Refugees and Homelessness

I went shopping for food today. And think I should just start doing that instead of complaining about the lack of vegetarian options that we get.

Because I hooked it up. All the vegetables, all the fruit, all the organic. It’s actually the same price to buy organic for certain things. Worth a try looking to see. Tomatoes were both 2.99 per pound on the vine for regular or organic. Almost bought regular, but decided to check how much the organic were and was super excited and surprised.

Teflon. We’ve got a shitton of teflon pans, and only metal stirring spoons. I’m making my own food for awhile.

Which shouldn’t be a problem. Because I’m pretty all over the place for the next few weeks. Or at least I want to.

Finding all the city opportunities I’ve been waiting a lifetime to have access to. And now starting to take those opportunities. Actually taking them, not just writing them down.

Because, why not? I live in a tent. I think this is a great example to me of the fact that it just doesn’t matter. People do shit, and no one knows about it. I don’t know about it. I have this life where I only take showers every few days now and smell like a person and a campfire at the same time. And no one is calling Scotland Yard.

I am getting a lot of mosquito bites, though. Lots of bleeding, itchy bites turned to scabs. Getting bit right now and thinking about where to move.

But it’s really so beautiful in this spot, out here.

After shopping this morning for groceries, sat in the lodge while it rained (who knew it rained here?!) and we all just mused on this year, and how it’s not exactly what we thought we were getting into. We all wish we were doing a little more people work– social work. And we all wish we were helping people who need help, not people who want help.

But what can you do.

I said that, regardless of the impact we’re making by doing this grunt work we do for people who could just get prison crews to do the same thing for free, we are learning something more valuable to take out into the real world: how to coexist with 10 other strangers in various terrains and environments. Because, honestly, we learn this, we are learning social work. We are learning it within ourselves.

And we’re learning things don’t always go as planned, things aren’t always what you want, but as long as you are still more out of it than it’s taking from you, it’s worth it. You’ll come out on top. And where else are you going to find this type of communal travelling program?

Also, before joining this program I was hesitant to become involved in volunteer work. Do they really need me, will I fit in, do I have a place here, am I bothering them? And what I’ve learned this year is, most likely they will just be excited you give a shit. And there’s always something for you to do, you have to be creative. And the fact that we’re not tutoring kids or working in a homeless shelter like other teams are doesn’t mean we got unlucky. It’s just means we have to try harder to make that a part of our lives. We have to reach for what we want, it’s not handed on a silver platter to anyone. And if you wait for the luck of the draw, you’re going to embark on a waiting lifestyle. Which no one has time for.

So I’ve learned to make the best of something or else change it. I’ve learned to take responsibility for my life choices more, I’ve learned that it never pays to wait. That you need to make the magic happen now.

I’ve learned that you should always reach toward what you want, and rejection is scary, but not as scary as a life of waiting.

George is running around wearing Alyssa’s beanie and a black sweater, and he looks like he’s about to write a novel. When George would never have any such intent in his life. He keeps grabbing everyone in big bear hugs, he craves human contact, it powers him. And we’re lucky to have him around to bridge all of the attention that we all need, but don’t know how to ask for. He’s there for everyone. And belching loud enough to disgust you.

“Did you know George only drinks milk? He hasn’t drank water in months.”

“That is foul.”

Alyssa and Sydney and I talking about homelessness, how we are all from rural towns were it is not really a thing at all. And how when we walk down the street, we’re always the person people talk to, because we make eye contact. How we want to get rid of that vulnerability, but not that humanity. How we’re going to take a homeless person out to lunch every weekend we are here. How we’re really going to learn about the issues, since our job is not providing us with information on that.

Last night I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to silence. Why did I wake up? I was up for the next 10 minutes just starring out our tent. At least I have Jess as a tentmate, but it’s still kind of creepy being out here in the middle of the city. People all over, lots of mental instability and addiction around. There are good and bad homeless people, just as there are good and bad people with homes. But it is still disturbing that we are out here with a population of people who need help and are not really getting it. And we don’t even have a wall separating us from the streets. It’s just weird.

We know that chances are everything will be fine and we’ll be left alone, but I just don’t like waking up in the middle of the night for no reason, and realizing where we are. Last night was the first night that I felt a little bit of fear being out here.

But I also feel fear in every room I’ve ever spent a night in at some point. I just don’t like nighttime in general.

