Hello everyone. Hello friends and families. My name is Jomer, and I will be the team blogger for the next five weeks. To put a face on my name, I’m that guy with the weird smirk in between Estelle and Ciantelle 🙂
Well, how do I start? I don’t really know how. The past ten days has been a whirlwind of challenges and emotions that are uprooting us from the core. I also don’t know how to sum up all our experiences in words, because words aren’t enough to convey all that we have been through. “Being chosen by God to be here” are words that are often thrown out a lot here, but sometimes we feel like we are at the wrong place. Sometimes, we feel like heroes wanting to save Oakland from all its perils. Sometimes we feel so emotionally drained that all we want to do is sleep. And sometimes we feel like no one else could be the most inspired people in the world. We really are under different weathers at different times. So I guess to sum things up: we are a mess. Let me give you a quick outline of how this happened.
On Day 1, June 19th, orientation started. Students from different parts of northern California and Nevada convened at Harbor House (HH) at Oakland. I wasn’t there, but I’m sure excitement mixed with anxiety filled the air.
On Day 3, June 21st, the first battle began. All students underwent a simulation of an immigrant worker’s life. The purpose was to be given a glimpse of the hardships and struggles of their daily labors – strenuous muscle activity, supporting families from minimum wages, and experiencing workplace discrimination and abuse. Jason worked as a day laborer to garden for 8 hours. Marilu and Ciantelle were hired as housekeepers for the same amount of time. At the end of the day, they were “paid” with imaginary money that were deducted with certain “expenses” that immigrant workers pay for in reality, such as medical insurance. Ciantelle ended up sleeping outside HH because after the deductions, she wasn’t able to afford the “rent.”
On Day 5-6, June 23-24th, “single stories” are dangerous. In simple words, “single stories” is like having a single perspective on things, rather than being aware of the full context. We learned about how there are only single stories of the Native American history of California, and the gentrification movement washing over the urban areas of Oakland. We learned about owning up to one’s ethnic identity.
Also, one favorite quote – “Doing nothing or staying in a neutral position is the same as being the perpetrator of the problem.”
On Day 7, June 25th, orientation ended. We are shaken, confused, and overwhelmed. We are doubtful, feel partially knowledgeable, and inspired.
On Day 8, June 26th, first day at work. Ciantelle, Marilu, and I participated in a protest outside DMV, where we denounced the implementation of biased issuance of driver licenses to undocumented immigrants. We also got interviewed by a news reporter that very same morning. Afterwards, we had a very emotional and tear-jerking orientation at CLUE. On the other hand, Estelle and Jason went through orientation at College Track and received their (very) specific job schedules. They have their own stories to tell.
On Day 9, June 27th, we had discussions about educational inequities. We learned about how some students in Oakland treat education as a lifeline from “death.” We learned the importance of survivors of underserved educational systems and how they become the pioneers of generational change in their communities.
We divided into gender-specific groups and discussed how our own genders have played out in our society. The men talked about how we have/have not used our male privilege to uplift our sisters, while the women shared stories about how they have become subjects of gender-based injustices.
It was also Jason’s 21st birthday. He was smothered with love by the whole BayUP family. He said that this birthday “was one of the best he’s ever had.” We also had an elbow-licking game going on. You’d think that we would be mature enough.
Today, June 28th, was Sabbath. Marilu and I went to Jack London Square to “breathe.” Ciantelle went to the library and unsuccessfully tried to take a nap after. Estelle had her alone time to think. Jason went to Lake Merritt and read a book about Sabbath. We all went to an observatory at 9 pm and got a glimpse of Saturn and Mars thru their high-tech telescopes. We also shared (jelly) flan after.
I gave you very limited glimpses of how our days looked like, but what I’m really unable to include were all the emotions and thoughts running in our minds during all those times, partly because we had trouble discerning what God was telling us during those moments. To be honest, we don’t know if we have fully grasped the gravity of all that we have received and absorbed from the past ten days.
It’s an understatement to say that we are going through a lot. Ciantelle has been angry, Marilu has been withdrawn, Jason has been confused, Estelle has been contemplating, and I have been upset. However, despite all these, I know that we have one thing in common: we are all healing and finding our new identities in God in some way. God is putting us through very uncomfortable and tough situations, but we know that through those, He is slowly transforming us into people who are more able to bring His Kingdom to Earth. So while we are apprehensive and restless in the spirit, we are persevering in this journey because we all rest in the fact that at the end, the fruit of it all is worthy.
P.S. I want you to know that we are healthy and still do have fun! Please continue to pray for our wellness and strength of the spirit. Love lots.