"Shoes for Mexico
Gather old shoes or good shoes ask others...
doing a collection and I am helping
and want you both to help me also..
We have a couple of weeks… can you make a point to gather some...
goal is 100 pairs I say that is not enough..
We can come by and see you if you help me with this."
This message was all it took before Shannon and I had over 40 shoes collected between the two of us. A special thanks go out to the coaches of San Diego Mesa College, Point Loma High School girls physical education department-where I frequently substitute- as well as friends Layla and Khalisa and my parents Paul and Denise for their contributions. Although our numbers in donations were fewer than a hundred, it served as a special occasion when each pair of shoe was donated to a special boy, girl, or even adult at the orphanages. I was able recognize the particular pair and would smile as each fit a perfectly to a small boy or girl as I helped find a perfect foot for the perfect shoe. Upon my arrival home I shared the personal story of a shoe with those who donated making it more personal for the donator to feel a connection to the experience. They too felt they were on the trip, experienced the smiles and gift of cultures reciprocation and appreciated our efforts even more.
I had "skipped" my Spanish class Thursday evening to take part in this adventura. Which is certainly what it turned out to be in the end. In fact, the moment I saw the printed "directions" to the orphanage once we crossed over the border, I was beginning to notice at the end of every important command it followed with a " ."
Yep, it was blank.
For example, Follow the road past the farmacia mas borato but be sure you don't go__________.
When you get to the next street there will be a split in the road make sure you stay to the side of the road that reads "_______________."
It was at this point in our juncture where I threw out all of the expectations I had for the trip and began to ENJOY the ADVENTURE. Fortunately for me, our team were well seasoned travelers with high spirits, positive energy, and just enough Spanish to get us around the block a few times (even if it was the same one three times in a row). I new this trip for humanity was well worth missing a little class for a real world experience. It was also evident after hours of driving in and around Tijuana, this project was in the hands of a unique and perfect group and although we were realistically only 30 minutes from my home in San Diego, I felt like I could have been continents away.
I am speaking in a world of generalities in my thoughts because my memories, so fond, were well described by my companeros. Some highlights that spoke loudly to me were the orphanages themselves especially the one far removed from society deeply hidden in the burning trash of the hillsides where the paved road ended long before and a dried river bed was the only evidence leading the way.
This orphanage was so far removed it was obvious of the lack of resources feeding basic needs.
One particular observation I made occured with my need to use the restroom after we had arrived (the 10 minutes just down the road, actually was much longer in hind sight). I went up stairs where most of the children were told to wait their turn to claim a new pair of shoes. The room I walked through was crowded with children, clothes everywhere and splotches of blood on the floor leading to the bathroom. The facilities were in desperate need of proper hygiene...but to them it was home. It was all they had. This was life, and so, this was my new home and I was not embarrassed nor did I think twice about the bathroom. If they go there, I will too. (Sort of the mind set after living in Tanzania). The opportunity share their home for the couple hours we were there was a blessing that otherwise would be very hard to find. I feel very good about venturing into an unknown valley of burning garbage to come out on the other end knowing we can help out at that site again in the future.
I feel fortunate to have been apart of this teams event and look forward to our travels ahead, helping where and when we can. Thank you O.T.A.Y.!