Coming Home from Baja California, Mexico

For the past month the FtG crew has been busy adventuring around the beautiful state of Baja California, Mexico. During our time there we had the opportunity for lots of:

  • Learning: about the culture, conservation, interpersonal/international relationships and sustainability.
  • Self-reflection: thinking and writing about our lives before and after Baja and how we plan to put all that we have been given to good use.
  • Service: helping an ecotourism project that could revive a rural economy and help to support the local people; helping to dig up a sealion skeleton for a local school; and cleaning the school road of trash.
  • Eating: amazing mole, tacos, fruit, fish and even a “Thanksgiving” feast,
  • And of course a healthy dose of play: swimming with whale sharks and sealions, surfing, rock climbing, fishing, and hiking.

 

The following blog posts are a mix of our reflections on our lives and our time in Baja. Enjoy!

– Ali

 

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Trip to Mexico

With my traveling school semester program Finding the Good we traveled to Baja California on a grand journey.

This trip to Mexico was great. It was amazing to be able to show my culture to people that hadn’t experienced it before, to show them how the people are. In the U.S. there is a lot of stereotyping of the Mexicans, and this makes us look like bad people. It was really good for me to realize that my friends didn’t think of us like that, and when they interacted with the people they got the right “stereotype”. They saw how warm and kind the Mexicans can be, and it made me happy to see that my own people will give their food and resources, even when they have very little themselves.

When we were in Bahia de Los Angeles, we went fishing and we caught many fish and it was incredible, because we were giving our community something to eat. When I caught the fish, I felt two things; the first was happiness because I accomplished my challenge and I was going to feed the community. The second feeling was a sadness to see a living creature die. So when I was in Bahia, I made a promise to the place, that I was going to be more careful with the living creatures. Before, I would kill a living creature without any regrets, so this experience made me realize that those living creatures are living creatures and we need to respect that, so my commitment to this place was to be more careful with the living things.

I have learned so many things in this trip, I have found out many things about myself and about my own country that I didn’t know existed. I’m grateful I was able to show the people that didn’t know my country how beautiful and rich my country is.
By Juan

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My Life Through Windows

When I was little I shared a small room and bed with my younger brother. Eventually I convinced my mother to set me free from the sweaty little koala bear that clung on to me every night. For a while my parents let me sleep with them but they soon tired of being punched by my tiny but forceful fists. At last I was given my own room. I soon realized the best part of my room was not the absence of my brother but the presence of a window I could call my own. The first thing I did after constructing my loft fort, courtesy of IKEA, was to decorate my windowsill. I carefully organized my collections of acorns and shells and set up elaborate scenes with my fairy statues. I suffered through the hot months because the act of opening my window often sent my fairies crashing to the ground.

As I grew older, but more importantly, bigger I began to realize my room was smaller then the average walk-in closet. After reading Harry Potter at the age of ten, I came to the conclusion it was time, just as he had, to move out of the closet under the stairs. Instead of letter-bearing owls frightening my parents into giving me a bigger room I had to do it with my own cunning. My convincing skills were weak but after months of effort they agreed to give me the biggest room in the house. Unfortunately this prime attic real estate had ceilings so low I could only stand up in half of my room. In my new room I started off every day with a forceful smack in the head thanks to my knee-high ceiling. The constant goose egg didn’t bother me because I could always rest my throbbing forehead on the cold glass of my new window. From this window I could see nothing but the innards of the tree that grew outside my window. In the winter when all the leaves were gone, I could peer through the branches to see the Mormon college girls next store during their baking parties. This way I knew when to expect some carrot-date cupcakes with dairy-free lemon glaze.

When I was thirteen, after a year of unemployment my dad got a job in Seattle. He was going to move there at the beginning of the school year and we would join him the following summer. We planned on renting out our house once we moved so we were in major house revamping mode. This meant repainting the trim, fixing the path that had maimed many a trick-or-treater, and trimming my beloved tree so it more closely resembled a bush.

The first few weeks were tough. With my father gone and my mother now working full time my carefully constructed rhythm was thrown out of whack. The first step in regaining my sanity was to organize my home life. My mom would wake up, put on a pot of oatmeal and run out the door. I would make sure my brother, who was easily overwhelmed by the complex tasks of waking up, getting dressed, and eating breakfast, remembered to brush his teeth. We were always ready with time to spare, sitting on the front porch eagerly waiting for our ride. When we got home from school we would sit at the kitchen table and do homework with occasional breaks to watch T.V. I would cook and my brother would chop so by the time my mom got home the chores and homework were done and there was a hot meal on the table. Every night I would sit and read by my window. As the weeks past my tree began to grow to its former glory, but there were still large holes and areas where the severed limbs refused to grow. This routine was the only thing keeping the spindly branches of my life from falling down.

