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Muchas Gracias…Thanks so much!

I feel so blessed to have been able to have this incredible experience this summer. I can’t believe it is almost coming to an end. I can clearly remember being so nervous to stay with a family I had never met and just popping up into my co-workers lives. But they all made my stay so wonderful! And so glad that amazing alum from Saint Mary’s College were able to come up with the funds to make this trip possible!

I’ve met so many great people here! Out of everything here in Colorado I am truly going to miss everyone that I met and the conversations we had. The Loretto Community was more than I had expected. I thought I was just going to be in front of a computer all day just doing my own thing most of the time, but it wasn’t quite like that. While learning how to use WordPress and typing tutorials I also had to personally help those who had never worked with blogs. I also worked with some of the sisters who lived at the center with random internet questions or technology problems. I never thought so many people would be seeking my help with technology! Like I’ve said before, I’m not great at it, but I know some things and I can figure out others. My summer with Loretto didn’t just revolve around technology though. I think sister Natalie intentionally wanted me to learn more about the community by giving the interviews to work on. And I really did learn a lot more than I knew before I got there this summer. I thought I would just go into Loretto to work, but while doing that I think my faith grew stronger as well. Being around some of these ladies that had done so much in their lifetime made me feel proud of being Catholic! These women dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. I hadn’t realized how big social justice was part of Catholicism until I came to Loretto.  Some of the people who I have spoken to about my experience this summer have asked…so do you want to become a nun now? Ha, I had NEVER considered it before and being around sisters this summer I still don’t think I could commit to that level. I have considered however becoming a Co-Member later in life. Who knows, anything can happen! A co-member is part of the community, but their commitments are not as strict I guess you can say. You can get married and have kids, and not go through the same process as religious men and women. It’s just a different process that links you to that community.

Being at Loretto I had some struggles at first like being the youngest person in the office AND at the center. But over time I became accustomed to it and learned what was okay and what wasn’t…like looking at my phone at the table. Whenever I ate with the sisters during lunch or dinner, and I would look at my phone, to check the time or because I had gotten a text, when I looked up I had at least one sister glaring at me. I guess they didn’t grow up with cell phones and they don’t seem to like using them often. Another thing that was hard at first was the simple fact that they are religious and I wasn’t sure how to approach them…should I call her sister?…oh maybe I shouldn’t say anything….But I came to find out that they are normal people! They watch R rated movies and make funny jokes and have all kinds of opinions! This last week some of them are telling me how sorry they are for me to leave, some of whom I didn’t interact much but apparently enjoyed my presence, and others whom I spoke to every day have said the same. Although I didn’t form close relationships with all of the sisters at the center, I enjoyed hearing what they each had to say! I got to spend a lot of time with Natalie since she was my supervisor and I worked in her office, not to mention all trips we made as well! She is such an admirable person, I am glad she was my supervisor at Loretto! She just kept throwing people and things for me do this whole summer, which was good because I never got bored!

So when I wasn’t working at Loretto, I was in Denver at the Catholic Worker. The commute was always at least 45 minutes which I did not enjoy at all. Now I know that once I graduate and get a job I won’t want to live too far away from it! I didn’t mind the destination, but just having to keep an eye out so early in the morning got tiring. The Catholic Worker was so extreme for me. Sometimes I was so happy to be there and learn about people and events that my co-workers (now friends) were involved with. But other times I just couldn’t handle it. Learning about the statistics, hearing the sad stories of people in the street getting treated so unfairly, and just listening to people call telling us about their situations. It made me really sad. Like today, Marcus and I went to visit a family who previously lived here, but had to move on because there wasn’t enough room for a: mom, her daughter in her 30′s?, the daughter’s 11 year old son and the baby that she was expecting. Last week we went to pick up the daughter so she could take some stuff to storage since she didn’t want it thrown out or lost since they had been moving from motel to motel. Today we went to see them at another motel…They told us about how this motel had bedbugs and they had bitten the baby. No child should have to go through that! That baby doesn’t have a stable home and he didn’t seem to be healthy (he’s 4 months and looks like 8), yet he has a very loving and caring family. So what to do? Marcus seems to be determined to find them a place where they don’t have to worry about moving every week and will have enough money to sustain themselves and that baby. And just another thing to add to their situation, the adults both seem to have mental disabilities. They both get checks every month… I really hope that Marcus can find a good place for them, and also somewhere that could truly accommodate their needs.

I really can’t believe that time has gone by so quickly. At the beginning of my trip baby Brielle could only crawl and stand. And now she’s walking around the house, pressing buttons and saying HOLA. I got her a Dora doll (to remind her of me/so she could see more brown in her life), the doll is bilingual. Brielle heard the doll say hola and she repeated it. I got so excited that I asked her to do it again and she did! Now whenever I say hola, she says it back but rolls her tongue out really funny! I am really going to miss that baby. In just these two months I have gotten so attached, and I think she really likes me too. Whenever she first sees me in the mornings she either gives me this big smile or waves her little hands around excitedly saying hi. Man, I feel like Kristin and Steven are my long lost cousins! They have been so great to me! I know Steven has been grateful to have another meat eater in the house ;) And Kristin has had fun with me being around…or at least I hope so! But really, it was awesome going back to the house after work and not being stressed out or trying to hide from them because they were just so darn nice. They were a great host family to me!

