Thursday, December 15, 2011
I've made a couple of good friends already here in Mexico, which opens up the opportunity to get out and do some more things and get to know more people. One group of friends took me to an art exhibition last Thursday evening, and the event ended with a mime show, so that was a new and fun experience. Yayo, the mime, acted out a bunch of funny moments, but the best one was when he was acting out the bus rides here. I know I have commented that the bus rides are not always the smoothest (to put it in the nicest terms, ha) so it was quite a show when Yayo was miming out how the bus rides here work.
I also have a good friend named Mariana, and her and I decided to get out and do something this past weekend. We looked up some places to go, and decided to take off for Tepoztlan on Sunday late morning to hike up Tepozteco. The description said it was about a 2K hike and it would be challenging so bring water and at the top, we would see some pyramids. I figured, hey, I have hiked up mountains before, it shouldn't be all that bad, and this would be a real fun activity to do and we could make a whole day out of it by getting to know more of Tepoztlan too. Mariana and I made plans all week, getting more and more excited each day to take off for our adventure.
Sunday around noon, we met up and took off her in car to Tepoztlan. Music playing in the car, windows down, (by the way, it is still warm here and sunny, so we had an absolutely beautiful day to hike) little traffic, and great conversation made a quick trip to Tepoztlan. We found a spot to park the car, and then took off walking through town in search of this mountain we were going to climb. We walked, and walked, and walked.. so by the time we made it where the actual hike started, we had probably already walked quite a distance. As we were walking, we stopped and looked at all the tables on the street with beautiful art work, scarfs, bracelets...so on, and also took a good look at some food places where we could eat when we were done. At the bottom the the trail, we took our first picture to have our "before-shot."
Mariana and I before we started up the mountain.
Okay, so we started climbing up these rock-like steps, and lets just say it was a very steep incline. We made it up some steps, and we both looked at each other, knowing this was going to be way more difficult than we both thought. We kept walking a little more, laughing with confusion when we saw at least 3 women walking in high heels up and down the mountain, and we were just beat. We both told each other to let the other know when we needed breaks, and believe me, we did take at least 2 real good breaks, and we were good encouragement for each other to keep going along. Both of us also kept thinking, "okay, just a little more, this has to be real close to the top, how long really can 2K be...?" but man, it was like the never-ending trail of rocks on a crazy steep incline. We also kept taking pictures thinking we were taking the "this is almost the top" picture, but as I mentioned, that trail was basically never-ending for us.
It almost got discouraging that I thought it wouldn't be that challenging and both of us were feeling like just crawling our way to the top, but then, me being over-analytical sometimes, starting thinking of some great song lyrics and comparing this experience to my experience for the full year here in Mexico. I was thinking of the band Nickel Creek (who are absolutely amazing and you should check them out if you don't know them) and one song that says, "You don't have to move that mountain, just help me Lord to climb it..." And I was thinking that exact line at that moment. I wasn't looking to get off the mountain that I was climbing, I didn't at all want to turn around and go back to the bottom, but man oh man did I want to get some strength to finish that climb up. I knew something beautiful was at the top and that was my end goal, but I was just looking for a little help through the pain and the struggle. So literally, I was climbing a mountain at that time and thinking of those song lyrics, but then analytically, I am also climbing many mountains here in Mexico. Things can be hard sometimes-- language barriers (which I feel like will continue to be a struggle throughout my whole time here) cultural differences, bus rides, accidentally eating pork skin (ew), being away from family and friends for the holidays... but they are all my mountains, my mountains that I want to keep climbing, and I honestly don't want them to be removed from me either. These crazy climbs are totally worth it in the end, so why would I want them to get out of my pathway? "just help me Lord to climb it..."
Okay, back to my climb... well, Mariana and I eventually made it to the top.. and that was definitely an exciting accomplishment. It was breathtaking from the top, since it was such a beautiful and clear day, we could look down and see everything in Tepoztlan and the other mountains in the distance. Words don't do it justice to how stunning it was, so I will post some pics :)
pyramid at the top!
i live here :)
sitting on top of the pyramid
Another exciting moment that happened on top of Tepozteco was that Mariana and I saw someone who is on television here. We were just sitting on top of the pyramid and enjoying the beautiful view along with a granola bar and some Japanese peanuts (which is hands down the BEST snack here, ever) and then Mariana nudges me and says to look over right by us is a guy that is on television here. She told me that he was on a soap opera on channel 13 called "Cielo Rojo" and his name is Lambda Garcia. We watched as all these girls figured out who he was and were asking him to take pictures with them, and he nicely agreed to all the fan attention. Then, Mariana looks at me and says, "Lets go take a picture with him!" I told her no because I didn't know who he was, and she told me to get up and lets go. She politely asks him to take a picture with us because she knew he had been just taking so many pictures and of course he said yes, but then he looks at me, clearly confused of why I would know who he is, and he says to me (in English too) where are you from? So, before we took the picture, he asked me all these questions of where I was from, why I was here, and he started telling me of all these places I should visit when I am here. He was SO nice and then took the picture with us and told us to have a good day. So, Mariana and I were pretty "star-struck" for the rest of the day, but I am definitely glad that I now have a picture with Lambda Garcia...not only is he so nice, he is SO cute too! :)
Eventually Mariana and I got up and made our climb down the mountain. It was definitely easier to go down, but also challenging in its own way. We both were commenting with how much resistance we were putting on our ankels and knees, and how our legs were shaking like jello. The shaking didn't really go away until about an hour after we were already back down, but once again, everything was completely worth it. When we were walking around after we finished hiking, we obviously were both excited, but could not stop talking about how much fun that was, how beautiful the view was, and of course how we met our soap opera star!! We walked around Tepoztlan a little more, stopped and ate some real good quesadillas, and made our way to a place called Tepoznieve. Apparently there is some famous ice cream from Tepoztlan, and we were not planning on leaving without trying that, especially because we decided we deserved some ice cream after that hike :) The place that we went to had over 100 different flavors, many of which I had never heard of before, and I got to try a few of them. One of my favorites was made from flower petals. But ice cream was definitely the best way to end a really great day!
eating Tepoznieve! yum!!
