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Showing posts from 2008

12/20

"Just so you guys know, I have been going against our social norms and listened to R&B all morning."

--Amanda
(Addressed to Britney and Justin).


"What kind of shit is this? Are they saying I'm not Fresh?!"

--Amanda
(In response to Smith's new self-checkout system. The system no longer greets the customer as a "fresh values customer" but simply as a "valued customer." It should be noted that I hadn't showered for a few days when I made this remark.)

Mr. Tanzania takes the prize!

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The Mr. & Ms. International pageant at Utah State University is always a highlight of the diversity USU has in its international student population, and Friday night's performances were no exception. Among the competitors, my favorites were: Mr. Tanzania (of course!), Ms. India (beautiful dance), Ms. Dominican Republic (flashy dance), & Mr. India (great drumming).

In the end Mr. Tanzania and Ms. India took the titles of Mr. & Ms. International student 2008, and I am very happy for them both.


I made reference in my last entry about performing with Kenneth on a very last-minute plan, but it worked out fine with only a couple minor hitches. Considering that we choreographed the dance Tuesday night and only practiced twice more together after that, I think we are lucky and worked well as a team to pull it together in time. Momentarily I regretted my decision when I saw the amazing dances by other performers... but I knew the focus would be on Kenneth and not myself, so I fel…

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

Truth be told, I am far form being a god if my total cleanliness is actually a factor. But, I did put a bit of time and elbow grease into scrubbing out my mom's refrigerator. This is the only productive thing I have done since returning to Utah (one week now).

I am a complete bum. Honestly, I am not transitioning well back into my old life and I'm not sure that I want to revamp it and try to experience it new. I'm lonely without the team, those darn people with whom I spent 24 hours per day (working, cooking, laughing, philosophizing). Sitting on campus and watching groomed students hustle to and from classes, stopping only for a quick conversation or cup of coffee, has reminded me how different this life is. I'm not taking classes. I'm not expanding my mind. I'm not even waking up and doing something good for myself OR the world. I need to do something.

Coming off a year-long high is rough-- is withdrawal from a lifestyle possible? This reminds me of the terribl…

A storm's a brewin'.

The end is near.

Frantically I am searching online job posts, volunteer websites, various low-cost travel opportunities and harassing local good-works agencies, but for what?! To continue the overwhelming drone of life?

Of course!

Usually the buzz and hum of my busy days are not felt negatively, only lately with the pressure to find employment or commitment of some sort do I get tired of seeking my next adventure. To all I want to say: Give to me whatever life sends my way! I am curious what endeavor will tickle my toes next at the upcoming juncture, the end of my AmeriCorps NCCC experience and transition back to normal life.

Normal: Having just looked up the technical definition of this word, I am caught off guard by it's reference to sanity. Normal essentially means 3 things (according to Merriam-Webster): ordinary, sane & typical.


By all means, my AmeriCorps lifestyle has been anything but normal. Typical lifestyles are reserved for those people with 9-5 jobs, steady housing, an…
What is a life worth living if not for freedom and love and joy? The ability to choose one's own destiny and create a fulfilling reality is a dream we all desire. If my heart begs for love and my mind thirsts for knowledge, and if my body and soul wish to experience life as a beautiful gift, mustn't I feel obliged to feed these wholesome longings before succumbing to worldly ways?

Finding myself torn between submitting to the expectations in life that society demands from me, in contrast to turning away to further seek the deeper happiness I am beginning to grasp, continuing a fastidious search through experience is a most logical (if not acceptable) plan that I surely would regret if I delay for long.

At stake lies my happiness.

Possibilities abound and my interests are as many as the chances I have to expand on my meager knowledge. I can go almost anywhere and do almost anything, albeit with small funds and potentially very little support, and it is this understanding that push…

Drugs!

A few nights ago Brett and I sat outside on the front steps looking over Clinton Ave and guessed which houses harbored dealers. Our guesses were based on the frequent comings and goings of random people and the late night hours they seem to entertain. At the end of our conversation I thought to myself that I can't be positive they are selling... or buying.

