#datpostBayUPlyf

Hello everyone. Time has passed and the curtains have been drawn. Though BayUP ended six days ago, I couldn’t leave you all hanging to our unfinished story. For the last time, here’s what’s up with the Cal Team.

During the last week of BayUP, all the students moved in together into the Home of Peace at Oakland. It’s a nice, yellow Victorian-style house with aesthetic interior designs and very relaxing quarters. For a week, we underwent different workshops, such as economic discipleship, re-entry, and theology of work. It also became the time to start toning down any emotional highs, though for some people some things resurfaced, so more crying ensued (lol). But it’s okay. We had dance parties and a mafia night to compensate for that. 

The last day, August 1st, was filled with (saddening) goodbyes. Someone was off to Reno, some other person was off to a 9-hr train ride to LA, while some people left early when their loved ones came to pick them up. Though we were exhausted and needed a break (from each other, lol), the fact that we branched off to different parts of California, back to our respective campuses as changed people, ready to set trails on fire, felt very bittersweet. We’ve grown close to one another, and though there are low chances of encountering each other again in the near future, I’m confident that we’ve left enough marks in each others’ hearts so that friendships will last. 

Fast forward to six days after BayUP… and I’m having a withdrawal. Dissonance here, dissonance there. Lies above, lies below. Even though I came out of BayUP with a renewed identity in God and ready to dispel every lie, my heart is at a high low. Not only am I missing my friends, but I’m also missing the BayUP micro-space where my friends and I dealt challenges together. Where we shook our heads in disappointment every time we saw an injustice. But since that space isn’t available at home anymore, I am (and the others are) feeling overwhelmed. Suddenly, life feels like I’m wading through a pool emulsified with lies and trashed with evil. And if we continue with the imagery, every step through that pool feels like a quick sand of temptations dragging me down – the temptation to assimilate back to my old habits. It really takes a lot of effort to live in constant contact with such “contaminants,” and doing it without accessible BayUP friends makes the toll much higher. #thestruggleisreal

But anyway, I don’t want to leave you thinking that BayUP is a wacko program aimed to create emotionally-dysfunctional students. Post-BayUP brings such a good and savory struggle. It’s very reassuring of how much my eyes have been opened and how much my heart is able empathize. It’s also a catalyst of dwelling excitement in our hearts to bring about God’s kingdom into Earth. 

Before I sign off, I want to thank you all who have subscribed and walked with us for the past 6 weeks. Thank you for your helping us through such a strenuous 6-week program. Thank you for being such a great support network  🙂

God, thank you for choosing us to be part of this program. And for giving us the courage and faith to choose into it. Thank you for claiming us as your sons and daughters, fresh in our new identities as bringers of shalom into the world. Thank you that we cried, laughed, and wrestled. Thank you for breaking us, but also piecing us together. We are fuller than ever before, and we’re glad that we’re full in You. 

Signing off, 

Jomer Polanes (& Ciantelle Tienzo, Jason Wang, Marilu Aguilar, Estelle Luk) 

The Cal BayUP Team 2014! Go Bears! 

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I’m so fancy… and you already kno-o-ow

This song, along with a lot of hip-hop/Top 40 music, has been our theme song for the past few weeks. Since we’re not allowed access to our personal music libraries, the radio is our go-to music source. And I swear, this song has been so deeply embedded in our minds that once the first few tunes of this song start, we drop everything and sing to it to the top of our lungs. Because you know, we all resonate to it. Because we’re all fancy. 

Hello everyone. Long time no write. I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to update for a while. We have been extremely busy at work and Program Days (where we intensively study a particular social justice issue for a whole day through discussions, exercises, Scripture, and reflections). So you can all better understand my excuse, here’s a recap of our past week:

Marilu, Ciantelle, and I were busy at Street Level. Street Level was understaffed last Monday, so the three of us had to fill in some jobs. Marilu translated for most of the day at the front desk and around (as most of Street Level’s community members are Spanish-speaking). Ciantelle lent a hand to cook some awesome pasta and salad for lunch for the community members, while I handed out boxed breakfasts for day laborers in the morning as staff and I drove around Oakland. On Thursday, Marilu helped enter medical records into a database, while Ciantelle and I organized all the clutter in the storage area. 

