Thoughts after Tijuana
De Colores was fantastic. There was an exceptional group of 38 people who decided to give a weekend up and head down to Tijuana to experience a true sense of community. Friday night we stayed at Adolfo's house in Chula Vista, just a short drive to the border. (Adolfo is a unbelievable humble, genuine man who works at Chris North's factory in Tijuana. Chris North is an LMU grad who started De Colores service trips with his wife something like 20 years ago!) After the delicious dinner feast made by Adolfo's wife Eva, we played the Name Game, a De Colores tradition designed to get everyone to know each other. Adolfo's youngest son Carlos hung out with all of us, and had such maturity and clarity for a 17 year-old. Well, maybe more clarity than maturity :)
Early Saturday morning (after an awesome breakfast of chorizo, eggs and beans) we headed down past the border and into the community of El Florido, where we began our separate work projects. I spent the morning shoveling and mixing concrete to make a patio for the house of a woman named Ceci and her family. One of the most vibrant memories that stands out from this weekend was after we finished the project, 12 of us piled in the back of Adolfo's pickup (I swear I was being safe, Dad) with plates of steaming hot sweet empanadas on our laps! Ceci has two children, an 18 year-old son named Abraham who is mentally disabled and just the sweetest boy, and a younger daughter who is getting perfect scores in school! Good for her!
Later that afternoon, the community made us an amazing lunch (OK, I'm going to be talking about food a lot...De Colores is often called "De Caloric" with the regulars...there is no shortage of food during the weekend!) and a cake baked especially for Father's Day. After that, Adolfo and the community members got to share some memories about Brendan, who was on his last DC trip. There was kind of a quiet hush over the group the whole weekend, knowing that DC would go on, but probably never be the same.
From El Florido, we went on to get some awesome ice cream at a crazy place with millions of flavors...like tequila and tuna. Then it was on to Casa del Migrante, a shelter for men who had been recently deported. We had dinner (yup, another meal) with the men, and I had a really powerful experience with a man named Rudy who had been deported 4 days earlier. His wife and twin four year-old daughters were still in the US and he planned on trying to go back over the border in the next few days. After talking about his "babies" for awhile, he just broke down and had to leave the table. I felt like my heart had gotten ripped out of my chest. At that moment I felt like I had to do something. I got up and left the table and headed over to find out about volunteering at Casa. I felt immediately at home when I walked in there, and I could definitely see myself spending some time there. I'm thinking next summer, or even a whole year starting next summer. I know that's a big thing to say, and that the romantic feelings of helping people in a foreign country will most likely die away as I continue my 9-5 workdays in LA. But I want people to challenge me to keep considering a year of service. I'm wearing a bracelet from Tijuana daily to remind me.
After Casa, we headed over to Chris North's factory for a game of Futbol Rapido. There was a gorgeous sunset and a couple games before we headed over to the community center in Tecolote to hang out with the community for a bit before we went out to a Taco Stand for some late night grub.
The next morning, we got up and had some breakfast (thanks to the women of Tecolote) and headed off for the beach for a reflection at the border fence. Unfortunately, Tijuana police were being crazy for no good reason and had blocked off all the streets by the beach. So we had to skip out on the reflection, but the drive to the border gave us all a good look at both the old and new border fences...symbols of...God knows what. Life, death, destiny, struggle, Hope.
I am writing this as I am polishing off a jar of Nutella (I reached the bottom faster than expected) while watching the Lakers lose in a pitiful Game 6 loss, wondering how I could deal living abroad for a year without luxuries like cable, high-speed internet, Nutella and copious amounts of free time. I honestly don't know. My dad called it "running away" today in a phone conversation. I did just start a new job, one that is perfect for me, but I am already having escapist thoughts. Perhaps it is a bit of running away. I have no idea what the next year holds for me. Maybe Mexico, maybe LA, maybe Seattle. I'm just going to try to live it up while I can and not have expectations either way :)