February 13, 2009

One thing I never thought I would say:

I love Arkansas.

Training is over, and all is well. I get to work with a few groups next week, and my family is going to visit this wonderful place next weekend.

I had a bought of homesickness in the middle of the week, and thought that things were going to get rough. My birthday is this weekend, and it's my first birthday away from home, so I was having a hard time handling that. But I think it's one of those things where I just had to cry once, and then it's done. Today was a happy day, and tonight was a happy night.

All of the volunteers had a camp fire tonight. We sing, we share stories, we play bonding games... it's a lot of fun. We did this cool thing where we went around the circle and described one scar we had, and how we got it. It sounds silly, but you really learn a lot about people's backgrounds from it. I really do enjoy the people here. Sometimes I feel like the black sheep, but then we get to talking about music or video games and everybody comes together, and it's wonderful. Unlike that last sentence. Horrible grammar, but that doesn't matter in the blogosphere. Lolz.

Tonight is beautiful, though. There isn't a cloud in the sky, the stars are shining brightly, and the moon is a golden yellow. You can hear the peepers in the bottoms by the Fourche river (which runs through the property) singing their little symphony. It's a perfect night.

The ranch also had its first kidding of the season today. Two twins were born, and they are just adorable. I had never seen a baby goat before, and their tails are just to die for. It is so hard to not pet them or hold them, but they are cute enough that I could watch them for hours. We will have several kids born in the next month or two, and after that the lambing begins. It should be an exciting and amazing time! :)

One more thing before I head off to bed. I've found that I love getting mail the past few weeks, and would highly encourage any of you to send me a line. I will gladly write a few back, and maybe even send a heifer ranch care package (which my friend Ruben received this week.) So, in order to do that... here is my address.

Erika Lewis
Heifer Ranch
55 Heifer Road
Perryville, Arkansas 72126

Good night, y'all. I'm volunteering in the kitchen tomorrow morning in order to fanangle some free breakfast, so I need to turn in. Love and good thoughts-


February 08, 2009

The drawl just starts to come out.

Moving to Arkansas, my greatest fear was that my accent would start to come out. I was happy to learn that my housemates were from all over- Kansas, Oregon, and New Jersey- thinking that this would mean that my southern drawl would remain to a minimum, and i could retain my perfect Missouri accent. But just now I said to myself "well. . . " and it came out sounding like "whale. . ." (Think Joyce Sherrell's trademark "Well, Shit" well.)

That is all be
side the point, though. I'm not in Arkansas to become an Arkansan (the correct term, I've learned.) I'm in Arkansas to help an organization complete their mission to end pOVERty (it's nicer to write it that way) and world hunger. The past week I've been experiencing the ranch to learn more about that mission.

Wednesday night I spent the night in the global village, an educational tool we use to help visitors better understand the challenge we face in the fight against pOVERty and world hunger. We met in the Global Village barn, and discussed our communities, houses, and diets with each other. We shared our motivations in life and the items we couldn't live without. This, of course, was to make us realize what we have and then compare it to what the families we were going to be living as have. We then discussed the population distribution around the world, and then the personal consumption those areas had. In case you can't see, the areas are North America, Latin America (Central America and South America), Europe (including Russia), Africa, Asia, and Oceana (includes Australia. I felt really silly when I saw this. Our five percent of the population accounts for 32 percent of personal consumption. I figured it would be something like this, but I guess just seeing it all written down made it finally kick me in the head. After our little talk, we broke up into families- I got put in Appalachia for the night (pronounced apple-atchya, I've learned.) I also discovered that I was pregnant, and thus was unable to help with most chores for the evening. My family made it up to our house, and discovered that we had a little problem- the father of the family had always worked in the coal mines, and was starting to get black lung. He could either keep his job and get sick, or quit and try to find work elsewhere. We decided to save our daddy and give up some of our resources (We only had a few potatoes) to save him. Luckily being in the mountains, we had all of the rights to the firewood for the night, so the other villages had to come to us if they wanted to do any cooking. Unfortunately Guatemala had all of the access to the water, so we had to think of a way to coax that family to give us some. Over half of the volunteers here are returning volunteers, so they knew from previous experiences that if we all came together, we could cook a pretty substantial meal. And actually, we cooked an amazing meal over two fires. We had rice, a vegetable stir-fry, corn cakes, and even some illegal s'mores. My baby, J'Kwon (a water balloon in a pounch around my tummy) did not make it through the night. I couldn't keep my distance from the fire, and he got overheated. Other babies froze to death, and some were simply neglected by their parents. After our meal we hiked back up to Appalachia, one of the few enclosed homes, and went to bed. It just happened to be the coldest night of the week, and I froze and tried to will myself to sleep. I was thinking how hard it would be to be in that little shack- one room for the entire family- and in school. Dad would be trying to sleep because he had to get up at 3 in the morning to go to work, Mom would be exhausted, and I would be cold and trying to work on my schoolwork while trying not to keep everyone up. It'd be hard to succeed or even concentrate if you were that cold or hungry.

The next day I woke up not feeling so well, as you can imagine. But as the day wore on I soon discovered that I had a bit of a stomach bug, and thus decided to skip out on the high ropes course. I slept and recooperated, and then woke up Saturday morning for CPR/ First-Aid certification. That was a bit of a scary thing, realizing that I could be faced with an emergency situation here. But I feel a lot better after going through the course and talking with the staff members about their past experiences here, and what they did in certain situations.

Yesterday I went to a flea market where I purchased two pairs of pants, a book, and some glasses all for under eight dollars. It was a fun trip, and took up about two hours of the day. I also played some sand volleyb
all, which I know many of you will find hard to believe. I'm not saying I did well... but I did play and have a lot of fun. Arcadia, my roommate, and I hung out all night watching dvd's and reading, then went on a midnight drive through the Ouachita National Forest that is part of the ranch. It's really beautiful here, with the mountains surrounding us the pine trees everywhere. Today my tummy started to hurt again, so I opted out of a hiking trip. After a nap I felt better though, so I broke out a rake and cleaned out the flower beds out front. We already have some bulbs getting ready to bloom, and I'm pretty excited about it. I did some housework and made some dinner, then set down and watched some shows with my little house family. Life on the ranch may not be the most exciting, but it is definitely cozy and happy. I've only been here a week and it already feels like my home.

I need to head out and stop boring you with my writing. I have training to get to in the morning. But I will leave you with this: