Happy 2016 from the Apple-Achian Project

As we near ten months on the Apple-achian Project- the baby homestead four friends and I call home, waves of nostalgia and reflection have been hitting me mighty hard.

It’s been close to a year since we collectively packed up our lives in town, and relocated ten miles into the country, or “county” as they say in the Shenandoah Valley.

We’ve seen what feel like innumerable friends, family, and lovers grace our renovation project, experienced untold vehicle problems, maintenance issues, hectically scheduled “family meetings,” pet-atstrophes, and adjustments.

Waxing poetical about the values, and nitty-gritties of intentional community is one of my favorite past times. Now however, as we approach the second spring of our life on “the project,” my thoughts turn more towards external, rather than internal growth.

My housemates have been growing in leadership, partnership, and responsibility with our local community. One is a student leader at her university, an activist for LGBTQIA rights, and a member of a task force dedicated to tackling academic freedom. Another has recently committed full-time to becoming a chef and restauranteer, working her way up the ladder of the food service industry, applying to culinary schools, bridging the gap between corporations and grass-roots food justice. Yet a third housemate is currently at a conference in DC to learn what kind of careers a Peace-Building and Development Major can pursue, educating himself on systems change and analysis. The fourth directs a meals on wheels style service at a restaurant/cafe that serves fresh, local, organic food, while pursuing a costume design class, and acting in this semester’s theater production. And that’s just the sexy stuff. We all work job(s), have hobbies ranging from DnD to pastry baking, and collectively keep eleven animals healthy.

It is easy for me to lose sight of the big picture, in the milieu of busy, family living. I decided to land in Hinton, with this small group of weirdies, in order to pursue a just lifestyle, and career as a responsible peace-builder. For me,  this translates into building intentional community, practicing sustainable agriculture, and independence from corporate and industrial systems of production. Come late March, I’m starting an apprenticeship with an organic vegetable farm, 20 minutes from our house. I love what Daniel Zetah of New Story Farm in Minnesota writes, ” I hitchhiked a lot of places, ate a lot of discarded food and tried to minimize my consumption as much as I could. Then I finally got it. Even if theoretically we could get 100% of americans to give a shit about any particular issue, if they are still reliant on the produce of the industry primarily causing that issue, it means nothing. My favourite example is people rail against fracking but get the majority of their food from the supermarket (industrial ag), drive a car everyday, heat their home with propane, etc and like privilege, the irony is invisible to most folks. I recognize the irony of writing this on a computer right now. It’s like we’re schizophrenic or something. I believe that industrial agriculture is the most destructive issue we face right now and feel the best point of intervention is growing my own food in a regenerative fashion. I think it’s the most powerful political act I can do at this crazy point in history.”

Zetah articulates and iterates the dogma I’ve come to adopt as a personal directive. And as a naive impatient twenty-one year old, ten months into the fruition of “the dream,” it is important to rejoice in the small victories, celebrate the progress we’ve made thus far, and remember that it is lifelong quest to stay hungry, and keep dreaming.

This is not conventional activism. This is slow change, where Chekhov’s infamous quote about the day to day stuff rings richly true. One does not build a farm and community overnight. Every time the duck shed gets mucked out, every family meeting, every pot of dumpster stew, every work of art, or writing, or creativity, and all the countless microscopic efforts we make to be slightly more decent human beings are steps towards the dream. It will be years of odd jobs, apprenticeships, failures, (hopefully few) catastrophes, and learning on this sharp curve that bends towards revolution.
Happy 2016, y’all. Here’s to many more years of struggle.
-Rehana Franklin
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Petrol Free Jubilee

As I type this, I can smell the sweat drying on my back and am a little taken aback at how damp the straps on my backpack are. After biking only ten miles, these observations inspire even more respect for

the Petrol Free Jubilee Bikers.

