30 Minutes to a New, But Somewhat Familiar World


Thirty minutes. That’s about how long it takes to get from the border of the U.S. to Tijuana. That’s how long it takes to suddenly find yourself in the midst of a Feed the Children commercial. You know, those commercials that feature mangy children, dirt streaked across their faces, swollen bellies. The poverty of Tijuana was evident immediately. As we rounded the corner to the street of the oblates’ house where we would be staying, I glimpsed a mother watching her pequeño muchacho, clothed in a just a t-shirt and diapers, rummaging through the trash.

But when I looked again, and really looked instead of merely glancing, I found the beauty of Tijuana to be just as evident as its poverty. I wandered around the grounds inside the gates of the oblates’ house and found treasure after treasure. And as I wandered, I overheard one of our hosts, Fr. Salvador Chava, inform us that our neighborhood is considered middle-class, “When I first moved here, this neighborhood didn’t have electricity,” he explained. “Now they have electricity.”

Tijuana is just hills and valleys and every inch of ground is covered with houses. Some are sturdy, others are just shacks thrown together for some sort of shelter. Some are more impressive than most houses of affluence in the U.S. And those can be found amidst a cluster of shacks. I gaze up at the hills, where it seems houses and shacks are practically built one upon the other, and I can’t help thinking one big downpour could easily wash away everything these people own. A sentiment most of those in my group share. Their wealth, or lack there of, seems to be at the utmost mercy of the weather.

There is so much to tell. So much that I’ve seen and learned in just two and a half days. My days are full. What time I can spare, I share with the muchachos; the kids who already greet me with hugs so full of love and excitement that they match those of my sister, Serena.

We must carefully watch the amount of water we use. We are advised not to flush any toilet paper. The cost of draining septic tanks, something I have never even thought about until now, is a large expense for the residents of Tijuana. The city is growing rapidly, at times entire neighborhoods popping up literally overnight. The city’s water system cannot support this rampant growth, so all drinkable water is shipped in from outside sources. No one drinks the tap water here.

The first night I spotted some ninos playing futbol (aka soccer). Of course, I had to go join them. And for my simple interest in playing futbol with the muchachos, I am rewarded with big, warm hugs every time I step outside or return to the house. Those pictured with me are Adrian, Lupita and Toni. Adrian is so sweet and lovable. Lupita has a contagious laugh. Pequena Toni simply stares at us all with a huge grin, darting into our games every so often and darting back out just as quickly.

But that is just one stitch in the tapestry of life here. Forgive me for using such a cliche, but I’m tired and don’t have the energy to be creative with my writing right now.

I can’t wait to share more about our work at the oblates’ Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, hearing testimony from Mother Antonia – the mother of the prisoners, serving food at the Missionaires of Charity soup kitchen, munching on street-side tacos… and more.

Roosters crow at three in the morning… but their calls merely work seamlessly into my dreams.

He Will Deliver…

As I’ve been praying to God for Him to lead me to where he wants to use me next… He’s provided an answer to my prayers! I’ve been feeling compelled to travel and explore foreign places and cultures for as long as I can remember. Already, I’ve been blessed to visit so many wonderful places and encounter so many people, cultures and experiences. I’ve grown from each one of them. But, the more I travel the more I feel called to include more in those travels. For the past several years I’ve felt called to serve through travel. I’ve explored various options such as the military, the Peace Corps and others. I’m still strongly considering them… but, God has opened up another opportunity that I’m very excited about! My previous youth group leader has invited me to join her and her ministry in a mission trip to Tijuana the last week of July. We will be visiting a very poor community, offering whatever help we can and we will be sharing the truths about God and Christ. I think this trip will be particularly interesting in light of the growing controversy over immigration from Mexico to the U.S. It’ll be interesting to hear the stories of those struggling just across our border.

An added bonus is I’ll be working with my former youth leader to film our trip. I’m very excited about this! One of my biggest goals is to film a documentary and this trip will most certainly let me try my hand at documentary filming. I’m not looking for anything spectacular… just the chance to get my feet wet and see what I might come up with.

