Monday, December 26, 2011

Homesick for Tijuana...

Looch and Caitlin here sitting with some coffee as we try and decipher how to adequately describe this amazing trip. Looch wants border churros; Caitlin misses everyone. We're both basically at a loss for words. This trip was was essentially perfect!

I guess we can start with our experience at Casa del Migrante since we shared that together....Chris Kemly was also with us, and I think we can speak for him in saying that it was a pretty powerful experience. After talking with Hilberto, one of the men who helps to run the home, he brought us out into the open patio area where all the men had just finished eating. Looch, Chris, and I began talking to two elderly men who were sitting on the benches near the door. One of the men, named Francisco, began talking to us about his job in the United States. As we continued talking he started to talk about his deportation which entered us into a story of extreme injustice. He told us that he was returning from his work as a landscaper on a Sunday (he mentioned that he needed all the money he could get, and that he was a hard worker) to his trailer that he shared with his girlfriend. His girlfriend was taking care of a baby when he arrived. He continued with his story telling us that the cops came to his door asking questions about a robbery that had happened to his neighbors. He openly answered all the questions and ensured us that he was trying to be as helpful as possible. He welcomed them into his trailer and while he was answering questions, he noticed that they weren't really listening to his story but had wandering eyes around his trailer. They left, however later returned with their sheriff demanding to search his home. He allowed them to, because he was confident that he had nothing to hide. They found the baby that his girlfriend was watching on his bed and told him that the conditions of his trailer were unfit for a child, and that CPS needed to be involved. Although he tried to explain that the baby was not his and his girlfriend was simply watching the child for his parents, they refused to listen. His girlfriend pleaded with the officers to punish her for the wrongdoing, not her boyfriend, however the cops continued to interrogate Francisco and eventually ended up arresting him. He was placed in jail for three weeks before he was deported. When deported, he asked the officer the reason for his deportation and the officer said that the paperwork stated he had been arrested for drugs. Francisco angrily expressed that he has never in his life done drugs, and was appalled by the United States government for unjustly deporting him. He continued to tell us that the baby's parents actually did do drugs, and while he was in jail, they proceeded to steal all of his belongings from his trailer. Despite the hardships this man faced, he continued to speak with us with an open heart readily telling us his story. He expressed how he enjoyed that Looch and I would speak to him in Spanish, and how he was impressed by our generosity in working with Esperanza. Although he had been deported, he was currently trying to get in contact with his mother and sister for his paperwork that allowed him to be in the United States. The other man, although didn't speak much, told us that if we were ever in Puebla, which is where he lived, he would like us to visit his home, located between two volcanoes, because he thought we would enjoy it. We immediately introduced him to our amigo Ben who was planning on studying abroad in Puebla, and they exchanged numbers. What struck us most about this conversation, was the injustices faced by Francisco combined with each of the mens' openness, both into their lives, and into their deeply personal stories. Francisco's story angered me, and has pushed me to research more deeply into the harsh and unfortunate realities surrounding the border. Families are being split up for reasons that are irrationally unjust and unfair.  Putting a face to the hundreds of stories we hear each year about the new immigration laws being put into place, muddies the situation a little more. Although the laws may seem logical, actually hearing the first hand effects they have on human beings' lives, causes an immediate sense of discomfort towards the consequences that these "just" laws have. It's disheartening and alarming that the laws of our own nation trump a person's own rights as a human being.

Hopefully more to come from us :) Mucha Paz-Looch and Caitlin

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My experience: Casa Del Migrante

Like many others who have difficulty answering the question, "how was your trip?" I settle with answering, "amazing," because I have multiple stories and experiences I want to share but I know people can't understand the true emotions if they weren't there to feel it. For now, I will share one experience that drastically changed my view of border issues, the relationship between the United States and Mexico, United States policies and immigration.

One of the nights after working on the house our group had the chance to visit Casa Del Migrante, an immigration office located in Tijuana that takes individuals who have been recently deported from the United States. I personally had never visited Casa Del Migrante and had walked into this building only knowing that we were in a more dangerous part of town and that I was going to here stories of those who've been deported. We were lucky enough to meet with a man who explained the organization, what they do, and the individuals they encounter. This organization was specifically for men who had been deported and it provided shelter for up to 12 days. What struck me was that Casa Del Migrante was largely run by volunteers who would dedicate multiple hours of time to make sure that these men were able to be helped.

