I’m back from Tucson Arizona, where we had a St. Joseph’s Indian School donor appreciation luncheons on Saturday and Sunday. Isaiah and Brendan, two of our junior high boys from St. Joseph’s Indian School went along with us and spoke to the groups about their experiences at St. Joseph’s. Both days we met some wonderful friends of our school, who came with questions, ideas, support and prayers.
We’d planned for warm weather, but the Southwest was in for some of its coldest days since the late 1800’s. We were glad we had our winter coats. Since it was 12 degrees when we left South Dakota, Arizona lows in the 20’s didn’t seem so bad. By Sunday the highs climbed into the 60s and we had a brief taste of spring.
When we arrived Friday, we went sightseeing. The drive through the Tucson Mountain Park to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is spectacular, with giant saguaro cactus covering the rolling mountain foothills. The museum is part zoo, part desert arboretum and part science lab. The students especially enjoyed the mountain lion, wolf, and javelinas they spotted. The cave experience taught them a few things about the formation of planets and minerals.
We continued our tour through Saguaro National Park. Had I known we had to drive so many miles on dirt and gravel roads, I might not have taken that route. But I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in cactus, brush, rocks and mountains in every direction. We hiked a short trail to see ancient petroglyphs, so the students could think about the Hohokam people who inhabited the land so long ago.
Our hotel was next to the University of Arizona. The boys were blown away to see a “college” stretching so far in every direction; all the different halls and buildings. As we walked by the University Medical Center, after so much in the news about the tragic Tucson shootings, I lifted a quiet prayer for all the victims and their families.
I lifted a quiet prayer for all the victims and their families.
On campus we passed separate buildings dedicated to individual academic fields ranging from Psychology to Space Science and the Chemistry building had valet parking for bikes! When we came to the neurophysiology department, Isaiah wasn’t sure what that was, so I explained that some doctors specialize in understanding people’s nerves and how to treat injuries and illness. There are such a wide variety of career paths available, but it’s hard for our Lakota (Sioux) students to imagine such fields if they’ve never even been exposed to the possibility.
Boys being boys, they were also impressed by the basketball stadium where the Wildcats play, and the orange and palm trees that they were seeing for the first time.
On Saturday night we drove south of town to Mission San Xavier del Bac for mass. The mission was founded to work with the Tohono O’odham tribe, and the church dates back to the 1700’s. We could see the gleaming white towers from quite a distance as we drove toward them in the desert.
On Super Bowl Sunday we finished the luncheon not only in time for the game, but for the guys to explore a nearby mall to pick up some souvenirs. We watched the first half at Shane’s Rib Shack while eating supper, then the second half back at the hotel. Everyone called it an early night right after the game, because we had to leave the hotel at 5:00 a.m. to catch our plane home.
Even on the return trip I heard plenty of exclamations of, “Woah” and “Wicked!” as the boys looked out the windows and explored the wide world with new vision.