Photo provided by Katie Geluso

Katie Geluso (left) pictured with Alex, a YAMENer from Bogota, Colombia (center), and  host mom, Marisol (right).  These two were my source of joy all year. I appreciated their sense of humor and how they supported and encouraged me.

Through MCC’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program, young adults from Canada and the U.S. are immersed in another culture for a year as they serve in fields such as education, agriculture, health care and more. Meet one of them who just returned from a year long experience in Mexico City, Mexico.

Name: Katie Geluso 

Hometown: Richland, WA

SALT location and assignmentMexico City, Mexico. Communications assistant at Centro de Estudios Ecumenicos (CEE).

Within Mexico City, my host organization put on a lot of ecumenical workshops on peace, performed ecumenical public worship and prayer services, and participated in many protests calling for better/continued governmental action in the case of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa this fall. Outside of Mexico City, the CEE worked with communities on various projects such as preventing mining in their region, community development, and community feminism groups.

As communications assistant, I primarily worked with video, audio, and photography. I documented events in all three modes to be archived, published on websites, or made into a recap video. I also did some website updating, translation, and news round-ups for the state of Guerrero.

This is my church congregation in Mexico: Espartaco. I am near the middle (a wee bit left of the center of the group in the grey hoodie.)

Why I applied to SALT: Serving others is central to my belief in what it means to be a follower of Christ. If I am to call myself a Christian, then I must live as Jesus did, and that means living a life of service.  I chose to serve abroad with the SALT program because, being a college graduate with a 9-5 job and no other commitments, this was the perfect time in my life to do something crazy like move to another country for a year.  I also loved that MCC was an Anabaptist organization and one which partnered with local organizations to affect change rather than just offer hand-outs to countries and communities in need.

If I am to call myself a Christian, then I must live as Jesus did, and that means living a life of service. - Katie Geluso

Typical day during SALT:  Wake up in my host family’s apartment in the center of the city, get ready for the day, buy some bread or a tamale on the walk to the metrobus.  Take a 40-minute bus ride about 3.5 miles south to my office. Look up news stories about relevant issues to the CEE in the state of Guerrero and/or head to a workshop/news conference somewhere in the city to record video and audio, live stream footage, and take photos. Enjoy lunch prepared for us by Doña Mari in our office at 2:30. Continue working and leave the office at 5:15 on the dot to avoid the crowd at the bus station.  Arrive home and greet my host mom. Play with my host family’s cat, Karim and watch a pirated movie bought from the street until dinner is ready (usually around 9 or 10 pm). Take a shower (no bucket showers for me! Hot, running water all year! Praise the Lord!) and head to bed.

 My host sisters and I at a family birthday dinner. Left to right is: Abbi and her daughter Zamira, Nelly, and Katie Geluso​.

The biggest challenge for me: Working professionally in another culture (different views on time and communication, etc). I also battled constant home sickness for my community in Seattle.

What brought me the most joy: My host family was a constant source of joy throughout the year. They were incredibly gracious and patient and also hilarious and fun. I could not have asked for a better host family.

On this night, I made an Italian meal (my great grandma's meatball recipe) and we celebrated two birthdays. Left to right is: Marisol (host mom), Alex (YAMENer from Colombia), Clementine (Connecting Peoples Coordinator from France) and Oscar (Rep from Colombia) and Katie Geluso.

I will never forget…The relationships I made with my host family and my MCC Mexico team and the numerous great conversations I had with everyone.

What I learned about myself: I am extremely adaptable and easy-going. I never experienced culture shock until returning from my visa renewal trip in Guatemala but even then it only lasted a few days.

What I learned about faith from this experience: Ecumenism is so valuable! It’s an incredible testimony to be able to respect and work well with other denominations and even religions.  In America, there is so much division within the church; if we can’t reconcile within the body of Christ, how are we expected to be an example to others?

To anyone considering SALT:  APPLY. Check out the website and assignment listings. Go through the process. Fill out the application and answer the questions. In that process you may learn about yourself, what you believe and value, and whether this program is the right thing for you at this time.  In the end, if you are accepted into SALT, the ball is back in your court and you have the final say on whether to do it or not. But if you never apply, you never give yourself that chance. APPLY!!! 

What I am going to do now?.....I’m searching for jobs in the social work field with at-risk or homeless youth.  But I could just as easily end-up working with youth in some other capacity or find a job in communications or translating/interpreting.

All photos are courtesy of Katie Geluso.  

 

Are you interested in SALT or know young adults (between the ages of 18 and 30) who might be interested? Go to mcc.org/salt to learn more.  SALT recruitment starts October 2015.