Tuesday, February 26, 2002

02/26/02: On Sunday, the rest of the Fire Unit left on spike. My roommates both left really early, I got up to say goodbye. It was so weird to think of not having them around for two months. While everyone was here, I always looked forward to seeing who else was home, getting a bite to eat, sharing stories of our day, and sitting around gossiping and bitching about CTI or annoying people or manwhores or what have you. And now they're gone, and it's incredibly depressing to come home to an empty, silent and dark house. There's no one to talk to. It's so lonely! Even more so than before. Boo hoo.

The good thing is that the team is wanting to do stuff together. Last night some people got together to watch Moulin Rouge. Tonight, in like five minutes, the three of us that live on the same street are going to have dinner together. It kind of sucks that we haven't had the intense bonding that first-round spike would bring, but it seems like we're trying to do what we can.

This week our project finally commenced. Yesterday we had an orientation/tour of the school, after arriving an hour late, anyway. The principal, Mrs Green, is so fabulous. She's really excited about quality education and not letting anyone slip through the cracks. It's so inspirational.

Today we actually got to go into the classrooms. It was a really interesting day! I'm in second grade with Ms. Streat's class. There's about twelve students, I think. (No class has more than 18 kids. Isn't that amazing?) It seems to be a semi-rowdy bunch. There are more boys than girls in the class and they get loud and disruptive. But overall, the kids seem pretty cool. Some of them took to me right away and wanted to hold my hand. At first, some of the boys told me I had a big nose like Pinocchio. But things definitely got better after thatI was able to start right away working in small grouips. I helped out with reading and then math. There's some really smart kids in there, but there are also some who are at a completely different level. I tried to bring them out and help them answer the questions themselves, but it took so long and the rest of the class was moving on.

All of us NCCC folks are on for lunch duty every day, which is also interesting. The entire second grade eats lunch together, and we're supposed to keep an eye out, make sure everyone is behaving, and help collect the trash. I talked to a bunch of the kids, they were curious about me and the rest of us.

Well, crap, I have to go now. I've got laundry that needs to go to the dryer, and that dinner's gonna start. So I'll continue this later and hopefully will have more details and interesting stories.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

02/21/02: Woo. This week has been a busy one. We finally found out the location of our projects. My team will be staying here at Perry Point, excitement capital of the world. We will be working in an elementary school in East Baltimore, tutoring kids in pre-K to 2nd grade, in literacy. I really wanted to go on spike this round, and see some new places, but I'm excited for this. I think it will be great. I'm looking forward to Monday, our first day.

So we've been here a month, we're all settled and we're in a groove. We know what's going on and we're (relatively) comfortable. And this weekend two-thirds of our unit leaves for spike projects. One of my roommates is going to Long Island, and the other is going to Alabama. I'm going to be in our house, all alone, for two whole months. Oh my goodness. I'm sad, it's fun at our house. Sometimes it's quiet, but usually people are around chatting and having a good time, enjoying our clever interior design. (Maybe I'll share our secret later on. But for now you'll just have to wonder.) And my roommates are great, I like them a lot. I am going to miss them! They're gonna send me postcards of the great time they're having, and I'll be stuck here. In Perry Point. Woo.

Tomorrow is the official ceremony that inducts us as Americorps Members. Today we had a local project at a state park in Delaware. We painted buildings all day long. My hands are stained brown from the oil paint we used. The coveralls that I wore to paint had handprints on the chest and ass. Hee. The sun came out and warmed us. It warmed us a little too much, but I suppose that's much preferable to being chilled. Yes, indeed. Let's see. Went to the bar last night, a good number of us NCCC folks were there. It's nice to see familiar faces together in different places. My god that was corny and didn't even make sense. I apologize.

Saturday, February 16, 2002

02/16/02: Well, well, well...I am thrilled that this week is finally over. The training was SO boring and pointless and silly. My foot is much better, it feels fine. However, my nasty strep-wannabe got much worse. One night this week I couldn't even sleep for all the nose and throat problems. Then had to sit through the stupid training crap, needing to cough and barely able to breathe. And, of course, it was Valentine's Day. That was also thrilling, but...not so much. Some of my team members gave us all little treats, which was fun. The next morning we had AM PT and that sucked too. It's tough to run or walk briskly without breathing deeply, for fear of dislodging the ever-present and oh-so-attractive phlegm. The sunrise was lovely, though. I don't see too many of those.

