36 hours after flying across the Mississippi, I still feel like I am in a whirlwind. I've been so many places in the past few days that I am thinking and feeling many different things. The lack of sleep hasn't helped either - I have cried at least 5 times over random stuff.
Part of me is still at WM living history camp 24/7. Dr. Mrs. W's voice still rings in my ear, telling me to drive the kids on some field trip. Suddenly I feel homesick for the land of flemish bond bricks and dead white colonists. It's ironic that the minute I leave academia, I find myself interested in things I would dismiss as boring before - like reading that copy of Paradise Lost out in the hall.
Getting integrated into the VSC also feels like history camp, but reversed so I am not in control. There are rooms to assign and set up, paperwork and rules to manage, and a new geography to learm. It's not unlike freshman year of college, learning to live in a new place. My 8 housemates and I are getting to know each other quickly, but to a large part we are still a housefull of strangers. The fact that this is an arrangement for an entire year, not just a weekend retreat or three week camp, makes the transition a little more nerveracking.
Luckily, this is not entirely like college. We've all been away from home before, and we all genuinely want to be here. It seems like everyone is coming in with the same emotions and anticipation, which is encouraging. Sr. T and the rest of the staff have been very welcoming. They cultivate a strong sense of connection to past volunteer teams. The ghosts of the 2007-2008 team are all around the house, especially in the notes they left us.
The girls and I are bonding as we explore the area and our new house. We make a speedy team in the kitchen, and feel a little less like we are raiding someone else's cupboards. Throughout the week we are visiting every service site, so we get a feel for what the others will be doing.
Today we started with a bang at Covenant House, a shelter and educational center for homeless or troubled teens. We were all really impressed with the colorful, upbeat facility. Just this year they moved into an old school that they gutted and redesigned. Now, there are classrooms, offices, and housing for both short and long term stays. Once you get past the gates and metal detectors, you are greeted by bold floor tiles and accent walls in orange, buttercream, and lime green. My favorite part was the artsy black-and-white photos of local kids all over the walls. A local photographer donated her time to do shoots of the kids in locations they chose. The images speak volumes about the agency and their kids, profound without being cheesy.
Jessica's boss matched the bright decor. From the minute Eileen greeted us we fell in love with her energetic personality. Her boisterious New Yawk accent, knobby pigtail hairstyle, and flowing kimono top all made her the kind of unique character a chick flick writer would envy. This self-described "devout Christian" overflowed with enthusiam for Covenant House's work and for her new VSC volunteer. We got to see the entire facilty, including the "real live cook." We also learned about Eileen's obsession with inspirational quotes and her son, who is joining the peace corps with his new Jamaican wife. Jessica is never going to have a dull moment there.
Eileen assured the rest of us our time wouldn't be dull. She peppered her conversation with affirmations, saying "I'm so proud of you all! This is such a great thing you are doing. It'll change the direction of your life. There are no coincidences - God has put you here for a reason!"
I'm excited for us all to learn what those reasons will be.