three-day again

finally livejournal seems to be working again! now i can write more.

as most of you probably know by now, i spent this past weekend crewing for the avon breast cancer three-day. (see this website or my previous entries — particularly on or around 30 june — for more info) as a crew member — part of concierge crew to be exact — my job was, above all, to support the walkers, and also to help out in the concierge tent and elsewhere as needed.

before day one of the three-day i was kind of skeptical and not extremely enthusiastic about the three-day. the people who organize it — pallotta teamworks — do a really good job of filling you with all this uplifting rhetoric, lots of very inspiring images, etc. basically you start to see yourself as something of a hero. it may be genuine or it may be excellent marketing; either way, it does work. i am skeptical of it and think it’s kind of inflated, but it inspires me anyway. (i can’t help it.) but we crew members didn’t interact too much before the event and didn’t even get much training, and it seemed like everyone else had done this before and had totally bought into the inspiring rhetoric and i just started feeling very alone in my skepticism. i kept hearing all this stuff about the three-day being the most meaningful experience in everyone’s lives and so far it wasn’t turning out that way for me. in fact it was sort of a hassle getting to meetings and buying equipment and etc. i paid $55 to register to be a crew member — yes, i paid for the privilege of being able to volunteer! — and next year the reg fee will be $150. i figured i wasn’t going to go through all of this again and pay $150 too — i would just donate to breast cancer research instead.

when i arrived at the santa clara convention center on day one, i was still feeling like the lone cynic among four thousand well-intentioned sheep. (that’s a little bit harsher than what i was feeling. but when you’re being fed all this positivity, it’s tough to be an analytical, thinking person and still buy into it wholeheartedly without having experienced it first.) i mean, at six in the morning, when you’re trying to figure out where you’re supposed to be and what you’re supposed to be doing, surrounded by four thousand people who all apparently know their places and think you know yours, you just feel awfully alone.

anyway, when opening ceremonies started on day one (27 july, friday), i quickly remembered why i was volunteering my time, money, and self to this event. actually, in retrospect, my response to the opening ceremonies was a pretty good indicator of what my entire experience would be like. the speeches were a little too pretty though they did sound sincere, everything was just too perfectly symbolic, but when i looked around at the people around me i just wanted to cry. first of all, looking at several thousand volunteers all mobilized and ready to challenge themselves for a great cause is a very moving thing. the sheer amount of people giving of themselves and stepping out of their comfort zones for the benefit of others was really staggering and beautiful. it’s impossible to imagine what this looks like unless you’ve seen it, but just the sight of it renews your faith in human kindness, even if you do think (as i did at the time) that these people are only buying into a carefully planned marketing strategy. there was a second thing that not only made me want to cry but actually did bring tears: many or even most of the walkers in the three-day are walking because they have been affected by breast cancer in some way, either directly or indirectly. it shows: there were many women wearing pins or hats or shirts with ‘survivor’ on them. that in itself is so touching. when they’re reading the statistic that forty thousand people die of breast cancer each year in the united states alone, it’s incredibly heartening to see so many others who have struggled and survived. but also, the presence of those who did not survive was very strong. it was impossible to forget the cause amidst all these memories. people covered themselves in remembrances of those who they knew who passed away: photos of the loved ones printed onto the back of their t-shirts along with names, poems, dates and ‘we miss you’; names written on ribbons and pinned to their baseball caps; banners; messages like ‘i am walking so my children’s generation will not be affected’ and ‘for my sister and my mother’ written onto their clothing… so many people have lost someone or know someone who is at this very moment battling the cancer… there were more than a few tears at opening ceremonies, believe me, and i’m not just talking about my own.

after the ceremonies the walkers started on their way and we crew headed for the buses that would take us to that night’s camp. because there were so many people, i got stuck for a while and couldn’t get to the bus to meet my group. i was really nervous and scared they would leave without me. when i finally got there, ruthann, a veteran crew member (and assistant captain of concierge crew) and a motherly lady with a beautiful smile who positively exudes love, spotted me and asked me if i’d been hugged yet that day. i said no so she gave me a big hug. i was so nervous and emotional that i almost cried again just because it felt so good to know that someone noticed me and was welcoming me as part of the group!

on the way to camp i chatted with some of the other women in concierge crew. they were very nice, and amidst all the smiles and friendliness i started feeling better and less alone. when we got to camp many of the tents practically all of it had already been set up (not the sleeping tents), thanks to the advance set-up crew! i don’t know how those people did it. they had to set up goodness knows how many big tents (the dining tent, for example, contained enough tables and chairs and was big enough to fit probably two thousand people, if not the entire four thousand — just try and picture that!) and probably hundreds of port-a-potties and other miscellaneous things. (side note: i’ve never used such great port-a-potties in my life. they were clean! they had mirrors on the backs of the doors! they did NOT smell even when you looked into the toilet pit and saw things that definitely should have raised a stink!) and they did this twice, once on day one and once on day two, and they had to pack this all up the next days.

