Blog

An Introduction (of Sorts)

Welcome to my blog. Thanks for dropping by!

On October 12, 2016 I moved to Sacramento, California. At the time, I had no idea where I would be going from there, so I decided to to keep up with this blog to let people know what I was up to. Until July 2017, I’ll be working for a national service organization called AmeriCorps as a member of the National Civilian Community Corps. If you want more information on that, check out my About page.

Throughout my ten months of service, I will be periodically updating this blog. You can expect plenty of travel posts, some pictures and stories, and a lot of information about my time with NCCC. I doubt I’ll be posting regularly, as I have no idea what my schedule will be like, where I’ll be located, or if I’ll even have internet access at some points. However, I’ll do my best to update at least once a month. If you’d like to know or see what my team is up to at any given time throughout the year, follow me on Twitter or Instagram! The icons at the top of this page will link you to those accounts.

Finally, I have three main goals for this blog. The first is to document my time for personal reasons. The second is to provide information on my experience for future members of the NCCC. The third is to provide an option for my friends and family to keep updated on my experience, as well as for other students and/or prospective AmeriCorps members to have an insider look at an amazing opportunity.

If you’re interested in this type of work or have specific questions for me, feel free to get in touch via the Contact page.

Look forward to my first post coming soon!

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Bugs And I: A Relationship Fostered in Auburn, California

Y’know, here’s the thing. I used to hate bugs, and I think I’m pretty justified in that hatred. Having travelled a good bit of the world (okay, a pretty small bit of the world), I’ve come to realize in my life an important truth: every bug located in southern Louisiana desires nothing but to kill human beings. Every bug located everywhere else is just trying to live its damn life.

For the past five weeks, the second half of our third round project, Green 3 has been living in a place called Lincoln, California (and working in Auburn, nearby), about 30 minutes northeast of Sacramento. And… we’re sleeping in tents. Camping, some would say.

Now, camping is a lot of things. It’s kind of fun. It’s real noisy. It’s a bit peaceful, and it’s weirdly inconvenient. It’s… pretty buggy.

I waited until the end of our camping experience to write this post so that I would know I wasn’t speaking too soon, but now that I’m back home for a short vacation (well, a wedding, not a vacation: there’s a difference), I feel that I can truly reflect on Green 3’s camping experience with a clear head.

Here are 5 things I learned about living and working mostly outside.

Thing Number 1

Camping outside of a fire station right next to an airport and a busy highway isn’t really camping.

I imagine that people go camping in the first place to experience a reprieve from the everyday noise of their lives, but as it turns out, sleeping in a tent exposes you to even more of those noises than sleeping inside of a building would. Not to mention that (close your eyes and try to imagine this) in the moments of near-quiet, a chorus of frogs would erupt to go along with the mosquito and bird symphony that was already happening on low volume. Now, I imagine the animal noises are far more characteristic of real camping than anything else we heard at night. It’s not really camping if an airplane takes off or lands every hour or so at the airport a mile away, and all the same if cars with bright headlights are constantly booking it down the highway next to your tent.

Thing Number 2

Camping outside of a fire station whose facilities you can use (one restroom, a kitchen, a relatively comfortable indoor space for hanging out) is also not really camping.

Now, this one is important because I know for a fact there are other teams who have not had this luxury during their camping experience. Therefore, Green 3 was not camping. Oh no, no. Camping does not involve getting up in the middle of the night, discovering you need to pee, and then promptly being able to sneak your way inside of the nearby fire station to use an actual toilet. Even if there’s only one. Camping also doesn’t involve taking a shower every day after work. Even if there’s only one of those too. And finally, camping does not involve being able to move all of your things inside the fire station if it starts storming outside, and then moving everything back out once California decides to act like California again.

I guess the moral of these first two lessons is that camping is not quite what Green 3 was up to these past few weeks, but we did spend a majority of our time outside. In fact, the only time we were really inside was in the evening for dinner or during any free time we had (which was not a lot).

So what were we really up to? We spent most of our time working on a few of the beautiful nature preserves owned and kept up by Placer Land Trust, our project sponsor.

