Sunday, July 31, 2011

Transition to Greenwood: Catching Up.

In my last days in Ypsilanti many gave their opinions on Mississippi. Most reacted with groans, raised eyes brows or condescending shoulder pats. A few were more positive, but one particular individual – who had spent time in Mississippi – reacted quite vehemently. He declared it, “The Land that God Forgot.” He ranted for several more minutes and left shortly after. Spending time here I can see some of what he said. If I were to be compassionate I could see his emotions as frustration with the poverty here, the lack of upward mobility and the failure to do anything about it. I don’t really think that was the case, I think he was just a pretentious jerk.

The last seven weeks here have proven that indeed these people are forgotten by most of the country, but the people here rival anyone I know that is worth remembering. The Delta’s popular perception doesn’t differ too vastly from that of Flint and Detroit. I’m not sure if this indicates me as a purveyor of the underdog (What American doesn’t at least pretend to be?). But, none the less the realization needed to be shared.

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I wrote the above at the end of institute (the training program I was in for most of June and July) and I write to you now from my one bedroom above garage apartment in Greenwood, Mississippi. School for me starts a week for tomorrow, just in time to commence the hottest month in Mississippi. When I accepted this position in TFA many people said, “It will be challenging work” “It will be hard work” etc. Anyone can accept a general challenge. It’s similar to when someone says to you about a person you haven’t met named Xanu, “She’s really interesting but hard to be around.” Most compassionate people will think Hey, she can’t be that bad. And then the reality of those general statements comes to fruition in gritty detail. Like she always interrupts you, or hogs the copy machine that you need to prepare every day, or at the onset of violence takes an apathetic approach, or has a forked tongue. All that said do not be alarmed. I am at peace; I know why I am here and have no thoughts of leaving. There just comes a moment when I encountered all the little details that will make up the school day and it’s shocking. All I can do is forgive it and know that I am here for the kids plain and simple.

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In other news my house was struck by lightning my second night here. I left the house for twenty minutes last night, and in that time frame lightning struck. The storm flooded the street and I learned about another necessary piece of Mississippi equipment: knee high rubber boots. My land lords are sweet people. They had a big welcome barbeque for all the Greenwood Corps Members and embody southern hospitality.

My above garage apartment is sound, but unfortunately the land lord’s house next door is having issues. Here they run the plumbing and the electrical together, which means that the water main has about seven holes in it – which means it’s going somewhere other than sinks, toilets and showers. The water still works in my apartment, and they’ve patched the biggest holes – but they may still need to replace all the electrical and plumbing that would mean a hotel stay sometime soon for Mr. Stevens. I’ll get another good story to story anyway.

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If you’d like to know what Greenwood looks like you can go see the movie “The Help” it was shot in Greenwood because it largely looks like it fits in the 1950s. There are virtually no modern structures in the downtown, but rest assured on the West side drag we have a Wal-Mart, Big Lots and other indications of mass consumption I’ve deemed a necessity to my existence.

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3 comments:

  1. A group of social work students went to Mississippi during my final year at Eastern and they all came back with this particular look on their face.. I can't describe it. They all seemed very changed from their experience there. TFA - fantastic choice, Mr. Stevens. :)

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  2. Enjoyed reading about Xanu. Glad to hear that you're ok.

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  3. @Loren, I can understand that look. It is hard to describe - I'll do my best to communicate it here. And thanks!

    @Hyo Jin: Glad to be ok :). Did you finish your thesis?

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