Monday, September 8, 2014

Piece Of My Heart

            Well, after being gone for four wild and crazy months, I’m finally back in the city that I love to call home. After a delicious Mexican meal and seeing my family again, coming home to shower in my own private bathroom, and now sitting on my soft mattress with a glass of ice water that I didn’t have to walk down to the employee village office to get, it definitely feels great being home again. One of the best things about being away for so long is that I learned to better appreciate coming back home.
            Last night at the Whistle Pig consisted of eating pizza, watching football, putting music on the jukebox, and playing pool with Nate, Brian, and a bunch of other employees. Hugging and saying goodbye to everyone one last time was hard; I’ll miss all of those people a lot. I really hope that one day I’ll get to see Nate, Cristina, Tanner, and Jesse again; they’ve felt like a second family to me. But whether our goodbye was temporary or permanent, one thing’s for sure: we made some great memories together this summer.
The drive to the airport with Jesse this morning was pretty much the perfect way to end my time in that park. We left the lodge at about 5:15, when it was still dark out. There was a big full moon in the sky, though, that was just getting ready to sink behind the mountains. That moon provided just enough light to let me admire the beautiful area around me, and perfectly silhouetted the Teton Range against the sky. Jesse and I talked about the beauty of the place, future plans, and life in general on the drive. I’m really glad I got to spend those last forty-five minutes or so with him.
The flights back home were really easy, despite being the first time I’ve flown by myself. I felt a little rushed at the Dallas airport since my layover was less than an hour and I had to go basically all the way across the place to get to my new gate, but I made it with some time to spare.
This will be my 125th post to this blog, and it looks like it’ll also be the final one. Writing these daily posts has been a ton of fun for me, and it’s been great to be able to look back over them and remind myself of all of the crazy experiences I had this summer. I don’t think I’m done with blogging as a whole; I guess now I’ll just have to find a new theme. I’m really happy to be back home in San Antonio, but I’m pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in Wyoming today. Goodbye, Grand Teton National Park. Thanks for giving me the best summer of my life. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Night Before Life Goes On

I woke up this morning and the first thought that popped into my head was, "this is my last day here in this park". After an unforgettable summer here, it's almost unreal to think that tomorrow I'll be back in San Antonio. It's been on my mind almost constantly today. Getting ready for work, all I thought was that it was the last time to put on that uniform. At breakfast and lunch I just thought that it was one of the last times I'd eat in the EDR. Right before walking out the door of the EDR after having lunch, I paused and looked around the place one more time. I'd been in that room at least twice a day for almost the past few months, and though the food left some to be desired, I'd made a lot of memories eating in there with friends.
While I was eating breakfast before going into work at seven, Nate walked in, wearing his work uniform, and sat down next to me. It turns out he'd come in to add some extra help since we had so many check-outs to take care of today. Even though it was pretty busy, getting to work with Nate, Cristina, Emily, and Maggie was a pretty perfect way to end my job at the desk.
After work I went over to the vault and turned in my bank and the key to my safe. I will not miss the long, elaborate process of printing out shift reports, filling out deposit slips and bags, and doing cash drops at the end of any shift when I took in cash (which is the large majority of morning shifts). I was glad that today was my last day to have to do that.
This morning while I was in the front desk office Brian, who was also working this morning, told me that I should go to the Whistle Pig this evening, since they'd be serving free pizza. That definitely sounded better than the EDR, and I'd been planning on hanging out in there one last time anyway, so I said I'd be there. Since Cristina, Nate and Tanner are all off this evening, they said they'd all be there as well, so we could all hang out one more time. I don't know what Jesse's schedule this evening is, but hopefully he can come too. I ate lunch with him in the EDR, and he was also working at the time, so I'm hoping that he'll have the evening off. He still said that he doesn't mind giving me a ride to the airport early tomorrow morning, which is awesome.
After changing out of my uniform and turning it in as well, I finished the last of my packing and room cleaning. The empty walls, closet, and dresser made the room feel different; my side of the room no longer had an identity. It was back to the blank slate that it had been when I first arrived in May, and would remain that until someone else arrived next year. I didn't feel sad about that exactly, just a little strange.
I'm going to head over to the Whistle Pig soon to enjoy my last night here with my friends. I won't be able to stay there too late since I have to get up really early tomorrow to get to the airport on time, and want to spend as much time in there tonight as possible. I'm excited to be back home and see my friends and family in San Antonio, but the thought of saying goodbye to Cristina, Nate, Jesse, Tanner, and everyone else here really sucks. I hope it's not a permanent goodbye, but I know that it very well may be. They've been a big part of the best summer of my life, and helped make memories that I'll hold on to for the rest of my life.

