Tennessee/ North Carolina

It has been a couple of weeks since we returned from our week in Tennessee, but feels like I only left yesterday. I still miss working on the deck, getting lost in the woods and swimming in the freezing lakes. The only thing element of the trip that I found disappointing was losing the fish game. Ed and Arleen Decker were fantastic hosts and Carla was a great cook. I especially appreciated their explanations of how the service projects that we took part in actually aided  the community. Picking up garbage in the forest is a lot less terrible if you know that there are thousands of people coming to the campground the next weekend for the start of fishing season and the park rangers will never be able to get the site cleaned up in time. I though that it was interesting to learn about Cherokee culture. They have a dry community and the two Cherokee that I talked to wanted to keep it that way; however, one of them seemed resigned that a proposed law for a wet county would pass, while the other one was confident that it would be defeated. Shorty believed that a dry county was necessary and that Cherokee were genetically predisposed to having alcohol problems, but he believed the law would pass easily. I’m not exactly sure what this difference in opinion with regards to the fate of the law says about Cherokee politics. Both people (Shorty and the Liberian at the youth center) seemed to be heavily involved in the Cherokee community and they were both very conscious of the historical identity of the Cherokee. From listening to both of them the proposed law seems like it is dividing the community. It is unfortunate that I was not able to talk to anyone in favor of the law, as I would have liked to hear their opinions as well as Shorty’s and the Liberians.

I had an amazing time on this trip and I would like to thank everyone on team Tennessee for a great time and especially Jocelyn for all of the work that she put in, to both prepare us beforehand and to make sure we had a successful trip.

I have been back from our ASB trip to Tennessee for awhile now but it seems like I was just there.  I remember clearly the smell of the pine trees, the impressive waterfall sites, and the looks on everyones faces I saw after we completed a service project.  I do not want to be overly cliche and talk about how this trip completely changed me as a person and how I will never be the same… but there is one thing I need to say: this trip taught me that life is what you make of it.  It did not matter if we were swimming in a beautiful lake or just picking up garbage in a park, we were always having fun and enjoying life for what it’s worth.  We enjoyed each other’s company and took everything in.  This idea is very apparent in the Cherokee community we visited there.  I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to meet the Cherokees.  Everything they told me about their community was so interesting.  They were so welcoming and you could tell that they really enjoyed telling people about their community.  I am also so happy that I had the honor of meeting Ed and Arleen, our hosts for the week.  They are such amazing people with huge hearts (who also know how to have fun!).  Their program, “Once Upon a Time”, is so nicely organized and just a truly wonderful experience.  They could not have been nicer and they really helped us take a lot away from our experiences.  One night, we had a big reflection with all of the schools there as we made smores in their huge fire pit.  Ed and Arleen guided our conversation and made us laugh with all of their funny ghost stories.  It was so much fun.  I am so happy and grateful I had this experience and I would recommend this trip to anyone!

There’s nothing like the sound of Bluegrass in the morning

I’ve been back on campus for about 3 days and all I want to do is go back to Tennessee. This trip really opened my eyes and exposed me to so many things I would never have seen or done. Our direct service consisted of removing invasive plant species, building 2/7th of a deck, burning dead wood, stripping bark and litter cleanup in a national forest. However, I learnt much more from all of the educational programs we were a part of in TN. Having the opportunity to talk to members of the Snowbird Cherokee community, I realized just how lucky I am to never have been taken advantage of. Most of the stories we heard from Ed and Arleen Decker (our hosts for the week), Shorty (our direct contact with the Snowbird Cherokee community and the coordinator of the fish game) and Archie (a military veteran and member of the Cherokee warrior tribe) mentioned the intolerance the Cherokee have had to face in the past and how the community is still struggling to recover from all those years of hardship and pain. What struck me most during these conversations was that in spite of everything they have been through, members of the Cherokee community have an extremely positive attitude about life. As Shorty mentioned to us on numerous occasions, “You kids need to enjoy and live life every day.”

I don’t this trip would have been so successful if it weren’t for the wonderful team that I worked with. Jason, Joss, Andrew, Jen, Liana, Dena, Kara, Caroline, Ryan C, Megan and Mary…you guys were amazing. I’m a little bummed because I will no longer be going on any more service trips but the lessons I have learnt in my week in TN and over the past 4 years at Lafayette have really prepared to take an active role in changing the world for the better.

