Hello, friends! I hope this post finds you in good health and spirit. This update comes to you after I have had the opportunity to digest the information-heavy week that was orientation for the 2016-17 YAVs. You may have already sifted through countless other blogs that this year’s YAVs have shared about their experiences during orientation, but I’ll give you an abbreviated rundown of that week’s itinerary in case you haven’t.
Monday was a both a long and short day, since part of it consisted of traveling to Stony Point, New York – my first ever plane ride AND by myself. After our arrival at Stony Point Center, we had dinner and were welcomed by the YAV family.
Tuesday consisted of an intense, challenging, and even uncomfortable conversation about white supremacy, racism, and arrangements of power – all of which are very broad topics. So do me a favor and just take a moment to pause now and think about the ways in which we might have unpacked these concepts with one another. “What do I do with unearned privilege? How am I complicit in systems of oppression? What can white people do to actively dismantle white supremacy? What does it take for us to follow the leadership of people of color instead of challenging them?” These are just some of the questions that surfaced during this discussion. Often times we ended up with more questions than answers.
Wednesday morning started off with a follow up to Tuesday’s Critical Cultural Competency session, which attempted to provide some “revolutionary action” steps that we might use moving forward. We followed with another heavy, though less emotionally draining, conversation about setting healthy boundaries when we got to our sites across the country and the world.
On Thursday we went into New York City, tasked with observing the areas there that catered to those that fell within the dominant center and then areas that were set aside for those on the borderlands. (By the way, the terminology “dominant center” and “borderlands” comes from a cultural theorist by the name of Gloria Anzaldúa. You may consider researching her if the arrangements of power concept is new or confusing to you.) Another challenge we experienced on this day was finding lunch in NYC with a budget of five dollars.
Friday was the first day that we divided ourselves into groups based on our site placements. We shared our results from different personality tests and talked about how they might affect household dynamics. Conflict management was also another point of discussion on this day.
Saturday through Monday was less academically and intellectually strenuous. We talked about how to share our stories throughout our year of service, the importance of self-care, and participated in commissioning services with various churches in the city all before being sent off in the world as a YAV.
Needless to say, orientation was very draining for me. Here I am, almost a week later, and still pretty socially exhausted. Not only was I being (re)introduced to so many important topics, I was also functioning with a lesser amount of organization than I preferred, and I was meeting so many new people all at the same time. Overall, I do think that orientation was worthwhile for me because I ended up learning a lot about the people around me. Several people even caused me to stretch my empathy by considering their anxieties about their upcoming YAV year. (Thank you to the members of my small group who allowed us to see them in vulnerable states.)
Anyway, I am settled into my cozy little home with all four of my housemates in Asheville, NC. We’ve gone through our own form of orientation, since they’re all new in town. But I won’t get into that now. My first day of work is Tuesday, September 6th, and I’m so excited!!! Once I’ve settled into my new position, I’ll surely be back with another update for you all.