Gazing into the Past

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(Somewhere in one of the keys on our way back to Miami, Friday night. This is also our new album cover. Be expecting our first album to drop in August. Also shout out to my fantastic Site Coordinator taking this photo! You read her blog here!)

Why hello there WordPress world! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?? How have you been? I hope you’ve been doing swell. So sorry that it’s taken me since November to write to you. A lot has been happening down in the Miami YAV/ Dwell world since the previous post. How about I give you a quick little run down of everything that’s been happening in the life of P.Q.

Where to start though…. So much has taken place over the past 5 months…

How about we start with the thing I’ve dedicated most of my days with, work.

Work has been pretty calm lately, but before that it was actually pretty insane. If you’ve forgotten, I work at a nonprofit called South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice (SFIWJ), and this year for the second time we put out a report for Worker’s Memorial Day, which covers worker related deaths all throughout Florida. Last year it was just South Florida, but this year it was the whole shabam so that took an incredible amount of work.

Through working on the report with my boss, Jeanette, I’ve gotten to learn so much on how deadly it truly is out there for workers. Like it’s incredibly dangerous even if you are following the safety rules. For instance,  just last week a street cleaner ran over a worker while he was working on one of the highways, which is super horrifying because it happened at about 10:30 in the morning.

With that being said, it is so terrible for workers down here in Florida that it used to be number three in the country, but has only been bumped down to number four because there has been a huge spike in worker deaths in New York since the previous year. That just goes to show how important it is for workers to have safe and healthy work conditions, which is one one of the issues SFIWJ deals with.

Not only has the topic of worker safety  been a huge in my life lately, but also the topic of worker rights. It’s been such a gigantic issue that I literally had a dream about it the other night where worker rights were being discussed when it came to Uber.

Another interesting way my thought process has changed is that whenever I watch action movies now I can’t help, but think about all the workers that might be injured whenever some huge building goes up in flames. So I guess the whole “A year of service for a Lifetime of change” really is really paying off… Congrats Blake, and everyone at the YAV office! **Claps hands**

Through my site placement I’ve been able to experience, and learn so much. Some of these things are:

  • Learning about misclassification of workers, and how huge of a problem that is.
  • Learning about the struggle poultry workers go through, and how back-breaking labor intensive those jobs really are. I love my chicken, but not if it comes to what kind of pain the workers have to go through.
  • I’ve also gotten a chance to pull back the veil of politics, and take a look in on it. I’ve never had any involvement in that world so that’s been really fascinating.
  • Through attending meetings where there are multiple social justice organizations I’ve been able to see how true the words of “there is power in numbers” rings so true.
  • These are just a few  things, hopefully i can write about ’em more later!

Here’s a photo of my fearless leader, Jeanette, leading a training for airport workers.

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Besides work though I’ve gotten to do some pretty astonishing things. For instance, just last month all of the YAVs in the southeast region went to stay at a beach house on the Gulf Shores of Alabama, which was pretty great in itself. While there I got to reconnect with so many lovely people who I haven’t seen since Stony Point, and the airport where we all flew off to our sites.

That weekend was filled to the brim with reflection on how the year has been going so far, and truly let me just slow down time for a second to take in everything that has happened so far. Another huge part of the weekend was the fact that people that were there knew the struggle I was going through, and helped me see how my problems might seem huge to me, but in reality there were more people on the struggle bus than just me. It was a true weekend of rejuvenation and reflection, which I think everyone needed.

13071982_10156825030650293_6536203823170569977_o(It was like this pretty much all weekend, which was basically paradise. Also shout out to Abby for taking this sweet, sweet photo! You can see what her YAV experience has been  here!)

After the relaxing weekend my YAV house joined the Nashville YAVs where we travelled up north to Selma, Alabama where we got to see the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, and reflect on the injustices and Selmas that are still happening throughout the world. An experience that will be ingrained into my memory, and last me for years to come after this YAV year.

