One thing I have found to be true in Georgia is that the weather forecasters are very accurate. I mean, you can actually plan your day’s outdoor activities based on what it is that they predict (which is more than you can say for Seattle’s weathermen). So despite discovering this over the past few weeks, when snow was in the forecast for today, I still shrugged it off and thought, “It’s Georgia. It’s not going to snow. I’ve already said goodbye to snow for the season.”
Needless to say, there’s about two inches on the ground right now, and big, wet flakes continue to fall, not just in flurries, but in a downpour. I can’t say I was all that thrilled about it initially. On my drive out here I thought that Kansas was the last place I was going to have to see snow for a while. But I’ve since come around regarding today’s snowfall, because after all, it is beautiful. All the pine trees are covered, when you walk through the snow here red muddy footprints follow you, and the quiet that only comes with the falling of snow makes this already peaceful land even more serene.
The refugee kids of course love it as well. The word delighted doesn’t quite capture their enthusiasm and excitement as they ran around in it this afternoon. So I suppose, I’m willing to be excited to see snow one more time if it means that several children are seeing it for the first time ever.
Tomorrow will complete my sixth week here at Jubilee. That seems virtually impossible and, of course, as with anything fun, it is going by ridiculously fast. Since I have not been as faithful in my blogging as I promised, I have quite a few things to report. I’m sure they will be somewhat haphazard and unorganized though.
Notable happenings since arriving: I have been to Starbucks ONE time. For those of you who have stock in the company, you may want to reconsider. I have gotten creative and invented what I lovingly refer to as a “Jubilee mocha” — a packet of hot chocolate mixed with the Kroger brand coffee brewed in the coffeepot downstairs, with a touch of milk, not too shabby! I have made two purchases with my debit card in the last six weeks. Once to refill my gas tank for the first time since arriving here and the other for toiletries, otherwise that’s it. And frankly, I couldn’t be happier about it. The food here is amazing. I was a little concerned when I found out (after arriving) that they eat mostly vegetarian and meat is really only incorporated into dishes, but is never the main course. I leave the dinner table generally in pain from how much I’ve eaten, because when there are freshly baked sweet potato biscuits, or sweet potato salad, or Bosnian bread, or egg salad, or Lisa’s rolls, or peanut butter cookies, or homemade vegetable stew, or . . . I think you get the idea, it’s just hard not to fill your plate full every time. I’ve eaten more bread here in six weeks than in the previous 22 years of my life combined.
Along with the weekly trips to Athens, which have become a bit of a tradition with the other volunteers on the weekends (you still have to go out and act like you’re 22 every once in a while ya know!), I have also been attempting to take advantage of some of the more “cultural” experiences here. On Martin Luther King Jr. day, along with several others from Jubilee, I attended a black Baptist church in a neighboring town for a celebration service. It was fantastic. Lots of yelling from the pulpit, an all men’s chorus (which was all black, except for one of our volunteers here, Bernard, who looked dashing in the front row with his bright red hair!) that sang many songs worth swaying to, and there were enough “Amen”s yelled from the congregation to finish a year’s worth of prayers at any other church.
Perhaps one of my favorite outings so far was a week ago, last Friday night when I attended the Madison County High School girl’s and boy’s varsity basketball games. I felt like I was in a Disney channel movie and I expected Zac Effron to walk in at any moment (has anyone seen “17 Again”? Be honest… great film). The game was truly amazing. I attended because one of the families here has three kids in high school, and Emily, a freshman, and I have become buddies. The game had every stereotypical element of high school: lots of PDA couples lining the halls, people smoking in the bathrooms, a fight that broke out at half time as the teams walked back to the locker rooms, ditsy girls sitting in the front row but turned around flirting with the boys behind them paying no attention to the game, and cheerleaders in a yelling competition across the court from each other. Thank God I’m not in high school anymore. It was also delightfully southern. This is Madison County, Georgia we’re talking about here, ok? This county has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state of Georgia along with some serious drug problems. I had to fully embrace the southerness of it all when I looked down the row and this large African American guy was gnawing on a piece of fried chicken in the middle of the game. It was beautiful, SO much good people watching. The basketball game was epic, a true county rivalry. There was one white guy on each team. The first basket was a dunk and got the crowd even more pumped up than they already were. These players looked like they could be in college, fully tattooed arms with matching attitudes. Unfortunately Madison County wasn’t able to pull out the win, but what did I care? It was still a show!
This past Tuesday, the volunteers took a trip to Atlanta to visit the “Open Door Community,” which was established around the same time as Jubilee (1979ish) and works with homeless in the Northeast part of Atlanta. Not only did we visit there, but we got a chance to hear from people who run “New Hope House,” which works to support the families of those who are on Georgia’s death row. We heard about their ministry to those families and to the prisoners themselves. We also had the privilege to hear from a former death row inmate, which was fascinating to learn about his experience and his recent freedom. Finally, we heard from the brother of another man who was on Georgia’s death row, but who committed suicide while waiting for his execution. The stories are fascinating and having never taken much of an interest in the politics of the death penalty, it has caused me to reconsider many of the mainstream prejudices I have acquired due to ignorance on the subject.
Yesterday morning we said goodbye to the second family who has now moved to Atlanta. The family was a single mother with three children, all of whom brought a wonderful spirit of energy to Jubilee. We were all very sad to see them go, and it was impossible not to let a few tears go when I saw the oldest son, who normally always has a bright smile on his face (and who became my fiercest competitor in ping pong) crying as he climbed into the van. So the cycle of people continues to flow through Jubilee. The next few weeks holds visits from lots of different friends and family members of the community, followed by three straight weeks of college groups visiting in March during their spring breaks. Things will definitely stay busy here!
Relationships with the refugees are growing, the young children who we take care of in child care are becoming much more comfortable with all of us, runs with other volunteers have been great, so all in all, things are pretty wonderful. I have to give a big thank you to my Aunt Christy for mentioning this place and recommending that I look into it. I cannot even imagine being half way up a ski hill in Utah right now 🙂 Other upcoming events include a lobby day at the state legislature, which a few volunteers get to attend (including me, yay!) regarding the death penalty, a visit to a monastery, the day off for Ash Wednesday, and who knows what else. Much love to all.