Thing Number 3

Although I deeply believe everything in Louisiana has evolved to kill human beings, California has its fair share of threats, including but not limited to: ticks, mosquitos, spiders, snakes, mountain lions, bears, and most of all… cows.

I know you’re thinking that cows are not a threat, so let me explain to you how you’re deeply, deeply wrong. This time of year is calving season (at least where we are). Cows don’t really like other animals being around their babies. Y’know kind of like how humans don’t much like other animals being around their babies. So the biggest threat we faced working on nature preserves in northern California, was, you guessed it, vicious angry parent cows. However, I would argue that said cows were fairly patient towards our awkward flailing around with tools, running away from bees, and weird random dance parties. Was every other threatening animal as patient with us invading their space? No, not quite. But we don’t need to go into that.

Thing Number 4

Water is both the best and worst thing in the world, and Green 3’s relationship with it is complicated.

Water. We were told that it doesn’t make much of an appearance in California, but oh, were we mistaken. From serving our first project in the area of flood relief, to losing our electricity due to a flood in SoCal, to being kicked out of our housing because the water got unexpectedly shut off, to experiencing one of the worst rain storms in several years in San Bernardino and then promptly losing access to water due to a pump system error, to then experiencing record-breaking rainfall in Northern California while simultaneously not having access to clean water in our housing due to another pump system malfunction… Green 3 has quite a complicated relationship with water. Water hath been giveth to us and water hath been taketh from, or something.

At the same time, working out in the wilderness all day means having to depend on a lot of water to keep you going. You need to drink a ton of water to keep from getting dehydrated, but the more water you drink, the more you have to… get rid of the water. And when you’re working in nature, all you’ve got for a restroom are what we called “facili-trees”. So, yes, water is the best. It’s also the worst. But it’s always going to be around.

Thing Number 5

Finally, the bugs. The bugs, the bugs. Bugs and I, I’d say, are going steady now. I’m cool with the fact that they keep our pretty little ecosystems quite stable in really weird ways. They’re cool with biting me all day and buzzing around my hair like it’s some kind of nest.

I wouldn’t say we’re ready to go public with our relationship, but if a bee wanted to come and hang out in my house with me, I wouldn’t be mad. I might even share some sugar water with it while leading it kindly to a breezy window. Spiders? We’ve always been pretty tight. Black Widows are actually maybe my new best friend. Ladybugs? Check. Caterpillars? Yeah. Creepy giant centipedes? We’re cool. Worms? We’re best friends.

You can’t work in beautiful places without exposing yourself to all the weird gross things that keep them beautiful.

So, without further stalling, here are some pictures of the beautiful places I had to say goodbye to this past week, and also a spoiler picture that I got from google mixed in showing where my team is headed to next.

It rhymes with Poseberg Moregon.

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Until next time!

Loch Leven, Not the Scottish One

Hi.

Hi there. Yes, hello, how are you?

A lot’s been happening on this side of the computer screen. Examples: Green 3 lost two teammates (they left the program for several different reasons). We got a new team leader. We got a new project…then we were pulled from that project… and then we were given a slightly different project. We left Hemet, told our kiddos goodbye, and we made it through transition week number three.

And on top of all that, I just ate an ant. An ant. Woops. (It was on my sour patch kid.) (They taste a little metallic, you know?)

So here’s the deal. A lot’s been happening, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d like to write about, at least not here on my blog. So if you’re nosy, or curious, or you’re reading this wondering why I haven’t made a blog post in nearly three months (guilty), feel free to contact me elsewhere. I have the Facebooks and the Twitters and the Instagrams (linked at the top of the page), so hit me up. If not there, you can always contact me through this website on the Contact Page! Otherwise, here’s an update about Green 3, your favorite NCCC team.

We’re now in a place called Loch Leven Christian Camp and Conference Center. We were emergency relocated here from our housing in Hemet when the water got shut off unexpectedly, and after spending a week here while commuting to our project in Hemet, we were asked back. So, after a week of transition in Sacramento, we hauled ourselves back down to Southern Cali, a seven-hour road trip, and settled in to our current home at Loch Leven.

Now, despite the fact that we’re near our last project location, it still feels very different. Hemet is located in a valley near the San Jacinto mountain range, but Loch Leven is located in the San Bernardino mountains, elevation 4,000 feet. We’re doing things like trail work and camp maintenance, and at the same time we’re being very, very spoiled.

