Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Goodbye, summertime....
Hello, fall....
Please don't come yet, winter!!!
 Well, except the part of winter that means this:
and this:
1 Month and 22 Days!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Who's listening to you?

The lyrics below are from the song "Children Will Listen" from the broadway show Into the Woods. I love this musical. And I love this song. Sondheim is a genius, and you can tell from the lyrics and music from his shows! I just finished listening to the soundtrack, and just thought I'd share my two cents worth on this closing idea about fairytales and how to raise a child and all the other themes presented in the show. Children DO listen. So what are you telling the kids in your life? Just some food for thought.

Children Will Listen
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
To learn what to be
Careful before you say "Listen to me"
Children will listen

Careful the wish you make 
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free
Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you
Careful the tale you tell
That is the spell
Children will listen

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times

Here I am, now starting my 3rd year in college. Where did summer go? May and June got lost in constant rainy cloudyness and trying to get in hours at my work. I celebrated my xth birthday, went through y number of boyfriends (who's counting, right?) and tried to not lose my sanity in many lonely hours home alone at McSketch.
July flew by in a myriad of trips. I started by driving to Tucson and back for the 4th with Megan, then a family reunion up at Bear Lake right on its heels, followed by a week of theater with my mom, sister, and brother-in-law in Southern Utah. Needless to say, I was happy to have any reason to get out of the house, and was glad to get a little travel bug out of my system.
August was infinitely too short. The sun came out, the fun started happening, while work started really getting busy (16-hour work day--good thing it was a day out sampling the Great Salt Lake, and this is really what I love doing, no matter how much I complain about it at times). I also started dating a boy named Matt.

I had the craziest first week of school--starting with the day I moved out of McSketch. It was a smooth move, and I was just so happy to be leaving that hole. As a parting gift, I found (no joke) the biggest spider I ever encountered in my time there under one of my purses as I was packing up. I was so relieved to be moved into Garden Court. Unfortunately we had no hot water, thanks to previous tenants who got the gas turned off. Luckily Megan is next door, so I borrowed her shower until Wednesday.

Sunday brought about a huge change in my plans. We had an area meeting for all LDS single adults, where they rearranged boundaries/organization for young single adults. I wasn't too concerned, and knew that this kind of change was coming. I was also prepared for some ward level boundary changes, but had been told that Garden Court would still be in the same ward as before. When I got to our Stake meeting, I learned that that was very much not so. Garden Court had been moved back into the ward it had been in when I lived here last summer, but then moved out of and into the ward I ended up staying in--even though I moved to Pineview and therefore technically back into this ward's jurisdiction. I was totally unprepared for this blow, and it hit me HARD. Little did I know at the time, stress of the impending school year+a missed birth control pill (normally not a problem)+hormones of 5 new girls in an apartment had combined to = Erin being jumped ahead to the end of her cycle 2 weeks early and was emotional even beyond normal levels. It literally broke my heart. Thankfully I had Matt there, and Megan who knew exactly (or at least very close to) what I felt and all of the reasons why this just wasn't right. Unfortunately, my contact dried out from crying, and I realized it was the last of my contacts for my right eye. Which would mean I'd be wearing glasses in the morning, and for every morning until I could get into an eye doctor and get contacts ordered. And with all of this hanging over my head, I took a dose of nyquil and headed to bed before the very first day of school.

Monday morning was cold, and skies that looked promising for sunshine quickly changed back into gray clouds, pouring out rain and even snow in the hills above campus. Halfway through my day, when it was almost time to go to my honors spanish class, I realized that I did not want to go to my honors spanish class. And, that if I dropped it, I could take a class at another time (water quality and pollution) that would fit better in my schedule, be fewer credits, is taught by a fellow limnology lab member, would take care of more credits so that graduating on time would be more feasible, etc. etc. I emailed my advisor and the teacher, to see if it would even be possible, and they said yes, so I excitedly told them I was going for it. I left campus for GC, and once I arrived home, logged on to make the changes only to realize that I had forgotten about a lab that was blocking the time for the water quality course. The only lab time that would work with my new schedule was on Friday--and was full. Frantically, I tried to email the teacher for the lab, to see if there was anything I could do, but anyone who had lived at Garden court knows that internet reception is hit and miss at best. I got the email sent, and then knew I would have to sit and wait, hoping that he would be able to sign me in, and that I could have the schedule I needed! I looked around at back-up choices only to learn that there was no real back-up choice. I felt frustrated, stressed out, tired/sick, not to mention hormonally emotional. I agreed to go to the ward FHE with Matt, only to feel worse in the cold, and even more sick because of uncooked roll dough in the form of poorly cooked scones. I had zero desire to socialize or participate in any of the activities, so I stubbornly stood there being cold and growing more and more unhappy and sick. Matt convinced me to go country swing dancing, even though I felt so miserable, and it possibly just made things worse--I danced with one boy the whole time, and I was the one who asked him to dance. I went over to Megan's to shower, and grew so nauseated that I threw up while still at her place. Completely worn out, and still no word back from my lab teacher, I went to bed Monday night praying that Tuesday would have something better in store for me.

