Three Weeks? Really? - Graham
Wow. Monday (tomorrow) marks three weeks since my arrival in Tucson. I can’t believe it’s been that long. But at the same time it feels like I’ve been here forever. After a whirlwind couple of weeks, things have settled down, the changes aren’t coming quite as quickly. About a month ago, I said goodbye to Owensboro and my family for what is realistically the last time (more on that later). I flew to New York and spent a week there for some serious disorientation in preparation for my YAV year. At the end of that week, I took a two-leg trip to Tucson where a week long orientation commenced. After that week, I started my position with Primavera and had another week of orientation for the work I will be doing there. Then, last week, I helped to kick off the after school program that I will be helping with throughout the next year. Every single week there has been some sort of change, but those are starting to slow down. Life in Tucson is taking on some semblance of normalcy, for this I’m extremely grateful.
The after school program, as I mentioned above, is one of my responsibilities with my position at the Primavera Foundation. It started this past week on Wednesday and what an experience that was! The kids are awesome, they really are, but they are also difficult (as most children can be right?). You never know what they’re going to do and the job definitely keeps me on my toes. I can’t wait until I can get my feet more fully under me and I understand more what my position looks like. This after school program has definitely sucked up a lot of my time as we only had effectively four days to prepare for our first week and beyond. I can’t wait to get some good planning done and to implement mine and Cody’s plan for this program. I am so excited for what this year can be and to put our stamp on this program, but I’m slightly frustrated that we haven’t made more progress along those lines. I just have to keep reminding myself that our time has been short and eventually we’ll get there.
So that was my week and that led into the weekend. Let me just say that I love having an automatic three day weekend every weekend. Even if we have community events (like our ongoing discernment activities) on Fridays, we still don’t have to work and that is awesome to me. Anyway, part of our activities this weekend included a bike safety class that started Wednesday evening with a classroom portion and ended this Saturday with a scheduled six hour long practical skills portion. That Saturday portion was particularly hard to get through. We ended up getting up before 6 AM to prepare ourselves for the 30 minute ride to the Shalom Mennonite Fellowship where we were to begin our course. I began the journey there extremely resentfully. I wanted to sleep in, I wanted to enjoy my Saturday, do some laundry, journal a little, and finish up writing my thank you notes. Thus I set out to the site of the class with a less than positive outlook on the day. I saw this in myself, and, instead of living with that, I decided to pray. I asked God to help me “flip the switch”; instead of looking at the negatives of what I was doing, I wanted to see the positives and I wanted to enjoy the day. Living into that, allowing those changes to occur in my psyche, turned my potentially bad morning into a fun day. I got to learn some new bike skills, help Mirra through yet another flat that she got on the trip back home, I was able to finish more thank you notes to those at FPC-Owensboro who have made my year possible, and I got to go to a pool party with the other volunteers serving this year in Tucson. It was an awesome day, and I thank God for that change.
Earlier I mentioned the beginning of this adventure involved me leaving my home for what is basically the last time. Well, since I’m getting married a month after returning from Tucson means that I’ll be living between Ashland and Owensboro after I get back. It means I’ll be moving away without much chance to live at 311 Resolution Way. Another thing that hit me today regarding my future marriage is how far away I am from Kentucky and the decisions that are being made surrounding the wedding. Mariah (my fiancée) got her wedding dress yesterday. Admittedly, that is a part of this process that I would not have been a part of even if I was available, but it did highlight to me that I am very much removed from that process except via FaceTime and text messages. This process is hard.
But I want to end with a new person I met this week. She came to the after school program on Thursday as the younger sister of another boy in the program. Her name is Soledad. She is four and she is adorable. We played “soccer” for the last 30 minutes or so of the program on Thursday and her laugh and smile were so infectious that I was cheered up considerably. Before that moment, Thursday had been tough. I was dragging from the day before and just wasn’t sure I could make it through the entirety of the program. Seeing Soledad’s simple joy in kicking the soccer ball with me, and in everything that she did that day was just a wonderful reminder that we can find joy wherever we are. The saddest part of the day was when it was time for Soledad to leave, she didn’t want to go and she was really upset that she had to leave. It broke my heart, but I hope she returns on Monday and I can’t wait to see what else she has to show me about life throughout this year.
