Language, Learning and Love

Welcome! Use the pull-down menu to find information about my research, teaching and writing on language brokering, Cultural Modeling, pedagogies of heart and mind,  immigrant youth and families, and gender/literacy and power.  You will find links to public blogposts, academic papers, course syllabi and more. I invite you to leave comments: your reactions to my work, sharing of your own work, and dialogue with other readers.

On this page you’ll find my reconstituted blog (see Lessons on Impermanence), which offers reflections on these issues, and the themes of language, learning and love.  I have been thinking about these matters of heart and mind in41T4j75d6sL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ different ways since 1983: first as a classroom teacher, then as a researcher of language and literacy in immigrant communities and a designer of pedagogies, and always as a learner myself. Topics will include:

  • Reflections from my ongoing research on language and literacy practices in immigrant communities, both in and out of school
  • The “pedagogy of heart and mind” that we cultivate in an after-school program I direct in downtown Los Angeles (called “B-Club”), where Teacher Education students, and K-5 kids come together to learn while playing and play with learning  (See also my 2016 book: Immigrant Children in Transcultural Spaces: Language, Learning and Love)
  • Issues facing immigrant communities more broadly, especially the lack of love (and often direct hatred) that is directed against them.
  • Other random lessons from the grand School of Life.

For those who followed the blog that I began in June, 2015, please note that I was forced to restart in March 2016. I’ll be reviving the old blog posts in some form, but mostly learning from the past and moving onward, as is the way of Life.

 

Ethnography in a time of social distancing: We are all ethnographers now

Note: I’m blogging because it feels like something I can do in the face of the crises unfolding all around us, not because I think words are necessarily the medicine we most need right now.  But it helps me to have some sense of purpose, something that I hope could be helpful to others in some small way, as we live through and respond to an unprecedented situation. Perhaps we can draw some lessons from this experience for imagining, and bringing into being, a better world.

My recently published book, Mindful Ethnography: Mind, Heart and Action for Transformative Social Research, is a guide for scholar-activists who want to immerse themselves fully in social contexts: working with the instruments of our beings to see, hear, smell, taste, feel, think and understand the world, and connecting mind, heart and activity in order to do scholarship that contributes to much needed social transformation.  But in the current moment we are being asked to stay home, maintain at least six feet from other people, and work “remotely.” This contradicts the hands-on, grounded, immersive, engaged, participatory ways that are at the heart of ethnographic and socially-transformative research.  What does it mean to be an ethnographer in a time of “social distancing” and in the midst of this unprecedented global COV19 pandemic?download

While the particular field work projects that social science researchers have been pursuing will undoubtedly have to change or be put on hold for some time, I believe that all of us – researchers and the general public alike – can draw on some core principles of ethnography in order to observe, experience, document, and understand the moment we are living in.  Moreover, I think the mindful approaches I call for in my book could serve us all as social beings in a rapidly changing world, and for bringing into being a more just, equitable, loving and transformative one. I distill a few of those lessons from my book here, applying them to the COV19 pandemic. We are all ethnographers now.

The familiar has been made strange for us

We are all participating in, and surely observing, an unprecedented global experiment. The social world we live in is being transformed in uncharted, unpredictable, and unchosen ways. We are transforming it as we respond to calls to change all our everyday habits. And we are experiencing those changes as we make them.

One of the core principles of ethnography is to “make the familiar strange” in order to see in new ways, rather than through unexamined assumptions or established patterns of our culture. Becoming more aware of how we move and operate in the world may help us as we face the immediate threat of COV19: by refraining from touching our faces, shaking hands, or passing the virus in other ways. It may also help us to see things we took for granted, such as the essential labor of grocery store workers, health care providers, and others who were invisible before. The familiar has been made strange for us. All we have to do is look around. But can we do so more awarefully?

Notice everything you think and feel

The conavirus crisis offers us a tremendous opportunity not just to see the world in new ways, but to experience profound changes: in institutions and societal structures, interpersonal relationships, local ecologies, the environment, and more. There is much to be noticed right now. Pay attention to it all.  What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, touch and think?  What do you not get to see, hear, feel, smell, touch and taste right now?  (We may come to see what we have taken for granted by experiencing their absence.)  What do we sense, worry, fear, anticipate, intuit and imagine? Using “mindful” practices, we can notice how our thoughts and feelings arise and change as circumstances around us change. Using the skills of ethnography, we can pay attention to the details: what, exactly, do we see, hear, smell, taste, feel and intuit?  Historians might appreciate the efforts we make to document these thoughts and feelings, and to record them as carefully as we can.  But as I suggest in my book, our thoughts and feelings are always intertwined, and we can expect that they will be only more so in a time of such uncertainty and anxiety. So notice how your emotions may shape your perceptions, and vice versa.t3_06_thoughts_feelings_emotions

Pause before you interpret or act

 The human tendency is to immediately judge any changes we experience. Social media is filled with people’s responses to the Conavirus crisis: what people hate about it, what they love, how it personally impacts them. Some of the changes we are being asked to make feel incredibly difficult. Others might feel liberating. People have many opinions about these things, too. And many, many emotional responses.

But in a time of rapid change, we would benefit from slowing down. Here is where a mindfully ethnographic approach can help us. Pay attention. Notice everything we think and feel.   Try to stay close to the direct observations of what you see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Then press pause. Don’t rush to premature interpretations.  And don’t let our perceptions and opinions impulsively drive our actions.

Suspending both evaluation and interpretation, we may identify possibilities that can be acted upon in thoughtful ways to enact long term much-needed transformations in society once we get through the immediate crisis. We can also contribute more thoughtfully to what is needed now if we don’t just react, mindlessly putting our own thoughts and feelings out into the chaos that is swirling around us. We can think carefully about what we can contribute that is truthful, helpful and kind (following Buddhist precepts). 

Don’t assume others’ experiences are the same as yours

Different  kinds of people are being impacted in different ways by the COV19 pandemic. The effects will likely be felt differently along well-established lines of power in society. This is where social science theory can help us: we can ask who is hurt, and who potentially benefits, from this crisis, attending to the important categories of our culture (race/ethnicity, class, gender) as well as other categories of difference. This crisis will surely make visible the privileges that some people enjoy, and the vulnerability of others.  But just  how it will do so isn’t clear, and may not be visible unless we pay attention. We can’t be sure we know all of the ways this crisis will affect people, how they will feel about it, or how they will respond. And we certainly can’t assume that our exact experiences – and responses to them – will be shared with others.  This is a time to observe keenly, listen deeply, and ask critical questions about how this global crisis is impacting us, in both shared and divergent, and good and bad, ways.

