Washing Dishes

SwintI’ve spent a lot of time washing dishes, and thinking about hospitality the past few weeks. Last weekend I was out of town on a church retreat (hence the lack of post, sorry). The theme of the retreat was Radical Hospitality. While we were there we were also doing all kinds of other retreat like things; like cooking, and cleaning up after 50 people for three meals a day. We had groups who rotated which chores they were supposed to do each meal, but I kept finding myself gravitating toward the kitchen. After all, I do like to cook and eat. But I began to wonder, as we sat around and discussed the notion of hospitality being something beyond porches and sweet tea, what my real motivation for volunteering to help was. Did I want to be helpful to those who were already working, or did I want to escape the social pressure lurking in the living room? Our focus was on trying to open ourselves up to receive others just as they are. Was I opening up, or closing myself off? I began to feel like a bit of a hypocrite. Was washing dishes hospitable or just hiding? Then my group’s turn to clean up came.

We had all jinxed ourselves by saying we didn’t mind washing dishes. There was a never-ending mountain waiting for us when we arrived in the kitchen. But as we washed and talked, and people wandered in and out, I began to see the importance of what we were doing. Washing the dishes mattered not because they would otherwise be dirty, but because they were part of making a place for others. We were allowing for people to come here and escape their regular lives for a few days, to be surrounded by friends and the beauty of nature. Besides that, the longer we stood in the kitchen, washing and drying, the more people came in to get food, bake cookies, try to help out, make a mess, and just talk. Doing a job didn’t mean I had to be closed off to people. By the end I was wet and tired, but I felt better. I had finally been able to reconcile the two seemingly conflicting models of hospitality that had been talked about over the weekend. The physical work of preparing a place for others is not meant to take the place of, or compete with, the work that must be done to prepare a place in our hearts for others, but rather is meant to work in conjunction with it. It is remembering that “here, I can wash that, don’t worry” is really just another way to say “I love you and I am here for you”.

Now, back in the grind of schoolwork and reality, I am trying to remember to take this lesson to heart. Everyday life offers plenty of opportunities to be hospitable and polite in the old-fashioned, Southern way, but I want to challenge myself to take it one step farther. To really mean it when I say “you have a good day”, or smile at whoever I open a door for. From now on I am going to try to offer hospitality from my heart, not just my hands.

Kansas and Grassroots Art

I have my first exam next week, and that is making me miss summer break already, especially summer road trips. This year my mother and I went to Colorado to visit some friends. On the way there we took a day to see some sights in Kansas. We discovered that Kansas is actually home to some spectacular grassroots art, or art made by people with no formal training, usually from recycled materials. There were a few roadside examples, like an 80-foot Van Gogh re-creation, or a dragon made from farm equipment, but the crown jewel was Lucas, Kansas. Home to the Grassroots Art Center and Bowl Plaza, the most beautiful public toilet in America, Lucas was a treasure. P1080132 P1080106

At the Grassroots Art Center you could see works from Kansas artists as well as out of state artists. Some of the works are made from uncommon materials, like Herman Drivers’ art, a car made from nothing but pull-tabs. P1080111Since none of the artists had any formal art training, many of the artists came to art through times of illness or retirement. One of the most prolific artists at the center was Inez Marshall, who broke her back in the late 1930’s and had to spend a year bedridden. During that time, she discovered her passion for carving limestone sculptures. For the next 51 years, she carved over 100 detailed sculptures from Kansas limestone, ranging from a covered wagon, to a Model T, to President Lincoln.

He's carved from a single block of limestone.

He’s carved from a single block of limestone.

The largest work of art in Lucas, however, is not at the Grassroots Art Center, but just down the block. There you will find Bowl Plaza, a public restroom like no other. Shaped like a toilet seat with a roll of toilet paper next to it, the facility is covered in mosaics, most of which were designed by local grassroots artist Mri-Pilar. It is truly a sight to see, and a very clean restroom to boot. P1080121

Some of the mosaics inside.

