ForGIF Me for Not Keeping You Updated. This Will Only Take A GIFfy.

I’ve been in Miami for a month now, which means that this is a good time for me to give my friends and family an update on what I’ve experienced thus far. I have also decided to supplement this post with GIFs (magical moving images) to make it more fun and to cause your computer to move slower! I realize that people have differing beliefs regarding the pronunciation of the word (g as in “gift” or j as in “jiff peanut butter”), so I made the title inclusive to make sure that everyone feels accepted. That’s the Presbyterian way.

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I spent almost three weeks of the last month sitting at the house while my roommates went to work for 6-8 hours each day. At first, it was enjoyable. I got to sleep in a little bit, make endless PB&Js, and watch uninterrupted hours of Lost.

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The enjoyable feeling quickly went away and I found other things to do that were more productive like washing dishes and researching what I want to do next year (WHAT????). Here is a Snapchat I sent my roommate during my days of despair:

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Michelle (site coordinator) made my dreams come true by taking me to a Presbytery meeting. That day is when I realized that I am meant to be a Presbyterian. I left the meeting with so much energy from watching Robert’s Rules in action.

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Last Wednesday, I woke up to an email saying that my background check had finally been processed and that I was ready to begin volunteering. As of today, I’ve only worked for three days, but it’s been REALLY nice to have a regular schedule. I’m at Miami Rescue Mission’s Center for Women and Children as an administrative assistant. The Center for Women and Children houses single women as well as mothers and their children for long-term stays. There are also short-term beds for single women. Case workers are on site who help each woman get back on track whether that’s getting a job, learning how to save money, or anything else. They provide many other services like showers and meals for walk-ins. The agency is faith-based which perfectly combines my religious studies degree and non-profit management minor from undergrad. During my first week of work, I’m spending my time shadowing the Guest Services employees in order for me to learn as much as I can about what goes on in the center. This involves answering a lot of phone calls and opening the door for clients.

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My housemates and I work Mondays through Thursdays and on Fridays we have community days together. So far, we have

  • helped at a soup kitchen that is run by a few nuns who are experts at what they do, followed by a birthday celebration for Quinten.
  • watched a documentary about gentrification in a neighborhood very close to us and played team-building games.
  • volunteered at South Florida’s Easter Seals Adult Day Care for seniors with varying levels of dementia. Here’s what we looked like, attempting to dance to salsa music with women who have 70 more years of experience:

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In our 28 days of living here, we have tried to go to as many cheap/free things as possible. So far, we’ve gone to art walks, an American Indian Day festival, and watched lucha libre wrestling.The good thing about constant summer weather is that I’m not sure there’s an “off-season” as far as festivities go.

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I hope this has been an enjoyable, sufficient update. I promise I will write more about what goes on at Miami Rescue Mission when I feel confident enough. I feel that I am too new there to understand completely what the Mission is all about. If you made it this far, thanks for caring about my year!

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Moved to Miami. Moved to WordPress.

NOTE: For those of you who are noticing that this is not the same website that my original blog was on: wonderful observation! I’ve decided to move my blog to WordPress because it’s easier to customize. I’m not going to move all of my posts over here right now, because that’s a lot of work, so if you would like to remind yourself of what I’ve been posting about, my old blog link was natalieyav.tumblr.com.

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Here’s a picture of me and my thoughtful, hilarious roommates. Photo credit goes to our supportive site coordinator who enjoys photography and somehow made it look like we weren’t sweating at all in this picture.

A quick synopsis of what we have done this week:
-tons of sight-seeing, lots of which has been done from the comfort of our air-conditioned van, as none of us are used to this heat quite yet
-eaten amazing meals
-taken many trips to the public library. We’ll have wi-fi soon..
-practiced intentional community by creating a house covenant and going on our first grocery trip together
-shown our Korean housemate the comedy of Will Ferrell in Anchorman and Elf. I have so much joy each time she thinks one of his jokes is funny. Sometimes I worry that American humor is too dumb, but she reassures us that she’s enjoying it.
-met all of our work site supervisors. If all goes according to plan, we will begin our job placements next week!
-successfully conquered public transportation. One afternoon, Michelle handed us bus passes and told us that was how we would be getting home. After joking about calling an Uber (essentially a taxi-service), we found the correct bus and bus stop!

