Monthly Archives: September 2012

These boots are made for walking

First off, I am terribly sorry for not updating. When I was in France, updates came easy because I was doing so many new things and felt this need to record everything. Here, I’m doing all sorts of new things here, but I’m not really seeing any new places, it’s just new ideas from¬†training. Also, any free time I have is immediately designated to sleeping, and showering. Since between all this it’s very had to find time to update my blog and find a computer in the computer lab, I’ve started writing down everything I do every day in a journal. Hopefully, this will keep me from forgetting the important stuff when it comes time to make a post. Anyway, I’ve already been interupted three times while writing this post, so I’m just going to let it all out and see what happens. ūüôā

September 12- Went to a ropes course in Iowa City, about an hour from here, with my entire team. It was more of a challenge course, only one rope was involved during the whole day and we were never more than a foot off the ground. It felt pretty amazing to go through the activities with my team and see how we solved problems. It seemed like everybody took a chance at being the leader and everyone was invovled, so hopefully that will continue to be a pattern throughout the year. After the ropes course we went back to campus for Portfolio training where we learned about some of the paperwork that needs to be completed following a service project.

September 13- Spent the day doing Hands of Peace training. We talked a lot about conflict resolution and how to properly communicate with our teammates. I went into the training thinking I wouldn’t like it, but in the end it was very useful, and again had some activities that gave me more faith in my team as a whole. We also wrote a team charter, basically outlining what is acceptable beyond the Americorps NCCC Policies for our team. It felt good to outline some of the trickier subjects, and make sure that we’re all on the same page.

September 14- We started the day at 5:20 with PT involving our entire Pine unit in the gym. We did pyramids, basically situps, pushups, etc, in increasing then decreasing amounts. After that we had tool training where we learned the safety policies of powertools and then got to use some of them ourselves. We finished the day with more training, learning about what NCCC is and how we can present that to the public.

Interupted again. I’ll finish this post later. ūüôā

Today was probably one of the easiest days that I will have for a while. This morning we had a very nice 9/11 remembrance¬†event with the whole¬†corps. After that, we all had training for our individual¬†Rep Roles (Roles that we fill for the NCCC¬†side of things, not part of our FEMA roles). My role is Project Outreach Liason. This means that another team member and I are responsible for various tasks including running a community day while on one of our assignments. We look at the needs of the community, what non-profits are there, and work with them to provide¬†an event (cleaning up a park, working with kids, habitat for humanity, working in animal shelters, etc etc etc anything you can think of) for the community. This first bit of training definitely got me pumped for my role, and I can’t wait to find out where I’m going first so that I can research some possible opportunities.

After all that my roommate¬†and I headed in to town to check out the library. We each signed up for library cards (no actual¬†card involved) and checked out 3 dvds¬†that we get to keep for a week, saving us the three dollars that it takes to rent a dvd for a couple of days. We also went into the dollar store, which is huge, and has just about anything you could think of. Although, I haven’t found any “Vinton” postcards yet, I may have to take a peek into town hall for that.

Dinner tonight was amazing, two teammates cooked tacos with every possible topping imaginable. We were all completely stuffed by the end. Tonight was the first dinner that we really all ate as a team, we’ve eaten together plenty of times before, but usually someone is missing or runs off before everyone else is finished. It was reassuring to¬†spend some time as a team, especially since we spent most of the time laughing.¬†At the end of dinner, we had a meeting to discuss tomorrows schedule. Which is when I found out that I have muster at 5:10, PT at 5:15, which finishes at 6, after which we need to be at the van by 6:40 to drive to Iowa City for a team building “ropes course” (sans ropes). Thank goodness for pretty Iowa sunsets to keep me sane.

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Sidenote: Yesterday, I got trained to drive the 15 passenger van. It definitely was a little freaky at first. Two of the guys drove before me, they drove through rolling hills and fields¬†and lots of middle of nowhere. So, I figured, ok, I’m set. Then our trainer asks us “Does anyone know what road were on?” “Blairs Ferry, hey, there’s a Blairs Ferry Road in Cedar Rapids” “Well yeah, because you’re about to drive into Cedar Rapids.” So, I had no gently rolling hills, instead I dealt¬†with traffic lights, parking lots, pedestrians, and lots of people deciding to turn at the last minute. In the end, I passed, my only trouble spot was turning into a parking spot. I almost took the turn to sharp, but we caught it, backed up, and fixed the problem. And now I know, always park in the middle of no where and always take wide turns. I definitely feel comfortable driving the van, but I’m also actually happy that the max speed in the government van is 65 mph. And now that I’ve shopped for 12 people and can drive a 15 passenger¬†van, I’m all set to join the Duggars on a wild adventure. ūüôā

With everything that’s been going on, I haven’t really been able to update about what I’ve actually been doing this whole time. So, hopefully, I’ll cover most of it right now.