Tuesday was uneventful, other than getting an email from my teacher Tuesday night saying that I could meet with him after class Wednesday to talk about switching labs, but that if it was full... so not very promising. Wednesday was day on the quad, and so as a member of the Country Swing Dancing presidency, I was there to help set-up at 8:30, then went to the 9:30 class where miraculously I checked online for an opening in the Friday lab and there was a spot! I quickly rearranged my schedule, got onto the website for the water quality class, and hustled my way through an assignment that was due in 10 minutes for the class. After the two morning classes, I went back out to the quad, missed an afternoon class while working out there, and helped lots of kids sign up for the club. Then I started working typing all the names up, but had to leave to go to a departmental seminar, and then to a dinner with the seminar speaker. It was three professors, one graduate student, and myself at the dinner with the speaker, and I was proud that I could hold my own in a much older, more educated crowd. After that I hurried over to Country Swing dancing, and then after a very long, tiring day, finally got to bed.

Thursday started out quite smoothly, until I got home from school, with a slight headache from wearing my glasses, and decided to take a nap. When I woke up, some of my roommates were arriving home and remarked on entering the living room how warm it was in our apartment. "Odd," I thought to myself, "I was just thinking how chilly it was in here..." Well needless to say I ended up in a delirious fever before very long, but luckily my roommates made some ramen for me, and my sweet boyfriend Matt sat with me and made sure I was tucked into my blankets and didn't keep kicking them off.

Friday I missed my morning class because I was still sick, but was feeling well enough to make it to my next 3 classes. I came home after school and was very very excited to leave for Midway to spend some time with Matt's family. He even brought me over a fancy mylar balloon that said "Get Well Soon!" as I was packing. :) So we drove to Midway, and just hung out because I started getting a little warm again so I didn't want to go hang out at Swiss days.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday were amazing days. I still wasn't feeling very well, but Matt was patient with me, and we had lots and lots of fun at the parade, exploring the stands, and just sitting around hanging out with his family and then some of my family in UT county Sunday night and then his family again for a Labor Day barbecue back in Midway. I got some contacts from my mom so I could stop wearing those pesky glasses. My mom got me some drugs for my throat too, so I could breathe better at night and actually get some sleep. I am so glad I was able to just run away with Matt and regain some sanity. I talked with Bishop Reed, and began to feel okay about moving forward with the new ward. (Which is good, since I just got called to be the Relief Society Music Coordinator... anybody have suggestions for 5 minute music moments??)

Luckily the second and now third weeks of school have been much nicer on me, and I'm actually getting back into the whole "school" and "having homework" mode. My room still isn't totally unpacked, and I'm still pretty dang busy, but I'm healthy and happy and strong again. I'm pretty sure that I completely owe my sanity to Matt, because he honestly carried me through that first week and I don't know how I could have done it without him. And of course, Megan was there for me as always, even though I know her first week must have been at least as crazy if not crazier than my own!!

Well, this post is now uber long, and I should probably just post it so that Missy will have something to read finally. And then I will start on some of that homework I've been procrastinating this week.

Some pictures from the black and white party the Saturday before school started.

PS- I am in love with this boy.

my voice

Once upon a time I was in a sophomore english class in college. As part of the course, we were required to write an essay and submit it to be considered in a writing competition first within the class and then the top of each class would go on to a competition between all of the other sections of the ENGL 2010 that semester. I was flattered to have my composition picked as the 3rd best in my class! In a mix-up however, mine was labeled first, and went on to place 3rd overall in all of the sections!! It was a big surprise; I didn't think I was really that good of a writer (well, obviously I can string coherent thoughts together... but you know what I mean). I am really proud of this accidental achievement though, especially because the piece I wrote is hands-down the favorite essay I have ever written. It is a small part of my story (if I can claim it as my own) and it's not a part I often tell. But the topic came into my mind the other day, and I realized that this story ought to be heard by more than just the 10 kids in my class who read and gave it a score out of 10.

And so here it is. I send it off into the virtual world to be read by whoever may stumble upon it. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

My Other Half

There is a pine tree that stands alone in the yard outside of my elementary school. The dark green boughs stand out against the faded red and white brick of the wall behind them. As I have grown, the school has seemed to shrink—the once dauntingly large 6th grade hallway seems so much smaller than it was back then. In order to walk underneath the slide that started out stories high, I now have to duck. But the tree has grown with me. Even though I have stopped getting taller, it has continued to reach higher and higher, taller now than the building it stands next to. In the grass in front of the tree, a marble plaque is engraved with the words “In memory of Melissa Fleming 1980-1990.”

