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Saturday, 29 February 2020

Volunteering with Xperitas in Chicueyaco, Mexico

Written by Tyrel Nelson
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What a difference ten minutes can make. The switchbacks seem endless just because I slapped snooze twice. There are plenty of open spots on level five, but I am driven to keep driving. Six is wide open, yet I keep the pedal down. To heck with it. I’m going to park on top. The recent run of overcast has me craving the sun.

It’s a bone-chilling February AM in Minneapolis. I would normally feel the weight of these eight degrees. But it’s a brilliant dawn too. Locking my Sonata, I am energized by this influx of vitamin D. I proudly follow my breath to the exit doors of the Hennepin Avenue Ramp.

Descending the stairs instantly reminds me of the steep decline into Chicueyaco. I long for those days not long ago when we’d jump out of our covered pickup because it couldn’t conquer the sloping road. The truth is that my state of mind has been stuck in the state of Puebla for the past two weeks. So I naturally envision what we’d be doing in Mexico at this moment. The tip-tap of my steps provides the soundtrack to a Chicueyaco reel playing in my head.

Cumbia blasts from the flatbed that has rumbled up to Escuela Preescolar Benito Juárez. The driver cranks up the volume to motivate our brigade. He, his two assistants, and our crew of eleven rhythmically twist and turn three hundred times to unload the cinder blocks from the truck and stack them in front of Chicueyaco’s one-room schoolhouse. The morning rays are intense, yet we stay focused on the task at hand: helping the lead mason, Justo, construct new bathrooms for the preschoolers. Toiling in the sun has cooked us though. Fortunately, soup’s on. We have just enough juice left to make the five-minute hike to Doña Magdalena’s humble hillside cabin, which is camouflaged by the trees of the tiny village.

Dona Magdalena And Me

Inhaling tortillas fresh off the flame at Magdalena’s isn’t our only chance for a breather. Luckily, there have been many opportunities to not only take much-needed breaks from the manual labor, but build relationships in the community to boot. Some team members kick a soccer ball around with the preschool students. Others shoot hoops during recess at the neighboring elementary school. We also joke with the local ladies, who hang around to watch the walls of their kids’ new restrooms take shape block by block.

Finishing The Floor On Day 3

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Last modified on Sunday, 01 March 2020

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