“Forums”

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend an international aid forum at the Convention Center here in D.C. I have been excited to get up from my computer and venture out to see the city, so I was ecstatic for this chance. I looked up the keynote speaker for the first day of the forum and was interested in his history and how he got to where he is today. I saw big names (USAID, UN OCHA, the founder of Teachers Without Borders) and thought that this would be a perfect time to make connections with the attendees. Was I wrong.

Come to find out, this forum was actually a trading show and everyone was attempting to sell their new high tech featured item and raise as many funds as possible. Big businessmen spoke on panels and took credit for work that had been done in places like Haiti. I was tempted to raise my hand and ask if he had been to Haiti since the earthquake and if he has seen the late “progress”. My guess is “no”. Needless to say, I was disappointed. It was a different side of disaster relief that I’ve never seen before. I have yet to decide how I feel about it.

On another note, I was able to attend a disability organization’s annual meeting this week. My main project is working towards building a nation-wide coalition advocated for the rights of people with accessibility and functional needs when a disaster strikes. I was surely humbled at this meeting, as I was a minority and part of a small crowd that did not have a disability. This organization is moving mountains both nationally and internationally. Disability rights has never been a strong suit of mine, but I have a feeling I’ll be learning quite a bit this summer concerning the subject. I’m pretty stoked.

I’ll end this post on a tiny possibility: I just might be seeing Hillary Clinton speak next week (?!)

From the Capitol,

E

P.S. For you sports fans, we’re undefeated in softball!!

Can I interest you in a breakfast biscuit?

My first week here is almost over and I am surprised that I am awake, as I have already been up working for eight hours, done PT physical training, and finished my laundry.
I’m just getting used to waking up at 3:30 everyday. Sometimes I kind of regret not choosing the night shift (Noon-8pm). But I’m finding that I definitely don’t waste my day by napping after work. On my first day, I worked a total of 11 hours. The Culinary Corps came to our kitchen and taught us how to cook and clean in the kitchen. The Culinary Corps is a new program that collects professional cooks from around the country and they volunteer to go in to kitchens and cook for groups of people. For free. It was absolutely amazing. I helped make fried tofu and carrot cake. I worked with a chef that was a private chef for a family that lives on a boat and another who is about to publish a cookbook on desserts.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people say how Brad Pitt is all over the news right now for his project in New Orleans. I actually live about 10 miles away from this land of pinkness. So on Tuesday, I went down to the project to take a look for myself. Unfortunately I had missed him by a day…other Corps members actually got to meet him. Booooo. Being here for two months, I will probably be able to see the progress every time I go in to the city.

Yesterday was another 12-hour day of work. I decided to volunteer after work at a school to help organize a book giveaway for teachers in St. Bernard Parrish. Scholastic donated 25,000 books to the school district and all the teachers in the area were able to take a box home with them. It was so great to see how happy they were to just pick out new books for their classroom. I was told that only 5 out of 15 schools in the Parrish are open. One woman was looking through books and there was a book with the title “What You Should Know About Hurricanes”. She said, “I don’t think I want to know anything else. I think I know enough by now.” True.

I think the most moving thing I’ve gotten out of this week was during my orientation on Sunday. The director of Camp Hope talked to us and told us a story of how a man was stuck in/on top of his house for five days during the hurricane. So many rescue boats and helicopters went by him without stopping. This man had lost all faith in mankind and did not believe there was any sort of good in people anymore. Americorps then helped him and after his experience with us he said he now has trust in humanity again. Pretty cool.

Getting Things Done

ILB :0)

Home Sweet Home…ish.

After five days of sitting in a 12-passenger van with 12 people + luggage, we reached our destination. Camp Hope is an old middle school building in St. Bernard where many volunteers stay to help with Katrina relief. It was actually flooded with four feet of water. I am staying on the second floor of the building in a room called “Mardi Gras” with my whole team. It has already been quite the experience.

It is still amazing to see all of the mess that has not been cleaned up yet. There are piles of trash outside of houses, temporary street signs, and FEMA trailer parks. It’s frustrating to see all of these disturbing views after two years. I haven’t been back to New Orleans since December of 2005, and I definitely have noticed improvement. Apartments and new houses have gone up. There is also so much spirit here. Football fans are crazy. And locals do seem so proud of their town.

I hope to do some construction work for my Individual Service Project hours, but I also want to work with the women’s shelter and animal shelter. Hopefully I’ll learn so much here from all of the people I meet and the experiences I have. Can’t wait to tell you about my first week of work!

p.s. I ran into a famous chef yesterday in the french quarter. He said he would love to come work with us so hopefully he’ll come by and teach us a few skills. :0)

Getting Things Done

I – L – B

The Largest Living Species on Earth

I can now check it off my wish list for life: I have seen the largest living species in the world – Redwood Trees. They were amazingly huge…and they smelled wonderful. My Camp Mendocino experience was an experience like I’ve never had. It started with the 4 hour road trip there. I was driving the team through foothills (which, in all honesty, I call mountains) on roads that were curvy like the ones on those car commercials. While we were there, we had campfires, games, high ropes and low ropes, and did some community service work.

