Friday, July 11, 2014

Settled Enough to Do Things

The previous blog post ended with the beginning of the Freedom Summer 50th Conference, and that's where this one will pick up.

Except not actually. I realized that I should give a brief update update work. I know which communities I'm going to be working with this year, and when I'm going to be going to each!

View Klionsky 2014-2015 Communities in a larger map 

So. I'll be working with Dothan, AL; Shreveport, LA; Lynchburg, VA; Williamsburg, VA; San Antonio, TX; and Houston; TX. Quite a spread!. My travel dates are: 7/22-26; 8/6-9; 8/12-20--I'll be going to each of my communities, but also tagging along on some of the other fellows' visits for extra practice.

And now back to Mississippi and Freedom Summer. 
Bob Moses and Marian Edelman Wright spoke about contemporary challenges to civil rights at one of the conference's morning sessions.
SNCC co-founder Julian Bond, sitting a few rows ahead of me and probably texting someone really important. This was during the "roll-call" of Freedom Summer veterans, each of whom was given a minute (loosely defined) to say where s/he had worked doing freedom summer and what work s/he is doing now. Very cool to see that lots are still involved in civil rights, education, and equal-access work 50 years later! 

The conference was hosted at Tougaloo College, a historically black college just north of the Jackson city limits. The school is old--it was founded just after the Civil War--and I was a little surprised by how how similar the building interiors looked like the interiors of big high schools I've been too, rather than colleges. To be fair, I was only inside the large gym, where the plenary sessions were held, and what seems to be a lecture hall, there were no (built-in) chairs in the room and there was a built-in stage.
I was excited to stumble upon a fig tree on the campus! I'm pretty sure no one will mind if I check back every now and then to see if they're ripe... There's also a community garden run off the campus, and another at the park a couple blocks from my house. I've started going to the workdays and it's nice to spend some time outside getting a little dirty and eating fresh, crispy cucumbers!

When I first got to Mississippi, I noticed that there was an interesting-looking exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art called This Light of Ours, a collection of photographs from Freedom Summer in 1964. I also remembered noticing that the cover article of the June Princeton Alumni Weekly was something about Mississippi and Freedom Summer. So I took a look, and it turned out that the article was about Matt Herron '53....who is not just a photographer who came down to Mississippi in 1964, but in fact one of the photographers whose work is in the This Light of Ours exhibit and moreover, is the curator of the exhibit! Many of the iconic photographs from that summer are his.
If Princeton taught me anything, it was to take full advantage of the alumni network. So the first thing I did when I made the connection was send Matt and email asking if, by chance, he'd be down in Mississippi (he now lives in California) for any of the Freedom Summer Conference. Of course he was coming--and invited me to join the gallery tour he was giving for other Freedom Summer veterans. 

You can see in the background of this photo one of Matt's most iconic and shocking series from that summer. (Click here for larger images.) Five-year-old Anthony Quinn's mother had told him not to let go of his American flag, whatever he did. In his words, "I was way more scared of my mama than I was of the policeman." (I hadn't realized the powerful symbolism of the American flag; holding one meant "we want the law to protect us, as Americans. The alternative was holding a Confederate flag.) The irony of the photo is apparent: the policeman trying so hard to grab Anthony's flag that he's nearly lifting the boy off the ground--in the background is another policeman holding a sign that says "no more police brutality" that he's obviously snatched from another protester. The arm reaching out in the center photo belongs to Dr. June Finer, who volunteered during Freedom Summer with the Medical Committee for Human Rights. Although she didn't know Anthony at the time, in the next photo you can see her comforting him after the two of them were arrested (Ye, they arrested a 5-year-old child).
Flash forward 50 years: Anthony Quinn is a lawyer in Atlanta, and somehow the conference organizers got in touch with him. This gathering was the first time Quinn and Finer actually saw/met/spoke to each other since!

