Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm Pretty Sure God Lives in the Second Grade

This week is off to a GREAT start...for one...I have enough time to write before the weekend! And for another, every day has been a complete and total challenge of my mind and patience and I love every single minute of it!

On Monday I had my first student throw up...all over the BRAND NEW math book. I guess they really did not want to do math. But on a serious note, I felt so terrible. They were out sick the last day of school last week and were sick all weekend and I did not even see it coming. When I got the old "Miss Erin is my head warm?" I figured he was just feeling a little of...but no...he was REAL ill. To make it even better...I was all alone with no one to help me keep track of the 20 other students while 1 was in the bathroom being sick. It was a total fiasco, but it all turned out JUST FINE!

That afternoon we started the Accelerated Math program. It is a really great concept, but I am not convinced that the light of my students is being put to its best use when we have them bubble in a form. That being said, when the fourth grade teacher came in to help, I had never ever seen the kids so well behaved and trying so hard to please. It was really refreshing to see them in that new light. I just wish there were a more fun and exciting way for me to tap into that energy.

After such an AMAZING ADVENTURE in school...I got to (drum roll) DRIVE THE SCHOOL BUS ALL BY MY SELF! Thats right boys and girls...I am officially, completely, and totally, a bus driver. BOOM! It was pretty stressful because I had no IDEA what roads the run followed and no clue where to drop of anyone. To make a rather long story short, I had a 2 hours drive through construction (which was a one way dirt road) and went to both the western and northern edges of the reservation, and there is no diagonal from point A to point B. But it was SUPER FUN!

Today the kids had some very talkative moments, but also some really WONDERFUL ones.

When we started math lessons we talked about all the reasons we might need to know math, because so many of them were moaning and upset about it...but at the end of the lesson they were all sad about having to put their things away. It could just be because they wanted to make me happy, but if that was their goal it worked! (and to make things even better, no one barfed on their math book today!)

Last night I made a large map of pine ridge, and toady after we talked about maps we all drew a picture of our home and had the chance to tape it on the map. Not only did the kids love that they all saw a place they knew (we had to go around and share!) but it was really a wonderful unifying experience for our community, I am so glad I did it.

Today was also the moment when I really felt like I saw this light and presence of God in my students. Maybe its just because Kelly had been teaching them to look for God everywhere, but I don't think that was it. The first time was when I was playing connect four with Tyler (he could not go to gym because he has staples, apparently it was a rough day on the bus). I looked up through all those little yellow bars and saw this beautiful smile and suddenly felt so connected and close. IT was really a wonderful moment that I can't even begin to explain.

Later on this afternoon we had to send a student to the assistant principal for bullying, he knocked down someones stuff. At the time I was so frustrated with him and really at my whits end, I feel like I have to remind him of things all day long and it never settles in. Despite all that, he looked up at me this afternoon with the drawing of his dog and was so so proud of himself and really wanted approval and I realized that I did not hold the least bit of resentment towards him. Even my most difficult student brings me such joy and makes me want to rise to the challenge all the more.

Basically, my kids are amazing. I haven't even made it through two weeks and I could not imagine life without each and every one of them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mission First Week of School COMPLETE!

Well I made it out of the first week of school alive. Its wonderful! My students (there are 22) are very FULL of life and it is so exciting to get up every morning to go and be with them. I could not ask for a better first class. They have already started to challenge me with their chatty ways but I think that once we get settled in and take stalk of each other things will be great.

Some quotes of the week include

"Miss Ewin I just have to go home and get my sleeping bag!"
yup. Thats right. I have a student who can't say the R in my name but you know what? I LOVE IT! This moment was because I had some students who were dawdling to get ready to go home and I made a comment that some of them were acting like they wanted to spend the whole night at school with me! I told them that as much fun as that would be Miss Erin needed to go home and so did they. Maybe some other day kids.