Until tonight! We were sitting outside again tonight breathing in the crisp autumn air and noticed an idling white car across the street, the two women obviously waiting for something. I had seen them here before. Soon a dark minivan rolled up, a young man threw it in park and left it running, and hopped in the backseat of the car for a rather quick exchange. A few seconds later he emerged with a small wad of bills and walked back to his van nonchalantly, counting the cash. He jumped back in and drove away as quickly as he came! I laughed to myself-- apparently our street with run-down homes, a half-way house and plenty of broken…

Moving to Mexico.

Dear friends and family,

I will be home (Utah) on November 13. Wahoo!

Plans upon returning include: loving my family, gathering with friends, downsizing personal possessions, and (hopefully) interviewing for a few jobs that I have in mind in Southern Utah, Colorado & Arizona. Originally I had planned to return to school in the spring however I'm not quite ready for that kind of lifestyle change from restless wandering to steady commitment. Maybe fall semester.

Next summer (according to plans) I will be living in Mexico for 1-3 months, dependent upon the job I have during the spring, and working on an organic farm & sweat lodge while helping create traditional music instruments, eating vegetarian meals & learning Spanish.

Plans must be documented lest I forget the importance of goals. Please life, take me places that will build my body, mind & spirit.

Universally United.

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For many years now I have disliked organized religion, or at least that was my belief. The rebellion from my Mormon upbringing began about 8 years ago and only in the past few did I reconcile some of my bitterness toward organized religion, specifically within the LDS faith. I've pondered what religion can do for me, the value of lessons learned in my classes, and considered how I can incorporate the positive experiences into my completely different life.

I am not Christian. I am not Muslim. Neither am I Buddhist nor Jewish. I choose not to define my religious standing mostly because I do not claim religion. As far as I know I am the only person within all of my extended family to feel this way and I have no desire to hide behind a facade. I am me. I am not a missionary of a lifestyle and asking others to change their ways is not my game. I do my best to respect all. I love others, and I love myself, and I strive for continued growth.

But I must admit that there is two major attribu…

FEMA 1768: Disastrous Disaster. Mold remediation at it's best.

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FEMA 1768, the name and number of our group's deployment to Fond du Lac, WI on disaster relief, is forever burned into my mind with odd memories.

From Project: FEMA 1768, Disaster Relief

I abandoned a most amazing project in Cape Henlopen, DE to serve the immediate needs of my country in the mid-west where homes were in varying states of disrepair due to the June flooding. FEMA, the county, and the city all worked together to facilitate residents' removal of belongings from wet basements and ridding their properties of mold. Our job was to aid these residents under the direction of the organizations in the gutting of homes and mold remediation. That's the simple version.

As it turned out the county flood relief center had just come up and running as we arrived and was working to absorb the information given by a United Methodist relief group that began helping residents shortly after the nasty weather and ensuing flood. Care assessments, an analysis of need and mental well-be…

Patience is a virtue!

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I am hoping to get my online life updated ASAP to fill in my family and friends. I have this sinking feeling that so many of the people I've left behind in my normal life are beginning to forget me as I have been terrible with keeping up communications and regularly letting people know where I'm at and what I'm doing.

Currently living in Bridgeport, CT, our team is building houses with Habitat for Humanity. So far I've learned how to put up wooden siding

From Project 4: Bridgeport, CT

and work on framing and studs inside the houses.

From Project 4: Bridgeport, CT

The work is meaningful, physically challenging and a great new experience. I'm learning many new skills! Today we continued preparing one of the housing sites for our upcoming blitz build, a 2 week event! Habitat for Humanity in Bridgeport has run into issues acquiring land and funds to build single-family dwellings (traditional homes) and are now doing more rehabilitation work. Next week, General Electric will…

Gypsy Bohemia

A house on 3rd street at the Village in Perry Point contains a white board, and on that board is a message to whomever enters the house:

Not all who wander are lost.

That quote is part of a greater message of J.R.R Tolkien. He writes:

All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crownless again shall be king.

Most applicable to my life, however, is that one line I found scribbled in a house occupied by 6 or 7 AmeriCorps members.

I've chosen this life, and a peculiar one it is. I doubt that my explanations will ever reveal the extent to which this experience has changed me-- opened my eyes, introduced me to new experiences, and challenged my beliefs.

For a summary, I left Utah the second week of January and since then have been stationed in no one place longer than…

What does the horsey say? Neigh!

