>I am in Montana now.
Archive for August, 2009
It’s crazy that about a year ago I was writing about moving to Spokane, and now I am picking it up and doing it all over again. This time, the desert of eastern Oregon was less of a shock when we passed through it on our Greyhound bound way to Spokane, and then to Missoula. But for the most part, I’m doing it all again, but it’s a whole different world.
For instance, our house was lovingly but not quite sufficiently furnished. I chopped vegetables for our first dinner with a butter knife. So we’ve had to trust in the goodness of the community to slowly begin to stock our kitchen. But let me tell you, once word got out that we were having trouble opening a bank account and were running low on cash, three people dropped us off dinner and groceries in one afternoon. Montanans are definitely what you would call “friendly.” Our next door neighbor dropped us off a gallon of milk and sincerely apologized, repeatedly, for our financial situation, saying, “this just doesn’t happen in this town.”
(Basically our agencies were confused about how/when/what to pay us and had put off figuring that out till we arrived. So that, coupled with our area director being on vacation, and a change in the rent, and trouble opening a bank account, we were getting kind of worried. Worried being a relative term seeing as how obviously we aren’t going to starve in this kind of community, and of course JVC would help us out. It’s all set now, but I know this house has been a headache for headquarters!)
As for the job – working with men and women experiencing homelessness is a far cry from working with kids. Here’s a few vignettes:
One man came in with hands swollen, bloody, pussy and cracking. He said he had been to the Emergency Room and they told him he had an allergic reaction to soap, which was probably not helped out by caffeine, smoking, and stress. (He forgot the name of the condition and couldn’t reach into his pocket to find the paper the doctor had written it down on.) He spent the morning trying to find a clinic that would fill a pain prescription because most of the ones that assist low-income people in the area refuse to fill painkillers. He had been out of work for a month because he had broken his collarbone, and that day he was supposed to start work as a dishwasher, which, of course, he had to decline.
Another man, who is about 50 but looks to be about 75, wheres a oversized black Diamond Rio shirt every day, along with a cowboy hat decorated in charms and tinsel. It looks like something an 8 year old girl would have decorated for a birthday party. He came in with a knee brace and a wrist brace and crutches, complete with cuts and bruises on his face, after he had been beaten while sleeping near the railroad tracks. He is off to a medical rehab facility, and told me he doesn’t mind sleeping outside, but could probably use the time off from drinking. Yesterday, he found a purse on the sidewalk, clean and empty, and brought it in to see if I’d want it.
For the most part, our days are pretty quiet. Someone will come stumbling in drunk occasionally and make a scene. But usually the clients watch movies, sleep off the night, or use the computer and I read the paper and shoot the breeze with people. I’m the only female direct service staff there, and its pretty funny to listen to them apologize for every four-letter word that comes out of their mouth. I’m currently in the process of nipping all nicknames (e.g. sweetheart, little girl, beautiful) in the bud and insisting on being called “Jackie” or nothing at all. One of the clients wants to call me Jackie the Jesuit, and I said that’s okay.
>No, not John and I, don’t worry.
I think breaking up is the best way to describe how I feel about leaving my housemates, Spokane, St. Anne’s. It’s been good, its time to go, and it hurts like hell. These are the most real relationships I’ve ever had in my life. Ones where we fight, make up, realize we’ll never get along perfectly but cant still hang out, cry, play football in the park, and love unconditionally. And there have been a lot of conditions this year. “Could people please not put onions in things they cook?” “Could we clean the bathroom more often?” “Could people not leave their socks on the floor?” “Could people start interrupting people?” So many requests that you could bang your head against a wall.
But on the other hand, they will always be my community. Good, bad, thick, thin, yada yada yada.
I feel absolutely nauseous about leaving. I’m ready to go, however. And John and I will be going to Missoula, so that’s awesome. And Brian and Jon are visiting in September, so the good byes really aren’t too drastic. And Alyssa will be living 3 hrs away in Spokane still. So I’ll survive. But still, these are the only people who really can understand what this year has been like. I remember talking to a JV up in Omak and she said when her year ended back in June that it was a harder tranisition than leaving college, and now I get why. (Even though I’m not really an FJV, former JV, yet). You’re leaving this super intense year, where being a JV has been your identity, and leaving people who know you and know every up and down you’ve had this year, and then you’re catapulted back into another world. College, other people have been through, but this…this was something else.
But I’ll be in Montana in 9 days. To start all over… And now I must go clean my house, which will surely squash any sentimental feelings I have about it.