Monday, June 27, 2005

Twin Cities

Hello everyone. Dave here. How is everyone? Good I suppose. And me? I’m doing just swell. I can’t believe I am already on my third project. Right now I am writing this on top of my plush air mattress, in my killer 2 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom apartment in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I got this baby in Denver before I left for 9 bucks at Wal-Mart. It was worth every penny. I know this doesn’t sound quite remarkable, but after sleeping on the floor of a community center in Miami and hitting the hay in camp cabins in Des Moines it is quiet the change to live in a housing complex, a building that was designed for the sole purpose of housing people, most of which who have never even heard of Americorps. My mission this round as I chose to accept it, working with an agency called CommonBond, which is the largest provider of low income housing in the Twin Cities. In addition to providing housing, they offer many services to their residents. During the summer they run recreational programs for the children. We are helping to run and in some cases, like mine, developing and running these programs almost entirely by ourselves.

In addition to summer programs CommonBond offers English classes, citizenship classes and job recruitment services. Many of the residents living in these family sites are recent immigrants and political refugees. Many have moved from East Africa. To give you an example, the site that I am working at is 50% East African, mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia, probably 20% are Mhong, many of which left South Vietnam, 15% African American and the rest are Caucasian and Latino. I’ve already learned so much and a couple of the parents are teaching me different languages. It’s difficult since I am often being told phrases in Somali, Ethiopian, Swahili and Italian (Italy was a big imperial power in E. Africa, remember) all at once. It gets overwhelming, but I’m trying to take as much in and looking forward to learning more.

So I know that when I hear the word subsidize housing, especially “project” it congers up an image of dark long corridors, with leaky ceilings and holes in the floor. This is most likely do to the fact that I have never been in a “project” before, but these housing complexes don’t look anything like that. Most of them seem as nice, if not nicer then much of the market rate housing I’ve seen in the area. I’ve been told that Minneapolis does one of the best jobs of providing affordable housing out of any state in the US. I met this one family who first lived in Flushing, New York before moving to Minneapolis and described the services here as far superior to the services in New York. At the same time the harsh reality that many of these families live below the poverty line never goes away. This weekend I’ve heard about some of the complains my teammates either witnessed first hand or overheard between residents and management staff. Rats, cockroaches and the strong smell of urine in the halls are a few.

In addition to the family sites, there are a handful of senior sites, independent housing for senior citizens and sites designed for people with special needs. Our beautiful apartments are located in a senior site. Although I just said that the family sites are nice, which they are, the senior sites are far nicer. I assume most of the residents in my building pay market value rents. The building is only 3 years old, it has a bunch of study/library areas, a pool table and its right next to a bike path that goes to the Mississippi. There are even a couple parks near by to play basketball at. We wake up early three times a week to play basketball before we go to work in the morning. Every so often when we play ball after work we run into a group of older kids in the park that don’t know what to make of us and seem utterly perplexed by the racial makeup of our group. I don’t think these highly athletic streetballerz are use to seeing a coed asian, black, tall white guy and short red headed jewish kid team.

So Monday through Thursday we run the summer programs, and on Fridays we work at these senior sites. The residents get the opportunity to sign up for two of us to help them with certain cleaning tasks in their apartment that require heavy moving and lifting. We clean behind refrigerators, couches, clean windows. Last week I polished this woman’s wooden cabinets with bottles of liquid gold she supplied. I think many of the residents are just genuinely glad to see us, some young faces to keep them company for a half hour or so. Most of the time the residents are busy talking to us, or the more timid ones just watch us work. The work is relatively easy, most often the people only have one or two small things for us to do, but they are so appreciative of the work we do. I think I will always look forward to these Fridays.

Although I am quite happy here and this project had good potential, there has already been there fair share of frustration and disappointment. If I haven’t explained this already this round is shuffle round and I am with a completely different group of people. This has its positives and negatives. It’s nice to work with fresh faces and get to know some new people, make new friends. At the same time, I miss many things about my regular team. In general this team is a lot more quiet and laid back. This is nice at times, but I miss the energy and enthusiasm of my regular team. Even when we fought, it was energetic and passionate. Sometimes I feel our team lacks the interest or passion for a team quarrel. Also, we are also working at different sites that require a great deal of driving in the mornings. I’ve been spending 4 hours in the van everyday, carpooling people before and after work. This has been a real pain. Second, I was given a challenging site to work at with a disproportionate amount of responsibility. I feel this program will only work, if its well planned, highly scheduled and if we have high standards for the children participating. Otherwise I feel the kids are going to run wild the program will turn into complete chaos. On Monday my summer program officially starts. We’ve spent the last week planning and tomorrow we find out if it pays off. Otherwise, besides these small problems, everything is a-ok. Minneapolis is beautiful in the summer and we have been having a blast during our free time. So far I’ve met the Mayor and the guy from the documentary Super Size Me! I just hope it is a dry summer so I don’t have to stay inside all day with the kids. That wouldn’t work to well. Well, wish me luck.


