Excerpts From Mark’s Journal…Perspectives on Hero Holiday Mexico!
Day 1 It’s just past nine as I write this, sitting alone in the 2nd floor deck at the Greater Moncton Airport. We should be boarding our flight to Montreal momentarily.So it begins! Actually, it begins tomorrow with the Montreal- Los Angeles flight, but whatever. I’m doing this to try and help the Mexican family, but being completely honest, I have a few other motives. Sure, we all see it on TV, but hopefully experiencing it in person will give me a new perspective. Second, I’m hoping it will help me clear up my future – I’m talking career choice. But that will all have to wait. For the next 4 days, I’ll be hanging around LA with my parents. I don’t have a problem with that, but I’d rather go straight to Mexico. My flight should get called anytime now. Next time I touch this notebook, I’ll be soaking up some California sun.P.S. : Perfect timing! Just as I wrote California, they called the flight.I’M REALLY DOING THIS!Day 4Today, we drove down to San Diego to meet the group. The drive was pretty cool. For some reason, people around here like to hang around overpasses with “Vote For Ron Paul” signs. Also saw an Impeach Bush protest in Laguna Beach. This in way too rich compared to what I’ll see tomorrow. In Huntington Beach, there was a Porsche and a Ferrari dealership on the same block. Are you kidding?We met most of the team, 19 of the 20 are here. Justin’s probably going to be one of my tent mates, we get along great. Only 4 guys here. It’s funny how you notice the internationality of Canada. We’ve all got different heritages. Italian from Montreal, German from Kelowna, Japanese from Penticton, Iranian from Saskatoon. There are plenty more that I will probably find out during the trip. Only 3 of us speak French, me, Myriam and Sarah. Jamie apparently understands it, but for some reason refuses to speak. She’s from somewhere in Alberta.Day 5Today was special. As soon as you cross the Mexican border, everything changes. The houses get smaller, terrain gets rougher, grass scarcer and people pourer. It’s sad to see all this. The landscape is beautiful, reminding me a bit of Cape Breton.Krystle said it best when we were talking in the van. The country looks hopeless. The lack of colour and expression because of lack of water makes it look like there is no hope for the people. The only people who grow crops are the ones who can afford water. The rich get richer, the poor are forgotten.Got to the campground, looks like a cool place. Great food service. Apparently, it’s scorpion and tarantula season. That freaked out a few. Tomorrow, we visit the worksites and have dinner at the beach near a shipwreck. Sun goes down at 7:30 here. It’s very cool here at night. What’s with all the bizarre weather?Day 6 Today, we visited all the sites and learned more about local customs and culture. Who’d’ve thought we’d have to put used toilet paper in the waste basket?We started off by visiting a few local Christian daycares. They’re doing everything they can to help, but it’s still not enough. Then, we visited the house the last team built. The site was infested with red ants. I’m glad it isn’t our site…Then, we met with the family we are building for. The kids are amazingly cute, although one of them was a bit rough with the domestic animals. The rest of the team will know what I’m talking about. The site is great. Top of a huge hill with an ocean view, and a nice breeze coming in. One of the kids wouldn’t let Bahar and Joanna go when we had to leave. Literally held on to them. I really can’t wait to get there tomorrow and start working for these people. They seem great.Soccer field was a bit run down. Just sand, dirt and a few rocks. One of the few nets is missing a post. We’ll still have fun though.Lunch was at the shipwreck today. Took a few pics. Supper soon, then sunset at the beach, + beach soccer.Day 7First workday today. I painted all morning, from about 9 to 11:30. We were 4 working on it at a time, but Liliana and I were the only ones who stayed beginning to end. After lunch, I went to help dif the outhouse hole. I ended up being alone most of the afternoon, but that was ok. After a while, Myriam came to help out, and then Meg came for the last 30-45 mins. I enjoyed that last half hour, pretty interesting talks. Letitia was hanging around some of that time. She’s ten. When it was time to leave, she grabbed my sunglasses and something of Meg’s (I forget what) to get us to chase her around. She wouldn’t let us leave. It’s all in good fun.The weather was great on the top of the hill. Sun was burn in, but the wind added some nice contrast. Lost of sand though. I was apparently by far the dirtiest when the day was over. That’s fine with me.Day 8 