Where I Live

Well, we know I live in Chicago, but within that, I live in a neighborhood called Little Village or La Villita. And don’t think of neighborhood like a subdivision. Think neighborhood as in 3 mile by 2 mile area (totally approximate).  Chicago is on a grid and all parts of the city divided into neighborhoods. It’s much easier to navigate that way. I LOVE learning my way around. I love beginning to learn to navigate a new city. Just ask my housemates, I’m sure they’ll tell you that I spent an inordinate amount of time asking and re-asking for the explanation of how the streets work in Chicago.

Little Village is a mostly Mexican-American neighborhood. During my first few days here, I had a moment, about 10-seconds long, where I forgot I wasn’t in Mexico. I hear Spanish outside from my window at night. There is a taco stand across the street from us that sets up every day in an abandoned lot. Most of the store signs are in Spanish. As a tall white girl (guera or gringa, whichever you prefer), I stand out like a sore thumb. Because it is a largely Latino  immigrant neighborhood, it is definitely on the impoverished side. One of my housemates works for an organization that provided her with all the statistics about our area. I can’t remember the numbers but the Little Village-Pilsen area has much higher unemployment, poverty, crime, etc. than the average for Illinois, probably unsurprisingly.

But I LOVE IT! For one, I had always considered spending more time in Latin America post graduation, but this seems like another way of fulfilling that desire 😉 Also, it’s immersion into a new way of life, to living in solidarity with others. When you live in an area different from the one you grew up in (aka not the burbs, complete with gang activity- don’t worry, we take lots of precautions!), your perspective on life and circumstance changes immensely.  It’s walking in the shoes of another, not just for the sake of it, but for the sake of the gospel.

Shane Claiborne, in his book, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers,  reminds us that we are not taught to pray that we are to be kept from pain; suffering is the inevitable plight of Christians who are disturbed by the comfort of their neighbors. He comments,

Most of us live in such fear of death that it’s no small wonder few people believe in resurrection anymore. Sometimes people ask us if we are scared , living in the inner city. We usually reply with something like, “We’re more afraid of shopping malls.” (p53)

It may not be what we’re used to, but it’s many people’s reality, and now it’s ours too. We’re getting to know more of the human family this way and we’ll be changed from the inside out. And hopefully, it will makes us more powerful instruments of change too.

[Side note: My madre and others, don’t stress too much. This probably makes it sound more threatening than it is. It’s just different. And we don’t do anything stupid to put ourselves in harm’s way. Most people in the neighborhood are nice and friendly. It’s not like a war zone or anything. It’s city-ish. Just want to make that clear 😉 ]

But I don’t work in this neighborhood. Where I live and where I work are night and day from each other. But that’s for next post 😉

For now, some pics!

Bienvenidos a Little Village
Our current house, a former convent. We love it but it's falling apart on the inside a bit so we're moving a few blocks down in Oct/Nov
The main street in Little Village... lots of little shops and bodegas and moving cart stands
More Little Village! Including the sign for the Walgreens that sells Cacahuates Japones (Japanese Peanuts lol)... one of my fave snack foods in Mexico!

Compliments to my housemates for taking the pics! I hardly took any so far.



Today should be my first day of work, but alas, since today is the Feast of the Assumption, and I work for the Archidiocese, I have off today. While my housemates have been meeting the challenge of their first day of work, I have done plethora of things including making my commute to time it (~50min), exploring downtown and the Holy Name Cathedral, going the wrong way on a bus from the El stop, making a leisurely lunch at home, cleaning, buying groceries for my house,  blogging, and I will soon go cash my stipend check! Yay for a day off before work has even begun!

But since I do have a few extra minutes, I thought it would be cool to share some about what I’ve been doing these past few weeks. Like RA training, I was a dork and thoroughly enjoyed most of it while not everyone expressed as much acceptance of it. Also like RA training, I had the feeling several times that, “this is good life training! I wish everyone could have something of this sort!”

But here’s some snippets of what we learned and discussed and experienced:

  • Intentionality.  Be an active and aware participant in your life. Don’t just let it happen. Cultivate community purposefully. Make consumer decisions mindfully. That sort of thing.
  • Creating a safe space for sharing in our house communities (there are two other houses besides mine)
  • Always ask, What part of the problem am I?, in a conflict
  • We discussed the books we read, so I got to talk more about my love for Compassion, by Henri Nouwen 🙂
  • Self-assessment and personal mission statements
  • Neighborhood tours and dinner with Amate alums
  • Small group discussions on hospitality, internet, cell phone, guests in the house, etc. Lots of discussion on issues mentioned in the handbook.
  • Guest Speaker from Catholic Relief Services on The Common Good…. the idea that the good of all people matters and I can not flourish if not everyone is flourishing.
  • Servant Leadership.
  • Speaker on Professional Development. Good reminders but mostly what I liked was a quote from one of her sheets, “No reflection means no commitment.” Sound familiar?
  • Low Ropes course with our house communities.
  • First El or subway ride in Chicago last weekend! I feel like a pro already (I’m not actually) but I was stoked that first ride!
  • Chinatown
  • First Chicago-style pizza. HEAVEN ON EARTH!!! Sooooooo good.
  • Rode Ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
  • Conflict-style assessment (My highest score was the  “Accommodating” or “I lose. You win.” mindset)
  • Conflict and Nonviolent communication
  • The many forms of stewardship.
  • Discussion on Community and intimacy with two members of a Catholic Worker house. We get to know ourselves better in community, just fyi 😉
  • A Jesuit priest led us on a discussion the Examen and reflection in general. We live in a “culture of distraction.” Very rarely are we truly alone and not multi-tasking. We need to give ourselves the time. If we do this, we will develop the sense we are living our lives in God’s presence. We will find God in all things. Oh what joy!
  • Closed the week by signing the Amate House covenant that covers the aforementioned tenets of this program. It was a really meaningful ceremony and a wonderful spark with which to begin our year.

