Saturday, March 30, 2013

Today was the last day of actually volunteering on our trip. We went to Project Open Hand where I got to spend some quality time with Becca and Gabby cutting egg cartons in half. I had a lot of fun. This organization was very organized and professional. 
This week has gone by very slowly for me, yet at the same time I cannot believe that it is already time to go home tomorrow. This trip has challenged me on so many different levels. I feel like all these issues and ideas have been thrown at me, but I don't even know what to do with all of them. I am definitely looking forward to going home and being able to take some time to process through everything that I have experienced and felt during the past week. 
I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been apart of this trip. I have met a lot of amazing people and have developed some really amazing relationships with people. This week has helped me become a better person.
Love, Maris

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Drag with Intent, March 27, 2013

Today was the day we dreaded; the day we had to leave the hostel by 6:40am. Despite our fatigue, we made our way over to GLIDE by 7 sharp to begin helping with the preparation for breakfast. While most of the group helped with serving the food, I got to go in the back and help out with some other food prep. Over the next two hours I got to work exclusively with raw eggs, boxed cereal, and green peppers. We had arrived much earlier than many of the other volunteers who showed up over the course of our stay and the staff had to individually help each new recruit find their place in the hustle of the kitchen. It was nice to be able to see how the food we were making was being put to good use and the thought that all of it was going to be used really put the amount of traffic that GLIDE assists on a regular basis. We will be spending a good deal of our day there tomorrow, serving breakfast once again and adding dinner onto our schedule as well. 

That afternoon, we made our to the San Francisco Suicide Prevention Project at a secret address to help them get settled into their new digs and prep envelopes for an upcoming fundraiser. Around 2,000 letters were sent out in total and I was able to assist in building a shelf to help organize the suicide resources for outreaches. It was a non-IKEA purchase, so it really stretched by handyman skills to their limits. The SFSPP provides resources to a wide variety of people in need of either grief support for a recent loved one who has passed or is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression. While the center itself rarely has visitors, the task force makes sure to get out into communities in order to best serve the populace. I was able to see two of their annual reports and, being the business major, looked through them to see what had changed over the years and saw a dramatic increase in the amount of grants and services provided, which seemed a natural progression for the group to undertake. The staff there was very welcoming and gracious and was able to speak to us about what the program did and hoped to accomplish, which was a stark contrast to how we had been greeted elsewhere. This is not to say they were not grateful at GLIDE, but merely that they were very busy and it was clear that they were accustomed to having many volunteers come in and out of their program throughout the course of the day and don't really have the time to take each group around and give them a tour. I'm excited to work at GLIDE again tomorrow, though I do hope to be able to serve meals this time. 

Our final stop was perhaps the most thought provoking of the day: the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence  To the untamed eye, one might think that these drag queens were enacting their revenge on the Catholic church by dressing up as what can only be described as a nuns at Marti Gras This dramatization if not done with malicious intent, however, and comes from a mindset that inspires many people to this day to devote their lives to the church. The SPI hope to interact with others in the community to diminish guilt, intolerance, and suffering while providing care, support, and outlets for connection. It is true that the SPI are not affiliated with any church, their members go through a rigorous initiation process that models itself after a religious institution with its own bylaws and customs to follow. This was, to me, the most intriguing space we had visited thus far as it brought into question the oft assumed concept that a connection with queerness automatically disassociates one from their spiritual self, especially so when one takes into account the majority of the arguments being used against queer issues. Growing up in a splinter Christian religion, I had always learned my spiritual self was part of my identity, but the permissibly of a spiritually queer identity was left unexplored. This ragtag group of nuns managed to carve out a space for themselves, where their calling to a greater good could manifest itself in a community that needed help. The entire organization is run through the effort of the unpaid members, but its effects are far reaching and have done a great deal for the community. In the past the Sisters responded to a large upswing in STD rates by researching the various diseases, creating a pamphlet with easy to understand language, checking in with doctors to make sure of the factual accuracy of the information, and printing and distributing thousands of these during a parade, and all of this within a span of six weeks. Though the logistics of their operations are complex due to the limited availability of funding, the Sisters were able to give out over $80,000 in grants last year, accumulated through fundraisers and donations, to the community. Their idea was Drag with Intent, using their performance to better their community. As the theme for the trip is "be the change you wish to see in the world," these nuns showed the way be putting effort in without wishing to gain anything personally outside of joy from helping others. It is that attitude we should try to embody while doing our work in the future. 

Negatives become positives

This morning we had to wake up at 6 and be at GLIDE by 7. I was easily motivated to get out of bed this morning to serve other people because I knew it was a great cause, however I had no idea what to expect. We had been at GLIDE the day before serving people behind the scenes and I knew that we were making an impact, but it was hard for me to grasp the fact that I really was making a difference because this type of service was different from any type that I had done before. There was a lot of standing around and waking up while putting on our hair nets, making our name tags, and putting our aprons on. Our group slowly started veering off into different jobs and myself and about four others of our group were left waiting for a job.

