Chihuahua – Day 1 (3/14/09)

Just woke up from an 8 hour sleep after nearly 24 hours on the road. We got here to La Granja Hogar de Los Niños last night about 2:00 AM local time 4:00 AM central daylight time. Janiene and Luis greeted us last night at the bus station, very kind of them to sit in at the bus station and wait for us at such an hour of night. They drove us about five blocks back to the farm and brought us back to our rooms. There was already an older couple staying in the bunk houses – John and Mary. They volunteered at the farm for a year before Janiene & Luis were there. They are very nice folks that were traveling by bike through Mexico and their bikes broke down. So they caught rides and hitch-hiked and got to La Granja Hogar.

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We got in and had some cookies and cereal. They bought us some ‘Frosted Flakes’, and we had powdered milk warm, but it was very good, especially after our long journey. Then we split up – girls and boys, and slept in nice warm beds.

Day 1- (3/14/09)

Getting Started

Our Journey started at 5am in little Charleston. Roy met us at the Newman Center, and Carmen was going to meet us in Chicago at O’Hare. Margie was quite late, almost 6am until we left, and we needed to leave at 5:30! So Roy did work behind the wheel of the Newman Mini Bus.

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We got to O’Hare just in time, about 8:45am. I got us all checked in and got our tickets – except I could not get Margie’s ticket. First, Doris put Margie separate on the tickets. All the girl’s were under my name, so I printed all our tickets off at once, but Margie was on her own. We tried to swipe her passport, but the darn thing was expired. But on page 23 of her passport was a written year extension, so we had to stand in line to check her in. We told the girls to go on through security and we would meet them at the gate. At this point I was slightly concerned about making it through security on time, but everything worked out. I bore my cross that had been blessed by Fr. John on Thursday – blessed to give us strength & security. I also bore the emblem of St. Christopher on a chain around my neck to guide our travels – both gave me strength, patience, and trust. Normally, I would get really agitated and irritated by this situation, but I felt calm. Margie and I got through security just fine, and met up with the girls in the terminal. We found our gate, and our plane was already delayed – mechanical issues with one of the engines. So we got some breakfast at McDonalds. Our plane did not leave until 12:45, originally scheduled for 10:30. But this downtime provided good time for our group to get to know each other. Everyone seems to get along, a very good group of girls. Some people thought I may go insane with girls – but so far, after 1 day, no problems – it’s actually been really fun.

Flying

Mexico - Hannah Pt1 (6)

The flight to Dallas was very smooth, but we were all scattered throughout the plane. Hannah & Victoria were only a few seats behind me. I had a window seat, and the view was spectacular. I was trying to figure out where we were by looking at the roads and cities below us, but I think we were farther west than I realized. I think we flew over Peoria. Since our plane departed late, our connecting flight in Dallas to El Paso had almost zero layover time, as we arrived at Dallas at 3:30, and our flight left at 4:20. We grabbed a quick sandwich, I got a big beef & cheddar from Au Bu Pain, and it was delicious. Hannah went to McDonalds, ordered 3 cheeseburgers and got 4. She ate most of them after we boarded the plane, and I’m not sure how she made it through without puking. We got on the plane, and we were in the last row, and as we looked out our windows for a good view, all we could see was the side of the jet engines. Victoria, Hannah, me, Jennifer and Carmen were in the back, and it sucked. It was loud as crap, and we had a lot of turbulence this ride. So after my big sandwich that I wolfed down, I almost puked it back up when we were landing. Jennifer looked at me and laughing she asked me if I was okay. I just opened my air up and lay back – and she laughed even harder since when we got on the plane, I was joking about the puke bags. When we hit the ground, the pilot put the jets in some sort of super after-burn, cause they got some damn loud and they changed the pressure. All of our ears popped. After all this, I don’t know how Hannah had survived just fine – she ate 4 cheeseburgers from McDonalds, and her ear’s were really bothering her, like hurting bad – and we landed and she was better off than me!

