Thursday, January 27, 2005

Getting there: AmeriCorps, Chapter 1

About three years ago this week, I left home and joined AmeriCorps. In honor of this anniversary that makes me feel old, here are my memories of the journey. I'm going strictly from my memory, no reference from old journals or anything.

I know that I'd been nervous about getting the flight information, because it took so long to arrive. And I called Fred at the campus, who assured me it was on its way and also that there would be 10 or 12 other new CMs on the same flight. He told me to put the AmeriCorps sticker on my shirt or coat, and look for other stickers.

I arrived at the airport, it was late evening. Late enough for the gate areas to be quite empty, but not late enough to be the middle of the night. We were in one of the old, blue gate areas, S or N or C, not the fancy, white, modern A gates or whatever. I was so nervous. I went into the bathroom and noticed the girl in front of me had an AmeriCorps sticker on her gray messenger bag. I was excited, that it was all becoming real, but I was too shy to say anything to her. (That girl turned out to be Dezirae, on my team!)

After I got out of the bathroom, I called a friend to chat and talk about how nervous I was. I sat in a deserted stretch of chairs, and I remember the lighting was kind of dim there. I felt anxious and young and shy.

A few minutes later, I spotted a group of young people who were talking and laughing. Then I noticed a few AmeriCorps stickers among them. It was them, the other new AmeriCorps members! At first, I shrank into my seat, too intimated at the thought of trying to go up to them. Then I told myself that they were just like me, nervous and wanting to meet other new people. So I took a deep breath and went up to them. They smiled and welcomed me to sit down and join them.

I met a guy from Bellingham (who ended up being Brodie, on my team also), a guy from Alaska, and a bunch of girls from around the area. One was Kelly, who turned out to be a housemate, and Traci, who was in the house next door. They were all fun and excited and it helped me feel so much better to not be on my own anymore.

All of us got 'randomly searched' before we could get on the plane (we quickly got used to that; every single time we traveled for AmeriCorps we were flagged, since our tickets were last minute and one-way). I think we flew to Detroit or somewhere in the middle, excitedly chattering most of the way, even though the hour was late. However, when we landed at that middle stop, we all had out our pillows and tried to get some extra sleep. The layover was an hour or two, or something. It was a quiet one.

We got searched again on the next leg, and flew to Baltimore. No one was really sure what was supposed to happen there. We were standing around the baggage claim, we'd gotten our stuf, and were asking each other, isn't someone supposed to pick us up? Then soon a serious-looking young guy in a green shirt came to collect us. A girl was there too, and each of them packed all of our crap into their two fifteen-passenger government vans.

Christine drove me and a few others from the Baltimore airport to Perry Point, it was about an hour, and we peppered her with nonstop questions for a good half hour. What are the houses like? What's Perry Point like? When do we find out our teams? What's the deal with the units and teams and houses and stuff? What is a spike? What are they like? When do we find out our projects? etc etc. She was really patient and answered all of our questions nicely, not once sounding annoyed. We were so excited and anxious and had no idea what to expect.

See, all the stuff they sent us was pretty vague, in that department. Not many details about anything at all. And none of us did this newfangled internet thing, like the newbies are now, where the alums tell you about anything and everything. It was kind of fun, going into the whole thing sort of blind. Like a reality TV show. It really is like Road Rules, except without the cameras. Same age range, same cheesy rolling transportation, same blind-adventure mission philosophy.

Anyway, I drifted off for the last half hour of the van ride, and woke up in Perryville. Christine was talking about there being mostly old white people in the town. The weather was gray and drizzly, if not outright raining. We pulled around the corner and entered the Point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, there, I really don't remember how I stumbled across your blog but now I am hooked. I was in NCCC at the Point in 2003, so I was in the same situation only 2 years ago. My team leader was Brian from Idaho, a Corps Member your year. It was an amazing time in my life, and also one of the most challenging. I still keep in touch with so many people that changed my life that year. It has been really interesting to read the path you have taken since then, and thanks for reminding me of so many fond memories!
*Katherine from Oklahoma