I might invest it into proper plumbing for all of Tijuana’s poor and their houses.
Note: I started writing this right after I came back from Tijuana, and I’m not changing it to reflect the increase in time since then
What a week.
We arrived safe and soundly at Casa Manresa Catholic Retreat Center, and it was a very nice facility. As you may see from the picture on the link, we had an amazing view of the city of Playas, the ocean, and though you wouldn’t be able to tell if you just looked at the picture, the bare land to the right near the top is the US, and San Diego is right there (though the picture also shows a parking lot, which is actually all unpaved gravel at the moment, as they’re still in the process of finishing the grounds, so that part is a projected picture). We watched the Fourth of July fireworks from the edge of the cliff cause we could see San Diego.
I don’t have any pictures right now, they’re currently being developed and the teens are putting them into a slide show. I’ll see if I can link that up eventually so that you all can see it too. However, I will divulge some stories, if you’re interested in listening to them.
Our assigned place to work for the week was with the Food Bank. It serves 60 communities, and each community serves about 60 families. Just last week, they moved into a new facility that much better serves their needs. Their move started with them asking that each community donate one cemente brick toward their new facility. As easy as that might seem to us, these people have nothing in which to really gather the material (cemente, water, mold, etc), and so this process, for all the communities to actually make their block to donate toward the new place, took approximately 4 years.
Day one: Rotten Tomatoes
Mexico exports a lot of tomatoes, but one of the drawbacks to exporting them is that they need to ship them while they are green so that they can be ripe, and not overly so, by the time the country they are shipped to actually put them out in the markets. Not all the tomatoes harvested in Mexico are green when they are picked. There are a large number of red ones which are unsuitable for exporting. They therefore have to be sold in Mexico. The government only sells them in a certain quantity, and this certain quantity is extremely large. The tomatoes were on crates: 4 boxes of tomatoes could sit on a crate to create one level. The boxes were stacked about 10 feet high. There were at least 20 of these crates in the room, and except for perhaps 7 of them or so, they needed to be sorted good from bad. I must admit, the stench was something else. And the sheer size of all that had to be done was really quite overwhelming. But, we started. And we kept going. And the smell got to a couple of our teens and they had to take a break. We went pretty hard with the tomatoes, which in many ways was unfortunate, as we didn’t stop to go and chat with the other workers.
I’m not sure how long those 10 foot crates of tomatoes had been in this room, but I’ll tell you, there was no air conditioning, and the heat outside was hovering around 27-30-ish. There is only so long a tomatoe will keep in heat, even in a dark room. As a result, the cardboard boxes that the tomatoes were in would start to get soggy from decomposing. The state of some of the tomatoes was, without reason, completely woebegone. Every box had moulded tomatoes, some so moulded that it was hard to separate them from the tomatoe beside them (literally, the mould had merged the two). Others you prodded before picking them up to make sure they wouldn’t burst apart into decomposed tomatoeyness in your fingers as you picked them up. And then some had maggots growing over them. I myself picked up a tomatoe that looked in decent shape, but felt somethings wriggling underneath the skin of the tomatoes. Needless to say, I dropped it pretty quickly and was thoroughly grossed out. Ew. Yuck. I hate maggots.
So, as you can imagine, the tomatoes weren’t in a great state, and neither were their cardboard counterparts. This came to a crashing realisation when one stack of carboard boxes on a crate suddenly toppled over: the cardboard on the bottom had become so besotten with tomatoe rotten juice that it couldn’t hold up against the weight of the other tomatoes on top. This became, in my eyes, the most rotten, disgusting pile of disgust. It was so gross! There was mingled soggy cardboard with some whole, no problem tomatoes, some somewhat rotten tomatoes, and then those tomatoes that either had a really hard time sticking together or were openly juicing for everyone to see. All with moulded tomatoe parts. We had to pick through and retreive some of the good ones, but it was such an ominous task, and with the next crate looking like it would fall over at nearly any hour, we were only able to do so much before we decided to just throw the rest away. Throw the rest away. Pffft. Throw it? With what? We had no tools. No gloves. We ripped off pieces of cardboard boxes that weren’t too soggy and shoveled the tomatoes into it, and threw them away. It was brutal work.
And then we were done for the day. By the time we finished we had nearly a crate 10 feet high of good tomatoes, so we accomplished a lot. Though it didn’t look like much (the fruits of our labour looked small), it was a lot of hard work.
Now, Tijuana is full of hills, and Banati (the Food Bank) is on the lower side of one of them, and across the way is another hill. We noticed as we were driving that there was a monestary-looking type place on the lower half of the next hill, and I was quite curious. So I made everyone else curious and we decided that we wanted to go on an adventure. Indeed, we even convinced the other group who was working with us (a parish from up in the San Francisco region) to come with us. So we started out, not knowing the pathway there, but seeing our destined goal. Except for the main thoroughfares, the streets in Tijuana are not paved. In fact, they’re barely kept up roads. I’d hazard that they’re not kept up at all. They have potholes half the size of our 15-seater van, strewen with garbage, dogs, and people walking about. And they are, by no means, even ground. So we turned down one of the streets headed towards our goal.
We eventually got there, a massive structure of grey concrete located on this hillside. It was two levels, and on a bottom third level was an enclosed footy field. On the bottom half of the church structure was an open room (as in, no doors, but fenced in) where it looked like they were holding mass temporarily, as it was set up as a church. So we set off to see the top half. No kidding, this thing looked like some sort of cathedral, and it was not finished yet (hence the church downstairs). Enormous. Giant. Ginormous. Gargantuous. This thing was huge, complete with a bell tower being built. We didn’t explore much in it, as we were a little concerned for safety (being an open working site). So we turned back, got some pictures, and made a move back to the vans. Now, as I mentioned, there was an enclosed footy field on the church property beside the church on a lower setting. There were about 4 boys in there playing footy. We decided to ask to see if we could play with them, and they obliged. With both of us groups, there were 16 of us (including us leaders). About 8-10 of all of us joined in playing with them. I hung out in defence for my side, mostly because the shadow of the bell tower was on our defensive side, and it was bloody hot outside. It was fun. These kids are really good, though they were challenged almost evenly with some of our kids. We even got a crowd of other kids from the neighbourhood watching the game. It was fun. We played with them for about a half hour or so, then headed out for supper back at the Casa.
That evening was a session on the principles of social justice that our church teaches, and we talked about how we see them in our worksites. It was good.
And that was Day 1.
So, sorry it took so long to get a post up. I got back from Mexico, had less than a week here (and had a lot of work to do at the office), then went off to Prince George. I got back from that, and then my power adapter refused to transmit electricity to my computer on Thursday. So I ordered another one from Dell. Or at least, I thought I did. Turns out I didn’t, and I have no idea how that happened. So I ordered another one. And it actually came. That’s my story.
Hope the longer post makes up for that. I’ll continue with days 3-5 in the near future, post some pictures (I should be getting the pictures this weekend, hopefully), then move on to my PG visit. Hope you’re all doing well! And here is another of those videos I was posting, enjoy! Footy falling practice