This summer, one of the things I found myself doing with my younger brother was going to this local pizza place in Swannanoa where they had a foosball table and good pizza/subs/wings. Miles and I would sit down, decide what we wanted to eat which was usually sharing a Cuban sandwich, order, and then immediately go play foosball. We would play many games before our food came and after before heading back to our normal summer lives. I didn’t realize how important that time was with my brother until I was leaving NC and started missing him when I got to Arizona. It was a chance for us to just play, have a little friendly sibling competition. It was a time for me to just spend time with a great not-so-little brother and catch up with him.
When I arrived at The Inn for the first time, one of the first things I noticed was a foosball table. There were kids playing at the table. When families arrive here, often the first things the kids notice is the table/people playing foosball. Their eyes light up and they run over to the table immediately to join a game/start playing. The other day I watched a dad who arrived at The Inn half an hour earlier walk around while singing a lullaby to his infant who was falling asleep on his shoulder. As soon as the baby fell asleep and was placed on a bed, the dad ran over to the foosball table and joined a game with some older kids and another dad. A few minutes later, his wife came up and reminded him that he should go shower while the baby was sleeping. The dad reluctantly went to go shower.
Over the past few months here, I have seen how this table is a source of joy for so many people of all ages. Every day there are kids playing constantly for most of the day. Occasionally parents in the evenings will kick the kids “out” (away from the table) so that they can have an adult-only game. Usually, moms vs. dads is how that works out with the kids cheering around their parents. On the day I wrote this, December, 16th, two moms, a dad, and three kids were playing a game. Hearing the laughter, seeing the smiles, feeling the excitement in the room from other kids watching, was something very life-giving for my Monday.
For Christians, “the table” is a very important concept. We are referring to the communion table. For almost as long as I can remember, I have been taught that the table is open for everyone. The table extends past all boundaries and is a place for conversation, peace, fulfillment, and the joy of the love of God. At The Inn, I get to witness this table, a foosball table, welcoming people of all ages. When a six-year-old invites a four-year-old to play by pulling up a little chair for the smaller human to stand on so they can reach the handles, I see the table in a different context and setting.
Playing with Miles this Summer was an easy way to pause, breathe, reconnect with my brother, and just play. It provided me time to not think about my work schedule, moving across the country at the end of the summer, drama, or other stressors in my life. I could just be. Watching people of all ages play, laugh, cheer, and be together over this table at the Inn is truly special to see. It is always fascinating to see other forms of God’s table being extended. At the table, we receive nourishment in the form of bread and wine (or grape juice). At the foosball table, folks are nourished by finding joy in a hard place on their journeys.
On Saturday I was tasked with writing a story about myself and peace. But I was anything but peaceful so I wrote about that and upon reflection thought that it was worth sharing on here:
As I am writing this, I am sitting outside. The sky is a nice blue with few clouds. It was a warm day today, but is now getting cooler as the sun is going down. I had a giant spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough to help me start this blog. This all sounds peaceful, but I don’t feel at peace currently.
It has been a rough day. Last night, my bike was stolen while I was in the grocery store buying things for dinner with my housemates. I came outside after being gone for less than 20 minutes and my bike was gone. Only the front tire remained. That’s not very helpful. It was a long evening of stress and police reports.
Today, I was planning on accomplishing a lot, including writing a blog post, but that proved difficult. I am anything but peaceful right now, so how can I write about anything on the topic of peace?
I have been feeling lots of things throughout the day: anger, sadness, loss, hope, tiredness. But peace is so far from that list. Come to think of it, I don’t know precisely when I last felt fully at peace. There are peaceful moments where I can sit and talk with a friend, or drink some tea, or cook food, but I am rarely at peace fully.
Feeling at peace is hard for me right now because I want to constantly be doing something. I see brokenness in the world around me. A world where my bike was stolen. I assume the motivation in the theft was to sell it for a profit. I am also assuming that this is necessary because the capitalist world we live in has made it so that person cannot care for themselves well by other means. Even if those assumptions aren’t true in this case, they apply to many other situations so well.