13063473_1127343263984800_3410544300054427688_o(Photo cred: Michelle)

I also got to go to an event with The Forum for Theological Exploration (FTE) with people from all different parts of the U.S. in February with Quinten. There were other YAVs, and YAV alums there (hey Kalli, T.J., and Mary Sellers!), which was super cool. It gave me a chance to see how the current YAVs are doing, and it also let me connect with the people who have finished the YAV program and to see how their experience was.

FTE in itself was one for the books. It was basically a chance to get away from it all for the weekend to Camp Allen in Texas where I got to discern, and reflect on what’s next in my journey. Through doing that hopefully I’ll have a little more clarity on what path to take next.

10903975_1134711076559921_5724052290809699672_o.jpg(My small group presenting on something probably totally groundbreaking.)

 

1272937_1134711506559878_5182395204988451508_o(By the time this guy finished his speech and presentation I’m pretty there wasn’t any heart in that room that wasn’t fired up, and ready to change the world.)

One devastating part about Miami life is that there isn’t glorious Whataburger nearby. Luckily, the driver we had for taking my group from the airport to the retreat center was a God-send, and hooked a brother up!

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(It was a good solid 2 months since I had the amazingness that is Whataburger. My taste buds were square dancing with how good it was.)

Another wonderful thing that has been happening is the influx of people whom I love coming to visit me over this past year. So shout out to Jessica Hume, Kevin East and my parents for coming out!

I’m super pumped for the next batch of family and friends to come too! Yeah, that’s right I’m talking to you Mindy from NOLA, RTQ, Catherine, and my parents who are coming over the next couple of months! My place is still open to whoever old friends wants to come so just give a boy a holla if you want to! We have a lovely futon, and an abundance of chickens to look at in the morning.

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(Jessica, and I conquered the everglades that day. We also saw like two manatees! Yeah that’s right, Luke!)

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(My parents trying their first cuban sandwiches, and let’s just say they were hooked!)

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(Kevin might of only been in Mi-ami for less then 36 hours, but he definitely made a life-long friend with that goat in the back while slurpin down some milkshakes from Robert is Here)

I’ve also been trying to soak up everything Miami, and southern Florida has to offer, which of course means a whole lot of aquatic fun. So far, I’ve gotten to Kayak, Paddleboard (newest addiction, and I’ve only lost my glasses once!), and just swam a lot in the Atlantic. The house actually went down to Key West this past Friday where we reflected on our year, got to see the Sunset, and met with a feeling of renewal.

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(Last Saturday, Phil, who’s in the middle and a board member, took Quinten, Natalie, and I out to go Kayaking. Not pictured here is mustachioed Quinten who was the photographer of our aquatic adventure)

b29d8b380e8c4f189700266b2778bab5(Just touching the Southernmost Point of the continental U.S.A. NBD. Photo cred: Michelle)

If you also haven’t noticed I’ve had a whole lot of reflection time this year, which has made me think about what I exactly want out of life, a job, relationships, theology, love, and everything inbetween. Hopefully though, all of this discernment and reflection will truly be a torch in the darkness that is the path that lies ahead as I start to decide what’s next, and what exactly to do. It’s truly frightening because only the future knows, but I guess that’s kind of where the fun is, right?

These are just a few things that I’ve gotten to experience and felt.  There are so many more to come before I leave. Hopefully I can post about them too in the upcoming months before my time is over. Because I’ve barely been posting on here, and I have way too many photos I’ve taken I’ll try to start posting a whole lot of pictures on my instagram account, which you should follow if you want to see what all I’ve been doing this year!

Until next time WordPress world!

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(The sunset in Key West right off of Mallory Square. Not pictured: the veteran sword swallower who was literally right behind us. And yet again this amazing photo is thanks to Michelle!)

Week 1: Welcome to Miami!

Hey folks! Surprisingly I’ve been writing a lot, and I’ve been meaning to post. I just edit way too much, second guess my writing, and write humongous posts. So to solve this I’ll be posting a blog a day/ every other day to show what I’ve done each week in bullet points, and putting it into different sections. I hope you enjoy it! I’ve got 9 or 10 weeks to post about so get your eyes ready!