Next up: some ways I've been spending my time:
I forgot to mention in my last post a third frustration besides my lost package and setting up the internet: I was disenfranchised! Many of you probably know that there was a hotly-contested senatorial (?) primary in Mississippi a few weeks ago. The incumbent Thad Cochran beat Chris McDaniel, though McDaniel is challenging the count still. I was fortunate my friend Teddy, who is working for the New York Times was sent down to cover the election, which means that Teddy was officially the first friend to visit me here in Jackson!
Anyway. The point is that when I came down in May, I asked to register to vote at the same time as I got my license. I was getting nervous when I hadn't gotten any confirmation of my registration so I called to check the status. Long story short, bureaucracy sucks and the DMV never sent my application to the Circuit Clerk, so I couldn't vote. I'm not convinced that it wasn't intentional....
These are the elevator doors in the Circuit Clerk's office, where I hand-delivered my voter application so that I'll be good to go for the general election in November. (Indeed, I received my voter card in the mail last week.)

The view from the office where I did some phone-banking for Planned Parenthood. They recently re-opened their offices in Jackson and Hattiesburg, MS. We were calling people asking for updated contact information, and I'm proud to say that one of my successful calls (updated info and interested in volunteering) was to a member of the state House of Representatives!

What could be more American than going to a (AAA) baseball game on July 3? Maybe getting to see fireworks afterward?! The Mississippi Braves are Atlanta's AAA team.

The Old House Depot is my kind of place! It's basically a warehouse of house stuff from homes and businesses--doors, window frames, mason jars, wooden chests, traffic lights, these big letters... They have a big party on July 4 with freshly-picked heirloom tomatoes! (And lots of other delicious things and a brass band, but the tomatoes were the best part.) I'd like to go back with my Real Camera sometime and take some nice photos there. 

The next few shots are from around the neighborhood.
They're very very tall, in case you can't tell.
Your eyes are not tricking you, that's a miniature horse! She lives in the neighborhood and belongs to the same folks who started the Rainbow Natural Grocery Coop back in the 1980s (not the Mississippi of most people's imaginations, eh?). Usually she's in her own yard/stable, but sometimes--like after the July 4th parade (which is why her mane is braided with r/w/b bows)--she wanders around other people's yards. 
Just some vines.
This was my perfect Sunday morning: porch swing with cheerios, a nectarine, NPR, and a breezy 75-ish degrees.

On Sunday afternoon, we went blueberry picking! Yum! The sweetest part of the deal is that we didn't pay for any of it. 
The woman who owns the trees (in Mississippi, blueberries grow on trees, not shrubs) has a system worked out where anyone can come pick for free. You give half of your pickings (well, half of the ones that make it into the bucket) to her for her to sell, and you keep the other half!
Pretty berries :)
(Photo by Arielle Nissenblatt). I think I came home with close to 7 pints! Yum yum yum.

Meanwhile, the lost package saga continues. I'll spare all the details, but suffice it to say that I have spent more hours on the phone with the United States Postal Service than any human being should ever have to spend on the phone with all government agencies combined. The most recent update is that my box of books is definitely at the--I kid you not--"Dead Letter Center"--in Atlanta. The name has officially been changed to "Mail Recovery Center" for many years (decades?), but everyone still refers to it as the DLC. But here's the deal-io. USPS auctions people's stuff off. Because most people don't go through the trouble of contacting them by any means possible as I've done. So they wind up with boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff--hundreds of lost Apple products, thousands of books, boxes and boxes of ownerless Lego sets. When I heard this I 1) freaked out that all my books were being sold and 2) decided that I was going to go down to one of these auctions and write a piece about it for the New Yorker. Just my luck: they stopped doing live auctions in favor of online ones a year ago. So now you can buy other people's belongings even more easily!
Well, wouldn't you know: I walked into work on Monday and was told there was a package waiting for me! I obviously freaked out, excited that my books had finally made it to Mississippi! What a letdown when I heard it wasn't a big box, but rather a small bubbler mailer. So I walked dejectedly to my desk and found this envelope! From the Atlanta Mail Recovery Center! "Woah. They're going to send me back one book at a time? Absurd but...I'll take it!" I open the package impatiently only to find... a copy of The Help that isn't even mine! Yes, that was one of the books in my lost box--good news, it means that the MRC has received at least one copy of my list of books and plea to return them. But it also means that they were like, "This is so great, this girl will be so happy that she's getting one of her books back, even if it isn't the exact copy that belonged to her!" Let me tell you, I was not happy.
I called USPS once more and finally was able to acquire an email address (which bounced. Thanks Twitter for helping me find a correct one.) and a fax number. The email address was a whole stupid mess because it turns out you can only submit this specific form via the internal employee Outlook system. So today at lunch I went to the post office, form in hand, and waited while they emailed it in for me. We shall see what happens!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Moving to Jackson, MS

A few people have requested that I take up the Blog Formerly Known as the Prague Blague, since I am once again in a new place doing new things with with new people and will be traveling quite a bit. I can't promise that I'll be as diligent about this as I have been in the past, but I'll try, at least for a bit. And at the very least, just as a good way of saying bringing family and friends up to speed with what I'm doing now.

