Sunday, August 28, 2011

Giving and Receiving

Today was the first day at my actual position! I have my own little classroom at an elementary school where I tutor kids who need extra help with reading, using this cool computer program called Read Naturally. I never thought I'd have my own room and my own little group of kids. Each group comes in for about 30 minutes, so the day goes by pretty fast. It's tiny- even my little bedroom is bigger- but there's a wall of windows that look out to the mountains! And I have a blank wall to make posters and hang kids' drawings on :) In the afternoons, I will be working at a YMCA after school program, but that doesn't technically start til October, so the next month will be more a planning phase.

The past week, I've kept super busy. Friday night and Saturday, the team led crafts with kiddos at the Kid Zone at the Goombay Festival celebrating West African and Caribbean culture in Downtown while an urban youth stomp/dance team performed and a LEAF In Schools artist led a drum circle in the YMI Cultural center, a historic community center for the African American community of Asheville. We had some pretty nifty craft stations- Sijal and his group set up a "loom"- yarn tied between 8 chairs, coming together in the middle, where children wove different types of yarn, string, ribbon, and fabric to make a colorful "God's Eye"-esque craft, which we hung on display in the window of the YMI. On Friday, in partnership with City of Asheville's Easel Rider mobile art lab, myself, Johnsie, and Alyssa helped kiddos, parents, and adults create a collage mural of magazine clippings, which reminded me of the good ol' Panhandle House days in Denton when Ginny, Jaime, Josh, random friends, and I would go through National Geographic and make our own collages.

In my free time (that not spent volunteering), yoga, climbing, hanging out with my Americorps buddies, and playing concerts on my porch. Since finding a $5 pair of climbing shoes, I got a membership to the local climbing gym and gone 3-4 times a week, something I've wanted to do for over a year but kept putting off. I made a friend last week at the gym, who also works at a bar downtown that often has awesome bands play. He invited Carol and I to go out to Grandmother Mountain and boulder, so yesterday we packed into my little red car with 2 crash pads and drove out into the mountains. The rocks are AWESOME!!! Just high enough to push my acrophobia but keep my cool. We ran into some fellow Ashevillians and their dogs, and left when our hands were ripped up and covered in medical tape.

Also yesterday, friends Graham and Marion and I explored two of the many farmer's markets, which take our food stamps! We tasted fresh local honey and carried bags of the most delicious peaches, apples, and homemade sourdough bread to the car with a skip to our walk.

Asheville is amazing, the people are beautiful and happy, and there are so many exciting things to explore. I am so lucky to have this built-in group of friends, otherwise I'd probably feel overwhelmed by the big city. It's nice to start making friends outside the Americorps circle too, I certainly miss the small town community of Denton where I knew people everywhere I went. We have so much food at the house, it's humbling really, because it all came from a generous donation from the food bank to the Americorps team and from food stamps. We don't get paid until mid-September, and even then the pay will be meager. This is the life of professional volunteers. It's cool- we're all here to serve the community, and the community gives right back to us with equally open arms.

Friday, August 12, 2011

One man's trash, another's treasure

(This was written a week ago and I'm just now posting)

I wish I had pictures from today. Brian does, he takes about 200 pictures a day, and he said he'd send me his favorites. The reason is, we did our first service project at the Randolph Learning Center (RLC), the alternative school for kids with behavioral issues. Administration has decided to rename the school in favor of a new acronym after the students started calling themselves "Retarded Little Children".

Anyways, after a morning of presentations on all the job positions, we split into groups to do different projects around the school to spruce it up. A few others and myself removed a neglected terrarium from the cafeteria and cleaned weeds out the greenhouse. We found some treasure there: a massive tomato plant dripping with green bulbs and a copperhead. We relocated after meeting the snake, and I proudly rescued the tomato plant to the growing garden on Mt Buchanan. Another group that included my housemates Chrissy and Steven carried a bunch of furniture to a dumpster out front. Upon realizing that there were useable desks and chairs in the dumpster, about 5 of us climbed right in and used a power tool to remove the carpeted privacy walls from the desks (ya know... the kind you sit in in ISS...) and hauled them right back out of the dumpster. Now, all I need is a (real) bed!

It's been one hell of a great week. The team is like a family already, we're all on the same page and work harmoniously with one another. We went to karaoke night Wednesday, and Matt and his fiance Liz took the cake and made it to the finals; Matt came in 2nd. They are awesome, both hold theater degrees and are from Austin, TX! Last night, a group of about 6 of us went to a yoga class and left with super flexible hips from holding pigeon pose for wayyyyy too long. But here's what really brought us together: the Get Motivated! business conference, aka Get Scammed! We caravanned to Greenville, SC at 6 AM with high hopes of hearing Bill Cosby, Laura Bush, Steve Forbes, Rudy Giuliani, and a bunch of other big shot speakers. We arrived at an arena at capacity- 21,000 people- and promptly watched a circus spectacle complete with confetti, fire cannons, and spotlights. Some of the speakers had some good stuff to say, but mostly it was an infomercial for an investment management software aka scam. We left early.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I live on a mountain

Yes. A real mountain. In the middle of the city. The road is so steep, we downshift to 1st gear to get down, around a sharp few curves, and back down to the main road. We floor it to get uphill, and there are 5 cars (one an orange, empty 15-passenger van) gridlocked in the narrow driveway made for 2 minivans. Downtown is a 20 minute walk/ 15 minute strenuous hilly bike ride, where there are coffee shops, artsy shops, eateries, and local businesses galore, all using locally grown produce. Everyone wears chacos and drives a subaru, except the firefighters, and they get called out at least 6 times a day. We live behind a hospital; the sirens kinda replace the train whistles that you could set your clock to in Denton.

Today was the first day of orientation. The next three weeks will be a glorious medley of team building, paperwork, complimentary awesome food, get-to-know-ya games, and an overload of program information. Tomorrow: picnic on Mt. Pisgah, some serious paperwork stuff, and swimming in waterfall-fed pools. Wednesday: leadership conference, where Bill Cosby, Ross Perot, and Laura Bush are speaking, among others. The team- 25 adults of all sorts of ages, backgrounds, and such. Already, I've had some awesome conversations. It feels so great to instantly have a bunch of awesome friends. The good stuff definitely offsets the rocky start :)

In a book exchange on my way out of Denton, I was given the Autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi, which is catching me in a really great way. He talks about leaving India to study in London and having to learn a new culture of social norms and etiquette, language, and
diet in addition to studying to be a lawyer. Even he had a series of hiccups in the kickoff of his adventure. I feel like this book is speaking the words of friends and family of similar encouragement :)