So that was my experience of climbing Tepozteco! It was awesome, and worth being exhausted over. I am happy that the mountain didn't get moved for me, and that I had to work through it to get to the top and see all the beauty. I am going to keep climbing mountains here and seeing what life has in store for me along the journey and at the top.
Yeah, I climbed that behind me :) I was still questioning how I did that
Thursday, December 1, 2011
How is it December already? It’s the time for cold weather, snow, and hot chocolate with marshmallows, and of course Christmas. Well, for me, I guess it just means Christmas is coming because I will not be seeing snow, and I sure do not want to drink hot chocolate in still 80-degree weather. But, we have been getting some cooler weather in the evenings, so maybe hot chocolate will become a possibility in the near future! However, with many family-oriented holidays and traditions coming up, I started to think about one specific question: What does it mean to be part of a family? People will define family in different ways, but being separated from my biological family has me searching for family here in Mexico, and I did not have to look hard to find one.
I was very quickly and warmly welcomed into the 10 de Abril Family. This is where I work in the kitchen mostly. Our family consists of 4 workers, and around 30 people who come 3 days a week to be together. The people who come to work on their craft and eat a small meal gather around tables, discuss their lives, their children and grandchildren, with their friends sitting among them. I went on a retreat with my group here for a couple of days and missed some work at 10 de Abril. When I returned, everyone swarmed me with hugs to tell me and show me how much they missed me. I have become not only a familiar face, not only an extra person to cook and clean and work on a craft, but an actual member of the 10 de Abril Family.
When it comes to Las Palomas (the nursing home), I was also quickly welcomed into their family. I am the youngest of the women who work in Las Palomas (and the only one who doesn’t speak fluent Spanish), but I really feel a connection growing with them. We eat comida (the late-lunch meal) together 2 times a week, and we always chat and laugh about whatever is on our minds. They all have known each other for at least 4 years, and they haven’t even known me 4 months, but yet I definitely feel a part of their family. Also, all the senior citizens who live in Las Palomas freely welcomed me into their family. Many have started calling me “hija” (daughter) or “nieta” (granddaughter) and want me to call them mom, dad or grandma. All the other people call me “amiga” (friend) and continue to repeat that we have “Amistad” (friendship). Not only do I have a family of 5 wonderful women to help me through this journey, I also have 19 more grandmas and 9 more grandpas in my life.
I also live with a family here, and even though I am still trying to find a place within a large family, they are all wonderful people. It is hard to jump right into an established family that has functioned for so long without you, but the effort that has been made throughout my personal family and extended family has made me comfortable and definitely feel like I am home. Whether it is my abuelita (grandma) taking me on special trips or going to church every Sunday with me, my aunt introducing me to an aerobics class that I can take in the evenings, or introducing the foreign concept of “iced coffee” to my host mom and host sister and them forcing a smile on their faces as they try it, I can see and feel that I am becoming a member of this family. Also, I have to say that this past week I was hit with my first sickness in Mexico. I am definitely recovering, but I had two really long days with a high fever and couldn't basically move out of my bed. Even though I was almost too exhausted to leave my room, I still went downstairs to eat a little, and every time I was in sight, my host mom and grandma completely surrounded me with questions and love to see how I was doing. They were, and still are because I am still in the recovery phase, concerned about me, making sure I am getting enough fluids, rest, and I even got this special cream that my grandma swears by to help make my throat feel better. Being sick is never a great feeling, but being surrounded by a family while feeling bad always makes everything a whole lot better.
And, of course, the family that I have with me is definitely all my YAGMs in my group. I truly appreciate every time that we all get together as a group with our country coordinator and get to catch up and do a lot of story sharing and laughing. There is so much joy rooted in each person in my group, and it is such a blessing to share this journey with them, my Mexico family.
When it comes to family, we really are all connected through God. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:3-6, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Just as I have been accepted into all these new families, you are all also a part of this new family of mine because we are all interconnected through One God. To me, this proves, “Somos Uno en Cristo” (We are One in Christ).
Thank you all for being a part of my family!
Monday, November 7, 2011
My first introduction to Dia de los Muertos began on Friday, October 28th in the afternoon. My abuelita (grandma) invited me to go to Jardin Borda with her to see all the Catrinas and Ofrendas that were going to be set up. Jardin Borda is this beautiful garden in the centro of Cuernavaca that has tons of open space, beautiful trees and flowers, fountains, and is a great area for special events. I graciously accepted the offer to go to Jardin Borda with my abuelita, because I knew she would explain many different cultural aspects that I would not be able to understand if I had gone there alone. We walked through the garden and it was just packed with Catrina after Catrina. Catrinas are figures like skeletons that are dressed up in outfits and are there to represent death. However, just because they represent death, that does not mean they don't represent life as well. They can have smiles or be in whimsical outfits or have some type of symbolism to mean life is here and there is beauty in music, art, and dance. A lot of the Catrinas were made by big groups of people; some even were made in schools. My abuelita made sure that we stopped at each one, examined it, told me what it was made out of, and that I got a picture of them all. Here are two of my favorites that I saw:
This one was made out of seeds, beans, nuts, and little things like that. They even had an umbrella on the side of the Catrina.
I liked this one because I thought it was unique and even had some corn husks to help make the outfit.
Okay, also at Jardin Borda I was able to see my first Ofrenda. An Ofrenda is really an offering to the people who have passed away. They are elegantly decorated with flowers, candles, food, clothing, drinks...etc. Generally they consist of a picture of the person who has died, and a ton of their favorite things. If they used to drink coffee and eat a certain type of pan dulce in the morning, both of those would be in the Ofrenda. The thought is in the night the person who you make the Ofrenda for will come back and enjoy the things they used to love so much. You put all of their favorite things, foods, drinks in the Ofrenda knowing that they only have a short time to return to enjoy their offering. The Ofrendas in Jardin Borda were huge and packed full of stuff. They were all decorated with flower petals in yellows and pinks and reds. It was a beautiful display of love and affection for someone who is held close to the heart.
