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

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