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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

car trips, pesos, and parking lots

Our eyes took in the viridian water of the Sea of Cortez as we stood at the end of the nameless road. My eyes’ wanting to close from sheer exhaustion, but my heart keeps them open for the sake of beauty.

Oh Guaymas Mexico, I will forever remember your name, never able to count the ways.

Spring break for many students means different things. At many other colleges this may symbolize a week of debauchery and broken bottles. For me, when the classroom doors close, my arms open up to what the world has to offer, with nothing in my hands but seventy mile-an-hour winds while their hanging out the side of a an open car window, traveling.

This time was a little different. One of my best friends, Elise, came down from Utah to visit me and one morning we decided it was a good idea to pick a town on a map and go. No planning, just the constant surprises of a journey, and the mesmerizing ideals of pure freedom. Little did we know of the quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Those who do not prepare, are preparing to fail.”

The tip of my finger found its way south to Guaymas, Mexico on the Sea of Cortez; 300 miles over the border. We tossed our tooth-brushes in the car and headed out at 11am without a whim to the air, but a beat to our hearts.

Passing through Nogales; bam we were south of the border. In a place that everyone said we shouldn’t go, probably for good reason, but I believe that the biggest risk is not taking one, for this is where the wild things are and this is where lessons are learned. To be shaken out of habit, fully aware with every one of my senses turned on; nothing written in English, men washing our windshield at stoplights, people everywhere, the sound of cars with no exhaust, and a slight sweetness to the air; we are alive.

Outside of town, the Sonoran desert is beautiful and allowed to be itself; no gas-stations, electrical wires, and few cars, out here life is allowed to live.

We arrived in a city called Hermosillo around 6:30 and stopped in a hotel to find a bathroom and get some pesos. Nobody spoke any English which was refreshing, but Elise found a piano and toned down our culture-shock with some Beethoven; still no pesos though as all the banks were closed.

Arriving in Guaymas at 8:30pm, there are many people out walking, although the town seems a little rough on more than just the edges. We have an eighth a tank of gas, no money, and no place to sleep other than the car with Illinois license plates and “Happiness” written in soap on the windows. I suppose Benjamin Franklin was correct in his prior justification towards preparation.

We parked the car in a blockbuster parking feeling a little bit closer to home, reading each other poetry in order to let go of the fears that kept bubbling up. Then, waking up the next morning everything was beautiful; the sun greeted us with its brilliance and the mountains said hello with great humility. The locals were very beautiful people and we became instant celebrities being the only Americans around. We found a bank, bought some gas, ate some food, and decided to drive to San Diego, but in the end just drove home around the Mexicali boarder. Both of us were exhausted from the night before, and wished we would have planned a little bit more, definitely learning a very important lesson. However, we fulfilled a dream of picking a town and going without any preconceived notions, but we overwhelmingly scared ourselves by sleeping in a parking lot deep in Mexico, the one place everyone said we shouldn’t go.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Self Awareness at PC

This spring is my first semester as a transfer student at Prescott College. It kicked off with a backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon (which was amazing) and now I’m taking courses in interpersonal communication and Central American history. So far I have been gaining new perspectives on the world around me, as well as insight into my own state of self-awareness. One of the most rewarding aspects of my attendance at this school so far has been the connections that I have made with other like-minded individuals. I have made more friends in the last few months than I have in the last few years. An interesting aspect in making all of these connections is noticing the individuality in each person who’s evolved their own perspective and worldview. Despite any differences that may separate us, we are all united in the fact that we are self aware of our impact on the world around us, and we are all trying to figure out how we can make that impact a positive one.

Monday, March 23, 2009

This is Prescott College

Hello! My name is Suzy, and I am a student primarily in the Education and Human Development programs here at the school, although I have taken some Environmental Studies and Cultural and Regional Studies classes as well (gotta be well rounded, right?). I am particularly interested in something called “Ecopsychology,” a field which aims to connect people to each other and to the more-than-human world in a mindful way.

Ecopsych is a holistic psychology which sees people and their psyches as extending beyond their fingertips, and into their relationships. I see Ecopsych as about reconnecting to the natural world, which is healing to everything, although I also see it as about reconnecting to other humans. In particular, I think that it has incredible power as a decolonizing methodology.

My “competence” (Prescott College lingo for “major”) is in Multicultural Education. My teacher, Anita, has really inspired me down this road. I first took Foundations of Education with her, a class I expected to be fairly straightforward and dry…but no! Every Anita class is steeped in themes of social justice, so we went through every category of ethnicity in the United States and their relationship in history to the education system. It was incredibly revealing, to say the least. I then took a class called “Rethinking Our Classrooms: Race, Power and Identity in Education” with her, which was really amazing as well. We spent a lot of our focus on what it means to be educators who identify as white, particularly when our students are not. We reflected on our identities and those of people who have had to live in a culture that is not equitable or supportive of them. In particular, we discussed topics of race, language, gender, sexuality, ability and class. To finish it off, we had the opportunity to work with the Paulo Freire Freedom School (a middle school in Tucson) on overcoming stereotypes. Whether I end up being a teacher or not, the class was so valuable to me, and I find myself coming back to it every day.

