Something Old, Something New

It was spring of 2014 when I sat at a McDonald’s table. My laptop buzzing loudly, my fries on my tray with a half eaten McChicken, I stared hard at my laptop screen with my word document of a paper that was barely started. It was a research paper I was writing, something that wasn’t uncommon for me as a college English Major. I remember the time so vividly because when I first walked in with my backpack slung on my right shoulder I noticed an elderly couple sitting at a table immediately to my left. They were drinking coffee and talking to each other like best friends. No one else was sitting inside, but drive-thru buzzed with car upon car. “I need another Big Mac for that order.” I could hear the manager shout to the kitchen as he was preparing the bag of food for the car at the window. I slowly approached the counter where the girl smiled and asked me what I wanted. I gave her my order and then nestled myself into a booth by an outlet. Pulling out my laptop and my notebook that had sloppily written notes on several pages. My laptop groaned as I turned it on. My order number was called and I grabbed my food. Then I set out to work.

I was about a half hour into writing my paper when I heard the elderly man go up and ask for more coffee (I was fairly close to the counter as that’s where the booths were, kiddie-corner from the ordering counter). His wife stood nearby not to far from my booth, and when the husband walked back to her he gave her her cup and they proceeded to go out the second door (one would have to walk past my booth to go out this door). I was watching them as they were shuffling their way out, and the husband looked at my laptop and to me and smiled. I smiled back.
“So you working on school work?”
“Yes sir. I’m working on a research paper for a class.”
“Ah. Wow, you must be a hardworker.”
I was curious as to how he could make that conclusion by only seeing me working on my laptop. “Well, my mom and dad tell me hard work will pay off in the end.”
“Where do you go to school?”
“At UW-Green Bay.”
“Ahh, okay. I know a professor there. His name is ___” (I can’t remember the name as it wasn’t a professor I was familiar with)
“Oh, I’ve never had them as a professor. I study English.”
By this point him and his wife had maneuvered their way to my table.
“Do you want to become a teacher.”
“No actually. I like editing and writing, so I’d do something with that.”
“Well that’s not a bad thing either. We always need writers.” And that old man smiled at me. Then without hesitation him and his wife sit down. Right there at my booth, as if I had invited them there like we were old friends. I wasn’t annoyed or scared, just kind of taken back by their willingness to want to sit down with a young person and have a conversation. Like it’s something they always do. Like there wasn’t a fifty or sixty age gap between us. For the next hour and a half we talked about many things. Science. Marriage. Food. Coffee. Politics. Religion. Cities of Wisconsin. It turns out the old man is from a city that’s probably half hour away from my house, the old woman is from Green Bay. In that short time span I learned a lot about them, and they learned quite a bit about me. I didn’t even care that it took into my writing time because it felt nice to just be able to connect with a generation outside of my own.

That story crossed my mind yesterday as I sat in a McDonald’s drinking my coffee trying to figure out some tax information. I procrastinated hard core this year in getting them done earlier (surprise…not like I don’t procrastinate everything). I was just getting the software downloaded when this old man was taking off his jacket at the table in front of me. He was alone. I smiled at him as he looked at me and he noticed my baggy grey sweatshirt I was wearing.
“Green Bay huh. You a fan of Green Bay.”
“No. I just went to school there.”
“Ah, where did you go to school?”
“Uw-Green Bay.”
He then started telling me about this famous and great coach that went there–Tony Bennett. Now I don’t know exactly who that is, except that I would pass by his picture on our “Wall of fame” in MAC hallway. I knew of him. This man pulled out his smart phone and spoke into it, “Tony Bennett” so he could show me all about him. Yes, a smart phone. It was an interesting site. After talking to me about sports for some time, he introduced himself as Larry*. Turns out, this gentlemen worked at the same place as my dad does now and actually lives next door to my dad.
“Small world” I say.
And for another three hours this gentleman and I talked about a multitude of things. I learned his granddaughter committed suicide last year. I learned his ex-wife was a drinker (which is why he divorced her) and that she drank herself to death. I also learned he was an avid antics seller on eBay. At one point he thought he asked me if he was boring me to death. I told him no, but I would have to leave for work soon. He asked me where I worked and if I liked it. In the end, before we departed, he told me to stop over anytime, he loves company.

