Contributed Photo by Slesha Tuladhar

“I am at the wrong place,” her dead mother kept saying in her dream. She kept having this recurring dream for a long time and when they dug her grave to see what was wrong, she was buried on top of another person.

 I, along with eight other Keene State students, went to Maryville, Tennessee on January 12 with the motive of serving the Cherokee community. We drove from Hoot ‘n’ Scoot at 4 a.m. and listened to the murderous and scary podcast the whole way to Tennessee. We stayed with a host family at a place called “Once Upon a Time.” We stayed in a cabin that was built by our host, Ed. The biggest adventure for us was the outhouse. It had seats like normal toilets, however, in the middle was nothing but a hole dug in the ground.

On the second day, we went on a trail from where we could see “Chota,” a village where Cherokees used to live. On a small piece of the wood with the direction was written “Spearfinger, Liver here.” We got curious and asked Arleen about it. In the Cherokee community, Spearfinger is a mythical creature who has a forefinger like a dagger and likes to eat children’s livers. We interpreted if they had created her to prevent their kids from going to the lake and drown themselves.

That day, we cleaned the bonfire area and headed back to cut two dead trees for wood to heat our cabin. Ed, with his band saw, was no less than an action hero for me. We then split the wood with the wood splitter and some of us split it the old fashion way with an axe. After piling them all up, we called it a day. For me, this trip was memorable not only because we worked and went to different places but because, along with travelling, I got to share my culture. In the evening, I got to make Nepali dinner for everybody.   

The next day we went to Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. Sequoyah was a Cherokee member who introduced the Cherokee syllabary. Cherokees had a language to talk with one another; however, they did not have any written language a long time ago. We got to learn about the history of the Cherokee language. We cleaned the storage of the museum that day.

The fourth day was a recreational day. We went to Knoxville, Tennessee. We had some difficulty in navigating the city, but eventually we arrived downtown Knoxville. In the downtown area, we had our lunch and left for the East Tennessee History Museum. That day was educational for me. I felt satisfied and tired at the same time.

On the fifth day, we drove to Cherokee National Forest. This is a recreational place for Cherokees. For the first time in my life I got to operate a leaf blower. I had a sore shoulder for days after blowing leaves for just three hours. This also made me appreciate the people who do it as a job for hours. Then I switched into painting. When we were done, Ed and Arleen drove us to Bald River Falls. The waterfall was beautiful and breathtaking.

On the last day, we went to the Snowbird Cherokee community. There we made some Valentine’s Day cards for soldiers and met some Cherokee members. We restored the trail that ran from the backyard of a pregnant lady’s house. Then we went to the Cherokee cemetery to do some cleaning. When we were done with work, we played a famous Cherokee game called The Fish Game. We were divided into teams of two, the girls’ and boys’ teams. There is a fish on top of a tall pole and either team must hit the fish with the ball to score. In this game the girls have an advantage because they can use their hands, but boys must hold the ball with a bat and can not use their hands. The girls’ team won. In the Cherokee community, people play this game prior to marriage. They test the guy and see if they are tolerant to whatever girls do to them.

This trip was satisfying and,moreover, I got to make friends. Nine of us who started as strangers are now friends. At the end of every day, we reflected on our day. This made me think about my purpose of being there. Two days after our trip, Arleen emailed me. They wanted to cook Nepali food for dinner and now Maryville has my heart and my recipe.

DISCLAIMER: This is the sole opinion of Slesha Tuladhar

Slesha Tuladhar can be contacted at 

stuladhar@kscequinox.com