Our service was fuel reduction, which entails cutting down brush in certain areas so wildfires do not spread. We were removing logs and tree limbs, carrying them up a hill to an enormous fire with our coveralls on. We were so hot that one of my team members was soaked in sweat and steam was coming off of his body.
I learned that I need to start lifting weights so I can carry heavy things. Like logs. And living in a cabin without a door or windows isn’t so bad. I also found out that there is such a creature as a ring-tailed cat. It’s pretty much a mix of a cat, a squirrel, and a raccoon. Use your imagination. Or just google it.

I am proud to announce that Wednesday is induction day for Americorps NCCC and I will officially be a member. Training will be over and I’ll be on my way to New Orleans in a week. As much as I’m excited for New Orleans, I have to admit that traveling to Florida this weekend is consuming my head a little more. :0)

Getting Things Done

ILB

Let Me See Your Frankenstein

There have been times when I’ve gotten extremely frustrated with the Americorps program. There are parts of my uniform that I have not recieved which I’m going to need for this coming weekend. Like a heavy coat, and an issued bag to bring my belongings in. Important stuff. I do realize, however, that we are the largest class in Americorps history (475 members) and that doubling the amount of members can make things stressful for the administration.
As much as I may think the program is somewhat unorganized, I do give them credit for some of the actions they take. They stress recycling everything and anything that can be recycled. If they find recyclables in the garbage, we get to search for it. When we were having food catered to us, we recieved bottles of water where all of the proceeds went to a Cure for Breast Cancer fund. That makes me happy.

We are heading to Camp Mendocino this weekend. Part of the Boys and Girls club of San Francisco, it is located in the redwoods. yes, I know, I should be feeling lucky. When I think of camp, though, I think of my own. The one that I grew up at, that has heat in the cabins, and windows that are made of glass…not tarp. And guess what? We get to go on their ropes course. If you know me, you know my fear of heights. And you also know that while growing up at camp, I couldn’t stand the ropes course. Yay for coming out of your comfort zone! With 2,000 acres of land, I’m really excited to see it. We have a campfire the night we get there, and I am definitely bringing out Frankenstein.

P.S. I’m up to running 3 miles straight through (that’s a lot for me) and I used an amazing circular saw the other day to build a box. *brushing the dirt off my shoulder*….

Getting Things Done

IlB :0)

Dun Dun Dun…

We were told what our first project is going to be the other day! I had to wait so long for that moment and to finally know what I was going to be doing for eight weeks. It was definitely something I was never expecting…
We are cooking for all the volunteers who are staying at Camp Hope in St. Bernards Parrish (New Orleans, basically). So that’s about 500 people max a day to cook for. P.S. I don’t cook. For those who have never heard of Camp Hope, it is a “camp” that has existed since right after Katrina hit. So volunteers from all over will be staying there, expecting us to cook them wonderful food.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard, I was shocked. I was expecting to be working on top of roofs and building a house. This was the last thing I would ever think of. I know that this is going to be a lot of hard work, not being able to cook will be the least of our problems. If you think about it, though, 500 people wouldn’t be able to go out and do the hard work, such as building houses, without us. Plus, food always makes people happy. :0)
I can’t wait to talk about our fun adventures, including the five day road trip down there.

Getting Things Done

ILB

Make A Difference Day

I apologize for not writing sooner – I actually had posted last weekend and it somehow got deleted. So I figured I could type it up again.
I have been assigned to my team that I will be with for the rest of my time with Americorps. I am really pumped to have all these people on my team. We seem to energize each other and have great times together. We played laser tag the other night against another Americorps team. Let’s just say we were ridiculous. We had a theme song, we were doing push ups as the other team walked up to the entrance, and we were all covered in black. We were intimidating, to say the least. Yes, we won.