It so interesting how a simple smile can turn into a three hour conversation. The simple things in life sometimes have a way of being more important than they’re given credit for. A smile towards a stranger. A hug for a coworker. A “Hi” in passing. It all adds up to something more meaningful. It’s so cliche to say it, but it’s so true. In the end, yeah sure I might have to prep my time a bit more precariously to get stuff done, but in the end I could have made that old man’s day. And quite frankly he made mine.

So even if you feel like your insignificant (I often times feel like I am), just remember you aren’t. A coworker might have wanted to commit suicide but because you went out of your way to message them “Hey. Can’t wait to work with you today!” could really can brighten their day.

Remember to smile and carry your head up high. Because you are a rockastar. #bless

I graduated….now what do I do?

On Saturday, May 14, I did something. I had to wear a special ‘dress’ and a very uncomfortable hat. For 3 hours. Standing and sitting. Sitting and standing. Up and down. Squished between people. Walking forward. Across. Then down and around. People watched. People clapped. Many smiled, A few cried. And as I was given my official green book and told “Congratulations” several times, I couldn’t help but reflect on the journey I’ve taken to get here.

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My cousin, her two children and me

Starting Route to Green Bay

It was a hot and humid August day when I turned onto the half circle called Walter Way. My would-be roommate had already moved in a week before, but she was out of town until the first day of classes (which was 5 days away). Before I set out to unload my car that I had strategically packed like a game of Tetris, I went to the Community Center on campus to check in.

It was officially official since I checked in that I was attending UW-Green Bay, a mere 3 hours away from the place I called home. After I finished unloading my old, red Corsica, and sprawled everything of mine across the floor, I stretched my body across my mattress that lay bare of anything, even a simple pillow.

Thoughts flooded my mind.
This is it. College. My room. No dog. No cats. No turtles. No horse outside. The closest people I knew were a good 45 minute drive away. Needless to say, I was scared out of my mind. “What have I done?” I thought to myself.

After some time of unpacking, my RA (Resident Assistant) Andrew knocked on my door to tell me that I am to be in the lounge downstairs for a meeting within the next few minutes. So I headed down, walked in, and stood fairly close to the door. The room was full, and I was so shy around new people. Then a few minutes after me walked in a girl with red hair with blonde bangs. She avoided eye contact and stood next to the door. The beginning of the meeting we were told to turn to the person next to us and chat with them.
“Hi, I’m Angel.”
“I’m Cynthia.”

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Forever my favorite picture of Cynthia and me

I didn’t think we’d be friends for long, because I kind of suck at making and keeping friends. It turns out, she was just as awkward as me. Cynthia was my first friend, and as time went on, our friendship blossomed into a stronger bond. After our first year, we roomed together for the next three years. Our friendship soon turned into weird and sarcasm 99% of the time; she truly was, and I’d still consider her today, my best friend. In the end, I think I needed her as much as she needed me.

The first friend in college is always important. It might be a roommate, but not always. I’ve met a girl who pretty much hated her roommate. However chances are, a first friend will be a lifelong friend. Cynthia taught me that.


The Struggle was Real

Let me just come right out and say it: my faith was consistently put on trial. College was the craziest experience of my life because I was afraid of being judged, and I hated having to answer questions like why didn’t I cut hair or why did I always wear skirts. Some days I felt confident in who I was, while other days I debated about changing myself to look more “normal.”

Then, my relationship with my ex was starting to become more rocky. We fought more. I felt insecure with myself which often caused me to react to certain situations in a very negative way. My insecurities lead him to be more insecure which caused a rift in our communication. After dating and fighting for three years, we decided to go our separate ways. Honestly, I think we’re both happier now.

These challenges taught me that I wasn’t being honest with myself and those who truly cared about me. I didn’t tell people I was struggling. I barely asked for prayer. I pretended I was a faithful servant. It’s easy faking. It’s hard to be real.