I am so glad I didn’t miss out on this opportunity. I’m glad that I decided to come regardless of what was going on in my family. I think this was the perfect place for me to heal. I will admit it was hard being so far from family when they needed me, but we’ve been getting through it. Everyone and everything that happened this summer has changed me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. I’ve been humbled and now see however much evil and sadness there is in the world is equaled with good and happiness. I’ve seen love everywhere.

“To love with understanding and without understanding. To love blindly, and to folly. To see only what is lovable. To think only of these things. To see the best in everyone around, their virtues rather than their faults. To see Christ in them!”
― Dorothy Day

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Time Flies, but Connections Remain

So my blog tutorials went well. It was difficult trying to figure out how we were going to stream video (through webcam) while showing a PowerPoint and having everyone see exactly what I was talking about, but we managed. We shared screens and showed the PowerPoint side by side with the browser opened to WordPress. By the end of the tutorial I had people asking if I had considered becoming a teacher! One of my older sisters is teacher (high school Spanish) and from the things I’ve heard, I’d pass on that offer. I think it’s a great profession that is underpaid, but I don’t think I could do it! If I ever did teach I think I could only do Special Ed, I have this inclination towards children with disabilities.

Anyway, at Loretto I’ve also been working on editing the videos of the women I interviewed. It is a very long process! Natalie (my supervisor at Loretto) told me I could just edit some parts, but I’m sort of a perfectionist and don’t want to leave it like that. I’ve also been working with another summer intern named Alex. It has been different trying to work with someone who isn’t at arms reach (he’s working with us from CA). I’ve only met him through webcam, but that’s alright because he’s extra help. Next week we are to have a mini seminar to talk about our experience at Loretto…me in person and him through webcam.

Over the past month and a half it has been a totally different experience at Loretto and the Catholic Worker. It’s been neat seeing how the Loretto center works in contrast with the Catholic Worker. There is so much more structure at Loretto and I pretty much know what to expect everyday. At the Worker sometimes it is slow and all I end up doing is cleaning and talking to people, but other times I meet new people or get to ride around the city with Marcus delivering extra food to others who might need it like we did Monday. Being at those two places constantly, I’ve also seen some conflict. I’m SO glad I haven’t had any conflict with anyone and I’m pretty sure I won’t by the end of this fellowship. It has been interesting to see how people handle the conflict, and it has prepared me for what is to come once I go out to the workforce I guess. I know I won’t luck out the rest of my life like I have this summer. I know that I won’t always have good relationships with my coworkers and supervisors (even though I wish I could!). I don’t want to make it seem like there’s always drama, but I will say having to live and work with people in community could get very stressful.

I’m glad I have the weekends off, which means that I can do whatever I want. Usually I just go wherever Kristin and Steven go since they always invite me to go with them, but this weekend they weren’t around. I was just at the house on Saturday, but Sunday I had plans to go to Denver. Anna (Loretto sister who lives at the Catholic Worker) invited me to a speaker at noon. I ended up going to church with her before too. It was a beautiful church ran by Dominican brothers and they were so nice, I got applause for being there for the first time AND a bookmark with St. Dominic. I really liked what the priest talked about, he explained the reading about the good Samaritan with funny stories that made complete sense. After mass Anna introduced me to one of the Brothers that she knew and we had a short conversation..he actually knew where Saint Mary’s College was!

After mass, we went back to the Worker and then went to see the daughter of Ben Salmon who was a Catholic pacifist from Denver (he is in the process of being canonized, meaning close to becoming a saint). He was the first Catholic to oppose the just war theory. His daughter was elderly and couldn’t quite remember everything, but what I got from her speech was that her mother was very protective of them and didn’t want them to be involved in what her father was even though she agreed with what he was doing. She talked of how she didn’t really know what her father had done in his lifetime until after her mother died. It was great learning about him from someone who was very close to him.

And then later that day I went to a Black Arts Festival in Denver with Kristen and Marcus. It was nice to just walk around, sit down and enjoy the day. Since I go to the Worker on Mondays I spent the night there. After closing the house Kristen, Marcus and I went dumpstering..or dumpster diving, whatever you want to call it. It was my first time going and I was kind of excited for the things we would find. So much food is wasted everywhere in the U.S. it is ridiculous! We rescued some of it that night!

