The Heidelberg Project and Hope

Running on one or two hours of sleep Tuesday morning I was dazedly trying to think what my next course of action would be. Track down some coffee for instance, but uncertain if there was a place to lock up my guitar and gi-normous suitcase. I guessed no, on account of the pack by the bunk of the other tenant. My guitar lay hidden under my blanket, looking like a lump of un-made bed. Jay the manager came in and introduced himself and made sure I was in fact the person who was scheduled to come in last night. He apologized for not being awake to great me, for sleeping through my entry but seems how everything was all good, it was all good! Jay then offered to take me to The Heidelberg project.

“Well, that’s one of the major reasons I came here, so yes, please!” I said.

And so, a little before 8 am I got to see The Heidelberg project in person. It’s only about a month shy since I heard of it in the first place. I was studying abroad in Liverpool and got to work with two amazing individuals, Martha and Guy, on a project that examined local art community art and the interactions. Martha interviewed an art curator in Liverpool; Guy-from-Detroit showed us The Heidelberg Project. The latter actually happened first in the brainstorming section and fueled the inspiration for our project. I interviewed a local playwright and poet, Patrick Graham, who I still remain in contact with and a local film director. It was amazing. It is amazing. The Heidelberg Project was the heartbeat, it was what made us global citizens but also civically minded – or at least that is the effect it had on me. The ways in which we interact with the arts and they with us is insurmountably compelling for me. And getting to do the interviews with creators, in the trenches doing what I really wanted to do, in particular with Patrick – well, it was very memorable and very inspiring.

You can read more about the Heidelberg Project history here (and you should!). Heidelberg round one for me was filled with anxiety, partly in anticipation, partly because Jay is an interesting driver. But not like you’d think – he drives small town style in a big city e.g. slow. It can cause some problems. Also Jay has been in Detroit for less than two years and took us down a one-way street, but that was after. “We” was my roommate, Eva from Germany, who is a librarian, and hostel neighbor Angela, who has lived in that neighborhood since she was nine years old and was able to navigate Jay back on the right path later. Angela will be the first to tell you that her friendship with Jay is a complicated one. Jay says Angela is a bit lonely – so it’s possible she doesn’t like him at all but needs to talk to someone. I don’t think that is the case however. Jay and Angela share the love of The Heidelberg Project in sincerity and were perfect guides to have for my first time.

Jay drove (very, very, appropriately slowly) the perimeter first, as is his tradition, he explained, and then we were able to get out a walk about. The place can sweep you to a modern art state of mind: why a wall of shoes spray painted white? To one of intense anguish emotion, the House of Soul, which was recently burned down by an arsonist but has already had art made into the rubble. The decapitate doll heads placed here and there are somewhat heart wrenching and disturbed. And the clocks. And the dots. A house covered in bright colored dots and clocks everywhere. Clocks painted on old wood or plywood and hung on the trees everywhere. And old stopped clocks hung on the trees everywhere. I was trying to find a pattern in the times but Angela said, “There saying time is important, and time is limited” (stopped clocks) “don’t take it for granted.”

The project is ongoing indefinitely and now has several contributing artists. I am not posting any photos (I didn’t take any photos the first time actually) because the artists ask for it not to be reused for purposes other than education or personal use. Personal use, meaning, you should just go and see for yourself! There is always something new to see, as Jay pointed out, either something new made or something you missed the first time. It’s an open air art museum. It’s a phoenix metaphor for Detroit. It’s art that has made the neighborhood a safer place to be (after the arson they – Tyree Guyton – have had more light(s) installed and security cameras). The place surges with emotion, whether happy, sad, or what does it mean or why that? Or (As is common with modern art) I could do that (but didn’t do that)!

There are a couple rows of rusted car hoods waiting to be made into a creation. There is a designated tree for donations. Jay leaves things there periodically. We congregated there to go back home again. Jay left some old shoes (there are lots of shoes used in the art). And I noticed one of the clocks hanging on a nearby tree, was working. “Well, so it is!” It was about five minutes slow, but operational. Working and Ticking.