Wednesday evening, we had our team reveal. This wasn’t done by calling out names and assigning teams as I expected, instead we were sent¬†on a scavenger hunt where we had to first find our team members and then work together as a team to solve clues in order to¬†find our team leader. In FEMA Corps there are three units (Spruce, Pine, and Hickory) and twenty-one teams. My team is Pine 4, and to show our pride we repeat Pine like the seagulls in Finding Nemo¬†said mine (aka Pine, pine pine, pine, pine¬†pine pine). My team has eleven members and one team leader, and we’re pretty evenly split girls/guys and from¬†different parts of the country. Everyone on the team is really nice, but I’m still learning names and where everyone’s from and all that. It sometimes seems harder to bond with my team because we will have so much time together, whereas¬†it felt easy to bond with my group because we knew we had to make the most of the time we had.

Thursday, we had kitchen inspections in the morning, followed by our first Physical Training (PT). Most of this PT was spent¬†explaining what we’re going to do for the rest of PT and why we are doing it. At the end we did push ups, sit ups, and running to make a baseline that we can refer back to at the end of the year to see how much we improved. I did 22 sit ups in a minute, over ten push ups (forgot that number) in a minute, and crossed the gym 19 times before the buzzer. My team seems to be well mixed for PT, there were people like me, who hadn’t done push ups in years, and then there was one guy who crossed the gym 100 times and only had to stop because the tape we were following ran out.
After PT we learned about recruitment and the media in NCCC¬† – FEMA Corps. There weren’t really any shocks for recruitment, I already knew¬†most things from being a tour guide. The Media portion¬†was a lot stricter than I expected though. Because we are working with disasters, there is a lot of things I can’t post, for the security of the area and the confidentiality of¬†the survivors. It all makes sense, I’ve just never had to think about it before. It was also stressed that we should be¬†prepared¬†to be¬†interviewed, being the inaugural¬†class of NCCC¬†– FEMA Corps is going to capture even more attention than NCCC normally does.
After that we had nutrition training, where we learned how to eat right. We had a very interesting speaker who told us an entirely new way of eating. She stressed Protein and Fats with very little Carbs, basically telling us the opposite of everything we had learned in school. I definitely wouldn’t mind trying to eat that way, but with our small food budget, we’ll probably be eating mostly carbs this year.

Friday, we met with the FEMA representative and went to Cedar Rapids. Afterwards, I took a beautiful three hour nap, went to dinner, and watched the Hunger Games.

Today, we had muster at 7:50, where I learned that my Rep Role for the year will be Project Outreach Liason and I will explain what that means after I get trained for it on Tuesday. The only other plan for today is to go get drug tested and have them check my TB test, so not too much to report on today.

Some random thoughts

  • I actually like waking up early, it makes the days seem so long. The only problem is that when I do have time to sleep in, my body still tries to get up at 5:30 out of habit.
  • It’s already getting cold here. Especially when you wake up at 5:30 with the windows open. Bad idea.
  • I’ve only been here two weeks or so, but it already feels like I’ve been here for months. They keep us so busy that everything just falls into place and starts to feel normal.
  • I really like the uniform. Even though it means I have to keep my shirt tucked in and wear sneakers, it also means I don’t have to worry about finding an outfit from the measly wardrobe I brought.

Well, I think that about covers it. Hope everyone has a wonderful day. ūüôā

Hunger Games

Quick update before I go watch The Hunger Games.
Yesterday, a team mate and I made dinner for the entire team (12 people total). We made chicken stir fry with veggies and rice. Luckily, my team mate knows how to cook, so I did most of the prep work and left the cooking to her.

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As a team we share a kitchen with one other team (a fridge and storage unit for each team, shared counter space, microwave, and other cooking supplies) and 2 stoves with 3 other teams (meaning we have to walk across the hall to use a stove). Sharing everything hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be, except that we only have one big pot, and tonight two teams needed it at the same time. Tonight, two team members cooked spaghetti¬†with red sauce, salad, and garlic bread. It was delicious, but I forgot to take a picture. Most of this food comes from Walmart¬†in Cedar Rapids. Its a¬†longer drive away, but it means we can buy more food. Shopping for food today made me feel like the Duggars, especially when we had to buy seven bags of potatoes and six loaves of bread.

Today we had a meeting with a FEMA representative who explained what we will be doing. My entire team has the same job as public assistance. This is not an official description, but here’s a general idea of what I will be doing. I will be working with the local government¬†to create plans to repair damage done to public property (schools, bridges, roads etc). I will get to see the damage if we get to a disaster early, either way I will also be doing paperwork, inputting data into the computer, and gathering information. Another good thing is that FEMA and NCCC¬†are looking into how we might be able to shadow other FEMA workers, so I could spend a day learning the environmental side of a disaster, or external affairs, etc.

