Posted by: Miriam | 24/08/2009

New Mexico – The Land of Enchantment? Or July, July, July part 2

The 2nd to last week in July, I had my pre-service orientation (PSO) for AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). For those of you who dont know, AmeriCorps is the domestic Peace Corps. Except I already speak the language (mostly), I dont have to move half way across the world, just the country, and finally it is only 1 year requirement. I can do two if I love living at poverty. AmeriCorps whole mission is to eradicate poverty. It was started in the Kennedy administration. Poverty is apparently a bitch to eradicate.

So the newest VISTA in town, Mike, and I drive and drive and drive to Albuquerque New Mexico. The drive between Durango and Albuquerque is effing barren, and all reservations. Coincidence? Highly unlikely.

We were staying at some swanky Marriott for 3 days. Everything is catered, we have more food than we can possibly eat, there are 2 down comforters on my bed, and there is a 36″ LCD Samsung in my room. Duplicate that for hundreds of rooms.

The 200+ lot of us was there to learn about AmeriCorps, VISTA, and poverty. The average age of the people there are 23ish. I’m an outlier at then 29. I’m not fresh out of college. I’ve had a real job. I’ve traveled to travel because I could afford it, not because Mommy and Daddy were paying my way for a term overseas. But there are plenty of cool people there. Lots of fresh young faces who want to make a difference in the world. Which made up for the palpable naivete in the air.

It was fun, I made friends who I hope I can stay in contact with for quite some time. I hung out with my peeps, who are in my team here in Colorado. We had lots of good bonding over beer. Mike will be my roommate when Bean moves out. Well, he is currently living in the nylon addition, aka a tent in the backyard.

My biggest problem with the whole training week was the whole discussion of what poverty is: how systematic it is in society, and how hard generations of poverty is to break juxtaposed with the posh hotel environment. But that was like a big huge elephant in the room. So we are living well on the government’s dime for the week, to be preached at about poverty. Hypocritical? Yes. Starting the discussion at the very beginning – we are sitting here in a bubble – would have been a great start. If nothing else acknowledging it also would have at least gotten the doe eyed and freshly scrubbed recent college grads thinking.

Due to the fact that I loved New Mexico so much, the first week, I get to go back the following week! Yea! This was another work trip with my boss, Allan from DC, my 2 Colorado coworkers, Katrina and Torie, and my soon-to-be New Mexico coworker, Jhon. In 3 days, 2 nights we go Durango -> Taos -> Sante Fe -> Pecos -> Sante Fe -> Albuqueque -> Durango. That would 601 miles (according to Google) in 3 days, 5 people, and 1 large Dodge Durango SUV. Work trips require work. Especially when the boss-dude is around. We had a good time, met with a lot of good folks, learned shit-tons about the water quality issues, abandoned mine lands, the different regulatory agencies, and the culuture of New Mexico.

I found it facinating to actually realize that there were 3 distinct cultures in NM. Anglo, Native, and Latin. Within each main group, there are many subsets. Loads of different tribes and reservations dot the landscape. There are distinct Spanish and Latino cultures, and friction between them. It was insane to hear of remote areas that still speak 16th century Spanish and that towns have been around for 500 years. Then we stopped at Trader Joe’s. and loaded the SUV up with goodies (ie beer) and high tailed it the frick home. I was soo very very glad to sleep in my own bed. Four days at home and 6 on the road is hard. Plus I had to start running since I couldnt take the bike with me on the second trip.
The not-so-grand Rio Grande, outside Taos

Post Trader Joe’s

Albuquerque’s love for Eric Estrada is second to none.

Found at a hotel in Albuquerque, needless to say I did not go swimming.


  1. Lots of travel for July with little riding 😦

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