So now it's finally the weekend and WOOHOO! Like I mentioned, I am so happy that this week is done with. No more boring training crap! And on Tuesday we find out the location for our first project round. Ashley knows already but she can't tell us. Terrible. I'll have to get shots on Tuesday as well, but I'm a grownup, I can deal with that. I think. I hope. My roommates have gone to Philly, some teammates have gone to NYC, and still others are in DC. Me, I'm happy to be at home and relaxing. The last two weekends have been crazy hectic, so I'm thoroughly enjoying some time off. Today so far I have slept in, gotten laundry started, and painted my toenails. It's a long weekend, and I'll probably get bored tomorrow, but that's fine, I'll be okay.

And hey, it's now been over three weeks here. Just in case you were wondering. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

02/12/02: Waah. In the past three day my health has significantly declined. My throat hurts and I'm stuffy and phlegmy. And I have plantar fasciitis (yeah, I'd never heard of it either. It's a foot thing that runners get...look it up.) The doctor gave me crutches and said to stay off of it for a week, and gave me giant ibuprofen pills, too. I'm not so sure I need crutches after reading up, but it's better safe than sorry. And I'm not even sure how it happened. I've been doing lots of walking in the past two weeks, and not always in the best shoes. Last week I did run a little bit, like a mile and a half or something. That might have done it, who knows. I certainly need better athletic shoes...I still wear the trainers that I first got in, like, eighth grade or something. Pretty sad, eh?

This week we're doing FOUR DAYS of training for Red Cross Disaster Relief. It's pretty boring and we all fall asleep. But I am trying to pay attention, because I do want to do the whole disaster thing.

Oh, and the Day of Love is two days away. Have I already mentioned that St Valentine can kiss my ass?

Sunday, February 10, 2002

02/10/02: Hi there again. It's only been a couple days but I actually have the time to spend here now.

This weekend most of my team got a jump start on our ISPs. We have to do 80 hours of Independent Service Projects. On Saturday we helped out at a local food bank (labeling bags of pretzels with stickers that said "0.5g of fat per serving"), and also spent a few hours at one of the nearby Boys & Girls' Clubs, playing basketball, jump rope, and coloring with kids. Today, Sunday, six of us drove to Baltimore to volunteer with another food bank place. It was a really cool place, run for 20 years by a woman named Bea Gaddy. Last Thanksgiving she and her team of volunteers fed 45,000 people! With 2500 turkeys! Sadly, she passed away last fall, but her daughter has taken the operation over. It was great to know we were helping. I think we were supposed to help hand out food and the like, but we ended up cleaning the house next door that they use for storage and stuff. It was filthy, so we moved things around, straightened and consolidated boxes, swept and mopped. They gave us a nice chocolate cake for our efforts. We hope to volunteer with them again; every Sunday they hand out food and blankets to people living under the bridges and on grates.

So there's sickness going around already...a guy across the street has bronchitis. One of my roommates is on his team and her throat has been hurting. And my throat has been scratchy today. Beware communal living.

Last night we had an exciting night, three vans drove a bunch of us to Bel Air. There's a Target, a cheap cinema, a Barnes & Noble, and some restaurants. We were there for five long hours (none of the movies playing sounded good, so we bummed around the whole time). I bought two books at B&N (both on sale, of course), and some stuff at Target, including a full-length mirror (at last! the whole picture!) and wall-hanging devices.

This afternoon when we were done at the food place, we drove to the Inner Harbor to have some lunch. It was a really neat place. Several complexes of stores, and museums, an aquarium, and some ships in the water. We ate at a pizza restaurant and then spent an hour in that Barnes & Noble, where I bought three more books (still on sale, of course). So once again I can't buy stuff, but I should be okay for awhile.

Friday, February 08, 2002

02/08/02: So now it's been two weeks. Man, that's crazy.

So last weekend I did end up going to Washington, DC. Three people from my team and some other girl. We left on Saturday morning, on the Greyhound bus. Even that part was a bit of an adventure, there were no seats on the first leg. Happily, at Baltimore we got seats. The freeway goes right by the Ravens stadium, and Camden Yards is next door. It looks really nice, and I hope I get to see a game or two there. Go Mariners!

Anyway, we finally got in to DC at 11.30. Walked to Union Station and took the Metro (which is fabulous and I love it) to the hostel that we'd found online. Got that all sorted out and then went back into town, to the Mall. Started at the White House and then walked toward the Capitol Building. Stopped into the Smithsonian American History Museum for an hour. By then I was pretty worn out already so I took some time to just sit and relax. Plus, it was freezing cold outside, extra-cold wind, but fortunately the sun was out. That made us feel better, if not feel our extremities. We wanted to visit the Washington Monument and go up it, but it's closed for renovation. Walked part of the way to the Lincoln Memorial, but the sun was setting, so we headed back up to the Washington Memorial for sunset photos.