August 31st to September 6th



Nature

(As Will Smith says)

  • South Beach and the eye-piercing white sand and beautifully blue ocean.

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(Our first time at south beach…. and it was immaculate.)

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(Quinten literally testing the waters!)


Art

  • Wynwood, and it’s awe-inspiring murals. The Wynwood district isn’t like anything else I’ve ever experienced, and to be honest… I am in love with it. This district has definitely brought Miami’s art score up in my books.

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(One of the massively huge amazing murals at Wynwood)


Food

  • The Food experience’s here are unlike anywhere else. Many times during this experience Natalie has said how “nothing has tasted bad”, which is undeniably a fact. I’ve dived into the world of Venezuelan, Cuban, and many other Spanish cultures cuisines, and to be honest I don’t want to be rescued if I drown in their deliciousness. Another super fascinating thing is that hearing all the different accents, and dialects being spoken when I go to these restaurants, which is something I had no idea about before I came to Miami. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I was at Doggy’s (so yummy!) eating Venezuelan food, and Michelle (our YAV Miami leader) pointed out the dialect of people around us, and how they differ from different Spanish-influenced cultures. Which I guess is a lot how the south talks as compared to the North. How fascinating fun, right?
  • One of the foods that has captured my heart would have to be the Pepito!, which is a street food in Venezuela. This thing is basically amazing, and truly a treat whenever I get a chance to devour it.

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(Peppitos! my first Miami love)

  • Coffee: Another thing we’ve grown to love is coffee here, which is crazy since no one of my housemates has ever drinking coffee on purpose. 
  • This drink is so amazing, and it only costs like 2 bucks, which is meant for 6 friends. It’s called Colada, which is a Cuban coffee, and will make you certainly feel energized. If you care about sleeping, or being a human being the next day then I recommend not to ingest this nectar of the gods.

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(Colada, the downfall of my sleep)


Culture Blending

  • One of my big goals of my YAV year in Miami is to adapt to the culture around me. A culture that was hopefully going to be foreign to me. Lucky for me that culture is quite prevalent in certain parts of Miami. The culture is the Hispanic culture. One of the big ways culture immersion happened the first week was whenever we went on our first stop in the church tour to the all Spanish First Presbyterian church, where I got my first experience of being in a mass setting where I had no idea what they were saying (Sorry Africa and Korea). This was quite something.

Through doing this; I noticed a couple of interesting things about the culture

  • they do the hug and kiss on the check thing, which was pretty nerve wracking at first, but now I’m basically a pro. It’s especially something when you’re 6 foot 5, and having to bend down, and cheek kiss a little old Spanish lady.
  • Small thimbles of coffee are served (shots) at lunch times, and pretty much everyone partakes.
  • It could have been just the church we went to, but they have little wafers with crosses on them, which I thought was pretty neato.

Wafer time!

(I don’t think I’ve ever seen this religiously adorable)

Here is the church:

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(First Presbyterian Spanish, Our first church!)

And here’s the whole group

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(Squad life)


Assimilating

All throughout this week I was thinking and asking myself “how will I really get to know Miami, and know what the locals do so I can get the really authentic experience?” The best answer I came up with was to go to a local barber shot, mingle with the locals, and hopefully learn what’s off the beaten path of what tourists would normally know about.

So I turned to my good friend Reddit, and went to the first one people recommend. It was this quaint little place right next to Wynwood, which after finding that out I knew I had to go there since I was wanting a hip cut. While there I popped the question of “What should I do?” to all the barbers, and people in there. “You do the same stuff you you do in every city” is the reply I got back. Laughter erupted, but outside of that joyous noise it hit me like a ton of bricks that realization that maybe activities that are done in each city are the same, and maybe there’s nothing really different in each city. It’s just a different place with different people.

Luckily though, after prodding some more, and letting them think some more they gave me some helpful tips. Some things like going to the Everglades, and checking out some local events like Wynwood Art Walk Hopefully though I’ll be able to see what really makes this city shine all on it’s own. I also got a haircut that would help combat all of this heat, and humidity:

Before, and after hair pics
(Bring it on Miami!)