Proof of the spoiling:

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There’s this bridge, which is fun to cross.

Also, beds. We’re sleeping on beds.

Trail Work
We get to do trail work on a pretty mountain.

Also, beds.

Inspiration Peak
Sometimes we do things on top of the mountain: like dance or, more likely, paint benches.

There are no beds at the top of the mountain, but I wish there were.

Arrows
Did I mention we got to practice archery for our first day of work?

dId I mEnTiOn wE’Re sLeEPinG iN bEdz?

PlayPen
Also, at the end of our first week here, we were invited to do something called “the vertical playpen” which was essentially just climbing this obstacle course.

[Beds!]

So, despite Green 3’s struggles, we’re in a good place right now. It never ceases to amaze me the level of support and kindness we receive from the people we meet along our journey. Our current project sponsors and the staff at Loch Leven have been looking out for us, making sure we’re getting back on our feet after a rough patch. They’ve also been making sure to jam-pack our time serving here with team-building and leadership exercises, personal growth activities, and silly games, like a nerf battle scheduled for this week in place of our regular team physical training. [I’ll let y’all know who comes out victorious.]

At the end of the day, I don’t want to downplay just how much of a hit my team is currently coming back from, but like I said at the beginning, I don’t think this is a great place to rant about it. If you’re reading this blog because you’re considering this program, get in touch, and I’ll answer any questions you have.

Look forward to more blog posts from now on! Our next adventure will be in a place called Auburn, and its surrounding area. We leave next Monday to go there, and we’ll be CAMPING! My posts will be either interesting or non-existent from there because five weeks of camping sounds like a challenge, to put it in a good way. I’m fairly sure we’ll have access to the world wide web, though, so hopefully I won’t go off the map again when it comes to this blog.

Less than four months until Green 3 is done with our ten months of service, and I can’t believe that’s actually the truth.

Finally, guys, thanks for reading, and for all of the support! As always, I post far more often on my Instagram, so if you want the latest updates, follow me here. Have a great week!

 

 

Sunny SoCal

Here in Hemet, it’s constantly sunny. Except now that my team has arrived.

But let’s rewind. I haven’t really updated all of you on what’s been happening in the world of Green 3. I’m still working on that blog post about our transition weeks, but in the meantime, let’s talk about our new project in Hemet, California!

Hemet is a small town surrounded by other small towns in Riverside County, Southern California. It is closest by distance to Los Angeles to the Northwest, San Diego to the Southwest, and the San Jacinto Mountains to the East.

Hemet is typically sunny, as is the rest of SoCal. Right now, it’s not. It has rained more here since my team arrived than it has in the past twelve years. That also means it’s snowed quite a bit in the mountains to our East. Not more than a thirty minute drive away is the mountain community of Idyllwild, of hippie and hiking fame. Our first weekend here, we took our mandatory physical training requirement to the mountains and hiked one of its legendary trails.

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This is a picture of me, awkwardly blocking most of what the view looked like from that part of the mountain.
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This is a much better picture of Emma and Kim hiking the “Suicide Rocks” Trail.

If you want to see more pictures from our hike, you can check out my Instagram!

We’re surrounded by a ton of fun places, so hopefully we’ll get to utilize our weekends to visit them. However, it’s not all fun and games. From Monday to Friday, 9:00-6:00, we work on a variety of activities for our project sponsor, Dr. Darleana McHenry.

Most recently, we’ve been working on a few different gardens in schools surrounding St. Carrie’s Center (Dr. McHenry’s nonprofit after-school academy), and we even visited a local high school to investigate the aquaponics systems they’ve installed for the students to maintain and learn from. The goal is to incorporate aquaponics in multiple educational gardens throughout schools Dr. McHenry has partnerships with to offer students an opportunity for practical science education and access to healthy, organic produce.

Since it’s been raining so much, the gardens have been coming a bit slow, but the gardens aren’t our only responsibility while we’re here. At around 2:00 every day, my team heads out to a local school to pick up the students who will be attending the St. Carrie’s Center SMART Academy (after-school program) for the day. We then tutor students in math and reading, as well as help them with their homework until about 6:00.