"There is a man in my computer!"
So this week I was in charge of getting the second graders all tested on the computer with the reading and math program. Well...it was sort of a debacle. No one could sign on the the computers. And that was temporarily fixed, until a class signed off all the computers. So our wonderful wonderful computer geniuses were helping me by signing them on via remote access. (they saved my sanity!) However, you can imagine how a bunch of 7 year olds reacted to their computers doing stuff "all by is self!" It was amazing. But then they got one one of the computers to I-Chat and ask what computers still needed to be signed on...and how was I alerted to this? By the voice of little Sam telling me there was a man in his computer. I was very concerned at first but once I realized who it was I could not help but laugh. In the end everything was taken care of...It was just wonderful.

We did not have school this Friday because we took the day to observe a funeral. A 2010 graduate of red cloud, and the computer teachers daughter, was tragically killed in a car accident last weekend. It was really hard to have to attended the funeral of someone so young, and from what I hear, so very full of life and love. I think that the most difficult part for me was not only having to see Betsy so devastated over the loss, but to realize that this was probably just the first of many funerals I would be attending this year. (but I can always hope it will be the last).

My students asked to write letters which I found so wonderful, and looking at what they had written almost made me cry. They are so full of love and support and so frighteningly familiar with death.

Friday afternoon Jackie, Amanda, and I went to do the house grocery shopping for the week. It was nothing short of overwhelming. We had 3 shopping carts full of food and spent more money that I had ever spend on one trip to the store. I can't even begin to tell you. on the bright side, we should have plenty of food to get us through the week!

Friday night we had a concert at the house which I regrettably missed because it took so long to do all the shopping in Raid. When I got back some people were heading out to a casino...and I had never been to one...so I figured why not go for the fun! We drove 2 hours (it was off the reservation) to a town called Deadwood and I am pretty sure their only source of industry is casinos, and maybe a few bars. There were many wonderful shiny lights and I lost about $10. (no more gambling for me! I can not make an informed decision to stay away). Kate won $40 while I was sitting next to here which was pretty awesome...for her. hehe.

We left at about 2:30 which meant that we got back at 5 in the morning...and guess who drove the whole way...YAY for not going to bed on time!

Yesterday and today I spent a lot of time lesson planing and trying to figure out various and assorted programs the school has in place...It has given me a massive headache.

Here's to hopes of an awesome week 2!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Much Awaited Update

For anyone who could not guess I have been ridiculously busy the last week. 
this is what happens when you play two games of euchre at once. 

Starting with last Thursday-Sunday
We went on retreat to the Sioux Spiritual Center to spend some time together and get ready for the year ahead. There was much guitar playing and singing and I finally learned how to play euchre and did not by any stretch of the imagination get enough sleep. 
pretty stars!

There was a meteor shower during the retreat so one night a group of us stayed up to watch the stars. I was very upset when there were clouds out covering everything the night that was supposed to be best for viewing.  Another night we also played capture the tambourine in the dark, it was great fun even though we lost all 4 games. 

Roger White Eyes, who also works at Red Cloud, pored a sweat for us one night and it was an amazing experience. It was a tight fit because the lodge was so small and there were so many of us but we were able to squish in. At first I was pretty hot but after a few minutes it was not so bad. I don't know that I would have ever considered praying in a sweat lodge before I moved but it was really and amazing and uniting experience that I'm not sure I could really explain in words. I am just very glad to have participated and hope to go to some more sweats in the future. 

By far the best part of retreat was when we decided not to o to bad the last night...but it was an accident I promise. Liz, Maria, Bryan, and myself had all stayed up to play euchre...and Bryan tried out having multiple personalities so that we could play while maria serenaded us on guitar. Once we were done it was already 4:30am so the logical thing to do was walk up the hill and watch the sun rise. (makes since right?) Well theeennn once we were up the hill we found a bunch of circles made of stones which were clearly left by witches, and when Bryan told us there was an abandoned cabin near by we had no choice but to go on a hunt to find the witches lair. 