“Tomorrow she'll be rolling down I-10
Baton Rouge, LSU
18 years in her rearview
He's got a Friday paycheck lined up down the block
At daddy's shop
It ain't much but its a job
They've been dreading this moment all summer long
The night before
Life goes on”
Carrie Underwood (again), The Night Before Life Goes On

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Starts With Goodbye

            So today at the desk I was actually working with David and Rebecca again, along with Jen. Cristina had today off; I only saw her for a little while at lunch in the EDR. It was another fairly slow, simple day at the desk. We’re actually sold out again tonight, so I’m glad that I’m not working the later shift today. At dinner I saw Felix, who’s working right now. He said it’s been a really busy evening. Tomorrow we have over 200 check-outs, so my last day at the desk will be a busy one. It won’t be hard though; the earlier shift never really is. I think I’m working with Cristina, Maggie and Emily.
            We had some kind of difficult guests come to the desk today. Overall it wasn’t too bad, just a little annoying at times. The most ridiculous one came up not long after I’d come back from lunch. It was a man who came up to Jen, who was sitting at the manager’s desk. He told her that he wasn’t actually a guest staying here; he lived in Jackson. Today was his wife’s birthday, so he’d made a reservation for lunch in our dining room. He hadn’t been aware, though, that there was some construction on the road between town and the lodge, and due to the delay, they’d missed their reservation. After explaining that, he went on to tell Jen how mad he was that no one had told him about the construction when he’d made the reservation, and demanded some compensation because of that. As Jen tried to tell him that it’s not up to us to tell him about the construction and we couldn’t give him anything, David and I just stared at each other and shook our heads. We both obviously couldn’t believe what a ridiculous request that was, and how rude that man was being. Soon, his wife came storming in, acting even worse than he was. After practically yelling at Jen for a few minutes there in the lobby, they went up to the dining room to talk to the manager up there. Dan, who was the manager on at the time, later came down to tell us that he’d also refused to give them anything, and they’d left, both absolutely livid. We all agreed that if they’d been nicer about it, we might’ve tried to help them out. But with the way they were acting, we all just wanted them to leave.
            After getting off work I came home to find Nate and Jesse hanging out on the back porch. I talked with them out there for a while before coming in and packing up some more. I’ve got pretty much everything packed away. Tomorrow I’ll have to turn in my uniform and work keys, and give my room one last sweep to make sure that I can get my deposit back. Monday morning I just need to take my linens off the bed and drop them off at the employee village office before heading out of here with Jesse.
            I might go to the Whistle Pig for just a little while tonight, since I have to be up early again tomorrow. I’ll also go tomorrow evening one last time to hang out with everyone before saying goodbye to this place.

“I guess it's gonna have to hurt,
I guess I'm gonna have to cry,
And let go of some things I've loved
To get to the other side.
I guess it's gonna break me down,
Like falling when you try to fly.
It's sad, but sometimes moving on with the rest of your life,
Starts with goodbye.”
Carrie Underwood, Starts With Goodbye

