Mud Pies

I haven’t written in a while because there hasn’t been much to write about. I spend most of my day in the office, working on programs, preparing for certain displays in the visitor’s center, or doing other desk work tasks. I have learned being in an office all day is not my forte. A lot of the visitor’s services part of the job has dwindled down because the trails are being redone here and are therefore closed. I have to admit, when I began my job, though I enjoyed working with the school groups, I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get more chances to go outside, but now I feel very differently. Since I have had a dry spell of visitor’s service duties, the other day, when I had a parks and recreation group come, I soaked it all in.
Someone before I even got to Rydell had apparently made an appointment far in advanced to have a parks and recreation group come to Rydell. This was even before they knew the trails would be closed. I, then, had to call them and talk to them about some sort of new plan, though I was secretly hoping they would want to cancel. On Wednesday this past week, a group of 21 kids visited and it was so much fun! As soon as I walked into the visitor’s center where they were exploring a kid came up to me and said, “I saw a snake!” I got a smile on my face and thought; I can already tell this will be a fun group. The group of kids ended up being so well-behaved and fun. I had two of them pretending to be monkeys around me, others coming up to me to ask me to call them this nickname and that, and a little girl who had to hold my hand everywhere we went. The two monkey boys gave me a hug when they left saying they would miss me and of course I would miss them very much! The parks and recreation intern who came along approached me and told me I was really great with kids. The entire experience just refreshed my passion and joy for education and children. It helped me realize that I could most definitely do a non-field job, as long as it meant I was hanging out with kids the majority of the time.
The same day as the parks and recreation group, I finished up my last library program in Ada, Minnesota. At each of my library programs, I read this book, called Big Tracks, Little Tracks. There is one page where you have to guess what animal the track belongs to and there was a snake track. One of the boys said, “Indiana Jones hates snakes.” It completely made my day and the other intern, Anna, who was with me, totally thought about how I was probably super excited. Then Anna and I went to subway. We were so excited to have subway, since there aren’t many around. The guy at subway was so excited to have customers. He was so friendly and said numerous times thank you for coming. I love the small town friendliness!
I actually got to go out into the field last week, three times! I went out with one of the interns, Maddie, to do habitat surveys. The surveys consist of setting up a transect and measuring and identifying plants in the transect. Although, I certainly enjoyed hanging out in the prairie and seeing random frogs and insects, I do not think plants are my thing. I love learning what plants are and taking pictures of the cool ones, but I did find identifying plants a bit monotonous and boring. Still, I was grateful to get a chance to go out into the field; I just do not think I could do it every day, unless it was my actual job. Another reason why going out into the field is a little less enjoyable than what I imagined it would be is because I don’t know what bigger goal I am striving towards, or how the survey is helping the planet. I can imagine myself in a country in Africa, doing transects for anything related to Rhinos and sucking it up for the greater good. That might sound silly, but at this point, I suppose my ambitions and ideals are a bit higher than they should be. I still have faith and passion for certain subjects, and I truly want to help with those someday and I know even through the boring, monotonous jobs, I will continue happily because we will be working for justice and a greater good.
This past week, I helped with someone else’s library program in Crookston. They had 9 stations set up for the kids to go to. She originally had me at the Teepee making station, but I wasn’t very confident in my skills. I asked the other intern if they were okay with doing that station and me doing the mud pie station. Turns out, she didn’t want to get dirty in the mud, so it worked out well. I got so messy at the mud pie station! One girl was so excited about the mud, she grabbed my arm and wiped it all over it, and then wanting to make her day, I let her put mud on my cheeks and nose. At that point I was so dirty and washed myself off, not that it mattered, because it was still in my hair. Then there were kids that wanted to do mud handshakes with each other. I foolishly suggested mud high fives and they splattered mud all over the place and on themselves! It was quite fun! One little boy came over to the table and spent about 30 minutes there. We piled mud high on top of the table and we made a volcano. I would count down from 10, and he would pretend like the volcano exploded, throwing mud up into the air. We did mud high-fives numerous times together! The first time, mud splattered all over his face and he stood there, staring off into space for a few moments. I was worried he got some in his eyes and was hurt. I asked him if he was okay and two seconds later he grinned happily and continued on. Let’s just say, with that kid, I got pretty muddy. It was fun though, cool to see, that sometimes messy things can be the most fun. Messy situations, might not be fun, but I’d like to take on the kid’s attitude. You might get hit by some mud (tough situations/ challenges) and for a few moments (longer, really, if we are talking about life) you are shocked and might be a bit hurt, but if you want to persevere and live life to the fullest, you get that grin back on your face and you use the mud (the tough situation) to move on and enjoy life.
itaska

