Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Impressions

The internet in my room is finally up and working - let's see how long before my computer decides to go on strike again.

Last Saturday, I went to the Lee Hall Mansion. It was a plantation/mansion built in 1859, and played a minor role in the Civil War. This area has played a role in all the major parts of American history that tend to be emphasized and glorified in high school: the colonies (Williamsburg and Jamestown), the Revolution (Yorktown and Ft. Eustis share an exit) and the Civil War (I'm about sixty miles from Richmond; also, speaking of the Civil War, our two field training exercises are called Bull Run and Manassas - and here I thought they were the same thing; I guess they wanted to give both the North and the South their due). Anyway, the mansion was nice though it wasn't that big (this was one of the poorer counties in its day so that it didn't take as much to be the richest man in the community), and the tour guide and the receptionist were both very helpful and informative about the local area. There is another plantation in the area that has been around since the Revolution that I want to check out this weekend if I get a chance. I actually prefer touring through old houses to museums since they seem so much more authentic. Depending on the museum, it might show pictures of how things used to be and random objects, but in a house it is all recreated as much as possible with some period pieces.

I switched hotels Sunday and finally unpacked completely for the first time since June. I found space for everything, even if I had to use the room safe for clothes. It's definitely nicer than the barracks, but I liked the other inn better: there was a lot more closet and storage space, it wasn't eight miles away from post and even had bathroom storage. At least I have a microwave and fridge (no freezer though). Not that it really matters since I've been going out to eat for dinner every night. I ran into J from BOLC on Saturday so I've been car-pooling with him and his friend, and we've also been trying some of the local restaurants. My favorite so far is Cheeseburger in Paradise (yes, I realize it is a small chain but there isn't one in Champaign, and the guys had never heard of it so I'm counting it as local). Since the chain is owned by Jimmy Buffett there is an extensive drink menu, and they even had a frozen drink sampler. Every time I've been to a microbrewery with a beer sampler, I've thought they needed something similar for me, and finally, somebody agreed with me. By the way, they had the best pina colada I've ever had if anyone ever gets a chance to go there.

So far TOBC, or TBOLC III as they are now calling it, has been a bit disappointing. This is our TACs first time in charge of a class so the past few days have been disorganized. The actual classroom instruction is done by other people, and so far that seems promising - today was our first day of classes; Monday and Tuesday was devoted to briefings by different sergeant majors and colonels. The class used to be 18 weeks but has been shortened to 12 weeks due to BOLC II. Unfortunately, BOLC II isn't covering everything it's supposed to so TOBC basically still has to squeeze the same amount of classroom knowledge into less time. One of the instructors today was telling us how he wishes he could still teach us basic leadership classes but BOLC was supposed to take care of that (the only thing I got at BOLC about actually being a leader and PL was a one hour class about taking over a platoon - however, the platoon leader thing is actually a topic I want to blog about later more in depth). Looks like BOLC is negatively affecting everything it comes into contact with (as one person said, by just renaming TOBC to TBOLC they have lowered the standards and efficiency). We were supposed to have a PT test this morning, but after we stretched out, the cadre told us that the graders weren't coming so we went back to our hotels. I love getting up at 4:30 just to show up for formation and drive back. It wouldn't be so bad if we were staying a bit closer to post (or on it).

Basically, my first impression of this place is not that good yet, and some of it seems to be due to changes caused by the addition of BOLC, and the fact that we have a new cadre member in charge. I realize at some point every teacher has to teach for the first time, but I have all the bad luck when it comes to cadre. J. agrees since he's had the exact same cadre as I have.

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