A picture of an Ofrenda in Jardin Borda
I really enjoyed walking around Jardin Borda with my abuelita, listening to her explain each Catrina and each Ofrenda, and even listening to her tell stories about the Ofrenda she was going to make, and having that spill into memories of her husband who has passed away many years ago. I guess my abuelita enjoyed her time with me as well in Jardin Borda, because we ended up going back again on Sunday. We were sitting around the table after comida and she invited me to go to Jardin Borda with her. Needless to say, I was confused and politely questioned her by saying that I thought we had already went there on Friday afternoon. She confidently told me that one time wasn't enough for me, I should definitely go again, and she would go with me, and we would bring my little sister, Lilian, along with us. So, I got to go to Jardin Borda twice, and take pictures of the same Catrinas twice, because my abuelita insisted, and I guess that is one way to really soak in the culture. However, I was very happy to go back the second time because I got to see even more Catrinas that were not set up on Friday, and also they had a lot of tables of artists selling lots of beautiful things. My abuelita even bought Lilian and I bracelets with our names put on them, it was really cute and sweet.
A picture of my abuelita and Lilian in front of a Catrina (note: this is the same Catrina as before, haha, I do have double pictures of most of the Catrinas)
That was the beginning of my Dia de los Muertos cultural adventure. The first day of the actual celebration of Dia de los Muertos begins on October 31st in the evening. This is meant to be the time to remember those who have passed away due to an accident of some sort. Many people will put up their ofrendas in their houses starting October 31st in the night, and will leave them up until November 2nd in the afternoon or evening. The first of November is the day to remember children who have passed away. And November 2nd, which is the most celebrated day of Dia de los Muertos and almost everyone has off work for this day, is to remember the adults and older people who have passed away.
On November 1st in the night, my family took me to a town called Ocotepec. It is nearby Cuernavaca, so not too far from me, and it is a smaller town that really goes all out for Dia de los Muertos when it comes to ofrendas. My family told me that it was beautiful to see these grand Ofrendas, and they were excited to take me there for my first time. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when we parked the car and started walking around the town, but I could say with confidence that I was not expecting what I saw. Not only were the streets crowded with people waiting in lines to walk into a house, when you actually got into the house, the rooms were so packed with fruits, pictures, bread, clothing, candles, flowers... that it was difficult sometimes to walk around the Ofrenda without stepping on something on the side. Not every house in Ocotepec had large ofrendas set up, and I asked Norma (my host mom) why some were just completely filled with things, and why others were smaller. She told me that many times if someone has passed away in the past year and has not been back for a Dia de los Muertos Ofrenda celebration, then their first Ofrenda is the largest one they will get. There were signs that said "Bienvenidos a tu casa" (Welcome to your house) and that was because it was their first time back to their house since they have passed away. After you would walk in the house, you could give more candles or flowers to the family members so they could add more things to the Ofrenda if you wanted to. And, as you would walk out of the house, there would be large tables of coffee, pan dulce, or tamales for you to take as a "thank you" for visiting the house. This was the only time that I was reminded of Halloween and somewhat trick-or-treating, but this was more of a "thank you" gift for paying respects to their loved ones, than a "I want candy" gift, ha. Everyone in Ocotepec who set up these large Ofrendas really were showing and sharing a part of their lives with all the visitors. They were letting us into their family, giving us an idea about what the person was like, and appreciating us being a part of the hopeful return of their family member. It really was an unique experience.
An Ofrenda in a house in Ocotepec
My host family in Ocotepec: Felix (my dad), Norma (my mom) and Lilian (my sister) :)
After we left Ocotepec, we drove to McDonalds to pick up a hamburger and french fries and a Coke for the Ofrenda for Norma's dad who passed away a significant amount of years ago. I guess he really enjoyed a hamburger from McDonalds, so that was something that was necessary in his Ofrenda. When we got home, we wrapped the hamburger and fries in plastic wrap and put them on top of a beautiful purple table covering, alongside of candy, flowers, candles, and a small bottle of tequila. Every time a gust of wind would come into the house, that was supposed to be a sign that the grandpa was coming in to see his Ofrenda and thank the family for putting one up for him.
On November 2nd, I was invited to go to the cemetery with my family. I wasn't sure if it was going to be something they would want me to go to, because I am technically not a part of their family and I know situations like these can be very personal and very nostalgic. However, I was quite excited that they invited me and I said yes because I was really interested in seeing the cemetery. We brought about 8 bouquets of flowers with us to put on the gravesite. As we were driving to the cemetery, I put my cellphone on silent, and was ready to be really quiet and respectful of family members who my family loved so much. I was even preparing myself to see either my family members (especially my grandma) or even other people in the cemetery crying by the gravesite of their loved ones. However, the second we pulled up the gravesite and got out of the car, all my expectations were thrown out the window. There was a band. A large band. With loud, happy, and celebratory music. Children were running around, people were crowding around the graves and putting flowers around their loved ones and taking the petals and putting them in the shape of a cross. I think my face clearly showed that I looked confused, but I did ask Norma why it was so happy because I thought it was going to be such a sad event. She told me that this holiday is more of a celebration than a sad memory. Yes, it can be hard to bring back memories of your loved one who is no longer alive, but this is a way to remember them, keep them in your heart, and celebrate their life, not mourn their death. I thought it was a great way to explain this holiday and it brought a whole new depth for me.