I can’t recall how many times different people, after having found out that my name was Erin Fleming, would ask me if I was related to the girl that was buried in the lawn outside the 3rd grade classrooms. I would grin and explain to them that it was just in MEMORY of her, not her grave, and that yes—she was my sister. One time after I had related this, the girl asked me why I was smiling about the fact that my sister died. I suppose that since I have no memory of her, being only six months old when she died, I didn’t have any real reason to mourn her loss. But that isn’t to say that I didn’t think about her very often.

Somewhere in my early years, I began to think of Melissa as my guardian angel. When I did something wrong, I imagined that she had been watching, and felt let down that I hadn’t made the right decision. I didn’t want to let my older sister down; I felt impelled to make good choices so that she would be proud of me and the life that I was living for both of us. It was quite confusing when the story of Melissa and her cousin locking their younger siblings in the bathroom was related to me. Surely this was not the same angelic daughter, sister, and friend whose reputation I was striving to live up to. Either way, my high expectations for myself were the direct result of wanting to please her.

Melissa noticed that the lymph nodes in her throat were swollen in May of 1990. Doctors put her on antibiotics, but they didn’t seem to make any difference. She began to be constantly fatigued, and discovered that she had lost vision entirely in one of her eyes. An MRI test at the hospital showed a cancerous mass in her sinus cavity. Further tests revealed that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes—thus the reason for the swelling. Chemotherapy treatments began immediately.

My birthday should have been in July, but I arrived a month early—my mom thinks that it was probably due to the stress she was experiencing from Melissa’s diagnosis. Melissa spent one week of every month that summer and fall in the hospital undergoing therapy, and as I was still a very young “preemie”, I typically was taken along for the trip. My mom would carry me in a bassinet to Melissa’s room at Primary Children’s Medical and set me by the window to bask in the sun, since I was suffering from slight jaundice. I was a unique ray of sunshine in that setting. There were very few children around who hadn’t been given a bleak statistic for survival. My parents would put me in a swing in the doorway of the hospital room where I laughed and entertained everyone who passed down the hallway.

The fall brought a glimmer of hope; the chemotherapy treatments were going as scheduled. Melissa wrote in her journal that she was looking forward to being able to go home, and that now she would start to get better. This entry would be the last she ever wrote. Around Thanksgiving, Melissa started having trouble with her balance and during a chemotherapy session, suffered a seizure. The disease had moved to her brain and spinal cord, and when the doctors discovered the new tumors they were so far progressed that the little hope that had existed before, slipped out of sight.

In December, the doctors decided that the additional chemotherapy and radiation wasn’t making a difference and that they had done all that they could do for her. My parents brought her home to spend the remainder of her days there. A makeshift bedroom was set-up in the basement, where the hospice nurses would be able to come and check on her. I wish I could remember that winter, my first Christmas that must have been so unorthodox. Christmas morning, they brought her upstairs while the family opened presents around that year’s evergreen tree. By this point, Melissa had lost the sight in her other eye and was paralyzed from the neck down except for use of one arm. The next morning, my dad and siblings went out to the store to pick up some groceries. While they were gone, Melissa quietly slipped from this life.

When I was young, people were always telling me how much I looked like Melissa when she was my age. In my naïve mind, the most logical explanation for this was that since my life started when hers was ending, a part of her was living through me. Even her journal, containing the record of her life down to the final entries written by her own hand, was passed to me. My life picked up where hers was abruptly cut short.

I have always wondered what the polite reply is when someone compares you to a person whom you never met, particularly when the someone doing the comparing is also fairly unknown to you. The last time I was told that I looked like Melissa, I was 17 years old—an age beyond what anyone could have known what she looked like. Standing in the hall of my church building, I was telling some of the younger boys that they needed to stop being so rowdy. Their leader, who had grown up in the ward, moved away and returned when he was older, approached and told the boys to listen to me, referring to me as “Miss Fleming”. We’d never met before, so I turned to him and asked how he knew who I was. “I knew Melissa,” he simply stated and walked away. It had been a long time since anyone had mentioned how similar we appeared, and it left me in somewhat of a stupor as I sorted out in my mind that he had been able to pick out the relation after so many years.

There are only a few pictures that I’ve ever seen of Melissa, including the very few that exist of her and I together. By this time, her beautiful long hair had been lost due to extensive chemotherapy treatments, and she looks thin and pale. This version of Melissa looks nothing like the photos of her before she was diagnosed. These snapshots, however, are the best that I have to judge for myself whether I look like her or not. I don’t see the similarity.

