October in Montana

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Good Morning from St. Xavier!

As swiftly as summer surrendered to fall, so too has fall wandered into wintry ways in southeastern Montana. Despite a few snowfalls already upon the region, I’m still holding onto autumn, which hasn’t been too difficult given the fall holidays and the amount of autumn-inspired baking my community has been doing. Each day, we are lucky to be the recipients of cafeteria leftovers. This might not sound very appetizing, but it means we return home each afternoon with bagfuls of milk cartons and apples. Apples and apples and apples. While I wish the students would eat these themselves, it’s a great help to our budget to not have to purchase these essentials. Though neither local nor too fresh, the produce lends itself well to baking, and luckily, we enjoy baking! My housemates and I have spent many a weekend experimenting creative ways to put our stockpile of Red Delicious to use. Thus far, we’ve given them new lives in the forms of applesauce, cake, chips, crisp, scones, muffins, and this morning, apple pie-lettes! Anyway, to refrain from turning this into a baking blog, I’ll move on…

apples apples apples

apples apples apples

As the days of October waned, the students started getting excited for Halloween and sharing the ways it is celebrated here. One tradition is the masquerade, a competition held each night in the week leading up to Halloween, with a championship held on the final night of competition. In the masquerade, participants of all ages dress up in masks, wigs, and all sorts of costumes to render themselves unidentifiable to the audience. The masqueraders dance to both popular and native songs in a manner that mirrors their wacky costumes—goofy, outrageous, and crowd-pleasing. The point, aside from the chance to win prize money, is to poke fun at oneself and the audience. As dancers are eliminated, they remove their masks, revealing their identities. My housemates and I had the pleasure of attending one, and even seeing a few of our students masquerade! Though it’s a bit difficult to put into words (and perhaps even more difficult to imagine), it was an incredibly entertaining night with my housemates, members of the community, and students. At school, Halloween was celebrated much like elsewhere in the country, with students and teachers dressed in costume, parties held in class, and candy and sugary treats everywhere.

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Halloween at school

As a part of JVC Northwest, my community attends three retreats with the other volunteers in the Big Sky region. Last weekend, we drove to the first of these, which was held at a lodge in the foothills of the Rockies outside Butte, MT. The focus of the retreat was community, another of the four values of JVCNW. We discussed ways to build and strengthen community while caring for ourselves. Aside from these sessions, there was ample time to enjoy the nature that surrounded us, by hiking and going for walks. The mountainous and woodsy terrain provided a nice getaway from the flat and lightly vegetated plains of St. X, where we returned rejuvenated Monday evening.

Change of scenery-- Butte, MT

Change of scenery– Butte, MT

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