Saturday, Day 13: Brush and Gutter Cleanup and Fish-Fry/Chili-Off

DSC_1497Today is a big day in the community. We are hosting the Fellowship Fish-Fry at the church hall and have formed two groups to make chili for the event. One group made a Vegan Chili and the other group made a Beef Chili. While these two groups worked on the chili, another group went to go clean-up some brush with Mike, Val and Flowers. Two students also worked on cleaning the gutters at the church hall where we are staying.

Noon came and members of the community began arriving with cakes to contribute for the event. We also got some chicken wings to share. Community members also contributed fried fish, beans, and fries. The fish was fried on the premises in a deep-fryer by Flowers and was amazing. Our Vegan Chili, believe it or not, was also a big hit and won the cook-off, though I must say this group did have an advantage over the Beef Chili group who unfortunately had burned their batch, forgetting to stir the pot. It was great to mingle with members of the community and share stories.

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Brush and Gutter Clean-up

OMG! Today is Saturday! Finally! We got up at 7:30am and after brushing our teeth, we ate bagels, fruit and cereal. After having breakfast, I got the option to help with brush cleanup with Flowers. We drove the car to a place with a huge amount of branches near the road. So we got on our gloves and moved the branches to another place because we don’t want the branches to block the road to the small forest. We took away all the branches in an hour. After moving all the branches, my fingers were hurting. I think it’s a meaningful thing and we should help each other when someone needs some help. For me, it is great that I got the option and decided fast. In my future, I should help more people and give them a lot of support!

DSC_1468Then, I came back home and saw other people were working on preparing two types of chili for the Fish-Fry this afternoon. But, I felt so exhausted, so I decided to go to sleep in my room. When I got up, I saw a lot of people were having lunch now! My friends didn’t wake me up and I felt so sad. The chili and friend chicken wings had gone! So, I had fried fish and French fries! I really had a good meal and I felt so good. Then we decided to play basketball after lunch. We really had a good time. I hope I will have a good dream.

~ Yinru (Jason) S.

Fish Fry/Chili-Off

I slept until eight this morning. Sara still didn’t feel well. I didn’t have the chance to eat breakfast. But, a member from the local community gave me a piece of cornbread that he was preparing in our kitchen this morning. Then, Sara and I started to prepare for the community chili meal. Our group assignment is vegetarian chili. We did okay. Bob came back after clearing the branches and told me a lot of interesting stories about his family, about his past and about himself.

DSC_1481Before lunch with the community, I played the piano and a young boy came to me and wanted me to teach him. I believe that his name was Santana. He is so funny. He told me about his school, his friends and his life in Turkey Creek. As the conversation got further, I shared my experience in a hurricane in Pusan, and he shared his in Turkey Creek. He told me how he got in a fight with the rest of the boys. I missed my younger brother. Then, Santana, Jaileen and a little girl, and I played table games. In the afternoon, I played basketball with all the boys.

Later this afternoon, I finally got my phone. I found that I got accepted into Brown Summer School. My younger brother Milo Zhao just celebrated his 5th birthday along with my father. I love them.

~ Yingqi (Ingrid) Z.

DSC_1465Let me call this day a kitchen day because we almost spend ¾ of the day sting in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. Today is a big day for all of us because we serve chili for all the people in this community that we prepared. Although the meat chili was burned, the vegetarian chili was so popular that people enjoy even the last bit of that. To my surprise, I found that there are vegetarian sausages in the world. It is amazing because it looks like sausage, but tastes like something that I never tasted before. I felt so strange about the function and the purpose of such sausages. If you really want to eat something that tastes like sausage, why not just eat meat sausages? If you do want to eat healthy food, such as vegetarian food, please do not eat anything that even looks like sausage.

DSC_1510I was one of the students serving food to others. I never felt so good about doing such things. The action of serving impresses me so much that I probably will never forget about it. I received not only the big smiles from others, but also the personal growth that I did not expect. Although I even could not eat any chili due to the huge population in this community, I knew that everyone enjoyed it. I could not remember how many times I received a “thank you” from others. Today is just a wonderful day.

