Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A New Neighborhood

 We joined South Wood United Church in Calgary (18 adults and teens) for a 4 day build of a boy's dorm at one of the Project Help Mexico Lunch Rooms turned foster home. The slab was poured and we had the walls up in the first half hour.
 At the end of the day the roof and the walls were on and we were tired. Dinner was at Renee's Taco Stand. Carlton takes all his groups there, so they even made him act as waiter.
 Friday some of us were chosen to do a second build that had funding and materials, but no volunteers. It was just like day one, but much faster.
 The roof was up before lunch. We even dry walled it and painted the outside. This house was completed in one day. There was a Good Friday procession on the streets below with people taking turns carrying the cross. It was still bright and celebratory.
 It's donated paint, don't blame us. Everything there was loud: the music, the colours, the tastes. It was invigorating and exhausting.
 After building all day, we took bags of rice, beans and soup to the highest homes on the terraces where Pastor Juan has a community centre. There were lots of dogs on roofs (they go, "roof, roof") and small children behind fences. There are no streets this far up. At one time, these families lived in the middle of Tijuana. One day a bulldozer came and destroyed their homes. 300 families were dropped off on the eastern outskirts. Carlton was there, 30 years ago, and started Project Help Mexico to build houses for those who have nothing.
 I enjoyed teaching origami (with my very limited Spanish) and getting the kids to decorate crosses for Easter. It was a bit hard not hiding eggs for my own kids in our burgeoning garden, but I brought little chenille chicks that kept popping up all day. What does a Mexican chicken say? "Kiky, riky".
 Here are the bunk beds our own men made and some of the blankets I helped find in the market. Everything is stretched to the limit. There is no extra food, clothing, shelter. They learn to share and look after one another. It is a joy to see the children looking after one another. Two little girls were my special friends. They liked my clapping games and drawing in the dirt. They laughed when I said, "no entiendo", and helped me learn new words.
 We had 2 pinatas! There is a song they sing while the blindfolded one swings with a broom handle. It was all very organized chaos, like driving on dirt roads and picking up a game of soccer.
On our last day, after handing over the keys and saying a blessing, we went to Rosarita, a resort area and tried to feel normal. It was an amazing sea of humanity enjoying the Easter holiday and the warm beach air. I found it difficult to be away from the team, but D and I poked around in the market, walked on the beach and joined them for a buffet dinner (same food, different setting).
You know when you say you'll keep in touch, but don't? It hasn't been like that. We're sharing photos and facebook updates. D and I hope to return to Terrases de Valle in a year or two with the same team. I have ideas for crafts and games, gifts for the wonderful women who look after the foster children (and cook for us) and a new knitting scheme for the new year.
When we are done with the scarves for our local Salvation Army Christmas Eve dinner, I want to organize knitting each of the 16 children a sweater. I know what this one's favourite colour is, and what his favourite team is. It gets surprisingly cold in the evenings now, the winter would be very chilly.
I was delighted to be able to give a Travelling Woman shawl to our lovely finance person who put it on right away and made all the right noises of approval.
We received as many blessings as we bestowed. We met some of our Mexican neighbours, and we forged a new and enjoyable group of friends.

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