Today as I was sitting in the living room talking to the woman who took me downtown a couple weeks ago, I told her of how I have 10 days left here in Colorado. She asked me what I’ve learned this summer. I just responded jokingly “life sucks” and she laughed and said I probably already knew that before I got here. We started talking about other things after so I never got to really say what I’ve learned. I’ve learned so much, but I guess I have discovered that anyone could have something in common with you. I’m not just talking about similar food preferences or favorite color, but similar passions or views. I’ve also seen how you really don’t need a wealth to live a happy life. Being in good company can brighten anyone’s day!

Marcus, Kristen and I at the Black Arts Festival in Denver

Marcus, Kristen and I at the Black Arts Festival in Denver

Flowers at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Flowers at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Sister Natalie as we were walking out of the Denver Botanic Gardens

Sister Natalie as we were walking out of the Denver Botanic Gardens

A guest at the Denver Catholic Worker house with the house dog on her lap

A guest at the Denver Catholic Worker house with the house dog on her lap

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

July 10

Phone calls. Before I didn’t think phone calls were that important. If someone couldn’t reach me at the time, they could text, email, or look me up on a social networking site. Now people don’t really call me much because there are so many different ways to get a hold of me. Until now, I hadn’t realized how important a phone call could be. At the Catholic Worker we get from 10 to 2 phone calls per hour. Some phone calls are for the residents or for the workers, but most of the calls are people looking for housing. It is so sad having to explain to people that “we are full, please try calling back in a couple of days again”. I wonder how people must feel. Having a lot of phone numbers in front of them, hoping that one of them will accept their request. It really sucks. The past couple of days I’ve answered the phone and there have been so many different situations. A man called and asked if we had a room for him and his wife that was expecting in August. We didn’t. A woman called asking if we had room for her brother who is a single father with three children. We didn’t. Today a woman called asking if we had a room for her since she was about to be evicted. There wasn’t. In the past month that I’ve been there, there has only been one room unoccupied. The single woman’s room has had three occupants, the rest have been there. I know everyone at the house really likes being there, if not they would have left by now. It’s so sad having to tell so many people every day though “sorry, we are all full”. But it’s a wonderful place to be in.

Monday was the 35th anniversary of the Denver Catholic Worker. Mondays are always the busiest days so we didn’t celebrate much. After dinner Anna (the sister who has been there since the beginning) talked about how it all got started and different moments there. She told of how at one point they made coffins there to get some money for the house. Eventually she pulled out one of the picture albums and explained what was happening in all of them. There were also various newspaper clippings of times she went to court and got arrested. There were also pictures of another woman, who has been involved with the Worker, of when she was arrested as well. It’s amazing how many different types of people have been involved at the house. Not everyone there is Catholic, in fact most of the people living there now aren’t. It was nice seeing how much the house has changed and how many people have been through there. I definitely want to get involved with another Catholic Worker in California once school starts. I know all the Workers are different, but I hope they have the same kind of community as they do here in Denver. I love the idea of solidarity with the poor. It’s not exactly being poor, but in some way relating. I read a chapter of Bell Hooks’ “Where We Stand” that said “If people of privilege want to help the poor, they can do so by living simply and sharing their resources”. I think that’s exactly what Catholic Workers aim to do.

The past three days I have been in Denver at the Worker. Last night one of the workers, who is now a friend, let me stay at her place since there isn’t room at the house. Thursday and Friday I will be at Loretto because I have Blog Tutorials scheduled those days. I have never done something like this before, and I never thought I would. I’m not the best person when it comes to technology, but I suppose I know some things the people at Loretto don’t. I’ve always been okay at doing a lot of things, but I’ve never been super talented at one specific thing. I still haven’t made up my mind on whether that’s good or bad. The only thing I think I can say I’m super good at is listening, but I think everyone could do that if they really tried.

This Sunday my host family left for California. They have a triathlon in Northern California this weekend that they have been training for. I’m happy they get some vacation time because they are both super busy, I’m sure they will enjoy their trip! The only thing is, it is kind of lonely at the house. I have their dog Roxy keeping me company, which is great because I feel safe, but I don’t have anyone to ask me how work was. And I miss the baby too! This is only a week..I can’t imagine after the next three weeks not seeing her for months (because they plan on going to Saint Mary’s to visit and watch a basketball game with me). I miss them just as much as I miss my real family, and that’s saying a lot!

Everyone please wish me luck on these tutorials…I hope everyone understands how to use blogs after it! And also wish me luck on finding enough loans to cover my tuition for next year. I’ve been really stressing about that.

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This is a sign my friend Sarah has in her house. She saw it everywhere in El Salvador when she went several years ago. Translates to: In this house we want a life free of violence against women

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Rooftop where we saw the fireworks of the Coors Stadium (home of the Colorado Rockies)

Fourth of July in Denver with my Steven, Brielle and Kristen

Fourth of July in Denver with Steven, Brielle and Kristen

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Anna Koop front and center! One of my favorite nuns :)

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

One on One

I love talking to people one on one, it is like my favorite thing to do. You know how some people’s hobbies are going out and trying new foods, biking, traveling. I think I’d say mine is just talking to people. I mean it’s alright getting to know people when their friends or family are around, but I think there is just a certain something about being with someone one on one.

