Sunday, April 6, 2008

Flight of the Rotarians!

We woke up at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning to leave for Mexico! We were all prepared and excited, flip flops and all! Then we walked outside and to our surprise it was snowing with a fresh new layer on the ground. I guess we forgot we were still in Utah. :)

While we were waiting in the Lee's parking lot for all of the Rotarians to arrive, a Logan City ambulance pulled up and our Rotary advisers stepped out of it. None of us knew until that moment when they brought it, that Logan City had donated an ambulance for us to take for the City of Agua Prieta, Mexico. This is the poorest city I have ever seen in my life. Jamaica is a close tie though.

The ambulance was stuff full with medical supplies. They told us that Agua Prieta hadn't had any way to get to accident scenes quick enough, and with the supplies they needed, to save lives before it was too late. Recently there they had a family with two little girls who got in a major car accident. When they called for help the hospital didn't have any way to come help them. By the time a car was sent and had got there to help, it was already too late for one of the little girls and the other had to be driven to the hospital before she could get any medical help. She was barely able to be saved, but will suffer from the accident for the rest of her life because of the delay in medical help. So we were all SOO excited when we knew that we could take that ambulance to them for their hospital to use!

We took off around 5:00 a.m. with our ambulance and 5 separate cars for us all to fit. Little did we know, we wouldn't be arriving to Mexico until 2 O'clock the next morning! We all drove together in a caravan, we had to stop almost every single hour. The ambulance was having a hard time making it with out the stops, it always needed to refill on gas. But we were all okay with it, taking the ambulance was for sure totally worth it! One of it's tires blew out and we were stopped at Big 'O' Tires for a few hours. We played Five Hundred while waiting for the tire to get fixed. It was all worth the wait! The stops especially didn't bother me during the first part of the trip. In fact I didn't even notice! I was asleep for about 6 hours straight, no waking, then when I woke I went right back to sleep a little while after for a few more hours. It was nice. :)

So when we finally got through the Mexican boarder I could hardly believe it! You know when people say, "It was like being in another country." I wanted to use that expression to describe this, but I guess it really was just that huh. :) It was like night and day. One minute we were in America, in a normal neighborhood, next we were in a shanty Mexican city. I knew there were cities like this in Mexico, but I guess I didn't really grasp the whole concept. It caught me off guard. And right there, so close to the U.S. boarder. I really couldn't believe it.

As we drove through the little city, I could hardly contain my excitement! It was so awesome! All the signs were in another language (of course), and everyone around us were a different race. I LOVED it!! The streets and buildings were small. There were bars on every window and graffiti on every other wall.

This is right outside the gate where we stayed. Even inside the house was pink.

The place we stayed in was really cool. It was like really fancy hostiles. It was a little building/house with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, 4 bathrooms, and 2 offices where the people who ran it worked. In every bedroom there were about 3 bunk beds; 6 or so beds in each room. We had to put some mattresses in the offices so we'd all fit. It was awesome! We had two next door neighbors. An old folks home, and a girls orphanage- complete with a playground and trampoline (that they let us play on whenever we wanted). There was a big wall/fence around us and a guard who was at the gate night and day so nobody who shouldn't be there could get in to us.

So in this little protected area were the elderly people, the little orphan girls, and the Americans. When we first got there, the first person to great us was your typical Mexican cowboy; hat, boots, and all! He was soo nice. EVERYONE there was so nice. He was so excited to see us. He didn't speak one word of English. But he welcomed us like it was our home. He insisted on helping us and taking in all our bags for us. They told us to lock our doors at night because sometimes Mexicans would climb the fence to get in because they new that's where the Americans stayed. I wasn't supposed to hear that though, they only wanted the boys to know. :)

The next morning we all woke up early and were ready to start our work building houses. We drove back through the little city and into a neighborhood. I think I was overly excited through all this. I would wave and yell "Hola!" to every person I saw, even while in the car hanging out the window. And everyone there was soo friendly and were ALWAYS so happy to wave and say hi back. The new neighborhood we entered into was made up of all dirt roads- actually of all dirt everything. This was where we would find our work site. I thought the first part of the city we drove through was ghetto and poor, but it was nothing compared to this part of the town. I guess I wasn't entirely prepared. I was amazed. Awestruck. Everything was dirt; the road, the yards, and where the houses were built. Only they weren't exactly houses, they were small shacks. Made of cinder blocks or thin wood board walls, cement floors, and tin roofs. And the majority of them didn't have electricity and their running water was from the hose outside. When we first got there is was like a show to all the neighborhood kids. They had never seen so many white people all in one place. Sitting up on the dirt hill they watched us all day working on the house.

Our job was to add on another room to one of the shacks, for their new kitchen. The women who lived there had a sister next door who's house we also worked on. There were Mexican workers who volunteered to come help us build on this house. There were four volunteers; one from the Mexican Rotary club who was a vet (Hernatio), one who's job was building houses (Marcileno-He was the one who told us all what we needed to do and how to do it), and then his son (Marce) and his dad (Bernie). Three generations. They were awesome!