I wait to go fishing again later that day. Mike and Mr. Drossel taught me how to put worms on the hook. Although I did several fishing trips before, I never put the worms on it by myself. The juice that the worms spill out really makes me sick. However, I know that it is an important skill that I have to learn to prepare for the special situation that needs fishing. Think about what if I was lost on an island and have to get something to eat. Maybe fishing could be the best way to find a source of food. Well, unfortunately, no fish was hooked. My thought for today: I need more patience.

~ Bolin Y.

Friday, Day 12: Drywall, Drywall, Drywall

SONY DSCOur entire group worked together at the blue house today and we were busy all day. Mike was working with some of the students on mudding the drywall and sanding, while Mr. Drossel worked on installing drywall in the fourth room of the house with another group of students. We are amazed at the progress that is being made! It is great that in a couple of weeks we have gained the skills to work cooperatively together to install the amount of drywall that we have.

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Kitchen Crew

DSC_1219We work in the kitchen everyday to make breakfast and dinner. We follow a system called “home base crew.” There are 4 groups of two or three of us. There is a calendar in the kitchen to remind us what days we are responsible for in the kitchen. If you have home base crew the next day, you have to be awake and ready to make breakfast thirty minutes before everyone else.

We usually make breakfast like pancakes, eggs, toast, or smoothies with cold cereal. We usually start dinner at around 6:30 or 7 depending on the day and normally have healthy meals with vegetables and meat.

Cooking in the kitchen is a good chance for us to get to know the people on our crews and also we are helping which makes everything go much quicker than if it was one person. For example, one person can cut vegetables while another person is cooking meat and someone is doing dishes. We also make salads, pasta, etc.

DSC_1466After dinner, everyone clears his/her own plate and washes it in the sink. There are three connected sinks. In the first one, we rinse our dishes, the second one is hot and soapy water to scrub the dishes with and the last sink is a cold-water soak with half a cop of bleach to kill bacteria. We let the dishes soak for thirty seconds each. Whoever is on the home base crew for that day would follow the same system to clean anything that we used to cook. They would also clean the kitchen. Working in the kitchen is usually fun (until we have to clean) and it gives us a responsibility.

~ Chloe M.

Please view our photo gallery for Kitchen Crew

Personal Reflection

DSC_1293Last Sunday, we went to the day-shelter where homeless people can come and eat, get clothes and just hang out and communicate with other people. We went there to help with serving food. I heard a lot of stories how other people became homeless and what they have to go through everyday. I felt so badly for them but they are adults and if they want, they can change their lives.

But, then I saw some other people and I was so surprised and it really bothered me. I am talking about three kids who came to the shelter when we were there. Judy who is the boss there, takes care of these kids because their mother doesn’t work and they don’t have a father. Therefore, Judy is the only person who takes care of them. These kids come to the shelter every day and help there. She feeds them and gives them clothes. I feel so badly for these kids because it isn’t their fault that they were born into that family. They can’t get a good education and won’t be able to get good job in the future. I was born in a full family where my both parents work and take care of my little brother and me. Therefore, I can get everything that I want if I ask my parents. But, these little kids don’t even have proper food everyday. This situation makes me appreciate everything that I have. I have such great parents and I should be so grateful that I have them.

DSC_1231Gratitude is the greatest virtue and especially with such trip as Mississippi: it helps me learn what gratitude is and what it mean to be grateful. In some countries, people do not have clean water every day and they eat maybe once every few days. I can drink clean water whenever I want and eat at least three times a day and it’s not a privilege for me. People have to carry gratitude in their hearts every day. Sometimes I forget what it means to be grateful and the experience I had in Mississippi will always be a great reminder for me.

~ Liliya M.

Thursday, Day 11: Drywall, Painting at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Seashore Mission

DSC_1382Today was another productive day at the blue house with one group of students; so great to see the progress each day. Our second group of students, headed to Biloxi to paint two rooms at Mount Pleasant’s sister church: St. Paul’s United Methodist church, a classroom and the kitchen. We plan on returning on Monday to finish a second coat on both rooms. After we finished our painting for the day, the second group headed to the Seashore Mission to serve high tea to the homeless people that came to the mission for the day. Special dinner was prepared for us all today back at the house: a great pasta dish that Mr. Drossel’s wife makes with pasta, alfredo and tomato sauces and sausage mixed together and baked in the oven. It was delicious and enjoyed by all!

