Jan 2008

28 January 2008

Well, it’s been a long time coming, I suppose – my “next” e-mail update. And as I continue to move from place to place, across the country, my list of recipients continues to grow and change. As I’ve been getting this mailing (well, the sequence) around, I’ve worked to update my e-mail address list, so especially this time, but as always, if you’re receiving this “update” for the first time, I welcome you, and if you don’t want to be on the list any more (or I accidentally put you back on), just let me know – definitely no hard feelings. (And also, if I have a bad, old, or infrequently used e-mail that I should update, please let me know that, too.)

As I write this in January, I realize some of you probably have no idea what I’m up to, since when I wrote my last update I was starting a new position that lasted only until Thanksgiving. Well, in short form, I’m continuing on my work with LVC, doing various things to assist the recruitment and application/matching process. I have the same boss, but now I’m in the main office and lacking my other recruiters (you’ll read a lot about them to come) working on the same position (though Phil is here for another month or so). I’m living in DC now until Easter (the end of March), and which time I’ll take a long (distance), short (length of time) to Africa, where I’ll be spending a week helping out @ an orphanage in Zambia! (If you want more details on that or info on how to support me financially, let me know.) After all that my plans are still definitely up in the air, though I’m looking at summer options and possibly an internship for the fall, or else (just) the possibility of getting a job!

It looks like last time I kind of left you hanging as I was starting my job with LVC and thinking I’d share a little bit about thoughts about my time in Milwaukee. It’s been good to do some processing this fall, especially in the context of talking with current volunteers and those who were in other houses previously about their struggles and experiences. I definitely believe in the values and ideals of LVC, even though all the struggles of doing it. I loved my job – even when I didn’t know if I could make it through another day – and know I will always continue working for justice and peace in this world in some way. I enjoyed the joys and challenges of living in community and would love to do it forever, though I think living with others whose ideas that lie closer to mine about what that means would make it even more rewarding and successful. I definitely will continue to seek to live a “simple” and sustainable life and challenge myself to do even more than I’m doing now. And I enjoyed the spiritual exploration I did while in Milwaukee and on retreats, and I’m still very much on a spiritual journey currently in my life.

And in addition to the more general comments, some random things (in a random order) I really loved about my LVC year:
Being able to dry my clothes on a clothesline.
Biking to work every day (except 6 weeks in the winter) and almost everywhere else (within reason) I wanted to go. (And coupled with that) not owning a car and still feeling very mobile and able to travel places I was desiring to go.
Taking the initiative to try new things like curling and rugby.
Two things I’ll definitely own when I next have the chance: an air popper and a waffle iron.

LVC orientation as a pseudo staff member was pretty amazing. I didn’t feel like I had all the pressure of meeting my new housemates or the nerves of starting some “new life” for a year, so I was able to focus on just meeting people, making connections and networking, and enjoying the sessions and what I was able to get out of them on a second time through as a post-LVC volunteer year. I feel like I was really able to hang out a lot and get to know both the LVC staff members (who are really great, though unfortunately many spread out to different places across the country) and current volunteers, some of who I’ve been able to keep in touch with a bit since then. One event we had was a “simplicity fair,” and I was able to talk about “urban biking,” which I really loved sharing about. I think I really encouraged many who were on the fence to give it a try, and I’ve heard good stories of those who benefited from my tips!

As orientation was finishing up, my brother, Adam, was able to join me for a few days before I actually started work, and that was a lot of fun. Since I was going to be around for some more weeks, able to go where I wanted to on my own, I pretty much just let Adam dictate where we went, and that ended up being a lot of fun. We went both to the National Cathedral and some huge basilica @ Catholic University. We also went to the National Postal Museum (he suggested it, but I highly agreed), and we made it up to the top of the Washington Monument, too, somewhere he had never been (though I had gone up there about 5 years ago). We also got to the Museum of African Art, saw a free show @ the Kennedy Center, and walked @ night from the Lincoln Memorial to the WWII Memorial, the later of which I accidentally stepped into (the short story: it was dark, and I thought it was stone). Then it was time for him to go and for me to start work!

I’ll pick up there next time. While I plan on sharing a few websites I’ve enjoyed lately (and as always, remember my blog @ ericbjorlin.wordpress.com, which I’ve done better with recently) and other tidbits, I wanted to share with you some pictures from the past months, too, since I now have the pleasure of owning a digital camera (I got it for my birthday last May – thanks Mom and Dad!). This time I’ve attached a pic of Adam and I @ camp, the recruiting crew (on our last day together, actually – it goes Phil, Kirstin, Kelly, me), and this amazing shirt I got just before I left on my trip!

