Saturday, June 28, 2008
Volunteer hard, play hard
KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE - June 28 -- 'Are you a hug person?' Erin asked me when we met for the first time in the Applebee's parking lot. 'Yes I am,' I responded as we embraced each other. I hugged her twin sister Lauren and Denny followed suit. Erin said she felt like she already knew us through reading our blog, but that she figured contacting us would not lead anywhere. But sure enough, there we were, riding in their car and learning one another.
We met their mother, Marilyn, at her office where she worked on helping refugees have the smoothest transition possible when they arrive to the U.S. She hugged us without asking what kind of greeters we were. Like her daughters, I liked her right away. I ate half of her mints out of the dish on her desk and asked many questions about the refugee process.
By the end of the fourth day with the family we had formed a tight bond. We had even grown close with the other siblings, Todd and Alanna, and the 16-year-old foreign exchange student from Hungary, Koko. Erin and Lauren warned us their mother would likely cry when she dropped us off in Chattanooga. She was wearing sunglasses when we hugged goodbye, so I never did confirm the prediction.
Highlights of Knoxville:
-Denny injuring his wrist while playing tether ball for the first time, yet still claiming the victory.
-Shopping for groceries with an Iraqi refugee for others en route to America.
-Late-night chicken fights in the pool.
-Moving two U-Hauls' worth of donated furniture from warehouses to Marilyn's new office.
-Swinging from a sketchy-looking rope and letting go 25 feet above the water.
-Cooking 22 enchiladas for the entire family.
-Eating Marilyn's mouth-watering meals.
-Listening to a choir comprised of orphan children from Uganda.
-Acting like kids with the kids following the performance.
-Butchering songs on guitar around the dinner table. Everyone joining in to sing.
-Sharing stories of travels to Africa with Erin and Lauren.
-Having new friends