I've never been one to go all out for Spring Break. Most years, I go home and relax for a week, and my freshman year I stayed in Evansville due to a show that I was in. This year, however, a bunch of my friend let me know that they were going on a trip, and asked if I wanted to come along. They warned me that it could get a little crazy, the food was amazing, and that I'd probably be a changed person by the time I came back to Evansville, Indiana.
So I took the plunge and went to Rural Appalachia for my Spring Break 2014.
The trip was an Alternative Spring Break trip sponsored by the UE Newman Center to a place called Nazareth Farm. Nazareth Farm is a community in Doddridge County, West Virginia, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The cornerstones of life at the farm are Simplicity, Prayer, Community, and Service, and so they ask us to put away our technology in favor of spending time with each other, so my laptop stayed at home and my cell phone was turned off(not that there was service to use it anyways.) We were asked to put away our makeup and hair products as well, and to take only three showers a week, two of which were bucket showers. We weren't allowed to know the time- it was always 10:10, which is God's time, because when one is praising God, their arms are up in a "Y." We would be going around to various homes in West Virginia and helping with home repair, which including building wheelchair ramps, a porch, putting siding on a house, and underpinning a trailer. There also were chores to do every day before breakfast, which could be anything from weeding the garden where they organically grow the majority of their food to building a new shelf for the workshop.
I just got back yesterday, and let me tell you, everything my friends said was true. Putting away my cellphone meant nobody was choosing technology over human interaction, and I learned so much more about everybody there than I know about a lot of people here, I feel like. Not knowing what time I had to be somewhere was quite relaxing, and I could stay present instead of rushing to get things done or having a schedule preoccupying me all the time. Even the food was simple, with vegetarian dishes illustrating how combinations spices and flavors can turn food extraordinary. I loved no having to wear makeup or worry about how my hair looked, because I knew nobody else cared either. The staff was just the friendliest group of people and all were so eager to learn our stories and to help us with anything.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to go out onto the worksites and to meet the homeowners. They were all such strong individuals and were so positive and hopeful despite their less-than-ideal circumstances. One man recently lost his wife and was taking care of his adult daughter with cerebral palsy, and he was so grateful to us for building a wheelchair ramp so that he could get her out of the house without too much effort. Another family who had two young children with medical problems had recently bought a house and we were putting siding up so that it could be weatherproofed. Talking with them about their experiences was not only eye opening, but it put into perspective my life back in Evansville and all the blessings that I have in my life that I may not be aware of.
So all in all it was a fabulous Spring Break to cap off my undergraduate college career! Some might not see it as a "break," but I assure you it was quite refreshing, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I'm definitely going to bring back a lot of the lessons I learned while over there and share them with others. Who knows, maybe someone I tell will end up going next year. :)
The whole crew at NazFarm just before we said our goodbyes!