Friday, September 5, 2014

Back To The Place Where I Belong

            I just finished spending this evening packing up my suitcase and cleaning out my dresser drawers here in my room. Tomorrow I’m sure I’ll take down the decorations that I’ve put up on my wall and sweep up the place. It’s hard to believe that I only have two more full days left in this park before it’s time to head home. The main thing I’m dreading about leaving is just saying goodbye to Cristina, Tanner, Nate and Jesse. On the other hand, though, I’m more than ready to see everybody back home in San Antonio.
            This morning was pretty slow and easy at the desk, as I knew it would be. I was working with David, Rebecca, and Rob- it was actually my very last shift with Rob. He’s leaving tonight to go to San Diego for a few days, and by the time he gets back here I’ll be gone. I was originally scheduled to work the later shift tomorrow, then the earlier one the next day. Today, near the end of my shift, Rob asked me if I’d actually work the earlier shift both of the next two days, which I said would be fine. I would’ve kind of liked to sleep in tomorrow, but I knew the morning shift would be easier, so I agreed to switch. So now my schedule is to work seven to three tomorrow with David, Cristina, and Jen. It’s kind of strange for Jen to be working that shift tomorrow; it seems like she’s always working the later shift. I thought that yesterday’s shift would be the last time we’d work together, though, so in a way it’s nice that I got switched. On Sunday, my last day at the desk, I’ll be working with Cristina, Maggie, and Emily. Maybe Sunday evening I’ll go to the Whistle Pig one last time. I probably won’t stay very late, though, since I have to be up really early to get to the airport Monday morning. I’m still surprised that Jesse actually offered to drive me there that early; it’ll be nice to have a little more time with him.
            I wish that I had more fun news to share today, but I really don’t. It was a day of work at the desk and packing up. I’m sure tomorrow will be pretty similar.

“Well I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I'm not running from.
No, I think you got me all wrong.
I don't regret this life I chose for me.
But these places and these faces are getting old,
So I'm going home.”
Daughtry, Home

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hold On, We're Going Home

Well, there’s not a lot of news here since yesterday. I just got back from having lunch at the EDR with Nate. We both go into work at three today, along with Maggie and Jen. Like I mentioned yesterday, it’ll be the last shift that I have working with Nate and Jen, which is kind of sad. This entire week is supposed to be pretty slow, so I’m sure we’ll get some time during the shift to just hang out and talk, which will be nice. Tomorrow I work the morning shift with Rob, David, and Rebecca. At first I thought that I wouldn’t be working with Rob at all anymore, but it looks like the schedule changed some, so I’ll actually be working with him one more time before I leave. It seems like a while since I’ve worked the back-to-back shifts (3 to 11, then 7 to 3), but tomorrow will be slow again, so I think it’ll be okay.
Today I’ve been continuing to clean up my room and get my stuff organized to pack up. Tomorrow after work I’ll probably pull out my suitcase from under my bed and start to actually get stuff packed up. The fact that I’ll be home in less than a week is getting more real all the time. It’s been almost exactly four months since I left San Antonio to begin this adventure; that’s much longer than anytime I’ve been away from it before. This was the first summer of my life that I didn’t get to go to Port Aransas for vacation, the first summer that I wasn’t with my family for the Fourth of July, along with many other firsts.
Grand Teton National Park- my home for the best summer of my life. I had some amazing, crazy, unforgettable experiences here over the past few months. Some were things I expected to do. For example, I went on some incredible hikes, saw some beautiful scenery, went cliff jumping into the super cold Gros Ventre River, went kayaking on Jackson Lake, and camped up on a hill with a perfect view of the Teton Range. Some experiences, on the other hand, were some I definitely didn’t expect to have. I witnessed my first bar fight. I sang in public for the first time. I played my first drinking game. I ate my first meal from McDonald’s. I took risks that the 20-year-old version of me wouldn’t have. I don’t regret one second of my time here; despite missing home, I loved everything about it. I got to share in celebrating Nate’s, Jesse’s Cristina’s, and Maggie’s birthdays here this summer. At the same time, though, I missed several of my friend’s and family’s birthdays back home. These past few days have been really slow, knowing how soon I’ll be home. I never thought I’d look forward to returning to the crazy heat and humidity that I know San Antonio is in right now, but I am. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Every New Beginning...

