Friday, July 8, 2011

A Lasting Memory of Teamwork and Friendship

This has been my first experience volunteering with Global, and I hope it won’t be my last. Though some activities were less than exciting, such has staffing the outdoor picnic when it was 90 degrees, or getting caked with dust at the Indian Days, all the others more than made up for them, like touring the South Wind Lodge and listening to Marty’s story. The culmination of our week in Browning was watching the Indian Days opening ceremony yesterday, seeing all those people dancing in full regalia was an amazing sight, well worth the 30 mph wind. I don’t have much else to say, even though this journal has been a lot shorter than the rest. Overall, this has been an amazing week that I hope I will long remember.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grateful to be Here

As our week winds down my thought turns to this sentence – how do we keep alive the thoughts and experiences of this week as we scatter back and resume our “normal” lives. We have been exposed to the best of the Blackfeet Community – strong, proud, committed individuals who have transfixed us with their life stories. How can I hold on to the serenity of Pauline as she described her own difficult personal journey, or the pride of accomplishment of ownership expressed by Lyle at the Blackfeet dorm, and Smokey and Bob Tailfeathers at BCC, or the sheer force of personality shown by Betty as she carries the mike and was a nonstop cheerleader for Blackfeet Youth Days. Yesterday, we were universally touched by the people we served food at Eagle Shields. Again with kindness and gentleness of spirit. And to our group of eight who have provided strength and companionship. I will always be touched by this week we have spent together and grateful that I got to experience this with Alex.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The most amazing, kind, and eclectic people from one end of the U.S. to the other – literally – come together as a team. Vicky, hard working, smiling, accepting, giddy – this lady works, works, works and truly enjoys herself whether washing a bus, or like today cutting watermelons, packing Styrofoam containers with fresh grilled still sizzling hamburgers and my favorite. Corn. She really does it all. I love her spirit.

Sammy, OMG, twenty one, quietly smiles, paints, interacts with children, elders, so versatile. I love her spirit. Stephanie, again smiling, inquisitive, kind, takes charge and registers some reluctant children and some willing; some mothers, like mothers everywhere, push their children to sign up, “do”, they say, “that run/walk participate!” I love Stephanie’s spirit and honor her as a loving mother.

Ruth, Ruth, forever going tagging the ‘ants in the pants’ kids with a number on paper using a sharp needle, minding carefully not to prick their tender skin and without her glasses! Her gentle hands sewing fabric, repairing. I love her 81 years spirit. Then our two men, Ken and 14 year old Alex.

Yes, Alex is a man; he has had his bar mitzvah, so quick doing his part with lifting and setting up chairs. He uses his analytical mind, packing heavy boxes onto a dolly, and still takes time to participate in the activities. I honor this young man’s spirit.

Ken, works, socializes, helps with chairs, enjoys the idea of volunteering, packs the truck, walks out and meets the local people, is soothed by the lotions and sprays of the medicine woman. He is honored.

Cindy, business, works very hard to ensure our safety, feeds us – our bodies and our souls. Saw her Disney self come out with the children, beautiful. Her spirit is complex and I love it. Thank you all for accepting me, my heart seeks only peace, but I am a warrior to the marrow of my bones. This is the conflict that I live with every day.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Learning Opportunities Everywhere!

I found a school that serves as an example to all the others. Blackfeet Community College, or BCC, as it is known, has a science and math building so hi-tech and energy-conserving, that it is only a matter of time before every other school in America catches on and realizes what a “green” school should look like – and this is it.

Vicky and I went to the Eagle Shield Care Center. We prepared lunch for the elderly residents and cleaned up afterwards. I’ll admit it’s been a while since I last volunteered, but the warmth you receive from helping other people is a feeling you cannot get from anywhere else.

Candace said that she did not do much, because she wasn’t asked, but she made sure the books were in order and straightened in the school library. Ken and Alex cleared stones. Stephanie and Grandma checked out donated books before the books could be put on the shelf.

The best part was the storytelling by Bob Tailfeathers and Smokey. Bob told us the history of the school, personal stories, and about Blackfeet tribal culture. Best of all was the artwork he made. I mean, where else would you find porcupine quill jewelry! Smokey showed us what can only be called the 21st century teepee with steel rims and metal vents to release the smoke. The only natural elements were the plants used to burn in ritual prayer.

