“They tricked me into going to school,” Thomas the energetic speaker from Ghana laughed while indicating the nearby CRS members. “I only wanted the food but I had to go to class to get it. So they tricked me.” Then his big smile flashed brighter, “And now I work with them tricking other children into school.”
Partner Shoes and I found ourselves in front of weighing scales. For more than an hour bags upon bags of dried food would magically appear for us to weigh. As soon as a bag left my fingers it would disappear to get sealed and packaged. We were just two people out of a hundred who volunteered for this brutal work.
Okay—That was a slight exaggeration.
Helping Hands—a creation of Catholic Relief Services and Stop Hunger Now—had set up shop today in Clearwater, FL. Their mission was to bring nutritious meals to the hungry of Burkina Faso in Western Africa. They needed many strong, skillful, willing (and did I mention good-looking?) volunteers. Armed in hairnets and plastic gloves, people from all over the Bay area met at the hall of St. Catherine’s Catholic Church to fill and package the food.
After a few speeches about gratitude and what to expect, we were released to the food stations.
The mostly giggling gray-haired folk flocked to the back stations where they took turns filling the plastic bags. Dehydrated Vegetables? Check! Legumes? Check! Grains? Check! So-called “nutritious sachet?” Check! Now run it to the scales!
Shoes and I waited hungrily for the bags to arrive. Too heavy? Remove some grains. Too light? Add grains! How many times can I get it exact with just one spoonful? With frightening speed the bags made their way across the table to the ‘sealers’ who made sure all air escaped the bags before sealing it shut with hot presses.
A flurry of energetic runners passed like blood through veins refilling supplies, transporting bags to get filled, weighed, sealed and finally into cardboard boxes.
Although the work was different and fun, I had to keep reminding myself tasks like this wouldn’t be needed if everyone on the planet was as blessed. I learned before Helping Hands gives food to the needy, they first make sure they aren’t taking away from any existing jobs and resources first. Burkina Faso had neither.
Different organizations request to host the Helping Hands project by pledging to donate enough material for a certain number of meals. St. Catherine’s pledged more than 2900 bags that Saturday and hit that goal in less than three hours.
At the event’s conclusion, you could sample a cooked version of the food we were packaging. I don’t know if they salted the samples for American palates, but it started salty. From Thomas’s story, it didn’t sound like the people in that area cared—they just needed food and nutrition. He painted a very fierce story about the differences in his lifestyle from there to here. How do you focus on improving the economy and surroundings when your first worry is what to eat?
I didn’t feel like I had done enough. It’s hard to feel helpful while sitting down and weighing bags. I just have to trust the bags I touched will eventually calm someone’s hunger.I strongly encourage families… anyone… to just freakin’ GET OUT THERE and volunteer to help the less fortunate. I’m sure you’ve been blessed in some way.
Click on any photo to see more pictures from the event.
I understood that chant to be a checklist. I came I saw and I conquered.
I arrived at Trashy Treasures late to find its Friday night party already in full swing. The Dunedin Fine Arts Center itself was already an odd assortment of sights starting with the obviously ‘under construction’ area to the side, but now its front yard was also a flurry of activity. Handfuls of people were streaming out the exit with their hands full of frames. PODS Moving Containers were strewn to one side—was I witnessing an art looting?
We were starving! Partner Socs and I grabbed food from the two attending food trucks (Tillery’s Bar-B-Que and Dos Tacos). Since our stomachs asked for more we also tried noms from the Art Center’s own Palm Café.
Those weren’t just regular PODS. Each one had been given to an artist to become their blank slate. I loved how there was no fear to actually ENTER the art and admire it from one inch away. (You can’t do that at the Louvre—your breathing can sometimes set priceless art works in flames). The artists welcomed your fingerprints on their creations.
A few PODS stood out to me.
Paula Allen looked very calm and serene sitting in the back of her container which had every inch of it—floor included—plastered in brown or white paper covered with her drawings. Nearby, Nathan Beard’s POD was now a mini house with partitioned rooms. In doing so, Beard managed to decorate each room with his own mini artworks of photography, sculptures, and drawings. A couple were also mesmerizing such as the POD were you had to enter past a blackout curtain into her ‘room’ illuminated by strobes and black lights (I forgot the artist’s name). The most memorable to me was also the simplest. Kumpa Tawornprom’s POD featured an elaborate wooden sculpture of a dragon slowly spinning from a ceiling suspension.
Cool in itself…until spinning it a certain angle allowed the spotlight to perfectly project an outline of Abraham Lincoln’s face on the back wall.
At least three rooms inside the Center contained almost a hundred works of art—and were selling every bit for low prices! These Trashy Treasures were all rejected and donated by their owners. It was a garage sale for art! With very limited space in my Studio, I lustfully looked at too many pieces and faced a mental battle of which to bring home.
With the event closing down I quickly bought two small pieces.
The food truck foods allowed me to Eat it! I stepped in PODS to Contain it! I even bought some art from the Trash It! But I forgot to enjoy that alcoholic art known as Craft Beer. No Brew it! for me. With an army of volunteers and proceeds benefiting the DFAC, this was still one Tasty if not Trashy Treasure.
To view my photos from the event, just click on any of the photos in this article.
Instead of beads and beer the indulgences at the State Fair are the food no doubt. Can you fry it? Then you can buy it! Can you add bacon? Then they’ll make ‘em! Before the tents are even assembled, the local media goes wild in anticipating and promoting the strangest and greatest foods the fair will be debut that year. Let me add my own writing of the ‘normal’ citizen preparing to indulge.