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My first day of work after arriving in Bridgeport, Connecticut was with the Aspetuck Land Trust, one of our project sponsors. Sunday was their annual family fun fest, a fund raising and awareness event at which families in the community can participate in various activities like a nature walk, tractor ride, face painting, and pony rides! My job for the day was assisting with the pony rides, essentially lifting east-coast kids up into the saddles all day long and laughing to myself as their parents walked along side in their penny loafers, taking pictures and side stepping shit. Monotonous, but fun. And it made me miss the farm at home so much.

From Ardor, Zest.

I suppose my fascination with the farm, or even farming lifestyle, began at some unidentifiable point and has grown rapidly since I was immersed following my junior year of high school in the manual labor my male (but not female) relatives were entitled/obliged to do.

From Ardor, Zest.

Trying to remember my earliest memories of the…

Vast Possibilities

6/6/08

When work becomes monotonous I pull out of reality and enter my world of dreams. I've thought about documenting the different fantasies just so I can look back in time and see what materializes.

Recently during work we have been meandering the hills of West Virginia by van and foot, sometimes in soaking wet clothes from a mishap in a swamp or dunk in the creek, sometimes with soggy waders, and always a smile on my face. Our project sponsor Sarah said to me that when we are doing field work it's clear I am in my element and enjoy what I'm doing. It's true! I wish I could spend all my time in mountains, hills, trees and water. Every day this week has involved some time at a body of water: swamp, gorge, creek, rapid, tributary, river. The critters don't bother me much anymore, the wildlife are still magnificent, and the livestock remind me of home.

One day while building wood duck nest boxes, bat boxes and bluebird boxes I drifted into my imagination and wondered…

Shoes.

The shoes on the soles of my feet have seen me through a lot. They took me on long summer walks, pedaled my bike up the hill to school every day, trekked through the snow and rain of fall and winter, and took me on a train trip across the US. They have traveled with me to every city and state since I left Utah.

My shoes have soul. Sadly, they don't have much for sole anymore.

Tonight I was thinking of what I will do when I finally break through the soles of my shoes... and wondered what it is that caused such serious wear and tear at the balls of my feet. Besides normal use, I think the spring in my step, the never-ending dance my body does, has aggravated the decline in one of my most personal belongings I currently have with me. So many nights of twist and shout, a bit of charleston, and a whole lotta interpretive & modern dance have shaped these shoes to my feet. I can't imagine parting with them.

I think I'll hop on in to a shoe shop (if I can find one)... and see wha…

to myself.

Dear Amanda,

These are aspects of my life in which I find joy. Best of luck in the future with fulfilling your dreams.


Knitting, sewing, crocheting, cooking, organizing, gardening, canning.
= CREATING
Conversation, talk radio, learning (school/personal), new activities, travel, listening, reading, writing.
= EXPLORING/KNOWLEDGE
Family, girl friends, lovers, community, diversity, children.
= RELATIONSHIPS
Water, dirt, mountains, rivers, trees, tall grass, farm land, lakes/ponds/oceans, shade, sunshine, wind, the smell of alfalfa.
= SURROUNDINGS
Bicycles, long drives, quiet walks, spandex, swimming, dance, nudity.
= FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Tea, morning, skin, smiles, vision, dreams, scent, dresses, laughter, love, fresh produce.
= BEAUTY


I celebrate life daily. I have the desire to disappear from the radar for a while, hide in the shadows of great mountains and great people, reflecting on the work I have done and finding meaning of what is ahead. How can my life be better? What is fulfillment?

Fantasy Lan…

Family Matters.

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Tonight I picked up some random book, The Konkans in the new fiction section of the Fond du Lac library and dove in for a bit of light reading. At one point two Indian brothers, newly arrived in the United States, make an observation about the familial difference between the US and India, saying "Family here is just one man and his wife. No brothers, no cousins, no uncles and aunties and uncles' aunties and aunties' uncles. A place without uncles. Can you imagine? Life is lonely here."

Is it?

I wish I could be completely alone for days or weeks or months at this point. Let us laugh at our current living conditions: a conference room at the county fair grounds, where 10 people have their food, bedroom, and living room all in a cinder block 35' by 25' space. It's not easy to be alone here, although lonely I have sometimes felt.

At home in Utah it's hard to feel lonely. Going home every Sunday was my chance to have what those two brothers did not get to see…

Wisconsin Ponderings

The AmeriCorps Pledge:

I will get things done for America -

to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.

I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.