There is so little peace to be seen in the world. There is so much pain for so many people. Peace is hard for me to find, but easy to dream about, so that is where I am starting. Dreaming of a world of peace and if I can dream it, then I can take steps to make that happen. Right?
That is what I am choosing to believe and I want a community to help me achieve it. So that maybe one day, even if it is generations from now, there can exist a world where we can all find peace inside us and around us. A world where bikes, food, land, people, or anything else won’t have to be stolen in order to survive.
Spanish has BY FAR been one of the biggest unexpected struggles I have faced since moving here to Tucson. Please allow me to expand on the fact that a week in Mexico did not help. I’m going to be frank in this blog post that my white privilege comes out a lot when I get frustrated over being monolingual. As a house, we have a goal to point out white supremacy when we see it, and I am expanding that right now to publicly admitting when I am wrong. There have been many times this year where I have felt just a pinch of what it must feel like to be a minority in a setting. However, even in those times that I think I understand, I am speaking on the stance of my privilege.
My job placement this year, primarily speaks Spanish. Our Monday meetings are in Spanish and everyone goes to great lengths trying to accommodate to me, but I hate the feeling that I am missing out on conversations and bonding moments. I get frustrated that I am missing out on so much due to not being able to be authentically open and be my normal talkative self in spaces. I also feel I am constantly letting down coworkers because answering the phone, calling clients, and even answering the door and doing basic office functions that I normally love to do, provide a struggle. Although I know basic phrases and with the help of a few coworkers am attempting to learn more, I get lost rather quickly as the conversation progresses.
In my second week in Tucson, I went out with coworkers to a sushi restaurant. The waiter spoke clearly to my coworkers in Spanish but not to me. He didn’t acknowledge me. When menus came around, one of my coworkers had trouble reading their options. As I leaned over to explain, I noticed my menu was in English and all the rest were in Spanish. I was being stereotyped. Correctly so, but still stereotyped.
A month in, I attempted to take a Spanish class at an intermediate level. I figured I took all four years in high school and a semester in college, I had a basic vocabulary and didn’t need to start from the beginning. Soon, however, I found I was mistaken. We were doing introductions around the room and were asked to give three things about ourselves. That was the only part of the class I understood. And luckily, I was the last to speak so all I had to do was copy my other two roommates that went before me. And luckily, although they were late, they made it. The end of the class didn’t go so well. We had to say something we learned from class today. Fortunately, I learned a lot from that class; unfortunately, I had no idea how to recite any of it in Spanish and this time we went counterclockwise around the room- I was first. I rushed out of the room after and apologized to the instructor that I didn’t feel I was ready for intermediate. I was STRUGGLING. I was also mad. I was mad at myself for not remembering, understanding, and being mono-lingual.
In Mexico this past month, I was presented with constant situations in which I was uncomfortable and frustrated with myself. Whether it be through buying things and talking with cashiers, asking questions of our tour guides, or even understanding firsthand the experiences and stories our guides, friends, and mentors were sharing. I wanted to be present but I was not ready to be vulnerable. I was learning from other’s vulnerability that week, that was enough right?
A few Mondays ago, I attended a meeting for my workplace. As soon as we got there, there was an announcement that there were translation devices (like walkie talkies) upfront for those that did not speak Spanish or English. Frustrated I turned to my coworker and in the echoed room stated, “this meeting is in English AND Spanish?” To which he (a native Spanish speaker) replied calmly, yes. I got my headset and wandered back to my seat and turned it on. The frustration grew when only two of the people spoke Spanish and the rest of the meeting was in English. It wasn’t until we went to approve proposals that I was put in my place. We were approving a proposal about the use of translators and equipment in event spaces, emails, and meetings. Everyone was confused at the request and organizations seemed to believe they were all doing well with translating and keeping lines of communication open for everyone. That’s when our personal translator (a bi-lingual woman who was translating the meeting in both languages through a walkie- talkie) spoke up and addressed that 3/4th of the room was bi-lingual. We could be having the whole meeting in Spanish and the same number that spoke English would need things translated like the current Spanish speakers were then. We as a culture assume and project that everyone knows English and if they don’t, they can follow along. We don’t think about the fact that it’s just as uncomfortable for Spanish speakers to struggle to understand- like it is frustrating for me to understand.
