Song and Dance

Upon showing up at LUPE this morning we were told we would be helping with some maintenance at the office for the morning. While waiting for further instruction, Pancho, the volunteer cook at LUPE, sang the most beautiful song for us in Spanish. He told us we would have to learn the chorus by lunch time so when he sang for us again we could join in. Pancho’s voice was absolutely beautiful and when the song was translated into English for those of us who don’t speak Spanish it became clear that the message of the song was equally as beautiful. Pancho clearly enjoyed singing for us and was so pleased at lunch when we were able to join in. His face lit up and it was impossible not to be moved by his song.

When we began work, some of us painted the inside of a shed, some of us trimmed Agave and removed the thorns, Josh and Eric dug a ditch and Tom rode a tractor around. He asked for ear plugs to drown out the sound and was told LUPE did not have earplugs but they had a sombrero, but that he needed a tan anyway so he could not wear the sombrero. After a few hours of working on maintenance at the office we went to one of the colonias and passed out flyers. Most of the people who we spoke to about LUPE while passing out flyers were very receptive and friendly, which is not at all what some of us had expected.

After passing out a few flyers we returned to LUPE for another awesome lunch cooked by Pancho. Delicious!!! After lunch we began cutting out material and helping to make the flags LUPE will be using during the Caesar Chavez march in March. We helped with the flags until the work day was finished and had a chance to get some Texas BBQ and go dancing. We all had a dance lesson and learned the bachata and then continued to dance  for the next couple of hours. All in all, it was a successful and cheerful day.

Costa Rica Days 5 & 6

yesterday we made a lot of progress on the fence. It’s so close to being done! we only have a few posts to put up and still need to attach some barbed wire. After dinner, we all sat around a campfire and roasted marshmallows.

Today was our cultural day! We started off the morning by going to a private beach about an hour away from the farm. We enjoyed the waves and the sun and even go try coconuts right from the tree! After the beach we went to a local restaurant for lunch. we then made our way to a waterfall where some of us daringly tried the rope swing. On the way back to the farm, we stopped for ice cream and smoothies!

After tomorrow’s work day, we’re hoping to have finished the fence!

New Homes

We started off the day with a lecture on the border wall and housing in the valley. One impact that stuck out was the ecological consequences of the wall; when a city in Mexico flooded, the wall prevented water from draining out and kept buildings underwater by feet, while the US side had basically no water. After the talk we went to a farmer’s market down the road from LUPE that had rows upon rows of clothing, veggies and knick-knacks. The market has been busy every day this week, like an outdoor mall. After another delicious home made lunch we headed to work on a neighborhood that’s being built for families in need of homes. The construction follows the same motto as LUPE’s other services: we do not do for others what they can do for themselves. So basically program builds homes for those in need, but requires that they put in work hours of their own. This gives the families a sense of ownership right off the bat when they move in. After the work day was done half of us headed back to LUPE for a youth meeting. It was amazing talking to people our own age about problems they have to deal with every day; getting work and not getting pulled over while driving are just two problems they face daily, in addition to fighting for immigration reform that could give them a pathway to citizenship. Hearing stories from people who are so relatable gives you a real sense of what’s really going on around the border. And finally our day was capped off with a visit from Penny, the adorable dalmation-mix puppy.

Day 3: A Day of Learning

Today officially began our week of service with LUPE.  We spent the morning learning about what the organization does, the facts and fictions of immigration, and policy changes taking place in the US with regards to immigration and where it looks like we are headed in the future.  Our education also included a quick trip to “the wall,”  which surprisingly wasn’t actually on the border of Mexico and the US.

LUPE is an organization the gives services in both community organization and individual growth and support.  As we saw yesterday, they are instrumental in creating public awareness around the key issues such as working conditions and immigration in the communities and in local, state, and federal governments.  They also provide tax services, English lessons, and many other services to those in the surrounding communities.

The most eye-opening part of the day was our discussion of immigration.  We began with a quick fact or fiction exercise where we had to guess whether certain statements were true or not.  I found this particularly interesting as I found that many of my prior understandings of immigration and undocumented workers was not entirely true. We talked about how difficult the current process to legally immigrate the the US is and the effect this has on how people decide to come to the country.

