My time in Tucson so far has been a phenomenal experience all together with many unexpected twists and turns. That is not to say, however, that it has not been without its challenges and the highs and lows that naturally accompanied it. For this update I will be specifically focusing in on the major moments that have occurred so far during this journey.
Since the post is titled “Highs and Lows” I will be following that logical narrative by first speaking of the major positive experiences I’ve had so far. The most important one I first want to highlight is that the overall community of Tucson is a very welcoming and inclusive space that sometimes brings to mind a small town vibe. Because of a lack of multi-tiered buildings everything is quite spread out which means if you frequent the same spaces you’ll be sure to begin to see reoccurring faces. Another wonderful aspect that goes along with this is the sense of community engagement and pride. Everything from voting issues to various social programs and events are all met with mostly positive engagement from all levels of society. Groups of people even walk down the streets with clipboards asking all those who pass if they’re registered to vote and if they can help them do so if not.
The Community Food bank is also involved in a variety of community engagement programs outside of its normal day to day activities including the farmers market (which I work directly with), internal promotions of various community events, and seasonal events such as a community pumpkin smash the weekend after Halloween to help create a positive engaged atmosphere surrounding the removal and destruction of rotting pumpkins after Halloween. All pumpkins during the event are then composted and used in the Food bank garden to grow food that will then be sold directly through the farmers market.
The greatest aspect overall of YAV life in Tucson is the monumental amount of opportunities and encouragement by the community to engage with them. Since we have been here I have already worked with a migrant shelter, taken part in a Monday night Spanish class, had a wonderful dinner with members of a PCUSA backed community home group, completed a workshop on the historic and current events in Columbia (known as the Columbia Accompaniment Program), and the Tucson Meet Yourself community event was this weekend. This event hosted various ethnic groups from across the globe with food, performances, and music all in one. My house community went last night and just in the short time we were there we grabbed some plantains from a Jamaican booth, enjoyed some Indian food, and witnessed a variety of musical styles from a Hispanic dance group to a bagpipers group to finally a Zydeco music group from Jamaica.
Now, as promised, for the o so loathed lows of my time here. The hardest part of being here so far has in many respects been adjusting to the various cultural differences of Tucson. Now this is not in any way to suggest that people have been rude or unwelcoming, actually, as stated above, quite the contrary. It has just been mainly small things such as mannerisms, the idea of payment scales, differing cultural and political identities within social life, and peoples varying perceived norms of speech and behavior. This however has mainly just been a process of adjustment more than anything.
The other major low since being here was that during the Columbia Accompaniment Training my bike was stolen. During the event my bike was u-locked right outside the building to a street sign but the thief unbolted the sign and lifted my bike over and off the pole and away he went. To make matters worse, this was also done in a parking lot on private property in the middle of the day. As a result, I am currently using another older model in our shed from previous YAV years. Other than that the only other real challenges have been getting adjusted to a new climate, new city, and a new community at home. Regardless, I still feel blessed that my lows have been somewhat limited during this major transition process.
Now that I am settling into a more autonomous position at home and at work I am still thoroughly excited to see where this journey takes me as the holiday season approaches. One upcoming event I am currently very much so looking forward to is in El Paso from November 1st through the 4th. While attending we will be learning about the current state of the Texas Mexican border wall and the state of immigration movement along it with special guest speakers from the PCUSA national office to boot.
Regardless of the journey so far, I still feel so blessed to be able to take part if this amazing experience and the life changing challenges that come along with it. I am also equally excited to see where this journey will take me next and to have all of you walking beside and supporting me along the way.
Until next time….