Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sex Positivity with Marcaroon Filled Hot Cookies

Enjoying Hot Cookie (true co-love <3)
Today was our last shift at Glide, who we've worked with four times. I think it's safe to say, they were one of our favorite community partners to work with, as they were inclusive and passionate about the work they're doing in the community.  During one of our volunteer shifts there, we had an orientation at their church with Bryan. We learned about the history of Glide and their journey within the church community as well as their journey within the local community. A fun fact is that they're also affiliated with the Methodist church, but they took down the crosses because they wanted to be inclusive of LGBT folks (yay!).

Bryan also shared his personal interactions as a social worker and why the work is important to him; he came into this work expecting people to come up with him with their struggles and open up to him, but found that people were "boringly normal", in other words, that people living in the streets here still communicate and interact with one another, building community in that way. During our last shift, Andre and James (staff) thanked us for our work, and told us that during spring break that get lots and lots of volunteers but during the rest of the year, they only have 7 volunteers to help them put things in motion. They were extremely thankful for our help, and urged us to continue to do the work, and to contribute to our own community!
Cracking the Eggs

After GLIDE we went to Lyric in the Castro District and got a brief overview of what the organization does for LGBTQIA youth experiencing homelessness as well as the internship program and advocacy that they do with queer youth. Alan was the person who answered our questions while also personalizing his own journey to San Francisco and how his experiences also relates to the work he's done with the organization. For instance, he talked a lot about being a sex worker to pay for college and how they also led to him doing advocacy work for HIV/AIDS and how his background as a sex worker was an obstacle for him in later jobs.

So Lyric has provided him both an opportunity to work with an inclusive organization that also works to deal with stigma around sex workers, queer youth experiencing homelessness, and domestic violence within communities of color. He also tied in a lot of the issues that we have been talking together and how they are all interrelated: domestic violence, queer communities, homelessness, women's rights, and issues facing people of color. In other words, the conversation with him was a great way to tie all of these issues within our main focus on Queer Communities while also showing how Lyric partners with other community partners that we volunteered with like La Casa de Las Madres, SFWAR, and GLIDE to provide comprehensive services to LGBTQIA folks who are also experiencing homelessness and sexual violence.

Lyric :D

After Lyric we went to "Hot Cookie" and Dolores Park. We got to eat some white and black penises and black "Venuses" (you know, I'm you Venus, I'm your fire, at your desire, oh yeah ;D). It was pretty hawt. But we spent a nice time in Dolores Park playing a fun team builder where three people needed to work together to draw an image. The catch was that the "original" person saw the image, the "yes/no" person could answer only "yes/no" to questions about the image, and the drawer had to ask those questions and draw the image. It was pretty hilarious because it was just a stock image of an airplane. We then did our reflection on GLIDE and Lyric and also talked about "The Nature of Oppression" with the birdcage metaphor. It led to a great discussion about how we can continue to do great work within queer communities and intersecting identities in order to see how we can work together to break out of these cages of oppression.

Radical Inclusivity

Margot: At Glide today I was on the floor for the first time. It was packed with folks eating breakfast and I was one of the many people in charge or taking trays, wiping the table, and making sure beverages were available. I was wiping up a spot and said good morning the the person eating their breakfast right next to it. He said good morning and asked how I was. I asked as well and he said in an a very vulnerable and genuine way something like "I'm doing a lot better now that I have talked to you. I just needed a smiling face. I feel better now." While I know that folks experiencing homelessness often struggle by not being seen, not being interacted with, treated like they are not human, it was striking to hear it from a person directly. I didn't say anything profound, just good morning, and it affected him in a way that caught me off guard. A few minutes later I was back to busily busing trays and he waved me over and asked "Is there a way I can get seconds?" This is one of the many ways that Glide's "radical inclusiveness" policy really impresses me because he could get seconds, he could even get thirds if he wanted! I let him know how to get another meal (just walk back through the line) and there was an instant look of relief on his face. He was so grateful and genuine. This will stay with me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Meat Juice, Gloves, and Cabbage Reunions

(Apology for the late post; we had some severe technical difficulties. This happened yesterday.)

The day began with a battle. The hostel kitchen was the field upon which the soldiers vied for territory and food, often turning against their comrades for the upper hand.

