Get to Know – DWOS14 All Star – Jody Weyers

I am dancing again!!! Here is my official Bio!

Love these people! My volunteer crew for my 40th Birthday Bash Fundraiser!

It’s hard to believe it was four years ago I competed in the 2014 Dancing with Our Stars for the American Red Cross. When I look back on my journey I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences of my life.  To this day, I continue to be humbled by all the people who supported me along the way and who contributed to my fundraising campaign in shattering my goal of raising $40,000. My final fundraising total was $56,182.57!

Here we are in year 10 and the final year – it is bitter sweet!  I have been involved with this event since it was just an idea that came out of the mouth of one of our board members, Jim Gagnon, and here we are nine years later, 95 community…

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Earth Day!

What did you do on Earth Day? I was one day late in taking action and doing something, but honestly, it doesn’t matter because everyday should be Earth Day!

Every since I got back from India, seeing trash on our streets, lawns, side of the road drives me crazy. There is so much litter and trash everywhere in India — even in the middle of the desert, that I don’t want my home, community, state or country to get like that.

Down the road from my house is an area that ALWAYS has trash strewn around — fast food beverage cups, swisher sweet cigar packets (?), straws, liquor bottles, etc….  I drive by this area most days on my way to work and to get on the highway.  Seeing this trash everyday drives me nuts. This is not the first time, I have cleaned up this section. On Earth Day, this was my goal to tackle. Armed with garbage bag, gloves and my big stick, off I went.

I collected a full bag of trash in a very small section. It made me feel good to do my part, I just hope more people will do theirs or think about where they are disposing of their trash next time. Nature is not our trash receptacle.

 

 

National Volunteer Week

April 23 – 29 is National Volunteer Week. It is great that we have this designated week to bring awareness of the good done in our community. Volunteer recognition should also be on going, not just given during this week.

In my current role of Donor Recruitment for the American Red Cross I am lucky that I get to work with lifesavers every day! Our volunteers coordinators who organize the local blood drives in their work place, community or school. Our blood donors who give of their time to help save lives. I am also one of those lifesavers giving 61 times in my lifetime and saving a potential of 183 lives.

This video is dedicated to all those who give of their time and/or blood. The American Red Cross is grateful for the community support!  We can’t save lives without our volunteers and donors.

The Dancing Shoes are Coming out of Retirement!

I will be entering the ballroom once again on February 24, 2018 for the 10th Annual Dancing with Our Stars for the American Red Cross. This year will be bitter sweet. We have an amazing crew of All Stars from previous years, but this will also be the last year for this event.

I have been apart of this event since it came out of the mouth as an idea from past board member, Jim Gagnon. From our first year at Riverside Ballroom with the dancers dodging the chicken cart, to the production it is today at the KI Center! As the saying goes…. “All good things must come to an end”…. it is time – the event has run its course.  In those 9 years the community has stepped up to show their support for the Red Cross in helping raise over 2 million dollars and we hope to raise our most ever in our last year.

The first year I danced was in 2014! That was a special year. I was turning 40 four days before the event, and “40 for 40” served as my fundraising campaign. Not only did I hit my goal of $40,000, I crushed it, raising $54,000 for the American Red Cross.  I am still in awe of the generosity of my family, friends, strangers and businesses who supported me. I also had the most EPIC 40th Birthday Party Fundraiser a girl could ever ask for!

My friends and family that volunteered for my 40th birthday fundraiser!

I looked back on event night and my dancing videos and I still think, that was me! I was so nervous the night before I actually puked, but the day of the event, I was like “I got this”.  It was seriously one of the best nights of my life.

After such an amazing 2014 experience, why would I do it again? Why not? This event not only raised incredible amounts of money for programs and services for the Red Cross, it has also created life long friendships of people, that otherwise probably would never have met.

I know I am so grateful to have met every single star dancer and pro partner that has stepped up to take on this challenge.

We have a very motivated, hard working and amazing group of “All Stars” that want to see this event go out with the BANG it should!

My goal – to help our team raise $600,00 in our last year! If you wish to support me, please give — give to the organization that has given me so much in my 16 years!  My humbled thanks!

