Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Massachusetts Overture

I'm having a hard time catching up on my blog because there's too many great things happening. So much has happened between VISTA pre-service orientation in Cambridge (north of Boston) and now, just having finished my first full month at Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity! Needless to say, I'm finally settled in and love exploring the Berkshires. I'm still trying to adjust to the proximity and convenience of everything; ten minutes in any direction and I can grocery shop, go to the mall, chill out to jazz at a tapas bar, dig into wings at a cozy tavern, swim and kayak in two lakes, attend a stage production, pour through museum works, walk through state forests and parks, or hike some of the state's highest peaks. For a small city on the rise from a post-industrial recession, Pittsfield is treating me well.

AmeriCorps VISTA training was at the Hyatt in Cambridge. This was my view of the Charles across to Fenway and downtown Boston. Between long sessions on capacity-building and eliminating poverty in the U.S., we were spoiled with classy rooms and scrumptious meals.
Although training was only three days, I met an inspiring batch of VISTAs who are serving throughout the northeast. Our focus areas include neighborhood revitalization like my own, housing, military and veteran families, education, and sustainable lifestyles. My ultimate takeaway was that even though poverty poses a tremendous challenge, every gesture can make a difference. How we help one another at the human level is just as important as more abstract action at the policy level.
Onota Lake, five minutes from my Pittsfield apartment.
My first assignment with Habitat? Selling charity raffle tickets at the local baseball park on a glorious summer evening that had one of the best turn-outs of the season (and fireworks).
Office views.
I love this paperweight that a family friend gifted.
My housemate, Elsa, is also an AmeriCorps VISTA at Central Berkshire Habitat. Her focus is on family services, whereas mine is on volunteer engagement. I've had a blast living with her so far. We make it a point to simply do things after work, like stroll around the woods, visit our friends, cook 'fancy' dinners, and revel in our selective frugality. It's not too bad!  
Another fantastic point of Pittsfield is that my former St. Lawrence Habi housemate, Luke, also lives here and works with me! I may have explained this already, but he's the primary reason I ever considered my VISTA position. It's pretty awesome to work with him.He and his girlfriend Emma (who I was also friends with at college) live on another small lake called Pontoosuc. This is the dreamy view from their dock across the lake and off to Mount Greylock in the north. It's the highest point in Massachusetts, but I still haven't hiked it.
As seen on one of my bi-weekly drives south to Great Barrington for ultimate frisbee pick-up games.
Hard to resist an afternoon roll with views like this (far side of Pontoosuc).
A pine-filled park along Pontoosuc where I brought my parents two weekends ago. It was muggy that week, but the weather is finally sinking into sweater season.
Labor Day weekend was celebrated with more lazy lake time and a hike up Monument Mountain, just south of Stockbridge. A quickie but with interesting trails, good company, and wonderful views.
A historical home at an arboretum in Pittsfield.
Pitt Park, which wraps around our office. Things are significantly quieter now that summer camp is over and kid's are in school.
Elsa and her dad strolling through a nice fountain park that is unfortunately placed in a very busy portion of downtown.
I hope these images grant some sort of vision of my time here so far. If you can't get enough of my rambling, I invite you to also check out my blog post that was posted on the Central Berkshire Habitat page. Onward to more adventures!

Listening: "The Last Day" by Moby

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Adios to 5118

I have been alive and thriving in Massachusetts over five weeks now! But first, just a few photos of the house I will miss so much in Honeoye, for the record:









Kristen came to see me off that morning. She's the best.


One last barn portrait.
Since my departure, my parents have been toiling away to remove material items. They squeezed in a visit to me last Sunday and said that it no longer quite feels like a home without it all. They've signed the legal documents and will be closing the door to our home at 5118 Old West Lake Road for the final time on Friday morning.

I'll be in a car on the way to Boston, dreaming of my past life and moving toward my future one.

Listening: "Nevermind the End" by Tei Shi

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July Scramble

In a week, I will be at my new home in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts! I've accepted a position to be an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, where I'll be working with their neighborhood revitalization and veteran engagement projects for at least the next year. I'm thrilled to take this step in a direction where I will help and work with people, dig into a new region, and hopefully understand if non-profit advocacy and policy are what I want to pursue professionally. I've been on the move a lot the past several years, and although it's not China, New York City, or D.C., it's something new. I aim to absorb every experience as a chance to learn.

These plans came together surreptitiously with the help of my former St. Lawrence Habitat House roommate, Luke, and after weeks of e-mails, phone calls, documentation, the move is happening next Sunday. I'll actually be saying goodbye to the Finger Lakes for the last time--my parents have also sold our house, and will be making their move South by the end of September. I'm happy for them, but it certainly crushes my heart. Aggravating small-town quirks aside, this has been my home for nearly 13 years, along with the people that have come and gone through it. I'm excited because I know these change have to happen, but I'm trying to wrap my mind around no longer returning. As for my friends who are still based here, I know that they will always remain my home. I'm already mentally planning the trip back here for Thanksgiving, as Christmas will probably be spent in Florida!

Another point: moving is pretty soul-consuming in a bad way. It's a constant reminder of all the things you've accumulated. I know I've said this before, but minimalism, unfortunately, does not suit me at all. I'm sending four or five totes of things to storage in Florida because they're reminders of what I used to do, used to be, which I actually don't think is a negative thing until it truly starts weighing me down (when that day comes, it'll all just go blindly into a dumpster). My room is nearly packed with overflowing bags and boxes strewn about, but yesterday my nephews helped my dad move the heavier furniture. For the first time since we arrived here, I can stand and even lie down in my closet! It's cool that all of these dressers, shelves, a table, and even my bed will join me in Massachusetts, because they would be trashed otherwise.

Here's a visual round-up of the rest of July's adventures:

Rochester's Party in the Park concert series with Jenny. It was an bluegrass vibing shakedown with Yonder Mountain String Band and Railroad Earth! We eventually ditched the blanket to be closer to the stage and dance (of course).



Kristen's family pond down the road from her house with spectacular views of Bristol Valley. The pond was so clean that we could see to the bottom.


I was invited to join a Rochester and Syracuse-based ultimate frisbee team to compete in a Schenectady tournament called Ow My Knee! It was blazing hot and full of laughs, as usual. I was really happy that my friends and teammates from Massachusetts let me camp with them on a beautiful farm south of Albany.



There's also been a fair share of hiking adventures, like to Hi Tor Wildlife Management Preserve in Naples. We walked along ridges and into valleys and streams.



 Then to another side of Hi Tor called Clark Gully, where we had to scramble washed-out hill sides and waterfalls.





Sunsets on Canandaigua Lake before Buffalo-based jam rock band, Aqueous, played at a local bar. It was sweet to shake down with them because they're cool guys and perform at St. Lawrence's Java Barn at least twice a year.


Views of the Erie Canal in Fairport for Caitlan's 22nd birthday dinner and drinks this past Monday. We celebrated with her family and college friends the weekend before. Oh, to still be the youngest ones in a bar.


More views from another pond on Kristen's property. Chasing sunlight and fog in the golden hour. 




A few weeks ago I also picked up an old Huffy road bike bike for free not too far from my house. $35 of repairs and minor parts later, it's a a beauty to ride and after cranking (sort of) through the 20-21ish miles of Honeoye Lake, I know it'll serve me well in Massachusetts.

And finally, last night I had a great time with my nephews who are older but still ridiculous, roasting marshmallows in our backyard and lighting fireworks.


Summer, you've been too good to me.

Listening: "Don't Wait" by Mapei