Friday, December 27, 2002

12/27/02: Well, merry Christmas, happy Hanukah, etc etc, and happy almost New Year. Another snow-less holiday season here in the Northwest, boo hoo.

I finished my second week working at the Bon. It's been a lot of fun, but quite tiring. My standing stamina has waned considerably; my feet hurt all the time. But I've really enjoyed it, so I guess it's not really a big deal.

The day after it arrived in theatres, I attended a showing of Lord of the Rings: Two Towers with a large group of friends. It was very good, very epic, amazing cinematography. Everyone loved it.

Not much has been going on; Work, sleep, ignoring the bedroom-sty resemblance, trying to catch up with friends and family. I'm quite tired lately, and it's hard work being tired all the time. Hm.

Friday, December 13, 2002

12/13/02: Ooh, it's Friday the 13th. I've been home for three weeks and a day.

I haven't been doing much. Mostly sleeping a lot, watching tv, applying for jobs, going online for no reason other than sheer boredom. I just got hired at the Bon Marche for holiday work. That will be interesting, I'm sure. Retail is something new for me, so that's good I guess.

Things at home are exactly the same and completely different, all at the same time. It's a bizarre phenomenon that I'm sure can only be shared by people who have gone through something like this. Speaking of AmeriCorps, I miss my team a lot! I've talked to a few of them a couple times, and it's great. Strange, though, because speaking with any of them on the phone makes it seem like everything is still happening, and that they're only the next street over back in Perry Point. I'm quite sure I talk about this year too much, but what else can I do? That was my life. And there's so much to remember, it's overwhelming. Anyway. I miss you guys!

So it's the holiday season! Hurrah for Christmas music, I guess. I've been listening to non-holiday music lately, which is unlike me. And I think I forget that it's less than two weeks until Christmas now. Of course, I have a hard time believing it's winter and December, though. Very weird.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

11/16/02: The three-week-long weekend continues...Five Days Left!! Oh my gosh.

This past Wednesday was the All-Corps Year-End Service Project. I went to Baltimore with 120 others. We were gone for twelve hours...but it was a good day. Our project was neighborhood cleanup--so we picked up trash all day. It got stinky, weird and dangerous too, but it was fun. There were so many people working, and there was so much trash!! I couldn't believe it. We did some great work. The folks we worked for were so happy we were there. At the end of the day, they told us we'd picked up an estimated 20 tons of garbage and 400 tires, and saved the city at least $10,000. That felt great. I had a good time working alongside people I'd not really met or spent time with before. It's always fun to meet new people.

We just finally got our travel arrangements. The Seattle group will be flying out at 2.10 next Thursday, which means we have to leave the graduation reception around noon. I'm glad that I'll get to be with familiar people on the journey home. It is going to be so strange to go home!! There is nothing that won't change, compared to life in NCCC. That's a huge topic of conversation lately--things we'll do when we get home, things we'll miss, how we'll adjust to life without everything and everyone here. I hope that I have changed a lot and that I don't fall into the same boring, normal life I had before.

Monday, November 11, 2002

11/11/02: Ten days until graduation. I am BORED. It is unbelievably dull to be stuck here at Perry Point. Yes, the fall colors are pretty, but you can't just sit around and stare at trees for eight hours a day. Speaking of eight hours a day, work is even boring, because we aren't doing any. The team worked five hours on Wednesday, four on Thursday and two on Friday. Now, I know I should be grateful for all the free time, and goodness knows I'm grateful that we're not spending our days doing "village enhancements" (their euphemism for things like painting porches and basements). But geez, give us something to do! It's supposed to be crazy hectic, getting ready to leave! Instead of feeling all frazzled with lack of time to complete necessary tasks and errands, I feel lost in a quagmire or no-where land. The concept of going home is enticing but feels eons away, and the time here doesn't seem to move along at a normal pace. I've had a ten-day weekend, for pete's sake!

But on the other hand, there is supposed to be ample time for team activities and last-minute bonding. We've got a full schedule in the evenings this week, so maybe the extreme boredom will dissipate a little. I am enjoying being able to just hang out with friends. Mandi and Geo and I sit around and do crossword puzzles and other grandma-type activities. :) Sigh. It's great to just run over to someone's house to hang out or do something or meet someone--every house is less than a three-minute walk, so people are certainly accessible. Geez, it sounds like I'm talking about a commodity or something.

Really, I promise I'm not bitter or angry or anything...this thing sounds way more harsh than I feel. But I'm just so bored--okay, no more whining, I promise.

It's raining out right now. Yesterday was a lovely day, even at night it was hardly chilly. It really is very pretty here and I'm trying to memorize everything because soon enough Perry Point life will be just a memory.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

11/06/02: Well, I got some great news yesterday...I have a Teach for America interview! I applied at the end of October and have been on tenterhooks waiting to hear back from them. I am ecstatic! The interview will be sometime in the first week of December, and I do believe it's rather a lengthy, involved one. But that's okay. :)

Today was my first day back at work this week; I took two personal days this week. (I had wanted to visit Lesley in DC, but I just can't afford it :( ) Boy, was it tough to get up at 7.30 again! We did our project debrief and year-end debrief, where we gave the staff feedback about the year--projects, trainings, team leaders, etc.

I finished my ISPs last week! This is exciting news, even though I'd wanted to be done long before now. But there are still some interesting things going on that I may do for ISP. I keep reminding myself, this is the test: once we don't have to, we still should. This program has taught me the wonderful benefits of volunteering out of the goodness of one's heart. So I am determined to back this up and live up to my, own standards, and keep working to make a difference in my community. For instance, New York Cares, with whom we have worked a few times, has a sister organization in Seattle, called Seattle Works (they have programs in most major cities). I really want to find out more about them when I get home and fully intend on working with them and other volunteer organizations. I highly encourage everyone to give up a few evenings or Saturdays to giving back! If I can do, anyone can do it. It's so easy and so rewarding. Maybe you missed Make a Difference Day (it was Oct. 26), so you can make up for it with your own day devoted to service.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

11/03/02: Holy cow it's already November! And I'm 23 now, too. Something like 18 days left until graduation and heading home.

So we finished up Round 4. The last few weeks weren't very interesting. They were cold, though. Brr. The last three people on disaster came back, so we once again had all eleven of us together in the same house. I strained my back at work one day, lifting and mixing concrete, so I was out of work for two and a half days.

I got to spend two weekends in New York City! It was great, I love it there. I stayed with Kristin, who kept trying to persuade me to just move there already. Someday I will. When I have enough money! Did an ISP at the Central Park Zoo one morning, it was crazy busy and there were all kinds of people. It was a lot of fun. I even got to speak French!

So let's see. My birthday was also the travel day. It was a crazy day, very busy nonstop. The drive, once we finally got going, went fine. The lovely New England fall foliage was on display during the trip down the New Jersey Turnpike. The drive didn't last forever like some have. We went grocery shopping (woohoo! I am excited to have my own food to eat--not to mention dishes. The house in Bridgeport had like ten plates and six glasses--one for every two people. That sucked.). That evening the whole team (pretty much) met to go out for dinner for my birthday!! The team was great--they sang to me a few times and we had a nice toast. And someone got me a little cake, a black cat cake. Very cute. After dinner some of us went to the Rendez Vous and had a good time dancing and catching up with folks we haven't seen for two months.

