Monday, December 13, 2010

Leaving Little Rock

This past weekend was our last in Little Rock and next to last until I fly home for Christmas.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling.  I am looking forward to spending Christmas with my family, especially after being gone for the first time on Thanksgiving, and spending New Years with my friends, but I am going to miss Children’s Hospital and the team. 

To celebrate our last weekend a few of us tried to fit in as much as possible, so Saturday we attended the basketball game vs. Ole Miss.  The game was great, but UALR lost.  However, the coach did invite us to come and watch them play in Denver on Jan. 2nd, so I think a few of us that will be back in town are going to try and go to it.  The next day, Emma, Annie, Kiera, and I got up and went to Pinnacle Mtn. where we hiked the West Summit.  It was so cold and windy, but totally worth it for the view.  It’s the closest to outdoor rock climbing I will probably ever come.  After that we went to the Clinton Library, which I loved.  I could have spent days there just reading about all the things he did during his presidency and everything he is doing now to continue and try to make the world a better place.  I definitely plan on looking into the Clinton School of Public Service and CGI, as well as several other programs he has started.

This week is a short work week for us.  We worked today, will work tomorrow, and then travel back to Denver for the next two days.  To say thank you to our team today, all of our supervisors joined us for a luncheon.  We introduced ourselves and told everyone what units we had been working in, and then our supervisors went around and thanked all of us individually for the work we have been doing.  Talk about a confidence booster.  This entire time I was worried if I was doing a good enough job, and all the supervisors had nothing but nice things to say about all of us.  My afternoon supervisors gave me two really sweet cards that I will cherish, and our main supervisor, Melissa, gave us all grab bags from Volunteer Services full of goodies.  It was a great way to start the week.  I’m looking forward to going to work tomorrow and making the most of my last day.

I won’t be posting anything until I return to Denver, so if you need to know about what I am doing over the holiday, call me.  Most likely I will be spending it with those of you who are reading my blog anyways!

"And I was like, 'OK, Where is the camera?'"

This past week has been one of the most challenging weeks I have faced in my life so far; with flight delays, a funeral, incident reports, and the busy atmosphere of the hospital.

When I got news week before last that Arlyn (who I could never describe in just a few words, but most well known as my loving friend and roommate) had lost her father to a year long battle with cancer.  I was devastated.  I was upset with myself that I was not there to be with Arlyn, upset that I did not get to see him one last time, and mad that such a wonderful man and loving father was taken away from family and friends.  Mr. Baer was my dad in Spartanburg throughout college.  He treated me like I was his daughter, always greeting me with a hug and a kiss and conversations about my classes and how my family was doing.  Mr. Baer is a man that I greatly respect and love, so I knew I would do whatever I had to in order to make it to his funeral.  I let Ar and the rest of the girls know that I was coming home and started looking for flights.  I booked my flight home for Monday, the night before the funeral, however, my flight was later delayed and cancelled for unknown reasons.  I worked it out with the airline to have my ticket changed to fly me into GSP the next morning, and I was able to make it in time to have lunch with my friends, attend the visitation, and the funeral.  The ceremony was beautiful and something Mr. Baer would surely be touched by, but embarrassed to have his family tell such wonderful stories about him.  Ar spoke and played the violin for him one last time, she stood up in front of all of us bravely and stronger than I have ever seen her.  I love you Arlyn and appreciate and care for your family more than you will ever know.

I returned that same night to Little Rock, rested, and went to work the next morning.  I was exhausted.  My supervisors, as has been their character throughout, recognized how tired I was and with complete understanding, gave me some more relaxed tasks for the next two days while I caught up on my sleep.  Friday proved to be eventfully making up for the two previous days though.  In the Holiday tradition, choirs, bands, and various performers have been coming to spread some Holiday cheer in the atrium of the lobby for all the patients and families since the first day of December.  Since Volunteer Services is over this programming and has it broadcasted over CCTV (the hospital’s own channel), I was given the task of running the camcorder.  I have really enjoyed doing this for the second half of each morning.  It’s fun to interact with other volunteers and to speak with families as they bring down their patients to watch.  Unfortunately, Friday did not go as smoothly as the rest.  The second group was an elementary aged choir, who had arrived an hour early and had been playing outside for that time.  They came in, lined up, and I began recording.  Shortly after they began their second song, one of the children passed out and fell forward onto the tile floor.  The child was upset and bleeding, so I had admissions call back to the ER, and I got a wheelchair and pushed him back.  Once I had him squared away and chaperones were with him, I went back out to the choir, who was still performing, to make sure that everyone was ok and try to console the kids who had stepped off camera because they were upset.  About two minutes after I returned, another child passed out.  Luckily the child did not fall, but had a medical condition which was made aware to the STAT team, and they called a code, which means we had to sit there until all the nurses and doctors arrived and then admit the child into the ER as well.   Since that has all been said and done, I have become a running joke among my supervisors.  I have apparently written the most incident reports of any Americorps ever placed at the hospital.  What a title to hold.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Taxes in Texas