Miami has been awesome to us so far. Our neighborhood is beautiful. The places we are working are so exciting. Our laughs are plentiful. If you would like to know more about the Miami YAVs, please follow my housemates’ blogs as well!

Shinhye: http://shinhyeinmiami.blogspot.com
Patrick: http://thepathofpatrick.wordpress.com
Quinten: http://quint3nz.wordpress.com

“An Orientation to a Year of Training for a Lifetime of Service”

tumblr_ntruo8cKIC1uquym9o2_1280Miami, Little Rock, Boston, Hollywood, and Atlanta YAVs at the Al-Khoei Foundation
tumblr_ntruo8cKIC1uquym9o1_1280Enjoying a meal at a mosque (Al-Khoei Foundation) in NYtumblr_ntruo8cKIC1uquym9o3_1280Playing a game called “Bafabafa,” a sort of cultural simulation. My “culture” finds it polite to touch others and stand very close during conversation. If you know me well, you can guess how uncomfortable this made me.

After spending a very short 33 hours in Miami, I spent most of Monday traveling by planes, trains, and automobiles. For orientation, all of the YAVs who are about to serve their first years nationally and internationally are staying at the Stony Point Center in NY, a little less than 50 miles north of NYC. We’re spending our days eating meals*, worshiping together, and engaging in meaningful and necessary conversations regarding the next year of our lives. We’ve done far too much for me to type and you to read, so here are some highlights!

On Tuesday, we had an excellent speaker, Jessica Vazquez Torres, who spent most of the day teaching us about cultural competency. Even though we’d known each other for less than a day, I was amazed at how everyone was able to open up and be very honest about our own perspectives on the current status of race relations in the United States. As a person with many privileges, learning about the systematic oppression that happens in the United States was an eye-opening experience.

Last night, we had interfaith night with a panel of members of the Community of Living Traditions, a “multi-faith residential community dedicated to building community, engaging faith, and cultivating nonviolence.” They were an inspirational example of what intentional community looks like, which is something each YAV household will strive to maintain. The members of this community live and work at Stony Point Center and find themselves becoming stronger human beings and stronger in their individual faiths because of their interactions with each other.

Today, we had a day in the city. We split up and went to different places dependent on our work sites. My group had the pleasure of going to Queens and visiting a mosque. Our guide for the day was a woman from the Community of Living Traditions, which made it nice to know someone upon arrival. Sahar was filled with delight to share her sacred space with us and to teach us about her faith. She was a true example of hospitality in going out of her way to make sure we were comfortable and enjoying our time. I’ve been to a few mosques before, and quickly learned that it was incredibly ignorant of me to think that I may not learn anything new today. One of the most beautiful things I got from today is that some practicing Muslims use a special rosary with 99 beads on it and each bead represents a name of God. Looking at the list, some of my favorites are The Gentle and The Incomparably Great.

Orientation has brought me an incredible amount of emotions, but the loudest emotion has been excitement. Yes, I have essentially no clue what I will be doing when I get to Miami on Monday, but that’s just something I have to accept for now. There’s not much I can do from here besides enjoy myself in the moment and wait anxiously to see what’s in store for me. What has helped me be so comfortable in this new place and group are the several friends that I met at General Assembly 2014 and the many facilitators who are friends of my sister and familiar faces for me. The folks that were strangers on Monday have connected so much in a few days and it’s really thanks to the strong bond we have – wanting so much to be a part of the greater Church that we’re voluntarily moving to new places and working unfamiliar jobs, all because we feel called to do so.

If you’ve made it to this post in the blog…WOW. Thank you for sticking with me. I’m already overwhelmed with stories of people I have met and places I have been; I can’t imagine how hard keeping these posts a reasonable length in the future will be.


*Delicious meals, to be specific. Mom, I have never willingly eaten so many vegetables before. I tried beets tonight. Stony Point has an awesome farm program and most of our veggies, fruit, and eggs are from here. If you have a chance to come here, you should.