Saying Good-bye

Where did the last week go??? One minute I have an endless list of things to do before wrapping up for the summer, and the next I’m sitting at home having a very hard time figuring out what to do with an endless amount of spare time. Which probably makes this the perfect time to catch up on blogging! The last couple of weeks really have gone by in a blur of packing, moving, working, trying to cram in everything we wanted to do in Gettysburg for the summer but left until the end, and then packing and moving again. It still feels weird to not see everyone every day. There were a few tears at the end, which according to Elle means that we “won” Heston, but I’m pretty sure that I won no matter what because this was honestly the best summer I’ve ever had. I apologize in advance for how sappy this might get.

Tying up all the loose ends and saying all the good-byes was hard, but it also made me really appreciate the work I had been able to do and the relationships I was able to make. At the kitchen, Chandra and I spent a lot of time making sure that things would be in line for the school-year by recording how much produce we had preserved, scrubbing down every inch of every surface, saying our temporary good-byes to regular donors, making our last farmer’s market pick-ups, doing all the office-work we had neglected, and making our list of tips about all the quirks of the new kitchen. Saying good-bye to everyone at the Senior Center was especially sad. I feel like I was just beginning to crack the shells of a lot of the residents and get to know them. It took a lot of consistency to get them to trust Chandra and I and open up, so explaining that I wouldn’t be coming back to visit for at least a year was hard. I never met most of the seniors we actually served food to in the Meals on Wheels program, but I think we even became kind of attached to them as we worked to put out one last delicious meal. I was even sad to leave our vegetable garden in a weird protective kind of way… I guess you might have turned me into a gardener after all Chandra! Maybe. I still despise weeding.

LIU classes also made me kind of ridiculously nostalgic, culminating in a pot-luck picnic that made me regret at least a little my decision to go abroad for an entire year. There’s nothing like HUGE quantities of delicious food and incredibly nice people to make you never want to leave a place! Starting two weeks ago I was told that Matt, the regular teacher, was leaving on vacation the next day, so could I please teach the rest of the classes for the summer? That was a little stressful for someone who dreads public speaking like the plague, but I think it turned out alright and can probably be counted as a ‘character building experience’ now. For our class before the picnic, we went on a scavenger hunt into town that we ended at the Cannonball Malt Shop. Everyone bought ice cream, sat and talked, and learned about how the shop got its name (the large cannonball sticking out of the wall in the front). Even little Camilla, probably LIU’s most popular person, got some ice cream, with most of it ending up on her arms and clothes. After being ‘tourists’ in Gettysburg, we went back to our classroom and the students told the tutors about landmarks and interesting places in their hometowns as part of a grammar lesson. I learned about Oscar and Sandra’s hometown, with its famous cathedral where they got married and the site where the treaty ending the war for Mexico’s independence was signed.

I think I started to lose my mind in the midst of all the chaos as the last week went on, turning Wednesday into an especially interesting day. The last Circles meeting was a really great one I think, but it was preceded by me locking myself out of my apartment, an especially hectic shift at the kitchen during which I dropped the masterpiece of a cake Chandra had baked, receiving a parking ticket while delivering bags of food to LIU families (everyone was right, the Gettysburg parking enforcement officer has no sympathy), and some bread getting set on fire by the broiler. It all ended beautifully though, with a delicious meal of eggplant parmesan, potatoes with kale, and the now more than slightly misshapen lemon-raspberry cake served with fresh peaches and a lemon glaze. The conversations we had at the meeting were also really great, especially about how the welfare system in America is inherently ineffective and needs a systemic overhaul in order to stop the increase in the number of Americans who are reliant on welfare to survive. The Circles leaders and coordinator were all so thankful to us interns that it actually made me feel a little unworthy. Compared to the heroic efforts the women have made to change their lives, me showing up once a week to listen and eat seems very insignificant. It was a great self-esteem boost, but I’m not sure I deserved it.

I feel like I could go on forever about how awesome this summer was and how sad I was to see it end, but unfortunately I lack Chris’s stamina when it comes to writing… Suffice it to say that I’m extremely grateful to have had this experience with such amazing people. I know I’ll take everything I saw and learned this summer with me for a long time. Goodbye for the last time!

Melanie

Gratitude

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Megan Shreve, the executive director of SCCAP, is one of the most positive people I have ever met. Though I do not work directly with Megan every day, whenever I do see her, she is always sure to commend me for all I have been doing at SCCAP. “Good job,” she says, and always “Thank you.”

