Sunday, November 22, 2009

Much Needed Update

So. It's been a while.  In mid-October the whole community attended the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Fall Retreat in Hazlehurst, Mississippi.  It was a much needed break to focus in building community for all of us.  One of the main things we got to do was to have one-on-one conversations with each member of our community, which resulted in clarifying misunderstanding, expressing feelings, and forgiving each other.  I can say that things since then have been better, but is still a challenge (a good one!).  

Chris and I are more seriously training for the Michelob Ultra El Paso Marathon in March 7, 2010.  This time our friends Jackie and Matt shared with us another good tool for training:  We each got a personalized training schedule to prepare for this marathon and it was free!  We are running once during the week and doing a long run on Saturdays.  Yesterday Chris ran 8 miles and I ran 6.  This is the most both of us have run ever.  Our legs are feeling it, so are our knees, so let's see how in the world we are going to do 26.2 miles!

We have also been challenging different aspects of our daily lives, especially our eating habits.  Chris gave up caffeine and know is a decaf coffee drinker.  It has helped him lower his anxiety.  As for me, I stopped drinking coffee everyday since August and have been drinking it on Saturdays.  That's a huge deal for both of us I think.  Also, in our efforts to be more aware of what we eat, we have exposed ourselves to different documentaries (Food, Inc.) and books (In Defense of Food) that have turned me into a vegetarian (as of a month ago).  And, as Chris predicted in his last blog, we are eating lettuce from our garden already!  We also planted onion seeds about two weeks ago.  Let's wait to see how those turn out.

Chris has been very busy at work these days, especially because of Thanksgiving Day.  Sacred Heart Church (his worksite) is giving away 150 turkeys to 150 families!  They will also host a free Thanksgiving meal on Thursday for which they are expecting around 1,500 people from the neighborhood.  

I attended this Immigration Law Conference that taught me a lot about the different processes that my clients go through when applying for residence or petitioning for somebody.  This conference is quite popular in the U.S. because it includes a visit to the U.S. Consulate in Cd. Juarez, Mexico.  Did you know that the U.S. Consulate in Juarez is the consulate the processes the biggest amount of applications in the whole world?... Now you know!

I am quite excited about everything coming up.  Chris' birthday is tomorrow (he is turning the old age of 26).  We are going to Albuquerque, NM from the 27th to the 29th of this month.  It should be beautiful and leaves should be changing by then.  AND, there's only 30 days left to fly to Minneapolis for the holidays!  We are looking forward to do that.

Well, that is that.  We'll keep you posted as much as we can.  Hugs and thanks for the support!


PS:  We still need financial support!  Donate here

Monday, September 28, 2009

Untitled. I mean titled.


Leti and I have been busy. Which is a good thing because being in a new place without yet having established many friendships could get boring and lonely. But boring and lonely we're not.

Besides our volunteer positions we've been gardening, going out and making new friends, exploring El Paso and finding out what there is to do around here. Leti is discovering her passion for taking care of plants. We've really done a lot with the yard already and we're hoping to be eating vegetables from our little garden in a couple of months. Leti has rosemary, chrysanthemum, oleander, gardenia, sage, lettuce, and carrots under her care. Some of the highlights of the gardening project for me have been plunging my hands into the cat-scat laden soil, as well as unearthing a hidden key with key chain and a Pepsi can from approximately 1989.

We have also become pretty excited about running and our weekly yoga class. We run maybe three times a week, which has become more fun ever since our discovery of :) . And we are loving the physical benefits and the peace that we get from our $5 yoga classes with instructor Jacob. Leti is seriously considering becoming a certified yoga instructor in the future.
I've been doing some reading, some sitting on our front porch, and other odds and ends around the house to make it feel more like home for us.

Last Thursday during work, my coworkers and I were able to attend a seminar given by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr (remember, I'm Catholic now . . .). He is an internationally known speaker and author, as well as the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. It was pretty neat to hear his wisdom and ideas. The reason for the seminar was so that local religious and social service agencies could explore how to live in solidarity with the residents of Juarez, without putting ourselves in danger. Other than that, I've been getting to know the people living in the neighborhood where I work through conversation and visiting them at their apartments. Some of those conversations have been eye-opening and very saddening. However, living in the midst of the the brokenness that accompanies their poverty puts my own wants and needs into perspective. It also prevents me from being able to forget about how the majority of the world's population lives: poor and broken.

It's starting to feel a little like we belong here now. Sometimes its hard; working out the kinks of community life, missing the familiarity of Minneapolis, etc. But I welcome the challenges, even if not at first, or second . . . We're making friends and getting to know our surroundings, and perhaps realizing that, most importantly, we didn't come here to be comfortable.

Love you and truly miss you,

Saturday, September 5, 2009


This is our third weekend here in El Paso. It is still wicked hot and dry. We have not seen most places in the city yet but got to see one of the suburbs thanks to a purchase made through Craigslist. It is very different from our neighborhood. I think it was the first time I have seen so many white people in the same place since got here!

Both Chris and I have our hands full at work. Chris is making house visits now as part of one of the projects that the church has. It is quite hard to hear the conditions of the places he has visited and the people he has met. He is also attending the boys youth group meetings every Wednesday night to help out Brother Pete, his supervisor. By helping out I mean throwing the frisbee around, hitting cars and making the alarms go off. Those sort of things that Chris is really good at!

