Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Walk Update

Hey everyone,

PSA: I'm okay--alive and well although no longer with Annie Keithline--we've gone our seperate ways--me, north bound, Annie south bound. :( It was a gift to spend so much good time with one of my best friends. And apologies for not blogging with the frequency I'd wished. Part of the difficulty as well as charm of the trip was continually meeting people and thus not getting to the library, internet access being what it is on the road. 

With that said, let's get to the interesting stuff--the rest of what I saw and learned while walking Georgia and Alabama. I'm gonna give a day by day review--I think it will be fun for me to review too.

The Walk:

Annie and I began walking on March 3rd--and I think I got up to day two with you on the blog, when we met Terry in Eufaula, AL. On Wednesday, we walked 14 miles and ended up staying at a church in between Eufaula and Union Springs. We slept outside and it was pretty cold out. I'm not going to describe this in gut wrenching detail but it was a bit of a cruel awakening to the roughing it side of this trip--but hey, at least we had a safe place to sleep and had eachother for commiseration. And the brains to adjust to the weather--we got more blankets that day.

Farm Country

Only time we walked a bit into the evening--gorgeous sunset
and wearing a reflector vest being safe!!
During Thursday's walking we stopped at a church to get some water and a man living on the same street named George greeted us and asked us what we were doing. After hearing the story he invited us to have lunch at his house which was a God send. George is a U.S. Postal worker who lives in Alabama with his family.  They have lived in Alabama for generations.  George has an impressive Creek Indian arrowhead collection and gave Annie and I one each--so cool. Thank you George! Their cat also had a litter of adorable kittens. They were soo comforting and reminded me of my cat as a cute little thing.

 We later met George's son Brad, who crazily knows my friend Tim from college. [Insert cheesy joke about what a small world it is...but it is.]  Annie says stuff like this happens fairly often on the walk, which is really quite neat. Cross-polination!! Turns out Brad is into walking and running himself, as well as talking about geopolitics which Annie also enjoys, especially with her direct experience walking the United States. Brad walked with us that day and then we stayed at their house for the evening, which was also scheduled to be chilly. The next morning, George drove us back to where we left off to continue the walk and Brad joined us for Friday, too.That day we stayed at a motel and Brad offered to show us Montgomery that evening with his friend Scott.  That was cool--we saw MLK's church and had a few drinks. Good day.

Little stream we saw coming into Union Springs


On Saturday we decided to take it slower and did a 10 mile day to go easier on my knee and legs. It worked out really well and we also made it to Tuskegee that day!! It was perfect out--sunny, warm, and the view so pleasant. Before leaving Union Springs we walked through the town square and a few nicer neighborhoods. They reminded me of East Greenwich, RI :) It really feels like spring in the south. We saw this crazy looking building--something right out of Dr. Seuss, Annie commented. Spot on, no?!


  And then this:

Tuskegee's main town square. Aren't these colors great??

They were just sitting in a dirt lot. Photo cred: Annie K.

The cows @ Shanti Villa in Tuskegee

Reaching Tuskegee marked our hundred mile mark. We walked 100 miles, woahhhaaaooo! We got a motel and stayed two nights--we extended our stay to learn more about the town--history and all. We visited Tuskegee University, the educational institution founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881, as well as Washington's house. Washington had a practical and holistic vision for black educaiton, and saw educaiton with an emphasis on practical skills as an essential path towards empowerment. The Oaks, his home, was built by students of the university to pracitce  practical trades like brick making. The house and university are both historic landmarks, so we were able to get a tour of the house by a park ranger which was very cool. We walked through the university, talked to students, and sat in on a social work methods class.  The class was interesting since I'm interested in social work. It inspired me to sit in on more classes in my area amd seek out more social workers to hear about their experiences. I know it's a really diverse field, kinda like nursing, so I'm looking forward to learning more about that.

One of the entrances to Tuskegee U
When we chatted to some students about their experience at the school, they had mixed feelings and experiences but all seemed to share an appreciation for the rich heritage and vision that Booker T. Washington instilled at the onset.  I think some of the ambivalence about their experience is that the city is economically depressed and the school is an oasis of resources and activity--it creates a sort of bubble where it isn't as easy to get to know the neighborhood, especially since people talk about how dangerous it is...this isn't exactly incentive for students to go out and explore (but is kinda unfortunate--Annie and I had a very different experience--if you use caution and common sense it's good to get to know the area and the people; you find a lot in common.) I had a similar college experience; Providence College was often endearingly (or sarcastically...) called "The PC Bubble," in that it was in a rough area of Providence while the campus created a nucleus of activity, resources, and affluence. Students didn't really venture into the neighborhoods unless they were going to an off campus party or to the mall. I always thought this was lame because Providence has so much awesome stuff to offer; College Hill is gorgeous and there's a lot of history there to be enjoyed.  I am a native Rhode Islander though, so I guess I had the benefit of being more aware of this stuff than other students may have. Nonetheless, there's like, three or four other colleges in Providence and it would have been illuminating for me and I'm sure for other student too, to mingle more at other schools and with other students. (This is the cross-pollination thing!!)  But I won't write the entirety of PC's student population off--PC does do a lot of community service and engages with needy neighboring communities in that way. I've been a part of that and it was a great experience.

Anywho-----that was sort of tangental. But cool for me to make that PC/Tuskegee U connection. Back to the cold hard walk details.......

