"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A year after Peace Corps

It's been nearly a year since I came home from Peace Corps in Ecuador.  It doesn't feel like a year but I have crammed a lot in, so maybe that's why.

Right after I got back, I headed to North Carolina at Landmark Learning to earn my Wilderness First Responder certification from NOLS WMI.

The Nook, a beautiful home away from home.
Not only did I find the most amazing emergency medical school I could imagine, but I fell back in love with EMS after however many years away from it.  And...who knows... it may have been the start down a new path in life.

Right after I got back from North Carolina, I was on my way north back to Alaska permanently to work as a rock climbing and ziplining guide for Alaska Mountain Guides.  On one of my first days in the tiny super touristy southeast town of Skagway, I walked into the volunteer fire department and began my time as a volunteer. It was rewarding, difficult and inspiring work that ranged from rescue on the sea, glacier rescue, search and rescue overnight on a famous trail, fire training, medical calls, trauma calls, medivacs all the way up by ambulance to Whitehorse, Yukon, by way of dirt roads, and medivacs off cruise ships.  I was aching to have my EMT certification back so...when it became clear that I was returning to Illinois for at least the winter, I reserved my spot with Landmark Learning again for their month-long EMT-B class.

Nothing like wheeling in a stokes litter over a trail with a full overnight rescue pack on.

Skagway's water rescue boat on one of southeast's many gorgeous islands.

Practicing rappelling and ascending on the clocktower wall over Skagway.

EMS trauma rodeo... I got a traumatic brain injury with raccoon eyes, projectile vomiting (see the red cups of melted ice cream, food coloring, and fruit chunks to the left), and a compound forearm fracture.  Scared the shit out of a passerby but I couldn't verbally communicate to her because my mouth was full of fake vomit.

Oh, right.  I was also a guide for Alaska Mountain Guides:

Leaving Skagway was hard and I had a feeling I wouldn't be coming back as soon as I wanted, which indeed turned out to be true.

I got to stopover a few days in Washington to visit my old friend Scott at Mount Rainier, where my visit just completely happened to coincide with a kind of geological delegation from Colombia.  A group of scientists and emergency management and mitigation personnel from the U.S. visited a group of people with likewise professions in Colombia at the site of a volcanic disaster that claimed approximately 23,000 lives in 1985.  So during my visit, these Colombians just happened to plan their trip up to the same place.  So I got to follow them around and participate in their discussions - even met the famous Marta Calvache!  I was seriously pleased to be able to converse with her in her native language.

What do you do on a geology field trip?  Look at dirt.  I mean, ash.

Pretty soon I was again heading down to North Carolina to work like mad for a month in my EMT class at Landmark Learning with some five teachers, most of them paramedics but all WEMTs.  Despite not having a single call during my 12 hours of practical time, I thoroughly enjoyed focusing pretty much every waking hour of every day on the class.  And when it was over, I was completely at a loss for what to do now.  I spent a month focused and excited about what I was doing and then there was no where to go with it and carry on the energy.

So... reluctantly... I drove back to Illinois.

Job searching in Alaska was going no where since I failed to obtain a state driver's license (my new glasses never arrived in time for me to take the vision exam), and pretty much every job I wanted required one.  And I needed a job.  So I began looking in northern Illinois, which pretty much means retail even with a B.S. and M.S. in geology.  At the same time, curious about continuing EMS education, I started checking out the paramedic program at McHenry County College.  That started leading me in the direction of finding local fire department or private sponsorship, which led me to sign up for my only prerequisite class - Human Biology.

And to help me along with actually living here and being able to pay bills, Starbucks offered me a full time job.  I get a free pound of coffee a week (I'm currently sitting on nearly 10 pounds of coffee as I don't drink it that fast - any takers?) and all the free drinks I could possibly want (that excitement runs out after a month).

I went a 24-hour ridealong with the fire department I most want to work for a couple months ago.  We got slammed by something like eight calls, starting one hour in at 7 am with a full arrest - and so I found myself totally new to this crew, feeling completely calm doing chest compressions and working with the bag valve mask.  The day and night just continued like that with psychiatric patients, some trauma, a car accident on a seriously icy stretch of road, drug withdrawal, on and on.  It was exhausting... especially with the fire calls going off constantly next to our ambulance tones... especially when I had to go to work at Starbucks the following day...but I liked it.

The next step is waiting for them to invite me to a couple tests - one physical, one written, and an interview - before I can possibly be invited on as a cadet.  The disappointing thing is, I can't jump right into paramedic school - they have you become firefighters first.  The positive thing is, though, that I'd get nearly a year working with them as an EMT gaining experience in a suburban Illinois district.  I'm currently working my ass off at the gym preparing for the physical exam (look up 'CPAT' to see why I'm a little driven).  I sort of hope they remember the time when I was one hour new to their department and jumped right into helping with a full arrest patient...maybe that'll get me some leverage...

So that's where I am now.  Working for Starbucks, taking Human Biology, and working out.  Kind of floating, kind of not really sure what's going to happen or where I'm going.  But I think maybe I have a plan?  Sort of, kind of?

Oh, and I turned into Katniss Everdean.  I bought a beautiful black competition recurve bow that I shoot once or twice a week.