One thing I really love about this program is the opportunity it gives me to travel, especially to places in the United States that I never thought I would find myself.
Our first big adventure led my team and I to Vicksburg, Mississippi where we finished up our specific FEMA position training. The first time I went to Mississippi, I drove through so quickly that I didn’t get the chance to see what Southern living truly is. Two weeks of training seemed like ample time to get a feel for what life in Mississippi is like.
The Vicksburg campus is definitely a huge plus about the region. Some of the buildings are hundreds of years old and are made from this beautiful brick material that leaves me feeling like I’m somewhere entirely outside of the United States. When we first arrived on campus, I fell in love with the exterior so quickly that I was really grateful to call this place my new temporary home.
I quickly came to notice some other interesting things about the Vicksburg campus and Mississippi, too.
One thing I immediately came to appreciate about the Vicksburg campus is how much they strive to be leaders in the environmental movement. They really minimize their paper usage, which is a rare find for most campuses. In all of the bathrooms, you would be hard pressed to find paper towels or sometimes even toilet paper. You can go hours without finding a bathroom with toilet paper, a really innovative method of environmental ethics if you ask me.
With so many early mornings, my roommates and I have been fortunate enough to have a specialty alarm clock that never misses a beat. The alarm clock, a mini fridge we deemed “Tammy”, goes off at least three times a night. She’ll shake uncontrollably and let out loud, rickety noises that wakes us all up. The fridge has been a fail safe in ensuring that my roommates and I don’t oversleep by not letting us sleep longer then three hours at a time. When punctuality is of utmost importance to FEMA, the fridge has been a blessing.
Another thing I really love about the area are the laws. Instead of having to call numerous taxis to get downtown, one six-passenger minivan will come and pick up any number of people. Whoever said you couldn’t cram fifteen people in the back of a minivan clearly had never been to Mississippi. Better yet, Mississippi also has an open container law that allows drivers to drink while driving as long as they’re not drunk. Finally someone that understands pregaming.
Now, it wouldn’t be fair for me to talk about these aspects of Mississippi without also mentioning the wonderful array of creatures here. Just the other day, a spider no smaller then my entire hand spent some time with me while I was working on a farm. It had these gorgeous, bright yellow stripes that screamed, “You really don’t want to touch me.” Even better then the spider is the large amount of hidden bugs that have left me fun marks across my entire body. It’s like a portrait of hundreds of red, diseased looking bumps. It’s truly a beautiful sight.
I couldn’t possibly forget the food, either. The cafeteria staff has been nice enough to really embrace my Irish roots. All three meals consist of potatoes. Just yesterday for dinner I had a delicious helping of mashed potatoes and pasta. Occasionally there’s some vegetables specially picked from the best tin cans available this side of the Mississippi. The kitchen staff truly knows the best, most nutritious meals to help me get through the 8-5 training days.
Even the delivery guys are helpful too. Instead of letting you over eat, I’ve heard they’ll eat half your pizza before they deliver it to you. That way, there’s no way you could possibly go to bed too full. That’s philanthropy at its best. (**Disclaimer, this didn’t happen to me but allegedly it happened to another Corps member**)
Mississippi has definitely been an experience for the books. To say the least, I’m looking forward to heading back to Vinton on Thursday. However, I can’t say that I didn’t gain the opportunity to experience an area of the world that I likely would never have found myself in, or will ever find myself in again.