We were told the hike was only going to take 15 minutes but I am skeptical...either way when we finally made it to the cabin we were glad that we had made the trip. The house did not seem like it had been empty that long but there was no floor so I cant imagine people had been living in it like that. There was also a broken piano in the basement that looks like it may have fallen through the floor which hurt my heart a little bit. 
                                                            (poor piano!)

When we were done at the cabin it was about 5:30  or 6 and Bryan knew of another abandoned farm house so we decided we might as well go there too. On the way we found some mountain lion tracks...but none of us were eaten.  The second house was much creepier and looked as though it had been abandoned in a hurry. We decided to scope out the inside and were a little concerned that someone might round the corner with a shot gun at any moment...but the house was pretty obviously empty, despite the mayo and mountain due left on the table. AWKWARD!  We were all very relieved when no spirits came after us and headed home soon after in time to see Father George heading home and Amanda waking up for breakfast. 

We were all able to nap for a little while before mass at 10 and then the drive home. However, we decided not to go home, but to go and see inception so that Bryan could make is reference to a comment from earlier in the night. So the four of us and Jenny piled in a car and drove to rapid, but the movie didn't start until 4 so we ran some earns and went out to lunch first. The movie was amazing...and probably made more amazing by the fact that we had not gone to bed yet. The weirdest part was when we walked out into the parking lot and I saw a car bumper sticker that said "withes do it in circles"...its like they knew everything! creepy. 

Moving on to this week...

Most of our time was spent in meeting and setting up my classroom. I must say...my room is pretty darn cute. I can not wait for the kids to fill it up with life. 

I had the chance to spend some time with my classroom aid, Jessie. She is a Red Cloud graduate and Americorps volunteer and absolutely amazing. We have already decided that we are Batman and Robin and plan to dress as such for Halloween. I'm pretty sure we are kindred spirits. I also had to miss a lot of time in the classroom because of bus testing as she was absolutely wonderful about helping to get stuff set up. 

On wed. Maria and I went to Rapid to take the driving portion of our bus test. I passed the walk around and the Parking but made a stupid mistake when we were driving and even though I pointed it out right away it was an automatic fail. It turns out that Bob must not have been in a good mood because both Maria and I had to come back on Thursday...but this time we brought Luke and everyone passed. HURRAY! 

Friday we went to Gordan Nebraska to spend some quality time as a house. We were at the Italian Inn and I got to eat fried pickles which was probably the highlight of my week. They were delicious. 

Saturday I let my self sleep in as long as I wanted which was fantastic! When I woke up I went to the store with Liz to finish shopping for the dinner we were cooking and then finished painting my bedroom...I LOVE IT! After I was done painting Liz and I cooked some delicious food so that we could have a thank you dinner for Bryan over at OLL. (he taught us all how to park the school bus and was awesome). For dinner we had pasta salad, sweet potato fires, corn, and BBQ (fake chicken for Hillary and Erin!). 

Dinner was fun and afterwards we watched Big Love because OLL is obsessed with polygamy. I was pretty confused by the whole thing but oddly fascinated by the show. It was nice to be able to visit and get to see a part of their life because they spend so much time coming to us. It was like watching an animal in its natural habitat. (Just kidding you guys!) 

Today I spent most of my time in the classroom setting up and writing lesson plans, school starts tomorrow so I hope that everything goes well and I can write about what a wonderful day I had! 

And now...Bed time. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You could a job...DRIVING A SCHOOL BUS!

So yesterday I turned in my Ohio license for a South Dakota license and took the written portion of my CDL (So that I can drive a SCHOOL BUS)! And I PASSED! It was pretty amazing. After passing the test we all went out to lunch in Rapid at a place called Bostons.

I did not think I was going to tell this story but looking back it just seems so funny that I should share with you all. So while we were at lunch it some how came up that I liked guys with Irish accents...not that I have met many...And Carla decided it was a fetish and proceeded to say "Hey Time... aren't you Irish"? The way that she said it and the timing were so perfect that I burst out laughing...while my mouth was full of water. Now, I can not remember a time where I have spit water out while laughing...but this made up for all the times I had managed to choke it back. I spit water all over Sarah and what was left of her lunch...I still feel pretty awful...but it was all very funny. Maybe you had to be there.