Estelle and Jason were quite busy as well. From the stories I hear, the kids at College Track are a bit of a pain, especially for Jason who’s still trying to figure out how to tickle his students’ fancy. Last Friday, they went on a field trip with their students to Holy Names University. 

We also spent a whole day learning issues about immigration for our Program Day. This issue hits close to home for some of us, so it was definitely a day of learning and trying not to break into tears in front of everyone.  

Despite the crazy schedules, all of us are eating healthy. Because we have a vegetarian in our team, most of our meals have been largely composed of greens and fruits. At first, I was worried that I won’t survive for too long on such a healthy diet, but I’m actually getting more accustomed to it. Eating healthier is something we’ll definitely be taking with us after BayUP. 

We’re also trying to get as much rest and fun. Marilu, Jason, and I (along with other BayUP students) went to Jack London Square last Friday night to get our hips shaking and heads bobbing to some meringue (it was their weekly dance night on the square). We’re also sleeping enough, so don’t worry!

Well, that’s pretty much all of this past week. I’ll definitely try to set some time aside to update next time 🙂 Please pray for us and come to our Visitor’s Day on July 19th if you can! 

Alive and Well

Hello! Just wanted to let you know that we are still alive and well. And living. I would like to write something extensive, but I’m extremely exhausted because we just got back from a prayer vigil at a detention center in Richmond. So instead, I’m putting up these photos of us that I just took 10 minutes ago 😀 Marilu looking all sophisticated, Ciantelle & Jason being dishwashers, and of course all of us being silly.

Please continue to pray for our health and well-being (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual). We miss you all ❤

Post-Orientation Stress Disorder (First Post)

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. 

 

Presenting this year’s Cal BayUP Team!

Presenting this year's Cal BayUP Team!

from left to right: Estelle (staff), Jomer, Ciantelle, Marilu, and Jason

We represent three different sister fellowships–La Fe, Kapwa, and Cal Christian Fellowship–and we will be working at three different organizations in Oakland–College Track, CLUE and Street Level Health Project. In addition, we have a variety of personalities (at least as characterized by the animals we feel best represent us, which are: elephant, cat, manta ray, meercat, and sea turtle).

We are this year’s Cal BayUP Team, and we are excited to share our adventures with you!

Dana’s reflections since coming home

Though only 6 weeks, I feel like I lived a lifetime this summer at BayUp. I had weeks of anticipation and even fear leading up to it. All the things I thought would be hard turned out to be easy, and the things I didn’t know I would face made me a new woman.

Highlights of things I’ve learned (and am still processing):