I heard from a past YAV, Patrick, that one of his housemates during his year in Belfast didn’t cut his hair at all,  It would certainly save money, and contribute to simple living, which is a big part of our year of service. I guess only time will tell if I’ll be able to handle all of this extra heat and humidity in my life, and will eventually have to chop off my hair.


Side Notes

  • Another big thing we did this week was go to all of our different placements, which was super exciting! Everybody’s non-profit seemed pretty great, and I could really tell that they were doing some amazing good in the city. I had a place called MVP (Most Valuable Protégés, Quinten has a place called Gate,
  • We also got to experience all the different parts of the city. It reminds me a lot of NYC with all the different Burroughs they have up there (Brooklyn, The Bronx, and whatnot). There’s Coral Cables, and Coconut Grove for example.
  • Michelle introduced us to an amazing gelato place that actually serves there gelato in cones. I guess dreams really do come true, ehh?

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Gelato in delicious cones… who would have known!)

  • Upon moving to Miami meant the DOOR/YAV house has changed to a new area. It used to be in Little Haiti, but now we are in Little Havana! This means though that we have no internet. Did you read that right? No internet! So this has made us flock to the local library, and spend our internet time there.
  • We have also shown our Korean housemate the magic that is Will Ferrel in the highly acclaimed movies of Anchorman and Elf. I was a little worried that she would hate them because the humor can be kind of really dumb at times, but I think she kind of liked them.
  • As a house we also created a house covenant, and went on our first grocery trip together (nobody died, yay!).
  • We also got to conquer the public transport system for the first time. Michelle surprisingly sprung it on us that we would be using it to get home after our last day of group orientation. Luckily we pulled it off in the end though!

What an interesting first week it was. I really can’t wait to see what this vast culturally vibrant city has to offer!

Well, until next time WordPress!

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(Yeah, that’s right. That’s a Manatee warning sign.)

Six Weeks… A Recap

Miami Skies

(The sky, and clouds are unreal here at times)

(This song, and album has been some of the main music that has helped me through my YAV year. It reminds me of what the beach feels like, and what is like to drive around with the huge sky above. Hit play, and let it be the soundtrack to this blog).


Well hey there world, it’s been a while hasn’t it?

It’s officially been a month, and two weeks since I’ve started my life as a Y.A.V. in Miami. Things… have been interesting to say the least.

So far I’ve experienced so many things. It would be too many to name, but I’ll try my best.

To start it off let me tell you about the food in Miami. Whenever they say Miami is one of the most culturally diverse places in the U.S. they aren’t lying, and you can definitely tell with all the food options this place has to offer. There are so many flavors here that it’s unreal at times.

For instance; so far I’ve had the pleasure of tasting:

  • Cuban Food
  • Cuban Coffe (Colada!)
  • Venezuelan Food (Pepiitos!)

Pepitos!

(Pepitos, a Venezuelan street food dish, which we’ve fallen head over heels for)

  • Haitian Food
  • Argentinean food

There are still so many things to try though like Puerto Rican, and Brazilian food. I’m really excited to dive into all these different cuisines because pretty much everything I’ve eaten has been super tasty.


Another thing that I’ve been doing a lot is going on a church tour every Sunday of all different kinds of churches the Miami area. We’ve done this for the past 6 weeks, and it’s been really fascinating just to see how all these different denominations do their worship. We’ve (YAV house and our site coordinator Michelle) experienced pretty much everything under the ginormous Christianity-denomination umbrella. For instance the first weekend here we went to an all-Spanish speaking Presbyterian church, and then last weekend we went to a Lutheran Church.

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(The all-Spanish church service where I understood everything 100%.. and it just so happened to have been opposite day as well)

This has been a little tiring, but it really makes one think about what they want out of a church community, and service.


Another part of my YAV experience has been Community Day Fridays. On these days I’ve gotten to learn about crucially important things affecting the world. I’ve also got to volunteer at some pretty rad non-profits.

The things I’ve done regarding that:

  • Worshiped at a catholic soup kitchen, and then helped them feed the homeless afterwards.