Megan incorporates gratitude into her life, her work, and everyone around her. Every week at the end of the Circles meeting, each person verbally appreciates the person sitting next to her. The appreciator explains why she is grateful for that person, whether it is a specific characteristic, or just the simple fact that he is present at the meeting. The appreciated gets to bask in the appreciation. I have so enjoyed this weekly practice because it reminds me to be grateful for all that I have, and to acknowledge it.

This summer I have gained a better appreciation for all that I have. I have positive people in my life, a supportive family, the ability to pursue higher education, innumerable opportunities to explore my interests, and an abundance of other blessings. I do not have to worry where I my next meal will come from, or how I will pay electric bills, or where I will sleep, or how I will get from one place to another. All of these privileges I often take for granted. Megan, and many of the people I’ve worked with SCCAP, remind me to appreciate.

That being said, I would like to take time to thank and shout out to some of the key people who allowed me to partake in this experience.

Thank you to Kim and Gretchen, who gave me a chance to be a Heston summer intern. Thank you for taking the time to get to know me, and always providing support and guidance.

Thank you to Megan for reminding me to be grateful, and for being an incredible mentor and leader for me.

Thank you to Micheline and Lisa for guiding and teaching me at the food pantry.

Thank you to Tammy for helping me find various supplies in the CPS office, taking care of timesheet mishaps, and suggesting interesting things to do in Gettysburg over the summer.
Thank you to Yaou, Melanie, Chandra, and Mauricio for sharing food, conversation, and a home with me this summer. I’ve enjoyed getting to know all of you, and learning to appreciate you as you are.

Thank you to my sweet family, who provides endless support and love. I love you forever.

Thank you to all of the readers of this blog. I appreciate your interest and your dedication!

Lastly, many, many, many thanks to Mr. Jim Heston, whose generosity made it possible for me to participate in this experience.

Thank you, gracias, merci, grazie!

-Maura

The last photo is all of the Gettysburg interns at our end-of-the-summer celebration.

Kwaheri Kisumu

Location: Jomo Kenyatta National Airport in Nairobi (or at least when I was typing this I was)

Yup, we have already left Kisumu. Where did the time go? Obviously there are mixed emotions attached to leaving, just as there are when anything comes to an end. I am very excited to go home and see my family and friends. I’m excited to wear shorts, drink water from the tap, have people be on time, take a hot shower, and to understand what people are saying around me- all things I quickly learn to take for granted. But I feel like I am leaving just as things are getting started.

Actually, I know I am leaving just as things are getting started. Yesterday, on our last day, the foundation for the rain water tank was laid. As with most things in Kenya, the project was behind schedule, but the efforts put into it were astounding. The community of Kanumbya desperately wanted to get the tank done quickly, but, as always, life got in the way. In the last two weeks there were three funerals in the community. When there is a funeral, things just shut down. Also, funerals are expensive. To raise money for a funeral, the family throws a harambee, which is many things. First, it’s a Swahili word translating to “Let us all pull together”. Second, its Kenya’s national motto. Third, and most important to this post, it’s a fundraiser in which those raising the funds each give a motivational speeches to the community until the money has been raised. Before the three deaths in the community, we had planned to do a mini-harambee in order to fund the rest of the tank. But by the time we go to the date it was planned for, last Sunday, the community was tapped.

Betty, one of the group leaders, was waiting for me at the church where the meetings were held that Sunday and apologized profusely that no one had shown up. We discussed our options and decided to move the Harambee to Wednesday morning, when the community had some time to recover. However, I knew this meant I would not see the tank finished. Which, you know what, is absolutely ok. It’s the community tank, not mine. As long as the community saw the end result, I’ll count it as a success. Plus, the promised to send me pictures, so technically I will “see” it.

Having reconciled this minor disappointment, I went to the Wednesday harambee. The goal for the community was 25,000 ksh for security in case things were more expensive than planned. The actual amount they needed to raise was 21,000. They raised 23,500 ksh. I was so excited to hear that number. Honestly, I have no idea how they did it. Looking at the record of their community micro-loans, people never asked for large amounts and therefore never returned large amounts. The effort they put into this harambee was awesome.