Let go

download-6My ulterior motive in writing Mindful Ethnography was to share some of the lessons I have learned about life in general and academia in particular, by working through my own health crises and an extended healing process. (See my previous blog.)  I wrote it with my younger, anxiety-filled, angst-ridden school-girl self in mind, filling it with reassurances for young scholars entering this business, and calls to let go, as best we can, of our fears, worries, plans, hopes and expectations. We are being forced to let go of many plans right now.

We can also let go of our ideas about perfection and completion, or about getting the words “just right” or having “the answer” to complex questions.  Leading to and following from this book, in the face of the existential crises facing our planet, I’m feeling compelled to write in much more personal ways than I ever thought I would dare to in academia (which can be such a critical world). I feel a sense of urgency, and so I’m throwing caution to the wind, and sharing my thoughts in the hope that they will be helpful to some people (as well as truthful and kind)….but not perfect, and not complete.

Stay tuned for more ways I hope to apply my approach to “mindful ethnography” to the contemporary global crisis: by conjoining mind, heart and activity; thinking deeply about the language we use to name our experiences; sitting with paradoxes; and moving beyond dualities as we experience through the COV19 crisis the profound nature of our interconnectedness – in both terrible and wonderful ways.

For social science researchers

Before concluding, let me offer a few more specific lessons for social science researchers.  Some of you may be able to continue doing your fieldwork where-ever you are, just observing with a little more distance, and conducting interviews from six feet apart! But more likely, you may need to withdraw from the field and shift your modes of gathering data, as well as the questions you pursue.  That’s OK. 

Your best laid plans may go out the window

download-2This is not a time to go about business as usual. My heart goes out to the many doctoral students who cannot pursue the projects they have planned for some time – like my own protégé, Sophia Angeles, who was poised to begin her dissertation research this spring, doing participant observation in a Los Angeles high school, to explore the experiences of undocumented, “unaccompanied minor” adolescent youth.  Gaining access to this population will be much more challenging now.

I encourage students to notice your thoughts and feelings about changes to carefully-laid plans. Consider these as lessons for life. We really don’t have as much control over the world as we might like. And we can’t out-think or out-plan it all. What we can do is better respond to a changing world.  So stop. Breathe. Sit with the thoughts and feelings that come up about how this impacts your research agenda. Feel it all: rage, disappointment, fear, confusion. Let it settle through your body and your mind. Don’t try to rush through this stage of the grieving process.

But look through the window to see what lies beyond

download At some point you may be ready to turn your mind in some new directions. And there are very new, important questions that are emerging. Identify the ways this global pandemic impacts the questions you had planned to explore, or were already exploring. For example, in Sophia’s case: How are unaccompanied minor adolescents in the U.S. being affected by COV19 in particular ways? How does the pandemic influence their social, emotional, health and well being, as well as their ideas about possible futures?  What access do they have to health care, and how are their families and communities being impacted? And how are they making sense of this experience?

The challenge for ethnographers is how to pursue these at a distance – e.g. via social media or personal connections that can be leveraged virtually. I don’t want to minimize those challenges. I only want to suggest to young researchers that it is OK to change your questions – and your contributions will likely be so much greater now, as you will be asking questions that none of us really have any answers to at all, and that speak to really pressing matters of the day, and of the futures we might imagine, and work to bring into being.

 

Crises and Opportunities for Re-Prioritizing Our Lives and Re-imagining the World

2007-08 was a year of multiple personal crises as I faced cancer, divorce, five surgeries, the death of my father, and a series of difficult decisions for what one doctor told me was “the most unusual case he had ever seen.” But I was lucky. I survived, and ten years later I am still drawing profound Life Lessons from the experience. I share a few of these here, in the hope that this may help others, as we collectively face different kinds of existential crises: both the immediate Conavirus scare, and the larger threat of Climate Change looming close behind.

(1) Seize the opportunity to grow, learn and change. If I had the chance to go back in time and skip the painful years of my treatment and recovery, I would not choose to do so. I am not the only survivor to feel that crises were a blessing in disguise, nor the only person to realize what really matters when we confront our mortality head on. Really grasping our own impermanence, and the loss of many things we love (including the ability to travel, go where we like, gather together, hug) – may be the greatest gift we can give ourselves, so we can more fully appreciate things we have taken for granted, and what we do have now. This is an opportunity to re-think all our priorities, re-evaluate our ways of living, doing, and being, and re-imagine the world in new ways.

(1) Know that it will be confusing. As I did when I faced cancer, we can look to experts and others who have experienced similar things for advice. But even they can’t see the future or know everything we might want or need to know.  We can expect all kinds of reactions: denial, rage, fear, panic, grief, acceptance, love. We have a lot to grieve right now, with small and large download-1losses in our immediate and long-term futures. It may take time, even beyond the immediate crisis, to process and heal; and new crises may be looming. Both individually and collectively we will likely experience many emotions. Allow for it all, and don’t try to rush to resolution. Slowing down and really feeling whatever comes up for us can be the best thing to do during times of tremendous uncertainty. Just trust that if we ride the waves, we will get to a clearer place where we will be able to really appreciate the lessons that are there to be learned.

(2) Be careful not to put your confusion onto others, and on the world. The impact of CoVID19 will be uneven. Some populations will be more vulnerable to the illness than others; some lives will be more impacted than others. Hold your own anxieties in check to better be there for those who most need it. The people who helped me the most during a time of tremendous personal turmoil were the ones who could hold space for me, who were able to seek out information for me when I couldn’t face reading one more web page with the word “carcinoma” sprinkled through it, who kept their own feelings about my divorce and disease in reserve.

(3) Don’t think you can out-plan it all. My cancer diagnosis helped me to realize that the best laid plans can turn on a dime, what we have one moment can be snatched from us without warning, and illusions of control are just that: illusions. But we can get better at responding to what happens, as it happens, in centered and clear ways. What can help? Slowing down, not proceeding with business as usual, listening more to others, and doing whatever helps you to stay centered and clear.

(4) Go inward to gather strength. We are being asked quite literally to go inward as we stay home and slow down from our normal routines. But how we go inward matters. Are we sitting in front of our computer screens, or TVs, numbing out, or fomenting anxiety for ourselves and others? Are we going about business as usual, just in “socially-distanced” ways? Or are we really going inward, to gather strength?

When I faced cancer, I learned the power of meditation: of calming and centering myself in order to face whatever I needed to face. I continue to meditate daily, which helps me to calm my own anxieties and better support others with theirs. We need people who can hold the pain of the world right now. That means sitting with our own pain and confusion, and meditative practices can really help. There are lots of on-line resources for developing or cultivating a practice of meditation. You could even sit together on-line with friends.