I hope that gives you at least a little insight for anyone who is curious what it actually means that I’ve been at orientation and hadn’t actually begun work yet.  Unlike RA training (which, by the way, it’s a little weird to think is going on right now yet I’m not a part of it lol), there was a lot of time built in for community-building. No surprise they would build that in, huh?! They just wanted to make time for us to just hang out and get to know each other before the busyness of our jobs set in. Another win for Amate House 😀

I hope that wasn’t too boring! As always, feel free to ask about something or comment if something sounds interesting. I can’t wait to share about work soon!!

What exactly IS the Amate House?

You may have noticed that I link to the Amate House website a lot, but just in case you haven’t clicked that link and still wanted to know about the Amate House, I thought I’d share about where I am this year 🙂

The basic gist: I live in community with 8 other volunteers. We go to work for approximately 40hrs/ week at our different site placements. We come home and share cooking and meals together. We take care of the house and we have lots of fun together! But it’s so much more than that.

There a lot of reasons I chose Amate House for a year of volunteer service, including:

  1. it was alphabetically at the beginning of the volunteer book. Time was limited (silly DigiCom class!) and thus, I couldn’t look up all the progams I wanted. Amate had a leg up with their “A” name. You think i’m joking, but I’m not!
  2. Also, it has the most informative and engaging website.  Big ups.
  3. I wanted to try a big city and Chicago sounded new, fun, and exciting. Also not kidding, I knew nothing about Chicago or really the midwest before coming. It’s made life more exciting 😉
  4. It had everything I was looking for in this year.  I wanted to learn, grow, give, and share. Amate provided that space.


Service: The Amate House is not just concerned with connecting those who want to volunteer and are privileged enough to do so with the organizations that need volunteers, but it is concerned with forming us volunteers into young adult Christians who can lead the Church and our society with humility and love.  When we speak of service, we’re talking about about giving our lives for the benefit of all God’s people, in our own unique capacities.

Community: We talk about this so much that screaming “Community!” after just about anything is already a joke in our house. But community is the backbone of this program because it is the backbone of Catholic Social Teaching. We are created as social beings in the image of our Triune God, the ultimate example of community.  As we learn to live in community, we learn to become more fully human.

Faith/Faith Formation: This program is motivated by the belief that our faith in God’s love is what sustains us and challenges us, calling us to action, to community, to love. And the formative aspect of the Amate House program, is the unique aspect I found. Here at Amate, there is much intentional focus on transforming us, the young adult volunteers, into aware, compassionate, and loving people who can lead the church and the professional world into making the Kingdom of God more present here and now.

Social Justice: Direct attention to people’s immediate needs is necessary but not enough. Formation of young people is necessary but not sufficient as well.  Attention must be given to the way society is organized and the systemic injustices that we take part in.  Education, awareness, and advocacy are also necessary elements in the continual transformation of our society into a more just and loving place.

Stewardship: The recognition of everything as gift from God. What we do with our gifts shows our respect for the gift-giver.  So we seek to honor God, and all those who support the Amate House, by being wise stewards of our time, money, talent, relationships, and life experiences.

For some more details on how this all is lived out, feel free to check out our volunteer handbook.

And feel free to ask questions! I’m in love with Amate already 🙂

Voluntary Displacement

For our orientation here, we had to read one of three books. Since I already owned one of the options, Compassion, by Henri Nouwen (thanks to a recommendation by Ali Boyd!), I chose that one. And I LOVED IT. I highly recommend it. But anybody who knows me probably is letting that go in one ear and out the other because I LOVE books a lot and recommend too many too often lol.  However, It’s a book that put words to the desires of my heart.

The book is so full of wisdom, I couldn’t read it too fast and still process the awesomeness. One chapter is called, “Voluntary Displacement” and it follows the chapter on “Community”

I’m here. In Chicago. A city to which I’d never been. But I now live here. For almost one year.

I’m voluntarily displaced. In response to a call of sorts.

In the words of Henri Nouwen,

The paradox of the Christian community is that people are gathered together in voluntary displacement.

Since a big focus of this year with the Amate House is community, I guess the fact that we’re all voluntarily displaced is a good thing 😉

Nouwen talks about how in our voluntary displacement we cast off the illusion of “having it all together” and thus experience our true (and shared) condition.  In our common displacement, following our displaced Lord,

 we are called out of our familiar places to unknown territories, out of our ordinary and proper places to the places where people hurt and where we can experience with them our common human brokenness and our common need for healing.

We’re beginning to experience what this means and will continue to do so over the course of the year. How beautiful. Brokenness transformed.

And of course… Nouwen qualifies his statements a lot (like we all know I do) so I like him even more.   Voluntary displacement is not actually voluntary, but in response to a call. And it often is not physical displacement, but can be inner displacement. And of course, lots of people are involuntarily displaced all the time, so this is not to romanticize displacement but to call us to solidarity with the millions who live disrupted lives.

All this to say… I’m embracing my voluntary displacement and my call to be here in Chicago.

I’m loving getting to know my housemates.

I jumped up and down the first time I saw the Chicago skyline and the Lake Michigan horizon. Well… as much as you can jump while buckled in a car 🙂

Lake Michigan! (from the car)

I’m enjoying the reflections and other exercises that are part of our orientation. The orientation that reminds me of RA training… the Catholic version! Good thing Housing and CCM were my main Furman things 🙂

More soon. On Nouwen. On Chicago. On Amate. On Community.

And one more thing… my address. I love mail. You love mail. Give me yours if you want some mail!

3108 W. 24th Street Chicago, IL 60623