From Elvis, religion teacher and Arizona service trip co-leader
“Everything in Kayenta is farther than you think,” Steve told us on the first day of school. He is the principal of the elementary school on the Navajo Indian reservation in this desert town six hours drive outside, and north, of Phoenix, Arizona.
Summer school is in session in Kayenta. Mornings on the reservation are busy with kids and parents bustling to school and work. The sun has a tendency of greeting you first. It is just that you cannot ignore it, even if you try. We carry around bottles of water as if they are a strange but necessary appendage.
Students from George School serve as teacher’s aides in the elementary school and middle school. They also stay in the homes of host families. This partnership has been in place for many years and so the people welcome us with open arms. Strangers nod and say hello. People tend to venture out in the late afternoon, when the sun recedes.
That is what we do too. Other than the topography (the mountains are picturesque), there is not much to distract you here. This is good because it allows you to be mindful of yourself and of others. Students reflect and write in a daily journal. They cook meals on days that we do not eat out (we plan on doing less eating out). We also plan on going on hikes soon. An overnight camping trip, or two, is in the works.
Kayenta and its people are beautiful. Yes, it’s farther than what most of us had initially thought, but we’ve traveled too far not to take advantage of all that it offers.