Regardless of why or how people make their way into the US, it is impossible to deny that the culture of the country is changing.  While discussing the current legislation being discussed in the government today we talked about the role the growing Latino population is having on the outcome of elections.  It was undeniably a big support in helping President Obama win a second term in office and will most definitely shape the face of politics in the future.  There are sure to be some changes taking place, which will be most necessary, as this issue progresses and the country is once again shaped by the people who choose to call it home.

Costa Rica days 3 and 4

yesterday morning we went to church. Aleksey translated so we could follow along. The music was really great and we enjoyed attending the service with Donald and his family. After church, we came back to the farm for lunch before hiking to the local waterfall. The water was refreshing after the long hike and sitting under the waterfall was great! On the way back to the farm, we stopped at a local store for some ice cream.

Today, we continued building the fence. It’s coming along very nicely! We’re looking forward to continuing putting up posts and barbed wire tomorrow!

Day 2

The first non-travel day of ASB Texas was very relaxed, but still informative and fun. We began the day by visiting the Santa Ana wildlife refuge where we learned a lot about the local flora and fauna that is essentially unique to this area.  After that, we had lunch and proceeded to our site for the first time this trip for an introductory session with the communications and volunteer director for LUPE, John Michael. We learned a lot about the mission of LUPE (La Unión del Pueblo Entero) and were given a general idea of some of the activities we will be doing all week. To conclude, we went to Wendy’s and gave the manager a letter explaining the cheap immigrant labor behind their food, particularly the Florida tomatoes. It was a success! We then went to the beach for a bit, had dinner and then reflected on the day.

The introduction to what we will be doing at LUPE and tonight’s reflection got me very excited for this trip. I am curious to learn more about the different issues surrounding immigration reform and to help facilitate positive changes as much as I can. Furthermore, we had such a constructive and positive reflection on only the second day, so I am excited to reflect better with the group as there is more information to reflect on. In the short time I have been in Texas, I can already tell that this is going to be a great trip, and am excited to see it get better and better as the week goes on.

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” (César Chávez).

Saturday, January 19th

Today was full of traveling! Our entire team met at the Newark airport around 9:30 this morning and slowly made it through check-in and security. Fortunately, we had smooth flights! We expected to be fed on our three hour flight, however, so we came off of the plane starving! Getting the keys to our rental vans was easy. We drove to the church and were all pleasantly surprised with our living conditions. The church/school we are staying is is amazing! Not to mention how sweet Matthew, the volunteer coordinator, is! The school/church has everything: basketball courts, volleyball court, kitchens, couches, and showers.

After we toured where we are staying, we went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We had to wait for a table for a long time, but it gave us the chance to bond and get to know everyone a little better. The food and people were great! After dinner we headed back to where we are staying ( St. Paul’s), reflected, and went to bed. We were all exhausted!

Everyone in the McAllen/ San Juan area is so sweet! We definitely stand out that we aren’t from Texas, though. We got asked many times where we are from. It looks like we are driving through Mexico when we pass all of the signs in Spanish. It’s a good thing we have a few people who know Spanish well! It is very warm and dry. It was surprising to see some grass and many palm trees in such a desert-like area! I’m sure our week will be full of many more surprises!

Today we learned how to make compost. In the morning, we took a walk and gathered dead leaves and branches. After that, Donald showed us a vine to swing on and a tree to walk across. After lunch we cleaned out the cow pens and used the old chicken bedding, molasses, water, calcium, legumes, and the leaves we collected earlier to make our compost. We covered them with old chicken feed bags and in fifteen days Donald will take the temperature of the pile and stir it around. After one month the compost will finally be ready. After this exciting day we all enjoyed showers and Xinia’s delicious cooking for dinner! hasta luego!

Gate A35!! Off to Texas :)

At Newark airport waiting for our plane! Im a bit sad that break is over but at the same time  Im extremely happy to finally experience an incredible week in Texas. The topic of Immigration is well known in my community because my family has migrated to the U.S. couple of years ago. We are now U.S. citizens however I know that undocumented individuals come across several obstacles, specially kids who come at a younger age. I know that life is not always fair but being able to help the needed ones is necessary.  Also we will be enjoying a warmer weather thats a plus :)