This past week I’ve been hearing a lot about various people’s stories. I went to New Mexico with Natalie to record interviews with some of the Loretto Community so we could put them on the blogs I’ve been creating for them. It took us about eight hours to get to Albuquerque with just a few stops. Since I have spent a lot of time with Natalie I have gotten to know her really well, but every time I meet some of her good friends I learn more about her. She is a small women with a low voice, but she has not done small things in life. She has been through racism ever since she was young, she was in ROTC for many years and joined the military. She spent some summers working as a park ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, she was not raised Catholic and became a vowed sister much later than most of the others. And just so much more that I wouldn’t want to tell because you’d just have to get to know her. She is a very loving person and I am so glad she is one of my supervisors this summer. I’ve loved getting to know her story, and I also enjoyed hearing everyone else’s in New Mexico. There is a sister who retired early from taking on big administrative jobs to take care of her real biological sister that has down syndrome. There is a co-member (meaning they did not take the vows, but take part in Loretto events) who came upon Loretto sisters by chance and loved the order that she wanted some part of it. There was another women who was a sister, but left the order to adopt and raise fifteen children from various countries, she eventually married and had a daughter of her own. Another women who I interviewed told of how she was a sister for many many years, but at 42 she had a daughter who was born deaf and realized her newly wedded husband would not live soon after.

I have heard so many stories this week, including another from a women who has been a part of the Catholic Worker for so many years. When I first met her she seemed like the calmest person I have ever met. I knew she lived in the house before as a worker so I thought she must have a good heart as well. A couple of days ago I found out from my co-workers that she had been in prison for some years. I couldn’t believe someone as serene as her could go to prison…I wondered for what?! I am writing about her story because it touched me so much. She was raised Quaker, but she said something drew her to the Catholic church. When she talked about it, she made it obvious that at first she was unsure about some things about Catholism, but that once she got Baptized she has had complete faith in God. She talked about her experiences as if God himself had spoken to her. Of course, she said he didn’t speak to her in the literal sense, but she just felt He wanted her to continue on a certain path. She finally told me the reason she went to prison. She said something drew her to the Rocky Flats Plant in Denver (after she knew that God wanted her to serve in Peace and Social Justice). She said she always liked protesting in places where there weren’t a bunch of people with signs and chants ans the sort. She simply trespassed property of the plant where they were building nuclear weapons to pray. She explained all the legal stuff that happened throughout all the times she got out of jail and went right back to the plant. She told of how there was a judge who seemed to realize that she wasn’t try to do anyone harm and decided to remove her sentence (taking her out of prison). Her total years in jail in the 10 years she was peacefully protesting was about 5 years, until the plant eventually shut down. She then decided to stay in Denver despite of growing up in New York. Another part of her story that I found amazing is that she took personal vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, but never joined an order. She has spent most of her life helping others, or fighting ideas that she doesn’t agree with…peacefully of course.

On Monday I needed to go to Bank of America and I hadn’t because there is only like two in Denver and I didn’t really know where they were located. As I was on the computer I asked one of the people who lives here at the house if she knew which one would be easier to get to. She said there was one like 20 minutes away walking distance or 5 minutes away driving. I looked it up and didn’t see any parking near it so I thought I would walk. I told the woman that I didn’t really know the area and asked if she would accompany me downtown. She kind of laughed at my request and asked if I was scared of going by myself, I explained to her how I didn’t know the city and she just left the room. Now, this woman is known to be stubborn and think she knows it all, she isn’t the friendliest in the house. But after a few minutes she asked “So are we going?”. I immediately got my things together and walked out the door. As we took the first steps on the street she asked “Aren’t you scared?” I said, “No, why would I be?” She just repeated “So you’re not scared?” And I just said I wasn’t. I guess most people are intimidated by the way she carries herself, but I had no reason to be. As we walked together I asked her questions about her life and she surprisingly answered just about everything. I learned she has two boys and she was married, but got divorced. We talked about the Denver Camping ban and about how she’s lived her life. Once we got to downtown and I was done doing bank stuff she said she’d treat me to some cheap soda. We walked into a Subway and I wasn’t sure how we were going to get cheap soda when she walked up to the counter and laid 50 cents out to the cashier telling her she was getting a refill. Apparently the woman who worked there knew her, so she let her put soda in an empty bottle she was carrying with her. She offered some to me and I accepted…after putting a straw in it. We then walked down an alley and she said “Ooooo we are walking down an alley, aren’t you scared?” I’m still not sure if she was being sarcastic or being serious, but I said nope, I’m not scared. And I wasn’t, it was daytime and it wasn’t too sketchy. So anyway, she wanted to introduce me to some of her friends. We found her friend Kent who seemed really nice and asked a lot of questions. She also wanted me to meet one of her friends that was drunk earlier in the day, but I’m glad we didn’t find him. She told me of how sometimes she would spend her days with her friends that were homeless, but she also tried applying to jobs when she wasn’t there. Once we got back to the house she said that she’d take me out downtown again, but this time she’d take me to the city library. I hope we end up going so I can ask her more questions and so she can make me laugh some more.

