Thursday, July 31, 2008

Last Day as a Fellow =(

Really? Is this reality? This is my last day here as a Diversity Fellow? Time has passed so quickly, and Ashley and I have accomplished so much. But it's as if we did all of that to lay the foundation for this program, and right before we can actually get into the groove of things...and build the house (metaphorically), we have to say farewell! Of course it is sad, sad to(technically) leave a job that I enjoy, but I am so happy and proud of what I have learned and accomplished.

There definitely were ups and downs throughout the course of our fellowship, and I think it is normal when going through something that is completely new. It was new for Ashley and I, new for the full-timers who have been here for years, new for the administration, and for part-timers. Man, it was just new for everyone. But it was like a relationship - you learn about the other person day by day and your differences, but in the end you learn how to interact and make it work. We had to learn that there are cultural differences within the library staff - diverse personalities, different environments, diverse upbringing, different intellects, moods, sarcasm, positions.....the list goes on..... So we quickly realized diversity goes wayyyyyy beyond the labels of ethnicity, race and gender.

Ashley and I definitely had to be "go with the flow" during our fellowship while our supervisor, Kristi, and others from the Diversity Council worked out kinks and helped solidify our positions as fellows. This experience was trial and error, and anytime we made a mistake (which was like never! Ok, just kidding...we had some misunderstandings..) we learned from them. You know? Just like with everything else in this world. Like Aaliyah, rest in peace, said "Dust yourself off and try again!"

I realized Ashley and I became very passionate about certain projects. Ashley became passionate about the oral history she was conducting with Dr. Biegel. Unfortunately, Dr. Biegel passed away this spring semester, and Ashley was heart broken because she connected with Biegel. She told me that Biegel was such an interesting person and full of wisdom. But I think Ashley appreciated the opportunity to connect and create a relationship with Biegel, during a very critical time. I know Ashley learned from that experience how important it is to connect with one another. It is important to reach out and create relationships with one another.

I became passionate about the READ poster project. I think it was a fabulous idea to help create a more friendly environment....and an environment that shows our diversity but also shows our patrons and employees who WE an institution. As librarians. As people. Now, our library can be more putting our pictures on these READ posters people will look at us, our names and positions. I am very confident that by showing our faces, it makes us more approachable. The patrons will feel like they know us. But this project has a deeper significance. I wanted to tear down the invisible wall of discrimination between part-timers, full-timers, and student workers. This is a project that brings all of us together, to participate in some fun. This project shows that we are all important.

Ashley and I became very, very, very passionate about La Lagunilla and building a library collection for the community. We spent so much time, on and off the clock, working on gathering books, working out ideas, fund raising, and the list goes on. After going to Cuernavaca, Mexico, and meeting and creating relationships with the women and children, we have more than a passion. We are a part of their community and they are a part of our lives. We will always carry them in our hearts and memories. Ashley and I have discussed the idea of starting a nonprofit so we can continue to stay connected to the colony and develop their library. We have also been discussing annual visits to the colony. It is definite that we want to remain connected to this community.

I have learned so much, about myself and about being passionate about things other than myself, by hearing the history of La Lagunilla and spending time with the women and children. Yes, I taught English to the women for four weeks, but boy did they teach me too.
They corrected me on certain Spanish words. They taught me how to be a leader. They taught me about unity. They taught me about family, humor in a Mexican culture, and how just relate and connect. All I had to do was be me and be open. I cannot explain all that I learned. To understand you will have to either A)Go to Lagunilla yourself B)Be a servant unto another! Help someone out...and you will know what I am trying to explain. The picture you see is a photo of me, Karen Whitney (IUPUI Dean of Students), and the women we taught! Not all are in this photo...the class size fluctuated everyday, but the women in this pic are the ones who were there almost everyday. :)

This fellowship was a blessing. I have experienced so much in less than one year. This position was awesome because: 1)I had meaningful projects 2)Projects I was passionate about 3)Learning experiences 3)Experience in a professional setting 4)There were opportunities to share my opinions and my voice was heard....and I was given opportunities to carry out my ideas 5)We had an awesome supervisor - Kristi Palmer. Many kudos to her. 6)Meeting awesome people within the library and receiving their support and help. Gracias a todos! (Thanks to all).

Con amor y paz,

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Value of Familia (Family)

I began observing Mexican culture many years ago when I became very close to my friend Carla*, who is from Mexico City. I realized that their mother works her hardest just to have a refrigerator full of fresh food, clothes for Carla and Cristina* to wear, a safe home, etc. Their mother, Maria*, is a house cleaner and she probably cleans 10 to 15 houses a week, no joke. But Maria wasn’t a house cleaner in Mexico. She was an important assistant for the president of Mexico. For personal reasons, Maria and her two daughters moved to the U.S. and Maria’s credentials were seen as insignificant. That is how she became a house cleaner. But Maria does a fantastic job in the homes of her clients and she is very friendly with them, although her English is very poor. Somehow Maria and her clients communicate, and when Maria is lucky one of her daughters translates for her. Maria works hard and spoils her daughters – she gives them what they need and want (which is why they are spoiled). But I noticed that she spoils them because she has no one else in her life that means so much to her. If you look at their situation, they are foreigners in the U.S. with no family. The three of them only have each other, so of course Maria lives and breathes to take care of Carla and Cristina. The three of them do everything together – they go to cafes, restaurants, get-togethers, dinners, movies, shopping, etc. Anything you can think of, they do together. Carla and Cristina also help their mother clean homes when they are not at work or at school. I saw that the value of family is most important to them, especially in a foreign country.

I haven’t been babbling about family for nothing. My whole reason behind this in-depth reflection about family is because I see the family ties at La Lagunilla. I teach the women at the center, so I get to see the women walk into the center and take their child(ren) to the appropriate class, and then they meet me for class. When classes are finished, the children run over to our class area and hug their mothers and show them what they did that day. It is so cute! I also notice a family bond between the mothers. The women in my class are friends, but they treat one another like sisters sometimes. They joke around, gossip and help each other. If Agustina doesn’t know how to pronounce a word Eve will help her. This always makes me feel joy inside, because Agustina is an abuela (grandmother) and Eve is of an age to where she can be mistaken as a daughter of Agustina. I’m not sure if they are related by blood, but I don’t think it matters. These women interact with one another as if they are a family. And in a sense they are. This center is a community. These children and women that come each week are a community, a family.

*Names are changed for privacy

Con paz y amor,