Sunday, September 30, 2012
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Monday, July 16, 2012
It's finally time for Fire Two to leave Kansas and head on back to Denver for a final week of meetings, packing, friends, closing up, and fun!
Things have been much better here lately. It could be because we're all excited to go back to Denver and then to graduate (and I'm excited for a break and to see family and friends). Whatever it is, I'm loving it and I'm really enjoying this final time with my Fire Two family.
We've closed up all our loose odds and ends on the property, finished nature camp with a bang by having a big party/bbq/field day (complete with dish soap slip and slide), and had some final meetings with site supervisors. My team activity was today and we did some team building activities on the ropes course followed by one of my favorite group closing activities. Tomorrow we head to the course for some high ropes elements, followed by a lunch with staff, cleaning, packing, team dinner, and a quick trip to the store for some spike travel food.
We found out today that (due to hotels being full and us being SO close to Denver) that we got approval to drive a little further than in normally allowed so that we'll get back into Denver in 1 day. So by Wednesday night I'll be back on campus in my "own bed" and can see some people I've really been missing!.
Thursday should hold some fun team time and a team dinner, and Friday there are some meetings before the weekend. The transition week schedule has lots of fun things lined up and I'm planning on a post covering them when they're over.
For now, it's cleaning and packing for me as I get excited to finish this AmeriCorps NCCC adventure, take a little break, and start another year as TL.
Check back later for a Denver recap.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
I sit here, halfway through my final project as an AmeriCorps NCCC member, and there are so many feelings going on. It's crazy to think that in 5 weeks time I'll be back in Denver for one final week of meetings and fun with all of the amazing people I have come to call my ameri-friends. It's even more crazy to think that I'll be back to Denver about a month later to start Team Leader Training on September 4.
Erick and I are planning a week road trip from NJ out to Denver and I'm getting really excited not only for that but to get home and see my family and friends I haven't seen since Christmas (or longer!) I'm ready for some R and R, family time, home cooked food, playing with my dog, and enjoying some summer time in Burlington too.
Our time in Topeka has been a bit challenging so far, though I can't complain TOO much. The project has come with a lot of ups and downs, largly in part to the fact that we're the first AmeriCorps team on the project. On my side of things, however, I get a good amount of variety. 2 or 3 days per week I get to help run the nature club programming for the youth. We get to do activities with them and take them out to places like museums, the beach, or to volunteer. I know it's been tough for everyone at some point, but I think we're a great team to be here breaking this project in.
This week, 4 of my teammates and I are taking a group of the youth campus for 3 days. I'm a bit anxious but still excited and think we will have a fun time and it'll be a nice break from the usual activities of the project.
Speaking of projects, my sponsors from last round, The Grand Canyon Trust, recently put out a video starring yours truly and some of my shuffle round teammates. It's about getting young people to care about and volunteer in environmental conservation. See it here:
I think that's all from the great state of Kansas for now. Stay cool out there, it's HOT in the sunflower state.
"People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of" Paulo Coehlo
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The adjustment to this conservative way of life was not nearly as difficult as I expected. In fact, I found myself appreciating the amazing surroundings and the simplicity of life in the House Rock Valley. Little did I know, the Grand Canyon Trust was working its mission statement into not only my volunteer efforts, but into my way of life.
The mission of the Grand Canyon Trust is “to protect the Colorado Plateau – its spectacular landscapes, flowing rivers, clean air, diversity of plants and animals, and areas of beauty and solitude.”
There I was, only a few days into my time volunteering with the trust, and I was falling in love with the beauty and solitude of my worksite, waking up to the landscape every day and being thankful that places like the House Rock Valley still existed for me to visit.
I could have easily been fed facts including the size of the Colorado Plateau, the types of plant and animal species living in the area, and the threats to the region…and I was. The thing is, I was also experiencing this area firsthand. Eventually I would restore fencing for one of the fastest land animals in North America, hike down the Paria River and drink from a natural spring, remove invasive tamarisk to make room for willow, learn about the coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Reservation, and much more. Landscapes, rivers, air, plants, animals, beauty, solitude.
I have worked with a large handful of non-profits and never have I lived out a mission statement so fully in my work and daily life. The Grand Canyon Trust values volunteers not only as workers, but as stewards, continuing the appreciation of and passion for the beautiful land we live on.
My work with the Trust has changed the way I see the world around me. If that’s too cheesy for you, suffice it to say that the Trust has changed the way I live my work. It is this passion for all parts of work that I will take with me when I leave Northern Arizona and continue my adventures. Not only will I continue my love for this area, but I will also try to truly live the mission of those I work with next.
Ghandi was right when he said we should be the change in the world. My only addendum would be that we should truly live the change in every aspect of our work and life.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
I’m sorry for not updating sooner about my Grand Canyon Trust adventures. We only get access to internet once a week and last week was pretty crazy, as you can imagine.
We’ve done some awesome stuff here so far, and we’ve actually finished the first and second sections, or hitches, of our project. When we got here, the first thing we did was start on our orientation hitch. Our sponsors taught us so much about the area, including the history, environment and wildlife. The area is so amazingly beautiful and our more permanent housing is nestled in a valley among cliffs and canyons and plateaus. We are living in tents but we have access to this incredibly cozy little ranch house with a great kitchen and even a dining room table!
We’ve also completed our first work hitch: pronghorn fence restoration in the House Rock Valley. The pronghorn is a small antelope that also happens to be the fastest land animal in North America. They roam the valley, but have a hard time moving around due to the barbed wire cattle fences for the free-range cattle that ranchers keep all over. Because of this, they have limited access to water and encounter challenges when trying to escape from predators. So, we spent our work hitch removing the bottom layer of barbed wire fencing and replacing it with smooth wire, which we raised to 18 inches (studies show the pronghorn move much more freely when the wire is at this height) so that the pronghorn can move comfortably under the fences without being injured. We finished about a 1.5 mile stretch of fence, so that’s pretty awesome!
As for our next adventure, we have off until Wednesday, when we are splitting up to complete two separate tamarisk removal projects. My group will be backpacking 10 miles into the Paria Canyon, a slot canyon that is supposed to be incredible. We will stay there for about 7 days before we hike out. Needless to say, we’re all so excited about this (though the days off are nice).
After the Paria Canyon hitch, we have a few days off for spring break, when my team will be heading to Flagstaff (and some people to other places from there) for some rest, relaxation, and hopefully a lot of fun and exploration! Then we’ve got a hitch of road closures with camping on the Paria Plateau, and another with some rock moving, followed by some little things before we ship back to Denver and then who knows where. It’s amazing how quickly the project is going already (and the 10 months, to be honest). But, I’ve submitted my Team Leader application and I’m hoping for an interview some time in April and (hopefully) an acceptance some time in May.
Meanwhile, I’ll be doing things like hiking a slot canyon on my 23rd birthday (Wednesday, by the way). I don’t hate it. I’ll probably update when we’re out in flagstaff, so check back around the beginning of April. Until then, stay adventurous
Friday, March 9, 2012
Ok, so America is a bit of a stretch, but we do get things done for America anyway...
I don’t want to write too much here and have it all get lost in the shuffle, but I thought I’d post a quick update while I can (since I won’t have internet very often on my next project). I’m getting SO pumped for this round. We leave on Monday for spike (Grand Canyon Trust!!!) and get to Marble Canyon, AZ (30 minutes from our housing) on Tuesday afternoon sometime. We’ve gotten some pretty good info about the project since we’ve been back in Denver. The team will be in cabins for the first few weeks, working a changing schedule that’s 7-8 days on and then 3-4 days off. Starting at the end of March (right before my birthday) we’ll begin our backpacking section of the project. Once a week we will be trying to get to town (which is 1 hour 15 minutes away and is in Utah!) to do laundry, get food, and have some cell and internet access. I’m apprehensive about so much…the team, the project, the conditions…but I’m also extremely excited for this incredible adventure. I’ll try to take lots and lots of photos and post them here when I can!
Second big thing I wanted to do was tell everyone about my friend Andrew Lassiter. He rocks. Legit. And starting in May he is biking 4,300 miles, from Charleston to Santa Cruz, to spread the word about affordable housing and build homes along the way. His group of 27 riders is one of 8 “Bike and Build” groups participating. He’s an amazing guy and this is a great cause, so I want to ask everyone that can to HELP HIM OUT! Every dollar donated funds a mile of his trip, which is so amazing. To donate, visit his blog at andrewlassiter.tumblr.com and click the donate button at the top. To learn more about Bike and Build, the other teams, and his bike route, check out bikeandbuild.org.
Please please support Andrew, he’s the greatest! That’s all from me, look for an update next time I get cell service!
