Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Vacation 2008

Even though it's only mid-July, my summer is officially over. I went back to work this week after having the past 6 weeks off. For those of you who work in schools, this is just way too short. For everyone else, don't be jealous! The first 3 weeks was spent in the desert in Southern Arizona and in Tucson. I spent half of my time at the desert aid camp, helping to coordinate the volunteers coming down to help with the humanitarian aid work.

Here's an e-mail I sent to a friend when I came back from the desert:

"Just got back yesterday from being in Arivaca this week. It's hot! And also incredibly sad and tiring stuff. I feel good about being out there, though. It makes all that we do worthwhile knowing that the work is reaching people.

I met a man from Guatemala who was lost for a week, just wandering and walking North, separated from his group by Border Patrol. The only thing that kept him walking all week was his 2 year old daughter currently living in North Carolina. Seeing a grown man cry for the day when he can hold his daughter again is extremely moving and I feel honored to be able to help him on his way. After some rest and rehabilitation he continued on his way. I pray for his safe journey to reach his family.

We saw a group of 11 the other day (the temperature read 115 degrees in the shade) who were lost and walking for 4 days. No coyote, just all walking on their own. When we arrived, they ran and reached for our water and food desperately. They asked how much farther until they reach Phoenix. How could I tell them that they were only 4 miles from the border? That they have been walking in circles for 4 days? That they will surely not make it to Phoenix? One man from the group was from Honduras...he left home on May 27. Another man had a terribly sprained foot, all black and blue and swollen so large. He could barely put any weight on it. He was encouraged to stop and not to continue walking because they were heading towards the mountains and steep canyons. After pleading with him for a while, he still decided to continue on, to keep moving. It's a mixed feeling for me, the extreme determination, will and faith in God keeps him going; but I'm filled with sadness that he will surely be left behind with the condition of his foot. Only a miracle will get him through this horrible desert.

Then, earlier that day, we came across a Mesquite tree where a woman's backpack was found, all of her belongings thrown around the tree. Her bras and underwear were hanging on the branches of the tree, like colorful flags from far away. We found her birth certificate and voter ID card under the tree. No sign of her anywhere, we looked under more trees and in the arroyos for signs of her. But nothing. She was 17, from Veracruz. Most likely, she was assaulted by someone and left by her group.

I try to find ways to process what I see and what is happening down here. It feels hopeless...like we're doing so little with so much going against us and the immigrants. The wall is going up around us, the helicopters are flying, and the heat is rising. "

Ann Arbor 2008
It's been 3 years since I visited Ann Arbor, MI, where I used to live, work and study. I decided it's time to go back and say thank you to a community of friends that have helped make me who I am today.
I lived there about 5 years, on and off. It's complicated. Ann Arbor is where I went to study Social Work. There, I learned about love, heartbreak, how to plant a garden, work on a cooperative farm, sing at the moon, bathe in the sun, swim in the lake, take off my clothes and go for a run, midnight walks on the train tracks, fireflies, camping, making a fire, snow, snow-shoveling, how to make a snow man, sledding in the park... I learned about life by enjoying it, by living it, by experiencing the amazing-ness that surrounds me. My life and times in Ann Arbor helped to shape my thoughts and beliefs about who I am, what I do, and how we are responsible to each other in this world.

Of course, not all of it was good. We think and remember the good and positive times. But forget the nights where I wondered "what the heck am I doing here? There's nothing left for me here. I need to get back to Arizona." (Seriously, that phrase popped into my head more than a few times. Arizona is the LAST place I wanted to get back to!). The first, and most significant, loss of a relationship happened that transformed the course of my life. It's amazing how one man's decision could potentially change the course of someone else's life. It did. And I'm grateful for it now because I wouldn't be here today.

Well, that was 8 years ago and I left. But I took with me everything that I learned, that was taught to be by my mentors and friends.

My small, raggedy Phoenix garden is thanks to Annie and Paul from the Community Farm of Ann Arbor.

My joy for adventure and spontaneous fun is thanks to 2 girls who taught me how to fall gracefully, pick myself back up and laugh loudly (with some bruises!).

My strength in times of sorrow, heartbreak and despair is thanks to a good friend and mentor who never stopped believing in me even when I stopped believing in myself.

My determination to move forward, blindly, in the hopes that something good is out there; to continue fighting for what I believe in; not to settle is thanks to several men and women who taught me to follow and trust my intuition.

My dedication to working with oppressed groups is thanks to a University system that encouraged dissent, fight and protest every step of the way.

Ona, Liz, Marley and Theresa...

John and TK...they're showing off their BBQ'ing skills

Marley and Ona...2 of the coolest girls I know!

Trying to show how amazing the sunset was that night

I spent 8 days with my good friend John and his partner Liz at their amazing home on 200 acres of farmland and wetlands! Yup, green space!! It was amazing, and I did nothing the whole week. I caught up on lots of leisure reading, went into town every day, went to the cafes, walked around town, visited the community farm, danced to swing, bluegrass and jazz music with TK, watched fireflies outside and went for walks...


Anonymous said...

Inspiring as usual! I'm glad you had some down time.

tequila said...

If I haven't already thanked you for seriously contributing, to the human race, thank you. I'm so glad the kids at our school have ya.

Your Ann Arbor description really touched me. Very similar to things I have felt, am feeling, as I move across the US. Thanks for sharing. Powerful.

Darrell Crowther said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful vacation. We're still in the middle of ours - teachers go back to work on August 25. I actually had the opposite college experience as you. At the U of A, I was fully immersed in "dissent, fight and protest". And then I went to BYU for grad school, which definitely did not have the same focus! So now I live in suburbia and raise my kids and try to quiet the beating of my activist's heart.

But my domestic years are waning. Both my kids will be in school, so I will have some free hours to look around and get back to helping the larger community. Here's my fledgling effort - check it out: