Coming to an end…

It’s been 4 months since I last blogged! How does the time fly by?? My spring and summer in Asheville has been extremely busy. I apologize for those of you who have been waiting to hear an update. Blogging is always on my to-do list but all to often is pushed down to the bottom week after week.

There are so many updates to give!

In the end of April 6 Southeast YAV sites (Asheville, Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, and Little Rock) came together to retreat on the Gulf Shores of Alabama. It was an amazing time to hang out and relax with other YAVs. The seven of us, including my Site Supervisor, drove 9 hours in a minivan down on a Thursday and came back Sunday. Some serious bonding happened in that car ride…lots of together time:)

 

This spring has been pretty steady at Habitat. We’ve had groups come for week long volunteer builds from all over the country! Starting this spring, Asheville Habitat began construction in a new location in South Asheville called Shiloh. While finishing out the 25 home subdivision in West Asheville, our Construction Staff has split as we moved just a few minutes south of our Administrative offices to start the beginning of three new worksite locations! Caribou Corner, a stand alone infill lot, is the name of the first house we started in this wave of development in Shiloh. Shortly after Caribou Corner broke ground, we started a 5 home mini sub-division called Creekside. In no time at all we will start building in our third construction site in Shiloh called McKinley, a 10 home sub-division. Asheville Habitat starts building a new house every 26 days so we typically have 4-6 homes undergoing construction, all at different stages, at the same time. Talk about planning! It’s great from a volunteer coordination perspective because we can accommodate all levels of volunteer comfort and skill.

In the beginning of July, us Asheville YAVs attended the Wild Goose Festival as our last retreat of the year. Wild Goose is a spiritual and music festival held in Hot Springs, NC (30 minutes away from Asheville). The six of us camped with Selena, our Site Coordinator, as did 3,000 other festival attendees. There were so many people in one camp ground. All-day Friday and Saturday there were numerous lectures you could attend, as well as music performances, and social gatherings that brought people from all over together. The focus of this festival is to bring together individuals who either already engage in social justice work currently or are seeking ways to become more engaged. I attended a variety of discussions from learning about the churches involvement in Mass Incarceration, to Wisdom from the Cistercians for Daily Life, participating in a mid-day Earth-focused Liturgy, and sitting in on a panel on the strengths and struggles of Intersectionality in the Black Church. And to cap it all of, the Indigo Girls headlined on Saturday night!

Situated right on the Big Laurel River, you could cool down in the river, attend Beer & Hymns (put on by the Episcopal Tent), and bring out your camping chair for the evening’s music. Despite my lack of sleep for 4 days, lots of humidity, and the addition of a few new bug bites, I really enjoyed the chance to talk with and “do church” with so many like minded, progressive Christians. I was able to attend a few sessions held by Matthew Fox, a prominent spiritual theologian. I read a lot of Fox while researching my Senior Independent Study at Wooster. It was incredible to hear him speak in person! During his Earth Liturgy, I went up to him and did a combo version of the “Passing of the Peace” and “Namaste” with him!! Definitely freaked out:)

 

Since the start of May, I have been in the awful, soul defeating job-hunting phase of my year. I knew that this search was coming and have been despising it every day, but, being the planned and organized person that I am, I knew that I needed to start ASAP to have something set up for life post July 31. And OMG is Asheville is a tough market. I’m not joking! I applied to two AmeriCorps positions and a variety of other jobs. I would either simply not hear back from an Employer or hear a confirmed “no.” It definitely can start to wear on you.

BUT………

My employment journey has come to an end! I am happy to announce that my time doing service work has not finished! The other week I was offered an AmeriCorps position at Asheville Habitat and accepted! I am ABSOLUTELY THRILLED to continue working with the affiliate that I have come to know and love. I will be working as a Construction Crew Leader with New Home Construction to build 15 new homes in the next fiscal year along with our Construction Manager, 3 Construction Supervisors, 80 CORE volunteers, and close to 2,000 additional volunteers. It will be an incredible experience to take the knowledge I have gained this year working in the office for Construction Services and build on it with the skills I will acquire on the jobsite. When I found out the news, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to this organization and luckily I won’t have to! For another year…