As we sat in a backroom the man wanted to get to know us and where we were coming from before he began telling us about Casa Del Migrante. We each went around the room, stating our name, where we were from and that we were in college. After, he welcomed us and began to share about the organization, its importance, and how they reach people in need. Casa Del Migrante serves men, however, they have other branches that serve women and children as well as teenagers. What bothered me the most during his talk was when he told us the stories of some of the men. For some, the first time stepping foot in Mexico is when they are sent back to Mexico by immigration officers. These men are at Casa Del Migrante and cannot speak Spanish and have no family they can contact for help because they've lived their entire lives in the United States. Knowing that men my age have been taken away from the only home they ever knew makes me sick. The conversation went on and as he wrapped up, his last statement stuck with me, "I hope one day we will all have I.Ds that say we are human," which made me take a step back and more fully realize the unjust generalizations made and the inequalities that exist within our country and between neighboring countries along the border.

We had the chance to leave the meeting room and speak with men staying at Casa Del Migrante. The man didn't want us to hear the stories second hand about the men, he wanted us to hear the stories first hand from those who live the life and have gone through the process. As we walked into the community room it looked as if the Posada (party) they had was just wrapping up. There were men sitting against the wall while others were sharing conversations. At first it was really awkward, 20 of us who can easily cross back to the United States looking for a conversation with these men who've been uprooted from what they thought to be home. Our group decided to break into smaller groups to ensure there was someone who could speak spanish in each group.  My group began talking to three men who were very friendly. One man, however, declined to say how he ended up at Casa Del Migrante and left the conversation. Slowly, the conversation dwindled and the men walked away.

I decided that going up to these men in large groups wasn't working and I figured I could speak enough spanish to get by. Corbin, one of the group members, and I walked around the room and met a man, whose name I was unable to get. We began talking, which I found difficult because I didn't want to ask personal questions, yet I was very interested in knowing his story. Corbin asked questions and kept the conversation flowing while I attempted to translate english and spanish between the two. Slowly we began talking about what brought him to Casa Del Migrante. This man arrived at Casa Del Migrante two days prior to us visiting, he was from Los Angeles but currently lived in San Diego. He had a job in construction and was supporting his two children, Wendy (4) and Genesis (1) and his wife, who were still in San Diego. He explained to me that he was working at his job when immigration officers came and took him away. He was then deported and arrived at Casa Del Migrante soon after. He said that he was not a U.S. Citizen and neither was his wife, but both of their children were. It was very important for him to get back to his family because he was the only one that made money in the family and his wife had little job experience. He wanted to go home to the United States to protect his children and wife and he couldn't or he would face jail time. He knew he wasn't going to go back to the United States and his wife couldn't come to Mexico but his children would be able to visit since they were U.S. Citizens. I asked him if he had talked to his wife or his children since leaving and he had, explaining that he kept his phone and was able to talk to them everyday. He began showing us pictures, some of them were of him, others were of his two daughters. He was so excited to show Corbin and I pictures but I noticed when he began going through more of his pictures, a wave of emotion came over him and it grew silent. He started telling us how everytime he calls home his daughter asks, "daddy, where are you?" "how come you're not home?" "when are you coming home?" and that he couldn't explain to his 4 year old daughter that he would never be able to come home. He couldn't answer any of the questions she asked but he would tell her that he loved her and he would see her soon and she would just have to wait. He continued to flip through pictures and show us more pictures of his beautiful daughters, as any proud parent would, and at that moment he broke down. He began to cry as he flipped through his pictures, mumbling spanish words I couldn't entirely make out. The emotions that he showed rushed over Corbin and I and I could do nothing but stand and cry with him. I couldn't imagine raising a family, working hard to give them everything and have it all taken away in a matter of minutes because I don't "belong" in a country. He continued to cry and wipe his face repeating, "I don't know, I just want my daughters, but I just don't know. I don't know what's going to happen."

At that time our group was asked to return to the van because it was getting late. I felt so helpless, but Corbin and I tried to reassure him that everything would be alright, when honestly I had no idea what would happen. We said our good-byes and the man smiled, thanked us for listening to his story, and apologized for crying. I had so much to say to him but couldn't find the words or the ability to translate them into Spanish. Despite my lack of perfect Spanish the conversation this man offered to me has changed my life and my views on immigration and border issues. When you apply human emotions and stories to border and immigration issues and policies something changes. You realize how the border affects the humanity of millions of people and is more than a wall built between two countries. This wall signifies so much more than a few statements and reasons as to why this border was built . This border now symbolizes the splitting of friends, families, and neighbors to me. To this day I think of the man I met, the pictures of his daughters, and I pray that he will be happily reunited with his family.

A few days later we visited the border where Friendship park once existed. Below are a few pictures from the border.

welcome to Fortress America

on the edge of the border. two places at once

friends in different countries

the border

The Most Rewarding Experience.

