Welcome to my so far life of roaming Athens for hours, writing down all my random babbling and shooting photos of unsuspecting subjects as best I can. I’ve ventured on the metro (which is like a five minute bus ride from my apartment) almost everyday this week in search of yummy lunch, a tour of the city, nights out on the town and a peaceful beach day in the super duper salty Mediterranean (who knew??).
At first the Metro was ‘alright lets kinda just guess that that Greek word was something tangible and follow the voice of the intercom to see where we end up.’ For being English speaking newbies trying to find a location our friends said to meet at… we did pretty darn well. The tour of Athens in the school bus was the pretty touristy next excursion out of Aghia Paraskevi and man was that interesting to go see the old part of the city and small cobblestone streets! It was similar to a picturesque Parisian street cafe.
Ok let’s focus on the beach now. First, consider where I’m from (15 minutes from Pacific Coast Highway in southern California where the surfs totally gnarly brah!). Now reflecting on that… the coast of the Mediterranean is more my kind of beach! No waves to annihilate your hopes and dreams, no sand getting stuck in your bottoms and really given you a comfy drive home, and lastly… no crazy seaweed that decides to make you a model for its new dress line. As I swam out to the buoys, I could see my feet and the floor of the ocean at every moment. Talk about confidence in the water my ocean squeamish friends.
The structure of Athens is reminding me quite a bit of Seattle actually. You arrive thinking its all contained in one central area that is the epitome of the city. In reality its spread out quite vastly into smaller little pockets of one lifestyle. For example, I live up on capitol hill but I guarantee those are a different lifestyle set than Queen Anne or Downtown. Just like now, I live in Aghia Paraskevi that highly contrasts from the vibe down in Gazi or Plaka. I’m interested to find each little pocket little by little.
P.S. title coined from young scholar Michael McDonnell himself (as he made very clear)
Flash-black, on Monday we went to an orphanage and got to spend an hour and a half with some of the cutest girls in Tijuana. It was overwhelmed to think that the sweet and energetic girls we were playing with came from some of the most difficult backgrounds fathomable. It was nice for everyone to have a break and just have a chance to play.
Flash-back to yesterday. We went to I think my favorite visit of the trip, La Casa de la Immigrante. This is a place from men who have been deported or are about to cross the border to move to the US. It really impacted me how desperately these men wanted to be in the United States despite how depressive our immigration system is. They would do anything; even risk their lives. It shocked me that just because I was born in the United States, I automatically had a step up in life. It made me want to know and understand more about border and immigration issues.
The adorable photo bellow was taken after about 6 hours of work. The rebar we are standing on was the tedious preparation we did today in order to be able to pour a cement roof tomorrow. At the beginning of the week, the plan was that we would visit a Maquilla in the morning and most likely not have enough time to work at a site during the afternoon. As plans usually go in Mexico, this idea changed and it ironically became our longest day of work. We arrived in Valla Verde at around twelve thirty starving. We began work anxiously awaiting lunch. Paul told the women in the village that we could do quick sandwiches but they refused, saying this was not good enough. The wait was worth it when we saw the quesadillas, salad, beans, and fresh guacamole they had prepared for us. Another perfect example of the hospitality we have been shown each day here in TJ.
I am embarrassed to say that when Paul offered the idea of quitting early or finishing up the job, I wanted to quit. Thankfully, I was out numbered and we finished the whole roof. After we were done I know our hard work made the family’s dream of a home that much closer. As we drove away the family, along with many other community members, waved frantically and smiled as we drove away. The expressions on their faces made all those hours of work worth it.
Yesterday, we worked for seven hours pouring cement on a roof. It took fifty volunteers, eight children, and about six skilled carpenters. I lifted, I pushed, I pulled, and I marveled at our combined strength. When it was finished I looked around at the group leaders and all the volunteers around me, all weatherbeaten, all red, and all smiling in triumph.
Now that it’s all said and done I have fourteen cuts on my hands, and when I move to stretch I can feel my dry skin resist the movement. My back aches and my glutes are on fire, although I am secretly grateful for the burn, seeing as summer is coming up. But when I saw what we accomplished, what I accomplished, I smiled back at all the people around me. I feel inspired, I feel empowered, and mostly I feel awe struck.
I feel inspired by all the people around me; from the volunteers and staff who have dedicated their life and time to this work, to all the locals that I have encountered; who are stronger, kinder and better cooks than I ever could have imagined.
I feel empowered by the vision that drives this foundation. This organization is so multifaceted and I find myself amazed at its ability to extend itself into so many parts of the community. Lastly, I find myself in awe at the people that I have been surrounded by and the amount we’ve been able to accomplish. My time in Mexico has disproved all my previous notions about the culture, the issues and the people, and for that I am grateful.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already Friday. The beginning of the week seemed to go so slow, but now I am wondering where this week went. Today we went back to our original worksite for our final half day. I spent the first part of the morning digging a trench and ended up getting yet another blister on my hand. I then spent the rest of the morning tying wires and rebar in preparation for the rest of the construction of the house. As per usual, it was only yesterday that our group really began to feel like a team just as the trip is coming to an end. The family cooked us a lunch of delicious Carne Asada, beans, quesadillas, and some other food that followed the trend of the rest of the week- that I didn’t want to stop eating. Today we got to bring a little something for the families as far as food goes. We brought Choco-flan and a piñata to share with the family and their friends. We got to share an hour or so spending time with the families to just talk and learn from each other which was our main goal originally. As this trip comes to a close, I know that I have learned a lot about community and how important and even critical it can be. This community can be within a neighborhood, a city, or state and I know now that I have been and will continue to be a part of the global community. The act of doing something good for a neighbor, friend, or someone you have never met is something that must be experienced and cannot be translated into words. So, as we Neosporin, bandage, and lotion our wounded hands, we are armed with knowledge that we need in order to continue to form the larger community in our own back yards and in the rest of the world.
>When I think about Mexico, I come up with ideas for sightseeing, warm, sunny, nice weather, and beach. My images of Mexico are something colorful like this picture. This is Esperanza building where we stay. It’s pretty, isn’t it?
(Where we lived)
There are so many places that represent so-called Mexico, for sightseeing spots.
Today we went to one of those places, Puerto Nuevo!
We enjoyed shopping.
We ate shrimp and fish tacos, those were really good! The Beach was beautiful.
But don’t forget that those places are just one part of Mexico.
Sometimes, buildings are not colorful and
we don’t see any fancy things. There are rocky and sandy roads and garbage.
Some people might be surprised how Tijuana, Mexico looks.
This is a photo of the second day in Mexico, it looks shows a different side of Mexico.
When you visit Mexico, of course it’s good to visit places for sightseeing. But please visit local places, you can see and know how Mexican people live their life.
Some places are sometimes dangerous, so please visit those places with people who are familiar with Mexico.
But don’t be afraid, Mexican people are very kind and cheerful!!
Hello Everyone! We have been learning about US and Mexico border issue for three months in Professor Paul Milan’s U.S Mexico Border Relations class. We have been so excited to visit Mexico and now we have finally arrived in Tijuana. We are working with an organization called Esperanza. Esperanza is a non-profit organization in Tijuana that helps families with limited resources build homes.
I was surprised by the contrast between U.S and Mexico. I expected Mexico to be similar to America but actually, it’s not. I saw many broken houses, wild dogs, mountains of trash, and poor people on the road right after crossing the border. The amount of poverty feels overwhelming. I feel so powerless in the face of poverty. However, instead of feeling sad, I decided to communicate, interact, and listen to people here because that’s the only thing I can do now.
View of Mexico/US Border