(5) Take in the profound nature of our interconnection. I believe the cancer I faced was partly the result of stressors I had lived with for years, as well as toxins in the environment. We face a different kind of disease now, but one that may also well be the product of environmental change. The spread of the disease makes evident our social interconnections; no walls can keep this virus out. (The idea that we can solve our social problems by building walls is equally an illusion.) We can expect more, future impacts on our lives as glaciers melt, sea levels rise, species go extinct, ecosystems are altered, people are forced to flee their homes, migrants get crammed into camps at borders. (Think about how vulnerable refugees may be to the Conavirus, with already difficult living conditions, and little soap to wash their hands…) I do not say download-5this to raise fears, only to see as clearly as we can what is in front of us, so we can make more conscious choices, as the CoVID19 is helping us to do now.

(6) Re-imagine and re-invigorate our social ties. To combat the silent enemy of the Conavirus, we are being asked to “distance” ourselves socially, and to work with “remote” connections. I suggest we change that vocabulary, and use this instead as a time to re-imagine and re-invigorate our interconnections. Pick up the phone and talk to someone you haven’t called in a long time. Write handwritten letters to the people you love. Use Skype, zoom, or whatever – not just to do business, but to feel connected with each other during this time of social isolation. We can laugh, cry, and dance together on line, read stories to our nieces and nephews, entertain our elderly parents, or lean out our windows to sing with our neighbors, taking inspiration from our friends in Italy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NySV_U_voc

(7) Treasure this moment, right here, right now. Whatever you are doing: caring for a child or an elderly parent, searching for toilet paper, washing your hands, fretting over the latest news, recording your thoughts in a journal, talking with a friend: remember, you are alive, and you get to have this moment right now. How you live it is your choice. I think about the many moments I have been able to live, post-cancer – filled with experiences of joy, but also drudgery and pain – and I am grateful that I have lived them ALL much more fully than I would downloadhave had I not really grasped the fact that there are no guarantees in life, at all – except the fact that we do, all, someday, die. How do you want to live this moment, here today? What really matters to you?

Note: I develop these ideas in different ways, and apply them to social science research, as well as to the larger aim of social transformation, in my latest book: Mindful Ethnography: Mind, Heart and Activity for Transformative Social Research (Routledge, 2019). 

https://www.routledge.com/Mindful-Ethnography-Mind-Heart-and-Activity-for-Transformative-Social/Orellana/p/book/9781138361041

Giving Thanks under the Threat of Extinction

downloadIMG_4845On this pre-Thanksgiving travel day, I am riding a train from Copenhagen to Amsterdam – opting for ground travel rather than a much shorter plane ride, as my small contribution to reducing my overly large carbon footprint. I love traveling this way: seeing the land stretch out before me, mingling with locals, hearing the sounds of multiple languages, feeling the distances between points that are eclipsed in the air. Plus train travel offers undistracted time for reflection and writing.

I will be meeting up with two dear friends/colleagues from London (also traveling by train): Ann Phoenix and Elaine Bauer. I met Ann and Elaine in 2009 when I spent six weeks on sabbatical working on Ann’s study of “non-normative” childhoods (see https://www.researchcatalogue.esrc.ac.uk/grants/RES-051-27-0181-A/read/outputs/title), analyzing interviews with the adult children of immigrants who serve as language and cultural brokers between their families and the larger social world. It was such a treat to meld minds with these brilliant and generous women, and to build friendships that have stretched across space and time.

That year I was in recovery from what I now call my “year from hell:” a time of multiple losses dealt through cancer, divorce, five surgeries, and the death of my father. It took me a long time to move through the grieving process, to heal and reach a profound sense of gratitude not just for surviving, but for all I learned about what really matters in life by facing the losses head on. I have reflected on that journey in another Thanksgiving blog (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/on-gratitute-genocide-rec_b_4400474?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAHovdfDGiXpMKobhBKg1dXoarmKm2JyUdmomK5w3chU6jfQYJ34XXvXLqZCju7KOsfHTqPMoRWheNUu9zl_4gqwQgdB82a0IjMFak_08NfBxL9kjZzbVRy4k28eWynwk5flbN-G0UlHaD3n1TvseHAoV6FFBqs-lKAFbzTokOa4H), and I channeled what I learned from these life lessons into my work, culminating in a book that just went to press last week (https://www.routledge.com/Mindful-Ethnography-Mind-Heart-and-Activity-for-Transformative-Social/Orellana/p/book/9781138361041).9781138361041

Ten years later, as I approach another milestone birthday, and as the world moves into an increasingly threatening climate emergency, I want to dig deeper on the gratitude front, and think hard about what my moral and ethical responsibility is to the world, given all that I have received in my lifetime. Because in so many ways, I have come to see that I have been gifted with living through the very best years of the entire history of the species on the planet (from my social location, with all the privileges that my whiteness and location in the global north accords).

What do I mean by “the best years of the species”? The world was expanding; the Cold War had ended; and things were looking up, including on the social front, through the expansion of human and civil rights, and on the economic front, via the expansion of the global economy. Travel became more affordable and globalization had not yet set in (thus the world actually looked quite different in different places; you didn’t see a Starbucks on every corner). Social media had not yet colonized our lives. And we did not yet realize the possibility of our species’ extinction.

Ironically, the very things that made my lifestyle more comfortable (and that made it possible for my parents to raise eight children in modest circumstances, such as the invention of convenience foods and plastic) are now the very things that are contributing to the threat of extinction.download-2

What is my responsibility in the face of these realizations?

When Trump was elected, my brother Robert suggested, only half facetiously, that perhaps it was time for us aging white folks to sacrifice ourselves for the welfare of the planet: via self-immolation in front of the White House, much as Buddhist priests did to protest the Vietnamese war. Robert has also suggested, again only half facetiously, that perhaps everyone should be given a “death day” – an appointed time to check out, once we’ve used up our fair share of the resources needed for life.

downloadI don’t think I’m brave or enlightened enough to set myself on fire. I’m not sure I’ll ever be courageous enough to voluntarily “check out” of life.  And while I believe deeply in the equitable sharing of resources – not just a political stance, but one that was strongly enculturated by growing up in a family of ten people – I also recognize that even in an ideal world all resources can never be distributed with complete equity. We can strive to make things fair for others, but in the end, we each get what we get, of both tangibles and intangibles, such as our share of beauty, intelligence, love, belonging, and connection.

The question is, what do we do with what we get?

Perhaps we can do more good by staying alive and sharing our gifts with others than by sending shock waves through our families and nation through the kind of dramatic actions my brother suggested. (So please don’t worry that I am suicidal. Nor is my brother.)

The first thing we can do, I think, is to deeply and fully embrace what we have, with gratefulness, rather than focusing on what we didn’t get, or what we have lost. (However, as per my previous Thanksgiving blog, I realize that grieving can’t be rushed, anger and resentment can be part of the journey, and we can achieve a deeper sense of gratefulness when there is room for us to name our suffering as well.)

