Well we’re here.
Do we add an exclamation mark? It seemed disingenuous.
At this point, our mood could most optimistically be described as “apprehensive”. It finally feels real and actually being here, amongst all the border patrol, fence line, and sprawling city, has us restless and snapping and endlessly questioning whether we can do this or not. But hey, at least San Diego seems cool!
Mostly we’ve been occupied with start-of-an-expedition chores and ceaseless work on our website, which consistently feels overwhelming no matter how many hours we pour into it. On Friday, we visited the New Americans Museum, a set of exhibits celebrating our immigrant heritage and diversity. We were lucky to get there when we did, almost immediately after exiting the building, everything was mysteriously shut down for the day. The museum was smaller than what we were expecting, consisting of two rooms and one wall of photographs, but it had the dual effect of lifting our spirits and reminding us how little funding and attention this subject often gets. The museum was smack dab in the middle of the San Diego Arts District, and was a pretty spot to spend a few hours absorbing culture (and the ocean breeze!)
Following our excursion, we began the arduous task of relocating to our new hotel, conveniently located on the border only minutes away from a crossing. Over the next three hours it took to navigate public transportation (two buses, two trams, a mile or so of walking, and an exceedingly confusing ticket system) we essentially relocated to a different country. The surroundings got shabbier, the air more humid (no more ocean breeze) and the language more...Spanish. We both jumped at our first sighting of Border Patrol, two beefy men with enormous guns casually on display entering a coffee shop. It speaks to our privileged existence that the sight of heavily armed men “policing” the streets feels shocking.
After finally reaching the hotel, we settle in for more prep and endless anxiety spirals. The best thing to do in these situations is to call friends and family and hope that they’re willing to say a couple nice things about you. Shout out to all the people in our lives - thank you! It’s a nice reminder of how energizing community can be.
Claire: “I’m sitting in the parking lot, I notice a lot of uniformed men and women coming in and out of the hotel and exiting a large bus with “US Immigration & Customs Enforcement” blazoned along the side. A couple of them start sweeping the parking lot, looking under cars with mirrors on sticks and tapping covered pickup truck beds and trunks.
Is this just a part of daily life here on the border or a special occasion?
Is the “decision” to live here considered to be tacit consent to the constant policing of your property and behavior? I’m sure there’s another side to this story but my uninformed eyes only see a pervasive and intimidating police presence operating under the assumption of wrongdoing. Frankly, it’s scary.
A bunch of the agents start to unload the bus (after sweeping it thoroughly) and relocate its contents to the hotel. I’m starting to feel a little self conscious at this point so I snap a picture and go inside, opening the door for an agent pushing a cart loaded with what appear to be vending machine supplies.
Now I’m confused. Does border patrol resupply this hotel?
When I look at his patch, I realize it says “Otay Mesa Detention Center”, which a quick Google search reveals to be an immigrant detention facility operated by ICE only a few minutes from our hotel. I have no idea what they’re doing ferrying supplies, but over the next 24 hours I observe at least 10 more entering and exiting the hotel. Maybe they stay here while on the job? It’s a mystery.”
This whole thing starts tomorrow. We’ll walk from our hotel to the International Friendship Park, to attend a worship service conducted by the organization Friends of Friendship Park. Hopefully it will set a good tone for our journey and protect us along the way. Wish us luck!