I am spending a few months working with Doxa, a nonprofit that focuses on education, community and house-building in Tijuana. I am staying at Unidos por Siempre, one of the orphanages that Doxa partners with, where I stayed for a week during my work with Doxa last July. María runs the orphanage, but all the children here call her “Mama” or “Madrina” and being here has been like returning to a distant relative’s home. I know it, yet everything is still new. I am getting to know the children who were not here over the summer and María’s extended family, indeed how this orphanage is run.
The days here ebb and flow, with the coming and going of the children and with the light. Even without an alarm, I wake up with the sun and at 6:00 pm it is already dark and I begin to get sleepy. When the younger children go to school in the afternoon, the whole orphanage gets quieter and when they return in the hours before dinner there is a great commotion as some of the children try to do their homework and the others play and yell outside.
Some of the children remembered me from the summer- especially the girls who I stayed with- Camila, Ididria and Sabrina as well as Fernando to whom I was teaching the alphabet. I have restarted that process, but it is a daunting task because there is so much to learn in order to be able to read and write. However, I think Spanish is much easier to teach than English because there are fewer letters that are silent or have multiple sounds. Often I have to remember that my goals must be small and attainable and that success will not come overnight. I have found encouragement in Romans 8:24-25 which says “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” I am trying to wait patiently, to continue working a little bit every day with the children.
In the meantime, I have been learning about the all the different little things that make up this community in Rojo Gomez. On Wednesday, I went to the pharmacy with María to get anti-lice shampoo, combs, and gel because I had shown her the nits- los piojos in Camilla, Ididria, and Anita’s hair. Over two days Panchitas and an assortment of others picked out all (or at least almost all) of the nits in their hair. Camilla’s was by far the worst. She may have had a nit on every hair on her head. Then on Thursday, the man who sells movies came and I was amazed to find DVD discs of films that are currently out in the theaters. I’ve now seen Jumanji and Coco both of which are currently playing in cinemas. This underground dissemination of illegally copied files, which travel to all the houses in the neighborhood is fascinating. The collection of films was also quite interesting. Besides the movies out in theaters now, there were small indie films like L’Amante Double, which is a French film that debuted at the London Film Festival in 2017, and lots of children’s animated movies.
On Saturday a lot of the children who went home to their families for the weekend came over in the afternoon and some friends of María’s came by with clothing donations. Just before they left, they threw a whole bunch of coins for the children to run and collect. It was fun to see the joy on the kid’s faces as they counted the monedas but I was hyper-aware of the sense that it felt exactly like treating poverty like a game, and felt very condescending,
The week so far has been immensely freeing. My responsibilities take lots of time and energy and patience, but they are simple, to help with whatever is needed and to hang out with the kids and teach them to read.