Daily Life: Laundry

We’re rapidly approaching the end of the semester. I leave in FOUR days!!! I went to church for the last time here this morning, and one of the elders asked me if I would read the passage next Sunday and I had to tell her “Oh, I won’t be in Botswana next Sunday” which is just wild to think about. If you haven’t figured out by now, I am directing these “daily life” posts at future students studying in Botswana so you can get a glimpse of life here and have some tips for starting out your time here. So here we go with the story of how I do my laundry.

One of the biggest things I will miss about Botswana is doing my laundry outside by hand. At the beginning of the semester I thought it was kind of annoying and time-consuming, but now I eagerly look forward to the days when I have enough dirty laundry to go spend a couple hours getting it all clean and nice with my own two hands.

If you don’t want to hand wash, there are washing machines and dryers available, but they always have a pretty long line depending on what time of day you go, and it is kind of a pain to get tokens for them cause you have to go to a couple different offices with different receipts to get it done. It’s definitely possible and not a big deal to do it that way if you’d rather not hand wash, though. I know some people will wash their clothes in the machines and then dry them on the clotheslines outside the laundry area. That’s an option too.

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But seriously, hand washing your clothes feels amazing. It usually takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to wash a week of clothes, and then a couple hours for things to dry on the clotheslines. I load up one or two good podcasts on my phone, grab my dirty clothes in a little duffle bag (I would highly recommend bringing some kind of small bag like this cause it makes for a great laundry bag and is really great for the short weekend trips you will take), grab my empty yogurt container full of clothespins, take my box of laundry powder and head out to the laundry areas scattered around our dorm area. These clothes lines are frequently pretty full, so sometimes you have to get creative with drying stuff in your room, but that also isn’t a huge problem.

I typically use three sinks to wash my clothes. One has a little bit of laundry powder (it is easy to overdo it, and then it takes a bunch of rinses to get everything unsoapy, so don’t go too wild), the next I use for rinsing out the initial soap, and the third stays pretty clean, but gives me one more chance to rinse out the soap. In each of those sinks I will swish my clothes around and scrub the cloth together, and then wring everything out as much as possible before moving it to the next sink. There aren’t plugs for the sink drains, but you can wad up a plastic bag and use that to keep the water from draining out.

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A huge recommendation when packing for the semester is to make sure you bring clothes that won’t be easily messed up by washing them like this. When I read blogs about hand washing before I came I thought to myself “Oh, hand washing is what they recommend for really fancy and delicate clothes, so it should be fine on my plebian t-shirts, right?” but between my limited skill in hand washing, a desire to work quickly, and laundry powder that seems much more apt to make your clothes stiff than American detergent, I would recommend you try not to bring your nicest things that you won’t want to mess up with harsh washing practices. I only brought a small number of workout clothes cause I thought it would be awkward or unacceptable to run at UB in my normal running shorts (that’s a whole other story, you totally can run here, don’t worry about it), but I wish I had brought more because not only are my running clothes the first things to get gross and sweaty after a few uses, but they also are made of really great material for drying quickly on the line.

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Another warning, one of the women on our program had a few of her shirts stolen off the clothesline, so I always try to wash my absolute favorite clothes first so that they can start drying while I am still in the laundry area, and then bring them inside with me to dry in my room when I leave the clotheslines.

It sounds kind of pathetic to say it, but laundry is really one of the biggest things I will miss about Botswana when I go home. It’s so relaxing to just stand outside in the warm sun, scrubbing your clothes, splashing in the water when you get too hot, and sometimes chatting with other students who are also doing their laundry. This semester I have missed cooking a lot because it is my favorite mindless activity that feels productive while also letting you just settle into a simple task without thinking too hard. This semester, laundry has been that replacement. Maybe I can find a way to do some hand washing outside once I get back home.

For now, I need to finish up my research paper, study for my UB philosophy final, visit the hospice a few more times, and then I’ll be heading home! I think Tuesday will be my last good laundry day. I’ll be sure to make the most of it!

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Independent Study: An Artistic Reflection

Written by Jade Riley

For my Independent Study Project, I chose to do an elaborated artistic reflection on a story I started writing three years ago, A Dilemma Born of Blood and Fire. My reason for doing so was primarily to give myself a reason to make sure I stayed up on some kind of an artistic pursuit, as being a theatre arts and creative writing double major, I have never been without a project to work on. I definitely wasn’t going to change that as I went through the program. As my time in the program has progressed, I am delighted to see what my pursuit of this reflection, and that is a novel concept that is defined more powerfully.

I say this because I have come to realize that these past few weeks have been spent asking myself a series of questions. The first of which was “How do I feel about these experiences?” Looking over my response to this question in an artistic journal that I have started, I was surprised by the answer I ended up writing for myself.

It reads:

“I feel they’ve been ice-breaking, excellent prep work to begin taking my novel to the next level, but I also still feel I have a long way to go in terms of gaining depth with it. I also feel that it has been a little bit of branching out, exploring how I want to formulate my writing projects moving forward. I do know that I want to work with real settings. I think this is because the types of fantasies that have gripped me the most as a reader or viewer. There is something powerful in choosing cities that exist and re-imagining them in a supernatural context. For me, that is my preferred way of examining the hope and hardships of our reality.

As for why Chicago is the city of this story, I don’t really know why I chose Chicago specifically anymore. I think I might’ve wanted a midwest city, and Minneapolis was taken for another story I had started. So I chose Chicago. It seemed logical to my way of just picking things.

It became a better idea as I began looking for a place to do off-campus study. I know the reason I chose Chicago over a New York term is that I needed to stay in the Midwest. I feel that I am not yet ready to leave it because I feel compelled to go no further than 8-9 hours from home in case of another family tragedy.

Now that I have been in Chicago for so many months, I feel it’s a more vital (and viable) setting because of the opportunities here. I mean, that’s why I came here, for better opportunities for myself.

I also think that because of that, it makes for a powerful setting to have my character, Sebastian, in. I mean, I think he has so much potential. He’s intelligent, but more importantly compassionate and straightforward in getting things done.

Again, how my experiences here apply to him is that he is aware of the divide between people in Chicago, and I think he is looking for a way to break that. I think this is because he had a professor like Ms. Dorothy, and also because his father is like Jason in that he explores art and dedicate his career to getting people to interact with that art.”

Going over this, especially my reflection as for why I set the story in Chicago, has made me realize just how great and diverse of an experience I have had. I have thought more deeply about the issues our nation still faces with racism today, as well as gotten a hands on experience of what it’s like to navigate Chicago due to the various readings and events I went to for classes. What this did is give me an academic framework of information and experience that I am applying with Sebastian’s background, which ended up being another huge component of my project.

Previously, I had set up some traits of his to be different, but after some feedback, I began to instead change my focus onto how I can instead use my experiences to flesh out who Sebastian is. I did this primarily through continuously asking and repeating questions about Sebastian, and explaining the answers to myself over and over to myself until they crystallized  into this character that I am so passionate to be writing about. Of course, for this to count for the project,  I am taking this brainstorming one step further by then writing down these answers in the form of notes, journal writing, and prose scenes, thus accomplishing my goal of completing an elaborate, artistic reflection for A Dilemma Born of Blood and Fire.

Chicago Perspectives

Throughout our time in Chicago, each student in the program has had their own unique experience from what they have seen, to who they talked to, and what they have done. Below are a few images provided by Kyana Bell, a student from Colorado College.

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Picture captured by Kyana Bell

As an independent study, Kyana created a profile on Back of the Yards, which is one of two neighborhoods in Chicago’s official community areas called New City. New City is one of Chicago’s 77 official community areas. It is located on the southwest side of the city in the South Side district.

Back of the Yards is an industrial residential neighborhood, and the name was given to it due to it being near the former Union stock yards where thousands of European immigrants in early 20th century were employees. Life in this neighborhood is also explored in the 1906 novel The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

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Picture captured by Kyana Bell

Above is a corporate view of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one located entirely within the United States. The other four Great Lakes are shared by the U.S. and Canada.

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Picture captured by Kyana Bell

Above is an image captured from Willis Tower. The Willis Tower, built as and still commonly referred to as Sears Tower, is a 108-story, 1,450-foot skyscraper in Chicago.