Alright, sorry for the quick post but it is time for some Hunger Games. ūüėÄ Here’s a pretty Vinton sunset before I go.

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Twister Time

Last night, after a wonderful evening with my groupmates, I had the thought, that it was ok to go to sleep later because I needed to get use to working on little sleep anyway. Little did I know that I would be dealing with even less sleep thanks to a lovely wake up call.
Around 2:20 a.m. this morning, all of FEMA Corps awoke to a lovely prerecorded lady¬†saying “May I have your attention please, may I have your attention please, there has been a tornado warning in your area…….” While that may have been the most polite prerecorded voice I have ever heard, I still freaked out a bit. I have never before¬†been involved in any extreme¬† weather or disaster that was not predicted. What I mean by that is, for every storm I’ve been in, every blizzard, even hurricanes, I learned about it through the weatherman telling me more than enough time before so that I could mosey my way to a safe place, even giving me time to go shopping before hand for supplies. I know what to do in extreme snow, I know that if there is a storm while we’re on a boat, my dad will triple check the lines, with every crazy weather occurence¬†I have always felt safe. (Heck, I’ve even driven towards a hurricane.) This morning at 2:20, was the first time I was caught¬†completely off guard, and to be honest it freaked me out.
So, when the alarm went off, we scrambled out of bed, rushed to grab what we needed (I managed to remember shoes and my cell phone) and headed down to the tunnels. All the buildings used by Americorps¬†here are connected¬†by tunnels, useful if the buildings are locked¬†from¬†the outside, to avoid rain, and to protect your from tornadoes. However, only part of the tunnels are actually completely underground, so we had to pass by windows to get there, which in my “Twister, we got cows” knowledge of tornadoes, didn’t help calm me anymore. Once we got to the tunnels though, I felt very safe. We all sat down on the sides while Team Leaders walked back and forth to check who was there and to make sure nobody was caught¬†outside. We¬†couldn’t hear the storm at all, so the only signs that anything was happening was the power going on and off every once and a while. Looking back, I felt very safe, but if I had been there longer, I might have freaked out, mostly because the air felt suffocating. Put 200+ chatty people in an underground tunnel and it gets hard to breath. Luckily though, we were only there for about half an hour. I am really glad it happened though. This morning really proved to me that yes, I am here to deal with disasters, and yes, they will happen. It also reminded me that I signed up for this, so I can’t freak out, or call mommy, or anything like that. I’m just happy that I got this little test run before I’m around any big disasters. (Although to clarify, we are not being put directly in the disaster zone, we more show up after and help that way.)

This also made me extremely thankful for the Team Leaders. This morning, there were no “adults” down in the tunnel, just the Corps members and the Team Leaders. The TLs¬†did an amazing job of keeping everybody calm and staying focused. The fact we didn’t have somebody higher up the chain down there just proves that we really are being treated as adults, which staff has told us time and again, but it’s nice to see it in action.

As far as I know nobody in Vinton got hurt in this tornado, and hopefully I won’t have any exciting news like this to report for a while, I’m ready to go back to training and restful nights.

Americorps for the win

I officially love this place. Anytime I start to freak out, something good happens.

Yesterday, I was getting really upset because I was hungry, and there wasnt anything left in the kitchen that you could make a meal out of. I couldn’t think of anyone who would want to eat McDonald’s, but I made myself wait and see if anyone wanted to join me before I stormed off into town all alone. While waiting, this guy walks up and asks if I’d be willing to help with a project he has to learn more about corps members. We end up having an awesome conversation that completely turns my mood around. Then I go to my kitchen to discover that some team members walked to alco to get the ingredients needed for stir fry, and made enough for everyone. Horrible afternoon turned perfect by some amazing corps members.

Today, I accidentally missed my morning meeting because I thought it was at 6:45. I show up at 6:30 thinking I’m extra early only to catch everybody leaving. This combined with some very long, dry training sessions made me think that today just wasn’t going to be my day. Then dinner roles around and we once again have no food. (This is not a normal thing in Americorps, my groups just got some hiccups) So, of course, I’m freaking out again because I do not do well hungry. Once again my group members saved the day, making a full meal, cheesecake included.

I know this post jumped around a bit, but the point is, I’m surrounded by an amazing group of people. Every time I feel homesick or frustrated or lost, I get pulled into an awesome conversation, or the funniest game of trivial pursuit (the answer is fanny fox), or my group will burst out into song. I’m really sad that we’ll be changing groups tomorrow, but really glad that I’ve gotten to meet and spend so much time with these wonderful people.

Aside

I’ve been having¬†a hard time thinking of what to write here. So far, I’ve mostly been kept busy with training (on policies such as not using the government¬†computers for gambling), learning about the campus (the reason we can’t hang things … Continue reading

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