Monday, September 7, 2009

Ubuntu and other things..

Every Friday evening around 1030pm a swarm of people will flock to a vehicle loaded with vegetables, fruits, and more bread than you have seen in quite a while. They unload and carry the groceries up to the second floor of 1234 W Albion. Outside the house reads a sign painted in blue on a yellow background "Ubuntu Community."

A total of 17 people live in this community whose name means "I am because we are" in an African dialect. Last semester I wrote an ethnography on this community, fell in love with it, and am currently living on the top floor with five other wonderful ladies and one uninvited mouse we are in the process of trying to get rid ourselves..

So why the swarm of people? Every Friday evening we head over to a grocery store that has kindly offered to give us the fruits, veggies, baked stuff that would have otherwise gone to the trash so that we can recycle, cook, and distribute every Sunday.

It's called Food Not Bombs.

17 people is a lot, yes, but it's not so bad. We're rarely all at home at the same time because we all have different sorts of schedules. We try to coordinate weekly floor community dinners as well as a meal with the entire house which is somewhat of a nightmare, but we deal. Living in an intentional community requires an extraordinary commitment to the people living in your house, it's this reason I really really wanted to live there. It's about moving away from the "me, me me" in college to the "us" and taking care of each other in small and large ways. Exciting isn't it?

My mind is scattered and all over the place, I had originally started this post a while back because I very much enjoy where I live and wanted to write about it.

This past weekend I attended the SFA (Student Farmworker Alliance) Encuentro conference in Imokalee, Florida along with a whopping 90 other students. What I assumed would be an intimate 40 or so blew up and more than doubled!

Even on our last day during the drive to the airport I was barely getting to know someone new.
Not so happy things:
I'm a conference junkie...
I love meeting people, talking to them, picking their brains, hearing what inspires them and so on. The conferences I've been too, helped organize & plan add up to a decent number. So I have my criticisms. As far as this one goes, more face time with people would have been fantastic. Yes, we all are here to learn about the organization and the campaign but I strongly feel we are more compelled to have meaningful and profound interactions with others attending the conference. Presentations, workshops, and all that jazz are wonderful and the core of what a conference should have but if there is no opportunity to interact with others for more than an hour the entire weekend guess what? it won't work. The campaign, the connections, the network building won't work.
Time. Time is a bitch, but oh so important.
If you don't respect it, use it, and take care of it there is not a high probability it will do the same. Staying on schedule is so that so difficult to do? It's a big pet peeve that we have to cut through discussion or sharing because someone wasn't mindful of the time we have.

SFA works with farmworkers, particularly the Coalition of Imokalee Workers the majority of which are made up of Mexicans, Guatemalans, and Haitian workers. They began organizing more than thirteen years ago. What is it that they want? Major corporations that purchase the tomatoes they pick to do the responsible thing and pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes picked. This is possible by having them sign onto a national agreement with the CIW. Their victories have included Subway, Yum Brands, McDonalds, Burger King, and Whole Foods. They're currently battling to get Chipotle to come to the table and sign onto the agreement. It's taken lots of time, organizing, protesting, rallies, and demonstrations to reach those victories. They've picked up two other campaigns- Dine with Dignity, which tackles university dining halls/food service providers and a Grocery store campaign.

Alright, I'm through with that. Not every conference or training can be as perfect as CHANGE :)

There are so many things that I'm planning on taking back to Chicago with me and have added goals to a list that is only getting longer every day.

Let's go a different direction.

My cousin just recently posted something that caught my attention

"The passing of my uncle a few months ago really affected the way i view life. you treat people u love THE RIGHT WAY when they are alive. once dead, no need to get romantic. it's all a show after the fact."

She's quite an insighftul person, my much older cousin. Brings many things down to the earth and puts them into perspective for me...has taught me loads about being honest with myself (truly harder and much more difficult than imaginable), and the little things parents forget to mention.

This quote makes me think about the cousin I grew up closely with and consider a sister. Now, I always regarded "fights" or long long ago grudges to be fucked up and plain stupid. But I admit I have found myself caught in one with her, something about how we both function in our early twenties isn't quite on the same level or page. I wonder what would happen if we both got stuck in an elevator longer than twelve hours, someone should work on making that happen...because to be honest, I'm too scared shitless to do it at this point and afraid of what will come out of it. Is treating each other the right way require more than a simple acknowledgement of our existence? I would think so but find myself running in circles wondering why it's so difficult.

Isn't that wild?

In another note, on my flight back I spoke with an elderly woman. Correction: she spoke to me, for longer than I had expected. I love these people. I love the people that surprise you, that when you ask "where are you from?" will jump and respond, afterwards they'll follow up with their lifestory, their kids, where their kids live, what they were like growing up before you have a chance to ask "oh, is this really only the second time you've ever been on an airplane?"

This has happened to me once before, I was at a health expo in Des Plaines three or four years ago and another elderly woman told me all about how she refuses to take any sort of conventional medicine, relies strictly on natural oils, and encourages me to do to the same.

I wonder if this is some sort of a disadvantage: my ability to easily trust in and be convinced by a good argument people make...

I'll have to work on that, amongst other things of course.