One more reflection from Dia de los Muertos came from the sermon in church on Sunday morning. The pastor was talking about the holiday that just happened on Wednesday and asked the congregation what it was called. When people responded "dia de los muertos" he said they were wrong. I was confused, because, well, I thought it was Dia de los Muertos too. He then talked for quite a while how it really isn't Day of the Dead but Day of the Living. Just because their earthly body is gone, that does not mean they are dead, because they are alive and well with Jesus. Once again, it was a whole new perspective on Dia de los Muertos for me, and really reinforced how it is a celebration of the person's life, not sadness because they are gone, because they aren't actually gone forever. This is a beautiful holiday, full of love and remembrance, and I feel blessed to have been a part of it with my family here.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
This weekend was my host sister's birthday party. She turned 9 years old (Feliz Cumpleaños Lilian!!!) and we had quite the party for her at our house this weekend. It included family and friends, cake, jello, a piñata (yeah, I got talked into taking a whack at the piñata a couple of times, it was an embarrassing display if you ask me, ha) egg shells filled with confetti that we threw at each other, and lots and lots of candy. There was a good amount of candy left over from the weekend, so my host mom and I were talking and she and I thought it would be great to give out some of the extra candy to the people in Las Palomas. We also thought it would be funny for me to hand out candy on October 31st, because, well, that is Halloween, even though it has no significance here. So, I took off on my bus yesterday to Las Palomas with my bag full of mostly chocolate covered marshmallows and tried to shade it from the intense sun beating down in the sauna of a bus in the afternoon, because the last thing I wanted was a bag full of melted chocolate making it an even more messy experience to eat the candy. I luckily made it to Las Palomas after 30 minutes of worrying about my chocolate melting with a bag full of well-intact chocolate, phew.
I walked down the pathway to the house of Las Palomas, walked through the front gate, and asked if it was okay to hand out the candy to the people there. My supervisor smiled, thought it was a cute idea that I had candy for Halloween, and told me to go ahead and do it. As I was handing out a small piece of candy to each person, they smiled and graciously accepted it (I mean, who would say no to free candy? :) I wouldn't either) A couple of people thought it was funny when I would say "Feliz Halloween" because they knew that in the United States we celebrate that holiday, even though they don't here in Mexico, and appreciated me sharing something small with them.
But, what I specifically enjoyed from yesterday was Arturo. I know I have mentioned him before, but just as a reminder, he is an 88 year old man who loves to sing songs, even if he doesn't remember all the words, and enjoys walking around the house all day from room to room (with short naps at each stop in a chair). Yesterday as I was handing out the candy, Arturo was on one of his walks, and was following me in my path. I handed him a marshmallow right away, he ate it, and followed me to the next room. When I gave the other people in the next room their candy, Arturo looked at me with this face and said, "y la dulce para mi?" [translate: and the candy for me?]. I told him that I already had given him one, but he didn't believe me, so I promptly handed him another small one. This went on for 2 more times, and being the softy that I am, he ended up getting 4 small pieces of candy, because I just couldn't say no to him when he truly didn't believe that I had already given him one. He is just a sweetheart that I felt bad depriving him of what he thought he was missing out on.
After our walk around the house and him consuming more candy than I am sure he is allowed to have, Arturo and I sat down outside. I was chatting with him and some other people outside a little bit (mostly about the weekend, my sister's birthday party, the weather..) and *BOOM* an orange fell down off a tree and nearly smacked Arturo in the head. I love sitting outside of Las Palomas for some nice fresh air under a shaded little area, but I also enjoy it because there are 3 fruit trees. They have limes, oranges, and mandarinas, and use them to make juice often for comida. But, after yesterday, I realized I should be careful of falling fruit, maybe even start wearing a helmet outside in fear of a orange pegging me in the head. So yeah, the orange falls down *BOOM* and Arturo nearly jumped out of his chair. Thankfully he did not get hit, but he did get a good scare, and a good laugh afterwards. I picked up the orange and was just looking at it in my hands, and I look up at Arturo and he gives me the "throw the orange to me and I will catch it" look. I softly toss the orange and Arturo to see what he would do, and he caught it like a pro. He throws it right back at me, and all of a sudden, we started a game of catch. I asked him if he played baseball ever (not quite sure if baseball is even popular here) and he went into this long story about how when he was young him and his friends would go to a big area of land (it sounded like a park) and they would play baseball and fútbol (soccer) all the time. It is amazing how one small thing can jump start memories of events that meant so much to you in the past. Arturo had never mentioned sports to me, and sometimes does forget things (lyrics to songs, that he had already been given candy...) but all it took was an orange to fall down from a tree and a simple game of toss the orange to remember how much he loved playing baseball with his friends in the past. We eventually had to stop our game of toss because the dinner bell rang, so I helped him to his chair at the table, and left for home.
Playing toss the orange with Arturo is yet another memory that will be kept close to my heart. And, what I have to remember, is that it happened just one day, a Monday, and that I will always remember that one day now. One day really is special here. I am so happy to have give or take 260 more left.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Candelaria and Abram are not allowed to sit at the same table for desayuno (breakfast), comida, and cena. This, at first, seemed odd to me. I understood that they cannot share a room because all the women are split between 4 rooms and the men between 2, but I just couldn't understand why they didn't have places at the table next to one another. I recently found out my answer. Candelaria will eat a little bit of her food, and promptly hand over the rest to Abram. If one of the workers was not looking, Abram would take the plate, and eat his second helping of his wife's food. This apparently went on for a while until they found out how much food Abram had been eating and how little food Candelaria had, and they had to move places. She does this because she wants her husband to be happy and well-fed, almost a self-less act. Whenever someone comes in and hands out suckers or small little sweets, she will maybe take one bite, and right away offer the rest to her husband. It can be frustrating because I personally want her to enjoy whatever she has been gifted, but she actually enjoys handing it over to Abram more than eating it herself.