Jody

India – Positive and Negatives

I am very grateful for my time I got to experience in India.  By volunteering my time through the Sankalp Society Christmas Program, I feel I got a real snap shot of the Northern Indian landscape and daily life. It was only a week that I volunteered in the schools, but the beautiful faces of the children will be with me forever. I am blessed to have crossed paths with so many amazing people on this journey who helped make my experience an even better one.  This was a trip full of adventure and India really gets you out of your comfort zone.  If you like your comforts of home while away on travel, India is not the place for you! Flexibility, non judgement and positive outlook is what will get you through visiting this country like no other.

Positives:

1. The chia tea – every where you go, they have chia from the small shops, road side markets to restaurants. You can be in the most remote place and they will have and offer you chia.  I did get some of the spices and black tea with instructions on how to make when I am back home.

Photo by: Nina Davis

Photo by: Nina Davis

2. The beautiful saris you see the women wearing.  They are made of some of the most beautiful material and such vibrant colors. Again, even in the most rural areas the women dressed beautifully.

photo by Nina Davis

photo by Nina Davis

3. Tuk Tuks – is sort of a love/hate. In the city, best way to get around and so cheap.  Can be a little scary but it is also crazy fun as they are flying in and out of traffic dodging people, cows, cars and motorbikes.

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 4. Dollar goes a long way. 150 rupees is about $2.00 US dollars. When we take the tuk tuks from our house into town we pay about 150-180 rupees. For scarfs we paid no more than 300 or 400 rupees ($4.00-$6.00 US dollar).

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5. There is a mystic about this country. Among all the dirt, garbage and mass of people there is also a beauty about it. Very intriguing on how people live there daily life because it is so different from all the people I know in America.

Photo by Nina Davis

Photo by Nina Davis

 6. Taj Mahal – One of the most beautiful and impressive structures I have ever seen. Blows my mind how they could build something like that in its time.

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Negatives:

 1. Napkins, toilet paper, tissue and hand towels are a rare commodity. Some of the nicer restaurants will have napkins and when they did, we all grabbed every single one and a few from the next table.  Two of our three hotels during our travel time had toilet paper, but very small rolls. I went through 3 economy packs of wet wipes.  I used them for everything.  Toilet paper, hand sanitizing, drying them out, and using for tissue to blow my nose, washing my body when we had only cold water or no time to shower.

Western Toilet. Still haven't figured out how people use that hose.

Western Toilet. Still haven’t figured out how people use that hose.

2. Most of the places we stayed or restaurants we went to had western toilets. You can’t put the paper in the toilet like we can back home. You have to put it in a garbage bin next to the toilet. There is this hose next to all the toilets that we still haven’t figured out how people use that and don’t get all wet. In some of the places, they had the squat toilets. A porcelain square with a hole in it and grips on the side for your feet while you squatted. I did not attempt that while I was here. 

This is a clean squat toilet, most are not this nice.

This is a clean squat toilet, most are not this nice.

3. Garbage every where. I can’t figure out why there is no sanitation system here at all. Literally, garbage is everywhere.  Plastic bottles, clothes, plastic garbage bags. There is also so much dust.  You never really feel clean. 

4. The driving here is down right scary. I don’t think there are any traffic rules, there is constant honking. I would never be able to drive here between the cars, trucks, cows, goats, dogs, tuk tuks, motorcycles and people that you have to dodge. It is scary enough just trying to cross the street sometimes.

5.  India is every man’s toilet. Every time I looked out the window of a car or tuk tuk I saw a man peeing on the side of the road, on a brick wall, or in the middle of town. You never stepped in any wet spots you saw on the road because you didn’t know what it could be.

Final Two Days in India!

We left our hotel at 9:00am and headed to our last fort of the drive – Mahrangarh Fort.  We pull up to the park area, and who do we see, but they guys from Swiss and Chile.  Seriously, this is now getting weird – Amberee starts talking to them and turns out they went to the restaurant we were going to go to last night, and then we never showed. That’s sucks, it would have been fun to hang out with these boys. 

