Thursday, December 15, 2011

you don't have to move that mountain...

I went on a hike. Well, I must admit that I thought I was just going on a simple hike up a mountain (which of course means there would be some difficulties along the way, but nothing that I thought would be overly challenging) and then I would get to the top and see some pyramids. However, I did not go on just a hike.. I went on a climb. But, I am so happy that I did.

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, 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 :)

climbing up

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

family matters

Hi everyone!

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!