Thursday, September 24, 2009


Wednesday we got this couch from one of my roommates friends. It's a beast. Me and Stephen spent an hour and a half trying to get it in here.

A summary of events:

I was in my room. Stephen said he was going to go run, when he got back, we should move the couch in.
Stephen came back. he asked if I was ready, I said yes and dropped everything to join him.
We first tried the front door. We had it on its side, and because we are on the second floor and the front entryway is tiny, it went a little into our downstairs neighbors apartment to get it in the front entry way.
We got the couch lodged diagonally from a few inches out the front door to a few inches in our stairwell.
Greg came down and helped us get the couch standing on end, rotated, and lodged slightly different in the same fashion. This was not helpful. The couch is heavy. I am tired.
One of our downstairs neighbors came into the entryway, and suggested we wait for one of the men-folk she lives with to help us out. One came.
We decided, after further rotations and lodgings, that our steep back stair might prove slightly easier.
Carrying the couch down the stairs from our porch, Stephen and I moth smashed various toes and shins. We decided shoes were a good choice. We fetched our respective shoes. I was barefoot, Stephen already had socks on. He got his shoes on before me.
The couch was moved to the backyard, and maneuvered to the first landing of the stairwell. We stood it on edge, Jeanne came home and watched.
I took the top edge and pulled it up the stairs. My hand got smashed between the railing and the couch. I received moral support in the form of laughter at me, not with me. We were on the second of three landings.
Same procedure, now the couch is standing on edge on the second railing. We decided to take the spring off of our screen door so it wouldn't get in the way.
I was at the top of the stair, Stephen at the bottom. I couldn't maneuver the couch through the door, so we decided to switch positions.
The couch was taking up all of the stair space, so i climbed down the railing. Jeanne said this was stupid and dangerous, as it is a good twenty foot drop to the ground. I said I didn't disagree, but it was worth it. Stephen climbed up the rail.
I lifted the couch so it was horizontal. This means I was under it. we tried this approach for a half hour. Somewhere along the way the pane of glass in the screen door was broken. This was a tragedy, but made a pretty noise. We decided to try to saw the legs off because they were in the way. We have no saw, and the crafty beaver hardware store was closed, it was almost nine at night.
Stephen went and got one of our three serrated knives and tried that. No go. One of the downstairs men had a saw, we borrowed it. We took off three of the legs, the ones in the back, and returned the saw. The couch fit through the door, I took a breather and wiped the sweat from my brow. There was a lot.
We got the couch in the living room, and realized that the front three legs were still on, our couch was lopsided. We argued over who should go back for the saw. I was voted to do so, and after much arguing went. The doors downstairs were open, the downstairs man was sitting on his couch. I could still hear Jeanne and Stephen. This man heard us talking about getting the saw. I felt awkward, but asked anyway. He fetched the saw, once again.
We sawed off the rest of the legs, and returned the saw. We sat on our conquered sofa, even though it was very low.
I was hungry, as was Stephen. We got up to make food. We remembered the glass and cleaned it up with a broom and our hands. Stephen cut himself.
I got a bowl of cereal, as I was lazy, and Stephen made Progresso soup, because he "deserved a little Progresso"
I ate a kiwi.
We sat on our conquered sofa dn watched family guy.
I ate a sandwich.

My hand is swollen.

Before all of this went down, Greg and I went to a grand opening of a pizzeria and obtained free deep dish spinach pizza. It was delicious.

Free couch and free food, all in one day. It was a good one.

Training is almost done. Opening day is next Friday. I know who I am going to be working with in my "shared inquiry" junior great books sessions. It'll be a pretty good year.

We're almost into the real part of the year. Good news.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


We finally got into the real deal training. Monday we met with someone from the Junior greatbooks foundation, a nonprofit organization meant to supply books and discussion to all ages. We learned how to be facilitators of discussion, practicing on pieces by Langston Hughes and folks like that. It was a really good discussion, and I learned a lot about how to lead one, but it's going to be much easier to lead a group of 8 people who are interested in the subject than 15-20 hyper middle schoolers who don't care. Wish me luck.
Back at king of glory, we had a talk about how to plan things, like reading nights to get the parents involved. The way he taught us went against everything we had just learned at the great books foundation. My whole team was in uproar afterwords, and it was amusing.
We also went to our school and the surrounding neighborhood this week, it looks pretty rough. The demographic info tells us that it is 89% black, 4% white, and the rest is other. I'm not racist, but that is an imposing statistic. Its a pretty poor area as well, and its a little frightening when all of the stores and restaurants have bullet proof glass between the employees and the customers. I'll live though.
My parents came this weekend, brought me free stuff. It was good. Saw my sister in her college. she has a pretty sweet art exhibit there. I went downtown today, met up with someone i graduated with. It rained. It was a good day. Now I'm watching Stephen pretend to shoot at pretend germans on the television. It's entertaining.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Last weekend I went to the zoo, and the white lipped deer and the rhinoceros are impossibly far apart. And the white lipped Deer are disappointing.

