It’s been awhile and today I want to catch you up on what’s been going on in Tijuana and at La Casa de Paso. As always, it’s mixed, and as always, while Javier and I fully acknowledge how screwed up everything is for asylum seekers languishing in Tijuana and for so many of them after they cross, we choose to focus on every positive, miraculous, beautiful thing that happens each day.
To back up a few weeks, I got back to Tijuana two days after Christmas to be greeted with no electricity. NOT FUN. Luckily we were going away for a week’s vacation with friends a few days later, so we asked the landlord to put everything on hold until we got back. Three weeks and three electricians later we have light again. And a working refrigerator and stove. And best of all, now we can have families staying here again.
The past few weeks at El Chaparral have been cold in the mornings and people show up hoping their numbers will be called. So many people are sick—the shelters are cold and damp—and many women and children do not have warm enough clothes. Javier has made many trips back and forth to the house the last few days for packets of wipes with aloe to give away to moms for little noses that are red and sore, and also to get jackets and hats and warm pants for kids and moms. It’s amazing. I don’t feel I am a good judge of sizes, but he always comes back with stuff that fits perfectly and often even matches what they have on! We don’t have many clothes to give away because we don’t have room to store them, but so far we magically seem to have exactly what’s needed on a given day. I love that.
Meanwhile, kids are coloring their hearts out at El Chaparral. La Galeria looks especially beautiful right now, and it’s always a plus when their artwork doesn’t get ripped down by a cleaning crew sometime during the night. I also have assistants now…the sweetest girls and a couple boys who know just how to help. I made some tiny 8-page books from some heavy white paper for kids to make their own stories. I need more time to really get it going, but a couple of the older kids have liked starting them and took theirs with them overnight.
One woman made tamales for us yesterday. Today one mom with two girls explained that her girls wanted to give me a bracelet and earrings “to remember them by” since they were crossing yesterday. Two moms and kids brought by a sack of toys and crayons to the house, explaining that they didn’t have room to take them when they crossed and thought other kids would enjoy them. The thoughtfulness and generosity of these people is something I will never ever forget.
Yesterday we brought home two women from Cuba who traveled for eleven months through nine countries to get here. The things that happened to them in the process would make a good movie script, except their story was frankly just another in a long, long list of horrific stories we hear every day. They said they wanted to come back and cook a Cuban dinner for us. Today we saw them at El Chaparral where they happened to meet a young couple also from Cuba! All four of them had their numbers called this morning but were designated to leave in the afternoon, so the four of them spent the morning with us at La Casa. We cooked a big breakfast together and talked. The young woman told me she found out just this morning that she is pregnant! (I wish she’d taken a picture of the test result as documentation.) She and her husband are so happy! Sara: I gave her one of the beautiful child quilts you made as a present to take with her. We all promised to keep in touch. I also gave them Jill’s phone number and coincidentally she stopped by today, so they got to meet her! I think all will ultimately be well with them, although they will probably have to endure a couple miserable nights in the hielera. Meanwhile, a big pot of something that smells heavenly is waiting for us for dinner. Javier just left for El Chaparral to bring back one family for the night. We have lots of food to share!
Thank you to everyone who has donated the past couple months. I think I wrote a thank you to everyone, but if I missed you, please forgive me! And special thanks to Bronwyn Baz and all the Portland-area musicians who put on a truly amazing SRO show last Saturday night as a benefit for La Casa de Paso called “Songs of Home.” The finale was a sing-a-long of “Over the Rainbow.” Not a dry eye in the house from what I heard. I loved seeing the video clips and wish I could have been there.
I watched several families dear to me cross yesterday and today. Their kids ran over to give me one last hug as the parents silently crossed themselves and I visualized a safe landing for them to the house of their relative or sponsor. I heard today that another caravan from Honduras is on its way. And in more news, the U.S. Border Patrol saw fit to bulldoze five days ago the Friendship Garden that united two countries. It was in an area at the beach that used to be open on weekends for families to meet and touch little fingers through the thick wire mesh installed on the U.S. side. It’s where the Border Church service takes place each Sunday on both sides of the wall in Spanish and English. Last Sunday a special service was held on the Mexican side in remembrance of the garden.
In terms of needs, the main needs we have right now are more coloring books—ones that take a little time to complete—otherwise they are finished in a minute! It’s a BIG plus if they have perforated pages that make them easy to tear out. Kids like ones of animals of all kinds, princesses, and cars/machines, and they almost all avoid books with drawings that depict violence, even with movie/action characters. It isn’t hard to figure out why. We could also use two sets of double bed flannel sheets, maybe six more large towels and washcloths (not white), and one or two safe and efficient space heaters. La Casa has no heat and it’s COLD at night!
Thank you thank you. Yes, we are here, but we could not do any of this without you. We are thankful for each and every one of you every day.