We’d forgotten--until the last minute--that we needed to pack lunches today.

Lunches packed, battle cries silenced, and wounds (on our egos) tended, we ventured out into the is-it-gonna-rain-is-it-not-oh-I-guess-it-is city of San Francisco, to La Casa de las Madres, a non-profit organization. From their website:

The mission of La Casa de las Madres is to respond to calls for help from domestic violence victims, of all ages, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We give survivors the tools to transform their lives. We seek to prevent future violence by educating the community and by redefining public perceptions about domestic violence.

After a discussion about domestic violence, the myths surrounding it, and ways to help if we find ourselves in/witness a situation, we made lunch for the few dozen women living there. Normally, allowing a dozen college-age students loose in a kitchen and asking them to make something more complicated than Cheerios or ramen noodles is a bad idea (and I say this as a college student). But we had Margot there to supervise in case we started any fires (and to carry the boiling pasta to the strainer with Tim; shoutout to both for not getting scalded). Though we did end up with an over-abundance of chopped mushrooms. I think we leveled three farms’ worth of mushrooms.

During clean-up, we had a problem. We’d cooked up some beef for the red sauce, but had a boatload of grease to clean up. Grease is tricky; you don’t want to just toss it in the sink or the garbage, because, you know, fire hazard. There were no disposable bowls or cups (they’d all been used to serve the women)...but there were gloves (idea copyright by Genevieve). Turns out, they make for pretty good disposable meat-juice packages (our vegetarian Madison was not amused).

We’d just made sure all the women were fed and were thinking about grabbing our hard-earned bagged lunches for ourselves, when they invited us to have some spaghetti.

Well, fresh spaghetti and sauce beats a squished ham sandwich any day of the week. We happily agreed, and spent the lunch talking with some truly amazing women. (Some of us gave our bagged lunches to people experiencing homelessness on the way back to the hostel, so it wouldn’t go to waste.)

After La Casa de las Madres, we had almost two hours of free time. Two hours for us to do whatever we wanted in the Bay Area, on a gorgeous day, surrounded by new people.

We napped.

It was a very good nap.

And then we went to back to Glide (see previous post; it’s an organization tackling poverty and marginalization for all people) to serve dinner. Margot and Steven were reunited with their cabbages, having been cooked and spiced since being chopped. In the hour and a half we had until the doors closed, we served “five hundred something something” people (from the official report of Lauren, our student leader).

Then we had hamburgers (and veggie burgers), cooked by Tim, Madison and Ellen. Then reflection, where we reflected on domestic violence, homelessness, and the various uses of plastic gloves. Then we went to bed.

That’s it. That’s all we got. Thanks for reading. :)

Buses, Rainbows, and Volunteering...Oh My!

Hey guys! We just finished our third day of service and exploring San Fran! We went to the Castro District—which is considered the gay capital of the U.S. The whole area was covered in rainbows! It was cool to see different places that were prevalent to Queer history in San Francisco. We had the opportunity to go to the Human Rights Campaign shop and buy some sweet HRC stuff! Then we went to the Mission District and explored some more. The street art was beautiful and we took many, many pictures. Although we had a fun time in Castro and the Mission District, we noticed how gentrification had effected these neighborhoods. We ran into a person who worked for a local non-profit who referred to the Mission district as the “former mission district” because it had been so gentrified.  We noticed that there were a lot of shops that appealed to tourists with disposable income rather than the original communities. In our group we discussed how big companies have moved into these Queer neighborhoods because it’s “trendy,” which have pushed some of the queer residents out of the neighborhoods. We also compared these high-end neighborhoods with the Tenderloin district, which is where we’re staying. There are huge socio-economic disparities within the city of San Francisco which is something that many of us have discovered within our time here.

After exploring, we had the opportunity to volunteer with SFWAR, an organization that helps mainly women of color who have experienced sexual violence and helps to prevent future sexual violence within the city of San Francisco. We put up flyers that promoted SFWAR’s upcoming walk against rape. We split into different groups that traveled to different areas of the city to put up flyers. Some of us got lost…but we all made it back to the hostel.

We’re looking forward to continue exploring the city. We’re returning to the Castro district to go to the GLBT museum on Friday. We’re also returning to Hot Cookie to get some nice genitalia-shaped macaroons. :D

Tune back in tomorrow to hear more about our adventures!