I already began assisting clients in applying for residency and citizenship. It is frustrating not be able to answer every question they make, but hopefully I will get better. I also discovered that I am very slow filling out applications. I had an appointment one day scheduled for 9:30 am and finished at 12:40 pm! I bet you are thinking that you are lucky not be my client. Admit it! It was a pain, literally. In two weeks I will begin the Conversational English and Citizenship classes. I am very nervous about this but also anxious for this to come so I can overcome that fear and nervousness. It's not like it will be my first time teaching!... It's just that these students could be my parents! That is intimidating enough for me.

Last weekend, the parents of one of our housemates came to bring her car. They invited us to dinner (YES!) and we got to hang out in the pool of the hotel they were staying. That is probably the most exciting thing that has happened in these three weeks.

There is also another volunteer at my job that is serving with the Border Servicing Corps. We are trying to get our two houses together sometime soon, it has not worked out well yet. All of us are very excited to meet other people that are doing a similar work to what we are doing.

As for this weekend, Chris and I plan to go to a Puerto Rican picnic (YES!), and maybe to the White Sands in New Mexico. We are still adjusting. There is not really much to do around here with our budget... our creativity is constantly being challenged. We could learn Tai Chi every Saturday for free! I am just not there yet.

Here I post a picture of our community. Thanks for hanging on with us! ;-)


Saturday, August 22, 2009


So it has been three weeks since we posted our first entry, but from here on out a bi-weekly post can be expected. Every other weekend or so, we will keep you updated on our shenanigans here in hot and dusty El Paso.

It has been an eventful past few weeks. Our road trip from Minneapolis to Houston was long, but fun, and long. We received great hospitality in Kansas City from Jeff and Michelle, and Chris also got to catch up with his former roommate Alex, who also lives in KC.

Next, we stayed at a beautiful and peaceful retreat center outside of Hot-Hot-Houston for about a week. There we learned and discussed what our year will look like. We also learned what it means to be a Jesuit, how they live, pray, commune, as well as what they eat for breakfast and what they smell like.

From there we hauled arse across Texas and arrived at our new home just outside of downtown El Paso; 1522 E Yandell Dr El Paso TX 79902 to be exact. Our first two days were spent being oriented to the city and our job placements by our very helpful support people, as well as being fed meals big enough to necessitate a long nap and various methods of pressure release.

Chris is feeling very welcomed at Sacred Heart Church, especially by his goofy and wonderful supervisor, Brother Pete. Chris has his first few projects lined up already. The church purchases food from the West Texas Food Bank and distributes it to struggling members of the community each Friday. Chris participates in this and will be handling and spending some grant money to enhance this operation. Along with Meg, one of Chris and Leticia's housemates who also is serving at the church, Chris will start giving job skill workshops to unemployed members of the neighborhood. He is still learning his role and job description at the church, so more details to come. And he has his own office!

Leticia will be assisting mainly Hispanic individuals in their process of applying for legal residency and US citizenship. She is working on Project SHINE, which recruits local college students to teach free citizenship classes in exchange for college credit. She will be the intermediary between the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) and the organizations that will be providing these free classes. Leti will also have the opportunity to teach conversational English and citizenship classes to adults a couple days a week. And she has her own office! And a cute pencil cup with flower prints! Oh my God!

Our new house is also very nice and accommodating. We are excited about doing some gardening and landscaping.

Looking forward to a non-existent winter. Ha ha suckers!

-Leticia & Chris

P.S. You thought we wouldn't mention it . . . but we are still in need of financial support (not applicable to those who have already donated to us). Also, the Donate Online link is now functioning properly (Sorry for the inconvenience). Thank you.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Almost There

We've got about a week before we leave our home that we have come to love here in Minneapolis, and head for a home that we will come to love in El Paso. (yeehaw, or andale arriba!)

On August 11 we will begin our year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. The JVC is a Christian social service organization that connects non-profit agencies with volunteers, and also provides those volunteers with spiritual direction and support through community.

During our search for a new way to follow Jesus, we found our values to be lined up with the JVC's main values of living simply, keeping faith, doing justice, and building community. On top of this, we feel drawn to use our energy to come alongside the marginalized population among us.

We will be working with the Hispanic border population in a couple different ways. Leticia will be volunteering with Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services as a legal assistant. She will work with people to help them attain citizenship, housing and employment. Chris will be volunteering with Sacred Heart Church's Job-Readiness and Community Outreach Programs.

We will be living in a house in downtown El Paso with two or three other Jesuit Volunteers. Our housing, food, and basic necessities will be provided by the agencies with whom we volunteer. However, we have been asked to raise a bit* of money to aid the agencies in order to make this all possible. The Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services and Sacred Heart Church will benefit from this financial contribution, and will be able to devote their resources to those in need.
*$500 each!

If it is possible for you to contribute to our service, you can do it in a couple of different ways.

  • Donate online
  • or send a check payable to Jesuit Volunteer Corps to:
PO Box 3126
Houston TX 77253

(please be sure to note our names in the memo :) )

We will be sharing our experiences and pictures in this blog and we look forward to keeping in touch while in El Pasito.

We are very grateful for your time and your contributions. Muchísimas gracias.

Leticia & Chris