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I started talking to the guy from Switzerland (we never did get their names) and he asked were I was from and I said, American and I live in Wisconsin.  He asked where in Wisconsin and I said Madison.  He asked me if I know Kohler and I said yes. Turns out he works for a company that works with Kohler and he was in Kohler, WI a couple years ago for a week. Small World!!!

We left the fort and loaded back in the car for the six hour drive back to Jaipur. We got back to Jaipur about 4:30pm. Plenty of time for Emily to catch her ride at 6pm to Delhi to fly home that evening. The week of travel was amazing but so exhausting from so much driving time. It was good to be back at the house.

While we were gone three more people came. John, from the US (Illinois). This is actually his 4th time back. He is retired and was spending a few months traveling around India.  There was also a women from France and from Canada. We had a full house for dinner that night. 

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After dinner Luna, Olivia and I walked around the shops near our place.  I wanted to get some silver plates and cups like the ones used in India.  Luna knew of a shop not far from our house.  I guess I never explored the shops near our house and there were some really cute ones.  I got my plates and we also stopped in this super cute cup shop where Olivia and I bought little cups that are perfect for tea. The shop owner was the cutest older Indian women. It was a very nice last night out exploring.

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Today, Friday January 6th, was my last day in India. It was bitter sweet.  Everyone by 9:00am was off to school and Amy, Nina and Olivia went to Hyper City (the mall).  I stayed back at the house by myself to pack up and took some time to reflect back on my time.

 Everyone was home by 1pm and Puni made a wonderful last lunch with all of us together.  Luna, Amberee, Amy, Nina and Olivia after lunch were getting ready to go to the market and I saw them off and we took selfies outside by the tuk tuk and Shakeer’s brother joined us for pictures.

 I will miss those five young ladies. I knew I would probably be one of the older ones in the house, and I was by 15-20 years. To be that young and going on a journey of this size is huge. They are very brave. They all have such a positive spirits and good souls. The nice thing about social media is we can stay connected and I look forward to following them through their life and see the positive impact they continue to have on this world.

I was picked up by my driver to take me back to Delhi at 3:45 and got to the airport around 8:30pm.  My flight time was Saturday at 00:45. Thank goodness all on time. I landed in Toronto at 5:30am Saturday, next flight to Chicago was 7am and now I am on a bus home to Madison.

Final Reflection: 

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Travel is an amazing thing. It is good for the soul to experience other cultures and it is exciting to meet and make friends with people all over the world. Travel also makes you appreciate more of what you have in your life back home.  I am very blessed in my life to have a great family, amazing friends, and the means to travel…… what more do you need in life? As I said when I started this journey, Wisconsin is my home, but the world is my playground! 

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Riding Camels!!!!

We got up at 6:30am to leave our hotel by 7am to see the sunrise over Gadisar Lake. There was too much fog, so we couldn’t really see the lake, but it was still very beautiful. We get back to the hotel and have breakfast on the rooftop. It is amazing how cold it is in the mornings and then things quickly heat up by mid-day. It was nice sitting with your warm chia, looking over the city with the chill in the air and waiting for the fog to burn off.

Our next stop was Jaisalmer Fort. It was like a city within the city. People lived there and the fort walls and nooks and crannies were filled with street vendors selling their crafts. Amberee, Nina, Emily and I went to one of the rooftop restaurants in the fort, and had amazing chia, while again taking in the city views.

We went back to our hotel and before we left town we stopped at Patwa Haweli. It was a museum preserving the history of Indian life and culture. We stopped at few market places, but I think at the moment we were shopped out.

Next stop the desert. We get to our basecamp and we all chill after the long car ride with chai while our guides are getting our camels ready for us. Our guides tells us they are ready and the six of us walk out to meet our camels. My camel was named Babaloo. He seemed a little feisty. The guide helps you on with you putting your foot on a strap to hoist yourself up and swing your leg over. The guide then has you lean back, as the camel gets up on their front feet and then lean back as they get up on their back. I must admit it is a little scary at first. Once on the camel, all those years of riding horse when I was young came in handy. Squeeze at the knees and hang on to the horn.