  1. I can live on a lot less than I think
    This summer the budget was $15 a week per person for food. We also received $5 per week for laundry. Our Cal team of five decided to pool our weekly allowances together, totaling $100 per week for us to work with. Before BayUp, I assumed this would be incredibly difficult and that I might starve. What I found was we had way more than enough. We planned our grocery list carefully and ended up sharing wonderful meals like spaghetti, cold noodles, crepes, lima bean ham soup, fried rice, dumplings, tuna casserole, and so much more. Of all the money we received over the course of 5 weeks, we only lived on about 65% of our allowance. The rest we tithed and donated to some of the justice organizations we encountered along our way.
  2. Things don’t make me happy
    Fasting from technology was a huge piece of BayUp. I am so surprised by how much joy I had being free of laptops, internet, and cell phones. I definitely missed my family and friends, but it was nice to only long for technology out of desire for my loved ones. After a typical long hard day pre-BayUp, I would want nothing more than to sit in front of the television and “relax” all evening. Turns out this sucks compared to coming home to good conversation and laughter with friends. I feel so much more aware of my need for community and relationship. My grumpiness that use to tell me I’d rather be alone is a lie. After all, God is in relationship within Himself through the Trinity. How much more then do I need to stay connected to God and people!
  3. Easier to offer grace in conflict
    I’m so impatient and unforgiving sometimes. I’ve been asking myself….why? During BayUp there was no need to rush around anywhere and plenty of time to solve conflict openly and honestly. It now seems so frivolous that I could become so easily irritated by the simplest things throughout a day. What good does it do to walk around angry and annoyed? I can just tell people what I need or how I’m feeling. It was such a blessing to be surrounded by such a gracious and forgiving community. We corrected each other with love and were honest about how we were doing. I felt so much love in these relationships and hope to keep offering grace to others.
  4. We are responsible for bringing about justice in the world
    God broke my heart for the injustice in this world every single week during BayUp. We learned so many statistics and facts about our failure to love our neighbor in the criminal justice system, within education, our lack of care for immigrants, and the painful cycles of human trafficking. It was really hard to not feel completely immobilized by the enormity of our sin and what seems like difficult paths to healing. I learned to lament and cry out to God, and He moved me to not only cry with Him, but to do justice with Him. When it comes to bringing healing and justice to this world, we are God’s Plan A. There is no Plan B.

Thank you so much for your prayers. I truly saw them answered and was blessed because of it all summer long. I am more aware than ever before how much I depend on the body of believers to pray and partner with me as we are together sent to love this planet and all that is in it.

I can’t stop chanting…by Dana

Image

This summer I worked at the Oakland Freedom School with my wonderful brothers Galvin (left) and Hiram (right). OFS serves black youth in the city of Oakland, ages 5-14. The curriculum focuses on literacy (books that feature other black kids!), and cultural pride and identity. It was a wonderful opportunity to serve with an all black staff and watch our children and community uplifted as we learned together.

One fun aspect of the Freedom Schools are the Cheers and Chants. These are songs specially designed to engage the youth with rhythmic and catchy songs about black culture or literacy. These chants are sometimes paired with tunes they already know from popular rap culture. Here are a few that I cannot stop chanting…

Good job! Good job!
*clap clap*
Good job! Good job!
*clap clap*
G-O-O-D-J-O-Bee Good job Good job!

OFS! We Manifest!
We choose the path that’s best from east to west!
We put ourselves to the test we refuse to settle for less!

See a book, grab a book, read a book, AYE!
Yesterday, tomorrow, I’ma read a book TODAY!
Freeze! What’s your name? And where yo book at?

P!-O-W-E-R We got the power ’cause we are the Freedom School!

Are you hype? Are you hype?
Yeah I’m hype! Yeah I’m hype!
Are you ready? Are you ready?
Yeah I’m ready! Yeah I’m ready!
For who?
Whatcha mean for who? I’m hype for Freedom School!
AAAAYE!
Turn up turn up! Turn up turn up!
Where yo book at?

Something inside so strong
I know that I, I know I can make it!

As I wrestle with the dissonance of returning back home, memories of OFS and all the kids I taught bring me huge and endless smiles =)

Look what I found: To Care for Your Friend Coming out of the Summer- Terri L.

While perusing the sites of other fellow BayUP bloggers, I happened upon this letter by the director of our BayUP program.  It’s to the friends and family of the BayUP team, and although it is a little late for some of the first few points, there are many points that are still relevant to our coming home experience.  I know that I for one, will be happy if family and friends would take to heart some of the advice given in this letter.

Happy Reading!

Terri

*****

Dear Friend/Family of a BayUPer,

Thanks so much for partnering with your friend as they participated in BayUP this summer.

