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Happy Turkey Day!

So I knew this would happen… I’d have lots of diligence in regards to my blog the first few months here.. and then the posts would become more intermittent. Ah.. oh well.

Today is Turkey Day and I’m in Washington, DC but I have plans! This morning/afternoon I’m going to the Potter’s House and I’m helping serve a meal for the homeless in DC. After that I board the metro for Springfield, Va. where I’ll spend the rest of the day with my friend Johanna and her family. Then tomorrow my sister Laura and two of her friends are visiting me for the rest of the weekend! I’m predicting a nice, relaxing and definitely not boring Turkey break!

What else has happened.. my housemates and I traveled to SOA Watch. Megabus just introduced like a million new DC destination points: MAD MEGABUS!!! And I’m realizing my love for public transportation and information.

Love you all.

Two months

I’ve been here over two months. It seems like yesterday I was just moving here and now it’s October 29. So here are some thoughts on the world.

I’m learning a lot about the world. At Maryknoll I read and write a lot about the world. I attend meetings at think tanks and on the hill. I’ve written about international debt, climate change in Asia, mountaintop removal mining and the millennium development goals. I also take a class every Tuesday at the Servant Leadership School about the environmental crisis and our faith. It’s sad and overwhelming what’s going on on this planet. I’m glad I’m taking this year to learn and use my voice to bring these concerns to others. And it’s really challenging me to think about the choices I make every day. On one hand, living in DC has made a sustainable life a bit easier. I no longer need a car and I bike and take the public transit everywhere. I have access to a co-op and a few farmers markets. Yet plastic and styrofoam are still everywhere and we’re still burning coal.

If every person on the planet lived like us Americans do, we’d need like five planets. FIVE PLANETS!  When I hear stuff like this I feel like it’s a wake-up call to us crazy Americans! Change your lifestyle! Stop living so wastefully! But not everyone is lucky to have such a nice subway system like we do here. And some like to travel. While the Megabus is incredibly affordable, it only goes to certain cities.

I’ve been thinking a lot about infrastructure changes I’d like to see in America. If we had an affordable highspeed rail connecting all the major cities in America, congestion on highways would lessen. Furthermore, if every city built some sort of a light rail system, people wouldn’t need their cars every day. Every city could be like New York, Chicago or DC!

The idea of car-sharing is another one I think needs to spread. So there are times you just need a car. So maybe instead of every person having their own car, a community of people get together and share a car or two. It’s brilliant.

I’ve learned that one of my favorite things to do is dream and scheme. I love making brilliant plans and I feel like I have some good ones for how the world should run. Overall, I value community. I value really knowing your neighbors and sharing resources. And in the next few decades, we may have no choice but to share.

Other than this, life is great! I’m getting to know my housemates and others in the community. I’m laughing and scheming and loving the Lord. Do I miss Cincinnati and Bowling Green? Yes probably every day. But DC is a new adventure and it’s just something I kind of had to do after college. Will I stay her after Agust 5, 2011. Well, that is up to the Lord. I just need to let that concern go and trust. Ah.

Leaving today

Hey folks,

I’m leaving for Hedgesville, Wva this weekend for our DY retreat. It’ll be a good time to just be and not do. I’m always on the go so this will be good.

Also, today is water-blogging day. People are blogging about clean water and yea, it may seem silly and jumping-on-the-bandwagoney (do you like that phrase I just made up? I do). But it’s also serious. Here, if you’re interested, look at this cool stuff:

For your health

Walking

Darfur and water?

And here is what others are doing/blogging: BLOG!!! They’re probably doing a 5456.898 better job than I am.

Also, this made me laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh this morning: Stewart loves Colbert

Love you. muuuuuaaaah.

Weekend Highlights

So this entry is to pay homage to all the thought-provoking things I’ve encountered over the last weekend (my computer is a tad under the weather now. I started this post on Monday and it’s now Friday. haha.. oh well):

First, “The Political Economy of African Responses to the U.S. Africa Command.” On Friday (a week ago), a co-worker and myself went to the Institute for Policy Studies for a lecture about Africom, the United States military presence. The lecture was presented by Carl LeVan, a professor from American University and Jillian Emerson, a graduate student at American. Now what I’m posting here is not me taking a side either way in regards to the military. I’m just stating the research that was presented. It was VERY interesting.

In 2007, the government starting making plans for a military command to be established in Africa. Prior to this, the United States involvement in Africa was more humanitarian, election monitoring and democratization. LeVan himself had been involved with some election monitoring, he said at the presentation. Also, between 2001 and 2008, U.S. exports doubled and trade tripled in regards to Africa. Africom was instated in 2008.

Their research pointed out a few things. One, it’s harder for non-governmental organizations to provide aid because the military is also providing aid. They said that some aid workers were killed in Darfur because they were thought to be a part of the military. So NGOs worry about that. Also, their research said that Africom claims that their mission is not about terrorism. Yet disarming the Lord’s Reistance Army, a group that has been labeled as a terrorist group, is an interest of theirs. However what was the most interesting part of their research was what they found about the African response to Africom. They surveyed news oped pieces and quotes from news stories between 2007 and 2008 and found overwhelming opposition. They found that countries that received less U.S. aid were more outspoken. They also found that some U.S. allies were outspoken against it (Kenya, South Africa). Anyway, the presentation was very interesting. It kept my focus which was good.

Second, I heard John Perkins speak twice last weekend. First was a fundraiser at the Festival Center and second was Sunday morning at The District Church. Perkins is a pastor from Jackson, Mississippi. He has been involved with the civil rights movement and was almost beat to death in prison. But all thanks to the grace of God, holds no resentment towards those who beat him (at least that’s what he’s said the few times I’ve seen him speak and in his book “Let Justice Roll Down.” Amazing read). He started the Christian Community Development Association. One thing we talk about a lot within the Church of the Savior community is the inward-outward journey (your inward relationship with God and your outward expression of the gospel). Perkins probably exemplifies this the best of anyone I’ve seen. He’s very theologically sound but also has a true commitment to justice, racial reconciliation and social transformation. If you have not heard him speak or read one of his books, change that. Now.

He spoke about church being God’s powerful unit on earth. It’s to be the counter revolution in the world. That truth is to be sought out in a collective. One quote of his I wrote down is “I think we think bigness equal effectiveness.” Now I’m not saying megachurches are bad.. you can often find a good intimate small group within that. But there’s just something so great when a church can be a community and not just people you see on Sundays. That’s when the Lord REALLY works. And Perkins speaking at the District Church was so pertinent since they’re a church just being planted. What an encouragement and a challenge all wrapped up in one.

And third was our Safety in the City seminar led by Marty Langelan, a woman who gives seminars on urban safety. She used to be the director of the DC Rape Crisis Center. So before the seminar, I thought it would be made up of a few self-defense mechanisms and some stereotyping. But I was pleasantly surprised.

First, she told us to make friends with everyone in the neighborhood. One, this helps to stop the psychological violence that happens every day when we treat people like they’re less than human. And two, it helps to know people when we’re in an unsafe situation. And three, it just creates good community. She said we should introduce ourselves to bus drivers, homeless people, neighbors and whoever else we see every day. It’s quite counter-cultural.

Her way of dealing with unsafe situations was very non-violent as well. She said what often works is if you can sort of announce unsafe behavior. Like if you’re being assaulted in the subway, she said to pick up the dude’s hand and say loudly “Oh! That’s so interesting. Why was your hand on my crotch?” This alerts the rest of the Subway and the perpetrator is way less likely to assault you because one, everyone on the Subway knows and two, you’re not an easy target. And it’s kind of funny. She did acknowledge that it’s different for women than men and challenged the men in the seminar to take an active role in stopping violence against women. Men, you all have such an important role to play in respecting women and helping to stop this stuff!

