Monday, March 19, 2012

Service Immersion Day 3: "The weed must be getting to us"

We awoke this morning excited about finally getting the chance to serve. We all got ready and met to eat breakfast. Marie Elena had prepared quesadillas for us along with cereal. Many drank more of the hibiscus water from the night before. Everyone was pretty silent. Most likely due to exhaustion. After we all cleaned dishes we prepared our lunches. Marie Elena had put out all the fixings. Let me tell you,  we ate so well this week. We had a traditional Mexican sandwich called tortas. The bread is toasted and the ingredients included ham, cheese, avocado, lettuce and sprouts. Once we fixed our sandwiches we loaded it into a pre-made brown paper sack that included two cutie tangerines and trail mix.

Now that we were physically prepared for the day, we went to the chapel to get an introduction to Via from Juan Carlos. We learned more about the role that San Diego plays in the issue of immigration. We also got a chance to learn more about Marie Elena and the promotora program that she is part of.

We then headed east towards the “desert” where the unaccompanied minor shelter resides (there are no pictures from our experience, expect for our garden work due to the rules of the shelter). I put desert in quotation marks because it was absolutely beautiful and lush and full of rolling hills, not what most people think of when they think desert. We arrived at the shelter, previously learning that the full address is never disclosed (for many reasons we later learned). We turned left in the driveway and drove up to a large gated fence with security cameras and a call button to announce your arrival. I think most of the group was surprised at this first impression of where we would be working for the day.

We pilled out of the "mom van" and met our host who gave us a tour of the facility that included 15 plus chickens, two rabbits and supposedly two baby rabbits (we didn’t get a chance to see them though). After seeing the intake room, the boys rooms (2 to a room) and the new back deck, we got to work cleaning out the garden area that was full of weeds about 3 feet tall. Surrounding the garden area were full, beautiful orange trees. I would guess that there were about 10-15 of them loaded down with oranges ready to pick.

Before picture of the garden area

Another look at the area

Delicious oranges!
Our group got to work on what, at the time, seemed like a never ending task pulling weeds to clean out the area. The goal was to clean out the area to plant a new garden as well as to start a composting pile. We worked feverishly in the hot sun. Some of the grass was easy but there were also larger weeds that took two, three, even four of us at a time pulling on them to get them out of the ground. I was so incredibly proud of our group. They worked together so well, helping each other when someone didn’t have quite enough strength to pull a weed out of the ground. At all times, even after becoming sweaty and dirty, they were laughing and having a great time. We all worked so well together and ended up clearing most of the area. There were a few falls, a few funny educational moments about lady bugs and of course a lot of sweat that we put in to making the location ready for planting. 

It's only begun!

About half-way through

Alicia & Maggie showing some teamwork

The after shot (look at all of the orange trees)

Another after shot

As we made our way to eat lunch a few of us decided to pick a fresh orange from the tree to eat during lunch. We all decided to sit in the shade for lunch and our host brought out freshly squeezed orangeade – you guessed it, orange lemonade. It was absolutely delicious and refreshing! I think if I lived there I would become an orange, or at least become very creative in different things you can make with oranges. Most of lunch, like most of all of our meals so far, was very quite. There was one point though that Ashley and I could not contain our laughter. I forgot to mention that during the garden cleaning, I was helping Maggie pull a tough weed out and we both feel back onto our butts as it came out of the ground. There were these sticky, prickly leaves that would stick to you and I fell right into a pile of it (even now, I embarrassingly admit that I might still have some of the stickers embedded in not so nice places). At lunch I said something about my fall and Ashley and I couldn’t contain our laughter. For me it was one of those moments where I hadn’t laughed in a long time and she got me started and I couldn’t stand it. Then Stephanie said the funniest thing regarding why we were laughing so hard. She said “the weed must be getting to us”. The group roared in laughter (especially since medicinal marijuana is legal in Colorado). She of course meant the “weeds” were getting to us. After we all settled down and Ashley tried to feed one of the geese a flaming hot cheeto (a must-have for many of the students on the trip), we prepared for our time with the boys. 

J.C. explained that we would first be doing a few ice breakers to get to know each other. These consisted of us introducing ourselves and where we were from. 12 of the 13 boys only spoke Spanish and only 1 of our group spoke Spanish. We learned that most of the boys were from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.The next game we played was a take on paper, rock, scissors but instead it was bear, salmon and mosquito. We broke up into two groups and had to decide as a group what we were going to be to beat the other group. Our group was at a disadvantage that made it very hard to communicate; no one in our group could speak to each other in the same language (the other group had David, the boy who spoke English and Angel, our Regis student who speaks Spanish). It was so interesting and challenging (even with such a small task) to communicate and make sure that everyone understood what we were doing. Even though there were many mess-ups by both teams, everyone seemed to have a blast.

After these games, we broke up into 2 different groups to spend 30 minutes working before the main event, soccer. One group went out to the orange trees to pick oranges and my group went to the clean the labyrinth. The labyrinth had become overgrown, similar to the garden area. The path was made out of rocks that boys who had been in and out of the shelter painted with the flag of the country they were from. It was very pretty and very representative of the good work that this organization is doing.  It’s amazing what you can do in a short amount of time with a large group of people all working hard and together, we cleaned out the whole thing and I think the group that picked oranges must have picked a couple hundred. 
Then we played soccer, the boy’s favorite. We broke up into 3 teams. All the boys were very good. A few of our students were great as well (I am not including myself in this category since I think I have played soccer three times in my entire life). It was so fun to just play and get to know the boys and show them that we cared and wanted to get to know them (even if we couldn’t communicate verbally with them) and enjoy an activity that they all loved. 

We then gathered our things and headed back to our “home” as we call it. We got back, showered and then got ready for dinner. As we waited for  Marie Elena to finish preparing out wonderfully delicious dinner, we all chatted about the day. Marie Elena said “listas”,which I have learned is “are you ready?”, and we filled our plates with Mexican tacos made with soy. I think all of swore that it was real meat. I think we had about a 20 minute conversation trying to figure out how this "meat" was actually not made of meat. I am still a little confused! She also made fresh rice milk. We have been so lucky to be able to be immersed in many different sides of the culture including the food. Over dinner we discussed our highs and lows of the day. We got to know each other better and even were able to get to know Marie Elena better with the wonderful help of Angel.  I don’t know what we would have done without him on this trip!

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