First of all, I want to thank everyone that has sent me a card, letter, and especially my parents, Aunt Sandra, and grandparents for my fabulous Thanksgiving package. It is so nice to get mail while I am here in Arkansas, especially around the holidays.

Second of all, I want to apologize that I have not talked about my assignment or the hospital more in my blog.  It’s difficult to tell much about my days without discussing patients and interactions with them, but I obviously am unable to share too much information about them and don’t feel there is too much else to share outside of those interactions. 

I can say that the hospital is gearing up for the holidays and preparing for one of the busiest times of the year there.  I helped the nurses in the Neuro unit decorate the playroom by cutting out and hanging snowflakes from the ceilings.  The room is pretty plain and doesn’t have too many activities in it, so I think it made the room much more welcoming for the patients.  I have also been helping prepare for Christmas day by pulling toys and different stocking stuffer items for the patients that will be spending the holiday at the hospital.  I can’t imagine being sick on Christmas day, much less spending it in a sterile hospital room without a Christmas tree or a big dinner at my grandparent’s house.  Volunteering there over the holidays has definitely made me appreciate being able to spend that time with my family.

This morning at the hospital I was able to record 2 music groups that came to perform for the patients.  A Spanish class and a hand bell choir came and performed various Christmas carols and some religious songs.  I couldn’t have asked for a better job.  I got to listen to the groups perform and broadcast it in the patients rooms, so that the ones on bed rest could enjoy them as well.  My supervisor says that we will be having at least 1 group perform everyday for the rest of the time I am here and all the way through the end of December.

This week my team and I did our first Independent Service for this round.  We were able to volunteer with a group called CARTI, which provides transportation and treatments for Chemo and Radiation patients.  Every year CARTI hosts the Festival of Trees as a major fundraiser for the organization.  The Festival of Trees is a big three day event that has several different things going on including a father-daughter dance, a silent auction, and a black-tie ball.  We volunteered to help with the set up of the space that these events will be taking place in, so we were able to help with clean up and small jobs and even got to decorate a few trees.  This weekend we are going to do two more ISPs involving the holiday season.  Saturday morning we are going to help with pet pictures with Santa for Care Rescue Center, and that afternoon we are going to help with crowd control for the annual Christmas Parade.

It’s crazy to think that we only have a little over a week left here, and then we will be returning to Denver, and I will be returning home.  Arkansas has been fun; I went to my first and probably last Razorback tailgate, went ice-skating for the first time, and met some unforgettable kids.  I can’t complain, this was a great first round.

Unfortunately, I am not thrilled about our second round.  We found out yesterday that we will be in Wichita Falls, Texas doing taxes.  Yup, taxes.  Not only taxes, but working with a predominately Spanish-speaking community.  We are all trying to stay positive and remember, “there is no such thing as a bad project,” but it might be a struggle for us to come to grips with this.  Once we get there, I know we will make the best of it, but for now I am going to sulk about it.  Hopefully, I will find some fun things to do there that will boost my spirits.  If anyone else feels the need, please find something fun to do for me!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Thing I am Most Thankful for this Year

This week was a short work week for us because of the Thanksgiving Holiday.  We worked Monday to Wednesday as usual, and then were off the rest of the week.  Work was a little slow this week because most of the patients were being discharged for the holiday.  Most of the patients that I do bedsides with in the afternoons were already discharged by my shift on Wednesday, so I imagine that next week will be completely new patients for me, which is exciting and disappointing at the same time.  It’s great that most of the kids were able to go home for the holiday, but disappointing that some of the one’s I had spent time with I won’t see again.