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Times are changing

sun, rydellWhy is it that I look at my life and see something lacking? For a girl of 21 years of age, I have had an incredible life; all the friends I have made, the places I have seen, the people who I have loved and who have returned that love. I was born in Africa for goodness sake, and having that experience, even if I was only 4 years old when we left, changed me for the better and made me who I am. I’ve spent my entire life hanging out with international students, meeting people from all over the world who teach me their culture and call me their friend. How blessed am I? And those international students, my friends, are still my friends from years and years ago, relationships that will last a life time. They taught me to be non-judgmental, welcoming, easygoing, and confident. I’ve learned to love spicy, sweet, even raw food and I have thoroughly enjoyed all the cultures I have learned about. More importantly, I have always loved creating friendships with people of so many different colors, beliefs, and habits. I may have lost some good friends in my life time, but I have kept so many. And they always do something to show me they care and love me, yet I doubt some times? Why is that? Why can’t I look at my life and see how wonderful it is?
My parents are loving, kind, and I spend almost every night with them watching a movie because I absolutely adore doing so. They are my friends as well as my advisors and parents. They’ve taught me to serve others, to be humble, to stand up for what I believe in, and be myself. They love me unconditionally and they support me in everything I do. I have a wonderful brother, who is fun and talented and absolutely amazingly smart. I have a brother who actually wants to be my friend and hang out with me and teaches me daily more about literature and movies than I could ever learn on my own. I have an inspiring sister who fights for what is right in this world. She is my hero and she is often the reason why I get through a lot of problems in my life because she gives me advice on how to deal with them. She is hilarious and fun and I am proud to say she is one of my best friends.
I have a wonderful church that teaches me so much and got me started with helping out with children. My bible study group is my family, truly, even if I had a hard time realizing it. They make me laugh, they pray for me, they compliment my brownies, they listen, they talk, we serve together, they fill up my Wednesday nights with so much joy. They help me grow in my faith and encourage me on the path towards Christ, who is my best friend, father, guide, and savior.

I live in Arizona, a beautiful, unique state. It has such incredible history, with famous stories of gunslingers and Native Americans. It’s hot there, but I love it!!!! The heat in Arizona is like a welcoming oven whenever you return to it from a faraway place. Its beauty surpasses most places I have been, the beauty of the desert, the sunset and sunrises, the cacti standing proudly, the barren landscape with red rock and sand, Arizona. And it is such a diverse state, with forest and so many other climates. The people in Arizona are so easygoing and friendly. I never feel unwelcomed anywhere and I find a smiling face behind almost every counter and everyone is good at joking and has a positive attitude. I’ve enjoyed great schools, great teachers, teachers who have treated me well, encouraged, and motivated me, who have taught me so much, I wish I could say thank you again and again. I love Arizona and I am fiercely proud of it.
I have been able to volunteer at the Phoenix zoo for the past 6 years, 6 wonderful, exciting, challenging years. The Phoenix Zoo is a zoo that trumps all other zoos. It balances its goal to educate and “entertain” guests with treating their animals well by giving them great exhibits, behavioral enrichment, and attention. The conservation effort there is all towards native animals and I have been able to take part in that! The people, every single person that has worked there, are incredibly friendly and kind. I have never not gotten along with someone who works at the zoo, the staff are fun and crazy and inspiring. Most importantly are all the zoo teens I have worked with. From when I was a zoo teen to now as a zoo teen supervisor, I have always felt so at home with them. I have made so many friends who share the same passions as I do and let me freely be who I am. I’ve never had more fun than when I am with zoo teens. They teach me so much too and they respect me as I respect them. I am also so thankful for all the animal experience I have gotten at the zoo. I’ve been able to hold snakes, lizards, amphibians, skinks, turtles and tortoises. I’ve gotten to feed a komodo dragon, pet a baby komodo dragon, feed the giant tortoises (the best animals in the world) every Saturday, feed an elephant, watch an elephant get a foot bath, I’ve been able to take care of all these amazing creatures and I should never look back and think I missed out.
I got to go to Nova Scotia and study mammals for goodness sake!!! How many people can say they went to Canada to study mammals with actual scientists studying climate change? I got to experience the most beautiful place I have been to, a different beautiful than desert, green, lush, water everywhere, rocky beaches, wildlife all over the place. And the people I bonded with their, my friends, they were all so welcoming and free. We ate ice cream and played telephone every night. We all worked hard together to better the world. We sang and danced and there was never any judging. Even now, as I am writing this, I am participating in an internship. It is an internship that isn’t quite giving me the experience I want, but I am still beyond blessed to be here, to meet the other interns, to LIVE at a wildlife refuge and get to wake up to green and lake every morning. All I have to do is step out my door to nature and wildlife. It might be tough at times but I am still blessed to have this opportunity.