Until next time,

30 January 2008

So at work, one thing we do is send each other little weekly e-mail check-ins (a great way to stay in touch with people all over the country) that I suppose could be nice ways to stay in touch with you, but instead of posting all of those, I’ll just let them help me get the right weeks and weekends things happened (as I left my 2007 calendar in Ohio), though I do think I do pretty well on my own. (And the updates for work aren’t terribly detailed anyway, so don’t think I’m cheating!)

That first week working in the office was only 3 days, which involved a lot of figuring out what exactly we needed to do to create a successful trip and just getting acquainted with our regions and laying the groundwork for the trip. Those first few weeks involved a good amount of meetings to discuss things like tabling (at career fairs, in student centers, etc.), our anti-racism work in relation to recruiting, our priorities and strategies for recruiting, and general staff meetings. I also had to write my “elevator talk,” how I might convey LVC in 3 minutes (the time you’re on an elevator) and my longer “sermon” (which you can read the two versions of here: https://ericbjorlin.wordpress.com/2007/10/19/my-lvc-manifesto/). And just so you know names, my recruiting boss is/was Kelly, and the two other short-term recruiters were Phil (who I had never met) and Kirstin (who lived in Chicago during LVC, so I knew her somewhat/pretty well prior to our co-workering).

That first “real” weekend in DC was a lot of fun. We (the STRs – we did a lot together) went to some jazz in the park Friday night with new volunteers and the local DC volunteer potluck orientation Sunday night, both of which were great. But the highlight of that weekend (and definitely on of the whole fall) was a Saturday night concert for the band The Format, which I went to with Kirstin (we couldn’t talk Phil in to going). It was a long night, as they didn’t actually go on until about 11:45, having 4 opening bands, but it was amazing nonetheless.

The logistical planning of the trip was actually quite fun for me. I loved thinking about all the ways I could arrange the schools and thinking about what schools worked best on which days and in which order. Figuring out the travel and schedule was a bit like trying to make the most of my time running errands on a weekend, but blown up to an incredible scale. It was pretty invigorating, I must say. And once I got past the whole “talking on the phone to people I didn’t know” thing, setting up appointments went pretty smoothly (though definitely not easily). I couldn’t be everywhere at once, but it was fun to figure out the most efficient and beneficial trip possible. I don’t know if I ended up doing that, but I think I certainly came close!

The next weekend was Labor Day, so I used the extra day as reason and ability to visit my grandparents and other family north of Baltimore. I had a great time there picking berries; attending the MD State Fair (my first time, at least that I remember), where I helped them enter flowers and watched some horse racing; and seeing a minor league baseball game. The weekend ended badly, though, as a bad sickness came upon me (the doctor never did say exactly what it was) that continued through much of the week, causing me to miss some time at work, sleep a lot, and figure out which doctor I would be using.

In honor of the recovery I needed from being sick, why don’t we end here to give you whatever recovery you need before my next e-mail!

And before I go, I’d like to invite you to “Pick the Winners” of the Oscars with me in an online competition. Go to the Oscars website (http://predict.oscar.go.com/predict/frontpage)and sign in or sign up to sign in for the “Predict the Winners” game. (Your name and password would be the same one you might use on any of the following, if you have them: Disney.com, ABCNEWS.com, ABC.com, ESPN.com, DisneyShopping.com, Go.com, Movies.com, FamilyFun.com). When it asks you to pick a group name, search for “Anyone, Really” and the password is “movies.” I hope to see a lot of you there! (And it’s nice to put your name in the entry name in some way so we all know who is who. :) )

1 February 2008

So weekend post-sickness I still wasn’t 100%, but have I ever let that keep me down? (I think pretty much as long as I’m over 50%, I’ll go ahead and do exactly what I want to do.) We (the short-term recruiters) had some people over for dinner a few times and went to a birthday BBQ, and I joined various people at a local farmer’s market and a free concert for this guy Ben Kweller (who I had never heard of before but have since found quite amazing). That Sunday was another highlight of my fall in DC, as Kirstin and I went on this event called the DC Unity walk, working toward religious tolerance, at which I randomly met my friend Kate (from college) who was in town to see her dad and coincidently came across the walk and joined up with us. And there was much rejoicing.