Today, I watched a whole new form of their love. Abram had walked away for a little bit after comida today to his room, either to change clothes or go to the bathroom. Candelaria and Abram love sitting outside together on a nice patio at Las Palomas, so Candelaria was anxiously awaiting for her esposo return. I was helping someone walk to their room which is just off the outside patio, and Abram comes walking out, slowly with his cane. I normally don't hear him talk much, because he keeps to himself or talks to Candelaria, but as he was approaching his wife, he started belting out a song at the top of his lungs. He started singing this really cute love song, and very loudly, as he was getting closer to sitting down next to Candelaria. She just sat there, smiled, and let him sing to her. I had never seen this before, and neither had the woman I was helping to her room, so this may have been a fluke, but a beautiful one if that. For them to still love each other enough to hold hands and take naps, miss each other when they are gone, and sing at the top of their lungs a song of love really means something to me. They truly are "juntos para siempre" -- together forever.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Las Palomas: Things are still going well here, and getting better with time. I feel like a lot of the people there are seeing me as someone who comes regularly, and actually enjoying it too. I may have already mentioned this, but I do know all 29 names of the people who are living there, and I love being able to say hi to someone and use their name, because I do feel very connected to everyone who I get the opportunity to talk with. I at least try to say hi to everyone every day and bye before I leave, and then split time the best that I can with everyone else. Every new thing that I learn about someone's life is absolutely wonderful, even if it is just the names of their children or husbands. I have found out how one woman, Rosa, used to own a tienda (which is like a small shop, and there are a lot of them around) but we talk about all the things she used to sell in her tienda. Also, I have learned that the one man, Celso, who does not talk and does not like to eat will still get up and dance when he hears music that he enjoys and finds one of the women who work there to dance with. Sometimes the days are still long and I wonder how I am going to sit for 7 hours, sometimes even just 2 hours, and talk to people who frequently fall asleep and speak unclearly in another language, but I always leave Las Palomas feeling refreshed with stories and loving every minute I spend there. Speaking of stories, I do have some more to share with you all of the great people who live there.
I have learned how to guard food. Honestly, I have learned how to hoard many different things, but food is the one that sticks out the most to me. Well that, and toilet paper. It is definitely an experience to watch the people in Las Palomas eat their comida meal and see how many try to wrap up some of their food in a napkin (or sometimes not even wrap it up) and put it in their shirt, purse, pocket...anywhere basically. We try to stop them from keeping their food for later, because usually it sits wherever they put it for many days, and that is not a healthy situation, but sometimes we miss it too, and sometime in the afternoon we will see someone sit down and pull out food and start eating. All of the workers and me just smile and look at each other stunned at how we missed them keeping it tucked away, but generally it isn't a bad thing if they are eating the food just a couple of hours later. However, that is not always the case. One woman named Maria (this is a different Maria than the one who I talked about in my last blog post, there are a couple of Marias in Las Palomas) is really known for keeping food. However, she isn't good about wrapping it in a napkin, or realizing what is good to keep and what isn't smart to put in your shirt for later. I should also tell you that she is 91 years old, and doesn't really know much about what is going on, but last week we caught her keeping basically her whole comida meal in her shirt. The women who work there had to stand her up and just piles and piles of napkins and food fell out from under her dress. Maria obviously wasn't thrilled that we found her stash, but it was quite a sight to see for lack of better words. I was told later that she also tries to put jello and pudding in her shirt to keep for later, and that generally causes a messy situation too, ha. They've tried to tell her not to feel like she needs to keep food for later, but it isn't something that is clicking, so know we all keep a pretty good eye on her because who knows what food she will try to keep next :) Another good story about guarding stuff comes from toilet paper. A woman comes once every two weeks and brings toilet paper for the people in Las Palomas, usually nicer toilet paper than the stuff that is donated, so it is a very special treat for everyone there. However, after she hands out rolls, it is quite fun to look around at the people there and see where the toilet paper roll is. Many will place it next to them, next to their bed, or in a purse. However, I walked by one of the Juanas and I noticed she had the entire roll tucked into her shirt. I smiled and tried to ask her what she had under her sweater, and she said nothing and pretended it wasn't there, probably in fear of me wanting to take it away from her. She was just keeping her toilet paper for herself, which I can't blame her for that, but it was quite amusing to see a roll of toilet paper "hidden".
I've also been spending some good time talking with a woman named Rosa. There are two women in Las Palomas who cannot see because they have gone blind, and one of them is Rosa. She sits in the same chair every day, which is very close to her seat at her table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She only walks with help from a walker and another person to steer her in the right direction to her spot at the table and to her room to sleep at night. This week I have been spending more time sitting with her and talking to her about her life and everything, and she speaks very clearly, and appreciates having a person to talk to. She holds my hand to make sure I am still there and to figure out where I am in relation to her. She was telling me about her husband and how much she misses him, and about her children and grandchildren and how they don't come to visit her, which I could tell was starting to make her really sad. I tried to reassure her that it was okay because I was sitting with her and talking to her now, which immediately lightened her mood, and she told me that I was her "hija" (her daughter) now. She was so excited to have a daughter, a really really young daughter as she kept saying, to sit and talk with her. Today when I went over to say hello to her, she was all excited that her hija was back and then told me how sorry she was that she couldn't remember my name. When I told her not to worry about it and told her my name, she repeated it so many more times throughout the rest of the afternoon and kept saying she would not let it be forgotten this time because I was her daughter and she would remember my name. This type of love is so great, and warms my heart too, and she laughs every time when she calls me hija and I call her momma, and I have loved sitting and talking with her about her past and how she has gotten to where she is now.
These stories are definitely the reason I am loving Las Palomas so much, because I really can connect to the people there, through all the funny times and heart-warming times. Even though we are coming from a different culture, different age, and huge language barrier, the beauty of love is that is sees no boundaries and exclusions.
10 de Abril: I absolutely love 10 de Abril as well, even though I am taking away a completely different experience than at Las Palomas. It is interesting that both places are meant to be working with senior citizens, and yet I am seeing two completely different sides of the spectrum. My experience at 10 de Abril is still full of cooking, cooking, and some more cooking. I have learned SO much, and I am excited to continue to learn more. We rotate the menu each day and all the recipes come from a universal cookbook for this organization, but I have only repeated one thing so far, which I think is pretty cool, because that means I am continuing to learn new food, authentic Mexican food. So, I should come home being able to make many different meals and combinations of meals, which is an amazing thing for me to take away, especially because I was not expecting to learn how to cook while I was here. Yesterday I cracked 37 eggs, which doesn't seem that intense, but I learned how to crack them where you keep the shell in tact. I guess egg shells here are meant to be reused for fiestas! You fill the empty egg shell with confetti and at the fiestas you break them on the ground or throw them at someone and have confetti explode on them. It was SO cool how I learned to keep the shell mostly in tact, but even hit a different note for me when I was thinking about how I am so quick to think that an egg shell would be trash when it can easily be used for other purposes in the future. Little life lessons like that are the ones that stick me and I want to help shape who I am while I am here.
