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


Nanci in Rye Beach NH said...

Love this video, love the music. I'm wondering about the details - where you were and what exactly you were doing Mostly I'm wondering...WHY DIDN'T YOU TAKE ME WITH YOU? I WANT TO BE DOING WHAT YOU'RE DOING! (Without the blisters. ;)

Lauren said...

:) this turned out so well.
miss you!!

ALANNA! said...

i'm so glad that i'm in ONE picture... haha, because i took all the others! me and my mad photography skills! I miss you guys! Safe travels and keep in touch and remember July 6th!! :)
Come back!

Denny's Mom said...

One of the best videos yet, I smiled all the way through!

I'm so proud of you two.

Love ya,

Erin Bernstein said...

Ahhh I miss you guys so much! What a wonderful few days. Thank YOU!

Peace homies.

Marilyn said...

Thank you for all of your help with the refugees! Thank you for making my world a better place! Thank your mothers for doing a great job! Thank you for the choices you are making...


Dan from Iowa said...

Awesome video guys! Looks like you're having a great time. However, now I can't get that song out of my head!

Teresa, Bettendorf said...

Just catching up after about a week!! I hate missing...great video, great progress, glad to see you having fun! HATE seeing those feet! I would think they would be toughened up by now!!OUCH!! Stay cool...have a great 4th!!

BEN said...

That rope swing looks awesome! The video makes it looks like you're barely clearing the rocks, so I'm sure it took some guts to jump off that cliff :)

Keep working, walking, and playing hard!