As a Tucson Borderland YAV at the beginning of the year I got to pick out my very own bike and helmet that has become my main mode of transportation around the city. This was perhaps one of the things I felt most hesitant about coming to Tucson, I have never really liked biking. I was uncomfortable feeling unbalanced as well as not feeling in control of the speed of my body. I got a pretty cool bike; we took a bike safety class, and I’ve been riding almost everyday since I got my bike. I feel much more comfortable, even confident on my bike. And I am actually loving biking! When we took our bike safety class we learned about the ABC Quick ✓, which a good bicyclist will do before each ride. ABC Quick ✓ stands for Air, Brakes, Chains (or cranks and cassette) Quick releases, and yay all checked, ready to ride! I’m going to go through a little different ABC Quick ✓ to give a little bit of a glimpse of my everyday with my beloved bike.
ABC Quick ✓
No Air in My Tires…
Every so often in the desert little goat-heads, love to get in my tires. I’ve fixed more than a handful of flat tires in the few months I’ve had biking as my main mode of transportation. Just last week I was looking at my tire and pulled out a goat-head and immediately heard a hissing sound come from my bike. Inside of bike tires are tubes that get pumped up with air, so when there’s a hole from whatever pokey thing I’ve ran over in the desert I remove the tube and put a patch to seal up the hole. The tube is good as new.
Sometimes the hole is hard to find, and one of the easiest ways to find the hole is with a bucket of water. First you fill the tube up with air and then submerge part of the tube and work your way around the tube until a stream of bubbles starts coming from the tube.
Flat tires will sometimes come at the most inconvenient times, especially when me and Laura are ready to head to work or partially through our uphill morning ride adding some extra effort for my legs.
However some of the fun moments in changing flat tires is sitting in the living room the night before an early morning ride, while my roommates sitting on our couches. Our bikes, including the many pesky flat tires is a big part of community life.
Though biking doesn’t give most my muscles a rest, it gives my brain a break. Growing up as an athlete being able to be active has always been a space for me to process or just get completely out of my head. Biking after a long day of work gives me time to decompress, listen to music, and talk to my housemate Laura.
Recently we had a week of border delegations, which was a very powerful and emotional week that I hope to blog about when I can find the words to explain the experience. We were in Agua Prieta for half a week and then returned to Tucson to continue learning about different organizations that are doing work with the border and immigration. I was so excited to be back with my bike.
Especially on some of the most emotionally draining days being able to bike allows me to breathe, focus on the ground in front of me and changing gears and pedaling. It allows me to feel like me time to look around at the mountains and the sunrise or sunset. It allows me to focus solely on my physical body, what I’m seeing, what I’m hearing, the air that I feel rushing against my skin. It allows me for a small amount of time not feel overwhelmed by my emotions
A very big part of my YAV year is my site placement, CHRPA, also know as Community Home Repair. Like all of my housemates commuting by bike is a part of our everyday workdays. However, my housemate Laura and I have the longest commute in the house. We bike 9 miles each way.
Our first couple of months work started work at 6, so we can climb on top of roofs and work on coolers during the cooler part of the hot summer days. Our 9 mile bike ride in the morning is mostly uphill and started out being about an hour and a half, as we got faster and began to know our way better our ride is a little bit under an hour. Somedays on the trails we see a few of our coworkers, who are a little bit faster riders than us, pass us. Once we get to work our bikes get hung about on a bike hooks enough for the many biking workers at CHRPA.
Many of my coworkers have been able to give me advice about biking in the cold, how to avoid knee pain, and many different fun bike trails.
Quirky bike things
Each of my housemates have our own bikes, we got to pick out ourselves. Mine has a green basket that comes in handy for holding my lock, water bottle and a bag.
I’m convinced mine and Laura’s bikes are best friends, after all they spend all day together.
Tucson has a bike repair shop called BICAS that recycles bikes and bike parts as much as possible. Whether it’s reusing bike parts for another bike or in art pieces. They have pros that will help people learn how to use the tools to fix and do maintenance to their bike.
And Check! I’m ready to keep riding!
All these different parts of biking have been a big part of my YAV experience. I’ve found a new activity I really enjoy, and it has also brought me together with community, that shares similar experiences of the many joys and some of the annoying parts of biking.