This is my last week as a YAV, living in a 3 bedroom/ 2 bath/ 1,300 sq.ft house with 5 other girls, making $300 a month (minus rent), and having Selena as our Sensei for all of the hardships that doing a YAV year involves. Despite feeling like I’m living on top of everyone, there is no doubt that I am going to miss this community that the 6 of us have created for the past 11 months. I’m looking forward to having my own room, deciding what I (and only I) want to eat each week, and making way more of a paycheck than I ever made this year. But how often do you get to “do life” with 5 other girls and experience all of this together? That’s the one beauty to intentional community, being able to really connect with people when they are at their best and worst. Even though three of the six of us are moving out of Asheville for either school or internships, we will always have a friendship that will be there for the rest of our lives. And I’m so excited to see what that friendship brings as we all move away from our identities as YAVs. 13708434_10157183105980293_122685911862344469_o

Thank you for those who have continued to support me through this year! I will forever be grateful for your financial contributions and prayers that you have given to make this volunteer year possible.

 

THANK YOU!

“I’m not homeless, I live on the Earth”

March’s stipend was the lowest we have received to date. $240.38. And the month of March has 5 weeks this year.

Ouch. This one’s going to be rough.

6 days in, I had $12.00 in my bank account.

March has financially been the most challenging month to date. I barely scraped by the month of February, with $0.38 left in by bank account on February 29th. I was so excited to deposit my March stipend and fatten my checking account but 6 days in to the month, after withdrawing my grocery money for the month, paying my gym membership, buying a tank of gas, getting brunch, a beer, and paying for a cheap $30 student led massage (my own personal reward for making it through the stresses of February) I was already back in the red line territory of my bank account. How did I end up here again?

I have an alarm set up on my bank account that alert’s me when I drop below any given amount. I have mine set to $25. Just about two weeks into the month, every month, I get this email reminder after every purchase I make with my debit card. Talk about a constant stress. I was way more frugal with my money this month than past months, trying to make money or add back to my bank account whenever I could, including dog sitting, and returning items I bought recently and really didn’t need (that really sucked). But every time it gets this rough, I can remind myself, “only 4.5 more months of this.. then you can get a real job and not buy something without feeling incredibly guilty.” Lucky for me, I know I have an end date to my current situation, and have the resources and connections to pull myself out. But how many people  who live under these circumstances by force, not choice, have a ticket out like I do?

Last Friday, instead of our normal reflection, we met up with one of my roommates work sites, Asheville Poverty Initiative, to partake in a Poverty Walk. For about 2 hours, we were led by API’s Director and a Poverty Scholar through the main parts of downtown where those without have access to various resources such as food and housing. Not to be mistaken as a “tour,” we learned about what homelessness in Asheville is like from those who have and are experiencing it first hand, like our Poverty Scholar. All to often, the voices of those accessing these resources are never heard, yet they are the largest fountain of knowledge and wisdom we have. Tapping into their experiences, we were able to hear how organizations in Asheville aiming at providing housing, food, and jobs actually work and if there services are useful or welcoming. The Poverty Scholar that joined us that day wore a shirt that said, “I’m not homeless, I live on the Earth.” Even though he had stayed in shelters at different points in time, their requirements for staying at the shelter (either a hefty fee or religious obligation) are so off putting that he, like many others choose to live outside, prone to the elements. I was incredibly grateful for the chance to talk with our Poverty Scholar and others that we passed by on the street for their stories. This experience helped me destigmatize the notions of homelessness and poverty that I had in my head that revolve around the differentiation between  “us” from “them.”

Our Poverty Scholar’s words stuck with me as we left reflection that day: Aren’t we all just human beings on planet Earth? One home and one planet that we need for our survival? Getting caught up in assumptions and stigmas can only do harm to the dignity of those individuals not in the center. If we all made the time to stop and talk to our neighbors, or those we passed by on the street, then we would learn how connected we all are and how as humans we rely on community to thrive as a species.

Happy reading y’all!

Emily

Winter in the South

Back in Rochester, February is one of the coldest months of the year. In high school I remember getting a snow day on Valentines day and trampling through knee high snow to get to my friends house. In Asheville, you get a foot of snow one weekend and 65 degree weather the next. If you don’t call this climate change than I don’t know what is.