Even though I spend most of the time at 10 de Abril cooking, I do get a little time to go out and work on the craft. I had mentioned we were doing an embroidery craft and making serviettes and I am happy to say that not only did all the women and 2 men finish theirs, I also completed my first one! Last Friday we had an exposition where we hung up everyone's serviette so everyone could see how beautiful they all turned out to be. They were absolutely wonderful, and I took some pictures, so I could remember and also share them with you all. The first picture is of the people eating some of the food that I helped make for the day :) I made chilaquiles, which is a typical meal here when you have tortillas that are too old to eat with a regular meal, but good enough to be fried and put with chile to make a really really great meal! So, here you go!
The new craft project at 10 de Abril is something for Christmas time. I am not quite sure what they are making yet, but I think it has something to do with being a table decoration. The craft teacher told me that she might have me make another serviette so she can continue to teach me new stitches for embroidery, which I think would be really cool, but I also assume she was recognizing that I have more use for a serviette than I do for a table decoration of trees and flowers, ha. But, whatever I end up doing, I know it will be something cool to learn, especially because I am not the most crafty person ever, and I am sure all the people will have to help me when I run into issues, which generally happens as well.
That's about it for my update right now. I am doing great and it has actually cooled down a little for the moment because it has been rainy and cloudy for the past 4 days, so I am enjoying not feeling overly warm all the time while living in Temixco!
Peace & love,
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I share this story not because I want you all to know that I have this wonderful little shell keychain from Acapulco, but because it made me think a lot for the rest of the day. My host grandma has given me many gifts so far already, many that are not tangible. She has made me countless cups of coffee, cut up fruit for me in the morning, and sat with me for many hours while talking about anything from her family to my family and the school system in Mexico. But this is the first time she has handed me something and told me it is a gift for me. And, the thing that I enjoyed most was her reason for the shell, "because it is a gift." How often do we think, shoot- it is someone's birthday and we need to buy them a gift, or it is their anniversary or a baby/wedding shower? Or how often do we give a gift knowing it is the right thing to do and expect one back again sometime in the future? My grandma gave me this keychain with no strings attached, and completely out of love, not regulations.
I started thinking on my bus ride to Las Palomas after comida about all the gifts that I have already been given here, whether tangible or not, and how they differ from a lot of the other gifts I've gotten in the past. When I first arrived to my host families' house, my little sister, Lilian, was so excited to hand me a note. The note said something along the lines that she was really happy to have me staying with them and to have a sister. The cutest thing about the note was that she wrote it in Spanish first, and then used Google translate (so it wasn't completely perfect, but still made sense) to translate it into English for me. That was my first gift, and one that I know I will be keep forever. She just wanted to do something to show her excitement and probably make me feel comfortable and happy, and that definitely was effective.
When I think about 10 de Abril, I can for sure see all the gifts we've already exchanged. I admit that I am no professional cook or professional dish washer, but the time that I volunteer at 10 de Abril is truly effective. We can get things done a whole lot quicker, and get to the extra things like sweeping everyday and making sure the kitchen and workspaces are completely clean. Even though it has been nice to have an extra set of hands, I know that all of the workers and people that attend 10 de Abril have given me more than I can even begin to reflect on. Tangibly, I have learned so much about Mexican cuisine from Vero, who I work with in the kitchen. I have made enchiladas, chilaquiles, tortas de papa, ensalada, lentils, salsa, and so much more. She is teaching me how to cook in general, how to cook for a large group of people, and how to cook using specific Mexican flavors and ingredients. Also, with my embroidery project, everyone who comes to 10 de Abril has been chipping in to get me all the material I need to complete my project. They have given me the material, one person gave me an extra needle, someone gave me pink yarn, another brown, another green, and even the ones who haven't given me their yarn have given me their time and watch what I am doing and help me when I am making a mistake with a stitch. Even the words of encouragement, either telling me that they were proud when I made the rice and it turned out okay or that my project is looking beautiful so far, have been gifts that I keep in my heart.
Every story that gets shared at Las Palomas is truly an irreplaceable gift, even when it comes from someone who doesn't quite know everything that is going on around them. I am doing my best to get to know all 29 people that are living there right now, and get to know their stories, even if it is just a little detail. I spend a good amount of time talking to a woman named Juana, and try to at least say hello to her everyday. She is an absolute joy, but does not remember a lot of our conversations, so about every 5-10 minutes, she will ask me the same questions over and over again. Also, she likes to talk about my family and friends, and feels sad when I tell her they are all in the United States, and she always tells me to make sure I send her "saludos" (basically hello and that she is thinking about them) to everyone--> so this is my way of sending the Saludos of Juana to you all! :) Also, she enjoys talking to me about tortillas and how to make them. I just found this out today that she used to make tortillas and sell them to people when she lived on a ranch, so that is why the whole process of making tortillas has stuck with her, and she loves to tell me and show me exactly how to pat down the dough and then put it on the stove and fry it. I'm thinking that I might be becoming a somewhat familiar face to her, but that just might be in my head, but everyday she says that we have amistad (friendship) and smiles and laughs a lot with me. She tries to tell me that she is old, and I tell her no, you are beautiful and young and she replies saying that she is not young because she has no teeth (she then proceeds to open her mouth and sure enough, shows me that she has no teeth, hehe), but then we laugh about that too. She says I have teeth that are good for biting tortillas, and then we usually end up back on the topic of how to make tortillas. I really enjoy all my time with Juana :)
Another woman that I spend some time talking to is Maria. She knows everything that is going on, and we have had some really great conversations. She helps me practice everyone's names, and tells me a little bit about each person, at least from what she knows, so that helps me understand where everyone is coming from. Also, she used to be a cook in a restaurant, so her and I always talk about food, especially the food that I am learning to cook at 10 de Abril, and she gives me more pointers and tips on what I should do next time and what else I should try to do. Maria had a stroke about 4 years ago, so she has a difficult time moving her whole right side of her body. She has been living in Las Palomas for 3 years now, and she enjoys having people around, even if a lot of them don't quite have all their wits about them. We talk about how great it is to have people to live with, and have all things such as food and laundry provided for, especially since the people who live there cannot take care of themselves on their own.
