One Man’s Trash, Another’s Excuse to Kayak


Yesterday we got to take part in an effort to “Keep Georgetown Beautiful.” This valiant attempt consisted of us cutting across the water in donated kayaks and discovering the wonder that is a trash grabber. We got to ‘yak around Georgetown Harbor with other volunteers and pick up the trash that piles up along the banks. Our finds ranged from a bucket, to a yoga mat, to a carton of eggs. Lesson for all: DON’T THROW YOUR STUFF IN THE WATER. USE A TRASH CAN/RECYCLING BIN (see earlier post about the glory that is a landfill). Also, I figured out how to use my GoPro, and have decided to display my masterpieces above. All the other BN’s can now claim they knew me before I became an internationally acclaimed photographer. CSOS is a magical time.





Bike Week

The Lowcountry is a slow country – things here don’t move so quickly, and no one’s usually in a hurry unless they’re hungry. So the BN’s have taken to biking as much as we can to both match the pace of the town and to be responsible members of the community. Although our bikes swayed dangerously down the highway during our initial trip down, the perhaps stressful drive was worth it: our house is near enough to downtown that biking around is optimal.

Four of us and our bikes, strapped on precariously for our drive down South

Four of us and our bikes, strapped on precariously for our drive down South

Our first week in Georgetown also coincided with Bike Week, a time when the roads from Myrtle Beach down to Georgetown are filled with bikers on bikers. These bikes were motorcycles, however, and we were warned that the drone of the drag races at night would make it hard to sleep.

Bike week’s over now, though, and Georgetown has returned to its sleepy, molasses peace. At sunset, you can find us on our bikes, riding through the humming cicadas hidden deep in the marsh grass on the edge of town.

– Annie

A sunset bike ride in Morgan Park

Frat Party or Just Volunteering


Our director Mr. Funnye needed some assistance with a golf tournament that would be played by his fraternity brothers. The proceeds from the tournament will go to college scholarships in the local area. To help with the charity event, Taylor, Gabi, Barak, and I drove golf carts around the course to provide refreshments to the players. I think that we may have enjoyed the day just as much as the golf players, if not more.


Saying Yes: Where Pentecost & Zumba Meet

Today, our BN class had the huge privilege of attending Bethel AME Church’s Sunday morning service. From the moment I stepped inside its ornate, stain-glass stippled walls to be greeted with warm handshakes, kind conversation, and copious blessings from a welcoming congregation, I knew Bethel was a special place. Nestled on a quaint, historic street that sits just outside of downtown Georgetown, Bethel is indeed the city’s signature beth El (House of God), a consecrated sanctuary from which service, joy, and spiritual strength radiate and overflow into the surrounding community. And on this particular Pentecost Sunday, this truth became especially apparent. Every element of the service – from the jubilant praise songs to the thought-provoking scripture passages to the powerfully delivered message on how vital it is for us to be “of one accord” – exuded an inspiring, contagious energy. However, I found myself most impacted during the one of the service’s more muted, introspective moments. In the middle of the service, an incredibly gifted soloist flawlessly sung Shekinah Glory’s gospel masterpiece “Yes.” Composed in melancholy minor key and set to a simple, stripped-down piano accompaniment, the song beckons its listeners to “say yes” to the Spirit’s calls, asking them whether or not their heart and soul will follow God’s commands – even in the face of discomfort and adversity. It was truly moving to witness.

