Saturday, November 21, 2009

Week 1 in Michigan

We just finished our first workweek in Michigan and we’re all excited about the weekend because New Moon comes out! Don’t worry, we already have our tickets. The team left Vinton, Iowa on Monday at an ungodly hour and it’s a miracle we were able to shut the doors with all the luggage we had crammed into the 15 passenger. Some of the team wasn’t too keen on sitting next to each other for 10 hours of travelling; we’re just not there yet, so instead of taking out the back bench seat and putting our the luggage in its place we left it and placed the bags in every nook and cranny we could find. It took us roughly 10 minutes to get in and out of the van at each stop but most people had their own bubble even if it meant everyone kept losing their cell phones, shoes, and knitting needles.

We’re loving our new home in Michigan which we share with a small rodent that leapt down our staircase after Stephon saw him and screamed bloody murder. We’re only 20 minutes from a Wal-Mart, we get to eat all our meals at a cafeteria, and aside from Jhaki we’ve all taken up knitting or crocheting so friends and family of Cedar 1 should be expecting some great stocking stuffers come Christmas time.

Most of our first week was spent taking out invasive species around the YMCA camp. All decked out in our coveralls, earplugs, gloves, and protective goggles we had several kids come up to us asking us if we worked for NASA. Oh fifth graders, they say the darndest things. A local paper stopped by on Wednesday to interview our team and take pictures of us cutting down Buckthorn and spraying herbicide so we’re a pretty big deal now in rural Michigan. The story made front page and people won’t stop coming up to us asking for autographs…ok not really. But give it time. (

Actually a group of us were at the local family establishment/sports bar last night and somehow word was getting around the bar that the AmeriCorps people from the paper were there so we had several people come up to us and talk to us. My favorite was a 53 year old Scottish guy named George who’d only been in the US for 5 years who cursed like a sailor and was telling us about how he’s going for the highest bejeweled record on Facebook which he plays on his blackberry. Why he has internet on his phone and I don’t is still a complete mystery to me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

24 and counting...

It’s been another crazy busy week here in Iowa there was a lot to get done because most of us are going to be away on our SPIKE projects for the next month.

I spent the early part of this week competing in the AmeriOympics, which was a day of athletic competition between the two campus units, which are Oak and Cedar. I’m on the Cedar Unit, which I quickly learned is made up mainly of drama kids, band geeks, animal lovers, vegans, knitters, etc… AKA the kids that were always picked last in gym class. Oak on the other hand is made up of all the jocks of campus because two of the teams are the fire teams who had to complete an intense physical fitness test to even be considered for the team. So from the start it really wasn’t going to be a fair competition and I mean no disrespect but it was literally like someone thought combining the special Olympics and the regular Olympics together would be a good idea and that people might still be surprised by who takes bronze, silver, and gold. We didn’t stand a chance and my team lost all of the 7 competitions we competed in except for kickball, which we tied so it wasn’t even a legit win.

Needless to say my teams moral was bruised and battered but luckily we were about to have our own chance to shine because on Thursday we were competing in the coffeehouse/talent show. Originally I had come up with this awesome idea that our team should do a dance to a popular pop song so I suggested Party in the U.S.A by Miley Cyrus. I was quickly vocalized that no one was very jazzed about the idea even though I volunteered to take one for the team and play the part of Miley. So we decided on We’re All In This Together from High School Musical which I don’t really see how that is any less embarrassing but we all agreed to do it (although there were several times where people threatened to leave because they felt we were just going to embarrass ourselves). After weeks of rehearsal we got our chance to perform it and there had been quite a bit of anticipation throughout campus on how it would turn out because a lot of people were a little skeptical of grown adults dancing along to HSM. Understandable. We were given the coveted finale slot on the program and we totally rocked everybody’s socks off and people thought it was really funny because we incorporated a lot of NCCC jokes that referenced campus jokes or training we had learned such as the gyrating CPR move which I will take credit for coming up with. Let’s just say our coolness points went way and people are constantly asking us to do the dance for them to which I fake modesty and tell them I couldn’t possibly….then I hit the music and bust a move like Zac Efron. Anyways you can see for yourself if you check out the link.

So when I signed up for NCCC I thought it was going to be like college without the homework. I was horribly mistaken. Every person on my team has a rep role such as peer helper, photographer, VST(Van Safety and Tools), capper, etc…We all kinda got to pick our roles and I chose yearbook and Media Rep. Yearbook I picked because it will probably be the only thing this year that I will make that I could possibly add to my portfolio for future jobs. The Media Rep I only took because someone threw out the name Anderson Cooper, maybe you’ve heard of him, and said that last year he did a story on one of the teams and some lucky media rep got to correspond him. Or at least that’s what I was told, with my luck I’d probably be stuck talking with his personal assistant but all I’m saying is don’t be surprised if you’re flipping channels and see me on CNN 360 chatting it up with Anderson or possibly conversing with Barbra Walters on 20/20 about my love for my country. Dare to dream. The position has turned out to be a little more intense than I thought it would be and I’m really regretting dropping out of AP English after sophomore year in high school because I’m already running out of interesting adjectives. Last week I spent several hours with my co Media Rep Alissa writing my first press release and sent them out to papers in the local area describing the current job my team is working. Tomorrow we’ll be leaving at 6:30 in the morning and heading North to Jackson, Michigan (which happens to be the birth place of the Ritz Cracker and I’m praying there’s a factory where I can go see how they squeeze the peanut butter between the two baby crackers). I’m going to be working at a YMCA environmental camp as a cabin leader where we’ll be leading mainly 5th and 6th graders from Toledo, Illinois. It should be interesting dealing with kids who are just entering puberty and I’m sure many hilarious stories will ensue.