Work continued each week, but there really aren’t too many other stories to share about it. I had a lot of fun in the side office with Kirstin and Phil, and their presence made the job itself that much more enjoyable. But on to the next weekend – do I ever sit still? Certainly not when there are people to do fun things with! – Kirstin and I went to a baseball game Friday night that was rain delayed and went into extra innings, though we left before the final out, I must say, partly because Saturday we got up earlier than one might otherwise get up on a Saturday to attend an Iraq war protest march. There were many people, and it was a nice way to spend a few hours of my weekend. That was also the weekend I attended my first Friends/Quaker meeting, something I’ve done off and on since then while in DC (and actually when I was home for Thanksgiving, too).

The weekend before my last week in the office was somewhat more low key than others, having a quieter night with the STRs Friday night (though I do remember it did include skipping down the sidewalk at one point…). Saturday I spent a bit on my own before an evening out on the town, actually going to three different places before the night was over (starting the evening with 25 cent beers!). Sunday I caught most of a video simulcast of La Boheme next to the Washington Monument before heading out to have dinner with a camp friend I hadn’t seen for years!

(This e-mail is maybe a little long, so if you need to, save the rest for tomorrow – it’s the weekend, after all.)

Here’s a portion of what I sent out regarding my last week in the office before the trip:
What do I have to do this week? I guess it would be helpful to make a list, right? Let’s see…
Revise “sermon” to incorporate more/some “Jesus” and cut “Debbie Downer” (among other aspects)
Pull together things for my longer info sessions/class presentations
Send out e-mails telling people where I’ll be available when @ various campuses
Make all the calls I still need to make, and try to catch the people who haven’t called me back yet
Activate my LVC credit card
2:00 meeting today w/ recruitment team to probably discuss money and other “on the road” things
Take back all my library books before I leave
Send out weekly e-mail updates (done!)

I must have gotten all that done, right (though I actually got someone to take my library books back for me)?

The weekend before the trip began was a bit hectic because not only was I putting the finishing touches on what I needed to do before I left in order to have a successful trip, I also wanted to spend time with others since I wouldn’t be seeing them for another 5 weeks! Friday night, after a day of fixing up loose ends and a bit of a send off from Kelly, the STRs went to a dinner for some free food, and then Phil (who had his car already and had to leave early Sat. morning and still had plenty to do) dropped Kirstin and I of for a fun gathering – well, actually it was a toga party – to commemorate (at least partly) our departure, which was a great deal of fun (I have many pictures, but they surely won’t be seeing the light of day any time soon :) ). Saturday was also busy, with the afternoon spent preparing by packing and printing off lots of maps and then the evening with Kelly, Jami (Kelly’s partner), Kirstin, and I taking in a DC United soccer game (my first pro soccer game – how fun!) @ RFK stadium. After that was over, Kirstin and I returned to the office to do some more work, but after a few hours I decided I had done enough in preparation and allowed myself to attend one more party before my journey. Sunday, after one last Friends meeting before my journey, I picked up my car and loaded up, went to this arts and craft show called Crafty Bastards where I got a nice “I write” pin and an AMAZING shirt that I love to wear (you saw the picture), dropped off my day’s partner in crime, and headed out!

Since my trip was so intense and jam packed, I feel (as I begin to write about it) I could get pretty long winded about it (though you probably say I’m that way on everything, right?), so I’ll try not to bore you too much. :)

I got on the road much later than I had intended that Sunday, having to drive to Columbus Ohio for the night (about an 8 hour undertaking). My departure time caused me to arrive around midnight, but – luckily and sadly, both – the father of my planned host had unexpectedly passed away the day before, so I was put up in a hotel for the evening. My first two days were intensely packed, with Monday containing Denison University in the morning and a volunteer fair @ Dayton in the evening, and Tuesday’s day @ Wittenberg and the evening @ a Xavier fair. The rest of the week wasn’t as intense, spending Wednesday and Thursday in Kentucky @ Kentucky State and Berea College and Friday up in Munice, IN @ Ball State before making the trek to NW Ohio to have a nice 24 or so hours @ my parents’ house, printing out more maps and taking a little breather from the road before another 4 weeks on the road. (Two of these nights I stayed w/ families who had been hosts for me during my time at camp, one night w/ a friend from HS, and another with a former LVC short-term recruiter I had never met.)

I’ll let you take a little breather, too, but not until sharing this fun little website Jason just told me about when I was in Ohio over Christmas (which then got a little shout out in the movie Juno, a movie you have to see, whether you already have or not). At http://www.mcsweeneys.net you can find short works of fiction in a variety of forms and lots of other stuff I have yet to explore myself. It’s good times. And you should be reading the comics “Get Fuzzy” and “Pearls Before Swine” if you’re not already (both available online, too).

Adios for now — eric


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