This August saw the seventh annual Petrol Free Jubilee Bike Tour. According to Nic Melas, it is a “bike powered music and art tour for world peace, social justice and a healthy planet.” The tour began in 2008, initiated by members of Ears to the Ground Family, New Community Project (Vine and Fig), and Spring Village, with focus on music and faith.

Any and everyone is welcome to join the tour. The focus of the ride evolves every year. Melas noted one key evolution was broadening the scope, beyond music as the central element. “We would lose an essential piece, our philosophical archeology, if it was just a music tour. Music is only a nugget of what it is now.” Melas iterated, that the tour is a “…Spiritual social justice oriented summer camp on wheels to radicalize and challenge each other, and learn about different issues in Virginia and the world.”

Nichole Ehlers is one of the leaders of the bike tour, and has participated since 2009. Ehlers painted a picture of how formational and inspirational the tour is for her, year after year. “When I was in college I learned about all the wrongs in the world. On the bike tour I learned about community, solidarity, and creating culture. The culture of the tour extends year round.”

Ehlers detailed the crucial role the community of the bike tour has played, in many areas of her life, “I’ve experienced the power that guilt has, as a middle class American. There is a huge difference between guilt and invitation to change. On the bike tour I feel invited into this other way of doing things.” Ehlers recounted how since she went on her first tour, she has slowly and steadily been making permanent lifestyle changes, and emphasized both the empowerment from the tour, and the pace that makes her goals sustainable. “It took me five years to get to the point of biking full time. I learned how to change my own flats, fix my bike, and eventually got a job that was a few miles from home so I could bike to work.”

The tour creates a different lifestyle for participants. Ehlers outlined the “’common purse’ used for economic needs, and how, “We experiment with living without things. Getting outside of the economic system. We have to trust each other. We’ve asked a lot of strangers for help, eaten out of dumpsters, and learned a lot.”

Leadership and radicalizing power dynamics are a key facet of the tour. “We’re only as fast as the slowest person” is a motto, along with norms of Non-Violent Communication, and a language of needs.

Ehlers recounted how many people join the tour for indeterminate legs of the journey, and how both old folks and young children are frequent participants. “There’s a lot of waiting, but that’s kind of the point. So everyone gets their needs met.”

The tour this year included Afton Mountain, Staunton, Crimoa, the Grottoes, and Keezletown with an emphasis made on perma-culture and organic farms. Workshops were held during the evening, ranging from sustainable farming practices to song-writing. In previous years, the tour has taken bikers to Washington DC, and various intentional communities in southern Virginia, including Acorn, Little Flower, and Living Energy Farms.

Every year the tour holds something different. The name has changed from “Carnival” to “Jubilee.” The reference to the Talmudic practice of releasing debts and prisoners every fifty years highlights the perennially spiritual nature of the tour. Ehlers said,“The name Jubilee is a good fit. “We are totally egalitarian. We are wanderers that don’t always have all we want but definitely all we need. It’s important to learn that we will be provided for. The bike tour has been a time to experiment that those things you think you need are not necessary. The community will meet your needs.”

Rehana Franklin

Scholar, Intercessor, Traveler: a Resident of the Salvation Army Shelter

The Salvation Army shelter where Goitsemodimo lives.

The Salvation Army shelter where Goitsemodimo lives.

Goitsemodimo* is a 37-year-old expatriate from sub-Saharan Africa, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in humanities, and an MBA in Project Management. She spends her days at the library, researching potential dissertation topics. She was diagnosed with diabetes in 2013. Goitsemodimo’s compassionate nature is obvious in the way she talks and listens – fully engaged, and unabashedly expressing emotion. She describes herself as an intercessor to God and a “news junkie.” She also happens to live at the Community Center for Hope, The Salvation Army’s homeless shelter in Harrisonburg.

“They may be living on the streets for a dozen years, dressed poorly. But that’s my brother, that’s my sister. They deserve my respect,” said Director of Financial Development David Sears of the people who come to The Salvation Army for help.

Dorita Moore, above, performs in many roles as Housing Manager to meet the needs of residents such as Goitsemodimo at the Community Center of Hope shelter.