Thank you, Faithful God, for changing circumstances, changing mindsets, and the joy of children.
On Tuesday night around 10pm, the heavens opened up and rain poured down for almost 24 hours. Rain in the desert is unlike the temperamental Eastern storms. The streets flood, the ever-present sun is disconcertingly absent, the air tastes vastly different and dry riverbeds run with brown water. Flowers open up, and swarms of enervated insects crowd the air.
Wednesday was my first full day of work at Community Home Repair. Heeding my new coworkers’ warnings, I took the bus to avoid getting soaked and damaging my bike in the thigh-high puddles. At 6am, when I got on the bus, the sky barely had any light to it. Despite the gloomy morning, I found a friendly environment in the office. I received two CHRPA shirts and a hat, gloves, and a pocketknife. My teammate Dustin and I set out in Daedalus, one of the official trucks, a little after 7 for the first job of the day. I had very little idea what to expect, and it’s a good thing because if someone had warned me I probably would have stayed behind.
The first job was a clogged kitchen sink in a mobile home. I’ve unclogged a sink or two before, I thought. You just get a plunger or poke around with a coat hanger or dump Draino in it until something happens, right?
But CHRPA doesn’t not get paid to unclog sinks with plungers. I made two new friends that day. First, the Snake. An electric and air powered machine with a body vaguely reminiscent of a shop vacuum cleaner, a long neck, and a metal extension with a swirly tip that reaches unknowable lengths out of the neck and swirled around when turned on.
Then there was the Drain King. A rubber bladder that attaches to the end of a hose, which fills up until it can’t handle the pressure anymore and spits high-powered bursts of water down a pipe to dislodge whatever dares stand in its way. You know in cartoons when someone pinches a running hose, it swells up to ridiculous size, and they shoot it at their unwitting friend? It’s that, but bent to good purpose.
After testing the water and noting that the sink indeed did not drain, we carefully sidestepped a skeletal house cat with matted fur that periodically sneezed huge chunks of green mucus on the floor to get back out the door and look under the house. We needed to see where the drain pipes led because there was a strange puddle growing right under the kitchen. Good news: it was dry under the house. Bad news: about five feral cats were living under the home, and judging by the weathered skull of one of their ancestors, they had been living there quite some time. And feral cats do not need litterboxes because they live in one.
The smell was apparent even from outside. I looked down at my new, soft blue CHRPA shirt and recently bought pants. I shrugged and crawled under that house, shoving aside piles of dried excrement. Rain dripped down the walls outside. Dustin pointed at the underside of the house. “See the problem?”
I am not a plumbing expert (yet), but even my untrained eyes recognized the fact that pipes should not have a huge, dripping gap between them.
I said that it was dry under the house. It was not dry after we ran the Snake. Fetid brown water poured out of the gap, and then we were crawling in mud made of desert sand, sink offal, and cat filth. We ran the Drain King from above and flooded the kitchen with backwash, providing me with the opportunity to scream “TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF!!!” on my very first day. We ran the Snake from below again, lying in the leftovers from the Drain King. Betty, the homeowner, took pity and offered us Pepsi. We ran the Drain King, the Snake, and the Drain King and finally the kitchen sink drained and did not overflow. Dustin bravely reconnected the pipe while I provided moral support from the driest position I could find.
“Please get sink catchers,” we pleaded with Betty, crying and covered in mud and unmentionable other substances in her flooded kitchen. “Please get them. They are cheap.”
“I’ll think about it,” she said, relatively nonchalant about the state of her kitchen for a 78-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis. I know this because she wouldn’t let me mop, boasting that she did all her own chores. She showed off a party favor from her twin great-grandsons’ birthday party, and pointed out how nice her new kitchen windows were until I agreed with her. She asked us to mail her donation to PCOA, the society that had connected her with CHRPA. Meeting her was the best part of that morning; she was cheerful and chatty and kept me sane and helped me remember why I was going through this. It wasn’t just a sink. It was water, the source of life, the gift of God to the desert.
We cleaned up the tools. We drank our Pepsi. And we got in the truck and went to our next job.
