Georgetown From 1500 Feet Above

About two weeks ago, I woke up to an email from one of our community partners, Ray Funnye, detailing an opportunity for the group to do some “aerial reconnaissance” of the Georgetown area. Without knowing exactly what type of aircraft we would be on, where we would be flying out of, or what exactly “aerial reconnaissance” even meant, the group jumped on the possibility and aptly named it the “plane adventure.”


Looking down on the Waccamaw River

So June 12th finally rolled around, and we woke up begrudgingly early to head to the Georgetown County Airport to find out what exactly we were getting ourselves into. We walked into the airport to find three very, very, VERY small airplanes waiting for us on the tarmac, along with three pilots who fly these awesome planes as a (pretty sweet) hobby. Dan Drost, one of the pilots, took us out to the tarmac to show off his 1952 Chipmunk, a plane built in England that flew in the RAF for 44 years. Now, that Chipmunk resides in Georgetown, South Carolina, and I got to fly it.


Our personal planes for the day!

As I saw Barak and Mr. Drost landing on the runway, I waited anxiously to get into the tiny plane and see Georgetown from above. I hurried over to the Chipmunk and climbed into the cockpit, I even got to wear a pretty sweet headset that was straight out of Top Gun. Now, I’ve been on large, commercial jets before, but there is absolutely nothing like the feeling of taking off in one of these small planes. I pride myself in saying that I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and this plane ride definitely delivered.


Khalid and his sweet Top Gun headset

Once we were in the air, Mr. Drost took me all along the coast of Georgetown and up into Pawley’s Island. I saw Sandy’s Island, DeBordieu, the Waccamaw River, and the vast Atlantic Ocean from 1500 feet above. Something about being so far removed from the ground, from the place where everything that matters to you resides, makes you feel so small, so insignificant. Being 1500 feet above Georgetown gave me the same eerie, magnificent feeling that I had that night, when I stood by the dark, swirling ocean and looked up at the dim stars as I talked to Jack about life and our time in Georgetown so far. So small. So insignificant. Yet so humbled.


Georgetown from above

Although we may be small in the grand scheme of this great big world, I find peace in the fact that I am making an impact through my work in my hometown, at Duke, and here in Georgetown. I find peace in the fact that my internship at Plantersville Summer Academy has the potential to impact so many children’s lives, not to mention my own. I find peace in the fact that I have already had so many opportunities to feel so small and so insignificant and so humbled in my short life. And I find peace in the fact that I know I can continue to make small impacts wherever I go, as long as I choose to do so.

Much to my protest, the plane ride had to come to an end, but not before Mr. Drost did a fancy maneuver that RAF bomber pilots used to do, in which the plane was literally perpendicular to the ground. Safe to say I got my adrenaline rush for the day.

Stay tuned, folks. A new goal has been added to my “To Do Before Graduation” list: Get my pilot’s license.


Future Pilot



It’s The Little Things

Our stay in Georgetown has been a whirlwind of adjusting to new jobs, going on crazy adventures, and meeting loads of new people.  As much as it has been defined by the above activities, just as important are the things we do in between.

  1. YMCA:   By far our biggest past time is going to the local Coastal Carolina YMCA.  In fact, we go so much that if there is a day in which only a portion of our group goes, it is noticed by the receptionists, personal trainers, and other YMCA frequent flyers.  All of our group is on a mission to get fit this summer and so far we are on a great track.  We are not only running and lifting but trying new classes offered (like cycling or “House Party”) and one of our group is even using this summer to learn to swim.
    From left: Liz, Gabi, Catherine

    From left: Liz, Gabi, Catherine

    Annie and Taylor

    Annie and Taylor

    Shubham and Barak (the lovers)

    Shubham and Barak (the lovers)

    Khalid and Shubham

    Khalid and Shubham

    Khalid and Ali (we saw a mirror and had to take a selfie)

    Khalid and Ali (we saw a mirror and had to take a selfie)

  2. BEACH:   Seeing as Georgetown is only a hop and a skip away from Pawley’s Island, every free moment not working out is often spent at the beach, swimming, relaxing, reading, and most importantly, eating.  Georgetown county is absolutely gorgeous, and its beaches are no different.


3.    BIKE GANGS:  Although we don’t bike quite as much as intended at the beginning, it is still a favorite past time as well as way of getting around.




– Ali

The Cookout Conundrum

The idea of ten rising college sophomores in one home baffles many of the individuals I have met in Georgetown, prompting numerous questions. Some concerned mother figures have asked me, “Can you keep it clean? Do you all cook in there at once? Who does the dishes?”, while others have questioned, “Do you think you’ll all hate each other by the end of this?” One day, after explaining that our group consists of ten students serving in various internships, all of whom live in the Habitat for Humanity Volunteer House, a community member questioned, “You mean like The Real World?” Due to my limited pop culture knowledge, I admittedly needed to do a quick Google search to learn this question referenced an MTV series in which seven or eight young adults live together, making this question my favorite response to our living situation… Though I think based on our television preferences this past week, we would all much prefer to be on a Food Network television program than MTV.

Having ten students in one house certainly sounds crazy, but our living situation is pretty great, and for me it immediately felt like a home away from home. Our neighborhood is close to the waterfront, many of our work locations, grocery stores, a gym, and more, making it an incredibly convenient spot to live for ten weeks. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to be here this summer, and I definitely wanted the chance to learn from our neighbors about Georgetown, as I suspected that many have lived in the area for a long time. Moreover, as a class, we knew that we wanted to be truly engaged with the community (and as additional inspiration, we really have been watching a great deal of competitive grilling shows on the Food Network), so we decided to reach out to our neighbors and have a cookout on Saturday night.

Shubham and Khalid with the flyer for the cookout

Shubham and Khalid with the flyer for the cookout

After Shubham designed a flyer and Khalid printed copies, Shubham and I went around knocking on doors and inviting our neighbors, explaining that we would be in the Habitat House for ten weeks and wanted to get to know the neighborhood. When Saturday rolled around, after jotting down a grocery list and purchasing burgers, potato chips, baked beans, and sweet tea, we all joined together to prepare food and set up a table and chairs outside. However, as we issued an open invitation without definitely knowing if any of our guests would attend, we all were concerned that we would not have any guests. Throughout the afternoon we joked about how much extra food would be left over, wondering if we were throwing a “Neighborhood Cookout” for no one but us.

Luckily, as Barak manned the grill and we all chatted outside, listening to music, some of our neighbors began wandering to our house! Piling food on paper plates, our neighbors sat with us, chatting about their time in Georgetown. Two of the men who joined us told us that they attend Bethel AME Church, and they remembered us from when we visited the church last Sunday. They gave us advice about the neighborhood, Georgetown in general, and, much more broadly, about life. One gentleman, Lester, told us that we would all be successful if we expressed out loud that which we want to do, reminding us to never keep our ambitions to ourselves. He reminded us to have self-confidence, encouraging us to follow our passions, stressing the importance of our never desisting from our personal goals.

Enjoying food and fellowship

Talking with some of our neighbors

Some of our guests

Some of our guests








When the mosquitoes began being a little too friendly for everyone’s liking, skittering from person to person, we said good-bye to our neighbors and began cleaning up the tables and chairs. As we said our good-byes, our neighbors kindly told us to let them know if we need any help while in town; considering that we have only been in Georgetown for two weeks, I think it’s pretty fantastic that we already have so many friendly connections outside of our internships. I’m so glad that we, as a class, had the chance to enjoy some good food and even better fellowship.

– Catherine


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.