Our work day is typically a lot less predictable than that, with several different things going on throughout the week. For example, my team will be participating in a “point-in-time homeless count” this Tuesday put on by Hemet’s Department of Public Social Services. We’ll be collecting survey data from people in Hemet who are homeless to help the city better understand how to approach the issue and provide better services for the homeless population here.

There’s no telling the things we’ll actually be able to accomplish here, especially now that our team specialty roles are in full swing. For my team, I serve as the Project and Community Liaison (PCL, read “pickle”), which means I set up independent service events outside of our normal project and act as a contact for other community leaders who might be interested in having an AmeriCorps NCCC team partner with their organization. I also serve as a Recruiter, which means I reach out to local schools and organizations to give presentations and set up events that offer information for potential AmeriCorps NCCC applicants. I do neither of these roles alone. My two team members, Paris Brady and Ashley McClinton, also serve as a PCL and Recruiter, respectively.

There are several other roles that members of my team serve as, and no member has no role. A blog post about everyone’s individual jobs will be coming soon, along with the long-promised and mysterious post about what we do during our transition periods.

That’s all for now, folks. Thanks for reading!

“We Knew That History Was Being Made”

I want to start this post off by saying first that my words are more of a reflection on my part than a political commentary, however political it will be. Secondly, I want to point out (like it says at the bottom of my website) that my opinions are my own and don’t represent those of my team or the organization I currently serve with.

On Monday our project sponsor, Dr. McHenry, invited us to a community breakfast to honor the life and service of Dr. Martin Luther King. There, quite a few community members, particularly members of a nearby university, had been asked to speak about service and social justice. Dr. McHenry spoke about her experiences growing up in Memphis, Tennessee at the time when King was alive, as well as what it was like for her and her family the day he was killed. She went far more in depth than that, addressing what it was like for her to progress through the United States’ higher education system as a young African American woman and pointing out the issues in our country regarding race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status that still occur, despite the progress that has been made.

Her speech was impactful in many ways, particularly for my team of young adults, but what I remember most about it was her saying, “we knew that history was being made,” when talking about how she and her childhood classmates regarded Dr. King’s influence. It seemed hard for someone as young as I am to understand that feeling with regards to some of the people who influence us now. There are a number of people I can think of who have the power, determination, and ability to “make history”, but there are few that I can single out as having as much influence and impact as Dr. Martin Luther King did in his time.

Today, though, is a bit different. It feels different. This past year, the United States had its first female presidential nominee representing a main political party, and despite winning the popular vote, she lost the election. I’d say history was made then. Today, we inaugurate her opponent, and I feel like I can say with some certainty, “we know that history is being made”.

Whether that history tells the story of a hero or a villain differs depending on your point of view, as does any and all history to have ever been written or passed down. Trump is a candidate who won the election against all odds (well, a few odds), not even a politician, and the first “anti-establishment” candidate of a major party to win in my lifetime. He’s also the first political leader in the United States in my generation’s memory to win an election while grounding most of his campaign promises in hatred, separatism, and the perpetuation of stereotypes and biases that directly contradict the progress that has been made in this country for several years.

No matter our differences of opinion here and now, the fact is Donald Trump has been offered leadership in this country not based entirely on his policies but on the exclusionary and potentially dangerous promises of a better nation, and not through progress but through regression. The entire idea of making America great again suggests that America has downgraded from its troubled past, and without thinking about it, it’s easy to hop on board and think that the phrasing is benevolent. The truth is, it’s an insult to every single person who has worked towards progress from our country’s founding until now: including Dr. King.

Trump’s campaign is over now, but his influence is not. It’s time to move onward, and although some people will claim it’s unclear of where he’ll go from here, I’d say it’s pretty straightforward. His cabinet picks, his plans for office, and his disjointed tweets show that he’s not just disappeared. He’s the most powerful man in our country, and we chose him.

We remember Dr. Martin Luther King based on his legacy, as a benevolent and peaceful leader in the civil rights movement, for better or for worse using his influence to protest the way oppression worked in our nation at the time. His legacy is one of pride, one that we learn about in school and honor on a national day of service, and one that served to bring our country a bit closer together, to acknowledge our differences and our crimes of the past, and to work towards a fairer and more just society for the people who choose to live here: all of them.

