We bid adieu to friends in Seattle at 9:30 on Thursday morning– riding in high-style, as you can see.
Day one… 10 hours, 35 miles… way to go Sarah and Toni!
A couple hours of stop-and-start traffic in Seattle, a sunny ride along Alki Beach in West Seattle, a ferry to Vashon Island, beautiful (might-as-well-a-been vertical) roads and a whole lotta walkin’ on Vashon, another ferry to Tacoma and a ride through the suburbs to our hosts downtown.
Toni spent the last year as a Jesuit Volunteer in Seattle. Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) is a year-long service program funded by Americorps. Volunteers live in communities of 4-8, living simply on a shared budget. We stayed with the JV community in Tacoma on our first night of the trip. Their house is right next to Guadaloupe House, a Catholic worker house which provides transitional housing and showers and meals for the homeless.
The Catholic Worker was self-described by a resident as “the hippies of the Catholic social justic movement.” We got a tour of the house by a long-standing resident, as well as their extensive garden in the back and a little bit of information on the other community houses on the block. The Catholic Worker owns an entire city block with houses of all kinds of social justice institutions.
We had an amazing experience at the Irma Gary house, a home for recently incarcerated women. All of the women were out at work, but we had the opportunity to talk with the “house-mom,” Patty for a while about the cups and this demographic of women. In prison, women are not not allowed to have any of their own belongings, including underwear and bras, and women are only allowed to use pads- no tampons. Patty described to us that the bras are like tubes that create a uni-boob, and the underwear are so cheap that women pull up the unraveling elastic to floss their teeth after they eat. Patty also told us that buying, bumming, or finding pads and tampons at distribution centers is a struggle for women experiencing poverty. Because Patty lives with the women for several months as they transition into independent housing, we hope she can be an ally to help them make this empowering lifestyle change. Patty now has five cups to give away to women who she thinks will use them.
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The ride from Tacoma to Olympia… not one pleasant rode or view. But we made it, with a little help from some new friends in pick-up trucks. Thanks to our inappropriate, blind trust in our new, hand-me-down i-phone, we found ourselves dead-ended into Fort Lewis, a big military base outside of Tacoma. Our options were a scary, winding, 45mph road with no shoulder, or I-5 (a huge interstate). We carefully chose a couple friendly looking pick-up trucks to get us into Olympia. Our first ride was from a military mom with two kids in the backseat. She, herself, was not terribly interested in menstrual cups, but it got us thinking about another whole demographic of women. Women in the military are highly active, and often traveling in rugged conditions for weeks or months. Menstrual cups might be a really practical options for them. Let us know if you might be the person to reach out to this community.
Our second ride was from Betsy and her partner, also a military family. Betsy makes a living cleaning homes as military families move in and out of town for deployment or reassignments. She had never heard of menstrual cups, but was a quick convert after a 15 minute conversation on our way into Olympia. She was immediately struck by the economic benefits of menstrual cups. She has three daughters and especially excited about all the money that their family will save by making this switch.
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In Olympia, we pre-arranged to stay with a house-full of young bicycle enthusiasts, “Penguin House,” through the website warmshowers.org (like couch surfing, but for bicycle tourists). They have chickens, a big vegetable garden, and a hammock under a grape arbor. Most of the residents were guys- surprisingly open ones. All had heard of cups, and one, Ben, bought cups for two of his friends at age 17! When we make our list of sustainable menstruation super-stars, he will be on there! Ben made papusas, we used the computer, had good talks, and overall felt very at home.
Mmmmmmm! Ben’s starting a papusa business– Mr. Penguin’s Papusas-– he’ll be dressed as a penguin. If you’re in Olympia, support him. Best papusas of my life!
We had our first event at Last Word Books on Saturday at 4pm. We scheduled the event only a few days in advance with Sky, one of the owners, who publicized on Facebook. Not many folks came, but it turned out to be an incredible learning experience. We ended up talking about our project to two trans-gendered identified people who were hanging out in the shop. We were very humbled by this conversation and deeply appreciative for the openness with which these two young folks spoke to us about issues that were so personal. We realized that our extensive use of the word “women” in our literature excludes many people. Not all women menstruate. Not all bodies who menstruate are women. For trans-gendered people, menstruation is a deeply complicated and sensitive issue. We are thinking about how to talk about these issues at our next event, and how to perhaps change the language in our literature.
Next, we talked to Sky’s partner Hannah. Hannah is a social worker working with low-income and homeless youth. We gave her a cup for herself, and four to give away to some of the youth she has worked with.
Comic relief: On the way home, three young teenagers (we’re guessing thirteen), saw our ask-me-how-much-I-love-my-mooncup pins on our backpacks and asked, “How much do you love your mooncups?” To their red-faced dismay we embarrassed them thoroughly with a dorky and detailed explanation about how cool menstrual cups are! Needless to say they didn’t take the bait, but maybe that information will stay somewhere in the back of their growing minds.
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Traveling by bicycle you meet a wide cross-section of humanity. Over the last few days we have gotten many new ideas and suggestions about populations we could be reaching out to on this trip. We believe that person-to-person relationships are the way that people make this lifestyle change. We are on the move and we don’t have time to make relationships with everyone. We are realizing the importance of finding allies or spokespeople who can carry this message to their communities. So you’re trans-gendered, in the military, a parent, low-income, homeless, incarcerated or recently incarcerated, in a sorority, live on a commune or a co-op, post-menopausal, menopausal, a teenager, a lesbian, a man, a father, a husband, a brother, a house-wife, a church-goer… the list could go on… We are not the right people to talk to many of these communities, but you might be. Because of the structure of this project, we don’t have the time to make deep connections and build trust in every demographic.
We are relying on community leaders of all kinds to water the seeds that we plant.