On my first Sunday in Tucson, the YAV’s and I went to Trinity Presbyterian Church for worship and fellowship. As we worshiped Will You Come and Follow Me (The Summons) is a hymn I’ve heard many times before. As we had already spent a week in New York and a week in Tucson thinking about what service means to us and reflecting on what the year ahead may hold, the fourth verse has stuck with me:
Will you learn to love the ‘you’ you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you found to reshape the world around, through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Alongside the powerful verses, the sermon has also stuck with me. The pastor talked about confidence in one’s self is something God calls us to do. But she noted an important distinction between arrogance and confidence. In order to be in relationship and use our gifts as God calls us, confidence in those gifts and one’s self is necessary.
There’s a lot of me I hide that I know comes from fears of vulnerability. A lot of insecurities I deflect through laughter and sarcasm. These parts of me require vulnerability, because there often parts of me I don’t really love or are confident enough in to share with others. There are big parts of me I remain hesitant to share. Some of the ‘me’ I hide, includes parts of me that help drive my passions. When I’m not confident in the parts of me that are very entwined with what I’m passionate about how can I be confident in the work I will do to serve others. I think even more so thinking about gifts and talents, I have; if I am not confident in the gifts I have been given, if I am hesitant to share my gifts, how am I really serving or being in relationship with others to the best of my abilities. I feel like I really struggle being confident in all parts of who I am, because I have many fears of what others may think of me, or whether my most vulnerable parts of myself will be accepted.
Perhaps a reason I’ve struggled even writing this first blog post, and sharing with a lot of my community the different experiences I’ve had thus far, is a pretty big fear of vulnerability and putting my thoughts out there for others to read.
I hold a lot of fears everyday. Fears of being a women out and about each day, especially at night if I’m ever biking alone. Fears about biking and being on the road with cars that may not be paying attention. Fears of being vulnerable around my roommates or my co-workers. Fears about saying something wrong or hurtful to others in my community. Fears of causing tension in the house. I have lots of questions about these fears. I wonder often where they come from, what places of privilege some of them come from and what places of past trauma they come from. And my biggest question what do I do to acknowledge them, but not be crippled by them. If I learn to not just suppress or ignore fears I have but quell the fear inside can that lead me to never be the same. Googling the definition of quell it means “to put an end to, typically by the use of force.” I like the use of this specific word, cause it call attention to some of the intentionality necessary to combat fears that are rooted in privilege, racism, or holding on to past traumatic experiences. Put an end to fears of vulnerability or saying the wrong thing, or being scared of people based on stereotypes by using force, by making conscious decisions to take a second to look at where this fear is coming from and how healthy it is to continue to hold on to that fear. I think there are fears and gut feelings that keep us safe, but I think there a lot of my fears that just keep me feeling comfortable. If I learn to recognize some of these fears and put an end to them, how can that allow me to be open to many different experiences, community with different people, and connect with them in a very intentional and deep way where vulnerability is appreciated and necessary.
I will learn many things from my year of service. Some may be new physical skills like how to use power tools or install a water heater, some may be how to listen, and discuss tension and conflict with housemates. But what I think or hope I will learn about most is myself. Learn why I hide parts of myself from others, what confidence can look like, where my fears come from and how can I confront them, and perhaps one of the harder questions I’ve had a harder time thinking through, the question the verse of the Summon ends with will I use the faith I found to reshape the world around? I hope in a year of service, with a program focused on intentional Christian community I can start to think through how me and my faith (something I have hesitance in sharing) can be used to confidently and fearlessly serve and help others.