I have been back from Knoxville, Tennessee for 3 days now and all I want is to go back! I honestly was a bit hesitant about the trip as all of my friends were going on extravagant vacations to the Bahamas and Cancun; however, after this experience I would never trade this trip for the world! I’m almost at a loss of words because throughout the trip I learned and experienced so much. After the first day I felt extremely comfortable with everyone in the group. Creating this strong bond made it easy for the group to work very well together and learn from one another. Although I got tired while clearing out all of the honeysuckle on the first day, we all kept each other excited, motivated, and enthusiastic. I then knew this trip was going to be amazing.

I loved all of the service projects, from building trails to debarking wood. But what I loved most was talking and learning from the people. While at the senior center, I talked with a woman named Laura. She really put everything we were doing into perspective from her personal stories and knowledge of the Cherokee Community. The one thing I really took away from talking to all the Cherokees was that you need to ‘enjoy and live life’ as one man, Shorty, told us. All of the people we spoke to were always so happy and positive. At times it’s hard to live like this, but I realized sometimes I need to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and appreciate all I have.

Post trip reflection

Well, we’re back! I already miss Tennessee and am scheming ways to return as soon as possible. A testament to how much our group bonded is shown by the fact that every trip member came together to go out to dinner last night, even after spending an entire week in one cabin together! Now faced with the daunting task of writing about my experiences, I feel overwhelmed. There is so much to say! Firstly, I would like to start with our hosts, Ed and Arleen Decker. They welcomed us into their home, and continued to surprise and inspire us as the week went on. Whether it was Arleen jumping in the lake with us, or the fact that Ed built his house, our cabins and many other buildings on the site with only one other person helping, Ed and Arleen taught us about hard work, having fun and appreciating life and the world around us. The Deckers organized a breakaway experience that included both direct environmental service and more indirect service at places such as the senior center. We also had many opportunities for education, which I absolutely loved. I was able to appreciate things like a conversation with a woman who is able to speak Cherokee much more than I might have, because I knew how few people are still able to speak it. If I really had to pick my most meaningful experience, it would have been meeting a man named Shorty. Shorty is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokees (the tribe that resides in NC and TN; the ones who escaped the trail of tears), and he took time out of his very busy life to talk to us, and teach us the fish game (the most fun game I have EVER played!), refusing to take anything in return. He talked openly and honestly with us about the troubles the tribe is facing. You may not know this, but Cherokee youth receive a very substantial monetary amount either upon graduation from high school, achieving a GED, or turning 21. In Shorty’s case, and many many others, this was wasted on cars, motorcycles etc. It is also true that the tribe will pay for full college tuition, books, a laptop, money for every A, less for every B, and Less for every C and money to go back and forth between home and school for anywhere they are accepted, and few utilize this opportunity. He also told us about problems with electing council, and about drug and alcohol abuse within the Cherokee boundary. However, what was more important than the negative things to me was Shorty’s story, which is about changing your life for the better, which he was able to do much later in life. He told us to just enjoy life, live life giving and not taking, being kind to the Earth and counting our blessings. This had a very strong impact on me, and if I keep nothing else with me as the years go on, I want to remember the Cherokee way of life; every action being from one open heart to another, without selfishness or ulterior motives. I loved every moment of this trip, from the education to the service to the fun things (like seeing a real bluegrass hootenanny, and meeting people I would never have run across above the Mason- Dixon line!), and I think the whole team would agree with me that we owe that to Ed and Arleen, who provided us with a truly special and inspiring spring break in Maryville (Mer-vul) Tennessee.