After we came home from Rapid we had our first house meeting. It was mostly discussing business but it was nice to spend time together as a house and start looking ahead to our year together...and also to be jelly fish together.

Once we finished our meeting I had the privilege of driving the big white 12 passenger van to OLL for dinner. For the past 2 weeks they have been coming out here for dinner and our meetings so it was nice to be able to come to them for a change. It was dinner for breakfast too so it was pretty worth it!
                                                 (House Photo!)

As for today...

I GOT TO DRIVE THE SCHOOL BUS! Thats right...keep the kids indoors. Driving the bus forward isn't so bad, I just have to make better friends with the gas peddle, but for anyone who knows my driving we know that won't take to long. Now, going backwards in the bus is a whole other story. That sucker is HUGE! I never use my mirrors in the car...but you can only use side mirrors in the bus...it's a weird adjustment...but I'm sure I will get used to it.

Dinner tonight was off the grill...and there was a surprising addition of grilled grasshopper covered in chocolate syrup...I did not partake.

Tomorrow we are going up to the Sioux Spiritual Center for retreat so I will not be writing again until Sunday...Just don't worry...I have not fallen off the face of the earth... hopefully.

Peace and Joy until then!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Todays life lesson: Don't fight with barbed wire...You won't win.

Today I got to go on a FIELD TRIP with Liz and Kate to Rapid City! WOOHOO! Originally we had nothing to do all after noon and we were going to have a nice leisurely trip, go out to get some lunch, do some room shopping, get some food, be calm. BUT NO! We got all call on the way there to let us know that we needed to learn bus parts today at 3.

But that is OKAY because we are rock stars. So the whole way up we jammed to some awesome music, there was a lot of dancing, and also a lot of speeding. We sped our way through target and managed to pick up some pretty awesome lights. Only $9! (I'm pretty excited about that part). After Target we made it in and out of Walmart in 30 minutes...BOOM! We EVEN stopped for subway, ice cream, and gas, and were only 7 minutes late for bus parts. HURRAY!

Sadly, I drove the car full of grocery bags up to the house and when I stepped out the door to walk over to the garage the sky opened up. I was really wet...but it was still kinda fun. Learning the bus parts was quite an adventure. I can now say that I have been under a bus...exciting I know. Hopefully I will remember them all for the test Thursday!

After dinner tonight I went on a walk which is how I learned todays life lesson...
don't worry though (mom)...my tetanus shot is up to date and it is all cleaned and bandaged and covered in neosporin...yummy.

And now that I have told you all my story of the day I am going to study up on buses and bus driving and meat hooks in semi trucks so that I pass the written test tomorrow.

Much love!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Remember that one time I couldn't move in the morning? yeah me too....

In hindsight yesterday might have been a little bit to much running around for my own good. When I woke p for mass this morning I couldn't move to turn my alarm off because I was so sore from my gorge scaling adventure and swim, but do not fret, I was able to get out of bed in time for mass at 11.

After mass I went with Liz and Maria to the pow wow, well, to outside the pow wow. Liz has family out here that was working cooking food at the pow wow (her dad was adopted by a family when he was working out here as a volunteer). It was really wonderful to be out in the community. The two little girls, sage and beans (which is a nick name for the record) set out on a mission, and it was to get us wet and muddy. We went down to the stream and it started as us racing leaves under the bridge but quickly escalated to being ankle deep in some crazy mud. I wont lie though, it was totally fabulous.

Once we managed to escape from the creek we went with the girls to the carnival section of the pow wow. They really wanted us to come on rides, but we were not interested in tossing up breakfast and lunch all over them. In the end I went down the fun slide, Maria rode the tea cups, and Liz who was unsuccessful in dodging rides ended up on the bullet... upside down. It was amazing just to be living in the moment and feeding of the joy that everyone had.

