Made in Tikka

by Fatima, Civic Semester Participant

I don’t think anyone knew what to expect for our first organization visit, but when the van pulled over at a small door with women waiting for us with altitude tea and wool spoolies, we knew that we were working with some serious talent. We spent nearly 5 hours speaking with Guadalupe about her craft, seeing the process of natural dye and making pulseras, all while playing with the guinea pigs, the llama, Coco the lamb and the two cats. We learned that this co-op was not just made by women, but for women. It is a way for Lupe to embrace her culture and identity, and an opportunity for her to showcase all that was passed down through her family for generations. She told us her fears about her traditions dying out and the dangers that the new airport being built nearby could bring. But she also told us her aspirations, how she believes that she can give her daughter the life that she couldn’t live and how she is proud to be able to expand what was once a small family-run affair, into a thriving business. Between taking care of her daughter, working on her trade and dealing with the financial hit from Covid, Lupe also managed to teach us how all that is in Tikka was made. Here, the phrase “made with a mother’s hands” takes on a new meaning, as these women put much more than just their love and passion into it, it also carries their pride. So, if you ever happen to see Tsering’s new laptop bag or Yazan’s poncho, or the one he bought for his father, just know, it was made in Tikka.

Originally posted here

Day 2 at Borderlands Restoration Network

by Biani, Civic Semester Participant

From Tuesday the 9th till Friday the 12th we did an organization visit with Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) in Patagonia, Arizona. BRN is a non-profit made up of smaller organizations, like the Deep Dirt Institute and the Native Plant Nursery, that we had the privilege of working with and learning from this week. During our stay in Patagonia, we camped at the Deep Dirt Institute campus. Deep Dirt Institute was founded by Kate Tirion, an all-round inspiring human being that is dedicated to understanding how best we can utilize native materials and believes in the enthusiastic energy of youths, like ourselves, to make these ideas come to life. I will be writing about the day that we spent at the Native Plant Nursery and Borderland Wildlife Reserve (BWR).

It was a sleepless night for the group followed by a chilly morning that made the mood a little somber. But, our spirits were quickly lifted by the cheery aura of Francesca, the director of the Nursery. Francesca took us on a tour of the property, showing us all the greenhouses and pointing out her favorite plants. She shared with us some of her germination recipes, such as chilling the seeds, pouring boiling water on them and squeezing lime on their outsides. We also got to learn a lot about agaves like how they take decades to grow, are mostly pollinated by bats and used to make tequila. Her love for the native plants was infectious and got us excited for the work that we would be doing with agaves later in the day. We got to transfer agaves into larger pots so they had more space to grow, while dancing to Ariana Grande in the background. By the end of the visit, Francesca got us appreciating how sexy plants are and the importance of staying motivated when trying to garden.

After taking a break for class, we got to meet with Cholla who is the Lead Technician and Safety Coordinator for the Borderland Wildlife Reserve. She shared with us the history of the reserve and what it means for land to be a wildlife sanctuary: no hunting takes place as the land is protected and can only be used for light recreational use. We got to learn that the topography of the land (specifically the Sky Islands) is what makes it so special and a biodiversity hotspot. Over 7000 species of plants and animals can be found in the reserve (which I think is pretty cool)! Later Cholla taught us what equipment is necessary to identify the animals that can be found on the reserve, which are wildlife trail cameras and sound scaling equipment. Cholla talked more about the wildlife cameras and showed us pictures of bobcats, bears, barn owls, and silver foxes that had been caught on camera. We ended our meeting by driving down to see one of the camera traps that had been set up by Cholla in the reserve.

The visits that we did on our second day were truly eye-opening and I learnt so much from Francesca and Cholla. I am just so grateful that they were able to take the time to speak to us so that we could learn from them and expand our understanding of wildlife in the borderlands. Will be updating you soon on the other fun visits that we have!

Originally posted here.

Day 1 at Borderlands Restoration Network

by Loey, Civic Semester Participant

This past week we visited Borderlands Restoration Network (BRN) which is an organization based in Patagonia, Arizona. From November 9th to 12th, we worked with various programs and branches of BRN which all focused around preserving and restoring close to 1800 acres of land across the U.S.-Mexico border with a strong foundation of permaculture and sustainability. Throughout our time in the Patagonia region, we camped within land owned by the organization called Deep Dirt Institute.

When we arrived at our campsite in the afternoon, we were greeted by a woman named Juliette who is the education director at Borderlands Restoration Network. We began our time at the organization with an informal tour, where we learned about the history of the Deep Dirt Institute and what BRN does. Where we had the privilege of camping was a project 25 years in the making by a woman named Kate and her husband. While there was no electricity, there was a make-shift kitchen where we could cook, tables where we ate and played cards, and a composting toilet. This system was a great learning opportunity for a lot of us. From traditional urbanite flooring sourced from local projects to plants growing within scattered bathtubs within the boundaries, this place was a beautiful and magical culmination of what Juliette explained to be permaculture. In short, permaculture is a method of cultivating and managing land using whole systems thinking that tries to intertwine all aspects of nature’s being. Examples that Juliette talked about were the way that they source their water from a well, the use of solar energy, regenerative agriculture, and water shed restoration. A water shed is a geographical place where water is collected from different areas to a common outlet, and their protection helps save endangered native species and natural habitats. Continuing, the emphasis on permaculture also had to do with the unbelievable diversity of the land. BRN is home to 350 different species of bees alone, and there is even more population diversity that is just as astonishing. Juliette explained to us that geologically there are at least five different ecosystems converging in this one area. The Borderlands are a migratory pathway in many ways, not only for humans. This land was historically a crossroads for a plethora of different species, human or otherwise, and the impact of the border has been felt negatively by the entire ecosystem. Staying on the land that we were learning from made us feel all the more connected to the people and this experience.

After speaking with Juliette and receiving a wealth of background and information, we met with a woman named Tess who manages the water restoration branch of BRN. She taught us about just a fraction of some of the harm that humans have done to this planet, including mining and the overgrazing of land due to cattle. What I enjoyed most from Tess was that she approached nature and conservancy through ideas of reciprocity and mutual respect. For the rest of the day, we worked on building rock structures incrementally through streams in order to prevent erosion. At this site we met Eduardo, Zach, and Nicole, who taught us the intricate work of creating these structures. We were shown how pivotal these erosion control structures are to the water shed’s preservation, and how closely these engineering projects can work and intertwine with human-made art within natural habitats.

Originally posted here.

No Mas Muertes, No More Deaths

by Lily, Civic Semester Participant

“The antithesis of [the] border is genuine connection with people”

 Finn, No More Deaths Volunteer 

Saturday, November 6th, 2021 marks the Civic Semester’s second site visit in this portion of our trip in the Southern New Mexico and Arizona area. The cohort had another early morning (well worth it to see the beautiful sunrise on the mountains!) as we left Rodeo, New Mexico around 6:30 AM to make our way to the small town of Irovaca, Arizona, population size 700. There, we were introduced to No More Deaths volunteers, Finn, Hannah, Juliana and Ry (and last, but certainly not least, Finn’s dog June Bug!!) who started out the day by giving us a presentation on the historical and current context behind the U.S-Mexico Border Crisis. No More Deaths operates as a humanitarian-aid organization dedicated to ending death and suffering in the Mexico-US borderlands through a multitude of projects such as aid in the desert, search and rescue, and providing medical aid, food and water and other guidance. They also explained No More Death’s horizontal organizational structure, as opposed to the more traditional hierarchical distribution of power, something our cohort has been especially interested in learning about in terms of community activism. Acknowledging the increased time it takes to make decisions—everyone must reach consensus!—it allows NMD liberty in freeing their minds to more radical ideas of organizing and creates a capacity for each individual to continuously reevaluate their reason and motivation for doing this work, as well as holding themselves accountable to each other and their mission. Additionally, it means a constant need to improve on the organization’s communications, collaboration and transparency—something the Civic Semester is working on as well!

