Monday, October 20, 2014

Campfire Stories Near Bellevue, Ohio

Sunday, Oct 19th, 9:30pm

Four women stand and watch as I set up my tent. It’s dark, but I’ve got a headlamp, and the tent is a simple one-person backpacker tent, so I’m able to figure it out without fiddling with directions. It looks like I’m the only tent camper tonight. One little ten tucked away between a dozen RVs.

 The women seem rather impressed, and I shamelessly revel in their comments of praise as I assemble my little shelter. But they’re also all mothers, and can’t help but be motherly. Pretty soon I’ve got an extra cushion to sleep on, a blanket, a flashlight, and even an extension cord leading to a little space heater inside my tent.

Before bed, I join a couple of them around a fire and exchange stories. I tell them about how I’m from Arkansas, how I came to Ohio to work on a survey project, and how the project ended early and I’m now headed to another in Iowa. I even tell them about how I was teaching abroad in the Republic of Georgia last year. They, in turn, tell me stories of when they were young and in love. I hear of both love that lasted and love that is no more…and perhaps never really was.

I love these moments. These moments that you could never have predicted.

Just last Wednesday I was on a shopping spree with the other woman from my crew. We spent our per diem like we were less than a week away from another one.

That night, we found out that we weren’t. We were informed that the company was having trouble procuring land owner permission to access all the necessary parcels, so the project would end two weeks early. In four days, we would be jobless.

On Thursday I applied like crazy to other projects.

On Friday, I accepted a position in Iowa. I would have until next Wednesday night to get there.
Friday night we had one last dinner with the whole crew. Our company reps had gifts for all of us, and we laughed as we recalled the inside jokes and memories referenced by each one.

By this (Sunday) afternoon I was in Columbus meeting, in person for the first time, the young woman who had taught in my village in Georgia before me.

 And now here I am, chatting by the fire with a couple of local Ohioans at an RV park.

Sometimes you just don’t know who you’ll run into, what chance encounters you’ll have, what paths will intersect yours. Living an adventure is all about the getting there, I suppose. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lunch at "the office"

Tuesday, Sept 30th

A huge ravine runs right through our parcel today and the entire area is wooded, with plenty of thorny undergrowth. Probably won’t be much digging. But we hike right into the underbrush, each person with their own shovel, screen, and backpack. We walk for a long time, letting someone with a machete go first. Thorns grab at us as we go and in a couple of spots we’re forced to crawl on the ground to get through networks of vines and branches. Shovel in hand the whole time, of course.

I love it. The physical challenge of it makes it fun, and the woods are breathtakingly beautiful. Through the trees to the left, we can see a wall of woodland sloping down the other side of the ravine. All around us, the circle of life is intertwined with itself. Little saplings await their first taste of winter beside old fallen trees that are now something between wood and dirt. Every now and then one of us steps on one, overestimating its strength, and it instantly crumbles beneath our weight.

Eventually, we come across a small, overgrown road. It’s going in the direction we need so we walk along it until it curves away from our trajectory. We then return to making our own path…until someone notices something interesting to the right. It’s a small tower of rocks. Flat rocks, and obviously stacked on top of each other intentionally. In fact, there is a whole wall cutting into the slope behind it! 

We explore and observe and discuss until our crew chief is satisfied that it’s the bottom of what was once a barn built partly into the hill. This area was once pasture land. We measure it, take pictures, and take note of artifacts, which include the metal remains of farm equipment and glass bottles. And then we decide it’s the perfect place to sit down for lunch.

Lunch at the office. What can I say? I’m getting paid to walk around and look for old broken stuff. Maybe it’s not everyone’s ideal job…but it’s one way in which I’m fulfilling my desire to live an adventure.