I returned to New Jersey once more. Again, unemployed and without enough income for a place of my own, I ran into an opportunity to work with a religious based service group on a week long trip to West Virginia. Their program is an excellent mix of service to those in need and an educational component dealing with environmental justice. Admittedly, the program's religious base did not align with my own, but their physical project and educational objectives seemed worthwhile, coupled with their need for additional adult assistance, I was driven to sign on for a week. This was, in many ways, a desperate attempt to have a positive teaching experience after such a difficult one in Texas.
And it was.
My week volunteering with the project was exactly what I needed. A worthy work project, physical labor, dedicated, self motivated, and interested students, a well organized and coordinated program, and of course, excellent leadership from all involved throughout the week.
I may have made an impact in West Virginia, through my physical labors and also through the students I worked with. But, West Virginia undoubtedly left a positive impact on me. I was once again re-invigorated.
The week ended and I returned to New Jersey, once more unemployed, but this time full of positive thoughts. Low and behold, it was only a few days before I received an email and promptly thereafter a phone call concerning a trails project in Nevada. Without other employment options and with the promise of two months of life outside in Nevada I took the job, and within days I was headed to Reno. I was no longer crew leader, but member. This afforded a less stressful opportunity to do some good work and focus on my own learning objectives with a group of fellow crew leaders, all having just finished up their own summers leading throughout the country.
And it was good.
It was good, that is, until something bizarre happened. The U.S. government shut down. As an American citizen of twenty-four years I had assumed that government shut downs were the business of third world countries and places of similar turmoil and unrest. I never questioned that one day we'd have a functioning government, the type who pays those it has employed, -- the next day we would not. I was wrong. (This, might I add, was in no way the fault of the organization I was working with. We were contracted through the Bureau of Land Management and when they ceased operations we were forced to do the same.)
There I was, once again, unemployed, homeless, and this time in the middle-of-nowhere Nevada desert. We spent nearly a week just kicking our heels out in the desert with the hopes that maybe tomorrow, the next day, or the day after that, the government would resume operation and we therefore could do the same. This did not happen. In fact, the government would remain in this state for over half a month.
With light pockets, having earned only half the pay we had expected, we gathered our gear, packed it in, went back to Reno, and booked flights back "home".