Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Class Closing

So, class ended today. We watched several students receive certificates of achievement, or completion as to their efforts to learn the English language. For a regular volunteer opportunity for me, this has been a chance to learn, to share, and of course, to teach. Here at our little community center, people have been learning to speak, read, and write English for decades.

So, I suppose today is notable. My time coming into this service was a blessing! I have helped here placing clothes on hangers. I have packaged food for the poor, and I remember fondly my chance to single handedly dole out an entire pallet of donated celery to the public, one case at a time! All these efforts have been fun. But, with the impact of nerve problems on my hands, even hanging clothes got to be for me time-consuming, inefficient, and frustrating.

Enter Kathy. Over eighteen months ago, I was chatting with this woman in our break room. Teaching ESL down the hall, she told me my help would definitely be appreciated. So, I said good by to the enormous bins of used clothing, the clip hangers, and the endless mess of decisions. I walked into the classroom, and found instant peace. I feel great gratitude for the invitation. Then, I learned more how to participate, to share, and to listen.

But today, the classes end. Not just here, but in many locations around the valley. These classes were financed by the discretionary funds from a cash-strapped school district. When the decisions were made, the discretionary funds got appropriated elsewhere, and now another set of useful services are lost to our community.

So, I should not have trouble finding another volunteer opportunity. One thing that increases in a poor economy is the pool of volunteer jobs. But, I like to think I will find something that brings me the same chance to grow and develop that I got here. Likewise, I wonder if I will find anyplace where I receive even a portion of the loveand appreciation I find here teaching English.

Today, we had a potluck, and we took pictures, shook hands, smiled and ate. After eating more than I wanted, one lady asked me if I tried the chicken mole'. She quickly brought me an extra plate of mole', pickled onions and carrots. My Spanish is limited, but I understood when she asked if I liked the mole'. Then she smiled, and asked if I am married. Maybe I underestimate how much I am appreciated here.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bite Your Tongue!

I love lengua- mixed in with rice, chili, and beans iin a warm, tortilla- nothing can be more satisfying this day Yes, with pollo(chicken), beef, carnitas (pork) to choose, what makes cooked lengua (tongue) so special? Today was a cool day, the sun lay hidden behind a blanket of clouds, and I am under a tarp, devouring tongue , purchased from a road side catering truck, knowing in my heart this burrito was the best choice I could have made.

I enjoyed the cool breeze. I knew I needed to eat, but I rarely would dare eat outside, unprotected from the elements, challenged by my own impulsivity , and realize that this beef tongue was calling out to me on this unique day.
I had just left Sacred Heart, and feel sad knowing our ESL class will soon end. The class year wraps up in days. The class provider, Metro-Ed, had sixty-six per cent of its operational budget cut, and our little class is one ofthe casualties. I love to teach, albeit for free, but now, many oif ther classes our city has provided to immigrant communities have fallen to the side.

I know in a bad economy, there is non end to places I can volunteer to help, but this service- well placed, and well utilized- is one I definitely will miss. People coming here, and learning English, are a delight to help. They are acquiring a skill which adds immediate value to their lives.

So, now I will search out new service to do, maybe another chance to teach, and move on. I thought about language, and about learning, as I devoured my tongue. Indeed this is just one door closing.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Save Mart Closing next Month

My roommate, Michael, told us in past weeks our neighborhood Save Mart will be closing its doors soon. This is an inconvenience. To the extent many workers may fail to find jobs at neighboring Save Marts, this is even a little sad. Still, it was a predictable closing.

Having worked as a union grocer, I appreciate grocery shelves well-stocked, and quality customer service. I love having an intimate environment where the foods I like are plentiful, and the workers running the store are cared for by their company. Despite meeting those needs, our local Save Mart was ill-equipped to battle when the Wal-Mart down the street remodeled to accommodate their own grocery sections.

I listened as people spoke optimistically about their vision of Save Mart being saved from the chopping block. The declines in business were almost immediate. I love the spirit of a dedicated customer base, but shiny new fridge and freezer cases -filled with Banquet microwave dinners at rock bottom prices- provide an enticement that trumps us hands down.

I suppose my irritation will fall back. I will accept that WalMart (or nearby Target) are the only groceries in the neighborhood. I won't feel too bad about it, either. Now, I cannot speak about the economic values of this. I know the big box on Story Road seems to be a mess of aisles, racks, hurried workers, and clients scrambling to find a fast check-out line. It is just chaos to me. But the chaos is fed daily by one simple fact: people love the savings, and do not mind the craziness.

So, as my neighborhood grocery closes its doors, I will show up, and participate by lending my dollar to purchase perishables at close-out prices. I will then wonder how long the storefront will stay empty before someone else attempts to capture market-share from Wal-Mart.