Driving through Tijuana. The road runs parallel and sometimes right next to, the border fence. Mexico side. Sheets of metal laced together. Rusted and covered in graffiti. Some sections seem to be newer; the metal is still shiny. It glints in the late afternoon light. I get a look at the other fence. United States side. Tall concrete pillars topped with hard wire mesh rectangles. Unbroken. It follows the same path as Mexico’s fence but is careful to keep its distance. Between them there is a blank space of roughly 500 yards. It has been raining, so the grass is tall and green. Delicate flowers take advantage of the open ground, stretching between and spilling over both sides of the border. I am trying to understand what it means. There are so many perspectives that could be taken as to how this scene represents the relationship between Mexico and the United States. Let your mind form is own idea about this place, this space between. Empty to the eye but overflowing with meaning. On the U.S. side, huge sewage plants process San Diego’s waste. Helicopters fill the sky like mechanical vultures, watching for any breach in the line that has been drawn. Waiting for the soul on which they can feed. We join the traffic lines following the signs to San Diego. Between the lines there are people, selling candies, plastic piggy-banks, baskets, sombreros, bird baths… Our windows have been washed twice already. On top of being washed earlier by the boys. We inch closer and closer to the place where we will leave Mexico.
Our travels though Baja have brought us to incredible places and to people who are so intelligent and eager to share their knowledge, homes and ways of life with us. Almost three weeks ago, we left the sanctuary of home and embarked on a journey that none of us knew the exact details of. Everyday has been filled with such potent experiences that I wish I could take a week after just to contemplate and fully understand and appreciate them. I have been learning how to stash all the information from one day in my mind in order to be fully present for the next. All these seeds are being saved up and I cannot wait to let them grow and blossom over these next few months and into the rest of my life.
The first part of our journey landed us in Bahia de Los Angeles where we spent six days at Campo Archelon with our dear friend Antonio. We swam, made new friends, spent a night on a small island, and listened to lectures from Antonio that would blow your mind if you weren’t quick to keep your mind completely open and in absorb mode. Those first few days together showed us our strengths and weaknesses as a group and opened the door for us to understand each other on a deeper level. We were sad to leave Bahia but also excited to experience the lagoon that we had heard so much about. After a stop in Guerrero Negro to resupply food we drove the 45 minutes through the salt flats and monotone desert landscape to Laguna Ojo de Liebre. We battled against the wind as we set up our tents that looked like giant oranges nestled in the sand. Twice we went out in the small fishing boats to observe and interact with the gray whales that are preparing for their journey North. I loved the nights at the lagoon. I could lie for hours on the soft sand, staring up at the sky that seemed to almost encircle us. If the wind was down and you were quiet, you could hear the breath of the whales as they slept in the shallow waters. Our time there seemed to fly by but strong connections were made and with the help of Shari’s translations, two languages were spoken and understood, and long conversations were had. Leaving the lagoon brings us to the final days we will be spending in Mexico.
Driving into Ensenada three days ago was a complete shock to my senses. After so long spent in a mostly untouched nature environment I didn’t know how to take in the streets crowded with so many cars, people, dogs; the huge cruise ship at the dock, casting a shadow over the shops squeezed so tightly together I thought one might be pushed out of its row and tumble into the street. Through the bustle of the city and into the country we came to be where we are now; tucked up a lush valley, camping in the tall grass of Laura and Izequiel’s backyard.
This last part of our trip is different from what we have been experiencing. We have been in the wilderness mostly just with each other and now we are in more of a city environment with many other people, most of them our age, to interact and engage with. There is complete cultural immersion and many social gatherings. Wednesday night Debra announced with great gusto that: “The students are going to school tomorrow!” Tyler, Forrest and I looked at each other; what was she talking about? She had arranged with Laura, the principal of Colegio Patria, the school across the road from us, for the three of us to attend classes with the seniors. Hmm… We didn’t really know what to think of the new development. None the less, at seven Thursday morning we were bright eyed and bushy tailed (as Deb likes to call it), walking to school with notebooks in hand, not really sure what to expect. As Michael Jackson played over the loudspeakers to signal the start of school we were lead to a class and told to have a seat. Not much else was explained. It was a Philosophy class. In Spanish. College prep philosophy is mind boggling enough as it is and then to have it in a language you don’t understand! The classes that followed were Logic, Writing, and Ecology; in 90 minute blocks. There was a bit of confusion but we managed to figure things out and by the end were having a great time.
The last class of the day was dance. Salsa. I was very excited but the boys were a bit less than enthusiastic about it. We learned a few of the basics and it went by way too fast. I could have spent hours more learning from Sophia and Carlos. Afterward the boys were converted. They had actually really enjoyed it and we all had some embarrassing moments to talk about. It was a very full day spent in “school” and a wonderful look into the culture of this place that is so new to us.
