Day 3: (Monday… and already got what we came for!)

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(by Shannon VanDenEng)

After our past two days of driving, we were finally able to wake up with the sunrise on the beach in beautiful Hatteras.

We started off the morning by cleaning out a building at the Hatteras Island Ocean Center that was damaged by Hurricane Matthew last fall. Because of the storm, this building was now being torn down. I’ve been to Hatteras as a tourist before and of course had been aware of the hurricanes that were relatively regular. However, I had not realized how devasting and costly the damage could be that occurred yearly on the island. In the building we were clearing, the hardwood floors had been warped, black mold was infesting the back room, and a lot of the belongings inside had been ruined.

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It was awesome being able to help out and visibly see the difference we had made already.
After a quick lunch break, we took the (freshly oiled) bikes out for a ride around the island. We stopped at some really cool historical landmarks and even saw dolphins at our stop on the beach!
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Our day was topped off by an intense game of ultimate frisbee at sunset before our bonfire on the beach.
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Although our toes were numb and very sandy, we couldn’t have asked for a better day!!

First Day at the GMHC

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IMG_1698We got a firsthand experience of an early morning, big city commute on the subway. Those trains were packed! The New Yorkers were doing their own thing; reading, sleeping, figuring out where their stops were…and then there was us laughing and joking around. People could easily tell that we are from out of town. Most people have been helpful when asking for help with navigation or our Metrocards that decide to work sometimes but not others. However, a few have been sort of rude. A subway car is such a small area, but there are so many different things to watch and notice.

The group got to the GMHC early. When it was time to start,we were given volunteer orientation followed by a tour of the facility. Our tour was given to us by David Pais, the director of the facility. He walked us around and showed us all of the departments and gave us a history of GMHC. They offer so many services to their clients, from testing and medication, to counseling and meals, even art classes and massages. It was also surprising to learn that they offer legal services for immigrants affected by the virus. The amount of dedication the workers have for their jobs and caring for others is extremely admirable.

After that we were given an in depth lesson about the HIV virus. It was helpful to learn details about it and have it be broken down step by step. We asked many questions and got great answers.

The last portion of our time at the GMHC was spent learning about Trans awareness.  Our instructor was a Trans woman who gave personal insights and experience to our training. She was very open about her gender and sexuality and taught us that gender is not what you are born, but what you are assigned by others. She also taught us about the types of identifiers that people may use and why it’s important to use a persons preferred pronouns. it was a very thought provoking experience and a good way to end our first day of volunteering.

The rest of the day was spent shopping at Macy’s, the Croc store, and Sephora. Macy’s was 9 stories tall! Who knew there could be so much stuff to buy? We also passed the Empire State Building all lit up at night. It was a nice view.

New York Day 2

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IMG_1692The group agreed to have a later start this morning to recover from our busy day of travel. Our first stop was Sylvia’s Soul Food where many of us ordered fried chicken and waffles. While we ate, gospel music played in the background.

After our Sunday Soul experience, we went to the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Many of the pieces sent strong messages and were difficult for many of us to look at for long periods of time. However, people said they thought the museum was eye-opening to experience a different style of art.

From there, the group split up. Some chose to take a boat tour of Staten Island and see the Statue of Liberty, while others explored some museums. The boat group saw the statue and took some beautiful pictures, although they said the wind was a little chilly. The museum group went to the National Museum of the American Indian and the American Ganster Museum. Both museums had plenty or real artifacts depicting two very different types of culture.

When we all met up again it was for Lombardi’s Pizza. We demolished 3 large pizzas and got warm from spending most of the day outside. Even though we were stuffed from dinner we couldn’t resist our sweet tooths and decided to try another fad type dessert: rolled ice cream. It was started in Thailand and the person who prepares it creates the ice cream and rolls it before your own eyes. Everyone was satisfied with their tasty, handcrafted treats.

Day 2 in the city was wonderful and we are excited for what the first day at the GMHC will bring!

Day 2: The Adventure Continues

Today marks day two of our glorious trek to Hatteras.

The day started again as yesterday did with a grand drive down a highway. Very thrilling, to be sure. After about 3 hours, we all were able to stretch our legs and take a short hike down the Appalachian Trail! Though a little windy and chilly and only about 20 minutes long, the stop was a great opportunity to step out into nature and move around.
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   ryan
Then….
we drove for 6 more hours. With a quick stop at Walmart to stock up on groceries for the week, we were on the final strech to our destination. We drove a little longer and FINALLY ARRIVED!
We were able to accomplish a few tasks already today. We moved some mattresses and shifted a dumpster so the garbage trucks can move it.
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All in all, it has been a successful day. Looking forward to the days to come!
quote of the day, “should I move the cat when I shower..?”
written by the great Karis Fiedler
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Day 3- a day in the life of a coffee farmer

IMG_4326Greetings!

Today we woke up as usual, bright and early and had breakfast at 7:30. Breakfast was delicious and consisted of many fruits, boiled bananas and pineapple pancakes. Yum! (Oh and of course de la gente coffee).

We left after breakfast and walked to a farmers house where we each were given a basket to carry on our backs. We hiked about an hour up volcano agua. It was a very steep and dusty hike, but the views were so worth it! When we finally made it to the coffee farm on the volcano, we were taught about the basics of coffee farming and everything it entails, including the harvesting process. We all then picked the ripe coffee fruit from the trees for about another 45 minutes to an hour. We ended up picking 88 pounds of coffee fruit! (Which the farmer carried back down the volcano in a burlap sack on his back with the handle around his forehead! He does this 2-3 times per day)

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We then headed back down the volcano to the farmer’s house and had a delicious lunch, consisting of marinated chicken, arroz and an assortment of steamed vegetables.

After lunch, we walked through every step of the coffee process after the harvesting has been done. We were able to first ride the bike-machine used to separate the coffee fruit from the actual beans inside. We then headed up to the roof to see the drying process of the beans after they are fermented and washed. After drying, the coffee beans are then shelled and sifted to keep the beans uniform size. The defected beans are picked out (individually.. by hand!), and then the beans are ready to be exported to different roasters they are partnered with in the USA, Canada and Europe.

After the coffee tour, we each were given a bag of coffee (for free!) and had a chance to buy extra bags for a lower price than what you pay online. Then, we met with the director of De La Gente coffee, and he gave us more insight and background into the company and co-op as a whole.

Lastly, we went back to the farmers house we had worked with previously to have dinner.

All in all, I can safely say that today was a VERY humbling experience for everyone. Here are a few quotes from those nearby (including myself).

“Seeing all the work farmers do… they’re very under appreciated. The work they do is crazy. And seeing behind the scenes gave me such insight” -Rosa

“I can’t believe how little compensation as well as appreciation we give to the farmers. This goes for not only coffee, but pretty much everything we import in America. The money mostly goes to the roasters (brand names) and shipping companies! Buying fair trade products is so important because they work to give the farmers a fair-er wage” -Cora

“I loved seeing the entire family process and how much unity there is. The family all helps out with the farming, and it’s passed down for generations” -Hannah

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