Three weekends ago (January 22-24) a snow storm blew across the Mid-Atlantic region dumping a foot or more of snow in Asheville. Some neighborhoods lost power and the whole city of Asheville freaked out and completely shut down because they couldn’t clear the 12 inches and salt the roads for everyone. Now I know my northern self is being critical because I am used to this weather, but to see a pretty busy city cease all activity (and school for a week) was a bit funny. The good news was that Habitat closed that following Monday and my roommates and I (plus Rita) spent the weekend snowed in, playing outside, playing cards, and watching movies- some quality roommate bonding activities. The bad news was that there were 7 individuals in a space of 1,100 sq.ft. spending about every minute in eye distance from one another. And two cars became stuck in the snow for 4 days… It would have really helped at that point for our house to own at least one shovel and maybe some salt.

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Note Caitlyn’s car on the right…

Back tracking slightly, I haven’t updated my blog since Thanksgiving! Whoops.. that was a long time ago. I went home to Rochester for Christmas and saw my family and friends for a week. A week was way too short of a time frame to be home. It was hard to spend time with my family, do nothing, see my friends, and do holiday activities all in 8 days! It was also sad to not know when I’ll be home again. My guess is that I will be home for some time shortly after my program is over in July but I have no clue for how long or when specifically… ugh, so many things left unknown at this point.

As much as I wished that I could have been home longer, I was happy to get back to Asheville to get back into the swing of things. My second week back we kicked off the New Year with our first Collegiate Challenge group at Habitat! Collegiate Challenge is program through Habitat for Humanity International that provides week long trips for college kids to go on as an alternative spring break. The majority of CC trips occur in March but our first group, Saginaw Valley State University, came for their last week of winter break. With my supervisor still out on maternity leave, it was really cool to lead this trip by myself and get a chance to connect with the students. I’m also really glad that SVSU was the first CC group because they set such a good tone for the rest of CC. They had the best energy and were able to connect to the work they were doing out on the jobsite and the role they play in making home ownership possible for our Partner Families! This was their third year coming to Asheville and my hope is that they continue to come out for many more:) I was also able to spend time with volunteers my own age at work!

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Mid-January, the weekend after Saginaw left, I drove over to Charlotte for my Level-One Certificate Course for Crossfit. A Level-One is a two day program that provides a baseline foundation of coaching and instructing Crossfit in a Crossfit affiliate. Building up to this weekend I had been shadowing at my gym, Beer City, which was such a cool experience. Seeing each class from a coaches standpoint, not just an athlete, opened my eyes so much to the detail and logistics that go into running each class. Not only are you instructing and coaching individuals through particular movements, but also keeping the class on schedule (so that you don’t push into the next class), motivating, and making sure that every athlete is able to perform the workout with whatever barriers there are (scaling options, limited equipment for the varying class size, etc.). I found out a week later, after completing the weekend in Charlotte, that I passed the written test and can now officially coach in an affiliate!!!!! It’s been three weeks that I have been officially coaching (one class a day) and I still can’t believe that all of this is happening. Coaching has been a dream of mine once I found my passion for Olympic Weightlifting and Crossfit three years ago. A few months ago my hope was to find a way to obtain my Level One and start coaching next year, but I would have never imagined that it would all come together at this stage in the game and I am constantly grateful for the experience that Beer City has provided.

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Onto more recent events, two weekends ago my house had our first retreat of the year! The six of us, plus Selena, stayed in a cozy house in Montreat Friday through Sunday. We were joined by Stan Dotson, who has worked a lot with young adults around vocational discernment, faith, and service learning. The weekend was comprised of reflection activities led by Stan, cooking, lounging, and spending time in Montreat. This retreat came at the right time for our house. January is typically the point in any year of service where everyone starts to get out of touch with the work they are doing. I have to admit, this year has been hard. It’s been challenging and rewarding in many ways but definitely not easy. It’s hard to exercise your freedom in a year long program that is based on simple living and intentional community living and building. Not only are you encouraged to build relationships with these five other people that you practically live on top of, but you are also given less than 300$ a month for your expenses.

