Louisville Native vs Louisville Transplant

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Laura was born and raised in Louisville.

She is currently serving her year as a VISTA at The Food Literacy Project.

 

 

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Lauren is from Indianapolis originally, but has lived in Louisville for 4 years.

She is currently serving her year as a VISTA at Americana World Community Center.

 

 

These two decided to give their differing perspectives on a city that they both truly love.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT

Louisville Native:

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LAURA: Right now, it’s Eiderdown, which has great German cuisine, and it’s in Germantown/Schnitzelburg! I also love a slice of pizza from the Post, which is down the street! For BBQ- Feast is a must. I love to order Feast to go and walk over to Akasha Brewing and play games, eat BBQ, and sip on some local brews.

 

Louisville Transplant:

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Lauren: I can go for a delicious burger any day of the week and my favorite burger in town is at Grind. The delicious sides, like roasted brussel sprouts, make the splurge to a burger not seem as indulgent.

 

FAVORITE BREWERY

Louisville Native:

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Laura: Cumberland Brewery has cheap, quality brews and is within walking distance of my house! Though, Holy Grale has an incredibly delicious selection, repping unique and cool breweries across the world.

 

Louisville Transplant:

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Lauren: My favorite brewery is Against the Grain: not only are they an awesome stop before Louisville City Football Club games (Lou’s soccer team is 3rd in their division, you need to go to a game!) but their brews are on point as well as sometimes they brew root beers and sodas, so everyone can enjoy a craft brew!

 

FAVORITE WORKOUT

Louisville Native:

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Laura: If you consider yoga a workout, I looooooooooove 502 Power Yoga. I do a work-exchange, so I work a few hours a week cleaning and doing laundry for the studio in exchange for classes. The yoga is challenging and upbeat, and the community is WONDAAAAAFUL!

 

Louisville Transplant:

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Lauren: I seriously fell in love with Climb Nulu immediately. I have been climbing for 4 years, but genuinely love the atmosphere, the community as well, and the workout: it’s mentally and physically challenging.

 

FAVORITE ANNUAL EVENT

Louisville Native:

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Laura: Forecastle. I have gone every year since I was in High School. No matter who is playing, it is such a fun, Louisville-lovefest.

 

Louisville Transplant:

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Lauren: Ok, so mine isn’t an annual, but actually more of a monthly event, but I love Flea Off Market. If you want seriously chill flea market atmosphere and awesome food trucks, this free event is worth the trip.

 

FAVORITE PARK:

Louisville Native:

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Laura: I love Seneca and Iroquois Parks, but my favorite park is Morton Street Unofficial Dog Park, even though I do not have a dog, it is a wonderful place.

 

Louisville Transplant:

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Lauren: I fell in love with the parks in Louisville, but seriously love Cherokee park. My favorite memory here was watching my first Thunder Over Louisville, specifically the Fireworks show, from the 3rd green on the golf course, as I’m not one for loud noises. Fun fact: Fredrick Law Olmstead designed many of the parks in Louisville in addition to the grounds at the Biltmore.

Choosing a Second Year

Coincidentally, today marks two years since I accepted the invitation to serve as the AmeriCorps VISTA with Adelante Hispanic Achievers in Louisville, KY. I applied to AmeriCorps just before graduation, at a transitional stage between college and adulthood, with hopes of building up my resume and gaining valuable knowledge and insight about small nonprofits. It soon came time to move south to Louisville, ship off to Pre-Service Orientation in Atlanta, and return as a sworn volunteer in service to America.

The decision I made on May 12, 2015 was the beginning of a journey to self-discovery, and it has taken longer than anticipated. I began my service in August 2015 and it flew by so fast. I met a majority of our students my first day on the job, helped celebrate Adelante’s 10th anniversary of service to the community in October, planned and executed the annual Money Matters financial literacy event in March, and applauded our 5th cohort of high school graduates as they received their awards in May. Of course, I had many other projects keeping me busy all year, but I wanted more. So, I decided to serve Adelante for a second year.

