JONESTOWN SURVIVOR Visits Mexico City for Presentation

JONESTOWN SURVIVOR at Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City

I was a guest of Casa de los Amigos in Mexico City for three days in June, 2013. For me, a requirement for any “adventure” is to experience something outside of my personal comfort zone. The trip I took with my husband, leaving from San Diego, entailed many advertures.

We flew on Volaris Airlines, out of Tijuana for the first time. Our son Raul dropped us at the border first thing in the morning. We walked across the border and took a taxi out to the airport. The airport was cavernous, and mostly empty except for the long lines at several stops between the front door and the plane boarding area. We managed our lines expeditiously and ended up at our gate. The four-hour trip was smooth and comfortable. The snacks – chips with our drinks when we first embarked, and a cookie with our drinks just before we arrived, were the sparse snacks.

We arrived in Mexico City and were met by two Quakers, who greeted us warmly. We felt very welcome. We were driven to the Casa de los Amigos, a diverse and pulsating Quaker Meeting House which has housing available for refugees and Quaker volunteers, and guests. The intriguing, multi-story and multi-staircased building generates a warmth and depth from the moment you enter. It is a block from the Monumento de Revoluccion.

But of course, our first night there, we were hit by a 6.0 earthquake , originating nearby, in the middle of the night. As Californians, we rolled with it and went back to sleep.

I came to the Casa because I was invited to speak to three different groups that meet regularly in the building. On Friday night, I spoke to English-learners. A group of about thirty English-learners from many countries around the world, and some English speakers, gather on Friday nights to practice English. They have discussions on current events or other topics of interest. I presented for about an hour and then had an hour of answering really probing and interesting questions.

On Saturday evening, I had the most challenging time of any of my Book Talks since I published my book in March 2010. I presented my Book Talk in Spanish to about twenty Quakers and others living, working, or just visiting the Casa. I speak fluent—if not totally correct—Spanish. I can get my point across, and sound fluent BUT my verb tenses generally need some work. Also, some of the vocabulary I use in English is not part of my regulary Spanish vocabulary. I brought photos which I put on four posters, and I brought other literature and posted a timeline and map on a white board to assist my presentation. Still, I was very aware that I didn’t want my presentation marred by inarticulate Spanish. My goal in each presentation I make is to clarify what Peoples Temple was all about, why people joined, and who the members were.. I put a lot of pressure on myself to cover the topic the best I can.

At the end of the evening, the feedback was that my message got across and that they very much appreciated my efforts to share my story. I was exhilarated and exhausted.

On Sunday, my husband and I went to the Mexico City Meeting for Worship. It was deep and comforting. My host, Bronwen, welcomed us and was extremely gracious. She had spent much of the weekend being available to us. Bronwem is the Clerk of the Meeting, and just great. Over Hospitality after Meeting for Worship I spoke with individual Friends and Casa guests about my experience.

The Casa de los Amigos is a microcosm of what I dream about in a community – a variety of wonderful seekers. I plan to encourage the youth at our La Jolla Monthly Meeting to come down. Students stop here for several months and seem to get motivated to go on to exciting futures. While there, I met a Mennonite activist, a Colorado woman who came to help settle and train people deported from the USA after living their entire lives there – who often don’t speak Spanish or have school records to get started again down here, a political refugee from an African nation, students getting their Masters’ degrees, teachers at the University and elsewhere, counselors in drug rehab facilities, and much more. I’m coming back.

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