Fish are Friends (and we like Food)

I was privileged to befriend several people throughout my time. Carrie was my first friend I made in a class. We met in Spanish. I also met Andrea in Spanish. Both turned out to know each other and I can say they are very close friends.

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(L-R) Carrie, me and Andrea

I met Skyler in an English class. They are definitely one of my best friends. We’ve had so many adventures that it’s hard to pick which is my favorite…ah the memories!

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Skyler loves their chickens!

Faith and I were just meant to be. From small town Albany, one of her best friends, Natasha, moved to the Dells while we were in high school, and of course I knew Natasha. So when Faith became my RA, and we discovered this link between us, we became fast friends.

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Faith and I

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve met so many wonderful people like Abby, Marie, Andrew, Amber, many Emily’s, Shane, Danielle, Rosie, Scott, Haley, Kim, Brad, Ashley, Brigitta, Rachel, Olly, Kyle, Aaron, many Amanda’s, Trevor, Katie’s, and several other people whom I can’t name at the top of my head. From coffee dates, to casual chats, to classroom friends, to hanging out, to school trips, to eating pizza because we like food, friends are vital for emotional support and just overall keeping the stress levels to a minimum.

Ending Route in the Future

Two most popular questions for me as a college student: “What are you studying?” and “Oh English, aye, so do you wanna be a teacher?” Why no, because I am not a teacher. Patience? Yes. Capabilities? No.

13224347_1163884066989632_1716097687_oJ.K. Rowling once said, “I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that would never pay a mortgage or secure a pension. I know that the irony strikes with the force of a cartoon anvil now.” I know that I enjoy writing, reading, and editing. If Rowling can overcome her childhood, I think I can too.
Though I do hope to someday, I don’t know if I’ll ever get to write a book. I don’t know where I’m supposed to go, or what I’m supposed to do, but I do know that I have a God who will show me and provide a way for me to head towards the future.

Westward: Like the Setting Sun (part 4)

Wednesday

Sunlight plays peek-a-boo through the yellowed blinds, and shutters my body awake. I let out a silent groan thinking “I want to sleep,” but my mind keeps wandering to the day plans. I clamber out of bed to go fill my grumbling stomach with a bagel. Then Skyler, Ashley, and I go out to explore the grounds a little more. Behind the school we see a dome shaped green house and an old looking building with chipped white paint which is probably used as a storage shed. A couple yellow-orange buses are parked, with the words “Red Cloud Indian School Pine Ridge, South Dakota” gleaming in shiny black paint on the side, dried mud is splattered across the the bottom part.

DSC04253Being considerate of our time we play on the playground a bit before heading back towards our rooms so we could get started with the plans for the day. First on our agenda is to stain a deck and the skirting of a trailer for a local woman named Robin. In the previous year, the group had helped with fixing up the home, but it was a surprise to hear that she still had yet to actually move in.

After some time into our work, Robin comes by to introduce herself to us; her daughter and son-in-law, Daisy and Nolan, also come to visit along with their five children. We decide to take a break and have lunch together. Lola, one of the girls, is coloring with Ashely. Although she is super shy at first, soon her chipper personality bubbles out. After some time, we say our goodbyes and go back to finishing the little bit of work we had left. Then we head back to Red Cloud before our departure to the other school.DSCF4427

Painting horses, a Game of Ninja, and a Skateboard

I start out in the painting room again, and sit next to Twila. She doesn’t say much in the time she sits next to me, but I can tell that she is intrigued by my painting. I glide the paintbrush with brown paint over the paper, making curves and lines until at last I have a horse. I see her hand copying the same motions. Then I goop some black paint to make a mane and tail. She makes her paintbrush do the same. At last we both finish our bay horses, “Wow, that looks really good, Twila! You’re an artist!” A smile slithers across her face. I smile back.

