El Paso

El Paso

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Tribute to Some People (5/27/15)

             I like discovering people that I feel I can look up to.  Usually my go-to’s of the people that inspire me are Elizabeth Gilbert, Malala Yusafzai, Aung San Suu Kyi, Eve Ensler, and others. It usually isn’t people my age, though there are some, such as many of my friends that I find to be incredible and amazingly inspirational.  (Also, my little sister Jordan who has so much energy and life in her.)   I am getting a sense that some of the year-long volunteers are going to be added to my list.  For example, Maria is a year-long volunteer at Casa Vides, where I am also stationed.  Only a few days into orientation, and I could already sense that she is has one of the kindest souls that I have encountered in my life thus far.  She has some amazing relationships with the people in the house; she is so good with the kids; she is very dedicated to the house and making it be the best that it can.  She has an amazing relationship with Vicki, an 82 year old woman who has been living here for 2 years.  I see a love between them that I don’t often encounter and that I want to someday experience.  (I would say I love my great-grandma in the same way, but I only see my grandma every so often when I make the trip to Cleveland to go see her.)  This love is a beauty of life that only humans can transmit, and that each of us can cultivate within ourselves if we try to.  Maria also jams on her acoustic guitar and enjoys reading, which right now is a feminist book entitled “cunt”.  

There a few guests also named Maria, but there is one Maria in particular that I have grown quite fond of.  This Maria is in her early sixties, has some sight issues, and is very patient with me when I am practicing my Spanish with her.  I often see her in the sala, appearing to be waiting patiently for one of the volunteers to come over and talk to her, and she readily welcomes our company.  Maria observes other guests, and I can infer her opinion of them by the way she talks about them to me.  For example, she has watched another guest, Margarita, when she eats many times in a day, and comments on the large size of Margarita’s body (està gorda!).  This woman knows more about me in many respects than the other volunteers here (For example, she knows that I like to sleep without clothes on when I’m at my own house.)Unfortunately, Maria is leaving on tomorrow, which is something sad for both of us. Who would have known that it only takes so little time for someone to make their way into your heart? 

But enough about good-byes! I want to talk about Chayito.  Chayito arrived this last week with a new round of social security guests with her mom.  Chayito has Down’s syndrome.  She is, and I still can’t believe this, 37 years old. She likes playing candy crush and pool, and she’s not half bad at both.  I played her in pool yesterday (which was just us and one of her friends, Andrea (she also has special needs) trying to get whatever balls we could into the little net thingy’s (is there a word for those?).  Seeing her reminds me of my brother, Evan, who also has Down’s syndrome.  Each moment that I spend with her is a moment spent with my brother.  (Similar to each moment that I spend with Vicki, I feel like I am with my great-grandma).  Chayito and I have only known each other for about 2 days, but I truly look forward to her being here and spending time with her for the next month.

Gustavo is 16, and he is here with his mother and brother.  He is an amazing artist, wants to be a culinary artist, and knows some English that he sometimes surprises me with. (His brother, Julian, also surprises me with the phrases he knows, like, “don’t touch me.”)  There is a little art studio/ food joint / bar / place that sometimes has live music place two doors down from Casa Vides.  There are garage doors with murals that lead to this place, called the Rock House, and one of them is one that Gustavo painted.  It is a psychedelic looking painting, with a colorful woman with flowers in hair, some alligators in the background, and fire. It is really good, and I admire Gustavo for his artistic skills, especially with this one water color of jellyfish he once showed me and the other volunteers.  I feel like I took on him, Julian, and Alejandro (a seven year old here) as little brothers.

If you are wondering how I am communicating with the guests here, I can tell you that immersion does wonders for developing Spanish skills.  It’s only been about one week, and I feel so much better with my Spanish skills (again, much of this is attributed to my practice with guest-Maria).  It is no longer a language that I feel is outside of myself.  I feel like is now under my skin, in the back of my thoughts, and as long as I continue to use and practice it, I know it will improve considerably.

I also want to give a shout out to the rest of the volunteers at Casa Vides (Paige, Alice, Kassy, and Cory), who all seem pretty cool and will be a great support network to have when we hit some bumps along the road. Paige is vegan, LGBT, likes the guitar, and is pretty cool roommate.  Alice is actually a citizen of France, but I am pretty sure she has lived in the states for most of her life.  Kassy appears to have a light, spritely, kind soul.  I often see her sitting in the back yard area, and part of me wonders where her mind drifts off to during that time, or if she is just focusing on the music that she’s listening to.  Cory is the other year-long intern at the house.  He’s 26, 6’4”, and has some crazy curly brown hair going on.  He seems pretty chill, for lack of a better word, but I don’t yet know too much about him, like the others. 

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


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