I cook most of my meals (without a fryer) so I prayed my stomach wouldn’t be shocked by the sudden diet change. If you plan to visit the fair just to “eat around” I plead you bring at least three other friends with the same intention and just split all food up. Your arteries will thank you and your tongue will get a mild break from the monotony of all fried foods feeling similar.
(From the same cart that showed off the Krispy Kreme Burger) This Beef Patty is topped with Asian Slaw and Sauce—and features fried Ramen Noodles molded into the buns! Somewhere between receiving the Burger to dividing it up, the Noodle Bun became soft and started to fall apart. This meal tasted a lot like Chinese take-out Stir Fry- but no utensils needed! Maybe next time they should use the same noodles from “Crispy Noodle” dishes.
Red Velvet Funnel Cake
This funnel cake flushed a deep brownish red, topped with a Cream Cheese-based icing and powdered sugar. It looked like ground beef with white mold. At least it tasted better. I liked the crispy texture and the Red Velvet flavor, but the icing was completely underwhelmed. Idea—leave the powdered sugar and just mix the cream cheese icing with some condensed milk.
I can never resist donuts—even the original, simple, glazed version. Nothing is unusual here except the size meant to rival Captain America’s shield. I craved some warm Black Tea to accompany (alas I did not find any)
Ah—and now the Fair staples because…
well… we’re at the freakin’ fair have cravings for something familiar. We pretty much created a Flying-V formation in our haste for the Bloomin’ Onion Rings (at a stand overlooking the water). The final awesomeness is when the cook stabs out the middle of that Onion Flower and replaces it with the dipping sauce. The Chili Cheese Fries can be found almost everywhere and is almost as ubiquitous to the fair as cotton candy. Although the fries weren’t as crispy and the chili had a very canned flavor—I couldn’t complain. I knew what I was getting myself into. And finally… the souvenir to cuddle late at night for days… Kettle Corn! I cradled mine like a baby and once I got home carefully divided it into portions to be frozen, chilled, or eaten at work.
I’m definitely more floored by the ingenuity of the dishes at the Fair over the execution. Think about it—you can get lots of ‘original ideas’ at many Bay restaurants (and probably done better) but at least the State Fair makes it accessible to the masses.
My fried foods indulgence has been calmed… I’ll see you at the State Fair in 2017.
Rain blinded my eyes. Tires skidded whenever a sharp turn was made. But the cold! AHHH the cold! The soaked clothes didn’t help. I turned to Partner Shoes and asked “Do we keep going?”
The day didn’t start out rainy despite warnings from the weather forecast. 25 teams signed up but only 16 arrived to brave the rain.
“Silent, Deadly and Short?” the organizer burst out laughing at our team name. Clad in our Pikachu costumes (We already owned them) all participants for Tampa’s second Urban Bike Adventure met at The Pour House. Although I’ve been around Downtown Tampa before I love how Scavenger Hunt Races like this brings you to areas you normally don’t ponder on from a car or during Gasparilla.
Clues were given and the race began! 16 teams scattered to abuse Google with their smartphones. As soon as we deciphered the locations we had to visit, the Pikachus set out to Catch ‘Em All!
I’ve attended Scavenger Hunt Races but never via cycling. The biggest difficulty was having to memorize directions. You can’t bike while glancing at a phone or map. Well maybe you can… but…
A plaque dedicated to Charles Lafayette along Jackson’s Bistro (I’ve partied there before!) was quickly conquered before we started to second guess our answers. At the Greco Trolley Station we nabbed a few “get a stranger to…” photos while trying to figure out our next move. At last we photographed the Mirabella Plaque at the USF Park near the Convention Center before the long trek to Davis Island… and wind… and cold air… and a slight mist…
Near the Davis Island Playground we had to quickly stack apples into a pyramid to earn the signature of the nearby staff member. Easy peezy. At the Seaplane Basin Park near the Peter O’Knight Airport one teammate had to throw a Frisbee (luckily my Ultimate Guru Shoes is an expert at this) while I had to smack it into a basket. With the wind not so easy peezy. Eventually we earned the signature and also biked to the airport sign where we obtained another photograph as well as a nice Pikachu jump shot.
Things slowly went downhill from there. From Davis Island to the University of Tampa that slight mist grew stronger. Remember—we’re on bikes. We never removed our jackets from heat sweat because we stayed cold! And now damp too. At one point our morale dipped low enough for us to cower under an awning. We missed the last challenge’s check-in time. “Do we keep going?”
Yes! But we wasted 20 minutes at UT trying to find the memorial to Babe Ruth (never found). Yet we nabbed our last photo of the old school house (Grrr I learned the Babe Ruth memorial was at the next building) before we realized our three hours of race time was up. Time to return.
The trek back was a straight shot via Kennedy Blvd… The only fun part was cycling past all the walkers yelling Pokemon hollers at us. “Oh look! Piiiiiikachuuuuuuuuuuuuu.”
Back at The Pour House I consoled myself with a nice Belgium Wheat while I learned we didn’t even place in the top 10. AND we lost the costume contest to the Minions (But I’ll admit they were a very cutely clad bunch). Rumor said only a few teams managed to complete all clues. The four-person team “Bikes. Beats. Battlestar Galactica” took home the prize by completing everything in a little over 2 hours. (Whaaaaaa????)
Team Silent, Deadly and Short only completed 7 out of 12 tasks (Gotta catch ‘em all? Fail!) with enough bickering unhealthy for BF/GF relationship. (Haha) But now we’re laughing and high-fiving ourselves over the awesome pictures taken AND winning a free admission to the Restaurant Bike Tour via raffle. Plus we received a gift card for Bike Accessories AND biked a cool nine miles. The Urban Bike Adventure is coming to nearby St. Pete in November and this Pikachu team will be there to conquer.
Click on any photo to view my album and go on the adventure with us!