Friday, April 24, 2009

Adventures in Appalachia-Part Three

Part One is here. Part Two is here.

The Missionary Apartment.

It was nicely furnished inside, but Steve and I called dibbs on two twin beds and quickly fell asleep, holding hands between the beds. Later, our traveling companions came in to hug us goodbye, but I only remember this vaguely. I was still in dreamland.

At some point during our extended sleep fest, some workers from the school's kitchen came to visit. They knocked. No answer. They opened the door and cautiously came in. Startled at seeing us sprawled out in the twin beds, they quietly left food and drink in the tiny kitchen and crept out again.

We woke to find sweet tea (blech!) and some sort of meal which we wolfed down. We had no idea how the food had arrived and we didn't care. These people could have been cannibals or axe murderers and we still would have eaten their food. My Michigan co-workers had given me a huge basket of granola bars, hot cocoa mix, fruits and other treats as a going away present and so we devoured that, too.

That day was orientation. Steven. Left. Me. Alone. In a new place, knowing no one, with horrible cramps and worse homesickness, I was left. Later that day, they were finally able to plow the road to our housing area. Hemlock Heights, better known as Honeymoon Hill, due to all the people there being couples without children. Driving up to the little duplex, I noticed a note in the tape deck. It was from Becky, "Cheer up, Sarah, it's only for four years!" I cried, but later. Later I would curl up on my unmade bed and bawl like a heartbroken child.

For now, it was time to unpack.

There were six duplexes arranged in a U-shape. We were at the base of the U. Every couple there came out to help us move in. I really need to repeat that. Every couple came out. A woman who was eight months pregnant was lugging and carrying along with everybody else. Due to this abundant help, we were unloaded in no time. Steven headed out with a new friend to drop off the moving van and I started to put things in their new homes.

Steven started classes. He came home every afternoon and told me what he'd learned. We made friends with the people on the Hill. Christina loved to tease me for my northern accent and I'd try my best to sound more Southern. She was from Georgia and her husband from Mississippi. The couple sharing our duplex was Moses (yes, Moses, at a Bible college) from Africa and his wife, whose name escapes me.

Michelle (the pregnant lady) was leaving her job at the Kitchen and asked me if I wanted it. She'd put in a good word if I was interested. Heck yeah, I'm interested! We'd burned through our meager savings and were getting a little desperate for cash.

I started as a cleaning woman. I'd come in as the day shift was finishing serving lunch and clean up their mess. I was pretty good, if I do say so myself. The head kitchen lady, Barb, would always comment on how thorough I was. Before too long, I was cooking the evening meal in addition to my cleaning duties. More hours, more money. ($5.15 an hour is nothing to sneeze at, especially when I could take home dinner to Steven for free.) The guys at Kelly Hall loved me. If I'd prepared too much food, I'd let them take it back to their apartments for later.

Steven started working on the mowing crew. They'd mow (yup), shovel snow, keep up the grounds and whatever other heavy lifting jobs they could come up with. Including killing baby bunnies (accidentally, or so they say) and letting the black snakes live (they eat baby bunnies, dontchaknow).

When the weather got nice, I'd walk to work. About ten minutes of walking while staring, enamored, at the surrounding mountains. Often I didn't pay attention to my immediate surroundings. On such a day, I caught a glimpse of something brown and scaly slithering away. Had I almost stepped on a copperhead? Yes, folks, yes. I trotted the rest of the way to work and kept my eyes on the ground after that.

The end of my journey took me behind Kelly Hall and along the banks of Clear Creek. One day, I saw a duck in the middle of the creek. It didn't move. The next day it was there again. And the next...
picture is Kelly Hall (borrowed from the official website), which was the men's dorm when we lived there. It also contained the school's kitchen and a huge, gorgeous banquet hall, used for everyday eating and often for weddings, meetings and other community events.


Suldog said...

This is really cool slice-of-life stuff. Thanks for sharing. And I look forward to hearing the duck story.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Thanks for the comment on the Ambulance fiasco - should have mentioned someone did a Tarzan noise as well!. Got to dash right now but I'll try to return tonight to have a read - struggling with a love story conclusion right now. CU Eddie

Janet said...

Ah, black snakes and copperheads. I, too, am both anxious for and afraid of the duck story.