This is Adriana Jackson blogging about my experience in Tijuana with Esperanza International.

It's been about a week since we've returned from Tijuana and I miss it dearly. Returning to Seattle is always difficult because it is hard to answer the question that so many ask, "how was the trip?" I can't even put into words how amazing the trip was but I will attempt to in the following paragraphs. I'll start by saying that I miss Tijuana more than anything right now- the culture, the organization, Victor, Eduardo, Monica, Kimber, Uriel, and Rigo (Esperanza Staff), each group member, the food, my co-leader Caitlin Terashima, and everything that symbolized this trip.

I remember it was 5 o'clock in the morning on Saturday, December 10, 2011, and so many thoughts and questions were running through my mind, "Is everyone going to make it on time?" "I can't believe this is happening!" "Is walking across the border going to work out?" "I can't wait to be back at the Posada!" "How did we even do this?!" I wasn't sure what to expect out of this trip and it still hadn't hit me that 20 of us were on our way to Tijuana, MX to share what I believed to be one of the most fulfilling week of my life.

Back in early 2011 Caitlin and I had tentative plans for a trip in December but we were both unsure if it was possible after hearing multiple opinions that doubted our ability to successfully plan this trip. We went back and forth, "Should we?" "Can we?" and so many "What ifs?". Mid-April we made the decision to go with our instincts and begin the Mexico Service Trip 2011. From that point on we couldn't turn back; we invested time and energy, prospective members, and money into this trip and we didn't want to let anyone down. Long story short, the process of creating a group, fundraising, educating and getting individuals accross the border safely was quite the experience, a long but enjoyable and extremely rewarding experience.

On December 10, 2011 at 7:55 am, 18 of us boarded the plane and at that moment it finally hit me, this trip, something we all worked so hard for, was finally happening. Some of us were traveling to Tijuana for the first time, while others made multiple visits in the past. Nonetheless, no one knew what to expect, how the trip would turn out, and if the trip would be successful. One thing we did know, however, was that our group, known as the Mexico Service Trip 2011, raised over $12,000 and we couldn't be more ecstatic. I, along with many others, left Seattle for the San Ysidro Border full of determination, curiousity, love and faith, both in my group members and each person who showed support throughout the process.

Once we arrived safely at the Posada it was a breath of fresh air. It felt like being home and it was everything I remembered from the previous year, a beautiful living space, gardens, a play area and the warm sun. Thus began a week full of amazing experiences that would take days upon days to write.

Now, back in Seattle, I can't keep my mind off of Tijuana and all of the laughter, jokes, games, and community shared in Tijuana. Traveling Tijuana to Puerto Nuevo, the Esperanza Clinic, the Tortillaria, the Border, Casa Del Migrante, the Orphanage, and watching women make Bolsitas engaged us in the community and taught me many new things. Working with Rosa and her family, along with the neighbors, to lay the foundation of her house was incredible. Rosa said that she wishes she could give us as much as we have given her but she simply can't. I don't think she realized that she gave us more than any of us could have ever asked for. Her love and peace filled the work site and our hearts. If you ask me how my trip was, it was simply amazing, and I cannot wait to return. Someway, somehow, I will return and I hope many people will join me and experience what I know as Tijuana.

I look forward to blogging about more experiences in particular but for now here are just a few pictures that I believe capture the essence of this trip.

Sunday Morning Mass
The orphanage with all of the girls!

washing buckets after pouring cement

Rosa a La Fiesta!
At the work site digging trenches

headed to the work site
Members from last year's group at the house we worked on
Thank you to Rigo, Uriel, and Eduardo for helping Caitlin and I with everything!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lunes! (Tuesday)

Hey! It's Chris Caculitan, Lauren Maza, and Caitlin Terashima

4 days since we left.. and today was our 2nd day of work.

Saturday Headed for San Diego last Saturday at 9 in the morning, arrived in California at 11:30. Met up with Iesha in the sweet, sweeeeet SUNSHINE and took a bus toward downtown.. Where some of us ate.. Quizno's! and Wendy's! So cultural.
We observed part of the "Occupy San Diego" movement and then walked to the trolley station where we bonded for a while as we patientlyyyyy waited.....
Got on the trolley and kind of realized how much stuff we had.. (Aka Jim, Nicholas and Caitlin)
Trolley dropped us off at McDonald Trolley Station. Literally a McDonald's in the station. But really Caitlin says it was called "San Ysidro Border Station".. So then we got off the trolley and walked across a giant bridge that took us straight into Mexico!
To our surprise there were no bag checks, passport checks or any form of security.. Surprise! We were in Mexico and didn't even know it.
Once outside the border "area" we met up with Monica, Victor, and Paul. They led us on a journey to the bus. It was a pretty far walk with all of our stuff but exciting nonetheless. We were taking in the culture as we walked through traffic, the market and people waiting to return to the U.S. (Looooongest lines ever.. But this was around 1pm.)
Arrived at the Posada (located in La Gloria), met up to talk as a group and formally met Monica, and then settled in before we went to eat at the Taqueria.. which was pretty spicy (Lauren's opinion), but delicious!!!!!!!!!

