Friday, March 15, 2019

Final Thoughts....

It's almost 11pm here in Tijuana, and we are scheduled to depart at 2am for San Diego. My muscles are sore, my tummy is still full from our final mexican dinner, and I can barely keep my eyes open as I write this post. I therefore plan to write this post as a series of random bullet point rather than the lengthy, thought-out narratives I usually like to write :)
1. I first of all wanted to mention that we did complete the foundation for the home we've been working on all week and what an amazing feeling that is. Today we worked with barely any breaks as we passed thousands of heavy buckets of cement for hours until we finished. After we completed our work we had a fiesta together with the families and community members with the most delicious food and cake to celebrate what we had completed.
2. Our bodies were pushed to the limit this week. And we're sore. We've got bruises and bumps and cuts and blisters to prove it. But it feels good. I've always liked feeling sore because it means I worked hard for something. I think that's why I'm so drawn to athletics and sports - because it feels so good to physically work towards a goal. I was talking to some of the other students on the trip today about physical labor and exercising. We talked about a quote that recently circulated, "working out should not be a punishment, but a celebration of what your body is capable of." If my body is able to dig out trenches with a pick ax and pass buckets of cement for 5 days, then I will happily do that, especially if the result is a new, safe home for someone. My volleyball coach always says, "embrace the opportunity to play because there are so many people who would love to be able to play." Every aching muscle and knot in my back has been worth it this week. And the bruises look cool too :)
3. Though this week has been a bit of a break from writing my undergrad thesis (which is due very soon), I was amazed to make so many connections between what happened on this trip and what I am writing about in my thesis - ethnic and national identity. Within our group of Wooster students, we have a Cameroonian-American,  Lithuanian-American, Colombian-American, Mexican-American, and an Ethiopian. Any time we drove somewhere in our big white and maroon vans, we had the best conversations about the ethnic and national dynamics within Mexico and how those relate to our personal experiences and our respective ethnic communities. We talked about migration, leaving one's home country, retaining cultural practices and traditions, and how people identify both ethnically and nationally. I am extremely thankful for the wide variety of perspectives between all of us students on this trip as we experienced the culture of Tijuana together.
4. Lastly, I just wanted to express my gratitude for all those individuals who made this trip so memorable. First of all Nate and Phil who did most of the organizing and coordination for this trip - flights, packing lists, and communication. Second, the members of Trinity UCC, with all their construction knowledge and experience for guiding us novices through new and unfamiliar tasks at the work-site. To the Esperanza staff - Eduardo, Stanley, and others - for their hospitality and guidance throughout the week at the Posada, at the work site, and out in the city. And lastly, the families and community members for working along side us and for the amazing food they cooked us for lunch everyday. To everyone and anyone I interacted with during this trip, and all of you back home who supported from afar - thank you for a perfect, humbling, and fulfilling week :) goodnight.

Marija Cyvas

Friday Evening

This is Phil Starr typing again.  We finished up the work week!!!  We finished up the foundation brick and poured the cement for the foundation!  It was nearly a 50 cement bag pour!  Our group is working so well together.  We are all tired.

We will have a closing circle with Eduardo then go out to eat.  We plan on leaving the Posada at 2:00 am for our 7:00 am flight.

Just wanted to make a quick post...


Thursday, March 14 - from Joel Chupp

Day 4 of the build and our 6th day in La Gloria, Mexico south of Tijuana. Our building site is located in a small dusty colonial (town) called El Tapia which overlooks  the beautiful Pacific coastline and is juxtaposed with resort villages and luxury homes seen in the distance overlooking the ocean. There is a stark contrast between these homes and those found in El Tapia which reflect a community with a much lower standard of living. 

We are now more familiar with community members and Esperanza staff as evidenced by the warm interactions, laughter and good-natured joking while hard at work.  I am amazed at how cohesive our group has become despite our significant age differences and backgrounds. Our college students give a whole new meaning to the term “powerful women” has they pass cement blocks, buckets of soil and sand and help dig trenches up to 60” in depth with pick axes and shovels all the while jamming to continuous tunes blasting through large speakers on the job site. It’s certainly broadening the genre of music I can appreciate!

As my friend John told me, “This experience will  change your life.” - and it certainly has. I have found beauty here despite circumstances most would describe as impoverished. It is found in the lives of the people, in the eyes of the children and in the strength, determination, and resiliency found in the Esperanza community. These are people that come together to support each other and lend a hand despite having jobs and families of their own. They are determined to improve not only their own lives but the lives of others in their community. 

Tomorrow is our last day on the job. It is bittersweet in that we are all looking forward to getting back to our loved ones but we are also saying goodbye to our newfound amigos here in Mexico. I will be forever grateful for this experience which has broadened my perspective on our neighbors to the south. It has also strengthened my resolve to continue to work for justice and resist the bigotry, prejudice and intolerance which has found a new voice in my own country.       -Joel Chupp

Friday morning update

This is Phil Starr again!  It is hard to believe that this is our last workday!

We had a great workday yesterday (day 4).  We pretty much finished laying the first four layers of block for the foundation.  This also includes rebar that helps to support the house.

Last night we took the Esperanza staff and their families out to eat at Francisco Villa in Rosarito.  We have done this for a few years now and it is nice to be able to say Thank-you to the Esperanza Staff and their families.  We want to thank the Trinity Woman's Guild for their donation that helped pay for the dinner.

Today part of the group is listening to Eduardo give his border talk and the rest of the group will head to the work site and get things ready to pour cement into the foundation brick.  We estimate that we will have a 40-50 cement bag pour - it will be a lot of work!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Thursday morning update

This is Phil Starr from Trinity.  Today is the start of the fourth workday.  The week is moving along very fast.  Our group is doing very well.  We are working well together at the work site and having fun in the evening at our various events.

Last night, Wednesday night, we went to casa del migrante - a migrant shelter sponsored by the Catholic church.  We had a tour of the facility which was built as the shelter.  It kind of reminds me of a 4 floor hotel.  We learned that all the shelters in Tijuana are full.  There have been many "caravans" come to Tijuana and many small groups of people from other countries seeking refuge. 

Our group getting a tour at casa del migrante

We ate dinner across the table of recent deportees or migrants.  Jamie, Joel and I sat across the table from an English speaking man who had just been deported from San Diego a few days ago.  He was born in Mexico and at an early age his parents moved the family to San Diego.  We guess that he is 35 years old.  So he had probably been the states for 30 years.  He never kept his papers up to date.  He had gotten picked up for a DUI and when he got out of jail didn't follow the orders of his parole and ended up being deported. 

The men we talk to here remind me of the homeless people in Wooster some of which sleep on our church steps.  These are people in what seems are hopeless situations. 

My suggestion to the man we talked to was to take advantage of all of the services that casa del migrante has to offer - help with getting a job, social workers, Doctor/nurse, etc. 

At the worksite - so far this week we have been digging for the foundation of the house.  Some parts we are digging down 60 inches - some 35 inches.  Today we are supposed to level off the floor, lay sand, lay the foundation block which includes rebar. 

We won't get to see the finished house this year for Saul and his family but we will be able to see finished pictures in a month or so.  Once the house is finished - here is one of the views that they will have: