Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am the Luckiest Girl Alive

I realized last night that I don't write about my job very often, unless it is to complain. Part of this stems from the fact that I'm not sure how much I am allowed to share without getting sued (but then again, TFA-ers do it), and also because I have a love/hate relationship with my job. I'm not a person who likes to send a lot of negative thoughts out into the universe or anything and I have come to realize that is all I do when it comes to being a VISTA. I want to share some of the cool things about my job with you, my viewership, to not only impress upon all of you the good things both I and the other VISTAs do, but to also try to change my relationship with my job. Without bragging (and hopefully without sharing sue-worthy information), I want to show you that it can be cool to do great stuff for your community.

On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Carlos Santana.

I refrained from taking any up-close-and-personal photos when he was shaking my hand because of the literal mob of parents that formed in his wake and because, well, that'd be weird.

It was such an exciting day--more exciting than the last day of school, a field trip day, or a birthday--there was electricity in the air. Everyone was jovial and preparing for his imminent arrival. Some of the moms were dressed in traditional folklorico costumes, braiding each others' hair, doing each others' makeup. Several of the moms spoke to me for the first time because they have newly acquired English skills they wanted to show off. It was all very touching, to be in this community where the families have next to nothing, but to feel that isolated loneliness of poverty staved off, if only for a day.

We barely knew Carlos Santana was at the school before he was in our Parent Center. In that moment, I watched the faces of parents light up with delight, seeing for the first time someone who made them hope for their own children's futures. Waves of parents threw themselves into his general area, one senior (ditching school) requested picture after picture with the man, tucking her arm around his waist like he was her tio. Eventually, his handlers were able to fend off the hoards of people to allow Mr. Santana to visit the next room, a classroom of aspiring guitarists who had all learned La Bomba, eagerly hoping he would be proud of them.

Who was Mr. Santana to me? Nothing but a novelty, a piece of social propaganda. To them, Mr. Santana was a wish they dare not wish, a moment in time in which they could remember as being truly happy.  His name and face gave this community a sense of vitality and unity. His presence did things for these people.

Now for a few funny stories.

Anytime Santana went anywhere, the kids were all up in his biz. So when he exited the auditorium (where they had some lame welcome with Mexican finger foods and all these "important" district and city council people), all the kids from the entire yard rushed him and his cru. You can see the outcome from this picture (Santana's wearing the white hat).

I laughed so hard.

Next story is pretty sweet. One of the little girls ran into the Parent Center flustered and carrying a watch, shouting "He gave me his watch! He gave me his watch!" She ran to her mother and told her the following story in a blur of Spanish.

Her class was meeting Santana and she shook his hand. She gave him a bracelet she made and told him she wanted him to have it.

"But I want you to have something. Here," he said, taking off his watch.

Back in the Parent Center, she shouted "I am the luckiest girl alive!"

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