Bingo - Mirra
This week I began working at the YWCA’s House of Neighborly Service. Part of my job is to help oversee and assist with a group of around twenty seniors who gather three days a week at the HNS for fellowship and Bingo. Miki is the one of the leaders of the group. She preps, cooks, and cleans for the lunch that is served to the seniors and speaks only Spanish.
Thursday morning was the first ‘Senior Time’ I was scheduled to be a part of. As an outsider of a well established group, I was anxious to see how I would fit in. Would they like me? Would I be able to communicate with them? Would they want to communicate with me? Would it be awkward?
With all these thoughts swirling around in my mind, I approached the door at 8:45 AM and heard loud music coming from inside the building. I was confused and thought maybe the music was coming from a neighbor’s house. I opened the door. The seniors were walking around in a conga-line, clapping plastic plates over their heads, and singing along to the up-beat Spanish dance music that was playing. As a person under the age of fifty-five, I definitely stood out. A woman handed me some plates and invited me to join in the dancing. After about fifteen minutes, the music stopped and we put the plates down. All my fears were gone, and I sat down at the table. Someone gave me a little bracelet, my reward for participating in the exercise. I looked around and noticed the arms of some people there covered with the same bracelets.
I sat down next to a woman named Lily who showed me the art she had brought and shared with me that she wanted to add jewels to make them stand out even more. We started to play Bingo, and I noticed everyone was putting in change to play. I didn’t bring any cash, so I said I would just play for fun and not win any of the money should I get a Bingo. A few minutes later, the door opened and in walked Carlota, a spunky older woman who walked as if she owned the room. She let me know I was in her spot, but allowed me to sit there anyways. She was quick to take me under her wing and help me understand the hidden complexities of Bingo. At the begging of each round, Carlota showed me what pattern would be “Bingo” and made sure I didn’t miss a number. After she won a round, she paid for me to play for “big money”, which I promised to give to her if I won. I didn’t win a single round, but we had some good conversation and I got to hear a little about her.
At lunch I noticed how comfortable I felt after playing Bingo for three hours in a room full of people much older than me. I have never worked with senior citizens, and was nervous to see how it would go. I got to see the silliness, hospitality, and passion the group had, and was invited to come back next week to participate in the celebration of Mexican Independence Day where I will get to try their own traditional recipes.I have a whole year to build relationships with these people and am excited to hear their stories as individuals and as a community.
I am thankful for the ways God is pushing me outside of my comfort zone, yet allowing me to find comfort in the places that are unknown. Please pray for me as I continue to step into new spaces as an outsider. May I be reminded of who I am, as I am trusted with stories that are not my own.
Never Forget - Rachel
15 years ago, I was sitting in a classroom at Deerlake Middle School, watching endless loops of the same planes crashing into the same towers. A friend, who lived right across the street from the school had said it had happened and none of us believed him. I think it was because, as a young teen (13 to be exact) I believed our country to be somewhat invincible. Something that couldn’t be hurt. That year, 2001-2002, taught me a lot about my perceptions of invincibility. I define that year as less pre and post 9/11 and more pre and post mom, if I’m quite honest. Yes, like everyone, the future was changed by this catastrophic event, but for me, the loss of my mom some seven months later was far more life changing. It’s not to say that 9/11/2001 wasn’t a horrible, sad, transformative day for my future and the future of our country. It’s just to say that, if I had to really balance it in the scales of my own life, it would not be the day that changed me most in that year. That day would be May 23, 2002. Yes, technically that’s the next year, but in a life that has been defined in school years since preschool, it’s hard to break the habit.
This year, 15 years later, I sit in Tucson, Arizona, 1781 miles from the place I grew up, contemplating the changes occurring in my life, my discernment, and what God has planned for me. It’s hard to explain, I feel simultaneously adrift and anchored. It’s hard to explain the loss of the purpose that has defined who I was for the last 10 years. I’m not sure it’s gone for good, but things are already shifting. For the last 10 years, I knew, without a doubt, that I was a music educator. Even in the times where the path muddied, where it seemed impossible to find, with no light to show the way, I knew that’s what I was. What I was going to be. There is most definitely a deep sense of loss, when I see posts of friends discussing their classrooms, talking about “a-ha” moments their students are having, sharing worries and frustrations I, too, had experienced, it’s difficult to understand what it all means. Why it is what it is right now. I’ve been so defined by this one thing, as a student and teacher, for so long that without it, I feel confused and lost.