On Thursday we worked on getting the materials together and marked out where the tank was going. Friday we laid the foundation. They wouldn’t let me help build, which I was also disappointed about. I was really hoping to actually do some work, but they just handed me a shovel and took my picture so that I could tell people I help build. I can’t lie to you, dear readers. But, once again, it was a community project. I can only do what the community lets me do. After witnessing their efforts and working with Joy, both my host mom and now project manager, I am positive the tank is left in good hands. When they send me a picture I promise to post it here.

As a continuation of the project, I am looking into fundraising for a brick compressor for KMET to own. The amount of time and money saved from actually owning one is immense. And A LOT of communities in the area want water tanks. The interlocking brick compressor can also be used to build more stable toilets in the community, houses, and other structures. It weird to think that some squished mud in the shape of a block could empower a community so much. According to Joy, the machine costs about 67,000 ksh- just under 1000 USD. I’ll keep you updated on whether or not I can actually get this fundraiser going. Gettysburg Harambee? Maybe.

Also on Friday the office held a small goodbye party for the Heston Interns. It was really sweet with lots of picture taken and some singing.

It still doesn’t feel real that I am leaving. Probably won’t until the 13 plane trip from Dubai to NY.

Update from home:
13 hours on a plane was exactly what it took. No updates on the tank yet. It’s strange to be home. I’m happy to be back, but it feels like a vacation rather than a return. And I’m still jetlagged. When I hear about the tank I’ll do a final post!

week 6

Last week went by smoothly. A series of speakers visited our program and engaged the kids with interesting activities. Chief Joe Drugherfy from the Gettysburg Police Department spoke to the kids about his job. The children learned a good life lesson that what policemen do in real life is very different from what presented in TV shows, e.g. Cops. Ricky, a young drummer from Gettysburg Area High School, brought in his collection of drums and did drum circle with the children. The strong rhythm and great stories about his drums fascinated the children. I remembered watching Ricky perform at one senior dinner couple of weeks ago. As we are involved with different community projects throughout the summer, we were truly immersed into the community and began to make connections between different people and groups. The connection could be as simple as meeting the same person at different programs, getting inspired by their active involvements with the community. At the same time, we began to make sense of how various social issues intertwined and understood how a better understanding of the bigger picture help to tackle specific ones.
At Meals and More, I cooked Roman noodles with vegetables on Wednesday and taught the kids how to use chopsticks to eat noodles. I was really concerned in the first place, since I have never cooked noodles for that many people. But the lunch turned out to be a big success. Some of the kids became so committed to the chopsticks that they even ate their desert, brownies, with chopsticks. Both the kids and the staff members were entertained by the non-traditional lunch experience.
Working four hours a day, five days a week with a group of children age ranging from five to eleven is a precious experience for any students interested in education, since it is a heavily experience-oriented field. At the specific setting of Meals and More, I learned a lot about interacting with children, which prepares me to work with other children in the same age group or older. I attended the two events Melanie mentioned in her post, the healthy option cooking class and this week’s circles meeting. But on both occasions I helped with childcare as there were needs for extra help. Although I was not able to participate in the cooking class and the conversation at the circles meeting, it was very gratifying to provide the help, especially making good use of the skills I’ve learned. While accumulating experience by working directly with the children, it is very import to constantly reflect, ask questions, and look for solutions, the process of which may not be completed in one summer but would be carried on in my life.