The next few weeks are a lot of cleaning, and getting ready to go. I've already started packing some stuff away to ship out soon. Notably books and papers, which abound after nearly ten months. Did you know, I've read over fifty books this year in NCCC? At the end of the year I shall post the list. Anyway, and we'll be doing lots of team stuff, emotional closeout, reflection, bonding, etc. We've already started with the "remember when" craze. We all talk about how strange it will be to live on our own again. I'll be living in a house with just my mom. No AmeriCorps people, no uniforms, no team members, no one to play Boggle with (I have converted several teammates into avid Bogglers-woo!), no one who knows what I've just lived through. BUT-- I will be excited to see people, have a car to drive (one that's NOT a fifteen-passenger van), have a working washer/dryer in the house, a normal bed, no house inspections, no limits on food-shopping. I'm certainly ready to move on, we all are, but I know that the transition will be tough, lonely and sad.

Friday, October 18, 2002

10/18/02: Golly gee me, it's been nearly a month. As most of you probably know, I did get sent out for disaster relief, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I was there working for two weeks, and enjoyed it a lot. The weather was at times wonderful and at times smothering in its dogged humidity. We got evacuated when Hurricane Lili was due to hit Louisiana. I did good work, helped people, and met some great NCCC folks too.

When I left the South (woo!), I returned to Connecticut, where I joined my team in Bridgeport. We are working with Habitat for Humanity. I've been here a week now, it's fun so far, I'm having a good time. Unfortunately, we don't get to do things like start a house from the ground up, but we are putting finishing touches on several work sites, doing things like priming and painting, installing insulation, even putting in cabinets. The sponsors are great, they are really fun to work with.

In two weeks, we return to Perry Point for the final three weeks of Class VIII NCCC. We have just under five weeks until we leave here altogether. All too soon, Fire 4 will be but a fond memory. No more living with eleven people in one place, no more projects, no more government stipend (and that's the saddest part of all...). It is difficult to think about. I am sad to think of the team breaking up and returning from whence we came. However, it is exciting (though anxious and stressful) to consider Life After AmeriCorps. I'm trying to put some plans together, sending things out into the universe, for my future. We'll see how things develop.

Must run, check out the team site for lots of new and recent photos.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

09/21/02: For pictures of the river work, click here.

This past week, in a mere three days, Fire 4 constructed a meditation labyrinth! (Pictures will be up soon, on the team site.) It was a lot of work with gravel and brick. We are all sore from the shoveling and raking. It was also a challenge to figure out how to lay the bricks to make the labyrinth even. Good times. We will be having a little ceremony to "open" it in a couple days.

It's finally Saturday!! I am so happy because we have a two-day weekend at long last. Five of us got up early this morning for ISP, but then got right back in bed once home. Ah. Spent some time in the Wallingford Public Library and so far nearly four hours on the computers. Sigh, aren't I a dork?

Yesterday three of my teammates and I were put on call for disaster relief for Hurricane Isadore, which is roaming the Gulf of Mexico right now. As of this morning, it seemed to be heading for the Yucatan peninsula, so the US Gulf states may not be in danger. But geez, I'm no meteorologist, maybe they are. I wouldn't mind going to coastal Florida to work for a few weeks!
I'm tired right now, so I'm going to stop. I'll add more later this week.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

09/17/02: So. It's Tuesday now, except that I keep thinking it's Monday. But I'm glad it's not.

This weekend was...short. Saturday was the Wallingford Family Day celebration at Community Lake park, and our sponsors wanted us to be there to help out. Conveniently, there was a great article printed about us that morning. People at the park thus knew about us and thanked us and expressed gratitude and appreciation for our work. That felt very nice. I did a couple different things during the afternoon. For about half an hour, I got dressed in the giant koala costume and wandered around. I had fun waving at everyone and getting hugs from the kids, and dancing too. It was really difficult to see out of the head, and it was hot in there. So I got out. But I was surprised at how fun it was. Anyway. Mandi and I made sno-cones for awhile, and then helped out at the lake. Some of my teammates somehow found the energy to get in canoes and lead people around the little lake. It was quite popular, and the people seemed excited to be able to go for a canoe ride.

So we only had Sunday off. I had a nice day, I think. Went for an exploratory drive with Geo and Mandi, that was fun. I was not excited about having to go to work the next day. I was excited to sleep in for at least one day, though.

Monday it rained, so we could not work on the labyrinth. The Quinnipiac River Watershed Association is the organization that sponsors our team. They govern the Quinnipiac River Linear Trail, which is in Community Lake park. On the trail, there's a big spot with a couple benches, and one of our missions of this project is to construct a labyrinth, or serenity maze. (Except it's not a maze, it's just concentric circles.) It's for meditation, and according to the books that we saw, walking them is a metaphysical, life-transforming experience. So while we're all a little skeptical, we're excited about getting to build it and do it.

This morning we did get started. There was a big sand pit where the labyrinth will be. In the sand, we practiced drawing the circles and laying bricks. When we thought we had finished, we walked it to see if it worked. It did, and it was neat. Much different than I'd expected. We weren't meditating on anything, so it wasn't life-changing as yet, but definitely interesting. Then we laid gravel on the sand and used a tamping machine to press it down. That took the bulk of the day, shoveling gravel around, trying to get it level. But we made a lot of progress, and it looks good. I can't wait to see the finished product!

Thursday, September 12, 2002

09/12/02: It is Thursday, and we have been in Wallingford, CT since Sunday evening. We are having a great time so far, loving the project and the location. By the by, I've been to Wal-Mart three times already. Crazy! Tonight I bought a new camera (my old one, and I do mean old, fell in the river two days ago; the viewfinder was fuzzy with sawdust or something, and the thing was at least seven years old) and I'm really excited. :)

We have been canoeing on the Quinnipiac River. There's a five-mile section of the river that has been clogged with logjams and excessive debris for many years, and no endeavor to improve it has succeeded. In steps Fire 4! It is slow-going and often frustrating. There are so many fallen trees! Some of them have been near or actually impossible to remove or clear sufficiently, but for the most part, we have cleared up a lot of jams. It feels great to leave a site that only a few minutes (anywhere from 10 to over 60) earlier, was impassable by canoe, and now is.

The canoeing has been an adventure in itself. I had been in a canoe once before, when I was approximately seven years old. Incidentally, on that family canoe trip down some river in Michigan, we saw a blue frog. It was neat and no one has ever believed any of us. Anyway, so I was obviously a novice at this canoeing stuff. The Quinnipiac is extremely bend-ridden (to my beginner eyes), so it was quick learning. When I'm in the canoe, my partner and I still end up running into banks and sandbars and debris, but for the most part, the whole team has visibly improved in navigating the canoes in the river. Each night we are more sore, but I can see my muscles getting bigger. Interestingly, my right bicep is both larger and firmer than my left. Each night we are exhausted and can't wait to get to bed, and yet somehow never get to bed early enough.