And at the same time, in working this last week at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, I’ve felt so in place, so alive and overwhelmingly aware of the things I’m working for. I’m working for the chance to help shorten the line. Not just to feed the line. We spend so much time worrying about feeding the line that I think many people forget that we really and truly do need to shorten the line. To some extent, this work is changing my view on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Yes, in a traditional classroom setting, a student cannot learn if they have not had their basic needs met. At the same time, saying we must give food before helping others find a way to sustainably meet the need to have consistently available nutritious food is somewhat self-righteous and self-serving. They have to go hand in hand. And yet, there is another layer, we can give a man a fish while teaching him to fish, but if the man doesn’t have access to a place to fish or the equipment needed to fish, what is the point? It’s something I’m still trying to explore, wrestle with, ponder, notice, and understand. I’m sure that will be part of this year.
In the mean time, I’m also trying to keep the balance of who I am involved. So I found a church choir. And as a result, have found a community choir. It’s kind of a fun story. I was riding home on my bike from Mercado San Augustin, where CFBSA has a Thursday evening farmer’s market, with great live music (the band this week was killer! Great cover band, every single member sang at some point, it was awesome) and great regional food and just an all around cool vibe. So I was planning to ride all the way home (about 5 miles) and go to the church across the street. If you didn’t know, biking and consistent physical activity is pretty new to me (Like, I knew how to ride a bike, but I’ve never done tons of distance etc etc.) so I’d already done about 10 miles that day. Add to that, Tucson is kind of tilted. going East and….North (I think?) it’s a slow but fairly steady incline. That means going West and South is cake. It’s just a constant slow downhill. Getting back though, is hard. So I stopped both to take a minute, cause my legs were jello, like they do after 10 miles when you’re new at it, and to make sure I wasn’t lost (cause that’s happened a few times already) and noticed people getting out of cars and heading into Trinity Presbyterian. So, being extroverted and nosy, I asked what was going on. I was told that it was choir practice (on a Thursday! That was new for me!) and then asked “Do you sing? You should come and sing.” So, I did. I was quickly informed that the choir director was Dr. Bruce Chamberlain of the UofA music school. It was a great rehearsal with music I knew and music I didn’t. At the end, he let me know about the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus that meets on Monday evenings from 700-930 (a time that is very familiar for a rehearsal!) and invited me to come sing with them. They’re doing Ein Deutches Requiem, which I would find difficult to pass up regardless of how much I had on my plate. So in one evening, I found myself back in the heart of what I knew, in a place that was still new, while figuring out what it is that my life will become. It’s truly an odd combination, feeling so at home and yet so displaced at the same time. I just have to keep trusting the process, the path, and all that jazz, that there is something to learn here, something that will help me find what the next step is, in God’s time, and not in mine.
A year of service for a lifetime of change, right? It’s difficult to know what that change is, but I’m sure it’ll come. As always, thanks for reading. If you have the ability to donate towards my year, the info is on the About page, or you can contact me directly for help. I’ll have some fun things being posted in a couple weeks to add to my fundraising efforts. I’d love to write to you, so please, send letters or emails or whatever. I’ve already got a stack I need to send out.
Peace and Love
Saturday - Graham
I had the privilege today of watching the Coronado Area Special Olympics swim meet at the Edith Ball Aquatic Facility here in Tucson. Over my four years at Asbury, I was able to help out with the Jessamine County Special Olympics swim meets at our university pool. It’s always a great reminder to me that we can take joy from anything we do, and that we can do things simply for the joy of doing them. I love being a part of the Special Olympics and, even though I couldn’t help out today, I hope to have the opportunity to volunteer with them again here in Tucson in the future.
