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Week 2 at the Border

What an eye-opening, heart-wrenching, exhausting, beautiful week. At El Chaparral this morning there were close to twenty kids coloring and all of them were handing me their finished drawings to put on the fence. The music, the crayons, the sandwiches and hot beverages…it all breaks down barriers and for a brief time softens some of the unimaginable stress these children and their parents have lived with.



We met a family of five who was just four numbers away and so disappointed. We invited them to come back to the house for the night. Shortly after that Javier met a woman with her 7-year-old son who had just arrived yesterday from Honduras. She and her son had been walking for seven months. And now she learned she had to take a number and wait in Tijuana for four months. She was in tears and had no idea what to do. She needed papers for her son. We brought her back to the house as well. One of the moms and I proceeded to make pancakes with fruit on top for nine people!


Soon all four of the kids were playing together. Javier and the woman went off to get her son’s papers (long story), the other couple went to the store, and I stayed with the kids for the next few hours. Can you imagine how much trust that took for those parents and children to be separated? I was wondering how the kids would do alone with me. It was amazing!! They were all calm and happy. The 7-year-old guy was a little sad at one point until we started playing Candyland and told him we REALLY REALLY needed a fourth person to play. He did and was all smiles after that. We painted. We drew. We read. We played card games. We played with blocks. The boys made a long bumpy road for their cars out of a strip of tiny orange bubble wrap! One little girl put on her crown and admired herself in the mirror. We played board games. The kids did cartwheels. We taught each other Spanish and English words. We laughed a lot.


IT WAS SO MUCH FUN…AND SO EXHAUSTING!!!! It was like being back in a classroom after a loooong absence! But, I would not have traded this day for anything.



Javier and the woman finally returned about four hours later. They had to take an Uber an hour and a half outside of Tijuana to get what they needed, but they did it. She was so relieved.


Javier and I left by ourselves for an hour in the afternoon to go to Costco. Yes, there is a Costco in Tijuana. J We happily sat outside and munched on our hot dogs. After we got home I decided to take a short nap. The woman and her son were sleeping in one of the upstairs bedrooms. At some point I heard loud crying and screaming. It was the 7-year-old who had had a terrifying dream. And then he didn’t want to leave the house to go back to where they are staying. He chose a little car to take with him. We said he could bring it back the next time and choose another toy, kind of a personal lending library. J


So now Javier is busy fixing a pew that he found somewhere in pieces and is making better than new. The family of five went to the park and are now relaxing downstairs. I’m sitting in bed writing this and wishing it was later than 7:00 so I could legitimately go to bed! Maybe at 7:30?! And that, my friends, is one day. Tomorrow, if the family crosses, we will clean up the house, do laundry, and maybe take an afternoon to go to the park and work out (Javier’s idea of a restful activity), but one that is really fun. But then, who knows? Maybe another family will come tomorrow, or our current family will stay. We will know soon.


[The next day]

The family of five crossed. Oh, I hope they will be fine and make it to Long Beach. I gave them phone numbers (mine and Jill’s) in case they have any problems.


The woman and her boy came back for the day and she helped clean. She needs a job so we think she will be perfect to help us clean up after each family leaves, which we will pay her to do. She can bring her son and he can play, which he will like. She has some college and was working toward a degree in technology. She and I have fun conversing in Spanish and in English.


So many things are not working quite right in this house, so we spent the better part of this today traversing the streets of Tijuana back and forth getting needed parts for something. These are the things that make me tired!


Saturday

This is what we did today. Got up at 4:30. Stretched, meditated, and left for El Chaparral at 6:30. Handed out 50 ham and cheese sandwiches we made the night before and chocolate milk for the kids. A lot of people showed up today--maybe 200. We spread out drawing paper, coloring book pages, and crayons, and once again kids were eager to draw. Our art gallery on the fence was spectacular! Many kids did two and three drawings to display, and would bring their parents over to show them. 😊


We got home about 10, cleaned up from the seven people who stayed with us (a family of five and a mom and her son) and started to make breakfast when we realized we had no gas left. Javier called the gas company and they said they'd deliver some right away, and they did! Meanwhile, we also needed to refill our huge 5-gallon water jug, so Javier walked a few blocks to refill it.


After breakfast we wanted some exercise so we walked to the church we love, then through the flea market, where we found a couple things we needed for the house, to our favorite fruit stand, the grocery store, and then home. Slightly over 4 miles.


Then we fixed our antenna so we get a lot of English-speaking channels (including PBS), finished rebuilding an amazing church pew that Javier found in pieces and carted home, redid the washing machine drain hose so it works perfectly, rigged up a clothesline on the roof, did a load of laundry and hung it all outside, cooked dinner, cleaned up, and made 50 sandwiches for tomorrow.