A Travellerspoint blog

June 2019

Awesome ways to help

If you are trying to figure out a way to be present for refugees and for the many, many children caught up in this, here are some really impactful ways to help based on what I am seeing here:

1. Of course: donate. Based on where I am and what I am seeing, I recommend Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries (http://swgsm.org/) (where I am working) or the Catholic Charities Respite Center in McAllen (https://www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org/Donations.aspx). I will probably come up with others, but can 100% guarantee that anything you send to either of these places will go straight to food, toilet paper, shoelaces, belts, bus tickets, medicine, etc., etc.

2. You could send supplies. You could do a 1-click Amazon order to either SWGSM or Catholic Charities, and these supplies will be used readily. Here is their Amazon wish list: https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/JJVAJFS3VIIQ/ They need shoelaces, belts, toilet paper, wipes, feminine products, travel size soaps and anything that would make someone more comfortable on a very long bus ride. My guess is coloring books and crayons for children would be a huge win; some children's books in Spanish would be awesome, too.

3. Go find a place near you where these refugees are arriving. In Boston, we actually have an ICE detention center. Most people don't know that. Find where the actual people are and help them. They need food, spending money, help finding work (if they have permission), access to learning English. They need legal assistance. They need help not falling into dangerous situations. When you start digging, you will find that there are organizations that have things you can support. Get yourself close to people who need help. Learn about their lives. Have a meal with them.

4. Show up at a protest. Put a sign in your window. Wear a button of support. Pray, pray, pray.

I can't wear the wonderful sweatshirt mi hermanita gave me for Christmas (because it is H-O-T mucho calor here), but if I could I would wear it every day. It reads: ===Measure your life in love.=== Yes!

Posted by sarahglover44 18:26 Comments (3)

Walk in their shoes-but be sure to bring your own shoelaces

Buenas - I wasn't able to get to Internet Friday or Saturday, and yet I have so much to share. I am going to do a major dump, and if it is too long...just skim ahead. (My book club knows I think every book since the invention of word processing is 1/3 too long. And now these entries are going to fall into the same trap!)

On Friday, I went to McAllen with El Pastor and three people who are living in the small apartments he has built adjacent to his church to house people who are seeking asylum. The abuelita (grandmother) is Elsa; I am guessing she is about 40. A daughter, Astrid. And a granddaughter, Tatiana (that's not quite right...but I didn't understand this chicita when she told me her name. She is about 3 or 4). They are from Guatemala. A short version of their story is that Astrid was abducted while walking to class. She was taken out of the city by bandits who planned to sell her into a sex trafficking ring. She escaped; got back to her house. Before she and her mother were able to flee, they were both captured and held against their will. Lots of abuse by many men. Astrid became pregnant from the abuse. They escaped. They made their way across Mexico and crossed the border into this country at Brownsville. Astrid gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Tatiana. They have been here for 3 years, and are struggling to get papers (for working, for asylum, maybe other things...I am still learning so much). One of the hurdles is getting a birth certificate for Tatiana.

El Pastor and I took them to the Guatemalan consulate in McAllen. A whole bunch of talk, the crux of which is they have to go to Houston for some other kind of paper or certificate.

After this visit, we went to the bus station in McAllen. There is a detention center for families in McAllen; once people are processed through the detention center, INS delivers them to the bus station. The only places they are allowed to go from the bus station are the destination they provided the INS (to get released at all from detention, they need a physical address to be released to) or the Catholic Charities Respite Center, which is adjacent to the bus stop.

At the bus stop, we came to briefly know the stories of two families. One from Venezuela - mom, dad, two boys. Parents in mid-20s at the most. They had been in the detention center for 4 days. They were on their way to Orlando, FL where the father's mother lives. They looked good, and were clearly healthy, though they had not changed clothes or showered once in 5 days. The mama said the detention center was packed and the food was awful. Her younger son was sick (vomitting) while they were there, and there was no assistance for him. They asked us for Pedialyte. This whole family had slip-on shoes; this suggested they had pretty good knowledge about the detention centers and resources to come with those shoes. The detention centers take away shoe laces and belts upon entry, and do not give them back. After speaking with this family for about 10 minutes, El Pastor looked at the rest of us (me, Elsa, Astrid, Tatiana) and told us he would be back. And they were off. And there we were at the bus station!