Sorry for the abrupt transition here, but I wanted to open with that because it was probably the best beginning to a Saturday I’ve had in a while. Anyway, I was able to start my placement with the Primavera Foundation this week and it felt good to finally get a routine of sorts established. Tuesday of this past week was the official beginning of our working year and it began with a community brunch at the Community Food Bank. All our placement supervisors were there and we walked through the covenant that each of us (YAVs, placements, the Tucson Borderlands site and the Steering Committee) agreed to follow this year. The status of my supervisor was somewhat unknown to me. My original interview with Primavera was handled by Jenna, who had since moved back to Kentucky to be with her family. Thus, I didn’t really know who I would be meeting at the brunch. Turns out it was a collaboration of Alonzo Morado, Primavera’s Community Engagement Coordinator, and Beth Carey, Primavera’s COO.
At the conclusion of the brunch, our jobs had begun. Just like that the idyllic, summer camp experience that had been my YAV year thus far ended and the “real world” began. It reminded me a lot of my freshman year of college when orientation ended and classes began. So my job with Primavera is, what I’ll call, a hybrid position. Basically, I have been tasked to assist both the After School Program Coordinator (another volunteer) and the Garden Coordinator (also a volunteer), however they need it. The Garden Coordinator is Destinee Wells, she’s originally from Michigan and is serving with the Mennonite Volunteer service. The After School Program Coordinator is Cody Bailey, she’s originally from Florida and is serving with NBA Xplor. Together, the three of us form what I have affectionately dubbed “the Squad”.
My work with Primavera will focus primarily around Las Abuelitas, this is an apartment complex owned and managed by Primavera to provide low cost housing to those in need. There are 12 units and Las Abuelitas is also the home of the after school program run by Primavera. There is also a community garden at Las Abuelitas, and this is where a lot of my gardening work will be focused.
This is the office that Destinee and I share with the computer lab at Las Abuelitas. While the gardening program at Primavera is pretty defined and just a matter of putting into motion the actual gardening, the after school program is open to definition and design by Cody and myself. We have some great resources available to us and I think the program will be a good opportunity for me to stretch myself. The kids in the program are between the ages of 5 and 12 and come primarily from Las Abuelitas. In the past two years, however, the program has also started taking in students from the public housing development right next door to Las Abuelitas. Our goal is to continue to grow the after school program (which doubled in size between year one and two) and also increase the parent’s involvement as much as we can. I’m interested to see how our team grows together through this year and I’m looking forward to continuing being a part of Primavera’s work in South Tucson.
I sit here now, on this tenth day of September looking back at the first week of work. My position is an interesting one. As I mentioned above, I occupy a halfway point between the garden coordinator and the after school coordinator. Because of this position, I still don’t have a clear view of what my actual duties will be. Another job related note is the four day work week. It’s awesome to have every weekend be a three day weekend. I think the four day weeks will feel longer (especially once the after school program kicks into gear), but having a long weekend, plus time off work for retreats, etc., will be a good way to recharge. The past week was full of time for preparation. Preparation for the beginning of the after school program (YIKES!!). Preparation for winder gardening. Preparation for working with the Squad. So much is involved in getting ready for next Wednesday; I can’t wait to see the fruits of our labor. I just pray that it all goes smoothly.
One thing I love about life in Tucson is the Thursday night Farmer’s Market at the Mercado San Agustin. We’ve gone as a group the past two weeks and the atmosphere is awesome. There are always tons of food stalls with locally grown and harvested vegetables, fruits, homemade bread and honey. There is always a live band, last week was The Just Intervals, they are an awesome cover band, you should check them out on Facebook. No really, do it. You won’t regret it. Plus, one of my housemates, Erik works with the Community Food Bank and helps with the Farmer’s Market so we always have an inside track on what’s going on there.
Another thing I’m working through as I start life in Tucson is the confrontation with themes and events and things I see around the city that directly oppose everything I know and believe. It’s a strange environment to go from my home and university where everything lined up exactly or pretty closely to my beliefs (which isn’t a strange phenomenon) to Tucson, where it seems to be the exact opposite. I welcome this forum. I hope it works to challenge everything I’ve held dear and I hope to leave Tucson changed for the experience. Whether that means I change long-held beliefs or hold my beliefs closer and believe more strongly because of my year here.