My team’s legacy may be that we contributed ten months of our time to the improvement of communities in America, first by assisting in disaster relief in the Deep South, and then by serving a community in Southern California alongside Dr. McHenry to help foster development in science, math, and technology for disadvantaged youth: the very youth that Trump has proposed to disenfranchise, delegitimize, and even deport. Our legacy isn’t complete yet. We’re still building it, just as Donald Trump now has a chance to do.

Mr. President, what will your legacy be?

Ameri-What?

Long time no see!

I don’t have all that much to talk about at the moment because we’ve been in training for a few days while transitioning to our new project. I’m planning for my next post to be about what we do during transition between projects! (Hint: It’s not exactly a break.)

However, it’s come to my attention that my fellow Corps members and I use a bit of lingo that doesn’t quite translate to the outside world: namely the prefix “Ameri-“.

This post will be a short but sweet explanation of what we mean when we use that specific bit of lingo.

 

“Ameri-” (prefix)

Definition: of or pertaining to the AmeriCorps way of life; e.i. the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps or occasionally other programs of the AmeriCorps

 

Two formal examples of when the AmeriPrefix (see what I did there?) is used are when members describe our most formal uniform attire: the AmeriTux, and when we describe how easy it is to forget what’s happening in the world outside of our AmeriCorps service: the AmeriBubble.

However, the AmeriPrefix is also used to describe almost anything that happens as a result of the flexibility required to complete the type of work we do. A majority of the time, it is used as a tongue-in-cheek way to describe our adaptability in any given situation.

Most recently my roommate used the prefix to describe our shower situation. Here’s some context: The day before we leave for a project, the entire Corps has to pack up our rooms, clean everything out, and then bring most of our belongings to our vans so that they’re packed and ready for us to leave early the next morning. This means that without careful planning, a majority of our things aren’t available to us until we arrive at our project sites the next day or day after that.

BUT… today, as we were packing, it was raining outside. (I know, right? Get it together, California.) Not only was it raining, but it was, dare I say it, monsooning, Louisiana-style, a full on windy, slushy, winter storm. So of course when I got back to my room, I wanted to take a nice, warm shower.

BUT… all of my toiletries, with the exception of my hair conditioner, which I couldn’t fit in one of my packed bags, were already stowed away in our van. To the rescue, my roommate reminded me that underneath our sink was a half-empty bottle of shampoo that came from who-knew-where. So I took that into the shower with my conditioner to use as soap.

BUT… my towel was already stowed away too. A quick check under the sink again showed that we had a few filthy cleaning rags, some paper towels, and the hand towel we’d been using all week. I was determined, so the hand towel it was.

Finally, I was able to use the random things we found in our mostly empty room to warm up, clean off, and altogether feel better after being drenched in the rain.

That, my friends, was an AmeriShower. And a wonderful shower it was.

You’ll probably (maybe…) see me use that prefix a bit more as my adventure goes on. Like the word SPIKE, which describes our projects, the AmeriPrefix is a part of my everyday life.

Anyway, Happy New Year everyone! Look forward to a post about our transition trainings, how we prepare for projects, and what our schedules look like when we’re not on SPIKE.

Thanks for reading!

 

Road Trip Numero Dos

Hi friend!

I’m back in Sacramento now, soon to hop on a flight and go back home for Christmas. (Ironic, I know.) So, here are some photos from our road trip!

Alright, let’s be honest. I was exhausted during this road trip, so I didn’t take too many pictures. BUT, we went to the Alamo and to Joshua Tree National Park, so I’ll just show a few highlights from those places!

We travelled along Interstate 10 almost the whole time, so here are all the stops!

First Stop: San Antonio, Texas

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In San Antonio, some of us went to the Alamo! We were told to remember it. (So we had our picture taken.)
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This is Jonny, Maddie, and Jon (from left to right on the bridge). They are “remembering the Alamo”. (Really, they’re looking at some fish.)
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This is Kim, Paris, and Mackenzie (from left to right). They are posing with our friend Josh. (The word friend here is used loosely.)

