Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Introduction of Sorts

Hi everyone!

The time has finally come! After an eventful and wonderful three-day trip with my mom, I’ve arrived in Chicago. Actually, by the time you read this, I’ll have been here for at least five days! I’m still having a hard time believing it’s already here, but at the same time, I feel as if I’ve been here for months.

In all honesty, I don’t even know where to begin. But let’s try to start with a little bit about this blog: what it has been and what I intend for it to be, yeah? Great--let’s get to it, then!

I’ve kept a blog off and on for the past few years (this particular one I’ve had since 2008). I started blogging when I was in 7th grade. When I first began, I tended to turn to my blog when a lot was weighing on my mind and I didn’t know how to sort through all of the thoughts clamoring for attention except to set my hands on a keyboard and start typing. I’d say the majority of the posts left in this space follow that trend. Others are simple and update you (and me after time has passed and memory has slipped) on what has transpired in my life that felt noteworthy for any number of reasons.

When I decided that I would keep a blog during my year serving with Amate House (I’ll call it Amate from here on out because that’s typically how we refer to it), I debated with myself on whether I’d run it through this particular blog or start a new one. In the end, I decided I wanted to be able to remember where I came from and what brought me to this year, seeing as this year isn’t just an isolated slice of my life. I want my blog to reflect my reality: that I am a composite of my past experiences, memories, thoughts, feelings, heartaches, joys, etc. Everything that has been has contributed in some way to the development of the girl that felt called to intentional community, personal spiritual development, and heartfelt service. All of that being said, this is now a shared space between you and me: feel free to peek back at some of my older posts if you’d like. Just keep in mind that, God willing, it’s all onwards and upwards from there. :)

As for what this blog will be, that’s really still in the works. I don’t know how often I’ll update, as my focus this year is and will remain on my community life, and sitting in my room alone writing blog posts might not always be conducive to that focus. All I know so far is that I really want to have some sort of way to communicate my experiences with all of you en masse, preserve memories, work through challenges, and wonder at my blessings. Ideally, I’ll settle into a rhythm with this blog and you’ll enjoy walking this journey with all of my housemates and me. Bear with me until we get there!

Now, then! Most of you reading this probably already know about Amate as we’ve likely had one or a few conversations about it. But if you don’t have any idea or you just want to better acquaint yourself with the logistics of my life for the next year, I’ve created a section on the left side of the blog with relevant links for you to click through and consider, including: the Amate House website, my job site’s website, and so on. For simplicity’s sake:
+ Amate House is a post-grad volunteer program under the Archdiocese of Chicago, Catholic by affiliation, but not exclusive to other faiths.
+ There are thirty-three total volunteers, divided into three separate houses: North House, South House, and Little Village.
+ With 8 other volunteers (3 boys, 5 girls), I live in Little Village, a renovated split level in the Hispanic neighborhood of the same name established by a wave of predominantly Mexican immigrants in the 1980s. The other houses each have 12 volunteers and are housed in old convents.
+ Each volunteer interviewed for and was eventually assigned by mutual agreement to different full-time volunteer job sites throughout the city. Our jobs are ideally at least 80% direct service, meaning we’re not simply sorting mail in the back room of a charity headquarters. Rather, we’re interacting daily with Chicago’s poor, marginalized, and underprivileged (although qualifying them as such tempts me to limit them in ways that I and the other volunteers must be mindful not to do--goodness knows circumstances and what-have-you already do enough of that).
+ I will be working as the Activities Director for West Suburban Senior Services. I’m thinking I’ll do a blurb introduction of each of my housemates and fill you in on what I understand of each of their jobs later on.
+ Our program is founded on five principles:
     - Service
     - Community
     - Faith
     - Social Justice
     - Stewardship
+ In keeping with our choice to live simply with intentionality and in solidarity with those we serve, we live off a house budget for food, house supplies, transportation, etc. Outisde of the house budget, we each receive $100 in petty cash (allowance) each month for personal expenses.
+ Each house community is expected to make and eat meals together Monday through Thursday; one night a week is a designated prayer/community night led in turn by individual members of the house.
+ August, our first month, is entitled Intentional August, during which we are meant to be especially intentional about developing relationships within our houses; some of my housemates gave up facebook for August, some leave their phone/computer/etc. in their room while inside the house. These decisions were made on an individual basis. I, for example, will be leaving my phone in my room while at home, only using facebook on the weekends so long as we aren’t doing something as a community, and simply spending as little time holed up alone in my room as possible.

I’m sure there’s so much more to tell you and a great number of questions you might have about our daily life and program, but I’ll fill in those gaps either as you ask questions or as they arise topically on the blog. Like I said: bear with me! :)

I’ll leave you with all of that for now. I’ll get back to all of you again soon to fill you in on what the first few days have been like. Spoiler alert: I love my housemates. ;)

Love always,
Kara <3