Each month, we enjoy staying in touch with a brief update of goings-on here in Albuquerque. Serving at Menaul School as Volunteers in Mission (they call us "VIM's") and living in New Mexico for an extended period of time brings benefits of "immersion" in the cultural uniqueness and diversity found here. The VIM's themselves bring together diverse backgrounds including Bangladesh, Minneapolis, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and the Dakota-Sioux tribe of Native Americans. We continue to work with the faculty and school administration to give shape and publicity to the June through July summer day camp program. You can read all about it online by going to www.menaulschool.com , then clicking on the tab (right upper corner) for Panther Camp. During extra time, we tutor students in math and biology, and help faculty and administration wherever we are needed. Pat occasionally fills in at an administrative/reception desk when the usual staff is absent. She is also researching and writing up a proposal for the school's medical orders and procedures. Doing daily lunchtime duty (collecting and tallying up the cost of meals) helps us to learn the names of many of the students. We have also enjoyed attending all of the home basketball games. Our teams (both girls and boys) came within one game of playing in the state finals.
Weekends are great opportunities to see the sights, learn the history, and travel about. Some of the potpourri of experiences this past month include (1) Attending different churches each Sunday, (2) Attending the celebration of the Buffalo Dance at nearby Sandia Pueblo, (3) Tour of the Pinon Coffee Roasting Factory (the providers of the Pinon Coffee you find at all Trader Joe's outlets nationwide), (4) An evening of stage performances at the African-American Performing Arts Center (in honor of Black Heritage Month), (5) Menaul School's Jazz Ensemble (known as The Blackberries and the Giblets), (6) Hiking to a mesa atop the ancient lava escarpment (i.e. 150,000 years old) of several ancient volcanos (10 or so miles to our west) after paying careful heed to the warning sign to stay on the path and to avoid rattlesnakes, (7) Visit to the Sandia Ski area and Sandia Crest (10,678 feet elevation) where the snow is deep. Kim plans to ski there in the next week or so, before the snow melts.
Pat is learning the fine art of quilting from one of the VIMs, and has completed a lovely wall-hanging, picturing a variety of southwestern pottery with beautiful and rich earth colors. She is now working on her second one. In his spare time, Kim has made a portrait sketch on stitcher's canvass of Pat wearing a cowboy hat, and is trying to fill in the colors with cross-stitching floss. He has also been collecting naturally colored rocks in the area and is planning to make paint using their pigments. He figures that painting a southwestern scene will work best if the paint is made from natural stuff, rather than a tube of paint from an art store. He says: "It's worth a try," so one frequently finds him stopping the car, kneeling down and scooping up stones and other colored minerals found alongside the road. We'll see. … We are also attending a Thursday evening Lenten study at one of the Presbyterian churches, and are enjoying the fellowship with these people. A number of the congregations we have attended are blessed with musical talent, and regularly include at worship ensembles with electric guitars, piano, organ, brass instruments, drums, and keyboards. The music is spirited and worshipful with a mix of traditional and more contemporary, a real joy and catalyst for worship.
These are just a few of the rewarding experiences we are having in New Mexico. While away, we keep you all in our prayers and think of you often, and one reason for this monthly update is to prove it. We do appreciate the many letters, cards, and emails we have received from many of you.
In faith and friendship, Kim & Pat
January 2010 Update
Here is an update on our Volunteering adventure in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at Menaul School. We share our adventures in hopes that we will hear how life is going for YOU!
We arrived at Menaul School January 5, 2010, settled into our living space with a bedroom, living room and bathroom, met with the President or Head of the school on Jan. 6 (our wedding anniversary) and learned that we are assigned to plan publicity for the summer school/camp to take place here in June and July. We were given 2 huge notebooks containing info on what has happened here the past 2 years. Nothing has been started in terms of planning for this year, so we are rapidly learning about the past, what various people envision happening this year, and what we need to do to promote it. The deadline for getting information into some local magazines and newspapers is February 5, so we await decisions from administration about the school's priorities for this summer. Kim has been networking with local clergy and we will be going to other schools to spread the news of Menaul's summer program.
Meanwhile, we have been doing and seeing lots of interesting things unique to this region. We have gone to 2 different churches, each of which extended warm friendliness in welcoming new people. One church does the service in both English and Spanish and has a large Menaul School alumni presence. The other church is at the base of the Sandia Mountains. You can look out the window in the sanctuary and watch the tram go to the peak of the mountain, at nearly 10,300+ feet elevation!. (The minister joked that he isn't sure if people are captured by his sermons or the view of the tram out the window!)
We have been learning Spanish and have found the local Wal-Mart is a great place to learn the names of all the groceries as they are written in both English and Spanish. Kim goes there frequently to "learn Spanish", especially to the galleta (cookie) aisle! We are making progress, we think, until someone answers a question or tries to explain something in Spanish!
We visited the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center which depicted interesting history, culture, artifacts and customs. There we also saw Native Americans dancing in elaborate costumes. Gestures and symbolism were explained. Another weekend, we went to the Hispanic Cultural Museum, which had an exhibit of Cuban art, and then to Old Town, an artisan area with great shops! We will definitely go back!
Last weekend one of the volunteers, a lady 79 years young, took us out to Grants some 70 miles from Albuquerque. The landscape is fascinating! It is very flat for miles then suddenly there is a mountain range which just goes straight up off the flat land with a mesa or flat land on top. It was all under water long ago, then volcanoes and earthquakes changed the land. There were salt mines which have been depleted by now and there is a lot of volcanic rock in Grants. Also, a uranium mine is there, currently closed, but some politicians want to reopen it. Many of the Native Americans died of cancer when it was open so they are not anxious to start that again.
In some areas, there is much red soil and rocks. Beautiful layered sandstone cliffs are also plentiful.. Many highways are decorated with sculptures or giant-sized pottery or designs on the sides of walls. We saw a film of a Native American woman crushing rocks of various colors into sand, then adding water and a white substance (we are not sure if it is Elmer's glue or from a yucca plant or???) to make different colored paints which she used on pottery and mural designs. Kim is fascinated with this process and wants to make his own paints like that! A faculty member from the Laguna Pueblo said her grandmother does that kind of thing. Kim is waiting to hear what she uses. We look forward to visiting Laguna Pueblo for their festival days!
We had an exciting workshop on Diversity. This school is diverse in its student and faculty population which makes for great sharing and also potential for conflict. It was an excellent workshop dealing with issues raised by ethnic, cultural, financial diversity. We learned a lot.
Pat spent some time going through all the health records of the students and made a list of all the kids who needed immunizations. Kim has worked with Math Club, which is an after school place where kids can go for extra help. Pat tried it for awhile but – she felt out of her league with the modern math here so, she will be tutoring some 6th graders on a 1:1 basis to recognize patterns, similarities and differences, assisting them to think mathematically.
Hope all is well with you. Feel free to write and/or email us to share what you are doing. We love to hear from people. Pat and Kim
Gone for awhile,
Serving with a smile,
Having an eye
For what money can’t buy!