Sunday, March 9, 2014
On our last day in Immokalee we took a day off and enjoyed a day at the beach! It was a beautiful day, without a cloud in the sky. It was a bit windy which made it a little chilly and hard to tell that we were all getting burnt. We are all in a bit of pain as we come back to Pittsburgh. Although I didn't personally swim, the people who went into the ocean said the water was beautiful and that it was warmer than the air. Even though we all got burnt, I would have to say we all had a perfect relaxing day after an even better week of hard work! After the beach, we went out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant, Mi Ranchito. It was delicious and great to have one last dinner witheveryone together. After dinner, we went to Mass in Spanish. I found it challenging to understand the mass but it was very interesting and great to experience. Unlike Ash Wednesday, we were able to sit inside the church and participate. Although I wasn't able to understand what they were always saying, I felt so much faith within this church and community. This showed us how even though these people don't have a lot of material things, they have a lot of love and faith in their hearts and that they were happy this way. I feel like this is a message that everyone should experience once in their life.
On a side note, a funny story that happened after church was our race to the showers. Throughout the week we have been showering at a Sports Complex that only has four showers and closes at nine every night. It was about 8:20 and two cars of people had to still shower. With Kate driving one van and Father driving the other (I was in Father's), we had raced to the showers, all trying to get there first. Father arrived first and parked while Kate drove her group right up to the door. Once we saw that they were going to beat us, we all jumped out of the car and ran as fast as we could towards the entrance. As we were getting closer, we all came to a sudden halt and realized that the Sports Complex had already closed and that none of us were going to shower. We all burst out laughing and saw that a whole little league baseball game had witnessed our race and sudden disappointment. As strange as this sounds, this moment was a perfect ending to our trip!
Before we all went to bed, we shared a reflection about what we had all learned this week. I think it is easy to say that we all shared an eye opening experience here in Immokalee that had changed our lives and made us grow together. Through this trip we had became a family and life long friends through the tough and funny moments. We had only spent seven days together but it has felt that we have been friends forever. We haven't laughed this hard in the longest time and had the greatest time even if we were sleeping on the hardest floor and hammered our thumbs every other nail. We shared a memory and an experience together that not many can relate too. Through this many of us had learned more about ourselves and found who we are.
Friday, March 7, 2014
All week we have been trying to learn and develop a personal opinion on the migrant farm workers in Immokalee. Today we were given a fantastic opportunity to a personal tour of a Lipman farm. The Lipman farm recently signed on to a food agreement with Walmart to make sure their workers are being treated with dignity and respect. At the farm we were shown tomatos, green beans, green peppers, and oranges. I was amazed at the amount of produce that is not marketable to consumers. The tour guide told us that 50% of the produce they pick is tossed away and not sold. This is not because the food is bad but, because the produce is unappealing to the eye of the consumer. We also were able to ask many questions on the wages of farmworkers and were assured in an indirect way that each worker makes at least minimum wage each hour they work in the field. The most intresting part was seeing the workers housing on the farm. I was expecting them to be small and dirty, but they were about the same space as a college dorm room with bathrooms and a kitchen. We were told Lipman farms houses 95% of their workers on thier farms. Another surprising thing we were told that this Lipman farms plant crops for 52 weeks a year so most of the farmworkers at this farm stay and work all of these weeks besides the people who come with workers contracts from Mexico to work on the farms for a few weeks.
The whole experience at the farm really contrasted the talk that we had with Gloria last night. At the farm, the man that gave the tour was very diplomatic in all his answers. I felt their was some unsaid information from the man giving the tour but also from the farmworker Gloria. This experience has compelled me to look further into the issues regarding immigration and the laws currently in place in our county because both of these groups have contrasting view points on immigration. One of the most prominent topics disucssed by the group this week is the ideal of a straight awnser to an issue. We can all agree that one does not exist for the issues down in Immokalee. This frustrates me. We can walk around the fields and learn about all the positive things the farm is doing but they will not tell you about the negative aspects to the buisness. Likewise to the farmworkers; they will tell you all the information about the farmers that is negative but not the positives of the business. This makes it extremely difficult to find information that is not bias on the topic of immigration and farmworkers. But this is true on every situation. This trip has opened my eyes to think more citically about what information the media and public pay attention to and what they ignore or hide.