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Picture captured by Kyana Bell

Above we see an image of one of the statues known as The Monument to the Great Northern Migration, which is located in Bronzeville, a South Side Chicago neighborhood. This monument honors the six million-odd African-Americans who traveled from the South to Chicago from 1910 to 1970. The sculpture depicts a man oriented and pointing northward, suitcase in hand, his entire outfit made of the worn soles of his shoes. It’s situated at the historic entrance to Bronzeville, a neighborhood that boomed thanks to the Great Migration.

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Picture captured by Kyana Bell

Above we see one of the beautiful trees in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. With so many different buildings, art pieces, and businesses, people do not always take the time to recognize and appreciate the beauty of nature within the city.

Many beautiful people, places, and art that we have yet learn about in the city of Chicago.

 

CPS Teacher in Little Village

Throughout this semester, I have had the honor to engage with many phenomenal individuals that care deeply about the communities that they serve. One person in particular, as they would like to remain anonymous, has decided to share their insight with us about their journey within the Chicago Public School (CPS) system, serving 5th graders for about 7.5 hours each day, 5 times a week (minimum), and navigating through the system as a second year teacher in Network 7 of Chicago.

The teacher, who was also once a student of CPS, writes:

“They definitely don’t prepare you for this in your undergrad experience” another teacher said to me. A much more seasoned—in terms of tenure and year experience—teacher who was referring to severe behavior issues among students and the inevitable teacher stress.  The copier kept copying, and I had a few quick flashbacks to days sitting in my undergrad education classes, reading literature that helped me acquire the vocabulary to understand and articulate my experiences as a student from Chicago Public Schools; these experiences were my own, and some I observed in friends, families, and teachers.

“They do and they don’t” I said. “But, going to Chicago Public Schools as my whole life has helped me understand.” The copier kept copying, and the white-middle-aged-much-more-seasoned-than-I teacher kind of smirked as if that experience was irrelevant. In reality, it is what has helped me the most these two years.

“Well, good luck.” As a second year teacher, check-ins at the copy machine usually go like this. They begin with a “so, how’s year two?” continued with some despondent griping, and end with a “well, that’s how it is.”  This despondency is understandable when sometimes the weight of missed preparation periods because of under-staffing of substitutes, furlough days, budget cuts, looming strikes, possible early end to the year, standardized testing, not having a counselor to counsel students who have dealt with trauma, and teacher evaluations weighs heavy. I definitely feel the weight too.  These struggles are so real. And, as a teacher in CPS, you need to balance these struggles while having a whopping class size of 33 children staring at you expectantly, and looking to you for guidance.  The list never ends. But, we need to find a joyous moment in every day and acknowledge at least one “win” –in ourselves and our students–in order to grow.

As a second year teacher, I constantly feel like I am building the plane while it’s in the air. And “flying” in Chicago can be full of turbulence; this is a result of corrupt leadership at the city and state levels. I have this tool box that is full of different experiences to help me construct wisely. I choose from my experiences as a student who was bounced around from 5 Chicago Public Schools, as a graduate with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education, and as a member of Golden Apple, a teacher preparation organization in Chicago. Every single day requires different tools, different strategic maneuvering, and returning trips to the schematics when reconstruction is necessary. To be honest, it is really stressful. These first few years entail so many “firsts.” While these “firsts” are happening, the show must go on which is what makes it difficult. In order to keep going, I’ve found it necessary to find a win in each day even when the struggles seem greater. I am able to do this because of the amazing people I work with and others I have met in Little Village.

The community is strong in little village. My school, and the little Village Community, definitely work hard to stick together and empower one another. I think my school, surrounding schools, and Chicago public schools will be able to grow even more when equity is actually a word understood by those who have leadership rolls. However, public education was never meant to be a world class education for all. It was meant to educate the white male to be able to pursue work. In my opinion, teaching is heart-work, hard-work, and countering work; schools are constantly trying to counter the ramifications of unequal funding, structurally and institutionally supported poverty, and the  lack of resources that come along with this initial model of public education. I think we need to continue to move away from this model and demand equitable funding in order to thrive.

Demographics in Little Village (2015-2016 Survey):

  • Pre K-8th Grade:
    • 99.5% Hispanic
    • 0.2% White
    • 0.1% Black
    • 0% Asian
    • 0.1% American Indian
    • 0% Two or More Races
    • 0% Pacific Islander
  • Low Income: 99.3%
  • Students with Disabilities: 11.8%
    • Students that receive special education services
  • English Learners (Whose primary language is not English): 49.9%
  • People whose primary language is English: 50.1%
  • Chronically Truant Students: 15.4%
    • Students who miss 5% of school days per year without a valid excuse

Youth Incarceration in the U.S.