From the halls of academia to the streets of America

Goitsemodimo, whose name means “if it pleases God,” in her native language, came to America in 2004. “Ever since then He [God] has just been dragging me around Virginia!” she said. Her journey to the States began, she explained, when she became a Christian at the age of 16. She asked God to make her an international intercessor – one who prays on behalf of others, on a global scale. She then attended university, as did her seven siblings. Schooling is highly valued in her family, and after working for a time with her government’s Ministry of Education, Goitsemodimo came to the United States to pursue a doctorate degree in organizational leadership.

Another incentive to travel to America came from her faith. If she was to be an intercessor for leaders and citizens all over the world, she needed to broaden her experience of different people.

“It’s a microcosm of the entire human race here,” Goitsemodimo commented. While traveling in Virginia, she has encountered hundreds of ethnic groups.

For global change, one must start at the seat of global power – “where else can He take me except America?” Her plans of returning to school have been postponed. When God calls you, she said, you have to go through training. Much like precious metals go through a furnace so that impurities slough away, Goitsemodimo views this time of homelessness as a purification process, a chance to grow.

“I believe that’s what’s happening to me,” she said. As she learns more about American politics and their effect on global events, Goitsemodimo says she values having absorbed so much culture and history starting from the bottom rungs of society.

Sajjad Hassan (left) and Alex Paddack (right) serve dinner at the homeless shelter as part of a group led by Julie Foster, a Bridgewater College professor and teacher for healing impaired students at Thomas Harrison school.

Sajjad Hassan (left) and Alex Paddack (right) serve dinner at the homeless shelter as part of a group led by Julie Foster, a Bridgewater College professor and teacher for hearing impaired students at Thomas Harrison school.

I really don’t wish being homeless on anyone.”

“It’s not easy to be homeless, but for me, God is there. He has my back,” she said. Being at the mercy of institutionalized charity is difficult, especially for those without spiritual faith. “I really don’t wish being homeless on anyone.” She has undergone many hardships, but “the matured wine is the best wine! I think I have matured. Mentally, spiritually, and in other aspects.”

The Salvation Army is most visible around the holidays, but people undergo need and hardship beyond those few weeks. This is where the organization’s year-round services come into play – including the homeless shelter, food pantry, youth music lessons, utility assistance, character-building groups, and after-school activities. These programs, operated out of two buildings straddling Jefferson Street, help bridge the gap between low-income families’ resources and needs. Ultimately, the change and dollars dropped into the red kettles by a expatriate mother toting four children or a trenchcoat-garbed man carrying a case of beer translates into helping a fellow human being with practical assistance.

Peering beneath societal labels

While still a resident at the shelter, Goitsemodimo feels compassion and sympathy towards others in her position. “When you are homeless, people don’t treat you like you are human,” she explained. Some people do not have the skills or health to find a steady source of income. Some did not have the support and opportunities in childhood necessary for healthy psychosocial development. Because of these setbacks, they are viewed as lesser by much of society – but not in Goitsemodimo’s eyes. “I feel for these people,” she says. Even in those struggling with addictions, violent pasts, and legal records, she “can see the good person underneath.”

Goitsemodimo hopes to soon leave the shelter, and begin what she calls her “real life in America.” While she deeply misses her mother and sister in Africa, she accepts that returning now may not be God’s plan. Wherever she does go, she will be praying, researching global politics, and reaching out warmly to those around her.

*The interviewee’s name has been changed and home country excluded to protect her privacy.

For those interested, volunteer opportunities at the Salvation Army range from preparing meals to landscaping to giving painting lessons at the shelter. Education is emphasized here – especially for children in the area at risk of falling behind in academic or social development. Contact Matthew Vandenberg at Matthew_Vandenberg@uss.salvationarmy.org to get involved.

To be Human is to be Queer

Mixed media art by Randi B. Hagi

Mixed media art by Randi B. Hagi

Everyone is queer – and that is a relief.