There is one other difference that separates me from being identical to my older sister. Melissa was a natural artist. We have oil paintings in our home that are practically masterpieces, done by the simple hand of a ten year old. The closest I’ve ever come to a work of art is finger-painting. But this contrast is outweighed by the similarities. We both love nature, and we were both very active in sports. We both had double inguinal hernia repairs in our early years. It is no surprise that my mom was quite distressed when, at age ten, I started getting severe migraines that put me in the nurses’ office several times a week for almost a month. Luckily for all, I returned to normal with no explanation for the glitch in my health.

I haven’t been to the tree in years. I used to go with my dad on Memorial Day and use a shovel to trim back the grass from around the plaque so that it looked nice. I wonder if anyone is taking care of it now. I wonder if the kids at the school still talk about the girl who is buried outside the 3rd grade classrooms. I’ve learned to put on a somber face when I talk about Melissa. But those times have become less and less often, as the heartache of her passing fades and I move out into circles of people who never knew her. Even the pressure I once felt to make her proud has dimmed and vanished over time. How can the lives of two people who never had so much as conversation be so intertwined? I believe in angels, but even a skeptic couldn’t deny the presence she has had in my life.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I had a really long post written out about this...

I decided not to post it though, because it was a bit too personal for my taste. Moral of the story: I ran into someone I was hoping I'd never see again and it was unpleasant and hopefully it will never happen again.

In other news, I am dating a boy. His name is Troy. No, he's not the boy from the "soulmate" post. I've had two people tell me that they didn't think the "soulmate" boy was really my type, and after not having heard from him in over a month... He's pretty much been forgotten about. I'm still curious about him not being my type though... I'm not sure what that really meant. I'm not sure what my type even really is. But I think Troy is my type.

And Missy, Troy doesn't drive a mustang. Or do anything else that might earn the label of Mr. McSketch. (Which is especially good since that's now the name of my house.)

McSketch is a very special kind of place. Complete with very special kind of people. Not to mention...
The slanted floors and doorways
(I think that the door is supposed to fill up the gaps within the door frame...)

Spiders! (this is a trap left by previous tenant)

But minus a large load of yard debris. And two giant boxes of in-house (mainly kitchen items) debris.
(A few hours work in the yard yielded this. Plus another two bags.)

This place hasn't been cleaned and taken care of in years.

Not pictured: one moldy shower and one bare pipes/no wall but insulation shower.

I'm trying to stay optimistic. Life is an adventure! And this place is just helping contribute to those adventures. We're making memories, right mom?

Picture proof that the sun did once shine in Logan!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My heart is full

Today was an important day for me. It's too personal to really blog about, but I just had to get it off my chest somehow.

Things that are on my mind today:

Christ is my Savior. The Atonement is real. The Priesthood is truly God's power on earth.
And I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Short heartfelt thought of the moment

I really should go to bed, but I just had to say.

I miss having a priesthood holder in my life.

I'm making a lot of decisions right now that are important to me, and I wish I had a male authority figure in my life who I could turn to and rely on to be guided by the spirit to give me direction on where I should go. I frequently find myself trying to fill this fatherly void, but there's really nothing like having the real thing. It was just this week that I realized that I actually had this empty space, possibly because I never did rely on my dad for counsel like I might have. It's days like these that I think that my life was probably more messed up than I realized at the time.

And with that, I am going to bed.

(for any who may stumble upon and read this and not know what I'm talking about, you might check out and get some questions answered)

(and as a short disclaimer, I am in fact happy and healthy and strong and emotionally sound, so don't anybody think I'm some wreck or anything. Just pondering is all :) with a little wishful thinking)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Another year gone

Well it's the end of another school year. Finals week, moving out again. It's been an interesting year. I've learned so much.

I need to get to some papers I'm writing for projects due this week, but I just wanted to post the big news.

I've found my soulmate. (and no, I don't mean Megan)

He just doesn't know it yet.

This is the conversation I just had with my bishopric counselor about him. I feel it's hilarious enough to share here.


dear brother v

i have found my soulmate

(besides megan)


hello friend

what? Is he in Provo? I hope not




now you have started it, you must finish. Who is it?


his name is (edited for secrecy purposes)


serious? He's a great guy.


does he know that you have made this eternal connection?


no, i am waiting for him to realize how fantastic i am and fall madly in love with me


shouldn't be a problem

gtg to a meeting. Good Luck with the wooing of Brother (insert last name of soulmate here).