I found out on Tuesday that I will be working in a school called "Howe", a middle school. Whereas the elementary tutors read from scripts essentially all day teaching kids how to read, I will be reading through books with them and facilitating some sort of discussion about what the books mean to the kids and digging in deeper than just merely "I before E except after C". I will be in a classroom 90 minutes a day doing this sort of thing as well as whatever the teacher needs from me. In the mornings I will be calling kids who haven't shown up to school and find out whats going on. I'll tell them they're missed and encourage them to come learn, because learning is cool.

On wednesday, we left for basic training retreat at the YMCA camp Duncan. We did low ropes the first day to build our new school teams. My team is pretty awesome, I think we'll get along great. I only have one team leader, everyone else has two except the one other middle school. But she's cool. Cool enough, I guess. There's a lot of personality in the group, and a lot of openness. After the awful camp food supper, I played two hours of ultimate frisbee. I don't know what the score was, but it was an amazing game. One of the senior Corps members was even inspired to work on a league for City Year so we can play. Because we can't fraternize without our boss's permission. This makes me frustrated, mostly because they're reasoning for it is flawless.

Anyway, the next day was pretty intense. We did a lot of racism and sexism awareness. We also did a privilege line where we all stood in a line and held hands, then Jewan, my bossman, read off statements, and if they were true of you you had to step either forward or backward. The questions were usually along the lines of "have you ever been denied ____ because of (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation)" then step back. some of the step forward ones were "did you go to a private school, have hired help in your home, eat together as a family, etc." Needless to say, I was one of the top twenty privileged people in the line. Some people were way back there. It was eye opening for both ends, and also heartbreaking. When all was said and done, Jewan held up a $10 bill and and said whoever could get it first could keep it. Only one person moved, a senior corps member who wasn't greedy, he just participates in everything to the best of his ability. He was in the front of the privilege line, so he got it easily and quickly. We talked about it later, and the people in the front mostly didn't move out of guilt, the people in the back because they would never make it, and because of the tension in the air because of the exercise.

We talked about all of it as a large group for a while, then split up into smaller groups and talked about it for longer. We did this thing in our school teams the first day where we put down six things that shaped us as people to this point in our lives, and this exercise certainly highlighted some people's events that had changed them. I don't want to go into specifics, for their privacy, but it brought us closer as a team most definitely.

The afternoon after the privilege line, we split the whole group into male and female, and wrote down stereotypes of each gender, then discussed them. We then "played a game" in which a staff of City year would ask a question, and if it applied to you you had to stand up. With 125 people, this got intense. They were all questions about sexism, for the men they asked questions involving violence, embarrassment of perceived "manliness", and other male stereotypes. It was incredible how many people stood up during some of the questions involving violence towards them, from them, or that they witnessed. For the Females, they asked about if they ever felt pressure to diet to look better, make up, and so forth. Eventually we did another round involving sexual abuse, and amazing amounts of people stood up on both sides, giving and receiving anything from catcalls to rape. A lot of tears were shed that day.

We split up into our small school teams again to debrief, and became more of a team.

All of these things were interspersed with fun and games, of course, it is too taxing to handle all those emotions with out a break. All in all, the three days we spent were more than worth it.

This weekend, Bradford and Christian came to visit, and we spent way too much time waiting on the red line for the train to move because of "an emergency situation at the Sheridan stop" Also it was a Cubs game day, so there were too many people crammed into the cars. It happens.
At night we went to Chens, where Greg and I got $100 worth of gift certicficates from because they were giving them away. We had sushi, and it was fantastic.

Today I went shopping with Greg, got a costco membership, and bought a lot of food, which was then transported home via bus. That was interesting and difficult. We made pizza, and now im drinking chammomile tea to combat the sickness I picked up at camp Duncan. Tomorrow I'm applying for food stamps, because they gave us all a half day off to do so and gave us letters recommending us for food stamps from City year.

Also I was in an awkward parade on sunday, involving lots of people shouting "viva Mexico" I felt out of place. But it counted as my service to the CTA so I can get free train/bus pass for the next month.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Week one: a summary

So this week for city year, we have been in our "crazy teams" all week. we find out where we are really going to work all year and with who on Tuesday. I'm excited.