Take the straight, cisgender “standard.” People are born with XY chromosomes, a penis, prostate, and testicles; or the perceived opposite: XX chromosomes, a uterus, vagina, and ovaries. The former is exclusively sexually and emotionally attracted to the latter, and vice versa. Each follows a pre-set, culturally specific pattern of behaviors – for example, the XX-ers being professionally inept, dependent, and emotionally flighty; the XY-ers being competitive, self-assured, and emotionally stunted. Each wears certain clothes, performs certain rituals, and likes certain activities based on their chromosomal dichotomy.

Nobody conforms to those standards, thankfully.

Begin with the basics of biological sex. Already, the paths of possibility fork, twist, and diverge in myriad ways. Babies are born every day with ambiguous genitalia, XY chromosomes matched with vaginas, one X chromosome, Klinefelter’s syndrome, partially- or non-functioning reproductive organs, and every amalgamation imaginable. Any dichotomous system of classification based on genitalia – such as “men” and “women,” is already defunct by virtue of our mammalian bodies.

Take, next, that humans are more than our physical equipment – we are also sex, romance, and attraction. But if there is no clear division between male and female, then any system of classification based on that division – such as “gay” or “straight” – has no basis. What is a “lesbian” relationship when “woman” itself is such a vague term? Even if we play by the exclusive, imperfect game of naming people “men” and “women,” how many of us have truly never felt an itch of attraction or interest towards someone outside our “orientation?” Man-crushes, girl-loves, best friends who function as committed couples – these are inklings, exceptions, and alternatives that are not accepted into our comprehensive narratives of ourselves. Were we to accept them, we again would all blur the lines of straight, or gay, or what have you; which is pretty queer, if you ask me.

As social beings capable of abstract thought, we experience gender societally, aside from our physical equipment. Gender becomes a performance, and a few steps of choreography may in one culture be straight and normative, but in another, queer or offensive. Male friends hold hands in Myanmar, Colombian women kiss each other on the cheek, men wear kilts in London and purses in Colorado and provide childcare in Denmark, women wear pants in China and graduate from universities in Iran and shave their heads in Canada. The lines of external gender expression are so arbitrarily drawn in a miniscule time and space that they are useless in classifying humans. A man crying at a romantic film breaks the American straight “ideal.” A woman being a stay at home mother breaks the classic lesbian feminist stereotype. Every single person is more complex and whole than broken caricatures of gender roles can contain. We’re queerer than that.

Internal gender identity is another beast entirely. We perceive ourselves, our bodies and minds, through the broken lenses of our society’s ideas of gender, nonetheless personalizing them to our own experience. I used to identify as a transman, but now I struggle to even define the word. If “woman” and “man” are meaningless placeholders, then what does it mean to transition from one to the other? I know a few things. I have a vagina. I relate to aspects of what is deemed “masculine” culture in 2015 America. I find examples of strength, wisdom, creation, and inspiration in the people around me with all manner of biological sex and gender expression. What else can I say? We as people can learn to inhabit and love our wide array of bodies and their wide array of sexual equipment and their wide array of connections to other humans. Beyond that, any attributes ascribed to our equipment become inaccurate at best and psychologically repressive at worst. When even internal gender identities cannot define us, we’re getting hella queer.

The bottom line is that our bodies and minds and relationships are far too diverse, beautiful, multi-faceted, and flexible to accurately portray any confining terms for them, straight or otherwise. We can be parents, siblings, lovers, actors, writers, farmers, musicians, engineers, nurses, vagabonds – but trying to assign ourselves culturally-laden monikers extrapolated from our sex chromosomes is futile. Man, woman, dyke, gay, hetero, trans – these are facades. The self-aware person is necessarily queer because they are too much – too many experiences, feelings, and histories – to fit any limiting narrative, especially one as two-dimensional and unimaginative as the straight, cisgender model. Were everyone to accept this multi-colored, many-textured queerness about themselves being themselves – once everyone is queer – then the term itself becomes unnecessary, and a wider recognition of humanity takes its place. I look forward to the day that I am merely human.

