Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Clean, My Own Bed and the Aftermath

Most of us are back, with most of the cement washed off and have had a good night sleep in our own beds.   Friday and Saturday were eventful days in very different ways.

Friday morning, before we left for the work site, Eduardo, the head of volunteers rounded us up for a debriefing regarding our total experience but most especially our experience at the border.  He wanted to know what we thought of the wall (it has been up for years in Tijuana) and did we think Mexican people were dangerous.   Both Mexicans and US citizens all agreed good border security is a good thing.   The Mexican people don't want our drug dealers, our violent criminals or problematic people any more than we want theirs.  Everyone agreed border security is important, yet standing on the Mexican side made many of us wonder about the level of fear in the US at this time.   We all wondered how to fix our broken immigration system rather than build more walls.

After this very deep conversation, we headed to our final work site in the Puerto Nuevo area.  We set up the cement mixer, put about 8 people on the roof while the rest of us lined up to shovel sand or gravel.  Others formed the famous bucket line to pass cement from the ground to the roof.  Others formed a line to catch the empty buckets coming from the roof and prepare them to be refilled with cement.   For the next 4 hours, with water breaks, we made cement and passed bucket after bucket to the roof.  In total, we passed 50 tons of cement.   The final putt-putt of the cement mixer as it was shut off signaled our week of work was over.

All during this work, we could smell the great food being prepared by the family who is receiving the home.  We could smell steak, tortillas, and beans being cooked.  If we walked by the kitchen we could see juices being prepared which would quench our dry mouths after the work.   The cement mixer stopped and were invited to the feast.  There we laughed and joked with our hosts as we enjoyed the goodness of being together.  We communicated with smiles and nods.   When finished we gathered with the family.   The family, again and again, expressed their thanks through floods of tears.  The familiar "Mi Casa su Casa" (My house is your house) was heard again and again.   Our group expressed words of thanks and what an honor it was to work on their house.  Inside jokes were exchanged and then hug after hug.   We loaded up the vans and the week had ended.

We arrived back at the Posada and was treated to breakfast for dinner.  We cleaned the Posada and prepared ourselves for an early morning departure.

Saturday morning:  5 AM came quickly.  We scurried around and packed last minute items, re-checked our passports.  The vans were loaded and we headed back.   There was little traffic on the road and within an hour we were all back in the USA.  We drove another 10 minutes and stopped at Auntie Emma's pancake house and had a great final meal together.  With time to kill before people flew home, we stopped at Coronado Island. Some went swimming, others toured and still others just sat with coffee and watched the ocean, with plenty of memories to sort through.

The 2017 Pilgrimage of Hope to Mexico was completed.

We thank everyone who supported us.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fish Tacos, More Cement and Orphans

Lunch in Puerto Nuevo  (photo Samantha Delabruere)
Roof Preparation (Photo by Christie Cardinale)
Another bright and beautiful day greeted us yesterday.  After breakfast, we packed up the vans and headed to our work sites.   Again a large group went to Puerto Nuevo and another more inland.   Both groups picked up from where they left off.   Puerto Nuevo continued putting up a foundation and cementing it in, and the in-land group continued roof preparations.

Today we all go inland to pour the roof.  I was lucky enough to be at the Puerto Nuevo site which had wonderful sea breezes all day. The whole local community gathered to help, and by 3 PM we were finished and headed back to the Posada.   Everyone was tired but happy.

We arrived back to the Posada showered up and could either go to the orphanage or hang out.  There were only 11 girls at the Orphanage this week because many are at camp before school starts next week.   Christie Cardinale brought pictures from six years ago.   Sadly she met a girl she met six years ago who has not been adopted but the little girl was excited to think someone remembered six years later.

Today we bring to a close our week here in Tijuana.  Our memories will be as bright and warm as the sun that blazed above us.   Here are some pictures taken by Dick Crawford from Montana, part of the "East-West"  team.  We thank Dick for letting us use his picture.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cement, Cement and Ocean Views

Yesterday we  split into two groups once again.  Most of the group went to a house down near Puerto Nuevo, where we could see the ocean and benefit from the ocean breezes.  It was beautiful.  The family cried as nearly 30 of us emerged from vans.   (Remember we are with other groups, nearly 60 in all.)    We did the final work for the foundation.  The far corner of the foundation is about 7 feet deep.  We passed concrete blocks for the foundation for about an hour or so, prepared the re-bar supports and did some final sand work.  The morning was full.
The breeze made the work comfortable and the beauty of the place and the goodness of the people made it even easier.

Picture from Paul McGininity
The family was busy setting up about 10 small tables with umbrellas for us.  We broke for lunch and sat for a wonderful meal looking out at the Pacific ocean.  The laughter was rich and English, Spanish and Spanglish wafted over the table.  We all agreed we had just experienced a bit of heaven.  With all the hatred in the world currently, it seemed that this was a sign of the kingdom of God breaking in.  I think we all left knowing what Jesus meant when he said "The Kingdom of God is in your midst."

An ice cream wagon came by and to end our little break from the work,  many of us enjoyed cool, refreshing popsicles or ice cream sandwiches.   We all looked like little children enjoying the surprise visit of the ice cream truck.

The after brought us a the loud putt,putt, putt of cement mixer.   For the next 2 hours 20 bags of cement was mixed, scooped into buckets, passed from hand to hand and finally poured into the foundation blocks.   It was hard work but the hard work of so many made it go easily.  Of course when we got a break many would break out into a little dance with music from huge speaker Eduardo brought.

