When I made my first trip to the South my freshman year of college to help with the rebuilding/recovery efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, I came home with three very important conclusions about what life would be like if I lived in the south: 1) My hair would always be curly due to the humidity. 2) I would weigh approximately 300 pounds due to the excessive amount of good food (this is the trip in which I first discovered chicken and dumplings). 3) My name would be Lizzy Mae, because people say your middle name after your first name, that’s just the way it is.
So now that I have been living in the south for several weeks, I am seeing which of these is becoming a reality. So far, my hair isn’t that curly because it’s not very humid here yet. But I have warned everyone about the hair disaster that will daily occur once the humidity percentage is higher or the same as the temperature. Also, I don’t weight 300 pounds yet, but that’s probably only due to the runs I have been going on. Though we do not eat traditional southern food here (nothing is deep fried), I eat about five times more bread than I ever have in my life. I think I mentioned this in the last entry, but I cannot emphasize how much good bread there is here. For instance, yesterday at lunch I had three PERFECTLY baked rolls and at dinner, I managed to limit myself to only two slices of the delicious cardamom bread. Both of these were taken right out of the oven before being served. I will never be able to eat store bought bread again. And finally…yes, I have acquired a southern nickname. Unlike my prediction from my first trip however, my middle name is not Mae, therefore, I am officially Lizzy Haas. Before any of you (Annie or Brittany!) get too excited about calling me this, there are a few guidelines that must be met before you can call me this. You must be in Georgia with me and we must be in the country, not the city. Last week when in Atlanta, my friend Leslie tried to call me Lizzy Haas and I told her she couldn’t, because let’s be honest, in Madison County it sounds normal, in Atlanta, it sounds ridiculous. At first, my nostrils flared with indignation when my fellow volunteers Stina and Leslie implemented this nickname. However, as with many other things here, I have chosen to embrace it for now, and I hope that it won’t follow me outside of Madison County. I am aware that putting this on my blog makes it very tempting for others to begin calling me this, but I will not respond, so don’t bother trying.
I would once again like to emphasize to everyone who thinks I am addicted to Starbucks that I have still only been one time since being here. And to be fair, it was one that was in a grocery store, so really… does that even count? (Actually, I wrote this while at Jubilee earlier and in fact I am now sitting at Starbucks using the internet. But this is the first REAL Starbucks I have been to and it is only the second Starbucks drink I have consumed. And since it is so warm out and I am in fact a “seasonal drinker,” I ordered my new favorite warm weather drink: Grande Iced Coffee with sweetener, and I must say it is incredible).
Not only do we make up ridiculous nicknames for each other and regularly have dance parties, we have gotten pretty good at creatively entertaining ourselves. For instance, to celebrate Mardi Gras this past Tuesday, four of us went to the gas station in Comer at about 8p.m. and bought four delightfully cheap bottles of wine and then ten of us gathered in my room (don’t worry I had my Christmas lights on, so there was mood lighting) and had a wine party. Who says you can’t be classy in rural Georgia? It was such a success I think many of us agreed we would need to do it again soon, perhaps next time with some cheese.
Besides the normal daily work at Jubilee, we have the chance to go on the occasional excursion. Last week we traveled to Atlanta to visit the Open Door Community (like I wrote about last time) and this week a few of us had the chance to go back to Atlanta again, this time for political reasons. I have never been active in politics of any sort, so this was quite a learning experience. A couple of the partners here, Al and Robbie, have spent years visiting death row inmates in prison and working to see that the death penalty is abolished in the state of Georgia. Having very little knowledge of the politics of Georgia or the death penalty, I’d say I was highly unqualified to make a trip to the state legislature to lobby against the death penalty… but I went anyway. And it was incredibly interesting. On Tuesday morning, after leaving Jubilee early, we arrived at Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta across the street from the state capitol to meet with those in charge of the organization Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP). There they organized us into groups and informed us as to who our representatives were based on the county we were from. I suppose I was a bit of a poser, since I am in fact NOT from Georgia, but perhaps we can let that point go at the moment. After getting organized and being given our main speaking points, we headed across the street to speak to members of the House of Representatives. I had heard stories of people being rude, not even coming out of the chamber if they weren’t interested in you or your issue, or perhaps worse, coming out but leaving abruptly and not really listening to your ideas. So I was prepared to see something along those lines. However, we spoke to both representatives from Madison Country, one for about ten minutes and another for about twenty. Al and Robbie, who have been making these trips regularly over the past several years, said it was the most time and attention they have been given. That being said, they didn’t exactly changed their minds, but they listened and shared some of their own ideas as well. All in all, it was very interesting to see our government at work.