Our guides walked about a mile into the desert to watch the sunset over the sand dunes. Once we got to our spot, we dismounted and we sat and just enjoyed the amazing view. A guy with a motor bike drives appears like a mirage and he has chips and beer. Of course you have to buy. It was surreal. Sitting in the desert, eating chips, drinking a beer watching the sunset next to your camel. Once in a life time opportunity for sure.

Once the sun set, we got back on our camels and we headed back to base camp. My guide had Babaloo break out into a bit of a run on the way back. Lets just say riding a horse is a much smoother ride. Once back to camp, we sat and enjoyed live folk dance and music. The music got done about 8ish and then we had dinner back at base camp. There was two other groups in our camp as well. A husband and wife couple, and then two very attractive guys, from Switzerland and Chile traveling for a bit together.

We had the option of sleeping in huts at the basecamp or sleeping in the desert. You only live once, so we all opted for sleeping in the desert. When would you have that opportunity again. Our guides loaded up a cart full of blankets and we crawled on top. I was the first one up, and I fell backwards off the mound of blankets and my head ran went right into the ass of the camel. The guide caught my balance before I fell off. We all climb aboard including “Rambo” (our driver – we call him this because of his Army jacket he wears most days). Our guide walks us out into the desert. We get to our spot for camping and guide said, cold night, sleep right on sand to stay warm. Pictures from other groups we saw, there beds were a bit off the ground. Nope not us, added to the adventure. Our guide and Rambo, cleared a spot in the sand and started putting down all the blankets and pillows for us to sleep on.

 

Thank goodness I put on lots of layers, so once under the blankets I did start to warm up, and once you lay on your back and look at all the stars laying on the hard sand and being cold is all worth it. I never saw so many stars. We even saw a few shooting stars.

In the middle of the night, I had to pee so bad. I got up from my warm sand cocoon I made for myself, and use the light of my phone to walk over to some bushes. The sand was so deep and hard to walk in and I must admit, it was a bit scary walking in the desert in the middle of the night, but when nature calls.

The only thing that dampened the time was Emily complaining. She was complaining about the cold, but yet, she didn’t put any extra layers on like the rest of us. She just had on a thin jumper and a cardigan. Then she complained she couldn’t sleep because of my snoring. She knew I snored, so she shouldn’t have slept next to me. The rest of the girls all slept. Complaining and negativity I think is part of who she is. She complained or had a snarky comment about most things on this trip. She’s young, 24, I think, hopefully later in life she can look back on this journey and learn from it. Life is to short to go around pissing and moaning all the time and in a different cultural setting such as this, you have to be flexible.

We wake up the next morning and the top layer of blankets is soaked. It is so weird. It didn’t rain, it was all wet from the morning dew. It was so beautiful watching the sun come up over the horizon, again, once in a life time opportunity.

Our guide loads up all the blankets and bedding back on the cart and we load up again back to base camp. They have hot chia tea waiting for us which is just perfect. We have a light breakfast of toast, hard boiled egg and banana. The rest of the groups are getting back too and look about as rough as we do. Sleeping in the desert is not for wimps! We talk to the cute guys for a bit and learn about where they are from (Switzerland and Chile) and then we load up again for the drive to Jodhpur.

India – 2 / Jody – Zero

New Years Day we left for our week of travel. I must admit, I was a wee bit hung over from our roof top celebration the night before.

It was such a fun time. We had a fire on the rooftop and a case of beer and we played music and then at midnight Pranay came up and we lit off fireworks. These were not your little fireworks either! After we got done, it looked like bomb went off on top of the roof.

We arrived in Pushkar and checked into our hotel. The hotel was beautiful, but the bathroom totally stunk. I can’t figure it out, in all the hotel bathrooms they put these white balls in the sink, like the things you would find in a mens restroom urinal and they stink like that too.

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We freshened up a bit and then went to this place for lunch. It looked like a decent place. Nice outside tables and chairs. We all ordered different food and when they came, all the sauces looked the same. Olivia found paper in her food. I am not sure if was being hung over, or the food (I just ate my nan and a few bites of my paneer) but I was not feeling good.

