last year for this amazing program of which I'm so proud to have played a part.

I've gotten to be quite close with this group of students as well. They are leaders in their communities and frighteningly intelligent and have challenged my way of thinking about so many things. I look forward to the next ten days of new adventures, thought-provoking conversations, laughter, and tears.

Yesterday we began the trip by driving to Little Rock, visiting Central High School, the Capitol building, the Clinton Museum and School for Public Service and the new Heifer Village at Heifer International world headquarters. The weather down here in the South is AMAZING: cool, breezy, and astonishingly mild. This can't be July!

I'm writing this from our hotel in Memphis, which is awesome. I have a fantastic view of the Mississippi River and we are very close to downtown and Beale Street.

I still need to get a memory card reader for my camera so I can upload all the photos I've been taking. I can't wait to show them all to you, though! Arrghhh..Expect updated entries.

It's late. I'm beyond tired...more later...lots more writing and pictures.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why It's All Worth It

Look how lucky I am, to get to work to bring people like this to the U.S. for the first time:

Can't figger out how to embed video from another web site and, frankly, don't have the patience to learn how....so here's the link to the video.

Text article here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Holy F@#%ing Shit, Y'all...

I can see the bottom of my to-do list.

It's a Christmas Miracle!!!

Shootin' Out The Walls of Heartache, Bang Bang

I Am The Warrior!

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Have Run Out Of Ways To Say I'm Insanely Busy

If I tried to tell you everything I've been through this week, it would take another week.

I've got 52 Rwandans, 27 Mexican teachers, 20 student leaders from Africa, my nine Ford Fellows...not to mention the other 120 students in our regular program. And they all have needs. Lots of needs.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Trying To Think Peaceful Thoughts...

...like these clouds I shot over Tontitown, driving in Sunshine's car on our way to buy explosives. Okay, so maybe that's not so peaceful, but the afternoon was incredible. It had rained the morning of the Fourth of July, while we sat inside and had a leisurely brunch complete with smuggled bloody mary fixin's. After that a long nap was in order. Then an afternoon excursion to buy fireworks and then to a cookout/party at Ben and Hannah's. They go all out for their parties and this was no exception. Just take a look at the food spreads. Yummmm to the nth degree. A beautiful night even though I was a tiny bit sad that D. and Stella were in Eureka. I was sort of on-call because 15 Rwandans were arriving that evening, but also sort of off work. The month of July I feel like a doctor; I'm never off work, even when I'm off work. But I'm trying to find those pockets of tranquility and treasure them.




Monday, July 06, 2009

Holy Cats...

Who decided to make today Batshit Crazy Day? I'd like a word with him or her.

The craziness of my summer programs is normal, super fast-paced insanity where we have to figure out where 100something people are going to be at once with various employees, transportation, plans, plan Bs, etc. etc. My office is ground zero for all this. Today all hell broke loose and I didn't have time to catch my breath.

And it won't let up until sometime in mid-August. Running a marathon here, folks....only in the first few miles.