We also had Indian tacos at the pow wow, only Maria and I are both vegetarian which proved to be a challenge. At first they thought maybe we just wanted fry bread and nothing else, but after some communicating we convinced them to give us everything but the meat. It was pretty fantastic.

Tonight was spent eating dinner as a volunteer community, and talking about the pillar of community as a volunteer program. It was really great to hear so many people with so many similar ideas and goals for the year, I know it will not always be easy, but I am very excited for the best efforts we will be making to live as a community this year.

I am currently practicing self care (Greta I hope you see this!) and putting myself to bed. I hope you are all enjoying a peaceful evening!

"I carry you with me into the world,
into the smell of rain
& the words that dance between people
& for me, it will always be this way,
walking in the light,
remembering being alive together"                                  ~ Story People 

Time to cram two days into one!

Sorry about missing a day (in case anyone was disappointed) I was so tired last night that I fell asleep before I was able to write.

Yesterday we had to opportunity to hear Basil Brave Heart speak, and let me tell you, I could listen to that man speak for the rest of my life and be completely content. He spoke to us about his experiences coming to red cloud as a students, and working here now. (he came to the school in 1937). Listening to him speak about how he was able to merge the Lakota and Catholic faith really hit home for me, as I am currently going through the process of trying to balance my own faith with that of the many communities I am a part of.He also spoke very truthful about his struggles with identity crisis, and though it was difficult, I think it was important for all of us to here.

After the morning was finished a group of us went to...THE RODEO! I have never been to a rodeo before so I was pretty excited. I saw some rather small children thrown of bucking horses (this was a little concerning at first but that all jumped up right away and were fine). I also got to see on of my future students riding which was really cool! I wish that I would have been able to meet her but time did not allow.

Post rodeo activities included a nap, and some food, and a walk with Urse and Maria. The walk was really nice, but the sun set was out of this world. I tried to take some photos...but they really do not do it any justice.

When we got back from our walk it was time to head over to the pow wow. Even though we missed the grand entry I found the whole experience to be very cool. We were able to see some traditional dances along with "fancy dancing". What I found most interesting was the blend of both traditional and modern culture. For instance, many of the young adult dancers would be waling around with their clothing on...but also sporting backwards baseball caps. It was not the combination that I found so intriguing though, but more the seamless transition between old in new. I found it really cool that the younger generation has found away to embrace all parts of their culture.

Moving on to today...

 yes...Tim is feeding a puppet

This morning I got to sleep in which for anyone who knows me at all was AMAZING! After we had all eaten breakfast and made lunch we drove out in a 12 passenger van and one car to Sylvan Lake in the black hills. I do not know if I have ever seen a place quite like it, it was beautiful! We all had lunch and almost all of us went swimming in some very frigid waters. After the swim I went on a hiking exploration of the area. I spent most of my hike climbing down a gorge, I was the only person around and it was really some fantastic alone time.

When I got back from my hike I was going to jump into the lake to cool down...but what actuality happened is that Kelly and I swam across the lake to the dam. I was pretty tired out from hiking which I didn't really think about until after I was in the water, but despite that the swim was great!

On the way home we stopped for ice cream (it was delicious!) and later on we stopped for buffalo!! (they were in the road, and apparently had been ramming into sturgis bikers for quite a while). After my first encounter with a wild buffalo herd I saw several antelope grazing along the side of the highway and also many a prairie dog peaking its head out of its underground city...I felt like I was lost on an expedition in a foreign country.

My evening was pretty calm after such a big day. We made some delicious pasta and salad for dinner and washed it all down with some lime aid (I know that everyone has just been dieing to hear what I ate for dinner) haha.

All in all the past two days were pretty rockin!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I have officially been to Nebraska!

Hurray for checking more things of my life list!

Today started with breakfast for all the volunteers and more greetings by staff and principals and such. I was really glad to have the opportunity to be together with all the volunteers, I missed out on meeting people last night because my headache and I were in bed...but I felt much better today!