Yaou

Not quite done yet…

It took about 5 hours get everything into boxes, seal them, and stack them for the movers to come in. Yesterday was packing day, and it was hard to believe that just 6 weeks earlier I was unpacking those very boxes and getting ready for summer school to start. It felt weird being on the other side of it, everything winding down, everyone making plans to enjoy their last month at the beach or taking trips. It felt really weird being from the teacher/administrator standpoint, remembering all the work that was put it to make those 5 weeks fun and exciting then cleaning it up and already wondering what we can do to make next year better.
But seeing as how I haven’t blogged in a while, there are still memories from the last few weeks of school to share. The second to last week of summer school we had 2 field trips. One was to Keystone Technical Institute in Harrisburg, where the students learned about another technical school and how they could get their degrees and be out in the work force in as little as 18 months. We took a tour of the school and got to bake cookies with some of the culinary students. They were pretty delicious. The next day we went to Empire Beauty School, also in Harrisburg, where the students learned about what it takes it become a beautician and/or barber. The kids got to do a mannequin’s hair, got to apply different designs to fake nails with different polishes, and met a barber who cut designs into people’s hair, such as angry birds or the Nike logo.
The next week the school went to Caledonia for the only school-wide field trip, and the older kids stopped first at Pole Steeple to do some hiking. Everyone had a great time celebrating the closing of summer school for the year and unwinding in the pool. The next day was LIU-Got-Talent, a school-wide talent show during lunch. There were kids that did magic, many who did dance routines (with many requests made to Ms. Elle seeking guidance), and a few singers as well. My class decided to do a drum routine with black lights. Because, you know, we’re awesome. After Mr. Matt wacked me in the face with the tubes you spin to make sound, the lights were cut and we played the rhythms we practiced for a couple weeks to the delight of the crowd (Babatunde would be proud). There were no prizes or places, but I’m pretty sure we won. The next day was Parent Night, which required me to be in New Oxford from 8am to about 10 pm. But it was all worth it. The kids put on amazing performances, from little plays to dance routines to musical performances. All the parents had a blast and the students and teachers really enjoyed the acts they displayed for everyone. Then came the last day of summer school, which would’ve been at least a little sad, that is if it wasn’t WORLD CUP SOCCER DAY. It’s actually not that exciting. The kids just played soccer all day. And when they weren’t playing soccer, they were somewhere in the school, doing something. I think. But it was fun, which was all that mattered.
So now all that remains from summer school is stored in the warehouse of the Gettysburg Field Office, where I spent today filing the different forms everyone filled out from summer school. While it’s a lot more relaxing then 8 hours with the kids each day, I have to say I’m really missing it. Especially getting free breakfast and lunch. I forget to eat in the morning after being so accustomed to having it provided. *SIIIIIIIIIGH. Oh well.
The next few weeks don’t seem like they’ll be filled with much, but who knows? Something exciting MIGHT happen. And my friend from abroad is back so now there’s one more person to help me occupy time. The LIU classes and Circles are still going too and going well, with a nice family who regularly come adopting me and refer to me as their son. It’s hard not to love the people you meet in the community. It’s funny to see just how much you relate to them, even though your backgrounds aren’t identical. But being poor and Hispanic was a good starting point. We’ll see what happens next.

Mauricio

No. 5: Corre Corazón

What does it mean to be a Heston Intern in Nicaragua? Sixty-six days ago, I do not believe I could have easily answered the question, if at all. Now, on the last day in Nicaragua, I believe I finally have some wisdom to impart on my behalf.

As a foreigner in a strange land, the journey is often not the destination, but the journey. The destination, ostensibly, is the airport from which we will leave tomorrow yet the journey lies behind us and within us. As I can only speak for myself in this blog, I can easily admit that the growth I have experienced has been immense beyond measure. The struggle now becomes one of self-expression. I want to share all I have learned so that the awe I feel at my own perceptual transformation may be best understood. I feel, however, that I could never explain all that I have observed and all that I have learned without using clichés or other overused phrases. Regardless, Nicaragua was—in a word—momentous.

So, perhaps a few quips will illustrate the growth better than a dense paragraph:

The food is great and often times adventurous, if not predictable, but the water can be a gamble.

Life’s daily expenses were once unbelievably cheap, but, as I have steadily acclimated to the way of life they now seem normal; so much so, in fact, that an $8.00night hotel is far too expensive for me when compared to my $2.00night hostel in Santa Rosa.

The majority of the people are incredibly friendly and always caring. Even though small cultural differences can sometimes prove uncomfortable, learning from them and growing therein is perhaps the greatest lesson that I have taken away from the experience. My host family was always concerned for my safety, my emotional stability, my physical stability (after all, they enlisted me in a race and expected me to win), and overall were the core foundation of my little life here.

The sprawling vistas—lands crinkled with volcanic mountain chains, cut into gushing swaths by rivers, and decorated with year-round greenery—can scarcely suffice comparison.

The stars at night are brighter and more majestic than I have seen anywhere in the United States, thanks to limited light-pollution and rolling blackouts.

The “rainy season” began forcefully when we arrived, but has since sputtered out to nothing; the headline of yesterday’s paper was: “Drought Threatens Nicaragua”.

A Heston Intern or any citizen of a more developed corner of the world must learn, above all, to adapt to the unexpected. Nicaragua, as a functional component beneath a broader Central American culture, is full of surprises, adversity, letdowns, and then sudden and glorious moments of triumph. Internet performance is one facet of life that comes to mind and reminds me how life here requires patience—not helped in the least by the Nicaraguan hour, which is usually a half-hour later than what it should be. Adopting cultural nuances, as I did here, is the quickest expedient to making the most of an experience.