This year was the first Thanksgiving that I haven’t spent with my family, which was really strange.  My team spent Thanksgiving with two Water teams that are also in Arkansas.  We had a potluck lunch where the three teams contributed different foods and drinks and ate at the camp where Water 2 is working.  The day definitely felt like an awkward family holiday, where Fire 6 was the redheaded stepchild of the family.  It’s definitely hard to get together in large groups like that, especially when two of the teams are from the same unit, spent all of training together, and formed bonds that we weren’t able to for the most part.  I’m glad to say though, I think the day definitely brought the team closer together, and I was so thankful to have them as my team compared to other possibilities.  I think the hardest thing about Thanksgiving was not being able to have lunch at my grandparents’ house.  I am so used to doing that every year and drawing names for Christmas gift exchange that I felt left out when my mom called and passed the phone around to the rest of our family. 
The rest of the week and weekend were filled with activities.  Friday, I went hiking with Chris and hung out at camp for a bit.  Then, that afternoon I went with my team to the University of Arkansas in Little Rock Men’s basketball game, which they won.  Saturday, me and a couple of my teammates went to the Arkansas V. LSU tailgate, which took me back to the good times at W. B. stadium with my Gamecock friends. 

Basically, it made me miss home and the fall in the South.  There is really nothing like it.  Every weekend is filled with die-hard football fans tailgating, cheering on their teams, and either celebrating the win or sulking over the loss.  Mild weather and weekends spent at bonfires with good friends.  Does life get any better?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chutes and Ladders, Kipper, and Incident Reports

I finished my first week of work yesterday.  Needless to say it was interesting, as is every event for me it seems.
The first morning went well.  I took the Hospitality Cart around with Melissa on the first floor, and then I was on my own for the next hour and a half.  Since then, I have been doing it on my own, and I really enjoy it.  I was telling my supervisor that it's fun to be able to give things to the parents that they need, especially when they expect you to be bringing things to their children. 

The second part of the day is when I make my patient visits.  The first day I met with my afternoon supervisor, Wendy, and she went over the patient stat sheet with me and discussed a few patients, but we ran out of time and I didn't get to observe any bedsides.  So, the next day I was on my own to do bedsides because Wendy was in meetings for the afternoon.  My first bedside was traumatic to say the least.  I went to visit a patient in the Neurology  Unit, and he had just returned to the room from a minor procedure.  His granddad needed to run out to his car, so I agreed to sit with the patient and play with him for a little while.  He was a three year old little boy, full of energy but pretty easy to entertain.  I hung out with him for a few minutes, and then the nurse came in to order his lunch etc.  While the nurse was giving me instructions for the little boys lunch, he fell through the bed rails out of the bed.  That's right, right on the floor, a neuro patient.  I wanted to cry, but I didn't.  He ended up being fine and discharged later that evening I think, but it wasn't the best way to start off my bedsides.  Since then however, my bedsides have gone much more smoothly.  I have held some of the babies, played chutes and ladders, and read stories about Kipper.

I am looking forward to the rest of our time here.  My supervisors make the job so much more enjoyable, and seeing the kids stuck in bed all day is tough, but it's fun to play with them and know that you are making their time there a little bit more enjoyable.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ar Can Saw

Yesterday, we finally got our placements for the Arkansas Children's Hospital, and I am working with the Hospitality Cart and as a Floater for two floors.  Now, what does that mean?  We spent all day yesterday orienting ourselves to the different volunteer roles...all 15 of them.  We could rank our top ten, which was difficult since I felt the same about quite a few of the roles. 

The Hospitality Cart position is based out of the Volunteer Services Office.  With that I will be taking a cart around to the general patient rooms and offering the parents any toiletry items they might need, socks, notepads, or word searches.  Basically, I will providing for those who are too busy worrying about their children to be worried about themselves, which I am absolutely excited about.  This will give me a chance to interact with the families and the patients on three floors of the hospital.  Also, I am excited to be working so closely with the Volunteer Services Office, since I am interested in possibly working with Volunteer Coordination. 

As a Floater, I am working with the Child Life Education Office.  I will be visiting patients in the general medical ward and the neurological ward, bringing them games and various things to entertain them if they are confined to their rooms, or taking them to the play rooms.  This part I am most nervous about because I will be seeing some of the patients for several days, possibly weeks, and I don't want to get too attached.  Overall though, I think this will be a fun placement and a great experience.  My only exposure to hospital's has been less than positive to say the least, so hopefully this will change my views.

I'm running out of time here in Starbucks, but will be sure to give you a quick update sometime this weekend with more details about the living arrangements and other fun things in Little Rock.  Also, I have added my mailing address for this project, so I would love any and all mail!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rond 1 Spike

Friday, we received our permanent teams and round 1 Spike assignments.  As my unit gathered to find out who our teammates would be, I was getting more and more nervous.  Once the unit was together, our unit leader and two assistants called us out one by one to receive a clue as to who else was on our team and who our team leader was.  Each slip of paper given had song lyrics typed out, and we had to figure out the other Corps Members that completed our song.  I was one of the last people to find their group because I had the most obscure Spice Girl lyric and no one thought I was a part of their group.  When I finally found my group, we had to unscramble the bold letters within our lyrics to reveal the location of our Team Leader.

My permanent team consists of myself and 9 other Corps Members, 5 guys and 5 girls.  We are all over 21 except for 3 members.  David and I are the only team members from the South.  He is fresh out of high school from Atlanta, Georgia.  Most everyone else is from the North with the exception of Louise, who is from Hawaii.  My team leader is Kiera.  She is my age and a recent college grad.  She is one of the few team leaders that was not a corp member last year.  Overall we have a fun group of people.  Everyone is pretty outgoing, and those who aren't are trying to be, so it will be fun getting to know everyone.  Prior to permanent teams, I had only hung out with 2 of the guys outside of training, so I have a lot of catching up to do getting to know everyone else better.  Luckily, there will be plenty of time for that on Spike.

We leave next Saturday for our first round Spike.  It's crazy that training is almost over, and we are actually getting to go out and start a project.  My team, as well as two teams from the Water Unit, will be traveling to Arkansas until Christmas break.  My team is going to Little Rock, Arkansas, population  685,488 including the surrounding metropolitan cities.  While we are there, we will be volunteering through Arkansas Children's Hospital, the only pediatric care facility in the state, and one of ten in the country.  Kiera could not tell us exactly what we would be doing, but we will be working two out of three shifts Monday through Friday.  The hospital will be providing us with one meal per day, but as a team we will be responsible for the rest of our meals.  We have a great living accommodation provided to us directly across the street from the hospital.  We will have three apartments, one for the guys, one for the girls, and one for our team leader.  The apartments are fully furnished and the complex also has a gym, which will be great since our PT has to be done in the mornings twice a week as a unit.

I am very excited about this opportunity.  I have never volunteered in a children's hospital.  Now I know what you are thinking, Mary doesn't even like kids, but I am trying to be open minded.  Who knows, I might have a change of heart just from this experience.  I will be posting my mailing address for the apartments in my next blog, so feel free to mail me Thanksgiving cards, letters, or coupons (we are living on a $4.50 per day food budget and could use any help with those items)!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dear Permanent Team, I hope you love me and I love you.

  Today is the day.  At some point during our training today between 8am and 5 pm, we will be given our permanent teams.  Permanent teams are the teams that you will be living and working with during Spikes with the exception of one round, which is the shuffle round.  Today seems to be a day that we have all been excited and nervous for ever since we started working within our units.  My feelings towards today, well I personally am STRESSING.  I mean let's be real here; the next eight months of my life will primarily be spent with my team of 7-10 people in  very close quarters and potentially stressful situations. Living, eating, sleeping, and working beside one another day in and day out for six weeks at a time.  I feel like this is a pretty big deal and I deserve to be a little stressed.  I can work with pretty much anyone, so I'm not worried about the workdays, but living with 10 people is going to be a challenge.  Sharing a space with 3 people has proven difficult for me in the past, and I could take breaks from them by going to class, or work, or anywhere really, but I won't really have that option while on Spike.
  The past few days all most of us have talked about is whose team we want to be on and who we want as a team leader.  A friend of mine here gave me a reality check earlier and said that he was a strong believer in fate, and whatever was meant to be would be in the end.  I had to agree with him.  We have absolutely no control over who our team leader or teammates will be in the end because it is completely left up to the team leaders and our unit leader.
  Another person told me to look at this as my personal challenge for the next eight months, which I'm sure it will prove to be just that.  I know there will be times that the entire team doesn't get along, and times that I will just want my own personal space and be alone, but I joined the program to help me find more opportunities in life.  What better way to open more doors than to make connections with strangers and have them help you work on the qualities that you do not possess and build on the qualities and skills that you already have?  I will definitely have to continuously keep my self in check and be a constant reminder to myself of why I am here.
                             All day I will be reminding myself 3 words:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jack O' Lanterns

