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End of AmeriCorps

After leaving Camp Zanika, Silver 7 drove back to Sacramento to join all the other teams as we finished up our ten months in AmeriCorps. This last transition included a debrief of the round, debriefing our specialty roles, campus improvements (gardening and the like), and team reflection. We also had a lot of down time to just hang out with friends, play card games, watch lots of movies, and go to AmeriProm (just as exciting as it sounds).

I came into my second year of AmeriCorps because I was still restless, still wanted to explore the US, and FEMA Corps hadn’t filled my need for some good old manual labor. My year in NCCC definitely got me working hard and traveling. In FEMA Corps, we were rarely separated from the rest of the Corps and our work wasn’t defined yet, so a lot of my time was spent developing friendships and learning how to communicate with a big team. This year, we spent little time as a Corps and my team was constantly changing. So, while I did develop wonderful friendships, I don’t feel that big connection with most of the Corps like I did in FEMA Corps. I also don’t feel as strong an attachment to Silver 7 (don’t get me wrong, I will always be Silver 7, but we went from 11 members, to me being on the composite team with 8 other people, to me coming back to 6 members, to us going down to 4 girls, to us gaining two members we had never met before, it creates an interesting dynamic.) This year in NCCC, I feel like most of my connections and good times came from the sponsors. I feel proud to have worked with all my sponsors, and would love to go back and work again with many of them. They all helped me grow professionally, allowing me to sit in on board meetings and giving me resume and networking advice.

Many people ask me “Which is better, FEMA Corps or NCCC?” I guess what I’m trying to say is, they can’t be compared. I view FEMA Corps as my year where I grew personally, I gained incredible friendships, I learned who I want to be and how to achieve that. NCCC taught me more about myself professionally, what environment I need to be in to be my best, and what I look like at my best. FEMA Corps grew my confidence and taught me how to take chances, try new things. NCCC had me taking those chances, and taught me how to deal with the good and bad that comes from them. Both years taught me how to deal with great and not so great bosses and leadership. Both years had moments where I felt on top or the world, and moments where I was ready to strangle the next person who talked to me. Any AmeriCorps experience challenges you, teaches you what you consider important in life, and hopefully changes you for the better. I view my FEMA Corps and NCCC years as completely different experiences. Would I change some parts about them if I could? Yes, but that’s just life, that’s learning. My AmeriCorps experience was two years well spent, and I’m glad I did it.

What’s next for me? Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear, simple answer for that. I spent the rest of the summer traveling and catching up with family I hadn’t seen in ages (including my 9 month old twin cousins who I hadn’t even met yet.) Now, I’m about to start two online courses so that I can work towards my Certificate in Nonprofit Management. Through AmeriCorps, I can pay for these courses with my Education Award, and I only have to complete three courses total and go to a networking conference in order to get the certificate, so I should be finished by next May. I’m living back home in CT and in the process of getting a part time job while I take classes. I’m also keeping busy by seeing friends in the area, volunteering, and exercising (Apple Harvest 5k, here I come!). I’m hoping to move out of CT sometime after my fall classes finish. Where to? I’m not sure yet. I’m looking into some east coast cities such as Philly, as well as other cities such as Seattle. But, to be honest I’m not picky enough so lots of ideas are still bouncing around when it comes to my next step. I just know that ultimately, I want to work in nonprofits, hopefully an art or science museum, because those are my happy places and I’d love to support and help others enjoy them too.

