2016 Week Five: Food Access & the Environment
The first session of camp ended in a whirlwind. Schedules were tight and some taught tempers were breaking. On the last morning, we made the only hot breakfast- breakfast tacos- for the campers. They always complained about the city food. They had every right.
That last day we took a field trip to Sandy Point Beach to go swimming and grill hotdogs. The weather was beautiful and the water was clear, cool, and full of jellyfish. It was like a free-range jellyfish sanctuary. Some were about the size of your ear, some had a body as long as your forearm and fingers. I had thought that once the first girl ran screaming from the water, the other kids would’ve followed suit. Not so- and not after the second and third girls were stung either. Or after one of the teachers was stung. Or one of the girls realized she was slightly allergic to jellyfish stings and got hives. Some campers and counselors who were stung were even playing in the water after they themselves had been stung. The jaws theme may well have played while a small army of baby sharks filled the water in and the kids may have kept on. I don’t mean to dwell- overall it was a lovely trip to the beach. Baffling, but lovely.
On the hot, hour-long bus ride back to the community center, the impressive six year old next to me seemed to have soaked up all the energy everyone else on the bus lacked.
“Name me five flowers that are yellow. Now five that are red. How many moons does Saturn have? I think it has 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69. Look it’s a forest! Now it’s road. Forest. Road. Park forest forest road.” It was a long bus ride and a short one. The kids were gone quicker than an attack force of jellyfish at Sandy Point can move in. We were all only ever meant to be together for a moment, but we sure had our moment. Nothing was as it should have been and our time together was bolder and stranger, the campers more brave and wonderful than they or any of it had the right to be.
Although I have had my worries about this internship feeling more like a job than an internship at times, it has definitely connected me to Baltimore in a whole new way. Part of that has been working for the city: Molly (my supervisor) always has a lot of information to offer about the Department of Transportation and the Department of Water, as well as the constant confusion about how Rec and Parks and Parks and People are related. This past week I worked with the boat program a lot, and met with community members in Windsor Hills about my project, which is on the conservation trail that they are in charge of maintaining. I’ve been thinking a lot about the end– there are only three weeks left of this internship, and the question of whether or not I’ve made an impact is a big one. I have definitely learned a lot personally, and about Baltimore. Now I feel that I can bike anywhere, and more importantly, can guide anyone with questions about how to get outside and get access to gear in the city to the right place to fulfill their needs. The last Uber I got into, I talked to the driver the whole time about how she hasn’t ridden a bike in years, how her kids and grandkids want to try things like kayaking, biking, and maybe even climbing, and ended up writing down information about our programs for her in hopes that she will come out biking at Druid Hill or Montebello, or bring her son to open row on Friday so he can kayak. That conversation for one, made me very happy– I was able to give someone information that hopefully helped her find a new way to have affordable, outdoor fun with her family, geared toward beginners and toward giving community members the toolbox that can help them be independent outdoors. On the other hand, though, it got me thinking about how we publicize things– we have a lot of people who come out to our programs every week, who get to take full advantage of our resources and have a great time with their friends and family. There are many others, though, who don’t know that we offer free bike rentals, or free kayaking in the Cherry Hill pool every Saturday 1-3. There are so many things that Rec and Parks needs. Maybe that could be another way I could contribute! It’s awesome how many community members I see come back every single week, but it would be even more awesome to get new ones to come out and take advantage of the resources we can offer them.
On a somewhat unrelated note– CIIP has got me thinking long and hard about how social change happens, and what being an activist means. Hearing Makayla, Kim, and Joe speak was thought-provoking in itself. Even more thought-provoking for me was the training that Makayla offered in civil disobedience last week, and her consequent action at Artscape this past weekend. It made me wonder what it’s ok for me to do and not do– if I don’t go to one of her events, do I count as being against her cause? I may as well be, right? At the same time, her words and her actions can be carried into everyday life and work; they can travel outside of her actions, which is part of why they are so valuable. They and the people I’ve heard from and have met doing CIIP this summer have inspired me to rethink my way of behaving, to rethink my career and what I want to stand and work for. Rethinking is good; changing oneself is good, questioning one’s actions and thoughts and opinions is good. However, she’s also left me feeling that rethinking and questioning isn’t necessarily enough. I wonder if even volunteering and working within the community is enough. Then again, simply seeking what is “enough” is in itself wrong. If you’re just going for “enough,” for the bare minimum, you’re probably, well, not doing enough. At the same time, you can only put yourself into so many things, and you’re not a very good person if you can’t forgive others for what they don’t do, nor are you going to be very mentally healthy if you can’t forgive yourself your failings. I feel very caught between those two ideas at the moment. CIIP is about action and impact in the community, it’s true. However, CIIP’s action, as it is associated with a university, is very different from Makayla’s. It’s the type of action I am far more comfortable with, and it does great things– just look at Joe and Kim, or at Molly, or at many others, who all work everyday within the system, often in such a way that they set themselves up against it, who bring good things to communities every day. However, we need outspoken outrage and activism to grow as people, to question ourselves, to have new ideas. What I will actually end up doing, and what I believe people’s obligations are, and what my own are, I’m not totally sure, but I am sure that I’m not going to stop thinking and worrying about it anytime soon.