Last Saturday, the 27th, was Make A Difference Day all across the country. People from all over came together and volunteered for a project and, of course, made a difference.
Fortunately, I was able to do the same. All of the Americorps teams found a project in the area to give a helping hand.
My team (Green 2) was assigned to an organization called Soil Born. It is an organization based on farmland that grows food for the community, gives people an opportunity to work, and provides green space for downtown Sacramento. We painted corals and chicken coops, planted garlic, and moved trash. There were three other teams with us, and with all the work combined we had estimated moving tons, literally, of trash, wood, and other miscellanous objects that do not belong in a field where food will be grown. It was great to get out there and do what I came here to do. Our team is going to move mountains this year.
:0) ILB

Who needs a tetenus shot anyway?

golden gate bridge

San Francisco = fantabulous. Go there. Please.  And take a Lonely Planet travel book with you as well.  This book helped us girls get around the big city so easily.  It had a walking tour that you take on your own (no guide, but hey it’s free!) and helps you come across really great sites.  We went through Chinatown and found a place where you can watch fortune cookies being made.  The fortunes were in broken English and were really hard to understand, but it was great fun.  We sat and had a drink at a famous bar and wandered through an equally famous bookstore.  We walked up mountains.  I know they call them hills, but seriously. They’re mountains. We saw the curviest road in the world (cheesy but great), and then we ate fish down and the pier and saw hundreds of sea lions barking away.  The best part, however, was getting to ride on a cable car. For five dollars, I got to stand on the outside of a cable car and feel like I was a kid on a roller-coaster for the first time. It was wondrous.  I spent about $30 dollars that day, which included parking, gas, food, and the cable car.  It was all worth it. 

This week is back to work with training, physicals, and the beginning of 5:00 am wake up calls. woo hoo! I have my physical today, which includes everything under the sun, and this means…shots. I’m not gonna lie, I am petrified of shots. I’m not sure when this fear started, but as soon as I start thinking of a needle I start to sweat. We were supposed to have it this morning at 7:30 am. I had myself psyched for it as soon as I woke up, motivating myself for it and telling myself it “ain’t no thang”.  Come to find out, it was delayed. Now I’m waiting impatiently and thinking every other second of this needle. 

As silly as it may sound, I am one who needs a hand-holder during these times who knows funny tales to tell me so I hardly notice I’m being poked. I’m not sure if these doctors will be nice enough to do that. Maybe they have a teddy bear…

Sorry there are no pictures yet, my Mac is being stubborn and refuses to connect to the Internet.  I’m hunting down the computer guy today.  He won’t get away.

Getting Things Done,

Erin

 ILB :0)

There Are Orange and Palm Trees Outside My Room!!

 We can’t eat the oranges :0( Stupid Pesticides…

I’m in Cali now, and getting your comments so far has made me smile – thank you so much!

 The past couple of days has been hectic. I almost missed my flight (never trust phone alarms), and then I left all of my important papers (passport, driving record, immunization record) at home, which now have to be faxed. But hey, I’m still alive and well.

We recieved uniforms that must be worn everyday while we are on duty.  There is no rolling of shirts or pants, no jewelry to be worn except for small earrings basically, and there are room inspections almost every day. Sounds intense…it is. I’m sure by next week I will be in the routine of things and none of this will cross mind.

We haven’t done too much except learn policies and rules, rules, and more rules.  The only time I’ve been off base was last night to get a pillow from Target. BUT! Tomorrow some girls and I are heading to San Francisco to check out the place. We’re going to take a walking tour and explore the national park.  :0) 

I’ll be trying to get pictures up soon – my computer is having a hard time connecting to the internet here. I’m apologizing in advance if I don’t write for a couple more days.

 As we say in Americorps (yes, cheesy mottos already), I’ll just be “getting things done”

Erin

 ILB

Leaving On a Jetplane

So I thought I could make use of my blog while I’m in California. Oh yeah, that’s right. I haven’t written on this thing in ages. You have probably no idea what I’m talking about, do you?

I decided to work with Americorps for ten months and move to California. I leave on Wednesday for this adventure that I’m sure is going to change my life (for the better, at least that’s what I’m shooting for).

The first month starts out as a sort of “boot camp”. We wake up at 5:30 am and have physical training for an hour everyday. Then we go until 9:00 pm every night. That is what the itinerary they gave me says at least. After a month of training of who knows what, we travel by van to a site (which they call “spikes”) and do service work there for 4-6 weeks. No, I have no idea where I’m going; all I know is that it could take 1-5 days to get there by van. Woo hoo. They basically pay for everything, give me about the same amount of money that I would recieve for allowance when I was younger, and we build houses, work with communities, etc., for ten months.

I’m pumped. Very pumped. And I’m scared, nervous, and biting my fingernails every five minutes. I know that I have a huge passion for helping people, and this is what I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. I’m not worried about being fullfilled through this experience. I know I will be. But I also know that I will be completely homesick from time to time. Come on, who doesn’t miss mom’s home-cooked meals and her hugs? And the random phone calls from best friends?

So hopefully this blog can help me keep in contact with everyone that I’m leaving in the mitten state and this is a much quicker way to shoot EVERYONE an email instead of writing hundreds a day. I would love replies and for you to keep in contact with me while I’m away. It would make my day to get random messages from familiar, great people. :0)

Wish me luck!!

Erin

ILB

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