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.