Randi B. Hagi

Angela M. Carter: “Poetry overall saved my life many times.”

Angela M. Carter is a survivor. A survivor of childhood sexual abuse, a lifelong battle against depression, and an imposed repression of her voice. Carter is also a published poet, a mother, a college administrator, a Southerner, and a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s Adult Degree Completion Program (ADCP). On her left shoulder and bicep is tattooed: “don’t listen to the lie.” It is a quote from her therapist, to remind her that the lies imparted by sexual abuse and depression do not define her: that she is good enough; she is lovable.

Her experiences with the ADCP and poetry have helped Carter develop confidence in her identity, voice, and story. Sexual abuse affects a person for life, and Carter shares her story to connect with other survivors and break the silencing stigma around trauma. She points out that about one in six people is a survivor; and both their suffering and humanity need to be acknowledged. “We wear red lipstick, we have nice clothes, and we’re absolutely hurting inside,” she says.

Overcoming a childhood of silence

Growing up, Carter was told that depression did not exist, and she should not talk about the abuse, sparing others discomfort. That silence was much worse than the abuse itself, she says. “It’s a heavy burden to carry.”

She has had hospital stays for depression, and takes six to nine pills a day. But she is also a loving mother, wife, writer, employee, and student, and wishes to be seen for both her accomplishments and her hardships. “I’m here, and I’m a happy person who just happens to have a mental illness,” Carter explains.

When in community college years ago, Carter says that she experienced crippling social anxiety, fearing people might think her crazy because of her depression. She moved to England, which she describes as fleeing her fear of people. She found her fears followed her across the Atlantic. “I was in London and I still couldn’t run from it.” Realizing that her inner narrative was more caustic than anything others said was “very liberating.”

She met and married her husband in England, and while on a late honeymoon through Harrisonburg, they decided to move and raise their family here. Carter sought stability – “a place to belong, a place to be.” But moving to a strange city without friends or career connections prompted her to seek further education. She found the ACDP, and “everything aligned” with scholarships and enrollment.

“There was never a moment when I thought, ‘this isn’t right.’”

Carter joined the program as a mother of two daughters – now ages 10 and seven. “It was not easy, whatsoever,” to be both parent and student. Her classmates, however, understood.

Carter was deeply depressed in this epoch of life, yet she never missed a class. Her classmates were a diverse collection of people, but through meeting weekly, they developed a camaraderie – “I haven’t encountered that kind of friendliness outside the program,” says Carter.

Professor Terry L. Whitmore particularly noticed her psychological battle. After one class, he called to ask how she was doing. Carter says that just hearing the phone ring was heartening – and it is often small gestures like that which mean the most to someone who is depressed. A simple card or cup of coffee “might be their saving grace,” and communicate that they are worth friendship and healing.

Through moments of connection like these, Carter began to gain confidence in herself, and a sense of personal identity and worth. “I became ‘me’ while I was there,” she says.

Finding a voice through poetry

Two and a half years ago, another portion of her identity manifested, as Carter began to publish the poetry she’d written secretly, throughout her life, about personal subjects. “It was giving me a voice,” Carter says. She found that writing about the past helped her to process the trauma she’d experienced.

Her first book, “Memory Chose a Woman’s Body,” was published in May of 2014. A poetic memoir, it focuses on the abuse she endured as a child, and the true effects of the silence endured, while offering hope in the end. “There’s a desperation in it,” says Carter, “and I’m proud of that.”

While having been compared to Sylvia Plath, Carter says her style is distinct, and not academic. “I write for normal people.” An excerpt from one poem in the anthology, “Moths,” illustrates this style:

I remember the phone call weeks later,

expected by my ears, unprepared by my blood,

your arm broken,

ribs cracked,

your scalp without its hair.

