Saturday, November 29, 2008

2008 November Neuavo Laredo, Mexico

Well, guys I did it again. I inadvertently left the memory stick out of my camera and now I have more pictures stuck in the camera and can't get them out. I'm not sure what the issue is this time so I'm just moving on with the information about the Mexico trip.

We arrived after traveling through Houston to Laredo, TX to a balmy 70 degree weather. The pastor where we were going to work met us within a few minutes and before we knew it we were in the country of Mexico. The border guards had no problem letting us into Mexico, but as we crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande river the line coming back into the States was miles long and not moving. Pastor Jeff said that it took sometimes 3 hours to get through the border guards and back into the States. It took us a miserly hour and a half when we returned.

I am used to sleeping on church floors under adverse conditions so when I found out that we would be staying at a Holiday Inn Express with soft beds, warm showers, and flush toilets, I simply rolled my eyes. Little did I know what I was in for. That soft bed and those warm showers were indeed refreshing at the day's end.

Wednesday morning we hit the work site bright and early. Well, maybe about 9:30 am. That was after breakfast of scrambled eggs and pancakes. They had Mexican food as well which I sampled. Mexican people have refried beans and rice for every meal. It just didn't seem quite the thing to gulp down when trying to wake up. Besides the only bathroom at the work site was out behind the cactus. Everything in Mexico has stickers or thorns especially sand burs. I think they were on steroids. Anyway our project was to build a fosa. Not up on your Spanish heh. We affectionately called it the dookie tank. In English it's called a septic tank. The pit was already dug and a foundation for concrete blocks had been already poured. One of the team members was a seasoned block layer of 18 years. As I looked around for the place to mix the mortar for the blocks, Mark the block layer, pointed at an area in the dirt and indicated that eight 5-gallon buckets of sand from that pile over there with one bag of concrete mix was the beginning of how to mix concrete the Mexican way. Upon finishing that task, scooping and turning the mixture until the concrete was mixed with the sand. OK, now where is the hose with water. A chuckle came from Mark as he pointed to a concrete structure about 8 foot wide, 12 foot long, and 8 foot deep. Mark told me to take a bucket and dip water from the water tank. So once again 5-gallon buckets were used to lug water to the Mexican concrete mixer. Now the procedure was to keep turning the mixture while adding water until your arms fell off. Well maybe just short of that. With the mortar made, now it was time to lug the blocks, lug the mortar, lug the boards to slide the blocks down in the pit. I got real good and lugging.

Thursday it was pretty much the same as the last day. We finished up the block walls just as darkness fell which was a good thing as there was no electricity at the work site. In fact our total work site tool inventory was 3 hammers, 3 shovels, 1 saw, 2 rickety wheel borrows, and a few concrete finishing tools. I learned a lot about block laying. I learned the consistency the mortar should be, I learned how to break and make blocks fit, and I learned that laying block is hard work.

Friday it rained, so we had to switch gears. The weather there rarely gets too cold and many houses don't have heat, glass in the windows, or doors that seal tight. Therefore when the temperature falls into the forties at night that's really cold there. This day we loaded up a 5-gallon construction site beverage cooler with hot chocolate, bags of black turtle beans, bags of rice, and bags of corn flake breakfast cereal and headed out to neighborhood houses. In Mexico, one never goes up to the house unless invited. To enter someone's property, you would have to stand by the road and holler out to be invited on the property.

Our team leaders had the first of the two meetings. The church area was two tents put side by side with rented card tables and folding chairs. This meeting was on Marriage. At the end of the meeting, it seemed odd to me that as the Pastor wrapped up the meeting two kids were wrestling in the dirt at his feet while dogs of various breeds were sniffing out the area for food crumbs. Quite different from church here.

Saturday we finished up the dookie tank by putting a lid on the tank. This time we mixed up 40 5-gallon buckets of gravel which were placed in a huge ring. Five bags of concrete were emptied on top of the gravel. Oh, by the way, did I mention the bags of concrete were 110 pounds. Now that's quite a lug for this old boy.

Saturday night was the second meeting with a teaching from the leaders of our team on The love of God. Every meeting this pastor feeds the people because many really don't have much to eat and are hungry. There were about 50 people with maybe about 30 kids. So huge pots of beans, rice, and meat mixture stuffed in a tortilla by the hundred count were handed out.

Sunday we visited a orphanage and, of course brought food. We stayed about three hours and played Duck Duck Goose Goose with the kids. Always the Americans ended up in the middle. After the orphanage we hit the market place to buy Mexican artifacts which many were made in China. Imagine that. I bought a couple blankets and a wooden truck that I'm pretty sure were actually made in Mexico, but I would count on it.

It was certainly an eye opener to see such poverty only 15 miles from the border.

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