So this is where I am right now. I have really been enjoying getting my education here. And now it’s time for Spring Break!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I’ll get enough rest when I’m dead

Many lives are led by each student at Prescott College. At times, I am hard at work researching why diversity is usually seen as to how long our ancestors have been in the sun, but in all truth, diversity is a confluence of ideas rushing into the ocean of human experience. Then I slip into another body and take advantage of all the amazing climbing in and around Prescott, among avenues of beautiful boulders and tall granite. However, the idea of going to school here is of the medium that we must stay active whatever our pursuit. This means taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves and not staying in the house watching videos on You Tube. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “I’ll get enough rest when I’m dead.”
After speaking to many of the seniors here, the one thing they regret is not taking advantage of what is available here Prescott College. There are clubs that promote everything from teaching an immigrant from Latin America the English language and in return they teach us Spanish, any number of the social justice groups, community events, and social gatherings are a normal part of everyday life. I am paying $22,000, before financial aid, for a nine month buffet of experiences I cannot get anywhere else. Yet, at times I feel that I am only eating from the salad bar, nothing against vegetarians, but I want something with sustenance. So, learning from the feedback of those who have traveled down this path before, we must understand that if we want something in life we must reach out and grab it because there is no person who is going to do this for us. When we are born, our mothers and fathers feed us and protect us, but once we leave the nest it is up to us to find what we are good at, what brings us joy, and how we can actively make a positive change in society. For living in idleness is an immorality upon this gift called life.
Please understand I am not trying to be a motivational speaker or an evangelist of any kind. All that I am attempting to do is give an honest view of what Prescott College actually is, we are a place that “Graduates society’s leaders for the 21st century.” Additionally, leaders are not those who live in “quiet desperation,” but must constantly ask themselves, “what is my intention, and how am will I grow from this experience.” For life is short, and if we don’t stop and look around sometimes, were going to miss it. So go out there and live, for death is not just for those who have stopped breathing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Change is the only constant

Change is the only constant, and I am unendingly shown this through the people I meet and the places I go. Sometimes I get so caught up in my academic work that I forget I am in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

While walking down my street I hear my phone ring, and flip it open. It’s my friend Kelly and she asks, “Do you want to go to a hot spring with me and few friends?” This is what I mean by change, the little nuances that visit us within our days. Some call them miracles, others divine intervention, I just call them beautiful surprises. So, of course I went to the hot spring; for the most powerful word in the English language is not love, or peace, or F#&%, but yes.

About an hour away from Prescott, the Camp Verde Hot Spring sits for those who would like to partake in its wonderfully warm waters, one of many within the region. However, driving there means hopping in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, traveling down a scenic highway for half an hour, then up and down a treacherously muddy dirt road that stops at a trail on the side of the Verde River.

The hike is roughly two miles to where we must cross the crisp waters of the mildly raging river with our pants off, and boots tied together hanging around our necks. Walking barefoot for a half mile because the smooth river stones massage the bottoms of our feet, we arrive and there is already a guy and a girl sitting in the bowl shaped spring, with slight wisps of steam rising from the clear water.

Easing myself in, the girl sitting across from me is from Portland, Oregon and makes specialty chocolate which she sells in jars, and she just happened to have some. It tasted like a garden full of magical flowers, and when I closed my eyes, my nostrils filled with a sweet potion, universally altering my consciousness. For this is the most real I have felt in a very long time, and is greater than anything the pharmaceutical company could ever produce, it is experience that creates sorrow and bliss, not a synthetic tablet that promises escape and numbness; I am here, and wherever I go, there I am.

We stayed until the beauty of darkness prevailed, and the stars were the only ones awake, all the while the moon was under its dark covers staying warm, not awaking and reflecting for anyone. Walking back to the river barefoot, there was just enough light to perceive the shadows on either side of the path, and then crossing the river, a feeling of rebirth rushed over my retinas, and I perceived my life with a entirely new set of perceptions, and the understanding as to what is truly important, and what can glide away with the unanimous night.

Driving back home, I thought about what I planned in the morning, and how different the day actually turned out. For life is one big game of checkers, cause and effect, and on one side I make my own decisions with my black-pieces, but on the other side controlling the red pieces is change. We have a free-destiny in this life of ours, we move our own pieces, and the universe moves some as well.