She stressed the importance of speaking confidently with authority. For example, a good response to comments that make you uncomfortable would be “Stop harassing women. I don’t like it. No one likes it. Show some respect.” And if they continue, you repeat it again.

In an attack, you’re supposed to yell “kiya! It’s an attack! Call the cops.” And then the caller is supposed to say “I see you! I hear you! I’m calling the cops!” This makes a ruckus and also may scare off the attacker. She also addressed getting mugged and how you’re calmly supposed to drop the bag and step away saying “take the bag, take the bag, take the bag.” You then remember three things about their appearance and run to safety to alert the police. Overall, I was impressed and empowered by her non-violent approach.

Well, I’m a sleepy Nina. Night.

Hey YOU! Restore Appalachia.

Chapter three of the Appalachia Rising saga unfolded today in the Hart Senate Office Building. But first, let’s jump back to how I got there. If anything, it’ll paint the picture of life amidst rush hour as a DC res.

I leave the house a bit before 8:45 a.m. and speedily walk down the street towards the Columbia Heights metro station. As I step on the escalator, I have two choices: ride down on the right side or walk down the left side, thus getting me into the subway faster. I chose the later option. If you’re ever entering or leaving the DC subway, know that it is custom to ride on the right and walk on the left of an escalator. Otherwise, people get mad. Especially at peak rush hour times.

After putting some much-needed funds on my SmarTrip card, I ascend onto the platform aiming for Chinatown, the stop in which I will switch to the redline and shoot for the Judiciary Square stop.

When the car arrives, I pile on with everyone. Personal space doesn’t really exist on the metro during rush hour. But I get on anyway and finally arrive at Chinatown where I run around in a hurry because I realize I’m on the wrong side of the platform for Judiciary Square. Sometimes I surprise myself at how much I fit into city life. I get impatient and I sometimes have no trouble cutting people off or walking in front of them. I also walk fast a lot. Hmm.. is that bad?

Anyway, after all this craziness, I arrive in the office building and meet up with my group. We have a 10 a.m. meeting scheduled with a staffer from George Voinovich’s office. The staffer works on energy issues and some of the folks in the meeting with me know him. In fact, they know him well enough to know that his wife just had a baby and know to ask him about it at the beginning of the meeting. Props for the whole building a rapport thing! With me is a mother from Huntington, Wva. and her daughter and other folks who work at NGOs like me. The topic of discussion is the Appalachia Restoration Act. Basically it would define fill material so that coal cannot be dumped into waterways. Lobbying can either be fun or stressful. Today it was enjoyable. Since I’m from Ohio, I brought the constituency to the meeting. I emphasized that every environmental issue is really a human issue and that this was the perfect example. This bill would protect the drinking, bathing, etc. water of the people of Appalachia.

Here’s some information on taking action on this act: I Heart Mountains! Please please please take some action. Write a letter, draw a picture, say some prayers, and totally CALL. Pick up yo damn phone and CALL!

Here are some other random things I’ve found of interest today:

Shane Claiborne and the President of Goshen College talk about Jesus and patriotism.

Louisville Coal Ash Hearing

I went to a Bread and Puppet show tonight!

I’ve been listening to the Soil and the Sun.

Obama and Jesus.

This weekend was Appalachia Rising. And Appalachia definitely rose. A few thousand people gathered in the capitol this past weekend for a conference and a rally against mountaintop removal coal mining. The weekend was tiring and fun. Here are a few highlights:

The Beehive Collective. A grassroots art activist community based in Maine. They draw artwork on social issues. Now this conference was not the first time I had seen the Beehive Collective. I believe the first time was about a year and a half ago at Powershift 2009. I’ve always admired what they do. However their artwork can be overwhelming because it’s so intricate and complex (much how problems of this world are! Coincidence? Maybe not). I tend to spend a few moments looking at their work and then moving on to some other table to pick up some swag (stuff we all get) or something. However this time I decided to stop and listen as one of the artists told the story of their latest creation, “The True Cost of Coal.” I first learned that they new draw people because that would have the potential of portraying race, age, class, gender, etc. So instead they draw animals. She went through the entire painting which covered everything from colonization to the company store to miner activism to even green-washing! I loved that green-washing was a part of the painting because more people really need to be aware of it. The presentation really got me to look at each part and I was BLOWN away. I now have that poster hanging in my room. It’s definitely worth buying. I believe you can get it straight from their Web site: Beehive Collective. You can also get information on there about getting them to speak at your college if you’re in college. But please, order that poster! It may very well change the way you see some things. It may also make you cry (it did for me).