Sunday! A group of us went to mass in the morning (located really close to the Posada). Padre Jaime led the mass which was very cultural with a lot of indigenous influence. Those that got to experience this really enjoyed it and some even shared during reflection that mass was the highlight of their day!
In the afternoon we took off on an adventure to Puerto Nuevo, which is a little town located on the beach with tourist shops and restaurants. Many ponchos, blankets, knick-knacks, sunglasses and lobsters could be found here. (OH and little baby puppies that were only $50... So cute but we couldn't take them home... Adriana was proposed to with a puppy by a local merchant but politely declined the offer.) After a great time and with some of us being able to enjoy an awesome meal with a great view (but could not afford the cool mariachi's.. except for Chris K. who bought La Bamba for $3) we returned to the Posada. Of course we needed to purchase our food supply for the week for all of us so some of us went to Costco.. Mexico Costco seemed to be just as busy as one in the states would be.. and everything was in spanish! A few of us went on a run around the town and got to experience an awesome panoramic view of all the houses with the water in the distance.. and the rest of us bonded and played new games such as Nutz! and Monopoly. To finish off the night, we ate breakfast for dinner! Yummy chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, sausage and fruit. Awesome day with a great group and closing reflections got us all excited for the work that was to come!

Monday! First day of work.. "Digging for days"- Caitlin.
Met up with Eduardo at 8:30 in the common room.. Formally met Eduardo and he was able to meet all of us as well. During our talk, the rain kept coming down outside.. but slowed down once we left the Posada around 10:30. Took a 40 min. ride to La Morita where the house we would be working on for the week is located! Once we stepped off the bus, we all met Rosa where she shook all our hands and was very welcoming to her house and to her family. Got straight to work, with shovels and pick-axes. We had to create trenches around where the foundation was going to go. 64 inch deep trenches... lots and lots of digging. Had a break for lunch (a GREAT lunch.. rice, beans, tortillas and some carne.)
Got back to work after our break and headed home around 4:30. Once we got back we all just hung out, some of us showered (Sheena still hasn't showered ;) ) and some of us took little naps. Woke up for dinner (Spaghetti, meatballs, salad yum yum.. OH and brownies) After dinner, of course had to play a few rounds of banangrams and mafia! Mafia has become a favorite of ours to say the least :)
During reflection we formed a congo line and danced around to form a circle. In the circle we started a massage train! YAY. Reflected, watched a Latin America music video and shared our interpretations. Wonderful day overall :)

It's 5pm and we're currently getting ready to take off to visit the Orphanage for girls. Today was a good day of work, despite the weather. The trenches we created yesterday were moats today.. So they had to be dug out and with a few wise ideas from the engineers (Brynn and Jim) they were able to decrease the water level from the bigger hole and we all worked together to get through the rain. Another awesome lunch was made, and after lunch our work time was cut short. When we boarded the bus we were all covered in mud, drenched in rain and cold.. but yet still had smiles :) Came back, some showered (Still not Sheena..) and some departed for Costco (we sure do eat a lot.. well, we needed more bananas for desserts of course) and some of us went to the bakery and the local market! Many adventures and we can't believe we only have 4 days to go..

Until next time!!!

Paz :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tomorrow, tomorrow..

The countdown is now at 13 hours.. (well, until we all meet up at the airport!)
We're all so excited for this wonderful experience and cannot wait to be sharing our reflections as well as pictures during as well as after the trip!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

22 días más

Hola! Thanks for checkin' out our blog! It's a little over a week until we depart! Our trip dates are December 10th-17th and we hope this blog will give you a sense of who we are as well as what we're up to!


Sheena Floresca
Corbin Richardson
Alexandra Cratsenberg
Nicholas Johnson
Lauren Maza
Lauren Minuk
Christopher Kemly
Chris Caculitan
Diana Chen
Luciana Weber
Brynn Watanabe
Jim Smith
Elise Hollowed
Ben Porter
Caitlin Terashima
Adriana Jackson