Friday, August 24, 2012

Window Rock

NaShia, one of my community members, took this awesome picture in Window Rock. I can't wait to hike up through those rocks! This is Window Rock Navajo Tribal Park and Veteran's Memorial. Isn't the view just gorgeous? I've been there once already, and although this picture is fabulous, it can't compare to seeing that red rock in person.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

First Spirituality Night

Last night was our first spirituality night, that Allison lead. She had chosen a guided meditation for us that was a visualization of a candle. It was a lot of fun, and really relaxing, which is what I needed after this week! It's been a blue or craziness, but I am having so much fun.

 Last night all the high school teachers got together in the faculty room after school and had Navajo stew and fry bread, which is almost like a staple on the Rez. The stew had carrots, celery, potatoes and mutton in a clear broth and it was pretty good. One of the student's aunties had made the dinner for us, and she was telling some of the newer teachers that her sons had graduated from SMIS, so she has a history there.

There is no school tomorrow, so I have a long weekend to work on lesson plans. I am teaching government, psychology and evolving histories (which I get to create an entire curriculum for) so I will have a busy weekend, but I am looking forward to getting the school year fully underway. I am still teaching art until the real teacher for that arrives, and today I subbed for gym. Well, that was interesting.

Everyday, I grow to love this place more and more. Two weeks down already!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Artisitc Talent!

So...this week I am an art teacher! Our regular art teacher hasn't arrived yet, and as the schedules are still being redone, someone needed to step in and watch over the classes. Now, I am no artist, but I can manage my way around an easel. So, instead of sitting there and staring at each other, or assigning them a study hall (and there is no work in this first week) I am setting up mini assignments to keep the students busy and get them used to the art room.

My level three students are fantastic and they are working on charcoal drawings of the school, spread out through the hallway. My level one students are working on drawing and shading cans. Watching their faces as they work are funny because they are so new at it and they don't really understand the purpose of drawing cans. It's okay, when I was a new art student, I thought cans were stupid too. But I do enjoy the messy fun of it. I like walking behind the students with a piece of charcoal and helping them fix their perspective, round out the ovals and capture the light reflections.

I'm no artist, but at least I can draw a can!

Monday, August 20, 2012


Exactly three months ago, I was graduating from college. I remember sitting there, squished between some of the greatest people I know (hi, Br. Dominic!) excited about the prospect of actually having a degree and terrified that the real world was about to slap me in the face. Even then, I didn't know that in three months I would be sitting in an Arizonan classroom on the Navajo Nation as an actual teacher. It still astounds me.

It's not what I expected, but then again, I am not sure exactly what I expected anymore. I've have been so touched by what I've already seen. There aren't enough books for the students. There are money issues. There are problems on the reservation. But there is also so much love. It envelops everything I see here. It takes precedence over the problems and wraps itself around everyone who is here. We had an open house the other night and I got to meet some parents, people who grabbed my hand with both of theirs and thanked me for coming here. I already have dinner invitations and people recognize me around town. It's been a week, but it feels like I've been in Arizona for so much longer.

I've come to accept that my feet will never be fully clean while I am here because the dust comes in every crack and opening. I will constantly find spiders in my closet, and yes, rattlesnakes live in the field across from me. It's okay with me. I wake up everyday and see these wonderful red rocks that encompass the landscape, and I love the itty bitty cacti that grow in our yard. I've come to realize that Navajo Time is a real concept and that schedules aren't always the priority here. It's okay with me.

Three months ago, I thought I needed to have all these plans. I was afraid to walk across that stage because I thought everyone needed to have life planned out. Today, I am happier than I have been in a long time because I feel as if I have found my place here. It's not always easy, sometimes, it is frustrating. But joining MVC and taking that leap of faith to move over 2,000 miles away from everyone and everything I knew was a good choice.

I read a quote in a book called "Jesus Freaks" the other night that said "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans". It really is true. I had all these plans, all these thoughts that I had to have perfect plans after graduation and I am sure that God was just sitting there chuckling, knowing that the plans He had for me were far better than what I had envisioned for myself. And they are.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I am sitting in the common room at Marydale with some other MVCs as we are packing up for our flights tomorrow. It is strange that I am actually less than 12 hours away from getting on plane that will take me to my new home for the next year. A week of orientation, a slew of connections, many, many new friendships created; it’s been a busy week for me.

I’m feeling a little bit disoriented, which is ironic since I’ve just finished orientation, but I think it is because my mind is so jumbled with what I have learned and experienced so far, and with the impending journey. It’s only 2,500 miles, but it also feels like a lifetime away. I don’t know these people, I don’t know their culture. I don’t what they will think of me, and I also don’t know what I will think of them. I think that scares me sometimes.

We are leaving at 4:45 tomorrow morning, and Jake and Allison, who are working at -------- Indian School with me, are flying out to Albuquerque, where we will meet up with the other community members who are working at --------- Association for Special Education. I am excited to finally get to Arizona, after months of preparation and planning. Every day I grow more confident about going out there, even though I am not entirely sure what I will be doing once I arrive. I think it is awesome that I can use a degree, one that I worked so hard for, to do something meaningful while I have the chance. I know I want to live a life dedicated to service, and part of the reason that I am choosing Mercy Volunteer Corps is because I can travel, serve and essentially, live doing something that I love.