So I started talking with a small family of a mother and son, Marni y David. David is 13 years old, and too skinny for a growing boy. Marni and David had no shoe laces; I watched them get laces from someone and put them in their shoes. There are so many parts of this that are humiliating, and I have to say that watching these two people bend over to put brown laces in their white sneakers so carefully is an image I won't ever forget. I can't put my finger on why it was so symbolic. This mother and son had nothing. The clothes on their backs and 4 Mexican pesos. Immigration had a suitcase of hers, and had not released it to her when she and David were taken to the bus station. She had a small piece of paper with a long number printed on it. This was the only thing she had to try to claim the only thing she brought with them. These two people were lovely. David has a quick, shy smile and big eyes. This is what love does, because their trek was harrowing.

They were waiting to catch a bus to New York, where they would then go to Fairfield, CT. Marni has a sister-in-law in Fairfield. The bus rides would be at last 48 hours, and they literally had nothing. I bought them Subway sandwiches from a restaurant in the bus station, and as she told me her story (which of course, I barely was understanding), I came to understand they literally had nothing. I gave them $20. I gave them my phone number. Here they are:
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Should I have given them $100? $1000? Should I have gotten Marni's sister-in-law's phone number in CT? (um - a resounding yes to this last question. I can't get these two out of my mind. I wonder if they are arriving today.)

Marni led us in a long prayer before eating sandwiches. She asked me for a "vasito" and I heard "bolsita." I went to the counter and got a plastic bag. Then I watched her pour some of David's Coke into the bag. Aaack!! I realized my mistake and went running for a cup. I was able to explain to her and David my misunderstanding and told them I was embarrassed. They laughed with me.

David wants to be an engineer. Marni wants to open a pastry shop. These two fled El Salvador 1 year ago and made their way across Mexico very slowly. They were in detention for two days.

May our hearts and our minds and our souls be with Marni and David and really take in what it could be like to give all that you have to protect your son in this way. When I told her she was brave, she shook it off. Reading this brings tears to my eyes - and also my heart swells with hope for them.

Amen.

Posted by sarahglover44 12:50 Comments (2)

escreen

So, my housemate, Abuelito Jesse, is somewhere between 70 and 100 years old. I have run into three ways we are having trouble communicating. Most obviously, my Spanish is fatal. Second, he is trying to improve his English as much as I am trying to improve my Spanish. So he keeps sliding words in English into his speech - but I don't recognize them as English words! This morning he said: "Necesito dar un ride a este muchacha." And me: "otra vez? un ride?" Because "ride" didn't really sound like ride...and I totally thought it was a word in Spanish that I didn't understand. Third, and perhaps most hilarious: he asks me questions multiple times over the course of a day. I am thinking my Spanish is so crappy that he just doesn't understand me. But I am beginning to think he just doesn't remember. Any advice on how to tease all this out? Mas riendo, creo.

Mi casa y mi camion:

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Posted by sarahglover44 09:04 Comments (0)

Weeks packed into one day

Wowie - I don't know where to start. Maybe with where I am now: sitting in a park in Los Fresnos (population about 5K); there is outdoor wifi, a skateboard park, horseshoe pits, and a playground. (There are a shit-ton of bugs, too. Let's not forget it is hot, humid, and rained inches a few days ago.) It's really nice - even with the bugs. I hear English, which is pretty uncommon. My experience so far is that everyone here is either bilingual or speaks Spanish only. It won't be true of everyone, of course, but I hear very little English.

I visited the border today. I became the driver for El Pastor for the day, and traveled with him on his errands and then he took me to Brownsville. We visited the bus station where INS drops people off who have been paroled from detention. People who have a physical address to go to (family, friends, church) are often paroled. If you have no physical address, you stay in detention or are deported.

We visited the wall. Matamoros, the city right across the border is visible from the US side. The Rio Grande was high with lots of debris floating by, probably from the storms earlier in the week. The bus station is a couple hundred yards from the border. There is a bridge across the river that people and vehicles cross - lots of traffic every day. And it is across this bridge that some people come every day who are seeking a new life. Our law requires us to accept people who come to our country who are seeking asylum. When Trump shut down other pathways into this country, this one stayed open. So, virtually everyone asks for asylum. When people ask for asylum, they are immediately put into detention. There are detention centers in Brownsville; there is an unaccompanied minor detention center outside of Los Fresnos. Families are housed in a detention center in McAllen. You cannot access the detention centers unless access is granted. El Pastor is called occasionally to go pick people up, but he said it was unlikely they would let anyone in to observe.
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El Pastor said that most people coming across the border come across a 60-mile stretch of the nearly 2K mile border. The 60 miles is where I am. He said there are hundreds of people camped out on the Mexican side of the border just waiting for a chance to cross the bridge. That the cartels manage who gets to the front of the line.

