La Mesa de Conversacion: The Preparation Whirlwind

It’s been a hectic reentry into my hometown of Nehalem, Oregon, where La Mesa de Conversacion is taking place. The weeks leading up to our first meeting have been filled with changed plans and anxiety about my own role in orchestrating everything.

While originally planning this project early this spring, I had prioritized bilingual youth, assuming that I could easily attract friends to take on leadership roles and help me out in translating the group’s cross-cultural conversations.

However, although everyone I contacted was excited about the project, very few kids were interested in committing to attending on a regular basis. People were busy with finals, working, and already spend a lot of time translating in their day-to-day lives. In planning this project, I had always dismissed a deep-seeded fear that nobody would show up; yet as the project start date neared, I realized that this fear could be a reality. I had overestimated my ability to draw in the latino community, and was worried our first meeting, if attended mostly by anglos, would alienate any latino folks who showed up.

So I made several changes, reevaluating my budget to offer compensation to one of my friends for regular translation services and delaying our start date until well after school had gotten out for students. I met with stakeholders, reached out to ESL leaders in the community, and designed posters in both English and Spanish. I also ordered bilingual books and dictionaries from Amazon (a deliciously fun task!) and contacted a local Mexican family-owned restaraunt about catering our first meeting. The night before that first Tuesday, I wrote in my journal, “nobody’s going to hate you for trying.”

I’ll designate my next post to debriefing our first few meetings. Perhaps I’ll even manage to finally take some pictures!

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