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Painting at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church

DSC_1410Today is pretty different from any other day because Jason, Johnny, Bob and I went to paint at the sister church of the church we are staying at. I went there to paint walls. I enjoy painting a lot. Today’s breakfast is all pretty good. We ate bacon and toast. Also, the scrambled eggs are pretty good when I put some soy sauce on the eggs. I enjoyed breakfast.

I went to the painting place and we started rolling the roll for painting walls. We love painting the wall instead of staying in the house for every day. We started painting in one of the rooms with a roller on the wall. We put paper on the floor under the wall while we were painting because we’re afraid of the paint drops that are gonna drop onto the floor and it’s relly hard for us to clean it up. After finishing the wall, we went to the kitchen to have lunch. Sandwiches, surprise, that we made in the morning. After eating lunch, we started to use brushes to paint the walls in the kitchen. In the afternoon, we went to the mission and cooked and served food for the homeless. We’re all willing to help these people. It’s a wonderful day and I enjoyed it.

~ Chengzhi (Martin) M.

Seashore Mission

DSC_1424It’s a very unique experience to help at the mission. It’s been a great honor to serve and talk to the homeless people. I was really shocked that in the US there are certain places that will offer food and drink for homeless people. This is a great idea to input in China. There are many homeless people in China and we do not have any charity organization for them. This experience influenced my perspective on life and homeless people since I surprisingly found out that homeless people are nice, grateful and friendly to us.

~ Hainiu (Johnny) X.

Photo Gallery Link for Day 11

Wednesday, Day 10: Drywall, Science Lab, Dinner

DSC_1046For today’s workday, a group of seven students continued work in the blue house with Mike and Mr. Drossel while a second group headed back to the school to finish inventory of the supplies in Ms. Carter’s science lab. It was so great to finish the inventory for Ms. Carter; she was so happy about it and now can hopefully make better use of what she has and knows what she needs. A second local news station, WLOX News 13, an ABC affiliate, interviewed our group about our work here in Gulfport, MS. In the evening, we had a great, local treat for dinner: red beans and rice, prepared by Therosine, a lovely woman who resides in the community here. She, her husband Warren, Al and Flowers joined us for dinner.

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Personal Reflection

DSC_1080Instead of talking about what I did today, I want to talk about what I learned. Today’s activities were very mundane (cleaning the science room), so I figured that cultural topics would be more interesting. Something I learned today that really struck me and is something that I love about this town is that everyday Flowers and Warren (two members of the Turkey Creek community) sit out on the front lawn with their friends. In the winter, they sit on Warren’s lawn because the sun shines there, and it keeps them warm. But in the summer, they sit on Flower’s lawn because his house blocks the sun and keeps them cool. First of all, I love that the two brothers live close enough to be able to do that. And secondly I love that they do it everyday without fail. When we come home from work, they are always there talking and laughing, and they wave at us when we go by. Also, Vallee told me that not only have Flowers and Warren been doing it forever, but their mother did it too. I think that just a cool piece of Turkey Creek that makes this town truly unique.

~ Sara S.
Turkey Creek, MS

Tuesday, Day 9: Drywall, Painting

DSC09065Basically the same plan as yesterday. We had two groups: one to the blue house to work on hanging more drywall and mudding, and the other to the Audubon society to finish the paint job we were assigned. The work was productive and satisfying. A local news station, WXXV Fox/NBC News 25 came to interview the students about their work at the Land Trust blue house mid-day, very exciting (link to story here). During the afternoon free time, students went either fishing or played basketball.

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Drywall at the Blue House Update

DSC_1167We woke up early to prepare for an interview with a local television news station at 11:30. I hated the breakfast today, but Mr. Drossel brought us doughnuts. I worked in the blue house today. My first job was to sand the wall with Martin. There were ashes all over my clothes again. The laundry day is after Wednesday. How should I wear dirty clothes until the end of this week?

Then, the interviewer came. I was the last one to be interviewed. I didn’t prepare ahead of time, but she didn’t ask anything strange. Sara and Bolin didn’t bring their lunches with them. I felt bad for Sara. The rest of us were speaking Chinese and she was excluded from the conversation. I should find some topic to talk with Sara, but I just couldn’t. Martin, Bolin and I talked about college during the lunch break. I hope that Bolin can go to the school he dreams of.

After lunch, I helped Mike and Sara to put the mud on the sheetrock. The feeling of standing on the table above ground made me sick. But, I did kinda okay. Today I felt like knowing Bolin better.