Being here has made me value life more than I ever have before. One person can do so much in a lifetime, it’s unbelievable. I’m really glad I’ve talked to so many people about their experiences and what they think about certain issues. I’ve learned a lot about my host family (I love the story of how they ended up together), and of the people I’ve been working closely with (my supervisor graduated high school because of minor casualties), and of some people that I only met once because now I see how there are so many different paths to happiness. I might not become a sister to show my faithfulness to God, and I might not live as simply as some of my co-workers, but in my own way I know I’ll contribute to society in a positive way. A couple days ago I got an email from a woman I’m working with on blogs (we want to get some co-members to get to know the sisters better by having them interview them). We were discussing plans on how to go about it. She wished me a good time in New Mexico and said “You are changing our lives!!!  Plus you’re just plain fun”. I am so glad to know that I am appreciated here and that I’m making a difference this summer. It’s been great so far, and I can’t wait to see what this next month brings.

Kristin took me to visit the Highlands Ranch Mansion

Kristin took me to visit the Highlands Ranch Mansion

Jemez Springs, NM

Jemez Springs, NM

Valles Caldera, NM

Valles Caldera, NM

Church in Sante Fe, NM

Church in Sante Fe, NM

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe, NM

Me and Princess Janice about to watch Beauty and the Beast!  (Albuquerque, NM)

Me and Princess Janice about to watch Beauty and the Beast! (Albuquerque, NM)

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Vulnerability and Growth

People have so great a need to reverence, to worship, to adore; it is a psychological necessity of human nature that must be taken into account. We do not like to admit how people fail us. Even those most loved show their frailty and their weakness and no matter how we may will to see only the best in others, their strength rather than their weakness, we are all too conscious of our own failings and recognize them in others.                      -Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness, 84 

I love that quote. It think it’s so true. I’ve been reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography to learn more about her life and why she decided to start the Catholic Worker Movement. It has helped me understand what her ideology was behind the Worker. This quote reminds me of a TED Talk that was screened for the Loretto Community last week. The video was on Vulnerability… http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html I suggest everyone watch it because everything Brene Brown says will hit home in some way. I had already seen that video on my own one day surfing the web, but watching it again this time it made me feel different. The first time watching it I related so much to the numbness she talked about because I think that’s pretty much what I did when first going into college. I didn’t really get homesick or nervous about starting college and not living at home anymore. I wasn’t excited either though…I just went through the motions without feeling much, and I didn’t like it. This time around I totally understood why vulnerability is so important. Without putting down your walls and letting people in sometimes you won’t get someone to really get to know you. Why would you want people to really know you, you ask? Well for me it just makes me feel more connected. If you are going to have daily (or almost daily) interactions with people who you trust and make you feel good why wouldn’t you want them to really know you, regardless of whatever has happened in your past or what you’re going through? This summer has made me realize how there are so many caring people everywhere, not just at home with friends and family, but here as well! I think if I came here and didn’t tell people what’s been going on in my life I could enjoy being here. As much as vulnerability may seem like a bad thing (this stigma has been put on it here in the U.S.)  I really don’t think it is because as Dorothy Day says “we are all too conscious of our failings and recognize them in others”. No one is perfect, no one is free from stress or problems, and we all know that but sometimes fail to recognize it. We shouldn’t ignore it, but instead talk about the things we are going through because chances are someone might have gone through the same. Aside from all this pep talk, or whatever it is I started ranting about, I’ve learned being here that being vulnerable is actually okay. No, it’s better than okay because as much as people sometimes don’t know what to say, I know they’re glad I can open up to them. It just makes experiences more real!

