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VISTAs after 5pm: A Day in the Other Life

By March 6, 2017July 3rd, 2018AmeriCorps*VISTA

The beauty of having a cohort style program like C3 TwinCities is that we get top balance discussions about our VISTA duties with getting to know the multifaceted lives of our VISTAs outside of service. After saving their spreadsheet files and closing their laptops, C3 VISTAs head out to attend club meetings, start Uber shifts, and even roll up their sleeves for diaper duty.  These are just a few of their stories.

Hannah Bech

Hannah began singing renaissance music in her high school choir.  She considered studying music in college, but decided against it. “I thought if I sang all the time, I would stop liking it,” she says. While studying sociology at Augsburg College, Hannah kept up her singing chops in the Augsburg choir.  A week before her senior recital last spring, her choir director unexpectedly went on leave.  Another faculty member, John Campbell, took his place.  “We prepared the whole senior recital in a week.” She was so impressed with Campbell’s leadership that she signed up after graduation to join his community renaissance choir.  She is now a mezzo-soprano in the group, which comprises around 20 people. “Most of the stuff I do during a week has to do with abstract thought,” Hannah says, “The choir forces my brain to work in a different way.” She loves working collaboratively on the more puzzling songs which are written in archaic notations.  Many of them use polyphony, in which each choir section sings a unique melody.  But after a week spent conducting volunteer trainings at Venture Academy, Hannah says these kinds of puzzles are refreshing.

Krystal Garvais

When Krystal steps out of her VISTA role for the day, she immediately engages in one of the oldest and most important professions in the world: raising her 10-month-old son, Vinny. Vinny is a calm, Cheerio-loving daredevil.  “He climbs on stools and he goes head-first when he gets off,” Krystal says, “It’s kind of scary.” VISTA offers Krystal her “adult time.”  She can flex her intellectual muscles and engage with other adults.  In addition to her service at the Minnesota Visiting Nurses Association, she is the C3 representative on the InterCorps Council, where she serves as the Education Committee chair.  These ICC and committee meetings are several times a month, but “I just wanted something else to do,” Krystal explains, “The more things I have to do, the more efficient I am.  And it is nice to break things up.  I don’t like doing the same thing every day–it’s too boring.”  She describes herself as an exhausted pidgeon who is perpetually late. “But it’s not bad.  I wouldn’t change it just because it is stressful and tiring,because it is fun and rewarding.” Between MVNA, ICC, and little Vinny, Krystal always has something on her plate.  She credits this balancing act to the flexibility at her service site and her husband’s support.

Ben Suker

When Ben heads out for an Uber pickup, he usually sets his radio to 89.3 The Current, but it doesn’t stay there for long. “Music requests have run the gamut,” he says, “from smooth jazz to Disney pop to trap rap.” This is what Ben enjoys most about driving for Uber: discovering new musicians and songs.  He likes talking with his passengers about music.  Unfortunately, his passengers don’t always have the same idea.  Among some of Ben’s most memorable passengers:

The business world traveler: “I drove this older guy to a golf course.  He was a business person of some kind, and his work had taken him to many different countries.  During the duration of the ride, he ranked each country he had visited based on the attractiveness of its people.”

The grandmother: “My first passenger was an older woman going from her condo to her grandson’s house.  We had a conversation about his band, which plays covers from the 70s and 80s.

Ben started driving for Uber last spring when he was working part-time at a consulting firm and needed some extra cash.  “I couldn’t think of any other way to make money [than driving for Uber],” he says. Since then, he has averaged 5 hours of driving and $60 a week. “I wish tipping was more customary.”

Nadya Bucklin

Nadya was adopted from Russia when she was 9 years old.  This led her to seek out and become a member of a Russian dance group, which is conducted in the Russian language 75% of the time.  She began dancing with the group in September. “I was basically drawn to this group because I am Russian so I want to talk to other Russians, hang out with Russians,” Nadya explains, “When I can understand anything in Russian and follow directions, well it is really cool.  I enjoy hearing people’s stories and hearing how people got there and learning what are their ties with Russia.” Nadya also babysits an 18-month-old.  The child has the usual repetitive habits.  She recalls watching a documentary about butterflies 8 times with him. “I’m pretty sure I know it by heart by now.  And it was totally his thing.  Now he’s moved onto this show with nursery rhymes, like really annoying nursery rhymes.” Nadya also tutors young women in English weekly.  She laughs at the memory of the lesson on pronouncing words that sounds similar to swear words and profanity.  “It is a funny but important thing to learn.”

Before a year of service begins, we all hear, “ultimately, what you put into your year of service is what you get out” and this often means taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way…Nadya leaves us with a protip for those considering adding more to their life while serving as a VISTA: “In general you have to really think about things when you want to take on a new task, and you have to think about how you’re going to balance it and fit it into your life with a full time job.  You don’t want to stress yourself out.  But if you have time to do something else, you should do something you really enjoy.”


Phillips Family Foundation

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