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They say that January is the hardest month to get through. Everyone has just gone home for the holidays and once back in a non-simple living environment and culture they start to question why they are doing this strange program that encourages individuals to find the discomfort in life and stay present in it, to search for the building of community in a world that is highly individualized and focused on the self. For me, I didn’t start to realize how abnormal my current circumstances are until a week ago. I was sitting in the living room, thinking about the fact that 5.5 months ago I did not know any of these girls. Then it hit me how weird it is that I chose to do a year of simple living, especially coming from a place of privilege where the option to get a well paid, full-time job with health benefits exists. I think it took me so long to have this realization because in order to make the transition to a new city with a new job and new friends, the more I could tell myself this was normal, the easier it was to digest. But this isn’t normal. While there are similar programs out there, only 100 other individuals are going through the same community living, simple living year as structured by the YAV program. And out of all of my options for post-graduation, I chose this! Almost everyone who I have talked to about my program has had the same reaction: “Oh, huh…. interesting. And how did you hear about this program?” In the beginning of the year, when everything was still new and exciting, I didn’t think much about how others saw YAV and the work I was doing in Asheville. It is only recently that I have stopped and sat with the uniqueness of a program like this and realized where the reactions of those I talk to originate from. It is counterculture to seek out community and simplicity in the way YAV promotes. As hard as it is sometimes, I tell myself that I must this has to be making me stronger in some way. Even if it is just the tools to learn open and effective communication with those I live and work with.

That’s all I want to write for now.. I promise it won’t be this long of a gap before my next blog! The springtime will be quite busy for me so hopefully that will translate into more blog posts.

 

The Meaning of Service

Happy Holidays!

In this season of giving, I wanted to “give” you a glimpse of some activities I’ve done in Asheville. I haven’t posted many (if any) photos but here are a few to see:) I spent Thanksgiving with two good friends of mine from school, Maddy and Sam, and most of Sam’s extended family. We cooked, baked, ate, lounged, frisbee golfed, did yoga, practiced headstands, played fooseball, played cards, and relaxed in Chapel Hill for the five days I  spent with Sam’s family. It was the best self-care I could done.

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This time away was the perfect break. I was able to collect myself and recenter my thoughts. During our past two reflections (both before Thanksgiving), Selena spoke with us about the importance of self-care. It’s good for anyone to practice but particularly for those who are posed with ethical, emotional challenges everyday due to their work. During orientation, the YAV staff also broke this down for us because the majority of the placements we were receiving put us in challenging, energy consuming situations daily. One challenge I’ve encountered within these past three months is coming to terms with variance in every YAVs experience, and learning that while my work may differ greatly from other YAVs, it can still be exhausting and demanding at times.

I knew from the get-go that my work at Habitat would not be the same as my housemates. The work I do at Habitat is largely “behind the scenes” work, done at computer and desk. There are times throughout my work- when we have groups of 10-14 individuals who come from out of town for a week long build. These weeks I act as the main contact for these groups, sort of like a hostess. To prepare before the week and throughout I am running between the office, the grocery store, the jobsite, and dinners with our Partner Families, and entirely running the show, with all eyes on me. While these events will come way more frequently throughout the end of winter and early spring, most of the work I do on a day to day basis is at my desk.

For a while it was hard to understand that the work I was doing was comparable to the work other YAVs are doing, that we were all doing “service.” After hearing Selena talk about the ways in which service varies, I began to see my work as meaningful. Many individuals do service or volunteer in some capacity because of the immediate gratification they get, the “I’m a good person because I took the time out my day to help someone else” sort of feeling. They seek out volunteer opportunities that put them in a direct service setting. But all service isn’t like that. The point of service is not to make yourself feel better, but to try to work against our systemically corrupted society that thrives off of the fact that everyone is not on an equal playing field.

I usually resist making strong political statements because I am never looking for an argument or drama (hello 9’s) but if this year has taught me anything, or more so proved my previous thoughts, it is that capitalism sucks. There I said it. It is a system that only survives if some one or group is worse off than others. It lures everyone into wanting more. More money, more things. It sets up people to fail. If you can’t compete in market “x” than too bad for you, guess life is going to be a little bit harder. And once you have been bumped down, it’s hard to fight your way out. Take affordable housing in Asheville for example. The more I have come to know our Partner Families at Habitat, the more I see how easy it can be to loose everything you have. To go from a well off, middle class lifestyle to debt, stress, and not enough support to make it through.