Ironically, during this deeply reflective musical moment, I was instantly reminded of another, slightly more, shall we say, active musical experience I had earlier on in the week: the YMCA House Party fitness class. A multitude of feelings surrounded this event for me. I remember feeling pumped as catchy hip-hop music with throbbing (and slightly sexy) beats blasted around me. I remember feeling exhausted as I languorously attempted to flail my un-coordinated body in sync with the beat and the other dancers around me. I also remember feeling pretty embarrassed when I didn’t have the slightest clue how to use the elastic sash accessory things that help you stretch. But, most of all, I remember the overwhelming hesitation I felt during the hours leading up to the party when my fellow BNs asked me whether or not I’d be coming to the class. Desiring to build community with the people I’d meet at the YMCA and the other BNs, I knew I wanted, simply, to say “yes.” But, my severe lack of faith in my dancing abilities compounded with my paralyzing, recurrent fear of embarrassing myself complicated this simple “yes,” transforming it into a source of fear and inner conflict rather than an empowering opportunity to experience something new and productive.

While worship ballads and zumba are not the most common pairing, and while I may be over-dramatizing my House Party trepidations ever so slightly, I discovered an important truth after my experiences this week. These ten weeks in Georgetown will present us with a multitude of opportunities, thousands of amazing chances to work with, and get to know, a wonderful community. However, these opportunities will inevitably remain blank slates unless they are filled with “yeses.” And sometimes, fear will make garnering the strength to say that simple word seem insurmountable. That hesitation will never disappear in its entirety. What this week has taught me, though, is that there is a way of saying “no” to the “no’s” trapped inside of us. As Reverend Manning explained this morning at Bethel, the ultimate source of empowerment for humanity is to “be of one accord,” for us to step outside of ourselves and become a part of something bigger. The only reason I said “yes” to the House Party is because I knew my fellow BNs would be there with me and that I’d be surrounded by people working towards the same goal – keeping up with the instructor (although most people did that a lot better than I did). When we operate as a unified community, we discover the power to say “yes” and, as a result, the opportunity to grow. And I’m so excited for all the doors that having a supportive community behind us will open in the upcoming ten weeks. Who knows, maybe I’ll even learn to dance decently. Stranger things have happened!

– Gabi

Forced Family Fun!!!


Just kidding, it definitely wasn’t “forced.” For our first family dinner, I had the pleasure of making chicken parmesan (with mozzarella) and Khalid had the pleasure of being head of the clean up effort. Here’s to starting off our first work week right (and hoping I set the bar high)!


“Like the Very Cup of Trembling”

We began our first Sunday in Georgetown by attending Bethel A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church’s 10:00 service. This is the first time we’ve been inside the sanctuary of the church, and what I saw was entirely different from the bright, undecorated walls of the Presbyterian church I’ve been attending for as long as I can remember. When I think of that church the red velvet of the pew cushions and the sunlight coming in through slatted windows, saturating the room. The only windows I noticed in Bethel were blue stained glass on either side of the pulpit; everything else seemed to be made of dark wood and directed toward the illuminated cross that was presiding over us from its place above the organ (pipes and all!). This color scheme and the floor layout lent the service an air of concentration or meditation.

I can’t speak for the rest of the class, but this was my first time participating in an African-American church service; my home church is predominantly white. (“It’s no secret,” Reverend Manning said, “that Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week in America.”) The tenor of Bethel’s service is established by the timbre of its music: even before the service began, portamenti that congealed into soft blues rolled from the piano as the congregation entered and spoke with one another. This was a simple moment, but I was moved by the sweetness of it all. The piano accompanied us all through the two-hour journey, through the prayers and the hymns and, yes, the silences. At home there are times for music and in between there’s homily; at Bethel each minute has enough space for both. When the pianist returns to the pew for a moment, the choir strikes up and we in the congregation follow, stomping, clapping, and shouting. Reverend Manning dissected the second chapter of Acts in a sermon that was positively musical: from the refrains of “in one accord” and (appropriately) “a sound from heaven” he crafted both a message and a performance. As his pace and the intensity of his tone reached the highest point of their crescendo, he had created a verbal approximation of the Pentecostal “mighty, rushing wind” from Acts. And with divine timing, the pianist returned to his bench and slammed the keys.