This opportunity is an absolute answer to my prayers… and as I said before…. I am eager to be God’s faithful servant! I’ll be compiling information on Tijuana as I find it.

Less than 20 miles south of downtown San Diego lies the world’s busiest port of entry –
the international border crossing between San Ysidro, CA and Tijuana, Mexico.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-02-05-border-crime_x.htm

Starting off with my best foot forward… the one that follows God.

The excuses and the procrastination are over! I’m FINALLY starting a blog… and I’ll start with the first thing I can’t seem to say enough these days: “I’m so ready for what’s next in my life!” Problem is… I have no idea what that might be. The question I keep asking myself daily is a question posed in ‘The Sacred Romance’: “What is it that I’m supposed to be doing to live the spiritual life in any way that is both truthful and passionately alive?” That question particularly strikes a chord with me now… as I feel restless… waiting for LIFE to happen. Plus, I thought that would be a sound question to ask at any point in my life… to make sure I’m on the right track with the right goals in mind. Hence, the name of the blog. I’m hoping the blog name will serve as a constant reminder. ‘The Sacred Romance’ is a good tool for that too… for reminding yourself to ask the right questions and strive for the right goals. I’m not even close to being finished with it… which is odd, because I normally blow through books. But, this is the kind of book that’s meant to be digested slowly… so you can turn each piece of advice over and over in your mind… hopefully cementing it into your memory… so you can use it later. A friend that is invaluable to me recommended the book, and it’s been a guiding light. I pass along the recommendation with the hope that it can offer you something as well…

Today was another very mediocre day at work (aside from lunch with the boss and co-workers… that was fun!) There’s a poem I wrote in high school that comes to mind though… it conveys how I feel… part of an assignment after reading ‘Death of a Salesman”. I’ll see if I can find it when I get home and post it later.

As mediocrity persists at work… there’s no question that I’m actively seeking something to offer the passion, excitement and spirituality for which I’m so desperately yearning. As I’ve sought those things, various “opportunities” have arisen… many of which conflict with prior committments… one of which has been the most challenging and continually enlightening experience of my life. One I know I’ll never forget… and one I know I’ll take with me everywhere.

Speaking of everywhere… a quick glance up from my computer leaves my eyes to feast upon the collage of Italy pictures that are taped to the wall next to my desk. The pics are from a desk calendar that my Aunt Diane gave me… thanks Diane! Excellent gift! My heart is continually calling me back to Italy… and to travel. There was a roundtrip ticket available to Rome for about $750 on hotwire the other day… it was everything I could not to ‘click’ purchase. Roundtrip or not… I don’t think I would have come back this time… not for a good while.

But, this mediocrity at work is teaching me very valuable lessons. I’m learning about things I do and don’t want from a job… from life. I’m learning the value (and certainly the trials!) inherent in patience. I’m learning to appreciate things I might not have appreciated before… and even those things and experiences I appreciated before… I’m learning to appreciate more fully.

And there have been some experiences that have been absolutely “sweet!” and “amazing!” I’m talking about blasting skeet with shotguns, bullseyes with rifles and action targets with a pistol baby! Yup. All thanks to my awesome boss! Well, my boss’s boss actually. He says I’m a pretty decent shot… I say… I’ve got a lot of work to do before I become a spy! I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Er… weeeeeelll… actually… most of you probably know I”m really not kidding. I’d love to be snatched up by the CIA, trained to master any weapon, including my own body and my own intelligence, and use it to take out bad guys… Boondock Saints style! (An aside: GREAT move! Go watch it!) Wow… what a crazy, exciting life that would be! Intelligence, travel, elite exercise, arms and continual challenge and mystery! Mom, I know you’re cringing as you read this… but I’ve always been drawn to such things. And, Mom, if you’re asking where’s the spirituality in that… God waged war with Satan. Taking out bad guys is completely legit. And any good guy on the wrong side… will have eternal life… sooner. I admit… I hope I’m later than sooner! Periods of medioctrity and all… life’s a trip!

I’ll leave off with that for now… Crazy Laura wants to be a spy! Gosh, I’m such a little kid sometimes…