27 March 2007

Our First Day

We went Sunday on the Bus pick-up to South Central LA to a neighborhood that is totally in the "hood". Our bus driver as very amusing and entertaining. He looked to be in his mid 30's or so but wore baggy jean shorts that reached just above his ankles, a huge t-shirt, and a gray knit cap with a bill, worn off to the side, of course. It was comical to see a grown man dressed like a teen hoodlum, and talking like one too. Eric has been working at the Dream Center with Metro Kidz for several years, so maybe that explains the outfit. Along one street as we sat at a red light Eric opened the bus door and yelled out, "Don't be given that look girl! You know it's better than sweeping the state pen!" Looking out the window we saw a group of people sweeping and cleaning the sidewalk wearing bright orange vests; one would assume they were doing mandatory community service. As we were sharing our year and major which my answer was alumni, Eric asked, "Are you the boss?" I shunned that title so he asked the rest of the team who said yes. He then said, 'I knew you were the le hefe." Not knowing any Spanish I heard him say "the heifer" and was rather confused at what he meant and why he would be calling me a heifer. I wasn't sure to be outraged or laugh. Thankfully Lindsey was sitting in front of me and whispered that it means "the chief."

As we followed our guides, Jose and Sam, we noticed the shell casings on the ground and on our way back noticed the windows in a mini-van that were no more, a casualty of the gun shots. A couple older ladies told us that a fight had gone on the night before. The police were still around patrolling the area so we felt a degree safer. But as Eric our bus driver said, Dream Center has a "gangster pass" to the neighborhoods. The saddest sight was seeing coils of razor wire surrounding a head start
pre-school. And just in case the wire on the fence around the place wasn't enough deterrent there was more all along the perimeter of the building's roof. Strangely enough the neighborhood made me nostalgic for the gypsy neighborhoods of Brno. The decrepit-ness, some units boarded up, others with laundry hanging outside, others with amazing gardens. Although I noticed that all the plants in these various gardens were in pots. Are they transitory so that if the owners ever get a chance to move they can take the plants with them or because the ground is so hard? We took the bus load of people we collected to Angelus Temple for church. That was an experience. The one comment from a team member, "We aren't in the Northwest anymore, this is Hollywood! They do church different down here." And so they do!

After church we rode the bus back to drop off the people and back to the Dream Center. We had lunch at DC and had a free afternoon. We had gotten several suggestions from Eric about what to do. First of all we took naps. After dinner we went to the 3rd street Promenade in Santa Monica. It was fun to watch the students, especially as we joined a crowd around three break dancers. Some were really amazed at all the nationalities represented: Armenian, Iranian, Israli, Turkish, Filipino, Italian, etc. How do we know this? The three performers had a competition, whoever was the last to give a "tip" got a special dance. As they collected the money they asked where people were from and created a "bidding war" between different countries. A gal from the Philippines won and got a chipendales type dance - in front of her husband and two young children. She playfully but truly kneed one of them. But the best part, when she was able to escape she went back to her purse and grabbed something to give them - a "Our Daily Bread." I thought that was hilarous! The guy didn't quite know what to do with it and just thanked her for the devotional.

When the dancers took a break our group split into small groups. Dot, Corbin and I went down to the beach. Corbin went for a swim. Dot and I just wanted to get out feet wet but a wave snuck up on us and got us rather wet. We met up with other on the pier later where we had to leave before we saw who was leaving Bubba Gump's on a guerney in an ambulance. It wasn't a fun way to end an evening for someone. As we walked back to the van I am nearly certain that I passed by the guy who plays Jin on "Lost," quite certain but not a 100%. Meg was beside me and I asked her if she watched the show to get confirmation, but she doesn't so I'm left to wonder.

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