Today started like many good days do, by sleeping in. We're all still feeling pretty beat from two days of driving, with the theory that since we're just higher up (7,000 feet above sea level) being offered as the reason as to why that is. We've been using the excuse "we're just higher up" to explain a lot of other things as well. Trust us guys, it's the elevation.
After having eaten breakfast, we headed to the other side of the tracks (literally) to do a "little" grocery shopping. However, the reality of our trip to the grocery store could not have been further from my expectations. We all agreed that today was probably the most grocery shopping we'd ever done. Hannah even commented that it felt like we were on the show "Extreme Couponers". We went in with nothing, and left two hours later with four full carts. And that's only for one week! Admittedly, some stuff like olive oil, sugar, cereal, etc. will carry over for the next couple weeks. Perhaps one of the more exciting purchases made was a very large amount of rutabagas. Most of us confessed to never having eaten a rutabaga before, while Deborah was quick to sing their praises. We're all waiting on bated breath for our first taste of rutabaga, as both their reputation and our meals are both on the line.
But buying the groceries was just the begining of the chaos. Once we got back to our dorm it was a flurry of activity to label all our purchases and appropriately store them. After eating lunch, we spent some time recovering and then we all headed out on a walk through the surrounding neighborhood of Rehoboth (except Peter, who was feeling under the weather and decided to nap). We just can't get over the temperature compared to Decorah (it's around the low 40's here in the afternoons) and appreciated the chance to enjoy the beautiful blue sky and distinctive red rocks of the New Mexico desert. It was a good introduction to the culture of the nearby reservation and of the town in general and just good exercise.
Among Deborah's lessons, one of the most important things we learned was to not pet the dogs. Gallup is home to many dogs that are quasi-wild and many run free throughout the day only go to their owners for food. We came across a few adorable dogs on our hike but were strongly warned NOT to pet the dogs, NOT to talk to the dogs and NOT to look at the dogs. This is an endeavor that proves to be quite challenging and will no doubt take the utmost cooperation and teamwork-ability to overcome.
On our walk back to the dorm, Nate pointed out a hill we had passed and suggested a night exploration. We all agreed it'd be pretty cool. And so, tonight when the stars came out, we climbed that hill. It was a quick five minute walk and while the dark added some difficulty it was truly breathtaking once we reached the top. We saw with stunning clarity the light of the full moon and the stars over the hills of the desert. We spent some time exploring the hill, identifying constellations and just talking until our feet got too cold and we had to head back.
The desert has such a personality to it and is inherently ever-changing: snow turning to mud, the shades of the rocks changing with the angle of the sun, new things to be seen where there once were none, all in the understated, contrastive beauty of the desert at night. I'm so blessed to be spending the rest of the month here and I can't wait to see what experiences it will bring us.