So, why do I compare myself to others or want what others have? Would I seriously trade any of the above for something someone else has experienced or owns? There is no way I would. How could I trade all those incredible memories and lessons? I might not be good at lifting things, hooking up trailers, driving ATV’s, reading maps, but I am brilliant at other things. I can keep a group of kids entertained for an entire day and have them want to hang out with me still at the end of it. I can present a python to an entire group of strangers, or put a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach on my shirt and talk about how cute and awesome it is. I can write a 10 page paper on a classic novel and get an A and enjoy writing it. I can write a novel of my own working that is over 200 pages long. I am a loyal and loving friend who sticks by you always. I am funny. I am smart. I have my talents and my weaknesses. I have my faith in God which defines me completely and fully. I may have hard times, I may fail, I may not be as good at some things as others are, but I should never look at my life and myself and think I need what they have or that I am lacking in anyway.

Small things count

These past couple of weeks at Rydell I have played many roles: teacher, mediator, janitor, activist, and friend. That is something about this internship I really appreciate, every week I get to play many different roles and each role teaches me more about myself and others. If you have been reading my past blog posts, you have read about me appreciating those who do the not so fun jobs like garbage, recycling, and now you can add bathroom cleaning to that list. I hope for my future job I will never have to do that job because it is not pretty and I will forever be grateful for those who do it.

Monday, Anna (the refuge operations intern) and I went to two library programs, one in McIntosh and one in Climax. I am truly starting to love going to these random small towns here in Minnesota. The people in them are friendly and nice and the atmosphere is so fun. Anna and I walked into the McIntosh library, which is also their community center, at 10ish. McIntosh is a town of 625 people with a delicious bakery. Climax was our truly favorite place to go to though. The library program was later on in the day at 6 pm. We, as in all the interns, had already passed through Climax on our way to Fargo one day. We read the sign Climax, Population: 296. We found the name of the town funny and called it anti-climatic, it didn’t look like much. On Monday, on the way to the library program, Anna and I accidentally drove passed the town when we first got there. We pulled into someone’s farm/driveway to make a u-turn. As we pulled in, we saw a woman on a tractor and a man in overalls and a straw hat standing in the yard. Panicking a bit about being on someone’s property, Anna said, “Reverse, reverse!” so I began to back up. The straw hat man waved us back though and we rolled down the windows with apologetic smiles. Both of us forgot we were in a government vehicle. With a big grin and his blue overalls he said with waving arms, “Oh no! The government! You aren’t going to check my freezer are you?” After all our laughs and jokes we found out his name was John, fondly known as Farmer John, and he was also a postman. We also found out that he knew Jane, the librarian, who was also a substitute post woman. He told us we were welcome to make a U-turn in his yard any time and we left. The library looked fairly small and skimpy on the outside, but there was a cute painted sign on the outside and the moment we walked in, our judgment disappeared. It was a small, clean, cute library, with local artists work on the walls and a variety of books. We met Jane who gave us both postcards, postcards with a picture of their entire town on it. That’s right, they took a picture of their entire town and she pointed out Farmer John to us who was wearing his blue jean overalls and straw hat. Turns out, Jane is the librarian, married to a beekeeper, and a substitute postwoman, a woman of many colors. After taking way too many pictures of everything about Climax, we left, with a great story to tell everyone.

I began to come to the realization this week that I am not here for conservation or wildlife experience. It’s ironic (there is the theme of irony again) because I am at a refuge, a place you would think I would get a lot of that type of experience at. Since I am the visitors services intern, I have duties that do not include biological surveys or really any field experiences and I rarely get a chance to go out and help one of the other interns who do things like that. I could feel bad for myself, and trust me, I have a couple of times, but instead I am just taking this summer as a life lesson, teaching me how to handle certain work situations, get along with all different types of people, live in an isolated area, be somewhat independent, persevere, really, is the main thing I am learning.

I start to panic a bit about not getting more experience in my field (conservation biology), but I know truly that I have the rest of my life to get experience and get a job. Even if I am not getting experiences here dealing with wildlife, my passion for it is still being ignited more and more. Just walking around the refuge, spotting wildlife, a snake eating a frog, dragonflies, 13 striped squirrels, deer, I feel more and more that I am meant to be outside, meant to be protecting nature and animals. And, I know for sure one thing, I can never be stuck in an office all day.