We went to mass again today, but I did not volunteer (or be volunteered) to lead songs, we did still have music though and it was quite nice. I also had the chance to go exploring on a walk this afternoon which was some really great alone time for me.

Tonight for dinner we went to get Chinese in Nebraska, I hope this is giving you all a since of how much there is going on here. haha. In order to get there we had to drive through the city of White Clay which is officially my least favorite place in the country. It is a town just over the border and just off reservation that exists for the purpose of selling alcohol (the reservation is dry, it is against tribal law to even be intoxicated on reservation land).  As we pulled through every building had people who just looked so battered and discouraged and lost sitting outside. It broke my heart to know that people had created a town just to profit of the misfortune and struggles of others. I may have lost a little bit of my faith in humanity after that.

Despite the downer of driving through White Clay dinner was really great. I enjoyed being with people and building the friendships we had started. Our car even tried to go to a movie, but there were only 4 to chose from ad none of them really spoke to us. Maybe next time. I am excited to be able to count Nebraska on the list of states I have been too...I hope to visit all 50 before I die.

Over all it was really a great day of getting to meet people and get a feel for the community we are going to have, it is really very beautiful. Even though I mis everyone that I have met in life I am so grateful to feel so happy and at home and truly feel like I am exactly where I need to be right now, I hope I can hold onto this feeling all year.

In other news...if its not obvious...I'm on a story poeple kick. you should check it out... http://www.storypeople.com 

"I'd like to leave you with something valuable, she said. You probably already have, I said, but we take most of our lives to remember that, even in the best of times" (Story People)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This is the bus graveyard...where buses go to die...

I did not get a permit to drive the bus today, but I did get to help out preparing the sweat lodge. We started at about 9 and plugged on through until 1 but it was really a lot of fun. It was great to get to work with some of the other volunteers and also to be outside and totally present in the land. We pulled many weeds, broke one weed waker, ran over a couple rocks with the lawn mower, carried a very full load of wood, moved rocks and rugs out of the lodge, it was all pretty intense. 

                                                 before                                                  after              
Once we were finished we went back and had lunch witch included some more of the most amazing potato salad I have ever had (I'm sad its gone!) After lunch I came back to shower and rest and ended up with a whopper of a headache, I have spent the rest of the day in bed hiding from the sun. This also meant that I was not able to go to the sweat with the other volunteers tonight, but I am sure I will have many more opportunities over the year. 

Tonight, because everyone was at the sweat or the airport, I had dinner by myself. I realized this was the first time in possibly months that I had dinner alone. It was a very strange feeling...it wasn't bad...but just odd. Lucky for me this may not happen to many times over the year... especially because we still have no kitchen. 

I also heard all kinds of news from camp today which really brought me down. It is hard to feel so excited and alive here but also know that I am missing out on such an important part of my life. If any of you are reading this know you are all in my hearts. 

Thats all I have to report, I have to be up bright and early for many hours of orientation. For now, the office and bed and happy thoughts of no more headaches! 

"You see me better than I am, she said & I'm worried what'll happen when your vision changes"
(story people, vision change) 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

School Bus Oh School Bus...

If I had not told you yet while jumping up and down...or you did not understand me in my fit of jumping up and down, part of my job this year will be driving the school bus! So today was mostly spent sitting in a group reading the manual so that we could pass the test to get a permit.

So after many hours of cramming, breaking for dinner, and doing some more cramming, Luke came to tell us that we in fact could not go to take the test because the rules have changed and we need originals of all our documents...which only a few people have. But on that note I now have until Monday to take the written test which makes me very happy.

This morning we went to take a tour of OLL which is the other middle/elementary school campus affiliated with Red Cloud. The tour was led very enthusiastic by a returning volunteer (and by that I mean we learned that the bus garage is where all the buses are. It was fantastic!) After our tour we went to "play on the playground" but we were all pretty tired. I did however watch two full grown men use a teeter-totter...pretty fantastic.

I am currently taking a break from the guitar jam session in the living room...Kelly and I are starting a folk rock band complete with the music of rise up singing. I was so excited to find someone to share in its joy with me! hehe.

