that one time we got lost on a mountain

I don’t know how we managed to miss the one huge path cut out on the mountain, but we somehow ended up at a dead end with a drop off and ducking under branches and climbing over fallen trees. this is what happens when Staycation takes on Hanging Rock. It’s possible we were just enjoying each other’s company so much that we failed to see the path. Or it’s because Connor and I tried to take the lead and our Boy Scout Carr was in the back. Maybe a combination of both. Either way, I’m glad we at least had half a bag of gummy bears and some sun chips with us in case we did get stranded. Today flew by for me, the whole week has really, but one second we were in the Starbucks study room watching a video on the human genome project and the next we were cruising down winding country roads listening to 90s music. I’m going to keep this post very short and sinmple, because frankly, working in gardens and climbing mountains and playing with children is exhausting. If there was one thing I would want people to know about WAB trips, it’s that they’re a perfect chance for you to be inspired by people. I remember there was a moment during play time at El Buen the other day when I looked around and saw every single one of our group members totally engaged with the kids, and it was one of the most precious and genuine things I’ve ever seen. Connor was chasing kids in a game of tag. A little kid was climbing on Richard’s back. Hannah was pushing a kid on the swings. and the list goes on. Everyone was smiling. The El Buen kids. Our group. Everyone. It was awesome. It’s so easy to be negative about something like education issues, and to feel like you’re not making a difference, but then you’re around people who put the hope back in your day and show you that there is always a source of inspiration, even if it’s just in witnessing interactions of human to human. Wake kid to El Buen kid. Smile to smile. It’s moments like those in which my faith in humanity is restored, and I’m reminded that there are good people in the world who are working to make it a better place, and doing so with a smile, despite the sometimes discouraging statistics or facts like how funds for prisons in an area are gauged off of 2nd grade test scores. Anyway, I said I’d keep this short and I’m sticking with that, but basically this is an awesome group of people, and I am so lucky to have been able to share a week of service with them. staycation. stay awesome.  

-Nora

"I’m not sorry I slept through that text"

If read one way, the phrase above (a text that was sent this morning over the group message) would show that we Staycationers have achieved a new level of comfort and bluntness with each other! If read the way the sender intended, it would actually relay a response, an apology, and an explanation. This text was a funny way to start the day, and the good vibes continued through gardening, playing, and learning.

After reconvening for lunch at subway, we WABers headed off to El Buen Pastor a couple hours earlier than usual. Today we were expanding our efforts at the location to help build the beginnings of a garden where the kids will be able to help grow fresh, healthy food, and learn in the process. I really enjoyed working with the group as well as with Kelly and Thane who work at EBP. As we all gardened we devised our own systems for raking leaves, weeding, moving the aforementioned leaves, and making beds for the future vegetables all the while having a wide ranging discussion about society, social justice, and Columbus (boo hiss). We started the day with a plot with some clear patches, and ended with six large beds and cleared space for at least two more. The work was hard but went much faster with all of us than it would have for just Kelly and Thane. We helped in the process of making their vision into a reality, and it was great.

After a couple hours in the garden, we went inside to thaw. We ate soup as the kids trickled in from their buses and grabbed their own bowls. I drifted from table to table, visiting with children I met in previous visits, and meeting new ones as well. It was gratifying that many of them knew my name and were enthused to see me.

Then it was time to play! When dismissed, almost all the children rushed outside to the playground and picnic tables. Out in the open, the grouping off of kids is readily apparent. As a sociology major I am fascinated with social dynamics, and the playtime of the children at EBP was full of interesting material. The girls function in smaller groups, and are much more concerned than the boys with people from other groups joining in on their activities. One set of girls I was working with moved three times to avoid other groups. The boys mostly find different excuses to run around, from games like Cops and Robbers, to traditional Tag, to “run away from the crocodile (where I was the crocodile)”. They taunt and tease, but sometimes can be sweet. For example, one boy was hit and fell down during a game of soccer, and was crying and went inside. Two of his friends had a brief worried exchange, then ran after him to make sure he was okay.

After play time, it was time to go inside for tutoring. Today I was working with a group of first graders for the first half hour of tutoring, then I was going to lead the Vocab Bowl for Kindergarten and First grade in the second half. These kids were eager, and knew the definitions for the words we had for them as well as the spelling. They were engaged and vying for the chance to show what they knew. They were so successful in the Vocab Bowl that no one got the first and second place prizes because everyone kept getting their questions right.

This presented the question: what happens between first grade and fourth that makes the children so much less enthusiastic about learning? Or, will these younger kids be able to maintain their enthusiasm throughout school? El Buen Pastor is doing wonderful work with these kids, but there are so many other hours in the day and so many other influences on these children. Is it their peers, the media, society as a whole, or something else that changes enthusiastic questions and silent study to apathy and boisterous protests to school work? I am mostly just drawing on my own experiences with the children, but there definitely seemed to be a divide between the older and younger children in their attitude toward school, and it was unfortunate.

