I admit I was a little apprehensive about taking a week of my precious vacation to travel to Oaxaca with four teenage girls, especially since one of them was my own 17 year old. I tried to talk my husband into coming along. I tried to recruit a girlfriend or two. I suggested to one of the other mom's that she come......but to no avail. It was just me......and the four girls.
We met at the Portland airport for the red eye flight to Oaxaca on Friday night, having survived an insanely busy week at work and at home, and were on our way. The flight down was uneventful......for me at least because I slept most of the way. The girls shared skittles and power bars and stories and giggled and connected as only teenage girls can, and we arrived in Oaxaca to sunshine, warmth, and......one lost bag. Prayers were offered up and it was delivered to our hotel later that evening, everything intact, having taken the later flight from Mexico City.
Sunday was "church" day and did we ever do church! A visiting evangelist (a former gang member/drug dealer from Oaxaca) shared his life changing testimony from gang member to drug dealer to prison and on to his current ministry in Texas -- an amazing transformation.
Work began on Monday. I was somewhat concerned that the Senoritas would really be able to make five Pisos in four days and participate in the kid's Bible club as well as some clean up projects around the Vicente Guerrero community, but needless to say that concern was quickly erased......and replaced with the idea that we may not even make it to VC! The transportation arrangements were plagued daily with engine fires (seriously) and mechanical malfunctions that led us to believe that what the Cruz family really needs is a dependable, strong, big 4X4 truck. The girls were great and seemingly unaffected by these difficulties as they worked on building friendships with Germani and Liyo, two young men that Benny had recruited to help us for the week.
The team came together and learned the fine art of concrete mixing. Everyone pitched in shoveling, lifting, mixing, wheeling and smoothing the concrete
into place. In between work was plenty of play with neighborhood kids, rekindling old friendships and making new ones. For Mixie and me it was great to re-connect with many friends and see how families we had helped pour Pisos for on our last trip had settled into their new homes.
Benny, our main contact in VC, had found families in great need so it was especially gratifying to be able to help make them. Each family had prepared the ground before our arrival by building forms and flattening the ground and moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents and neighbors rallied to help out. I secretly think that some of their eagerness to join in was to see the Gringos. We were an especially interesting bunch of ladies ranging in height from 5 feet 9 to 6 foot 4 and for some of us the language barrier presented the locals with some great amusement as we stumbled to communicate. Benny was by far the tallest local at about 5 feet 4 and his mom, Gloria, came up to Brandy's waist!
Two families in particular have stayed in my thoughts and prayers as we have returned to the US - a mother who had five children was one. We not only poured a Piso for a kitchen but we also poured a smaller one at the front edge of her lot so she could set up a tortilla stand to make some money.
The other was another mother and she also had five children. She was not home when we arrived and clambered up the steep slope to her casa. The effort it took to get the cement mixer to the site made for great video and thanks to Brandy, who was able to muscle in and provide the extra push the guys needed, we managed to get the mixer closer to the work site than was originally thought to be possible. She arrived home as we were cleaning up having had the help of her young sons and was delighted with her new floor.
She had her new baby strapped on her back and a small toddler in tow - she had been to a class in the neighborhood to learn parenting skills and how to keep the children clean and healthy.
Mercy and Brandy became fast friends with Benny's mom, Gloria, and have claimed her as their Mexican mom. Sharaya, having been to Mexico with her youth group the year before, had an amazing experience totally different from her last trip. I think we were all stretched out of our comfort zones but every one of the girls managed to make the most of everything from strange food, lack of bathrooms, heat, and long hours of hard work and play. Each was a great blessing to me.
We've been home almost a month already and photos have been shared, emails exchanged and questions asked about when they can go again.
Brandy summed things up when her mom asked her when she got home if the people were really poor and she replied "yea, I guess they are......but you'd never know it - they are so happy."
Hmmmmmmmmm, now that's something to think about!
Thank you to Mixie, Mercy, Brandy and Sharaya for the memories. Let's plan on a second tour sometime soon.