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Ninja

We head to dinner, and then play a game of Ninja afterwards, a game that I have yet to master to this day. Then we shuffle off to play Bingo with the kids and some of their family members. I don’t win anything, which I am definitely ok with, because I would find it hard to decide on which kid I’d give the prize to. There is a young man sitting diagonally from me who gets a Bingo and wins a skateboard. He is super excited to be able to share it with his best friend.

A Hospital Far From Reach

 We travel to the one and only hospital on the reservation in Pine Ridge, and a lady who has been here for 11 years now gives us a tour and talks to us about the hospital. One hospital and two health care centers on 3,469 square miles of land. To put that in perspective, that’s one hospital and two health care centers for 3.32 Rhode Island’s, or 1.78 Delaware’s.

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To put in perspective how far away each city is, here is a map with the three cities on the reservation marked in green as well as the proximity of where Rapid City would be.

As the lady is talking to us she mentions how there are two health care centers located in Kyle and Wanblee, and there is one ambulance being utilized because they are extremely short staffed. For some people, it can be a 2 hour trip to the hospital. The next nearest hospital is located in Rapid City another 2 hours away. It made me think of how we as Americans can easily take for granted what’s given to us, and quickly become oblivious to problems right in front of us. We’re too blessed and that has made us spoiled.

The more I hear the woman speak about her family and how much she actually enjoys her job and just wishes there were more people willing to help, the more my brain rattles on about how I have to come back. Someday.

To learn more about the Native American Health Services here.

Westward: Like the Setting Sun (part 3)

DSCF4310Tuesday

My phone buzzes me awake. It’s 6:30 a.m. I grumble as I turn over and get out of bed; I slowly get dressed to head out on a hike with Skyler.

We head outside, there a light powder of snow dusts the ground and rocks, and a chill clings in the air. I feel as if I never seen snow before! Skyler and I explore and wander for a good hour, and talk about life. It feels amazing to be out in the ‘mountains’ where time doesn’t matter.

We traverse back to the dining hall to begin our day, and get everything together for our week ahead of us. The van hauls us to Pine Ridge Reservation.
On the way, we spot several Bison on the side of the road, so we stop and gander at them.

Bison!
Photo Credit:Brad Fischer

A School for Red Cloud’s Children

For the next few days we will be staying at Red Cloud, a K-12 “private” school (it’s really public, but works in a private school sense). The building is composed of old red clay brick, and has stood here for over a hundred years. Being built in the late 1800’s, it’s actually the oldest school on the Reservation. One part of the building has “face wall.” In front of the school stands a church, replicated from the church that burned down in prior years.

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The “Face Wall”

On the school’s left and split between the road is a cemetery covered in old weathered gravestones, and yellowed grass dead from the winter and most likely unruly in the summer.There is a small fenced space reserved for Chief Red Cloud and his wife. Chief Red Cloud had a desire to build a school for the children, so he set out to do it. DSCF4351.JPG

A School, Kids, and a Fog

It’s around 2 p.m. when we arrive at the Pine Ridge Public School. Here the children stay throughout the week, and then go home on the weekend. We are going to set up board games, an area for painting, and we have some outdoor equipment ready to play with the children. It wasn’t too long after our arrival that we were given the distraught news about an 8th grade girl who committed suicide only three days earlier. Then it hit me, there is a musty fog in the air thickened with depression, and these kids are stuck in the midst of it all. They can’t escape as easily as we can, because the eleven of us are only here for three days.

I stick myself in the painting room because it is the one area I could easily work and make connections. I sit down at a table with a few young ladies who are making “R.I.P.” posters for the girl who committed suicide. It’s sad to see, but at the same time it’s good that they are coping and healing with the tragedy in a healthy way. I feel a connection with a girl named Tristiana, she is sweet and petite. Her straight black hair is a tad past her shoulders; her bangs are brushed to the side. Other group members make a bond as well    Skyler with Twila, Lacey with Diamond, Kim with Dillonte, and Ashley with Natalia and Mystic. Another girl named Espy made this amazing anime art piece    she truly has an amazing gift. DSCF4368.JPG

At dinner time Tristiana saves a spot for me. I ease myself into a seat next to her. I am really amazed with the children because they all finish their food; they are grateful for their food. We finish eating and then go back to continue our activities until it’s time to go. The end of our first day at the school is a success!

