Today started at 3:30 this morning when my alarm went off. I showered quickly, stumbled around my bedroom trying to gather the last bits of packing, and hopped in the car to head to La Salle. Landry dropped me at about 4:30 and the adventure began. I along with two other staff members and 36 La Salle students loaded onto a bus where we spent the next ten hours watching movies, getting to know one another, napping and snacking on Gorp. Gorp is like trail mix on steroids. This year’s concoction is made up of Fritos, frosted flakes,M&M’s, Swedish fish, sour patch kids, mini marshmallows, and goldfish. Sounds gross…but is actually totally delicious.
|VERY early morning on the bus. We were still in PA here.|
We arrived in Blountsville, TN around 3:30 in the afternoon and switched from our bus over to three 15 passenger vans and two minivans. I’m in charge of driving the Survivor van. Traditionally, students on Project Appalachia have driven all the way from Philly to Harlan in four 15 passenger vans, themed and named each year. Though our transportation is a bit different this year, we’re all still grouped by vans. This year’s theme is Reality TV. In addition to our Survivor group, we have The Bachelor, The Real Housewives of New Jersey and Keeping up with the Kardashians.
After winding up and down the roads of the Appalachian Mountains for about an hour and a half in a van that decided on its own when I needed to brake and downshift (seriously, the van drove itself downhill!) we arrived in Harlan. Dinner was at Pizza Hut before driving over to our log cabin, called Sleepy Hollow, that sits atop a hill with a beautiful view of the valley. There’s definitely no cell service in the cabin, though I did have a brief 2G signal in town by the Pizza Hut.
Most of our evening was spent setting up our rooms. The cabin is set up to sleep 20. As you read above, there are 40 of us, so some are on the floor with mattresses, others are doubled up in twin beds, but the students make it work. They had the option to split up and sleep half in one cabin and half in another, but the idea of being separated on the trip seemed out of the question for them.
|The bed right in front was my bunk, but 14 of us slept in this room made for ten.|
Each night we close out the day with a reflection. Tonight we sat in a circle and tossed a ball of yarn from person to person creating an intricate web. When the ball of yarn was tossed our way we had to say one thing we hoped for on the trip and one thing we feared. I hoped to feel the connection to Harlan that so many of the returning students express and my fear was that I wouldn’t be present for the experience. So often I find myself thinking about things outside of the here and now. Worrying about school or grading or what’s happening at home or on Facebook and all of it detracts from the experience of being here.
|Creating the yarn web|
Tomorrow is a day to catch up, see some of Harlan and get ready for our week of service. From the looks of it, we’ll be helping with replacing a roof on one house and putting up siding on another. Two things I’ve never done and have no experience with, but look forward to learning a new skill!
|First things first when living in community...you must have rules!|