A few words of introduction: Exactly one month and one day ago I became a resident of Mississippi, or "The Hospitality State," as my new driver's license proudly advertises. I moved here (specifically, to Jackson) to begin a two-year fellowship with the education department of the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Yes, the very same place where I interned in the summer of 2012. Essentially, the ISJL works with Jewish communities all over the south, from Texas to Virginia, to help document their histories, preserve their communities, and enhance their Jewish educational opportunities and religious experiences. As a Fellow, I'll be "attached" to 6-7 specific communities and make visits to each 3 times a year running programming, coordinating services, teaching classes, and really whatever it is I'm asked to do. Our big conference is this weekend, and shortly after I'll find out which communities I'll be assigned to for the upcoming year!

But I've gotten ahead of myself. I'll give a brief outline of what has happened in the past months since I became a Mississippi resident:

 As soon as I was done with finals, I met my dad in Jackson to set up logistics for my move. We got everything done (got a license, registered a car, got license plates, set up water for my apartment, got car insurance, and visited the state capitol!)

I flew back to campus, and a couple days later, drove up to Maine to go hiking with friends. We spent a couple days in the White Mountains (on the Maine side of the border) and a couple in Acadia National Park (in eastern Maine). Both of these photos were taken in Acadia, on one of the most beautiful hikes I've done. The colors and textures were so vibrant! It was a wonderful week, and exactly where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing with some great people. 

I arrived back on campus the night Reunions (capital R, plural) began. The absolute highlight for me was getting to (re)introduce to each other two men who hadn't seen each other in 75 years, both of whom I interviewed for my senior thesis on the development of Jewish student life at Princeton, between 1915-1972. On the left is Henry Morgenthau III '39 (97 years old) and on the right is Joseph Schein '37 (99 years old). As a student in the 1930s, Joseph Schein led the Jewish services for the (very small) population of Jewish students on campus. I was fortunate to have the honor of walking with Henry Morgenthau in the P-Rade alumni parade, at his 75th reunion.

And then I graduated!

And a few hours later I was on my way to the airport to start the next two years of my life! Except the airport gods had other plans that involved "sleeping" overnight in the Atlanta airport. It was Shavuot (a Jewish holiday celebrating the receiving of the Torah), so I downloaded a sound file of the book of Ruth (the book traditionally read on the holiday) and celebrated that way. I finally made it to Jackson on the first flight the next morning.

There have been some incredibly beautiful sky things happening since I've been down here:
My fourth night down here there was an incredible lightning storm. It was almost midnight and I was heading to bed when I saw huge flashes coming from outside and immediately grabbed my camera and headed out to watch. 

Two nights later I was at Shabbat dinner at a friend and coworker's house (I have coworkers!) and stepped outside to grab something from my car when I looked up and saw this. The contrast is not as stark here as it was in real life, but on the right (south) side, looking west, there was a light, fluffy-looking pink cloud taking up most of the sky and the light blue strip right next door made it look like cotton candy. But to the north was an incredibly ominous dark grey rain cloud. (I also saw a rainbow that day!)
Mom called me to tell me to go outside and look at the moon, so obviously I did just that. This is what I saw from the street in front of my house. 

And now a little bit about settling in:
This is my house!
And this is my porch swing! The first few
days I ate ever single meal on the swing :)

This is my room. The postcard collection has been
in the works for a long while--one is from a high
school friend, sent to me at camp in 2007!

And these are my Mississippi Frizzies!

There have been two poignant frustrations in the past couple weeks: 1) One of my boxes never arrived! According to the tracking website, it went from New Jersey to..... California, and then to Memphis. And then disappeared. An actual quote of something I said to one of the tens of USPS employees I've spoken to by phone in the past week and a half: "I know it's probably a federal offense for you to open my package, but I can tell you exactly what's in it in case you are allowed..." (I wrote up an incredibly comprehensive list and it's currently circulating in Jackson, Memphis, and (hopefully) the package recovery warehouse in Atlanta. So what's in the box? All my thesis books and all my books on Mississippi and the Civil Rights Movement. Hopefully I'll get it back...