As I was observing my surroundings of this place called GLIDE, I was thinking so many different things. Are the volunteers sincerely wanting to be here? Are the workers loving what they do, or do they dread coming to work. Who's facing a struggle outside of this place and they are still present even though their life may be miserable? I just was asking myself all of these questions. GLIDE this morning really made me reevaluate my life and put things into perspective not only for myself, but for everyone and everything around me.

So our job ended up being bussing tables. We had to take peoples trays, refill the coffee, water, and milk etc. I could barely hear what the man was saying as we were being given directions but the first thing I really recognized was that the water and the milk were both in large garbage bins that were white. We had to scoop up the drinks with a big pan and put them in the pitcher to refill them, and to me I thought that was really unsanitary considering we were serving food to people who already had very little. I understand that we were helping them and what not, but I feel as though GLIDE overall could have been A LOT more clean of an environment so that for these people coming here would be a breathe of fresh air even if it was only for a little while, and for some it was! But, for others it seemed extremely stressful and maybe even frustrating and irritating noticing peoples emotions toward myself and others around me. The man directing us also made it crucial to our attention that we need to ask each person if we can fill up their pitchers, or take their trays because people tend to get angry and what not. Hearing that for me was a complete surprise because I feel like people would be extremely grateful and want nothing but our help, then again that is my naive self talking because I am not accustomed to this lifestyle completely, even remotely.

While serving people I got really mixed reactions for my volunteer work. I was harassed three or four times the first hour and a half and that really made my experience extremely negative and at a point I wanted to take a break and just break down because I felt so defeated. coming to a place to help and serve people I feel should be a positive experience because I myself and the group are making an impact on peoples lives, and for people to disrespect me like that made me revaluate why I serve, why I help, and why I love it so much. While feeling negativity and sadness about this fact, I served a man and he stared at me for a good minute and we locked eyes for thirty seconds or so. Our eye contact was kind, and light and I could tell that he wanted to say something, so I waited. His face became stern and his eyes widened, and he said "Your mom and dad would be proud of you." His smile started slowly and by the end of his ten second smile emerging from his crooked, yellow teeth, I immediately hugged him and felt like my mom or dad were literally talking through him at that moment. After that instance with that man I took his tray to the wash bin and turned around and he and he had left. I wish I could have spoken to him more because we had a connection even if it was for that quick minute we spoke and exchanged a few words.

I tried sincerely this morning at GLIDE to give every single person I served a genuine, loving smile. I also made the effort to make sure to let everyone know to have a GOOD day. One man in particular was not having my words, or my smile. I looked at him because he looked angry, and I thought that maybe if I smiled at him it would make him think a little bit and my good vibes would rub off on him, but when I did he said, "Don't fuckin smile at me girl" and that also happened to Kavi as well with the same man. That comment to me frustrated me a lot because while I am making an effort to be sincere and kind to everyone at GLIDE I get remarks like that. I put things into perspective though and thought about maybe what he was going through or the thoughts that were running through his head and I shrugged my shoulders and let it go. Because literally two minutes later I served a man milk and he told me that I had such a beautiful smile over and over again and thanked me immensely for the work that I was doing for GLIDE and the people there. That was really nice to hear because that was the only positive comment I really heard this morning and he made an impact on me and gave me inspiration to overcome negative situations even if they are hard as hell to face, and that I need to CONSTANTLY be moving forward and looking for the GOOD in people even if they put up a front.


Today was a bright and early start for everyone and I personally think it was totally worth it! We went to volunteer with GLIDE serving breakfast and it was just awesome! When we had made it to the building there was people already waiting outside in a line to get food. As we walked past, the people smiled and thanked us for coming in and volunteering. Once we had made it into the building I got to be part of the tray-making team (I added sugar packets to each of the trays...) and got to get to know some of the other volunteers. This was really cool because both the guys that I talked to the most had been regular volunteers. One of the guys had mentioned that he works two jobs but on his days off he makes time to come in and work with GLIDE which was really inspirational. While making the trays we were moving SOOOO fast it was hard to keep up at times. To be honest I'm not even sure how many breakfasts we put together, just because I was so concentrated on getting the trays out to people, but I do know that we helped a lot of people (which is wonderful). The whole experience was super breathtaking and I can't wait to go back!

I think working with GLIDE today was my favorite activity out of all the activities we did today. Though, getting to walk around downtown working with the San Francisco Suicide Prevention Center and meeting one of the Sisters of Indulgence was pretty was pretty jaw-dropping as well. The more I am here and the more people that I meet the more inspired I become. It's astonishing how much people do and how big of a difference they are making in this world. Everyone just has beautiful hearts, including this city. I can't wait to see what is to come tomorrow!!! -Sam


So much has happened since my last post, on our first day here, but one thing hasn't changed; we're still very, very tired. And very busy.  By now, though, we're beginning to get used to it.  Our collective exhaustion has metamorphosed into a strange kind of energy, a tense, focused drive to get where we need to be and do what needs doing.  It feels, at least to me, that we've been plugged into the energy wires that run the cable cars, and we too are buzzing like electrified blood cells through  the veins of San Francisco.