And I, in tears,

of sympathy and jealousy

that your pain had a name, a color, a face

and you chose not to see the face of my culprit until

he beat you black and blue.

Reviews have said that her poetry is “hard to read” because of the subject matter, but Carter counters that “the truth is beautiful, even when it’s not fun and games.” Nominators of the Pushcart Prize and Virginia Literacy Award agree. She also works as a visual artist, often combining art shows with poetry.

Carter plans to get a tattoo of the words “I was the secret keeper,” which harkens to a line in her poem “Woman Child.” After a lifetime of being told to keep secrets, she is now “so open that it scares people.” Her family has rallied around Carter’s work. Her mother, with whom Carter did not have a relationship as a child, was originally “dead against this book coming out.” But after reading the manuscript, she told Carter that “she now understands why the caged bird sings.” Her mother is now one of her largest supporters.

“My husband supports me and my children look up to me,” says Carter. “If the whole world treated these topics the way my chosen family does, I doubt there would be a need to me to do all that I am.”

Sharing poetry as a means of empowerment

A full roster of speaking engagements speaks to the significance of Carter’s work. “It’s a dream come true,” she says. If anyone had told her four years ago where she would be today, “I would have never, ever believed you.”

After each reading, Carter has received an outpouring of emotional feedback. Often, people approach her in tears, unable to speak. She recalls young adults who have “a gleam in their eyes” after a performance, saying they would start writing because of her.

The message she hopes to impart to her listeners is, “there’s a lot of solace in knowing that you’re not alone.” Carter encourages anyone who is dealing with depression and trauma to read about mental illness, and learn about the societal prevalence of their struggle. Breaking the stigma around mental illness is paramount to healing, she explains. Writing and sharing her work provided Carter with a means to overcome that stigma. “Poetry overall saved my life many times.”

Randi B. Hagi

The “Arcane” First Friday

Arcane

Arcane, a word that by definition is, “mysterious, secret, obscure, understood by very few.” As the title for an art show, it successfully evokes in the viewer feelings of good fortune, and delight to be privy to the craft of the artist. Perhaps I don’t understand every aspect of Randi B. Hagi’s talent, which only adds appreciation for his masterful work.
Hagi is a native West Virginian, and an active member of the Harrisonburg community. He is an artist, writer, journalist, activist, farm owner, (and a damn good cook). He is a proud Appalachian and a seasoned nomad, with an undergraduate degree in Visual Arts and Communication and Writing Studies from Eastern Mennonite University.
The Artful Dodger is a local hotspot here in Harrisonburg, it is a bar, café, restaurant, concert venue, dance hall and gallery. It’s the place where the cool kids hang- smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, and perfecting the art of the rendezvous.
Hagi’s show opened on May 1st, as part of the “First Fridays Downtown” festivities that grace the shops, bars and restaurants of the ‘Burg. First Fridays Downtown is described on as “…a free celebration of culture and community held in downtown Harrisonburg. During the first Friday of the month, the downtown venues host art exhibition openings, local music performers, and various arts related events.”
The event is sponsored and organized by the Arts Council of the Valley which, “champions diverse artistic expression and promotes the arts as fundamental to a vibrant community.” (https://www.facebook.com/firstfridaysdowntown/info?tab=page_info)
Arcane: An Art Show by Randi B. Hagi about psychological survival through symbolic narrative” opened at the Dodger with great success. Hagi’s work spans multiple seasons and styles, including paintings based on nature, the realm of dreams, magical realism, renderings of emotional and psychological trauma, transformation, love and grief. There are walking trees, city streets, selves that are embryonic and androgynous, fear and personal actualization. Hagi’s work is from the soul. The pieces do not form a collection, each work represents a story in its own right.
Harrisonburg is a small town, by any city kid’s standards, and it is home to incredible talent, passion and a thriving culture all of its own. “Arcane” will be on display at the Artful Dodger for the entire month of May. Several pieces have already been purchased, selling the afternoon they were placed.
The Artful Dodger is located at: 47 Court Square, Harrisonburg, VA, 22801 and can be found online at: http://artfuldodgerlounge.blogspot.com/