It's edited, obviously. So having been told that wooing him shouldn't be a problem, I'm ready to see what damage I can get done before he moves away for the summer. It will have to be continued next fall, unfortunately. But I am just ready for summertime right now! Most likely the next time I post (which will be the long awaited post about the people I met in Tijuana, just for you Missy!) it will be summertime.

Maybe it will have stopped snowing here by then as well (that would be super appreciated).

Monday, April 12, 2010

My trip to TJ- day 6 and the drive home!

Day 6- Friday- Last day

Missy was so saddened by my lack of blogging that I decided to get on top of it for her sake. This is a sad day to blog about though! After some drama with the vehicles/who had what keys, we headed over to Ellie's house to do as much work in our last day as we could. Some worked on rebuilding the tire retaining wall along the edge of her property that was against a gully where the floods earlier that month had washed out a lot of material.
We all felt like pretty legit mexicans after having mastered the skill of making tire retaining walls. Okay, I never got the hang of it, I mostly helped out shoveling dirt into wheelbarrows to use for filling in the wall. The other half of our group at Ellie's house was working on an addition we put in onto the house.

The bottom part was laid on Monday and Tuesday, the upstairs front half was framed Wednesday and Thursday, then they framed the back and boarded up the front Friday. It was fun to work with some of the kids I hadn't been able to the rest of the week. Some of the kids were at the orphanage putting together the bunk beds that had been made during the week, a few were at Padre Jaime's doing the outside of the housing for the school there, and a few worked on digging the hole for the septic tank still.

We were lucky to be at the house, because Brent bought us all paletas from his ice cream amigo.
After this we went and ate at the clinic and got ready for the beach! It was a colder day, and so I didn't really plan on getting into the water at all. I was glad we'd gone to the beach Thursday when it had been a lot warmer. We went south, to Rosarito, to a small open beach area.

Erin and I had fun goofing around on the beach. We were trying to get a good cartwheel picture, but ended up with some handstand ones instead.
We all really enjoyed being able to take off clothes and soak up some sunlight into our poor, wintery white skin!
We made a sand castle, complete with all of the things a mexican castillo would need! --taco stand, soccer field, seashell hot tub, water slide, trap door, and moat.

We buried Jason in the sand.

We collected a bunch of seashells to take home too. In all, it was definitely a good traditional beach-day holiday.

After we shook off all the sand, we drove in to Rosarito and did some shopping at the market there. It was a bit of an adventure, since one of the 15 passenger vans broke down, so we had to fit everyone into the other two vehicles. After shopping, we headed back into Tijuana, to go to the LDS meetinghouse for a party that a local member was having for us. We hit some hard core traffic, and we got to keep ourselves entertained so we didn't lose our minds-- cramped up in the vans, starving, tired, sandy, going between too hot and too cold (terrible air movement in those vans I tell you) and just being worn out in general. We made it back to the clinic, and some of the kids changed, and we headed over to the church (I got to pick up my car at Mirna's house on the way as well!). It was very much worth going to the church, we had these super super delicious tostadas, and got to see some of the locals for the last time. We went back to the clinic and had a little devotional, which was super cool, and then got started on the cleaning that needed to be done before we could head out. I was in charge of the cleaning, but I was worn out to the point of apathy, so luckily Andy, Mandy, Sheridan, Ise, Erin, and Hailey did a great job of just cleaning anything I pointed at. I have no idea where they got that energy and ambition from, but I was glad that I wasn't having to prod anyone to be productive 'cause I sure wasn't up to that!
Erin was dancing down the dry-floor-area runway, but stopped to yell at someone to not walk between the chairs, where it was recently mopped and still wet.
Eventually I collapsed into bed, not looking forward to finishing cleaning, packing, and then the long drive the next day...

Day 7- Saturday- All good things must come to an end

We rose early Saturday morning and started cleaning up our room and the rest of the upstairs of the clinic. This is the room I stayed in. You can see Madi in the corner, next to her bed which was up against the wall. At the foot of her cot was the door way with shower curtain into the bathroom. Against the far wall was where Hailey's cot had been, then you can see my ground mat where I slept, a standing groundmat where the other Erin slept, then the brown blanket and some space at the head of where Shelby and Chantel slept. It was pretty tight quarters! Those of us on the ground were prone to waking up spooning with our neighbors.

We mopped the floor behind us on our way out the door, and were homeward bound!

Nearing the border, apparently Andy had forgotten to keep his passport out of his bag--so while we were moving slowly forward, he switched seats with Mandy so she could drive while he climbed out the window, and opened the roof rack, got his bag out, got his passport, put everything back and climbed back in. I'm sure that the mexicans enjoyed watching the crazy americans haha.