Today was my day with the kids. Worked at the hole in the morning, but spent most of the afternoon with Chuy (Chewy is the pronounciation)(Jésus (HaySouse if you say it out loud 😉 is the real name, Chuy is Jesus’s nickname), a kid about 6 years old. It was the experience of a lifetime. He took me into his garden and with the limited Spanish I know, I told him if I liked the smell of different plants he pulled out a lot, a little, so-so or not. He pulled out a branch of the ones I said I liked, and gave them to me. It’s amazing how they have so little, yet always try to give back. He also brought me into the grandmother”s house, very small, and I met Estefan, the 19 year old brother who became vegetable when doctors messed up trying to help him after a car accident. It was a sad sight I’ll never forget.Chuy and I spent about 4 hours just playing around for fun or with a ball. I kept some of the plants. He also tied my shoes when they were untied. We played a bit with José Enriqué too, the 10 year old brother. It was a very fun day.Had one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve ever had today. After supper, Krystle and I were so engaged in conversation that we were seated for 30 minutes after everyone else were gone. Talked about all the small things that can lead to so much, and how we were going to change the world. And we will, won’t we Krystle?Day 9 Soccer Camp! CANADA 4 – 2 MEXICO. THAT was fun. Other than when Peach left me alone in goal for the Mexicans to take about 5 shots in a row on me ;). Damn. One of the littlest Mexicans there scored on a volley. We couldn’t believe it. I swear he was about 3 and a half feet. No exaggeration. I can’t wait to go back on day 11. Went back to the house after. There wasn’t much to do, everyone was happy where they were. So Parker, Joanna and I had fun with the kids. A bit more aggressive this time, but not purposely. Jesus kneed my in the private area, and not long after, Daira (4 years old) kept pulling my leg hair. Joanna tried, to no avail, to get her off. All quite funny though. Joanna was laughing anyway. Played a lot with all four today. Also talked (well tried to) with Moises, the 18 y/o brother. As Becky said, if he were Canadian/American, the universities would be after him. But he’s Mexican. Works in a tomato packing plant (I think).Today was Krystle’s birthday. We had a pinata. I was on the van holding the string after Jamille gave up when she got shot with an airsoft gun a few times. Of course, I get on there and Chris shoots me twice in the crotch. Real kind.The domestic animals are very skinny here. Dogs and cats hardly get anything to eat. Peach had a good point when she said that so many humans have nothing to eat, and these people have to worry first and foremost about themselves. But the dogs and cats are still a very sad sight.Day 10 Today was pretty much the usual. Got some work done and played a bit with the kids. The outhouse hole is finally done. It’s hard to widen it when it’s 6 feet deep, so Mason and I just used a hammers and a crowbar. Odd, but fun.Nothing else of note other than the campfire talks. About different ways to change the world and make an impact. Those help a lot more than Becky thinks. Day 11 Soccer camp again. This three foot kid LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)ly schooled me by picking the top corner three times. There was a kid about my age there this time, name was something like Abel, who was pretty good. Actually, he recognized the name of Sergio Aguero on the jersey I was wearing and a small group of kids crowded around to argue who was better, Mexico or Argentina (Aguero’s an Argie). I managed to get a few arguments in there, in Spanish. Amazing how fast you catch on when you’re under pressure. Everyone knew the argument was a big joke, and there were smiles all around. I had no chance of winning it.Wasn’t feeling well in the afternoon, so I hung out with Mike a while in the lobby of the campground, then picked Charles’ guitar and played a few hours. I wanted to play alone, but ended up singing with a small group. Jamie thinks I have a nice voice.We finish up the house tomorrow, it’s also our last day with the kids. Started spray-painting a bunk-bed bubble gum pink, will probably continue tomorrow.Day 12 I sit teary-eyed writing this today. We just got back from the house, completed. We just said our final goodbyes. So many thoughts are going through this head, I don’t know where to start. Might as well go in chronological order. Here was my day.I stayed back at the campground all morning to help spray-paint a bunk-bed we are giving them bubble-gum pink. At noon, we headed to the worksite to deliver lunch. As soon as my feet were on the ground, Enriqué started his run toward me, and into my arms. All the cousins were there. Grand opening later today. After a little while, one of the little girls who I’d never seen today was crying in someone’s arms, either Jamillle or Krystle, not too sure who, and as soon as they put her down, she ran into my arms. Odd. I really don’t know what went down there, as Jamille and Krystle were amongst the best with kids.After lunch, a few of us headed back to the campground to chill and help load the gifts. When we got back at 3, I couldn’t even open the door, because José Enriqué and Letitia were right there waiting. I’m going to miss those two and Chuy the most. Chuy then brought me to the grandmother’s house. This time, we were alone with Estefan. He actually shook my hand. He can’t make out words or do much by himself, but he shook my hand. After that, Meg came to get Parker, Mason and I to help lift a block of concrete. I swear, we didn’t get a millimetre off the ground. We went to get help. Even 12 people couldn’t get the damn thing off the ground. The thing weighed more than a ton. Mike and I stayed with the old man afterward, pretending to analyse the situation. No way in hell that was going anywhere.Then, everyone went inside the house to dedicate it. Becky started by asking if anyone had anything to say to the family. I went first, and that meant a lot to me. Another key moment for me. Liliana as always was the interpreter. Throughout this whole process inside the house, I was standing with Letitia, who was seated. Then, Alana played some song she wrote. My mind was elsewhere. Sorry Alana.After that, we gave the kids their presents. That feeling was amazing. It was like the Christmas they never had. The first thing Letitia did when she opened her bag was pull out an orange marker and draw a little heart on my left hand. I nearly broke down crying right then and there. I looked up and saw Meg and Ally crying their eyes out.Then came the group photos, one of the group, and one of the group and family. I love every single person in that family.Finally, the toughest part. Goodbyes. I had lots of trouble with the aforementioned three, and the little girl who ran to me when she was crying. I kissed Letitia three times on the cheek. Then I picked up Chuy and just hugged him for at least two minutes. And Jose Enriqué. I promised him that I’d write. I plan on keeping that promise. Liliana and Justy will need to help, but there’s nothing that’ll stop me writing him. I have no doubt they’ll remember me. I just have to sign it “Marcos”.As everyone was getting in the van and ready to go, I had one thing left to do. I ran over to José Enriqué and we shook hands. Throughout the trip, we always had the same handshake, which we’d purposely miss once in a while. Just our own little thing. Then I jumped in the van, pretty sure I was the last, and that was it. I’ll miss them so much.Day 13 Last night, we slept on the Pacific ocean. Had a poker game until about 1:30 AM. Damn Cole always has to eliminate me. After that, we hung out around our unusual fire. Won’t add anything else about that.All day today, we were at the beach in San Quitin. What a cool beach! Water was freezing, but the sand was burning. The sand dunes were so fun to jump in, there was no way you could hurt yourself. That’s about all we did today. Leaving for San Diego tomorrow.Day 14 Wake up to music at 6 AM. Time to pack. We left at 7:30, nonstop to the market at La Bufadora. Shopped aroud a bit. Couldn’t find anything for my friends, but still had fun. We had to fight for prices with the vendors. I got Krystle a blanket for 5$, and the guy was asking 10 for it. It was almost cute to see how bad she felt. We had about 45 mins wait at the Tijuana/San Diego border. Vendors trying to sell stuff at the windows, it’s a special sight. Justin got an awesome jacket after Charles got the price down from 35$ to 21$. Good deal.As soon as you cross the border, everything gets so much richer. Dust becomes grass, shacks become mansions, it’s unbelievable. As I was saying to Charles in San Diego, if the border talks had gone just a little differently, the beautiful city of San Diego would be dirt and shacks instead of private yachts and skyscrapers.We hung out all night in our hotel room, watched American Pie I, American Pie II and American wedding. We weren’t paying much attention though. Airports tomorrow, home the next day.*All participants are given the opportunity to blog so many views are represented. These views do not necessarily reflect the views of LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) Leadership Development. If you are a Hero Holiday participant that would like to share your experience please email your story (and picture, if possible) to email@example.com