El Paso

El Paso

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Welcome to Annunciation House (5/29/15)

    I figure I should talk a little about the organization that I will be working with for the next 2 months.  Annunciation House is a Catholic organization that started back in 1978, originally to serve and live in solidarity with the poor of El Paso. The founders, who had literally dropped everything in their lives to make this effort, soon discovered that the poorest of the poor were people that couldn’t even get into the two available homeless shelters in the city – immigrants, particularly ones without papers (i.e. the undocumented).  Soon after this realization, A-House began housing immigrants, and the volunteers/founders that started it were living with them.
    This is a very shortened history of A-House, and I do not know much of the history between the initial years of after its founding and now, but the organization now consists of three locations: Annunciation House, Casa Vides, and Loretto (I will talk about this last one in another post).  A-House is the main house, and is more unpredictable than Casa Vides. A-House has short-term guests, long-term guests, undocumented people, unaccompanied minors, people from various countries (including Ghana and Nigeria), and so on.  Casa Vides is more long term for families waiting for processing documents and social security guests.  Social security guests are women, typically pretty up there in age, who had husbands or fathers that worked in the United States as a citizen or resident and are eligible for Social Security benefits. To get these benefits, they either have to come to the US once a month to sign some papers or live in the US for one month every six months.  Many choose to stay with us for one month every six months, as many come from the south of Mexico and take 20-30 hour bus rides to get here. (Mind you, many of these women are in their sixties).  This makes where I am staying fairly calm, and there is a really nice, familial atmosphere about the house.
    So what the volunteers do is help the houses run.  There is a volunteer on shift each day in each house, and that volunteer assists residents with anything they may need, they make sure that there is enough laundry soap, toilet paper, etc. stocked around the house, we sort through food donations to get rid of what is going bad, and so on.  Each volunteer is assigned specific guests that we attend to, but not exclusively. We also can each have shifts at Loretto. When we are not on shift and are not officially off, it is best if we hang around and spend time with the guests, which I find to pretty great (I’ll mention some specific guests in later post ).  To be honest, this job is almost exactly like being a Community Advisor (Resident Assistant) in a residence hall back at college.
    That is the general gist of what we do here, and I am sure there is more that I will continue learning through to the end of orientation.  If you all want to look more into the organization, please visit annunciationhouse.org!

Until next time, I send you all some light and love,

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Welcome to El Paso (5/23/15)

            I know am still in the United States, still in the country that I was born in, but I feel a world apart.  During my first hour upon my arrival in El Paso, the warm climate wrapped around me like a welcomed embrace; the introduction to the house where I will be living for the next two months-plus felt like a beautiful day dream, and I found out that I really really suck at Spanish.  When I entered Casa Vides, one of the few houses of Annunciation House that I am posted at for my internship, I was welcomed by some of the cutest, sweetest Mexican grandmas that the world could culminate in its imagination.  They were greeting me, embracing me, and saying things that I could not make out within my limited range of Spanish skills.  Maria, a year-long intern here, showed me around the building, and let me get settled into my new room.  The walls are painted white, with the outermost layer cracked and chipped in a way that gives it some nice personality.  There are to twin beds, one for me and one for my roommate, Paige, and a window that allows in so much natural sunlight that I might just cry from happiness. (Did I mention that I am on the second floor?)  Right outside of the room, there is a nice chill-out area for the interns, with the essential comfy couches that one necessitates for loafing on after a day full of doing work and other various activities, and some books and a tea pot to top it off.  Oh, not to mention the door that leads to the little balcony area.  (So Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house? I can see Mexico from mine!)  Also connected to this little lounge area are the two bedrooms for the two year-long volunteers stationed here. 

                I feel like I really lucked out here because two of the other summer interns were placed in a floor-level room without the easy access to the things that I just mentioned above.  But I didn’t feel bad about that for too long.  I took a nap, because a flight that leaves before 6am means one sleep-deprived traveler, and then decided to explore the area a little bit.  I left the house and headed southeast, finding a busy part of the city very close by. I hit a street, conveniently named El Paso, that ran perpendicular to what I was on and followed it.  There were clothing shops galore, and I couldn’t help but notice that every single word I was hearing around me was in Spanish.  I was surrounded by a new language.  Cars passing were blasting Latin music; I could hear the street vendors indicating sales (I assume) in a different tongue; and I started to realize, for not the first time in my life, that I was one of the few white people around. (Funny how things come back around.)  Upon my stroll down El Paso, I noticed the stores come to an end and a border station not too far ahead of me.  Mexico.  It was so close I could feel it.  Or maybe I felt like I was already there on this street that was flitting with Mexican music and phrases and people. 

But I can feel that I wasn’t.  One day I’ll venture to the other side of the border crossing, but not today.  At the moment, I was really hungry, not having eaten a real meal since dinner the night before (it was lunch time), and spent the rest of my exploration period wandering around for a place that wasn’t Burger King or McDonald’s where I could have decent meal.  I finally stumbled upon Martha’s CafĂ©, a cute little joint that served mainly Mexican food.  (This, delicious-sounding establishment was the perfect venue for my first meal here, though I had to ask the waiter to interpret my meal choice because heck if I know what half the stuff was and I am a vegetarian that doesn’t want to slip up and order a dish with meat in it.) I decided on enchiladas (YUM!), and enjoyed my meal in beautiful solitude, with some occasional glances at BBC World News on my iPhone.

This is where my life has taken me for now, to the edge, or the border if you will, of the world I was born in to.  I hope to detail some of my experiences here.  I hope those who choose to follow my blog will enjoy some tales and musings that I will be writing about, and will hopefully benefit from them as well.

Until next we meet, I send you all my love,