Sunday, March 29, 2009

It really could be worse

Rather than partying it up in Cancun (for other obvious reasons) or getting wild in Miami, spring break consisted of dust storms, freezing temperatures, and feeling frustrated over the quality of education at Tuba City Boarding School in Arizona. I was so stoked to learn about the Navajo nation and finally meet some of the real Americans. (I'm not even sure it's politically correct to call them Americans because the continent wasn't named "America" when they were residing in it). I have read up a bit on the struggles and transgressions, not to mention genocide of the Native Americans. Basically I knew que estaban jodidos. But it was something else being there and witnessing the conditions.

I could have told you that we didn't need to drive 780 miles to Tuba City, AZ to know that they were living on a piece of shit land. That's what all reservations are: piece of shit land. But in my mind, the land didn't look that bad. It wasn't exactly cardboard houses but might as well. I didn't actually step in one. But just little tiny homes, out in the middle of noman's land amidst red dirt and crazy weather. (I thought Arizona, i packed tanks and shorts. Well it snowed twice when we were there!) Funny, after everything they've endured and not even Mother Earth could spare them sunshine. I don't know if it was an attempt to compensate for everything else, but the boarding school was pretty state of the art. All these crazy modern projectors, flat screen TVs and gadgets.

Tuba City Boarding School is run by the BIA--the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In other words it's run by the government in an attempt to monitor and keep the Natives suppressed. And yeah it's conspiracy but I'm gonna come right out and say it: I think providing the kids with underqualified teachers and a poor education is part of the plan. Part of the plan to get rid of them that is. Or to keep them where they are and have them slowly die off. Maybe I've read to many radical American Indian activist biographies and historical accounts. But it was just unbelievable to see the kind of education these kids were getting. You had eight graders who couldn't read or do math. And the elementary teachers yelling at kids to "keep both hands on the desk so that I can see them at all times." What about the PE teacher who had third graders "drop down and give her 15" if they didn't grasp their knees and keep their head down while sitting on their bum during roll call. Then she had them stand at "attention" and at "ease." What the eff? These are kids. KIDS. Insane. It was insane. When I gathered a group of 8 kids who had gotten the vocab exercise all wrong to explain to them exercise the teacher yelled at them to sit back in their desk. No wonder these kids can't read. Or how about these eighth graders in a social studies (gov/econ) class who had gone a month without a teacher? Because apparently the school needed a certified teacher to head a reading class and so they took these kids' teacher and never replaced her. They get a different sub everyday and assignments from a book (i.e., read pgs 134-145 and answer questions 1-6). One month and no teacher. Of course all they do is goof off and fool around.

It all makes sense after learning that the school founded in in the early 1800s was established to rid these kids of their roots: chopping of their hair, talking them away from their families, and punishing them for speaking their language. It was all part of the plan to serve the man.

I really can't explain why I have such empathy or such deep feelings for these people (empathy is probably the wrong word since I cannot relate to the feelings of genocide and eradication). But when I was there, for the first time in my life I considered teaching. NEVER, never had I wanted to be a teacher. But when I saw how much those kids needed some quality education, it moved me. I wanted to stay or at least to come back. But since it is a government run school I knew I couldn't do anything. Not yet anyway.

I spent the week in despair. In despair for the kids' situation and in despair as I sit in the sidelines unable to do anything. And this triggered thinking about my future. And I ABHOR thinking about the future. Because I know that any dreams and hopes are deferred. I spent every night with my jaw clenched and my muscles tense in anger knowing we would be there for a few days and leave and these kids still couldn't read, knowing many of them would end up in welding, construction, or juvie. Mad because godammit how stupid is to be hindered from helping someone out? Stupid. So stupid. I'm at a loss for words. I thought about my dreams. Being a part of medicins sans frontiers (doctors without borders) and about going to med school (or nursing school first) but then I thought about how to pay for nursing school, and then I thought about jobs, and then it was this whole avalanche of despair and frustration. And it just made me angrier. But here a week later, after a week of social isolation from friends, I'm feeling a tad bit better. I usually avoid these feelings by not contemplating the future and thinking about the paper I have to turn in on Monday instead. Living it day by day. Trying to give thanks for each day. And that's the way it should be really. But after the good news last week. The days seem a little brighter.

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