vignettes: july 17- july 22

I am constantly in awe of the creativity of the women who help Rosa out with Day Camp. On Wednesday and Friday we made these nice bottles out of old coke bottles, egg shells that the kids had brought, glitter and string. The kids got to chose the colors that they wanted and when their parents showed up many were super excited to show them.

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CECUT is an entire cultural experience distilled into one area. There is tons of art, a history of the Baja California area, a small aquarium, and something similar to an IMAX theatre. I wish I could have spent more time wandering around the exhibits, especially a series of black and white photographs from the last seventy years.

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Friday night Alex took the preteam from Christ Church of Oakbrook out to their housing sites and I tagged along. My grandma (and recently passed grandfather) go to Oakbrook and getting to meet their youth pastor and other leaders was a very God-inspired moment of connection. We got tacos and shared some stories before digging into the logistics of house building and staying at the orpha.

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These first few days have been overwhelming at times and a real exercise in being an outsider in a tight knit community. Walking the streets with Rosa, everyone says hello to her and she knows everyone in the colonia. At the materiales store as she went to pay for a part for the sink the vendor said that it was a gift for La Profe. It’s incredible to see the relationships that she has and the ways that Doxa is integrated into the community.

 

rooster calls and context

I arrived in Tijuana with Alex Knopes, the Executive Director of Doxa, yesterday morning and became almost immediately immersed in the act of listening and working and the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light. I reintroduced myself to Rosa who was organizing for summer camp and helped her do a little bit of prep before heading up to my room on the fifth floor in Casa Hogar de los Niños. Alex and I then went to load up his truck with supplies for a group that is building three houses, but will be based out of a different orphanage in east Tijuana. It took a long time to load, but after playing a game of enlarged Tetris we managed to fit everything in.

The drive to east Tijuana is a little over an hour and as we drove Alex explained the context that I was entering. Hogar de los Niños who has been working with Doxa for over fifteen years has decided that the organization can no longer operate on their land. This is well within their rights as Pilar owns the land, and even isn’t the most negative thing as Doxa has outgrown the courtyard annex space. The toolshed and building supplies will likely stay but Doxa needs a new home for their community work. In the past Doxa’s vision had aligned more with the orphanage, but now they have fundamentally different purposes. Doxa is focused on building community and creating opportunities through housing and education, whereas the orphanage is more focused on caring for their children and desire a closed environment, however the housebuilding trips provide a lot of their income. Doxa’s connection with Hogar de los Niños will not stop, but it has changed, and because of this Doxa is looking to partner with Unidos por Siempre in Rojo Gomez in east Tijuana. This requires staring from square one all over again both logistically and missionally.

When we arrived at Unidos por Siempre, we had lunch with Maria, the orphanage’s director who is also known as La Madrina (the godmother). As an aside Rosa is known as La Profe (the teacher), and I found these ‘titles’ to be so telling of the women’s influence in their community. Unidos por Siempre orphanage is much smaller spatially but has around the same number of kids as in Hogar de los Niños. The walls are bright sunshine yellow and the orphanage feels cozy and homey. The kids were making fidget spinners out of coke bottle caps and toothpicks. We unloaded quickly thanks to one of the older boys who did most the heavy lifting. On this side of the city life seems to move a little more slowly. There is hardly any sense of rush here. I couldn’t keep from thinking that this orphanage needed the resources at Casa Hogar de los Niños much more. There are a lot of complex relationships that I have little to no understanding of. There is a lot to process and even more that I have left out.

This morning I will just appreciate the sounds of the rooster calls, the birds chirping and the leftover slice of bread that I am eating. I know that Christ is with me, that Christ goes before me and after me and is at my left hand and my right hand and that listening can be as important as loading up a truck with construction supplies.

the woods behind my grandmother’s house

in the lush muggy green of the woods
it is easy to forget the suburban houses
just closeby
it is easy to pretend that our family is together
just for fun

the stream ambles on
muddy waters cool and mellifluous
oak trees grow tall, morning glory climbing up trunks
mosquitos buzz
gnats and butterflies flit by
it is the black dragonflies though
who sit so peacefully unmoving for minutes
only to leave like helicopters
to rest on another green teardropped leaf
it is the dragonflies that interest me
I want to be more like a dragonfly
so medidative
so quick

but here for a time I can rest
on a fallen log
covered in emerald moss
here I can listen to birds and insects and the wind
here I can forget my reasons
it it easy to forget

parchment

there is no greater pleasure
than the smell of fresh paper
from a printer
or the crisp musty waft
of old books unopened- now free

eyes like ours
too blind are no use
the entanglement of memories and olfactory
granddad had old wrinkly parchment hands
moved them slowly
he smelled like mothballs
and hospital dressing gowns at the end
i was all sweat, unquenched by perfumes
fanciful stories he made up
about snuggles the cat
i wish i had written them down on
some clean sheet of paper

apple pie

i am worn out from arguing with my mother
so
i walk to my father’s house
it is quiet here
the only other soul a small bug
walking across the countertop
as i eat baby carrots and hummus
i can hear the hum of the refridgerator
and the swish of my saliva as i chew
carrots makes the same crunching
noise as the apples my mother and i
used to pick
from our neighbors
we don’t pick apples anymore
and my father doesn’t make the family pie
anymore

the fifth of june

her hair is fanned out like the sun
she wears my dress, my swimsuit
lays in my towel
looks so peaceful
the lake so cold
we waded up to our hips
before running out
i still peer at her lips
devout

“this song is going to make me cry when i get old”
she said
she the heroine of a 1920’s novel
i am a plot device

we eavesdrop on a boy and girl
he wears a violent shirt
she wears stripes

put your records on: SZA

I’ve been waiting for this album since Z came out in 2014 and it does not dissapoint. Solana Rowe’s voice is honey sweet, but delivers biting lines such as “You could never trivialize pussy/ But a bum nigga like you would try it”. She continues to push the boundaries of R&B, with hints of indie rock on tracks like “Supermodel” and trap in “Garden (Say It Like Dat)”. The album as a whole explores freedom of sexuality in a modern world, along with insecurity, and the desire for closeness. To quote Pitchfork “CTRL is about sexual freedom while still having your hunger for intimacy be taken seriously.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Drew Barrymore”, atrack in which SZA portrays a more unassured and self conscious version of herself. The song speaks to the feeling of insecurity within a relationship with the chorus constantly questioning whether it is warm enough both inside her and outside. This double meaning; inside as sexual innuedo and outside refering to physical beauty, is complicated further by the fact that the line warm enough sounds similar to woman enough. SZA questions her feminity in relation to her sexual appeal, and shows the difficulties that are posed to women in our current cultural landscape. However the song is sort of an unapologetical apology for parts of her that may not be the epitome of how many think a lady should act.

Warm enough for ya outside baby, yeah
(Tell me that it’s warm enough here for ya)
Is it warm enough for ya inside me, me, me, me?
Warm enough for ya outside baby, yeah
(Tell me that it’s warm enough here for ya)
Warm enough outside, inside me, me, me, me

These sides of both the postives and negatives of modern love are present in the whole album. SZA wishes that she was a “normal girl” who is taken to meet the family, but also sleeps with her ex-boyfriend’s friend because he purposefully left her on Valentine’s Day.

Listen to CTRL here