Building body and community


Agathe Fredette

Andie Flavel

Idaho native Andie Flavel is the new Graduate Assistant of Leadership and Services at Johnson State College’s SERVE office. On a snowy afternoon, Basement Medicine sat down with Flavel in the SERVE office to hear about her misadventures both in and out of a wheel chair during her time in the army in Vietnam, the woes of parenthood, her ground breaking discoveries about cheese since moving to Vermont, and her interest in noodling. (Read further for definition of noodling.)

What’s your role here at JSC?
I help coordinate volunteering events for JSC students, but also community members are encouraged to volunteer as well.

Where are you from?
I’m from Priest River, Idaho. I lived there for 18 years until I graduated from high school and then I moved to Mosco, Idaho. I went back and forth between Colorado and Mosco during the summers for work. I moved here from Idaho in July with my husband and two sons, Axle and Ronan, who are three and a half and one and a half.

Had you been to Vermont before?
I’d been over Christmas breaks here twice for about 10 days at a time. I really like it, it’s very cozy and safe feeling. Everyone I’ve met so far, from people here on campus to random people in gas stations, seem to be very educated and aware of what’s going on around them. I like being able to see and experience new things and a new culture out here. I really like the architecture and the history. And I really like the cheese. I didn’t know that cheese wasn’t supposed to be orange until I moved out here.

Are you traveling anywhere new this year?
I’m going with the Badger Alternative Break education group to Nicaragua. What we are doing there will include helping get the schools back together and working with the kids in the afterschool program through an organization called Panorama. We will arrive in Nicaragua Saturday the 24th, and we will be there for a week. I’m really excited to go there, having never been to South America.

What is family life like right now?
It’s very, very crazy. The boys are very destructive. They are also at an age when they fight a lot with each other. Axle is pretty big even though he’s the youngest one, so they are pretty evenly matched when they fight so I just kind of let them go at it, unless someone really starts crying or starts bleeding.

You were part of the military for a time?
I got into the Idaho National Guard, went to basic training, started out as a 42 Alpha, which is human relations. I was in college at the University of Idaho when I got in touch with the Army ROTC program. I thought I was going to be in the army, I thought it was going to be a career. I did not know what my dream job was. I kind of figured I would go through the ROTC program, become an officer, get active duty and then go somewhere. So I was in the ROTC program to become an officer, but that ended up falling through because I became pregnant with my first son. My contract ended with the National Guard a few months after that so I ended up just riding out my contract and was done in 2015.

How did you become interested in becoming an army officer?
I had always wanted to do it. I have a bucket list that I wrote when I was 17 and one of the things on the list was, “Serve at least two years in the service.” I did not know which branch, but I wanted the structure, I needed help financially, and it was something I was interested in anyway, so there were a lot of contributing factors.

Have you traveled out of the country before?
Yes, to Vietnam. I was there on a humanitarian mission with the Army and were to be there for 28 days working with the Vietnamese officers and their military officers who were learning English. They could read English and write English, and they were working on the proper pronunciation and to understand spoken English. The lessons we taught them were lessons we’d teach to first and second graders at an elementary level in regards to reading and grammar.

What was it like in Vietnam?
It was really eye opening. A majority of the population in the city of Hanoi, which is where we were stationed, owned little shops and lived with families of five to 10 people in rooms that were about half the size of this office. You would see people using the bathroom on the street. There were man made and natural ponds around the city with garbage floating around in them. People would be fishing out of those ponds with a piece of string or whatever they could find. The culture was extremely friendly, but they had very strict curfews. I believe 10 o’clock is their city curfew, and after that time if you’re out you get arrested.

What’s the craziest thing that happened there?
My squad and I had gone out after we were done our lessons and briefing. We would have to be back in our dorms by 9p.m. Later we were sitting around near the pool area and the gates were still open, but we had not been briefed on the citywide curfew rule yet. So we broke the rules and went back out again. We weren’t doing anything wrong, just wandering around. And all of a sudden it went from really populated streets downtown to just . . . nothing. Not even the stray animals were around. It got really dark and eerie within five minutes. We were pretty far from where we were staying and we started to head back, and they had locked the gates to our building. These were 12-foot-tall gates. We didn’t want to call the commander because we had broken the rules and went out past our curfew anyway, and we did not have our passports with us. We were locked out and we started seeing the police officers wandering around the streets. So we got sketched out and knew we had to get back in. I was a squad leader, so I was like, “Okay guys, I’ll climb the gate, go back in, let us all in and no one will know.” So I threw my flip-flops over the gate and started climbing and when I got up to the top, I slipped, fell, and landed on the concrete with no shoes on. I ended up breaking both of my feet — my left heel and my back took quite a beating just from how jarring the fall was. I don’t remember what happened after that because I was in a lot of pain. Someone else climbed over the fence and let everyone in. When I finally came to, the others were carrying me up the stairs and I was just flopping around not knowing what was going on. They carried me to their room and we tried to figure out what we are going to tell the commander about how I broke both my feet, what were doing out that late. So we debated for three hours until finally one of my squad members cracked and got the commander, who brought me to a Vietnamese hospital where I was for three days.

Did you bring back any cool souvenirs?
I brought back Habu sake. It’s snake wine. It’s a mix of alcohol, snake venom, and then a dead cobra is fitted into the jar. They are all over the place in markets — I have a little one and you can get really big ones, too. I think the biggest one I saw was in a restaurant and was four feet tall and I think the snake could have ate me whole, it was pretty big. I drank a small one one night when I was there. I remember it having a thick texture like cough syrup and it kind of reminded me of drinking thick pee . . . or what that might be like. It’s not great.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I used to participate in bikini bodybuilding. It was done for this organization called NPC, Natural Physique Committee. There are different divisions for men and women. There is women’s bodybuilding, women’s physique, women’s fitness, and women’s bikini. So for women’s bodybuilding, those women are huge and most of them get involved in steroids. The bikini division is more feminine.

How did you get into bikini bodybuilding?
It was my freshman year in college and I had rushed into my sorority, gotten into the party scene, drank a lot, gained a lot of weight, so by the second semester I was like, “I don’t even know who this person is anymore.” So I wanted to lose weight . . . but I can’t go to the gym unless I have a reason. “Oh, it’s good for me” is not enough of a reason. So I needed something to drive me to go.

What’s at the top of your bucket list right now?
I really want to be in a shark cage. I really want to hold an alligator. I really want to go noodling.

I know what noodling is, but maybe explain it to the readers.
So people take a big five-gallon bucket and put a bunch of slop and meat and crap into it that catfish will like. Then they stick their arm in the bucket of crap and then go out to a swamp or river where you can find large catfish, stick their arms in the water with their fists at the base of a rock or a log, and you kind of just wait for a catfish to come swallow your arm. Once it does, you punch it in the throat and wrestle it and eventually eat it.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you as a parent?
When they locked me in the basement. I went downstairs to the basement to change the laundry over and the lock is on the outside of that door. I know that Ronan can lock that door, but I figured I was safe. I closed the door behind me, went down to finish the laundry, went back up the stairs, tried to open the door, and it was locked. I did not have my cell phone, Ronan wasn’t awake to hear me and let me out. Turns out the neighbors did hear me but didn’t know what was going on. I pounded on the door for 10 to 15 minutes, tried to unlock the door with an old gift card I found in the basement. The screws were also on the otherside of the door so I couldn’t even use the screwdriver to take the handle off. So I ended up just beating the handle off with a wrench until I was finally able to get out. Axle had locked me down there and being his age did not know how to let me out. So that was pretty crazy.