While the teams time in New Mexico was a continual roller coaster of ups, downs, twists and turns, it also presented everyone with numerous challenges and learning curves. Towards the end of the round the pace of everything began to pick up speed with the end of our service, and return to Colorado, quickly coming into focus. Before leaving this unique spot on the map the team wanted to fit in some R&R, taking in some of the beauty, history and culture of the cities surrounding our small home of Deming. Up first was a day trip to White Sands National Monument, where we would also have the opportunity to meet up with Earth 5, another team from the Aurora campus serving in Fort Stanton, New Mexico. The trip required approval from staff, considering it was nearly a two hour drive, a possible exhorborent use of Government resources (Black Betty our trusty Ford Transit family van), and we were grateful to get that approval.
Unsure if we would be granted this approval, I chose to visit the park on my own a few weeks prior , but that visit was unique in that I went at night to view the full moon, and was able to enjoy doing so without the company of 20 team members. Being the lazy homebody I am when Sunday morning rolled around I almost opted not to go with, but I crawled out of bed, accepted it would be a long day, and hopped in the van. Of course, it was worth it, being able to spend the day out of Deming and spend a day of fun with the team, something different than work, and ultimately sweat my butt off. New Mexico in June is hot to begin with, but spending hours under the beating sun on dunes of sand with not a drop of shade for miles was another level. We were lucky to borrow a few sleds from community members in Deming and were thus able to get the full experience. I enjoyed an afternoon of connecting with team members I hadn't seen for months, learned about some of their exciting plans (one of which is going to South Korea to teach), and have a first time experience of sand dune sledding. All in all a good day out.
The following week was the 4th of July which meant a long weekend for the team, given both the 4th and 5th off work, allowing us to rest a regroup for our final two weeks of work. We were previously invited to return to Silver City, a unique town just under an hour north of Deming, and took advantage of this offer. We packed our bags and loaded up the cargo Wednesday morning, traveling north to spend the day building a float with Rocky Hildebrand, the director of Fort Bayard. Another first for me, but thankfully the float wasn't too intensive of a project and my team committed to the work and had it finished in no time, adding unique touches and charm. We weren't building this float just for the fun of it though, we would be on board the following morning during the Silver City Fourth of July parade, another day of sweating in the sun.
Following the parade the team loaded back into the van for another field trip, this time north of Silver City into the Gila National Forest to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings. In and around Silver City and Deming almost anyone we came into contact with had asked us if we had the chance to visit the forest and our answer was always "no" or "not yet" unsure if we would in fact make the trip, but their response was always a eager urge for us to do so. The cliff dwellings are the remains of a shelter created by the nomadic Mogollon Culture and date back to the late 1200's. Reading about them is impressive, but to hike up into the cliff side and be able to walk through some of the old rooms, climb the ladders and learn about the culture is an entirely different story. The Mogollon people created a small village in the cliff side, and it's amazing to see the ingenuity with which this was done. A guide is on hand to give more background to the area or answer any questions visitors may have which was extremely useful as without him many details would have likely been overlooked. For example, the "peeing rock" which of course sounds like the bathroom of the dwellings but was, in fact, where they would cure animal hide. Another good day out with the team, and a unique if not appropriate way to spend the 4th, learning about the history of our country.
While the 4th of July was a great day, it wasn't really a day of relaxation, that was saved for the following day and what a good day it was. While we didn't have any other work to do in Silver, we decided to stay for a few more days, having a chance to wander the streets of downtown, eat good food and hang out at the many coffee shops on offer. Friday afternoon though we were invited to the "swimming hole" which belongs to Rocky's friend Leo, but don't let the name confuse you, this place is a mini paradise. Leo built the pond on his property, acres of land he intends to later turn into a hemp farm, tucked away in Tyrone. The pond comes complete with two rope swings, a BBQ, fire pit, kayak and sitting area, not to mention the most welcoming host, eager to share with his guests. The team spent the afternoon swimming and relaxing, eating the feast prepared by our grill experts and never wanting to return to reality. Eventually though it was time, Saturday was spent downtown exploring before we packed up and returned to Deming, preparing for our final days of service where we had projects to complete, goodbyes to say and a few last memories to make.
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".