Faith-based organizing. I went to a session on this topic and it was so refreshing. There were a few Christian environmental organizations present at the conference. Check out Restoring Eden and Christians for the Mountains. Both organizations work within congregations and Christian colleges to organize them to take action around environmental issues. Christians for the Mountains is based in Appalachia and works specifically on mining issues while Restoring Eden works on a broader range of issues mostly with Christian colleges and some congregations. This session really got me thinking about my future. I’m definitely starting to feel a calling towards working within the church on environmental and social justice issues. And I’ve experienced a variety of denominations through my Catholic upbringing and the more evangelical and protestant churches I’ve been a part of in college. I feel as though I understand the language and traditions of a variety of Christian groups, so I’m less likely to judge or be turned off by different things. So that’s one of many possibilities I’ll have to discern throughout the year.

The third highlight was the rally on Monday. I awake around 8:20 a.m. and put on rainboots. It had been raining off and on, so the right shoes are key when I’m planning on being on my feet for at least four hours. My house guests and I eventually catch the bus clad in MTR gear and holding protest signs. I carry a white cross that says “lack of jobs” on it. At the Faith and Organizing session, they handed out crosses with things like “40% of streams destroyed” or “children in poverty” written on them. I really liked seeing the crosses throughout the crowd. It was so good to have a faith presence at the rally. I think I want to bring a cross to other protests I attend. After all, I do this stuff for Jesus.

We arrive at Freedom Plaza and join up with other activists. A few people play music and speak to the crowd. There was so much passion and you could just feel it. People who have been watching their home get destroyed for years ready to speak out and advocate for change. And people who had never lived in Appalachia but were there in solidarity because we all live down stream.

After the program at the plaza we headed for our march. I ran up into the middle of the crowd when the rally began with my cross chanting “Tell me what democracy looks like. THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!!” Our first stop was the Environmental Protection Agency. We chanted “EPA do your job” as we passed it. We stopped for a few minutes in front of their building and a few people spoke.

We then proceeded up 14th St. chanting “One, we are the people! Two, you can’t ignore us! Three, we will not let you blow up mountains!” That may have been one of my favorite chants of the rally.

We then gathered up in front of the White House and I met up with my housemate Rachel. This was the moment in which the people who were participating in civil disobedience i.e. risking arrest went and did their thing and the others watched, supported and cheered. Basically, if a group sits in front of the White House and refuses to move, they arrest you. However, if you’re peaceful about it, you spend maybe a night in jail at the most, your bail is low and you get a mark on your record equivalent to a traffic violation. We had sessions to prepare us for risking arrest at the conference, so everything went fine and smoothly. I hung around and watched as all 100 people got arrested. It was a big number but also tiring to watch everyone. It’s definitely a process having to arrest each person. Oh and the bus they used to take everyone to jail was one of those DC buses that reads “powered by natural gas” on the side. I wonder if that bus was strategically chosen for this rally.

Among the handful of rallies I’ve attended, this is probably one of my favorites. I’m lobbying tomorrow with George Voinovich. Please pray if you feel led.

Here are some stories about the rally:

CNN

AP

NPR

Louisville Courier-Journal

And check out Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s blog: KFTC!

Here are some photos:

Oh and then when I arrived back to the Maryknoll Office for a bit of work Monday afternoon, I get a call from my father. He tells me he’s been reading that people got arrested at this protest and that he “hopes I’m not one of them.” Oh, you gotta love parents.