Sometimes Mexicans don't have a very good reputation, but everyone in Mexico was so cool and nice and everyone I met was very respectful. I LOVE MEXICANS! But more than that I can't believe how much I love the family that we helped. They were the sweetest family I'd ever met. They had so little, but had so much love and were soo happy. It was a perfect family. I don't even know if perfect is a good enough word. Even though I couldn't speak English or Spanish with them, we could communicate. And I LOVED talking to them and getting to know them just a little. The mom was the sweetest little women. And her husband was a funny little guy. :) (emphasis on the littles) They had two sons and one daughter. Hector was one of their son's who was about 6 years old. He and his mom were born with a degenerative hip disorder. They could both hardly walk, and Hector had to use a walker. He was so cute! His older sister, Bikinia, who was probably 8, simply amazed me. I'd never seen a more beautiful little girl in my whole life! And I had to tell her everyday :) Eres bonita. She was ALWAYS smiling. She really was so sweet (and shy) and nice like her mom. While working on their house I was really cold from the wind (only I would get cold in Mexico.. well, and maybe Shea :) and I guess the mom noticed. She dug through their barrel of clothes in their front yard and got me out a sweater. It was on old fashion blue designed sweater that looked like it was from the 80's. She hobbled over to me and put her hand on my arm and held it out to me with a sweet smile on her face. My heart melted. I took the sweater trying to thank her soo much so that she could really understand. Even though the sleeves were a little too short and the torso may have been too baggy, to me it was the most comfortable sweater and I loved it and I was no longer cold. When it was time to go I tried to give her her sweater back but she didn't want to take it. She told me to keep it and wear it next time I got cold. This lady who had so little to give, didn't even hesitate to lose that sweater for someone else. I couldn't take it though, I just couldn't. I really hope it didn't offended her.

Simply perfect.

Hector and his mom. Both with degenerative hip disorder.

This is the little girl I was talking about, the one I fell in love with. Isn't she the prettiest girl you've ever seen? She was soo nice and sweet. Muito Bonita! She is with her youngest brother. (he wasn't in the family pic above- he was really really shy.)

It didn't take long for all the little neighborhood kids to warm up to us. Soon they were all over the place and running around with us and begging us not to go back to work from our lunch breaks. They LOVED playing with us! I had never seen kids so dirty before, but they were honestly the cutest kids ever! I never wanted to stop playing with them and trying to communicate with them. They would laugh when we tried to talk to them in the little Spanish that we didn't know. :) They thought it was the coolest thing playing with the white Americans. Sometimes they would come up to me and pinch my skin in their fingers and say "Blanca. Blanca." White. White. We were just so different to them and they loved it. One little boy gave me a kiss on the cheak when they were all 'attacking me' and trying to hug me. It made my day so much! Soon they're favorite thing was taking pictures. They would all surround us saying, "Photo photo!" Not only cus they wanted us to take a picture of them (they were awesome posers) but mostly because they wanted to be the one to take the pictures. Maybe I shouldn't have, but I gave them my phone (camera) and let them play with it and take pics all day. Well, when I gave it to them once they never stopped asking, and asking everyone. I was okay with it, but I don't think anyone else wanted the foreign little kids playing with their phones or cameras. Ooops! One word that was all the kid's favorite thing to say was "Aqui!" That means "here". They always said it for the camera and the pictures and when we were throwing the ball to each other they would yell it so we'd throw them the ball. "Aqui Aqui!" Pretty soon it became my favorite word too. I was saying it all over the place! And I'd always say it to them and they loved it. But the kids all-time favorite thing to do with us was "Baboosha" I'm pretty sure that's not how it's spelled, but that's how it sounds. In translation it means "Grandma's back" or "hump back" they mean it for, in our words, Piggy back! They LOOVVED having piggy back rides from us. And we would have races and chicken fights. They wore us out. They were soo much fun!

That night after work, we went back to our hostile and a Mexican (I think a local) had made us dinner. Real Mexican food! Tamales, rice and corn mixed, beans, a noodle salad thing, and the coolest chocolate drink ever. Made of choc, sugar, water, and flower. It was thick and slimy and delicious! And all the little girls from the orphanage came over for the food too! They couldn't stay, but they were able to come for a minute to get a plate of food. They were all so beautiful! After dinner we (the Rotaract Club) played an intense game of Signs in our bedroom (my roommates and I had the coolest room :) until like 2 a.m. We were all too excited for sleep in Mexico.

The second day we continued to work on the house some more. All in all we built the kitchen with brick walls, and put in a window in their dark little hut. We built new roofs in both the houses and put electricity in each of them too. For the sweet mom with the degenerative hip we built her a garden so they can have vegetables to eat and flowers to brighten their yard. And since she can't really bend over or kneel because of her disability we made it a standing garden for her so she can work in it.

On the third day we did the same thing, working hard on the houses. The ice cream man came! It was the coolest ice cream man in the world, with his little cart and a horn (the hand held kind that you squeeze and its loud) he honked it all down the street, it was his music for the ice cream. :) I got the most delicious popsicle ever! It was only 10 pesos. Or 10 cents. It was a fruit I'd never heard of, a fruit in a pod.