Second Stop: El Paso, Texas

I don’t actually have any pictures from El Paso, but I do have bed bug bites to prove that we stayed at a Ramada there. Also, we saw (and waved goodbye to) Mexico!

Third Stop: Ehrenberg, Arizona

There is nothing in Ehrenberg, Arizona. Seriously. Nothing. I don’t even remember what hotel we stayed in.

Fourth Stop: Joshua Tree National Park/Twenty-Nine Palms, California

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This is Joshua Tree National Park! (Well, it’s the sign.) (Not the whole park.)
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We got our Junior Ranger Certification while we were there. This a picture of Emma and Maddie getting their certificates!
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Then we went hiking! This is a picture of me standing on top of a rock with my arms out in a really awkward position while I look out at the park. (Courtesy of Emma. Thanks Emma!)

 

Fifth Stop: Sacramento!

We’re back in Sac! That’s all for the road trip, and now I’m off to spend Christmas with my friends and family. Thanks for reading, and I’ll update when I get back. Happy Holidays!

On to the Next One

We found out today.

We found out what our next trick will be. So, without further ado, here is some information about our next SPIKE.

Green 3 will be heading to Hemet, California. That’s a relatively big town south of San Jacinto. Basically, it’s in between Las Angeles and San Diego in Southern California, and most importantly, it’s about an hour and a half away from Disneyland.

We don’t have all that much information on what we’ll actually be doing there, where we’ll be staying, etc. However, we do know that we’ll be working with an organization called St. Carrie’s Center for Human Development. The focus for this SPIKE is on sustainability education, nutritional science, and organic garden creation in socioeconomically disadvantaged schools! So basically… we’ll be gardening with kids?

I’m sure it’s so much more than that, but we’ll all have to wait to find out! Meanwhile, it’s almost the holidays. I have a ton of Netflix to catch up on, several days of travel to get through, a few flights to catch, many people to see, a few graduate school applications to send in, and probably a million and one other things to get done before this SPIKE happens.

So stick around, but it’s going to be kind of slow for a while! Enjoy the holidays, and I’ll hit you up soon with a road trip post.

Real Talk: SPIKE ONE Pt. 2

Hello friends! Welcome back.

It’s been almost five whole weeks since we got here, but to us it seems like it’s been months. We’ve mucked and gutted quite a few houses, met some homeowners, volunteered at a Thanksgiving Day individual service project (with Holiday Helpers Inc.) and, finally, we were transferred into some new rolls in logistics.

Green 3 has taken over for another AmeriCorps NCCC team (Gold 3) at a place called Incident Command as the new logistics team. Essentially, since we’ve done quite a bit of mucking and gutting, we’re now being recruited to help keep the facility we’re all staying in running, provide food for all of the teams who are here serving, and help to oversee the disaster response operation.

What this means is that my team has been split up into different leadership roles. We have about seven people in the kitchen crew, one of whom (Maddie) is the Kitchen Lead. We also have a Facility and Supply Lead (Paris), a Muck and Gut Lead (Mackenzie), an Assessment Lead (Jamie), and two Assessors (Jasper and Me).

What we’re doing now is less about helping people out in the field with hands-on service, and more about ensuring the entire operation runs smoothly.

Along with this comes the change of living in a new place. Most of the teams from the Pacific Region were living at a church called Milldale Baptist Church in Zachary, Louisiana, but a few weeks back we were moved to a retired National Guard Base in Carville, Louisiana.

Mostly because I know this was what I was curious about when I was researching this program, I’ll detail now the two living situations, and after that I’ll go into my own logistics roll (the only one I know well enough to talk about).

An abbreviated description of our living situations in Louisiana…

Zachary, LA

  •  Gender Specific Rooms, 4 to a room, 1 shower per room
  • Beds, Hot Water, Food Provided
  • Middle of nowhere, 15 minutes to nearest town
  • Very little wifi or cell service

Carville, LA

  • 3 to a room in the barracks (gender specific)
  • 25-50 to a room in the Incident Command Center (where we are; not gender specific)
  • Outdoor Showers, Cots for Beds
  • Kitchen Team Cooks Food
  • Wifi slightly more reliable
  • Middle of nowhere, 15-20 minutes to nearest town
  • Huge military base with a golf course, a lake, workout facilities, and a small store
Cots.JPG
And for my next trick, here’s a picture of one of our rooms in Carville!