This semester, I had the opportunity to volunteer with and learn about an organization that allows youth that are incarcerated the exposure and platform to study performing, visual, and literary arts. Free Write students are given the platform to become the “narrators of their own stories and authors of their own futures.” Throughout the semester, I have had the opportunity to learn about the various programs Free Write provides, as well as the mediums that they utilize to spread the word about what they do.

In April, I had the opportunity to attend a Violence Prevention event at the Chicago Art Department. To kick off National Youth Violence Prevention Awareness week, they hosted a “Lessons in the Cycle,” featuring youth voices and verses on best practices in violence prevention and trauma-informed care. In partnership with UIC’s Urban Youth Trauma Center, Free Write alumni workshopped, created & performed their pieces on camera, each responding powerfully to one of five Best Practices for Violence Prevention and Trauma Intervention.

The evening featured the world premier of the five short videos, a panel discussion about the best practices, an art exhibition and performances by Free Write Arts & Literacy students and Project Fire, direct action on issues of violence, food, and much more. You can learn more about the event HERE.

Also, in April, I had the privilege of attending a Social Justice Workshop at the Oak Park Library through my volunteerism with Free Write. It consisted of various workshops through organizations utilizing literacy to engage youth in positive methods,

Below is a video of various interviews on youth incarceration in the United States, as well as peoples’ thoughts on Free Write.

To learn more about Free Write Arts & Literacy, click HERE.

CPD: Bridging the Divide

In early April, the ACM Chicago Students had the opportunity to visit the Chicago Police Department (CPD) Headquarters. We met various members of the Bridging the Divide program. From what we’ve gathered, Bridging the divide is a platform created amongst police officers and the community’s youth. According to the YMCA Metro of Chicago, “program was developed to help build understanding between youth, law enforcement officials, and other community members. Throughout the project the YMCA and community partners offered opportunities for dialogue through cafés, peace circles, and the exchange of photos and stories.”

Below you’ll see a video of the 10th District Officers participating in Bridging the Divide Peace Circle at Community Christian Alternative (CCA) Academy 1231 S. Pulaski rd. Youth and CPD interacting and working together.

Below is another video of 10th District Officer Michelle Gonzalez vs 24th ward Alderman Michael Scott JR. 10th District Bridging the Divide Obstacle Course was designed to Bridge the gap between Chicago Police Officers and the youth. About 50 youth and 8 10th district officer took part in this successful event.

Bridging the Divide, in theory, seems like a great opportunity to decrease the tension amongst police officers and the community, specifically the community’s black and brown youth. A few ACM Chicago students were hesitant to fully believe that this was a great idea. A few factors play into this, such as police officers still having their guns, and also having peace circles with those guns present.

As part of the program, audio diaries were captured from youth an Chicago police officers about their experiences within the community. You can find it by clicking HERE.

After watching the compelling stories and reflections by youth and law enforcement officers who participated in the program, I realaized that all of the characters made an impact and this opportunity provided a variety of perspective. I found it be quite thought-provoking to gain insight on people’s lives in regards to Chicago policing. It has also been frustrating because people, even learning more about these stories, still do not understand why people of color are frustrated with police. Cicatriz, one of the youth who shared her experience with Chicago Police, told us about racial profiling, and the discouragement the police left behind in reference to higher education. While they were talking to each other abut college, police officers approached them, accused them of being gang-affiliated, made them stand against a wall while they were searched, and left them with belittlement, little faith, and little hope for collegiate opportunities. She stated how they tend to believe what “higher society” believes about them. If police officers tell them that they cannot amount to anything higher and greater, beyond what they have experienced, then they may start to believe that. Police officers play a crucial role in young black and brown lives. At the end of the day, they have the choice to use their authority in whichever way they choose. I understand that both want to reach respectful terms, but that cannot happen until they, both police officers and youth, realize the situations that reality has placed them in.

It was an interesting experience to learn about the YMCA Metro of Chicago, the Bridging the Divide program, then speaking to representatives of Bridging the Divide program at the CPD Headquarters.