by Amosh Neupane
What’s the difference between an axe-mattock, a pick-mattock, and a pick-axe? Which rake is better, the hard or the soft one? How does one separate a poison ivy plant from other, non-harmful shrubs? What’s the best thing about mugwort?*** I could go on with the questions… This first week has been all about questions for me. While I managed to answer some of them successfully, I also failed at answering a few. On July 7th I commenced my first day of work as a Youth Conservation Corps crew member in New York City, and the gnarly roots I have been working with since then haven’t quite managed to injure me yet. What a first week it’s been!
For the first few days our tools felt heavy. The sun was too bright and too hot. The people were new and so was the setting. Having to meet new people and befriend them seemed more tedious and toilsome than unearthing the gnarly weeds at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. But I made it past all of it. We YCC members made it past the beginning, and now there are more weeks of hard work and fun under the sun to look forward to.
During my first week, the New York City YCC crew was stationed at Jamaica Bay, where the crew was to help build a trail. On this trail, an American Disability Act (ADA)-compliant ramp was eventually to be constructed, and the crew was responsible for clearing the trail and leaving the land ready to be surveyed. We were given a sizeable chunk of land to work on, provided with tools for different occasions and purposes, and infused with a ton of team spirit. I worked with rakes, axes, pick-mattocks, pick-axes, clippers, saws, and even a wheelbarrow.
The tools were passed around and so were the jobs. Hence, I interacted just as much with my fellow YCC members as I did with the tools. Uprooting invasive plants, unearthing remaining roots from the soil, leveling the walkway, clearing away debris, raking, and several other tasks have kept us busy for the week. But work aside, we also managed to have loads of fun. One of my fellow crew members, Becky, had the entire crew involved in a game of Mafia one day, while another day Zack helped lighten up the van ride back home by playing some amazing music ranging from blues to country to rock-and-roll. My crew leader Gabriel Cummings drops a pun every now and then and makes the entire crew laugh. More, he doesn’t hold back his own whimsical laughter when he hears a really good pun from one of my crewmates.
As exciting as it is to do anything new in life, it’s also a little bit scary. My enthusiasm for starting my time as a YCC crew member knew no bounds until July 7th. When that date arrived, the first day of work, I was utterly terrified. On the one hand, I was glad I had a job, and more importantly, that I had a job I was interested in. On the other hand, I was scared. I was scared to meet new people, to talk to them. I was also scared of traveling to new places, to meet two unknown adults who would be mentoring me and my friends for the next six weeks.
I’m nervous about leaving New York to attend college in Vermont at the end of this summer, but I’m also excited about it. Having already experienced a similar transition by joining the YCC crew, I’m confident I’ll be well armed for the situation. My first week with the crew has been amazing, eye-opening, and tiring, but it has also been one of the greatest weeks of my life.
***The best thing about mugwort is the pleasure one gets while unearthing it. It’s a fun job, trust me. I recommend it!