Appalachia Rising

I square-danced with environmental activists at St. Stephens Episcopal Church tonight.

Five activists are couchsurfing with me.

There’s a civil disobedience on Monday where I could choose to risk arrest.

I’m pumped for this weekend: Appalachia Rising

More to come later.

P.S. Check out these great groups doing great things:

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth

Christians for the Mountains

Faith, Economy, Ecology

Mountain Justice

I Love Mountains

Coal River Mountain Watch

Tuesdays, ramblings, etc.

Hey folks,

So Tuesdays might be my favorite day of the week. Well at least for this next year.

Every Tuesday I work at Maryknoll from 9-12. I then return home, eat lunch and settle down in my living room for our Tuesday afternoon sessions. Our program director is conducting a variety of sessions each Tuesday from 1:30-3:30. Yesterday’s session was on working with the poor, racism, poverty, etc. It was led by a man in the Church of the Savior community. He had worked as a doctor and helped found Christ House, a hospital-like facility for homeless men. He also founded Joseph’s House, a hospice for people with AIDS. So his insight was very valued.

I really appreciated his honesty. He spoke about the frustrations that come along with working with people in poverty. About how you get frustrated at the people and start sort of believing the stereotypes that are out there. You know, that people just live on welfare and are lazy, etc. And I totally could relate. This was how I felt sometimes at my AmeriCorps position as a caseworker with the homeless.

But then he told a story about a young mother he saw one day. She was 14 and had a baby. The child was misbehaving and she just yelled at him and smacked him. At first, he was angry that she was treating the child this way. But then when you look at the bigger picture, things look a little different. Apparently her mother was a drug addict and she was passed from sibling to sibling all her life. Her mom had something like 7 or 8 siblings, so that had to not have been stable. Most of these siblings had substance abuse problems. She became sexually active at 11. In school, she never did well. So what they did at her school was put all the kids who didn’t perform well of all grades in one room and the teacher would act as more of a babysitter than a teacher.

So in looking at the bigger picture, he began to see that there were many factors and systemic things that kept this woman and her baby in poverty. Now I know, you may say that drugs are a choice. And I’m not saying that they’re not. But the chances of someone coming out of poverty when they’re in such an environment is pretty low. And at the end of the day, who am I to judge and say things like, “well, she can get out of it if she tries.” I’m not saying that that is impossible. However I’ve never lived in her situation so who am I to judge?

We then went on to discuss the history of ghettos, the prison system, public assistance, housing and other issues. We had quite an enlightening discussion. Overall, I’m learning a lot. The organization I’m working for really values research and often does not take a stance on an issue before really looking at the facts. And when they write, they write in a way in which they let the facts speak for themselves. I think that is the best. What I’m finding is that with a lot of issues there isn’t a clear cut answer. Or at least with legislation, there’s so much to it and so many facets. But you can never do too much research.

Anywho, here’s some other interesting things:

This was quite an intriguing story in the NY Times: Mind-blowing story

And this show is phenomenal: Woah It’s performed by a former Discipleship Year volunteer. It’s amazing. Go see it if you get the chance.

Saturdays

I’m gettin into a grove here. A routine. And I like it.

Yesterday was Saturday and for the third week in a row, I’ve done sort of the same thing. My alarm sounded at 9 am and of course I hit the snooze button a few times. I then rolled out of bed, put some clothing on and fixed myself up. I traveled downstairs where my housemates were sitting at the dining room table making lists. We compiled a grocery list and then Tamara, Rachel and I were off to the co-op and Farmer’s Market. We tried to get everything we could from our list at these two places. It’s great to buy local food. And shopping at the Farmer’s Market makes you just feel like you’re a part of the neighborhood. You’re part of a village.

The co-op is great too. There are a lot of like-minded people who are members as well. And now that we’re all members, we get to help with the harvest as well. Okay, not the actual harvest. However we are expected to work for a few hours every six weeks. And that’s not so bad to get quality food.

