Fort McKay – Welcome to Mexico

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Thursday, September 17, 2009The trip started off early, with a flight from Fort McMurray, AB, on our way to sunny LAX airport, California.  For a couple of students this was the farthest they’ve been from home……..flying into Los Angeles being the beginning of many eye opening experiences yet to come.  Waiting for us at LAX was a group of friendly faces, who welcomed Dallas and the rest of us with open arms.  Dallas’s bag decided to go to Toronto instead of LA!  Needless to say he was looking forward to buying awhole new wardrobe.  We drove from LA to San Diego, where we did a little shopping, and spent the night in a hotel.Friday, September 18, 2009A bit of a sleep-in was welcomed by all as we met by the bus at 845am.  Bye hotel, bye big city, we’re off to change a family’s life!  Border crossing was only a few minutes from the hotel in San Diego.  After a quick stop there (no hassles), we continued our drive into Mexico……hola Mexico!Immediately there was a change in scenery.  From the nicely layed out structure of San Diego, complete with flowers, palm trees and manicured lawns, we crossed into Tijuana and couldn’t experience any more opposite. Homes on top of homes, unfamiliar smells, unkept streets…….we’re not in California anymore.Looking across the border, we can see “the other side.”  We realize thousands of Mexicans can too.  Every day of their lives. They can look over from the top of a hill and see American, the land of opportunity.  Reality sets in for many of us what we are getting into.  As we drive further and further into Mexico, there are less billboards, less commercial influence.  Real Mexico is coming.buggy A little fun before we see anymore………a surprise beyond surprises…….fun beyond all fun.  Dallas and Andrew let out a secret they’ve been keeping.  A stop in Ensenada is actually a 3 hour adreneline rush adventure!  Dune buggy rides!  How to I explain this experience??…..  Picture 4-seater open cars with super engines and tires built for ripping up the desert.  We rev our engines (drivers are those who have their license, of course) and set off for a cruise around the town, on our way to the Baja 1000 race track.  We are grinning from ear to ear.  The feeling of the wind blowing all around us, open desert scenery for miles….at this point in our lives we are all the best dune buggy drivers Mexico has ever seen.  Passengers hang on and giggle with glee.  Of course, because it’s Mexico and plans are never plans, our professional guides, Victor and Gabriel, have something up there sleeves.  They lead us and our buggies to this gorgeous farm land.  On this farm land is what has to be the greenest grass in Mexico, with the plumpest cows eating it.  We’re at a CHEESE FARM!  Not just a cheese farm, THE cheese farm.  The one with fancy cheeses in glass walls, that tempt us onlookers so badly our mouths arewatering!  Luckily, we also get to “test” the cheeses.  By test, I mean we gauge ourselves on the unbelieveable quality and richness of the cheese.  If only we had $100 each to buy to small portion of it to take home…….sigh.This slight stopover to eat caused a delay in our eventual arrival to home sweet home……Casa de Dawn, Andrew, Anthonie, 4 dogs and the SOL group in Vicente Guerrero.Buenos Noches Mexico.  Gracias for the awesome day.  Manana….Saturday, September 19, 2009Building Day 1YAY!  What we’ve all been waiting for!A thorough cultural orientation in the morning lead us to the site of our build.  Mama of the house welcomed us.  With the expert leadership of Andrew and Dallas, we wasted no time sorting, cutting, hammering and essentially building the beginnings of a home!  A HOME!  This is an incredible lesson in so many things: teamwork (HELLO!  We barely knoweach other and all of a sudden we’re changing lives….whoa….) and carpentry.  Who knew we all have a bit of carpenter in us? Framing a wall The family we’re building for also shared something with us that made us realise that what we’re doing for them is valuable: the mama and her son slept on the lumber all night to make sure no one stole it….(tears welting in my eyes as I type that).  Perhaps we are more grateful than they are for this experience.  To round out the day, the beach was calling. Canadians + beach = Canadian fantasy in Mexico.  Too bad it was the foggiest day EVER.  Good thing we’re Canadians and none of us cared.  LOL.  We all hit the water like champs – body boarding and bouncing around in the salt water like it’s our second home.  Maybe it is!   Pizza dinner made us full, campfire smores felt like home, and cozy beds couldn’t have been better.Great day.  Satisfying soul day.  Another day tomorrow.Sunday, September 20, 2009Building Day 2Ok, before I go any further, I need to put in a personal statement.  Canada needs Yogurt con Coco (coconut yogurt). Breakfast is the best with it!  So, this morning we’re up early on site early.  We made it to site just before 8am.  We’re motivated, energetic and ready to see some more progress. Raising the house  Our goal for the day, to have all four walls of the house up and the roof on too.  Lofty ambitions.  We also start painting the family’s chosen house colour.  A gorgeous, bright royal blue. The colour quickly brightens the brown, grey, and colourless site.  It’s a happy colour.  We love it.  The family ishappy with their choice too.  More sawing, hammering.  Added lifting, moving and adjusting.  Before we knew it hours had flown by and the last roof panel was being added to the top of the house.  It looks huge next to the family’s current (and soon to be former 🙂 house.  The team uses our last bits of energy to share some enthusiasm about using our own hands to build a home.  Is this our real life?  Yes, it is.  We CAN build a house in a week.  It’s up the to family to make it their home… soon.   Our hard work warrented yet another trip to our Canadian fantasy place… playa (the beach)!  This time it’s a sunny, hot and FABULOUS.  La playa at it’s finest.  More body boarding, clam digging (yes, clam digging…..using only our feet) and this time many quality moments laying in sun.Ahhhhhhh…………………….life is GREAT.Sliding the roof onOH WAIT!  Our day isn’t done yet.  We’re in Mexico. We need TACOS!  The local taco joint in Vicent Guererro is called Smoky’s.  How to sum up this……….MMMMmmmmm, Mmmmmm AMAZING.  Grilled beef, pork and tripe (a.k.a. intestines) tacos with fresh-made flour tortillas, queso (cheese) and condiments – Mexican style.  Guacamole, salsa, hot sauces (3 to choose from), lettace, onions…………goodness.  Thousands of choices.  Thousands of happy taste buds.It is now bedtime and everyone is tired.  Tomorrow’s Day 3 and the house will be pretty close to complete….  Can’t wait.Written by:  Fort McKay Participant

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 21st, 2009