Being in the middle of some big things going on makes me glad to be here. Although I’m not directly involved in issues like immigration or the camping ban in Denver I feel somewhat a part of it because the people that are directly involved let me know about what is happening. Last week I watched a documentary with a group of people Natalie (my supervisor at the Loretto Community) knows. It is called the Harvest of Empire, The Untold Stories of Latinos in America. I personally don’t like using the term “America” because uh the United States is part of the Americas, you know North America and South America…but that’s a whole other story. The documentary focuses on some of the reason people from Latin America migrated to the United States and how in some cases the United States had a lot to do with it. I did not know so much happened not too long ago. I learned a lot, a lot that I never learned in history classes…but that doesn’t surprise me. It was really emotional for Natalie and the two other sisters who have been working with immigrants and have worked in some of the countries mentioned. And it was also emotional for me because I’ve gotten a feel of it since my parents both immigrated from Mexico before I was born. I’ve seen first hand how difficult it’s been for my sisters to pay for college without any scholarships from the government and how hard they’ve had to work for “the American dream”. Now before coming here as I mentioned earlier I didn’t really know too much about the homeless population. Working at the Catholic Worker House I have learned a lot. Today all the workers and I went to a meeting in Denver City Hall about the Denver Camping Ban. Marcus and Sarah have been directly involved in this coalition along with Ben and others that truly care about the impact this ban has made. If any of you are interested in the information that was presented at the meeting today just go here:  http://issuu.com/denverhomelessoutloud/docs/surveyreport I believe the purpose of the meeting today was so they could partner up with some congress people about the issue and try to make things happen to change it. Unfortunately there was really not a lot of time left, in my opinion, to discuss it all thoroughly so another meeting was scheduled for next month. Hopefully in this next meeting they get the help they need!

Well just a couple of days until June is over and I will be here for a complete month, half-way done with this fellowship. I have already committed to coming back at least once a year to visit everyone. It’s neat to have a family away from home, at the Worker, at Loretto and of course with my host family. I could not have been luckier!

Catholic Worker House; Chris throwing a ball at me...haha

Catholic Worker House; Chris throwing a ball at me…haha

(Late post) Rocky Mountain National Park

(Late post) Rocky Mountain National Park

Guanella Pass with Catholic Worker people!

Guanella Pass with Catholic Worker crew!

The lake we hiked to @ Guanella Pass

The lake we hiked to @ Guanella Pass

Kristen and Baby Brielle and I at a Festival in Denver

Kristen and Baby Brielle and I at a Festival in Denver

 

Connections

I had always heard that it was important to have connections, but it wasn’t until this week that I have seen how they can come as a big advantage. I’m not saying that everyone should go around meeting random people just so that they can use them, but that it is beneficial to know someone who could help you.

On Friday me and Sister Natalie were on our way to a cabin in Lyons that the Loretto sisters own and the car broke down. She didn’t think her insurance would cover the tow and wasn’t sure what to do so she called one of the sisters in Littleton. One of the sisters there said she had AAA so she came to pick us up and call her insurance company. We were there for 2 hours until the car finally got towed. The car was towed to a dealer that the Loretto Sisters have been using for many years. Anyway to fastforward my point, this man that has been in the business for a while and knows the sisters personally made sure the car was taken care of as soon as possible and he even gave them some discounts. Natalie and I were grateful that she had the sisters to help us out and that they had this good connection with that dealership.

This past weekend was busy, but it was good for me. Since I didn’t have a car to drive back to the house and it was pretty late for the sisters they let me stay at the center. The sisters joked that I would get to experience living in a convent since I worked there that day and then spent the night. Totally crossing that off my bucketlist…ha, not really. So Saturday morning we got up and left like at 8am. We got to the cabin, explored a bit, and then got to work. Our task that weekend was to sand and paint the deck of the cabin. At first we didn’t think it was going to be so hard, but after sanding it down we realized it was going to be more work than we expected. We eventually finished it and it looked great! The next day we decided we would go to Rocky National Park since we were so close, only like 45 minutes away it seemed to me. It was perfect! Natalie actually worked there a couple summers as a park ranger several years back, so she knew exactly where the best places to stop and hike were. It was beautiful, I am so glad she took me! When we got there it was cloudy so we got out of the car and hiked a bit. Then as we kept going up the mountains it started raining and snowing! Snow in the summer? That was crazy, but in a good way. It was neat to see the park while it was kind of overcast, but also seeing it when it snowed. Our timing was perfect because we were almost done seeing the whole park (by car) when it started snowing. Once we left Estes Park the sky cleared up and it was hot again! Since we hadn’t really eaten lunch yet we stopped by Lyons and ate a local restaurant. I was starving, I ate a huge cheeseburger, but it was so good! Anyway, aside from the random adventures this weekend, it was nice to do something different. Even though I had only been around for 2 weeks, (now 2 weeks and 4 days) the routine was getting to me. It was good to have some time away from everything and everyone for a couple of days and just enjoy nature. I hadn’t felted connected to nature in a long time, I have missed going to Yosemite every year in high school as a cabin leader and after this weekend I realized that I need time just hiking around and enjoying it all. So even though it isn’t with a person, I have a connection with nature that will always give back to me!

