Spring Break in Biloxi, MS (Part 1)

A blog written on a crowded coach bus somewhere in Alabama

As I feverishly finished up my two digital lab reports for Chemistry 2550 amidst the warm glow of a desk lamp, the departure time for my first ever Buck-i-Serv trip grew closer and closer, like the sunrise. It was 2:30 am, Jaimee and I went to Condado earlier in the evening for some out-of-this-world tacos, chips, queso and guac, and the nervous sweat began to gather under my armpits as this impeding experience was new and exciting. My two co-trip-leaders, Emily and Victoria and I will be leading a crew of 49 OSU undergrads through a week of thoughtful service on the Gulf Coast. A substantial source of my anxieties was this bus ride. My experience with large group bus trips to the South has been rather lackluster.

During spring break of my junior year of high school, our marching band had the privilege of marching in a parade at Walt Disney World — something truly special that I will never ever forget (I may or may not have been v emotional when the gates opened from backstage and the realization of parading at DISNEY WORLD came to fruition). Anyways, despite an unforgettable trip back then, an unforgettably terrible drive was so unfortunately also included. “Define terrible, Zach.” Well, here’s the quick synopsis: (1) one of the bus’s tires literally blew up and we were stranded on the side of the freeway for copious hour, a window on my bus fell out, and the other bus got stuck in some mud. So, needless to say, when I boarded this coach earlier this morning, I was praying for an easy cruise *knocks on wood*

I am simply ecstatic to begin this journey, to seize this week to learn about the region, about service. I knowingly hold some (most like false) conceptions of the South, and I am eager to arrive with a mind as open as the hills we’re whizzing through now. I can only hope all of our participants hold a similar mindset. Tomorrow, we travel to New Orleans, a city rich with culture, vibrancy, resilience, history, food and music. I can’t believe that I’m finally going — NOLA is a place that I’ve only read about. I’m envisioning myself casually munching a beignet and sipping a café au lait at Café du Monde in the French Quarter. I’m always open to new experiences, but I never doubt a city that makes room for music and art.

As for the overall purpose of travelling nearly 20 hours on this bus — the service — the opportunity to serve communities affected by Hurricane Katrina even after 10 years of inspiring rebuilding, means the world to me. The folks who braved this weather event, a storm that didn’t discriminate on the basis of race or region, can teach our group so much. This area is so unique in that the storm is what stemmed much of the poverty and homelessness, the storm — innate and random — is to blame for systemic obstacles facing the people, even after a decade.

So, as I rub the all-nighter sleepiness from my eyes and run my fingers through my freshly-cut hair, I can’t do anything but eagerly look ahead. Nothing really matters this week other than what our team can accomplish and learn from the folks and service in Biloxi. I am looking forward to our reflection circles and discussion topics, to processing what it means to serve, to find mutual empowerment, to find the true purpose of Buck-i-Serv. I am trying to keep my head up and my mind focused. Well, it looks like we’re stopping for a late lunch on this rainy afternoon somewhere outside Montgomery. I’ll be sure to update you all on the way back home to Columbus.

In the meantime, take time this week to do the things that you love; connect or reconnect with humans in your life who you cherish, write a letter to a friend. Reach out to others in an effort to hear their narrative and learn from it, and I’ll promise to do the same.

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