Our system now relies on charity work, using it as a crutch for those who do not have basic needs. Service work can involve doing direct “hand-out” work, but needs to focus more heavily on getting at the real issue. Why are so many people living on the streets or overcrowded houses to begin with? Why are individuals not able to pay rent each month? Their medical bills? Once you start realizing how it all links back to a corruption within our capitalist, American system, you start to shift your eyes to the larger picture- injustices that breathe through our way of life and are the backbone to capitalism. Charity work in many ways perpetuates the problem. We are saying that it is OK to count homeless shelters as shelter for an individual. But it isn’t. They don’t live there long term and cannot rely on a shelter day in and day out to provide a warm, clean bed for them.

What this rant is trying to get at is how I learned that while my work may not be direct service,  where I say, “here is a hot meal” and have temporarily fixed a problem, it is service work against a larger picture injustice, the inability for working class families to provide safe, decent housing for themselves and their families. Habitat does really awesome things! It definitely took me some time to understand how I played a part in the picture, but have now found a small parcel of meaning to my hours behind the desk and hostessing groups.

2 months in

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything- Sorry about that everyone! I had this list of things to do, most of which were time sensitive and this post ended up getting pushed further down the list. Now, finally with some spare time I can do an update.

All-in-all, everything is awesome.

It didn’t necessarily start out this way, especially when my supervisor went on maternity leave, but I really feel like now I have a grip on my day to day schedule.

Here are the 3 main sectors in my life currently (these are not in any particular order):

– Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity

– Beer City Crossfit (just joined yesterday!)

– Friends and Family (in Asheville and not)

Workwise, I’ve really enjoyed taking on more responsibility now that my supervisor is out of the office (her baby arrived October 15th! Same as my sister’s bday so it must be good luck). My first two days it seemed as if everyone waited until my boss left to call/email.. I was switched over as the main contact for volunteers with construction services so, when someone either called or emailed my boss, the automatic reply sent them to me. This meant I was jumping into the middle of a conversation and had to play catch up. But it got better. Even though I have a huge amount of respect and appreciation for my supervisor, taking over the majority of her responsibilities has made me appreciate her even more. It isn’t anything that is over my head, but I’ve had to understand pretty thoroughly what our department does and how to effectively communicate with volunteers. I still get the chance to see my supervisor (and the new baby!) to talk over any questions I have, but it’s always reassuring to know that I can call, text, or email to get direction on specific inquiries and situations.

As for outside of work, I joined Beer City Crossfit Tuesday! Just less than 3 years ago, I joined a crossfit gym in Rochester (Crossfit Boomtown- check it out) after being introduced to the workout regime by a team member on my women’s college ultimate frisbee team. I started it and was hooked. This isn’t meant to be an ad for the already freakishly cultish group, but to say how quickly I realized I wanted it to be an active participant in my life. The other week at our Friday reflection with my site director, we were led through an activity that helped us think and verbalize what we are compassionate about, what our strengths are, and how we can fit the two together. Selena, my site director, read us a quote by this awesome guy named Frederick Buechner who said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  She said that the sweet spot that we want to find (as part of our vocational discernment to the YAV program) is where our passions intersect the needs of the community around us. From our little activity, I came to the conclusion that I have been aware of for at least the past year- I have two passions that I don’t necessarily see intersecting: body care (aka physical health through eating and working out — Crossfit and Olympic weightlifting) and Earth care (how we can care for this super organism called Earth that provides us with life). The body care/ physical activity side has always been a “hobby” of mine, pursued outside of the classroom while Earth care was the main focus of my senior thesis at Wooster and has continued to be at the forefront of my spirituality. I don’t know if the goal of this year or of life is to combine these two but I know that I want both of these to be very present in my life.

Given my admiration for health and weight lifting, I was stressed about what I would do when I moved to Asheville. Gym memberships are not cheap and my stipend is already incredibly low. But the guys at Beer City are great. Not only will my membership be financially feasible, but the community that the owners and coaches (Abby, Jeremy, and Josh) have created is inviting and uplifting. Who knows, maybe I could instruct at a gym part time and find a job somewhere in the sustainability or environmental awareness sector:) That would be my dream life.

There are still so many uncertainties at this point, but I know that I am in a beautiful place that holds the opportunity for protecting and caring for the environment as well as instructing and promoting healthy eating and activity. All I can do is move through the day and see where it all leads.

One last major announcement:

I RECENTLY MET AND SURPASSED MY FUNDRAISING GOAL FOR  THE YEAR ($3,000)!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTED.

