Sunday, March 11, 2012

City of Bridges

Where do I start? STLF is so much more than I thought it would be. My vision of this trip went something like this: I get on a bus and listen to my iPod all the time, do service in cool towns, and sleep in run-down places. I couldn't wait for the celebration city at the end, so I could see familiar faces again.
Reality: these faces are more familiar to me now than any of the people from my own school.
After a long night of Mafia last night, the sound of "Jitterbug" at 7am was like a cruel joke. I haven't slept on a hard floor with a sleeping bag in a long, long time, and my back and neck reminded me all day. I pushed through the daylight, lethargic and sleepy, and hit the kitchen for some toasted bagels. I let most of the girls pump through the bathroom while I ate, then got ready quickly to catch the bus at 8. We loaded up, and some people had left a few items around, so the bus core made them sing or do something embarrassing to claim them. It's all in fun, I just keep a close watch on all my things :)
We took about a fifteen minute drive to the Columbus Zoo, where we met Ginger - a high energy volunteer coordinator who had an awesome project for us today. During the winter, the zoo hangs Christmas (or holiday) lights from the trees across the park. She estimated around 3 million strands of lights. It takes them three months to hang them, and about six to take them down, given the four areas of the park - north, south, east, and west. Our job today was to attack the west section, and that's exactly what our group of 45 did. For four hours we worked in bushes, trees, forests, and all kinds of shrubbery, pulling and untangling strands upon strands of lights and throwing them into buckets. We attacked the area so hard that the head groundskeeper (who has worked there for 15 years) said that's the fastest he's ever seen them come down. We succeeded in cleaning up the entire west section, eliminating one fourth of their work.
We had a couple small injuries, cuts, and bruises, and one allergic reaction. We worked near some trees that had a nasty dust-like pollen, in which a lot of people became itchy by. I had a bit of an asthmatic spell, but it was quickly solved with the help of some water and an inhaler. Another girl didn't do so hot and needed everyone to shake out their clothes if they were working near it. No problem - we ate, saw some bears and other cool animals, and took off for our next destination.
We were off to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
A rush of excitement, anxiety, and nervousness came over me. I suppose Ohio didn't seem so far from home at the time, but as we were driving, this feeling of homesickness found its way into my head. People were dancing and having a great time after a bus-wide nap, but I just sang along and thought about how different this is from my strict routine of daily life. I fell into the funk for about an hour and a half. But when we stopped in the Station Square to take a ride up the hill to one of the top ten views in the United States, my fears subsided.
There was something about this place. We walked to the elevator that was to take us to the top, and held the hand of someone for whom heights are not the bee's knees. The photos do NOT do the skyline justice, and I cannot fully describe how breathtaking the view was. We took a group photo, danced a little, and separated to find food for the night.
I went with a group of people that wanted to explore the city, so we crossed the bridge back over to the fast-paced peacefulness that was the heart of Pittsburgh. We had an iPhone guiding us to a local's suggestion of a fantastic little restaurant called Palmanti Bros Bar and Grill. I had the best Pittsburgh-style Philly Cheese Steak with greasy fries and cole slaw on top. Yeah, ON the sandwich :) We ventured back toward the bus and found a cute little ice cream shop, where I got a Blueberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt cone and a chocolate covered marshmallow.
Best. City. Ever.
I immediately fell in love with this city.
Which I didn't even know was possible.
We're currently staying in the office of a former STLF alumnus. Sleeping in an office. Someone asked me if I had those files done yet. I told them to get off my back about it. We're family. Some people have actually started calling me "Iowa," which I'm okay with as long as they know my real name :)
We did some pretty deep activities tonight that taught us to value each other's opinions and strengthen our own individuality. They took a few hours, but I still didn't want it to end. It's only the second day of the trip, and it feels like I've known these people my entire life. I don't know how this trip could get any better from here, but I'm very excited to let you know every moment that takes this experience one step higher every single day.
As I told everyone tonight during discussion, I have to continually remind myself that I didn't know anyone when I got on that bus Friday morning.
It's a much different adventure than I could have ever imagined.

No comments:

Post a Comment