Anyone who has recently begun their VISTA service may be thinking ‘who would put themselves through this madness for another year?’ The hours are exhausting, the VISTA tasks can be complicated, and the living stipend will certainly not sustain an extravagant lifestyle. Believe it or not, I was not the first AmeriCorps service member to extend service, nor will I be the last. In fact, I know a number of VISTA members right here in Louisville who have done just that. So what is wrong with us? Why sign on for a second year?

In my case, I was immediately captivated by the work Adelante was doing in Louisville and the enthusiasm that drove it forward. Adelante provides tutoring and mentoring services at multiple sites, serving over 130 students weekly and yet the staff and volunteers give each student the individual attention and encouragement needed for success. As I observed more about the needs of our students, I would come up with ideas for programs that required more time to implement. It was frustrating! My supervisor, Mara, would often suggest that I consider a second year with Adelante, but at times that seemed just as overwhelming.

In the end I chose another year of AmeriCorps VISTA service because I had found my niche. I was excited about what another year of my service could do for Adelante and equally intrigued by the potential career growth it might offer me. I chose a second year because I was invested in the work and committed to the students. Now in my final months of service, I am preparing for my third year with Adelante – this time as a full-time staff member! Ultimately, sticking with it for a second year was the right decision for me, and I encourage any AmeriCorps member to consider it for themselves.

Written by Morgan Gerke, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Adelante Hispanic Achievers 

Homeward Bound Culture Shock

I moved back to the United Stated in January after spending over two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines.

My choice to move to Louisville was one of convenience. The closest thing I had had to a home was rented out when my parents moved to China. While my connection to Louisville is family based (my brothers live here,) moving here made me feel like a stranger in a strange land.

I came to Louisville from a coastal Filipino town where everyone knew me, and I knew everyone. I moved from a slow paced, relaxed culture back into the hustle and bustle of America. Fast cars, fast internet, fast work life, fast. Reverse culture shock had me in its grasp. I was in a position filled with endless opportunities and yet, somehow, also rife with a sense of crushing loneliness.

In order to form a connection to Louisville I needed to get to know the city; I wanted to get to know my new communityExploring the U.S. was never something I put a lot of thought into. I had wanted to travel the world my whole life and, up until recently, I did not really consider the U.S. to be a part of that world. Because I grew up here, because I am culturally “American,” I managed to lump America into one giant conglomeration that I had no interest in exploring deeper. But moving back, after spending so much time trying to get to know and understand a new culture in the Philippines, I felt that I needed to pay the Louisville the same courtesy.

I chose to apply for AmeriCorps as a way to better understand the different facets of my new found home. I currently work with 12 nonprofits across Louisville that are all fighting poverty in different ways; from offering legal assistance to small businesses to providing after-school programs for kids, or support services for refugee families. After four months of living here, I feel like I am starting to understand Louisville on a deeper level than Bourbon and Derby. There is so much more to Louisville than Bardstown and St. Matthews. Louisville is a complex city full of diversity, with about one in seven Louisvillians being foreign born. Louisville is a city with real problems like poverty, food deserts, and crime. But, at its core, Louisville is a city with a strong sense of identity and pride.

My message for you, whether you are a Louisvillian or not, is to treat your home like a place to be explored. Learn about the good and the bad and what makes your place special. It is easy to divide a city into “good” neighborhoods and “bad” neighborhoods, but I challenge you to go somewhere new, find a cause and volunteer, get out and be active in your community. Don’t neglect your home because it is familiar, and remember, the grass is always greener on the side that gets watered.

