Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ups and Downs

After a long day at work, I decided I'd update my blog. I realized that in my last post, I don't think I mentioned too much of what I've been doing for fun out here. I do work more than anything else, but I have time for fun. I don't do much after work on the weekdays because (as of right now) I'm drained by the time work ends. On the weekends, our house tries to find fun things to do. The first weekend we were here, we went to Second Saturdays which is an art thing, and then to Hamburger Patties (a bar that does karaoke on Saturdays).

The second weekend we were here, we went to Old Sacramento. We walked around a little bit, then headed to the Eagle Theatre to go watch some silent movies. They were the first silent movies I ever remember watching. The first one was The Playhouse which stars Buster Keaton (for all of you that don't know, Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, KS). I was extremely excited to finally see my first Buster Keaton film, and I loved it! There were a few films afterwards... None of them were as good to me because they didn't have Buster in them. After the movies, we walked along the American River for a bit, then headed back home.

Old Sacramento

Every Saturday morning, I've played ultimate frisbee with the Newman Center at Sacramento State. So this past weekend, I played frisbee with them that morning. Saturday afternoon, I went thrift store shopping with my fellow JV, Nicole, and the two Mercy Volunteers in Sacramento. I bought some nice baggy clothes for work, some of the most comfortable clothes I've ever worn... Then Sunday, the Newman Center had a welcoming BBQ and mass for the volunteers in Sacramento and the new students at Sac State. I really enjoyed the BBQ and mass at the Newman Center. It was nice seeing all of my frisbee friends in a new setting. This past weekend may have been the most relaxing. My room is almost presentable now. So I should have pictures of it in my next blog post.

Sadly, every weekend has to come to an end. Work on Monday wasn't bad, it was just CRAZY busy. We served over 900 lunches (only the 2nd time in at least 7 years that that's happened). The park was crowded, but we survived. I assumed today would be about the same, but we actually only served around 830 lunches. The difference (and what made today much worse than yesterday) is that moods around the park weren't as high spirited today. Within the first hour, there were 2 physical fights and 1 verbal fight that had to be broken up and the guests were kicked out for certain periods of time. Don't worry, no employees got hurt (and no guests got extremely hurt), but I was still shaken. It was the first time I'd seen a fight at the park, and one of them was right in front of me in the lunch ticket line. The first time that a break was offered to me, I jumped on it and went into the office. I sat in the office for around 30 minutes talking to different staff members. One staff member offered to take me home, but I knew if I didn't stick it out, I wouldn't want to return to work. I toughed it out, and the day became much more cheerful. It was still an exhausting day, and I'd say I'm still a bit shaken and will be on edge for a couple days (especially tomorrow since people won't get paid til the 1st).

Today was the first day that I didn't feel 100% safe at the park. It was the first day that I realized that just because there's a "No Violence" rule and no one had broken it around me in 2 weeks, doesn't mean people don't break the rule. Today was the first day that I realized just how difficult the job really is, especially when some of the key workers are on vacation. It's a hard, yet rewarding job, and I think it'll make for the most interesting and rewarding year of my life.

Until next time,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Friendship Park

Hello again!

Now that I've worked at Friendship Park for about a week and a half, there have been many more stories. At the park, you can't let things carry over from day to day because every day is a new day and you never know what good (or bad) things may have happened to change our friends' lives. It's nice to know that every day is a brand new beginning.

As I said in my last post, I have to be at work by 6:45am every Monday-Friday. I'm not a morning person, but I'm adjusting. Most mornings, the staff gets together and prays before beginning the day. We pray for many things, but we always pray for our guests. Then we go to our positions and open the gates (7am) to allow the guests to come in. They rush in, sign up for showers, grab some coffee, get a lunch ticket, gobble down breakfast, and then relax while waiting for lunch. The mornings are always extremely busy. After lunch, the park calms down a lot. The park closes at 2:45pm (M-F), and we have a short staff meeting then leave around 3pm. The 3 of us that work at the park as JVs walk home together and run into many of the guests. This may be the hardest part of the day. It's when we say "hello" and "Have a good night." to the guests we see on our walk home that I remember that I get to return to a large house with food/showers/etc. every afternoon when the park closes, but the guests don't have all of that. Some may have homes, but not enough money for food. Then there's also feeling guilty because I'm no longer at work, so I'm fine with saying hi on the walk, but I no longer want to just sit down and talk to them for hours. I often find the walk home to be the hardest part of the day.

