New Mexico: Days 1-3

03/23/08

Welcome to New Mexico!  We’re staying in Gallup to work with schools and clubs around the Navajo Reservation.   Kirsten Fix and Daniel Bae are leading our trip, and the other participants are Jessica Clarke, Anne Gorman, Alison Dubchansky, Shane Rivera, Tomo Ueno, Dana Levin, Hannah Bushner, and Erika Merz.

We arrived in Albuquerque on Saturday afternoon, and checked into La Quinta hotel.  We met up Leigh and her husband, who are both LC alumni working as teachers in Albuquerque.  After dinner, we explored downtown Albuquerque and one group stayed and walked around Central Street.

The next day, we split into two groups to travel to Gallup.  One group stayed in Albuquerque to visit the Pueblo Cultural Center, which was filled with artifacts and historical information about the 19 pueblo tribes.  The other group drove through Old Town and saw the traditional houses and stores.  Along the way to Gallup, we stopped at the petroglyphs and walked along the cliffs where Native Americans and early settlers had inscribed their names.

As we stepped out of the cars in Gallup, we were nearly blown away by the forceful winds!  It was still sunny and beautiful, but the windchill chilled to the bones.  Sharon, the pastor’s wife, showed us around the Stronghold Church where we are staying for the week.  Many Gallup residents trickled into the church that evening for an enchilada potluck.  We sat around and listened to Virginia, a Navajo woman, sharing her stories and traditions.  She was raised in a hogan (traditional Navajo house) with no running water or electricity.  Her parents spoke only Navajo.  She described the wedding ceremony, a coming-of-age ceremony for girls, and how difficult it is to keep the traditions alive with her own children.  After dinner, we played a rousing game of Farkle, a joyous dice game.   The community of Gallup has been so hospitable and welcoming.

Today, Monday, we woke up at 7:15 and were surprised by the startling cold, both inside and out.  We met up with Karl, the director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Gallup and he arranged for us to go on a hike up Pyramid Trail with some of the workers for the Youth Conservation Corps.  We were introduced to three young men, Ryan, Lamuel, and Arson.  They shared much about their personal lives growing up in Gallup and about the culture of the Navajo. They were proud to show us all the work that they’ve done on the Pyramid Trail.  The landscape was beautiful, filled with  red rock, caverns worn into the cliffs by the wind, jutting sandstone towers and views for miles.  We got to the top of the “pyramid” and paused take lots of pictures, have a snack, and reflect on the beauty around us.

We came back to the church for lunch, and a group left to find some public showers to wash off the dust from our hike.  After our break, we went to the Boys and Girls Club to meet all of the children.  We worked with elementary school kids, who we helped with homework for an hour and then were free to play.  We had the choices of arts and crafts, basketball, break dancing, ping pong, and touring the neighborhood on bikes (weather permitting).  The kids were enthusiastic and full of energy and curiousity about our group.

Next, we met up with Landon, the regional director of Teach for America of New Mexico, and also an LC alumn.  We toured their new center and discussed the many triumphs and challenges of the program.  Then together we drove to El Matate, a family-owned Mexican restaurant where we met Anne Long, a second-grade teacher at the school we’ll be working at tomorrow, and another LC alumn.

Now we are relaxing after our busy day, and contemplating all of our experiences by journaling and reading and hopefully getting enough sleep before our 7:00 wake-up call tomorrow!

From the “Land of Enchantment,”

Jessica and Anne

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