A month before I left Asheville, I made a decision to do a second YAV year. It was in no way an easy decision. As soon as spring hit, I began to think seriously about the options that laid ahead of me for the next year. I was supposed to have been using the whole year as a “gap year” focusing what came next after college and what interested me. I went into Asheville, hoping that it would possibly even lead to a future job or career path. As I got closer to the end, that dream became more and more of a reality as several options to stay came my way. Job offers, Americorps years, even options to go to my Illinois home for the year. None of them seemed right though. I was convinced that as much as I wanted to stay in Asheville, by staying, I would be taking an opportunity away from someone else. Also, I had came into Asheville knowing that the experience would only be a year and so in some ways, my subconscious was ready to move onto whatever came next. My heart may not have been ready, but every other part of me seemed to be- my muscles for instance were counting down the days as we entered June and they didn’t have to carry heavy sofas and prove themselves to old men who looked at me sideways. Going home also seemed like a step back- I had convinced myself that moving forward into the future had to mean a step forward. So, when a representative from the giving’s department of the PCUSA church came for a visit and asked us what came next in continuing this knowledge of faith in action, only one answer really made sense. In discerning my call last year, I started thinking about seminary, but am not yet ready. I need more hands-on experience and learning. There is so much of the social justice world that I am just beginning to get a flavor for. A year on the border stepping FAR out of my comfort zone, seemed like the perfect opportunity for change and growth. With a half an hour left on the clock to submit my application, I had committed to a second year.
The commitment has taken a while to sink in.
I left Asheville feeling like I was prepared and fully expecting the challenges ahead. However, writing this two weeks in, I can tell you that everyday here so far has proven me wrong. Although I am doing a second year of service through the PCUSA Missions Agency, the comparisons between my years end there. I am living with 5 women again, but they are completely different from my roommates last year. My current site supervisor may be friends with my past one, but their guidance styles are very different. Last year, I had a job where I was constantly on the move and lifting furniture; so far this year, I have had a lot of office work and sorting in the nice air conditioning. Last year, I had my car and relied on that privilege more often than I should; this year the temptation is gone, and my primary mode of transportation is a bicycle. The years are drastically different and although everybody was telling me not to compare, I did not realize how much I was doing so until I came face to face with the pre-conceived notions I carried. I am almost two weeks into the year and apart from realizing that it is different from my first, here are some other things I have discovered and learned about Tucson in particular:
It’s hot here but it’s a “dry heat”. It took me two days to realize that means dehydration becomes a problem as the heat inevitably sneaks up on you. I am living in a house in the midst of a neighborhood with a lot of U of A students. Our yard is full of “goat-heads” (or how I always knew them- sand burrs). To avoid getting flat tires on our bikes, we carry them anywhere there is not pavement. There is no grass here in Arizona, just cacti, gravel, and sand. The lady at the post office was joking with me yesterday and called Arizona the country’s largest beach without the water. My bike ride to work is about a three-mile ride through downtown Tucson. Two days into the year, we took an 8-hour intensive bike course where we had both a written and riding portion. I am certified in all biking endeavors but my “quick-stop” could use some work as the practice portion sent me flying over the handlebars. Helmets are not fashionable, but I learned in that instance they are in fact necessary. So, I am learning to adjust and live with it- my bun however is not so becoming bald may be in my future. My work placement this year is at Keep Tucson Together (KTT). It is a nonprofit organization that helps in providing legal assistance for members of the community that need representation in legal hearings, aid in filling out and filing court documents, and help understanding their current situations and figuring out options. The team is comprised of a few full-time employees but mostly it consists of retired lawyers and other volunteers (we are all volunteers as I am often reminded) who are looking to provide hands on assistance and help wherever they can. My job so far has been in going through and organizing client’s files and getting used to the “a# system”. I am quickly realizing how although it is not required, being able to speak Spanish in the workplace and community would be tremendously helpful. I start an intermediate level Spanish class on the 9th and as a house, we are reading and practicing vocab words together.
Two weeks in, I can see where my time in Asheville was an asset to my learning and how it can in some ways contribute to my year this year. However ultimately, these are two VERY different experiences and being able to live each of them has been a blessing and has helped in understanding just how diverse God has created this vast world. I am excited and obviously nervous to continue embracing each and every challenge, difference, and change that lies ahead.
It’s about 9 pm on a Tuesday night. I’m in the back seat of our YAV car, the 1998 small Saturn that my housemates and I share. Alison is driving. Ryan and Tanner are fast asleep. We are on our way home from Agua Prieta/Douglas where we attended a binational Posada along the border wall, led by Frontera de Cristo. During and after the Posada, I chatted with new and old friends. As I sit in the backseat, look at the other people in this car, remember my evening, and reflect on my last four months, I feel a deep happiness bubbling inside of me. I love my life. It has been years since I have experienced this level of joy and contentment.
