This week 2 years ago I was somewhere better than home for Thanksgiving. How could that be? Homes the best place to be with all of your family? Yes and no. I was on a service trip in Tijuana, Mexico helping out the people, and I couldn’t have asked for a better thanksgiving that year, or ever.
Hands down I would have to say that that week was my favorite week of my entire life. I met so many wonderful people, had great life changing experiences and had some very yummy authentic Mexican food.
Lets start from the beginning.
I was a senior in high school attending Hillcrest High School in Ammon, Idaho where i lived at the time.
I was preparing and thinking of ideas to start my Senior Project. Senior Project is a class where you choose a service or create a product (every senior had to do or create in order to graduate). The student would have to put in around 25 hours of work or so and then write a 8-10 page paper about their experience.
My favorite teacher, Mrs. Crabtree was talking about how past students have took a service trip down to Tijuana with a charity called Charity Anywhere Foundation. They took students from all over to different places all over the world to help and serve.
When i heard about this possibility for this trip i was ecstatic! Mrs. Crabtree, who mentioned it, wasn’t able to go so that left a problem, who would chaperone all of us students? Another problem i ran into was the money, the trip costed quiet a lot. I begged and begged my parents and they gave in. I got a little help from them but also started saving my own money from my job working at Kmart (I made $7.25 so i couldn’t have done it without them).
Other things started falling into place too. One of my classmates, Payton Grover (also in my ward) his parents offered to chaperone, how great!
We all got together once a week in October during lunch to plan the trip. 11 other students, not including myself signed up for the trip also (one being a junior). We also had one of the students older sisters come with us, she had just gotten back from a Spanish speaking mission and would end up helping us greatly (both also in my ward).
Time was flying by and the time for us to depart was coming closer and closer. In preparation i got a passport and plane ticket.
On November 20th, 2014 we all packed in a big white van and drove to salt lake where we would stay the night before our flight. We arrived to Salt Lake around 9 pm and first thing we did was find food! We all went out to Buffalo Wild Wings.
(Starting on the left is Payton Grover, Madison Spiers, Dakota Denny, Austin Nelson, Aj Fisher, Quinn Driggs, Marissa McKinney, Kallie Staley, Me, Kyle Hawkes and Vickie Grover) not pictured Jade Grover, Vickies husband and Payton’s dad).
We ended up getting to our hotel at midnight and got settled in. I couldn’t sleep for some strange reason. I was hot and then cold and shaking, i was getting sick, just great. I didn’t get any sleep at all and felt like crap, just my luck (i realized later that I was sick with sore throat but was still happy to be going).
That Friday morning on November 21st we all woke up and hurried to get breakfast then got to our shuttle to take us to the Salt Lake airport.
Payton, Vickie, Jade, Austin & his sister Jess, Marissa and Kallie all had an earlier flight than the rest of us. So that left me, Quinn, Aj, Madison, Kyle and Dakota all together on the later flight (as pictured).
Everything went smoothly thankfully, security fast fast and we got to our portal with time to spare. This was my first time flying alone without my family so that was a little scary for me, I was glad it only ended up being an hour flight to San Diego.
When we got to San Diego Gordon, the Charity Anywhere coordinator picked us up and took us to cross the boarder! They were a little suspicious of our big white ghetto van but we made it through.
A little bit about Gordon is that he’s an old, funny, kind and giving man. We couldn’t have done this trip without him.
We made our way to our hosts house, Alex and Betty. Alex is hardworking, giving and just an amazing guy! They let us live in their home for a week, fed us and took us around to our job sites. Betty is the sweetest woman ever, she fed us the most delicious meals and made sure we had everything we needed. They also had a son name Isaac that was the funnest to play with and a dog named Machete that never stopped barking but that’s okay because we loved him anyways.
That first night we all settled in, made our beds in our sleeping bags and on our air mattresses, ate some yummy Mexican food and all got to know each other better then got some rest.
November 22nd Saturday our first full day in Tijuana!
(All the gang plus Gordon in the middle on our first day before we split up)
We all woke up at 7 to get ready and started on our first day. We were split up in half to go and work on different work sites. Maddie, AJ, Kyle, Dakota and Jess and I all went to a locals house. Her name was Merina. We helped to move dirt and rocks to make room for her to expand her home so she could sell things out of her home. Merina was the sweetest and was so thankful for our service she made yummy lunch for us.
