Thursday 20 March 2008

Day 6: Final Goodbyes

The band Semisonic once sang, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." Never is this quote more applicable than in the world of community service and travel. The cycle of giving continues on as one charitable act (or in this case, week) ends only to begin again in another time of another place. Travel not only shows a group of privileged collegiate students that there is a world outside their own, but that world can yield a large niche of their lives if they just open up their hearts.

I leave this final post with less words and more pictures. The captions are an aid for background information, but sometimes all a viewer really needs to do is look and they'll find the story.

A weaving loom at Red Mesa School

Brenda caught not paying attention to carding her wool

A final goodbye to Ms. Deswood's third-graders

Comb Ridge Coffee and Art Gallery :)

We became biker chicks for the moment!

Crystal looking over the Valley of the Gods

The group on our final hike

Not posed...just one of our group members helping out another group member

Running towards The Valley of the Gods

View from the car as we say goodbye to Utah and the Navajo Nation...

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Day 5: A Heart-Warming Morning and an Indian Pow-Wow

First thing in the morning, Nelson (our Navajo contact) provided word of a robbery not too far from us. We immediately headed over to help Isabelle, an elderly woman with many health problems.

At arrival, we were stunned...simply appalled. The house was in shambles and most everything was taken - even the toilets had been uplifted! The carpet was torn and a quarter of the floor boards were missing. Isabelle explained to us that she had been out of town and her daughter's ex-boyfriend seeked revenge because she had broken up with him earlier that week. Isabelle continued on discussing her many health problems while Shawnting, her seven-year-old granddaughter played in the yard.

Isabelle woefully explaining what happened to her home

Needless to say, we cleaned up her house as best we could. We swept, we lifted, and we washed. We couldn't take back what happened, but we could help with a new start. Isabelle cried and thanked us, while innocent Shawnting played with all her new friends.

Shawnting making new friends

Afterwards, we visited Transitions, a shop that utilizes products made by disabled individuals. This shop allows many of the businessmen and women to survive. I appropriately bought an Italian charm bracelet with the phrase "Follow Your Dreams."

At the local food bank in Blanding, we sorted everything from Wheat Thins to peaches. Brenda, Brian and I then had quite a relaxing lunch just chilling in the car.

Our final masterpiece!

We soon went back to the Transitions Boardwalk to pick up the rest of the crew. The Boardwalk is a new renovation by the community to help disabled individuals sell their goods (almost like Transitions the shop, but the stores will be independently owned). Their hope is that this will bring tourism into the area.

The Traditions Boardwalk - Future enterprises

So while we waited for the others to finish up their projects, the rest of us Southern Cali kids threw snowballs! I was the first to hit Marcos :)


Before heading home, we went to a smaller food back at Montezuma Creek. The boys gardened while the girls loaded the food pantry. We were able to fill the original 1/5 full pantry with cans of vegetables, grapefruites, but most importantly CUPCAKES!

For dinner, we made some Navajo tacos, frybread, cheese, beans, tomotoes, onions, and cucumbers. After taking the nicest warm shower (after leaving it on for a good long while of course), it was time for the Pow-Wow!

Our own personal pow-wow

Not only did I buy $8 leaf earrings from the great selection of jewelry, but Kristen and I fell in love with two bows and arrows we found. We discovered them at the same time, and we both just offered to each other, "Let's buy it!"

The Pow-Wow dancers were quite skilled and we even got to take a turn ourselves. Of course, afterward, I had to buy the axe stone weapon too! What a fantastic day!

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Day 4: A Bit of Denver...

We spent last night sleeping in a Navajo hogan. The hogan is considered very sacred as it is the traditional Navajo home. In it, you must only walk clockwise around the fire.

We headed off to Whitewater, an elderly Navajo community, to help clear out trash in their front and backyards. My group and I worked with Mary and her beautiful white horses.

One of Mary's gorgeous horses!

According to Harrision, we saved over six hours of cleanup work for the community as we filled an entire dumpster full of trash!
We visited Diné (meaning "people" in Navajo) College, where we admired the $1 million wall that was newly constructed. It was to represent the conflicts regarding the Navajo land. Incredibly, the tribe is finally just getting their voices heard today!
$1 million wall built at Dine College

Of course, no travel would be completed without going to the Four Corners: the intersection of the border states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. These governments, along with the governments of Navajo Nation and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe have jurisdiction over this area. The first marker was placed in 1912 where since thousands of visitors have come to the remote spot to get their fifteen minutes of fame standing in four states at once.
At the Four Corners!

Here, one can also try traditional frybread for roughly $3.50+ depending on toppings. This Native American treat resembles funnel cake with its deep-fried (or fried) flat dough. Traditionally served at home and in pow-wows, frybread was named the official "state bread" of South Dakota in 2005.
Frybread with honey, powdered sugar, and cinnamon. Mmm...

