We got to the Posada, the house where we're staying, safe last night after getting lost twice. There was a huge amount of traffic entering Tijuana, probably for the North American drink fest that takes place every Friday night on the Mexican side of the border on Calle Revolucion. By the time we crossed the border, it was dark, and road signs are not one of Mexico's strong points. We were glad to finally roll (and bump) into the parking lot.

But we are so happy to be here! Today was sunny and warm and we were up by 8:00am, ready to work. We met two of the Esperanza work team: Eduardo, the soccer playing, jokester who is the liaison for the volunteer groups, is very funny and keeps me on my toes. Sergio is responsible for the actual construction of the houses.

The work site is about 10 miles from the Posada, over some incredibly jagged terrain. We came over a crest of a hill and saw a spectacular vision of Tijuana, the border, and San Diego, where I can actually see my parents' apartment building. All this time I'd been looking out my parents window at the twinkling lights in Tijuana thinking this was where the rich folks would live but that is not the case.

We will be working on a house for Lupita and her family. Lupita works in one of the health clinics that Esperanza runs. She lives in a small hut with her husband, and three children. When it rains, the hut is unlivable and vulnerable to mudslides and they have to go to her mother's house. She welcomed us to her new home and told us it was our home as well.

Eduardo and Sergio don't take it easy on the volunteers. Five of us were quickly put to work digging the foundation. The other four were shown how to construct rebar for the future ceiling. The group worked non-stop for three hours, side by side with Lupita's husband, Luis, and son Roberto. Lupita served a delicious and abundant lunch and after a few minutes of lounging it was back to house building.

Some of the best stuff happened after dinner, when we gathered for reflection. There were some stiff muscles, but the student said they enjoy the work, that it didn't feel patronizing toward the family. It was just building a house together.

We went around the group sharing the sacred objects and writing I'd asked the student to bring. Susan read from Isabelle Allende's autobiography about losing her daughter, which sparked strong emotions from the group. People expressed their intense love for some of the living-specifically love for their mothers-coupled with despair from losing loved ones. One woman told about losing her spiritual sister and mentor, how she felt cut adrift after her death, with no one who understood her.

It was impressive to see people be so emotionally available and honest. I was honored to be in the room. My response to love and loss is that hopefully we can learn to be as present as we can to the people we love in this moment. Living life to the fullest. Treating every loved one as though they were leaving on a long voyage the next day and it was uncertain when you would see them again. Living life with an intensity that is also gentle and kind.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, when we'll be working with a volunteer group from Washington State. But right now I am tired and happy.

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