I am very excited to head out on my first ASB trip to Tennessee next week. This should be a wonderful opportunity to learn about Cherokee culture, while at the same time providing the chance to work with a group of people whom I hardly know. I have never been on an ASB trip before, so I have no idea what to expect, but i am always ready for whatever lies ahead. Over the winter break, I took an interm class in Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar, and while this trip will not be as far from home as East Africa, i am expecting the cultural differences to be on a similar scale. I’m not exactly sure why this is, it could be the language, or possibly just the fact that the Cherokee are a Native American tribe. I am especially excited for the night that we are going to spend in a church, sleeping in a pew. It feels like a very long time has passed since our first meeting, back in October and I can’t believe that it is finally time to head to Tennessee.
In a few days, I will be embarking upon my third ASB trip, this time to Maryville, Tennessee. My previous two trips (Gulf Coast, 2009 and Ecuador, 2011) put me on the path to becoming an active citizen and I hope to continue my transformation this year. So far, I love my team members and I am sure that we will only get closer to each other as the trip progresses.
The aspect of the trip I am most looking forward to is having the opportunity to interact with members of the Cherokee community. One of the highlights of my ASB trip to Ecuador was being able to interact with the local Shuar community. I am also excited because we will be engaging in many different areas of service – physical labor, environmental work, working with senior citizens and even working with young children in the community. My previous ASB experience has taught me to always be flexible in every way. Things don’t always run smoothly and it is important to always have a positive attitude. As a returning ASBer and an exec board member, I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself to work when things are difficult. But I have complete faith in my team and I know we can overcome everything in our way.
As our trip to Tennessee approaches, I am realizing that I am on the verge of learning a huge amount about a community I do not know very much about. While thinking about this trip, I am remembering how much I gained from my ASB trip to Washington D.C, a city that is not too different from Philadelphia, where I grew up. I can only imagine how different this trip will be! I expect to not only learn from the service projects, but also walk away with an understanding of a lifestyle I have yet to experience; one without wireless internet, or even bathrooms in the same building we sleep in. I can’t wait to experience the Smokey Mountains and the Cherokee culture, and to meet new and interesting people. I think one of the most beneficial aspects of our trip is that we are engaging in many different areas of service such as child care, spending time in the senior center, as well as environmental work. I am a little bit nervous about my first time as a trip leader, but I feel confident in my amazing team and our faculty advisor that this will be an unforgettable service experience!