If you are still interested in donating to my site, to help sustain it as a site for future YAVs, please go to my “How to Support” tab at the top of the page. I warmly welcome all forms of support, whether it be prayer or financial. It really is comforting to know that people are reading my blog and sending positive thoughts and prayers for myself and my fellow YAVs. Thank you!

Familiar in the Unfamiliar

There are so many things to say.

My mom drove down last Wednesday and Thursday for a 4 day visit with me. She is the best. She drove 14 hours south to drop off a car (her car…that was totally unexpected) and come see Asheville. So now I have a car! woohoo for freedom. We saw so much. Friday I had a CPR/AED/ First Aid training with my housemates at work so my mother and I only had the afternoon to sight see. We drove to the River Arts District which is really close to where I live and work and saw so many artists studios. It was semi frustrating to try and find the strip of studios I saw this past March when I visited Asheville during my spring break but we eventually found it. That evening we drove along the Parkway to the Pisgah Inn for dinner. The views were stunning. Saturday we woke up and headed over to Montreat, a Presbyterian conference center and college (not Presbyterian) 20-30 minutes from my house. Even though we couldn’t get into a lot of the buildings it is a beautiful campus and so we were still able to enjoy walking around. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around the very small but cozy town of Black Mountain. Sunday, my mother and I attended Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church along with two of my roommates, Abby and Caitlyn. The service was amazing. I also really like First Presbyterian Church which we checked out last Sunday but I think I’m going to stick to Grace Covenant for awhile. After the service my mom and I headed over to the Biltmore Estate. I cannot describe how amazing this house, no, estate, is. I had no idea the Biltmore existed until May when a few people from Wooster mentioned it as a place to visit when my parents come up. The place is HUGE. It is the mountain home of the Vanderbilt family (George and his wife Edith) and is the largest private residence in the country. The house itself is 178,926 sq. feet that originally sat on 125,000 acres of land that has since shrunk down to 8,000 acres. So much. So much! We spent the whole afternoon touring the house and gardens and then hitting up the complimentary wine tasting afterwards (spot on). Monday, while I was at work for the day, my mom hit up the Arboretum and Biltmore village and that evening we went to French Broad Chocolate Lounge. I need to go there more often. Everything looks so good. I had the mousse but next time I want the three layer chocolate cake that my mom got. YUM. Overall it was so nice to have my mom come and see parts of Asheville with me. We sat traffic a bit more than I would have liked to but at least we saw the mountains everywhere:)

This week has been the first week I am starting to feel settled in, like actually settled in. Monday was the best day of work so far and I am starting to see my role as an Intern at Habitat’s office. While my supervisor is out on maternity leave, I will taking on more responsibility as far as scheduling and organizing Volunteers goes. I am starting to better understand the strange system of Volunteer Hub and what daily tasks need to be accomplished. I’m glad things are looking up because I was starting to tell myself that this weird, not-knowing-what-is-going-on feeling was going to be my new normal. And that would simply suck.

I think the largest reason as to why I feel more settled (besides work going well) is that things (especially people) are feeling more familiar in this unfamiliar place. This struck me in church this past Sunday while at Grace Covenant. We all walked in, sat down, and moments after the service started, I found myself staring at one of the pastors. Her face looked so familiar, but I had never heard her name before and am pretty sure I had never met her before. Throughout the whole service I couldn’t figure it out but found myself thinking “I know you.”

Here are the notes I quickly scribbled down in my bulletin as I realized this feeling of something being familiar in the unfamiliar:

  • “As I sit in service, I cant help but notice how familiar one of the pastor’s presence feels. I had this same feeling at orientation, looking at many of the YAVA’s thinking, “I know you.” But I don’t…didn’t. I can only interpret this as something good, that I am in the right place. It is such a bizarre but comforting feeling looking at these people I have never met before but feeling like I have a deep connection with them. I noted this not only because I am going through a huge time of transition but also because this has never happened to me before. I am someone who does well with name, facial, or location recognition. But it has always been because I have met that person or been to that place before. This is completely new. The only way I can make sense of it is that this is God’s way of settling me in an comforting me through the people I come into contact with.”