Our friendliest whale experience
I was awake before the sun. I could still feel the potency of the full moon that infiltrated my dreams and lit my way through the dunes last night. I fumbled around blindly for a few minutes looking for clothing; still wrapped in my sleeping bag, not wanting to leave its warmth. Movement next door: Annabelle is awake. She asks me if I need to pee, I say yes I do, she asks if I want to go first. Slight confusion on my part but I tell her no, you go ahead first. She leaves. I get out of my bag, trying to avoid letting sand into it but failing miserably. Small sand dunes have accumulated in our tent so any attempt to keep it out of things is mostly pointless. I zip open the tent and step out into the morning. The sun is trying to come up but a layer of clouds prevents it from warming our camp. Wake the boys up. Cut the fruit. Boil the tea water. For breakfast: granola, walnuts, almonds, raisins, milk, banana, mango, papaya, and to top it off, a big dollop of crunchy peanut butter. Mmmmhmm. Wash the dishes and secure the food boxes. Quick, into the van. Drive to meet Shari and Juan at the dock. Life vests on, excitement is high, the ocean is flat and still. The full moon has caused huge tide swings. It is too shallow at the dock to load into the boat. We must walk it out to deeper water. Tyler’s long undies, chucks, and too-tight pants prevent him from wading. That’s OK, we will push the boat out and you can get in from the dock. Everyone is in. The morning rush is over. As the panga speeds along, my world slows down. Someone says dolphins — where? Finger points; oh yes I see them! They come to play. Racing with the boat, one leaps out of the water right in front; water sprays back on us. The whales are asleep all around. Tired mamas with energetic babies ready for the new day. A solo whale comes up to our boat. Where is your baby? We do not know. Shari thinks you are a female so we will call you a she. You are so beautiful. I put my hands on you and feel your barnacles, scars, and wisdom. You stare up at me with one blue eye, surrounded by wrinkles you have had since birth. I stare back down into the water at you and marvel; your size, grace, and full-heartedness. Thank you for sharing with me. In some way I may not have realized yet, you changed my life today.
Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Baja California Sur, Mexico
A dolphin that swam next to us while whale-watching
Photos by Annabelle
Shona's desert cactus photo
Wednesday afternoon, March 9, we arrived at a campground in Catavina. As I lay cocooned in my sleeping bag I stared up at the night sky illuminating the desert around me. I watched as the moon inched its way across the black backdrop, dragging the stars along with it. They lulled me into a sleep full of dreams, which once again, escaped the grasp of my memory. The warm rays of the rising sun woke me as they hit my closed eyes, turning everything orange behind my eyelids.
After spending two days driving through the desert landscape I was itching to have some time to walk out into it and settle my mind. That morning, after packing my bedding, I walked into the hills overlooking our camp. I didn’t have a plan. I just walked. I would walk a few yards and then stop and listen to the desert around me. I heard crows waking up from their night perched on the top of a huge Cardon cactus. I heard the wind rushing through the low shrubs and the elephant trees. I heard voices echoing up from the valley. I heard nothing. The silence was startling but beautiful. I stood still in it for a long time and realized that it is not very often that you are surrounded by such serenity. My feet carried me farther and farther up the cactus-laden hillside. Everything had been so still that when I saw movement on the ridge a few yards from me, I was alarmed. The coyote stared at me. And I stared back. We watched each other for a few minutes before he slipped away and blended with the land.
I started my meander back down the hill. On my way I stopped to sit on the top of a big, round granite boulder. I shut my eyes and fell into a sort of meditation with the land. I could feel the earth beneath and around me. The cactus, the sand, the rabbit, woodpecker and coyote. The sun beating down on my back, the stone beneath me and the bones littering the ground. This was ancient, wise…sacred.
Written en route to Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California, Mexico
Shona at sunset in Campo Archelon
Photo by Annabelle
A flood of emotion is raking through me. The rage comes out as tears. The fear of being lied to comes out as tears. My future comes out as tears. Love, thoughts, freedom, and understanding all come out as tears. I can taste the salt. I can taste the anger of those who have been silenced before me. A huge weight has been laid upon my shoulders. I can feel myself breaking. I feel the pain of those who came before me and I feel the pain of our future. There is so much bad, that sometimes I forget about the good. Yes we have been silenced; yes we have been broken. Our wills have been strangled, the last breaths gone; our hearts, our power, our Earth have been diminished to something so insignificant, that we have forgotten what it feels like to love; what it feels like to be powerful, in our sexuality, our minds, our beauty, our thoughts, our actions and ourselves. We don’t remember who our Mother Earth is. We have forgotten that she is the reason that we are. We have raped her, beaten her, and abandoned her.
There are the few who can see with unveiled eyes and understand what is happening. They are starting to make a stand and others are joining hands with them. Others who have been waiting for a strong leader who can help guide them in the ways they know so badly need to be followed. The protectors of the land are starting to emerge with a louder voice than they have ever had before. They are saying “ENOUGH”! What are you doing to your home! Your mother! You can see that she is dying and you are turning your back! What about your children! Open your eyes!