One of the best things about coming to Immokalee is the access to so much deliscious food! With the pinhooker market being just down the road, there is fresh produce to make homemade salsa, guacamole, tacos, enchiladas and more!!! And of course
You can't forget how the Mexican food is so much better in this area... This week we had tamales, and some Agua fresca(pictured) from some local markets...
Here are some highlights
Of our meals in Inmokalee!
We learning about agriculture
From the farmers perspective. While Lipman is the largest fresh produce production business in Florida, it gave our group a better idea of what farmer face on a regular basis
Over the years this portion has moved to a more transparent way of business. Companies are able to conduct their own audits of the fields before choosing to purchase from this specific company.
We were even able to see where a Farmworkers day begins and ends on the fields at their time clock shed
Thursday, March 6, 2014
This Thursday, a day filled with not only Florida showers, but was filled with moments I hope to remember for a very long time in my life.
A lesson to learn for me personally related to conquering fears and controlling your own future today. This happens when one molds their own story through experience and harsh realities.
I started the day by voluteering with Habitat for Humanity for Collier County. The first half of my time there was spent on hammering boards on top of planks. Did I not mention my fear of heights?
Not long after, our group started caulking the inside of a house. The fact that it began to pour was the reason behind us working indoors.
The raining of cats and dogs was not my cup of tea at all at first. In fact, the idea of it bothered me since I checked the weather app on my phone and woke up to skies filled with grey this morning. I have a big fear of getting my hair wet because I am not too fond of its natural, curly state. The frizz is also uncontrollable. Now just imagine this all consuming my mind while trying to play attention to hammerming my whole hand to the house. I realized all this stress I added to my time there was very unnecessary, and here is why:
The rain began to bring so much thought to my mind, and assited with my processing of another moment that occurred tonight. Being one of minorities of the trip, and the only African-American of the group helped me learn to appreciate my culture and to connect with those do not look exactly the same as I do on the outside. But it's just skin, it's just a different background. And that is for all of us: even those in the same ethniticy. We can even understand that when we get involved with much of the immigrants we have encountered this week.
Meeting Gloria Hernandez, a Mexican paralegal of the Immokalee area, and gaining knowledge of her experience in working in agriculture and her involvements now in the movement toward immigration reform, taught me so much about being grateful and appreciating that we are one. Words cannot simply explain what we took from her encounter, but it ended on a sympathetic, yet fulfilling note. I cannot speak for all of us, but what I can say is that when someone tells you of their hardships, like being sold and traveling up and down two countries to make for a better life, you realize how trifling your problems are. How insignificant was my fear of hammering while standing on a piece of wood, or how petty was it for me to become worrysome of the way my hair looks naturally?
I want to thank God for leading me to this realization, for the whole group for accepting and complimenting me for the way a truly am, and Gloria for the eye-opener this evening.
This trip, and much of today was extremely humbling.
Today, I worked with the English as a Second Language students at Amigos en Cristos. It was a new experience to teach English to students who either speak Creole or Spanish. I was assigned to work with an elderly student who was illiterate in her own language of Creol. I went over the letters of the alphabet and worked with the very basics of the written language. She did not understand any spoken English. I also met a 23 year old student who spoke in English with great confidence even though he did not know proper grammer or basic vocabulary. Talking with the young man, reminded me of the experiences that I had while on my one month visitation to India. I spoke to the people in India with broken ill grammered Hindi. I struggled to speak basic words in Hindi to get my Ideas across. I did not understand how to speak proper grammer and stopped at every sentence to conjugate verbs. Through this expereince of teaching the the ESL students, I understood the difficulties that these students undergo in getting thier ideas across on a daily bases. Being on the flip side of knowing how to speak the language of the the majority and being the teacher while I am usually the student was a rewarding endevor.