For three days, I had the privilege of working in the rural mountain community of Santa Rosa del Penón where I was immediately impressed by the precision with which the doctors manage the clinical healthcare setting. Having just constructed a new laboratory the past year, the health clinic in Santa Rosa is able to perform the basic services of healthcare by testing bodily fluids to help diagnose infirmities. Helping the doctor there, I learned how his repertoire consisted of a simple centrifuge machine, a glucose-meter, and a microscope and with these he is able to creatively adapt standard medical practices to accommodate for the simplicity of clinical care. Perhaps even more impressive, however, is the accuracy with which the doctors can diagnose patients without the validation of more complicated screenings and tests, as are performed in the hospital in Leon. For two immediate examples of this, I shall draw upon my first ten minutes of work on Monday. Doctor Martinez, whom I shadowed first, was examining a pair of six-year-old twins who both exhibited the same symptoms of respiratory illness: runny nose, fever, and, of course, a violent cough that launched diseased saliva with each expectoration toward the doctor who did not seem in any way preoccupied about his own health. With a brief physical examination of their throats and an auscultation of the patients’ lungs, he was able to determine that the infection afflicting both children was a matter of the upper respiratory system rather than the lower system; a belief that a phlegm test later confirmed. The second doctor, Dr. Reyes, grabbed me from my idle seat some two minutes later to pull me into the observation room where there sat a small boy with his hair parted to expose a raised heap of skin. There, the doctor briefly prodded and poked with his fingers and then snapped on a set of powdery gloves, gripped a fine razor blade, and sliced into the quivering lump on the child’s head. With great force, he then squeezed the skin for a minute, working from different angles and with different pressures; in the bloody conclusion, a fat larva squirted from its fleshy home and nearly jumped right into the doctor’s mouth. Fortunately, we found it later on the floor and squished it.

The center in Santa Rosa is not just impressive for its well-kept premises and equipment, as logistically the size makes this more feasible than in Leon, but it is also impressive for its maintenance of personnel. During night-shifts, the doctors sleep in unoccupied patient beds and they invited me to spend the night working and evaluating patients and of course I was not going to say no to a sleepover.

As an additional measure of self-evaluation, every week the staff congregates for a staff meeting to improve services rendered to patients. The meeting I attended included a rather Socratic discussion from all members of the staff, from cleaning personnel to the director of the hospital itself, Doctor Luna, all seemed conducted in an egalitarian manner such that it seems that staff cohesiveness is what ensures the success of rapid and effective treatment of patients. Given that Santa Rosa services eight separate districts; as the local health headquarters, it handily shuffles its sparse quantity of doctors between clinics and house-to-house consultations—Doctor Martinez has lost twenty-five pounds over the course of four months all because of the daily hikes he must make to far-flung communities hidden in the mountains. They all joke that the doctors in the air-conditioned United States have no idea what it means to be a real doctor. Overall, the maintenance of the whole operation is very impressive.

For my final day of work, I worked for 16-straight hours to understand the daily challenges that doctors face when working two-shifts. By 12:00am, the end of my shift, I could appreciate the dangers of practicing medicine in such a state—this, however, is a reality for much of the emergency room staff, among others. The evaluation and rotation system in the hospital seeks to eliminate such dangers. Continual reevaluation of patients by a group of doctors every hour seems to reduce the incidence of medical error.

It would be naïve to think that a twenty-one-year-old kid from the quiet suburbia of Pittsburgh would reasonably be able to investigate a health care system in the western hemisphere’s second poorest country and genuinely propose a panacea or even a remedy to patch the country’s issues with social services. What I can definitively say I have come away with, however, is a revered sense of perspective such that I can appreciate the difficulties of managing healthcare within an environment vastly different from the United States.

As the hours lurched toward the madrugada—the middle of the night—on Monday night with the flow of patients refusing to abate, Doctor Lopez turned to me and said: “I hope in your country you never have free health care, because look what happens!” Inasmuch as this is a sore subject in the United States with the November elections approaching, I thought the doctor’s statement was an interesting statement at face value. A statement indeed made all the more interesting by the fact that, under the current president, Daniel Ortega, the Nicaraguan healthcare system has steadily improved since his most recent inauguration in 2011; there are still problems, nevertheless, where the politics of the state interfere with the professional realm of the hospital. Doctor Lau, my boss for the summer, is a supporter of the PLC, the opposition party to Daniel Ortega. Because of the extension of political power in healthcare, Doctor Lau is not paid nearly as well as his Sandinista-supporting compatriots.