El Paso

We were the last ones off the plane, so we went to grab our baggage, and there was Sylvia to meet us. I did not even have to call her, she recognized us. Sylvia is a friend of Doris, and they set this up. We picked up our luggage, including what we now called the “Body Bag”, the 47 pound piece of luggage with all the supplies we bought for the kids plus 2 backpacks full of stuff from Janiene’s parents. Sylvia was very welcoming and excited to see us. We all piled into her red mini-van. She had a 12 pack of iced tea for us. Four of the girls squeezed in back – Hannah, Kerry, Carmen, and Jen – and Victoria and I were in the middle, Margie up front with Sylvia. We drove to the bus station to buy our tickets to Chihuahua that we were going to take that night at 9:30pm. This was my first experience with Spanish, the station was packed, body to body. It was just me and Sylvia, and I was able to use a bit of my Spanish – I was pretty happy with my basic communication skills. I got our tickets and we got out of there. Then we headed to Chicos Tacos, a Tex-Mex restaurant. Even in El Paso, everyone speaks Spanish. The food was excellent, I bought a hot dog, which came as 2 hot dogs sliced the long way, in a hamburger bun with chili in it. There was a small Mexican child there that was extremely cute; we played with her through the glass windows between our booths. When we arrived at Chicos Tacos earlier, a homeless man came right up to our van, it was kind of creepy, but he meant nothing.

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We left Chico’s and went to the bus station. When we got back to the bus station, it was completely different – It was nearly empty, much calmer. We got there nearly 2 hours before the bus loaded up. In the bus station, we met a man named Saul, very nice man who spoke decent English. He helped translate when we needed it during the bus ride. We got on the bus, and began our 6 hour bus ride. We only rode about 5 minutes and we had to unload and cross the border. They randomly checked people crossing based on chance. As we crossed we pressed a button, if it went green, we could go, but if it went red, we got searched. Everyone in our crew got green, so we re-loaded the bus and pretty much fell asleep darn quick. I put my mp3 player on and had some nice music playing softly. Jennifer and Carmen had a laugh fest; they started giggling and went for about 3 hours it seemed. I heard them in and out as I slept. I woke up on the bus about midnight and they were still giggling, and Hannah – sitting across from me – had her head at about a 90 degree angle (the joys of sleeping on a bus).

No one in this group is afraid to be themselves, and that’s refreshing to see. I think that’s why Carmen and Jennifer became friends so quick – there was no guise to their greeting and they took each other for what they were. It’s not just those 2 either, none of us were afraid to let our true colors fly right from the start.

We made a stop for about 20 minutes at a small gas station with a restaurant inside. I went outside for some air – and it was cool and crisp. I got back on the bus and Hannah had to use the restroom, so I went back off the bus with her, and walked around in the gas station. I talked to Saul for a bit, he said he was from California and he travels around. He actually had been to Springfield, IL to work with horses. He is also a follower of Jesus Christ he said, and he quoted some bible verses. A very nice man and I believe one of many people that God put on our journey. Then Hannah and I got back on the bus, only after Hannah bought some chocolate wafers, and we dominated those – nearly the whole 8 pack before we got back on the bus. Got back on the bus and slept some more. It was amazing, when I looked out the bus windows, there is absolutely nothing but desert everywhere. No lights, no civilization, only mountains and sky. I suppose it’s almost the same as Illinois, as we only have cornfields lining our highways – except we have the occasional farmhouse. We finally got to Chihuahua about 2am (4am CDT) and Janiene and Luis were there to pick us up. Very kind of them to wake up in the middle of la noche to welcome us, it was excellente! We piled into their VW van, which was pretty awesome – it had to fold out seats on the ends of each bench seat in the back. It was cool that night, but I suppose that’s the way it is in the desert. It was only a 5 minute drive back to La Granja Hogar de los ninos – the house farm of the children.

-Nate