It was not a good time to not feel good, as after we walked to the market in Pushka. This was one of the biggest markets and people, cows ands motorcycles everywhere!!! I thought I might have to get sick at one point and I went into this public toilet and I had to walk right back out. It was so disgusting and it was a squat toilet. I was not about to do that in that place. I did manage to get all my shopping complete for gifts for people and while I was standing at a booth, waiting for some of the other girls to finish up, I got rammed in the front of my thigh by the head of a bull. People all around me, and that sucker went in for a direct hit. I am really surprised I don’t have a bruise on my thigh.

We all shopped until we were about ready to drop. We got back to the hotel and I was so tired and all I wanted was a hot shower and bed. The rest of the girls went out to eat and I decided to hang back. Besides having an icky feeling tummy, I was starting to get a cold. I go to get in the shower, and it is ice cold water. This is normal in India, so you just have to let it run a bit, nope, still ice cold. I washed up best I could and I was so stinking cold after that shower I had on three layers under the covers. By now it is only 7:30pm, so I planned to just get warm under the covers and connect to the free hotel WIFI and check out everyones New Year plans since it was not even 2017 yet back home. WIFI wasn’t working for me either….. I just decided to call it a night. India – you got me on this day!

Monday, January 2nd –

I was feeling much better today especially after 10 hours of sleep. We had breakfast at our hotel and then we were on the road by 9am. We had a 9 hour drive ahead of us to Jaisalmer. We stopped in Jodhpur for lunch. but the place looked a bit sketchy. I ordered nan – can’t go wrong with just bread. Back in car we go.

imageWe get into Jaisalmer about 6:00pm, check into our hotel, freshen up, and then we go to eat. By this time we are all starving because we hardly ate anything for lunch. The place we went to was called Junction Palace. They had a nice roof top restaurant but it was quite chilly so we ate inside instead.

After dinner, we came back to the hotel to call it a night. I as so looking forward to a hot shower since I didn’t get the night before. Turn on the water – IT’S HOT….. but only for about a minute. Looks like another cold shower for me! You got me again India!

Last day of School

Friday, December 30 – Last Day of School

Today was my last day of school with the kids. It was bitter sweet knowing that I wouldn’t see these sweet little faces anymore. When I was in Africa five years ago, I brought a pair of new TOMS Shoes and I had the children I worked with write on my shoes, pictures, their name, scribbles and they are something I will always treasure from that trip. I did the same thing for this trip. I ordered a new pair of cream TOMS and I had Amberee translate to the older students that I wanted them to write their name or general words in Hindi. My shoes look amazing. I simply love them.

As we wrapped up the school day and we got back in the tuk tuk, it was hard not to get sad as you see all the children running after you “Bye Dee Dee” “See you tomorrow” and they wont.

We came back to the house and at 1pm, a new girl arrived in the house. Amy is from Melbourne, Australia and is a teacher. She is here for the four week program. While she was dealing with her lost luggage, the original five of us went to Hypercity Shopping center in Jaipur. Yes, they do have malls here.

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We walked around and I got a good coffee from Cafe Coffee Day (the “Starbucks” of India.) Olivia got a new kurta and I got a new shirt and scarf for the week of travel.

We came back to the house around 6pm, and then I just vegged out for the rest of the night, trying to prep and repack for our week of travel starting on Sunday.

Here is our itinerary:

Sunday – Leave to drive to Pushkar at 9am (4 hour drive), check into our hotel and then have rest of day to shop at the markets.

Monday – Drive to Jaisalmer from Pushkar (7 hour drive) and arrive around 5pm and visit Jaisalmer Fort and markets.

Tuesday – Visit to Gadisar Lake and site see in Jaisalmer and Patwa Haweli and then we drive to the desert. At 5pm we take a camel ride and have dinner, live folk dance and music and we sleep in the desert that night.

Wednesday – We leave early and head to Jodhpur for sites seeing and markets.

Thursday – Travel back to Jaipur and arrive home around 6pm.

Friday – At 3pm they take me back to the Delhi airport and then I fly out Saturday at 12:45am.