I think we were all very happy with the welcome we received at Bethel, especially for a group that is still getting its bearings in the Georgetown community. (It also didn’t hurt that we came on Family and Friends Sunday.) Though we come from a variety of religious and nonreligious backgrounds, and no two of us adhere to the same degree of spirituality, the service at Bethel this morning did not fail to move us; it was a fantastic capstone to our first week living together in Georgetown.


Barbecues, Backhoes, and BNs… Oh my!

Smiling faces, dedicated citizens, the feeling that everyone is connected in some manner: there is something undoubtedly beautiful about small town life. Whether we pop into the local YMCA for a work-out or enjoy dinner together at a restaurant on Front Street, it seems that everyone we meet welcomes us to the community, which I have thoroughly appreciated. Upon our first night in Georgetown, as we enjoyed delicious food and introduced ourselves to those with whom we will be working this summer, we were kindly informed of and invited to Georgetown’s Backhoe Rodeo, an event held annually in honor of National Public Works Week. The members of the BN Class of 2018 were incredibly excited to already begin feeling involved in the community, and after we made a chore chart and calendar for our house, we wrote the Backhoe Rodeo on the calendar, marking it as our first community event. After individuals were recognized for their commendable involvement with Georgetown County Public Works, we enjoyed some tasty barbeque, before watching the backhoe competition itself.


Different backhoe operators from Georgetown County, Berkeley County, Charleston County, and the City of Charleston competed against one another, hoping to win first or second place in the regional competition so that they could advance to the statewide competition. The deftness with which these operators competed was incredible to watch; in the timed competition, backhoe operators lifted pipe pieces from one tic-tac-toe-style board to another, quickly yet carefully moving pieces from a square in one position on the first board to the same position on the second board.

Making sure everything is in order before the competition portion of the Backhoe Rodeo began

Making sure everything is in order before the competition portion of the Backhoe Rodeo began!

Prizes for the top three competitors!

Prizes for the top three competitors!

The Backhoe Rodeo took place at the Georgetown County Landfill, and this geographic location granted us with an unexpected but fascinating opportunity. James Coley, an environmentalist at the event, told us that after we watched a bit of the competition, he could give us a tour of the landfill, so we piled into his van and began the tour. Personally, I have never given much thought to the organization of a landfill; in regards to waste products, I, of course, think about recyclables in comparison to non-recyclable waste, but I neglect to reflect on just how public works officials deal with the waste produced by a community. Hearing how Georgetown County deals with waste, from wood waste to e-waste, was truly eye-opening. None of the BN Scholars knew such a tour would be offered, but we all agreed afterwards that we were thankful for the chance to learn about something new, due to the kindness of Georgetown community members (and see the highest point in the county)!


Bales of waste from our tour of the Georgetown County Landfill

Watching the manner in which the Georgetown County community members support one another has led me to reflect on a quote by one of my favorite playwrights, George Bernard Shaw. Shaw expressed, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live,” espousing the importance of thoroughly immersing oneself in the surrounding community. Of Duke, I often tell people I love the size because you can find small communities within the larger school; the BN family, for example, is a treasured community at which I feel at home, feeling like I belong. Georgetown County, with a population of about 10,000, is small in itself. However, I am eager to see the manner in which each of us discovers various smaller niche communities within the county, gaining a better understanding of the manner in which the population creates the county’s rich, welcoming community atmosphere.


One Man’s Trash, Another Man’s Methane Gas

Georgetown County Landfill

Georgetown County Landfill

On Thursday, our fourth day in Georgetown, we all had the pleasure of touring the Georgetown County Landfill. One of many cool interesting facts: the closed off landfills are pumped for methane gas everyday and that gas is used to fuel over 500 homes! We were all amazed by how much goes into sorting, reusing, reselling, and condensing trash. I think Ali already knew most of it, but for me, an environmental know-nothing, it was pretty sick. Sitting atop the landfill in our trash-climbing van, we were at the highest point in Georgetown County. Pretty cool, pretty cool.