*names changed for privacy
Sometimes I’m still in shock that I’m not in the Midwest anymore. Having spent the first eighteen years of my life in the same house in the same suburb in the same state, I can’t believe I ever really left Minnesota… and that I chose to go to a coast where none of my family lives.
However, for all of the random bouts of homesickness and jokes about how I say “okey dokey” and “pop” instead of “soda,” I am so incredibly glad I left. I feel like I have seen more of the U.S. this year than I had ever seen before coming to college. I have now walked through three different Chinatowns, taken my picture on the Brooklyn Bridge, eaten at a vegan soul food place in DC, helped take down a political machine, run along the Charles River, lobbied Congress, visited the largest Quaker meeting in Philly, and been to the real site where William Penn landed.
And while I will always love snow, lakes, and the krumkake iron my parents bought for me at Ingebretsen’s, I’m happy to be making my way as an adult so far from home… even if it does mean getting rid of my Minnesotan accent.
And for my non-Scandinavian-American friends, here’s what krumkake is (and no, kake does not mean poo):
First, let me just say that I am not a professional photographer. Or even an amateur one at that. I took this picture using the camera on my cellphone yesterday because it was all that I had. What is this a picture of, you may ask?
Well, remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about not washing my hair and I tagged a blog called the Sonoma Garden? And remember that other entry where I attached a video about stuff and how we buy so much of it without really thinking about where it’s coming from? Yesterday, in a way, those two forces came together, and I made my own cosmetics.
Why? Watch this video: .
How? Read this entry: http://asonomagarden.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/how-to-make-homemade-chapstick/ and check out this website for ingredients: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/.
From right to left, I made lavender and lemongrass lotion, chocolate-peppermint chapstick (which about ten people have already tried), and spruce pine deodorant. In the words of my brother, “Christina’s turned into a hippie.”
Considering there’s an “Obama 2012” and “Demand Accountability for Torture” bumpersticker in the background of this picture (along with the WRC sign and some zines), I can, without a doubt, say I’m fairly liberal. But the hippie part? Such a trope.
So this whole “no pooing” or “no shampooing” thing really isn’t all that bad. I have been using baking soda and apple cider vinegar on my hair for the past 21 days and as of yet, no has told me that “I need to take a shower,” which is good, because quite frankly I thought I was going to look like I had a greasy wig on my head for the next forty days. On the other hand, several people, including my ed psych professor, have commented a few weeks after I got my haircut back home that my hair is shorter, so maybe people are just not all that observant.
But at least they are politically active! In response to my last post about barbershops, diners, and October snowstorms, we have not had anymore snow (In fact, it was seventy degrees today.), but Chester does have a new mayor (that’s right!), two new city council members (including Nafis Nichols), and five spots on the school board now filled with democrats. While I did very little in Chester (I only doorknocked and phonebanked for two afternoons in addition to the whole snowstorm excursion), I am pretty proud of the political change that has happened overnight and hope it is used for the benefit of the city’s residents. And just to make a clearly-stated paragraph even clearer,
Moving on to other updates, I haven’t talked about the library’s afterschool program since we catapulted cottonballs that first afternoon, but that’s not to say other exciting things haven’t happened. We’ve made paper airplanes and competed to see whose plane could fly the farthest. We’ve made jewelry for our parents, and dumped an entire box of baking soda on the floor. We’ve listened to a bright young (highly-emotional) second grader read aloud stories, and direct puppet shows. We’ve done (or at least tried to do) science by making mountain dew flashlights (little did I know the video with directions was a hoax) and writing with invisible ink. We’ve even had an impromptu marching band in the park. I am beginning to understand why teachers have such a hard time letting go of their kids at the end of the year. We only have five more days of tutoring until the semester is over and we take a break for a few weeks, but really, I feel like I’m just starting to get to know the kids, and let me just say THEY’RE ALL AMAZING. Sorry to use caps and large fonts so much in this post, but I felt like that statement could not be any less emphatic. The fifteen kids who have been coming to the library regularly are seriously some of the most amazing, talented, and thoughtful kids I have ever gotten to know. They make snack bags full of trail mix for their families. The older ones help the younger ones do crafts. One seventh grader who comes to the program with her sister even brought me two sheets that she had colored in as part of her math homework that had “To: Christen” written on the top and said “Have a fun thanksgiving! Eat a lot til you can’t eat no more!” on the side. (Now I know why my parents saved every single piece of crappy art I ever made in file folders.) Suffice to say, these kids are nice not because I tell them to be, but out of their own doing.
This is not so say that the program has been all fun and games (though I would say the majority of it has been… literally). One of the fourth graders who comes really struggles with even basic subtraction problems like 13-5 and I know I really upset him one day when I worked with him because I wasn’t patient enough. A four year old who comes most days, and who all of the tutors and I love to talk about because he’s so incredibly articulate for his age, has a tendency to be really destructive (He’s the one who dumped the entire box of baking soda on the floor.) and incredibly loud. He and another four year old (who I taught how to write the letter N) love to tackle each other to ground and get in fights. The second grader who reads aloud to the younger kids has a tendency to not just cry, but wail at a persistently high pitch for minutes on end whenever she has a lot of homework. And probably the most frustrating part amidst all of this chaos is that there have been kids who have come one day, but have never come back, and I always wonder if it’s my fault, or simply circumstance, that has prevented them from returning. Sure, I have a tendency to fall asleep worrying about the kids who come to the library every day and wondering if I’m doing all I should for them, but it’s the kids who don’t come everyday, the kids who don’t go to any of the other wonderful programs in Chester, that I worry about most of all.
But at least I know I’m doing (kind of? sort of?) the right thing. Tonight, Nicholas Kristof, a pretty famous New York Times columnist and author, came to campus to give a lecture titled “A Call to Action: Encouraging People to Join the World’s Fight.” I’m not really sure why he chose to give this lecture at Swarthmore (maybe he gives this lecture at every school?), when Swatties are already part of the world’s fight, not just in one way, but in (stereo)typically five different ways. Nonetheless, much of what he said was really encouraging. He pointed out that it’s often seen as “cool” on college campuses to help people half a world away, but less cool to help people in your own neighborhood, even though such service is just as vital. He also said that while his generation was into starting “symbolic protests,” my generation is more about starting something particular in a very particular place and doing it to the best of our ability. Finally, he said that it’s not about “saving the world,” (which is true…Jesus took care of that…) but about “making a difference and transforming individuals’ lives.”
And in the end, that’s what I’m hoping I’m doing with the afterschool program. I started something particular in my own backyard, and I’m hoping that in some way it is working to transform these wonderful, crazy kids’ lives. I may not be starting a non-profit or social networking site out of my dorm room, but at least I’m providing something for a few kids in a nearby city to look forward to at the end of every Tuesday and Thursday.
Feel free to comment if you have any sweet activities for little people. They love snacks.