We talked about it, though. Me and the girls. We are going to do what we can do learn about the issues, but we are going to keep ourselves safe. Just as we wouldn’t trust anyone with a home, we will not trust just anyone without a home. It’s the same concept. But it’s definitely cold how society treats people without homes.

Watched a social experiment video where a guy dressed as a businessman asked for change for a parking meter on the street, and people went out of their way to grab change for him passing by. And then he dressed like he was poor and homeless, and everyone just ignored him and walked past.

Watched another video awhile back where a guy walked around asking people for a bite of their foot outside restaurants, rejected. Then had a friend give a pizza to a homeless man, and the same guy went up to the homeless man and asked if he could grab a slice, and the guy scooted over and invited him to sit and eat with him.

It’s just a mentality. We are so protective about what is ours, that we don’t even spare when we have abundance. Because that is the capitalistic mentality. Save all you can, grab as much as you can. But then, when someone doesn’t have anything, they can be the most giving?

Hated everything this morning. Then decided to change my attitude. And everything changed.

I got a great workout at work, and will have great arms in a few weeks if I continue at this pace. We were preparing prairie for planting oak trees.

I stopped comparing, and didn’t care about how much other people were doing as far as work was concerned. It was just about me. And that’s how it should be. And that’s when people started giving a shit about working hard themselves, ironically. Trying to compete with me and get more done. Go figure.

At the end of the day sat out on the prairie outside of Sacramento and looked out to the clouds. Was just like Kansas. George pulled up my pant leg to reveal my jayhawk symbol on my sweatpants underneath. Symbolism.

We all went to the YMCA after work, and the pool was closed for lessons so I went running around town.

Really getting to know this city. Really enjoying living in a city. It’s all at my fingertips, I just have to do it. Read about it. Explore it.

And I heard a couple speaking in Spanish on the way back, and repeated what they said under my breath as I jogged past.

Then realized that I had rolled my “r”s for the first time in my life. It was great!

So for the next ten minutes, I ran past everyone rolling my r’s outloud. Not embarrassed really, just so amazed that I finally got it. After 10 years of trying.

And then I walked back in the Y, and they had a library. And picked up a book right in front of me on South America. Different chapter for each country within it. My favorite kind of books– broad knowledge on specific places. Great.

And then came home.

Made food, took a shower, went downtown. And then left everyone at the coffeeshop and went my own way. Not really sure where I would end up.

Ended up at the garage restaurant, asked if they had wifi, they did. A girl slid me the password and a cup of coffee.

Then I jammed out and got super excited about opportunities and presence. And applied to be a mentor at the other refugee center in town. The one that came to talk to us told us that they were the only one! Just goes to show. Gotta dig deeper.

And the only way I found out about this one was through Sac Peace and Justice– they are holding a lecture by the director of this organization on Sunday.

Love it.

And then walking back, this guy in front of me was just saying “Presence. Presence. Presence. You’ve got to be in the moment. Presence. Everything is right now.” Over the phone. He looked homeless and a little bit off, but he was speaking some truth. And the repetition got into my head.

Pulled up at the cafe, and sat next to Alyssa. Who is talking to this beautiful man who did Peace Corps and is now a high school teacher in town. And then Carinne told me about Volunteers for Peace– an international aid organization that allows you to travel supposedly. Look into it later.

And then the SN &R– the local newspaper that I love– is literally just down the street from our campsite. Going to see if I can shadow someone for a day.

So many cool organizations about– I will not have time for all of them. At least not committment-wise. But I definitely can make an effort to stop by and talk with all of them. Network and get vibes. Learn about the non-profit sector.

Rin, Tony and Dre were standing lurking in the shadows as I walked up to the lodge alone tonight. And I called out their names to make sure it was them, because they looked like they were in black suites and ski masks. And then Rin gives me shit, “You are the most paranoid person.” She’s drunk. She’s drunk a lot lately. Not my favorite. And I’m just like, “Thank you. Goodnight.”

So over it. I’m really excited about other things right now, and I don’t really have time for hippie “everything is safe and happy and you’re a worrywort” nagging. How about you focus on your own life and stop telling me what I should and shouldn’t feel comfortable with.

I’m pushing myself in other areas besides walking alone in dark places.

I’m finding my career.

I really think that could be a perfect fit for me. Mentor for refugees– it’s international, sharing culture and teaching culture. And helping them to do everyday things here in the US, making them feel comfortable and confident. Really excited. Flexible volunteer hours. Alyssa is spearheading setting up an event working with Loaves and Fishes this weekend.

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