Monday, April 20, 2015

Three Vivacious VISTAs, One Full House

Adekemi Ademuyewo, Shannon Barr and Anna Mahathey 

From L to R: Kemi, Shannon and Anna
at the HPU Holiday party
“Well…this is awkward…” Kemi proclaimed to Anna and Shannon as she reveled in the awkward silence that filled the kitchen of their temporary home the first week they met. That sentiment was shared by all the women, who didn’t quite know what to expect out of having to live with the same people they would have to work alongside for the next year. As the only VISTA with a studio apartment to herself the year prior, Anna, quite honestly, was not looking forward to adding two strangers to the living mix. But along came quiet, inquisitive Shannon and vibrant, cheerful Kemi, and all three women, the now self-proclaimed Vivacious VISTAs, moved into a cozy, campus-owned VISTA house.

Stuffed peppers a la VISTA Chefs
They started off their bonding experience by taking the beautiful one-mile walk along the greenway to work each morning. As they trekked up the deceivingly steep hill that made their thighs and calves burn, the initial awkwardness blossomed into friendship. Over the following months, they spent many a night quizzing each other on state capitals, learning together the correct geography of the United States and trying for far too long to open jammed doors. They also bonded while hanging mirrors, sipping on wine and fabricating definitions for non-existent words during late night games of Boggle. They’ve challenged each other to try new things, including do-it-yourself haircuts via YouTube video instruction, a 30-day squat challenge (because VISTAs who squat together, stay together!), and the delectable treat of Oreos and peanut butter.

While mostly fun and full of laughter, this living situation hasn’t been without its challenges. As the VISTAs wear the multiple hats of being coworkers, friends and housemates, they readily find themselves coming home exhausted at the end of a long work day, only to catch up on other work-related matters late into the night. It’s been both a blessing and a curse for the VISTAs to wear these hats. As introverted people working in a highly extroverted field, they understand and share the time investment and demands of their job, which cultivates an empathetic environment and readily accessible support system. But it also means that their home often doubles as an office.

Anna (l) and Kemi (r) at
Thursday night dinner
To attempt to remedy that issue, the Vivacious VISTAs declared Thursdays nights as roomie dinner nights, a time during which work would not be discussed. Instead, they cranked up the Kitchen Karaoke station on Songza, put on their dancing socks and cut up yummy veggies together to relish in each other’s work-free company. However, old habits die hard. Several attempted work-free dinners ended in work-related conversation, so the VISTAs instituted their own book club. Following the glowing recommendation of one of their students, and because they all identify as introverts, the VISTAs decided to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain. What was once a time instinctively filled by work schedules, frustrations and questions, transformed into stimulating conversation about personal habits, self-reflective inquiries and new discoveries.

The VISTA house has become a home through late nights of laughter and late nights of work. Surprisingly, eight months into their VISTA term, they haven’t gotten sick of each other yet, something they all think is a miraculous feat. At the HPU VISTA house, VISTAs have provided one another an extraordinary education, have cultivated an inspiring environment, and have been caring people. 

The Vivacious VISTAs rock!

Learn more about the High Point VISTAs in the following media mentions:

Alumna Works to Make a Difference in High Point (featuring Anna Mahathey)

Knocking on Hunger's Door (featuring Shannon Barr and Kemi Ademuyewo)