  2) The internet. I didn't have it until two days ago. And then when they finally sent the modem, etc., it turns out that my house is too far from the cable connection point outside, so the signal doesn't work. Probably the funniest thing about the whole mess is every time you call they tell you "you know, you can set this all up online!" Um, the whole point is that I can't, because I don't have internet, which is why I'm trying to get internet. Anyway, after too much hold music and much back-and-forth, the technician finally came out; now it's working, though they still need to tighten up the distances so it's as fast as it's supposed to be. Let me tell you, trying to move and set up all the new things one has to set up when when moves--or trying to deal with a lost package--without internet is a real pain. 

And a bit of civil rights before signing off:
Last Sunday I drove up to Philadelphia, MS for the kickoff of the Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Commemoration. The ceremony--a memorial/commemoration for James Chaney, Andy Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner, three Freedom Summer volunteers murdered by the KKK in Philadelphia, MS that summer because of their work. Some of those in attendance included Bob Moses (third person from left in the chain), Dave Dennis (to Moses' right), Rita Schwerner-Bender (next to Dennis), former Governor William Winter (behind Schwerner-Bender), and Congressman John Lewis (second from right in the row).
This upcoming week is the Mississippi Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Conference, and the ISJL is helping to coordinate some additional programs, events, and speakers. One of those is a gallery tour of the This Light of Ours photography exhibit currently up at the Mississippi Museum of Art; coincidentally, the curator (and one of the artists whose work is included) is Matt Herron, a Princeton alumnus ('53) featured on the June issue of the alumni magazine. I sent him an email to see if he might be in town for any of the conference, and it turns out he is--and invited me to attend the gallery tour he's giving on Thursday!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The final post: Munich and Salzburg (cue "Sound of Music" songs)

The last few days in Prague were a whirlwind of taking tests (6), writing papers (4, including a 7-pager that I wrote in 3.5 hours. New record!), Seeing Things I Hadn't Seen Yet, packing, and eating blintzes for Shavuot. Then I headed off to the subway at 6am to catch a 7am bus to Munich (in Princeton, someone always offers to help me clunk my suitcase down the stairs to the NJTransit; not so in Prague, apparently). 

One of the highlights of the afternoon of wandering around town with Michele was the middle-aged Bavarian man we met at the flea market of the City Museum: he started chatting with us, gave me two postcards, and upon learning that I'm from Chicago, said he'd been here once (the airport) on his way to Madison to visit his brother; apparently, he had a chance meeting with the then-governor, though his brother didn't believe him until the governor's secretary recognized him the next day! When we left, he gave us some enormous Bavarian radishes to eat. The City Museum is right near the Ohel Jakob Synagogue of the new Jewish Center Munich (their webpage is all in German), where we went for services. It was much nicer than the shul in Berlin, and although it was huge with not many people, felt like more people were singing along. Final count: on this trip, I went to services at nine synagogues in six cities (this doesn't include cities where I went to synagogues but not during service time). 

The weather report said that Saturday was going to be the only all-nice day the whole time I was in the area, so we booked a train ticket to Mittenwald, from where there are lots of hiking trails in the Alps! Yes, this is really how perfect it is up in the mountains. 

Even after leaving the area, we could hear the clanging of the bells around the necks of the sheep. 

"Good [morning] [plane] jumping [through] the moon."

Van Gogh! I think I tried to draw this painting in 5th grade art with Debbie.  Many of the museums have a special 1-euro entry fee on Sundays, so Michele and I seized the rainy day to check out the new and old art museums. 

After the museums, I went out in the drizzle to see part of the enormous Englischer Garten. This is the Monopteros, in the southern part of the park. I did a lot of walking and couldn't sit down on any of the benches since they were all wet, so I kept walking through the park, trying to figure out where I was, and eventually made my way out and onto one of the main streets again. 

I found him!

On my wanderings, I came upon Konnexion Balkon playing near the old and new town halls. I'm not really sure what they do, except that their newest CD is modern interpretations of classical music (ie: Pachelbel's Cannon) with modern lyrics/rap overlayed. And the cellist is really, really enthusiastic. And by enthusiastic I mean really weird. According to YouTube, though, they also do some pretty fancy and formal stuff. 

