Hop on a plane; no seriously run through customs and hurry up and get on that plane because it is close to the time that that little ticket displays at the top corner. Now sit in the pit of the bird’s belly, shoulder-to-shoulder with girls you just met two weeks ago as it reaches up to cut through the clouds with its wings. Laugh, tell stories, and get to know the girls beside you to pass the snore-worthy trip by. Cry a little as the ringing and popping makes your ears and brain feel like a punching-bag used in a professional wrestling gym. Then walk out (clenching your jaw and swallowing constantly to bring your hearing back to its normal ability) to the hustle-bustle of the airport. The solid ground is a relaxing moment for your body to realign itself, but the travelling was not over. Prepare yourself for about a 5 hour drive through military checkpoints and an air-conditioner-wind that will wind your stomach into an angry turmoil. Now, finally, welcome to Mexico.
I guess you could say that I sounded a little more traumatic- it was only a plane ride and drive really – but my love for travel and adventure doesn’t seem to hit my stomach, ears or nervous mind sometimes. Either way I was in a new country with new people that little did I know was about to come to be my second family. And a new house that has now become a home of zingy-fresh foods, ab-crunching laughter, and a space of pure adventurous learning. I guess you could say that it was home, within a school, within a community of accepting and generous people. With a blank paper, crayons, and this idea my childhood mind would re-surface and the page would be filled with heart-warming colours and a home filled with people of all kinds embraced by a large red heart. So now, welcome to my family – my very…very.. extended family, but just as loved.
The family that I am most excited to introduce you to is a dedicated, and ever-smiley Mexican family of five. Three young girls with two loving parents who easily opened their hearts to the six teenage girls that spoke little of their language and I am sure did not look equipped to build a chair – let alone a home in 4 days! We met them and told them the date that we would start building them a new home – a home with space, painted walls, and a leak-proof roof (as the scrap-wooden one they had suffered from a lack-of all of these.) The father, Timoteo was a field-worker and worked hard to bring money to the family whenever the work was available, as was the mother, Ricarda. The girls attended school. The youngest girl (age 3) Maite – who wore a purple velvet-material dress that reached down to her ankles – had a smile that could steal your heart and a shy nature. It is not hard to love this girl and soon her shyness disappeared and her tiny hugs would wrap around me when the day was over. She was an artist at heart as she would pick up the paintbrush everyday and help us paint their house a bird’s egg blue. As a young artist her canvas expanded form the walls of her soon-to- be-home to her arms, face, and hair. The two other girls, Karen and Rocio went to school most days while we worked, but when they came home they did not hesitate in picking up a brush and adding their hard-work to the building of their home. They both wore their hair in straight ponytails with a coloured band and were most excited when we brought them funky hair accessories and stickers to stick all over our faces and theirs. Rocio loved to giggle and take pictures of us by her side. Karen was shy, but extremely ticklish (not so shy when it came to tickling back either). Ricarda was a quiet woman who did as much work as possible on the house and was excited to attempt her hand at hammering a wall together – I think she was better at it then most of us! It is not a forgettable moment when her shy smile and laugh looked down on her successful nail as it lay perfectly in place, unlike mine which seemed to be somewhat sideways and bent in a forceful shape. She was a very happy mother who smiled and listened carefully with a silent respectful manner. Timoteo was full of life with a sense of humour so strong that he could make you laugh without a single word leaving his lips. All day he would work beside us, hammering away. He would come up beside you and gently urge you to let him finish your nail – as you came no closer to getting it in on what seemed to be the one hundredth swing of the hammer. Following that he would hit it once and it was right were it needed to be. A version of the saying “I loosened it!” became the new joke.
The building in my mind seemed to go impossibly fast, as if a movie set in fast-forward was my reality. Before I knew it the house was together and we were rushing around on day 4 to do some finishing touches. And then we were filling their new home with furniture, toys, clothes, and food.
And then it was there. All there to hit me – 6 inexperienced, Canadian teenage girls had built a home in less then a week. I had built a home for a family – my family. And as we all gathered around the front of the house in a large circle tears prickled the back of my eyes and my over-stretched smile threatened to push them out. It was time to hand the family their new set of keys and let them see the finished project of all their hard work. The home that keeps them safe and dry. We call this dedication day – and we slowly went around the circle telling the family the impact they have had in our lives. I was the third one in to speak. I had thought long and hard the night before about all the things I wanted to tell this family. I had so much to say; I wanted to tell them about their inspirational strength and hearts, and about the experiences we had together. But as I stood there, maybe silent a little too long as everyone stared at me to share my thoughts, looking into the faces of everyone who had worked along side of me and the beautiful family those words failed me. New ones took their place; better ones. Although I stuttered and the tears biting my cheeks made me far from a professional speaker, every word I said was true and were a lot more than words. I couldn’t repeat to you the words I said, my tears seemed to have wiped them clear from my mind. But I still have words in my mind that spring forward at the thought of this amazing family: Strong. Funny. Warm. Loving. Worthy. Dedicated. Beautiful. Fearless. Silly. Family. My Family – Mi Familia.
It was hard-work, building was. But I don’t remember the sore muscles. I remember tilting my head back in laughter. I remember the hugs that were long, but not long enough. I remember seeing the smiles of the people I loved.
-VIctoria, LiveDifferent Academy, Fall 2013