we got to work unloading everything for the concierge tent from the concierge truck, one of those big moving-van type vehicles. we formed a bucket-brigade kind of chain and unloaded tables and chairs, many cases of water and gatorade, cases of avon products to give away and sell, cases of snacks… concierge was awesome in every sense. avon provided so many products to give away during the event, and they were all full sizes — BIG full sizes, too, like 14 ounce bottles of lotion — things like foot powder and shampoo and deodorant and sunscreen. more on these later. and i don’t know who provided these, but we had enough snacks to stock up every single person for probably several days. i can’t even list all of the things we had. apples. baby carrots. bananas. three different kinds of granola bars, three kinds of nutri-grain bars, chips ahoy cookies, boxes of raisins, bags of trail mix, bagels, three flavors of fruit rollups, bags of goldfish crackers, ritz bits cheese sandwich crackers, bags of pretzels and chex mix… any one box of any of these things would have lasted me a year probably, and we had twelve or more boxes of each! (*groan* and we had to load and unload all of that every day…)

with all this loading and unloading, on a very warm day that started for everyone in the early hours of the morning, you pretty much have to be cheerful and patient and helpful in order to avoid disaster. but you know, when everyone is cheerful and patient and helpful, being that way becomes effortless. we all smiled at each other all the time and asked each other if we could help out. we chatted and laughed. everyone was just very open and friendly and willing to help, and it was contagious. by mid-afternoon we had all loosened up considerably and were getting to be friends. it’s hard to describe how that happens so quickly… but you know when you’re standing in a long line for something and you’re feeling cranky, and then the person in front of you turns around and makes some kind of sarcastic but funny comment about the service and you make a rejoinder and the two of you laugh together? and then you feel better, and if you keep talking to the person, you feel less and less cranky and the huge line gradually loses its importance and you start to remember that you came to disneyland or the movies or wherever in the first place because you wanted to have fun? that’s what it was like. that ‘we’re all in this together so we may as well make the best of it’ kind of feeling. we all got up at five and will be for the next two days, we’re all going to be on our feet all day long lifting things and helping out, we’re all going to sleep in tents and be stinky and sweaty, so let’s be friends!

(if you’re finding this long, too bad for you. it’s my online journal and i’m recording this so i’ll be sure to remember it all. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

day one was somewhat chaotic because there was only so much to do and so many of us to do it, so a lot of the time was spent sort of standing around waiting for something to do. a bunch of us took up this ridiculous task just for the sake of doing something: avon had given us cases of little bottles of bug repellent, and cases of little spray tops. i don’t know what genius thought up the idea of packaging liquid bug repellent with an ordinary cap and packaging the spray caps separately, but that’s the way we got them. so we unwrapped all the spray tops and stuck them on the bottles of repellent. we joked about it a lot — ‘so this is our contribution to the cause!’ — but we were really happy to have something to do. ๐Ÿ™‚ then connie (our spirited crew captain) pulled some of us over to take a look at the showers. the mobile showers were amazing. i guess they normally use those for traveling circuses, or fire fighters who are spending days at some site fighting a forest fire, things like that. they’re just trucks that have showers in them. amazing. each shower had a little dressing area, too, and they were lighted and the water stayed hot all day long! i can’t tell you how good a hot, private shower feels when you’ve been on your feet and sweating all day long and you’re living in a tent. but i’m sure most people can imagine. ๐Ÿ™‚ so after exploring the showers some of us got started setting up a table with the free avon shower products in the middle of the shower area. for lack of anything else to do, we spent a long time making pretty displays ๐Ÿ™‚ connie had to wrangle with the guy in charge of the portable showers, because apparently at the last three-day people brought these products into the showers and just left them there, so at the end of the day the shower people had to clean out tons of stuff from the showers. they didn’t want us to let them bring stuff into the showers at all. we argued, because it’s absurd to hand out free full-size bottles of shampoo and then tell people they can’t use them in the showers. we promised to tell everyone we gave the stuff to that they had to take them out of the showers. the shower people finally agreed, so we had to stick to our promise too. this is, in short, how i got roped into being one of the three people who started becoming associated with the free avon products. it was really funny. i could talk for hours about us giving away the products. i think, though, that i’ll save those anecdotes for another time. for now i’ll just say… ‘hello! you can help yourself to whatever you want; either borrow it just to use in the showers and then bring it back here to us, or you can keep it and take it home with you, whatever you like.’

it’s getting late. i think i should start making my dinner now. i’m definitely not done talking about the three-day — in fact i could probably talk about it for three days straight — but i’ll give you some time to digest this. ๐Ÿ™‚

[note, 4/10/14: Imported from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]

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