By then we were all cold, tired and increasingly hungry. The others found a restaurant in the guidebook we had with us, and so we took the Metro to the Adams Morgan district, to the Red Sea, an Ethiopan place. I had some of the bread, that was it. The others seemed to really like the food and the hands-on approach. The infamous Madam's Organ bar happened to be right next door, so we went over for a drink. I only stayed for one, and I think the others stayed until closing. Sunday morning we didn't get up as early as we'd planned. Ate breakfast at a great little place called Mark's Kitchen. Then we went back downtown to the Holocaust Museum. Unfortunately we only had an hour and a half before we had to go to catch the bus. The part I saw was amazing, though, I wished I'd had more time to read everything and ponder more. Pretty emotional stuff. I'm glad we went, even for a short time.

This week has gone really quickly for me, it's already Friday again. We had our military physicals on Tuesday, that was a long and boring day. We had a drug and alcohol awareness day that was pretty useless. The only thing we got out of it was this phrase: There's no shame in our humanness. It works in pretty much any situation. Oh, we got certified for CPR/First Aid. That's kind of cool. Everyone who doesn't do fire training will be trained for Red Cross disaster relief. That will be all next week. In a weird way, I'm excited to do disaster relief, it seems like good work.

Three times this week for PT, we did the firewalk. It's a bit under three miles, I believe. Yesterday we ran it. Well, I ran about half and then finally gave in to my tiring legs and lungs. I'm sore today, but it feels good to challenge my weak body, you know?

It snowed on Monday, it was very pretty. I was sad to see it melt the same day. Since then the weather has warmed to 40s and 50s, and the sun has returned.

Next week we'll find out where we go on our first project round. We're all hoping to go on spike, no one wants to stay around here. There's a Habitat for Humanity project going on down south that sounds really good, and three in Brooklyn. I can't wait to get out there and start working!

I suppose I better go, people are waiting for the computers. Sometimes I miss the good old days of home. Take care everyone and write soon!

Friday, February 01, 2002

02/01/02: Woo, happy February, all!

So I've been here a week now, it's hard to believe. It's gone quickly but lots has happened. This week we had two days of seminar workshops at the nearby Cecil Community College (we are in Cecil County here in Perry Point. Interestingly, the local paper is called the Cecil Whig.), Monday it was Diversity Training, Wednesday we did Conflict Management. The first one was okay, parts were pretty boring, and I've been through all that kind of stuff several times before. I did enjoy some of the activities. But overall, it wasn't a very interesting day. Wednesday, though, was great. The speaker/facilitator guy was just fabulous, really funny and dynamic, but really smart and knew what to say and how to say it. So we all enjoyed that day, even though there weren't too many actual activities, it was an interesting and fun workshop.

The other day our whole team learned about our van, and we changed a tire. It took awhile, and we got dirty, but we did it. On Wednesday we had our first team PT (physical training) session. We don't run laps or do miles of situps or anything like in the army, we just play aerobic games for 45 minutes. Wednesday we played Ultimate, but with a nerf ball instead of a frisbee. It was really fun, and a lot easier than with frisbees (I'm not so good at the throwing, only a teeny bit better with the catching). Tonight we ran for a couple minutes, then played foursquare. I remembered why elementary school wasn't my favorite time period. :)

This morning we learned about all the tools that we have here and that we'll be using on our projects. After that parts of two teams drove in a van to Delaware for our first real project. I really wanted to call someone to say, Hi, We're in...Delaware. Anyway, we were in a town called Brandywine (isn't that a great name for a town?), on the Brandywine River, where there are a bunch of 19th century mills. There's a historical cannon that weighs 90 tons and needs to be transported to a park or museum or something, where it will be on display and that a million people a year will visit. So in order to transport it, they need a truck/trailer with some lumber stacked to support it. Our job was to finish getting the lumber stacked. There were big piles of long boards filled with nails and ties and all kinds of stuff. We had to get all that out, with fun tools like wrecking bars (a big crowbar), hammers, and sledgehammers. I had a lot of fun with the sledgehammer. Girl Power. :) Oh, and that part was indoors, in the mill itself, so after the boards were okay we had to bring them out to the truck and get them situated. It took four or five to do that, the boards were big, heavy, and dirty too. We all got pretty yucky. But I like getting dirty, because then you know you did something. I think we'll all be sore tomorrow, though.

I got some pictures back, and I have some of our house and my room and the view. I'll try to send some 'round...and hopefully I'll find a scanner to put a bunch of stuff up.

This week I also went to the local and nearest bar, the Rendez Vous. We're going back tonight, and I might go to Washington for the weekend. It's so cool how near we are to so many places, and almost all of them I've never seen. Exciting!

Well, that's all I'll do for now...keep writing, y'all! Take care!