And so, I find myself here, on the tenth day of September in Tucson, waiting for the beginning of things as yet unknown, looking for answers that are more obscure than the problems they solve, and struggling to discern how my faith and my core beliefs fit into this world in which I find myself.
And so we go.
Thank you, Loving God, for challenging us to move when we don’t want to, for leading us where we may not want to go, and for holding us in the palm of your hand no matter what.
Abundance in the Desert - Mary
Yesterday my fellow Tucson YAVs and I were literally showered with blessings as the congregation of Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church pooled their funds to buy us essential and non-essential but very much appreciated goods: mattress pads, a microwave, towels, sheets, blankets, board games, and more. I am overwhelmed with the love and support they gave us, how they all wanted to hear what I had to say about what little of my year I’ve experienced so far and give me friendly advice about avoiding sunburn and finding cheap meals in a new town.
I had a similar experience last week. During orientation in New York, all seventy of us were split into groups to visit local churches, where we told our stories, participated in the service, and then were commissioned. After the service, the church I visited (First Presbyterian of Beacon) gave me and the six others with me lunch while we got to know some of their members. Then they pledged to offer financial support for our fundraising goals.
What on earth did I do to deserve this? I haven’t even done any volunteering yet - my first day of work isn’t until tomorrow! These strangers (yet brothers and sisters in Christ) are truly invested in us, believing that a group of young people who throw themselves headfirst into new environments with nothing but one suitcase, willing hearts, and maybe a little bit of experience can bring some salt and light to the world and spread the love of God. I hope they’re right! That’s quite a lot of responsibility.
I am grateful because an empty cup cannot pour into others. Knowing that I have the support of the body of Christ behind me in Tucson, New York, and back home in Charleston, I feel like with that example of generosity, investment, and joy I can now show some of that to the community I am living with and serving.
On the more practical, less feelings-y side, I absolutely love Tucson. I don’t miss the lush green of home yet because the desert has its own beauty. Mountains surround me, cacti are blooming, and a constant breeze is enough to keep me happy. There are new birds to learn about every day in my backyard and neighborhood (sighting of the day: a quail!!!!) and I actually love riding my bike. As it’s been at least six years since I last tried that, it was a rough start but this morning I practiced my 6.4-mile (one-way!) commute to work and found that it was really fun to be moving so quickly with the wind on my face and the world open around me. I actually can’t wait to do it every day.
Updates to come on how excited I am once the times I do it are 5:30 AM and then during the heat of the afternoon.
New Home - Mary
No time for a long update because there’s no wifi in our new house (yet), and I’m at a coffee shop mooching off free internet here.
But I arrived in Tucson! It’s hot, but not unbearably so what with the wind and dryness. It’s so dry! I’m still adjusting. We got bikes. We got a house! I love living in a house, in a fairly central location. .
I’ll write a longer post after I start my actual job. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of my back yard.
Hey all, the YAVs of Tucson have somewhat successfully navigated the first weekend of our year in Tucson. Orientation is over. We get to meet our placement site staff tomorrow at a community brunch and just like that our year will officially be underway. The path to get to this point has been long, challenging, and not without its share of tears, but its here. We begin the volunteering part tomorrow.
I just wanted to put down some final thoughts before I fear things become too busy to update everyone here as much as I already have. First, the support for YAVs in Tucson is incredible. Sorry to all the other YAVs but Tucson has to be the best environment in which to serve in the entire YAV program. Not only did we get to move into a clean and basically already fully furnished house (thanks to the Tucson Borderlands Steering Committee), we had a YAV shower with Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church yesterday after attending a service there and we received even more household items (a recliner, which is obviously the most important part of any home, was my favorite) and the leftovers from a meal they served after the service (including a massive cake, obviously an important part of the food available in a kitchen). This is just the tangible stuff that I can see and have experienced since being in Tucson. People that I’ve met in the community are also incredibly nice and always willing to help the “newbies” to the neighborhood.
Second, the challenges are already upon us. We’ve had the ability to engage each other in deep and sometimes hard conversations as we’ve begun the process of community building. This is heartening to me. Hopefully it will make the rest of the conversations easy…or at least easier. I’m looking forward to learning from my fellow YAVs and hope that I can impart even half of what I have learned so far in my first week here.