Written by Sarah Flarsheim, AmeriCrops VISTA Leader at the Americana Community Center

Cherish Mornings when Red Berries are in Season

I have learned what I need to thrive in a work environment; how I work best with others and with a supervisor, and why the non-profit I work for is so successful in its growth and in executing its mission. I learned how to run a crowdfunding campaign, how to cultivate donors, how to run a fundraiser, how to design and mail a newsletter to 900 folks. I know now when it’s best to post on Facebook (.5 times a day, in the late afternoon or during lunch hours), when to post a photo to Instagram (same as Facebook, but with a lot of hashtags), and when to tweet (always. ALWAYS.). And, in my work at a non-profit and in my personal experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I am learning to appreciate the virtue of this present moment.

While organization and intention are critical parts of a successful non-profit (and a successful accomplishment of goals, and life and relationships, yadda yadda), we are all familiar with the large “whack-a-mole” game into which our tasks, jobs, and lives devolve. We must focus on what is popping up, and things are always popping up, and soon our time (in AmeriCorps, or some other endeavor) is up. Sustainability and the ability to contextualize our work is a key part of our roles in these organizations; however, reality proves to be much different, day-to-day, than the notions of overarching change we hope to impart.

In school, I fought this reality hard with dreaming up what my summer months and future years of school would look like. I spent time with an incredible, talented, brilliant group of friends in college who not only invested in Louisville, but also traveled (and continue to travel) widely. As a graduate of the University of Louisville, and a born-and-raised Louisvillian, I thought about some new and different place. When I chose to be an AmeriCorps VISTA in my hometown/college town, I was still scheming. “I will take this year, and figure out where I am going to next, what I will do next.” I see the same mindset in our emergent throw-away culture: we are always waiting for the next best thing.

I clouded my first frustrated months with VISTA with these thoughts, and vague attempts at scholarship applications, job searches, and watching my screen quietly, following the adventures of my “friends,” mouth agape at their exhilarating lives. All the while, I found great housing with two friends (who are also VISTAs), cultivated stunning relationships with old friends and new ones, even traveled to another continent, learned all about myself, etc. It was not until recently when my mother asked what was next for me after service that I realized all the damn fun I have been having. I work on a gorgeous farm that turns a new shade of green every day, and I work for an organization built on the principle of discovery-based, self-driven education. I spend time with my family, my friends, my familiar and favorite places. I get to love a person deeply and wholly, and be here in Louisville with that person. I get to be a support and be supported- striking balances in all my relationships- even with myself.

It seems that balance is the key to all of these parts of life. While I feel both ready to move on from VISTA and wildly unprepared to do so, planning my future undertakings has not impeded on this moment. Being locked into this VISTA year has allowed me to truly honor and uphold the present, to go with the flow and explore myself as a versatile and resilient person. I am reminded of a quote by Kentucky poet and farmer Wendell Berry, “Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.” This challenges my assumptions of success in this world. I must drop expectations of myself-and my former self, and cherish mornings when red berries are in season.

Written by Laura Krauser, a VISTA at The Food Literacy Project 

Why I Chose to Become a VISTA:

Everyone who applies for Americorps VISTA has various reasons for applying: extra job skill growth, developing a different perspective on life, having the ability to see more states across America, and having the opportunity to help others all throughout the United States. My personal reasons for joining Americorps VISTA includes the above reasons but also includes a more important reason – a chance for my personal development.

When I was in the process of completing my BA in Religious Studies at the University of North Florida, I knew that I wanted to do two things in my life – teach religion at a university/college level and do nonprofit work. These two goals aren’t at all surprising if you know me in real-life! Ever since elementary school, I have joined countless community organizations and clubs that help my local community, back home, in Florida – I even became involved in seven clubs at a time in my senior year of high school! This dedication to service continued throughout my years in college; I felt like I had a purpose – goals that I can set for myself to determine who I am and my success. But, as usual, life gets in the way.

My last year at college, January to December 2015, was a very trying time for me. I had a stressful spring and fall semester completing all my requirements, finalizing my undergraduate capstone experience, managing my job and teacher assistant duties, and looking for jobs after college. However, all of that didn’t even shine a light on what happened in my personal relationships.

The story started in 2013 when I transferred to UNF, but it reached its climax in Fall 2015. My last semester of college was the worst semester I had in my whole college life. A guy that I used to date spread highly salacious and false rumors about me, not only to our mutual friends, but to anyone who would listen, including my professional relationships as I TA’ed in the Honors Department. Thirty to forty people ended up knowing explicit information and my deepest secrets, and there was nothing I could do about it. People began to avoid me. People began to shift their eyes and whisper within earshot but never loud enough for me to know what they were talking about. People began to spread more rumors about me to people that were outside of the department. I felt anxious, paranoid, and unsafe everywhere I went. I felt like I could not talk to anyone about this for fear that more rumors would spread about how weak I was, and the mere notion of me discussing my problem would multiply the problem. I didn’t even tell my best and closest friends what was wrong with me and they didn’t know what was happening because of the gossip, which artfully, never reached them. Those were the darkest three months of my entire life, but I made it to graduation.

I thought that after college graduation I could forget all about what happened, and for the most part, I began to recover from all the stress and negativity that surrounded me, but 2016 became a stressful extension of 2015. I was still hearing gossip spreading about me at UNF, but this time it hurt a lot more because some of my closest friends began to hang around those same people who hated me, but they did nothing to defend me. When I visited the three friends I had left at UNF, I still felt the paranoia, the anxiety, and the anger at the people who had wronged me. Lo and behold, it did not get any better after I graduated. As the months went by in 2016, I lost just about every friend I had made during college, some due to the rumors, some due to the fact that I graduated. But my best friend stayed by my side throughout all of it. He was the source of my strength, he helped me cope with my anxiety, he reassured me, he comforted me, and he pushed me to follow my dreams of national service. He knew that I wasn’t happy back home anymore, due to all of the drama that had followed me throughout the last couple of years of my college experience. He nudged me in the direction of applying for Americorps VISTA, and I did, that very same day. I had interviews a week or so later, and not even an hour after my interview I got the job at Americana. It was one of the best days of 2016 for me.

But, just like everyone else in college, he ultimately left me too.

It was three days before I was to come to Kentucky to serve at Americana World Community Center when we had a massive fight. He told me that we weren’t friends anymore, we haven’t been friends in a long time, I was too intense to be around, I was too socially draining to be around, and I was too much to be around. That was the last straw for me and I knew that there wasn’t anything left for me back home besides my family.

I went into service as a broken sort of person who had anxiety and depression, whose life seemed to have fallen apart, with her desperately trying to hold it together. I came to live in city and state where I knew absolutely no one, and had never been to in my life. But that is not where my story ends.

Serving at Americana World Community Center through Americorps VISTA has been the most life-changing program I have been in. Being a Community Liaison has helped me focus not only on the community I serve, but on myself. I have found out more about myself through all the hardships I have faced in the past and the obstacles that I face currently, and I am a better person for it. I have learned different self-care and coping mechanisms through my VISTA umbrella project members, I have found fantastic people and formed friendships with many people in Louisville, I have become finally happy with myself after these past couple of years of disliking myself because of other people. I found my old self-confidence and, believe it or not, I am thankful to the people who talked down about me, who spread rumors about me, and who generally disliked me as a human being, because I grew stronger, wiser, and more empathetic because of it. My job as a VISTA has dramatically changed my personality for the better and my family back home has noticed. I smile more, I laugh more, I joke more.

I am thankful to those who pushed me out and away, because they pushed me back to myself. So, yeah, these past couple of years have been tough and exhausting for countless reasons, but I found myself again through Americorps VISTA service and I now know that I want to continue helping others in my life.

Written by Alyssa Gilbert, a VISTA serving at the Americana Community Center

Bourbon and Brick, Chicken and Sirens: A Transplant’s Take on Life in “Looavul”

By Rachel Petek

I could care less about a lot of “American” things, like having a lawn to mow, scaling the corporate ladder, apple pie, or college sports (I am totally still fun, and American, I swear!). I’m more interested in rock n’ roll, impractical old cars, bison burgers, state and national parks, and interacting with the people and places that make up this gorgeous, bizarre country.

