So about half of my team and I are currently watching “Mrs. Doubtfire”... on VHS.
Yes, Camp Conowingo is truly the land that the 21st Century forgot. No cell phone service, DVD players or Internet. Normally, these sorts of deprivations would force me to place a call to the “WAAAAmbulance,” But these days? I’m feeling pretty good.
A trial separation from the Internet has had a strange, rejuvenating effect on my mind. No more checking for incremental updates on hockey games. No more endless hours spent exploring the dregs of YouTube. No more obsessing over the latest blog buzz band that’s farting out arty little tape loops from the heart of Williamsburg.
It’s freeing. Instead, I’ve trained my focus on work and getting to know my teammates a bit better. We’re all lashed to this AmeriCorps raft together, so it’s important that we learn each other’s quirks, peeves and bizarre eating habits early on in the process.
For starters, we’ve had to deal with a shifting team roster. Badger 6 stalwarts Alicia and Evelyn both made it onto a special NCCC team of firefighters, which means they just went through a week of training away from the rest of us. Alicia has returned to us since, but Evelyn will stay on the firefighting team fulltime for the first project round. Minus one.
Then there’s Jayme, my fellow St. Louisan and “Thriller” dance instrustor, who applied for and landed a gig on a composite team working out of New Orleans. She’ll be in the Big Easy for the next few weeks, leading volunteers in working on houses. Minus two.
Evelyn and Jayme both brought some unique color to our mix, so the chemistry has been somewhat askew without them. But we’re all friendly, here. No catfights, blowups, snits or blood grudges at the moment.
As for our first project, it’s been a large swath of grunt work intermixed with the occasional inspired moment. Camp Conowingo is 600-plus acres of forested obscurity, normally tended by two handymen: Dennis and Jeff, our project sponsors. As you might expect, they’re a tad eccentric, but very cool dudes nonetheless. Working alongside them, we’ve done a lot of sweeping, raking, wood chipping, and also constructed a mammoth set of Girl Scout tents.
We’ve had some team discussions about trying to keep our focus and remember why we’re working out here amidst the seclusion. Dennis and Jeff are certainly grateful. By their estimation, we’ve saved them a month of work within a week-and-a-half. And some bona fide Girl Scouts might be visiting the camp this weekend.
Will they bring those delicious, destructively addictive cookies of theirs? Probably not. But you’ll read it here first if they do.
After our time at Conowingo ends next week, we’re set to shift gears and head to Camden, N.J., to work at the local Children’s Garden. It’s a huge 180 from where we’re staying now: urban, poverty- and crime-stricken, and our mostly Caucasian team will be in the minority. It’ll be a challenge for any number of reasons, but I think everyone’s set for a change of pace.
What’s more, I’ll get to see some family of mine during our spring break in early April. I’m obviously looking forward to that, especially because it will get me out of the AmeriCorps bubble for a few days. "AmeriLife" gets a little weird sometimes. Where else, after all, could you have an impromptu, a capella rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody," start to finish, with nine people around a campfire?
What a delightful madhouse I'm living in.
As usual, updates here will be sporadic for the foreseeable future, but you never know...