Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'll be draggin' in church tomorrow if I write this... but I'll be distracted if I don't. So here it goes!

There is so much more to tell you about the work in Mexico.

We spent the days in Rio Bravo and Progresso, worked hard and headed home to our clean rooms and cool showers. (Didn't take a hot shower all week!) We went out for fast food and woke up to a fantastic continental breakfast. Home made belgian waffles, or french toast, or muffins or cereal, or bagels, fruit, hardboiled eggs, yogurt... coffee, juice, milk. It was a feast! My morning plate was usually french toast, on which I sprinkled cinnamon and poured maple syrup and butter, yogurt, a glass of milk and a banana to go. It would be a hard days' work before lunch.

We loaded up the buses at 7:00am and headed for the border. It was already muggy... I just had to tell myself that this was the cool time of day. We'd generally sing on the way to the clinics, or laughed and shared antics and stories.

Once we arrived, the clinics were just setting up. I'd find work to do... tidy here, take a grandmother to the eye clinic there. Mostly just trying to find my spot. I usually found it with the children. Our group was in charge of the VBS... though I wasn't teaching. Two local women did their best to wrangle the kids into one spot, as we sat by cutting the papers for them and passing out crayons. We knew the teaching part of VBS was over when she packed up her box and left. That's usually about the time chaos would ensue. And... shortly before lunch. The preacher's wife would drag out a few boxes of things that would keep the kids amused. Bubbles, crayons, candy, and on the final day, hula hoops and jumpropes. Derek joined me on the last day to play with the kids. He managed to snag an interpreter and explained the rules to the games we would play when we worked at the daycare: "Bulldog" and "Mosquito Net". Chasing games. Kids anywhere love 'em! He was an instant hit! He'd count "Uno!"..."Dos!"..."Tres!" and the kids would start screaming and running. Parents started to come by just to watch. It really was amazing to see our little ones mixed in with the locals and realize that chase was a universal language!

I realized that we had loads of candy that no one wanted to take home. Little packages of Chiclets and Tootsie Rolls. I began to pass them out to anyone who wanted them. My interpreter taught me the word for "sweets", which I've long since forgotten. The kids were thrilled. I was a little concerned when the kids would put the candy in their mouths, wrapper and all... until I realized... they unwrap the candy IN their mouths. I was a little alarmed, but a sweet mexican lady politely laughed... and reassured me in Spanish that the kids here do it all the time.

By the time all the candy was passed out (I think it took three rounds), I realized that the line over by the clothing station was still going strong...and there were kids there who were not allowed by their parents to come over to where the games were being played. I went back to the room of goodies and brought out balloons. I asked the interpreter for the word for "Balloon" and was suprised to hear it sounded very similar to ours. A word which, too... has long since been forgotten. The children loved them too. Many would come back and ask for one more ... for their "Armana?". I smiled and told them to bring their sister here and I would give her one. Only two or three sisters showed up. The kids were clever... but they saw I was ... um... cleverER!

Friday was a typical hot, busy day. Our lunches were difficult times. Families had been there since dawn to be first in line, and many of them didn't bring water or a lunch. So, when we were served ours, we were told we could share or not share... it was up to us. Usually a lady came by asking how many lunches would be in your group. I always doubled the number and passed out sandwiches... which were usually turned down two or three times before they were taken. Dunno what that was about. We all brought our own waters, and were much to thirsty to even think about drinking a soda. The chips were from Mexico... and each Dorito had enough seasonings on it for the whole bag! Most chips were left behind. It was enough to pickle the American tummy! After a hurried lunch, we'd head outside to see what was left of work.

Lunches were late, so work usually ended right after lunch. I was always anxious to get back on the bus and get home, and then at the same time reluctant to leave. I was worried there was just one more little one out there who didn't get a bubbles of her own, or a hungry little one who'd like my banana.

The last day I was there, I held what must have been a six month old baby most of the morning. One of the teens had him, and I watched for a while, wondering where the mama was. There was a stroller, but no diaper bag or bottle. He held a cracker which he promptly dropped and a toddler must have picked up. After a while he began to fuss, so I took him over. We cuddled and played and when I realized he was hungry I went to the lunch room.

The lunch room. It was the weirdest thing. We were in a school... the door had a sign posted "Do not come to us, your lunch will come to you." "Workers only, please."

I opened the door hesitantly... I wasn't a lunch worker, but I had a little fella who was hungry and no mama in sight.

The room was blasted with cold air and there must have been 20 white haired people in there making PBJ sandwiches! They all looked up at me at the same time. One lady came up to shoo me out. I couldn't believe that 20 people came all the way to Mexico to make sandwiches. It boggled my mind. Once I saw that I was being pushed out, I explained that I needed something for the baby to eat. They were quite helpful. Someone found a banana, someone else a peanutbutter lid, and a spoon, and a cup of very cold water.

