“Rivers and Roads” plays out loud on a big yellow school bus. I woke up that morning on a gym floor with 26 other teens from all over Kentucky. Now we are headed to Arc of Alabama to garden and clean and help out in anyway we can, but yesterday we worked at Books for Africa, Atlanta, and tomorrow… Who knows? Pillows are spread everywhere and among the snickers and whispers I hear a sharp “shhhh” as people try to sleep on this bus.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Two months ago, I embarked on a 9 day service trip. This was not a vacation, but we did travel. Oh, did we travel. In these 9 days I visited 8 states and 10 major cities.The best part was that prior to the trip, no one knew where we were going. We tried to figure out where we were headed via google maps, but every time were met with a, “Participate, don’t anticipate!” from the trip leaders. Were we still supposed to participate after the second light broke in the summer program in Alabama? Probably not, but we did anyway.
Our first stop with this awkward group of people who only half knew each other was in our own state.We stopped at Daniel Boone’s grave site in Frankfort, Kentucky. We were reminded that Kentucky is a big part of the south and we were instilled with some state pride as we embarked onto new and exciting things. The bus was quiet as we scrambled for conversation topics, but as soon as we found them; the group was alive with energy. We moved mulch at an elementary school with vigor, and headed to Knoxville, Tennessee with smiles. We may have gotten in trouble by putting our hot feet in a cool fountain. Oh well, the better to build team rapport with.
The time spent in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee was dedicated to the Civil Rights movement. While here, we spent time in various museums. We saw the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church, and the Lorraine Motel. This time in our history was truly shocking to see, but even more shocking to see a Confederate Flag drive by while in South Carolina. The South is so rich with culture and cuisine that it is tragic that this is the representation it gets.
As we bounced from state to state, our laughter got louder, our work got harder, and our food tasted better. At the climax of our trip we were in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Cajun atmosphere drew us in and we soon found ourselves dancing with the staff at the Market Cafe. Beignets were on the menu, and so was jazz. We drove down Bourbon street in that big yellow school bus with a yellow sky to match. I think that was the first time I ever danced on a school bus. That night we had fun, but the next day was back to work. It was a more solemn day as we learned of the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the ten years that followed, struggling to rebuild homes.
We moved very quickly back around, making a circle. We went on to Memphis and danced our hearts out at the Levitt Shell, wrapping ourselves into soul music and local bands. We worked closely with volunteers at this concert venue, getting ready for a stunning, free concert. We knew we were headed home, and we didn’t know how to feel about it, but Memphis was our last hoorah and I wouldn’t have left it any other way.
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