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Tijuana, "Los Estados Unidos, Where Skies are Blue"

My final day in Tijuana was a doozy. One of the most difficult things about being in the red tent area, where asylum-hopefuls gather daily to hear if their “lottery” number to the Ice Box gets called, was seeing the children. If your number gets called that day, you must be ready to leave immediately. So every day, entire families show up with all their belongings at 7am, day after day, after day. I learned some of the children’s names. They would smile when they recognized me and ask, “Como esta?” I saw the same babies in strollers being pushed by their parent or older sibling. I gave them nicknames to help me keep track. “One Zapato baby” (he only had one shoe). “Moana” (she was the spitting image of Baby Moana from the movie). My favorite, “Pink Bow.” I know her real name, but can’t say it publicly. Remember, she is a refugee, she and her family are running from someone who wants them dead. 
There are also many pregnant women. They stand in line, for hours. We tell them about the medical clinic and ask them to PLEASE come. On my final day, two pregnant women collapsed while waiting in line to hear if their number will be called. Not one. Two. One woman’s partner caught her from behind as her legs gave way and he gently lowered her to the pavement. After a few minutes, she seemed ok. Another volunteer from Al Otro Lado assessed her in Spanish as best as possible. And then we did the only thing we could. We sat her down on a cement curb, under a tree. We gave her a pair of socks because she had none. Remember, the Ice Box is intentionally kept at a very cold temperature. We took off our coats and jackets off and held them up. We made a human dressing room, 360 degrees around her, so that she could change clothes and put her warmest layer on bottom. Remember, all their clothes are taken from them, except their base layer. She was at full term. Nine months. I don’t know what happened to her after that. The other pregnant woman who collapsed, was rushed by a local ambulance to a Mexican hospital. I don’t know what happened to her either. Or how it will affect her asylum process.
Later that day, I gathered my belongs to cross back to the U.S. and begin my flight back home. I was just about to head out when a buzz went around the office that a wedding was to take place! Al Otro Lado is sometimes able to perform common law wedding ceremonies from specific countries. This may help families stay together as they cross the border. There was another musician volunteering with Al Otro Lado who had a ukulele. I had a guitar. We assigned ourselves the “wedding musicians” and quickly chatted about what songs we both knew how to play. We decided on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It was a make shift ceremony. Someone lit candles. The bride wore jeans. The couple had children who stood next to their parents as they repeated vows in Spanish. The groom became emotional, and choked back tears. I witnessed love, and pure hope, and two parents doing everything within their power to make a safe future for their children. They were announced husband and wife, and the few volunteers who found themselves with a spare 10 minutes to witness the ceremony, erupted into cheers. That was our cue to play music.
“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
If happy little blue birds fly above the rainbow why oh why? Oh why can’t I?”
I gathered my belongings, said my goodbyes, and walked across Ped West, back into the United States, with barely a glance at my Passport by Border Patrol Agents. As I waited for my Uber to take me to the airport, the sky turned gray, and rain began to downpour.


My Pre-Tijuana Post

Second Day Thoughts

First Hand Facts of the Red Tent

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