Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More Abilene

Aidan playing at the mall

My friends Connie and Kelly

Kelly's adorable daughter Audra holding Ally. Audra even loaned us her car so we wouldn't have to rent one....what a sweetie!

Two of my nieces and their families were traveling through town so I was thrilled to get to meet up with them for lunch. Here's Aidan with his second cousin Weston. Aren't they a pair of handsome boys?

Gigi and Ally

My niece Emily holding her niece Claire, while Emily's daughter Madison looks on. Adorable!

Emily's darling daughters Kailey and Madison

Nephews Kevin and Brian with Brian's cute son Rylee

Precious Anna and Rylee with their daddy Brian

My cute girls
My niece Melissa with her sweet daughter Anna

The whole crew
It was fun to have so many together for a little while. It really reminded me of when our six girls were young and now here they are, all grown up with kids of their own.

On to Abilene

Susan and Aidan
Aidan in the pool
Cute little Ally
Aidan's getting to be so big!

More swimming

With our friends Jim and Sherri

Gigi with her little sweeties

Corey and Ally

The retreat ended on Thursday and we all left NM on Friday. I rode to Durango with several others who were flying out and we had enough time to walk around downtown for about an hour before checking in at the airport. Char and Donna were on a different airline but we were all going to Denver and then they were going to Anchorage while I went to DFW. When we checked in in Durango, their flight had been cancelled so they were transferred to mine. We boarded our plane and were sitting on the runway when we were told that there were high winds and microbursts in Denver so we could not get clearance to take off just yet. After an hour and a half just sitting there, we finally left Durango. Landing in Denver was a little bumpy and the airport was PACKED with people because so many flights had been delayed or cancelled due to the weather. It looked like the ANC flight had already left but Donna and Char had to go to a different terminal than I so we said our "goodbyes" and "good lucks." I got to my gate and my flight to DFW had been delayed till 11:20 PM (it was 8:30 or around there when I arrived). Flights continued to be cancelled and the lines to Customer Service were snaking around the terminal. I grabbed something to eat and tried to get on the internet but had no success, probably because everyone else had the same idea. Fortunately, my flight was never cancelled and ended up leaving around 10:30 PM. It was almost 2 AM before I got to my hotel and 2:30 before I went to sleep, knowing I had to get back up at 6 to head to the airport for a flight to Abilene in the morning. I am not a morning person and did not relish this idea one little bit!

I am usually a little nervous during take off and landing but I was so tired that I fell asleep before the plane took off and woke back up when the pilot announced that we were eight minutes out of Abilene! Sweeeet! That's the way to fly! Susan, Aidan and Ally were there to meet me and it was so good to see them! Ally said, "Gigi's home!" as if I still lived there and had just been gone for a little while. So cute!

We went to check into my hotel but it was too early so we got some lunch and then came back. Oh yeah, I forgot to say that I had the Hyatt Regency near DFW the night before for $50 on, we continue to love priceline. It was a gorgeous room, too bad I was only there for a few hours. :) So I got the Courtyard Marriott in Abilene for the same price (but probably should have bid less) and the kids stayed with me for my whole visit. Susan also stayed a couple of nights. Free internet and a free laundry room, AND a pool that the kids loved and could not get enough of. Aidan and Ally were just precious and we had a blast hanging out. It's hard being a far-away grandmother!

I was only going to be there for a few days so we tried to cram as much into our time as possible! We went to the pool A LOT, went shopping at Target and bought some toys and clothes, went out to eat, played at the mall playground, walked to McDonald's for pancakes and juice in the morning, talked and played, watched "Alvin and the Chipmunks" on pay per view while munching popcorn in bed, and went to see "Toy Story 3" in 3D at the theater (though we could not understand why they would hand out adult sized 3D glasses at a children's movie....Ally couldn't keep them on her head!) And managed to see a few friends, too.

Ropes Course

On the last day of the Fellowship retreat, we got really adventurous and did a Ropes Course. It was another gloriously sunny day and it felt good just to be outside for several hours.

Tina, April, Crystal and Josh

Here I am getting ready to climb a 25 foot pole and walk across a balance beam. Thank goodness for the harness!

Walking across
Almost finished!
Coming down
Unfortunately, I did not realize that our time was limited and I should have been more assertive in taking my turn on the different stations. I had only done one and was in line for this one when we were told our time was up! I really wanted to climb this pole and jump to the trapeze! Maybe next time.

Learning mixed with fun

In a circle at the Shiprock Chapter House

Community planning workshop in Cove

More workshopping

Yes, we worked hard!

I think this is lavender

Each team had to do an opening or closing, which could be serious or fun. One group had us participate in a stick horse rodeo. Hilarious!

The Shiprock Chapter House of the Navajo Nation

Char and Donna with our friend Timmy

Josh from Anchorage working on a timeline for one of our projects.

Visiting Local Communities

Most of the 2010 Fellows at the famous Shiprock

The Shiprock and wall
Our Unalaska Team, Char, Jane and Donna

Yummy lunch at one of our community stops

Making fry bread
Working the water station at "Just Move It" 4 mile run/walk

Just Move It!

A traditional male hogan

Marge Bluehorse-Anderson is one of our faculty and staff for the HNCF. We were able to meet her parents--her dad is a Traditional Healer and both are long time community leaders. We were fortunate to be educated and blessed by Mr. Bluehorse while meeting in a traditional hogan.

This is sheep country
Roy, one of our Fellows, in his home town, where he shared a great deal of knowledge with us.

Some of the wool and weavings that come from Teec Nos Pos, one community we visited.

The rest of the week was jam-packed with activities and training. We spent several days on the Navajo Nation, visiting various little communities and interacting with the people there. This was by far my favorite part of the training. Although I realize that the classroom-type learning is important, I am much more of a people-person and enjoy meeting and talking with lots of folks. We were fortunate to meet some community activists, elders and a Traditional Healer, ate with people in several communities, and helped with a "Just Move It" 4 mile walk/run. It was great to see everyone from elders to babies in strollers walking, running, and hanging out with one another. I worked at a water station so had the chance to chat with lots of participants. Afterwards, I walked back to our bus so managed to get in a little bit of exercise myself.

On the down side, I really wanted to learn more about the history, culture, and issues surrounding the Navajo Nation rather than spending so much time in workshops. One of my co-participants recommended some books to me so I will be following up with some reading on my own.

As a white person, I still feel a little out of place with the other participants. There are a few other white people in the Fellowship, but the majority of teams are made up of Native Americans or Alaska Native individuals who have such distinctly different historical and cultural experiences than we do. And there's just no way that we can fully understand that experience. Many of them come from reservation communities, with all of the historical trauma associated with that situation. Many are struggling to preserve their culture and their language--I have been highly impressed with the young people who are reviving their languages and their traditions. We were in group discussions one day and I said I had to admit that I am a little envious that I don't have the strong cultural background that many of them do, that I cannot list my clans on both sides of my family for generations back, that I don't really have any long held traditions or cultural identity. And then I wonder if that is insensitive to say as a person from the majority culture who has had very few problems in life--maybe they are thinking "yes, we are proud of our culture and traditions, but give me a break, white girl--do you really want all the other crap that we've had to deal with??!"