There was also an amazing storm this afternoon. It blew in out of nowhere and the winds were incredible but it was gone just about as quickly as it came. I was really happy when it cooled things down from the normal 95 to about 70...right now its 63...so refreshing!

Tomorrow in the absence of the bus trip we are going to help rebuild the sweat lodge on campus...I'm sure I will have lots to report, I'm pretty excited!


Monday, August 2, 2010

I don't have much to report on today. We started our volunteer orientation which was nice. We started off the day with breakfast (and brownies FOR breakfast!) After that I was nominated to lean the music at mass even though I had no idea what I was doing. IT turned out alright though and I was proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone in order to contribute to the community. 
This afternoon I was able to see my classroom. I looks like it has a lot of potential...but the floors are mustard yellow and the walls are light yellow so I will have to find a way to work with that. I do not know who picked that color combination but I can tell you it was picked at least 30 years ago. 

I helped with cooking dinner tonight, but we had to cook at the gray house because our kitchen looks like this...
The people working on it are very nice and said that because we would be up and out of th house early tomorrow they want to try and come early and stay late and hopefully finish it...but we will see.

We also went on a tour today but it was with a group of tourists which was a little odd. At one point we thought maybe our houses should be part of the tour. I had the opportunity to walk up to the grave yard were chief red cloud is buried which was just nifty and then we also went into the cultural center which is currently housing a really cool art show (no pictures aloud...sorry). 

Tonight after dinner I went on a walk while the sun was setting. I did not get to start as soon as I had hoped...but some day soon I am going to watch the sun set from the top of one of the hills! 

Tomorrow we are going to take a tour of OLL (the other school with volunteers) and then learn about driving the buses! Should be a rockin good time! haha. 


Sunday, August 1, 2010

"But God said to him, 'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.'" (a section of the reading from todays mass)

Today started with a trip with all the other volunteers to mass at a small church about 45 minutes away. The mass was very nice and it was a completely different experience than any I have had before. The alter was covered with a star quilt clearly made by a member of the congregation and decorated with many traditional Lakota spiritual symbols as well as the more common place catholic church items. After mass we had fellowship over some very red juice and both original and chocolate animal crackers. None of us were brave enough to try the spray cheese. 

What really stung me this morning was hearing the news that a 13 year old member of the church had committed suicide this past week. What made it even worse was the harsh reminder that this complete devastation and loss is fairly common, I am not even sure how to to handle hearing news like that over and over. It also stung because I am very much in the honey moon period and this was a harsh reminder of why it is I decided to come here and the sort of struggles these people face day in and day out. 

On a happier note I was totally overcome with the welcoming atmosphere of the community. I am so painfully aware that I am a stranger here, and could easily be perceived as an intruder, but everyone was so kid and welcoming, it was really wonderful. 

This afternoon five of us took the volunteer car up to rapid city to bu groceries. I drove on the way there and the view was just breathtaking. On the way back we stop at an overlook on the side of the road just as you cross into Pine Ridge. The vast emptiness of this country is so calming and peaceful, there are really no words. 

Looking out at this open land with nothing but hill and sky as far as you can see is really very humbling. I think that it reminds me how powerful and beautiful the earth is, something that has been very easy to forget while you are living in the city, I have really never seen anything like it. (on a side not everyone who told me I would fall in love with the land...you were so very very right). 

(this is last night...the sun is only setting on half the sky!)

Tonight we had a social and dinner at the Jesuit Residence. It was great to get to meet even more people and to become closer with the other volunteers...there was a lot of laughter at the table...and it was wonderful. After dinner we went on a walk and then came back and a few of us went to the house with a kitchen (our cottage is currently having the kitchen remodeled) and had some tea. We did the same thing last night and it is really a very peaceful end to the day. I am hoping to make it a habit (at least until the weather takes a turn to winter). 

Tomorrow we are starting our new volunteer orientation, I'm not sure how exciting it will be to report on but I am very excited to get started!