Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Service Immersion Day 2: "It tastes like a flower!"

As the sun rose above San Diego on this Sunday morning, the group woke from deep sleep after an early morning flight and a full day of fun and sun. Some walked over a block to 7:20 mass, others went for a run by the beach, and others, like myself, slept in to get some much needed shut eye. Knowing our meeting time, everyone prepared on their own terms, many figuring out a shower system. There is only 1 indoor shower (2 if you count the male shower and since there are 6 females to 1 male, the girls have also taken over the male shower as well). We ate breakfast, prepared and packed our lunches for our trip to the San Diego Zoo. 

We loaded into the mom van and headed out for a full day at the recommended and renowned zoo. I must tell you that this zoo is unlike any that I have been to. I was so impressed and felt that it was definitely worth the visit. The environment was so natural, you almost forgot that you were in a zoo. The zoo also is a highly visited botanical garden. The joke of the morning was whether or not people were bringing jackets. Even at 9:30 am as we stepped out of the car in the parking lot (which parking was surprisingly free) we all knew that this day would be full of sunscreen re-application. The zoo was full of families with strollers in tow. There were also a huge amount of couples young and old holding hands and completely in love. The zoo offered many traveling options including a Skytram which is similar to a ski lift, a guided bus tour where you can learn about the zoo and some of the animals. I loved getting to know the animal's names. Our group stayed together for almost all of the 6 total hours that we wandered around the massive acreage of land.

The cool Sky tram

One of my favorite animals at the zoo, a polar bear.

I think this picture depicts the natural vibe of the zoo. This was the guided tour bus that we rode.

Fun sign

Angel, Maggie and Alicia on the bus

Maggie & Alicia having fun!

My FAVORITE animal at the zoo. I could have watched these elephants all day!

Another one of my favorite animals. A red panda. They were so thirsty in the San Diego heat. We all just fell in love with their cuteness!

I gave up techonology this week to be more present in this experience. Yesterday upon arriving I turned off all of my notifications for email, calendar, sportscenter and anything else on my phone that made noise, calling me to pay attention to it. I also vowed to not check facebook. For that, I logged off on my phone. I noticed that I was much more aware and appreciative of my surroundings today at the zoo. I was able to observe and watch the animals, carry on conversations with the students as well as observe the people that were around.  The zoo was amazing, a must see if you stay in San Diego. We all left content, exhausted and sunburned.

We arrived back at the church. We had time to rest a little bit. Most slept. I went outside and prayed and then read more of Enrique’s journey (book I am reading for the JASPA conference that I fly straight to after this trip. Ironically it is about immigration). Upon our arrival back at the church we met Marie Elena (I am not sure if this is the correct spelling of her name), the woman who will be cooking for us the rest of the week. Juan Carlos, our host from Via International, had informed me that she doesn’t speak English but she understands most. I figured everything would be ok. Well I went to speak with her and asked her if we needed to help her. She spoke back to me in Spanish and we both realized that we would not be able to communicate effectively. So I went to find Angel, the only male student and our lifesaver since he speaks Spanish. He was able to speak with her. I felt so helpless in this situation. How can I interact with this woman, who will be around us the next four days, if I can’t verbally communicate with her?I am very challenged by this. 

As I shared with the students tonight, I know basic Spanish but I am just not confident enough to speak it, fearing that I will disrespect someone in the process. I have always wanted to learn Spanish and even after Day 1, I feel that this trip might push me to embark on that journey. Marie Elena cooked us an amazing dinner. Homemade chicken enchiladas, rice and beans. She also made a drink for us. It was explained to us as hibiscus water. It was a dark burgundy, almost the color of grape juice. We grabbed glasses for everyone to try some. Everyone was a little skeptical, so I tried it first. I enjoyed the unique taste. In seeing this, everyone else started to drink it. Maggie, one of the students, tasted it and says “It tastes like a flower.” Of course everyone laughed. We waited until Marie Elena sat with us before we began eating. Dinner was even more silent than normal. How do we interact with this woman? How do we show her thanks, include her or let her know how amazing the food she prepared was? Thank goodness for Angel. He spoke to her in Spanish and I think the whole group was more at ease now that we felt that she felt included. I asked Angel to ask her how she made the water. She began speaking in Spanish and Angel explained that she boiled the flower in water and then added sugar. And we all were astonished to find out that Maggie was right, it does taste like a flower because it was truly cooked from a flower. 

Full, exhausted and filled with excitement and nervousness about our first day of service the next day, we all climbed into onto our air mattresses and fell asleep.

The girls room. My "bed" is the one on the far right.

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