What I love is the walk. Mt. Pleasant doesn’t feel like the rest of DC. Mt. Pleasant Rd. is the main strip and it’s not a major road like 16th or Columbia or 18th, full of traffic and bar hopers at night. There are lots of cute little restaurants and shops. There’s definitely a big Hispanic population in the neighborhood, so you’ll probably find the best tacos in Mt. Pleasant. And then once you get into the more residential area, you’ll find beautiful homes. Some of them even have front yards. It’s just a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Mt. Pleasant really fits it’s name.

After our food adventure, I lugged a few re-usable bags full of produce back to the house. I must say, re-usable bags are the way to go for city shopping. One bag holds what would take maybe 5-6 plastic bags. And when you’re finished shopping, you just put it over your shoulder and walk home.

After a little break and some food at the house, Jessica and I board the metro and ride to Eastern Market, DC’s outdoor market. It’s only a little ways of a walk from the capitol. We have our fun perusing the booths and imaging what we may purchase if our stipend was larger. And then because we were close, we thought hey, why not go to the Library of Congress? Done!

The evening was spent talking with a housemate. I’m finding that one-on-one interactions are really the best for community building. It’s from these interactions that we come to understand one another and really know each other. The Lord keeps surprising me and bringing me joy through my community here.

So that’s what a Saturday looks like in DC. Before I know it, it’ll be Monday morning again.

Activism

The bottoms of my khaki dress pants slowly soak in the water from the freshly watered grass as I make my way to Constitution Ave. It’s the kind of wet grass that you feel in your feet and shoes. And not the kind you enjoy when you’re trying to do that whole professional thing. But nonetheless this was happening as I passed a group of coal miners in support of coal mining on my way to an immigration rally. If you know me at all, you’d be amused that I passed that sort of a rally.

I took my seat in a pew in the historic Lutheran Church of the Reformation amongst immigrants, religious leaders, families, community organizers and a myriad of other folks who make this county great. A variety of people speak including Jim Wallis from Sojourners, Senator Luis Guiterrez and Representative Robert Menendez. The Dream Act is up for a vote in the Senate next week. It’s being introduced by Senator Harry Reid as a part of the defense bill due to the military component of the Dream Act. A lot of peace activists are torn over this and I share their sentiments. But I suppose that’s how legislation is. It’ll never be 100% what you want because we’re a bunch of people and compromises have to happen and all that jazz. This is where I agree with the whole idea of not putting your entire faith in the government. Sure, as Christians we should be influencing policy where there are injustices. But at the same time, our faith lies in Christ and he gives us abundant life.

Overall, the theme was “relief, respect, reform.” (I may have gotten that out of order). Relief means no more families getting separated, people being treated unfairly, etc. Reform means legislation like the Dream Act but also Comprehensive Immigration Reform, legislation that will give undocumented immigrants a clear path to citizenship. All I know is that things need to change. People need to be treated fairly and we need to embrace our diversity.

After the speakers were finished, we left the church, ate lunch and proceeded to our afternoon actions. I went with a group of people to Senator John McCain’s office. About 40 of us crowded into his lobby area and spoke to one of his staffers. McCain used to support reform but now he does not and we came to urge him to come back to the table. We prayed and sung “This Little Light of Mine.” It was encouraging to be around such a great group of people.

Flash back a day and you’d find me sitting in the United Methodist building also on Capitol Hill. Two Ugandan religious leaders traveled to Washington, DC for a few days to speak to people and our government about the new legislation in regards to the Lord’s Resistance Army. If you don’t know, the LRA is a rebel group that has been waging war on Uganda for years. The U.S. has passed legislation to try and stop the violence and it includes some military force. The religious leaders came to America as proponents of peace because they see it as the only way. The U.S. tried using military force a few years back and it spread the LRA to Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. So people are wondering what is different now. Uganda is a tough situation and I can see both sides. I’m a big fan of peace. However I can see where people are coming from when they wonder if peace will work since the LRA is a crazy, rebel group. However I’m for peace because that’s what I feel called to be for.

So that’s it for now!