The kids didn't let us down, they were there for us everyday and all day to play with us. All day they would just do whatever they possibly could to try and entertain us and make us laugh. They found an old springy mattress in a ditch somewhere (there is a lot of trash and junk EVERYWHERE) and dragged it over in front of the old train tracks where we were sitting for lunch. Then they came up to me and tapped me then pointed to the mattress, telling me to watch. (They called me "Gringa" White girl in Spanish. Or sometimes they'd shout out "Americanos!" to get our attention to watch them do their next stunt.) Then they got a running start and ran to the mattress and did all kinds of flips and tricks for our entertainment. Food and a show. It was wonderful! :)

That night after work we went to a real authentic Mexican Restaurant. It was yummy. You know in TV shows how when someone walks into a bar and everyone just turns around and stares at them? That's how I felt as we walked into this restaurant. But I don't blame them, twenty white people all walking in to this tiny Mexican restaurant must have been quite a site considering they probably hadn't had even just one in a long time. :) After we ate together we all walked the streets of Mexico to the mall. It was a small mall and way cool. Then we went home and we got our little Rotaract friend, who was an awesome singer, to sing and play his ukeleli for us every night before we went to sleep. He was soo good.

These are some of the baggers at a 'Walmart like' store that was in the mall. All the baggers were little kids! They didn't get paid for the job, they were there for the tips. We gave them some American money and they loved it.

On the fourth and last day we woke up to a truly scrumptious surprise for breakfast. Cow stomach soup :) I guess it's a traditional breakfast food for them in Mexico. I normally like trying foreign food, but oh man I just couldn't do it! But I did. I gagged all the way to the toilet. I felt bad though because it was the nicest Mexican man who mad it special just for us and nobody liked it. Most people were good at pretending and forcing it down though, but crap I just couldn't! It was way nice of him though to do that. We went back to the houses and worked hard to finish up our work there. That day we had our lunch break at home on a little patio/porch thing in the middle of our house, the old folks home, and the orphanage. While we were out there, some of the elderly folks came out. I think they really just liked watching us. We were peculiar. One of the ladies there was super funny. She walked over by us to talk to us (there were 3 boys with us who spoke Spanish- they became our translators) A girl was wearing cargo pants with big pockets, and the old lady walked over to us and asked the girl, in spanish, "What's in your butt!" When it was translated for us we all busted up laughing. Ha and even though the lady was dead serious, she liked that she made us laugh so she laughed too.

The Mexican Interact girls we became friends with.

On our last night in Mexico we met with the Mexican Rotary (out of college age) and Interact (high school age) Clubs. They made dinner for us. Most all of them spoke English and they were ALL so friendly! It was like we had all been friends with them for a long time before. They made us meat tortillas with the best homemade salsa I've ever had in my life! We told lots of jokes with each other and took pictures after they gave our Rotary leaders some pins (it's like their reward giving) to thank us for what we were doing there. After that we went back to the mall to buy some grocery's and toys for the two families we were able to help. Then we took it to their house at night, around 9. The whole neighborhood was dead, they were all asleep. Because no one has electricity they have to go to bed when the sun goes down. Luckily the husband of second family was still up, just about to go to bed, so we left all the stuff with him. We were so so sad to leave.

On day five we woke up at 4:30 to pack up and leave that awesome place. While passing through the boarder to the U.S. we saw a teen age boy booking it across the road as fast as he could, then hiding behind a wall, sneakily peeking behind it, then running and diving into a bush. It was a Mexican illegally crossing the boarder! It was awesome!

...Then sadly our Mexican adventure was over. It was an amazing experience! I was so blessed to be able to go there. I know I got more out of this than either of the family's there did. I wish I could give everything to them. My heart goes out to them so much! And it surprises me how I can love someone so much when I hardly even know them. But I do :) I LOVE THOSE PEOPLE SO SO MUCH!


Jade said...

Wow Sarah! What an amazing experience! Thank you so much for sharing that. You are such a good writer! It was fun to have a peek inside of Sarah Beth, I don't get that enough. I also love your ability to love. You are such an example to me. Thank you! Love you!

Jade said...

Did you have pictures up last time I looked and they just didn't show on my computer? Wow those are some great shots. Those kids are so darling. What an incredible experience. I am glad you enjoyed it so much.

Jade said...

By the way your comment worked! We need to change your comment page so it doesn't have the word verification, it's annoying huh?

Chandi said...

I am so impressed that you did this. John and I came close to doing this last year and things fell through. We are hoping to join the rotary club. John went to the first meeting the other day. What a wonderful thing to participate in. Thank you for sharing. You are a wonderful girl!

Thad & Summer Stott said...

What an amazing thing you got to experience! It's crazy but even though you are giving so much to these people, in the end, it is you who end up getting the most out of it. What a humbling experience. We are so proud of you! Love and miss you so much!