I wanted to offer some suggestions to you to help your friend transition back to their lives at home and school.  You may be surprised to know that the transition home is often harder than the transition to the new culture of the city.  This is because students often come back and have trouble communicating what they learned and experienced.  Sometimes they have a hard time finding people to listen to their stories.  Sometimes they are overwhelmed by the relative material wealth they return to their lives compared to the poverty that they saw in the middle of Oakland.

As their friend, it is good for you to be aware that the transition home can at times be difficult.  This can help you set appropriate expectations for your friendship in the first few months after they have returned home.  And there are some ways that you can help your friend make the transition back home:

  1. Talk to your friend before they return.  What would they like their first week to be like when they get home (they may not know for sure, but talking about it doesn’t hurt!).

  1. If you are picking them up from the project, remember that they are coming off of an intense summer emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  THEY ARE TIRED.  They may not be up for an immediate welcome home party, or all the relatives to descend on the house, or dinner out.  Most likely they will want a shower and some sleep.  Ask them what they would prefer.  They will appreciate your warm welcome.

  1. If you are not meeting them at the airport or picking them up, a card waiting for them at home or a phone call the day after their return is a great way to let them know you are glad they are home.

  1. The thing your friend will need most from you is your listening ear!  They want to tell the story of their summer, but often find it hard to know where to begin.  The question “How was your summer?” can be hard to answer because it is such a broad question.  Asking LOTS of specific questions is the best way to find out what the summer was like.  Here are some examples:

    • What was a typical day like?

    • What was your favorite thing about your summer experience?

    • What was the hardest thing about your summer experience?

    • What was the thing that was most interesting to you about the culture you were in?

    • What is different about how people relate to each other here compared to the culture you were in this summer?

    • What was the funniest or most embarrassing thing that happened to you?

    • What was the food like?  What did you enjoy?  Dislike?

    • What was your team like?  Who were the people you were closest too?

    • How were your expectations about your summer met or not met?

    • What did you learn about yourself?  About others?  About God?

    • What are some ways you want to apply what you learned now that you are home?

    • How does it feel to be home?  What did you most miss about home?

    • What do you miss about your summer culture now that you are home?

  1. You don’t have to ask all these questions at once!  Consider having a couple of extended times (at least) with your friend where you ask questions about the summer.  Maybe once shortly after their return, then again when the pictures are developed (if they are not already on a digital camera!)

  1. Periodically ask how they are thinking and feeling about their summer and how they are applying what they have learned throughout the fall semester.

  1. Some other fun things you could consider:

    • If your friend learned to prepare any traditional food from their summer culture, have a night where they make dinner (or at least one dish!) for you.

    • Look through whatever souvenirs your friend returned with and ask questions about them:  were they given as a gift?  by whom?  what was that relationship like?  If it wasn’t’ a gift, what prompted them to buy this particular souvenir?

    • Invite other friends of yours and your BAyUP friend to hear about the summer.  Consider hosting a little dessert and let your friend tell his or her story and show some pictures to a group of people.

  1. It is ok to remind your friend that you had a summer too!  Life in your world did not stop just because they were on a summer project.  Tell them about your summer . . .

  1. Your friend may seem weird or respond to situations differently than they did before they left.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the changes you notice.  Let them know you want to care for them while at the same time giving them the freedom to change and grow.

  1. Help them to re-engage with their friends on campus and their responsibilities in classes and with InterVarsity by helping them brainstorm ways to integrate their summer experience into what they are doing now.

  1. Most of all, continue to pray for and with your friend.  Encourage them to take time for reflection and to be with Jesus.

The most important thing is just to be patient and ask a lot of questions.  Returning home is often as much a part of the growth process as the summer at BAyUP.  I believe the Lord is using all of these experiences to make your friend more like Him.  Thanks again for blessing your BAyUP friend with your prayers, support and encouragement.  May you also be blessed.

Sincerely,

Yu-Shuan Tarango-Sho

BayUP Director

*****

PS.  Did you notice the numbering?  There’s a 1 between the 9 and the 10.  Typo!! 😛 🙂