We sat on an eclectic blue sofa and multi-colored arm chairs at Foam, located near Cherokee street in St. Louis, while Josh and Laura told me that they are originally from Nebraska. They moved to St. Louis in 2010 because Josh got a job as an environmental engineer working in air quality, something he had done an internship in during college and really enjoyed.
I asked, “So what does that entail? You just walk in and sniff the air?” Laura chimed in, “Pretty much! It’s crazy!” I wasn’t exactly correct. Josh works with large companies, household names that you would recognize, to help them get out of trouble with the EPA. Usually the company has already accrued a large fine and that’s when they contact him.
Josh and Laura met...you’ll never guess…at band camp! They both enjoy music, Laura played for a band in college and even auditioned for colleges to study piano performance, but she got burnt out on it. Instead, she studied social services.
Before moving here, Laura reached out to a new non-profit in the area called The Covering House. She volunteered for the first year and a half, until she was hired. Now she is developing their life skills program. The Covering House helps girls aged 12 to 18, who have had extensive sexual trauma, for example trafficking. The life skills program will help them learn how to cook, garden, take care of their physical fitness and more.
“We’ve had a lot of long distance in our relationship,” Laura said from the rocking chair where she sat. Josh and Laura have traveled pretty extensively throughout the U.S. but their favorite trips took them outside of the country and their comfort zones.
In 2008 Josh flew into an airport, took a 4 person airplane to a native village and then canoed up a river for 5 hours until he reached Angel Falls, where he spent the night in a hammock. He was in Venezuela for the summer doing research near the Colombian border and decided to take the trip to see the waterfalls. He also took a day trip to a lagoon where he jumped off a 20 foot waterfall into a freshwater pool. “There was no one there, it was amazing…”
The following year Laura went to Argentina. “I just goofed around, but it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.” She Googled a family who would let her come stay with them and it was kind of sketchy...but she didn’t tell her family that. They were social workers too, who were opening a home for mentally disabled kids and she contributed to their efforts. On the weekends she traveled and on one particular 24 hour road trip she went with a guy she had met. They drove to the Iguazu waterfalls, between Brazil and Argentina. When they arrived Laura started crying, no doubt because of the amazing view. Her friend, who didn’t speak much english, pulled out a joint, lit up and said, “This all I want...to see waterfall and smoke a weed.”
Josh and Laura are forcing their disparate groups of friends to get to know each other, through food! “There’s something special about eating together.” They regularly host food-centered events at their apartment where “we make them food and force them to talk to each other.” Sometimes they even manage to squeeze about 30 people into their 700 square foot apartment. That would force you to mingle! I warned them that they wouldn’t want me there and told them about the lavender cookies I baked that were NOT a hit.
Once again conversation turned to books and Laura surprised me by recommending one of my favorites, ‘Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain’. We enthused over Oliver Sacks’ writing style and how he “tricks” you into learning about the brain.
After a 2 hour conversation, we all hit the road. But it didn’t end there (it never does). Josh sent me an incredibly nice e-mail telling me how much they enjoyed our conversation. They also sent out an e-mail to many of their friends about their experience. It just keeps growing!
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