Orienting myself to a new kind of life

Hello to everyone in the Lower 48! Greetings from Juneau!

These last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind! It all started with a six hour cross country flight from Boston to Portland, Oregon. I got off the plane with many other East coasters who were also part of JVC Northwest and we all went together, picked up our luggage, and search anxiously for the staff table to figure out what our next steps would be. The people in the blue JVC Northwest shirts sitting behind a table full of snacks and surrounded by luggage and other volunteers was, thankfully, very easy to find. The next step was to get on a bus that would take us to our week of Orientation and even though that may seem easy enough, it was a bit of a challenge trying to lug an 82 pound suitcase, a backpack stuffed to the gills, and a Vera duffel containing a week’s worth of clothes and a sleeping bag both on and off of the bus. 

Upon getting off the bus at Camp Adams in Molalla OR, we trekked up a rocky dirt road with all of our luggage because the buses didn’t fit over the bridge into camp. For the people that followed the rules and only had two bags, this was no problem; for Meredith, the notorious overpacker, it was a bit of a challenge. Let’s just say there was a great deal of sweat and some wheezing involved but eventually, I got to the top of the hill, checked in, and got settled into the Alaska cabin! I looked at the schedule and was excited for all the week had in store. It was packed with workshops, meetings, breakout sessions, and other various activities including time at the beautiful swimming hole, a night of Square Dancing, and multiple meditation sessions.

One workshop I particularly enjoyed that simultaneously freaked me out was the “Making It!” workshop, in which we learned how to make multiple items that are usually purchased such as soap, lim balm, laundry detergent, and shampoo. The idea of being able to create everyday products with simple, chemical-free ingredients intrigued me but some were easier to swallow than others. Using baking soda and borax for laundry detergent? Sure! Combining bar soap with water to make liquid soap? Yeah! Using vinegar and baking soda as shampoo and conditioner? That’s where I draw the line. I happen to enjoy the light floral scents of Tresseme and I can’t mentally overcome the hurdle of my hair, and me by association, smelling like salad dressing each and every day. This workshop occurred on the second day of Orientation and many of the second year volunteers made it seem like these practices were necessary aspects of JVC Northwest. Cue freak out. After two weeks living in my community in Juneau, I can confidently write that I have mainstream shampoo, conditioner, and body wash and will likely continue to use it the rest of the year. I’m all for trying new things but certain things, I just don’t think I can compromise on.   The rest of the surprises at Orientation were pretty tame in comparison. Even the break down of our monthly budget wasn’t quite as shocking as the salad dressing shampoo incident!

Throughout the week, there were many other workshops, community bonding opportunities, late night laugh sessions, and other joys that made me increasingly more eager to get to Juneau with my community members and start this new adventure! The last night, there was a missioning liturgy that included many former Jesuit Volunteers, supporters of the program, the JVC Northwest staff, and all of this year’s volunteers and it was an ideal way to transition out of orientation and into our new lives as JVs. The sense of community, support, and love put my overthinking, overanalyzing, worrying mind at ease. The mass was the perfect culmination of the new experiences and insights, awkwardness, and joy that occurred during Orientation, specifically in the stories and readings shared, the multiple blessings we gave one another, the connectedness we felt during the songs we had been singing all week, and the whole group conga line to close the service.

Only a few hours after the conga line and the missioning liturgy were over, we boarded a school bus and were on our way to the airport. We got the airport at 3am for our flight at 5:05 BUT the Portland airport doesn’t open until 4am so we all were anxiously sitting around until the first airline clerk arrived and then it was a mad dash to check our bags, get through security and board on time. Thankfully, we all made it onto the plane with plenty of time but again I was foiled by my neurotic overpacking habit so my backpack wouldn’t fit into any of the appropriate carry on spots. I thought I would be fine if I just tried to squeeze it under the seat but the extra cautious flight attendant informed me if we were to crash, I wouldn’t be able to get out and I would probably die. With that in mind, I didn’t hesitate to take as many item out of my backpack as I could to make it fit. That first plane ride to Seattle consisted of my holding a small stack of books, an empty Nalgene, and a Toms Shoes bag full of random knick knacks in my lap which was uncomfortable but safety first, right? We made it safely to Seattle and then had more than enough time to get the necessary large cups of coffee before boarding our flight to Juneau. The flight to Juneau seemed to fly by (pun intended) and before I knew it, we were landing in the breathtakingly beautiful Juneau Alaska. We got off the plane, were met by many of our support people, and our adventure in Alaska had officially begun!!

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One thought on “Orienting myself to a new kind of life

  1. Kate Lord says:

    Well, chickie, chickie..there you are…ALLLAAAASKAA! Sounds very good so far…love your blog! It will be a wonderful journal for you for many years to come as you look back, but enough about that…let’s look forward! So good to read that you had a good support group upon arrival…before you know it, you will be settled in in no time! Love the pictures( the glaciers…yikes!) …would love to see pics of your walk each day as you cross the bridge and other just day-to-day stuff so I can imagine you going about your day! Things here are good…Rob in Baltimore, just got back from Coast Guard and getting ready for a new school year…boy that came up quick! Oh & had a great day with your Mom & Aunty Wa in Newcastle, Portsmouth last week…ask your Mom about our adventure…:)))

    So do let us know what you might need out there, be bright & shiny but do watch out for “too many shiny objects” at once, & always… big love & hugs,
    Aunty KDL

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