(Moving rocks and dirt at Merinas house)
(Lunch time with our favorite delicious Mexican cokes at Merinas house)
Just down the road from Merinas house there was a little shop that sold cokes for really cheap so we ended up going there a couple times before the day ended, one of my favorite things about Mexico is their coke!
We ended the day tired but happy, we went back to Alex’s house to eat dinner and then rest for the next day.
November 23rd Sunday
We all got up early for church. This was one of my favorite experiences on this trip, attending a Spanish speaking ward. I could not understand one word said but i still felt the spirit so strongly.
After church we went back to Alex’s and Betty’s house to change and eat then we headed off to two orphanages.
This was hands down the most heartbreaking experience of the entire trip. There was all these sweet little children who had no home, no parents, no siblings even though they all deserve the best.
The following pictures are all from the first orphanage.
The girl feeding the little baby her name is Alondra. Alondra and i became the bestest friends. With her broken English and my broken Spanish we did our very best to communicate. Even though there was a big language barrier we still seemed to understand and connect to each other which is more than i could’ve asked for. We even would draw pictures of flowers or something else simple and say the word in our language to communicate. This would be the first time i got to spend time with her.
The second time i got to spend time with her we spent our time drawing pictures together again like stars, flowers and hearts. She even made me a picture to take home which i still have. She also gave me a bracelet. I wore that bracelet everyday until the wording started to rub off now i hang it up in my room as a reminder of her and my trip.
More pictures from the first orphanage.
They all loved getting their pictures taken, too cute!
It was heartbreaking leaving my friends that i had just made. The love i developed them in just a short few hours was unreal. I still to this day pray for them all, they all mean the world to me.
These were taken at the second orphanage.
One of my favorite pictures, the kids were all trying to knock me over.
By far the most heartwarming and emotional day of my trip.
November 24th Monday
We all got assigned to different projects today. Kallie, Payton, Gary (who was a chaperone volunteer) and i all went to a catholic church to work on a project there.
Outside the school there was this tiny room, more like a closet where this little family was living. The family only had 1 bed and there were 3 of them. The mother, a little girl and a little boy. We started to make a bunk bed for them. First thing we did was go and buy supplies for the bed then we get started measuring, cutting and putting things together.
I’m glad Gary was there to make sure i didn’t hurt myself with the power tools! I learned how to use a saw and an electric screwdriver. Around lunch time some of the nuns at the school were nice enough to provide us lunch in the cutest way! They put out a table, a fancy table cloth, nice dishes and yummy food.
After lunch we kept working and working until we finished! The family was so grateful and the little girl was just the happiest. We had all successfully made a bunk bed without previous knowledge of building one.
The rest are pictures from the school, the school children and the cutest little puppy you’ll ever see (dogs are literally everywhere in Tijuana).
Side story, I learned that a lot of children cannot afford to go to school in Tijuana. You have to be able to afford a uniform which is around $90 which is too much for them to afford. A lot of children are being stripped of their education because they can’t afford it.
The puppy looks like a teddy bear, so unreal!
After finishing the bunk beds Gordon picked us up to work on something else. So Payton, Kallie and I all piled in the back of the pick up truck.
We ended up going back to the first orphanage we visited the day before, the one where Alondra lived.
On the way there Gordon offered to let us give it a shot driving. If you’ve never been to Tijuana it’s crazy. There’s stop signs but no one stops. Pretty much if you’re the bigger vehicle you’ll always win. So i gave it a shot and thankfully got us to the orphanage safe and sound.
At the orphanage we moved gravel for them so they could expand their property.
(Gary, Me, Payton, Kallie and the famous Gordon)
I sneaked off quiet a few times to visit the children though, my favorite part of the day.
This didn’t take long so on the way home Gordon swore us to secrecy and took us out for the most delicious ice cream, a great way to end the day! The servers were just the funniest and the kindest people ever.
Gary was sad because he got a smaller ice cream cone than us.
Our day had gotten even better, Gordon stopped at the beach for us! We couldn’t tell anyone because they were all working hard but since we got done early he thought he’d treat us to some fun.
Since Tijuana is so close to the boarder of California we got San Diego weather which was nice and hot!
The fun had to end eventually so we all headed back to Alex’s to have dinner, wash up and get sleep for our next adventure!
I’ll be posting the other half of my trip shortly so stay tuned and thanks for reading!