We finished our work and then headed to Casa del Migrante, which is a center run by the Scallibrini Fathers which cares for the migrants of the world.  Most of the people in the Center have been deported from the US.   We were given an orientation and then ate with the residents of center.  There were currently about 100 people living in the center, all planning their next steps.  They talked wistfully of their wives and children back in the states.  Others resigned to the fact that getting back is going to be hard and will do their best to make a living here in Mexico.  Most of our participants agreed it was the most significant part of the trip.  (later today I'll get some pictures up of our visit.)

We head out soon to our work site, so I need to get going!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Walls up: Roof Preparation

Yesterday, we once again split into two groups and both groups did prep work for walls and roofs.  The day was cooler than Monday which was a blessing.  I'm not sure how hot it was yesterday, but in my memory, it was one of the hottest days we ever worked here.  We appreciated cloud cover yesterday.  As beautiful as it all is with bright blue skies, bright blue skies say HOT.

Part of the group did more excavating and getting the foundation for the house set.  That will mean cement today.  The group will be larger there because of all the demands of mixing cement, carrying it and finally pouring it.  The extra help will be welcomed.

The other group prepared a roof. When we arrived four walls were up.  We moved lumber in and put down plywood and underpinning, which will hold the cement roof until it cures.  Today that group will make beams and 're-bar' supports.  We will pour that roof on Friday.  That can demand up to 120 tons of cement moved one-half bucket at a time.  The prep work is crucial so that it goes smoothly.

After the day's work, we headed to the 'border' where the now famous wall has been in place for years.Actually, it's two or three walls depending on where you stand.  It is about 15 feet high, and the second wall a mostly strong chain link fence perhaps another 100 feet in.    The people have painted the wall on the Mexican side with messages about how it feels to be behind such a wall.   The Mexican side of the wall hosts a large beach village.  Much like any beach town, there is much activity.  Kids swimming, families walking the board walk, eateries, and places for kids to play games.  The US side there is 'nothing.'   The beach is empty, there are just dirt roads, some grass and the border patrol going up and down.   It is sad.

We returned to the vans, and for a while it's quiet as our workers let the experience sink in.  Some people slept on the way back, but slowly the energy returns and we had a pizza party.  People relaxed and then headed to bed.   The crowd is gathering now for breakfast and soon we'll head out for day three.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Digging, Blocks and Baseball

After a morning orientation with our Esperanza representative, Eduardo,  we were split into two groups and headed to our work sites.   I will have to get a report from the other group but I do know that both groups did digging and setting of blocks for the foundation.  Yesterday was particularly hot. Much warmer than usual, but with plenty of water breaks we all survived.  We were greeted by the family receiving the house.  Presently they are living in something most of us would not store our lawn more in, but for them, it protected them wind, heat, cold and rain.   In about one month they will have a much larger brick home.   The family of a little boy and mom and dad will now be safe from the elements.

It was a long day.   We rushed home because we were had a chance to go the baseball playoffs, we cleaned up and headed to Toros Stadium to watch them win 6 to 3.  Mexican baseball is a very different experience where these as much entertainment going on in the stands as there is on the field.
Although tired, everyone had a great time.     We are finishing breakfast and heading off to more work today.   Thankfully it is cloudy and a bit misty today which should make work easier.

Here are some highlights'

Monday, August 14, 2017

Yesterday we spent the day soaking in a bit of Mexican culture.  We started with Mass at the little chapel run by Esperanza's good friend Fr. Jaime.   He welcomed us warmly and gave a one minute synopsis of his homily in English.  He talked about how Christ extended the hand of tenderness to Peter caught in a stormy sea and saved him.   He said, we here at Esperanza, do the same things.  We extend the hand of mercy and save many from the storms of a live in poverty.

We returned to the Posada, relaxed,  Many of us are still catching up on our sleep from the time change, and then headed to Puerto Nuevo, for a bit of shopping and exploring this little fishing village.  We were delayed because of the annual bike rally, which attracts thousands, yes thousands of motorcyclists, but once in the village, we enjoyed fish tacos and other goodies.   Some of the group headed to the cultural center and others back to the Posada. 

We had a great dinner of chicken, potatoes, and salad, with a cake to celebrate Fr. Ted's 40th Anniversary of 1st Vows.  It was a grand celebration.

We now wait for "Eduardo" the head technician to join us for an orientation and then off to the work site.  It is now 6:45 AM here and people are beginning to move.

Morning prayer today says:  Happy are those who dwell in the house of the Lord...as they pass through the Bitter Valley, they will make it a place of springs." (Ps 84)  We hope that our presence will make some the burden of life a bit lighter.   Off to the work site!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Everyone arrives today and we'll join folks from the West Coast.  The group is called "The East-West Group."   Please pray for us.  We'll do our best to blog here and keep you up to date on what is happening.    Here is the list of those going so you can pray for us by name.  (Sorry last name first)
Van Orsouw Ashley
DeLaBruere Stephanie
Delabruere Samantha
Maureen Isbister
Cardinale Christie
Bugaj Janine
Briana Bowdish
Curran Brittany
Rufo John
Rufo Gina
Mazo Catalina
Cuellar Alex
Edmund Stanley   
Brown        Fr. Ted

Keep Checking!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

2017 Trip is doing it's prep work!

The second group sponsored by the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette is in the final month of preparation to head to La Gloria, BC, Mexico to build houses for those in need of human, dignified housing.

From August 12-19, fifteen people will be digging, mixing cement, and laying brick under the bright Mexican sun.  We go to bring the Good News of Christ, which is that in God's eyes everyone is valued and has dignity.

Although its not our group, this is what a typical week looks like!

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