Ken the Volunteer

Back at Red Cloud, we are introduced to Ken, a volunteer of two years. He talks about his time that he’s spent here, and how he is a gym coach. He truly puts his heart in his job. I only wish that there was a more awareness of this treasurable place that is treated just as poorly as a third world country, and a deeper understanding of what it truly means to give time and love to our own brothers.

This trip, so far, is a real eye opener; it’s one thing to read articles about suicides, or about the poverty-stricken land, but to feel and breathe and live it is a deeper comprehension.

You can read more about the history of Red Cloud Indian School here.

Kid’s Club

I trudge my tired feet towards my car. The built up ice and snow on the sidewalks makes me want to turn around and snuggle in my blankets watching Netflix with a big ole cup of hot chocolate. When I reach my car I sit in the seat and let out a deep sigh. Do I really want to go to work today? Do I want to deal with so-and-so’s attitude? Do I really want to get called fat…again? Not really, but I crank the start key of my Oldsmobile, put it in drive, and go off to Crazy-Kid Land.

On my way to work I crank up my music. It’s only a twenty minute drive, but I gotta get in an upbeat mood before I set foot on school grounds. If I’m not in a good mood or energetic, then I can’t expect to have a positive interaction among any of the kids. And if some of the kids don’t have a positive home life (many don’t), then I need to be the one happy thing in their life.

When I get to the Elementary school, the one that I’ve worked at since I first came up to college, I walk towards the front to get buzzed in. I smile at the secretary as we make eye contact. Greet her. Sign in. And walk off to go to the class room I work in. There I feel like I’m completely unnecessary, as the teacher has a very good handle on her kids. Countless times I’ve sat through episodes of Magic School Bus and learning how to do simple math. But every once in awhile, the teacher shows her appreciation by thanking me at the end of the day.

To some it’s just a job that puts money in the pocket. To other’s, like myself, it’s a job to potentially make a difference. This job has taught me many things. For one, children are unpredictable. One day Caleb* is wanting to hug me and sit on my lap, and another day he is unhappy and constantly pouting. Then there is Luke* who always seemed to resent me, but surprised me after our Christmas break, and gave me a hug and saying he missed me.

A second thing I’ve learned is that raising my voice back at a child who is getting frustrated is not an effective method of teaching. Granted this has only happened once, and it was my during my second year as a tutor. He was getting very upset because he couldn’t read a book as well as he wanted to, and he was getting up constantly, and I told him that if he didn’t want to learn that he was done for the day. Shortly after I walked him back to his group.

Another thing I’ve learned is that listening is more effective than talking. If I sit and listen to Lilly* tell me about how her uncle will get out of jail soon, verse me saying that her uncle will get out of jail makes it more of a positive outlook for her. I listen to what the kids have to say because if they’re comfortable telling me, it must mean a lot to them. To them I’m a trusting adult, and someone they can call a friend.

This job has also allowed me to stretch my patience. I used to be “C’mon, rapido, rapido!” but now I’m more along the lines of “Let’s go at a pace that you’re comfortable with. You wanna take 10 minutes to read a five-page book, sure let’s do it!” Because kids need to be comfortable doing what they’re doing. Although at the right times I will push them to move it in gear (like going to the bathroom).

See the thing is, I love my job, well most days. Everyday is a new adventure. Everyday I witness a child throw some sort of tantrum. Yes, things do get thrown, and words are shouted. But then there is that one kid who gets a big grin on his face when he sees me and runs up to me to give me a hug and says, “Miss Angel I missed you.” That’s when I remember that despite all the tantrums, and all the times I’ve gotten called fat or told told my arms have “big hair,” that every day that I can potentially make a difference in one’s life makes it all worth it.

*kids names have been changed for identity reasons.

 

 

Westward: Like the Setting Sun (part 2)

Monday

It’s a brisk and chilly walk towards the dining hall for our morning meal. I walk with a few of the students in my group, while some were still getting ready. I set myself down at a table next to Skyler probably my closest friend in the group. The rest of the group trickles in.

After we finish breakfast, we pack ourselves a sack lunch for our climbing adventure later that day. Then, Mary, Larry, and the eleven of us squeeze ourselves uncomfortably into the Great White Beast, who I decided to call Moby Dick. We set off for Rapid City to talk to Kristin, a Native American lady from Montana, and a local pastor; their goal is to inform us about Bear Butte and the prayer cloths that are found along the steep trail.

The interview process was nerve wracking. I was motioned to come in the interview room, and I plopped myself in a seat across from Ashley and another lady named Abby. Both ladies asked me questions such as what experiences I’ve had with children, what would I get out of this trip, how would I be an asset to the group, etcetera.  I fidgeted in my seat, peeling away my already peeled away cuticles      a nasty habit of mine because my hands always need to be doing something. My voice stuttered at times because my mind works faster than my mouth. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be deemed good enough for the group. Then all of a sudden two weeks went by and I got an email: “You’ve been accepted for the Alternative Spring Break Trip.” My lips slowly curl into a smile of excitement.

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Moby Dick takes us closer and closer to Bear Butte. Everyone is talking about this wonderful place and how it provides a sort of comfort to those praying. I’m filled to the brim with a sort of excitement because I’ve never gotten to go hiking before. Little did I know about the adventure that I was about to endure.

DSCF4301We arrived probably a little before noon, and were welcomed by many signs explaining the rules and a bit of history on this sacred place. Soon we set out on our quest towards the top. It’s a steep, rocky climb. My breathing soon becomes heavy. Everyone surpasses me, except Skyler who staggers behind with me. I remind myself that it’s not about winning a race, it’s about going as far as one is comfortable with. My goal is to make it at least halfway. My fear of heights is slowly starting to creep upon me.

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“Everyone surpasses me…”

We hike about a mile before taking a short break for lunch and resting the weary legs. At this point, we’re approximately 3,500 feet. The view I got was not short of incredible and amazing. I was proud of myself for making it as far as I did, and accomplishing my main goal. The rest of the group hike onward to the top, while Skyler and I want to stay there and just admire the view before us. My phone had died earlier that morning, so I truly do not have a sense of time. It feels wonderful no not have to worry, and to feel like I am in a place where time does not matter.

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“The view I got was not short of incredible and amazing!”                         Photo Credit: Brad Fisher

Once the group returns from the top, we all start our way back down. The descent is always easier and faster then the climb up, but nontheless it’s still a difficult climb. Rocks still clutter the same parts of the path, the ground lays uneven, and I’m still slow like molasses in January. “This is what many months of smoking does to a person.” Brad breathes heavily as he walks past me. I smile, having heard that phrase all too often. we finally make it back down to normal elevation, and thirteen tired adults squeeze themselves into Moby Dick as he roars to life with more energy than we have.

The incredible adventure on Bear Butte resembles my spiritual journey. It was a steep climb to get to where I am now, and sometimes I yearned to just turn around and go back down. If it’s one thing I learned, it’s easier to climb down than go up. But I’ve made it halfway, and I still have a lot of climbing to do.

Dancing to the Rhythm

We are welcomed by the Native Americans as we enter the big gymnasium. There we see many people getting ready and anticipating for a Pow Wow. I am engrossed as their feet keep to the beat of the drums. It’s so beautiful to watch.

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Photo credit: Brad Fisher

Then we are invited to dance. I am extremely nervous, because I’m a very self conscious person. What if I screw up my footing and fall or run into someone? What if someone looks at me funny? But when I step out into the dancing circle I’m shown how to dance with my feet and keeping to the drums.

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Photo Credit: Brad Fisher

As I’m going around the circle following other kids in my group, there are other dances going on around. It’s like being a part of an “organized chaos.” Women are doing their own thing, while children do a different dance, and then men will perform a more active dance. There is spinning, hopping, and gliding, and yet no dancers crash into one another. These individual dances create one beautiful melody. One rhythm. One beat. One Spirit.