Up next, Part 3: Things Aren’t What They Seem

Mis Tareas

Mi Cuarto Día en San Pedro

Estar exacto, puedo decir mi quinto día pero mi primer día viajé y no yo podría ver la ciudad de San Pedro. Entonces, digo mi cuarto día. La primera cosa, en la mañana este es un temblor. Después duermo mas pero creo demasiado porque necesité mas tiempo para comer y vestir. ¡No recuerdo mi ropa íntima sucio en el baño! ¡Soy muy muy avergonzada! Un reloj dice son las nueve y cinco cuando yo llegaba a mi escuela, Casa Rosario. Después mi clase, es la una en punto, yo no nado o usar el cayuco porque el lago tiene las olas. Tomo café en el café de Atitlán. Escribo en mi computadora con mi novio y amigos. Después almuerzo caminé dos horas en las calles de San Pedro porque me gustaría encontrar un café especifico. También me gusta caminar y yo puedo aprender cuando hacer. Es necesario yo podría aprender los calles de San Pedro. Antes yo podría regresar a la casa de mi familia la lluvia comienza. ¡Hay mucho mucho lluvia! Esta bien porque me gustaría pagar un paragua y usar mi español. No puedo negociar pero pago a la treinta y cinco quetzales. Pagué una bebida de fruta la manzana tambien. No puedo decir el tiempo exacto cuando regrasaba pero creo son las seis menos cuarto.

Mi Primer Fin de Semana

El sábado tengo clase porqué no tengo clase el lunes antes porque viajé todo el día. Después yo voy en el cayuco. Yo voy dentro de la casa viejo en el lago de Atitlán. El domingo en la mañana camine´a la oficina de voluntario pero no miro las personas. Entonces caminé al Café atitlán para mi desayuno. Yo tengo desayuno de frutas con papayas, bananos, y sandía. También bebo café americano. Escribí en mi computadora, especifico, escribí correo electrónico a Rising Minds hacer una cita. Después regresando a mi casa. Toco mi guitarra y canto con Pablito. Un desfile ir por mi casa. Elena, Pablito y yo miramos. Son las doce mediodía mi maestra Ester visitar y hablamos por un rato. Después hablé mucho con mi novio usando skype de Café Chuayisina. Después caminé las calles de San Pedro mas. Buscando tienda de Beatríz y hacer una cita para corter mi cabello el próximo día son las cinco y media. Regresando a mi casa vestirme para la iglesia. Yo voy a la iglesia Bethel. Iglesia Bethel es la iglesia de mi familia en San Pedro. La iglesia es muy interesante. Creo ir otra ves en el futuro.

Travelling Impact

When I studied abroad summer 2009 with COE it was magical for me. Cliche to say I suppose for it was and I hadn’t read much travel writing yet so I didn’t know I was being cliche. Anyway, COE, like any education-based organization faces budget challenges and I can only assume that that is why they are asking students who studied abroad with them to fill out a survey. It might not be the only reason but, well, anymore you have to fight for legitimacy and data helps.

COE is for low-income, first-generation college students by the way; if they did not exist, studying abroad would not have been a part of getting my undergraduate degree, like I say here (I’m answering the comments part of the survey and may, or may not have gotten a little carried away…):

What was the impact? Okay, I realize that due to this being a survey, the point is to ‘measure’ things. But you can’t. Not really. You can track behavior and influence of others (ripple effect) like your questions are doing above but you can’t measure impact. Everyone had a different experience due to being different individuals. Some people have ‘stewed’ in the memories longer than others. But if you must measure, think of this for impact: not one of us who studied abroad will ever, ever forget it. No one forgets an experience like that even if and when they take it for granted and get to do it often. Also, when you are low-income it is very unlikely indeed that you will take it for granted. I would not have traveled abroad as an undergrad without the COE in Liverpool opportunity. I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t begin to know how to figure out study and travel abroad (there’s a measurement for you – lifelasting travel awareness)and finally, as a low-income student, undergraduate was survival a good majority of the time; studying abroad was something I wanted but was out of my reach. But then it wasn’t. Even if I got to travel with my current partner later, it would not be the same because I would be a dependent of sorts — I wouldn’t have learned and been empowered about traveling on my own, getting lost and finding my way, going alone or coordinating with a group of new people.