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(A statue of the Virgin Mary outside of the soup kitchen. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but at least I got this!)

  • Learned about gentrification, and watch a video that talks about Wynwood, which is a super hip up-and-coming part of Miami (here’s the video if you want to watch:https://vimeo.com/110682099).
  • We went to Easter Seals, which is a place that helps people with many different mental disabilities. While we there we helped with the part of it that deals with people with Alzheimers, and different levels of Dementia.

Now I bet you’re wondering what have I been doing while in Miami. When I came here I actually already knew what I would be doing, which was nice since at orientation a lot of the YAVs I talked to didn’t know what they would be doing. Since then though some things have transpired which have led me to not being associated with that non-profit anymore. I didn’t get fired or anything. It’s just that some things happened, and now I’m waiting for the next placement. Because of this I have had the opportunity to volunteer at a lovely non-profit called Branches, which is basically an after school program where I help kids with homework.

Besides that I’ve also gotten the chance to help DOOR with their Discover groups (a part of DOOR where they have groups come in for week long mission trips) like last week. During this time I was an assistant to my site coordinator Michelle, and helped her out with various things. I also got to go back to Easter Seals, which was kind of a heartbreaking experience since the people I met last time has no idea who I was even though we had like a two hour conversation, but more of that some other time!


Since this post is already getting kind of huge I’ll stop right now, but I’m going try my best to upload more so please stay tuned.  I’ll leave you though with this

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Thanks for reading, and until next time have a great day!


P.S. If you’d like to donate to my Y.A.V. year then there is a nifty little donate section on my blog up top!
There you will find all the info on how to make a contribution! Thank you very much if you decide to do this. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.

Marinating on Orientation

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(Night Worship at one of the last nights at Stony Point.)

So the next couple of posts are ones I’ve been waiting to put up here, but haven’t had a chance yet since I’ve been waiting for my house to get Internet/ overanalyzing what I write and making a bagilion different versions. So enjoy the ride down memory lane while I post my reflections from the past couple of weeks!


So here I am. Three weeks in. A bit settled in, but yet a tad bit restless still. Still trying to gather the shards of my thoughts after they were broken at Orientation.

Orientation was something else. I met so many unbelievably amazing people, and gave me faith in so many things. Lessons were taught where I not only learned things about the world around me, but also deep things about myself (like my love language might just be words). Games were played (Bunny, Bunny, and KanJam- Jam that Kan!). Stories were told that were unbelievable to hear, and that really reminded oneself to not judge a book by it’s cover.

The way the week was scheduled out was a mix of different lectures, and activities. These focused greatly on tearing down walls that we’ve created, opening our minds to new ideas, learning about different cultures and faiths, and really digging into the core fabric of who we really are as people and what we truly believe. We also got to hear a lot from previous YAVs of how privilege, and worldviews were challenged, and changed.

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(One of the slides from some of our intense classes that gave us a different kind of perspective.)

Needless to say… it was intense. There were many days where all I wanted to do was play KanJam with my new crazy friends, and just lay on the green grass. I knew though that this information would be crucial to my upcoming year.

One of the most valuable things I learned from this besides the social justice issues was that it isn’t an unusual thing for someone to feel a little lost at this age for there were a lot of people who still hadn’t figured out what path they should be going down. It’s something that rings a little true to home, and kind of made me feel a tad bit more connected now that I knew that I wasn’t entirely alone.

Knowing that fact has made me even more excited about this year. In knowing that maybe through the work with all of these various non-profits that I can finally find a path that I wouldn’t mind taking a stroll down once I complete the YAV program, and maybe, just maybe the YAV’s motto of “A year of service for a lifetime of change” might just ring even truer in my life than I could ever have fathomed.


While down in Miami I’ll have a hectic busy year, but there might be some down time. With the fact that I don’t have cable I’ll probably have a lot more free time as well so I’m thinking about what are some skills/ useless talents I should gain with all of this newly gathered time that isn’t being preoccupied by T.V..

So my question is… what would you learn if you had all of this time?