And then, we can do what we can to pay it all forward. The tangibles and the intangibles. Share what we have received with the world. For me, the spaces I most aim to do this are with my family, my students, and at B-Club. (See http://www.marjoriefaulstichorellana.com/?s=B-Club for blogs about this space that is my main place for community-engaged research and that is so dear to my heart; see also https://www.routledge.com/Immigrant-Children-in-Transcultural-Spaces-Language-Learning-and-Love/Faulstich-Orellana/p/book/9781138804951).51dDT4ZbaaL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Feeling guilty or ashamed for what we have (as I have often done) won’t make the world a better place. Focusing on what we didn’t get won’t bring those things to us.  But we can make the world better by sharing what we have been given – and perhaps also by giving to others what we wished we had gotten ourselves. Perhaps, if enough of us do this, we can even turn the threat of extinction around, by moving beyond the grasping, never-enough, need-more-more-more human mentality that seems to have led us into this mess in the first place.

And we may even find that what we give to others comes circling back to ourselves – as indeed I have found, in the sense of connection, love and belonging I have received from B-Club love.

Visit to Adelanto ICE Processing Center

This blog reports on a  visit to the ICE Processing Center in Adelanto, California, organized by the Center for the Study of International Migration at UCLA.

We headed out from UCLA around 9:30 am on Thursday, November 14. Five of us packed in to the car: two Sociology professors (Roger Waldinger and César Ayala), two graduate students and I. Another student was to meet us near the Detention Center. The freeway was remarkably open, and we sailed across the City of Angels and out into the southeastern desert. In the car we discussed what we each anticipated the visit would involve, and realized that most of us had rather little idea of what to expect.

Ninety minutes later we encountered a sign telling us we had arrived at Adelanto: “The city of unlimited possibilities.” The irony was not lost on us.

Document

We met at a coffee shop with our contact to the facilities, a visitor-volunteer who spends countless hours as well as her own money to support migrants. She keeps records about who is housed in the facilities, the status of their asylum cases, and other basic information. She helps them advocate for their rights and secure things they need, including visitors, basic supplies, and access to lawyers, as well as information, help and basic goods if and when they are released.  We were provided with a list of asylum seekers who don’t have families and friends in the area and who have not had visitors in a long time.

IMG_4758The facilities were tucked in a far corner of this desert town, itself already well isolated from the larger metropolitan area of Los Angeles. A sign bears the GEO label; this “Modified Community Correctional Facility” is actually a complex of facilities, including a prison and two migration detention center buildings, all run by the GEO group, a for-profit management company that claims it is “committed to providing leading, evidence-based rehabilitation programs to individuals while in-custody and post-release into the community.”

Isolation and separation are a large part of how the detention system works, like the prison system. People in detention are removed from the larger society – kept out of sight and thus out of mind. They are further separated and isolated within the centers, with visits possible only under carefully controlled situations. I spoke with a migrant from Ghana who told me there were three other Ghaneans in the facility, but they were (seemingly deliberately) housed in separate units, and had been discouraged from talking to each other. Men and women are also separated, not surprisingly, with different visiting days for each.  I don’t know where transgender people – a growing group of refugee seekers escaping persecution in their home countries – would be housed. Thursdays were designated for men.

IMG_4768We walked into the reception area. A framed poster behind the front desk read, “General Library” and sported an image of neatly organized books. To the right of the desk was a notice for “Attorney Appointments” with a phone number. There were two bank-teller-like machines across from the desk with a potted fern in between. These machines boasted “Send money the fast, easy, reliable way.” Other signs on the walls included one that decIMG_4769lared, “Keep Detention Safe” and proclaimed “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse and assault. The waiting area off to the side was lined with blue plastic chairs, and sported another series of framed posters: pristine images from around the facilities, all eerily devoid of people.

A guard in a powdered blue button-down shirt and uniform grey pants welcomed us, though “welcome” is surely not the right word. Most of the receptionists and guards that we interacted with that day avoided eye contact and stuck with the regulations: recording our names and the numbers of the migrants we wanted to visit, collecting our government-issued IDs, handing us keys to lock up our valuables – or not just our valuables, but rather everything we had with us, down to the chapstick I found in my pocket. We were given badges with our visitation numbers. The guards showed little curiosity about why our merry band was there.IMG_4770

One of our members had forgotten to bring his license. Not surprisingly, he was told that he would not be allowed to enter the facilities. This was an awakening to the privilege that many of us operate with: to move about the world without carrying official documentation of our legal status, not expecting to encounter checkpoints where our entry would be barred.

After waiting for some time in the waiting area, we were told we could proceed through the security detector. We were escorted by armed guards through a series of heavily bolted doors, past a window into the guards’ area where we saw a large board filled with handcuffs of different sizes, and into a holding area, where a “Continuum of Care” poster was prominently displayed.Screen Shot 2019-11-17 at 3.40.34 PM

We were then allowed into the visiting area: a room set with small tables and chairs, not unlike the one in the waiting room poster. Five or six men were there, waiting, spaced around the room. We were told where to sit – across from the migrant we had signed up to visit, not next to him. (This arrangement made it hard to hear – a fact that was aggravated by the ambient noise in the room.)

There were strict regulations about how people many could be in the room at the same time, and who could be mixed with whom. No recording instruments were allowed past the waiting area: no phones, notebooks, pencils or pens. At the end of the visits, we were allowed to write down the names and bunk/dorm numbers of the migrants, and to offer them our contact information – but only under the strict vigilance of the guards, who gave us stubby pencils and small scraps of paper. One of my colleagues reached over the desk to borrow a pen to jot something down, and was promptly scolded by the guard: “You should ask to borrow my pen.”

The migrants were all dressed in clean blue prison-like garb, except one older man who was in orange, visiting with a middle-aged woman, three younger women of varying ages, and a baby. We learned from that this man had lived in Los Angeles for 25 years; he had been detained by ICE after a traffic stop, and was now awaiting his deportation hearing.

Later, we asked our guide about the different color uniforms. She explained that those migrants who are deemed “low risk” or “docile” wear blue; red is for those who are considered “belligerent;” orange is for those deemed “in between docile and belligerent.” There is a careful system of monitoring who gets to be in the room at the same time: red and blue are never to mix. Some migrants are also “quarantined” when they are ill.

I met with a migrant whom I’ll call Ronald. Ronald was from Ghana. He had been in detention since December. He had left Ghana in June last year, traveling to Ecuador, then by boat to Colombia, and up through the Panamanian jungle. He said it was “very difficult” and he talked repeatedly about pain –both physical and psychological. I did not get a clear story about Ronald’s asylum case, though he mentioned that someone had wanted him killed. When I asked him what he wanted me to say to the world on his behalf, he said, “I am not a criminal. Not here, not there, and I never will be.” He made clear that he felt he was being treated as one. (We might wonder, just what are refugee seekers to be “rehabilitated” from, in GEO’s Continuum of Care?)