DSC09089After work, Mike, Martin, Bob, Jason, Johnny and I played a 3-on-3-basketball game. It’s Bob’s first time playing basketball and he did a great job defending me. Jason’s basketball skill amazed me. Martin’s eagerness to go to a good college also amazed me. I’m getting to know them better and better.

~ Yingqi (Ingrid) Z.

Painting at Audubon Center

DSC_1334We changed to a totally different job today. Instead of working in the same blue house, I went to another great place to work on painting. At first I did not want to go to do painting since all my friends were working
at the blue house and I wanted to finish our job. However, after, when got to the place we worked, I found out that painting could also be challenging and interesting. It is also a great job to work and a great experience to learn. I really thought that I would learn the entire procedure of building houses so that I could build a new house later in my life.

During the painting, I need to stand up on the ladder to paint. The first layer is white paint, which is to protect the walls (primer). The second one is the real colorful one to me. It might seem that painting does not take too much effort, but it really is hard work: we worked in the morning to 3:30pm. I was so tired that I fell asleep while coming back.

When we came back, we played basketball; it really took the last piece of strength in my body. I am so tired!

~ Guorui (Bob) X.

Drywall Update and Afternoon Activity: Fishing

DSC09060Guess what? There was a television interview for us today, so we got up earlier than before to prepare everything for the interview. To be honest, I have never been on a TV before. Although I don’t know the reason they want to interview us, I still feel excited about it.

After eating eggs and cereal for breakfast, we split into two groups: one group went to the Audubon society to paint and the other group went back to the house to work. I am in the group that works at the house on the drywall. Today, we had to sand the pieces of drywall that we mudded yesterday. Then, we put a “coat” on it again for the next mudding and sanding. The purpose of sanding is to make the wall smooth and look nice. I have to say that mudding is a really terrible job because it is really easy to get the mud on your fingers and it is not easy to cover the corners on the wall. It was a big pain, but I really enjoy the feeling of getting busy. It is my first time to realize that it is really hard to get a job: 9 hours of hard work would only provide a low-paid job and there would be a lot of people competing for this job. I have to say that life is not easy.

DSC09103In the afternoon, we went fishing to unwind ourselves from working a little bit. I really enjoy fishing since the first time I did it five years ago. I believe that the goal of fishing is not to really get some fish for the result, but to calm our hearts down a little bit from the noisy, industrialized world. The time for waiting for the fish to be caught is the time we can talk to our heart and to meditate ourselves. What I learn from fishing is that we need to be patient here to face everything happening in life, otherwise whatever you do would not be with you and you may not realize your dreams. Chloe caught a little fish and said that she was sad about catching it. Although I don’t know the reason why she felt that way, I respect her attitude and thinking about the fish and maybe the life. The whole part fishing was really fun thought I did not get a fish. Mexican food is ready. Let us have the meal for the wonderful day.

~ Bolin Y.

Monday, Day 8: Drywall, Painting at Audubon Society, Mission work

DSC_1096Our first work group of 5 students went to work on construction at blue house today. Some of these students learned how to mud drywall, while others continued to hang more in another room. It is exciting to see the progress that is being made. Our second work group headed to the Pascagoula Audubon Society’s new construction site to paint a former boy scout cabin that they are going to use as a bird watching station.

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Drywall at the Blue House Update

DSC_1072We kept working on our blue house construction today. Even though we worked on the same thing, I learned different things other than cutting boards and measuring. The most new experience for us today is learning how to mud the drywall. Since there were always small mistakes and broken posts on the drywall, we have to learn how to mud so that when we put the real walls on it would look flat.

At first, mudding seems very easy for me because these are only two movements I need to in the process: putting mud on wall and cleaning the mud that is too much for one place. However mudding is much harder than what I thought it was. I need to find the right angle and the correct strength to make sure the mud covered the screw while I DSC_1179cleaned the part that I do not need. After practicing for more than one hundred times, I finally got the real tips of mudding and I could continue to work.

We are working really effectively up to now since we almost finished two rooms. I do believe we can finish the entire house before leaving.

~ Guorui (Bob) X.