One more story comes from a man named Arturo. He, like everyone else there, is wonderful. He spends a lot of his day walking from room to room, sitting for about 15 minutes each time he enters a new room, and then goes somewhere else. Every time he leaves a room, he usually annonces that he will be back soon after he walks for a bit. I enjoy that he walks, even if it is a short distance, because I see that as better than sitting the whole day. He always says hello, and generally says "buenos noches" to me at any time of the day, when generally "buenos noches" is simply for the nighttime, but it doesn't bother me. Once again, I found out some more about him today, and was presented with a lovely gift from him. Arturo sang to me for 20 minutes. He is 88 years old and did a real good job remembering most of the words to a lot of his songs. His songs were so cute, and we would repeat them a lot, but they were songs he used to sing when he worked in the mines when he was younger. I guess he used to sing a lot when he first got to Las Palomas, but it's been real hard now for him to remember all the words so he doesn't sing often anymore, and usually just for short times. He also used to play the guitar, but says that he cannot play it anymore. I guess I was lucky to hear him sing for that long. It was really cute though. I could continue to tell stories of every individual person there, but those are three people that have really stood out to me.
Gifts. They generally end up getting used for a short time until they are slowly forgotten, outworn, or possibly even re-gifted to someone else. However, that doesn't mean that we should stop giving gifts in any way possible, tangible or not, and I guess I am learning to accept gifts more easily here too. When someone gives you a gift, accept it, because it truly is a gift, a gift they were willing to give you, and that is like having a piece of them in your heart. So I guess I am attempting to "re-gift" some of the gifts I have been given by sharing my stories with you all, and I'm giving it to you because well, it is a gift :D
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
On a different note, I had a good day at Las Palomas today. A lot of my day at this place is spent sitting and talking to the people who live there. They are real nice, but sometimes it is a struggle to get them to talk to me without falling asleep or repeating too much. But, I have definitely had some great conversations in these past two weeks. Another nice thing about Las Palomas is that occasionally people come in for an hour or so each week and bring a snack or sing a couple of songs for the people who live there, which is a nice change of pace from what they are used to. Well, today, we had a very special visitor at Las Palomas--> it was Dr. Simi! Now, this is coming from someone who doesn't enjoy people dressed up in masks or outfits, and especially someone who doesn't like clowns, Dr. Simi scared the bejeezes out of me. However, I kept a smile on my face and watched as the people really enjoyed his presence. They put on some music and a couple of the women got up and started dancing with Dr. Simi and smiling and laughing. I even got up and danced with one of the ladies a little bit (nope, I did not dance with Dr. Simi, haha, that would have been really scary for me). I really enjoyed that Dr. Simi was there because there is one lady who carries around a notebook with Dr. Simi's face on it, and she LOVES him, so I watched her eyes light up when she saw him in person, and believe me, she was first in line to dance with him, and went back a couple more times. :) At the end of the dance session, Dr. Simi and friends passed out slippers to all the residents there, and people enjoyed getting the gift like it was Christmas. A lot of them tucked them away in their sweaters so that no one would take it, even though everyone had their own pair. Even though I was slightly afraid of Dr. Simi, it was a great visit, and definitely put a smile on all the people's faces for the rest of the day.
here is a picture of Dr. Simi (just so you all can picture what I saw) and he isn't all that scary, but still, definitely a person dressed up in a costume and not the most comfortable thing for me to see
Those were just some thoughts until next time :D
paz y amor,
Monday, September 5, 2011
Last Saturday afternoon the 9 of us split up. Most of us got picked up by our families from where we had been staying for orientation, put our stuff in the cars, and headed to what would be our new homes for the next 11 months. It is almost unreal to think that I had two suitcases and a backpack and went into a new home with a new family for where I'll be a little less than a year. My family is absolutely wonderful, and completely patient with me when we have a bunch of language barriers. I didn't realize how little Spanish I did know until I actually got here and have to use it every second of every day. But, through descriptions, struggles, and even Google translate sometimes, I am able to have some conversation with my family. I know the language is rough right now, but that is something that will only get better with time and practice. Even watching tv in Spanish helps because that is more practice listening to the language, and listening to it being spoke very quickly. Two of my favorite phrases are "Mande?" which means "What" (as in repeat again please) and "mas despacio por favor" which means "a little slower please." I also tend to say "no entiendo" which is "I don't understand" but usually the person beats me to it because the look on my face is that I don't understand so they try to repeat it or say it in other ways so I can understand it. Everyone that I have met so far really does have patience with me, which is so great, and that will only help me pick up the language quicker.
I titled this blog post "adjustments" because there has been quite some adjustments into a new culture both on my part, but also for my family. For example, the first night that I moved into my new house, my host mom (Norma) offered me a cup of coffee. I of course said yes :) because coffee is always something to say yes to in my book. But, how they make coffee here is by boiling some water on the stove, adding in some milk, and then a scoop of instant coffee. It is not quite the same as the coffee I am used to, but I am fine adjusting to that. However, they gave me the coffee in this really pretty blue and white designed very small mug. Yes, it was smaller than what I was used to for drinking coffee, but I wasn't going to say anything. My host dad (Felix) looked at me when I was done and asked me if the cup was smaller than what I was used to, so I responded with yes but that it was okay. He looked at Norma and said "ok, tenemos una taza grande, ella necesita eso." (which means, we have a big cup, she needs that one) So, when everyone in the family drinks from the small matching blue mugs, I have this almost obnoxiously large yellow cup that definitely sticks out from the others, but hey, I won't complain because I am getting more coffee then :)
Another interesting adjustment is the schedule of eating here in this culture. Usually we eat desayuno (breakfast) around 8am, and that has been a lot of fruit and yogurt, occasionally oatmeal or eggs and bacon and beans, and of course my large yellow cup of coffee. But, then no one eats again until comida (which literally means food, but that is what they call lunch here) and comida isn't until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon, sometimes even later. I am used to eating on a different schedule coming off being in college, so it hasn't been that hard to adjust to, but still it has been interesting. Then, cena (dinner) doesn't actually take place. A lot of times cena consists of coffee and bread, or something small, and usually around 8pm, or possibly even later. Last night my family and I were driving around picking up a few things, and we stopped on the side of the road and picked up "elote." My family asked me if I wanted "elote" and I couldn't understand what it was, so I just said yeah and went with it, haha :) It ended up being really good and it was an ear of corn (but the corn here is very large) and they put a little mayonaise on it, and then coated it in shredded cheese. They would have put chili powder on it too, but my family does know that I don't care for super spicy food, so they left that off for me. Overall, I would definitely recommend you all try elote sometime if you ever get the chance! That was my dinner for the evening, along with a cup of coffee and a galleta (cookie) when we got back to the house.