Ronald told me that he works in the cafeteria for 7-8 hours a day. For this, he is paid $1/day. He needs the money to buy items at the prison’s commissary (at heavily marked up prices) or to make phone calls – the phone calls that are promised in a waiting room poster. These phone calls cost $1 per MINUTE.

In the afternoon, I met with another migrant at the other unit of the detention center – this after our group waited for more than an hour. Eduardo (a pseudonym) was from Honduras.  His story was that he had been recruited by his uncle, who was a drug lord, into a gang. “I am not a killer,” he told me, and he felt he had to leave Honduras or be killed for his resistance. His asylum case had been denied, but was under appeal. He was afraid for his life, should he be deported back to Honduras. And he had lost contact with his wife and children.

Eduardo teared up as he, like Ronald, told me of his suffering. His immediate concern was physical pain. He had been hospitalized a few days earlier and had returned to find that his things had been stolen (documents and a few items he had purchased in the commissary, his pain medication, and the Claritin that he needed for allergies.) But it was the indignity that he had experienced that seemed most distressing: going in handcuffs to the hospital, then returning, still in great pain, and being told he had to stand in line like everyone else for his dinner. When he couldn’t stand, the guard let him sit down – but then told him he couldn’t eat.

When we parted, Eduardo asked me to call his mother to tell him he was ok. He asked me not to tell her about the pain he was in.  But the guard insisted that he write down the number for me. This meant that Eduardo had to translate the phone number into English for the guard. Perhaps it was a problem that arose in the translation or transcription, but when I called that number, and spoke in Spanish asking for Eduardo, I was met with the voice of an angry woman who told me, “Speak in English or get out of this country.”

These are just two of many migrants’ stories. Some eventually pass through the system and are released on bail to await their asylum hearings – like Donaldo, a 21-year-old Cuban who met with César.  Donaldo was released a few days later. With help from César and the foundation that supports migrants, he managed to post his $7500 bail, rent the required GPS surveillance device that will be used to track him, buy new clothes (because the clothes migrants bring into detention often do not serve them upon release), purchase a ticket to Tampa, stay over night in Los Angeles, and fly out to stay with relatives. Note: Without the help of foundations that post bail, migrants are left to borrow the money from bondspeople, who charge $1000 plus 20% of the bond. [One of the best ways you can help refugees is to contribute to organizations who post bonds. See below for a links.]

A few migrants may eventually be granted official refugee status. A few may give up on detention and opt to return to their home countries on their own. Others will be deported, to uncertain fates.

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When we walked out the door at the end of the day I felt a tremendous surge of gratitude for freedoms I take for granted every day: to walk where I want to walk, in the open air, sunshine, or night sky. To eat what and when I choose. To purchase basic supplies, treat my own allergies, and go to the doctor without handcuffs around my wrists. Never mind to live without fear for my life.

Certainly, refugees suffer in many places around the world, not just the Unite States. Thousands are crowded into tents in northern Africa and put onto islands off the coast of Australia. There have been refugees throughout history who have been denied entry to this and other countries, even when we knew they were at risk for being rounded up and sent to their deaths.

But this clinical, neat, clean, prison-like approach seems uniquely American, and driven by a profit motive. Note that GEO’s stock portfolio shows a huge spike in November, 2016, right after Donald Trump was elected.Screen Shot 2019-11-17 at 3.29.23 PM

To me, the overall look and feel of Adelanto’s detention center was eerily reminiscent of the concentration camp I visited outside Munich this summer. Dachau was begun as a work camp, not an extermination camp; but that work was done in service to the nation, by people that the nation did not value as their own. I wonder what other Germans knew about what went on in these camps.

The American detention center system is not an extermination camp, though when we deny asylum we may well be sending people to their deaths. It is not a work camp, though at $1/day migrants’ labor surely contributes to the profits GEO reaps. But the parallels still bear consideration. Surely we can learn from history about the importance of knowing what is being done behind barbed wires, by people our nation deems less than fully human, in our name?

What we can do in the face of this system? I went to Adelanto in order to see with my own eyes the things that my government wants to keep out of view. I wanted to listen to people, hear their stories, and give them a chance to be heard. I wanted to respond to Ronald’s plea: “I need someone to talk with to receive my pain and sadness.” And I wanted to bring migrants’ stories to a larger public, so that no one can say, “But we didn’t know.”

The Center for the Study of International Migration at UCLA will continue to organize monthly visits. If you’d like to join us, please contact me or reach out the Center. We are also organizing letter-writing campaigns and a penpal program with migrants. This in addition to our work bringing together diverse forms of scholarship about migration matters. Check out the calendar of events at https://www.international.ucla.edu/migration.

See also https://www.international.ucla.edu/migration/article/210862 for a list of actions you can take in support of migrants, including links to foundations that provide bail funds.

A proud mamá moment and reflections on all the gifts to the world that are lost

May I be a proud mama for a moment? I am filled with so many feelings as I contrast my personal joy with the pain I see in the world around me, and it’s all blurring together; I hope you will indulge me in sharing both.

First, I’m brimming with admiration at the hard work my son has done over the last four years at Berklee College of Music, where he has both pursued his love of jazz music as a tenor saxophone player, and acquired a whole new set of skills as an electronic sound designer. He has put together his musicality and these new technical skills to produce these three songs, which are now available on Spotify, Itunes, and other music platforms. He composed the music, plays sax and synthesizer on these tracks, mixed the sounds and did all the production work.

Have a listen:  https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/abstractapathy/prism?fbclid=IwAR3r0aEDL9asMy2KsHNtcJXJOdT85rlIOkUT7l8pb5jBVivU9bIrd2k3lMw.  (Or find it on your favorite music platform – Prism by Abstract Apathy.)

So that’s my proud-mama-bragging. But now I want to shift to some other thoughts and feelings that are jumbled together with this pride.

I know some people may look at my children and see them as white-looking, privileged children of a UCLA professor. On the one hand, this is who they are. I was able to pay for Andres’ college education (with the help of scholarships he earned), and he got to take music lessons while he was growing up. He also benefited from a public school that funds and supports arts education, including a fabulous jazz program.

But for the record, I wasn’t a professor when my kids were born; and I was one of eight children with a father who dreamed of but never got to go to college. Further – and more to the point that I want to make in this political moment: their own father was what would today be called an “unaccompanied minor:” he crossed the border at age 16, with his siblings, to join his mother, who had left Guatemala eight years before, to work in a garment factory in downtown LA, in order to send money back to her six children, who were struggling to survive under a military dictatorship in Guatemala. He was fleeing poverty and war in Central America – war that was funded and supported by the U.S.A. and that reverberates today in a new round of refugees.