Painting at the Audubon Center

DSC_1334Today’s adventures sent us to a town near Ocean Springs. We went to one of the Audubon Society’s locations, where they are building an office building and a bird watching center. We did not get a tour today of the office building because today was a dangerous day for construction, but we were promised a tour for tomorrow.

We headed behind the big building to the small cabin-like building where we started our job of painting. We laid out plastic sheets so that we would not get paint on the floor of the porch. Then, we were handed two paint buckets (both Audubon green) and began our work. Vallee instructed us on the cleanest and most efficient ways to paint. We ended up painting for more than two hours straight with no breaks. We managed to do a large percentage of all the work that needed to be done. It was a very satisfying day; we felt like we really accomplished something. I look forward to similar work tomorrow.

~ Sara S.


Sunday, Day 7: Church Service, Hike and Helping at the Mission

DSC08973Sunday is another day of relaxation, beginning with a service in the morning at the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church. All of us were amazed at how welcoming the community was with respect to each other and to us. In the afternoon, one group of students enjoyed a hike at Shepard State Park near Biloxi with Mike and Mr. Drossel. Vallee and Mrs. Hanrahan took a second group to the Seashore Mission in Biloxi to help Judy, the owner and pastor, serve high tea to the homeless of the area at her day shelter. In honor of Mr. Drossel’s birthday we enjoyed grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for dinner. It was a great day.

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Church Service

On Sunday morning after having a delicious breakfast our group went to the United Methodist Church. Every Sunday, people who live in Turkey Creek come to the church to take part in the service. The service started with people who come to each other and they were talking and hugging each other. I think it was a great beginning that brought such a friendly atmosphere. When I introduced myself to other people because I was new to this community, I felt so good about it and I felt like I knew these people for years.

DSC08987Then, the service started and special people were singing on the stage and I was actually singing with them. Then a woman was explaining her life story and she told how she appreciated that God exists in her life. After that, everybody prayed together. Everybody was praying as a big family. The people were just sharing their thoughts and I really enjoyed it because it was so cool to listen to people’s stories. Also, in the end of the service, a really nice woman gave me a postcard that said: “Happy Birthday” on it and it was really great to get it and it was awesome to know that people actually remembered about you.

I really was into this service because I have already participated in such an event in Russia and it was really interesting to hear how people were praying in English. Another interesting thing that I noticed was that people were raising their hands while they were praying and people do the same action in Russia too. The purpose of raising hands is to be closer to God; I really liked that experience that I had because it showed how religion is the same everywhere and I would love to visit a service again.

~ Liliya M.

Hike at Shepard State Park, Gautier

DSC09027On Sunday, “OMG” it’s Drossel’s 63rd Birthday! So Mike planned to hike at the National Park to celebrate. After driving 1 hour to the park, we felt so excited and started hiking with Mike, Drossel, Johnny, Ingrid and Bolin. During the hike, we found a lot of new plants and insects that we never saw before. During the hike, Bolin was so funny because when I threw up the pinecones, he was like “Wow! It came down from the tree!” I started laughing and playing tricks on him. We really had fun. After we hiked about 30 minutes, we started going back because we were going to have a barbecue at our house. I felt so tired and 7 people in the car means that I do not have enough space for a seat. I really felt uncomfortable! After we arrived at the house, Drossel set up the grill and we had cheeseburgers and hot dogs at dinnertime. Of course, we had the birthday cake together too! Happy Birthday, Mr. Drossel! I really had fun with you guys!

~ Yinru (Jason) S.

Seashore Mission, Biloxi

DSC_1290Going to the Seashore Mission was such an inspiring experience. Seashore Mission is a day shelter where homeless people are welcome to have a free, hot meal. Breakfast and a meal between lunch and dinner is served, called “High Tea”. They also have showers, toiletries, clothes, shoes, etc. available for the people. We went in a group of four to help the manager of Seashore Mission to cook and serve. We have gone twice. The first time, we met the manager, Judy. Judy is a very amazing person with a huge heart. Not only does she feed these people and provide for them, but also she cares and loves them as if they were her second family. We helped to prepare some food and served it to the people. The first time we were there, we served spaghetti, carrots, garlic bread, spinach rolls and doughnuts. Everyone we served was very sweet and thankful for us helping out. We went again and served. Being here doing anything at all feels good. It’s a great feeling to know you can help someone in need, like Judy does for a living.

~ Chloe M.