I hope I was able to answer some questions about my time in AmeriCorps and what my plans are next. As always, feel free to contact me, I love to chat and feel like I have to much catching up to do with friends and family. For a few years, I’ve kept this blog so that friends and family could stay up to date on where I was and what I was doing throughout my adventures. Well, now my adventures are most likely going to turn much more normal. But, I’d still like to post now and again. I’ll be sure to write about what I’m up to, and maybe some things I care about, we’ll see what happens. Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who read this blog, I really appreciate it. 🙂

Hope everyone had a great summer and wishing you all a happy fall. 🙂

– Reptar

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This is How I Buffalo

Well, once again I got slightly distracted and forgot to post for quite a while. Here’s what you missed:

Work at Camp Zanika continued to consist of fuel reduction, controlled burns, and painting. Once the counselors and program staff came, we were invited to take part in some of their training and bonding. Part of their training was called “Super Happy Fun Time” which was when then helped us clean up the camp. This was a huge help, as we had lots of long trips hauling wood from deep in the woods to the controlled burn site. It also helped them understand the work we were doing. When we took part in their training, we learned camp games, fun facts about the counselors, and everybody’s camp names. We also were invited on the overnight camping trip. This was the first time I really camped (as in, there was not a porta-potty waiting nearby). We hiked up to Hidden Lake, set up our tents, cooked dinner, and took part in a lost camper drill.

Since meals were provided, we had always taken them with the staff. Once campers came, this meant that we were eating with the kids as well. This was one of my favorite parts about camp. I would often sit at the “head” or “foot” of the table, meaning I helped staff by serving or cleaning up the food. Then I was able to talk with the campers and staff at the table, learning about what they were doing at camp. At the end of each meal, camp songs would start. These weren’t just repeat after me songs like we sung at Girl Scouts, some were interactive as well. (The Buffalo song passes the song around the room, having each person do a dance move that the camp then copies as they “buffalo.”) Meals were used to bring the camp together, do announcements (which started with a song of course), and other fun activities. Anytime a staff member was caught saying another staff members real name (for example, if they called me Jen instead of my camp name Reptar) they would have to jump in the lake after lunch. One meal even ended with a surprise water fight.

At first when the campers came, we still had our own work to complete. So, we hauled wood and painted during the day, but were encouraged to take part in camp activities after work. This could mean camp wide games, late night board games, kitchen raids (where you sneak into the kitchen to get late night snacks, at the risk of booby traps and having the begeezus scared out of you by staff), and cabin raids (toilet papering other cabins or staff areas, those who did the raid were required to clean up any mess the next day). The first full week that campers were there, we were allowed to put our work aside and shadow the camp staff for the entire week. I spent my first day shadowing the youngest boys cabin. My day consisted of a low ropes course, “quiet time” playing zombie attack, and lots of time trying to hurry up little boys who were too busy singing “Gangnam style.” I had a blast! For the rest of the week, I shadowed an older boys cabin and watched them at the low ropes course, an older girls cabin where I lead them as they planned their skit, and the oldest girls cabin where I helped them navigate the high ropes course. I also shadowed the Arts and Crafts coordinator and made lots of friendship bracelets, as well as the Nature director where we went on bug hunts. The entire week the staff was extremely helpful, opening up opportunities for me to interact and lead activities with the campers. The campers were extremely welcoming too, accepting me as one of the staff and including me in all their fun times. It was amazing to watch campers start the week shy and unsure, and the finish with the confidence to break dance in front of the entire camp.

When it came time to leave Camp Zanika, it was one of the hardest moments in AmeriCorps. The staff included us in final activities, such as serenading the cabins on their last night, and revealing our real names to campers at our last meal. It was sad, but I love that the staff welcomed us into the camp and included us in every tradition they could think of.  As much as I’m working towards and know that I need to get a job soon, I’m kind of hoping my next summer is free so that I can go back and work at camp. 🙂

Dog Camp and Desserts

Well, I’ve successfully been through my first full week of camp, pre kids arriving. Here’s some of the highlights:

