Our second to last weekend in the Delta, we went canoeing 18 miles down the Mississippi River. It’s the place of legends, of industry – yet almost completely ignored by people living in Mississippi. The Quapaw Canoe Company doesn’t do a rip-roaring trade in canoeing with the locals – it seems that only strange visitors like us wish to experience it. I discovered that the Mississippi is a strange beast, beautiful but savage, demanding sacrifice from anyone who ventures across its murky depths. (An attempt at) a poetic way of saying that I dropped my expensive camera in the river and it’s now beyond repair.
Looking back on my 8 weeks in the Delta, the camera is probably the only thing that I have actually lost. I have gained new friendships with the people I lived with – somehow being crammed in close quarters with a lot of people and fighting over whose turn it is to do the dishes does forge new bonds. I have gained teaching experience, and been tested again and again by my students; leading me to come away attracted by the idea of teaching again, yet convinced that I could never do it for the rest of my life. I have gained weight, courtesy of the fried food everywhere in the Delta (vegetarian options at a ‘traditional’ Mississippi joint include: fried onion rings, fried okra, french fries. Sometimes cole slaw, if you’re lucky). I have gained new Delta sayings, which my students took great delight in teaching me: “My guh” (translation: my girl) done with a fist pound, “What up luh” (translation: how are you doing, love?) done with a cocky chin up. I have gained a great amount of knowledge about the history of the Delta and its peoples. I have gained the conviction that the Delta is one of the neediest places in the USA (look up pretty much any statistic on schooling, poverty, obesity etc and MS will be top of the list) and that one university student can only do so much. And I have gained the motivation to one day come back.