We all made it across the border, safe and sound, and everyone in my car fell asleep as we started back north. I watched for a sign telling me to get onto I-15, but never saw one (I'm not the only one who did this! Pretty sure there is a lack of signage!!), so we ended up into Riverside and then took a bunch of toll roads to get onto a highway that took us over to I-15. It was an adventure, but we got to see some pretty coastline and hills of blooming flowers. Ended up costing us some time though. And like 4 bucks in toll fees.
Sheridan and I switched driving again, then stopped in St. George for dinner with Erin's brother, then Provo to get some gas and trade out stuff with my mom again. The last leg from Provo to Logan, Sheridan drove. It was rough! It was about 2:00 am at this time, and we all were so tired! Luckily we made it home safe and sorted out everyone's luggage and into their beds for some much needed sleep after a long week of hard work and play!

Hoping for a return trip: July 10th, 2010!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Trip to TJ--What I learned

On the way back from Tijuana, we were driving through Vegas and we passed a sign for some hotal that said "Stay with what you love". It had a gorgeous woman lying on a bed in a gaudy hotel room, wearing a ostentatious dress with long gloves--all very elegant looking. It hit me in that moment I read it how ridiculous our society has become. These expensive conveniences have truly become what we love, the things that we refuse to live without. The things that this woman couldn't live without stood out in super stark contrast to the world I had just come from.
I had been to Mexico before. I went on a family reunion to Rosarito, and we stayed in some condo's and went downtown to buy stuff in the shops. This time was totally different. (If you haven't spent time in a third world country, I mean really down in the poverty and with the people, not just in a comfortable place nearby.)
When we first got down there, we were on paved roads and were driving through pretty well developed areas. Then we moved outside of downtown, into where Ellie lived-- I believe she told me it was El Rancho de Flores (or as Gordon called it, the valley of the shadow of death)-- and out at the orphanage. I found myself face to face with extreme poverty. And with that, I found myself struggling to suppress feelings of pity-- "these people don't want your pity Erin" I would tell myself. On Monday, working at Abuelita's house, we were playing with Denise and Santiago, and Todd had a water bottle that he was squirting the kids with. As I looked around, seeing a kitchen built up with wire frames and a refrigerator door making part of the wall, sewer lines comprised of 4 in' diameter PVC pipes that stuck out of the eroding hillsides in places, I couldn't believe how different these two kids childhood was different from my own. Denise giggled as Todd squirted her again, and I realized that these kids had never run through the sprinklers on their front lawn on a hot summer day-- they didn't even have a front lawn. I wondered if they even had swimming suits. It was overwhelming! "How," I wondered, "could these kids even call their younger years a "childhood", if they haven't ever run through the sprinklers?!" And yet they were SO happy. It didn't make sense. "If only they knew what they were missing out on. They are naive; they don't know any better." Again, I looked down in pity.
I spent the first 3 days working harder and longer than I believe I've ever worked in my entire life. I worked along side natives, somewhat embarrassed by how weak and prissy I'm sure I seemed to them. As I was being physically worn down, my language skills began to come easier. I had taken a year of Spanish, but had almost forgotten all of it by the time this trip came. I could talk with a few of the locals. I learned more about their individual personalities. I saw each at work, at play, in their homes with their families. I continually was looking at myself from their perspectives, realizing how I must have looked in their eyes.
As we were leaving the second day at the land for the CAF building, the kids who lived across the street and who had been hanging around while we worked had gradual stripped off their school clothing until they were just in their underwear, and had started a water fight using a barrel of water (I'm guessing collected rainwater) and cups. They were squealing and laughing and I almost wanted to join in--all of us were hot and tired from working out in the sun. This time I saw them through new eyes. I stepped off my high horse and instead of looking down in condescension, I saw what a life these kids had even though they weren't surrounded by the worldly goods I had assumed were necessary for happiness. They weren't spoiled. They weren't arrogant, and had no sense of entitlement. They were close to their family, and they really loved each other.
The rest of the week just solidified this feeling. It didn't matter whether these people knew what they were "missing out on" or not, they didn't care. Things weren't as important to them as people. They cared deeply about their families, and even more so about their religion and faith. They knew the value of hard work, and were happy with their simple lives.
As we passed the sign in Vegas, all of these feelings came together and really finally clicked. I had changed. What was it that I loved? I'd spent a week without my phone on me, without a computer and all of the luxuries I expected--all that I'd been cultured to think that I COULDN'T live without.
I wish that our society could get back to these things. Working hard. Less arrogance, more humility. People caring about people. Real homecooked food. Fewer cars--more walking. Gratitude!! These things are so real in every day of the lives of the people I met down in Tijuana. I wish that they were more a part of mine. I want to go back to keep myself from slipping back into my pride and reliance on modern convenience. I want to be more like these people, and I want my future family to be modeled on the kind of families they have. I want to learn how to work hard and be grateful for every little thing I have. It wouldn't have been the same if I hadn't learned these things by really living it--even just the short week I spent down there. And I can't wait to get back!

