Day 7: Wednesday, March 9th

Our day began with breakfast at the boys’ lodge. After breakfast, we packed out lunches and loaded the van with the supplies/gifts we had bought for the Taos Pueblo Day School. We then drove to the school for our third day of volunteering. When we arrived, we split up into our different grade levels and worked with the kids. At the students’ Lunch and Recess time, we distributed the gifts; the students were so happy to see them. It was really special to be able to help out and see how grateful they were for the items we brought them. After a big catch with one of the Wilson footballs, we then said our goodbyes, gave a lot of fist bumps and headed back to the lodge. At the lodge, we changed into our clothes for the sweat lodge! To be prepared for the heat, Mr. Mulhern made us drink about 5 glasses of water! Then we drove to the sweat lodge and got a tour from the guy who owns the sweat lodge’s property. The lodge was on the famous New Buffalo Commune, which was built in 1967. The sweat lodge wasn’t just ready when we arrived, though – we had to build the whole thing! We assigned everyone jobs such as blanket duty, fire lighting and wood collecting. After about an hour we had finally finished building the sweat lodge! We had the girls go in the lodge first and the boys second.

As the girls each entered the lodge, we cleansed ourselves with sage smoke and said “aho matakas” which means “all my relations”. We sat in a circle inside the lodge, and when they first put in the volcanic rocks, which each represented different things, I thought that it was really hot. As a girl, (Emma) I have never sweated more in my entire life. The first, easternmost stone brought in represented the future, the southernmost rock represented friends and relationships (including all life forms), the western rock represented death, and the northern one represented family. Next, a rock placed in the middle represented earth, a second one represented the Great Spirit, and the final one brought in represented the mystical, mysterious unknown. Once the rocks were all brought in, Chris (the leader) explained that the lodge represented the womb, which extends into the Earth and connects us to the ground. When he then added the water to the rocks, I thought I was going to die. But at that point the group leader was only adding small spoonfuls of water. As the steam filled the lodge, we each said a prayer of thankfulness and healing to the ‘grandma’ and ‘grandpa’ spirits. The leader then played the flute for us (but the boys had drums and chanting) and spoke to us about authenticity, and how the greatest wealth we can have is love for ourselves and for one another. About forty minutes into the ceremony, he asked us if we wanted to try “Warrior Mode”. I was quite concerned about what “Warrior Mode” was but I knew it wasn’t good. We knew, though, that we could leave at any time, or just put our heads closer to the ground to be in cooler air. Turns out, “Warrior Mode” means you dump the entire bucket of water on the volcanic rocks and it creates so much steam, it is hard to see the person across from you! When I walked out of the lodge, it was freezing! It definitely took my body a while to adjust to such a dramatic temperature change. After the girls went out, the boys went in. As a boy, (Quintin), I had mixed emotions about the sweat lodge. I went in and immediately got claustrophobic because of the small space. He started the ceremony with us giving a loud or silent prayer. Then, he hit the drum and we let our emotions out and started screaming. Then he threw water from the spoonful at us, and believe me it was very cold. Then he poured the whole bucket of water into the lava rocks and you could literally feel your face melting. Then, since the sun disappeared we ran out of time so we had to end. By the way, the girls were able to build two fires without matches with the help of mama B while the boys were in the sweat lodge, and the boys only built one. It was an awesome outdoor experience for all!  When everyone was out of the sweat lodge, we cleaned up the fires and the lodge, thanked Chris and drove back to the lodge. We drove straight home, had dinner at the boys’ house, packed our clothes up, and went to bed.

-Emma & Quintin

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Day 6: Tuesday, March 8th

We started today at the Pueblo Day School. As this is our second day, we are beginning to get to know the students a lot better.

School ended early today, as it is a major day for prayer at the Tao’s Pueblo. We aren’t exactly sure why, as it is kept very secret.

After school, we stopped at a National Park and got a chance to enter a kiva. A kiva is a Native religious structure, and most non-natives aren’t allowed to enter. The one we got to see was about a thousand years old, but isn’t used today. We climbed down the raw wooden ladder (kivas are underground), and stood inside the sacred structure. It was a bit moldy, and very cold. From what we understand, people used to live in the structure for days on end to pray. Living inside a kiva would be quite difficult from what we observed.