I am sad to leave the children I have met and connected with this week, and I plan to continue to be involved with El Buen Pastor again in the future. I like to be reminded that we have the ability to impact the community around us, and that we should be grateful for the opportunities we have as Wake Forest students. My second WAB has not disappointed, and I hope to carry over the spirit of Pro Humanitate I have experienced this week into the rest of my time at Wake Forest and beyond!

Peace, love, and service,
Kim

PS: tumblr decided to be difficult and post this late… Sorry for the delay!

Another Great Day at the Staycation

Today was yet another great day at the Staycation.

We started out the day in the ZSR, once again. This time, however, we were given a great lesson on how to use Zotero when researching. Zotero is a computer program that compiles everything one would need when acquiring research for a paper. At first I was a bit skeptical, but pretty soon I will lose count of the number of hours I will have saved while citing, formatting, and gathering sources due to Zotero. Learning how to use Zotero will be incredibly helpful not only for the rest of my Wake Forest career but also for when I leave campus and begin my venture into the professional world.

After that, the Staycationers and I had a wonderful lunch with a couple of faculty fellows, which are students selected to stay another year and work with faculty after they already graduated. We were able to pick their brain regarding their advice on the importance of community service, managing academics, and generally keeping our lives in balance. The discussion was especially inspiring because we had the opportunity to talk to former students that were very successful during their stay at Wake Forest, and discussions like these make me really glad that I had the chance to go on this Wake Alternative Break.

Our next trip was back to El Buen Pastor, where I was immediately bombarded with requests to play Cops and Robbers with the first and second grade guys. While keeping up with the kids was exhausting due to their seemingly endless amount of energy, I had an absolute blast spending time with them, and being at El Buen Pastor as a whole has been an absolute pleasure. While I cannot be certain of the impact that I have had on the students, I will never forget the amount of fun, happiness, and desire to serve the community that they have instilled in me.

We had another day of the Vocabulary Quiz Bowl, this time with the second and third graders. What was awesome about the Vocab Quiz Bowl was how serious and willing to learn the students become once something is turned into a competition (I was exactly the same as a child). I was very impressed with how well the students knew the vocabulary words, and we weren’t even able to finish the game before the day at El Buen Pastor was over because the students kept answering questions correctly!

We then ventured back to the ZSR, where we had dinner in the atrium of a completely deserted library, since it was closed. Having the atrium to ourselves was really cool, especially since the sun had just began shining through the glass walls after a pretty intense storm. However, we kept hearing random noises echo throughout the library, which freaked us all out a little. The dinner gave us the opportunity to reflect on our day, the no homework policy that the El Buen Pastor’s students’ school enforced, and our thoughts on Wake Forest in general.

The final event of the evening was bowling, which was a ton of fun. I bowled woefully throughout the night, but the most memorable part to me was how we and the people in the adjacent lanes would cheer each other on and give each other high fives after a strike despite being complete strangers. As someone who mostly sticks with his close friends and rarely leaves the “Wake Forest Bubble,” having a group of strangers come together like that was a special and memorable experience.

The Staycation has been a total joy, and I would recommend Wake Alternative Breaks to anyone who asks. Not only has it helped foster relationships with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, but it has also inspired in me a commitment to service that will be everlasting.

#Staycation #Stayawesome ,

Connor

A Well-oiled Machine

Whether it’s serving at El Buen Pastor or cooking dinner for each other, this group has found its rhythm (to keep with Richard’s music theme from his Day 1 blog post).

Our day started with a walking tour through all of the Special Collections & Archives space, including the reading room and storage space that houses artifacts like the rare books collection among MANY other things. We looked at the oldest book in the collection, which dates back to the 13th century, and the smallest book—probably the size of my thumbnail. Today’s library session was yet another peek into the many secrets of the ZSR and a great reminder of all of the resources available to us.

In between our learning and serving, we enjoyed a relaxing hangout sesh on the quad, complete with Kan Jam and Subway. Can’t believe how hot it was today!! I had forgotten that sunburn was real….

And because the weather was so great today, we spent a nice, long time playing outside with the kids at El Buen Pastor. Highlights include: the boys’ shock at my ability to play soccer; being called “Donna,” “Hanukkah,” and “Ms. Potato Wedge” among other silly names; and getting my Chaco-wearing feet dirty from all of the playing!

Today was also the guinea pig run-through of hopefully the first of many Vocab Quiz Bowls to be had at EBP. The fourth and fifth graders did a pretty good job, but Richard’s list stumped them with words like “genuine” and “thrive.” The format of the Vocab Quiz Bowl is essentially the same as a spelling bee; the kids line up and are given a word to define or use in a sentence. We had Dubble Bubble as consolation prizes for the participants and 2 prizes for the grand champs. 

Over dinner, we reflected on some of the kids’ lack of motivation—to learn the words and participate. We discussed the reasons behind our own motivations for pursuing higher ed, and the common thread among our answers was family influence—parental and the examples set by siblings. Our discussion caused me to wonder how far our tutoring at EBP will go if the values aren’t enforced and encouraged at home.

It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through the service portion of our Staycation. There’s still lots to look forward to for the rest of the week, and I am so thankful to be learning and serving alongside some of the most passionate and dedicated Deacs!

Peace, Love, WAB.

Hannah