Faced with apathy,
I will take action.
Faced with conflict,
I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity,
I will persevere.

I will carry this commitment
with me this year and beyond.

I am an AmeriCorps member,
and I will get things done.




To Lois, the 83 year old woman whose Wisconsin basement flooded over 2 months ago, thank you. When you told me your mother used to say "Thunder is God scolding the bad people," I laughed. When you told me your fiance died during World War II and that you are concerned about the young men of our generation fighting a new war, I worried. And after Tyler gave you a hug good-bye after our work and you said "I haven't had a hug like that in years!" I nearly cried. I came to clean your basement and instead spent 6 hours talking with you about your life and remembered the wisdo…

Where's Waldo?

Here!

Just a quick update about my travels since Summer of Service ended. I stayed in New Orleans for an extra week (my summer break) to work with my team who is rebuilding a home in the upper 9th ward. It was great to finally do a bit of reconstruction in the gulf! I loved my time in New Orleans and was sad to say goodbye. I must say, however, the sights while circling over the bayou and seeing the gulf waters from the height of a plane is a touching experience. What beauty!

I ended up in Perry Point, Maryland at the Eastern Region campus of AmeriCorps NCCC again, our headquarters for the year, and was soon shipped out to a most beautiful part of Southern Delaware at Cape Henlopen State Park. I do wish I had a camera to show you the many sites, alas my digital is still broken from fire deployment at the first of the year. I hope to soon mooch some pictures from the people I was working with and post them here so you too can feel a bit of awe. The moment after arriving at the housing of…

Reflection: Summer of Service

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I suppose it's finally time for me to reflect back upon the amazing time I spent in my 3rd round project called Summer of Service. Just a reminder, SOS is an AmeriCorps NCCC sponsored 4 week service program for teens ages 14-17 from the New Orleans area. We spent a week in various activities and trainings, and the following 3 weeks performing good works with organizations throughout NOLA, and also plenty of time in fun activities and informative classes. My job was to mentor a large group of teens, ensure their time would be well-spent, and keep them engaged.

Reflecting back on this overwhelming experience is not easy. So much happened in such little time that it's hard to really summarize the HUGE event. 101 teens, 30 crew leaders, 2 group leaders, 2 unit leaders, and many staff people really made this experience what it was. Alright, so we had tons of people but we were broken down into 2 units (Blues and Jazz) plus smaller teams (each with 3 crew leaders) in which we functio…

Criminal Upset

Driving down the back road on my way home from the high school, I was eating an intoxicating cheeseburger. The brakes cut out in my car and I was dodging oncoming cars and swerving all over the road! When I came to the 4 way intersection at Riverside there was a stoplight, which I ran because I could not stop, and I shot quickly through the hole in traffic. As I traveled forward I checked back to see if Police were on my tail but soon became too drowsy to drive. I was drugged by the cheeseburger, and this was the reason for my concern about the police.

The dream changed and I was walking along the canal road trying to find work for my older brother who apparently was going back to school. I saw familiar trucks on the dirt bank and old farmers out in the field. I came upon a laboratory for agricultural research. Both Dusty John and Dane Hess were working there and I grabbed some welding gear and headed to my brother's house. When I arrived my sister-in-law was awkward, told me that …

Conway

Upon waking this morning I was mumbling the names Gerard Conway and Conway Twitty... something from a dream I had. Of course, I really had no clue who these two people were until I did a bit of Google work just now. Why am I dreaming about a comic book writer and a dead county musician, both people whose work I've never explored?

Jurassic Dreams

I was working in an elementary school. My position was one within a special ed classroom, and the students with whom I was working were kids from my class in Biloxi, MS.

Sirens, ground shaking, loud noises, and fear were all present. Suddenly I was the sole care-taker of a school full of children; all other adults had been killed by the enormous T-Rex. Luckily I was stationed on the 2nd floor (of 3 floors) with my students because of some confusion with the lunch schedule, and because of that I was still alive and the students around me had not yet been noticed by the carnivorous and hungry dinosaur. I knew that explaining to them what was happening would only cause an uproar, and existing chaos we had because of hand-washing before lunch had stirred up their energy. I calmly tried to quiet them-- I said it was a game, see who could tiptoe to the stairwell without saying a word, and the best people would get awards.

I grabbed some older students that were hiding in corners of the hallwa…