There is an Irish pub three doors down, and we've gone there a few times to relax and have a nice chat with teammates. The Wal-Mart is another popular destination here in Wallingford, and there is a big public library that I hope to get to at some point. It's a really nice town. We are housed in a homeless shelter (it doesn't open until October, at which time we'll already be in Bridgeport working with Habitat), and it is really nice actually; though communal, it is definitely the nicest accomodation we've had yet. The prestigious Choate School provides us with tasty dinners, and our awesome sponsors make sure everything else is taken care of.

This afternoon, we got to go climbing at a local gym, courtesy of our sponsors and the Parks & Rec people. It was great fun and a fantastic workout. I was altogether worn out at the end of the two hour session. I really enjoyed it though, and I hope that someday I'll get to do more and get better.

In general, things are going really well in all aspects. I certainly hope that continues. Stay tuned for more adventures.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

09/08/02: Wow, how time does fly. This morning Fire 4 will be leaving for the fourth round project in lovely Connecticut. The first part of the round is clearing a land and river trail, and the second is working with Habitat for Humanity in Bridgeport. We are excited!!

Sadly, I returned to camp after a mere ten days on disaster relief. The Red Cross sort of ran out of things for my group to do. But I had a fabulous time meeting NCCC people from my campus, and hanging out in San Antonio with them. I really hope to get called out next round.

The third round went okay, it wasn't our best, but it was enjoyable for the most part. We had some team difficulties, but we're working on that. During the last session of camp, I moved into a cabin with counselors in the Woodlands unit. It was great to just sit around and talk about everyone's cultures, from peeing in the woods to African jungle life to Russian swear words to "Donald, where's your trousers?" I really enjoyed it. For the last two weeks of the round, the team moved to another Girl Scout camp, this one on Cape Cod. Our mission there was maintenance work, which ended up being painting/staining work. The sponsors were awesome and so nice. We stayed in platform tents, which were quite nice when there were no skunks in them. It was exciting to see a new place and to explore the Cape. We went on some of the many bike paths, it was very pleasant. We also frolicked on the beach, at the Atlantic Ocean! That was great, I loved that.

Eleven hours in the van later, we arrived back in Perry Point a week ago. Greeted by spider webs and crickets inside the house, but lovely weather that feels much better than the sauna it was two months ago. This week we took a field trip to DC and visited the Corporation for National and Community Service. Very inspirational.

We are all surprised that it's already fourth round and that there are less than three months until we leave. Graduation is Thursday, November 21st.

Monday, July 22, 2002

07/22/02: So the new project is in New Hampshire, at Camp Wabasso, a Girl Scout camp. It is very different than being at Trail Blazers; we live in the lodge with electricity and walls and all that good modern technological stuff! Being camp staff is certainly different than maintenance staff, too. It's pretty fun working with the kids, but it can be a challenge to keep them interested and to stay patient with the bratty ones. But for the most part, the girls are great, I made some camper friends pretty quickly. They were the 9 and 10 year olds, and they are really sweet.

Our job at camp is to be program staff. So we decide on programs for each day, one arts and crafts, one game/physical activity. That part seems to go over well with both the campers and the counselors. We've done things like make paper and the wacky olympics. It's so strange to "work" all day without doing anything like building or whatever. I for one got used to having goals like "build this shelter" or "rake this smallcamp" to be accomplished by the end of the day, but now we just get up and hang out with kids all day. Oh boy, and the dining hall. That is an experience! The volume level can get deafening, especially at dinner, when the kids are all keyed up. There are many songs and little games they all play and sing all throughout the meal. My least favorite one was one of the camper favorites, called Bob the Can, sung to the tune of Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys. Bob the Can, he's not a man, Bob the Can...he's got me scraping and a-stacking, stacking and a-scraping, Bob the Can. Hoo boy is that song annoying after the fifth time in an hour!

In other news...I am in Texas right now! Half the team got called the day we left for New Hampshire, so only six of us made the drive and started the project. I got put on the call list the first day we were there but didn't actually get called for another week. Just enough time to get settled and used to things and stuff. So I took four four flights to get here--Boston to Cincinnati to New Orleans to Dallas to San Antonio. What a long day. We've been here in San Antonio for four days now, and we still don't really know what's going on. They've had massive flooding all over South Central Texas, and that's what we're here to help with. The San Antonio stuff seems to be pretty much under control, but the water in Corpus Christi hasn't gone down yet, so we're hoping to go down there. The team I'm working with is doing damage assessment. Most of them are from the other unit and so I didn't know any of them before. But they're all really great and we're having a fun time here. We've gone out on the town a little bit, seen some Riverwalk life. It is really hot here and oh how we love our air conditioners.

Our assignment is for three weeks, so I'll be here for awhile, and hopefully soon we'll get busy with work. But until then, lots of tv and naps are in my future! Oh, and driving all over the place.

Today our group went out to Uvalde County to assess damage. The girl I was driving with, our car got stuck in some mud on this little back road. Like, really stuck. Up to the fender on one side stuck. Some wonderful folks came by with a big red pickup and saved us. In the process I got sprayed with mud from head to toe, literally. Today was definitely an adventure. Good times here in Texas!

Friday, July 05, 2002

07/05/02: Well. It feels like I've been away from AmeriCorps for a really long time. I miss my team! It is truly strange to not have any of them around me. I'm looking forward to seeing them again in a few days.

In the meantime, I am continuing to sort through my crap. I'm going to have to attempt to empty out my room in the next three days, so that Mom won't have to deal with any of my stuff when she moves her stuff to Spokane. It's a big ordeal, and my energy level has sapped. As much as I've gotten rid of, there's still a whole bunch of stuff I need to keep. Things like photo albums, interesting papers, some clothes and a lot of books. Not to mention the computer and CDs. Sigh. What a process.

It is so beautiful here! I love the trees and the mountains and the gorgeous vistas everywhere. I really missed the scenery when I was on the East Coast; it's pretty enough there, but it just can't compare to the Pacific Northwest. I am not looking forward to leaving the mountains behind for another five months.

My Fourth of July was nice and boring, just the way I wanted. I didn't do anything. I did take myself out to dinner, but other than that, I sat around and cleaned, rewrote an old, kick-ass paper, and watched a movie. I love quiet time, and I figure I should soak it up now, because I won't have any quiet time or alone time for another two months or so. Whew!

It's Friday today, and on Monday I fly back to Maryland. It will be a long, long day; not only do I travel all day, but I'll have to get back, walk back to my house, unpack, then repack for spike, and visit with all my teammates. Oh, and maybe dinner in there somewhere too. But it will all be worth it! I'm so glad that I have my friends to go back to, and that we have this new exciting adventure to embark upon.

Monday, July 01, 2002

07/01/02: Miracle of miracles, I made it. Survived the last week at camp and successfully completed transition week back at campus.

The last week was fairly good, and it sped by, to my relief. The staff had a honorary dinner for the team and presented us with TrailBlazers t-shirts. I say, free t-shirts are the best and never-mentioned benefit of this program! Anyway, later that night we held a special powwow--just the team and two of the sponsors. It was fun and memorable.