And so, as I listen to the beautiful music Andrés has gifted to the world, I think about the young people who have recently died in the hands of the border patrol – all young, all from Guatemala – who didn’t get to pursue their own dreams, didn’t get to have children who got to go to college, didn’t get to follow their own passions, didn’t get to have the opportunities that my children got, due to sheer luck, pathways to citizenship, and quality public education.

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I hope you will enjoy Andrés’ music, and take in the fact that he is the son of someone not unlike the 16-year-old who died this month in the hands of the border patrol: Carlos Hernández Vásquez.  (Say his name.) We might wonder at how much talent is lost to the world every day. What would happen if we treated all people as precious, as full of possibility, and supported them in surviving the injustices that have delimited their lives, and finding the gifts that they can offer to the world?

 

Becoming Marjorie Elaine?

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I am trying on the idea of changing my name. After 35 years living legally as Marjorie Elaine Orellana, or, in my professional life, in a hyphenated state (without actually using a hyphen), as Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, I am preparing to cut off the last six syllables of my public persona, and privilege my given names, not the ones I inherited or married into: Marjorie Elaine. That rolls off the tongue easily; I could gloss it as Marjelaine or Marjolaine (which happens to be a lovely herb).

downloadI had thought my choices were to continue to walk the world as Marjorie Elaine Orellana (my legal name) or to file for an official reversion to my “maiden” name (Marjorie Elaine Faulstich), returning me as the person I once was: the sixth child and third daughter of Anna Marie Walter and Charles Nicholas Faulstich.  But this left me feeling tugged between two poles of patriarchy that no longer served my life. I’m not sure I would know how to re-become Margie Faulstich.  Nor would I necessarily want to.

In dropping Faulstich, I mean no disrespect to my own father.  In fact Charles Nicholas was the only b7db2a1357be94fc8c63aa9c330ad266person who ever called me Marjorie Elaine. Choosing to be Marjorie E. Laine is about connecting with my father, in my own unique way, and with my self: a version of myself that holds some continuity with the past, while offering a fresh way to move into the future. (Though I must admit, there is a part of me that is declaring: “Fuck the patriarchy” – something little Margie Faulstich would never have dared say.)

It’s not a simple thing to change a name that I have used professionally and personally for so many years.  I see this as a time of transition, and take inspiration from those who have made much more complex transitions, such as between gendered identities.  I will have to petition for the legal right to be Marjorie E. Laine; pay a fee; be prepared for reactions from – and confusion among – colleagues, families and friends; figure out how to change the domain name and master-head for this blog (something I’ve attempted, and was stymied by – so it may have to remain as is), and a gazillion other things.  It’s possible all of that will feel too daunting.  I may just take the path of least resistance and remind myself that a name is…just a name. My name does not define my character, and it can never name all that I am. A surname is a tag to mark some ties to other people. (Indeed, a reason to remain Marjorie Orellana is to mark my ties to my own children; but I trust that our bond does not depend on our names.)

I have written several longer versions of this announcement, elaborating on my thought processes, and reflecting on the meanings and histories of names. (Did you know that Faulstich loosely translates as “Lazy Bones?” Or even worse: “Putrid Wound”? There is some hidden history there that bears exploration, and perhaps some very old wounds to heal.  Just how did all my “Lazybone” family members gain such reputations as hard workers, who always do more than their share? )

Sharing drafts with a few friends and family members, I have been inviting responses. Reactions have helped me to consider things I want to examine further. I am sure that work will continue as I try on the idea of becoming Marjorie Elaine, and see how the world responds to her.  So while I am not looking for opinions about whether or not I should make this change – that’s something I need to decide for myself – I welcome your thoughts about names, choices, and life transformations.

The LA teachers’ strike and the ratification of the rights and needs of teachers, children and families

49501656_10156582604186928_187270869142208512_nI walked the line in ’89.  I was a teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District when the teachers’ union (UTLA) led the last teachers’ strike.  Thirty years later, I see things from a somewhat different angle.  I’m happy to report one big difference between 1989 and now: LA teachers asked for – and won – much more than a modest and well-deserved pay raise for themselves. They advocated loudly and clearly  for the rights of children and families in a public education system that has been severely eroded over the years since I left the classroom.

 

In 1989 conditions in schools were challenging too, but those problems weren’t up front and center in the strike rhetoric. Then, one of the biggest issues was overcrowding.  I worked in a multi-track, “year-round” school, where three classes shared two classroom spaces, rotating between them – and shuffling all our materials – as each class came on for two months and then off for one throughout the year.  Then, as now, we were short-staffed on support services. Once a week we had access to a school psychologist, whose main job was to conduct testing, not secure services for kids who had experienced multiple traumas in the new-immigrant, high poverty school where I worked. There was only one part-time nurse on duty to serve a school of 700 kids. Students were not allowed to run on the asphalt playground for fear of the scraped knees that could result. (And in schools with high levels of trauma, nurses play important roles in terms of providing kids some respite from psychosomatic illnesses.)

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Thirty years later, overcrowded schools are not the biggest problem LA schools face. That is in large part due to gentrification and the exodus of students from public to private or charter schools – the continuation of a long process of “white flight” and a growing abandonment of everything public by those with the means to buy services.  But overcrowded classrooms are a real problem, with upwards of 45 students squeezing into many classrooms.  And support staff has shrunk even more. The strike called attention to these issues. The resolution of the strike does not mean that these problems are resolved, but at least there is an awareness of them, and some effort to address them.

 

In the 1980s there were groups within UTLA who advocated for the rights and needs of the children and families.  I worked with the Teachers Committee on Central America to support children whose families had fled civil war in their home countrieswars that were fueled with U.S. dollars and that left a legacy of violence that reverberates in the current migration crisis, which in turn shows up as trauma in our schools.  In the Human Rights Committee, we highlighted the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which calls for devotion to the best interests of all children, regardless of nationality, and for protections for children’s health, education and well-being. This convention has been ratified by all members of the United Nations except the United States.

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The advocacy work for children and families that was relegated to special UTLA committees in the past are at the center stage today. The union made the issues of investment in community schools, special education, early childhood and bilingual education central to the strike.  From my current standpoint, I know that there are no easy solutions to entrenched social inequities. But Los Angeles teachers gave us all the opportunity to publicly ratify the human rights of teachers, families and all children, and to call for an end to the erosion of public education in the second largest school district in the nation. Thank you to UTLA and to the teachers of LAUSD.

Karma, interconnectedness, and the immigrant crisis

“Don’t come to our country illegally,” President Trump blasted in a recent tweet, his solution to the current immigrant crisis – one in which thousands of immigrants are fleeing violence in Central America and attempting to cross into the United States.  He went on to emphasize the importance of borders, national sovereignty, and “rule of law.”