On Friday, three days from now, I will fly home to see family for Christmas. While I am excited to be with my loved ones, going home also means confronting family conflict and being in my small home town. I greatly appreciate the community I grew up in, but in some ways, I am very different than I was in high school. So although I am going home for the holidays, I am leaving the home and life that I have established in Tucson.
I did not instantly call Tucson home upon arrival. It took a while (a couple of months) to appreciate the city. In fact, during my first week here, I detested it. I told myself that it was only a year-long commitment, and I could return to Texas- or go anywhere- upon completion of my YAV year. Now, I am considering staying in Tucson, or in another part of Arizona, after the program concludes. I love the people here. I love the culture here. I don’t love the cacti yet, but they are growing on me.
My perception of the physical space in which I live has also transformed over the last four months. It was difficult to leave the cute one-bedroom apartment in San Antonio that was mine and Tanner’s first place together. Over the year and a half that we lived there, I meticulously decorated and organized every inch of that apartment. Moving into a new house with others meant relinquishing some of that control and perfectionism. I was overwhelmed when we first moved into our house. I did not expect the physical space adjustment to be as difficult as it was. The house that I moved into four months ago with two strangers, 50 dinner plates, and four mismatching couches, has become a cozy home.
My life in Tucson has come to feel like home. It has come to mean comfort, adjustment, learning, growing, challenging myself, developing relationships, and speaking up. I am nervous to leave all of that. As I prepare to “leave home” for the holidays, I hope to take with me my newfound confidence and joy. And the best part is, I get to come back in January!
As always, thank you for reading my blog. Part of gaining confidence and using my voice this year has come via my blog, so your readership means a lot to me! Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone!
It’s October, which means playoff baseball! I started following the sport when I was eight, and it has been a huge part of my life ever since. A remarkable trait of baseball is its consistency. The game has been played in essentially the same form for over a century. This consistency can be a great comfort in a world that is changing rapidly on a micro and macro level. Whether I am watching a baseball game on the TV of my childhood home, in a dorm room with friends, or on my laptop in the YAV house in Tucson, it is the same game.
Occasionally during a baseball game, the players will toss the ball around the horn. This is when the infielders toss the ball amongst themselves after a strikeout occurred with no men on base. The primary purpose of the exercise is to keep the fielders loose during the inning. In honor of playoff baseball, I thought I would use this blog post to go around the horn, and do a brief check in with three components of my life as a Tucson Borderlands Young Adult Volunteer: Faith, Work, and Community.
This Sunday, we completed our Southern Arizona church tour! Our site coordinator, Alison, arranged for us to visit various churches across the Tucson area during our first month and a half as YAVs. Our house visited Trinity, Southside, St. Mark’s, Holy Way, St. John on the Desert, and Mountain Shadows Presbyterian Church. The purpose of these visits were to introduce us to the various Presbyterian worshipping communities in the Tucson area, connecting us with the wider faith community we are a part of in this city. Each church was unique, but the one thing they all shared was radical hospitality. We introduced ourselves to the congregations, and they responded with warmth, curiosity, and joy. Now that we are done visiting churches as a group, each YAV will choose their own worshipping community to be a part of. While I have not made up my mind where I will worship, I know I will be fully welcomed wherever I choose.
I am now a month into my work at Community Home Repair Projects of Southern Arizona. As the seasons change, we have less and less cooler repairs, but our work of fixing roofs, plumbing, flooring, electricity, and everything in between continues. The cooler weather has transformed my morning commute by bike. What used to be a hot and sweaty slog is now a cool and breezy ride. I have also started to split my time between working in the field and in the office. Two days of the week I am out making repairs, and the other two days I am in the office helping CHRPA’s Development Director, Carrie, with various tasks ranging from grant writing to data entry. This past thursday, I worked on and submitted my first grant for CHRPA to Wells Fargo!
One realization I have recently come upon is that being a YAV is not merely being a part of one community, it is being a part of many communities. Over the past month, I have began to form communities with my housemates, co-workers, church congregants, and Tucson residents. The community that I have the most interactions with is our YAV house. We have known each other for over two months now. This means we have a degree of comfort with each other, and can laugh together, dive into deep topics together, and, sometimes, disagree together. It has been a rewarding experience to get to know Ryan, Miranda, and Dakota, and to hear their fears, realize their strengths, and appreciate their senses of humor. And yes, I realize I included my wife in that list. Despite having known her before YAV, this experience has taught me even more about her, mainly just how much strength, resilience and compassion she has within her.
