The caravan departs early again but this time we at least get to route through the famed tunnels of Guanajuato Last night at least for me didn’t see much sleep simply in getting things taken care of (like trying to find an accelerator cable in the states before all other teams cross the border and updating the blog after a huge day) but the team’s excitement to get things underway is more than enough to fuel my start to the day.
We weave through the tunnels that at least in my travel are among the top must sees in the world. Truly unbelievable that this city “functions” with the narrow and almost impossibly steep streets here. In most streets there is no parking, no place to pull to the side of the road and rarely a sidewalk. Stairs from each building extend into the street itself making already tight squeezes even tighter. It’s absolutely normal to have to stop and wait in the middle of a block even if you have no idea why traffic isn’t moving up ahead. We assume this will play into our hand as we have to stop and pick someone up but sadly time our stop exactly with the policia behind us (the only ones that can make traffic move when they want...sometimes). No worries, we simply go around the block, which here means a 30+ block loop back through the tunnels we just came through.
At the boys’ home they all come running out to greet us again and we unload our truckload of materials for the day and everyone is on task. As we start work the boys jump in to help out, less because they have any interest in working and more because it simply means companionship and something different to do. Tires are collected in hopes of a climbing area for the boys (although watching them it might be equally beneficial to simply leave tires laying around as instant toys). We start grinding off the shards of metal from the playground and cutting off/digging out/removing slides and stairs that simply cant be repaired and are the most dangerous. As soon as grinding is done someone else moves in to sand the rust and paint and a paintbrush is close behind. Elsewhere the boys’ rooms are getting a much needed cleaning/painting and sewing machines are buzzing out customized sleeping bags and blankets for the each boy after they chose their favorite color/fabric.
The team works seamlessly together as though we’ve known each other for years. It’s amazing what a common focus and passion can do. We accomplish more in a half day than we might have expected in a few long days. After another lunch with the boys we pack up to head back to GTO and to Katie’s other project. She wants us to see the other end of what a home can be and this certainly fits the bill. At the top of the hill sits Buen Pastor, a home for girls thats been run by the nuns for over a century. Immediately walking into the home you can feel the love and attention to the spaces. in contrast to the boys’ home in Irapuato everything is well maintained, paintings and photos line every wall and the place simply feels warm and inviting. Later as we discuss the difference in environments it becomes clear that this home is simply less prison/more home.
We spend the afternoon in the garden/playground with the girls, playing and showing photos of where we are from and a few places we’ve been. The girls are so excited to see the photos and then start grabbing our cameras to take photos of us and each other. It’s amazing the power a camera has to fully engage and invoke creativity from kids. It’s also a powerful reminder for us that the small things make a huge difference here. The girls ask us about the last travelers who passed through months ago...each visit makes a big impact to these girls and while they are sad that couple isn’t here we hope that we can fill part of their shoes. When we debrief we realize that what the boys need is just that, more visitors and engagement from the outside world. A day, an afternoon or even a few hours with these kids make a difference.
The madres finally start reengaging girls in their studies and other tasks and we move on back to the camp for dinner and drinks. It’s the first time we’ve had a few moments to relax and interact as a group and despite our exhaustion we have a great evening talking, laughing and getting to know each other.