Note: This is a continuation of Karma (Part 1 of 2), which posted on April 6, 2011.
Why is this post named Karma? For anyone who believes that ‘what comes around, goes around’, I am mighty glad that Yair and I started the weekend positively and with kindness. For me, giving help is much easier than accepting help, an act with which I am much less familiar. As we drove out of the park on Saturday evening, Yair and I detected a sulfurous odor. At first we thought nothing of it, however when it kept recurring, we realized that it might be a propane leak. After a few moments of discussion and with the understanding that no mechanic would be available until at least Monday, we decided to turn off the propane and sort out our next priority: keeping our refrigerator and and its contents cool. Our fridge normally runs off of propane but it is also able to run off of 120 volt electricity. Our new game plan was to pull off at the first town we spotted and find a home that would let us plug in for the night.
I immediately nominated Yair for the job. I was tired of hearing “you’re the girl” as the rationale behind myneeding to hitch us all the rides and I was moderately uncomfortable with asking complete strangers for their help and overnight hospitality. Yair agreed to take the lead, and we found our way to Mecca, California. We pulled over at the first house in sight and – since Yair asked me to accompany him – we both timidly made our way over to the front door. Yair had barely introduced himself before it became evident that the woman of the house spoke no English and I would be on call yet again.
Through passable high school Spanish, I explained our situation. The woman, Ignacia, immediately called to her husband, Tomas, who dug up a large extension cord and got us plugged in. There was no discussion or hesitation – we needed help and she was going to provide it. We thanked our hosts profusely and settled in for the night.
The next morning, Ignacia knocked on our door to invite us into her home to shower, eat and relax. Yair tried to communicate that he had already eaten breakfast by holding up a box of cereal, to which she responded something along the lines of “Esto no es comida! Sin nutrición. Venga.” We were fed, washed (I never feel so wonderfully human as after a good shower!) and cared for, and joined a group of their friends for an all day barbecue where we were treated to fresh tortillas, guacamole and – get this – nopales! Remember when I wrote that the prickly pear cactus is edible? Just days later, we found ourselves eating nopales, grilled prickly pear cactus! The nopales tasted a bit like roasted green pepper, but less sweet.
We ingratiated ourselves with the group by bringing a large pack of Bud Lite to the barbecue, and shared bits of our story through my translation. Later that afternoon, Ignacia joined us in the RV and we bonded through another global, unspoken language: family photos. She shared the baptisms of her grandchildren, while we gave her a tour of the family photo wall in the RV. Ignacia and Tomas do not own a computer or a camera, but recently traveled to a big city to have a portrait done and honored us with a gift of one of their photos.
Mecca is a town that is 98% Hispanic, and is primarily made of Mexican agricultural and migrant workers who live below the poverty line. In our few days in Mecca, we did not met a single English speaker and I kept questioning what country we were really in. Many of the streets in Mecca are dirt roads without sidewalks and there are two large, beautiful baseball fields at the local park that are used daily for pick-up soccer games, but have probably never seen a baseball game in action.
Learning how to graciously accept the generosity and hospitality of others “like us” would have been one thing. But the fact that we were being so warmly and lovingly hosted by a local family of humble means with whom we do not share a nationality, religion or even a language is mind-blowing. What an experience.
posted by ayo