Delivering Books to the Rez

I’m a little late in posting this, but better late than never, right? I want to thank everyone who donated books to the library at Windswept Academy on the Cheyenne River Reservation. I received another box today. Don’t worry. All donations I receive after my return from Eagle Butte will be either mailed or taken when I go back next summer.

My trip up there this past summer was rather uneventful until I got the brilliant idea to drive straight through the night. Being a night person, I wasn’t really very sleepy when I had originally planned to stop at around 10:00. And since I hadn’t reserved a hotel ahead of time like I usually do, I didn’t have any need to stop. So, I thought, why not drive for an hour more. I had a book on tape that I was listening to, and since it was so interesting, I didn’t feel sleepy. (Thank you Cracker Barrel for making books on tape available for bored travelers.)

Around 11:00, I still felt fine, so, on I went. Just for an hour longer. At midnight, I was beginning to lose that wide awake energetic mood, but I still felt fine, so why not keep going? At this point, it almost seemed wasteful to stop and pay money for a hotel room. And if I did get a hotel, knowing myself, I would undoubtedly sleep late the next morning and thereby lose a lot of time that I could spend driving. Also, think about how much time I could make up if I kept going. I was sure I could do it. After all, I had just stayed awake for 40 straight hours when I came back to the U.S. from China. So, keep going I did.

I wasn’t worried about any trouble that I might come across by being on the road so late at night. I have a relatively new car, and since I was on the interstate, I didn’t have to worry about gas stations. Indeed, not only did I find well-lit gas stations everywhere, but I was also surprised at how many other people stopped at them at that time. It felt nice to know that I wasn’t the only one crazy enough to be out and around so early in the morning.

1:00 a.m. came and went and then 2:00 a.m. The monotony of the road started to become more noticeable. Around 4:00 a.m. and a few Mt. Dews later, I started to get that tingly feeling that comes from a combination of tiredness and caffeine. My book on tape had ended, so I began looking for songs that I could sing to, loudly, to help me stay awake. It was then that I really began feeling the late hour. Of course, I couldn’t stop at a hotel at 4:00 a.m. That would certainly be a waste, so even though, I was starting to become very tired, I had to keep going.

Around this time, the world started to become a little surreal. I never lost my focus on the road. I made sure of that, but at one point when I made a pit stop, for a moment, I had the feeling that I was in a dream. Do you know the feeling? That sensation that you get in a dream when you think you’re awake. Well, I had the same sensation, but since I was awake, it felt like I was in a dream. For a moment, I wondered. But, I reasoned, if it were a dream, if I were sleeping, then I was asleep at the wheel. Since I wasn’t having a car wreck, I must be awake. So, on I went.

I counted it an incredible blessing when the sun started to rise. The darkness had begun to weigh heavily on me, especially around 5:00 a.m. It got a little easier when the sun came up. Not easy, mind you, but easier. More Mt. Dews, and the additional pit stops necessitated by them, helped some.

It was after lunch when I realized that I’d finally reached my limit. I pulled over at a rest stop and took a 30 minute nap. More refreshed than I expected to be, I continued my journey and made it to Anne and Ilhami’s later that evening early enough to spend some nice time catching up with them. While I’m glad for the experience of driving through the night, I don’t plan on doing it again, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. If you do try it, the key is to know your limit, and when you reach it, do as I did, and stop to rest.

The next day, I got to see the new school building. It looks great! And I got a chance to meet the new faculty and staff. All of the teachers and workers seemed really gung ho to get the school year started. Based on the last count I heard, they have 41 students now. I’m really excited about the opportunities these kid’s will have at Windswept this year. With this group working with them, wonderful things can’t help but happen.

I only had one full day to stay and help because I had to get back in time to begin classes at UNA. I didn’t have time to do as much as I would like, but I was able to unload and somewhat organize the book donations that I had brought with me and those that others had brought earlier. Hopefully, if someone else doesn’t beat me to it, I’ll have a chance to organize them even better when I return next year.

The school looks great, but it still needs some work, and with the additional students this year, they will be needing additional donations to cover the extra cost. If you would like to learn more about the school or help out, you can look them up on Facebook under Windswept Academy, or you can check out their website at http://www.windsweptacademy.org.
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