Saturday, May 25, 2013

First Day

I'm a GRA for the summer, which is shorthand for Guestroom Attendant, which is code for Hotel Maid. At orientation they told us only the mules at the Grand Canyon work harder than we do. I've been going through paperwork and training for the last few days, and today was the first day I actually went to work.

I left an hour early because the Grand Canyon really is a village, and I didn't trust myself to navigate the buses on my first try. That was a wise decision, and after a few recalculations, I showed up to the housekeeping office with time to spare.

As people filed into the office, I realized that I didn't hear a word of English. The other workers were from Thailand, Jamaica, and the Philippines, and they talked quickly to each other in their own languages. I would later learn that the only other Americans at Yavapai were a few Navajo women and the manager, an older woman with a smoker's rasp and a Louisiana accent.

Noraliz, a lovely woman from Venezuela trained me on my first few rooms. I was eager to practice my Spanish, and she wanted to work on her English, so as we worked a sort of pidgin emerged. 

"You change the sheets pero no the blankets."

"Cuantos sheets necesitamos?"

After the initial few weeks, a GRA is supposed to clean 14 rooms a day, or about one every half-hour. In those 30 minutes, we must strip the beds and remake them with hospital corners, dust every surface, replace the towels and coffee, scrub the bathroom from floor to ceiling, and remember a hundred other details like where to put the remote and what channel to turn the TV to. 

Between bending to make the bed, scrubbing the floor on your knees, and reaching up to dust picture frames, the work is exhausting. Noraliz promised I would be "so slender" by the time the summer was over. 

I cleaned a room by myself after I was trained, and did it perfectly... in an hour and fifteen minutes. I knew I was going to learn a lot this summer, but I didn't think I would learn so much about housekeeping!

Twenty-eight beds a day... is this penance for a childhood of mornings that I left my bed a mess?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Road Trip

Sunday morning, before the sun, my dad, Abby, and I set off on our cross-country adventure! Being at school, I haven't been able to spend the time I'd like with Abby, and it's been years since I've been on one of my dad's ambitious, meticulously-planned road trips. As far as modes of transportation go, this road trip looked like a winner. As we traveled, we made time for only the most breath-taking and important stops, like, of course, the world's (arguably) largest rocking chair.
We also stopped at Mammoth Caves, a 400-mile underground maze in Kentucky. 
When we got to Memphis, we stopped at the little duplex where I lived between the ages of 1 and 5, while my dad was going to optometry school. This is where I learned to somersault and where I learned to read, yet I barely remember it. When I think back, I can hear the neighbor calling for his dog, feel the spring of the trampoline next door, see the clothes spinning at the local Laundromat. I don't remember the birth of my brother or my dad’s graduation, or any of the things that the grown-ups thought were important.
What better place to picnic than the Parthenon?
 The three of us spent three-and-a-half days together, driving 10+ hours a day, and not only was I delivered to my summer job in a timely, we managed not to hate each other by the end. I would call that a successful family road trip!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Here I Am!

After three-and-a-half hours of driving, my dad, my 10-year-old sister Abby, and I arrived in the Grand Canyon Village around 10am on Wednesday. I'll have to write more about our roadtrip when I have time, but right now I'm typing this up as fast as I can between training sessions for my new job.

On Wednesday morning, I checked in and went through drug testing, brief training, and signing forms until my hand was about to fall off. Then I received my housing assignment: Colter Hall.

Colter Hall is like a college dorm, but maybe a little seedier. There are rumors of bedbugs, but I’m told they are all cleared out for now. The rooms are simple and bare, but with a few photos from home, it didn’t feel so bad. A couple other girls from ACMNP are on my floor, too.

My roommate, let’s call her Mary, has been working in the Grand Canyon year-round for about three years. Initially, I thought she was horrifically unfriendly, but it turns out she’s autistic and just a little uncomfortable with new situations. She’s quite nice, actually, and explained a lot of things about the park. Mary likes romance novels, Catholic shrines, and the NRA. She works nights, so I probably won’t see much of her.

After I was checked in, I went to a job training session for my paid job – guest room attendant (essentially, hotel maid). I’ll be cleaning 14-15 rooms a day, 6 days a week. It sounds like a pretty tiring job, but not awful. I’ll work my first full day on Friday.

After training, I had dinner with the ACMNP team. They all seem like great people, and I’m excited to get to know them! The team comes from all over the United States, and comes with all sorts of different abilities and passions. We’ll have our first service together over labor day.

