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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Day 4 end: Barretal at last!

In case this is the first entry you've read, I'll explain about El Barretal again.

When the first mass caravan of refugees from Honduras arrived in Tijuana to legally cross the border in order to seek asylum in the u.s., they were turned away in mass numbers: illegally and immorally by border patrol under unconstitutional and anti-international law orders by tRump, enforced by immigration officials and in collusion with the mexican government (prior to Obrador taking power).

The refugees crowded into a sports complex called Benito Juarez, a few steps from the western pedestrian bridge to wait entrance into the u.s.

This complex has no roof nor asphalt but dirt ground. The last weeks of November rain turned the ground into mounds of mud and running water filled with debris and garbage. This two week rainfall was equivalent to the amount of rainfall Tijuana normally gets in a whole year!

Police then raided this camp and others, often at 3 o'clock in the morning, jostling humans from their tents, swiftly and forcefully marshaling people onto buses, often without their possessions let alone documents, to ship them far away.

Police smashed tents and destroyed the scant but precious personal property that refugees were not given a chance to gather together before being forced to vacate Benito Juarez - a police practice that has been honed in the u.s. and transported around the world.

So Barretal is very far from the border crossing: a location that refugees did NOT want to go to. But it is on asphalt. I have not been there yet but intend to go tonite to help serve after we finish cooking the evening meal.

The kitchen runs like one of a mother with 12 children: efficient, quick, with no waste or hesitation. Pots are big enough to wash a child in; aluminum containers enough to easily cover the entire first floor of a very large living room.

Finally we are ready to load the food and head out to Barretal.

Another of the beautiful and incredibly affirming side benefits of this work is the meeting of other committed and remarkable volunteers. Tonite, I share a vehicle with four extraordinary and diverse u.s.ofa. humans: a brown Latina elder, a white womon youth, a young Black man, and a 30-something Lebanese man.

After almost an hour of bumpy curvy driving thru crazy traffic, we arrive in the pitch dark at a huge solid rust-corroded metal wall illuminated only by our vehicle headlights. Our leader Cybele, jumps out and bangs on the wall, causing it to buckle a little revealing it is a gate. After many clangs, it finally squeaks slowly open, just enough to allow our vehicles inside.

Instantly, lean men materialize to help unload the trucks and Cybele has us immediately organized into teams. Within minutes, aprons and gloves are donned, tables are washed, simple white paper cloths spread over surfaces, utensils, napkins, empty plates are set out. Food trays organized.

We are ready to begin.

We are in the covered part of Barretal: it is the section where womxxn and children are given priority and are supposedly housed. We cannot see far into this complex but we can see rows of tents on two floors, as well as a large section of occupied sleeping bags with small bundles where pillows could be, lined up parallel on the ground without the benefit of tents.

When I look up from completing my assigned tasks, serving spoon in hand, ready to dish out the recommended portion, I see that people crammed into layers of sweats and coats and sweaters and blankets have been silently lining up in front of the tables and out the door into the dark, cold night.

A couple of adorable little girls, their heads only visible over the table top when they step up on tip toes, hold hands and sway in front of the food. I ask them if they're hungry and offer them a plate but they ignore me and the plate.

Cybele greets everyone as we smile warmly, ready to serve, and firmly reiterates "womxxn and children first". The line shifts as womxxn step forward and men retreat a little. The tiny girls dance away somewhere into the crowd.

And the joy begins. There is little I love more than cooking and feeding especially to womxxn and children, but here tonite, also to these men. And these are mostly men. The universal appearance here is great fatigue yet eyes occasionally sparkle and smiles cross even the most serious of faces if but only for a moment.

Lucia takes plates of food deep into the dark area where some people have not emerged to join the line: maybe they are too sick, too scared, too hurt, or simply too tired. She returns several times to the food table to fill her arms up with plates and disappears again into the dimness. 

When the line starts dwindling, Cybele goes to negotiate with the police to allow men from the other side access to the food. Men who are not attached to a female partner are supposedly restricted from this area and the rumor is police are not good at restricting men except when it comes to access to food.

Way too soon, we have run out of food and completed our tasks of cleaning up and reloading the trucks with the empties.

Then we're off to return to Tijuana and the kitchen.

Day 4 continued: the credit of my wife

I am asked to do a speedy run to a meat store for the evening meal with are preparing. The chefs want to do a chicken and rice meal for tonight. I request that a spanish-speaking womon come with me, just to eliminate the possibility of being misunderstood. Really, I don't want to make others suffer thru my poor spanish...

Lazaro joins me. He seems to be a critical part of the team: I've seen him organize, explain and hand out tasks, tackle dishes and floors, direct menus and prep, as well as cook. And now he's accompanying me to the market.

Which is closed! We drive around what appears to be a warehouse district and do not see anyone open - only a couple of street vendors beginning to cook menudo and tamales!

