Spring Break in Denver, Part 1

Originally posted 3/27/17


I spent my spring break in Denver, Colorado this year, on a service trip through Campus Ministry here at my school. Last year's trip was to Kansas, if anyone is interested in reading about that. Our trip was homelessness focused, and we spent a lot of our time working with a variety of non-profit organizations, doing everything from classroom learning to straight-up manual labor. I'll talk about that more below. There were 10 students and 2 staff members on this trip, and getting know everyone and spending a week together doing service was so much fun!

Day 1: Road Trip

We spent most of our day in the van, driving from Minnesota to Denver. We stopped at Egg and I in Lincoln, Nebraska for lunch. I didn't take a picture of my food there, but I ordered the Wisconsin Scramble (cheesy scrambled eggs served with toast, fruit, and potatoes). We arrived in Denver late that night, and between feeling altitude-sick and exhausted, I slept like a rock.

Day 2: Sight Seeing

Our first full day in Colorado was our "free" day. We went to mass together in the morning, and then drove from Denver to Red Rocks Park to take a few pictures and look around. It was gorgeous weather, and the mountains and cliffs were beautiful.

From there, we drove to Boulder, CO to hang out at the Pearl Street Mall. It's a pretty cool place; very touristy, lots of little shops and restaurants. I ate lunch at Illegal Pete's, which is a bit like a Chipotle, but better. I got a "bowl", with rice, black beans, cheese, and lots of veggies. There were a lot of a little shops and lots of opportunities for people watching. I have a friend, Madeline, who goes to school in Boulder, and she and I got to meet up and say hi, which was pretty neat (:

We left Boulder and went to Estes Park. It was pretty chilly up in the mountains, and so much fun to explore and enjoy the beautiful scenery. I climbed about 40 feet up the side of one of the mountains surrounding where we were and got to feel super tall and awesome!

After that, we went back to Boulder to eat dinner at The Sink. The Sink is a well-known local restaurant, and it was once featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. I ordered a rice-and-lentil veggie burger with goat cheese, guacamole, and aioli (ay-oh-lee) on top, served with arugula (the greens) and fries. It was packed full of flavor and every bite was delicious. If you've never tried guac on a burger, I'd highly recommend it.

Besides the incredibly tasty food, The Sink is known having for its walls covered in artwork, comics, and sketches, and for its low ceilings that patrons are allowed to sign.

Day 3: Urban Education

Our first real day of service in Denver was spent at Denver Urban Matters, a non-profit organization that works with people in poverty. They help with job-placement, they have a food pantry, and they provide other resources like free legal advice or referrals to other non-profits. We spent the morning learning about Denver's situation, about DenUM's programs, and doing exercises and simulations to understand more about the experiences and hardships of living in poverty.

For lunch, we were given $1.40 each and instructed to find lunch in 1 hour. We were sent across the street to the dollar store in teams of four. My team made beans and rice with tomatoes, and pineapples on the side. Our four-person meal cost $5.55, just underneath our $5.60 combined budget. This exercise was meant to show us how difficult it is to eat healthy on a tight budget in a tight time frame, as many minimum-wage earners must do everyday.

That afternoon, we walked around the area of Denver where many of the resources and shelters for homeless people are located. Our guide spoke to us about gentrification and sweeping, two issues I knew very little about before coming on this trip. It was incredibly eye-opening.

[caption id="attachment_1095" align="alignnone" width="300"] Beautiful bloom on a tree in downtown Denver[/caption]

For dinner, we ate at SAME Cafe, a non-profit restaurant with a "pay-what-you-can" policy. Patrons can either pay for their meal, approximately $4 per person, or they can do 30 minutes of labor for the restaurant to work for their meal. SAME is open from 11-2pm, Monday through Saturday. For dinner, we all had vegetable soup, sweet potato and black bean salad, and kale and parmesan pizza. For dessert, we had shortbread cookies with lemon icing. Delicious!

See Spring Break in Denver, Part 2 to read about the rest of my week!