The first two weeks of being in Albuquerque was all about orienting ourselves to our new surroundings, meeting key people like ABQ YAV board members, and starting to set up guidelines for our intentional community. Even though we were often busy and on adventures during our downtime I thought it was hard not to want to speed time up and get to work. Along with that desire to jump right in often times came myself and the other ABQ YAVs asking my site coordinator “Luke, can we start work yet?”
One of the first group outings was a drive up to the Sandia Crest to hike a tiny bit and watch the sunset. I enjoyed the beauty of the moment in two ways, one being the physical beauty of the area and the other being the organic opportunity get to know each other and the start of what will be our intentional living community for the year. The sunset picnic was a great chance to explore the area and share a meal together.
Another new exciting experience was Zozobra in Santa Fe. Zozobra is a tradition where burning Zozobra (“Old Man Gloom”) is the enemy of all that is good. The burning of Zozobra represents the hopeful end of a years worth of darkness that had been cast over the city. This event largely represents good trumping evil and a hopeful start to a period of celebrations in Santa Fe. It was a fun day even though it was without a doubt a long day and it rained on us because after all it is monsoon season here.
A key part of our time in Santa Fe was recognizing that Zozobra takes place on public land that is part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund which is in need of protecting. In the morning we went to a rally focused on saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Luke was asked to dress up as Ranger Rick and entertain the school kids who came to see Zozobra. That part of the day was hilariously entertaining for us but not a main focal cultural point of the event as a whole. Along with our trip to Santa Fe we had a chance to meet Andrew Black who grew up in Santa Fe and now serves as an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Fe which is the church he also grew up in. Andrew shared some history of the area, gave us a tour of the church that celebrated it’s 151st anniversary this year and explained some of the work he does with the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
We spent four days of local orientation meeting our community partners and experiencing aspects of each others work placements. This year I will be working for Heading Home, a not for profit organization that is dedicated to making experiences of homelessness rare, short-lived and non recurring. Specifically I will be the coordinator of their volunteers so throughout the year I will get the chance to familiarize myself with lots of different aspects of the organization. I think this will be a valuable learning experience for me because I may want to work for a non profit in the future. Some other community partners that my housemates will be working for and we visited are Hope Works, Menaul School, and Second Presbyterian Church. I think each of the placements will provide us with hands-on real world experiences and I feel I am well fitted with Heading Home and I also think every placement will give each of us a favorable opportunity to magnify our strengths as well as push ourselves and grow.
Two unique experiences we were fortunate to have during our first two weeks were a trip to Santo Domingo Pueblo and a day in Madrid. The uniqueness of the experiences was that in both cases we were invited to dig deeper, be shown around by locals and have interactive experiences with people who were willing to share their stories and history with us. In Santo Domingo Pueblo we were invited to a feast and got to hear about life in a Native American Pueblo and examine how there is huge differences between their culture and lifestyle even though we were only 45 minutes away from Albuquerque. In Madrid we got a perspective of how a mining town turned into a ghost town and has now transformed into an arts community. John grew up in Madrid and had a wealth of information about the changes and past that he was willing to share with us. In connection with the openness of the family in Santo Domingo and John in Madrid, I felt the start of myself investing in the community around me, taking a deeper look at cultural heritage and starting to not be a tourist but living like a local.
Moving forward in this new place, a big part for me will be remembering to be mindful about walking alongside people, not trying to change or fix things for them and being conscious that I am being welcomed into a community and/or organization but that I am not needed. Also, I need to be cognizant that every person I come in contact with comes with their own valuable perspectives that matter. I find joy in the journey and I am enthusiastically awaiting my first day of work (on 9/11) as well as the rest of year inviting discomfort and knowing that it’s going to be challenging but that there is always good that comes out of the chaos and difficult conversations.
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