From crossing the border into Tijuana, to threading the active barricades that serve as the checkpoint boundary of a U.S. military installation, what we learned.
No sé dónde está el baño.
It was the one phrase I knew but an important one. And the young man understood, smiled, and pointed.
On the hot, dusty hillside I entered the baño. At an angle. The outhouse leaned somewhat precipitously to the left but served its purpose.
Our youth group had traveled 1,237 miles to work with the youth of a culture and a climate so much a contrast to our own.
Communication was a challenge, but we all spoke basketball.
Three-on-three with loser out.
We never won.
Of course, they had homecourt advantage. There was no net. The rim was bent. The backboard cockeyed. And if you missed, the ball would bounce – in ever increasing heights – down, down, down the steep hill from the hoop mounted on the single pole on the semi-flat space at the very top.
We laughed the same language.
Much closer to home, our census-taking daughter – bold emblazoned letters on her handbag proclaiming her purpose as she searched for addresses among the many military housing units – was not infrequently met at the door by a housewife who knew of her coming before she could finish saying, ‘Hi, I’m with the United States Cens. . . .’
‘Yes,’ she smiled. ‘I got a text from my friend down the street to be watching for a young lady wandering the neighborhood.’
Outside that same installation a party was going on. Lots and lots of people. Balloons, music, food, family, friends, and neighbors.
She never even got a chance to knock on the door before she – the Official Census Taker, with an official job to do – became an Official Party Crasher, at the insistence of the Pacific Islander’s party host.
An hour later, having been introduced to all 17 children, grandchildren, cousins, et al, she left having obtained more than enough information than she needed for the forms.
And a plate of food.
And the distinct impression that where you live is far less about geography as it is about community.