Today we passed buckets and buckets and buckets (and buckets) of cement from the mixer, over the stairs 30 feet away, up the stairs, and into the foundation. It seemed unending. The group had two choices: they could get grumpy or get crazy. Fortunately we got crazy, and there was a lot of laughter and chaos while the work got done. At the end, we saw that we had accomplished something in the three days we had been working.
The cement we had poured had to dry at least a week, so today was our last day of work on Lupita's house. We said a fond fairwell, and Lupita invited us all to come back next year to see her completed home. She told us God was with us and that if we were not thanked in this life, we would certainly recieve our blessings in heaven.
Over the last five years the U.S. government has spent billions of dollars to keep Mexicans from crossing the border at Tijuana. But Mexicans keep coming, from all over Mexico. They spend their money on guides who lead them through the mountains where many of them freeze to death. After we left Lupita's, we went to the beach where the border runs into the ocean and a huge sign has been put up covered with the names of people who have died in the last four years in the attempt to enter into the U.S.--about 400 of them. Eduardo spoke frankly about his lack of comprehension of why the U.S. would spend so much to keep his people away.
Later, Brian said he was profoundly affected by the amount of money spent on securing the border, versus the small sums spent on improving lives in Tijuana so people wouldn't want to cross.
Felipe warned us that we can be seen as patronizing, that it can seem as if we have come down here to save the day for the natives.
Susan suggested during reflection that the impulse to help is good and natural. It doesn't mean you are patronizing people. Working here has been one of the best things she has done in a long time. Erin, on the other hand, found it incredibly frustrating. There are so many obstacles to creating real change.
What's important is getting to know the struggles and the challenges of life in Tijuana. We will take that with us in our lives and let it influence the choices we make in our lives.
Stay tuned. Tomorrow we go to San Diego to look from another angle. Changing the picture once again.