Friday morning that we left, we all got up at 4.30 to drive up to Sunrise Mountain to watch...the sunrise. We were exhausted but anticipating the view. Sadly, the sun rose behind a bank of trees and so we pretty much missed it. But it was pretty up there, all misty in the early-morning fog. Arriving back in Perry Point, I was thrilled. I went into my house (my house! a real house! not a cabin or a hogan!) and was practically blinded by the whiteness of the walls and the general neatness and non-forest-being-ness. It was so strange to see real walls again, and have electricity everywhere again. It felt wonderful, as did my bed. Ah.

Transition week was quite boring and uneventful. And really freaking hot and humid. Everyone was worn out and tired all the time. We speculated that being on spike and coming back was a bigger adjustment than we'd thought. Had debriefs and briefings and painted some porches, and then it was time for summer break!!

This past Friday I took the train into Washington, DC and met up with my friend Lesley, who lives in the lively Adams Morgan district. We ate at a cute little Cajun place and caught up on everything. Then back at her place, we drew on the walls, since painters were coming early the next morning. That was a lot of fun. On Saturday we met up with a friend of hers for lunch, then I set out for Dulles Airport. Made it just fine and the plane left sort of on time.

And then I was back! I picked up my car, and that was so awesome. After driving the 15-passenger government van, my little Saturn feels like a race car. Which I love. I love my car!!! Anyway, got to see family folks and talk to some friends. Am trying to arrange schedules to see people but it's slow going. Running errands and picking things up for my return to NCCC. Sorting through my tons of junk and crap and clothes and taking out all that I don't need anymore. One of these days, I'm turning ascetic, I swear. Being in AmeriCorps and living in the woosd really made it clear that loads of material possessions are just unnecessary and take up too much room, physically and emotionally. I'm cleansing my spirit as well as my closet!

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

June 25, 2002: Last week we finished up work at Trail Blazers. We got the basement of the lodge painted, removed boulders and reseeded the lawn in front of the dining hall, finished the dishes in the boys' side kitchen, raked some leaves, removed old shingles from under the dining hall, removed a small wood pile (well, loaded it to be unloaded at the big wood pile).

Early in the week we did a team initiative. The task was to get everyone from one platform to the other, using the rope that hung between them. Once we reached the other side, Ashley gave us each a secret clue word about our next project. When we were all across and after the reflection, each of us acted out our cluewords and then put them all together to figure out the project. We will be couselors at a Girl Scouts Camp in New Hampshire!

Our last night was Thursday. We cleaned out Farmers and Chimney Corner and had to spend the night in the dining hall. The dinner was a special one in our honor, where the staff thanked us and we thanked them and there was lots of love. Later on we had a powwow in Farmers, where we sang a couple songs and played a couple games and reflected about our time at TrailBlazers. Good times.

Friday morning we all got up before dawn and drove up to the top of Sunrise Mountain to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, the sun rose behind the trees and so the view was not nearly what we had hoped. But still, it was nice. Finally it came time to leave camp. We said our goodbyes to the staff and pulled off. We arrived in Perry Point to a lovely day and soon after left for grocery shopping. I was very excited to be back in the civilized world, with real walls and electricity and all that.

Sunday, June 16, 2002

06/16/02: Happy Father's Day!

This is the last week here at Trail Blazers. The staff has arrived, in droves, and so we no longer have any place to go for peace and quiet and alone time. It has been a difficult adjustment. For me, it has served to get me all the more ready and excited to get back to Perry Point. I am really looking forward to seeing the campus and my house and all my stuff (well, not all of it, but a lot more of it for sure), and all the other NCCC folks that I haven't seen for two months. This project really has gone quickly.

We have been living out in smallcamp for a week and a half. It is interesting, very rustic. All the rain we've been having has left several of my teammates' beds sopping wet, so it is also uncomfortable at times. We have to sleep under mosquito nets out there too. But for the most part we are in the dining hall or lodge, we don't spend much time in smallcamp except to sleep. And I've been surprised at how well I've been sleeping, which is a blessing.

In the past couple weeks, we have been very busy. We finished the lean-to that needed rebuilding. And it does look superb, I am very proud of our team. We also constructed a wash-basin rack, rebuilt tipis, painted the body and wheels of seven covered wagons, prepped smallcamps for staff training, cleaned the same buildings a few more times, raked more leaves, finished putting up all the canvas in all the smallcamps, got interviewed for a local paper (the article is pretty dumb, but hey, we were in the paper!), and more. It's been a fruitful project. I am very eager to find out what Round 3 holds in store for us.

I am also extremely eager for my visit home. In less than two weeks, I shall arrive at Sea-Tac International Airport, my home turf. It is going to be great to be in familiar land again. I look forward to the mountains and evergreen trees, and to exploring some of our beautiful natural wonders. Plus seeing my family and friends will be wonderful. I won't be driving back like I'd originally planned, so I'll have over a week to visit everyone and do everything that I want to do. Can't wait!

Only five days until Perry Point!!! And a mere four working days left!!!

Saturday, June 15, 2002

June 15, 2002: We successfully moved into Farmers and our hogans...just in time for a whole bunch of rain. Mostly it's been cold, rainy and damp at night, but we have somehow survived.
It's been a busy few weeks, the entire staff has arrived and our two fire guys are finally back with the team. We have been doing a lot of small-camp set up; tipis built, canvas up, mosquito net poles lashed, beds set, more raking. Seven covered wagons got painted and set up in various smallcamps for the campers to sleep under.

Eight members of Fire 4 participated in a ropes course element. Everyone was nervous and scared up there, but I am proud to report that we all did our best to overcome our fears. It was a lot of fun and we hope to do another element this week.

Only one more week at TrailBlazers! It is very strange to think of the project coming to an end. I think we've really gotten used to everything here, which is a testament to our adaptability. Everyone is looking forward to finding our next project and the quickly-approaching summer break.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

June 4, 2002: I can't believe it's June already, and that there are less than three weeks to the project left. Strange! Anyway, things are going pretty well.

Last week Fire 4 went to New York City! We were excited. The first day we spent around town. One group spoke to classes at a high school in Queens, and another group tabled at a high school in the Bronx. Both were successful. Later, everyone met up at the TrailBlazers headquarters in Manhattan, where the year-round staff (Craig, Mary Anne, Sherry, Cecilia and Dennis) spoke with us about their jobs and answered our questions about the way TrailBlazers works. They were very friendly and informative, and we really enjoyed talking to them.

We also had some time to play in the city, and of course we loved that. Some team members will be moving there as soon as they can afford it. We also want to return to explore more. Central Park and the Statue of Liberty are on the list of things to see. A lot of time was spent walking around Times Square, where some of us met interesting strangers and made a memorable t-shirt.

So far this week has been very productive. We are thrilled to report the completion of our first lean-to! I must say, it turned out perfectly. Fire 4 is very proud. We have been continuing to get all the small camps set up and ready for staff training. Wagons have been painted and so has the girls' side dock. Lots of things are getting done, and we are having a good time.

Tomorrow we move out of Chimney Corner and into Farmers (one of the small camps). I'll report back soon!

Sunday, June 02, 2002

06/02/02: My goodness I cannot believe that June is here. And that our NCCC term has been four months already. Time is so weird!