I could go on and on, and I do. Frequently. But the point is that studying abroad has intrinsic, immeasurable value. It can, but does not always, teach a person cultural relevancy and understanding in a level of depth that cannot be attained any other way — a sort of ultimate hands-on learning experience. Dr. Pamela Gay, an astronomer and professor among other things, says that, “traveling opens up understanding the sky,” or in other words the universe. Given her field of study, she means this more literally than I do. Nonetheless, the impact of my COE studying abroad experience, was empowerment, cultural depth of understanding, learning from mistakes, working in a group of people from very different cultures and backgrounds than me, and at least a little bit, broadened my understanding of the universe.

Would’ve

If I had of gone to Liverpool for the summer, I would’ve gotten to live there for three months.  In those three months, when I wasn’t working, this is what I would’ve done, in order of what pops into my mind first:

Gone to all the Beatles touristy sites.  I’m glad I experienced more real and regular Liverpool, but I do love the Beatles, and I would hit those up this time!

Gone to all the awesome Liverpool Museums. Specifically revisit the Tate and the International Slavery Museum.

Bought fruit from the local stores.

Gone running more.

Participate in the Liverpool triathlon.

Gone to London again, this time successfully see a Shakespeare play at the Globe.  And I guess see all the touristy sites in London too.

Take a train to Wales and see the Castles.

Visit Scotland.

If possible, hop over to Ireland.

Reconnect with my Northern Irishmen.

Reconnect with Bea Freeman

Reconnect with Patrck Graham

Revisit the Carribean Centre

Revisit Carribean resturaunt in Toxteth

Revisit Crosby Beach

Get lost some more.

Find that guitar shop.

Go to more used book shopsGo to more thrift stores.

Discover any and all open mic night-type of things and participate.

Actually look at the museum at that cafe I went to for internet off of Water Street and Chinatown area. 

Revisit the Caldonia.

Use the Student Rec Center.

Go camping in the Lake District.

Go to one of Patrick’s plays, if possible.

Take Tricia out to dinner and wine.

Gone to the African festival again.

Pester Paul some more.

Sing for our night security-man at Carnatic-Salisbury Hall some more.

Re-revel in the space that allows and expects only me the present, no pre-judgements.

Oh Liverpool, what fun we would’ve had!  But I rejoice in our time and hope that maybe, our time can come again.

Wandering Frisbee

There is a little eclectic shop in downtown Pullman where they sell clothes, oriental themed trinkets and beads.  A couple of years ago I talked to the owner he said that fair trade is a bunch crap and that the people over don’t want it because it’s hurting business.  He speaks on the authority of having an Asian wife, as well as spending some time, ‘over there’.

I think.  Like I said it was a couple of years ago.  I remember at the time thinking he actually had some legit points, even if he conveniently left out some points like pay wages in factories and such.  Anyway, I don’t really have enough information to be trash talking him, and that is not my intention at all.  In my hunt for a second job this summer I wandered in there again. I was delighted to see they had used frisbee golf discs for sale.

Frisbees are awesome.  You can totally suck at frisbee but still feel like you are accomplishing something because it still gets some distance.  Ultimate Frisbee holds a love-hate relationship for me, fun yet impact-dangerous, a good workout yet my least favorite kind; it’s basically sprint drills.    So when I recently discovered Frisbee Golf over spring break, or ‘frolf’ as George Castanza calls it on Seinfield, I found the bliss of Frisbee.

It’s low key, it’s social, and still challenging as I proved by taking sometimes almost ten throws to get the frisbee in the chain basket that is maybe 200-400 meters away.  I’m going to invest in some frisbee-golf-specific discs because they have putter disc for when I am on my seventh or eighth throw and only ten feet away from the basket.

As is often the case, this is one of those times that links me back to, or with Liverpool.  It also reminds me of one of the good American friends I made while I was there last summer.  Her name of anonymity when I refer to her in my Liverpool writings is, in fact, Frisbee.