  • We painted three cabins and I must say they look beautiful, it felt great working outside in the sun.
  • I’ve visited Leavenworth twice. My favorite spots would have to be getting chicken apple sausage at Cured, the Cheesemonger, and the Tattoo shop where I got my ears pierced for the first time. And when they call Leavenworth a Bavarian town, you better believe it. Even the tattoo shop is “Bavarian” and there’s Bavarian music playing all day on the town green.
  • I thoroughly enjoy not cooking, and instead being served in the camp dining hall. Especially since the cooks are so nice and have baked a cake and brownies so far. 🙂 Also, I’ve had four milkshakes in the past week. The 59 Diner down the street makes fantastic milkshakes and my contribution is going to help Camp Zanika win against the YMCA camp in the summer milkshake tally.
  • Dog Camp, you heard me. This weekend the camp was rented out for Dog Camp, meaning dog owners and their pets came to enjoy the outdoors, ride in canoes, and have a good time. No, they did not keep us up barking into the night, yes they did object to being kept outside while the owners ate in the dining hall.

This week, we will most likely continue fuel reduction, which means we’ll be hauling fallen branches to burn piles to reduce the fuel in case of a large forest fire.

Hope everyone had a good weekend and a happy fathers day!

 

Camp Zanika

Well, we’ve arrive at Camp Zanika, outside of Leavenworth, WA. It took us two days to drive here, which meant we were able to stop at a hotel with a pool and hot tub, which was quite the luxury for us. Yesterday, we drove from Oregon to Washington. When we arrived in Leavenworth we discovered that it is truly a Bavarian town. Every building looks Bavarian, even the McDonalds and Subway.
Continuing on towards the camp, we passed through beautiful forests and by waterfalls. This part of Washington reminds me of Maine, just everything is bigger, from the trees to the mountains. It even smells like Maine, which is a big plus for me. At camp, we were welcomed and given a brief tour of the place, including our living arrangements. We had the choice between cabins that were a 5 minute hike away or platform tents in camp, half the team chose tents, half cabins.
Right now, camp is not yet in session, but for three days an Outdoor Education group of 5th graders is here. Today, we got to shadow counselors teaching activities from ropes course, leave no trace, outdoor living skills, and canoeing. Tonight, we’ll be making s’mores and watching skits the kids created. I’ve been loving our time here so far, it’s been like going to camp myself. Tomorrow, the kids leave and we receive our orientation. Then Monday, the real work should begin, chainsawing and hauling downed trees.
This weekend, we’ll most likely hike to a local lake and explore Leavenworth. So far, I’m very happy with this round.

Camp Sacramento

I’ve finally come to terms as to why I haven’t posted about my time at Camp Sacramento yet. You see, to write about Camp Sacramento, I have to start at the beginning, which means I have to relive a certain… incident. It all started at Camp Tamarancho, I woke up before everyone else, packed my sleeping bag, and dropped it next to the van to be packed later so that I could go eat breakfast. What I didn’t realize was that little critters might decide it was a good idea to crawl into my very tightly packed sleeping bag. So, we packed the van, said goodbye to the place and people we had grown to love, and headed to Camp Sacramento. We arrived, got a mini tour of the camp, explored South Lake Tahoe, and went to bed after a very long day. As usual, I was the first to wake up. Half awake, I went to get out of bed and noticed something long and brown on the floor. I put my glasses on, it looked like a snake, I didn’t believe it, so I decided to take a moment to wake up. But, the more I woke up the more positive I was that a three foot snake was spread out on the floor next to my bed. Fun fact about me is that I am severely afraid of snakes, so finding a snake next to my bed freaked me out quite a bit. I didn’t want to make it move, so I quietly phone called my teammate in the next room who likes snakes, but with no service I got no reply. So, I decided that despite the early hour, I had to risk waking everybody, including the snake, up. So, I yelled for my teammate. Once I convinced her that yes, there was truly a snake in my room, she got up to help me. Once we determined that it wasn’t poisonous, she set out to catch it. Her first attempt made it escape under my bed. So, we had to prod it with a broom to get it out, she was able to grab it, and we threw it out the door, and into the snow. Poor thing had no clue what it was getting into leaving warm Marin County. If this snake’s still alive, it’s endured three snowfalls so far, quite different from the 80 degree weather we were experiencing in Marin County.