PS: I want to apologize for not keeping up to date with my writing. I’ve done so much more recently that I hope to share with you guys. I also went on an incredible road trip all around Utah that I’d like to share with you (see my pics online). I noticed that I have trouble writing short, frequent letters. I’d rather express my experiences in detail. And with that being said I would like to announce that I will be starting a BLOG which will include all my e-mails, pictures and stories. I will also post many things I have started writing but have not had the opportunity to e-mail. I will send you an e-mail letting you know when it’s up and running. Till then don’t forget to check out my NEW pics:

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Buzzball: No Holes. Big Goals

This is an article written for The Altitude, a published Americorps*NCCC Newsletter.

Buzzball: No Holes. Big Goals. The Birth Of A Brand Spankin' New Field Sport
By: David Edelman

It was a beautiful sunny day at Easter Seals Camp Sunnyside in Des Moines, Iowa when Nate Kabat and myself, David Edelman members of team Earth 5 first conceived the idea for the sport Buzzball. We weren’t planning on inventing a game that specific day or any day for that matter. I contribute the invention of buzzball to everything that was going on and all that we were feeling at that specific time.

It was a perfect day. Should every Sunday have been as sunny as this one, this game would have been conceived a long time ago. The day prior was the long awaited rummage sale, an event we had been planning for the past month. The sale proved to be a success surpassing prior years and all our team’s expectations. The rain clouds decided to show a little mercy, we were able to get rid of a little over half of the excess items that had been donated to the camp and over $500 was banked for Easter Seals. After working a strenuous 6-day workweek, it was time for a little recreation and leisure time. I think that is what we found in a game like Buzzball, high times, high spirits and a little friendly competition. A gentleman’s game that one could enjoy, especially on a day like today.

After sleeping away most of the morning and a hardy breakfast under my belt, I found myself hitting balls with Nate and a pair of old clubs encased in a decadent, vintage golf bag that were over looked during yesterdays yard sale. One thing led to another and suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of the field, sandbox to the left of us, lake to the right, taking turns wacking a wiffle ball back and forth. Terminology developed, hits became dishmacks, sidewalks became goals and then it was clear, we had invented a golf like game that anyone could enjoy. A game that could be played on any field, large or small, all that is needed is a buzzball (typically an oversized wiffleball) two clubs of your choosing (irons and woods are both acceptable) and at least one high-spirited friend to volunteer their skills in a friendly game of competition.

Buzzball takes its name from the sound the wiffle makes when hit strong and soundly with the club. If you hear the buzz, you are close to a score. Shortly after the games invention, to our surprise, Water 7, which was traveling back to Denver, happened to pay us an unexpected visit. These lucky souls had the opportunity to witness the first inaugural buzzball game. The teams, Red Hatters: Nate Kabat (who had just preformed the daunting task of winning a game in two dismacks) and Rob Bob Wiley vs. Blue Hatters: myself, David Edelman and Matt “Radioshack” Harvie. It was a glorious match, which ended in a 2-1 victory for the Blue Hats. So, to all you readers out there, I hope you will join in on the fun. Buzzball is a game for the people. A game that celebrates all that is right and good. The grand dishmack is yours. Hi yo!

How to play Buzzball:

Buzzball is played on a field between two teams of either 1 or 2 players per team. Goals must be determined before the beginning of play. Often pre-existing obstacles, such as sidewalk lengths are used as goals. If conditions don’t exist, any sort of length markers (soccer goals, frisbees, nalgenes, etc.) could be used to establish goal territories. A wiffleball is placed in the middle of the field. First hit is decided with the toss. One player throws their club in the air and is caught by a player of the opposing team. Then typical little league hand over hand motion ensues until one player grabs the head of the club determining who will chose between field direction or first hit. The first hit of the game is referred to as the Grand Dishmack. Before the Grand Dishmack the player must yell Hi Yo. This announces the beginning of the game. Teams take turns, one at a time, hitting the ball toward their respective goals. If a player hits the wiffle into their opponents’ goal, they score. Best of 3 scores wins a buzzball game.