Today, we powered through over 1,200 envelopes and invitations in just under two hours as part of a mail stuffing project for SF Suicide Prevention, a organization and phone hotline for people in crisis.  The invitations were for their annual fundraising event, a comedy gala that raises $50,000 to $80,000 (on average) for the organization to help people in need.  It seems oddly appropriate; laughter is, after all, the best medicine, so it's fitting that someone's joy would raise money to help people who feel hopeless, anxious, or alone.

Yep, nobody does service like Hamline does service.   We also worked the breakfast shift this morning at Glide Church, where Micah and I packaged food and sliced green peppers at a furious pace.  Glide is definitely one of the most chaotic places I've ever been, in the living, breathing heart of an old building, narrow hallways packed with people rushing like ants through their daily routines.  Today, and yesterday at lunch prep, I tried to send as much life out with the sandwiches and chopped vegetables as I possibly could.  Tomorrow, I'm looking forward to heading out to the front lines to serve meals and greet people; from what I've heard from other group members who served today it's intense.  I'm (mostly) more excited than nervous, and looking forward to tomorrow!

For the rest of tonight, we'll be heading back to the Castro to meet the Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization of benevolent, philanthropic drag queen nuns.  Only in San Francisco.  Then it's back to the hotel to reflect and rest up for tomorrow.

We're already halfway through the trip, and I'm really not ready to go pack.  Last night, Lyle, at the Night Ministry, told us to try to take a little of the good San Francisco vibes with us back home, so we can feel welcome wherever we go.  Even though we do have to leave eventually, I think the trip has already changed us in profound ways, some of us physically.  Some people might be coming home with a little more ink or a little less hair than when we got here. . . just one of the many positive side effects of exploring queer in the community in sunny, psychedelic San Francisco. 

Golden- 2/26/13

From moment one, waking up to a beautifully golden lit sky, to this moment as I am about to catch up on some zes everything has just been golden. To begin, we (as a group) ventured over to GLIDE where we packed and helped prepare meals throughout the morning. It was incredibly interesting to see how much and how many people were both helping and being helped. Then after enjoying a great pb&j for lunch, we were able to go explore the area/city. So another girl and I decided to go to the Haight/Asbury neighborhood and then to the Golden Gate Bridge as well as. This was probably one of the coolest things I have done because the bus system was awesome and so were the views and stores and everything that surrounded the places we went. We even got to do a little hike away from the Golden Gate Bridge and down to a beach called Baker Beach. It felt so nice to feel the wind and all the amazingness that seemed to kiss my skin while on this adventure/nature walk. Although, another really cool thing that we did today was go and talk to someone in the night ministry; which was pretty eye opening in it's self. The things that were brought up, the stories and comments were very eye opening and brought hope/joy to my heart. To see that there are people that go out every night to be with the people, and to go to the people instead of the people having to go the the them was really cool. To see that these ministers are so caring and committed to helping the people on the streets at night and to realize that there is a movement of sorts in the church systems.  I honestly believe that this city is full of beauty. Not to mention that through every activity that we have done and been able to do today has just been heart warming and motivating. I am really glad to be here and to have gotten to spend time with all these awesome people not only in my group but also people that we are encountering. It's just been a golden day! -Sam B

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March for Equality

Years from now ill tell my kids about today. I'll tell my grandkids about Monday, March 25th 2013.
I marched from Market street and Castro to city hall with over one thousand others to protest prop 8 and DOMA. I marched for marriage equality, equal rights, civil rights, and human rights.
I volunteered with others to get the supreme courts attention.
I marched with a giant rainbow flag and handed out hundreds of signs and fliers.
I marched for the people who can no longer march, and the people who never could.
It was unlike I expected in a number of ways.
Police officers were very respectful (one even wore a rainbow pin).
A man on a motor cycle stopped to say that he was catholic..
And he supported me. Then he gave us a thumbs up.
I remembered Harvey Milk.
I felt like I was a part of something big.

But at the same time I felt so small..
Was my one body, and one rainbow flag really going to get the supreme courts attention.
Did anybody really care, or was this just the latest thing to Instagram?
Is my marching really going to fill the empty space
In the stomach of the homeless queer youth
Down the block?
Are there better things we could be marching for?
Yes, I'm sure of it.
Surrounded by a sea of gay white men in the Castro...
Drowning in that sea of privilege within a community.

Yes. I'd like to have the freedom to marry a woman, if I choose.
However, I'd also not like to step over handfuls of homeless human beings
While I march.

I guess marching has changed.
It used to be,
You'd have to fear for safety
It used to be a matter of survival..
It's a matter of retweets.

If I put a dollar in the pocket of a white man,
For every text sent..
And a slice of bread in the stomach of a homeless teen,
For every chant..
I wonder which would fill up first.

Either way, I marched.