“Don’t invade our country,” Central Americans might well have twittered back.  What goes ‘round, comes aroudownloadnd, and whether you believe in laws of kharma and the spiritual interconnectedness of life on this planet or not, there is plenty of evidence that the “crises” we see today were initiated long ago by actions that our country took.  And the actions we take today will have profound effects on the future.

In most of the reports I have read about the “immigrant crisis,” there is some recognition that there are reasons families take the tremendous risks they do to cross the border into the United States – a migration that costs thousands of dollars and potentially their lives, with no guarantee of success. These reports usually mention the rampant gang violence in Central America, and sometimes domestic violence as well.

But there is scant mention of the role of the United States played in begetting that violence, through “interventions” we took over the last century.  Interventions, by their very name, involve a disrespecting of nat01_US-int-1890s-1930s-768x423ional sovereignty, borders, and the rule of law. They are achieved militarily – i.e. through violence.

Take the case of Guatemala. In 1954, the CIA engineered a coup that overthrew the democratically-elected presidency of Jacobo Arbenz, because Arbenz had instituted land reform that threatened the U.S.-based United Fruit Company, which was owned by Allen Dulles, brother to CIA director John Foster Dulles.  (For details on this history see Steve Kinzer’s book, The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and their Secret World War.) This ushered in fifty years of military dictatorships that were supported and funded by the United States, leading to the “disappearance” or murder of some 200,000 civilians and a legacy of violence that now reverberates in everyday life.

My point is simple: violence begets violence; for every action there is a reaction; and what we do today will have profound effects on tomorrow.

The United States’ recent decision to separate young children from their families at the border, regardless of their requests for asylum (asylum from violence that we are implicated in), will have repercussions far into the future: trauma layered on historical trauma.  Recognizing our own role in creating these conditions would offer us an opportunity to right the historical record, to repair, restore, and set in place a different legacy.IMG-0669

Let me end on a more uplifting note. Last week’s international efforts to rescue the soccer team from the cave in Thailand shows the good that can happen when people come together to support life, not thwart it. While some psychologists have warned that the boys may be traumatized by their experience, all reports thus far are that the boys are happy and at peace. This is likely due to the great efforts their coach took to care for them during their time in the cave, and to ensure that they cared for each other. And now, the mothers of the boys are promising to help “heal the heart” of the young coach who is suffering from his feelings of responsibility – such a different response than the press seemed to expect from the parents.

A situation that could have been tragic, traumatic, and full of blame or shame, has become an opportunity to see the power of interconnectedness, the good that can happen when we work together, and the healing power of care. As a favorite podcast reminds me (https://www.oneyoufeed.net/), we can choose how we respond to any situation in the world, and how we choose matters for what we set in play. There seem to be many forces that perpetuate violence and negativity, but with just a little conscious effort, we might tip the balance toward positivity and love.

 

 

Birthday blog: Some reflections on life and death

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Indulge me with a birthday blog. A bit of self-indulgence on our birthdays is ok, no?

However, my birthday blog is not really about birthdays at all. It’s about the other end of life. I hope you’ll read on, and trust that I’m not suicidal.

Why am I thinking about death?

Why not?  10350432_10152366752796928_3512390558073954627_nWe all should, really. We plan for everything else.  Schools these days are very concerned with making sure toddlers are ready for preschool, preschoolers transition properly into kindergarten, elementary school students to middle school, middle to high school, high school to college, college to the work force. But after that, we mostly stop preparing for what will, eventually, come next.

(I couldn’t resist inserting this “Why?” photo I took in a cementary in Berlin…¿Warum nicht?)

In this sense thinking about death is not really a divergence from my work in education.  We might educate ourselves and others very differently – and live very differently – if we really, truly, fully, grasped the fact that we all will, someday, die.

How would we treat the people on this planet, and the planet itself, if we viewed all life as precarious, and precious?

How would we live each moment if we knew that whatever words we say could be our last ones, or the last ones our loved ones heard from us?

Let me be clear. I do not think young people should have to wonder such things each morning when they walk through their school doors.  

But I do think that schools do a disservice to young people when we suggest that if they keep their heads down and put all their attention on their futures  they will live happily ever after.

I often hear students (and faculty) saying things like, “I can’t wait until the end of the semester!” “Two more years, and I graduate!” “Just have to push through to the end of the quarter…”

Would we say this about our lives?  (“Almost at the end! One more push to the finish line!”)

download-2Sogyal Rinpoche’s interpretation and elaboration of The Tibetan Book of the Dead (in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) offers a refreshingly different perspective on life and death than the dominant “denial” that permeates modern western culture. Rinpoche suggests how “hollow and futile life can be, when it’s founded on a false belief in continuity and permanence” (p. 17).  He describes the way most people live: “Hypnotized by the thrill of building, we have raised the houses of our lives on sand. This world can seem marvelously convincing until death collapses the illusion and evicts us from our hiding place” (p. 16).

He quotes Chuang Tzu:

The birth of a man is the birth of his sorrow. The longer he lives, the more stupid he becomes, because his anxiety to avoid unavoidable death becomes more and more acute. What bitterness! He lives for what is always out of reach! His thirst for survival in the future makes him incapable of living in the present.  (p. 17)

My children encouraged me to read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. They understand more about what really matters than I surely did at their age, when I was busy trying to “get through” college, establish a career, raise a family, get tenure, write a book, build a life…rather than just living the one I was in.

Thinking about death doesn’t have to be morbid – except in the literal sense of that word.  Nor do I mean to diminish the pain we feel at the death of loved ones – a pain that is felt deeply around the world right now.  Embracing this moment also doesn’t mean we should close our eyes to the work that needs to be done to make life better for more beings on the planet both now and in the future. It doesn’t mean we stop all preparation for what could lie ahead. But recognizing our own mortality can help us to take less seriously the things that don’t matter, and more seriously the things that do.

So as my birthday gift to readers, I wish you a day full of wonder, grounded in a deep recognition of the impermanence of all things. I hope you will be fully present wherever you are. Kiss your children, tell someone you love them, put a pause in your plans for the future, take a deep breath and remember that this day, this moment, this juncture of the time/space continuum, is a gift, not guaranteed.

I leave you with the words of Mary Oliver, in one of my favorite poems of all time:

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When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn,

when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox

when death comes

like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:

What is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything

downloadas a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth

tending, as all music does, toward silence

and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

 

Words from a man who lost his home in Mexico’s earthquake

22859998_10155521906031928_2080079651281708923_oAs part of my fall sabbatical, I had the opportunity to visit Tlatempo, Mexico, a small town in the hills above Cuernavaca that was partly destroyed in the recent earthquake. About half the houses in the town were located directly on an earthquake fault, and they were reduced to rubble. The community school also had crumbled.