So yeah, it's been four weeks out here in the forest at camp, only three weeks left until our return to Perry Point and the week after that we have summer break. Everyone is excited to go home! Anyway, the project is going well. The past week and a half, the weather has finally warmed up, we no longer have to huddle under a pile of blankets and several layers of clothing at night. It's been lovely and warm and sunny. I am loving it. The trees and all the green is so wonderful.

This past weekend, Fire 4 went to New York City!! It was awesome. We spent a day doing work stuff--two groups spoke at high schools about AmeriCorps, and we also visited the TrailBlazers headquarters to speak with the full-time staff. They were so friendly and it was great to hear about their jobs and how it relates to camp. It was also nice because they are so thankful for all of the work we've been doing. That helps when the stuff here gets tedious and boring. What we do here really is important.

We had another day and a half to play, woohoo! We had such fun. Hung out a lot in Times Square, eating at McDonald's, walking around, seeing sailors and talking to strangers. Fun times. We didn't get much sleep, but who cares, it was worth it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

May 21, 2002: This week, it will have been four months that we have been in NCCC. Doesn't that sound like a long time? AmeriCorps time is very different than Real Time.

Last week we sent off Seth and Joe to disaster relief in Virginia. We miss you, guys! Could have used the claw the other day on raking duty.

Last week was spent getting ready for Operation Muscle, which was this weekend. Food was prepared. Got small camp canvas and bedding started, got some raking done, got some latrines cleaned and stocked. We finished scraping the girls' side dock. And oh my, that was a terribly exciting job. Some folks also spent some time working on the library, getting all those piles of books organized and shelved. It's going to be a long process, that. Operation Muscle itself went swimmingly, even though it rained on Saturday. There was a lot of cleaning done. We also got bed frames out to most of the small camps. Fire 4 was excited to be joined by most of Fire 2, who visited for ISP hours. It was a great time, to see our compatriots and work with new folks. Yay. Realized again how isolated we are. But really, it's okay. On Sunday, it was sunny but still quite chilly, and we got to do some raking. More small camp set up, more cleaning of buildings. Lots of basic work, but with forty people a lot got done. We felt very good about that. Plus we got to meet more TrailBlazers people, both staff and alumni and boardmembers. What an amazing program this is, I was floored by the depth of people's loyalty to and faith in TrailBlazers Camp. I am so honored to be affiliated with it, even peripherally.

So Monday and Tuesday have been our days off. There were a few town trips and even our first ISP event of this project round. The work was filling potholes to the road leading to the Poconos Craft Center, a few miles away. This week is a short week, and then there's a holiday weekend. Woo!

Saturday, May 11, 2002

May 11, 2002: On Friday, the weather was perfect, sunny and warm, cool under the shade of the forest. More progress was made on the docks, pressure spraying and scraping to get rid of the paint. That was the intention, anyway, the scraping didn't seem to work so well. Another group continued clean up the small camps, throwing around bucked trees and branches and the like.

And then it was Friday night! We went out to Milford and painted the town Fire 4 Red.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

May 9, 2002: Yesterday, Wednesday, our short work week commenced. We began the task of cleaning up the small camps. Jean taught us all to do square lashings and we re-lashed the camp's kitchen tables. It was great fun. We also raked some leaves. And then we raked some more leaves. After that, we pushed around fallen tree bits with garden implements. We finished up the day with some leaf-raking.

Today it rained, so we split into a few groups and did some random work around the camp. We pressure-sprayed the docks on both sides of the lake, built a fence for the new donkey pen, and cleaned up debris and dead wood from some of the small camps. What a shame, to have an entire day void of raking.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

05/08/02: For a more complete description of what I and the rest of my team have been doing, look at our team website journal.

In short, we have been here in New Jersey for a week now. The camp is great, but definitely rustic. It's a short hike just to get to the shower house. We are literally in the middle of the woods, so it's very pretty. It's also very tick-infested. One day four of us found ticks feeding on us in the shower. Gross! There is a bat and a family of flying squirrels living in our cabin (it's called Chimney Corner, who wants to guess why?), not to mention all the little bugs we don't see. So it makes for interesting evenings. It gets really cold here at night, we all have sleeping bags and piles of wool army blankets. Recently we had some nicer weather, it was quite warm.

We are indeed out in the middle of nowhere. My cell phone doesn't get service anywhere except the Wal-Mart and the Shop Rite, so far. Milford, the nearest town, is small but very cute. We've explored it a teeny bit. I got my hair cut there this weekend. There is a movie "theatre" that shows one movie at a time. Even a pizza place.

I like it here, it's definitely an adjustment: Hard work (raking leaves til my brain explodes) and not showering every day, no hot water or heat in the cabin (brr!), a communal food supply that dwindles amazingly fast, daily tick checks. Adventures aplenty, I love it!

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

May 7, 2002: On Wednesday, May 1, Fire 4 left Perry Point (eventually) and began the arduous journey to the outback of New Jersey, to Camp Trail Blazers, located in Montague and just across the Delaware River from Milford, PA. Upon arrival, we met one sponsor, Jean, a witty Brit. She showed us around part of the camp, including our cabin and the shower house on the 55-acre Lake Mashipacong (I think that's what it's called, anyway). We are living in Chimney Corner, which is the infirmary when camp is in session. There are critters running around it--bats, flying squirrels, spiders--but that just makes it a more authentic experience, don't you think? That evening we met Steve, another sponsor, and his family, who cooked us all a great dinner. Just after dinner we had our first bear sighting! This part of the forest is heavily populated with black bears, so we knew to expect them, but I don't think we figured we would see one right away, and at such close distance. We cannot keep foodstuffs in the cabin or anywhere except the kitchen, because the bears will smell it and break in. And that would not be good news.

Friday morning we had breakfast and met the young people in the Leadership Training Program. These folks are regular campers who came from the city for the weekend to plant the gardens. As the weather was too wet on Friday, our group and their group split up into teams to clean out some buildings and tidy some of the trails. Saturday was a gorgeous day, and we got both the boys' side and girls' side gardens planted. On the boys' side, our group had to till the soil by hand (well, by hoe, really) and put in rows for planting. Both gardens got tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, herbs, squash, cucumbers, corn, and some flowers too. We were very proud of our work at the end of the day.

Sunday morning all of us successfully did the Challenge Wall. We hope to do it again, as a team. After lunch, the LTPers returned to New York, and we started a big list of clean up. More building cleaning and lots more raking. It wasn't the most exciting or fulfilling work, but it looked awesome when we were done. That sense of accomplishment is great. I'm all about tangible results.

Monday and Tuesday were our days off. Just after noon on Monday, seven Fire 4 members set off down the highway for three miles. We finally met up with the Appalachian Trail and hiked about two miles to the lookout on the top of Sunrise Mountain. It was a long, not-exactly-easy-but-not-difficult hike, and the vista at the top made it worth the exertion. It was as amazing as we'd heard from the campers. We are hoping to rise early one day to actually see the sun rise from Sunrise Mountain. When we got back to camp, after hiking about 12 miles altogether, the seven of us devoured four boxes of mac and cheese, and crashed a few hours later. Today most of us are pretty sore but feeling good.

Monday, April 29, 2002

04/29/02: So by now, the entire project round is over, we got through transition week and just returned from our spring break weekend. A lot has happened!