This past days have been tiring. The weekend doing manual labor and hiking and the past weekdays pretty much doing the same. At the Catholic Worker we had been working on fixing up the kitchen, fixing the roof and painting. Monday I spent the day painting and helping make a shelf. Today we had community day (I had no clue where we were going) until I got there. We ended up driving to Georgetown and up some mountains from there. The town was cute and the mountains we saw were amazing! We had a nice picnic and then started hiking toward a small lake. It was so hard to breathe up there! I was telling the workers how I hadn’t even felt like that in Rocky Mountain National Park! But, it was a fun trip overall! It was a nice change of pace for the workers since they had been working on the kitchen for a bit over a week. On our way to Georgetown, Kristen and Marcus were discussing what the Catholic Worker means to them. It was great getting their perspective on how it should work and how it could be changed. One of the biggest things that struck me was when Marcus brought up voluntary poverty (something pretty much required for any of the workers). He said how it kind of puts people up on a pedestal as if they are a hero for living in poverty intentionally. He told of how instead, that value should be replaced with living simply, or just being humble. I really like that concept. Marcus also explained how he thought it was kind of ironic how the workers should practice voluntary poverty, yet how the whole point of the Catholic Worker is to assist people in getting them back on their feet. That’s a good point. They made me think a lot about how there is much more to it than just being in a house full of people and having the title of a Catholic Worker house of hospitality. Also about how even having that title means so much. It was really interesting hearing how passionate they are about the house. They are truly inspirational people for just being themselves!

I can already see how this summer is going to go by so quickly! I have felt so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful people every day. When I first came to Colorado I prayed that I would feel at home here and so far my prayers have been granted. Although it has still been hard being away from friends and family back home I am glad to be here because I am learning so much and experiencing things I wouldn’t have ever had the chance to. Like on Monday I accompanied Anna (a sister that lives at the Catholic Worker) to a meeting she had with congresswoman Diana DeGette. The meeting was with a group of religious people (not all Catholic) who were working together on immigration issues. It was awesome just being there listening to some things that I understood and other things I wasn’t too sure about. I also enjoyed being there because most of the things they talked about in some ways pertained to me and my family.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Beauty is Everywhere

When I first got to Colorado I thought I was going to insanely miss the state I’ve grown up in-California. I love it there so much; the agriculture, the mountains, the hills, the beaches, the cities, the PEOPLE…everything! But coming here made me realize how maybe I shouldn’t be so biased about California. Every day that I drive to work I look to the west and see these beautiful mountains, and so much green whenever there aren’t buildings. I think I came at a perfect time because even though there have been hot some days, it doesn’t compare to the heat I would have endured if I was back home where it has been hitting high 90′s.

Now, I’m not just talking about aesthetics or the weather here, but the people as well. As much as I miss my friends and family everyone I have met have contributed to making me feel right at home and have taught me things they don’t even realize I value so much. At the Loretto Community, I have gotten a more well-rounded view of what the sisters here do. I’ve learned that the nun stereotype is SUCH a stereotype, they don’t have to wear a veil or habit anymore, in fact they haven’t had to since like the 70′s! They are like normal people, they aren’t praying all the time, but actually get out and practice their faith with the community. Although some of the sisters here are semi-retired they still find ways to get involved and as their mission says, they “work for justice and act for peace because the Gospel urges” them. On the days that I’m here, I eat lunch and dinner with some of them. I’ve learned about what they did before they settled down here, about their families, and just about their personalities in general. Some of them have a great sense of humor and like making the rest of us laugh. Overall, being around such wonderful women who have done amazing things makes me feel awe. One of the sisters I talked to yesterday she was telling me about how she was rare in the public education system because there aren’t a lot of religious men or women teaching outside of private schools. I hadn’t made that connection until she mentioned it. I had always gone to public schools before I got to Saint Mary’s, so I hadn’t even thought about that fact. That’s pretty admirable on her part. I’ve also spoken to other sisters who have enjoyed being in Latin America and have even picked up Spanish. I love that! I think it’s awesome when people actively learn a language, not just because they want to add it to their resume, but because they genuinely want to communicate and understand another culture.

It’s crazy how different cultures are. Coming here I hadn’t felt so foreign, even though I was born in California, and even though I speak English. I thought that after going to Saint Mary’s (a dominantly White school) I would have gotten used to feeling so…it’s hard to describe the feeling…but I guess just uncomfortable. It is a complicated feeling because I know people aren’t racist, no one dislikes me because I am brown skinned and grew up with a Mexican culture. It’s just hard to explain. But anyway coming here I’ve been surprised to find how little some people know about my culture. Something so simple to me, like tacos, is different to people here! I’ve tried to sort of make it a game to teach some of the people here about the traditions and foods that I’ve grown up doing and eating. So tacos…I’ve asked some people what they think tacos consist of. Typically I’ve gotten tortilla (yes), some sort of meat or protein (yes), salsa (yes), but then comes the most wrong ingredient: CHEESE. I don’t know how tacos have evolved to contain cheese! Any taco that has a tortilla, meat, and salsa should not have cheese. I like to call those Taco Bell tacos. Real Mexican tacos don’t have cheese or lettuce, they have onion, cilantro, and lime, that’s it. Anyway, through that random tangent on tacos what I’m saying is that it’s been something else being like the only Latina around here. At least at Saint Mary’s I had some people who totally got where I’m coming from. Being here has taken me out of my comfort zone completely, but that’s okay. I’m learning!

