Joan my boss, Sam (my VISTA partner in crime), and I spent most of our first week together in training in Missoula. Unfortunately I forgot to pack my camera so I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the city, but I’m sure I will be going back there at some point, so no worries you can all see pictures of it later. Missoula is a college town with a river running through it. It is common to see groups of college students floating down the river on inner tubes, toting a cooler of beer behind them. One of the funniest things about Missoula, is that the schools built giant rock letters set in the surrounding mountains to display their school spirit. We saw an M, C, and shortly outside of Missoula an S.
The first day of training focused on manager skills, and how to facilitate meetings to be more effective. We also got to practice doing a mock press conference. Using a case study of we acted like the superintendent of Helena schools who is responding to increasing concerns over their proposed changes to their health curriculum. We had to respond to concerned parents about their kids being taught about same sex relationships. I thought I did pretty well, until I watched the replay. Many face-palms followed by “why did I say that” ensued. Needless to say I hope I won’t have to do a conference anytime soon. Our second day was not as interesting dealing with statistics and how to use them. Besides finding out that “epi” means a completely different things to epidemiologists and EMT’S, we looked at various sources for statistical data on health trends for our communities. One thing I found interesting, was because Montana is such a small state, sometimes the epidemiologists cannot release information. For example If there was one teenaged abortion last year in Jefferson County, they would not be able to release that information because it would be a potential HIPPA violation.
For the weekend a bunch of us VISTA’s met up in Great Falls for the Montana State Fair. Friday night we all went bar hopping, including The Sip and Dip. Probably the most well known bar in the state, the small bar comes with a huge tank that features girls dressed as mermaids, swimming while you relax. Their “fishbowl” cocktail, came served in a, you guessed it fishbowl. With~10 shots of coconut rum, this quickly became a favorite among some of the wilder people in our group. Don’t worry mom, I shared one with 5 other people.
We went to the Montana State Fair on Saturday. The fair had various craftsmen and political groups with booths, as well as prized lettuce (even had a ribbon on it :P). There were many different shows going on throughout the week, but one of the VISTA’S Sheila was excited to see the BLUE ANGELS as they base in Pensacola Florida, where she is from. We tried to go see their show, but there was bus transportation from the fair to the air base, and the bus driver would not take up anyone else half an hour before the show. Fortunately we were able to watch them circle around for their tricks from where we were. We went to visit the petting zoo which had a strange variety of animals. There was a kangaroo, a camel, zebra, and an african crested porcupine. They had a wide assortment of goats, including a pair of miniature goats who were too busy knock heads to pay us any attention. There was a tiny baby goat that was only one week old. I wanted to take him home with me 🙂 For lunch I chowed down on a deep fried burger with pepperjack cheese, green chilies, and ranch. While delicious, my stomach was not happy later with the amount of fried food in it.
Later that night we went to the Charles Daniels band (plays the devil went down to georgia). As the first country concert I went to, I was not expecting much as country has never been one of my favorite music genres. The concert had its share of highs and lows. The long drawn out Amazing Grace was not doing wonders keeping me awake from my sleep deprived weekend. But some of the faster paced songs were alright. Black Ice, an instrumental song, written specifically for the purpose of long drawn out solos, impressed me by the drummer’s talent. Very few drummers are able to solo for a few measure let alone 5 minutes. Of course Devil Went Down to Georgia was epic. But I was also surprised by a lot of the religious and pro soldier messages in between songs. I’m not sure if this is “country” concerts or Charles Daniels in general.
The last bit of the night we toured around the carnival. A few VISTA’s had tickets for the rides so we wandered around while the used them. We saw a few signs for circus like curiosities but I didn’t think anything of it, until two VISTA’s came back after seeing the “World’s Smallest Women”. It turned out that there was an actual person there from the West Indies. I was shocked, because I thought for sure that those kinda attractions were outlawed. The two who went in were upset because they had supported that kind of attraction by paying money to go in and see. Its sad that human nature is to stare and jeer at those who are different. But on the other hand working in these kinds of “attractions” gives these people income that they probably would not have. Is the real evil that we flock to see these so called “freaks”, or that these people have few options to support themselves besides being the center of these attractions? I’m not sure.