First, we had the last week at school. That was really sad. It didn't seem real that we were never going to see our kids again. On Thursday and Friday, most of us gave little gifts to our classes, and the classes gave us things like letters and cakes. Because of the extreme heat and lack of air conditioning, school was dismissed early on Friday, our last day. So that threw an already delicate and emotional day into complete chaos. We survived and did our best to say farewell to our little friends. It's only been a week and a half since we were there, but it feels like so much longer now. My memories from Harford Heights are already getting fuzzy. But I have some great pictures of my kids, do take a look. I miss them a lot.

Next up was the infamous Transition Week. There was all kinds of stuff to do--the project portfolio (for the just-completed project), the project prep packet (for the new one), the official debrief of the old project, the official debrief of the new one, plus random trainings. Fortunately, our team, being local and having access to the computers, got a head start on the portfolio and so did not have to fight the hordes of other corps members here in the lab. As for me, I missed a lot of the stuff, because I taught one of the random training sessions. I did a Stress Management presentation for the entire Fire Unit (that's nine teams and over ninety people), over a three-day period of time. It was a lot of fun, and it was most definitely a learning experience. All the teams seemed to enjoy the class, and thanked me profusely. Because I did the class so many times, I kept tweaking with it, and that seemed to pay off. I added a guided relaxation at the end, which was a great thing. I wish I had the script and music that I used for my U-HELP presentations, but I did fairly well for off the cuff.

Then it was time for spring break! Woo! I headed to New York City, I was excited; I'd never been there before and had wanted to go for a long time. I was lucky enough to be able to stay with a friend, so I had a personal tour guide. Mostly we just walked around and saw stuff. Went to the Museum of Modern Art, rather quickly. Looked at the van Gogh and other famous names, and a great exhibit of New York City photographs. Got to see the campuses of NYU and Columbia. Met up with some other NCCC folks on Saturday night in Little Italy, that was really fun. I meant to get some gelato, but didn't have time. Supreme bummer. However, I did discover the joy of Italian ice, and had those for a meal-substitute a couple times. In all, I had a really good weekend. It was mellow, not terribly eventful, but pleasant and enjoyable. I love traveling to new places and figuring my way around. I can't wait to travel again.

Tomorrow is the day we have to get all our s*** together, literally. We have to be packed, have a meeting, clean the van and get it ready for the trip. Then first thing Wednesday morning, we head out to New Jersey. I'm getting excited. I'm really looking forward to being in a new place, as well as doing the work. We'll be doing lots of different things to get the camp ready, mostly repairs of facilities and building lean-tos. It will be nice to do physical labor, and to not have to the same monotonous thing day after day. And of course, I can't wait to explore the surroundings and just drink in the natural sights.

Because the camp is so "rustic," I won't be in touch very often with you folks in the Real World. I'll do my best with updates, but I'll probably concentrate on the team website. So check that out, too. I'm going to start writing more letters to all of you, so write to me too, and we'll all be pen pals.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

04/16/02: Hey y'all! So it's Tuesday now and Friday is the last day at school. Boo hoo!

So I hear that back home there was a record set for rainfall. Well, here in the Baltimore area, today a new record was set for high temperature. 90 degrees, plus! It was 80 already at 8AM. Blechh. It's lovely, don't get me wrong, but it's so stifling and icky sweaty. What's worse is that the AC at school doesn't work. That means that it was as hot and sticky inside as it was outside. Poor kids. And poor us, too.

Yesterday we finally found out our new project. It's in New Jersey, way up in the northwest corner near the Appalachian Trail (the nearest town is Milford, look it up, it's the middle of nowhere). We'll be at a camp in the woods in the "mountains," getting it ready for summer. The camp is for inner city kids, and there's all kinds of activities, from what we hear. We're excited. It's going to be fun, if lonely. I'm looking forward to camping out under the stars on the weekends. Oh, and there's bears. Fun times!

Saturday, April 13, 2002

04/13/02: We just finished Week 7 of our project. One more week and then no more kids. That's just starting to occur to us, that in a week our whole world will be turned upside down. We won't be at school seeing those great kids, we won't have our houses and the campus to ourselves, we'll get our new project and leave for it and then live together for two months. Crazy stuff, man.

This was a pretty eventful week. On Monday, Channel 13 News finally aired our clip. They came to school two weeks ago and filmed us with some of the kids. Our blurb was just that, a blurb--ninety seconds. But it was a good ninety seconds. We were all excited that we got on TV and that the news got a lot of information in about us.

On Tuesday we played ultimate frisbee for PT. Other folks kept joining in the game, until at one point we had 24 people on the field at once! It was complete madness, and it was great. The game went on (with smaller numbers) for nearly two hours. The game was even better because it was drizzly out but still warm, so most everyone was barefoot and shirtless. Good times.

Wednesday morning we got to school amidst a small crisis. They had found a body on the playground. So the morning entrance routines were all thrown off, and of course everyone was pretty freaked. Turned out to be a white woman between 25 and 40, the murder was possibly drug-related. Being a team of mostly white people, we were even more worried about our safety in the all-black neighborhood of our school. Thursday was Shannon's birthday (and happy birthday Brandon, too), so the team went out for a dress-up dinner in Havre de Grace. There was much beer and merriment. We all stayed out way too late, and we all had a great time.

On Friday morning, the team was exhausted, of course. Three of us took a "field trip" to the doctor. I sprained some tendons in my foot during that ultimate game, so I got some horse pills of ibuprofen and a note excusing me from PT for next week. It hurts to walk, which really sucks.

Friday, April 05, 2002

04/05/02: Two members of our team did get called to disaster relief for flooding in Kentucky. They have been gone for two weeks and will be returning to Perry Point this weekend, a week earlier than planned. It will be great to have a whole team again.

Last week also went quickly, but I was in a terrible mood all week. The team function sucked. I felt all quiet and lonely and melancholy and other no-fun things. The weekend was a little better, though.

Harford Heights was on spring break this week. Unfortunately, we don't get time off just because our kids do. So we got to do some different work, and it's been a great week. Last Friday and this Monday, we worked on the new tool sheds here on campus. We shingled both roofs. Woo! It was fun. The lines aren't quite even, but it looks pretty good considering we'd never done that before. Monday, the doors were constructed, and so was the trim work. I did half of the corner trim boards myself, with six-foot boards, a clamp, and a hammer. I was pretty damn proud of myself.

Tuesday was the best day. We drove out to a school in Delaware (it's a charter school opening in the fall). We had been told that our project would be constructing a dam, but we ended up planting trees instead. The day could not have been more perfect for it. It was sunny and warm, blue sky, big green fields of winter wheat. It was beautiful. And the planting went great. We figured out a teamwork rhythm halfway into it and kicked some tree-planting ass. They had us plant four lines of trees, to be used as windbreak for the fields and property. The second half of the second row was when we really got it going. So the third row, we did about 1500 feet, one tree every ten feet and alternating sides of a five-foot swath of tilled earth. One hundred and fifty trees planted--and we did it in less than half an hour. It was so awesome. The fourth row was interrupted by the tractor getting stuck in the muddy ground. Thus the planting was halted briefly, and, getting antsy, we had a mud fight. Good fun.