Wednesday and Thursday we were at a church in the deep south of Chicago in training to be City Year members. This involved a lot of the culture of city year (which is there to make us comfortable around kids, so it feels like vacation bible school with a bunch of 18-24 year old. ech.), the history of Americorps and City Year, and all sorts of fun stuff along those lines.
Friday we went out on a "get to know the city we serve" scavenger hunt in our crazy teams. My team is pretty diverse. We're all pretty laid back, a few are super energetic. There's a kid named Unique who is very out there, likes to talk a lot and is sort of the leader of the crew because of his flamboyancy. There's only 5 of us and then two leaders though, so we're all leaders sometime. He just talks the most. We went everywhere on this scavenger hunt, from china town to the white sox stadium, all over downtown, to the CTA headquarters. We even saw kevin Youkalitz, or howeer you spell the pitcher for the red sox's last name. For transportation we were given our CTA passes that we will have for the rest of the year. These get us on any subway or bus for free, any time. It's pretty awesome. Also they're magnetic, not the kind that you put in the slot and retrieve, so if its in your wallet you can hip check the reader and then go through, baffling tourists. That's the best fun you can have.

Yesterday, Greg and I found out about a free pig roast at a bar, curtly named "small bar". We then went to said pig roast, and stuffed ourselves on something other than carbohydrates for the first time in a week. Because, hey, free food. We left fulfilled and went to the free Jazz festival, which was awesome. We met up with some of Greg's High school friends there, and then walked around for a while. We went to Ed Debevics when the line to Gino's East was 45 minutes long, and Greg and I got yelled at for not ordering anything. But we're poor and were stuffed with free pig, so it's okay. After a good half hour being berated by the Ed Debevic's waitress and a chocolate coke, which was gross, we left and parted ways. I went to bed.

Today I woke up, showered, ate oatmeal, and road the red line north to the Morse stop, where I went to Many People's church, with Rev. John Hoekwater (One of my Church in Holland's missionaries). The many people there numbered thirteen, including me, the one visitor. They were friendly and gave me coffee, cookies, handshakes, and hugs. they were glad to hear I was doing City year, apparently they are partnered with a school City Year serves at.

Here's how the children's message went, I thought it was funny:

Rev: have any of you had an experience when you were lost or got separated from your parents?

Liam: Yes.

Rev: what hapened? and how did it make you feel?

Liam: I was at the zoo, looking at a Rhinoceros when I noticed my parents were gone. I was scared until I was them at the next exhibit looking at the white-lipped deer.

Rev: How did it make you feel?

Liam: I thought maybe I'd be kidnapped because my parents weren't there.

He was one of two children at the front.

Tomorrow is Labor Day, and the village discount is putting everything at half off. I am going to get a sweatshirt for $2. Then I'm going to a City Year person's house to play boardgames, I think. Because I don't have to work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First day. Summary.

So last night, there were periodic booms coming from my downstairs neighbors. These are yet to be explained.
I woke up this morning at 6:50, posotive that my alarm was set for too late and I had already missed all chances of making it relatively on time. I was wrong, it was 6:50. I showered, ate and went to the train by myself as my tow senior corps roommates had to be there at 7, and my other roommate has a bike and rode it, so as not to pay for the trains. That cheapskate. I made it uneventfully and on time to the school, where the festivities of my first city year day began.
These festivities started off with free bagels, of which I had two, because hey, free food. Then about forty five minutes later, coffee was brought out. About fifteen minutes later, someone finally directed us to stand in formation, where we learned what we would be doing for the day and did our physical training, which were all strikingly similar to various theater games I had played in high school.
Finally, we split into our "crazy teams" (can you tell we're going to be working with kids?) and went to different rooms throughout the school to paint them white. Our room was pink to begin with, but now is white as snow. we got done in an hour, and there was still one more before lunch, so we played some cheesy name game type activities. then we ate lunch, and since i forgot mine at the apartment, I stole more bagels, and some nice girl named Jenny gave me some cookies and rice cakes. me and my cheapskate roommate, Greg, then proceeded to fill our backpacks with six more bagels each, because, hey, free food. And there were three grocery bags still half full of them. After lunch, we finished the second coat of paint, cleaned up, debriefed, and got T-shirts that say city year on them. They ran out of mediums by the time I got there, so I have larges. drat. Then I rode the train home. Now I'm going to indulde in a turkey burger, strait off of the george foreman lean mean grilling machine.