Thank you for going around the horn with me. As the year goes on, I will try to occasionally do this exercise to continue to give you a sense of the life of a Tucson YAV.
I have subtitled this post “Part 1” because I expect that I will revisit the topic of intentional community periodically throughout the year.
Intentional Christian Community is one of the core values of the Young Adult Volunteer program. It is one of the reasons that I was more drawn to YAV than other service year programs. I thought that I knew, more or less, what intentional Christian community meant. I am learning, though, that I did not. In fact, I’ve been living in it for nearly two months, and I still feel like I am barely scratching the surface of fully understanding intentional community.
Although this post will mostly focus on the positive aspects of intentional community, it would be deceptive not to mention the challenges. When I imagined intentional Christian community prior to my arrival, I pictured theological discussions, playing board games, and sharing meals. (All of which are regular occurrences, by the way). What I did not consider were multi-hour long conversations about the house budget, tensions caused by trying to cooperatively write a grocery list, navigating conversations that were too deep for my patience or energy levels at the moment, or figuring out how to kindly ask a housemate to stop using my bath towel. All of that being said, communication and cooperation within our house have improved with time. As we get to know each other better, we are finding patterns and rhythms that work well for the four of us.
Not only was I naive to the challenges that intentional community would entail, I did not know the joy and comfort that it could bring. I feel deeply cared for by my three housemates. I get the sense that they want to get to know me– really get to know me– so that they can better support me. I know that their love and friendship is always there, but sometimes days go by without giving it much thought. But there have been a few instances in which it really hits me: I acutely feel intentional community.
One of those times was on Wednesday night during our community meal. We have community meals every Wednesday and Friday, which means that one house member decides what to cook and buys the ingredients, and all four of us cook and eat together. This Wednesday’s meal was a bit different than the rest, though, because we were short a compadre. Miranda went home because of a family emergency, and so was not physically with us. We did, though, Skype her in. Tanner, Ryan, and I gathered around the laptop, and shared with Miranda our recent trials and joys. We expressed our support to her and her family. She shared her concern and solidarity for me, as my family is currently facing a crisis that is uncannily similar to hers. At the end of our Skype call, Miranda asked if we wanted to pray together. Tanner, Ryan, and I joined hands. The four of us took turns praying for each other– deep, genuine prayers of concern and love. In that moment, I thought, “This is intentional Christian community.”
I also felt a strong sense of intentional community a couple of weeks ago when the four of us attended dinner with a Tucson Borderlands YAV board member. It was probably nothing like you would expect dinner with a board member to be. This board member, Julie Karra, lives with her family in an intentional community here in Tucson. The community is comprised of 11 adults, some with grown children, some with young families, and some single. There are several houses and a condo-like building that back up into a large outdoor space. In the outdoor space is a chicken coop, a reverse osmosis water tank, a washing machine, a bike rack, lots of space for kids to run and play, and a large wooden table where they share a meal every Friday evening. We were fortunate enough to have been invited to partake in one of their Friday community meals. Everyone there seemed to deeply care for each other and be excited to hear how everyone’s week went. The kids seemed to trust all of the adults, regardless of whether they were their parents or not, which reminded me of the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I was inspired by the happiness that I witnessed in this cooperative, simple living-focused community.
I learn more about community and what it means everyday. While I realize that living in intentional Christian community will not be without its challenges in the next 10 months, I am excited to live into the joy and support that it can offer.
We have now reached October and, as hard as it is to believe that, it’s also crazy that it hasn’t been longer. The “normalization” of this year is becoming more complete. I have a routine now; instead of trying to find that, my daily “quest”, if you will, is searching to tweak that routine to take the most advantage of YAV life in Tucson. A housemate of mine recently gave me a little note of affirmation (because we’re all fans of words of affirmation in Tucson house) and at the end she mentioned something about admiring the fact that I seek to be present here in Tucson even though my heart is somewhere else. In reflecting on that, I’m taken back to one of my first thoughts coming into this year. I’m living life in two separate places this year, and sometimes the desire to be back home is stronger than the desire to be here in Tucson. So much of orientation spoke of living life in tension between where we are and where we want to be, and I feel like I just add this into the mix of everything else that I’m am presented with in this crazy life. And some days, I miss the simple fact of being around familiar things. Even more than a month into this journey, I miss my dogs. I miss Mariah. I miss my family. I even miss Owensboro, something I never thought I would be caught saying. The struggle between the familiar and the new haunts me every day, and it is a struggle that I’m slowly, but surely, starting to embrace.