On my way to the subway, I spotted this piano in the middle of a square outside one of the university buildings; since no one was playing and the square was pretty unpopulated, I sat down for a few minutes to play J.D.'s Boogie Woogie, the only piece I remember well enough to play (part of) without music. [Also, that kid is awesome. And he's the only one I could find on Youtube who does the phrasing like I do.]

On Monday morning I did one of those Sandeman's Free Tours, and it was actually pretty good! Although I'd seen most of the buildings before, just from walking around, it was great to get a chance to learn what everything was. This is the New Town Hall, and apparently I'm lucky to have missed the glockenspiel display, because it's annoying; I saw the Prague one, though!

The ceiling of the Frauenkirche (Cathedral of our Lady) has a menorah on it; during WWII, the church helped save lots of Jewish ritual objects. As thanks, when the Church needed restoration work done, the Jewish community contributed a lot of money, and the Church put in a menorah as its symbol of gratitude. 

The Hofbräuhaus started as the royal brewery of Bavaria, but then the royal family decided it wasn't fair to keep the best beer away from the citizens... Now the beer hall is open to the public; while Hitler and the Nazis held the first party meeting there in 1920, the tour guide was quick to point out that this was far from the HQ of the Nazi party--they held meetings at many breweries and beerhouses (it's where you have meetings in Munich, apparently). 

Hitler also made speeches from the Feldherrnhalle, apparently, which is ironic because the lion on the left of this picture, with its mouth open and facing the government buildings, is meant to indicate that a people should be free to criticize and speak out against its government; the lion on the right, facing the church and with its mouth closed, symbolizes that no one should speak out against the church...

The Theatinerkirche is very strange, in that all of the ornamentation inside is white plaster, a big contrast to the fancy gold/etc. ornamentation that I've seen in most other ornate churches around Europe. It was built at the demand of the court priest, who chose the cathedral as his gift for successfully praying for a male heir to the throne of Ferdinand Maria; according to the tour guide, the priest wanted the king to be able to see the cathedral from the palace, as a constant reminder of "who's really in control around here." 

After the drizzle cleared up (every day seemed to have about 30 minutes of rain, followed by beautiful blue skies with lots of sun) Michele and I rode out to the Olympic village, and asked around until we found the apartment block where the 11 Israeli athletes were murdered in the 1972 Olympics

There was a concert going on near the main stadium of the Olympics. 
First stop: the Mirabell Gardens, including the dwarf garden where part of the "Do Re Mi" scene from The Sound of Music takes place. 

This is looking down on  Kapitelplatz, the Residenz, and the Cathedral from the hike up to the Salzburg Fortress.

Somehow, they get away with charging lots and lots of money to get into the fortress, and fail to discriminate between those who want to see the museum/state rooms/etc. (not me) and those who just want to see the fortress itself and the view from the top (me). So instead of paying, I continued walking along the trails of the Mönchsberg Mountain above Salzburg, and found my way to this beautiful overlook. Some UWMadison grads did a whole photoshoot for me! 

In the very back you can see the Salzburg fortress; other notable buildings include the Kollegienkirche (closed for renovation), the Old and New Residenz, and the Cathedral (which greeted me with a choral concert when I stopped in!). 

Just weird. 

The Bavarians (and the tourists who the shops are targeting, I suppose) really like their traditional outfits. 

Serendipity led me to the Department of Jewish Cultural Studies (housed in the Old Residenz building) , where I asked someone to point out where the synagogue was. Unfortunately, it was closed so I couldn't see inside, but the Brazilian couple we met at services on Friday came to Munich because they were saying Kaddish and Salzburg doesn't have Shabbat services, apparently.

I think they love bragging about Mozart even more than Hyde Park loved bragging about Obama on Wednesday, November 5, 2008 (this is where Mozart was born). 


Mandatory Abby And All Her Stuff picture! Not sure how I ended up with the baby-pack on front, even though on the way to Prague I didn't have it and on the way back I had less stuff (gave all my sweaters and books to someone who was visiting from Princeton). And somehow the lady at the airport was very nice that my hiking backpack was way over the weight limit and told me "good luck" but let me get by without paying. 

It seemed fitting to end a semester in Europe with a beer on the way back home. 
And that just about wraps up the semester...Facebook photos will follow (eventually). Thanks for reading!