Frisbee was my hotel roommate in the Newark, New Jersey airport Hilton.  I didn’t get in until 1 am, I think I told that melodramtic detail before, and felt a little creepy coming into a complete stranger’s room.  But Frisbee, like me, is a sound sleeper and didn’t even hear me.  She got up before me, and told me later she knew I was awesome because of the items left in view digging out my bathroom accesories bag; a very dinged-up Sigg bottle and a blue sparkly Frisbee.

I hung out with Frisbee the most out of everybody in the group.  After wandering a few different times on my own, Frisbee and I talked about the beauty of wandering and not having a set plan, but also of our common love of thrift stores.  I believe it was after our Slavery History tour of downtown Liverpool that we set off to wandering.

We got food and went to several different small local shops.  Today I own a used book and two different awesome tops from our excursions.  I got one of my friends back in Pullman some really cool yoga/hippie looking pants and jewelry for a handful of my girlfriends/girl relatives.

While you do not grow as a person unless you try new things, there is something to be said for finding those people you can relate to.  In Liverpool I rediscovered or reremembered how to experience everyday life as exciting.  Most of the time when I ride the bus I think of Liverpool, for example.  Frisbee and I had a good time learning Liverpool via what we knew, as well as with what we didn’t know.  And I treasure the souls I meet that I can truly connect with, they have always seemed hard for me to find.

But that is another thing I learned with wandering Frisbee and the entire group, as well as from Scousers; people are not as different as you think and the differences are often times the best part!  When I gave a presentation for SSS staff at WSU on the University of Liverpool Leadership Training Program, what we did, now their students apply, etc., I told them that even before we got to Liverpool it was like we’d already traveled.  Many of us had lived and seen different places, we were from all over the US as well as from Mexico.

Hopefully I’ll get to see Frisbee while I’m in the same state visiting for InLove’s wedding this summer.  Because we only actually got around to using my frisbee once.  It was low-key tossing back and forth on Crosby Beach, our last day in the UK.

Toxteth: a bit disconnected, began writing it before I found out the results of my internship application

My life is pretty ridiculous and overwhelming right now; it’s so unbelievably fabulous that I cannot imagine how I got so lucky.  I’m anxious to the verge of tears, I’ve got at least one thing going on every hour of the day.

It reminds me of my prep days leaving for Liverpool.  I was finishing a summer session math class, aka math accelerated.  It’s not a great idea for someone of my math capabilities, or lack thereof.  (I got a ‘C’)  I was also moving out of my apartment, into storage/the apartment I live in now with my cool cloned roomy.

I remember leaving my take home final with future roomy to drop off to my professor after spending most of the day hauling things in and out of a U-haul truck, then heading to the bars for my send off party.  I rode my bike home (and drunkenly did not make it over the last curb—it’s on a hill, don’t judge me) to my emptied out apartment and slept on the floor with my bags packed for Liverpool.

It’s the kind of delightful insanity that reminds me of what I believe was my second or third day of class in Liverpool.  We began in the classroom as usual.  Our teacher that day was one Mr. S, who you’ve met with Paul in the Pub.

After some class discussion we went with him to Toxteth, a dodgy faction of Liverpool.  “Do NOT come back here by yourself alone, and especially at night,” he said.  We saw rows of houses closed up by the City of Liverpool, in the process of gentrification.  We saw the new sterile housing made available to people who didn’t want to leave their homes in the first place.  There were more shops closed then opened.

Gentrification Purgatory

Little, and not so little, sparks of the residents fighting back show up.  There are two different community centres focused on kids.  There was the Merseyside Caribbean Centre, where I got to meet a fantastic soul, named Patrick Graham.

Meeting Patrick, to me, is proof that I had some good karma credit going on.  Mr. Graham is a poet and playwright, and has his company called, Blackout Productions. I ended up talking to him for the full half hour we were there, and I didn’t want to leave, but as I said before, happy madness.  We had three weeks to experience Liverpool as much as possible, less really, because we took a week to London and another to Antwerp and Amsterdam.

After lunch at a little local place, we went to the town hall to listen in on discussions for the Merseyside/Toxteth community.  They were divided into topics, health and wellness services, education, and jobs.

