Bonclarken & Baby Dinosaurs

Tomorrow is my last day working at Bonclarken for the summer.

If you do not know what Bonclarken is, then you are probably not a member of an ARP church. (Don’t worry, I think about less than 1/3 of the students at Erskine are members!) Bonclarken Conference Center is the conference center for the ARP Denomination located in East Flat Rock, NC. ARP churches and non ARP churches alike often schedule week-long or weekend retreats for relaxation and restoration in the Blue Ridge Mountains; Bonclarken hosts hundreds of groups and churches every year.

Every summer about 30 students from Erskine go up to Bonclarken as members of the summer staff, working full-time as a member of one of the departments: kitchen staff, recreation staff, housekeeping, guest services, or in the front office. Students live in buildings that are a lot like dorms, with bunk beds and roommates. When they are off work they all hang out in the lobby and do a lot of late night random things together like any good group of college students would!

This summer has been my second summer working in the front office at Bonclarken, and I must admit it has been rather fun! Another girl, Amanda, who will also be a senior this year at Erskine, has worked with me in the front office this year. We work hard greeting guests, answering the phone, and organizing mounds of documents but we also like to have a little fun when we are not working quite so hard!

One of my favorite things in the entire world is a baby dinosaur. You may have noticed that there are not too many of those walking around these days (something about a volcano or a meteor, who knows??) so I cannot have one as a pet! 😦 I try to make up for this rather sad fact by pretending that I am a baby dinosaur, and so are all of my friends. My coworkers at Bonclarken have also been rather sympathetic to my cause by giving me gifts of stuffed baby dinosaurs, water baby dinosaurs, and this week a set of plastic baby dinosaurs.

A stuffed Baby Dinosaur from Betty, her name is Desdemona :)

A stuffed Baby Dinosaur from Betty, her name is Desdemona 🙂

Of course, since my plastic baby dinosaurs were given to me by Betty (one of the sweetest people ever who works in the front office), I had to bring them to the office to play with them. This was meant to show her that I really liked her gift: everyone knows that if someone gives you a set of plastic baby dinosaurs you have to let them see you playing with them! DUH! So I brought them to the office and then hid them all over my boss’ office! Good thing Lynn has a sense of humor! When I got back from lunch they were hidden all over my desk for me to find! 🙂 The worst part about this story is everyone found all of the plastic baby dinosaurs in about five minutes, except for me who took twenty-five minutes to find them!

I feel like any workplace can be improved by some baby dinosaurs!

I feel like any workplace can be improved with some baby dinosaurs!

The funniest day was when one of my coworkers, Sheri, gave me some of the baby dinosaurs made of sponges. They were the kind that comes looking like little pills where you stick them in water and watch them grow. It is supposed to take about 4 hours for the baby dinosaurs to grow into big sized dinos that you can play with!

Well, let me tell you, my baby dinosaurs were having some trouble. It took them about an entire week to mature to full size! I put them in see through plastic cups in the center of the office during the week and encouraged all of the senior staff here to check on them as they passed through the office. They were like our little office pets, everyone who walked through the office stopped to give them a peak! And by the end of the week they were fully grown! 🙂

I was very excited, so my boss decided to pull a prank on me! She staged an escape for the baby dinosaurs making it looked they had escaped from their watery cages!! There were little water footprints walking away from the cups that led to the side of the filing cabinet, but after that there were no more clues! I had to track them down and see where she had hidden them! The whole thing was super hilarious and super fun! 🙂

We are happy to be working in the office! :)

We are happy to be working in the office! 🙂

If all of this sounds a little strange to you, if you are thinking that the office staff at Bonclarken sounds a little crazy to you, let me encourage you to direct your accusing thoughts towards the guest services staff. When they were bored this summer they all decided to capture a beetle/cockroach/bug thing and tied it to the leash. They then took turns taking the poor little thing on walks! (Leading me to come to grips with the fact that I do really work with a bunch of weirdos!)

But no one ever claimed that Erskine students are normal!

The End of the Year…and Summer Begins

Wow. I can hardly believe that my sophomore year of college is over. This year has been one full of learning, growth, and an abundance of blessings. And now, strangely enough, I’m delighted to be at home. I say “strangely enough” because, although I dearly love my home and family in Columbia, I so enjoyed the experience of living at Erskine (my “second home”) this year that I rarely wanted to leave, even for a weekend. There were always fun events to attend, dear friendships to cultivate, and—of course, unfailingly—there was intellectually stimulating and challenging homework to complete. And I was generally loath to leave all of that behind in order to spend four hours driving…even if the driving allowed me to visit my family for the weekend.

I say all of that as a caveat to avoid giving the impression that I don’t absolutely love Erskine–because I do. Consequently, I could not possibly have anticipated, during the school year, how refreshing and wonderful this summer season would be. What am I loving about summer thus far? Spending with my amazing family and friends here in Columbia, relishing my mother’s incredible cuisine, fitting back into rhythm of family life, and being surrounded by books, to name a few. (Perhaps that last comment about books doesn’t make much sense, considering that I just spent eight months at an academic institution…but you see, as much as I appreciated the material I read for classes this year, there’s nothing like wandering through a house full of books of every sort, ranging from child-friendly fiction to medical dictionaries and rich works of theology. A library, of course, is a close approximation, but there’s nothing like a house full of books hand-picked by those clos
est to you.)

I’m also enjoying—and, in the interest of full disclosure, being quite challenged by—the new job I began this Monday at a nearby law firm, Sweeney, Wingate, & Barrow. I’m both excited about my job as a “runner” (which includes everything from making coffee to filing stacks of case documents) and rather overwhelmed. I’m excited because I love the atmosphere there and am thankful to be a part of such a welcoming, close-knit community (an apropos setting after spending a year at a school like Erskine!). At the same time, I’m coming to realize that diving into the working world after years of doing little aside from either studying or mission work (during the summer) is, well, tough.

I give you full liberty to laugh and call me a wimp for admitting this, but um, even a seven-hour work day leaves me exhausted. Yep. Of course, most new things are difficult at first, and any work becomes easier over time. Even so, working regularly causes me to realize with renewed fervor that, while I’m still a student, I don’t want to take for granted the precious freedom I have to spend my time largely as I choose! My tendency during the school year is to think I’m terribly busy…which is often true, but ultimately, only to the extent to which I allow myself to be busy. In other words, although managing one’s time as a student may be challenging at times, as I taste “real life” a bit, I’m realizing how extraordinary is the freedom one has as a student to spend time reading and exploring intellectually—a freedom which will become increasingly elusive after graduation. Which is why I’m hoping to become a professor and stay in school forever…Kidding. Wel
l, only a little. At any rate, the summer has begun well and will, I trust, be a refreshing time of growth and fellowship before I head off to Spain in the fall. Until then, adios mis amigos!