-Rehana Franklin

Dumpster Diving: Basic Why’s and How-to’s

dumpster treasures

One night’s dumpster plunder: two Food Lions and Frito Lay’s. Photo by Randi B. Hagi

One farm worker dies on the job every day in America. In December 2012, farm worker advocates filed a complaint with the United Nations decrying farm practices of denying legal aid, health care, and other basic needs to their laborers. Large-scale farms can get away with these and other forms of exploitation because of the availability of contingent labor — farm workers hired out by short-term contractors. In the U.S., about half of farm workers are undocumented immigrants, and 44% said they could speak no English. Farms are able to prey upon these workers’ needs and fear of deportation in order to pay scant wages and skirt regulations to sacrifice worker safety and well-being for profit.

That’s just in the U.S.; don’t forget all the imported produce we can buy. For example, the U.S. has incited and funded civil wars just to further its interests in the banana industry in Central America.

The American meat industry, in addition to being guilty of many of the same injustices against its employees, raises animals in inhumane conditions. 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are shoved down farm animals’ throats to speed weight gain. Chickens in the poultry industry often live in less than a square foot of space, which causes agression. Farmers prevent these chickens, most of which cannot walk, from eating each other by removing their beaks.

What are we, as socially aware and critically thinking global citizens, to do in response to these atrocities? The obvious answer is to get out of the system! But, unfortunately, homesteading takes a lot more resources and time than any of us have, and means that you have to pass up on delicacies like Frito’s and almond milk iced coffee. You may ask, “is there a way to flip off the system, and still partake in its luxuries?”

The answer is yes, although you’ll have to get your hands dirty: dumpster diving.

The most often cited deterrent to dumpster diving is the germ aspect, but you’re already touching fecal E. coli, pneumonia, and staph infections on your dollar bills and doorknobs. What’s a little cantalope slime going to hurt? Keep hand sanitizer in the car or on your bike, wear old clothes, and make sure you carefully sanitize your loot. Inspect your melons, bags of coffee, and bacon packages for any rot or mold, or punctures in the packaging/rind before running off. When at home, inspect them more thorougly, and sanitize.

One easy way to do this is to run your tap water as hot as it will go or boil water, fill the sink with this steaming water, add a hearty splash of apple cider vinegar, and scrub every item carefully. You’ll want to switch out your water every couple of items, or as it appears murky/cools down.

Another turn-off to diving is the common fear of being arrested. However, once an item (other than certain goods like government documents) is thrown out, it enters the public domain, and is available to anyone willing to get it. The one thing to be cautious about is diving in dumpsters that sit against store walls or in fenced areas. Then, you’re technically trespassing on store property, and can be ejected. I’ve been screamed at to leave from a Charleston, WV Kroger’s at midday, so that’s why I advise going at night, after the stores are closed. One Harrisonburg diver I know was spotted by the police, and kindly apologized to, then asked to leave. Also make sure that, if asked, you are clearly removing things from the dumpster, because some places have serious laws concerning dumping your own waste elsewhere.

Ultimately, the main reasons most people begin dumpstering is that it’s free. As students or adults caught in financial turmoil, it can be hard enough to buy Ramen, much less steak, fresh vegetables, or greek yogurt. By augmenting or basing your diet on dumpster diving, you better your diet with a higher variety of foods, refuse to contribute to systems of oppression that want $1.70 for a morally questionable Totino’s pizza. Not to mention that can enjoy all the thrill of a scavenger hunt, like finding the perfect vest in a thrift shop or unopened Kingdom Hearts in GameStop. Diving is also a great way to get exercise, with parkour endeavors to get in and out of dumpsters, and there are several good ones within biking distance of most residential areas in Harrisonburg. I’ve also enjoyed the social aspect of going adventuring with a few friends and returning triumphant from a night of camaraderie and plunder.

Randi B. Hagi