On Friday I turned the big 24 and this was the first time I’ve celebrated a birthday outside of Washington so that was strange but a fun new experience. On the morning of my birthday I got up in front of the Friday community meeting to announce when and where the knitting club would be meeting this week and then someone shouted out that it was my birthday and lead nearly 200 people into singing happy birthday which was ridiculously awkward and I never know what expression to show on my face when people are singing happy birthday to me so I probably went through 20 facial expressions before finding one that felt natural. Later that day I found out that girl on campus named Victoria was celebrating an 11/13/85 b-day which excited me because I’ve never met someone with the same birthday and I let her know I was upset that she didn’t come stand with me during the mass happy birthday sing along and that I felt bad for snagging all the birthday attention away from her. I asked her a lot of questions about the day she was born just to see how similarly our lives began and I found out that while I was born in Walla Walla General Hospital she was birthed on the toilette seat in her parent’s home in Maryland. I thought that was kinda weird but went along with it and played it off like it’s a totally normal thing to be born on the crapper…

P.S. Thanks to everyone for the letters, packages, phone calls, texts, wall posts, etc. on my birthday. It meant a lot and I'm so lucky to have you as friends!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Heart Toms

Dearest Jessica Marie Miller,
Thank you ever so much for the Toms shoes that i received in the mail this morning. Once again my team leader gave them to me before class and everyone was ooooohing and aaaaaahing over them and now i look super socially conscious which is also a major plus.. I've wanted a pair for so long. You know me too well. They fit like a glove and they perfectly accent my AmeriCorps uniform. You're the best BFFEL. EVER.

Friday, November 6, 2009

TGIF even without Boy Meets World

TGIF. The sun is shining, I have the day off, I’m in the only coffee shop in Vinton, and I am strategically seated next to a group of 6 elderly women who are chatting about all the town gossip. They just finished talking about all their theories on why ‘Vivien’ wasn’t at church on Sunday and how she used to be Lutheran. I’m eating this up.

Last weekend was of course Halloween and if you’ve seen my Facebook profile lately you’d know that I did indeed dress up as a Care Bear. Tender Heart Bear to be more specific. We also had Cheer Bear, Lucky Bear, Bedtime Bear, Grumpy Bear, and Share Bear. I really wanted to be Secret Bear but Wal-Mart was out of yellow sweat suits. I guess there’s always next year? A big group of us went to the local roller-skating rink, which was super fun except I’ve had a slight burning sensation in my feet ever since so I might have the onset of athlete’s foot. After the novelty of roller-skating wore off, most of us headed over to one of the two bars in town called Mickey’s and it was a little like walking onto the set of Cheer’s where everybody knows your name. AmeriCorps had definitely taken over and the locals seemed a little overwhelmed. They had a costume contest and we Care Bears were totally snubbed but somehow Ketchup and Mustard placed 3rd. The judge said he thought the condiments were really original and he had never seen that done before and I really wanted to ask him when the was the last time he had seen 6 Care Bears in a bar!!!?? Once again, pick your battles. So me and my friend Janene were dancing the night away and we get this simultaneous craving for the song Buttons by the Pussycat Dolls so we went up to the DJ and requested it and for some strange reason he asked for our names which we kindly gave him. Long story short, an hour later as Janene and I are grabbing our coats to leave we hear our names announced and to my horror find out we had signed up for Karaoke. I was mortified. The only other time I have done Karaoke was in a foreign country and the only other people in the bar were drunk and spoke only Dutch. There was no escaping so Janene and I go up to the stage and I quickly realized that the only part of buttons I know is the chorus because I only listen to the remix which is 20 times faster than the original and most of the verses are cut out entirely. It wasn’t pretty and I had hoped to make my US Karaoke debut dressed as something other than every little girls favorite 80’s cartoon character.

The past week has been a whirlwind of crazy so this is the first chance I’ve had to blog. Last Friday my team started our first 3-day project where we worked on cleaning up an old trail that was once an abandoned railroad and was turned into a nature trail in 2000. No government money has been used on it so it’s all been volunteer work and donation so we were asked to help out. Armed with my safety goggles, leather gloves and a bow saw I spent three days walking approximately 7 miles of trail while cutting back trees and bushes that were too close to the trail and could harm runners, bikers, or old men on John Deer’s who might be out on a Sunday ride. Our sponsor on the project was a retired schoolteacher named Nancy Baldwin and she was just the sweetest old woman ever. Every day we worked she brought us homemade oatmeal cookies and rice crispy treats along with orange Kool-aid packets to put in our water bottles. On Halloween a group of us went to trick or treat at Nancy and her husband Ron’s house and she gave us all popcorn balls that nearly chipped off all my front teeth with the first bite. She said she used melted caramel corn to make them but she must have had those things in storage for the past ten years. I guess it’s the thought that counts. The next day on the work site she had some more for us to eat during our morning break but I opted out for a rice crispy instead.

On Tuesday we had another project an hour away where we removed the inside cardboard panels and insulation of a roof in what used to be a dining hall at a church camp ground. We were all really excited to do some demolition and to wear our new outfits. If you imagine the construction worker from the Village People that’s basically what my work outfit looked like except without the cutoffs but let me tell you I put up a fight to wear my cutoffs but they said it was impractical and that I needed to wear my coveralls. Whatever. Pick your battles.

With all of my long work days filled with nothing more than hard labor the one thing that really kept me going was my weekly Wednesday night GLEE so I’ve been a lil bit upset these past two weeks where there’s been nothing but a rerun and something called the World Series?? Whatever that is? I mean who do these Yankees think they are?? Why couldn’t they have played a day earlier or aired their game on LIFETIME??? All I’m saying is if this happens again next week I will be writing a letter to someone important like Tyra who could do something about it.