Sunday, July 30, 2006

I have ARRIVED!

DAY 1 of "A Journey with the Brethren"

I arrived safely here in New Windsor, Maryland on Sunday evening after a 6 1/6 hour flight and a 50 mile drive from Baltimore Washington International Airport.

All is going very well, but there is so much happening each day—with scheduled classroom sessions from 8:30a 'til 9:30p, fun field trips to places miles away, impromptu political and cultural chats with my new friends and lots of just plain goofing around—that I haven't been able to get anything (email or Blog updates) out until now.

Saturday night, July 29, as I was standing on the sidewalk outside my house waiting for the Super Shuttle to take me to the airport, the neighbor kids across the street were still saying their goodbyes to me. I received many "repeat farewells" like those the kids were giving me from friends and relatives three or four time before I finally left the City of Sacramento, CA at 10:45p.

Huston International is an enormous airport, I mean BIG BIG BIG, but after a brief stop-over there we were off again and soon landing in Baltimore. Inside the BWI terminal I was able to lie down and rest my back for a few hours on a terrific, extra-wide, hardwood bench. It had the perfect fit and feel of serious furniture.

By 6:30p Sunday I had moved into my new quarters along with 21 other volunteers on the third floor of a four story, brick dormitory at the historic "The Brethren Service Center. My dorm is right next door to an actual Civil War era building of a similar design. There are seven of these large, 1800s East Coast style, brick and stone structures in all that at one time comprised an entire college here in New Windsor. Today and for the last 60 years this property has been a retreat, service center and a conference location for the Church of the Brethren... and it's beautiful!

Acres of rolling, deep-green lawns cover the grounds, then fall off into the adjacent corn fields, and huge, lush, hardwood trees are everywhere you turn.

I have met some of the most fascinating and amazing young people I've ever come across. The majority are college students or graduates with BAs or MAs, idealistic, representing many faiths (Brethren, Catholic, Jewish) and beliefs (Agnostic), and mostly in their late teens or early twenties. Amy, one of my fellow BVSers that I've enjoyed many casual talks and humor with is a Mennonite with a Masters degree in physics; always with a warm smile and a friendly laugh, she hasn't even reached her 23rd birthday. Many of them speak two, three or more foreign languages, including four people from Germany, just out of high school and with the maturity of someone much older.

These are people that think freely and openly, allow you into their lives and look for ways to help others, braving the consequences.

Everyone seems to have had no problem accepting me right off as one of the gang, and I like every single everyone of them. Both my bunk buddies, Nathan and Tim, are so cool, interesting and kind, like most everyone else here, and we get along like clockwork in our somewhat cramped but comfortable room. I picked the top bunk, so that I can spread everything I have out on the opposite top bunk and make for all the room I need.

Divided into permanent groups of three (called food groups), all of us at one time shop for groceries on Mons. and Sats. at a locally renown fruit and vegetable store called Baugher's Fruit Market and at a Safeway store nearby, both in Westminster several miles away. We cook for each other at the "kitchen," located in a separate building and under a full size gym with a basket ball court. I have two female partners, Meredith and Rieke, in my food group; one likes to organize shopping lists and the another loves to cook, so I figure I have it made!

We all have to share one computer that's located in the library room, so my time is confined to the very early mornings, late nights or whenever I can squeeze in a few minutes during the day. Have to go!

Check back for more "A Journey with the Brethren."