Wrapping up round 3, tying up loose ends in Deming, saying goodbye and preparing for the trip home consumed most of my attention, so it wasn’t until we were back on campus that it finally began to sink in that this was the end. Our 11 months of service with Americorps NCCC was coming to an end, and it was time for us all to say goodbye [see you later] and begin looking forward to the “What’s next?”. With my past of consistent travel, continually meeting new people and not long after saying goodbye, that part didn’t phase me too much, what was a shock though was having a wide open schedule. I had grown accustomed to having somewhere to be, people to look after, rules to follow and work to be done; now released on my own after graduation I finally had time to relax, or rather crash.
While I was enjoying my second round team, the staff of Habitat for Humanity Saint Vrain, the city of Longmont, and being in Colorado, I was also ready for a change. I'm not sure what's wrong with me and routine, but they don't last. I knew half my team would have loved to stay in Longmont working on these homes until completion, that's not how the program works, we had other places to be. While I was mostly tired of the construction work, waking up and putting on my boots, I wasn't really ready to leave the new friends we had made at each site, both staff and other volunteers.
My first few weeks in Colorado, back during the long hours of training, I wasn't quite sold on the attraction of Colorado. Sure, the mountains in the distance were pretty to look at, but I had also been surrounded by that for my four years in South Korea. Longmont though had a little more appeal, a quaint downtown, free buses, multiple breweries, good restaurants and a few parks, I was cool with living there for a few weeks. The town, the project, the staff, it was all going pretty swell, so I guess it makes sense that our departure came before some were ready. Me being me though, I was ready to go , six weeks and I was growing stir crazy, ready for a new city, new routine and new friends. I often wonder how I'll ever settle down somewhere, but that's not really necessary, is it?
You hike. Well either that or drink beer, but being part of an Americorps NCCC team hiking is usually the more acceptable option of the two. In fact, the first day we arrived in Longmont and met our project sponsor with Habitat for Humanity, we were informed of various nearby trails. I have a few avid outdoorsy people on my team, notably Jack, who would probably go live in the woods if he could, so I knew we would be taking advantage of this free entertainment. The first weekend, we started easy with a trip to McIntosh Lake, a short hike/walk suitable for all abilities, but yet offered spectacular views. It's been awhile since I've been surrounded my Mountains, oh Korea how I miss you so, and thus I was happy to be back to this norm.
After the whirlwind that was round 1 everyone was given a break, 10 days to do with as they pleased. While I would have been perfectly content staying on campus, enjoying the quiet, I was overdue for a holiday at home, after being away for so many. It was nice to be home, I caught up on a lot of sleep and spent time with family, but after a few days I began to grow bored. The longer I sat around 'relaxing' the less I wanted to head back to NCCC, instead I started looking up flights to Europe and Asia, despite knowing that I would go back to Colorado. The day I left campus I decided to change my return flight, combing back on New Years Eve to hang out with a few new pals, rather than scrambling to find plans at home. My flight arrived late, so our plans were also a bit ad hoc, but I was happy to be back in my element. I relished the two days I had on campus with only a few others back, but that quiet quickly disappeared.
After weeks of living with our hundreds of roommates, cooking together, attending training, completing physical training and serving together, it was time to pick our permanent teams for round 1. I had a good idea from early on of who I wanted on my team, and had a handful approach me about the topic. It was hard to narrow down the list, considering who would work well together while not dividing themselves from the rest of the group, what personalities wouldn't clash too hard, and also balancing ages and genders. Not only that but the other TLs would likely overlap wants with my own, but thankfully Earth Unit was made up from so many strong individuals that I didn't doubt my team wouldn't be great.
Aside from all of the lectures, power points, discussions and team builders we did have a few opportunities to get out of the ‘classroom’. Our first weekend together the unit assistance had helped to set up a service day for all of the corps members. It was both a good opportunity to get off campus and also get to know our corps members in a different environment. Water and Fire units were headed downtown to work on flower bed removal and mulching while Earth unit traveled only a few miles from campus to Planes Conservation Center to help them with a few different projects. The specifics of the day weren’t 100 percent clear before we had left campus, but we were prepared for whatever they threw at us.
After weeks of training and countless hours sitting in the conference room, it was finally time for us to apply our skills and knowledge to a real world situation. Team green (the not-so-creative name for all Team Leaders) were signed up for a day of service at the Action Center, located in Lakewood CO. The only information we had before arriving was that we'd be helping food and clothing donations which would then be used to support the homeless community and those struggling to make ends meet from the community. I've done work like this on a few previous occasions, but I was not expecting what waited for me at the Action Center. Although they were forced to shut down their shelter services a few years ago due to lack of funding, the Action Center is doing amazing things with the resources they do have.
Seven years ago I was halfway through my (one and only) year working at Northwestern Mutual, a great company, but not a place I wanted to be stuck for life. Instead I started looking into escape plans. Always in the back of my mind was serving with Americorps and thus it was the first place I turned. I set my sights high and skipped right over the team member application for NCCC and went for team leader. Obviously I was one step ahead of myself, while I was grated an interview, that's where the story ended, until now. I took a seven year detour to teach, live, explore and absolutely fall in love with the other side of the world, but now I'm back. While I'm getting ready for this adventure I decided to share it all with you, so how was it that I came back to the somewhat forgotten dream...
A Year of Service
My life, being anything but predictable, has taken another turn. Rather than moving to Jeju, South Korea - my original plan for Fall '18, I'm going to test drive Denver, CO and its surroundings, an area people just keep telling me "I'd love".