Well, I’m completing my birthday list today; I’m heading to Hyannis, Massachusetts, for this year’s birthday trip. I didn’t get the chance to catch up with my reporting, so I will continue when I return.
The event, hosted by the Brookline High School Japanese Program and Genki Spark, was held in the high school’s courtyard. It was a perfect day to be outside and learn about Japanese culture. Seven taiko drumming and dancing groups performed amid a number of Japanese food stalls and activity stations. It was a great community event! If you haven’t seen taiko drumming before, seek it out.
My boyfriend is a drummer, so when I spied a sticker with an illustration of knuckles and drumsticks on a coworker’s water bottle at a meeting, I asked her about it. And that’s how I found out about an international movement to empower girls called Girls Rock Camp.
Girls Rock Camp helps girls “find their voice” by teaching them to play instruments and perform in a band at the end of a weeklong session. Girls also learn about empowerment and social justice along the way.
A wonderful and life-changing experience, right?
My coworker, who volunteers for the girls’ camp, told me about Ladies Rock Camp, which is a condensed three-day version of the girls’ camp for women 21+ held each spring. The money raised from this camp is used to fund scholarships for girls who want to attend the summer camp.
Music is a HUGE part of my life as is volunteering = I HAD TO volunteer for this camp and see what it was all about. (And it would conveniently count as a birthday list item.)
I arrived at the orientation the night before the weekend started, having no idea what to expect. The camp was taking place at a community center in a neighboring town. There were about 25 women there, and as we introduced ourselves, I learned that most of the women had been campers themselves and had been volunteering for a while. They all talked about what a positive experience it was for them, and I sensed that I was entering a community—one that I’d enjoy being a part of.
Camp started the next morning (a Friday), but I arrived at dinnertime because I had to work during the day. I would be on “site crew” for the weekend, meaning that I would set up spaces for workshops, stock the bathrooms, and help out wherever I was needed. My cohorts were two veteran volunteers who gladly showed me the ropes.
The weekend was intense…each day started around 9:00 am and ended around 11:00 pm. If I remember correctly, there were about 50 campers who split up into eight bands. Most bands were composed of a lead singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist. The daily schedule was packed full of practice time, workshop time, social time, and meals.
On Saturday, I helped set up two sessions of a screenprinting workshop. Each band came up with a name and a logo and made screen-printed T-shirts. I loved watching creativity at work. Ladies had a choice of three workshops in the evening. Luckily there wasn’t much setup needed, so I attended one about standing up to micro-agressions in daily life.
On Sunday, the energy was palpable because the campers would be performing in public that evening at a popular music venue. After only three days of lessons! Campers had their hair “did” by volunteer hairdressers and could choose among hundreds of temporary tattoos to wear. Band photos were taken and I helped set up one last workshop on relational aggression.
The camp ran like a well-oiled machine. Every camper and volunteer whom I met was friendly, curious, open, supportive, and loved music. Watching the campers onstage on Sunday night was truly inspiring and empowering. I can’t wait to volunteer again next year.
I’ve been wanting to visit Portland, Oregon, for years. I knew that I would love it, but it would be an expensive trip and I would have to take at least a week off from work. And I tend to take all of my big vacations in England, my second home.
Well, the stars aligned earlier this year and my vice president agreed to pay for me to attend a conference in Portland in April. Not only would I be attending my first American Copy Editors Society conference, but I would also have the opportunity to explore a city that I knew I would be smitten with.
The conference was great. I was surrounded by hundreds of people who cared about grammar and spelling and proper usage of words. There were entire sessions on dictionaries, a spelling bee, and a formal dinner at which the keynote speaker used images of Grumpy Cat during her speech.
But, this post is about birthday list items. I did a number of things I’ve never done before, but the two most important ones were:
I only managed to carve out one hour to spend at Powell’s, but it was a glorious hour. There are so many sections that whole wings of the store are color coded. Luckily I found an information desk early on and an employee told me where to find the travel and music sections. I was half giddy and half teary eyed throughout the experience. I left with a happy heart and gratitude toward Portlanders for supporting this store.
2. Visited a cat café
I’ve been obsessed with cat cafés for a few years now. I don’t remember how I first heard about them, but I’ve known about the cat cafés in San Francisco, London, and Montreal for a while. I met a number of people from Montreal at a conference in January, and our introductions went something like this:
Me: Hi, I’m Nancy. I work at xx.
Montrealer: Hi, I’m xx. I work at xx.
Me: That’s great! Have you been to either of the cat cafés??
Only one Montrealer was aware that the cat cafés existed, and she hadn’t visited it.
So my friend Kara whom I met in Boston lives in Portland now, and she graciously played host during my sightseeing days. She offhandedly mentioned that there was a cat café in Portland and a record scratch went off in my head. “Can we go???” I pleaded.
She said, “Sure!” And so we found ourselves at Purringtons on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
We bought tea and then paid a fee to hang with the kitties for an hour. There were six kitties and some were napping or unenthused by our presence. But we were able to get some good pets in. This cat was a lover.
It was a fun experience, and I look forward to visiting other cat cafés in the future…
This post is long enough, but I just have to mention the other wonderful things that Portland offers:
Beer, donuts, coffee, culture, nice people, and a startlingly amount of natural beauty.
If it were about 2,500 miles closer, I would move there in a heartbeat.
Some friends and I had tacos on a Monday in March. A friend of a friend works at Cuisine en Locale and from what I had read about it, it seemed like an interesting business venture. Restaurant, catering, meal delivery, and music venue. An endeavor run by a team of people passionate about local food and cooking and music. I dig it!
If I recall correctly, there were four or five different kinds of tacos. I tried a couple and they were delightful. The place had a neighborhood vibe to it. There was an area in front of the tables that resembled a dance floor at a wedding or bar mitzvah. At some point, two men with guitars appeared on said floor and started playing country music.
We peeked into the music venue part, the ONCE Ballroom, on the way out. It looked like a great venue, and I am going to put it on my non-birthday list of places to go this summer…
I actually won something from an online sweepstakes a couple of months ago! I won a travel package to Salem, Massachusetts. It’s a whopping 25 miles north, so I’ve visited numerous times. But the package was pretty sweet and included a night at a bed and breakfast. So Allen and I had the opportunity to really explore Witch City.
Included in the package were tickets to a museum that I hadn’t been to before, so score one for the birthday list! I didn’t know anything about the Salem Witch Museum except that it had a cool exterior.
Upon entering, Allen and I were shown to a dark room with benches. Soon a deep, dramatic voice started telling us the story of the 1692 witch trials. Above us in a circle were life-size scenes of the story. The sets looked at least 30 years old. The most memorable scene featured the story of Giles Corey. He was accused of witchcraft and refused to plead guilty. To get him to plead guilty, the prosecutors put a crapload of stones on top of him. Instead of confessing, he struggled to say, “More weight….more weight….”
When the story ended, a guide led us into another room. She pointed out a timeline of witchcraft on the wall and showed us two mannequins dressed up as Wiccans. She wrapped up her talk by mentioning more contemporary instances of witch hunts, including McCarthyism and Japanese internment camps during WWII.