Nov 13, 2011

Baja Surf and Service

Baja California residents live a pretty good life, at least the ones who live outside the major borders cities of Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada. Overcrowding and poor sanitation plague these areas, along with violence perpetuated by drug cartels. It is not always a pretty sight…

Some pretty sketchy looking and smelling water after a little rain in Tijuana

Several hours south of Ensenada, away from the overflowing sewage systems and the shadow of drug lords, lies the peaceful ocean-side town of Ejido Erindira. A farming community, residents enjoy the bounties of both the land and sea, though tuna farming in Ensenada has impacted local fisheries, as baitfish are indiscriminately harvested for tuna feed.

Looking South from the hill over town

Erindira has a population of around 2000 people, and previously lacked adequate medical facilities to treat the locals. People needing treatment had to make the over 2 hour trip to Ensenada. This all changed several years ago when the Palomar chapter of the Flying Samaritans opened a medical clinic to service the local community.

The local constable with the ribbon un-tying ceremony

We were invited to join the Flying Samaritans for the inaugural opening of a dental clinic, the second part of a comprehensive health plan for the town. The clinic is the result of many years of hard work, and lots of donated dental equipment.

Oswin Schandera making last minute adjustments and clean-up before the big day

Our team was led by Verena Schandera, a medical student at UC San Diego, her parents Oswin and Kristina, and Ethan Fox, a practicing dentist. Verena’s fellow medical student and friend Tyler Morrison invited SWoBs Founding director Loren Luyendyk and practicing Chinese Medical Doctor Brian Falk to join them.

Saturday morning we dawn patrolled the clinic. People were already lined up to receive free dental care, and we proceeded to admit them. We processed 50 patients, but needless to say that was far too many for Ethan to treat in one day. Obviously dental care is a real need for this community.

Tyler Morrison taking pulses

Verena Schandera and Ethan Fox with a lucky patient!

While Ethan drilled and pulled teeth, Brian performed the less invasive work of treating people with acupuncture. The locals were very receptive to this kind of therapy, and found the results promising.

Brian Falk performing acupuncture

Loren Luyendyk helped to admit patients and taught children about dental hygiene

The night after the big day we were treated to a meal of local authentic Baja Fish Tacos. Local clinic volunteers Alonso and Linda prepared a meal fit for kings and queens, or doctors and dentists in this case…

¡Bien Sabroso!

We had the pleasure of staying at a super-chilo hostel by the sea called Coyote Cal’s. Overlooking the bay and the coast to the south, the hostel boasts super luxurious accommodations and awesome outdoor spaces.

Coyote Cal's at sunrise

Following the clinic day, we had a chance to explore the coastline north of Erindira. Miles of rugged cliffs punctuated by isolated and empty coves tempted us to jump in the sea. We found a promising little break and had a few waves to ourselves before our journey back home.

Brian Falk, Tyler Morrison, and Loren Luyendyk

Reflecting on the needs of the community, we realized that they may have all they need, now that the two clinics were operational. The challenge is staffing. Still, people seemed happy and healthy. One thing that struck us however was that only a few people in the town were growing food.

One house had some swales to catch water. They had mangoes, guavas, bananas, olives, figs, and nopales.

A California company leases the community land for vegetable farming, and according to anecdotal reports, they are happy to share the crops with locals as long as they don’t strip the fields. Though we also heard that they pay low wages and do not offer health care, hence the clinics.

Those are fields of cabbage headed to California

Baja is more of a desert than California, and wells are dug deeper every year. Furthermore, food comes in from afar and is not always during winter months due to poor road conditions.

Dudleya sp.

We are planning a rainwater harvesting installation at the clinic, coupled with a rain garden filled with edible plants. We hope to stimulate the idea of rainwater harvesting and home-scale food production with a simple system composed of parts that are inexpensive and readily available in the town.

Ephedra sp.. Medicinal plants were growing wild on the outskirts of town

Our next trip is on the 16th and 17th of December 2011. Please contact us at if you would like to join us on another journey for Surf and Service!


nicole said...

Thanks for sharing! What a Great Blog! Very Inspiring! Take me next time!:)

David Pu'u said...

Wow. Compassion. Thank you so much for doing work that matters. It is, in addition to the service to those people, very inspiring to others.