            Well, it’s been a pretty bittersweet day. After tossing in one last load of laundry at the employee village office this morning, I headed to lunch at the EDR with Jesse. Nate walked in just a little bit after we did, and sat down with us. He went into work at three today; Jesse had the day off as well. After lunch, I went to the upstairs lobby of the lodge and picked up a few keychains from one of the gift shops- I can’t leave anywhere without grabbing a few of those! I also picked up my final clearance form from HR, which I’m supposed to fill out as I turn things in (my keys, uniform, linens, etc.). After putting away my laundry and cleaning up my room a bit more, I grabbed the box that I’d packed up yesterday and walked over to the lodge to ship it back home. Basically, it’s been a day of getting ready to leave this beautiful place.
            Nate told me at lunch today that he was originally scheduled to work the morning shift tomorrow, but Rebecca had asked him to switch shifts with her, so he’ll actually be working the later shift with me. I thought I wouldn’t be working with him anymore, so that was nice to hear. Tomorrow evening will be Nate, Maggie, Jen, and me at the desk. I think it’s supposed to be another pretty slow day. It’ll also be the last time I’ll get to work with Nate and Jen, which is kind of sad.
            I just got back to my room from having dinner with Brian in the EDR. I’ll miss all of the bellmen in the lodge; they’re a lot of fun to hang around. Later this evening I’ll probably go hang out in the Whistle Pig for what’ll be one of the last times. That place is always so much fun to go hang out and relax with other staff members in; I’ll miss not having it.
            Well, I probably only have a few more posts to add to this blog before finishing it off. I’ve had a lot of fun writing these posts, as well as being able to look over previous posts to remind myself of all the fun I’ve had this summer. This blog has been a great way to keep friends and family back home updated, as well as a great way to document this wonderful summer for me to look back on. This is my 120th post to this blog; that’s definitely a lot more than I expected I’d make. When I first made this, I thought I’d probably make updated once or twice a week. I certainly didn’t think I’d be able to make one every day. After I started making daily posts, though, I felt obligated to continue to do just that, even if there wasn’t much news to report about the day. Part of the way through the summer I realized that people that I don’t know at all were reading my blog. I know that part of the point of a blog is the fact that it’s public, but that still surprised me. I found it pretty cool that people that didn’t know me still wanted to keep up with this blog. I’ve also had several people even tell me that I should just find a new topic and continue to keep a blog after I get back to San Antonio. It may be hard to keep that interesting, but I’ll think about it.
            I guess this is a good time to announce on here what the title of this post means. A song called Closing Time by Semisonic says multiple times, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” I think that, right now, that quote applies to my life. As this new beginning ends for me, the beginning of a new adventure is in the making! Anyone that knows me can tell you that one of my biggest dreams is going to Africa. Now, after many years of dreaming, I’ve officially started planning to make this trip a reality! With some help, I’ll be in South Africa from January 15 to March 23 of next year. My plan is to spend four weeks working with a great white shark conservation project, and then five weeks working in a baboon sanctuary that a friend of mine worked at a few years ago. Hey, depending on the connection there and the amount of free time I have, I might be able to keep a blog of that adventure as well.
I think that working here in Grand Teton National Park this summer has opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve met people who have previously worked and lived all over the world, and that’s just kind of opened my eyes to what other opportunities are out there. This has been a truly unforgettable summer, and I’m so glad that I made the decision to come out to this spectacular place for these past few months. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Piece Of My Heart

            So, as I suspected, today was a day of relaxing, hanging with people, and getting ready to ship some of my stuff back home. This morning I was able to hike up to Lunch Tree Hill again and enjoy that beautiful scene for one of the last times. I’ll miss the incredibly peaceful feeling I have when I’m up there, and watching the moose and elk grazing out in the Willow Flats below me. I heard some elk bugling for the first time a few evenings ago. In the fall male elk often bugle, especially in the mornings and evenings, to attract females. It’s a fairly high-pitched sound, and can be heard for miles. It’s known as one of the most distinctive sounds in nature, known as being almost as recognizable (and almost as haunting) as a gray wolf howl. I thought I might be leaving too early to hear them, but thankfully some of the elk have already started.
            I met Jesse, who also had today off, in the EDR at lunchtime. After that I headed over to the employee village office and got a box to use to ship some of my stuff that I’m not going to use anymore back home. Since I’m going back on a plane, I don’t have enough room to take everything back that I brought here. I also started to clean up my side of the room as much as possible so far, so I won’t have as much to do on my last day here. On the seventh, my last full day here, I want to be able to have some time to say goodbye to everyone after work, instead of just spending that entire time packing up. On the eighth all I’ll have to do is drop off my linens at the employee village office, grab my suitcase, and head out to the airport with Jesse. I’m really glad that he offered to give me a ride, instead of just getting a taxi. It’s about a 45-minute drive over there, and it’ll be nice to get a little more time with him that morning. He’s one of the people that I’ll miss the most.
            I just spent some time this evening sitting out on the back porch hanging out with Jesse and Cristina, who worked the morning shift today. It’s an absolutely beautiful day out today; the temperature is in the low seventies right now, and dropping since the sun’s going down. That back porch is a very simple place but, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s probably my favorite spot in this entire park. Some of my favorite memories with people here have taken place out on that porch, from Cristina’s birthday, to meeting Jesse on my very first evening here, to the multiple grill nights we’ve had out there, all of which have been a ton of fun. I’ll miss sitting under the overhang on rainy evening, taking in the wonderful smell of the rain mixed with the pine trees, and taking a pillow and blanket out there at night to lay on the picnic table and gaze up at the stars, which absolutely fill the sky here.
            Tomorrow will probably be a day of doing one last load of laundry, shipping out the box I packed up today, cleaning up my room some more, and hanging out with people around here while I still can. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