I don’t know if it entirely makes sense but it is the only explanation I have come up with. When I am around those that I have not met but recognize, I have felt instantly welcomed and comforted in their presence. I was surprised how apparent this was to me at orientation. After meeting someone on day 1, when I interacted with them the next day, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had known them for many years. No matter how bizarre it all is, I’m not weirded out at all. On the contrary, it is has been the most welcoming feeling I’ve had since leaving Rochester. My hope is that throughout my time here the unfamiliar becomes the familiar. I want Asheville to feel like home.

It has poured steadily since I woke up this morning (I wrote this Friday afternoon). Allison and I are sitting in Green Sage cafe, both trying to blog, listening to all of the Lord Huron I can possibly get my hands on. If you want to know how I feel about living in Asheville, listen to Lord Huron. This coming Monday (Sept 28) I am seeing Sylvan Esso in concert, a group that just about single-handedly (maybe along with Tswift’s 1989 album) helped me write I.S. this past year. But the fun doesn’t stop there! Tuesday, the 29th, is my roommate Abby’s 22nd birthday and we are going to see Lord Huron! Two back-to-back AMAZING shows at the Orange Peel. Eek!

-Emily

So far so good

Beginning my third week in Asheville and so far so good.

Life on the home front is going well- the house hasn’t burnt down and have there been any major catastrophes so I think we’re on the right foot.  It has been amazing getting to know my five other housemates. Even though we are still settling in to our work environments and the city, we have managed to make our home the ideal retirement community.  Dinner by 6, a little tv or movie watching afterwards, and porch sitting. So much porch sitting! I love it. We are also coming into my second favorite season (second to winter) so porch sitting with a warm blanket, hot cup of hot chocolate, coffee, cider, or donut in hand is simply the best. Asheville is going to be so beautiful in the fall! I’ve been on the Parkway a few times now for either an exploratory drive or hike and it is stunning. No wonder people come to Asheville to retire.

I’ve been easing in to work as well. My supervisor, Stephanie, has done a great job helping me settle in to my work at Habitat. This week I will be learning, and soon taking over, the Volunteer Hub (where Volunteers go to sign up to volunteer for Habitat) and other data entry things regarding the volunteers time at Habitat. I’m getting excited for it all!

I’m also super pumped that a friend of mine from school (cough cough Rita) just moved to Asheville!! I’ll be sharing some photos from our hikes and other adventures together soon!

My mom is coming to town this Thursday so look for a post early next week about her trip here!

 

-Emily

First day on the job with AAHH

Today was my first day at Area Asheville Habitat for Humanity! And it was amazing.

Let me set the scene,

My awesome roommate Jordan agreed to drive me to the office this morning.  Knowing that I had to be there at 8:30, and that it was a 13 minute drive according to Google maps, we left at 8:10, plenty of time to spare and get lost, right? No. Patton Ave is a nightmare. There is a divider between the two directions so you can’t take a left without going further down the road and doing a U-turn at the light. We need to find a better route. But upon arriving 5 minutes late, I was met with the most enthusiastic and welcoming group at AAHH. My supervisor, Stephanie, welcomed me with a homemade peach cobbler that was just pulled out of the oven. HOMEMADE PEACH COBBLER. And it just got better from there. Sitting in the kitchen eating this delicious food I met various AAHH volunteers are workers, all who were so inviting. Stephanie walked me through the training manual and showed me around the office and warehouse where they store construction donations. I sat through two meetings, one of them being the entire staff meeting that is held once a month. I met the majority of the employees and remember all (30) of their names! I hope that come Tuesday, my next day of work, I still remember everyone.

My work title is office intern, but the work that will take up most of my time will be communicating with and scheduling volunteer groups that wish to do a project with AAHH, welcoming them at the construction site, data entry/ coding, front desk assistance, maintaining the volunteer info board at the construction site, and general event room organization. AAHH is very thankful for the volunteers that make their non-profit possible and that ethos is reflected in the inclusiveness of the office setting. It is through this environment that AAHH hopes for their volunteers to take their mission of providing safe, affordable housing to their home communities, keeping the discussion of affordable housing going. I was not aware of the housing shortage in Asheville that is driving up the prices of homes and apartments across the board. The city is landlocked because of the mountains and with such a high demand for housing but low supply, costs are rising. Asheville has a .9% vacancy rate, meaning at any given point, 99.1% of housing is occupied. A healthy vacancy rate is 5-6%, so I was informed. So, it is tough to live in Asheville if you are not making a living wage. My plan of living in Asheville next year and finding full-time employment is looking really promising now…. jk.

