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).

Monday, March 22, 2010

My trip to TJ

For spring break this year, I decided to go to Tijuana with a group called Charity Anywhere Foundation, that does service for the people down there. It was a pretty spontaneous decision, and I didn't sign up to go with anyone I knew. As it got closer though, I learned about two roommates from this summer who would be going, and 3 boys who I know from classes last semester that were going too. I decided to help out and drive a group down in my car, but didn't know the 3 people who were assigned to my car--but from texting them, I learned that none of them knew how to drive a manual. Luckily, Friday night before we were going to be leaving at 5 am Saturday morning, I learned that one of the kids in my car who had dropped out would be replaced by a kid I know, and who knows how to drive a stick (saving me from having to make a 13 hour car drive all on my own!). So the 4 of us headed on our merry way to Mexico. We had a pretty uneventful drive down, but still had a good time (Hailey's fork randomly snapping into three pieces as she was eating her salad at Wendy's, Sheridan telling us that his dream super power would be to always feel comfortable, or be a master gardener).

We stopped at an outlet mall just this side of the border to meet up with the other vehicles to cross the border together. We each got a map of how to get to a gas station a little ways down the road on the other side, so that we could follow someone to the clinic where we'd be staying for the week. Unfortunately, the car we were following got pulled aside to be checked by the customs officials, so we were left to find the immediate right turn ("Scenic Road") on our own. Well, we failed, and ended up going off to the left. Not too hard to solve though, right? Just flip a U-turn and find another ramp leading to that road. Well we tried that, and missed the turn off from that direction too. Now we are headed off southwest into a pretty sketchy part of Tijuana, with a female driver (me) who obviously has no idea what she's doing (because I'm a girl). Luckily I was able to step up to the challenge that is driving in Mexico, and was aggressive enough to keep us on the road and heading in a semi-somewhat useful direction. It too about 15 minutes (longest 15 minutes of my life) but we miraculously ended up back on the road to get the turn-off that we had missed the second time, and succeeded in getting on the Scenic Road. Honestly, I have no idea how we pulled this off, because at every intersection we might as well have been flipping a coin to decide which way we went. We pulled up at the gas station just as the group who had made it there was about to leave--if we'd been even 45 seconds later we would have missed them entirely. We followed them up to the Clinica San Luis Obispo, parked the cars in a storage garage thing, settled into our rooms and went to bed for the night! (Although it did take a while to get the second half of the group there, who had been in vehicles who had been delayed at the border/turned away and were stuck in the US. Turns out you can't bring dentist chairs into Mexico. Who knew?)

Day 1- Sunday- Day of Rest
We woke up to a fabulous sunny day, but without warm water for showers. A group of us took a refrigerator and stove top over to the house of a local woman who cooked us dinner every night, named Ellie. She had not had a refrigerator or modern stove top, but was making meals for groups of 30 people! After that we went over to the local LDS meetinghouse for church meetings (not all of the group went, as not all were members). It was the first time I'd ever attended church in a language I couldn't understand (one year of high school spanish=vocabulary of a 3 year old), and it was a really neat experience. We went to the full 3 hours of meetings, and Sunday School was the only part translated for us (courtesy of Mirna and Brent).

After church we drove out to an orphanage that we had brought down a ton of supplies for, and would have some of the group helping out at during the week.

They have 80 kids living in a compound with a few buildings, with an area for the girls and another area for the boys. They have no electricity, and only a water tower for the girls half of the compound. We brought a pick-up truck and 15 passenger van (benches removed) of food, cleaning supplies, and clothes for the kids, and it was so awesome to see them so happy to help carry it all inside. This is the back of the truck with all the supplies.

I remembered that I had forgotten to take my chalk out of my car before I left, so I decided what better time to use it? I got a few sticks out of the bucket and brought them over to the kids and within minutes, the concrete driveway in front of the building was covered with names, hearts, and hopscotch games. (By the way, small mexican children do not understand hopscotch. They do however, understand hopping around on one leg a bunch. Close enough though, right?)

While at the orphanage, a few of us made a trip out to a school for handicapped people that Padre Jaime set up. Disabled kids in Mexico are completely ignored and left at home unable to receive any help or education from the state, so a group got together and set up this school to help give these kids (and adults too) some training and skills. Part of the CAF group was here working on digging holes for septic tanks for a housing complex that is in progress, so that the students and one care-taker can stay on site, making it accessible for them to come every day, since some are unable to afford the expensive daily bus fare.
After this, we had a fantastic dinner, provided by Ellie, and then had a nice evening back at the clinic.

Day 2- Monday- First day of Work

Monday morning we woke up ready to work. My group was the Misc. group; we were assigned to a variety of tasks but the first was to help lay sewer line for a family living in a very small, humble house, so that they could, well, have somewhere to send their stuff. Unfortunately, there was some issues with paperwork for getting it hooked up to the city line, and the family whose line they would be joining, etc., so we were moved to another project for the day.

We tore down that patio thing you can see behind us (which is actually a woman's kitchen, complete with sink and metal barrel that served as a stove), and replaced it with something more sturdy and a roof that was more than just the plastic sheeting held down by cinder blocks that it had been. The woman was 71 years old, and her daughter and her family lived just about 50 feet away on the same property. She had two kids, Denise and Santiago, and they loved playing with us and "helping" us out on whatever we were doing.
We helped weed part of this tire path while we were waiting for the cement on the new posts to dry. After that, I kind of moved over to the daughter's house, where Keith Homer was leading a group in putting new shingle sheeting on the roof. Because the house had an array of additions, the water drained into the middle of the roof and down a pipe through the house, but was leaking pretty badly whenever it rained. It was cool to learn how to put do a little roofing work! Plus Keith is just a hilarious guy that I enjoyed working with.

Monday night we were planning to go downtown to Centro, where there are a bunch of tourist shops. Well, my clutch had started to slip during the driving around Sunday, and was getting worse going back from the worksite Monday. I told Brent that I didn't really want to take my car down to Centro, but because we were already running late, and not taking my car would require locking it up, which would be a 15 minute delay to open and close the garage door, I gave in and agreed to have it driven down. I refused to drive it or be in it though. Well I guess my intuition was right, because about 10 minutes away from Centro, Brent and I (in the lead car) can't see Sue (my car) behind us. Bryan (another driver) pulls up to us and yells over that she'd pulled off the highway at a gas station a ways back, as she hadn't been able to make it up the hill we'd just come up. Without cell service, it was impossible to find the kids who'd been in the car. We finally got back to the gas station and the attendants there informed us that they had taken a taxi to meet us in Centro. Long story short, they ended up getting a taxi back to the Clinic and we got my car back to the garage to be fixed the next day (which ended up costing me $320, but for a whole new clutch system and all of the labor, that's really an unbelievable price. So unbelievable that I'm going to have it double checked here in the States as soon as I can). I went to bed Monday very worn out from working and the evening adventures, but having decided that no matter what happened, it had been worth it just to help out the families that day.

I've decided that I'm tired of writing and my battery is dying, but I want to put up what I've got so far, so I'll write the rest of the week in another post!