After I bade them all a farewell at the hospital on Friday and had goodbye parties at the PGL office and at the house, my little life began to fall away all around me as I slowly realized that I have indeed reached the end of the experience. After all of this, I know what Nicaragua has meant to me and I have told all with whom I have come into contact: “Although I am leaving, I am not forgetting.”

Now, instead of counting days, I am counting hours—hours until the hotel serves free breakfast! Just kidding, but I am looking forward to that too before the return trip. Overall, I think it would be a lie to say the time flew by because, by nature, time is inherently metronomic; when we attach feeling and assign emotional value to time is when its circadian precision seems to fast-forward.

Now, nearing the end of the experience, I certainly look back upon the successes achieved, the friends made, the difficulties overcome, the language barrier diminished, the embarrassments encountered, the cultural differences understood and I suddenly realize that among this whirlwind of an experience I have had what a brochure would call a “once in a lifetime experience.” But seriously, when am I ever going to return to Nicaragua’s level two Oscar Danilio Rosales Hospital and work like a fake specialist in internal medicine? A pessimist would say never, an optimist would say soon, and a realist would say what I say—“I have no idea.” Although I try not to break the hearts of the wonderful people I have met here by telling them “the future is uncertain, I might be back, God-willing”, the sad reality is that what I tell them is not just rhetoric, it is the truth. Indeed, I have been very privileged with my stay here as it has shown me more about the world and about myself, within a worldly context, than I would have ever thought was possible. I know this reflection of measurable growth is typified and often compulsory, given circumstances similar to mine. I swear, however, to those of you who are not my supervisors/administrators that I write this with the conviction of sincerity to fully highlight, beyond a shade of doubt, that living in a foreign country for two months has wrought changes, however subtle, that will forever affect not just how I view healthcare but how I view life and its privileges, its successes and difficulties, and how making the most of opportunities, in spite of perceived difficulty or unwillingness, is the indisputable path to personal growth. Without the fiscal and visionary support of the distinguished Mr. Heston, the experience would certainly not be the same or might not even exist at all. For this, I am indebted to Mr. Heston for his part in funding and cultivating a program that has figured so significantly into my life.

Por fin: Nicaragua’s Heston-ers are U.S. bound! YOHO

-C.J.D.

Blurry Days

Have you noticed how at the beginning of a summer or school year, each moment seems so defined and precise, but as time goes on things just start to blur together? That’s how I feel about this summer, but I’m glad to say it’s the happy kind of blur; the kind that is full of laughter and surprising realizations.

It finally rained in Gettysburg last week, and as is typical it didn’t just rain, it POURED. The thunderstorms came on Wednesday evening, filling the sky with black and threatening cracks of electricity. We welcomed the frenzied gusts of wind that found their way into the kitchen and cooled our sweaty brows. The storm seemed to scare away our volunteers that day – only 1 out of 3 showed up. Everything seemed frightened that evening – dogs barked in time with the blaring car alarm going off down the street. The trees were fitful with their constant tossing and twisting, and the streets were empty. After all this blustering, the storm still missed us, leaving behind a faint drizzle on the pavement. But it hit the next day, and this week the plants in the garden have sprouted about 3 inches! Everything is so lush and green. Once the “drought” broke, the rain refused to stop. The windows of our tiny house and the windshield of my car were blurred with rain all weekend.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Back to last week! On Tuesday evening, the Healthy Options program (though SCAPP) had their next Photovoices session. The participants shared pictures of food in their lives, and we all enjoyed the cheese quesadillas and zucchini cake. I listened hard and took notes, trying to piece together the parts in Spanish before Audrey translated for the group. I imagine that I might be getting better, but my brain still freezes whenever I try to speak Spanish in front of a group. Luckily, I was able to communicate somewhat coherently on Sunday during the cooking class… but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Wednesday day was storm day, and we also began the move to the new kitchen. We piled canned food and dishes into the little plastic wagon and dragged it down the street in the blustery wind. I always feel like a kid when I pull that thing – it rattles loudly over every pebble and tries to run away from me down the hills.