All in all, it was a day to learn, help others, and discover that sometimes libraries have their own version of the Dewey Decimal System.

"To write a message that reflects everyone, or connect with each person seems to be a wee bit difficult for me. The only words that pop into my head are from POTC when Cpl. Jack Sparrow is on Rumrunners Island with Elizabeth, laugh out loud. Jack tells Elizabeth about his love and reasons for loving the Black Pearl. “The pearl”, says he “is more than sails, and wood, and ropes. What the Pearl is: is Freedom.” That Freedom to me is a connection and love of waves, adventures, sunsets, and sunrises. A connection with “something” greater than yourself, whether it be with the waters, mountains, a rock picked up, a thirsty dog or a brown skinned dark eyed smiling inside child. To connect is to love and to love is freedom."

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July on the Rez

The whole group got together after lunch for reading of message and journal. We loaded up supplies and started in the van to the place where our hosts, Brother Ray and Brother Paul live – about 14 miles away. We worked there on several projects – window washing, landscaping, power washing the school bus, grass mowing, and quilt mending. Brother Ray grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, pork chops and bratwurst. We couldn’t eat outside – there were too many mosquitoes! We had apple pie for dessert.

Marty joined us as our Indian “storyteller” who gave us knowledge about his personal history as well as that of the Blackfeet. He explained the difference between Blackfeet and Blackfoot as well as some other tribes. He spoke about the difference in the cultures and the history of the land “given” to the Indians and then taken away in bits and pieces by treaties, etc. He told about all the things done and grown by Indians before the “White man” came. He showed us his many gifts from friends and prior to starting to tell us more, he blessed us all in order that we might be allowed to handle many sacred objects. He is a great storyteller and answered our many questions as well.

Message - Frank Outlaw
It’s all about character.
Watch your thoughts,
They become words.
Watch your words,
They become actions.
Watch your actions,
They become habits.
Watch your habits,
They become character.
Watch your character,
It becomes your destiny.

Enjoying the Grandeur in our Midst

Today was a day of wonder here in Montana. Being a part of a group of people from diverse backgrounds, of different ages and from different areas of the country – that is a very good and mystical thing.

Day dawned brightly and got even better as Candace made a brimming pot of coffee. Bless you, Candace. After breakfast, a wonderful message from Ruth (who is a huge inspiration to each of us) and Vicky’s inaugural journal, ultra-local Joe Jessepp squired us on a nearly seven-hour tour of Glacier Park. Joe packed our day with local lore, geology, loads of humor. Glacier Park contributed both grandeur and simplicity. There is a haunting timelessness about both the Park and the Blackfeet. This is my third trip here with Global Volunteers. It will not be my last trip here.

Shortly after we arrived at the park, we were treated to sunny skies and a rain shower. I was reminded of one of my favorite songs, YOUNGER GENERATION, by the Lovin’ Spoonful.
I swore when I was small,
That I’d remember when,
I knew what’s wrong with them, That I was smaller than. Determined to remember, All the cardinal rules,
Like sun showers are legal grounds, For cutting school.

I think the Lovin’ Spoonful was with us in Joe’s van today. As we left our picnic lunch, I noticed a bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot: “A closed mind is a good thing to lose.” Global Volunteers is all about opening minds. Happy Independence Day!
- Ken

“National parks are the best idea we ever had, absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” (Wallace Stegner)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wrapping Up Our Last Day in Browning

Today was our last day in Browning, and we're all very sad knowing our trip is almost over. We started the day a little bit differently, sending Jess, Ned and Sam over to help the Boys and Girls Club transport tables and other heavy objects from the school district storage to their office. Ally went back to the BCC library to finish the work she had been doing for the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Michele checked in with all local work project leaders on priorities for the day. When she returned, Maia, Terilyn, Molly, Lean, Hannah, Gus, Anderson and Ally2 headed over to the care center one last time.

Because Leah, Hannah and Terilyn had been scraping paint all week, Maia, Molly and "the boys" got the unpleasant task of finishing up the job. Ally, Lean, Hannah and Terilyn spent the morning staining the picnic table Sam built eariler in the week. They were accompanied by the adorable dog who always hung around the building, which we named "Riff", and to which we've grown attached. But, today we had to say goodbye to our faithful friend and to the care center where we spent many afternoons.