BACK IN THE USA! On Monday the cast and I crossed over Mexico's border and entered Arizona! I am very disappointed to have left Mexico. Only a few days before leaving I had developed the ability to carry on a conversation in Spanish. Of course I was saying the same thing to everyone, but I had finally started to feel like a member of society. On our travel day from Hermosillo, Mexico to Sahuarita, Arizona I was able to ride in the Up With People(UWP) Van with our Cast Manager Martin Brennan. Riding in the van with Martin was an exciting experience for me because we were able to discuss a lot about our tour's statistical progress.
Having performed seven shows in Mexico, our UWP cast B performed for over 26,000 Mexican people and donated 3,750 community impact hours. Depending on our schedule each week the individual cast member donates somewhere between 10-17 hours of their time to service and spans 11-15 hours in regional education sessions. Our evening hours are then filled with cultural submersion as we get to know our host families from around the world. On show days each individual spends 14 hours preparing, rehearsing and performing the Up With People show. If any individuals work through their hour lunch or dinner break, thats additional time. If these hours of performance outreach preparation are added to the number of service hours each student contributes to the program, a student is donating 32 hours of their time to each local society. Since our host families provide an excellent amount of regional education, some of the time we spend with them each week can be added to each student's education time. Considering the fact that each student eats an evening meal with their family and usually spends at least an hour conversing or playing a game, an additional two hours of education can be added to five days of our weekly schedule. So, in addition to our 11-15 hours of regional education, host family time provides each student with up to 25 hours of additional education each week. To sum up my statistical babble, each individual student spends six days a week with the cast and contributes 57 hours to the UWP program. When a student is not taking part in the 9.5 hours of UWP each day they are either sleeping, blogging, learning English, or helping their host family out around the home.
Collectively, our cast of 94 students donates somewhere between 2500-3000 hours serving and performing in each city we visit. During some community service days a portion of our students are signed out to work on activities such as dance performance or musical development, so service hours can vary a small bit, but not often. Like normal, on-campus means of education, I personally learn the most when I am studying or doing homework on my own, so the time that I spend reflecting and blogging is sometimes the most valuable part of my day.
My experience in Arizona was fantastic. On Monday night I met my new host family and enjoyed American food for the first time in weeks and started to learn about the Wild West! Never before had I known of such a thing as the Arizona three-piece suit or gone scorpion hunting with a black light. My host father a retired locomotive engineer explained to me that the three-piece suit consists of a T-shirt, shorts and a sturdy pair of sandals. it can be worn just about every day of the year. I spent most of Saurhita visiting a hospital in Tucson and recovering from my illness of the previous week, but I was able to teach a Stand For Peace class for the first time.
Stand For Peace is designed to educate elementary and middle school students about promoting peace in a context of diversity. The standard, one day Stand for Peace workshop typically consists of approximately 2 hours of morning classroom activities that focus on peace and diversity issues followed by an up With People Mini show in the afternoon. This 30 minute show is presented by the Up With People cast and is centered around ideas of hope, positive thinking and cultural understanding. The members of our cast who are signed up for Stand For Peace classes, go into the elementary schools in groups of three and teach an interactive class period that promotes teamwork and the understanding of others. I was able to teach one class of third-graders and also a group of fifth-graders. Our multicultural cast makes for an interesting group of international teachers. The children we taught were excited to "get out their wings" and take a flight around the world to visit all the places that our UWP cast are from. The children I taught had already brought their imaginations to school with them and were excited to go crab fishing in Chesapeake Bay and to eat a hot dog at Camden Yards. Other cast members took the children to their home countries and taught about their traditions and customs. Everyone in class was excited to fly to Mexico to visit Paulina's home in Mexico and learn about Ilka's experiences in Germany.
One of the topics we discussed in class is the concept of "Power With" vs. "Power Over". This section of class is taught by using a hand activity that discusses the classic conflict resolution concepts of "win-win" versus "win-lose." The students of the class are asked to pair up into groups of two. One student is person A the other is person B. The object of the activity is for person B to get person A to open their hand. The UWP cast member that is teaching the class allows the children to have time to try to get the other persons had open using any means. After 15-30 seconds the UWP cast member asks which students used forceful means to get partner A's and open. Of course more than half of the class used force to try to get their opponents hand open, but one or two children are successful by just simply asking their class mate to open their hand. This concept begins the classes discussion of "Power With." The students are asked questions like, how can you practice having "Power With" versus "Power Over"? Or what is challenging or hard about having "Power With"? The students are asked about ways that they can exercise this concept in their classes, on teams, in their communities, and in their families. They are encouraged to try these concepts with their friends and siblings. Another activity is called "Personal Flags" which gives students an opportunity to grow within themselves and to show other classmates the things that they are proud of. Each student designs a piece of paper with symbols, colors, and pictures of events that describe who they are. All of the personal flags are then connected at the end of the class to make one class flag. This concept shows the students that they are connected through their differences and that they are a strong group of people because each one of them bring something different to the class.
Spending an extended amount of time at home with my host dad allowed me to learn a lot about American western culture. My host dad, having been a train engineer and a native Arizonian, taught me a lot about living in the desert and the culture of Green Valley. My host parent's house was located 20 minutes outside downtown Tucson and was surrounded by four major mountain ranges. Just north of our home lay the Catalina Mountains, to the East the Rincon Mountains, the Santarina Mountains lay to the south, and the Tucson Mountains were in the West. We lived close to the University of Arizona and David Munson Air Force Base. Twenty minutes from the house was the Titan Missile Silo Museum. My host family took me to Corral Western Wear and took my host brothers and I to the Boneyard where all the old United States military airplanes are kept after they are retired from service. I was able to get my picture taken with a Saguaro and visit old Tucson Studios where Easy Rider was filmed. Scorpion hunting with a black light was an exhilarating experience and allowed me to really bond with my host dad. When a black light is casted upon a scorpion it will begin to glow metallic lime green. The scorpion is unharmed by the light but will begin to react as if it is threatened. Going scorp'n was definitely one of the coolest things I have done out west. I highly recommend it, but be careful people die! No I'm just kidding. But seriously, wearing sandals is exhilarating! Gared Ginsberg would have loved it!!!
I performed will the Colwell Brothers who started Up With People in 1965!!
I'll be in New Mexico next week, catch me there!