I accompanied Dra. Alicia Valencia and a group of her students from the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional – future teachers who were learning with Alicia about community-engaged-pedagogy. They were accompanying the community in a variety of ways: working with children, listening to parents, offering meditation and yoga sessions, and helping with a myriad of reconstruction tasks.22829443_10155521906026928_6214897323039309781_o

Unfortunately, a large part of the collective energy of this group went to a rather sad task: bagging moldy clothing that had been donated to the town.  After any natural disaster, there are often massive donations of relatively useless stuff. In this case, people who had lost homes had no where to store the clothing, even if they could find items that were appropriate and in good condition. And it was the rainy season…

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While visiting the town, I had the opportunity to talk with a man named Rosalio Saucedo Figueroa,  whose home had been reduced to rubble. Rogelio spoke thoughtfully and eloquently about his losses. I promised him that I would bring his thoughts to a wider public, and so I share them verbatim here, along with my translation:

“Hoy aquí en mi pueblo tengo la bendición de Dios de contar con una persona que viene de Los Angeles, California. Está grabando este testimonio, y quiero decirle a la humanidad entera, del Polo Norte al Polo Sur, de este a oeste, que caerse no significa el final. Caerse, y levantarse, es lo más lindo que Dios nos ha permitido hacer en la Tierra. Nos quedamos en cero, sin hogar, pero hoy vivimos contentos, felices, porque nos llega la gente de donde quiera a traernos su buena vibra, su voluntad, y sus buenos deseos. Son los mejores cimientos que vamos a poner a nuestras nuevas casas, y que primero Dios, con toda la suma de ayuda y esfuerzos que estamos hacienda, pronto tendremos un nuevo nido, una nueva casa, y será un pueblo con encanto, un pueblo mágico. Ayúdenos, por favor, se les pedimos, gracias.”

“Today in my town I am blessed with a visit from a person who lives in Los Angeles, California. She is taping this testimony, and I want to say to all of humanity, from the North Pole to the South Pole, from east to west, that to fall down does not mean the end. To fall down, and get back up, is the most beautiful thing that God has permitted us on the planet. We are back to zero, without homes, but we live happy, content, because people from all over send us their good vibes, their good will, their good wishes. Those are the best bricks that we can put into our new homes, because if God permits, with all of the help and efforts that we are doing, son we will have a new nest, a new house, and it will be an enchanted town, a magical town. Help us, please, we ask, thank you.”

“Ahora tenemos que ver que nuestra vida sea arte, y tenemos que demostrar a la humanidad complete que a pesar del desastre mundial que hay, en el desequilibrio que los gobernantes de cada país han provocado, por la ambición del dinero y del poder, muy aparte de eso vivimos gente que nos gusta vivir en fiesta, en harmonía, en paz, sin corrupción, sin ambición. Porque hoy que esta tragedia nos da la oportunidad de contarlo, nos dimos cuenta que no tenemos nada, que sólo somos seres vivos en el planeta, como cualquier animalito, como cualquiera planta, pero que somos importantes para nosotros mismos. Y para poder querer a los demás tengo que quererme primero yo… Si hay amor debe comenzar conmigo…Nosotros tenemos ese gran compromiso con nuestra Madre Tierra. Que mucho daño le han hecho los grandes empresarios, los ricos…y tal vez estos terremotos, cataclismos, estén sucediendo también por eso, que no nos hemos dado cuenta que el planeta está viva, el planeta se está manifestando, así es que vivimos con amor, fraternidad, demostrémos la amistad, y bueno, ojalá que esas gentes duras metálicas, un día reflexionan, y hagamos verdaderamente a nuestra planeta donde la gente vivimos en fiesta.”

“Now we have to see that our life is art, and we have to show all of humanity that in spite of this world disaster, and the uncertainty that the leaders of each country have provoked by their ambition for money and power, that very separate from that live people who love to live in celebration in harmony, in peace, without corruption, without ambition. Because today this tragedy gives us the opportunity, we realize that we are nothing, that we are just beings alive on the planet, like any little animal or plant, but that we are important for ourselves. And that in order to love others we first have to love ourselves. If there is love it should begin with me…We need to make a commitment to our Mother Earth. Because the big corporations, the rich, have don ea lot of damage. Perhaps this is why earthquakes and cataclisms are happening, so that we realize that the planet is alive, that it is speaking, and that we have to live in love and brotherhood, in friendship, and I hope that all those hard metallic men will one day reflect, so that we can truly make this planet a place where people live in celebration.”

When I told Rogelio that I help to train teachers, he offered these words:

“Para todas esas personas que hoy se están preparando para ser maestros, quiero decirles que hay un compromiso tan grande. Podría ser más grande que nuestro planeta, ya que futuramente tendrán que trabajar con recurso humano, y lo que Uds como estudiantes hoy y como profesionales mañana van a ser con sus pupilos. Tienen que mostrar que tenemos que vivir con arte. Les tienen que enseñar a reflexionar. Les tienen que enseñar a pensar. No debemos vivir por vivir. No al materialismo. No a la corrupción. La preparación no es para eso. Ayudemos a prepararnos espiritual y mentalmente. La riqueza del ser humano no es en el capital que tenga, sino en el espíritu, conocimiento, y lo que haga para toda su gente, que esté cerca o lejos de allí.”
“To all those people who are preparing to be teachers, I would like to say that this is a very great commitment. It could be the greatest one on the planet, given that in the future you will work with human resources, what you as students today and as professionals tomorrow will be with your pupils. You will have to show them how to live with art. You will have to show them how to reflect.  You will have to show them how to think. We should not live just to live. No to materialism. No to corruption. Education is not for that. We need to help ourselves to prepare spiritually and mentally. The richness of human beings is not in the capital that they have, but in the spirit, knowledge, and what they do for people, whether they are near or far from here.”
“Que no se olviden que van a ser formadores de nuevas generaciones. Que esas generaciones sepan reconocer su planeta. Sepan reconocer los animales. Sepan reconocer su próximo. Sepan reconocer su propia familia. Y sobre todo que infundan y viven con valores: honestidad, amor, fraternidad, colaboración, que mucha falta nos hace en todos los países de esta planeta.”
“Don’t forget that you are going to be forming new generations. Those generations should know how to respect (recognize) the planet.  They should respect animals. They should respect their neighbors. They should respect their family.  And above all they should infuse and live with values: honesty, love, brotherhood, collaboration, which is sorely lacking in many countries on this planet. “
Rogelio is re-building his home and he knows that he will appreciate it all the more for having seen how easily things he love were lost. I take inspiration from his words and will carry them to the future teachers I work with at UCLA.
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