Friday, March 26, 2010

My trip to TJ- day 5

Day 5- Thursday- I'd totally buy a taco here

Wednesday we were moved to working at the Bishop's house. He is a painter (of portraits, not like of houses etc.), and his wife had a visa and worked in the US to really give them a secure income. Well she was laid off and lost her visa, and now they really need a way to earn money. So, we helped build a food stand on the street next to his house. There is the house, the white door into a kind of cement patio area, a gray concrete wall, and then the unfinished wood of the stand.
Neither him or his wife speak any english, so we had to rely on Is to translate everything for us. It was a super great day though. We sheet rocked the inside of the shack, that Sheridan, Missy and Brent had built and roofed the previous two days. We also painted the outside of it. We had a ton of fun!
This is what it looked like from behind, after Missy, Brent and Sheridan had built the wooden platform floor and framed two walls. The metal door was ripped out, the cement was covered up and a wall built in there.
Painting the street side of the stand, where that metal door once was.

This is the Bishop's dog, which was very very pregnant, that Hailey affectionately dubbed "Prego". The door to the street has no way of opening from the outside, so we would leave it open occasionally to prevent getting locked outside which would require one of the boys to come let us in. Unfortunately, if the door was left open, Prego would always find her way out. Hailey would see her, yell "Prego!! No!!!" and chase the dog back into the yard. It was great. We were pretty sure her bad habit of sneaking out when the door was open was what got her into her pregnant situation in the first place. Hailey suggested that Prego now just wanted to go find the scoundrel who had knocked her up, 'cause he never even came around to visit these days. Regardless, it was pretty funny to see this dog who was ready to pop at any second trying to escape every time we turned around.
Painting some more

I learned that i'm terrible at hammering in sheet rock nails. I think the fact that my arms and hands were exhausted from using a pick axe for the last 2 days might have made it worse than it would have been otherwise. Luckily, the men (Bryan, Is, and Brent) had everything taken care of and us girls just had to sit back and laugh at how funny they are.

Really, I miss hanging out with these kids. But the post about people comes later! Okay, so the Bishop made us lunch, even though Mirna didn't want him to since they are obviously not in a position of having a lot to spare. He made us barbecued meat and mashed potatoes with salad. His wife was who served it to us, and she was so funny, Is told us that she was going off about how he'd wanted to make us American food, but she wanted him to make us real Mexican food, and she thought he was silly I guess for making American food. Regardless, it was AMAZING (as all the food down there was), and we ate like royalty. Seriously, I don't think I've ever had so many strawberries in one day--but they are a lot cheaper down there! We were able to finish up nicely after lunch. Here's the finished shack, from the street.

With the Bishop in front.
He's a really awesome guy! I wish that I knew spanish so that I could have talked to him more, and hear him bear his testimony (which I heard from Missy and Brent was amazing). On the shed next to the shack we put in, were some scripture references. They are about hope in Christ, and just show how much he really loves the gospel.
Hailey, Erin and I in the back of "the beast" going back to the Clinic.
We cleaned up back at the clinic, and then a group of us headed downtown for a second time--and it was a much better experience than the first! I was kind of bummed that I didn't decide to go to Denise's (the little girl in the picture from Monday where we worked on the tire stairs) baptism, which was this evening. It would have been a really awesome experience. Oh well, I can't keep beating myself up about it. Here's Missy and I, eating paletas in Centro.

That wraps up Thursday. I was a lot less worn out--painting is much easier work than digging holes in concrete!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My trip to TJ- days 3 & 4

Day 3- Tuesday- Have you ever dug a hole in concrete?

Tuesday morning we went off to work on a new project on the outskirts of town. We drove clear out (through some areas showing serious lack of proper watershed management, really, I
could help them out with their erosion problems! I even took pictures. I'm too nerdy) to the southwest end of Tijuana. We could see the ocean from where we were working! Our job was to put in a barbed wire fence around the land that will be the site of a future building for Charity Anywhere, since if you don't claim your land fast it will be taken over by others/resold. This process began with digging holes for the fence posts. After about an hour and a half of swinging pick axes, crowbars, and shovels into soil that resembled concrete, our local helper, Julio, saved us by delivering a jack hammer.
That's right, jack hammer.
What kind of holes in the dirt require a jackhammer?!?! Well after that, things went a bit faster. Plus since the boys were mostly in charge of doing the jackhammer, the girls were either helping shovel out loose rocks as the guys went or working on the top layers of a few holes that were softer soil. Instead of doing the original 50 post holes that were planned for, we did about 16. We put a post in each hole (which was depressing to go around filling back up holes so quickly that had taken such a very long time to dig out...) and pretended like we knew how to string barbed wire around the bottom part way around the fence.