I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or in a few months. But, with an open heart and an open mind, and the ever growing knowledge of Catherine McAuley and her Sisters of Mercy, I am excited to take those next steps forward that will propel me in the direction of the life God has chosen for me to live. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Three Missionaries...

Three missionaries walk into the woods…how many come out?

On Wednesday after evening prayer, a group of volunteers decided that we would walk to town from the retreat center just as a chance to get out and explore a little since we’ve spent a good amount of time in panels and conversations. The group consensus was originally to seek out the local Steak and Shake restaurant in Erlanger, and grab a quick bite to eat and enjoy the summer weather. Somehow, most of our group ended up at the Waffle House (they had Southern Pecan Pie…it was delicious!) and we splintered into two groups according to when we were done eating (again…Southern Pecan Pie….it was delicious!).

I headed back in the second group with Katrina, who is headed to Savannah and Mike, who is headed to Philadelphia. Now, it’s dark, we’re all new to Kentucky, and we know we need to get back to the retreat center by 11 PM unless we want to get locked out. Mike (this guy is funny) tells us about a great shortcut that he found earlier in the day where you can cut across campus and through the woods on this path and it will cut at *least* a mile off of our journey….sure, why not?

Mike tells us that we have to walk down a road completely opposite of the retreat center until we come to an abandoned log cabin, and that this magical path is directly behind said cabin. So, after playing chicken across a dark Kentuckian highway in Erlanger (which, by the way, is the Friendship City) we start our trek down this road in search for the log cabin that is now our destination point.

So, log cabin found. Mike insists that there is a path here…so we slowly venture towards the woods.

Katrina: Are you sure there’s a path?
Mike: Yeah, I was here this afternoon.
Jamie: I don’t see a path
Katrina: What’s that?
Jamie: Umm, that’s definitely water. I am not swimming back to Marydale!
Mike: No, there was a path here this afternoon.
Katrina: Um, I don’t think I want to wander through the woods in the dark with no path.
Jamie: Yeah, maybe we should just turn back.
Katrina: I hear banjo music!
Jamie: So, three missionaries walk into the woods…
Katrina: This is like the beginning of every horror movie ever made!

So, we decided that it would be in the best interests if Mercy Volunteer Corps didn’t have to call people and tell them we went missing in the middle of the Kentucky darkness and we headed back the way we had came. We were about five miles out by the time we trudged our way back to the common room at the retreat center, and the earlier group was spread out over the couches surprised it had took us so long to get back.

Lessons learned:

Bushes in Kentucky have eyes….walk fast.

Don’t take directions from Mike, especially about abandoned log cabins and mythical paths through the woods that may or may not have banjos (according to Katrina)

That pie….that Southern Pecan Pie….was so worth it!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Elaine on a Train

The journey finally begins!

My parents drove me to 30th St. Station in Philadelphia to board the train to Cincinnati yesterday morning, and I’ve spent the past 20 hours passing through the eastern countryside next to a woman named Elaine.
I boarded the train hoping to find a double seat unoccupied, but soon accepted the fact that I would have a seatmate the majority of my journey. Elaine seemed like a good choice; an older lady, not too spread out in the seat and smiling. Soon, we introduced ourselves and started friendly chatter that turned into hours of discussion and dinner in the meal car together. Elaine was telling me about her brother who had recently passed away. She was her way back to Indiana after meeting with family in New Jersey to sprinkle his ashes in the Atlantic Ocean. He had been in the Navy on a submarine and one of his final wishes was to be put at peace at sea. It was amazing to hear her talk about him and the stories he shared with her family about his time in the military, and I was glad that she was able to carry out his last wishes with her remaining family.

When we were talking about my journey, she was really interested that I was going to teach on an Indian Reservation for a year. Elaine said she remembered growing up in a time where it was acceptable for different cultures (ie: races) to mix. The fact that Indian children were not allowed to attend white schools is a sad fact of our American culture, and part of the reason I am excited to go to Arizona and work with the mission and schools down there is because I want to know more about the Navajo culture and because I don’t understand why we could have been so historically atrocious to a group of people that have offered so much to Americana.

After a delay that summed up about four hours, the tired train chugged into Cincinnati at FOUR in the morning. Yes, four in the morning. I have since dubbed my friend Dennis my Knight in Shining Pick Up Truck for diligently keeping his word to pick me up despite such a delay. I planned my trip a few days ahead of what I needed for orientation in order to spend time with friends in Kentucky before I dedicated my year to service. It was good to spend time with friends, but it was also nice because I was an hour away from the retreat center instead of twenty, and there was a significant drop in how anxious I was to arrive at orientation. I can’t thank my friends enough for giving me a chance to relax and get adjusted before I make significant changes in my life. I am so excited to go through orientation and move to Arizona, but I am also terribly anxious about what will be happening in the next few weeks. I pray that everything will go smoothly, and that I will have a good year, and I need to keep an open mind and an open heart about where this journey will take me.