My last posting was a week and a half ago – hard to believe! I remembered that this trip is one that will keep you busy from breakfast to bedtime. Erik and I have worked out a daily routine that allows us to get our work produced and posted, but sometimes it has taken a bit of ingenuity to get the job done.
We get up at 4:00 am each morning to process the video and images taken the previous day. Erik is already used to that routine from his dissertation work, but it took me a couple of days to adapt. The benefit of this approach is that there is usually a better Internet connection since everyone else in the hotel is asleep (particularly in the hotels with wireless only connectivity). It is also a nice slow traffic time on Facebook so the videos upload more quickly (Often at night, they just won’t go). When the sun rises, we leave the video processing and head out for our daily workout.
As Erik said, running is about our only option, but you’ll see from a picture of this morning, we work with what the place has to offer:
During the day, we are kept busy trying to document the day through video and images while we participate with whatever is taking place. We also try to monitor Twitter posts, which have been embraced by a small number of students. But we want to have some each day to show how the day is progressing.
Typically, class activities go until at least 8 or 9 pm. We still have hours of work, but have been too tired to do much more than recharge our equipment before falling into bed exhausted. However, the rhythm we have developed has worked well and allowed us to keep up with our work, stay as healthy as is possible with a diet majoring in fried, and fully experience the content of the class.
The past couple of days have been a perfect example of the range of experiences that are taking place. We are in the Mississippi Delta, a land of contrasts: vast flat farming fields, a rich history of blues and a high level of poverty. When we arrived on Wednesday, we attended a seminar on the Delta in Clarksdale at Ground Zero. This is a blues club owned by Morgan Freeman. It was a wonderful setting to hear Bill Luckett, a local businessman and partner of Freeman, talk to us. We returned that evening for an night of live blues music and dancing. The students (and grownups) had a fabulous time. Erik and I were particularly gratified when the students chose to leave their “signature” on the wall and used our class hashtag as the main identifier!
(footnote: Erik got out on the dance floor!)
But yesterday was a 180 degree turn around in atmosphere and emotions. It was Parchman Farm day, when we traveled to the Mississippi State Penitentary. It is a sobering and reflective type of experience and moved the students deeply. There has been much processing of reactions and you’ll be able to see reflections that we caught immediately after leaving Parchman. This year we visited the death chamber, as well as going into Unit 26 where the men live dormitory style. Sonny and “Country” addressed our group and it was predictable that the students were apprehensive and a bit frightened at that experience.
Today, we’ve been on the road since 7 and will tour the Delta. The day will be a long one, with Po’ Monkey’s as the highlight of the day! So, we expect to see the students’ moods to swing back to ones of enthusiasm.