Third, I’ve managed to forget the fact that we have to work while we’re here. The real part of this experience is here. Up to this point, the YAV program has felt like a glorified summer camp to me. The adjustment to working will be hard, I haven’t spent a day working in over two weeks now and the environment here in Tucson is very different from what I’m used to. The Primavera Foundation is where I think I’m supposed to be for this year and I’m looking forward to joining them in their ministry there. Here’s to hoping that this first week of work doesn’t bite me too hard in the butt!
I am also super glad to report that I have met one of our neighbors in the community! Her name is Lucia and she is originally from Italy. She became a naturalized citizen of the United States and she retired from being a hospital nurse for years. One of the coolest parts of our brief encounter was when I shared what it is that we YAVs are doing in Tucson. When I mentioned that we were volunteering at various agencies through the community, Lucia mentioned an interest in finding a place to volunteer to fill her time now that she’s retired. I thought that was pretty cool. I look forward to getting to know Lucia better and hopefully encouraging her in her desire to begin volunteering.
Here we are. We have our bikes. We have been oriented to the extreme. We’ll probably get lost on more than one occasion, but that’s okay because we have each other…and our site coordinator.
And so we go.
Thank you, Loving God, for your comfort in uncertainty, your constancy in times of transition, and your ability to show up in the least expected ways.
The YAV Crew - Mirra
Here is the the gang! From left to right: Yours truly, Erik, Mary, Graham, and Rachel.
This week we have started to become familiar with Tucson on our sweet new rides. Yesterday we took our bikes on a scavenger hunt all over the city and ended up at a local farmers market for dinner. We dined on the pupusas (corn masa filled with cheese, meat, and beans; then grilled to get a crunchy exterior–YUM) and raspados (shaved ice with fresh fruit and sweetened condensed milk. It was perfect after the long ride in the 95 degree heat (which apparently is not considered “hot” around these parts).
Hello again. Scarcely have two minutes passed since my last post, but I have a lot of thoughts that I want to share and I don’t know when I’ll be able to effectively update this blog again. So part two, here we come.
September has arrived. There is still a lot left to do in our house. We’ve begun the process of forming our community and that, so far, has been filled with good ideas, helpful conversations, and intense vulnerability. There are still a lot of unknown factors (especially our schedules once we start working and how much our bills are going to cost), but four days into this thing, we seem to be doing alright. This week has been all about getting us all to Tucson, settling in, orienting ourselves to the city, and learning what YAV life is like in Tucson. We’ve worked through several activities to introduce us to thinking about the community as a whole and to prompt us in crafting a covenant to help guide our community here. Alison is a good facilitator of these conversations and we’ve done some simple things that make the process of sharing our stories easier. Take food for instance. Instead of each of us simply telling the group what we gravitate towards when we grocery shop, Alison had us brainstorm ten “essentials” that we always look for while shopping. Then, we went to the store, purchased these items, and brought them to the house where we shared our items and why we chose them. Little things like that make the process more interesting, fun, and meaningful.
Another thing that has struck me this week is how much I rely on the internet to fill my time. We still don’t have internet in the house (which is why blogging has been interesting), but we have purchased the internet and it will be setup later next week. However, right now, I’m painfully aware of the absence of internet; this is something I hope to explore more fully throughout this year. I’ve also mentioned the house a couple times and I want to delve more into that. Its a great house. The perfect size to give us all the space we need, but small enough to keep us close. I’m sharing the “master” bedroom with the other male YAV, Erik. Coolest feature of this space: the waterfall shower head. It’s awesome. But yeah, we’ve been blessed with a wonderful house in which to share life together over this year.
The final thing occupying my thoughts, especially today, is the knowledge that, as of today, I am officially a year away from being a married man. Whoa. Standing on this side of my YAV year, I think this will be the most trying part of this year. How do I balance being present with this community here while also being present with my fiancée in this season of preparation? This will be a year-long battle.
I also want to give a shout-out to my church family back in Owensboro, KY! Thanks for your support and your continued interest in/prayer for my year and all the experiences I have had and will continue to have! Y’all are wonderful!
Thank you, Faithful God for providing nourishing places in which to grow and new perspectives on what living in community means.