He instructs me to make left hand turns on red arrows and to proceed forward on red lights where there is no cross traffic coming. Not likely!

We go to Costco - closed, even tho the internet says it will be open today. Then check out Smart and Final - closed. I'm desperately trying to take our World Kitchen money anywhere but walmart, which of course is open.

We have to go to walmart - all the organizers and volunteers are getting super anxious about not being able to provide meat for this meal.

At walmart, I'm trying to buy 200 pounds of chicken - they have less than 50 pounds and not at bulk prices. The middle aged soft spoken butcher, soft black eyes and glowing hickory skin, comes out behind the counter and we communicate (without Lazaro who is looking for more ham and cheese) between my spanish and his english our shared deep concern for feeding refugees and all the hungry people here in Tijuana.

We find out about another store very close by that does wholesale and is open today. I apologize to my butcher friend as he insists I leave my basket full of 50 pounds of chicken and waves me off to leave, assuring me he will take care of everything.

Lazaro and I find the next store and purchase over $800 worth of meat and veggies for tonite's meal and a little for tomorrow's lunch. I use a credit card from a womon at the kitchen and at first, it is accepted no question but when the supervisor comes to approve, she notices my driver's license doesn't match the credit card name.

I convince her the card belongs to my wife and I hear Lazaro say something about the u.s. and lesbians and discrimination. By now, there's a crowd of workers and curious shoppers around us. I'm not sure if the supervisor is more impacted by the amount of money we are spending or the fact that I'm a lesbian, but she ends up approving the sale and the crowd melts into strong arms hoisting heavy boxes of food onto the back of the truck - under my supervision of course!

I can text the kitchen to let them know we are on the way. The rain has stopped and the sun shines brightly through the formerly gray skies, shining brightly all the way back to the next set of strong arms that swiftly unload boxes into the waiting pots and onto the empty tables.

We are to prepare, cook, and package the meal by 4:30 so folks can eat before 6! Okay

Day 4 A xmas score

My sistah roommie activists and I arrive at the Tijuana headquarters of the fabulous World Central Kitchen minutes before the promised rain begins to drench the muddied streets. Once inside, we see the space is organized into two separate rooms with a smaller storage room all the way at the back: the room on the right is dedicated to cooking and cleaning, the room on the left is where all the food prep and packing takes place, as well as storage.

Immediately, the 20 or so volunteers who have showed up to prepare and serve meals today are assigned tasks and put to work.

Stacy and I begin making coffee, first on the list. Other volunteers begin to put together tables for work spaces, chopping veggies, cleaning and organizing. We have to make sandwiches for at least 800 people.

The 2 rows of tables stretch at least 20 feet each and are covered first in neat columns maybe 8 deep of bread, then each slice spread with a spicy mayo before generous slices of ham, then cheese are once again recovered with more mayo then the last bread.

Notice the lack of fresh veggies - not a slice of tomato nor a leaf of lettuce. Perishables are harder to come by as most people donate non-perishables and not funds to buy fresh veggies.

When the ham and cheese is gone, the process starts again with peanut butter and then jelly until all the loaves of bread have also been turned into sandwiches.

Each have to be wrapped in saran wrap and stacked into stainless steel containers which are then put into slotted shelves of the bigger plastic containers on wheels to be wheeled outside and into the waiting trucks.

By 11a.m. lunch has been prepared, stacked into proper containers, and set off in a couple different trucks in a couple different directions.

There are hungry people to feed all over Tijuana, like all huge cities, and then there are the refugees. For so many today is a time of eating way too much and getting way too many things, and making gads of trash piles.

We have succeeded in both feeding lots of people and making lots of trash: not just all the plastic bags that held bread and cheese and ham or empty jars of peanut butter and jelly or aluminum serving trays and single use utensils, but the outer wrappings of cabbages and remains of squeezed limes, the bad spots cut out of potatoes and burnt rice, a few trays of leftovers that have spoiled in the heat or before they could be connected with the hungry.

We bag up our garbage in huge black trash bags and set them outside next to the overflowing dumpster. Then it is time for the rest of us who did not go to serve the food to begin preparing the evening meal.

Outside, two men, whose billowing trousers are tied on minuscule waists with straps of plastic, with frayed backpacks slung over their jutting shoulders and wire carts listing behind rickety bicycles have attacked the pile of garbage. One of the womxxn organizers rushes out to hand them a couple of fresh sandwiches, which they reach for and accept with gnarled hands, downcast eyes and and shy smiles.

She tries to convince them they will get sick if they eat from the food we threw away but they are not deterred from their swift, organized raking thru each bag and reorganizing mounds of scraps into piles they then shove into emptied plastic bags, stuffing them into their carts, their backs, around their necks.

Their xmas score.