Of Car Rides, Company Picnics and Chapter Endings
The Kamba people of Kenya were long-distance traders in the pre-colonial period that traveled between the East African coast and interior, moving in caravans to deliver goods. This ability to journey for long periods of time on foot is one I would like to believe I inherited from my ancestors. While it certainly does not compare to what they went through, my 40-minute commute to the office (and the 40 minutes back) could be perceived as rather tedious. Having prior experience and getting to appreciate the moments of self-reflection it affords, I do not particularly mind it; the beauty of the scenery along the way certainly serves as incentive, especially when crossing the bridge over the Grasse River. However, were I offered a ride, I would take it and have a few more minutes than usual in the day. It did not take all too long since I began my internship to get the attention of warm-hearted folk, a trait I have found to be delightfully common in the North Country, who take me to and from work while engaging me in light-hearted conversation. Pam picks me up on her way to work to take me to mine, and Mary-Lee brings me to the university after our day is done at the Community Development Program. Whereas time to introspect would have me in my mind for a while, conversing with them helps put me in the present moment; such a beginning and end to the days are akin to a pause for a restorative deep breath.
Last Wednesday the CDP had their annual picnic, and employees contributed dishes and tableware for the meal that we shared. This was a wonderful way to not only meet those I did not have the pleasure of interacting with often or at all, but also observe the way the organization’s representatives interact with one another, which reflects greatly on how they operate and work towards their common goals. There were three other activities planned as part of the picnic: one was a give-away of prizes that seemed to be a usual part of the festivities, another was a presentation of the website (soon to be live at slccdp.org!) and the closer was a trivia game planned by my supervisor Felicia, the executive director. CDP also has a high-school student summer worker, Sean, and in addition to being included in the picnic, he and I were made a part of the give-away and trivia game; I helped pick prize winners and Sean was one of them! Although we have temporary positions in the organization, we were included in the celebration of dedication and hard work as fellow employees. The sense of community within the CDP parallels that within the area it serves, and it has made all the difference in making the internship a most memorable learning experience. In the few days left, I prepare to pass the baton back to Felicia in the hopes that my contribution will add substantial value to the organization as their contribution has done for me.
As the SLU PIC program wraps up, I cannot help but feel it to be the windup of a grand, 4-year-long journey of self-discovery through the North Country. Among the wonderful parts of the program is its inclusion of recent graduates to the pool of candidates eligible to apply. I have found it to be the best way of preparing to transition into the next phase, working in a professional setting while still getting to engage with the university environment. Although the SLU space provided plenty of opportunities to explore various ideas, passions and perspectives from which to learn (surely some learning must occur in a university), going beyond its bubble has exposed me to ways of life that really encourage looking beyond oneself onto the grander scheme and its relationship with the individuals, us, it relies on; it has also shown the importance of taking the time to be in a moment, simply for the sake of it. Be curious about the events and happenings downtown and in nearby towns and villages, give time to aid your community in whichever way you can, and take in the fresh air even when the chill of it freezes your nose hairs! Shared stories, smiles and even sorrows are a curious and unfathomably captivating part of the human experience, and the North Country is abundant with tales to tell.