Pushing thirty years young, I have been in college on and off long enough to be a doctor, kind of like Tommy Boy. But I’ve lived, baby! You better believe it! That’s why it took me awhile to earn that overly-glorified piece of paper, and I did it in a mighty beautiful place. I finally graduated with my BA in Art last May from the University of Montana. The only thing I’ve paused at a notable length to consider career-wise is teaching creative writing, but I needed some time away from academia to refresh my perspective by doing something crazy… so I joined AmeriCorps! I figured, since I was already buried in college debt and used to swallowing my pride, that I should try for the gold medal. What I really wanted to do was something outside myself after being in university land. No outstanding jobs had fallen from the sky, and I was anxious to wear out my shoes somewhere new.

Moving against the grain from west to east was one of the coolest, most foolish things I’ve ever done, but I did it with an incredible man by my side. We were both at transitional points in our lives, and ready to shake things up by experiencing a completely unfamiliar part of the United States, so we packed up our earthly possessions and hit the highway. I’ll never forget the glow of those mountains in the rearview mirror. Though I was ready as could be for adventure, it killed me to leave Montana. I could write another essay entirely on that.

After many Red Bulls, hotel hot tubs, and belly laughs with Van’s relatives in Iowa, we reached our new city: Louisville, Kentucky. Upon arrival, we were swindled our rental deposit by a dirtbag of a landlord in Old Lou, ticked off some cops when our Penske truck got stuck in the midst of the St. James Art Fair traffic, and had to post up in a hotel for our first few days in order to find a new place to live. Needless to say, our introduction to Kentucky was a bit rough. We got a bad taste in our mouths that we try to wash down with bourbon and chicken on a regular basis.

Each time we tell a local Louisvillian where we’re from, whether a barista, mechanic, receptionist, you name it, we get the same dazzled reaction. It’s not the naturally inquisitive look one is inclined to give someone so far from home, but more of a “Why would you move here?!” It doesn’t exactly give us the warm and fuzzies. More than once, we’ve been told nonchalantly that, “people in Louisville are as bi-polar as the weather!” (a direct quote). Before we even moved, we were somewhat aware of that schism, having been given explicit advice from a co-worker to avoid any apartments on the west side of town. In December, a church in our neighborhood installed crosses in the yard in memoriam of over one hundred homicides from the past year, a stark reminder that this city has serious issues beyond Mother Nature’s mood swings.

While I believe that it takes a couple years to really know a place, I also think several months is plenty of time to get a sense of what it’s about. I don’t regret living in Louisville; I’m simply unsure that I have the energy, or understanding, to learn to love it. Shortly after we relocated, our country experienced a major political shift that no one could have known how to prepare for. We felt it more acutely here, without the comfort of friends and family, than we perhaps would have back home. Adjusting to palpable societal changes on an almost daily basis doesn’t make anything easier.

There’s such benevolence in this city, but such recklessness too. For better or worse, Louisville is now part of my life, and I am going to do the good I can until my service is up in roughly seven months (not that I’m counting…). I hope to make clear that I don’t carelessly dislike Louisville; I desperately want to see the good in it, because I know it’s there, and because I’ve got no choice. The amazing work people do locally, especially with refugees, is what compelled me to move here in the first place. I chose to come here. I wasn’t forced to leave my home, nor did I have anything to escape from. I am reminded of that when I see mothers and their kids holding hands while walking out of Kentucky Refugee Ministries, clad in Goodwill coats and traditional dress.