On the way home, we came back with a car full of girls blasting "strong, independent" woman music consisting of Kelly Clarkson, Pink, etc. Good day!

Monday 17 March 2008

Day 3: Kids, Of Course!

We volunteered at Red Mesa Elementary School today where I was placed with Ms. Detwoods's third-grade class. I first taught them USC's "Fight On!" symbol of course, and then they proceeded to introduce themselves to me. There were about twelve syllables for each of their clans!

Ms. Deswoods's third-grade class Fighting On!

Jamie was definitely my favorite and I even had the opportunity to meet the "Princess" of the Navajo school.

Jamie, my favorite!

I helped them read "Eyes of Rome" where one of their vocabulary words was "obelisk?" Quite intelligent third-graders! The kids kept yelling, "Krystina, sit next to me!" It was quite sweet!

At lunch, we played Black Magic and thankfully, nobody else stole my credit card. Back at the third-grade class, the kids gave me welcome back hugs and Kristin and I helped them partner read, take tests, and gave them reading checks. It was obvious to see that there were way too many students in the class for only one teacher (about thirty). It is easy to see that the children would learn better if there was more specialized attention. If only we could decrease the student: teacher ratio!

We hugged the kids goodbye and then the group headed off to the Sea Edge Museum and the Bluff Hotel. We had a chance to look at units the ancient Pueblos once lived. It was amazing to gaze over their stonework and masonry architecture. The homes would surround a plaza, also known as a kiva.

Michael falling asleep in the kiva

At the Sea Edge Museum, we then learned about some Navajo tools and fashion. I'm truly excited about the upcoming pow-wow. Good day!

Looking at the wonderful woven work. Original and hand-made.

Sunday 16 March 2008

Day 2: Hikes on the Reservation

We were awoken with Pink's "Let's Get it Started" - I am definitely NOT a morning person! Today proved worthwhile though as we hiked and explored the Navajo reservation.

Our first stop was the 16 Room Ruins which served as the starting block for our group's bonding. The Anasazi ruins were one of the first Navajo ruins to ever be photographed. By sliding down the cliff (yes, we slid down cliffs because we're that hardcore), we all connected as we cheered one-by-one for each person. We walked past huge stick branches helping each other along the way and hopped up and over rivers. The crazy sand winds almost blew me over, but what a good time!

The 16 Room Ruins: A classic example of Anasazi ruins

We then made our way over to the Sand Island Petroglyphs, a riverside flat where Southwest Indians carved drawings into the rock cliff. The primitive masterpiece contained the hopes, dreams, and fears of the native peoples. Gorgeous rock art!

Sand Island Petroglyphs. My initials were carved!

After eating lunch in the freezing cold, we headed off to Holyweeten National Park. There, we explored the home of Azasti and the forts of the original Puebloan people.

An old fort at Holyweeten National Park

After we got back, I explored Whitehorse High School a bit. With its tar track and mascots, it resembles a typical public American suburb high school. The night was simple, but memorable; a typical alternative spring break, we played "Mafia" and "Pass the Pebble." It's not what you're doing, but who you're doing it with that makes something fun.

Saturday 15 March 2008

Day 1: On the Way to the Navajo Nation

Embarking on an Alternative Spring Break provides nothing less than new friendships, a sense of inspiration, and above all else unpredictable adventure. It may only last a week, but the time you can give to helping others provides a priceless lesson about the world for all involved.

6AM - Crystal and I both overslept, which proved futile as we were each
other's "wake-up buddy." Running to campus, we were both assigned Van #2. Nobody really seemed irascible at arrival, so it was all good! Off to Utah!

At Needles (the absolute boonies of California), our car engine light turned on stating that we had low transmission status. Stuck for an hour, we explored the gift shop with T-shirts stating "I have an STD - it's called children" on one side and "World's Greatest Mom" on the other. Oh, Needles.
Where ARE we?

At the last ounces of daybreak, snow could be seen on the mountains of Utah, quite a sight for us Southern Californians. At Cameron Tree Trading Post, our fearless leader locked her keys in the car - again, another setback.

Trying to get back in our car! Thanks, helpful stranger!

Later on, Discover gave me a phone call stating that somebody in zip code 34241 had stolen the numbers to my card and made a fake (I still had the original). However, they were able to quickly take care of everything as I stated after the transaction, "I love you, Discover!" For the first time, I had the opportunity to taste the famous "Sonic Burger" with a Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Delicious!

Sonic Drive-In - A 1950s style American burger joint!

We reached Whitehorse High School at 12:45AM; it would be home for the next week. What a day of ups and downs, but onto the community work!