ASB Tennessee in T-30 minutes

ASB Tennessee is leaving in just a few hours! Yet I still can’t believe that it’s already spring break and that I am leaving Lafayette with my team in less than an hour. Last night I finally had some time to actually think about this trip but I was left with the feeling that I really have no idea what to expect. I know we are going to do different kinds of service projects, some with the Cherokee, some about conservation in the mountains, sometimes with other school groups and other times on our own. Our schedule sounds like it will be pretty packed and I’m just ready for anything. It’s kind of nice going into this trip without any specific expectations because that means I can’t get disappointed and everything will be wonderful! Last year I went on an ASB trip to Jonesville in southern Virginia, actually only about an hour from Tennessee. Driving home (since we had about 9 hours to kill) we talked about ASB trips that would be really cool to go on. One idea that really excited me was possibly working with Native Americans because I basically know nothing about any of the different cultures besides what you learn in elementary school which is practically nothing. So then this year when I found out about the trip to Once Upon A Time in Appalachia I knew this was my chance. So here we are about to embark on this journey and I think I am going into this trip with an open mind and a ready attitude and I am more than ready to see what happens!!

One hour until departure

After a super busy week and a crazy amount of last minute errands, I’m finally ready to get to Tennessee (which is good because we are leaving in an hour!). I am so excited to get down there! The weather should be wonderful, (aside from a few thunderstorms here and there) and we are going to be doing so many awesome things. Out of all of the activities that we will be doing, I am most excited to learn the Cherokee Ball Game and to talk to tribe members. I am extremely curious to see what the land looks like in Tennessee. We are going to be in the mountains, so it will probably be beautiful, which will make all of our work in the forests even more fun. Most of all though, I’m excited to bond with my fellow Team Tennessee members as we work together and learn about an issue that we are all passionate about. Here we go!

The Morning of Tennessee!

Hey everyone! So it’s the morning of the big day – we’re going to Tennessee. I have just finished packing and will probably eat something yummy soon. I am so incredibly excited to be able to go on this trip. This is a great way to get involved, make new friends and do something super cool over spring break and there’s no better way to do it, then to go to Tennessee! The thing I am most excited for is to be out there with no lights, no noise, no distractions. Also, I’m not gonna lie that I’m excited to see what hikes we can do. I have a nerdy confession – I’m excited to see the geology because I’m a weirdo geology major so hopefully there’s some cool formations out there near the Great Smokey Mountains (actually, this is probably what I’m most excited for). The Cherokee culture seems very interesting and I want to learn more about them and their lifestyle. I like to immerse myself in other cultures and then compare them to the one I am used to. In addition, I’m excited to spend time in the forests doing whichever projects they need. I love being outdoors and think that this trip is the best combination of service and the outdoors. You really couldn’t ask for anything better. Well, I’m off to wrap up a few things and I can’t wait to see you all at WAC! :)

It’s so soon!

I have been looking forward to this trip for so long and now that it is finally here it does not seem real!  This is my first trip with the Alternative School Break Club and I am very privileged to be able to have this experience.  I have never been to Tennessee and I am very excited to be enriched in Cherokee culture.  Although I am not sure what exactly to expect, I know that I am going to have the opportunity to meet a lot of people whose lives are very different from mine.  I can not wait to talk to them and hear all of their stories and ideas!  I am excited to be away from my fast-paced life style of being in school.  I want to take the time to experience everything at its fullest- without cell phones and internet, and learn some things that can only be taught through experience.  I hope that by the end of this trip, I will have a good appreciation for the Cherokee culture and will have had the honor of talking to the many people we will meet there.

Day before ASB Tennessee!!!!

It’s the day before we leave for Tennessee and I’m running around doing last minute packing (more like packing I have yet to start…). I can’t believe the trip is here already! I am more than excited to be on my way. My team members seem great but I can’t wait to become much closer with all of them as our trip progresses. I am mostly looking forward to interacting with members of the Cherokee nation! I have rarely spoken or worked with a culture unfamiliar from my own, therefore I cannot wait to immerse myself in the Cherokee culture. Exploring and learning about other cultures is a passion of mine which is why I wanted to be included in this trip so badly! I can’t wait to come back with a greater sense of knowledge about the world around me, specifically, the different practices, beliefs, spiritualities and everything else related to Cherokee culture! And finally, I am looking forward to doing service in the National Parks, exploring the wilderness and working with the Cherokee Senior Citizens! One small, secret thing I am looking forward to?: At least one night, laying under the stars. No street lights. No big cities. No nearby pollution clouding up the sky. Just pitch black space and the clearest, most beautiful view of the milky way I have ever seen.