08 January 2008

Tijuana. /TEE-uh-wan-uh/

Recently, I returned from Mexico for a week-long humanitarian trip. There, we constructed houses and other such things. I did mostly roofing, which I had not done before. But the houses aren't really constructed well there to begin with, so I wasn't too worried.

I found out about the organization from my friend Amber Naumann, who is a student at USU. So I ended up in a group of mostly Aggies, which was surprisingly...not bad. Harhar. (I've been writing "harhar" a lot lately.) Just kidding, I already had a lot of friends up at USU.

A lot of funny things happened. One time, Amber and I walked to the grocery store down the street from the hospital we were staying at. Well, it was more of a clinic, and it did not even function. The clinic is run by the Catholic Church, although that's not the reason it's not functioning (I don't think).

The grocery store is called Flash, but don't be fooled. The English name for the store does not mean anything. I was surprised, in fact, at our proximity to the US border, and yet we were completely immersed in unAmericanness. Not very many people could speak English, and although the landscape is very similar to Southern California, it couldn't be more different in some ways.

So Amber and I were in the pastry section and Amber asks me, "Amanda, what does this sign say?" There was a paper sign on a glass case that said something in Spanish. I don't know Spanish. In fact, I know less than Amber knows. (She was impressively diligent about expanding her Spanish vocabulary and using it. And although I hated the fact that I couldn't speak Spanish, I had zero motivation to actually make an effort to learn any Spanish. I am not a person that is motivated to learn languages. Russian is quite enough for me.) So the fact that she was asking me was funny, but what was funnier was that I answered her. Without hesitation, I read the sign. "Please do not touch the pastries with your hands." And we walked on. I'm not sure how I did that.

Another day, I went with a couple of people in my work group to get lunch from a taco stand on the side of the road. We ordered fish tacos. We went back to the hospital to eat them and so they gave us little baggies with colorful sauces. I didn't use the sauces very much when I was there because me and spicy food don't get along well. I was unprepared for the fire that happened in my mouth when I ate some kind of hidden chili pepper in my taco, then. And to quell the burning in my mouth, I turned to the sauces. One of them looked quite harmless. It was avocado green in color and appeared to have little or no seasoning. I wasn't thinking, but I thought it would be guacamole that was not too hot. So I downed almost the entire baggie.

It wasn't guacamole, it wasn't avocado. I'm told it was wasabi. All I know is that I nearly died. No joking.

When we left Tijuana, it was approximately 12 PM on Wednesday, January 3. It took us a long time to get across the border......and when we did, we just kept driving, stopping only for gas, food, and bathroom breaks. We drove through the night. By around 4 AM, we were in Fillmore area. Steve was driving and I was awake, providing the music (courtesy of iPod), while everyone else slumbered peacefully. Suddenly, the van ran out of gas. The gas gauge was broken so we had to measure the trip miles every time we filled up with gas. I guess we underestimated exactly how many miles we could get on a tank of gas, though.

There weren't very many cars on the road and no one was stopping, so we
decided to push. Within minutes, no one was sleeping anymore and eventually, every person was outside of the van (with the exception of someone to steer the car) pushing or simply walk-running alongside. The next exit with a gas station was over a mile away.

It was quite cold outside. Really an invigorating, brisk walk.

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