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I’m once again writing to you from my obviously cozy cot in the aquatics center in Casa Grande, Arizona. We’re almost 6 full weeks into our project (that means 2 to go), my claw hands are as vicious as ever, and my blisters now go unnoticed. We’ve built about 1 ½ miles of trail here and we just keep on moving.
Our preferences for our next round projects were due today. It’s what we call shuffle round, meaning that we are all mixed up onto different teams with (probably) a new team leader, to give us a break from our team before we come back together for 10 weeks to finish out the term. Since we can only choose from projects that the team leaders in our unit have, we only had 7 choices. Casa Grande was an option again and, though I really love it here, I don’t think my hands could do another 2 months of trail building. My first choice is a split project, half near Tuscon working on a farm/community resource center, and half up near Flagstaff working on national monuments. My second choice is working with the Grand Canyon Trust, some of which is backpacking around. Then Arizona State Parks (3 state parks in 2 months), a Nature Conservancy in Texas, a local project, Joplin Missouri, and back here. I’m hoping for my first choice of course, but any of my top 3 would be really exciting (and pretty warm, being in Arizona).
In other news, we’ve been working pretty hard off the mountain too, with lots of weeks that seem like 6-day work-weeks. We worked a day-long event alongside the local rotary club at the health center…I colored. We also spent last Saturday cleaning up the mountain parks where we work for our “Day of Service”.
This weekend we’ve got more fun coming up. We’re waking up at the crack of dawn on Saturday to head up to Phoenix for the day. We’re starting with volunteering at a 5K at the zoo (so exciting!) and I’m running the race as well. Then we get some down time (and free entrance to the zoo) before heading to Tempe Town Lake to help set up for their pet walk the next day. We were supposed to be working there until 6, but we’re leaving a bit early because the head of Parks and Rec in Casa Grande got us FREE HOCKEY TICKETS to see the Coyotes from the luxury of the mayor’s box…so sweet. We’re really excited about this, obviously. THEN, a group of us are spending the night in Phoenix, getting a car, and heading up to the Grand Canyon to meet my parents and stay the night, before returning to Casa Grande on Monday (we have the day off...thanks presidents).
Next Thursday, Erick is flying in and we’re spending an extended weekend together (and he’s going to build trails with us at the community build on Saturday). I’m SO excited to see him and to get some time off.
I think that’s all the excitement for now. I’ll post back when I find out what my project is next week (and when we’re SO close to returning to Denver for transition week). I promise to try and get some photos in here soon too, the internet is just too slow at the house to upload them.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I’m sorry it’s taken me FOREVER to write this first post from Casa Grande. I won’t get into excuses about not having the internet or my fingers being so sore to type or any number of true things I could use as reason for not updating.
Here I am, 2 ½ weeks into the trail building in Casa Grande. The blisters on my feet have turned to calluses, the strip of skin below my fingers is starting to become rough, my skin is tan and always dirty, all of my clothing smells like dust. But, I no longer wake up with sore fingers (for the most part), and eating fairly well, writing lots of letters (hurray for successful resolutions!), and building LOTS of trail.
In fact, Fire 2 completed its first full trail today and we have moved on to re-routing another nearby trail. We walked the whole trail after work today and I was so excited to see how far we have come so far and how well we have done. It really is a nice trail and a lot of people (those we know and those we don’t know) have stopped to thank us for our work.
Speaking of that, the community here is absolutely amazing. Everyone we meet is looking for a way to help us out and make our time here more fun. We are constantly given free treats and a lot of recommendations for things to do while we’re here. So far in the plans for me are a few trips to Phoenix (one this weekend and another to run a 5K through the zoo with some teammates), a Grand Canyon trip to see my parents, and a visit from Erick!
I’m going to try and be better about updating (as usual) because I don’t want to overwhelm each post with info but also don’t want to leave too much out. BUT this is all for now, thanks for checking in.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Like many of my favorite TV shows, I have returned from a holiday hiatus. I'm back in Denver, having returned from a lovely (yet as always, too short) break home with my family and friends. I enjoyed every bit of relaxing, eating, drinking, and catching up with everyone AND of course spending as much time as I could with Erick. In true high-altitude fashion, Denver welcomed me back with dry skin and a nose bleed, but I was happy to meet up with my friends downtown last night to watch the Rose Bowl game and enjoy some snacks.