zEarth 4 is still alive and well, sweating it out in that dry heat of New Mexico. Everyone keeps telling me that it has been unseasonably cool down here this year and honestly, I wouldn't want to see a "normal" summer if that's the case. The team has continued work on various projects, rolling with the punches and staying flexible. Over the course of the last few weeks things have settled down at the refugee shelter, thanks either to more organization being put in place or a decrease in the number of migrants being dropped in Deming. Either way this has meant the team has been able to step back a bit from our support there and focus efforts on different areas of the community. Unfortunately, things never fell quite into the rhythm we had hoped, projects constantly waiting on other factors before we can step in, but there always seems to be something for us to work on.
While serving at the shelter the team basically took control of both the clothing and food donations, and in the course of only a few weeks helped to receive, sort and distribute nearly 40,000 pounds of food, clothing, toiletries and supplies (these numbers a very rough estimate of our calculations). As the shelter gained more coverage, NPR interview, newspaper headlines and just recently a visit from Jennifer Garner and NBC news, donations have been pouring in. Like many things in life this is both a blessing and a curse; the donations are very much appreciated, but also require hands to sort, organize and sometime redistribute things. Honestly, working on the receiving end reinforces the belief that "cash is king", as many of the donations have been dirty [clothes], expired [food], or just plain useless random junk. Thankfully, I have a weird affliction for sorting and organizing and didn't mind long hours in storage closets doing just that. While there are many in support of the efforts at the shelter there are definitely those in the community against it. This week the team attended a city council meeting as part of their community integration and heard from a few concerned and frustrated citizens, an eye-opening learning experience.
Aside from continuing work at the charter high school (painting and other general revitalization) the team was finally asked to help at the Pit Park lake project, the initial intent of our being here. Under the hot New Mexico sun the team spent hours arranging rocks in what will one day be stream beds feeding into the lake. I have to give credit to my team for this, despite sitting in basically the middle of the desert moving rocks for eight hours a day, I never once heard a complain from them. The city officials "took care of us" bringing cold waters and on some days lunch, but it was not easy work.
As a small break from Deming the team traveled an hour west to Lordsburg, an even smaller town in Luna county with a population just shy of 3,000. Per our initial work plan the team was scheduled to spend two weeks in the town working on park infrastructure and walking path development, but given the need at the migrant shelter in Deming city officials told us to come when we were available. Not sure how the work would go and wanting to accommodate those on my team leaving or coming back from long weekends, we chose to serve in Lordsburg for three days, Tuesday through Thursday. While there the city put us up in the municipal airport, which was basically two runways with two hangars, one of which served as our temporary home. The set-up was much smaller than I had expected but worked just fine for us, two rooms for sleeping, two bathrooms and a kitchen, also the bonus weight room in the second hangar out back.
Given the nature of our first eight weeks in New Mexico I was prepared myself for a lack of organization, tools or projects, but kept my fingers crossed. Our first day consisted of irrigation line repair, basically digging a few holes, cutting some hoses and attached new, something that could have taken a few hours, but due to waiting on maintenance and supplies absorbed almost our entire day. We rounded out the day with weeding at the housing authority and were back there the next morning to do more of the same. Being from the Midwest I had to adjust my mindset on what weeding entails down here, living in the desert where flora and fauna consist mostly of cacti, yucca plants and other prickly pals it's hard to tell what is or isn't a weed. Most of the yards we were assigned to work on appeared to be solely weeds and rocks, which coupled with the heat made for a challenging morning. Thankfully after lunch we moved inside and spent the afternoon along with our third day in Lordsburg painting the interior walls of city hall.
After returning to Deming and completing the rock project the teams work plan was once again up in the air, of course just as I was preparing to get away for a few days, using my precious three days of personal leave. To avoid complete confusion for the team, Haley (one of two assistant team leaders) and I met with Alexi at city hall to discuss options. Our next project at the lake wouldn't be ready for a few weeks [hopefully] which left us scratching our heads. A list of possibilities was brainstormed, including things such as: weeding at the cemetery, assisting with summer camp, delivering meals for the elderly, partnering with Play Sharity (the mom's we know in town), and a few other miscellaneous items. While it wasn't exactly a work plan for the coming week, I was glad to at least have a list of contacts and options to explore. Haley felt comfortable enough taking the lead and I was set to go on vacation, a few days away from everything to explore other areas of New Mexico!
A Year of Service
My life, being anything but predictable, has taken another turn. Rather than moving to Jeju, South Korea - my original plan for Fall '18, I'm going to test drive Denver, CO and its surroundings, an area people just keep telling me "I'd love".