I've been reflecting on the randomness of trips I took the past 10 weeks. I flew on 12 airplanes in less than 10 weeks and lived in 4 time zones. For flight attendants and business women and men this seems like nothing, but for me someone who is terrified of flying and has panic attacks and gets sick the night before a flight this is a big deal. I've been working on an independent study through my graduate school program with the University of Denver. I created the study to research the structure I wanted for Wildflower Enterprises. So in the Paulo Freire praxis education way I traveled to gain some hands on learning experience. I also went in with a plan to learn about sustainable social enterprises, but was very open to learn from the unexpected. The books I read were From Dependence to Dignity by Brian Fikkert and Russell Masks, We Are Not the Hero by Jean Johnson, Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken and Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton. I had plenty of air time to read these books. :) And I faced some fears during this study. I now have a framework for Wildflower Enterprises and excited about the future of this!
My schedule throughout this summer looked like this: I taught a social justice summer camp for teens in the Williamsport, PA area. On the last day of camp I met a mission team and headed toward Baltimore for our flight to the Bahamas. I gained new relationships and saw beautiful relationships of life long friendships between Americans and Bahamians at Freeport Methodist Church. (More stories to come about this!) I spent a week working with the church and children at the primary school. I also spent time meeting talented Bahamian artists. I flew back to the U.S. A day later my husband and I drove to JFK to hop on our Wow Airplane (wonderfully affordable flights) to Dublin, Ireland. We spent two weeks backpacking the country and two days in Scotland. I read my books, learned a ton of history dating back to St. Patrick, and found surprising ways to fit Ireland into my study. We unexpectedly found ourselves in Northern Ireland during their July 12th holiday, and learned about the time of The Troubles and years of conflict between the Protestants and Catholics. (More stories to come about this as well). We caught our flight back to the U.S. and had an 8 hour layover in Iceland! So I went from the Bahamas to Iceland..crazy! We made it back to the U.S. Then a week later I traveled down to Tennessee and Kentucky to see my family. Kaitlyn and I came up with some ideas for bringing Wildflower to an antique shop in Kentucky where she lives. We also caught up with the world's longest yardsales on route 127! We held a baby shower to welcome Kaitlyn's son Anders!!!!
However, I also spent time in Nashville with my mom to learn about the successful enterprises for women survivors that are there. I toured Thistle Farms, was introduced to ABLE and met up with the women who run Strings for Hope. (More stories to come about all of this). Check out the links to these organizations for now!
Why do I tell you all of this? Because most importantly I have realized I was open to meet extremely random people I never planned on meeting during all of this time. The people that come to mind that made an influence on me and were willing to tell me their story were: Emily in the Bahamas, the artist I am working with; Mike the taxi driver in Northern Ireland who opened up his life by touring us around his neighborhood Shankill on his holiday; Cayanne and Emily of Strings of Hope in Nashville who were willing to tour me around the coolest art studio and describe the history and current business structure of the organization; And also Larry the Broadway composer I sat beside on my final airplane back to State College, PA. The lesson I have learned from this is that being open to step outside of your initial plans and goals is important for research. You never truly work alone either, and community is important part of connecting academia and the world. Part of cross-cultural learning is to be open to learn from the unexpected. This is also a lesson I learned from Jean Johnson's book.
So in other words you never know what you will learn, and who it will come from. One lesson from Larry that I am taking with me is one I will use to inspire artists I meet through Wildflower Enterprises. These are the three points every artist needs: 1. Money to survive
2. To work on their craft, whatever it may be, and 3. Relationships. These are the keys to a happy life. And I truly believe that cross-cultural workers are artists!
This was my summary of events, and I am incredibly privileged to have these opportunities. I now know it's time to take Wildflower Enterprises to the next level and build women leaders through this sustainable social enterprise in both rural America and around the world--now that starts in the Bahamas and the small town I live in today. I am truly trying to create a bridge for rural America and the rest of the world. Stay connected as Kaitlyn and I tell stories about the experiences I mentioned in this post. Love all of ya'll! We are excited to continue this journey.
Kacie G. Hopkins
Living life to inspire women and be an advocate for women's rights.