We were super super tired at the end of the day. We didn't know it then, but the next day us girls couldn't use our fingers or close our hands into a fist without it hurting. This is us relaxing at the end of the day, waiting for Julio or Mirna to come lead us back to the clinic.
From left to right- me, Hailey, Erin, Is, Courtney, and Bryan

Tuesday night we had a surprise birthday party for Stephanie, that she shared with some of the other kids who have March birthdays. It was a great dance party, complete with lights set up and DJ, and we had lots of cake and a pinata. We played musical chairs, danced on a rooftop, and even did the "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" line dance when he happened to play that song. This is Ellie, dancing with the pinata.

After that, we stopped at the taco stand just down the street from the clinic. I had a great time with a new fabulous friend I made. I'll talk about her later; I think I'll add a post titled "People" after I'm done with days. That wrapped up Tuesday evening!

Day 4- Wednesday- Bryan, you can't just make your own road!

Wednesday, we got sent back out to our fence to finish the barbed wire and add a few posts to make it that much more accurate to defining the land that was purchased. Luckily, because we had a lot less to do, we finished pretty early on.

When Mirna came mid-morning, we asked what we should do when we were finished. She gave us permission to have Julio show us down to the beach, which the kids from the neighbors who'd been playing with us over the two days had told us was reachable by the road we were on via bicycles. So we finished the fence (with the help of Julio, who instructed us how to REALLY string barbed wire) and packed up all the extra poles and the equipment.

We took it over to Julio's property and unloaded it there. Then we started a mini-adventure. Julio took us out of the valley we were in, into the next valley over.

Did I mention Julio is one of the craziest little mexicans I've ever met? That's his car. The loudspeaker was usually playing some advertisement, that Is said was for a rodeo or something carnival kind of thing. Sometimes he would play music on it. Sometimes he would yell stuff at us over it. Other times he would play chicken with other mexicans and yell taunts at them over it. Well we follow Julio over some crazy hills to a highway going along a cliffside down to the ocean, with a little pull out. Julio hops out of the car and practically skips over to our car and is like "see look, ocean!" We all look at Julio with disbelief. "Tocar Julio!! Queremos tocar la mar!!" we say to him. "Oooh!" He says. "Beach? Sandy Beach?" "SI Julio! Beach!!" So he motions that he will lead us somewhere else. Back in the car, back over the crazy hills, through a toll road (where he stole like 10 bucks from Bryan, pretty sure he never gave him back the change). 20 minutes later (as we're all thinking "I thought the beach was just down the road from where we were... this was NOT supposed to take this long...") we park at the Tijuana Playas.
Our group FINALLY at a beach after staring at the ocean longingly for two long days!

It was very very fantastic. After playing around on the beach for a bit, we had Julio take us back to the Clinic. We then walked down the street to a little shop and had some ice cream (paletas), courtesy of Is. After that, we decided to head over to Ellie's house to see how they were doing there, and if they needed our help. So Bryan starts heading off south, convinced that he knows the way to Ellie's. I pipe in that I can't remember exactly how to get there, but I don't think we're going the right way. We end up in the right valley, but at the south end--as if we were heading to our work site. I say oh well okay, this road by the river will take us up to Ellie's house, this is how Gordon brought us out of the valley on Sunday when we took the refrigerator to her place. However, Bryan's car isn't looking like it can make it down this road (I have NO idea how Gordon took the 15 passenger van down it). So we turn around and head back, all of us expecting Bryan to retrace the way back up to the rim above the valley to look for the more northerly road into the valley. But instead of turning left to head back, he goes right. We are all like "uuhhh.. Bryan?" and he insists that he will find a road above the one we are on, on the west side of the valley, that will get us there. The rest of us know that this is absurd. He continues on, and turns onto a higher road. "Bryan, you can't just make your own roads!" exclaims Courtney. I laughed so hard. Well, in the end, he turned around and headed north and found the other road and I didn't have to strangle him. Well we didn't do much at Ellie's house. Then we went back to the Clinic, and a group of us went from there to the LDS church house where some of the youth were having a kind of Mutual activity, playing soccer and eating elotes.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of people buying the elotes, and Missy and I were at the end of the group, and the corn hadn't had as long of time to cook. Hers was pretty undercooked. Which was unfortunate. But mine was pretty tasty! And watching the boys play soccer was super fun.
After that we went home and collapsed into deep, exhausted slumber! (Possibly after talking way way too late. Or it might have been one of the other nights. Or a couple of the nights. It's all a blur now).