Some of the mosaics inside.

So, if you are in the area, and in the mood for some eccentric art, I highly recommend that you take a detour to Lucas, Kansas.

Southern Comfort Food: Tomato Pie

I know September marks the beginning of fall, but it sure still feels like summer around here, and over the summer I discovered an amazing new recipe for when the sun is out, but you still need some good old-fashioned comfort food. Combining the taste of fresh tomatoes, ooey-gooey cheesiness, and a piecrust, tomato pie is just what the doctor ordered on a hot September day. As an added bonus, it is super simple to make, with ingredients that you probably have on hand. Once you are finished, it serves about four as a main course along with some kind of side. I would suggest another southern vegetable, like green beans, as a good compliment. However, tomato pie is also served as an appetizer, so if you decide to cut it into smaller pieces and serve it before a meal, you could probably serve 8-10 with one pie. Either way, pull out you iced tea glasses and kick back, because you’re in for a treat.

My finished pie. So yummy.

My finished pie. So yummy.

Here’s the recipe I found at southernplate.com:

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sized tomatoes
  • 6 large fresh basil leaves (if you don’t have fresh, use 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 +1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup mayo
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pie crust, baked but not browned

Instructions

  1. Cut tomatoes into slices.
  2. Place in colander and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon table salt. Allow to drain for ten minutes (can skip this step if you like).
  3. Arrange 1/2 of tomato slices in baked pie crust. Top with 1/2 of kosher salt, 1/2 of pepper, 1/2 of basil, 1/2 of vinegar, and 1/2 of cheese.
  4. Repeat.
  5. Spread mayo over top of pie. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

The Best Class I’ve Taken in College (So Far)

No matter what your major is in college, you have to take certain core classes. Luckily, here at Carolina, we get a wide variety of options that fulfill those requirements. Last semester I decided it was about time to get my social science credit out of the way. Since I am an international business major, I decided to take Anthropology 102: Understanding Other Cultures. Little did I know that this class was going to fascinate me and show me a whole new way of thinking. Over the course of the semester we read four books: The Dobe Ju’Hoansi by Richard Lee, White Saris and Sweet Mangos: Aging, Gender, and Body in North India by Sarah Lamb, Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown by Donna Goldsterin, and Go Nation: Masculinities and the Game of Weiqi in China by Marc Moskowitz. Each one was an anthropological study of a certain group of people, from the elderly in India to women in favelas, or urban shantytowns, in Rio de Janeiro. They were fascinating glimpses into the everyday lives of people from around the world. During class lecture time, we learned the vocabulary and concepts that we needed in order to talk more in depth about these topics. We also learned about lots of other cultures and traditions not mentioned in the books. What was life like as a Hopi Indian? How do they bury their dead in Taiwan? I was totally engrossed in the different topics, and couldn’t wait to learn more. This is the class that I recommend to everyone I meet at USC. I am sure my friends and family got sick of me constantly telling them fun facts from what I was learning.

 

Some of the facts weren’t fun at all, though, particularly while reading Laughter out of Place, about the Shantytowns outside Rio. It was a rude awakening to see the injustices that Gloria, her family, and many other families like hers, have to live with every day. It was hard to not distance myself and say “this is wrong and bad, and aren’t I glad that it isn’t happening to me?”. That wasn’t the point of learning about it, however. The point was to become informed, to feel involved, even if there was little I could do about it. Learning to care about others’ struggles, even halfway around the world, helped me to grow as a person.

Through this class I got to travel to far-flung destinations without getting travel shots, and it let me see how interconnected our world has become. Because, even though I thought it was incredibly strange that the Ju’hoansi eat giraffes, learning about their lives was like meeting a new neighbor, one who I share a lot in common with. Because ultimately, that is what cultural anthropology is about; it is the study of human beings, the things they do, and the ways they interact.