Thursday, October 20, 2011

juntos para siempre

There is one couple in Las Palomas. Candelaria and Abram. I am not sure how many years they have been married, but they are both around 86 years old. They do not have any kids, but sometimes their nieces and nephews come to visit. They have been living in Las Palomas together for just about 3 years. I don't get to spend a lot of time talking to them for a couple of reasons. The main one being that they keep themselves pretty busy either napping or talking amongst themselves. Also, they have a whole different language that only each other understands, so it is not always effective when someone sits down to ask how they are doing. However, from time to time, I will help Candelaria walk to her table so she can either eat comida or cena (dinner). I only get to do this occasionally because most of the time, even though Abram uses a cane and struggles walking himself, he grabs Candelaria's hand and leads her to the table. Whenever Abram walks away to go to the bathroom, you can see the distress on Candelaria's face and she will just repeat, "Abram, Abram, mi esposo (my husband), mi esposo" over and over again until he sits back down. They clearly rely on each other, and it has been fun and heart-warming to watch them interact these past two months.

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

learning the art of keeping food hidden

Sometimes I try to sit down and write a blog update, and then it ends up getting nowhere, but I know I am well overdue for an update with how things are going here. So it may seem half-hazard and just kind of notes about how things are going and what I am up to, but that's kind of where I am at right now. Here goes nothing!

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,