March 28th was Day 110 of the pandacademic year, and it was the final day of our first week of cycle 8. We had a good week up to that point, although Learners being out due to quarantines and the fixation on seeking out destinations that we could spend money on food instead of engaging in social justice oriented activities was frustrating. But those struggles were outweighed by the positives of being together in the city again, with plenty of sun and good weather, lots of walking, and a some really great conversations.

The day was supposed to be a biking day for some, but the Learners who were going to bring bikes forgot to bring them, so Facilitator Ariel threw his bike in Antonio’s vehicle and we went into the morning meeting. A Learner and Facilitator Ariel both threw out prompts for the morning meeting. For the first prompt we each described a fruit without saying what its name was, while the rest of us tried to guess what it was. The fruits were green apple, grape, banana, tomato, and honeydew. What was really great about that prompt/game was that each of us successfully guessed one of the fruits.

Because it was Friday we went into our Check-in and Change-up meetings after the morning meeting. Three folks raised a total of six awarenesses in the Check-in, and during the Change-up we selected five that we wanted to focus on for the coming week. We keep the number of awarenesses that we put on the Community Awareness Board limited to five so that we can keep each one top of mind as we work toward shifting our culture, because if we had too many awarenesses we would become overwhelmed. The awarenesses included people ruminating on food/treats; dehydration; mindfulness about ourselves, nature, and the environment; taking into account the needs of others; and making assumptions about what others know. For each of the five awarenesses we came up with two or three practices that we would try out for a week to see if we could address the awarenesses we raised.

After the morning meeting we set off. We agreed to hit some food places on our way to the little green spot next to a pond that we found the day prior. I agreed to stop at a food truck so a younger Learner could get some Thai ice cream while the rest of the crew went to a corner store (coffee) and a fast food place (milkshake). When I got to the food truck with the younger Learner we found that it was closed, and according to the sign they would be closed for an hour. The Learner took it in stride and asked to go to a food truck that sold gelato, but we found that closed, as well. The Learner really wanted ice cream so I looked for nearby places that sold ice cream and we finally found one on South Lamar, but it was a 15 minute walk and uphill. He said that he wanted to do that, so I checked in with the others and asked them if it was okay to meet them at the park after we went to the ice cream shop. They said that would be fine, and we trekked to the shop.

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When we arrived at the shop we took our time going through the options and debating how many scoops and toppings would feel good. As he was deciding I was surprised to see the rest of the crew come on scene. They set up in a sally port next to the shop, and began to eat lunch or snacks. When the ice cream was delivered I broke out my lunch to eat. Then we all began talking about a wide variety of topics, and we made time to take a bunch of pictures in front of the two murals painted on each side of the sally port.

Once the pictures were taken and everyone’s stomachs were filled we decided to make our way to our destination, but in looking at the map we thought we would see if we could find our way across a small stream and train tracks into the greenbelt so that we could avoid the sound and exhaust of cars during our walk. We were thrilled that no fences were in our way as we carefully walked across the place where the water flows and then across the place where the trains roll. We checked to make sure that no trains were coming and took a quick shot of the crew on the tracks. It could have been an album cover it was so good.

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After crossing over the tracks we made our way down into the greenbelt where we followed a variety of trails that led us to West Bouldin Creek. Along our walk we saw a tree that had split and fallen but got caught up by branches to form perpendicular angles. The most amazing thing about the tree was that it was still alive, and the branches of the tree were budding. We guessed that it was a quite recent break, and most likely happened during the deep freeze that Austin experienced in mid-February. The weight of the ice that coated the trees brought down many trees in the area. It was a beautiful area that we walked through, and it would be worth coming back to in the future.

Also in the greenbelt we stumbled upon some tents. One of the Learners wanted to walk toward the tents to see what was happening, but Facilitator Ariel talked to the Learners about the importance of not making a lot of noise and steering clear of the tents for purposes of privacy for the people who were living there. That led to a discussion of public and private spaces, and the different expectations we might hold for others relative to ourselves. When Facilitator Ariel asked if the Learner would feel comfortable if someone was walking through their home looking in their rooms or making a lot of noise the Learner conceded that he would not feel comfortable.

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When we finally got to the park we settled in, content in being full and having had had a nice walk through a beautiful green space hidden within the city. Some of the Learners spent time down by the water playing on the edge, watching the turtles scurry away, and watching the ducks float by. One of the Learners took off his shoes and walked in far enough for the water to go halfway up his shins. When he came back out of the water to hang with the rest of the crew we noticed something attached to his leg. It was a leech! Super cool for all, gross for some.

There was some time on the hammock, three of us broke out books to read (two Facilitators and a Learner), and a Learner and I threw the football around. Sadly, due to a lack of communication and poor setup the ball ended up in the lake, and slowly drifted away. In many places along the water there was growth that was deep enough and thick enough to prevent the ball from coming to shore while also preventing us from being able to go in and get it. We thought it was a lost cause.

I then followed a Learner back to the top of a hill that was created to provide a beautiful view of the area. Yesterday we found a large stone map of Texas on there, with a collection of cities or towns and their distance from Austin. On this day, I looked up the population of each of the towns, and then pointed out which larger cities and towns were omitted from the map. While we were up there we watched as a Learner worked the football out of the lake so that we could play with it some more in the future. It was an excellent recovery that allowed us to leave the first week of cycle eight on a high note.

At the other cell there was also a Check-in and Change-up, discussions about what to do when we come into contact with people who do not honor our boundaries, some walking, soccer playing, drone flying, and head-banging to metal music. Also ducks.