It has been a while since our last encounter. I miss your spell checker that saves my every entry, the chance to just write something that’s NOT a paper, and my lifted spirits from seeing new page views.
What have I been up to? Well how about a brief rundown of my escapades.
This summer I worked for some old elementary school friends by helping them run one of their shaved ice stands at the Jefferson County fair. After four twelve hour days of ice-shaving action my shoulders weren’t sure if they would ever stop hurting. But, on the bright side, I did have free admission to some nice music and all the ice I could eat.
I came back early for a Whitman Institute of Scholastic Enrichment (WISE) camp which I was an Resident Assistant for. The camp was a chance for Walla Walla kids to live in a Whitman residence hall and take classes from Whitman professors. The camp itself was only a few days but the design was such to try and inspire the children to apply themselves in high school and excite them for college. It even proved educational to some of my fellow RAs, the most noticeable instance was when the mathematics professor proved 0.999 repeating infinitely was equal to 1. Several long philosophical, logical, and mathematical debates followed with me helplessly trying to convince my fellow counselors, who were off duty at the time, that this was true.
Past that, I trained for a week to be a Student Academic Adviser, or SA, (I have no idea why there is only one A in the acronym) in Lyman House. My job description is essentially to help new students with the transition to Whitman academics. We trained on study skills, active listening, memorization strategies, and prepped for Orientation Week for the new students. Meeting each section of Lyman was both nerve-wracking and incredibly wonderful. Throughout the semester I have been putting on academic programs, holding office hours, and hanging out with the awesome residents of The Tower and B/C Section. I hope all of you have had wonderful Thanksgivings and I’ll be back in the bloggin’ saddle again soon.
I am a survivor. I, along with two others in Anderson Hall remain “humans” in the game. Unfortunately for me there are a total of five zombies in my section who are attempting to “eat my brains” by tagging my body before I hit them with a sock or Nerf dart. Fortunately my class schedule allows me to avoid them well during the day. At night however, I venture to the bathroom with a loaded Nerf shotgun and muscles twitching at the slightest sound. Besides that little stressor, I realized I have around thirty pages to write before the end of the school year if I add up all my classwork together. Fun huh? But to make it more interesting I also have the privilege of campaigning for Sophomore Senate. I am allowed to officially begin my campaign on the 12th, which will involve a late night of putting up posters and the rest of my (top secret) campaign ideas. Hopefully my ingenuity pays off and I do well in the elections.
There has also been a surge of Whitties noticing my blog, so I suppose I have to watch what I say now…
New tasks and partners were assigned to us at the work site the next day. Instead of dry-wall and mudding I was switched to door frames. I was terrible at door frames. I managed to put one up, but it had to be fixed by our site manager afterward. After dinner we ventured out to find “Snowballs”. Basically a snow-cone, or shaved ice stuffed with ice cream. A stuffed Mango-Kiwi snowball was amazing. After Snowballs our group walked down St. Charles Ave. and gaped at the numerous gigantic houses that it was home to. Right before going to bed, while Nelson and I were brushing our teeth, we heard screams from the hallway area outside the girls and guys bathrooms. We took a look outside and saw a group of about ten high school girls, with one of the other groups who were staying at Camp Hope. Each one of them was screaming and pointing to the ground in between the bathroom entrances. The area was poorly lit and it took a moment for me to realize they had seen a cockroach. It was tiny. Maybe two inches. I walked back inside and grabbed some paper towels. I’m not a huge fan of killing things, part of the reason for my vegetarianism, so I tried to catch it in the paper towels. Each time that I covered it and almost caught it, it would dart away again, and the girls’ screams would continue anew. Finally I managed to get it in the towels and walked outside far enough to toss it in the grass. The screams subsided and one of the sixteen year olds said “You didn’t have to do that” in a semi-pretentious voice. I looked at her with raised eyebrows, “Really?” and walked back into the bathroom to finish brushing my teeth.
The next few days of work went smoothly. I moved on to painting doors and eventually to baseboards. I overcame my fear of the portable table saw and used it to cut some one by six boards into the right size for doorframes. Thursday night at dinner our volunteer cook told us amazing stories about his experience with Katrina. He told us about leaving home with 3 days worth of clothes, expecting to be able to return, only to return much later and barely be able to salvage a laundry basket worth of items from his destroyed home.
The last day, I tried to be as productive as possible, I painted like crazy and baseboarded, and almost finished installing a vanity in another bathroom. The guys in our group had been dying to take a picture outside “Breaux Mart”, or phonetically “Bro Mart”. So we took a picture in front of a sign that also read “Best Meat in da’ Parish”. Before returning home, our group took a final midnight trip to Waffle House. What better way to say goodbye to New Orleans than enjoying a strawberry waffle and hash-browns five hours before your flight?
One of the best parts about our service trip was how close our group became throughout the week.. Working alongside each other during the trip made me feel not only more connected to the people of New Orleans, but also to the people I worked with.