The same week my dad left, my best friend’s father died suddenly of a heart attack. I did my best to prepare myself for how she would react. When instead of crying she laughed, and instead of wanting to be with friends she preferred to be alone, I had no clue what to do and we began to drift apart. Instead of attempting to regrow those branches to fill those holes in my life, I left them barren and continued to cultivate the one part of the tree I knew I could: my life at home.

It was near Christmas and my homemaking skills were at their best when I learned that my dad had been laid off. It was nice to have him home for the holidays. It was the first time I realized I missed him. Soon came those dreaded days after New Years when all you can think about is returning to school. Unlike my brother who spent those days deep in mourning I was eager to return to my routine. Little did I know Routines place in the house had been replaced by my father.

My dad was home all the time, and instead of letting the emotions of unemployment take over he took up tasks like herding my brother, cooking meals and trimming the tree. I was left with nothing to do and a pathetic shrub in place of my tree. I attempted to defend my territory but failed miserably and ended up in many heated battles with my father. Eventually I surrendered and retreated to my attic cave where I could stare wistfully out my window and long for the day when my tree stood tall and strong. Soon the battles became skirmishes, then a thing of the past. Even after the arguing was over I still held some resentment towards my father but over the years it has abated and turned to realization.

My dad was simply going through the same thing I was at a much more intense level. He left his family, his home, and his window from which he had a full view of the street. He could see the Mormon college girls bundled up in Christmas sweaters and know when to expect carols and vegan cookies. From his new window in Tacoma, Washington he could see nothing but fog and occasionally the apartment dumpsters. At his work things were a bit less dreary and he had a nice view of the trees outside. From his management office he watched as the leaves turned from green to red then fall from the tree till the branches were completely barren and he was laid off. For the second time that year he was stripped of his management position and preceded to control the only thing he could, our home. My mother had taken his place as key provider and I had taken my mother’s as homemaker. There was nowhere for him to fit in and when he tried he was met by a stubborn preteen who wanted nothing to change, but it had to and he knew that. I shouldn’t have to get my brother ready for school and make dinner every night but that had become my job. Instead of realizing my father was laying me off out of love I thought he was firing me from a job I had done well. Eventually things returned to normal. I made dinner on busy nights, helped my brother with math homework once it became too difficult for my parents and watched my tree grow.

Four years later, at the age of seventeen, I am attending a traveling semester program. For the past three months I have been staring out the window of a fifteen- passenger van. There is no windowsill on which to place my shells and acorns. The scenery is constantly changing, from the vast mountains of the high Sierra to the coastal deserts of Baja California, Mexico. The only thing that has remained the same is the people in the van, but even they have grown and changed since we left our home. Personal struggles are quickly revealed in such close quarters and addressed with stark reality. As the scenery changes so does your relationship to these struggles. It is easer to see the untended path you have been struggling down and the carefully maintained trail you are now on. My whole life I have been looking out my window waiting for a change. But it is not the scenery outside that changes your life, it is the reflection in the window looking back at you.

By Sierra

 

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Wyatt is currently working on his radio piece that focuses on his home life and his relationship to his father.

Hamburger Help-Me

I remember sitting half-awake inside my dad’s white Honda Civic hatchback, covered in an old blanket that smelled of spilled beer and mold, wrapped up like a baby. It was late, sometime past midnight. I had lost track of time.  We had been cutting firewood since 8:00 that morning. As I passed in and out of consciousness I heard my dad grumble to himself as he worked outside the car. After awhile we drove down some random dirt roads to different locations, searching for deadfall.  The Honda Civic almost didn’t make it a few times. The roads, which were more like trails, were littered with fallen trees, landslides and deep ruts from many years of erosion. After hours of this sporadic behavior we finally decided to head back to camp.

The camp was off the main highway down an old logging road, nestled in a small grove of pine trees. My dad shared this camp with four other people: Deaf Gabe, half man-half ape, a living wonder. A drug addict who only signs in Ebonics, it is truly amazing he’s made it this far. Jesse is a former chef from a rundown bar-and-grill. He has “Thug Life” tattooed on his abdomen, enough said. Melissa, a superstitious gypsy woman, is 6’ 2’’ and has more hair on her chest then I do. Melissa’s son, Cyrus, was five at the time. He is hell on wheels, running about terrorizing anything that paid attention to him.