Weird how this Halloween did not even feel like Halloween.  Maybe it was because this is the first one that I haven't planned for and spent with my friends or that I wasn't able to go out somewhere that I know....none the less I enjoyed myself.  I had a pretty lame costume, which I had several people refer to me as a Halloween mom.  Who doesn't enjoy that?  Friday, we had a "dance party" on campus that everyone wore their costumes to, and then afterward we went across the street to the Mexican Restaurant, which was itneresting...Luckily Julie is around and is extremely inviting, so she let Chris and I go to her friends Halloween party with her on Saturday.  There were some pretty entertaining costumes, but I won't bore with the details.  Basically, I love being here, but I definitely miss being close to my friends and doing stuff like dressing up like fools with them specifically.  So, Madison, Saye, Tate, Lee and Ar I will be seeing you all next Halloween in Charleston, the usual spot.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I can add Dog Walker to my resume

I know it has been a while since my last post, so I will just hit the high lights for y'all.

Sunday:  Dog Walking and Hiking
  For Independent Service Hours I went and walked dogs at one of the local animal shelters.  This particular shelter is a low kill shelter, so they take dogs and cats from the surrounding shelters that are on the way out the door and bring them to their shelter.  There were dogs there as old as ten years old and as young as ten weeks old, and of course I wanted to take all of them home with me.  Since so many of us went to volunteer, we had to share dogs, so Missy and I got to walk a pit bull mix named Recon.  Basically, if this dog is still there when I move back to South Carolina I am adopting him, end of story.  As for ISP, one of the workers told us that we could come back and walk the dogs anytime now that we have been there once, and we can come in the mornings to help clean the kennels and feed the dogs too.
  After I got back from ISP, my neighbor, Justine, and I decided we needed to do something outdoors for the rest of the day.  She found a great place for us to go hiking in Littleton called Roxborough Park.  It was gorgeous.  We hiked the South Rim trail, so about 3 miles.  The view was incredible and the rocks were the most vibrant shades of orange and red.  That took up the rest of the afternoon for us, but it was definitely worth it.
Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday: Classroom Training...Woof
  Nothing exciting to tell about training really.  We spent these days doing eight hours of classroom training for Shelter management with the Red Cross, Safe Spaces for children in emergency shelters, media training, service learning training and tool training.  Sitting through these trainings is one of the most difficult things for me.  Most of the rooms don't have windows, and they are all super warm so I inevitably get sleepy.  I spend a good portion of these trainings standing in the back of the room so that I don't fall asleep.
Tuesday: Service Project with the Denver Green School

  Tuesday we got to take a break from training and my group and one other group in my unit went and volunteered at the Denver Green School.  The Denver Green School is a new school that just started this year.  It only has Early Start, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 6th grade so far.  They have plans to add two classes each year, eventually having Early Start through 8th grade.  The way the students are selected are based on the neighborhood kids being accepted first and then filling open slots with kids from outside of the neighborhood that ride the bus in to the school.  We volunteered in a few different capacities that day; some people read to the kids, some helped video students for parent-teach conferences, we ate lunch with the kids and played with them for recess.  Our major project was outside helping to create a garden for the school to use for different aspects of their curriculum.  We basically spent the day digging up the grass behind the school.  It was so nice to actually get off campus and do some hands-on work and get to interact with the community a little more.