We were given Wednesday off this week to celebrate Ash Wednesday. Most of the day was taken up by various items on my personal “to do” list, but a few of us headed to Athens where we attended an Episcopal Ash Wednesday service. I particularly liked being back in a liturgical service, especially after many weeks of going to different churches (non-denominational, white Baptist, black Baptist, the ecumenical services at Jubilee) and it was a great way to begin Lent. My favorite part is always confusing people the rest of the day when you have ash on your forehead. And seeing as the priest was generous with the ashes, I definitely got some looks.
On Thursday night, we also started what will likely become a recurring event with a post-dinner night run. I have been unusually inspired to run since being here which may be related to the fact that I know if I had stayed at Alta and skied all winter I would have legs of steel by now. Though enthusiasm for running was minimal among volunteers here just weeks ago, I have now gotten six of the other volunteers to run with me at various times, mostly just by being annoying and mentioning it relentlessly to them. Of course now I’ve made it my goal that by the end of the term, all the volunteers will have run with me at last once. It might be a stretch, but it’s worth a shot. There were six of us that headed out into the dark country roads of Madison County and into the quiet streets of Comer on Thursday. There was just enough of a moon to light the way for us and we all managed to avoid potholes and twisted ankles. I must say, it was one of the best runs I’ve been on since being here and we all ended the day feeling quite satisfied with ourselves.
Saturday was the sunniest, warmest day we have had since I arrived here. It practically felt like a summer day in Seattle and absolutely everyone was out playing. Though my winter has been short (comparatively) everyone seemed to be ready to shake off a case of cabin fever and as my Grandma Haas always say, “Blow the stink off.” It just so happens that I introduced the slackline on Friday after work and it has officially taken over Jubilee. There were requests for me to put it up again on Saturday after lunch, so I headed out, with a following of children (and volunteers) behind me, to put it up on the volleyball court. After putting it up around 1:30pm, it was finally taken down around 6pm and I don’t think there was more than about ten seconds throughout that entire time when there wasn’t someone on it. It is quite the hit and I think we will have some expert slackliners by the time the volunteer term ends in May.
One last event to report on this week: I ended the week by going to a contra dance last night. For those of you who are like me and didn’t know what that means, it’s like square dancing but there’s a caller and is usually danced in groups of four that rotate so you end up dancing with everyone in your line. I must say, it was a good time. Another volunteer, Stephen, and I decided we could categorize the different types of dancers that there were. While he named a few types of female dancers (example: the ones that try to swing the guy instead of allowing themselves to be swung and the shoulder movers), I was in charge of classifying the male dancers (example: noodle arm, over-zealous spinners, hand movers who think dancing is primarily done with their upper body, aka: my friend Lucas). Obviously it was entertaining and it was quite an eclectic group as well, all ages, the old hippies, the young college students, etc. Another cultural experience in the south for sure. I did manage to get one of the worst blisters I’ve had in a long time last night while dancing, but it was completely worth it. And since I liked it so much, you’ll all be happy to know that there are two opportunities a month for me to improve my contra dance skills 🙂 I’ll be a pro by the time I return north.
So there is a bit of a recap of the week. Obviously lots going on and with the improved weather and many visitors currently at Jubilee I don’t think things will slow down any time soon. Thanks to everyone who is keeping up with me and for your comments and updates on your own lives. Much love to all.