I thanked them kindly and went back to the hot play yard where I sat the baby and me in a desk. I mashed the banana and fed it to the little guy whispering a prayer that he wasn't allergic to bananas or peanutbutter. He loved it. He took sips of the cold water like a pro... but seemed suprised at how cold it was.

He was satisfied with his lunch and refused anymore. I cuddled with him a bit longer... it must have already been two hours, but his mama hadn't returned. He was tired, so I started to rock him to sleep... I started to get real hot... baby heat, so I went into the beans and rice room (air conditioned) and that's when he started to cry. I realized the cold bothered him, so I went back outside and his little body went limp... he was in hot heaven! MY babies would have loved the air conditioned room... this little fella found it uncomfortable. So... we sat and we sweated together.

After another hour or so, the same young teen found me and asked if she could hold him. I let her. I went off for just a minute, but when I returned... the mama had picked him up. I never met her.

One afternoon, we all loaded up and were headed to a community where we were building a house and it was ready to be painted. Two vanloads of kids were there... must have been a total of 20 kids and 5 construction workers. As soon as I hopped out of the van I knew we were in trouble. It was HOT... not typically hot, but devistatingly HOT. The crew we were joining were already sitting in what little shade they could find and wiping themselves down... drinking, guzzling water. I walked up warily... beyond the rickety fence was a brand new house... probably 15 feet by 30 feet. Two rooms. Not two bedrooms.. two rooms. In the whole house. We were painting it an unimpressive brown. I asked where the outhouse was... and I was pointed to a skinny shack that was being propped by a few old 2X4's. I decided not to disturb it. A van rolled down the dusty road and stopped right next to me. Only the fourth grader in the car spoke english. They wanted to know if this was the only house we'd be working on, because their house needed help too. I asked our leader, and returned the message that we'd only be working on this one. I told them about the free clinic and VBS too. I turned back to the house knowing that these next few hours would be the hardest.

I looked and looked for a paintbrush, but found none... every one was in use. And, I was useless. I looked around to see what I could clean up... An old candle stick, the 1/4 full mayo jar in the hot sun, the dried out lime, the melting wax candle... these were all on the top of a beaten hutch just outside the door of the new home. I peered into the shack next to it, and realized I was looking right into their old home. The hutch I was leaning on was their kitchen. I decided to leave everything put. What might have been junk to me, might be a treasure to them. Besides.... there was no trash service out there. I moved my way to the front of the building and found the clever concoction they had built... a pump... a well... and a large tub with dirty water in it. I turned the corner and saw more painters... there would be no way I could help today. As I stood on the corner, the hot wind picked up and whipped around the corner cooling my drenched body off. I had found relief. I stood there for just a second realizing that I had found comfort in sweat and hot wind... when I was asked to move over for a painter. I was in the way. I went inside to see if there was any help I could offer there. But there was none. I returned to the back "yard" and found a dog snooping around. I turned the candle stick over to make a bowl and poured some cool water in it for him. He didn't want it. I felt completely useless. And... suddenly I felt the need for a bathroom. I spied the outhouse one more time and promptly decided against it. Who knows what creatures were in there? Could I hover? There was just no way. I decided to take the first van home. The kids were finishing up the house and looking like they weren't going to give up their brushes. I felt bad for about 2 minutes. Just long enough for the van's air conditioning to kick in.

The trip really taught me so much about my priviliges as an American, as a christian. I always went home to a cool room with the Disney channel playing in the background, as I wrestled with where to eat. Where to eat... not WHAT to eat. My mind often went back the kitchen on the hutch. It was still hot in Rio Bravo... and the floor is still hard.

I am blessed. Fat and happy. Are you?



Deb from Y.C. said...

It sounds like a successful mission.

From what you've posted so far, it sounds like not only were some people given a helping hand, but you learned a lot about your own spiritual walk and who you are in the process.

Hope your eyelids aren't too heavy today ;)

Trina Williams said...

Ahhh Jenny! I'm keeping "simply amazed and awww struck" about your so detailed writting! you should become a writter for a Spiritual magazine or do more with it and get paid do do it in the local or state newspaper! Jen, you got talent that I'v seen before but better! If you would just look into it, I bet you could stay home and make some money while your kido's sat there and did their home schooling! Would you do it for me at least! You are just a awesome writter! So like the lady said, where your eyes heavy the next day? how did your interview go? love ya much, write me sometime! check my blogger out at see some cool pictures I'v taken! love ya lots, I'm fixing to add a ton more pictures to it come this saturday! Trina