I will update y'all on this weekends festivities tomorrow!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

600 6th Graders

We participated in our first service project yesterday. It was so nice to be outside and not stuck in a room listening to sessions all day.  We partnered with a local middle school and Volunteer Outdoors Colorado to help with trail building and cutting back weeds in Cherry Creek Park.  It was an early morning.  We left at 7:15, so I was awake at 5:15 before the sun was up, and we started working around 10.  Each group was split into two groups of five.  The Corps members were the facilitators for the project, and we were in charge of about 10 sixth graders.
The VOC really wanted us to encourage the kids to do the work and get things done.  My group was great!  They all wanted to work and help do everything.  I barely even raked while they were there.  Of course there were tasks that were too difficult for them, like pushing the wheel barrows full of crush and run down the trail (which was almost too difficult for me and my weak shoulders).  At the end of their work day, around lunch, we had them tell us their highs and lows for the day, and many of them said that they didn't have any lows.  I thought that this was great.  How often do you find middle school pre-teens who have nothing to complain about?
After the kids left, we still had a good bit of trail left to cover, so we all worked together on that.  Luckily the rain held off and it wasn't too cold.  All in all, I would call it a success.  I was nervous about being responsible for the kids, because we all know how I feel about children, but they were great and made it so much easier on me and my other group members.Unfortunately next week we are back in the class room for training, but tomorrow I am getting in some of my Independent Service Project hours and walking dogs from the animal shelter.  I am so excited!  I can't believe how much I am missing my aggravating little pups at home, so it will be good to have a little interaction with these animals.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blame it on the A-A-A-Altitude

Today was so much fun! We had a day off from training and went into Boulder for hiking and then downtown to walk around and see the shops.

Hiking here is so much different than South Carolina.  I love going hiking with my friends at home, but the highest elevation in South Carolina is a little over 3500, which is nothing compared to Boulder.  The trail we hiked today was a little over 6000.  I only hiked about 1.2 miles and that was enough for me.  It was ridiculous how winded I was after hiking up the trail before looping back down.  Basically, I am blaming it on the altitude.  I felt so bad about how little I was able to hike today that I came back to campus and did interval running on the soccer field for half an hour.  It's been rough trying to get back into shape and acclimate at the same time, but hopefully by the time we have our baseline testing my run will be decent.

Downtown Boulder was fabulous.  It is a college town, so the downtown area was really developed and busy.  There were tons of shops and restaurants to look in, but the shops were mostly boutique type places that are relatively expensive.  It reminded me a lot of Asheville, NC as far as the atmosphere goes.  Everyone there was young and the older shop owners were hippies.  One thing I did notice while we were there were all of the homeless people peddling on the streets.  Obviously it is a popular and affluent area, so it would make sense that they would come to that area, but it made me curious as to the demographic.  I couldn't quickly find the demographic for Boulder, but I did find out that Denver is ranked 8th in the United States for its homelessness population.  When we stopped to get gas in Boulder, there were two homeless guys sitting in front of the store, and the store manager was kicking them off the property.  I had packed a lunch today, but didn't eat the sandwich and asked my team leader MG if it was ok for me to give them the sandwich to share.  She didn't see a problem with it so I just went up and told the guys I had an extra PB&J that I would like for them to have.  The one guy was visibly excited and thanked me for it, but him thanking me seemed so wrong.  Why should anyone have to thank another person for sharing something with them that every person has a right to have to begin with.  That guy gave me a lot to think about for the next few days, but I'm so glad that I was able to do that for him at that point in time.  It makes you wonder what it would be like for that to be you sitting on the sidewalk watching as people ignore you, look down on you, and pass you by just because you are a victim of circumstance.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My

So, not much to be said about yesterday and today.  The Denver Zoo was a lot of fun.  I drove myself and three friends, and we spent all afternoon there walking around checking out the animals.  Today wasn't too exciting, but a lot less training, which was nice.  We went into Denver this morning and checked out a few stores and came back for a short meeting.  Like I said nothing too exciting, but I did want to share a couple pictures from the zoo. 
 I had to take a picture of these two seals because one of them is named Nick, which happens to be one of my friends' name that I met here.  Oh the irony.