After arriving at camp, we built a fire and started to cook dinner. We had a box of Hamburger Helper and four chicken thighs to split between us all. It was growing late and I was getting mighty tired.  As Deaf Gabe and I went to collect firewood, my dad started to prepare the chicken. Tossing all the seasoning we had at it – soy sauce, salt and pepper. My dad placed the seasoned chicken on the blade of a shovel and placed it in the coals. The Hamburger Helper went into a pot, missing a key ingredient (hamburger) and was mixed with water.  The dinner was great. I have always been surprised by what my dad can cook, with so little. The chicken was cooked to perfection, the skin was crunchy and light on the outside but soft on the inside, the tender flesh fell easily away from the bone. The Hamburger Helper was gross. I am not sure if you have ever had Hamburger Helper but it resembles cat puke, with slimy noodles and a thick coat of over-salted sauce. But I was hungry so I ate it, and to tell you the truth, it was pretty good.

As we finished up dinner it was time for me to go to bed. As I went to make my bed, underneath the stars, my dad still had a lot of work to do. He grabbed his glass pipe to smoke one more shard before heading back out to the woods.

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Lecciones de Vida

 

Habiendo crecido en México como parte de una familia alternativa, creyendo ser los únicos vegetarianos, que no iban a doctores convencionales, ni creían en una religión organizada; pensé que ninguna parte de mi vida sería “normal”. A los diez años, cuando vivimos al otro lado del mundo descubrí que no era así. Había más gente como nosotros y creo que fue el momento en el que pasó a formar parte de mi realidad el hecho de que sí podía tener experiencias o vivir situaciones “normales”. Sin saberlo mi perspectiva sobre mi vida y mi realidad habían girado ciento ochenta grados.

Aunque en mi casa nunca lo viví, en México la infidelidad es tan común que crecemos con la idea de que es “normal” y al tener ese cambio en la percepción de mi propia realidad he vivido este tipo de experiencias en mis relaciones.

Hace unos años conocí a un hombre que me enamoró, con quien me divertía mucho y con quien pensé compartiría el resto de mi vida. Después de unos años tumultuosos y llenos de emociones encontradas empecé a recibir mensajes de texto de un desconocido invitándome a salir. Cuando no respondí y traté de investigar quien me los estaba mandando comenzaron a cambiar, eran menos “¿quieres salir?” y más “él no te merece”. Con el progreso de los días me empecé a sentir extraña y a desconfiar un poco. Finalmente pasado un mes me llegó un mensaje diciendo “si no me crees que te está engañando entra al Factbook de fulanita”. Este fue el mensaje que ya no pude ignorar, el cual me llevó a las pruebas irrefutables que me hicieron reflexionar y tomar la decisión de nunca volver a ponerme en esta situación.

Con el tiempo y aprendiendo de mis errores me doy cuenta que no tengo porque repetir patrones negativos que han sido estereotípicos de la sociedad en la que crecí. Esto no fe una revelación fácil, ni mucho menos rápida. Me tomó cuatro relaciones fallidas e innumerables momentos de enojo y sufrimiento llegar a esta conclusión. Supongo que no que no quise ver la realidad o que las primeras tres veces realmente me pegó más en el orgullo que en el corazón. Supongo también que las primeras tres veces no me afectaron tanto porque me enteré de las infidelidades después de un tiempo de haber terminado con esas relaciones. Pero en la cuarta relación me sentí como una idiota total por pensar que había encontrado a la persona con quien pasaría el resto de mi vida, sin embargo fue una burla total. Él obviamente nunca mereció tenerme.

Entiendo que yo fui la que quiso ser “normal”, pero he cambiado mi enfoque y ahora decido volver a ser “diferente y alternativa” porque yo merezco estar con alguien que no necesite estar con nadie mas que conmigo. Quien no solamente crea que yo soy suficiente para él, sino que se maraville ante el privilegio de despertar junto a mí cada mañana y que por supuesto el sentimiento sea mutuo. Merezco alguien que me merezca.

By Alicia

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 Utopía Personal

Sentada en la cabaña con toda la gente moviéndose a mi alrededor, tratando de encontrar su cuaderno, su lápiz, su lugar para estar, su lugar en la vida recuerdo mi propia trayectoria, recuerdo los lugares en los cuales he vivido.

¿Cómo, cuándo, dónde encontramos nuestra utopía personal? ¿Será cierto que si no se encuentra a los 40 pasas el resto de tu vida vagando?

Interrupciones, en este momento, en mis pensamientos. Supongo que las interrupciones de la vida también sirven un propósito y son éstas las que irrumpen en el curso de nuestro destino, son los momentos en los que podemos decidir si seguimos sobre el mismo curso o tomamos una vertiente, si trabajar con mariposas monarcas o tortugas laúd.

Las decisiones que he tomado cuando encuentro un Y en mi camino me han traído hasta aquí, Baja California, Bahía de los Ángeles, Campo Archelón. La utopía de una persona inigualable, esporádica, impulsiva, extremadamente inteligente, la chispa que prende para hacer que el motor funcione.