“Work time!” Was my first thought on Monday morning, we were finally starting work on our houses that day. First we headed down to the St. Bernard offices and received our assignments for work sites, sadly Nelson, my roommate, and I were working on separate houses. Our 19 person group split into a group of nine and a group of ten, each with its own house to work on. During the work day we would stay with that smaller group, but afterward we had plenty of time to spend with everyone else. When we arrived at our work site I was paired with Tess to work on dry-wall in one of the house’s bathrooms. It was a very frustrating day. Tess and I spent the better part of the day removing, readjusting, and finally finishing the last piece of ceiling drywall in the partially dry-walled bathroom. After a hard days work we returned to camp hope for some rest and dinner. That night we visited the house of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the character of the summer novel that all 2014 Whitman students were required to read before their first year. He welcomed us into his home and we discussed everything from his opinions of the Government response to Katrina, to the recent tsunami in Japan. The evening eventually pulled to a close and we returned once again to Camp Hope.
Tuesday’s productivity increased dramatically. Not only did Tess and I finish the ceiling, dry-walled the entire rest of the bathroom and started mudding. It was incredibly more satisfying to see the change at the end of our second day of work than the first. At dinner that evening we were spoken to by the “Head of Homeland Security and Emergency Management” of St. Bernard Parish. He spoke to us a little about his job, and other things about Katrina. After dinner we headed out for some more sightseeing. We stood and watched Live Jazz music at Preservation Hall, walked down Bourbon Street, and ate some more late night snacks. By the end of night we were all exhausted and hit the sack after reflection.
“You here on your spring break?” Said an astonished elderly woman while exiting mass. My nervous nod and smile made her plump cheeks tighten into a broad, loving smile.
“Bless you! Thank you so much for coming, bless your heart!” Some of our service trip group had decided to attend a Catholic mass at St. Peter Claver to experience some New Orleans culture. The mass was complete with a gospel choir and passionate preacher, not to mention a couple hundred spirited New Orleans residents all happy to welcome us to their church. The nineteen of us had fund-raised and paid to spend a week in New Orleans as volunteer construction workers for the St. Bernard Project. While we arrived there as amateurs, they taught us enough of the basics to put in drywall and flooring, frame doors, mud walls, apply baseboards, and plenty of other tasks. We left for Louisiana early Saturday morning, so I naturally stayed up until 2:30 AM folding laundry and packing for the trip. I took a quick two hour nap before getting up, showering, and going through the spring break room checklist with Nelson. Both of us were excited to get to hit the road and get together with the rest of the service group.
When we arrived to the night lights of New Orleans and weren’t able to see much of the city from the plane. On the van ride to our place to stay questions kept running through my head. Were some of the rundown houses I remnants of Katrina? What was here before and after the hurricane? Where would we be working? Those questions would have to wait a little longer, the first task was to settle in to Camp Hope. The camp was a converted school, first for volunteers after Katrina, and later for BP cleanup workers during the spill. It had recently been reopened for Katrina volunteers and we were one of the first groups to stay there since it reopened. The converted classrooms were outfitted with about 15 bunk-beds and comfortably fit the six guys in one and the thirteen girls in the other.
The first day in New Orleans we had breakfast at the Waffle House and feasted on servings of hash-browns, eggs, toast and, of course, a variety of differently flavored waffles. Later that day, the trip leaders had scheduled us with tours of the area, showing us some of the reasons for Katrina’s large impact on the city. We toured the levees, parts of the severely reduced wetlands and saw illustrations of the surrounding area’s topography, and how New Orleans lies primarily below sea level. After the tour we went to a local street market and bought a few souvenirs and returned home for dinner and a nightly group meeting.
I pushed my body’s sleep deprivation abilities to a new maximum. Last week I had three papers, a French test and a French project due, on top of my regular reading and homework for each class. The first was an Encounters paper due on Monday, which I finished editing on Sunday. I then outlined my History paper on Ancient Rhetoric and wrote the first part of my Politics paper so I could ask my Professor to read it and give me suggestions. Somehow I survived the entire week and finished all my assignments. I proceeded to recuperate with several early nights over our presidents day weekend. I used the extra Monday off to get ahead on my next homework assignments to ensure I would never have to replicate that experience.
Another night in the Allen reading room! Also known as the quiet room, where Whitman students go to spend time doing homework in a completely silent environment. Admittedly I’m typing this blog alone with “You Don’t Know Me” by Ben Folds playing at full volume on my laptop. In the reading room next to a mantle place and an open gas lit fireplace there is a small book titled “The Allen Reading Room Challenge”. When you are the last person in the reading room on a given night you put your name and the professor and assignment responsible for your late hour in the library. I am currently the Valentines day victor of this challenge at a current time of 3:39 AM Feb 14th. The time varies however and the last contender could be pulling an all nighter. Generally the winner is within an hour of 4AM. This is my 3rd time winning the challenge, something I feel reluctant to be proud of. But the good news is that I have all my homework for tomorrow long since finished and am currently working on the first draft and outline of two essays due later this week. Well you know it is about time for me to continue working on my homework when I catch myself singing along to “Wat Da Hook Gon Be”
Good night, or should I say good morning?
One hour later…
You feel strangely accomplished, and know you shouldn’t, listening to Bach’s Prelude Number 3 in C major while reading Machiavelli, Hobbes and Martin Luther at 4:30 in the morning.