Both places we’ve stayed have had their ups and downs, but neither of them have been unbearable. The outdoor showers are a little uncomfortable for winter weather, but as long as I’m clean, I’m happy. However, getting used to sleeping in a room with 25 other people has been an adventure. It also means that a ton of us have gotten sick, which is part of the reason why I haven’t written a blog post in a long while. (Respiratory infection. I’m getting better now. Thanks for asking.)

On to our new rolls!

New Logistics Roles

Now that you know how where we are currently as far as accommodations go, let’s talk about the roles my teammates currently fill at Incident Command.

The kitchen team, as far as I know, has the oddest job of us all. All seven of them have to report to the kitchen at 4:00 AM to start breakfast and prepare lunch. They work until around 9:00 AM and then have the whole day off until 4:00 PM when they begin to prepare dinner. They work through dinner until about 9:00 PM, and then they’re off for the night.

Coming from someone who is not in the kitchen, this seems like a hard job. However, they’ve told me that they have a lot of fun as long as they’re able to nap in the middle of the day.

kitchencrew
Aren’t they cute? #kitchencrew

The rest of us who aren’t on the kitchen team report to the Incident Command Post at 7:00 AM to get ready for our rolls. Typically, this is when Jasper and I get to work. We meet with Jamie (the Assessment Lead) for our daily schedule, and then we hit the road. Throughout the day we assess houses in the Baton Rouge area (emphasis on the ‘area’; Baton Rouge is huge). For example, when I wrote this part of the blog post, I was sitting at a Subway (Restaurant) in good ‘ole Clinton, Louisiana, writing and waiting for our next appointment.

We assess each house and decide if it’s a project our Muck and Gut teams could complete. This mostly means looking for safety hazards, but we also decide what kind of work needs to be done and write up a detailed project description. There’s a bit more that goes into it, but I won’t bore you. We typically get back at around 6:00 PM, right in time for dinner.

Because of our different jobs, my team hardly sees each other all together anymore, which has been hard for everyone in different ways. Additionally, the housing accommodations are less than ideal. Many of us are working long hours and not getting enough sleep. It’s been a whirlwind of a lot of work and no time to take care of ourselves, and I think at this point, I can speak for everyone when I say it’s time for us to head back to Sacramento.

Like I said in my last blog, we’re doing good work and we’re also enjoying it, but it’s not easy- physically or emotionally. I’m glad to say that we’ll be leaving here knowing that we gave it our all, helped some people out, and gained all kind of skills for working in high-stress and highly variable situations.

That’s all I’ve got to say at the moment as this SPIKE comes to a close. We’ll be leaving on Wednesday, December 14 to head back to our home base in Sacramento, so I’ll try to prepare another fun road trip post for the way back! Also, if you want to check out a short post about the Thanksgiving ISP we did, go here. There will also be a post soon about an ISP that I set up at a non-profit in Baton Rouge called Front Yard Bikes. Be sure to check that post out as well!

Thanks for checking in! Until next time.

 

Holiday Helpers: Thanksgiving Service Project

On Thanksgiving, almost 80 of the disaster volunteers here (from more than one NCCC Region) volunteered at an event in downtown Baton Rouge called Holiday Helpers, Inc. where we greeted people, served food, and cleaned up after the event.

Holiday Helpers has been serving food on Thanksgiving for those in the Baton Rouge area who don’t have a Thanksgiving dinner to attend since 1987. This year, we joined in to assist with the event and had a ton of fun in the process.

Here are some pictures!

holidayhelperssilly
For the record, there was definitely a better picture of us, but I chose this one because it’s great.
holidayhelpersemmaandme
Emma and I were soooooo ready to serve (and eat) food at the event.

Jasper, our team leader, went home for Thanksgiving, so he missed the service project, but we did get to go visit New Orleans in the process of picking him up. Bonus pictures!

pickingupjasper
Yes, we made him a sign. We’re cute like that.
nola
New Orleans at Christmas, anyone?