The job is very rewarding though. I've never heard so many "God bless you"s as I hear at the park. Guests don't even know me and see that I'm wearing a green hat so they will say "God bless you" just because I'm trying my hardest to help them. Sure, I also hear more screaming and cursing than I've probably ever heard before, but that's how a lot of the guests know how to show affection, so I try not to let it get to me. Another part of the job that is rewarding is every time I can remember one of the guest's names. We feed around 800 people every day right now. Today we actually fed around 850 people. That's a lot of names to type into the computer and try to remember for the next day. Every time I can catch myself remembering names, I feel rewarded. I remembered one of the guest's names this week, and when I said "Good morning Greg" I saw his face light up. I don't know if other staff members don't remember his name, or if he just didn't expect me to remember it so quickly, but his smile was a grand reward for such a small gesture. I never realized how important and personal names were until these past two weeks.

Well, I should get going. My boxes came in yesterday, so I need to finish unpacking. I'm also reading Paper Moon by Linda Windsor, and I'd like to get some more of that read this afternoon. I'll post some pictures of the house once I'm unpacked. It's a beautiful house. I've been extremely blessed, and I appreciate all of your support (even just the support of reading my updates).

God bless,

Monday, August 15, 2011

Krystal Goes West

It's been a while since I last updated. In that time, a lot has happened.

First, the gracious folks of St. John's and St. Joseph's Catholic Churches in Southeast Kansas helped me greatly surpass my goal for fundraising for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I will never be able to express how much I appreciate their generosity. I could not ask for a better place to have been raised, y'all have made me who I am, and I love it!

Then, I had to quickly pack for my year because I was leaving on August 2. I flew into Reno where I met up with my friend Lisa. On the plane ride, I met a saxophonist and a girl that flew first class back from London to LA like 1 seat away from Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley)! I had almost a week with Lisa in which we climbed C hill in Carson City, went to Lake Tahoe, visited our friend Alex in Grass Valley, CA, and saw a free Gin Blossoms concert on the Santa Cruz boardwalk. It was a great end to my summer. Lisa and her family were extremely hospitable and I cannot thank them enough (as was Alex's family the day we were there).

Next was JVC Orientation in Aptos, CA. There are 85 JVs in the Southwest Region. There are 15 males and 70 females. Orientation was a great time. We got to make friends throughout the region (California and Arizona) and were forced to have deep conversations within our houses.

I'm living with 6 other girls in a beautiful Victorian house in downtown Sacramento. We moved here on Thursday, and had our first day of work today. Over the weekend, we set up a house bank account, visited our work placements, played ultimate frisbee, went to Second Saturdays (an art thing in downtown Sac), attended mass at the cathedral, and went grocery shopping. That doesn't seem like a lot, but it took up the entire weekend. We barely rested.

The first day of work today seemed like it was going to be very overwhelming. I've never really worked with the homeless before and after the first hour or so I just wanted to break down and cry. Then we had a work meeting with all of the new JVs working in the park and our bosses. It was a nice break. Then I got a tour around all of the different facilities of Loaves and Fishes before returning to the park. Upon my return, I chatted with an older man that is leaving on a bus for Florida on Wednesday to move down by his son. He was extremely kind, and I listened to him talk for a couple hours. After chatting with him, I knew I could handle the job. Then I went to lunch with Anne and Nicole (the other JVs). We got back and I worked at the service counter for the rest of the afternoon (until it closed). When it closed 15 minutes before the park closed, I went out and saw a fairly young guy sitting on a bench alone. He looked very lonely, so I decided to go talk to him. This is when I realized how difficult the job really will be. Not only is it difficult because I'm seeing the less fortunate every day, but I'm also meeting people that haven't had others be kind to them in a very long time. It must have been this young man's first time (or one of his first times) at the park because he kept asking why I wanted to talk to him. All I could think to say was that it'd looked like he could use a friend, so I wanted to be there for him as a friend. Sadly, we only had 15 minutes to talk, but when the park closed, he said he often wishes he had a friend to talk to. I assume I'll be seeing him around more often.

This year is going to be challenging, but has already been rewarding. I may even start looking forward to 6:45am (when we have to be at work) very soon.