30 July 2009

Columbia: Hospitality

I arrived in Columbia Monday evening and was greeted with squeals, hugs, and lots of food. My freshman year roommate, Ann Tipton (affectionately known as "Tip") and her family were waiting to share with me a delicious homemade dinner and then a tour of the Columbia area, highlighting Forest Acres, Five Points, downtown and USC, the Capitol building, and some art by Blue Sky. Later that evening, Tip showed me her debutante dress, and then we talked until we fell asleep.

I slept in while she went to work the next day, and my friend, Jay, picked me up for lunch. We ate at Hooligan's, which had been highlighted the previous night, then drove to a Marble Slab for dessert before meeting Tip back at her house to chat and play with her dog for a little while. All too soon, it was time for Jay to go to work and for me to meet my Camdenite friend, Morgan, downtown at a coffee shop called Cool Beans. After the cashier/barista helped me via Twenty Questions to decide on ordering a mocha frappe and I enjoyed said beverage, Morgan and I parted, and I went to Miyo's restaurant to join Tip and her family for her mother's birthday dinner. They had many vegetarian options.

We could not finish our food there, so, of course, we went to Baskin-Robbins' $1 Scoop Night for dessert. Yes, that's right - I had lots of ice cream that day. We went back to their house and everyone - Tip, her parents, her sister, her sister's boyfriend, and I - played Scattergories and Apples to Apples before I told everyone goodbye. Tip and I stayed up late talking again, and then I slept as they all went to work in the morning again. I left mid-morning, leaving their poodle, Philippe, to hold down the fort.

I greatly enjoyed my second trip (and the first during which I'd actually spent any time there - I went to USC on a college tour during Bridges this summer) to Cola. I found the city to be charming and fairly easily navigable; plus, everyone was just so NICE to me there! Once again, I didn't get to visit everyone, but I am definitely glad that I did get to spend time with some of my favorite people before I leave them for three months. (In my defense, Morgan is actually leaving the country, too, and for longer. So I'm not so bad, right?)

20 July 2009

Greenville: Familiarity

In one of my new favorite books, Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert relates an anecdote of being told that every city has a word - you know, that one adjective, noun, or verb that just seems to fit the city, everyone in it, and everything about it. She then searches for her own word. I cannot yet narrow myself down to one; however, I have decided that I will try to label my trip chapters as such. For each portion of this "Farewell Tour," as my father has taken to calling my week-plus excursion, I will try to come up with a word. As the first example, for Greenville, I chose familiarity, because, really, it's been my physical home for the last year more than anywhere else.

I began my road trip with the arrival at my brother's abode. Whilst there, I took a nap, met his new roommate, and made some CDs for my ensuing trip. I then traveled to the summer residence and internship homebase of Melissa, my RA/Big Sister. I dropped off my things and went to a movie with a fellow Bridges counselor, John Odell. I then returned to Melissa's to find that a mutual friend from the Atlanta area, Kelley, was in town visiting some other friends and had stopped by to visit us. We chatted and laughed for a while and mingled with Melissa's housemates; then, Kelley left, and we went to bed. In the morning, Melissa had early morning duties while I slept in, got myself ready, and then met her at the office. I ran some errands, met my brother again, and then spent some time with another former counselor, Shira, before heading out to Cola.

All in all, my time in Greenville went by quickly, as I fear that my time at each of my stops will, but I enjoyed it very much. I could have spent days more there and seen others still employed at the university and such, but my schedule did not permit for that - believe it or not, I do want to spend some time at home, in my own bed, before I leave for three months. Anyway, I got to see some great friends and tie up some loose ends before my departure. I will miss the city; I look forward to my return in the winter!


Usually, the family beach trip signifies a break in my summer, the time at which I stop (or at least slow down) on my camp-going and friend-seeing and head home to West Virginia to relax for a few weeks (or start soccer practice) and spend some time with family and hometown friends before school starts. This year, however, is a bit different.

I will not be going to school this fall in West Virginia, nor South Carolina - August 18, I will depart to attend SuDa, a. k. a. Soochow Daxue, a. k. a. Suzhou University for a semester. I will be gone until the 23rd of November; as such, I am now embarking upon what my father likes to call my "Farewell Tour."

Instead of riding back home from the beach with my parents, I caught a ride with my brother back to my college town to visit some college friends. This evening, I am departing to see my freshman year roommate and her family; Wednesday, I will begin to slowly make my way back up north, stopping in various cities and towns along the way to cram into about five days as many visits as I possibly can. Even though I return to the States around Thanksgiving, I won't be down South until spring term begins in January, so this is my last chance to see some good friends for six months or so.