 This picture is especially for my friend Arlyn, who is having a hard time lately.  I love you!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Red Rocks, Drug Tests, and Kilts

The past two days have been ridiculously busy with training sessions, seminars, and physicals.  Yesterday was our driving training, which was an all day marathon event.  We started off by viewing a power point about the Corps rules for driving the vans, then watched a training video about how to properly operate the passenger vans.  After we completed this, we had to take two written tests about all of the things we had learned.  About half way through the second test, when I was stressing over a question, I realized that I had no interest in being able to drive the vans anyways, much less care about passing the test.  After we finished this, our group loaded into the van, and the people who were interesting in becoming certified drivers took turns driving in Denver.  At first, I was dreading the afternoon van ride, but by the end of it was glad I went.  We got to travel all over Denver, including the Columbine area and various parts of downtown, and we got to drive out to Red Rocks Amphitheater.

When I first learned that I would be moving to Denver, I Googled the attractions for the area and came across Red Rocks.  At the time I just remember seeing it at as a popular music venue and assuming it was like every other outdoor music venue I had ever seen.  I was so wrong.  Come to find out that the stage is set down between these massive red rocks, which create the acoustics for the shows. The view of the city was gorgeous going up to the top of Red Rocks and being in the actual amphitheater was crazy.  Me and a few other of the people I was with decided that we were definitely going to try and see a show there when the season opens back up next spring.

After being in the car all afternoon, I was dying to get out and do something.  I found a couple guys who wanted to get an ultimate Frisbee game going, so of course I invited myself.  I had so much fun! It was great to get outside and run and really get acclimated to the different altitude.  We played four about an hour, and I walked away with two destroyed toe nails and only one fall, so I would call it a success. 

The next day was an early morning.  We had to be up at 6am to get breakfast and pack a lunch for our trip to the doctor's office.  I knew that part of the physical included a drug test (my favorite invasion of privacy), so as soon as I woke up I started drinking water and didn't go to the bathroom.  By the time I had to take my test I had already drank an entire Nalgene of water.  Luckily, I actually had to go, and I didn't hold the entire group up.  However, I did hear that one group was there for two hours waiting on one of their team members to use the bathroom. So glad it wasn't me!  Unfortunately the day just got longer from there.  We had about an hour break and then a campus tour, followed by a seminar for Campus Standards. This seminar lasted four hours, and it was basically information that I had already been told or read on my own, accompanied with readings from the handbook.  If anyone breaks rules here, it will not be because they don't know that's for sure.

So, to celebrate the end of our work week and our first day off, a bunch of us piled on to the bus and light rail and made our first trip into the city.  We were all starving and definitely ready for a drink, but didn't take into consideration that it was a Saturday night in downtown Denver on it's most popular street.  Finally, we decided that with 12 of us we would have to wait anywhere we went, so we decided on this Irish pub and eatery called Tilted Kilt.  So, you guessed it, the waitresses were barely dressed in kilts and knee socks.  Kind of reminded all of us of an Irish Hooters.  It was fun to get off campus though with everyone  and do something different.

Today, I am going to the zoo with my neighbor Justine!  Of course, I will take plenty of pictures for you all.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

BDU= Uniform that I will not be photographed in...ever

Ok, I will give you the good news first; Day two was wayyyy better than day one.
Today was basically like first day of college orientation.  We had several sessions that were overviews of what will be going on the rest of training and where we will be meeting. We were reimbursed for our travel expenses, but since I drove, my pay doesn't even begin to cover my mom and I's expenses.  In between sessions we were able to get to know our groups a little better.  I found a couple guys that like Jam bands and want to see some shows while we are in Denver, so I am pretty excited about that. Also, most of the girls in my group are sweet, and I can definitely see myself getting to be really good friends with them.  There is definitely something to be said for bonding based only off of being in a certain situation because we don't have very much in common other than the situation we are in and maybe a few other small things.

After it was all said and done, we made a trip to Target.  At first, I was going to drive myself, but I'm glad I went with the group and got to talk with them a little more. I am so glad we went today though, because I was in desperate need of a few things.  Well, maybe not desperate, but I had to have detergent, snacks, and shoes (which I will explain when I tell you about these lovely uniforms we received).  Of course I can never go to Target and only get what I need, so I picked up a book to read, an air freshener and a couple other little things.  Basically I spent entirely too much money and was thankful to go to the caf and eat dinner for free. 

