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!