Hola once again – Today was a day off from doing interviews with our students, but it was still a busy day, for today staff, volunteers and older Project Amigo scholars took the youngest students from the Quesería migrant camp to the beach.
Manzanillo is the deep water Pacific Ocean port of Colima State, about a 2 hour drive from here. Most of the children at the camp have never seen the ocean, so this is quite an experience for them. It is also quite an experience for us to see them shouting with glee and to see the joy on their faces as they see the vastness of the ocean, the huge crashing waves and jump and play in the water.
We kept track of them by organizing them into groups. Each of us had a colored ribbon one our wrists, and whichever children were in our group also had a ribbon on their wrist of the same color. At our table on the beach, we hung a piece of construction paper of the same color. My group was the rose-colored team.
It is also an experience for us to keep an eye on them and keep them safe in the water. There was one Project Amigo volunteer and two older scholars for every 10 children. I did not bring a bathing suit – first because I don’t own one and second, I figured that maybe I would be up to my ankles in the water and that would be enough. Well – I ended up hiking my skirt up to my knees to be far enough from the shore in case one of the children needed me, thinking this was enough protection from the water. A few good-sized waves took care of that idea by thoroughly drenching me. When the children left the water to eat lunch, I went to one of the tiendas on the beach and bought a bathing suit and a caftan…. Next beach day, I will definitely not forget a bathing suit!
Changing clothes and going to the toilet were definitely a challenge. When Hurricane Patricia happened last year, it was a Category 5 when it made landfall at Manzanillo. You can see in one of the pictures some white posts – that is what is left of the building where the changing rooms and toilets were. Most of the walls are now gone and the floors collapsed, but some of the toilets survived, so within what is left of the structure are a few plywood walls either with toilets or empty to use as changing rooms.
Many buildings did survive or were repaired. Fortunately, Hurricane Patricia changed course and also became a Category 1, so there was damage but no loss of life. It could have been so much worse.
We brought our own food in the bus, so everyone had hamburgers and chips for lunch, along with water and jamaica (pronounced ha-MY-ka), a drink made from hibiscus, which tastes somewhat like fruit punch. There were also snacks of cucumber and jicama strips with Tajin seasoning.
At the end of the day, the children of Quesería did not want to leave, and it took a while to round them up, chase them back up the beach when one or more of them would try to escape back into the water, get them changed and give them one last snack. And once again I was reminded that I will never be mistaken for a Mexican when one of the girls in the water was playing around, reached out her hand to me and yelled, “Gringa, ayuda me!” (which means – female gringo, help me!). sigh……………….
I think most of us ended up taking quite a bit of sand home with us. After a thorough shower, we met for dinner at the Hacienda, and were in for a surprise. At our meeting area were three Project Amigo university graduates and their families. These three girls had all just graduated and passed their bar exams! They have all become lawyers! Andrea now works at the prosecutor’s office in Colima. Maria works at the public defender’s office and Ceci works in a general law office. Project Amigo university students are strongly encouraged to do internships during their studies in the area in which they will graduate, and so these girls were already familiar to the staff where they are now working, and it was easier for them to get jobs right out of school. These girls, as with most of our Project Amigo scholars, work very hard, many times under difficult life circumstances, in order to become educated and create a better life for themselves, their families and their community. We are so proud of Andrea, Maria and Ceci!!!!!!!!!!!!
Well, time to post this latest blog and get some sleep… Tomorrow is a true day of leisure. First an early breakfast with some local friends at their house, and then visit the fair in Villa de Alvarez