By Christopher Wink | May 25, 2006 | Travel Reflection
I have proudly represented Temple University on service immersion trips before. I have had South Dakotan ground beneath my feet before, too. Moreover, I have been with Jason Riley in a rental car and with John Dimino on an airplane before. Still, it is easy to understand that some experiences, no matter the similarities, can never be fully replicated.
Our group of ten administrators and students flew into Rapid City, South Dakota in May 2006, destined to work on the Rosebud Reservation of the Lakota Nation. While nearing the airport from above, below me South Dakota appeared wrinkled and aged. As we further approached, her features took form: trees that survived passed generations of agricultural clearing and beef cattle that survived passed days of agricultural slaughter.
This region of Dakota’s limitless expansion is only interrupted by flurries of elevation change. Once on ground, the pavement of interstate 90 appeared to have tamed the land into a consumable table of gentle slopes and caressing ridges. All of which leads me to offer muddled explanations of the region’s geographical features: endless plains with small, yet punctuated elevation changes interjected regularly.
Temple University sent 23 of us to Laredo, Texas to work with Habitat for Humanity. We slept on the ground of vacant classrooms, took less-than-hot showers, and worked a watered-down form of construction from 8am until 4pm daily. For those unfamiliar with what the phrase college spring break generally connotes, this wasn’t your garden-variety week off from American higher education.
Yet, nearly 100 volunteered to pack screwdrivers and hammers in their spring break suitcases. It’s a shame that only 23 of those who applied got to work with the international group that manages to build beautiful homes with volunteer crews and sell them to deserving families with long-term, low interest loans. -The teach-a-man-to-fish type of charity that makes us get mushy inside.
On a recent trip to poverty ravaged Tijuana, I could not help but see the irony, clichéd as it may be, of a border wall – that divides with great tumult the U.S. and Mexico – extending into the serenity of the Pacific Ocean. It is unreal to brace oneself against the rusted wall and watch it snake its way into the greens and blues of the water below as it divides San Diego and Tijuana. Here, lines drawn on maps are far from imaginary and they carry emotional meaning that no fence should.
But for me, when I travel, the first things I notice are the similarities between where I am and where I live. Mysterious or not, the smiles of children are the same in Mexico: where south not only describes its geographic relationship to the U.S. but also its location below the poverty line. Of course American business spills over the fortified walls, so the border region oozes the products of Sam Walton and Ronald McDonald with a Mexican touch.