San Manuel – Arizona

Sunny Side up: We packed up the van again and left the motel by mid morning. A little further down the road we stopped off for an all American breakfast at a highway diner. Our coffee cups were filled up regularly, the pancakes had maple syrup and the eggs were sunny side up – we left bloated but happy.

Cactus rain: The destination of the day was San Manuel for the next week of workshops, but we decided to stop off at Saguaro National Park in order to see Sabina Canyon. The Canyon is part of the Sonoran Desert, which stretches way into Mexico. Cacti are everywhere, including varieties such as the tall stick-like ocotillo [oh-koh-tee -yoh], the fuzzy cholla [choy -yah] and the round saguaro [sah-hwa -roh].

When we arrived it was sunny. When we left it wasnít. It is Monsoon season here, but so far we havenít been caught too badly with this. We didnít have much time anyway so we felt sure we could take a walk in the stunning nature without too much danger. Wrong. We took little bus out to the last stop on the trail, an experience that felt like we were at Universal Studios on the Indiana Jones ride. At the final stop we began walking. Not far up the trail the heavens opened. Spectacular at first the novelty of hot, heavy rain soon wore off. Feeling cold, we made our way back to get another bus back downhillback in the van we turned the heater on for the first (and probably last) time this trip.

San Manuel: We arrived in San Manuel around 5pm. We were met at the local garage by Bob, the schools director. This is an old mining town. The mines used to provide for everyone in the town but were closed down two years ago. Since then a large part of the community have left and those that have stayed behind have to travel an average of three hours a day, both ways, to work. The community is mostly Hispanic, the rest white (Mormon). Problems this community face are linked mostly to drinking (and driving), young mothers and general apathy. Apparently there is not much crime in the way of stealing as there is nothing much to steal. We are staying with people who donít lock their doors at night.

Bob treated us to a fine – not greasy; dinner! For this week we are staying at the houses of some of the teachers, who came over to meet us for dinner This might not continue as we often need to be together to work in the evenings, but the hospitality this evening was much appreciated.