When I originally wrote about our trip to Charleston and Savannah, I just wrote it as one piece; but it was way too long. So I broke it up, and as I was doing so, I recognized that I had to create a post only about my feelings, perceptions, and thoughts because there is some seriously heavy shit that went down in these areas. Both places are beautiful in their own right, and that has pros and cons as every place does.
I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of Savannah, and I think it’s partially because it is so beautiful but also because I had no expectations. I have heard so much about Charleston, but so little about Savannah. Sure, it has a TON of great food, and what I imagine to be a good alcohol scene. All of the people we came across were very nice. To be honest, I am not sure how much of Charleston we actually got to explore. I know there is more than what we did. I also know that we would like to check out some more of the surrounding islands, such as Kiawah, Folly, Johns. I imagine that having the city of Charleston so close is great – that makes sense to me. Charleston, itself, to live and such, I feel indifferent. Though we saw a lot of people our age with young children, I felt the vibe of the city was young and old. I imagine most of those people to live in the surrounding suburbs/islands or are visitors. There is definitely a good scene for college and people in their 20s, and then retirees. That’s just the vibe I felt, though I could be totally wrong.
Again, though, we were only there for 4 days and one of those days we spent most of the day in Savannah. We would love to go back to Charleston to explore and learn more!
Savannah was so surprising in many ways, but with the good also comes a questionable, at best, past. In the past, Savannah was run by cotton for about 200 years. With the south and cotton, comes slavery. Savannah was a huge port for slaves to be brought into Georgia and sold. Actually, Savannah is still a huge port which is their biggest industry now, according to our tour guide. They are the second largest port on the East Coast, which they seem to take great pride in. When we go back, I would love to learn more about the history of slavery in Savannah to understand what people went through, for how long, and why the conditioning from those periods still exists on all fronts. I read, briefly, that James Oglethorpe one of the founders and trustees of the colony of Savannah, put a ban and opposed slavery (even though the trustees themselves had slaves)in the 1730s and 1740s. But many of the residents believed that slave labor was necessary for the success of the colony and their personal pursuit of wealth. They found ways around the ban, importing slaves anyway. And then the ban was lifted in 1751. The Thirteenth Amendment to end legal slavery wasn’t passed until 1865. And then in the 1900s the US had legal segregation until the mid-1950s. That shit is insane. All for personal wealth and power. This is a long history of negative conditioning, primarily by white men.
But there were also triumphs such as the Underground Railroad, a women’s hospital, founding of Girl Scouts, a ton of amazing music, and a women led preservation society that truly kept the city gorgeous. I would like to go back and learn more about all of that.
Savannah has the acclaimed Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) who have restored 75 buildings around the city. Having this art school definitely helps give Savannah a hip vibe; very dog friendly, vegan friendly, and diverse. Savannah, surprisingly to me, felt much more diverse than Charleston. I didn’t expect to see a young hispanic man walking down the street in Savannah wearing a crop top. It’s rad.
Interesting tidbit, according to our tour guide, they have the second largest St Patty’s day celebration in the US, behind NYC. 1 million people attend, and hotels book up 5 years in advance — this according to our trolley tour guide. Big Irish population and influence in Savannah from immigration during the potato famine. I had no idea!
Apparently, like New Orleans, they have very lax drinking laws and you can walk around anywhere in the historic district (largest in the country) with alcohol as long as it’s in a plastic cup. We love that about New Orleans, aside from the fact of it being in plastic. Let’s find a compostable cup or a reusable cup that everyone can use. And, please, if it’s compostable then have actual compostable bins that get composted. I can’t stand these places thinking they are doing good by having compostable containers and then all they have is trash and recycling. Sure, it’s still better than plastic but composting is so easy and there are companies that will pick it up and do it for you! We need more composting!! Check out Kait’s article on Little Foot Living about composting.
I actually got somewhat of a New Orleans vibe in Savannah, but not quite the same palpable vibrant energy and distinct culture of New Orleans.
Savannah is also a walking city! I hate that so many cities were designed and conditioned to be driving, that makes no sense to me — until we start talking about the influence of the automotive industry. Finding cities or communities that are walking friendly, have great public transportation or biking cities in the US is golden. When I started living and working in Philadelphia, I can’t even explain how much better I felt because I didn’t have to drive every day. I felt better in body and mind. Walking as my primary mode of transportation helps keep me active and has become a time for daily mindfulness and meditation. This is soon going to change, but I will do my best to stay at it as often as possible, while also adding riding a bike and longboarding as modes of transportation.
I didn’t find walking in Charleston to be as common, aside from King Street. It could just be the neighborhood we were in, but we were often the only ones or one of a handful walking around. King Street, however, was packed with walkers.
Savannah is known as one seriously haunted city. They have some serious ghost tours, which intrigue me even though I am not one for purposefully putting myself in situations to be scared. I imagine that a lot of the hauntings have racial ties.
Boone Hall Plantation, Mt Pleasant, South Carolina
The plantation is still working and was huge back in its heyday. Plantation is really a farm. This one produced cotton, pecans, and bricks as their main products. Now, they do the tourism, restaurant, and a farmer’s market. Sadly, of course, as was in most of the South, Boone Hall had about 295 slaves for over a hundred years. Some of the “nicer” slave quarters for the “skilled” and house slaves are still standing. The “skilled” and “house” slaves were allowed to use defective bricks to build these tiny dwellings. The other slave “homes” were not made as well and were demolished after slavery was ended.