Afterwards, we headed to Walmart to pick up some supplies to donate to the school. We split into groups based on grade, tried to stick to our budget, and selected supplies we thought the school needed. Next, we drove to Downtown Taos. We explored, window-shopped, and bought some souvenirs and gifts.

After that, we drove across the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and looked around the Earthship Biotecture, which is a completely sustainable community built out of recycled materials. We headed back to the lodge for a relaxed evening of food (fry bread cheese burgers to be specific), campfires (Mulhern is quite the fire-master), and stories about ghosts and UFOs told by our storyteller Chris. He was interrupted a few times by the incredible sounds of coyotes and owls that surrounded us.  After being thoroughly intrigued and freaked out, we had some delicious smores.  Before going to bed, we had a star-gazing party in field for those who wanted to participate.  The sky seems larger than life out here and you can see the constellations so clearly at night here in Taos, New Mexico.

Laina and Cameron

 

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Day 5: Monday, March 7th

Our day started off when we drove to the Pueblo school down the road to go volunteer with elementary students. The Pueblo was closed but they allowed us in.  We were assigned in groups of three to a grade level. The grade levels included Pre-school, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th.  Once we were there, we spent time getting to know the children, tutoring them throughout the day.

At around 12’oclock, we left the school and drove back home to pick up our bathing suits. Once all were ready, we hiked down the Rio Grande for about a mile to local hot springs. There were 3 pools and one of them was super hot, the other one was hot, and the last one was just warm. We then hiked back up to the van and found that the elevation of about six thousand feet took a toll on the pace of our hiking.

In the evening, we went to an eccentric man named Larry Torres’s house and he told us many stories about his life including his studies of witchcraft, the languages he has learned, and the places he has been to. He speaks 24 languages, has lived in 58 countries, and is currently a linguistics professor and deacon at the local Catholic Church. His house was as unique and interesting as he was. He was very spiritual and painted almost all of the paintings in his house, most of which had religious themes. He gave us a tour of his house describing every unique attribute in his home. He has been interviewed by many magazines and has a lot of unique stuff that people have felt the need to hide in his house. He also has a secret dungeon, but he says that not many people have even heard of, let alone seen it. Fortunately, we weren’t allowed inside it. Even weirder than the secret dungeon, however, was that he has been collecting his fingernail clippings for the past 50 years! He showed us a wooden box filled with his old nails. It was fascinating, gross, and fun to play with. He also told us a story in French, Spanish, Russian and English simultaneously, he is so unique!  Although another unique aspect of his house is that it was neighboring Julia Roberts’ house. Ms. Biscardi (A.K.A. Mama B) was very sad that she did not bring her binoculars. We are very fortunate to have met such a person.

On the way home in Biscardi’s Party bus, Mulhern and Leah took it back Ice Cube style and then Aiden and Orly took it back further with “Boogie Wonderland”. All together we had a pretty fantastic day in gangsters’ paradise.

Leah and Caleb

 

 

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Day 4: Sunday, March 6th

Today was a day full of learning and new experiences. We went on a walk to see buffalo, went to a church service and then started toward our tour guide Floyd’s house to go horseback riding. We also watched how the pueblos make jewelry, spent some time shooting arrows, and went to a concert by Robert Mirabal.

Horseback riding was a blast. Lots of people who had never ridden or had only ridden a few times. We enjoyed the rush of being on a horse. After horseback riding, we went to Floyd’s sister’s house and watched how the Pueblo make jewelry. We saw many beautiful pieces she and her husband had made. Then we headed to Floyd’s house where we shot some bows and arrows and learned about the challenges and rewards of being an Indian.

For dinner we went to a restaurant called the Tiwa Kitchen, which is the only restaurant in the pueblo. We had very good food that included chili, fry bread, salad, egg salad, beef stew, and apple tarts. After dinner we went to the house of a two-time Grammy winning musician named Robert Mirabal. His music was beautiful and so were his words. He told us stories about how his music originated and what the songs meant to him. He strongly valued “agri-culture”. He also said that if the corn dies then the people die. Our day ended with a ride home talking about the day we had and how the concert had effect on us. It was a great day we will all remember forever, because of the experiences we had.

Caly & Ben

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