A couple more adjustments include wearing shoes all the time in the house. Since the floor is considered really dirty here (it isn't that bad to me, just more dusty) and your feet touch the floor, your feet are considered dirty. So, you always have to have shoes of some sort on, or slippers work okay, but being barefoot or just socks is not an option. Coming from someone who LOVES to be barefoot, this is a challenge, but I'm doing my best to adjust (and sometimes going barefoot when I am in my room because I figure it's okay cause I'm just in my room). Also, the buses here... they are rough rides. Stop signs, stop lights, speed limits, lines in the middle of the road...they are all just optional or suggestions, so people do drive however they want. And, buses will stop in the middle of the street to talk to one another, even if it is packed with people wanting to go somewhere. Other than those couple of things, the adjustment hasn't been too rough. I am very tired, but that is just because I am really paying attention to the language and the bus routes to start to become more adjusted to the world around me.
Today was my first long day at Las Palomas (which is my site that is like a nursing home) and my instructions for the day, the whole day (9am-4pm) were to sit and talk, that's all. Obviously some great stories came from that.. :)
-First I sat with a lady for an hour, she talked, and I didn't understand one word she said because she mumbled so much, not even her name, so I smiled a lot and said si (yes), a lot.
-Another lady, I don't know her name (she'd never answer when i asked, ha) repeated 40 times that I need to wear something to cover my arms because it is too cold (mind you, it's not. It hasn't been overly warm here, but even jeans and a t shirt ends up being warm in the afternoon, and that is what I was wearing today.)
- The next lady named Louisa (yay I finally got a name) asked me how old I was, I said 22, and she said ohh 2 anos (2 years old), mas joven (so young)...I tried to correct her, but she may still think that I am only 2 years old.
-Also Louisa: She was staring at her three stretchy bracelets on her wrist and looking at my wrists and finally she took on of hers off and put it on my wrist and said something about how it was for me. She told me that I was pretty, the bracelet was pretty, and that it was mine now, and that was okay because she had 2 others on her wrists.
-I ended the afternoon watching tv with a few of the residents, most of them were napping and not paying attention, but it was a talk show that had a lot going on that I didn't completely understand, but the few that were awake seemed to enjoy it.
So, that was my first long day of work, and overall, it didn't go too bad. My main job at Las Palomas is to sit and talk to people, which is an interesting adjustment coming from a culture where sitting and talking is anything but work. I'm excited to find a place in Las Palomas and start to become a familiar face for the residents.
My work schedule for the week consists of a place called 10 de Abril (which is similar to a senior center in the United States) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9am-1pm. While at 10 de Abril I will be helping prepare food, but also working on crafts and talking with the people who come. Yesterday I peeled probably over 200 peapods to get the peas out of them for the meal that they get before they leave. They are working on something that is like embroidery right now, so hopefully tomorrow morning I will get started on that project! I am excited to learn more crafty things. Then, I will be at Las Palomas from 3:30/4-6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday, and at Las Palomas from 9am-4pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My hours might change around a little bit once the schedule falls into place, but it sounds like that is what I will be doing for the moment.
I do have internet in my house because it is shared with the family members that live in this community (my host mom's mother, two brothers, and lots of nieces and nephews live next door in a couple of houses) and also Norma is taking a class online, so she needs to have internet in the house. I know that I am lucky to have internet because it is not the norm, but it does help keep in touch with my family. I have been able to talk to my parents and my brother once, and for that I am truly grateful. But, since I do have internet, I will be able to update hopefully more frequently with how things are going and what I am up and probably even more stories of language confusions and stories from my worksites.
This is just the beginning of a great and long learning experience for me, and after a lot of orientation, I am so glad that I finally am starting it.
con paz, lisa
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Orientation has been going great so far; it has been wonderful to see everyone who is going to all of the countries, and get to know the people in the Mexico program better as well! I just wanted to share with you all a prayer that we said at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on The University of Chicago campus today because it really seemed to fit with the whole YAGM program and sending off all 50 of us to our countries on Wednesday. So, here it is! :)
In quiet, we remember all who are in need: the suffering, the lonely, victims of war and famine.
Our brother Jesus, you set our feet upon the way and sometimes where you lead we do not like or understand.
Bless us with courage where the way if fraught with dread or danger; bless us with graceful meetings where the way is lonely.
Bless us with good companions where the way demands a common cause; bless us with night vision when we travel in the dark, keen hearing where we have not sight, to hear the reassuring sounds of fellow travelers.
Bless us with humor- we cannot travel lightly weighed down with gravity; bless us with humility to learn from those around us.
Bless us with decisiveness where we must move with speed; bless us with lazy moments to stretch and rest and savor.
Bless us with love, given and received. Bless us with your presence, even when we know it in your absence.
Lead us into exile, until we find that on the road is where you are, and where you are going is home. Bless us, lead us, love us, bring us home bearing the gospel of life.
So yeah, I thought that was pretty appropriate and great at this time and it is something that has stuck with me all day. I still have a few more days of orientation, and then I found out we are heading for the airport at 5:30am on Wednesday (SO early!) to take a 8:50am flight and arrive in Mexico City a little after 1pm. By Wednesday afternoon, I will be in Cuernavaca to start the in country orientation--hurray! :) here's to a great ending of orientation in Chicago and safe travels for all groups on Wednesday!
Dios les bendigas!
Sunday, June 12, 2011
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.