I learned that the first slaves at Boone Hall Plantation were Native Americans (or indigenous peoples), whom always seem to be forgotten and the complete genocide of the Native American people by the white Europeans. Every time I think of Native Americans I get sad and I truly just do not understand. When I did a clinical rotation at a hospital in Phoenix during graduate school, I had several Native American patients from reservations around Phoenix. The majority of them that I dealt with were in the rehab hospital due to complications related to alcoholism. From what I remember, one was drunk and fell off of some sort of bridge, another was an alcoholic who developed type 2 diabetes and got injured. One of them had to become a quad amputee – that means all four limbs had to be amputated so they could survive. Both arms below the elbow and both legs below the knee. We had to teach her how to care for her stumps (that’s what amputated limbs are called), walk with prosthetic legs and use prosthetic arms with clamps to grab things. I think of this often, as white Europeans came in and wiped them all out to steal their land and gain more power. I recognize that not all indigenous peoples were kind, but they were also trying to live and protect their home.
The second enslaved by this plantation were people from the Caribbean, and third were Africans from Sierra Leone. The slaves were brought to and sold in downtown Charleston. Slavery did not only happen in America, but it is a huge part of the conditioning of who people are now. I couldn’t help but notice that most people visiting the plantation were white. There happened to be several bus tours of people from Germany that were on a cruise excursion. Aside from 2 workers, I saw a total of five people who were black and a few people who were Asian. It felt weird to me, especially when learning about the slave quarters and Gullah traditions.
If you read Part 2, you know that I missed the house tour, which I was truly totally cool with. I walked Weston around the gardens, under some live oaks, pecan trees, and found a cotton plant which I had never seen live and thriving. Then I listened to the talk about the plantations slaves. I loved my time alone there with Weston. Contemplating, feeling, trying to understand in anyway I could – but I couldn’t. I found a cotton plant and picked some off. It’s the first time I had seen one, or remember seeing one. I also found some pecans under the pecan tree. Did you know, Pecan is a Native American term meaning “hard shelled nut”? I was not able to get through the shell at all with my hands, but my fingers were stained from the the Pecan for a couple of days.
People, presumably mostly white, get married next to the houses slaves lived in and party on the docks where slaves were brought and the goods they produced were sold. I don’t think we should hang on to the past, but it is an interesting juxtaposition and I feel like everyone should get a lesson in what really went down before they get married there. We are still benefiting from the sacrifices those people were forced to endure.
As far as I know, my direct family line came over to the US after slavery was over. I know for certain my Italian ancestors from my Mom’s side did, my Dad’s side is more of a mystery. I really don’t know if my most direct ancestors (because we are really all connected) were involved with slavery or not. But as a male with white skin pigmentation, I felt a lot of heaviness being at Boone Hall with mixed thoughts, perceptions and sensations. The people who were enslaved created a strong culture, which seems to only be hanging on by a thread now. During the Gullah presentation, I found myself thinking, “Who is going to carry this on when this woman, who was not young, is no longer able to share her knowledge and traditions.” I forget the exact number but they said that of the 274 (or so) slaves still at Boone Plantation when the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1864/1865, about half of them actually stayed to work on the plantation because they didn’t know any other life. Most of the others went north somewhere to try to start a better life.
The whole idea that any people are overly better than others and that, that gives them some right to own them and treat them like they don’t belong on Earth is insane to me. It’s such an egotistical, power hungry state of mind that is still rampant today. The fact that there had to (and has to) be a law that says people can’t own other people and treat them worse than poo is mind blowing. And people actually justified this stuff and literally fought against other people to try to keep slavery going… what!? … how!? … who!? … so confusing to me.
Prior to our trip, I got my hair cut by a young black woman. It was the first time I met her and she asked what I was doing that weekend. I told her about the trip and, turns out, that she is from Columbia, South Carolina. That is where the University of South Carolina is located. She and her family moved up here a few years ago. I asked how she liked it and if she ever plans on going back. She took a while to figure out how to say it in a nice way, but her response was, “I love the southern hospitality, but they don’t handle diversity as well as they do up here.” I know that diversity is still not handled well enough up here in the north east, so that speaks volumes to her experience.
There is a lot of work to be done still with racism and racial biases in this country and all over the world. It will take more time from all humans to feel more comfortable and for the conditioning to change. But we have to keep it changing for the good, for the betterment of minorities in any situation or location. We have to stop letting the conditioning of the ego-mind take precedence over the true nature of us all.
The beauty of that property of Boone Hall Plantation stands alone, and a lot of it is due to those enslaved people.
Charleston felt like a real city with real people, beautiful homes and run down homes. It felt more tropical, excellent food and really nice people. We saw homes that were going to fall down if we sneezed as we walked by, and we saw stunningly beautiful mansions. Savannah felt like a dream place. It didn’t feel real. It felt like the Truman Show or a movie set, we all want to spend more time there to see what it’s really like and to learn the truth about the real Savannah. Everyone we came across in Savannah there was very nice too. I actually thought that Savannah felt more like a tourist destination, which was surprising to me. But the art school students and locals definitely were clearly present. It is difficult to label, and I don’t really want to, other than I really liked Savannah.
I definitely dug both cities and would like to explore both more in the future. These feelings, thoughts and perceptions that both of the cities laid upon me are one of the reasons I love to travel.
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