Friday, May 9, 2014

On the Road to Appalachia

Finals week now over, Spring Break becks the free spirit into the wild.
And when I got an email about a service trip to Appalachia, I immediately filled out the application.

It took me a while to decide because I wanted to spend break with my grandma (Mamita), but she died the day the application was due and I knew I could not spend the break at home where I would be reminded of her each day. It was really traumatic for me since I never had anyone close to me die. The trip to Appalachia was my only choice, and I'm glad I chose it.
 Food stops Chipotle and Starbucks in Lexington. And while eating only took us about 10 minutes, the group talked on for about an hour, helping our random group connect even more.
Our group consisted of a few acquaintances and some strangers from my college that I did not even recognize, and my school's a small one.

I wish I could describe the scenery. The road just seemed farmland most of the ride until mountains started popping out of nowhere and the rolling hills captured everyone's undivided attention as my leader and driver and school chaplain (all one person) talked about the mountains and the kind of place we were looking at.
The picture on the right, shows how the mountains of Appalachia contain the black layers and layers of coal.

 And of course, the road trip consisted of the usual rest stop, with a beautiful night sky to remind us of our future adventure.

When we finally reached the cabin where we planned to stay at, we were all worn out from the ride itself. The couches provided a pretty comfy resting place before we once again stood up to figure who has which room and bed. I didn't care, but I did want to see the rest of the cabin. The restroom was normal, kitchen was quaint, then when I looked further into the kitchen I saw a door that I thought led to a closet. However, to my excitement, the door led to one of those dark basements in which to turn on the lights, you had to pull the string from a small bulb hanging overhead. I was the first one down, and the last one to go back up. And when the group leader followed in she told me how there used to have been a bed all neatly made and a small shower with a see-through shower curtain around it. It was all bizarre and she told me that it was pretty freaky when she first saw it a few years back.

This would be our home sweet home for the next week! The excitement within me grew.

Hello Appalachia!

But before we could go to bed, our leader had us gather around the living room to have orientation. Some of the questions below were questions she told us to ask ourselves and figure out throughout this trip we were on:

  • What are people proud of?
  • What are the important/enduring parts of the culture?
  • Who is God/Christ to each person? Where do they believe God is working? (And our group leader made it very clear that 'God' is different to every person. God could be a deity, or nature, or the spirit within us. Whatever it was to the people who lived in this Appalachian region, we would try to figure out)
  • What are people passionate about?
  • What frustrates them about stereotypes outsiders have?
Within the orientation, the group leader shared this wonderful theory that the best way to serve other, was to worship them, not like actually get down on our knees, but to look up to them like how we look up to God, similar to how we serve God. This way, we wouldn't be people who were looking down at people they were helping, but looking up at them. The connection was incredible. I always felt this way, but the Chaplain talked it out to us in ways we could understand. It felt great that this way could be a way to think and live and serve.

The first day passed by so quickly and my phone had died twice already, so I couldn't take the pictures I wanted again. I guess photos weren't really necessary when we're settling in anyways. So I did not scare my group with too many photos, but I probably did frighten them a little when I broke down about my grandma during orientation. I didn't mean to. But my group put up with it pretty well, I'm so sorry group!  

Life goes on.