As I was telling one of the guests (Ben) at the Catholic Worker I have been involved in social justice events, and community service, but never with that population of people. I’ve learned about the food deserts in the area, like Oakland. I’ve learned about socio-economic struggles. I’ve learned about oppression, racism, and microagressions. I’ve helped teach ESL to those who wanted to learn English. I’ve spent time with older populations of people in Berkeley. I’ve known all my life about people who don’t have a place to call home, and it’s always made me so sad to think about it, which might be a reason I’ve stayed away from homeless shelters or food banks. It’s just not fair. How could there be so many people who don’t have basic necessities? Talking to Ben he told me me about how there’s a camping ban in Denver. He told me of how homeless people aren’t even allowed to sleep in the streets anymore. The point of it was to try to make people seek out shelters, but the problem with that is that they’re all full. He told me of how he is part of Denver Homeless Out Loud,  http://denverhomelessoutloud.org/ , because he doesn’t believe this ban is benefiting the homeless population in Denver. Before moving in to the house, he was part of that population too, but even then was working to try to help others. That’s so admirable. And all the people that work there, Marcus, Kristen, Sarah, none of them get paid to be there. They all recognize the crappy things people go through and to me it seems like they’ve made it a point in their lives to simply be there with everyone else. The Catholic Worker is not a homeless shelter, it’s truly a home. Everyone works together to make things happen. Like this past week, it’s been stressful for them and Rob and Amanda (who came from another Catholic Worker until they find another place) to be working on construction in the kitchen. It was only going to be the roof, and more things started coming up. The electrical lines looked like they might be a problem, there was a point where the phone line got disconnected. Once we were done scraping and we were getting ready for dry wall the package we got was already half dry (meaning useless). But throughout all these hiccups everyone made it happen! They all knew it had to be done and worked around the unplanned events. I haven’t been there since Wednesday, but I am sure once I go back on Monday they will be right on track.

Another thing I recently learned is that the Catholic Worker house isn’t part of a 501(c) meaning if people donate , it won’t show up on their taxes like it does for the Salvation Army or other organizations. I’ve learned this makes it difficult to get people to sponsor anything. In high school I was president of a club called Renaissance that rewarded students for “academic excellence” and the only reason some of the restaurants or businesses would donate to us would be because it was tax exempt. But I guess that’s the point of the Catholic Worker, it’s not something you give to because it benefits you it’s so it benefits others. 

Even though the Catholic Worker in Denver isn’t a 501(c) doesn’t mean they don’t get donation though. They do, but it’s not really enough. This is where “dumpstering”/ “dumpster diving” comes into play at the house. Apparently every Sunday night Marcus and I don’t know who else, goes in the truck to snag some food, or whatever else they can find. At first, it seems kind of gross right? Food that comes from trash! But guess what people, it’s not even really trash. It’s just stuff that stores didn’t sell, stuff that didn’t fit, stuff that “expired”. Most of it is alright condition. You all wouldn’t believe what treasures they’ve found. Anything from strawberries, to shampoo, to cookies, all packaged and sealed. It is ridiculous. So much stuff gets wasted, so much food. There are so many people going hungry and stores are throwing food away instead of giving it away. It makes no sense to me. They really aren’t liable for it once they give it away, so what gives? I watched the documentary called Dive and ugh, I just couldn’t believe it. But at least at the house we are saving money and saving the food that could have just rotted away in a dumpster. The only problem with that is that it’s kind of a pain having to go through all the food to make sure it’s okay. We don’t want people getting sick. And from the times I’ve been there, I haven’t gotten sick so I think they’re doing a good job of checking things.

Okay I should finish this up :) In these (almost) two weeks I have been here I have learned how to live simply. I haven’t eaten out since like last Saturday, but that was only because Steven offered to buy me this Greek sandwich thing that I had never tried. It was delicious! I actually haven’t bought anything since I first got here, only used money on gas…that’s all I’ve needed. I’ve become more conscious of how my time should be spent here. Not alone or on my computer, but with people and just talking. I love getting to know people better, it’s made my time better here. Teaching others more about my culture has also been fun. Last week I taught Steven how to make tacos de papa (potato tacos), and pepino con chile (cucumber with powdered chile, salt and lime). So far I’ve gotten a huge sense of community everywhere, at the Loretto Community, at the Catholic Worker and of course with my host family. It’s beautiful.

The view from the Loretto office

The view from the Loretto officeSarah and Kristen sorting food

Sarah and Kristen sorting food

Baby Brielle and I at Aurora Reservoir

Baby Brielle and I at Aurora Reservoir

Watched professional lacrosse with Steven and Brielle

Watched professional lacrosse with Steven and Brielle

Rooftop view of Denver

Rooftop view of Denver

 

 

 
 
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