El Pastor is 81 and escaped Cuba as a young man. He spent time in a prison camp and barely escaped with his life. He laughs alot, calls everyone "mi amor," prays fervently, and decided when he escaped Cuba to devote his life to helping people find safety. Someone else who works with him told me today he is known as the "Mother Teresa of Disciples" in the Disciples of Christ congregation.

I will share more about exactly what Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries does - and I am learning. The change in our government has changed much for them. SWGSM used to house refugees who were in the asylum-seeking process, but now those people are detained. If they get a parole card, they don't stay close by because a) there are not good jobs here (though they can't work legally); and b) the judge for this region is hard-nosed. If people have anywhere else to go, they do that. That said, El Pastor houses people who are likely to be killed or tortured if they are deported and who have nowhere else to go. I have met a few, including one 31-year old woman from Honduras who is pregnant and has a toddler who will be 2 in August. She has 3 children in Honduras. I don't know her story yet. All I know is she has no one in this country.

I hate and love Wal-mart. Again. Because they suck so badly, and have everything you need. Today, I bought size 5 diapers, baby wipes, 2 pairs of size 5 plastic sandals. And I bet I will be back for many more trips. It is a fucking odd world that we are in with these stores crammed to the rims with crap, and people in such dire need.

I can walk to four places that give pay-day loans. The nearest Starbucks is 9 miles away.

I went to the coast today, too. Cotton! These people grow cotton down here - who knew? And oranges. There are palm trees and cacti (I didn't know those two things co-existed). There are massive wind farms here! These elegant, giant-sized ballerinas slowly spin. I find them enchanting.

El Pastor provided me a pick-up truck to get around. So, I am cruising around South Texas in a pick up truck, listening to Mexican music. The sky is huge, the enchiladas are ricisima.

Tomorrow, I go to McAllen.

Peace y abrazos

Posted by sarahglover44 18:04 Comments (0)

Arrived in Los Fresnos

semi-overcast

Hi All - I am going to give this platform a shot for sharing my experiences from this summer. I haven't tested it out much, so if it is a pain...I am sorry. :)

Soph and I had an amazing week in Portland, OR (June 18-June 25). Honestly, there is not much in that town not to love. I was texting photos throughout of very funny storefronts and signs. Things like "MF Tasty" for the name of a food truck. And "Cuts, Shaves, Whiskey" for - I kid you not - a bar and barber. Get a shave, get a whiskey. Another highlight was a dude spinning vinyl in a gift shop. Two turntables, salsa funk. While you are buying birthday cards. The Portlandia-ness of it was out of hand. The trees were a) many, b) very tall, c) magnificent. I dug it out there alot.

Total Ya-Ya fest with my college girls - and all of our children. We did a full-on Ya-Ya ceremony around a fire pit with drumming and regalia. Not kidding. I'll figure out photos on this platform and (maybe) share some. Donna and her family hosted us; 5 million points for Donna's husband, Craig, who shuttled, poured, grilled, laughed for and with us. (He has 19 years of experience with this clan under his belt....but still!)

Yesterday, I flew Portland to Harlingen, TX. But let's be clear, it was actually: Portland-Las Vegas-Houston-Harlingen. I woke at 3:30AM and got to my bed in Los Fresnos, TX about 8:30PM. It was a long day. I was welcomed literally with open arms by Father Pereira at the airport, and then he took me for enchiladas. So, it's basically a perfect fit for me here. Father Pereira (whom I will call El Pastor from now on) helped me settle in a little house across the street from his church and the small housing complex he has built over the years for refugees. I have my own room, and share the house with an abuelito named Jesse. Jesse has lived in Los Fresnos since 1964, and traveled the country picking fruits and vegetables until his knee gave out in 2001. At least that is what I am understanding between my hilarious Spanish and his halting English. But I know my Spanish veggies pretty well, so I think I am on target.

No wifi in the house, but there is AC. I also have a ceiling fan in my room. I share a bathroom and kitchen with Jesse. Mi casa para (por?? dios mio) tres semanas.

El Pastor will pick me up in a little bit and introduce me to what I will be doing. I still don't have much of an idea what that is. Last night he mentioned re-building his website after I told him I worked at an ed-tech company. Eeeeek - all these tech skills I don't have! Or Spanish! I hope they trust me with a washing machine.

Hugs and love to all.

Posted by sarahglover44 09:23 Comments (2)

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