Thursday was my longest Heston day in a while. Melanie and I went to a Healthy Options meeting at 9am, and we didn’t finish work that night until almost 9. We moved everything else into the new kitchen and spent almost an hour playing Tetris in the freezers (sooo much zucchini!!). We had our second gardening class at Farm House, and although only two families came, I think it was a success. The low attendance rate actually helped encourage some one-on-one conversations and bonding over plants and gardening. It began to drizzle again towards the end of the meeting, but we were all safe and dry under the sweeping branches of an old tree (an oak? I should know these things…). I left the gardening class with a potted basil plant in each hand and a smile on my face. The light rain felt nice on my arms, and I was happy to chat with one of the other student volunteers as we ambled down Carlisle Street. Twenty minutes later I was startled from my relaxing shower by the screams of my fellow Hestons as they piled into the house out of the storm that had finally hit. They trailed upstairs to pound on the bathroom door for towels, leaving a trail of rainwater in their path. Apparently, they nearly lost a shoe and a person (Yaou) in the storm. They ran all the way back, almost blind from the rain. Yup, we’re in Gettysburg alright.

In contrast, Friday was the laziest Heston day I’ve had in a while. The rain did something to all of us – if we had been able, I think we would have curled up inside all day like the cat. We had finished moving into the kitchen ahead of schedule, the garden was soaked, the Senior Center was closed, and we had finally finished processing the zucchini and peaches. Melanie and I spent much of the morning doing promotional “stuff” on the CKPGC Facebook page (check it out!!). Then we visited out new kitchen and made plans for the cooking class scheduled for Sunday.

The Saturday farmer’s market yielded a wagon full of fresh produce and baked goods, as usual. Each Saturday, we’ve been collecting close to 90 lbs of food from the market! The people there are so wonderful.

Okay, so back to the Sunday cooking class. A LOT of people showed up! Several families were there with their children, so the kitchen was packed. Yaou and Maura were nice enough to keep the kids entertained outside, and we started off the class with a lesson on how to make peach cobbler. It wasn’t until we were nearly done with all the mixing and measuring that I went to pre-heat the oven and found that it wouldn’t turn on. Disaster!! Remember that we had just moved in on Friday, and for some reason neither of us thought to make sure the new electric stove even worked… duh. We rushed the cobbler to the old kitchen while Kim and Audrey scrambled to find portable electric stoves from their homes. We ran into another issue – Audrey’s electric stove would not start, as it required a special type of pot to work (go figure). We were just preparing to move the whole operation back to the old kitchen when one of the participants emerged with a huge, triumphant smile on his face. A cheer went up as we all realized that the stove was working. Something had tripped and he found the breaker and fixed it! Class got back on schedule, and we all worked together to make veggie chili, humus, kale chips, and the cobbler. It was a great success, and I was happy to see that all of the food was eaten. I hope that all of the participants will benefit from the lesson and learn to incorporate even more fresh produce into their diets (Every dish we made that day was chock-full of fresh produce!).

I actually started this blog at the beginning of the week and am just getting around to finishing it and posting. This week was another blur, with a million exciting and challenging things pack into it. It has been raining regularly, so we haven’t had to water the garden much. I played checkers with Myrtle on Thursday – it was a pretty big deal, seeing as she hasn’t played in a couple decades and has only ever made puzzles during our morning visit. Changes are rare in the Gettysburg Senior Center. Last night, they were slightly thrown off by the jambalaya we served for dinner – they mostly eat bland foods, so the dish was pretty spicy for them. Two of our volunteers from the kitchen attended, and one provided some entertainment by playing piano.

I think I should stop writing now because this is getting pretty long-winded. The last thing I want to mention happened on Monday, and it made me feel wonderful. I was delivering the LIU bags on Middle Street with a volunteer, and we had just dropped off the two filled-to-bursting bags for the Martinez family. Two small boys with wide eyes came to the door for the bags. They edged forward timidly, struggling to lift the sacks of food. Their father emerged with a smile and a bag from the previous week, and we said adios. We were just turning to leave when one of the boys found the fresh watermelon at the top of their bag. I could imagine what his face must have looked like by how happy his voice sounded when he shouted “watermelon!” Hearing that much joy in one word, from the mouth of a child, made my day. Hell, it made my week. It’s probably the part that stood out the most, one of those defined moments. No matter how blurry the days are, I’ll be happy if I can just have those few moments of clarity.

Chandra