While sitting in the extreme, desolating heat of the Sonoran Desert during this conversation, our cohort was hit by the immensity and gravity of such a complex issue like the Border Wall,  the economic, political, historic and ethical crises that it encompasses, and the inhumanity and violence that those who travel between must endure. After our discussion, we went on a water drop where volunteers hike along trails and leave water, food, blankets and other supplies for those traveling through the desert. Heavy in our backpacks were an assortment of beans, gallons of water, snacks and blankets as we started our long trek toward the water drop site. Working our way through lots of thorny brush, rocky inclines, and the intense heat of the sun, we successfully made it to the site with June Bug leading the way! During our strenuous hike, we were once again hit with the realization of the truly impossible and extremely dangerous task of walking across the desert for survival, shelter, and safety and the weight of the situation and work we were doing.

“How do you reconcile with the work that you are doing on a day-to-day basis with an issue that extends beyond any individual, any organization, any nation-state?” In other words, “ Where do you find the strength and hope within this work?” This question sat heavy on my mind, our discussion and the day.

“ …This work is for my ancestors, and for my future ancestors regardless of what happens, and what is happening now”

Ry, NMD Volunteer 

“ The antithesis of the border is genuine connection with people.”

Finn, NMD Volunteer 

These responses, coupled with the clear, vulnerable, and beautiful relationships that these individuals held for each other and for the community of Irovaca, made clear the dedication, perseverance and determination each of them possessed to maintain an internal strength and hope. A hope that was profoundly inspiring to our own conversations of this struggle to tackle these anchored, institutional powers. As Finn reminded us, as many bad days as there are, it is vital to remember the really, really good days and the people you meet and create genuine connection with. And our visit with No Mas Muertes was a really, really good day to say at the very least. We will forever be grateful to those at No More Deaths and their vulnerability, transparency, and the opportunity to work with them.

With all our love and gratitude to NMD,

Tufts Civic Semester 2021

Originally posted here.

Canyon Creek Hike

by Ben, Civic Semester Participant

On November 5th, we got up early, ate some breakfast, and drove to Arizona. The air was cool and crisp, and as our cars climbed into the mountains, it began to feel like fall again. Since coming further south, we’ve gotten accustomed to the earthy greens and browns of the desert, but seeing the vibrant reds and yellows of the leaves reminded us of Truchas, or even of home. As we stepped out, our hiking boots hitting the rocks and dust beneath our feet, we were hit by a wave of smells: sage, rosemary, mint, and pine. Birds were chirping in celebration of the new day and we started working our way up the trail in a loose single file.

This was our fourth hike we’ve done as a group, and our first in Arizona. During each trek, our conversations ebb and flow, constantly changing focus and character. One moment we’re joking about fake business ideas and the next we’re discussing the importance of mental health. Throughout the line, a chorus of conversations might occur, with different social atmospheres being formed based on who is in earshot. These tend to shift often, especially as we pause for water or break file to cross a river bed, leading to new combinations of people. Alternatively, sometimes there are no conversations. Instead, we climb meditatively, listening to our own breathing and the rustling of the leaves. It’s this variety that I think I love the most. In a group of 11 people, it can be difficult to find space for different kinds of interactions among ourselves. When we hike, connections are more fluid, and we can choose to focus on the whole group, a few people, one person, or just ourselves. Ultimately, despite any spoken words, we complete the climb together, and that creates a bond. This program is teaching me the importance of movement and the body not only for health, but for community as well. A relationship is created and felt when you push each other to reach a peak. There’s something special about that moment, about seeing ourselves clearly as a group.

November 5th also marked one month until the program ends, and nearly two months since it began. My perception of time is not the same here as it was in Truchas. Some of that is because we’re taking a different pace, but a lot of it is because I can feel the finish line approaching. As a result, I’ve been finding it difficult to stay completely present and engaged in the group and our visits.

But there are moments that pull me back and remind me why I’m here. Our hike was one of those. I’m so grateful for these moments and I have so much love for everyone in the cohort. Here’s to an amazing final month 🙂

Talk soon – Ben

Originally posted here.