Rain came down in sheets as we three Peace Games Ambassadors loaded the trunk full of shoes and socks for the asylum-seekers before leaving the East Bay for the border. Guillermo seemed to glide between the raindrops as he hugged the highway all the way to LA amidst rainbows, snowy mountains and green hills. We made sure to find a dry, deserted place to go over the Tai Chi Peace Games and practice our Tai Chi.
We met up with Michelle, an acupuncturist, herbalist and Eastern Medicine practitioner and the fourth member of our crew, at a Chinese herb shop in the border-town of San Ysidro. We purchased some over-the-counter medicine for the asylum-seekers. The cold rain made us acutely aware of the folks who had walked 2500 miles seeking refuge from conditions much more dire than bad weather. We bought some two-wheeled carts, gathered the donations of shoes and wool socks from the trunk and loaded them up. Our short walk from America to Mexico was easier than getting through any airport security. There were absolutely no signs of gangs whatsoever.
We arrived at our destination in downtown Tijuana: a four story building housing a community center, health clinic, art space and legal counseling office. The front door was locked, so we went in through the back alley where we were greeted by Nacho from Peace Not Bombs. These devoted activists feed an average of 150 poor, hungry mouths each day. On the fourth floor lawyers from LA (Otro Lado) were busy meeting with asylum-seekers, filling out application forms for legal migration to the U.S., while on the third floor, Frontline Wellness and Doctors without Borders were collaborating to provide Western medical health care.
Nacho served us soup made from oat groats; it was surprisingly delicious and hearty. I found a place to store our boxful of Spanish language Peace Games manuals. Guillermo made posters to promote our upcoming workshop. Rafi helped the kitchen crew cut fruits and veggies. Michelle attended to a man who came in with a swollen hand from a spider bite. Warmed on the inside and still damp and cold on the outside, we headed back out to a local shelter in a Catholic church. In the church courtyard, under a long awning in the pouring rain, men and women assembled and humbly and gratefully received the sturdy shoes and wool socks.
The sun finally came out on Day Two, so we practiced Tai Chi in the alleyway behind the community center, maintaining our regime of daily training. Rafi and I worked out a two person form for kids based on movements from Bagua, Xing Yi and Tai Chi Ch’uan. This newborn form is short, easy and captures the essence of each of the three Chinese internal martial arts
Our Peace Games session was scheduled for our 2nd and final day there, but by 6:00, the asylum-seekers were afraid to come out at night. We were disappointed that we were unable to teach the Peace Games to the asylum-seekers until some Food Not Bombs (Tijuana Comida No Bombas on Facebook) aid workers showed up to our workshop. We ended up teaching only the aid-workers, which actually proved to be much more appropriate. They are a very cohesive community of individuals from all over the world who come together with the simple mission of feeding hungry, poor people. We were asked to respect the anomynity of both the activists and the people they serve by not taking photos. Pushing for Peace gave $250 of your donations to them. From Pushing for Peace and all those whose lives we improved in Mexico, muchas gracias for your donations!
Along with food, clothing and shelter, the asylum-seekers desperately need individual healthcare, both mental and physical. While the Peace Games are great for team-building, centering and grounding, the need is dire for simple, basic healing exercises for individuals. In response to that need, we are beginning a new round of fundraising to publish and reproduce a “Qigong Field Manual,” which will contain a series of ancient, meditative movements and breathing exercises. These will be useful for people stuck anywhere - seated too long in classrooms, in sedentary jobs at computers, confined in prisons, injured from repetitive movements or hard labor, or languishing in refugee encampments. Lying down, seated or standing, any of these practices can be done in small spaces. These stress-relieving, mind/body/spirit exercises will reduce the need for medical care, and improve the state of mind and organ health of anyone who makes the choice to practice them.