I will try to update as much as I can on my activities and whereabouts for the next week. Until then - please keep looking for my computer! I'd love to enhance these posts with some photos. ;)

K-a-y-a-k is a palindrome...

I started off this summer with a kayaking trip through a marsh, and the ensuing weeks did not seem to hold very much good luck for me. Thursday, in an attempt to change my cosmic karma, I went kayaking through a new marsh.

My brother had been toying with the idea since we had arrived at the beach a few days earlier, but he had yet to decide on a date and time for sure. Thursday morning, I was abruptly awoken and asked if I wanted to go - upon my agreement, I got ready in about thirteen minutes and reported to the sound.

As we set out, I noticed some key differences from the last time that I was in a similar situation: a.) I could not steer with my feet; b.) I had no snacks. Of course, many things struck me as familiar, as well, as I strained to remember how to hold the oar, what kind of stroke to make in the water, and how to sit properly in the vessel.

We ended up not actually making it very far in the marsh, as it was low tide. However, it was fun and a good workout, and we saw some interesting birds and fish. And as far as the change in luck theory: so far, so good. (Knock on wood!)

19 July 2009

Now that we've come to the end of the road...

Still, I can't let go.

More than a full week after the official end of Bridges 2009, I still find myself wondering why Bree is not next door, why I'm not eating my meals in the dining hall, why I have a sudden affinity for high school kids...

[I apologize for the delay in this entry - please see my previous blog for an explanation. Hopefully, I will be getting a new computer soon.]

The last week of Bridges was fantastic. We finished up class, cried, wrote notes to each other, went to Atlanta all day, had a banquet, cried, presented what we'd learned over the past four weeks, participated in a talent show, packed, had crazy hall parties, gave out paper plate awards in the parlors, and cried.

I wish that I could better encapsulate the high level of emotion and busy-ness that I felt during the final days of the program. Because I am not so eloquent and I have a pronounced lack of pictures for the time being, know this:

The four weeks that I spent with the Bridges students (and even the week with counselors beforehand) were some of the best weeks of my life. Bridges to a Brighter Future 2009 was absolutely phenomenal, difficult, and amazing. I love dearly every single person involved in the program, and Bridges will always hold a special place in my heart! Now that it is over...


14 July 2009

Breakin[g] News

So, my computer has been stolen. I believe that it happened Saturday night, somewhere in between my moving out of the dorms and me meeting my brother to come to the beach. A police report has been filed, but I don't expect my laptop, my iPod, or my library book to be recovered. Hence, there will be no pictures for the remainder of my Bridges blog posts wrapping things up.

On the bright side, I do have a few photos backed up that I had planned to give to Dean to make the end of the year slideshow - not all summer's worth, but a few. Many of the rest of my photos are on my external hard drive. I just cleaned off my jump drive, so nearly all of my recent documents are gone; however, Time Machine should be able to help with some document recovery, and more than half of my music is gone as the newer songs were only on my laptop, not my home computer or CDs or anything.

Speaking of stealing, I copied this post title from fellow Free Spirit Laura Nelson. Isn't it clever?

It looks as if I will be using my paycheck to purchase some new electronics...hey, at least I get a student discount. =p

Stay tuned for the Bridges finale entry!

06 July 2009

A fun-filled, festive holiday weekend

This might just be the best July 4th holiday weekend that I've had in recent memory.

We started the weekend with Friday evening's Jazz Café: lots of black, snaps rather than claps, Olive Garden catering, a student poetry slam, and the highlight of the evening, the Bridges 2009 dance.Everything went wonderfully and surprisingly well that night, all the way until the end of the dance, at which point everyone broke down to Vitamin C's "Graduation Song" and then lapsed into sad, angsty karaoke...and even that was, overall, a good time! The food was fabulous, and I very much enjoyed listening to the original poems. Everybody looked great for the evening - especially the counselors. ;) I must say that dancing from a chaperone point of view consisted of much more busting into crowds and dancing while walking than ever being in a circle, with a partner, or just taking a break from the heels, but I still manged to have a great time with those students and even the other counselors. It was upon our return from the evening when I discovered the infamous prank (see previous entry.)

Saturday, Independence Day, was a real treat. It is a Bridges tradition to travel to Clemson's Youth Learning Institute grounds at Pinnacle Falls, North Carolina to celebrate the Fourth of July, and this year was no different. After getting to sleep in for a couple of extra hours after all of the activity the night before, we headed off in the vans. The weather for the day was perfect - it wasn't too hot or humid, but it stayed sunny. Once we all arrived at the grounds, after many singalongs and naps, we had many options: playing football, soccer, volleyball, or badminton; body art and facepaint; slip 'n' slide; crafts; hiking; swimming in the pond; and just hanging out. I started out with the slip 'n' slide, moved to the pond to clean off, and then took a hike to a beautiful waterfall (the namesake of the site) before the grill masters were ready for dinner around 5:00.

