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Day 11 – Denver and Boulder

by Drew Kolber


What drew me to write about today was that we were going to take a yoga class at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. My parents have been interested in visiting the Buddhist college for years, and I was so excited to experience it.

This morning we packed up all our things from the hotel and prepared for the day and night, which included our overnight ride to Salt Lake City. We then headed to the Food Bank of the Rockies, where we met with a very kind woman named Janie Gianotsos who is the Director of Marketing and Community Relations for the food bank. After asking how many of us had ever volunteered at a food pantry, she explained the difference between a food bank and a food pantry; food banks collect and organize food from suppliers such as corporate businesses like Safeway or Amazon, while pantries distribute the food to the community. We toured the ginormous building, which she refills seven times a year! Janie was proud to share that ¼ of the food they supply is fresh, pershible goods, the kind of food people in “food deserts” have little access to. During our time asking questions, Janie explained how they can make four meals using just one dollar due to how much donated food they receive; they only have to pay to refrigerate and sometimes transport the food. Finally, she shared that the best way we can help is to continue volunteering at our local food banks and pantries, but not to host food drives as much because campaigns to raise money can go a lot further with two dollars than with a two dollar jar of peanut butter.

Following our tour of the food bank, we paid our respects at the Columbine memorial. Rather than being at the site of the school itself, the memorial is located at a nearby park that looks onto the school from above. To me, this vantage point seemed to reflect that though some healing has occurred since the shooting at Columbine, it is still close enough in our past that it hurts. On the walls of the memorial, there were quotes from survivors and parents of survivors. One that really stuck out to me was “When my mom finally found me, it was like she couldn’t let me go.” I thought of my own parents, and felt the yearning for love and security that both the students and parents must have felt.

We drove for about an hour, and stopped for lunch on the way to Boulder and Naropa. At Naropa, I noticed the Tibetan prayer flags, LGBTQIA+ friendly bathrooms, and eco-conscious dishware (the café had actual plates and cups instead of paper or plastic). Our outdoor yoga class under the beautiful trees was grounding and our teacher was so kind! It was great to stretch and also be silent. 

We then reflected on our experience at the Columbine memorial, and talked about our own fears and experiences with gun violence. I was surprised about just how many people had encountered some kind of threat or potential violence at their schools. We then moved on the talk about Jack Kerouac and the Beatniks, and how their counter-cultural artistic and lifestyle practices paved the way for the free living off the ‘60s.

Finally, after some free time and dinner, we took the public bus (Earle, our driver, was resting up for our long overnight drive) to the movie theatre to relax and enjoy. With a much anticipated discussion with the NRA in Salt Lake City to look forward to, we left on our overnight ride!

Today we looked at a wide spread of points of view, from the horrific hate seen in mass shootings to the love and respect at Naropa University.