I’ve most noticed this “settling in” effect every time I look at my personal calendar. There are so many events that I’ve agreed to go to. And, regrettably, so many that I have forgotten about and been unable to take part in. Another side effect of settling in has been the continued comfort in biking. I always remember to pack a change of clothes if my biking clothes are not appropriate for my destination, I remember to factor in the increased time it takes to bike somewhere compared to driving, and then to factor in extra time to change clothes once I reach my destination. These calculations have slowly become second nature. Last week alone I biked almost 80 miles. That’s basically just to work and to swim, with the occasional extra group adventure thrown in for fun. One thing that never ceases to amaze me about the human body is how long it takes to adjust to a change in activity (i.e. biking), but how quickly it “forgets” the muscle built if the activity is not performed even for one day. For me, this adjustment to biking continues to occur, and will probably for the rest of the year.
The vistas in Arizona never cease to disappoint me. These sunsets only tell half the picture. I once heard a fellow volunteer from another program say the sunsets here were really disappointing. I don’t know which skies he is looking at, but these come on an almost daily basis. When it’s not the sunsets, it’s the mountains. I wish I had a good picture to show y’all the mountains that are everywhere around Tucson. The city is so flat that it’s hard to believe the mountains are as close as they are. God’s beauty is so evident here in the desert. I used to think of the desert as a place where not much happened. Things hid during the day (when it’s too hot to do anything) and became active at night. The desert, to me, was always a barren place. But there is creativity and diversity in the way the sun’s rays find the clouds every afternoon. There is majesty in the rugged edges of the mountains, clawing their way into the sky. There is life here. And there is abundant life. Part of my adventures of the past week was planting my first bed at Las Abuelitas with Destinee (the garden program is finally getting off the ground!!). In this one bed alone, we planted broccoli, cauliflower, onions, dill, arugula (which I didn’t even know was a thing), kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley, and cilantro…in the desert. Now we may find that this was too much for one bed. We may find that we should have transplanted most of these into the bed following their sprouting in another, more sheltered place (that is true, but we’re hopeful they’ll all still grow). But that’s what I love about gardening. It’s an experiment. It’s about taking chances, making mistakes, and finding out what works. It’s interacting with God’s creation to bring forth life from the soil. That sounds really familiar to me (if you’re interested see Genesis 2) and I enjoy being a partner in God’s creative story, even in the desert.
I’m glad it’s Friday. My weekend began yesterday at the conclusion of the after school program and I’m really going to miss these four day work weeks when I return to the “real world”. I’m also super excited because next week we don’t have the after school program at all. Our program schedule follows the Tucson United School District’s calendar, so when the kids don’t have school, we don’t have the program. I will miss seeing the kids every day, but after this week I’m glad we get a chance to breathe before moving through the rest of October. Cody and I have the chance to recharge and, in light of the past rough week, revamp some of the rules and consequences of our program.
As I mentioned, a couple times, this past week was crazy. The kids were, simply put, ready to misbehave at any and every opportunity they could. We could not get in front of the disciplining curve and as such spent a frustrating week leading from behind. Thursday was better and gave me hope that we do have this thing somewhat under control, even though I don’t feel prepared at all to work with children. I’m still feeling my way in that regard. I mentioned above that Destinee and I planted our first bed at Las Abuelitas. Things are smoothing themselves out. We are attempting to bring life out of the desert soil (albeit in a raised bed). We are attempting to direct the life and energies of the students that come into the after school program. We are attempting to join in and contribute to the diversity and beauty of God’s world. We are attempting to understand what it means to take these 20 kids in every day and be a positive influence in their lives while also seeking to understand their situations and “walk in their shoes” for the altogether too short time that we get to know them. We are finding our way, day by day.
And so we go.
Thank you, Loving God, for challenging weeks, restful weekends, and reminders of your beauty in unexpected places.
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.
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.