Alright, that’s all for this post! Thanks for reading!

Real Talk: SPIKE ONE Pt. 1

Mucking. Gutting. Mold suppression. Repeat.

That’s it. All day, every day. From Monday to Saturday, with a free day on Sunday. Green 3 has been busy, so let me tell you all about it.

Team Green 3, along with a few other teams from the Pacific Region of NCCC (so about 100 people), has been sent down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to assist with flood relief and reconstruction efforts. This means we’re actually on the ground, every day, working in houses that have been destroyed or at least effected by the flood waters that rose, sometimes up to eight feet high, during the “Great Flood” of 2016. These homes, mostly in smaller towns on the outskirts of Baton Rouge, but some of which are in the city itself, belong to people who have been displaced for months, who may have lost everything due to the unexpected water, and who, understandably, want to have a place to return to.

We’re here to do the deconstructive part of the reconstructive efforts. This involves something called mucking and gutting, which is essentially breaking down and pulling out all of the parts of a house that were affected by water (and therefore mold). This might include simply pulling out dry wall, like at the first house we were assigned, or, like in other instances, completely deconstructing most of the house, tearing out moldy walls and ceilings, and essentially getting the house ready to be rebuilt and turned back into a home. We also do mold suppression, which involves spraying harsh chemicals onto the affected areas to keep mold from reforming.

team-with-cj
This is our team with CJ, one of the home owners we worked with for about five days! He was super nice and helpful, and he made us coffee every morning. Most of the people we get to work with/for are great.

This is slow work. It’s exhausting work. It’s hot work. But the homeowners we work with are usually friendly, thankful, and helpful.

I actually wish we could get it done a lot faster, with a lot less exhaustion involved, and with a lot more rest. Our team leaders are stressed. Our staff are stressed. We’re stressed, and most of all, the people we’re working with to rebuild their houses are stressed. It’s a stressful situation, and we all knew that before coming here. All we can do now is keep going, keep looking forward, and try to look past the mold that’s usually in front of our faces.

This isn’t fun work, per se. If I had to choose, I’d say the best part about it is being about to demolish walls all day, but even that gets tiring after about an hour. Add on top of that the fact that we’re covered completely by rubber boots, a full Tyvek suit, a respirator, and goggles, and you’ve got some pretty hot, cranky individuals doing the best they can to salvage houses.

Don’t worry, it’s not miserable. Everything we do is worth it. And at the end of the day, we know we’ve really helped someone out. That’s what all of us are here for, after all.

The slow work, the frustration, and the emotional toll were all things I anticipated about being here, but there are some challenges I didn’t know I’d have to face.

One Prime Example: I’m claustrophobic.

respirator
Me + Mortal Enemy No. 1

Wearing a respirator all day makes me extremely anxious, and I didn’t even know that would be a problem until I put one on the first time. I was so uncomfortable with it that I had to sit by myself for a while and calm my breathing. But I did it. And now I know. And I still have to get up tomorrow at 5:30 for breakfast, head out to a work site, suit up, and muck and gut all day until we get back for dinner at 6:00. I’ve done it every day for the past couple of weeks, and it’s gotten a lot easier, especially with a team full of supporters behind me to check on me and cheer me on. My team is awesome. Be jealous.

In NCCC (and also…life?) our challenges eventually become our strengths, and that’s true for any situation. The challenges I’m facing right now will teach me the skills and insights I’ll need to be successful later. It’s not just me either: the rest of my team has an entire ten months to figure out exactly how to overcome each and every one of our individual challenges.

Can you tell that I’m really enjoying this program? I’m a big fan of personal growth. I’m excited to see how we’ll be doing ten months from now, and I’m also excited that I get to write about it and share it with all of you.

Anyway, I’m writing and publishing this blog post just as our time mucking and gutting is over. For lack of a more descriptive word, it’s been very… interesting. The entire Pacific Region recently moved to a new location south of Baton Rouge, and on top of that, my team will soon be receiving a new set of assignments. I’ll write about our next group of tasks later on, when I know more about them. But soon enough, we’ll all be headed back to Sacramento, and then home for Christmas!

*cues Christmas music*

Have a nice Thanksgiving, everyone! Thanks for reading.