At the end of the day, we had planted nearly 700 trees. Seven hundred trees! We felt great (other than the sunburn). It was just the thing the team needed, to actually work together, and act like a unified team. Plus we did a great thing for the earth and a great favor (so to speak) for the school. In twenty years, there will be a bunch of pine trees standing tall because we planted them.

Dad sent me an old Chinese proverb after hearing about our Tuesday: "You must write a book, have a child and plant a tree--then you will live forever." The book is in the making (in my head; it's one of my life goals to publish a book), the kids will wait a few more years, but all those trees! What a great start. The circle of life.

To continue the week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were spent at the empty Harford Heights. We painted the computer lab and stamped and counted myriad books in the stock room. The painting required lots of preparation--we had to take everything off the walls, remove staples, spackle holes, sand the whole wall and dust it, then apply two coats of paint. Oh, and put tape along the floor and windows--that was surely the most fun part. (That was me being sarcastic, in case you couldn't tell.) Today was mostly a clean up day. In the book room, we did the last few boxes of stamping, and counted the books and boxes. My rough count (I can't rely on my mental math so much) was approximately 4,600 books stamped. Woohoo! That is awesome.

Oh, yes. This week's team function was baseball--the Yankees played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards last night. It was a great night, we started off the evening with dinner at the Inner Harbor. The game went quickly, it was over before 10. The Yankees shut out the O's 4-0 until the bottom of the ninth, when the Orioles saved face by scoring a single run. We didn't get home until midnight, so it was a long day. But good.

Altogether, it has been a productive, unifying, tiring week. It feels wonderful to have a change of scenery, to do something different every day, and to see the fruits of our labor. The team morale and dynamic has definitely improved for it as well, which is most important.

Saturday, March 23, 2002

03/23/02: Isn't that weird? We just finished our fourth week at Harford Heights, and now it's been two months in Perry Point. Crazy. It really doesn't feel like it's been that long, but at the same time it feels much longer. You know how it goes.

This week, like most of them, flew by. Thank goodness, too, because I'm still always tired. But it was a fairly good week, nice and busy. On Wednesday, a group of us stayed in Baltimore to do an ISP with the Bea Gaddy Family Shelter. We've been working with them for at least a month now. Sandra (one of Bea's daughters and the one who runs the show now) is just the coolest lady. So kind and caring. Anyway, there was a whole bunch of donated sandwiches (most frozen) and milk and dessert, plus some blankets. We were in front of City Hall, in War Memorial Plaza, for about an hour and almost all the food was given out. It was great. Oh, and we always park our van in the Mayor's reserved parking space. I see a kind of poetic justice in that, you know? We all get a kick out of being the Mayor, if only vehicularly speaking. There was a reverend and some others from Sandra's church at the Plaza as well, they were so nice. At the end of the evening, we all held hands and there was a prayer and song. Y'all know I'm totally not into religious stuff, but I went along with it and I enjoyed it. I liked the atmosphere of acceptance and love. The circle happened to morph into a heart shape at the end of it. Oh, and you know what else is cool? Every time we're in the van on the way home from Bea Gaddy work, Phil Collins' version of True Colors plays on the radio. Love that.

We all have such a great time on ISPs, and usually end up discussing volunteerism and service. How everyone needs to get involved. How incredibly easy it is. Rarely does it include actual labor, it's more like just being there for people. And the labor isn't difficult or anything. How very gratifying it is, and that we get much more out of it than the project sponsor. So I'm here to urge you to take up President Bush on his challenge for every citizen to pledge 4000 hours of service over their lifetime. It really is easy, it hardly takes any effort or even much time.

Last night, Thursday, we had the second of our now-weekly Team Function nights. Mandi and I were in charge of the planning; we went bowling in the exciting township of Elkton. We also had construction paper, a sheet with each team member's name, on which we all wrote something we liked or appreciated about that person. Mine was mostly serious stuff, about dedication and passion and all that boring, responsible crap. :) It was a really fun night. We didn't have to time to do the reflection/service learning discussion, and it was great to just be together as people. I got a pretty decent score of 70. Yay me! And I wasn't even in last place, I was ahead of two or three other people. Anyway, we all had a good time.

And now it's Friday!! Woo! I'm excited. Nothing too exciting is going on this weekend. There are two big ISPs going on. Another afternoon with Bea Gaddy tomorrow, I'll be going to that. Since I'm the ISP coordinator for the team, I've also been putting together plans for the Special Olympics Maryland on Sunday. It sounds like a lot of fun, and the lady I talked to was so great, I'd love to go, but I need a day off. There's a bunch of incredible projects in the coming weekends, through April. We're going to stay busy! I've got 30 hours already. We only need 80 for the entire ten months, but I'm all for getting it done early, especially with the cold weather. By the time it's hot, we'll be able to lounge around the beach or wherever on the weekends and not worry about ISPs.

Oh, that reminds me. A whole bunch of disasters have struck, like five states' worth. You all probably know that, but we're amazingly isolated. I don't have a tv and never watch any. Some people do have one and get all of three fuzzy stations, and probably actually watch stuff. The only time I've been in front of a television lately is to watch movies. But even that is rare, just because there's so little time to do anything. But back to the point. There's 30 people from my campus getting pulled from projects to do Red Cross disaster relief. My neighbor is going, and a few others from local projects. But they pull people on spike, too. I guess we won't get called out this round, they don't like to pull people from educational projets. We were discussing it today, and how much it would suck to leave practically right away (they had less than 48 hours' notice) and not get to say goodbye to our kids.

Friday, March 15, 2002

03/15/02: Woo, it's Friday! I am thrilled. Today was a great day.

I went with a teammate to a doctor's appointment. (We can't take the van out on our own.) So that took up most of the day, I only got back to school for the last hour and a half. When the kids came in from music, they were all excited to see me. I was happy to see them too. I missed them. They are so cute! The weather was WARM today. Warm! Like summer almost! It was beautiful. The van ride home was even fun, with the windows down and music blaring. Party in the government van, baby.

We were so psyched about the weather that some of us played ultimate frisbee after getting home. In other words, we did voluntary PT. Rather incredible, I must say. It was fun. So warm and lovely. It was 71 degrees at 6pm today.

And now it's the weekend! How cool is that? I can't wait to relax. There's an ISP tomorrow morning that I'm going to, and while I won't get to wake up at noon, it is an hour later than we meet during the week. So it is kind of sleeping in. And it should be nice to do some physical labor. This project is all mental, so I'm looking forward to something different.

Had the house inspection tonight, and I was completely ill-prepared. My room failed, so I need to have it ready for random re-inspection sometime this weekend. Not like this is a surprise to anyone who knows me, but can I just say that I don't really care about cleaning? Especially having to do it every week. Argh. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right?

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

03/12/02: Well, sorry that it's been awhile. We've just been working with the kids in school. It's the third week at Harford Heights, and the honeymoon period is definitely wearing off.

My class is pretty cool. There are 11 boys and four girls. The girls always behave and the boys always get in trouble and get lots of negative attention. But most of them are really smart. They read quite well and some of them are great writers. They do lots of reading and writing, and math, and science. I help out with random stuff, small group tutoring, some individual attention, too. This week I gave the spelling test and read a story during Read Aloud time. They have Resource once a day, I've gone to art, music, PE and library with them and I have a blast. I love playing. In art last week, we made pipe cleaner animals and people, it was great. I love playing, sometimes I wish I was still in elementary school.

