Monday, September 13, 2010

Welcome to NOLS Southwest!

Hello from Tucson! I left Minneapolis yesterday morning and arrived here after a smooth flight and connection in Dallas. I took a shuttle to my hotel and was surprised right away by a few things:
-There are cacti EVERYWHERE! I guess I hadn't expected Tucson to be a complete desert, which it is (at least to a Minnesotan who is used to her 10,000 lakes).
-There are also mountains everywhere-- Tucson is surrounded on four sides by the Santa Catalina, Rincon, Santa Rita, and Tucson mountain ranges (if I remember correctly). It is stunningly beautiful.
I wandered around the neighborhood a bit, but went to bed early to prepare for an early morning.

This morning I met other NOLS students in the hotel lobby around 6:30, and we were picked up by NOLS staff around 7. We drove to the NOLS Southwest base and met our leaders and found out that we were going on trail tomorrow morning (apparently other students had gotten an email notifying us of this, but somehow I never got that--this was different than the schedule they had given us originally). We were then given a tour of the facilities--after talking to my boyfriend Christopher, who left on his own NOLS course shortly before me, I had somewhat different expectations of what the base might look like. From what I gather, this is one of the smallest of NOLS' outfits. Perhaps the most striking was discovering that at the base we sleep in the "tents" we bring on trail, which consist of only one pole and a rain tarp that hovers about a foot above the sand (whereas the base in Lander, Wyoming has dorms for their students). There are yurts for the leaders & staff to stay in, and the central building of the compound is the "ramada" which is an open-air structue with a roof and tables and couches. The base is located on what was once an Arabian horse farm, so there are some horse stalls nextto the ramada that are now used for storage. There's one staff office/lodging building and a swimming pool! (We were too busy all day to go for a swim, but today was the day for it--one of our instructors said it was supposed to be close to 100F today.)

We learned our schedule for the semester and then dove into our first task of bagging all of our food for the first two sections (backpacking and rock climbing). I was interested to see what lunch would consist of, since the kitchen is tiny so I was certain it would also be different than Christopher's experience. Apparently they solve this problem by ordering in-- we had Quiznos subs for lunch and pizza for dinner.

After lunch one of our instructors went through all of my gear with me and then sent me to the Outfitting room to get the rest of what I needed for hiking and rock climbing. We packed our gear for the hiking section, and because we aren't returning to the base in between hiking and rock climbing, we also packed bags with clean clothes for after this section and with all of our gear for rock climbing. We were then divided into "cooking groups" (groups of 4 that we tent and cook with), learned how to pack our packs, and had a talk about the "Positive Learning Environment" that is expected at NOLS. It was a very full and exciting day. We accomplished so much in a ridiculously short amount of time; we prepared everything we need for the next month and a half since arriving at the base 12 hours ago (though it seems like we've already been here much longer than that).

My life for the next semester:
9/14: leave to go on a 22-day backpacking trip in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico.
10/6: transition day (showers!!)
10/7: begin climbing section
10/23: return to NOLS base for WFR, which is...
10/24-11/2: Wilderness First Responder training
11/4: leave for canoeing section on the Rio Grande
11/20-11/21: drive back to NOLS base
11/24: begin Independent Student Group Travel (ISGT) section
12/9: return to NOLS base, prepare for departure home, my birthday!

My address at NOLS:
Caroline Lauth-FSW2
NOLS Southwest
2751 N. Soldier Trail
Tucson, AZ 85749

I would love to hear from everyone, so feel free to send me mail :) I'll do my best to keep in touch but I don't know if I'll have much in the way of outside communication until we return to the base in October.
Until then!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

She's Leaving Home

The chorus of one of my favorite Beatles songs says, "She is leaving home." In truth it's a pretty melancholy song, but it has always struck a chord with me. As the day approaches that I, too, will be leaving home, I'm finding it a fitting song for this transition. In some ways it is grossly inaccurate; I couldn't be going on this adventure without the complete support of my parents, and I'm not by any means looking at it as an escape. (In fact, as the remaining days become fewer I am more fully appreciating the comfort and safety of home.) But taking things less literally, the essence of the song is very appropriate for my imminent departure.

I've spent the past two days packing (with surprisingly little difficulty!) for my flight to Tucson, Arizona this coming Sunday. My to-do list seems to be growing faster than I can cross things off, but nevertheless I am starting to feel more prepared for my semester at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). I'm finding more difficulty and stress, however, in planning my second semester in which I plan to WWOOF in Italy and Spain. Figuring out flights, visas, registrations and travel logistics... I've somehow managed to leave all of this for my last 3 days at home. I'm holding onto a (perhaps misguided) belief that in time things will just work themselves out.

Yesterday I visited my best friend at St Olaf College and found myself almost wishing that I were starting college this fall. I've always taken for granted the security of knowing exactly where I will be--and that that place includes a bed and food and shelter--every day for the next nine months. College, though not "easy," seems temptingly comfortable at the moment. It is an understatement to say that it is a little terrifying not knowing exactly what is in store for me this year. But I think it is important to do things that terrify you. (I thought that this was a great original philosophy of mine, but apparently I've been plagiarizing Eleanor Roosevelt all along.) I am certain that this year will be enriching and rewarding in ways I can't yet know.  And more than anything I am excited beyond belief for the experiences that await me.

The final chorus of the song says instead, "She is having fun." I suppose I thought this, too, was fitting... or at least a hope of what is to come.