Someday, Louisville will be dear to me, in a funny, sad way. We make it fun where we can. We go on hikes, to concerts, and out to dinner. Since Van works from home, he combs through record stores in his spare time, goes to hockey skating lessons, and sometimes meets up with other musicians in hopes of possible collaboration. We laugh and say, “Spread ‘em for Sanders” when we’re at the downtown YMCA, since the hip adductor machine looks straight out at the four-story portrait of Kentucky’s Colonel. Someday, I will shudder to remember the woefully erratic driving (having never seen such accepted prevalence of busted-up fenders and tailgating in my life, and I’ve experienced NYC and LA), and how no one got out of the way for ambulances, of which there were many.
I’ll remember Van being coined the nickname “Van Baby” by the cashier when we were buying furniture, wandering through Cherokee park, and the butter-yellow magnolias on the way to St. Matthews. I’ll think back to our pilgrimage to Buffalo Trace, the first bourbon I ever enjoyed, back when I was a more resilient, but just as sarcastic, version of me. My mind will conjure images of the strikingly grand houses of brick- some with flood lines on them, the hum of strange insects at night, and the occasional reek of sewage emanating from the gutters on neighborhood walks. I will long for beloved chicken wings from the Back Door, and being caught in torrential downpours. I’ll remember when I saw a cardinal for the first time out the window of our cute apartment with its high ceilings, and the street art mural on Fourth Street that was clearly made by someone who loves this city. I will be grateful for the people doing great things in Louisville, even though I probably won’t be here long enough to know them as well as I’d like.
Humanity alone, in my experience, is not enough to bridge regional and cultural gaps on top of starting such a bizarre new occupation. I thought it would be enough. That’s one thing AmeriCorps has taught me. One of the greatest difficulties of my life has been attempting connect to a brand-new city, so far from anything dear or familiar to me. Even the humor is different from the perverse western wit I’m used to, and people here are often reticent to interact with someone new.

After giving my first AmeriCorps site, Beaded Treasures Project, four months of my time and dedication, I pursued options elsewhere. I decided that although the organization had admirable intentions for disadvantaged women in the city, it was not a healthy work environment for me for various reasons. With the support of the Americana and the State Office, I recently started a new gig at Jefferson Memorial Forest that I have a great feeling about. Spring is in the air, and I’m open to having my world rocked.

I am mystified constantly that despite how painfully disorganized and convoluted AmeriCorps can be, that it not only still functions, but facilitates great things. I’m amazed that every year it is still able to sucker so many bright, awesome people- sometimes from significant geographical distances- into heeding its call. I would recommend AmeriCorps VISTA to a very narrow range of folks, particularly relatively local singles, who are somehow unencumbered by college debt and need the raw, humbling experience of scraping the bottom of the barrel. I would never advise anyone to relocate from such a great distance for this kind of service. So far, it has barely been worth the strain on finances, relationships, and sanity. I paid a great price to learn that I don’t have to be so drastic to be a good person, but that’s something I had to do. Taking chances is a tough love.

The combination of the insatiable, and often chaotic or misplaced, requirements of my energy (from both my original site and AmeriCorps in general) have brought me dangerously close to resentment of my decision to do this, but I refuse to go there. It’s not who I want to be. I still get a little bitter that I could afford to take better care of myself in my early twenties, before college, than I can now. I try, in those dark moments, to instead think of the awesome people and VISTAs I’ve met along the way, and how the admirable folks at Americana have been in my corner since the beginning. I think of the fun I’ve had with Van, from kicking his buns at cards to making weird videos at Dinosaur World, and how our humor has made us closer in spite of everything.

Although AmeriCorps, and the Louisville it brought us to, haven’t quite panned out the way we’d hoped up to this point, the whole experience was a catalyst for some needed change our lives. We learned a great deal, like never, ever, to rent an apartment sight-unseen, and I confirmed my suspicion that I am not wired to stare at a screen all day, no matter how noble the cause may be. Whatever happens next, I’m glad we tried it out, as I would have always wondered what life was like on the other side of the country. A friend told me years ago that the grass isn’t greener on the other side; it’s just different grass. I’m looking for grass that’s a little less arduous next time. If I’m a horse in the next life, maybe- just maybe, I’ll come back to Kentucky for one more round.