Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Shalom, Esperanza, and Love"

Each day my group serves at "My Sister's Place" in the morning and the "Esperanza Center" in the afternoon. My Sister's Place is a Women's Center close to the Basilica, and our team serves breakfast to any women who came in to the center. It is interesting serving there because I dinn't realized the intimacy of touching someone's food. The people there were all so polite and at the same time I feel so awkward about food service. I probably shouldn't be a waitress! However, I love doing dishes and working with the kitchen staff there.

The afternoon (well, not really afternoon, 9:30 am is still morning, just not as early and 5:45) is so cool. I took something like 6 years of Spanish, and I was always annoyed by the time it took to learn and how very little I use it. Visiting the Esperanza Center made my Spanish skills useful as  I connected with Hispanic immigrants learning English. One of my team members pointed out the similarities in her own frustration with learning a new language and the frustrations of these students learning English and trying to understand the idiosyncrasies of our language. Even though I'm a native English speaker and I would certainly consider myself fluent, I only scored Intermediate on the fluency test that I took (the one that is given to students when they "graduate" from the center). That was eye-opening, to say the least. I am starting to think that every US born citizen should have to take the citizenship test. Not to revoke their native born citizenship or anything, but just to realize what it's like.

I've decided that my theme for the week is "Shalom, Esperanza, and Love". Translated, loosely that would mean Peace, Hope and Love. Which I know is cheesy and cliched, but let me explain it. Shalom in the City is, of course, the title of our program. Shalom applies to the stress free feeling that this week is giving me. I'm not thinking about school, I'm thinking about other people, and I'm connected to God through my journal. Esperanza is not only the name of the center where I'm working, bu also the feeling I get when I work there. I love watching light bulbs go off, watching how hard the students work and the other teachers, who have been doing this much longer than I, patiently explaining English to them so that they have a mre hopeful future. And then, of course, Love, which applies to all three,but especially for the feeling I get in the evenings, when all of us come back from our site and the giggles and games and group discussions are rampant. It's so hard to believe that I haven't known all the other students for my whole life, because they are all so social and we automatically formed a community. If we stretch the meaning of Shalom a tiny bit (and my application of it works better for this anyway), you could say that my theme verse for the week is 1st Corinthians 13:13.

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