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.