One Week More

            So, just as I suspected, last night at the desk was really slow and easy. Just like the night before, it was me, Sofi, Felix, and Jen working, and by the time we got there, we only had about 85 check-ins to take care of for the day. We didn’t have any tour groups (that would’ve made it way too easy!), and housekeeping had enough rooms ready before four that we could check most people in as soon as they arrived. We were also offering a walk-in rate to fill as many rooms as possible, and we raised our percent capacity quite a bit due to walk-ins.
            At around eight o’clock, Jen went up to the Pioneer Grill and got us all desserts. The desk was incredibly slow, so I spent some time in the back office chatting with Jen and enjoying the chocolate milkshake she got me. Zach, one of the bellmen, also told me yesterday that I’d won that week’s “fridge contest”. Most of the guest rooms don’t come with mini fridges (only the view rooms have them), but we can rent them out to guests for a twenty-dollar fee. The bellmen are the ones who deliver and collect those fridges, so the money from that goes to them. Needless to say, due to that, they try to get us to sell as many fridges as possible. So, a few weeks ago they started a contest among the front desk agents. The one who sells the most fridges that week will get twenty dollars in cash from them. This past week, I guess that person was me. I sat with Brian, the bell captain, at lunch just now, and he said to remind him when I came into work this afternoon and he’d give me the money.
            This evening I’ll be working with Jen, Maggie, and David at the desk. I don’t remember how many check-ins we’re expecting, but I’m sure it’ll be pretty low again. I was also sitting with Nate and Alyson at lunch today, and Nate said that we have a Backroads group expected in this evening, which will make it even easier. I really like Backroads groups- they’re much easier to check in, and the people in the group are just really pleasant to work with (unlike Tauck). Backroads also makes it easier on the activities desk, since they have all of their activities already planned out when they arrive (also unlike Tauck).  After my shift today, I have the next two days off. I have a feeling it’ll be a weekend of laundry, shipping some stuff home, and starting to pack, but hopefully I’ll have time for some fun as well.
            Well, a week from today, I’ll be off the plane, back in the crazy heat of San Antonio. It’s starting to really sink in that so soon, I’ll be leaving this beautiful place and these people. Today at lunch I mentioned that I’m not working any more shifts with Nate. I only have five total more shifts at the desk, one of which I’ll be working with Cristina, two more with Jen, two more with Emily, and no more with Rob. I’m ready to sleep in my own bed again, but it’ll be weird not waking up to the smell of Cristina’s shampoo as she comes back into the room from taking a shower. It’ll be weird never hearing Jesse or Tanner walk past our open window, going to or from work. It’ll be weird never hearing Elliot’s music playing as I walk past his door, or saying hi to him when we see each other in the hallway. I got so used to dorm life really quickly, that returning home will probably also take some getting used to. I’ll really miss living right around these people that I’ve become so close to. We pretty much knew from the beginning that we wouldn’t be together for too long, but within a couple of weeks we all felt like family. I’m excited to go home and see everybody that’s waiting back there, but at the same time, saying goodbye to these people won’t be fun.