Speaking of the food, let me tell you about today's menu.  Well at breakfast I just had a bowl of cereal thinking that I wouldn't really need much more than that to last until lunch at noon.  I was wrong.  I was starving by about 10:30.  Then, I get to lunch and ask the lunch lady what she was serving.  Unfortunately, I couldn't understand her and just took what she served me.  It was some kind of rice concoction with broccoli and carrots.  So, I ate a salad and another bowl of cereal.  I am definitely looking forward to losing a lot of weight while I am here.  If the food continues to be like this after we start working out, I should shed the pounds. Dinner wasn't awful, but we missed out on the fried chicken and got shafted with chicken nuggets instead.  On the bright side though, I discovered that their black beans are awesome, so I ate black beans and rice as my main course and an apple for dessert.  Now that I am writing this, I realize that I am hungry already and will probably be having some of those snacks I bought at Target.

Now for the bad news; We received our uniforms today and must wear them at all times we are doing anything Americorps related.  So, let me give you a run down of what this uniform consists of.  Gray t-shirts (short and long sleeve), white and gray polo shirts (short and long sleeve), a hoodie, fleece vest.  So far so good right?  Well, the bottom half of the uniform would be the less flattering portion of the outfit; khaki cargo shorts, khaki and black bdu pants, which must be belted at all time with our shirts tucked in.  So basically just imagine me, 5'1", in any type of mens' cargo pants with a tucked in t-shirt, black belt, and closed toed shoes on....hideous.  Thus, why I purchased a pair of shoes today at Target.  I got a cute pair of moccasins to wear with the uniform while we are in training and traveling, just to try and give it a little bit of my own personality.

Tomorrow is driver training.  Lee, you can appreciate this.  We will all be trained on driving a 15 passenger van! I have no desire what so ever to drive one of these vans anywhere, but we are required to take the training regardless.  I'm trying to remind myself that this is just another skill I can add to the resume haha.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

3 Things You Must Do For Us: Call Your Loved Ones, Use Chapstik, Drink Water

It's official: I am living in Denver, Colorado for the next ten months, or at least based here.  It's weird to think that just a week ago the longest drive I had to worry about was to Spartanburg and back, and now I have a 23 hour car ride home. 

Before I arrived on campus today to check in, Julie (a friend of my friend Lee from home) took me to this great sandwich place for lunch called Snarfs.  We had sandwiches and talked about Americorps, but the whole time all I could think about was what the rest of today would be like.  Will I like my roommate?  Will she like me?  What is my room going to be like?  Did I pack everything I needed?  Did I pack way too much?  Am I going to make friends?  Basically, I was a wreck.  It was like going to my first day of college all over again, except if things went wrong I couldn't just drive home or to Clemson to be with my other friends!

So, when I got here and checked in I was relieved to meet my roommate, Pamela, who is wonderful. As we unpacked we talked about home and school, and I learned that she is a year younger than me, from Michigan, and not real sure what she wants to do with her life...Welcome to the club!  We also share a common love for Weezy, that's right, I'm talking about Lil Wayne.  However, I am hoping to introduce her to some of my bands that I like, but I don't know how she will feel about jam bands like Panic and P Groove.  Unfortunately, our room is pretty boring.  Neither of us brought much to decorate with, so I am definitely having mom send me some of my pictures as soon as she can.

Later on, we ate dinner with our units before our first meeting.  I am in the Fire Unit, and my team leader is Alicia.  I will only be with this particular group for the first week of training and then we will switch groups four to five more times in order to get to know all of the people in our unit. So far I have met some pretty cool people, but I don't want to get my hopes set on having them in my final group, so I am trying to keep an open mind about everyone in the Fire Unit.  I found out tonight at our meeting that a lot of the people here are fresh out of high school.  I can't imagine doing this out of high school!  I feel homesick and I am 22 years old and haven't really lived at home in four years.  I definitely respect them for making the decision to come though.

Tomorrow is our first day of actual orientation and training.  We start at 8am, but it seems to be pretty basic stuff; registering my car, setting up my direct deposit, and getting my uniform (which consist of cargo shorts/pants...flattering for someone of my short stature).  Hopefully, I get to know my first group a little better, and I feel more confident in my decision to do this despite some hesitations.