-Emily

Orientation at Stony Point Center aka the best week ever

Where to begin…

This past week 85 YAVs, 10 YAVA (YAV alumni) and 5 members of the YAV staff congregated at Stony Point Center in Stony Point, NY for an incredible orientation.

Before this week I had no idea what was in store for us at orientation but upon my arrival, I quickly realized how amazing and transforming this event would be for myself.

When I began to think about this blog post, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information I wanted to share with you all. Here is my best overview of what went on during this past week; I’ll try to keep it short..

Everyday had a similar structure, with worship after breakfast and at the end of the day and various seminars/ speakers interspersed with mealtime. To break up the talks we participated in and reflect on what we were learning, everyone split up into small groups that met at least once a day, led by a YAVA. This allowed us to check in with each other and talk openly about orientation with about 6 or 8 YAVs.

The seminars, while sometimes very long, were so awesome! Props to the YAV staff for bringing in some cool people. Our first day, Jessica Vasquez- Torres came in to do a crossroads seminar about Critical Cultural Competency. We discussed liberation theology, the circle of praxis, the various privileges we all carry and how powerful (and destructive) privilege can be. Jessica had us identify the norms in U.S. society to create an image of what constitutes as the “center” of society, and how that contrasts with the borderlands, or those that are minoritized by not have the identities of the center. Stereotypes or characteristics of the center include white, heteronormative, cis-gendered, English- speaking, U.S. citizen, male, materialism, individualism, capitalism, able- bodied, healthy, upper-class, and Christian. Contrary to these, the borderlands include non-white, community, socialism, lower- class, non-male, disabled, unhealthy, non-English speaking, LGBTQIAA, and non-Christian. As YAVs, we will be positioned on the edge of the center and borderlands, with one foot on each side. The idea is to use our unique position to bring equality to both sides and alleviate the struggles of those in the borderlands while not necessarily bringing them to the center.

Some of the other seminars we went to talked about power, advocacy and faith, interfaith, mission as a partnership, and how to effectively, and respectfully share our story (through our blogs!). My favorite day by far was our day away on Thursday. We were split up into four groups and went either into NYC or New Jersey for a multicultural day; the four locations being Broadway Presbyterian Church in NYC, a mosque located in Queens, a Sikh Gurdwara in NJ, and the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN. My group went to the Sikh Gurdwara in New Jersey and it. was. awesome. Hands down best day ever. We learned about the Sikh faith, participated in a prayer processional, and ate lunch with our hosts. My condensed thoughts -> their religion makes sense to me, is inclusive, advocates for social justice, and practices radical hospitality. If you want to learn more about their amazing faith, I encourage you to  visit the Sikh coalition at http://sikhcoalition.org/. 

Overall, orientation was eye opening and so empowering. We heard from the YAVAs each night about their own YAV stories, and learned about the beauties and challenges of living in an intentional community. Our last day of bible study with Rick Ufford-Chase (co-director of Stony Point) closed with three proclamations to us as YAVs: 1) Accompany those that don’t have what you have 2) Advocate with your power for those that ask for it 3) Risk the resources you have to be with people that are struggling (aka risk your privilege). This message speak volumes to me and how I wish to live out my YAV year- by maintaining respect for those I will be working alongside.

Our jobs as YAVs are not to “fix” the community we are in, but to work as partners with the communities and people we interact with, to accompany them in their various struggles. As a YAV, my goal is to carry myself with respect and awareness of my position as someone from many “center” identities and challenge myself to put myself in uncomfortable positions (not unsafe) that allow me to learn and grow as an individual.

Orientation took me by surprise. I did not expect to meet and grow close with so many awesome people during a single week. While I am so sad to leave the amazing space of Stony Point, I am excited to actually start my YAV year after talking about it for a whole week. Stay tuned to hear about the move into our house in Asheville and my first few days at Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity!!

Emily

New blog site!

Hello everyone!

I have decided to change blog sites because tumblr was too hard for me to navigate and did not allow me to display my YAV story in an easy manner. I learned many things at orientation last week and one of them was how to operate a blog site properly that most effectively tell everyone about my year! I hope wordpress is more functional. Please disregard my old tumblr account (emilyinashevilleyav.tumblr.com) and continue following this one!