After a delicious grilled dinner and a bit more playing around in the last few moments of light, we attempted to gather everyone for the "kickball final," a.k.a. the biggest water fight in recent history. I'm just going to go out on a limb and call a victory for the counselors, but I'm biased. Once we finally calmed down, ice cream was served, and then we lit sparklers and sang patriotic songs to close out the evening. There was some great girl talk on our van ride home.

We returned around 10:30 yesterday evening for an 11:00 In Rooms call - just enough time for one of my girls to do my make-up: a "runway look," she called it; I was instructed to never wear it out. So, with my overdone blue eye make-up, bathing suit top, and smelly body due to lack of time for a shower, what did I do an hour or so later? Yes, that's right: I went out to get fireworks.

John, Alyssa, Shira, Phil, and I left (after making sure that enough counselors were on the halls, of course) to go to the ATM and actually buy the fireworks, for which we ended up bargaining. We came back, picked up Desmond, and then went to a parking lot to light them. Keep in mind that this was my first time EVER setting off, rather than watching, fireworks...probably because it's illegal in West Virginia. I remember going to my uncle's house when I was younger and watching him set them off in his backyard...I digress. Anyway, I lit my first fireworks last night, and it was great fun.

The adventure did not stop there: the six of us then decided to watch a movie, as the opportunity presented itself when we viewed the rental selection in John's car. First, we needed showers, though, and as we trickled into my room slowly, we copied the idea of some students and played hide and seek in my room and the bathroom, eventually waking Bree. Henceforth, the seven of us started the movie in the middle of the night, fell asleep, and left a few hours later, getting a meager amount of sleep for a long Sunday.

04 July 2009

The prankiest of all pranks

Let me preface this post with a story about last night: after verbally warning two of the girls in my hall group against pushing sweatpants against the bottom of the door to block the light and thus attempt to evade the Lights Out call, they clearly disobeyed me by throwing them down and letting just enough gray, cotton fabric peek out. I grabbed Bree, and we pulled the sweatpants out from under the door on our side. Their lights went out.

So, when I returned to my room this evening after a long day in heels, longing only to put on comfortable flip-flops, I found not only said flops to be missing but also my ENTIRE BED, save the frame; my computer, printer, TV, DVD player, phones, jewelry, chairs, etc. This occurred after Lights Out, but, for some reason, lots of counselors, a few straggling students, and even Mrs. Swartz, whom I have never seen anywhere in the dorms other than for a meeting, were on the hall, yet this didn't seem to be an issue. I turned around, walked out of my doorway, and simply asked,

"Where's my stuff?"

I was met with faux confusion - I immediately knew, even before asking, that everyone else knew something that I didn't. I was sure that there had not been a robbery, as there were no signs of tampering, Bree's stuff was still in the next room, and my ENTIRE BED was gone. It was too random an assortment of things to have been stolen.

While all of the counselors played dumb, students who were supposed to be sleeping wandered out of their rooms. Casey tried to play serious and "called FUPO," who instructed her to "ask the students." My things were found in the empty room on the hall; it was at this time that I finally broke Casey and saved a couple of innocent, unknowing girls from loss of privileges. Everything then came to light: this had all been revenge for the sweatpants. Mrs. Swartz reminded me, "They wouldn't prank you unless they really love you."

Later, I literally collapsed on the floor laughing when I returned to my room and saw the sweatpants right where I had left them last night.

Week 3

As Week 3 of Bridges to a Brighter Future comes to a close, I am forced to realize that our time together is nearly through. It's hard to believe that so much has happened in just 21 days...

This week began the karaoke competition which, in my humble opinion, was rigged. Bree and I watched "He's Just Not that into You" on Monday, which was fabulous. Also, performance poet Glenis Redmond (see blog title link) came to teach the students poetry for a few days. Her visit included a spectacular performance of her own at Tuesday's morning assembly and culminated with an impressive student poetry presentation before Tuesday evening's Life Skills workshop sessions.

Wednesday was field trip day: the Nus went to Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest, the Mus and Lambdas traveled to Charleston to see College of Charleston and Charleston School of Law, and I took the day off to sleep in and run some errands. Wednesday evening, I taught dance by myself to the Nus, which turned out better than I'd expected.

Speaking of dance - the talent show is coming up! Tuesday evening, our dance class along with other classes and individuals will perform. I'm so excited to watch them! I'll be sure to post about it.

Yesterday was a typical class day, as was today, until this evening. After students' electives, we kicked off the busiest weekend of Bridges - watch for me to recap it all Sunday night.