Christ Ponderosa: Alternate Spring Break Service Learning Road Trip to New Mexico

By Christ Ponderosa

On March 22nd this year, a group of 11 GRCC students and 3 staff members departed from the Bus Circle for The Path in Estancia, New Mexico. We crammed into two mini-vans and embarked on an eight-day road trip that is full of amazing natural sceneries along the way. It took us three days, eight hours each day, of driving to reach Estancia. During these three days, we stopped in a couple of cities across many different states for lunch every day and to stay the nights. We then spent another three days, eight hours each day, of driving back from Estancia to GRCC.

The whole GRCC group with the "WELCOME" sign made by a 9-year old
The whole GRCC group with the “WELCOME” sign made by a 9-year old

The time spent in The Path, New Mexico is definitely one of the most memorable ones that I’ve ever had in the US. We left Auburn ready to learn about and experience the Native American indigenous cultures, and this is why it was not surprising that by the end of the trip, most of us felt enriched and enlightened.

The Path is the name that Grandmother Flordemayo had given to a piece of sacred land that now has been transformed into a complex of temples with farms and garden surrounding the temples. Grandmother Flordemayo was among the Indigenous Grandmothers who visited our college last year for the Artist and Speaker Series program and is a member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers from all over the world. Grandmother Flordemayo and everyone else who were hosting us in New Mexico displayed the level of hospitality that I have never seen or experienced before. It was amazing that they were very welcoming and warm towards us although we all never met them before. They believe that it is for a purpose or a reason that we ever crossed path with them.

We stayed in one of the five temples in The Path, the Seed Temple, in which seeds saved are stored. There was not any schedule in New Mexico that we need to follow and this had indeed provided us the opportunity to explore as we wish and interact with our hosts and learn more on our own explorations. This also provides us with a relaxation time whereby we can get away from daily-scheduled routines. We didn’t have to worry about what’s coming next or to prepare so much for the future; we were just enjoying the present for ourselves.

For all the three days of our stay, we were served with amazing healthy food cooked by Sasha. Their lifestyle is environmentally friendly and sustainable, enlightening us that we don’t actually need all the things we consume or buy to survive. They believe that nature could support the survival and the development of the human race through traditional agricultural practices such as seed saving and the distribution of heirloom seeds, and that we should not rely on genetically modified plants.

We learnt a lot about corn. These are non-genetically modified corns that they planted themselves.
We learnt a lot about corn. These are non-genetically modified corns that they planted themselves.
The healthy, delicious food cooked by Sasha. All are made from organic raw materials.
The healthy, delicious food cooked by Sasha. All are made from organic raw materials.

They taught us to love everything that exists in our life. They taught us to love nature, including dirt, plants, animals and even rocks. They taught us to love even objects, which we have always deemed as non-living and not important because we can always have another one if the one that we have is not working or is worn out. The way of living in their culture conveys a lot about gratitude, which is especially important today in a world that is full of unhappy and ungrateful people. Their concept of gratitude is especially pronounced when they taught us that although we have to consider everything as living, it doesn’t mean that we cannot utilize any object or eat any plants and animals anymore. We can still consume and use what we need, but we have to give thanks for everything that helps us in life and we have to be considerate in consuming and using what we need.

An impressive cultural practice that they taught us is seed library. To me, it is basically an application of the notion of “listening to our hearts for answers” to farming. They taught us that seeds can convey all the information that we need about how to cultivate the seeds for optimal results. There are various ways the information can be conveyed to us: visual representation, gut feelings, audio representation, and so much more. For instance, when we ask a question to the seeds, the answer can come in the form of a picture we imagine or in a song that we are listening to, or simply by having the answer in our hearts.

Our group working on a piece of land, preparing the land for an herbs garden.
Our group working on a piece of land, preparing the land for an herbs garden.
Seed-balls are made by combining soil and seeds into a ball…
Seed-balls are made by combining soil and seeds into a ball…
Scooping poops for our herbs garden.
Scooping poops for our herbs garden.

On the last night, it was the Full Moon and Grandmother Flordemayo decided to conduct a Full Moon Ceremony and invited us to join them. The Full Moon Ceremony was an unforgettable cultural experience. We all sat down in a circle and each of us delivers a prayer to show our gratefulness according to our religious affiliations. This freedom that is given to us creates a comfortable environment for all of us, who come from diverse background. This Native American indigenous culture is not binding and it offers us some freedom in deciding what we want to do or what we want to follow and we can deliberately consider the things they taught us and choose whether or not we want to follow the path they have set up.

By the end of the trip, we have travelled 2,888 miles across seven states and all 14 of us have become a family, getting closer to each other as we spend the eight days together. We all have gained priceless cultural, spiritual and intellectual experiences and knowledge that no one could ever come across in college or school.

Everyone!
Everyone!
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s