Besides my animal encounter, things here at Camp Sacramento have been going very well. Most of our work consists of fuel reduction. This means that we are trimming trees to limit the chance that fire can catch from one tree to another. It also means that we are cutting down dead trees and trees that are growing too close together, meaning that the remaining trees can grow healthier. I’m enjoying the work here, partly because it’s in a beautiful location and mostly because the staff is incredibly kind. We leave this Friday and I know everyone is sad to go.

Our next and final round will be at Camp Zanika in Washington. We’ll leave for that in the beginning of June, finish mid July, and then I graduate from AmeriCorps July 24th. I’m falling asleep at my computer right now, but I will try and get a more detailed post up before we leave for Camp Zanika. Oh! One final note though…. congratulation

CONGRATULATIONS TO BRIAN AND ELYSE!!!! A little over a week ago I got to fly home for my brother’s wedding. It was beautiful and fun and perfect. I’m so happy for the newlyweds. And, of course it felt good to be home for a bit, mom’s cookies and anchor cake might have helped too…

Long overdue update

I am currently writing this flying over Pennsylvania on my way to Reno, heading back from my brother wedding so that I can go back to work. Now, you might wonder how I got to this point from my last blog post. And here it is…

 

After leaving Camp Taloali, we spent about a week in Sacramento to complete debriefings from our last project, briefings for our next project, and specialty role training. During this transition, we had a decent amount of free time, which allowed us to prepare for the trainings and paperwork, as well as to explore Sacramento a bit. I was lucky enough to take part in a Service Project in Sacramento. One morning, we headed out around 6:30am in order to volunteer at a 10k/5k race. My job was to make sure all the runners turned where they were supposed to, and to cheer them on a bit.

 

They was AmeriCorps NCCC works is that our ten months of service are split up into 4 rounds. With each round, you leave on “spike” which is the project you will be working at. Some rounds have multiple spikes, such as my second round when I went to Northwest Trek and Camp Taloali. As well as my third round, which included Camp Tamarancho and Camp Sacramento.

 

We spent about a month at Camp Tamarancho, which is a boy scout camp for the Marin County boy scouts outside of San Francisco. The camp has multiple camp sites which range from clear ground to raise a tent, to cabins. Boy scouts rent out camp sites over the weekends and there is a day camp throughout the summer. Our first day, we were just proud to have made it up the drive way (an extremely narrow, windy, unpaved road on the side of a cliff) (to give you an idea of how windy and steep, Camp Tamarancho is is part of the mountains where mountain biking was invented and races are still held there). As time went on, we became comfortable with the work and thoroughly enjoyed working with the staff. We spent much of our time completing fuel reduction, which means chopping down dead or hazardous trees and then burning the big pile of wood we create. We also removed invasive species (scotch broom ): ) and completed some carpentry work. Our site sponsor was great at giving us each a project to lead or complete on our own. My project was to replace the camp’s rattlesnake box. See, Camp Tamarancho has a rattlesnake population. The snakes are shy by nature and would prefer to just lay under a log and not be bothered, but if you step on them by accident or threaten them, they will bite. So, when the staff finds a snake too close to kids they will move them somewhere safer. So, with the old box falling apart, I was able to copy the design and build two new boxes. Other carpentry projects included preparing lumber so that boy scouts could turn it into picnic tables, building bunk beds in some of the cabins, and make a compost box so that the camp can start composting.

Other than work, we were able to explore the area a bit. We went to Muir Woods and saw the redwood forest, completed a service in the Presido helping with a YMCA race, completed a Global Youth Service Day project in Oakland sprucing up a community garden, and explored Marin County.

 

As much as we loved Camp Tamarancho, on May 3rd it was time to move one. So, we got in the van and headed to Camp Sacramento, outside of South Lake Tahoe.

 

To be continued…..

Gold Composite Celebration Video

Check out Gold Composite’s celebration video!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6djJzPQxF8g