The past two weeks have seen me bending time zones, and breaking into sweats. I've wrestled with details and executed financial decisions. I've commanded volunteers and decided the fate of numerous cash boxes. Pretty exciting stuff!
For the record, I can no longer say that I've not been to
I have to say that
The Giant Monolith from the Christian version of 2001. You know, the one that all the prehistoric people who were people, it's just that haircuts hadn't been invented by God yet.
I was expecting Americorps training to be about what you'd assume. Statistics, Statistics, Statistics, Human Knot, Statistics, Human Knot Statistics. Though it sounds dry, it was pretty interesting. We actually ended up talking about personal perspectives on poverty and delving into the logic behind our ideas of poverty. We talked about Mollie Orshansky, and the poverty threshold (a subject which I'll expand more upon later). It's a pretty outdated, unrealistic, and unfair formula that we use to determine the line that is the cold hard "poverty threshold." But then, I'll come back to that when I've got the actual formula in front of me.
The rest of the time at training was a sea of recirculated air and complimentary drinks. We were fortunate enough to share the hotel with three groups of fine upstanding citizens: Mosquito Killers, Professional Bowlers, and the NCAA Sweet Sixteen rugby players.
On the whole, Mosquito Killers aren't as jolly as you'd think they'd be. I expected a group of jolly Chemists and business men who would reminisce wistfully about the good old days they spent eradicating malaria and saving whole villages from
Mosquito Man-(with a southern drawl and a touch of drool) "Hey, girl. What's up"
Young, Idealistic Girl-"Er. Nothing"
MM-"Listen I'm here on a trip."
YIG-"You don't live here?"
MM-"Hell no, this is a hotel, or did you not know? You gots to pay to stay!"
YIG-"Sorry, I was just kidding"
MM-"Well, see the thing is, that I'm gonna be here all night and I was wondering if you'd like to spend some time with me."
YIG-"I'm not sure, I've got to go to bed."
MM-"I hear that! I like you. You know, I'm not racist, but I really don't like being around anyone who's not white. You're white."
MM-"You know, I could never go to
YIG-"I thought you only liked white people."
MM-"I do, but if I was there them black women would be all over a white guy like me. Probably be good for them."
MM-"I'm married, do you think it's wrong that I'd be getting together with a fine young thing like you."
YIG-"I may look white, but I'm actually an African-American with AIDS."
YIG-"Go before I bleed on you."
Mosquito Man exits, by slumping out the door into his lonely racist world.
He then slunk off, only to return to try his racist.
The Professional Bowlers were a little tamer. They just had the brash confidence that comes with being a professional athlete in the only sport where you're encouraged to smoke and drink while you play.
The rest of the PSO was pretty uneventful. I got to see historic down town. According to the cab driver, they've got buildings that light up at night. So...I guess that’s...exciting.
Well, actually, when I say uneventful, I mean that I witnessed a woman have a seizure in our final training session. It was certainly weird. Since we’d been in a group together all week, she’d warned us that she might have one, but actually witnessing it was terrible. I know, I know. Of course it was terrible. It was just so quiet at first. She dropped her head onto the girl beside her and just started shaking. So quietly at first that I wouldn’t have noticed had I not been at her table. Then as the vocalizations began, everyone began to turn and take notice. The person running the session stopped talking, and the room was draped in an awful silence. See, there’s not much you can really do for someone who is having a seizure. You can’t slap them or talk them out of it; it’s just something that has to come to an end naturally. She had told us not to call a doctor or anything, so there wasn’t anything to do but wait. The speaker tried to go on, but it was clear that no one was going to listen. It’s kind of amazing to be in a room of able bodied, idealistic, talented people and still be completely helpless. No one wanted to say a word for fear that somehow there voice would make things worse. So we sat, frozen and mute with fear. The fear didn’t seem to be for her life. I think we all knew that it would pass. People were praying. I’m not very religious. I’d like to say that they were just praying because they couldn’t think of anything else to do…but I think that’s actually a little too cynical for me. I think that it was their contribution, that it was how they help. The prayer became a kind of muttered counter rhythm to the frantic vocalization of the seizure victim. Just the fact that they were speaking leant a since of order to the situation. It’s pretty amazing to see a room where everyone is focused on one thing, on one idea. “Please, let this woman get through this” was a silent mantra that floated through the room. But everyone was afraid. I think part of the fear was just realizing that there are moments in your life where no matter what you do, you’re going to be helpless. Where no matter your strength or skill, you are powerless. I know it sounds a little depressing, but it’s actually weirdly affirming. We spend so much of our lives pushing on the ocean, just trying to make a difference. It can feel as if you’re drowning. But moments like that make you appreciate the times when you can make a difference. They make you redouble your efforts and steal every opportunity that you can. They teach you patience. They teach you humbleness. And most importantly, they teach you that you can hold someone and when the worst is over, you can wipe someone’s brow and help them stand up again.
The woman eventually came out of it and amazingly sat up and just continued as if nothing had happened. She was a little embarrassed, but that was it.
Afterwards, no one really talked about it. Which I think is good. It doesn’t help very much to lose your self in the moment of chaos.