The day after Tuskegee we took a bus to Montgomery, Alabama, where we were couch surfing with a graduate student. (Annie loves couch surfing and recommends it. She's only had good experience and this was certainly one.) Originally we were going to walk to Montgomery but decided we wanted to stay in Tuskegee for longer than a day to experience the city and learn more about it. This was also awesome on my knee. Our host was great--she took us to the Fitzgerald Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. They lived in the house that the museum's in for a short time and its walls are adorned by Zelda's paintings. They have artifacts that belonged to the family too, which were interesting to see. (Their love letters were fabulous. We don't write with that much endearment anymore :(

Who knows what kind of tree
this is? Please tell me!!! I love them.

In Montgomery

The next day we took a bus back to Albany, GA (where the adventure first began) to attend the Georgia Hardshell Baptists' Annual Sacred Harp Sing. Annie met some people involved with this beautiful singing when she first walked through Georgia months ago. I remember her describing how amazing this event would be waay before I joined her for the walk, so it was special to be able to attend with her. Watch this video with background info-sacred harp is a very old practice but youtube says it's growing in popularity with young people living in cities and college towns--it is also practiced as a form of worship by the Hardshell Baptists. (I'd say it's a spiritual experience whether Hardshell or not--it's gorgeous and otherworldly. The man hosting called this singing the language of angels, and if they have one, I'd agree that this would be it.)

We stayed with Annie's friend Kim
and her family in Waycross.
And now I'm visiting this little munchkin!

My sweet and energetic (!!!!!) little
 cousin (once removed) Adriana

These are exploding in my
cousin's neighborhood!
Visual feast :) They are
Bradford Pear trees.
I'll be going back to the northeast in the next few days and will be looking for gainful employment and all that fun grown up stuff. Right now still really enjoying my travels.

Happy Spring you guys!!


Friday, March 8, 2013

Back to the Blog: Farm Wrap Up & Walking the World

Hey guys,

The last week has been a whirlwind. Annie and I left the farm and our lovely Bluffton friends last Sunday to begin the walk. I didn't post for the last few days on the farm because I was just so tired!   Annie and I have been discussing the importance of hard work on this trip, and farmers embody that in a very physical way. It's draining! You come home, shower, and want dreamland. Of course you eventually adjust but I don't think I got to that threshold in the two weeks at White Oak Pastures...


The last days of farm work contained my favorite tasks--harvesting collard greens, kale, and CARROTS. Besides feeling like Bugs Bunny, pulling up carrots is about the most satisfying thing in the world!!!

The farm is a visual feast. The colours. The textures. Seeing plants and animals grow. Here's some more of that:
Uprooted cabbage. Clearing beds for
new crops.

Cabbage ROSE

Cabbage, kale, dinosaur kale!

Thinning sprouts in the greenhouse.*

*After plants have sprouted in the greenhouse, trays need to be thinned to one plant in each square; usually when planting seeds two or three are planted in case there's trouble with growth.  If more than one sprouts, the others are plucked out to create room for the one guy that's gonna grow BIG.

Other farm tasks in those last few days included cutting wire ("hoops") for the beds of plants--the wire is cut a certain length and then a handful of hoops are stuck at either side of the beds to create a half circle shape that the row cover is then placed on and secured to the ground. The hoops are beneficial because they give the plants room to grow while still allowing for the benefits of row cover, which protects from the elements.

Cindy and I cut hoops for a few hours. Big job! Finsihed
products hang nice and shiny, ready to use.

Gil washing the baby greens

Cindy and Jay, our colleagues at the farm hosted a bonfire on the Saturday before we left White Oak.  We spent Saturday baking up a storm to bring to Cindy's and Lori made an AMAZING gluten free carrot cake. Thanks for hosting a great evening Cindy and Jay!! And thanks for the live entertainment :) (Jay is a gifted guitar player and jammed with Annie around the bonfire.)
And that, my friends, ended our time at White Oak. The next morning we got the gear we packed up and started the next leg of our journey. We stayed with our friend Lea from the farm on day 1--thanks so much for sharing your home with us, Lea!

PART II: The Walk

March 3--Day 1 of walk

Chattahoochee River--about to cross over into Alabama!

 In two days I think we talked to three sherriffs/police men. Hilarious. Annie talked about what we were doing. I may have the honors in the near future.  We set up camp at a church, met the praise team, and got to listen to them practice, which was an incredible expereince. They have such talent and enthusiasm. They also prayed for my knee, which was flaring up from an old high school injury.  Thank you Mount Olive!

 Mount Olive Praise Team

The next day we crossed over into Eufaula, got some groceries and new shoes for me, had AMAZING donuts from The Doughnut King.  It doesn't look like these guys have a website, as it's a hole in the wall, but their donuts are tremendous. 

We stopped by a coffee shop called The Blue Moon and met the owner, Terry. We told her what we were up to with the walk and she invited us to an art benefit happening that night in a historic mansion called Fendall Hall. (Sort of similar to the Varnum House in East Greenwich for all you Rhode Island readers, but waay bigger.) The community art club sets up an annual benefit in which  local artists auction off their work amidst a fun wine and cheese night. Terry was a great host and introduced us to many community members. We met the president of the Friends of Fendall Hall organization, Carol, who lived in Rhode Island for a few years with her husband! She gave us an intimate tour of the house which really rocked.  We met local artists, poets, and the mayor of Eufaula--it was a fabulous evening of art and antebellum architecture.

We were going to stay  a Presbyterian church in town but Terry put us up in an awesome little motel free of charge through a friend connection and was even further ridiculously generous with us--she introduced us to the staff of the coffee shop, her husband, and told us about her amazing son Bobby. Thank you so much for your generosity Terry!

More soon--