But I haven’t even mentioned the Canyon… the Canyon! I counted, it’s 97 steps from my back door. I can wake up in the morning and in less than a minute, see THIS:

I visited the canyon when I was about 4 years old, but I didn’t remember it, and had this view in my head of a deep sort of crack in rock. I didn’t dream of this expanse of striated color and cliff faces, dagger-sharp edges and rolling corners, and the Colorado River at the bottom of it all. It’s the kind of beauty that leaves you gasping for breath. You want to throw your hands out and sing, or else you want to sit and be very solemn. It makes me want to laugh and cry and pray, and I can’t wait to spend the summer exploring.

More updates to come!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ready to Go

I've always been an over-packer. When I went to summer camp as a kid, I'd back twice as many clothes as I needed "just in case." I used to have nightmares about showing up to places without my bags. I wanted to be prepared.

I haven't changed much. When I moved out of my dorm the day before yesterday, I was amazed by the amount of stuff I had accumulated. Clothes I'd picked up from a thrift store, books I'd intended to read, a dozen plastic razors, a stuffed Marshmallow Peep... Some of things I'd brought with me, but some I'd amassed.

I think that's bound to happen when you settle into a place. Stuff starts creeping up around you like moss on a damp wall. It comes whenever you start to belong somewhere, and that stuff ties you to the place even more.

This is a little jarring when you have to move everything out. Suddenly you question why you have four bottles of lotion or pairs of corduroy pants in three different colors. Suddenly your place is gone and all you have is your stuff. 

In the Grand Canyon where I'm headed, I need to pack a summer into just a suitcase and a carry-on. That means two or three dresses, a handful of t-shirts, one sweater-- it means I need to box up what I can't give away and get by on less. 

This is a good thing for me. I don't find my identity in the things I own, but I do find a sort of safety in owning more than I need. It's hard for me not to throw an extra couple tubes of toothpaste into the bag, or a coat. (I know I'm going to Arizona in the summer, but you never know...

Cutting back to essentials means I can make my journey about what I'm going to do and less about what I need to bring. I'm stepping forward on a leap of faith, saying you know what? One hairbrush is enough.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Sexy Lie

Fantastic talk by Dr. Caroline Heldman. She talks about the ubiquity of the sexual objectification of women, but also gives us vocabulary to identify what this objectification looks like. Read more of her work here. This will change how you engage in advertisements and media.

Women are sold this idea that the goal is to be the perfect object. Heldman points out the power dichotomy inherent in that assumption. Even if women attain this impossible goal, men are still the subjects, and men control the interactions. Women are being held back by their own participation in a culture that says that a woman can be anything she wants... as long as she's sexy.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bed Intruder

The video is old news on the internet. When his sister confronted an attempted rapist, Antoine Dodson ran in to help her. His interview when the police came went viral because he was a little... well, I guess you could say flamboyant. The video really earned a niche in pop culture when someone auto-tuned Dodson's interview and released it as a song, "Bed Intruder" on itunes. It became a popular meme.

Why did we find Dodson so hilarious? The fact that his over-the-top motions conformed to certain stereotypes? The fact that the way he speaks isn't the same as us? Dodson is over-the-top, but he's talking about the near-rape of his sister. And we're laughing.

But maybe we're not laughing at the way he speaks, we're laughing at the sheer incongruity of the seriousness of the situation and the ebullient reaction. Maybe we know how serious an attempted rape is, and the sheer unexpectedness of the interview in light of that makes us laugh. Laughter is a coping mechanism.

But it's more than that. What makes me squeamish is the huge cultural divide between Antoine Dodson and the people who are sharing and listening to "Bed Intruder." He comes from "the projects," while we're watching from suburbia. Because of that it's easy to "other" him and disconnect the danger of a rapist-at-large from a conversation we think is kind of funny. Their danger is not our danger. What concerns me is that there IS no concern about the story behind the video.

If a main-stream singer released a song where the lyrics were "they're raping everybody out here," would our reactions be different? What if a white woman from an affluent neighborhood found the "bed intruder" in her room and her brother talked like a broadcaster from the midwest? Would we know the story? Would we care?

Anyone savvy on the internet can sing you this song. Most people don't think it's a problem. But I wonder what it means that we'll give 15 minutes of fame to someone who we think talks funny. I wonder what it means that we're okay with laughing about attempted rape. Are we having fun at someone else's expense? Or are we reacting to a scary, unpredictable life in the best way we know how-- by laughing at it?

Something to think about. (Now that the song's stuck in my head.)