So here it is, the very last installment of my gap year blog! I wanted to update all of you on what I’ve been up to since I got home, and my plans for the future.
During the last four and a half months, I’ve spent time visiting with family and friends, especially during the Fourth of July weekend with my cousins up at our camp. My mom and I also went down to Bryn Mawr College for her 25th reunion, and it was really cool to be there with the alumnae when I’ll be a student myself soon.
Otherwise, I’ve basically been working to earn back some of the money I spent during my ten months’ traveling. I managed to get my first job almost as soon as I got home: working in the after school program at a local elementary school. We supervised snack and recess and ran classes for about 70 kids from 2:50 to 5:30 every day. Some of my favorite classes to assist with were Nature Explorers (walking and playing in the woods near the school), Books and Cooks (reading a picture book and then making the food in it), and Water Balloons (as a special treat at the end of the year)! I mostly worked with the kindergarten to second grade group (5-8 year olds), and although it was definitely exhausting I really enjoyed it.
At the same time, I was working part-time at our church, St. Paul's Cathedral. My main job was redesigning their website, but towards the end of the summer I also spent two weeks as a full-time tech consultant! I used a very user-friendly website builder (Weebly) so that it will be easy for the Cathedral staff to edit in the future, and we were really pleased with the result. You can check it out at http://stpaulscathedralvt.org if you're interested!
When the school year ended in mid-June, I had one week off to concentrate on babysitting and gardening/yardwork -- and even found time to build another website, this time for my next-door neighbor's nonprofit (http://kenya-help.org). And then I started my next job! I had applied to be a counselor at Rock Point Summer Camp, which I have extremely fond memories of from going to family camp every summer when I was little (until I was about ten, it was my favorite place on earth). I had also applied to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, as a member of one of their Community Crews, to do conservation and construction work in natural parks. Unfortunately the two conflicted, and when I was offered both I decided to accept the VYCC, but it was an extremely hard decision. Even though I loved my experience with the VYCC it still makes me sad that I had to turn down Rock Point.
I started work on June 20th, and worked full time for four weeks in Wheeler Nature Park in South Burlington. I hadn’t even known the park existed, so it was really cool to find such a large area complete with hills, fields, forest, and wetlands so close to our house. We were a crew of five: Beth from Montpelier, Kai from Stowe, Isaac from Georgia, Wayne from Williston, and me. Our crew leaders were Hunter and Stephanie, both recent college graduates. We met at 7:45 in South Burlington every day, drove our van and trailer to the park, and worked for seven hours. During the four weeks, we built two boardwalks (one 56 feet, the other 32), two rock water-bars (boulders set into the path at an angle to divert water from the trail surface), and a 24-foot bridge. There were no end of logistical problems to solve, like how to get the 14-foot boards for the bridge to the bridge site, how to raise the boardwalk high enough off the lowest part of the muddy trail, and how to transport a wheelbarrow full of crushed rock to the bridge site when the wheelbarrow’s tire was flat! We learned how to use dozens of tools, from rock bars (to lever boulders in and out of holes and roll them across ground), double jacks (to crush rocks into smaller pieces to use as gravel), hazel hoes and the McCleod (good for digging and tamping down soil), and a string line with a bubble level (to check the levelness of an entire bridge or boardwalk), not to mention many different types of drills, impact drivers, wrenches, and saws.
The other hour in our seven-hour day was spent in WoRD (writing, reading, and discussion). We each got a WoRD Book to keep, an amazing resource full of articles on every topic from the death penalty and racism to ethics and environmentalism. Every issue was presented from at least two sides, and equipped with discussion questions and activities. We’d read an entry out loud, taking turns reading paragraphs, then discuss for twenty minutes and write in our personal journals for another twenty. It was really cool that the mission of VYCC is to work out our minds as well as our bodies, and in our thoughtful, considerate, diverse group, our discussions were fun and rewarding.
On August 2nd, Lisa, my friend from Karlsruhe, Germany, arrived to spend ten days in Burlington! It was her first time in the U.S., and we were so happy to see each other again after eight months! We had a whirlwind ten days of tourist activities and just hanging out together (and reading the new Harry Potter book – the first thing we did when she got here was buy it!). Highlights included a tour of downtown Burlington with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, renting a sailboat with my parents at the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center one evening, going up to Montreal for the day, spending the weekend at our camp in Alburgh, and going to a performance of Peter Pan by the Very Merry Theatre teen tour in Charlotte.
On August 12th Lisa took a bus down to New York City where she was meeting another friend, and my family drove up to La Minerve, Quebec to finish those canoes we started last year with Peter and Ali. While I was writing this we were on the way back home, with two finished canoes on the tops of our cars! It took six days of hard work to get there, though, and I actually didn’t even see the lake or go outside for more than ten minutes the whole time we were there! When we first arrived, Dad and Lucas built two stands (out of pine and old car seat belts) for the second canoe so we could work on both at once, and then we were ready to start. We put a layer of fiberglass with epoxy resin on the inside of the boat (which was much more difficult than the outside), attached the inner gunwales (long thin oak planks that Peter had steamed and bent into a curve), cut out the small plywood decks for the bows and sterns, crafted pine deck supports, carved little wedges to support the decks at the tips of the inner gunwales, and fit the seats and thwarts in (after cutting them to size). Then unfortunately there was a crisis: we ran out of both resin and fiberglass! We ordered some with the fastest shipping from Toronto (there aren’t a lot of places that sell this specific type of resin), but the packages got repeatedly lost and it took several days before Ali and Dad were finally able to pick them up from friends in Ottowa. Once we had enough supplies, we put another layer of fiberglass on the bottoms of the boats for extra durability, attached the outer gunwales, shaved and sanded the two gunwales so they were level, attached the decks with resin and brass tacks, and attached a brass loop to each end of the boats. Whew! We haven’t put them on the water yet but at least Luke’s will have its maiden voyage next weekend, after it gets a last coat of resin on the decks and varnish all over.
As for me, I’ll be at Bryn Mawr College! It’s a very small and academically challenging women’s college right outside Philadelphia, strongest in STEM and languages (mostly French and Russian). Ironically Marilyn, one of the people who went to Jordan with me, is also going to Bryn Mawr and since she isn’t taking a gap year we’ll be in the same class! I only have two more days left in Vermont before we leave Monday morning to drive down to Pennsylvania. I’ve been texting and emailing my roommate and shopping for clothes and dorm room accessories (there are two suitcases and several boxes overflowing in Mom and Dad’s room). I’m going to be living in one of the prettiest dorms at Bryn Mawr, Rhoads, and my room is a huge double with a fireplace! As of right now I’m thinking of majoring in Linguistics, with possible minors/double majors in French, Arabic, and/or International Relations. I’m about 80% nervous and 20% excited at the moment, but hopefully that ratio will change for the better as I settle into things.
Thank you all so much again for your support throughout this adventure, and although this is the end of this blog I’ll keep all of you updated with how my next chapter goes!