I was never more ashamed as I was in that meeting. As the translator was “pitching” why we should be doing better at accommodating to everyone, I had been agreeing and was frustrated that people weren’t understanding. Then, I realized just how many times I have been in the wrong this year and just how many times I have not given the same courtesy of “accommodation”. I have come to recognize (rather slowly) that through my frustrations, the person I am really mad at is myself. I am an independent person who is now limited by my language speaking abilities. I am mad at how it affects my social life and my work and its easier to get frustrated at others than myself and to admit that I am uncomfortable even trying to attempt speaking Spanish because it puts me in a vulnerable place. I thought I had the vulnerability component of being a YAV covered, I open up to more people than necessary and I share more than people need or want to know. Just as long as it is within my comfort zone of knowing what I am talking about. Just so long as it is in English.
“Thankful for the Desert”
Not DESSERT, but the desert. As we went around the circle and shared what we were thankful for, this answer floored me. Since being in Tucson, I have yet to have found the love and appeal of the desert. I miss grass, trees (that aren’t palm trees), and right now- I am missing the snow. I had an instant connection to the mountains and the nature in Asheville and that has yet to be my experience here. I wonder what people see in a place that looks so stricken of life. My roommates all agree that the desert plants and animals are a sign of resiliency- and of hope. I guess I do see that (and I do love the saguaros). But with resiliency comes pain and it has been hard to recognize the power and beauty amongst so much loss and death.
It was 2 pm on Thursday before I even thought of it being “Thanksgiving”. It was weird not being around family and friends this year and unlike last year, a lot of my coworkers were out of town or traveling so we did not have many offers to “join in” on the holidays. However, a past board member, Julie, invited us as her guests to a small intentional community gathering. She had ties with a community, called “Sitting Tree”, who we later realized had ties with leadership in the YAV program and many YAV alumni had been guests or residents there. We all felt a little weird going but we loaded up the 7-layer-dip and the popcorn balls and decided it was time to experience more of Tucson. It ended up being a lot of fun, we met a lot of people, and honestly, Sitting Tree was a lot like- post YAV living. A small community of people committed to raising their families together and sharing in community meals and hardships. It was nice seeing adults that are “past this gap year thing” still living connected with one another and not letting life “take over”.
Even more than Thursday however, I felt Saturday was my true Thanksgiving. By happenstance, I was asked last week if I would be going to this year’s “Tamalada” with my boss’s family. This morning, I found out that it has been an ongoing tradition since 1996 (twenty-three years/ my age!) that this family gets together the first weekend after Thanksgiving (depending on the football schedule and who is playing) to make Tamales. It was everything I remembered about the holidays in my own house. The women are all clucking and talking and sharing memories while the men watch football and are in the garage or cooking the meat. Though the heritage of the tradition was different, there were definite roles and stages to this all-day process of tamale making. At 9:30 AM my roommates and I were out the door and on our way to my boss’s family home to join other co-workers and their families. We were there till 5 pm. It was a blast of going through pictures, meeting families and friends, and hearing stories of tradition. We even celebrated to “good health and cheer” with some tequila shots together on our way out the door. I didn’t realize before arriving, how much it meant to have my roommates meet my coworkers and to be with my coworkers this season.
This Thanksgiving showed me that thankfulness and holiday cheer really isn’t about where you are but about who you are with. Even though I wasn’t with everyone I wanted to be with and I missed out on a few meaningful family gatherings at home, I still had a lot of fun and felt the spirit of the holidays in a new way. The desert landscape might not personally seem welcoming and warm all the time – but Tucson does have the prettiest sunsets and some family charm. I remain grateful for this holiday season full of new friends and traditions.
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.