After a few hours of watching and being a part of this amazing experience, we gather our tired selves and head back to Outlaw Ranch.

Westward: Like the Setting Sun (part 1)

Midnight. The outside is engulfed in a darkness that would make it next to impossible to see if it weren’t for the light pole that spilled an orange glow on the sidewalk. Midnight. The beast roars to life as ten students and the designated driver Brad squish themselves in the white oblong body. Minute past midnight–the beast begins to chug along. The journey begins. I take one last glimpse towards my school, momentarily wondering if this trip would truly be meaningful like I had promised myself it would be.

I saw the poster hanging on the big tackboard outside of my classroom. In big black bold letters: Want to go on an Alternative Spring Break? Then a few brief details about a service trip. South Dakota. Pine Ridge Reservation. Spring Break 2015. I ponder at the thought of going to a Native American Reservation. It sounds rewarding and like a once in a life time deal. But as I walk away my mind begins to clutter with Chemistry. 

The trip starts out a bit uneasy for me. I sit on the edge of a seat big enough for three, but really only comfortable enough for two. “What am I doing?” I question myself. Stoppit I yell at myself. This trip isn’t meant for me, it’s about those kids. “Hang on kids, please.” my mind wanders, “We’re coming.”

At the first stop I find myself moving to sit in between two other girls. Our journey goes on as we continue to drive on I-90. The darkness fades into a light haze.  Time goes by, pole after pole, tree by tree, cornstalk to cornstalk.

I day dream as I gaze outside. It’s flat. Cornfields claim the majority of land from the road to as far as I can see. And where the cornfields don’t touch, giant metal telephone poles claim. Silos show signs of where a farm resides, some are giant and silver, while others have that “old-style” look to them. New farms are planted with a bright painted barn, while the old farmsteads are laid out with an old and faded barn that is often broken with age. All I can think of the entire time is how peaceful it looks out here.

DSCF4242.JPGOur first stop in South Dakota is in Oacoma at a small diner combined with a store called Al’s Oasis. There we discover a giant bison statue across the street. There we take a first of many group pictures to come, and the selfies to follow. DSCF4229.JPG

 

A few days passed by, my mind was still occupied with Chemistry. School. Bills. Money. Work. I had a Spanish table talk thing that I needed to attend as part of my participation grade. I was nervous. I wasn’t good at talking to people especially in a language I was barely getting the hang of. So I sat down next to a girl I recognized earlier as the girl next to me in the coffee line. Her curly red hair touched her shoulders. Her personality bubbled out of her like a light bulb in a lamp. “Hola.” she said to me, “¿Comó te llamas?” I smiled and said, “Angel” and asked her what her name was. She replied that her name is Ashley. 

I bumped into Ashley again a few days later, but this time at the booth to promote the trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Her energy poured out of her and into me. Her enthusiasm gave me an itch to want to go. So I took the application with a plan to set out on a journey to the West. I didn’t know it at the time that the trip would shape me into more culturally diverse person. 

As we further Westward, our journey goes past the Badlands. DSCF4245.JPGWe stop and stretch our legs a bit. Filled to the brim with excitement, a few of the other students make their way to as close to the edge as they dare to venture. DSCF4258.JPGMeanwhile I try not to think about the possibility of what could happen if I were to fall. I almost miss the sign about rattle snakes.

It is about 5pm when we pull into the driveway of Outlaw Ranch. Our chaperons Mary and Larry greet us with warm, friendly smiles. They lead us to a dining hall where a light meal was waiting for us. Upon entering through the tan door, an aroma of soup and oatmeal bread overpowers me. My knees want to buckle, and my stomach lets out a grumble in response. We all willingly eat the first of many delicious and new dishes that are prepared for us.

After supper we are shown the way to where we are to be staying. We all scramble our way to unpack our luggage, and make our way to a bedroom of our liking. I pick the first bedroom I come to. There I find my friends Danielle, Rosie, and Lacey all unpacking their belongings. I was excited for the next upcoming week.