Movido por la labor de sensibilización cultural ofrece copas de vino o tazas de café. Me ayuda a recolectar historias de amor, queriendo ayudarme a encontrar la mía propia y definitiva. Ve la belleza interior de la gente y el potencial en todos. Es un torbellino de energía.

Rostros concentrados a mi alrededor, lápices y bolígrafos dejando huellas sobre papel, plasmando historias, relatando experiencias, escribiendo poemas. Se siente la calma mientras afuera las nubes envuelven al día y la lluvia humedece la tierra saciando su sed y haciéndola reverdecer y dando lugar a nueva vida, nuevas oportunidades, nuevas vertientes en los caminos del destido.

By Alicia

Utopía Personal

 

 Mi Camino

 Era un septiembre hace al rededor de un año, cuando era un joven adolescente borracho. En esas fechas me dedicaba a tomar cada que tenía la oportunidad y pelearme con mi mamá. Me encontraba perdido, influenciado por la sociedad y sin aceptarlo me sentía infeliz. Un día mi hermano mayor me invitó a un viaje que haría con sus amigos, un grupo de escaladores de alrededor de 28 años, iríamos a Cañón Tajo.

Cañón Tajo en Baja California, un hermoso lugar con gran biodiversidad, cañones impresionantes y montañas de granito, unos de los lugares más increíbles donde he estado. Íbamos a acampar, escalar y hacer caminatas.

Salimos de Ensenada temprano para alcanzar a escalar el primer día, cuando llegamos conocimos a un estadounidense llamado Gregorio, un escalador que se fue de Estados Unidos a vivir y escalar por Baja California; sobreviviendo de la naturaleza. Nos invitó a quedarnos en su campamento en el cual llevaba viviendo más de cuatro meses solo, escalando y disfrutando del lugar. Después nos llevó a escalar; más tarde nos contó de unos túneles creados por rocas gigantes que cayeron de la montaña y al romperse crearon un mundo de pasadizos debajo de éstas. Para hacerlo más interesante decidimos ir de noche.

Era una noche estrellada y sin luna, así que no había mucha luz. Pocos de nosotros teníamos lámparas y yo no era uno de ellos. Yo sabía que la claustrofobia era uno de mis mayores miedos pero quería superarlo.

Al entrar en los túneles Gregorio iba hasta enfrente y yo detrás de él, porque él si tenía lámpara y me sentía más seguro. aproximadamente 15 minutos después me di cuenta que Gregorio no tenía idea de donde estaba, entré en pánico, me di la vuelta y me regresé. Ya afuera les grité que me regresaría al campamento. El campamento estaba como a un kilómetro, no había camino y era de noche, yo sólo sabía en que dirección estaba. Empecé a caminar dejado un rastro en la arena con un palo por si tenía que regresar a donde estaban ellos. Unos minutos después estaba perdido y solo en el frío desierto, sin luz ni agua. Entonces decidí regresarme siguiendo mis rastros hasta escuchar sus voces. Llegué a los túneles y en lugar de meterme por entre las piedras como ellos lo habían hecho las empecé a escalar, siguiendo sus ecos llegué hasta el punto en el que ellos estaban justo debajo de mí. Después de un tiempo de seguirlos por arriba encontré varias salidas y entradas por donde pasaban, bajé por una chimenea y me reuní con ellos. Superé mi miedo y aproximadamente una hora después salimos y volvimos al campamento.

El siguiente día escalamos un multi-largo de cuatro largos subiendo una montaña de alrededor de 100 metros. Hicimos grupos de tres y subimos por dos rutas paralelas que llegan a un mismo destino, en mi grupo iban Pablo Truco y Lucía. Yo punteé el primer largo, de ahí seguimos a la cima para reunirnos con el otro grupo. Al llegar a la cima mi hermano Pablo me esperaba, cuando los demás se reunieron con nosotros, comimos un pequeño snack. Esa experiencia fue asombrosa, el estar en la cima de la montaña viendo un hermoso paisaje, con mis amigos y mentores, es algo inolvidable. Después bajamos a rappel y continuamos nuestro día escalando.

Este viaje ha cambiado mi vida, aprendiendo de mentores, siendo independiente, teniendo la vida y la muerte en mis manos y con mis decisiones. Nunca me siento más vivo que cuando estoy cerca de la muerte. Me ha cambiado el camino, de ser un joven adolecerte confundido me ha encaminado a lo que quiero hacer en mi futuro siendo más feliz y sano. Éste fue el comienzo de mi cambio y aunque todavía cometa errores y a veces me cueste trabajo tomar las decisiones correctas, aventuras como estas me hacen saber lo que quiero hacer con mi vida.

By Andres

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Finding the Good returns to home base, Nevada City for the last ten days of the program, dusted in white snow.

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