This is where I met Bea Freeman, a film-ographer.  I was relieved at a woman’s voice finally.  My fourth or fifth day there, I guess I’m impatient? She is fabulous, intensely dynamic and brilliant, but still very approachable.  I’m exceptionally glad I met her, because somehow not being mentioned, AT ALL, is worse then being mentioned in a sexist light, or ways I don’t agree with.  As far as the curriculum was concerned, women’s issues were a non-issue.  Three weeks is limiting.

For my group’s final project I was able to meet up with Mr. Graham and Ms. Freeman again. They made the time for me.  I was impressed.

And speaking of women’s issues, a woman’s ‘proper role’ came up in conversation after a group of us had eaten at a local Caribbean restaurant in Toxteth.  Chip, Props, Samba, Eyes, Sheik, Echo, Mel, Mr. Graham and Mr. S and myself, all ate there together after official class time was finished. He was talking about how men and women were equal but they had their roles.  He comes from a much more violent and scary place than I do, so maybe it makes sense there, but I sure as hell am not nurturing and standing behind my man and having him protect me.

I had Guinness-milk drink.  You could get it with fruit too, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it’s called now.  It was amazing and Mr. Graham said he makes them at his house sometimes.  I tried oxtail as my meal, which as Chip said, “That is black-people food right there.”  He made me share but only after I gave him a sufficient amount of shit first.

We walked to Ken’s Barbershop, where apparently Samual L. Jackson has gone for a shave.  Chip is also a barber so he wanted to experience a master of his trade. Chip is the type of person that gets people involved in a central activity.  As for me, I was assigned to documenting the event.  In the recording you can here my passive-aggressive quips on masculinity.  Later, in London, we actually had dialogue on the topic that was really awesome.  But me, well, I don’t play so well with others a lot.

I suppose that’s why I didn’t get the internship to return, or one of many of the reasons anyway.  I suppose that’s why after we were done there and in safe territory again, I was off to wander by myself.

Sometimes I need that alone time to digest all of that.  It was a very full day.

I’ll be digesting all the experiences I had in Liverpool for a while I think.  Among the every hour of every day Mon-Friday planned, I am working on a presentation for SSS/Trio/CAMP administrators to illuminate the process and possibilities in University of Liverpool’s three-week, Global Leadership Training Program.

Slave Trade

One of the first out-of-the-classroom lectures the Trio group had in Liverpool this last June, was a tour of the inner city, downtown area.  We saw the town hall, trade buildings, a court house, churches, prominent houses, and several statues.  Most of these were built mid-to-late 1700s.  I’m doing my best to remember the dates here, but if I remember right, before approximately 1730s or so, Liverpool was more or less a little fishing town.  The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade changed everything.

The town hall had ornate door handles of Poseidon riding the ocean waves, wall carvings of Neptune/Poseidon standing by two little black boys holding bags of money were on either side of the doorway.  A stunning, intricately carved fireplace greets you in the first room.  The lavish qualities of this building were built with the wealth that came from the slave trade.

The influence of the trade can be seen everyone, whether a person recognizes it as such.  For example, many of the street names are after prominent men in the slave trade.  But the slave trade ended, and Liverpool began its adjustments and decline; the city is all about the Beatles after all.  Though it could be argued that the Beatles were a part of what helped saved Liverpool, what with tourism and all.  More significantly, in 2008, Liverpool hosted “The Capitol of Culture”.  Art was everywhere, it was everywhere before they were nominated for Capitol of Culture.  Besides the Beatles museums and sites, there are an incredible amount of museums, theater everywhere.

After three weeks there, I decided that Liverpool was the best of two worlds-small town friendliness and big city diversity and access.  Access to all of the arts, different kinds of foods to eat, awesome small local shops as well as the monster company shops, and fantastic public transportation.  The Beatles may have put Liverpool back on the map for US citizens, but I don’t doubt it would have risen without their help.

I sincerely hope I’m able to return to Liverpool because I am very much aware of all the holes there are in my knowledge of the place; of what makes breathe and the soul of it, as perhaps this post illustrates to those who do know Liverpool.  I wanted to note the price paid for the original blossoming of Liverpool-and I welcome any and all Scousers to correct and add to the information I have here. I should have written this when it was fresher on the brain.