This morning, we had another new girl come, Nina. She is from California. It will be Amberee, Emily, Olivia, Amy, Nina and myself going on the week of travel. Luna already did her week.

Tonight is New Years Eve and we will be having a celebration on roof top with food, drink and fireworks.

As I reflect back on 2016, its been a year of lots of first – My first half marthon (and only), my first trip to India and still so many first in Madison as I am going on a year and a half living there now.

Cheers to 2017!!!

Sites of Jaipur and More

Wednesday, December 28:

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Emily was still not feeling great on Wednesday, so she stayed home again from teaching school. Thank goodness Gopi was there to help me again when they got a little wild. We got there a little early, and all the kids were seated on a blanket and Gopi was having them stand up and was looking at their hands and talking to them in Hindi. I asked Luna what was going on and she said he was looking at their nails and had them smile to see if they had clean teeth. If no, he would send them to the sink house to wash up.

I started with the alphabet and then broke it down into words. I am finding they are memorizing the alphabet, but when you ask some of them what letter it is not saying the entire alphabet, they don’t know. I tried to work one on one best I could with some that I saw struggling.

During play time, a truck came to fill there water tank so that added some extra excitement to the day. Next we went on to work on math skills. Some of them are really bright in knowing there numbers and how to add. Again, I tried to work one-on-one but it is hard when they are all trying to get your attention, yelling “Dee Dee” – which means Sister. That is what they called all of us.

Drinking our chia in the textile shop.

Drinking our chia in the textile shop.

After school we had lunch and good news was Emily was feeling better and food and water was staying down but continued to rest for the day. Olivia, Luna and I had Shakeer pick us up to do some shopping. He is so sweet, we get in the tuk tuk and he had mini bottles of special perfume he had made for each of us. It smelled so good. He also had a box of sweets for us. (An Indian dessert). We wanted to go to the market and he said he knew of some places to get nice textiles not the tourist shops. He took us to a textile place and the shop owner reminded me of Danny Devito. He made us all chia tea and then he showed us all sorts of samples for pants and kurta (India style shirt). We got to pick out a fabric we wanted and then they measured us, and were hand making them and will be delivered a day later. I got a pair of pants and a kurta hand made for $28 US dollars! Olivia also got pants and a beautiful scarf made for her on site. Both her and Luna also tried on sari’s. Very beautiful.

Next stop Shakeer took us to was for jewelry. We went to a shop with real silver and stones. I picked up quite a few gifts for family and friends.

By this time it was almost 7pm, and Shakeer took us back in time for dinner. After dinner, we just chilled out and I was in bed by 10pm. I can’t believe how tired I am at the ends of some of these days.

Thursday, December 29:

Emily was feeling better and was able to join the rest of us teaching today. Hard to believe this was our second to the last day. It’s exhausting when you are there, but then when you leave, all those sweet voices “dee dee” “Bye” “See you tomorrow”. I just hope my week I spent with them will impact their life in some way. Two of the students, in just a couple days, I have seen actual improvement in their math skills. I write addition tables in their note books and have them answer, and when they come up to show me, if all are correct “good job” and I put a smiley face on there paper. They really want to please and do a good job. Some get mad when I tell them they have a wrong answer, but I try to explain and use my fingers for them to count, and then once we figure it out together, then “good job”? I say yes, “good job”.

We had Shakeer pick us up again after lunch and we headed to some sights based on his recommendation. First up was Gaitor – it is the marble cenotaphs of the Kachhawaha kings enclosed in the walled garden just below Nahargarh Fort. It was beautiful, and if you climbed to the top of one of the buildings, you saw an incredible view of the city.

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Our next stop was Panna Mian ka Kund built in the 17th century by a eunuch Panna Mian, a leading figure at the court of Raja Jai Singh.

We finished up our night with a quick stop to take pictures of the Jai Majal, or better know as the “water palace” and stopped at a few markets.

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Made it back in time for dinner at 7pm, and now all of us are just cleaning up a bit because there are two more girls moving in on Friday. Can’t believe tomorrow is my last day at the school.