We cross the border by foot, and Estela is always waiting for us as soon as we get the green light from immigration - she is reliable like that. It was late October, so we came with an artificial Christmas tree stuffed in a backpack, Spanish Christmas books, and seven kiddos.
The first time I came face to face with intense poverty, that is the first time I crossed into Anapra, I got sick from sobbing so hard. Therefore, I anxiously watched the kids take it all in. However, before your turn ten you seem to take the world in wonderful gulps of amazement rather than seeing need and sadness and struggle.
We went straight to the library, and were once again grateful for this little oasis of learning that God has planted in Anapra. Children trickled in, apprehensive at first. Teens asked for help with their English lessons, the little ones exchanged nervous smiles. Then Carolyn took a glue stick to some construction paper and sprinkled some dirt over it - sand art was soon being made and exchanged by the handfuls.
We took long walks to visit an elderly friend, attend mass, see the Sunday market, share in a meal, and then another. The kids went to the top of the mesa and looked down on the whole of Anapra. All the while they were in awe at the life of their new-found friends, "they get to climb mountains and play in the sand EVERY DAY!" Indeed that is the bright side of unpaved streets and desert landscape.
Our short visit ended with many hugs and promises of more visits soon. Estela's son took us all on a tour of Juarez on his bus as we headed back to the bridge. The calm streets, with the occasional jogger or bicyclist was a welcome sight after years of violence that had kept us, and so many others, away. The hope of a brighter tomorrow is indeed in the air. I pray we are a part of it.