Last weekend some of my teammates and I spent the weekend in Baltimore. It was a fun time. We went to Fells Point to all the clubs and bars. On Friday night two of us visited eight bars over the course of the evening! We finally got to dance, and I was thrilled. On Sunday we went to the Walters Art Museum, with an Impressionist exhibit, and some great Greek, Roman and Egyptian stuff. I felt very cultured. Except spoiled, too, because I kept expecting the museum displays to be bigger and have more stuff. I suppose I've been to the Louvre too many times. :)

I think that's about all that's going on. I am always really tired, because getting up at 6.15 just is not cool with my body. I would need to be in bed by 8pm to get enough sleep every night, and yeah right. We are really busy, somehow. I swear we don't do that much, but I feel like I have no time for anything. I don't even have time to read and relax. But at least I'm not bored.

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!

Monday, January 28, 2002

01/28/02: Hi everyone! I'm in Perry Point, Maryland with Americorps NCCC. I've been here since that would be five days? Wow. It seems like more than that.

Wednesday night at the airport, there were twelve or thirteen of us all flying here together. So we gathered and talked a bit about whatever. It was nice, to get to know some people right away. The flight to Detroit was three and a half hours, then we had an hour layover, and another hour to Baltimore. The Americorps people picked us up at the airport and drove us to the campus (Perry Point is a VA hospital complex). Right away we started on paperwork and all that. We got to see our housing. Everyone lives in houses that are 50+ years old. Most of them have six to eight people in them, with bunk beds and everything. A few of us lucked out and got three-person houses. I was so happy to find that out! I get my own room--that is so fabulous. We went back and got outfitted with uniforms and got ID badges, all that fun stuff. They gave us breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I have two housemates, another Seattle-area girl (Kelly) and a girl from Indiana (Jen). They're both really nice, and I think we'll have a nice year. They're under 21, though, and jealous that I can go out if I want (well, and not get in trouble, anyway). Our house was a disaster area; they only got it the week we arrived, instead of six weeks before. So we had no refrigerator, no shower curtain, few working light bulbs, no blinds, only one key, really bad hardwood floors, cobwebs and dead bugs all over the place...pretty nasty. On Friday we spent most of the day cleaning, and we went shopping for a few things. They gave us a fridge, too. But there's still lots to be done.

Over the weekend, we found out our teams that we'll work with for the year (and live with, too, when we're out on projects (off the campus). It was exciting. I think our team will be a good one, I think we'll have fun. We have three Washingtonians, three Iowans, two Texans, and three lefties. But really, we're diverse. :) Our team is Fire 4. There are two units of the campus, Fire and Ice, and each unit has nine teams. This week we get to come up with a unique name for our team and for our team van.

Also, on Saturday, we had our first shopping expedition! It was truly an adventure. We get government vouchers for a certain amount of money per day, all together for a week's worth of food. And only one or two people per house get to go to the store. So I went for our house, with $140 for nine days' time. It was crazy, so much food! My cart was full and really heavy. The people with seven housemates needed two carts. Anyway, I got a lot of stuff, and most of it is healthy, and we're so far eating dinner together so we can share food and stuff. It's fun.

Sunday I got one of the shuttle vans to Target. It was exciting, since most of us don't have cars and we were stocking up on things to make our houses nice and homey and all that. I got a little stereo, and some kitchen towels, things like that. Our house is still really bare, but we can't afford to buy lots of stuff to decorate with. We're trying, though. Someone found purple plastic Easter grass and arranged it on top of the mantel. I've got my christmas lights up in my room.

So. A little more about where I am. Perry Point is the VA complex, a mini community inside the town of Perryville. Baltimore is about half-hour's drive from here, Washington an hour, I think. There's actually a train station really close to us, and trains go to both of those places, I don't know where else. Chesapeake Bay is only a couple hundred yards away from our house, and my window looks right out onto the sunset over the water. It's really beautiful. The weather here has been very pleasant, almost warm the past couple days. The Susquehanna River empties into the bay from Perryville, 444 miles from its start in Cooperstown, NY. There's a lighthouse at the river junction, the Carver? Lighthouse, the oldest continuously-operated lighthouse in the US, according to the sign we saw today. Havre-de-Grace is just across the bridge from Perryville, and Aberdeen is on the far side of that (that's where we go to the grocery store and the Target).

There are 178 corps members on this campus, most of them girls. Sadly, most of the cute boys are the Team Leaders, which means technically they're off limits. Damn. But everyone here seems really nice and very excited about starting our terms of service. It's so great to be around people who all have a passion for service, and yet who are all so different, you konw? Thirty-four states are represented by our group. I've met a lot of Southerners and a lot of Midwesterners. I'm picking up the accents ridiculously fast. Well, not picking up, cause I knew them before, but I find myself adopting them almost right away. And actually, the past couple days, I've noticed a drawl in my voice, even when I'm not around Southerners. But that's fun. Y'all know how I love to play with accents anyway. :)

I think I'll stop there for now. This week and the next two weeks we'll be training for the year. I don't know yet what projects we'll be doing. I have the dates of them, but not right in front of me. So I'll update as much as I can. You can read my journals from the past few months while waiting. Okay? :)

Oh, and write me or call me, everyone!

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Happy New Year! Did you have a nice one? Mine wasn't bad, actually. I had fun. I worked a double shift yesterday, and had to work today also. It was sort of funny, everybody had a story about their evening. We were all feeling out of sorts, some more than others. I just generally felt like crap. This afternoon I had a nice nap. Quite a relief.

So. It's been raining since afternoon, and windy too. Though I don't love being in the rain, I like the sound of the drops on the roof and the wind through the trees. It's soothing, somehow. That's one of the things I miss most about Bellingham, they have wonderful windstorms there, being right on the water. My old dorm was surrounded by trees, and the sounds of the raging winds was like a release. Ah, the good old days.

It is so weird that it's a new year, and that it's 2002. It sounds funny, you know? I wonder what is in store, for the world, for little me? This time last year seems eons ago. I hope there are some interesting things, at least. January is a weird month, it is so bleak and plain in my head. I hate not knowing what's ahead for me, too. Just impatient, I suppose.

I have declared a temporary ban on trips to the library. Somehow, I have ended up with a growing pile of new, non-library books that I need to read. Since for some reason I haven't been able to read more than one book at a time, I'm determined to make a dent in my pile. But there's so much good stuff! There's one about Paris, there's the new one by Stephen King, and even the old feminist classic, Backlash. I look forward to reading it all.

What is it with self-esteem? More specifically, my lack of it? Is it normal, does everyone despair at every glance in the mirror? Yesterday, while gussying up for the goings-on, I felt so depressingly resigned to look like shit. It was awful. Lately those kinds of thoughts haven't been too loud in my head, but they're rearing back into gear right quick. And it sucks. I feel like there's no reason to even try, since it doesn't make a difference, and it's not like there's anyone to impress. If people aren't dazzled by my razor-sharp wit, then to hell with them, right? Ha. Right.