Till next time,

Moira, Megan, and Mel

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Crossing the Treacherous Tenderloin River Full of Magical Vultures and Blinding Narwhals!

We started our first day of service at GLIDE an organization dedicated to "creating a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization." Some of us were in the cafeteria serving meals to people, other people were in a smaller more accessible cafeteria, and others were doing meal prep by chopping cabbages and potatoes. Margot and I (Steven) were cabbage cutting buddies, and we managed to cut up to 7 bins full of cabbages while Genevieve and Moira cut up to 15-20 bags of potatoes. We worked with other volunteers to provide meals to 637 people! We'll also be serving at GLIDE for the dinner and breakfast shifts later this week and will provide pictures soon.

After our shift with GLIDE, we went grocery shopping in Japan Town in their Safeway. We went up the hills and saw a distinct difference between how the Tenderloin, where we're staying, and Japan Town look. This led to a conversation on gentrification in San Francisco as well as gentrification in Saint Paul.

A view while walking to Safeway
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We also did some group bonding with a blanket drop "name game" where we divided up the group and dropped a blanket and people on opposing sides needed to guess the other person's name quicker or get subsumed into the opposing group.

But the other fun part before reflection was our "River Crossing" game where the group needed to get across part of the living room in our hostel by only using six pieces of paper for ten people. But of course the river was treacherous, acidic, and also made out of lava. Group members also had to remain on the pieces of paper (rafts) or else they got swept away and melted in the river. Paul the angry Narwhal also slapped Maddie across the face, blinding her, so they needed to guide her across. A magical vulture also came and screeched at everyone deafening them so they couldn't communicate. The group managed to work together despite these odds, reaching the end of the river.

We then finished the day with reflection on GLIDE, grocery shopping, and on the difference between dialogue and debate. Overall, it was a fun day and we hope to continue with service at La Casa de Las Madres in the afternoon and then a GLIDE dinner shift tomorrow.

Stay tune for more and make sure to not get slapped by Paul the angry Narwhal.

Paul, he's quite angry

Here's where we're staying: at Hosteling International in the Tenderloin District

RAINED ON OUR PARADE - DAY 1 + one second video!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We landed in San Fransisco late Saturday night and checked into our super cool hostel. There are TONS of international travelers here; english is definitely the least common language in the building. After arriving we were absolutely starving so we headed out to explore the city and find some good food. Just a few blocks from our hostel was a DELICIOUS Thai restaurant where everything on the menu was pretty much under $10. We ate, we laughed, we struggled to split the check, it was a good time, even though it was 1:22 am Minnesota time while we were eating.

Going out to eat so late made our 7 am arrival time at our first volunteer stop really rough. Luckily, the staff at Glide were awesome. Glide provides meals, shelter, and services to people experiencing homeless in the SF area. There we served meals and met a lot of really awesome people. Everyone agreed that we heard the phrases "thank you" and "I'm so grateful" over and over.

After a few hours of volunteering we did our grocery shopping, ate lunch, relaxed a bit, then began reflecting on our day. We did some team builders and then some people did a walk-and-talk around the neighborhood. Those of us who didn't feel up to walking in the rain, decided to stay in our cozy hostel and drink some FREE COFFEE/TEA.

Oh yeah, it's been a super cloudy/rainy day :( it's supposed to be sunny later this week so we can't wait for that!!

After our walks-and-talks we did our "official reflection" of the day. We discussed some really enlightening concepts like gentrification (in both the Midway neighborhood and San Francisco), definitions necessary to have further discussions about social justice, and the differences between dialogue and debates.

Now were waiting for dinner to be ready and excited to explore more of the city tonight!!!

- Ellen, Tim, Madison

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Welcome Humans to San Francisco-- Steven and Lauren!

We have officially made it through security and are waiting to board our plane to San Francisco! This trip will be focusing on queer communities in San Francisco and the social challenges they face. We're volunteering with a handful of GREAT! organizations surrounding this topic and other issues like homelessness, women's rights, and gentrification. Everyone on our trip will also be posting about the trip each day. For instance, tomorrow we will be working at GLIDE and getting to know the city. We're very excited for the trip and stay tuned for our posts each night!