Christmas in Oaxaca

For most of us, Christmas is unbreakably tied to long-standing,  comfort-creating traditions.  Activities, foods, songs, people, decorations, even smells – we find comfort in these familiar symbols of childhood, family, fun and belonging.  Like no other time of the year, change is unwelcome.  We cling to sentimental reminders of the times we felt the most loved.

20181126_153938When you move to another country – a really different country – traditions change and that can be hard.  Over these past 3 years, I have tried to hold loose those things that no longer work here and to cling to what is truly the most important.   I have been willing to exchange cold air for hot breezes, crispy snow for soft sand, hash brown casserole for chilaquiles, Christmas carols for tuba banda music.  This year we put up our tree and covered it with the family heirloom decorations we have been hanging since our children were babies.  But everything else was different and it was fantastic!

Oaxaca-map.jpgIn early Fall, our youngest daughter Brett suggested we travel somewhere different for Christmas this year.  She was planning a 5-month trip through Mexico, and although she could easily fly to our home, she really wanted to show us a place she had grown to love.  Her boyfriend would be there and our oldest would fly down from Canada.  Oaxaca.  Let’s all meet in Oaxaca this year.  Every part of our Christmas tradition would be different, but we would be together and that is the tradition that means the most.

So we rented a great Airbnb in Oaxaca and came together for a week to embrace Oaxacan Christmas traditions.  It was amazing, and I want to share just a few things we experienced there.

Posadas (Parades)

I have never seen so many parades.  Every night, the streets would explode with brass bands, dancers in traditional costumes, paper mache giants, and so many people.  Some were religious pilgrimages heading to the giant churches in the plazas, others were celebrating Oaxacan foods like radishes and chocolate.  Seriously, there is a parade for chocolate!

 

Noche de los Rabanos (Night of the Radishes)

Since 1897, every year on December 23rd, over 100 contestants gather in the plaza (Zocalo) to compete in a radish carving contest.  Many thousands of people gather to see the elaborate masterpieces – and when we found out the line to get close was 3-4 hours long, we decided to watch from a distance.   The atmosphere was exciting – and of course it started with a parade!

 

Check out more photos of this crazy competition here

Navidad (Christmas)

In Mexico, Christmas Eve is a much bigger family celebration than Christmas Day.  Again, we headed to the main plaza and watched 3 or 4 different parades go by.  There were at least 7 different Santas greeting children near the massive Christmas tree and 4 or 5 Baby Jesus’ going by in the parades.  We ate tamales oozing with mole and drank giant glasses of steaming hot chocolate.  It was chilly, and it was cute to watch the little Mexican children wearing wooly toques and long scarves.

 

Although they are more often associated with Easter, I purchased traditional cascarones, hollowed out eggs stuffed with confetti, and broke them on the heads of all my family members – and of course I got one too.    It is supposed to bring us good luck but I’m pretty sure I just gave Meigan a headache!

Although I had given up on the idea of a Turkey dinner, I was excited when my daughter texted on Christmas day to say she had seen a sign advertising turkey at one of the street chicken stalls.  She would bring it home for dinner.  Yay – turkey after all.  But when it arrived, it looked more like the leg of a tough old dinosaur, and the sweet macaroni salad was not exactly mashed potatoes.  But we were together, and we laughed at the sad Christmas feast!

Fireworks

Sparklers and fizzlers and cannons.  So many fireworks and noise makers.  Everywhere.  All day and all night.  If you can’t beat ‘em you may as well join ‘em.  We are now officially part of the problem!

Food

Traditional Oaxacan food is outstanding – some say the best in all of Mexico.  Over 200 kinds of mole (chile sauce), including my favorite, the thick slightly bitter black chocolate mole.  Tlayudas – crispy blue corn tortillas slathered in lard and bean paste and other vegetable and meat toppings and grilled over hot coals.  Tamales – pockets of chicken and tomatoes and peppers wrapped in corn dough, steamed in corn husks or banana leaves.  Quesillo – the mild white string cheese that is pulled off the round balls as needed.  Chapulines – grasshoppers that are eaten crispy like peanuts or are used in sauces or even in ice cream!  I can’t say I loved that – the taste was okay, but no one needs tiny grasshopper legs stuck in their teeth!  Giant plates of meat – thin beef and pork marinated in orange chiles, and small round links of spicy chorizo.  Big mugs of hot chocolate made with either milk or water to drink, or the local favorite mezcal, a smoky version of tequila.   All of it so affordable.  We ate many times a day, at the local markets or small restaurants, with no guilt because of the low price and the thousands of steps we knew would wear it all off.

 

Family Time

Most importantly, we just spent time together.  We played our traditional game of Upwords (I won…woop woop).  We went exploring throughout the grand historical city, shopping for small artisan gifts for each other.  Oaxaca is famous for its black pottery and for its colorfully painted Alebrijes, those imaginary animals that come alive in the movie Coco.  Intricately embroidered blouses and handmade jewelry.  We came home with a bit of it all.

 

We headed out of the city as well.  Mont Albán is a cluster of archaeological ruins dated to 500 BC.  We walked over 18,000 steps and climbed 78 stories as we explored these pyramid-like structures.  Another day we headed into the mountains to visit Hierve el Agua, an area that contains stunning rock formations (petrified waterfalls) and mineral springs.   We climbed to the base of the formation to see the stunning view up close, but of course what goes down…..

 

The thing with travel is that when we let go of what is familiar and embrace the experience of another person in another place, our own traditions become less rigid, more fluid.  We can build new ones.  We can see things we never knew existed and taste flavors that change our outlook.  Turkey flooded with gravy gives way to turkey bathed in black mole.  A slab of bread becomes a flat corn tortilla, my morning caffeine comes from chocolate instead of coffee.  But like every other Christmas tradition, it comes with my husband at my side and my daughters nearby.  We have grown, we have changed, we have risked….  But still we say, from our family to yours,  Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad.  Happy New Year.  And most important of all,  Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!

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The Staycation Solution

One of the strangest things about moving to your favorite vacation spot is that, well, now it’s your home.   Can it still qualify as your favorite vacation spot?  Because generally vacation is the place you go to get away from home.   Dictionary.com says vacation is “an act or instance of vacating”.   But why would I want to vacate my favorite vacation spot?  It is all a bit confusing and this week we found the perfect solution – the STAYCATION.  I know that usually means you stay home, close the blinds and turn off the phone but for us it meant packing an overnight bag and heading 10 minutes down the road to our favorite resort.  And I found out that it is still my favorite piece of beach to relax on, but now it’s even better because it’s without the crappy things that most vacationers experience:

  • Day 1 Sunburn pain – we already have a suntan, so we did not get that overeager tourist sheen that I saw on most of the other guests
  • Pushy salesmen – oh to watch the light go out of the eyes of the timeshare guys, the beach vendors, the tour operators when I said, “No we live here – not interested”. They still tried but with no conviction – they knew they had lost before they began.  And the braid lady.  She knew darn well that no one actually wears those braids in their real life.
  • The whole travel experience – getting a taxi to the airport, fighting the lines at the airport, the rushed stripping down and redressing in the security line, the lost passport, the crunched knees in the tiny seats, the lost luggage….. no, we packed in under 5 minutes, jumped in the convertible and were at the resort in 10 minutes. Already rested before we began relaxing.
  • The stuff you forgot or just can’t take – you know that giant straw hat that doesn’t fit in the suitcase but looks really stupid at the airport? Threw it in the back seat.  And the pillow.  We didn’t bring ours, but we could have – because fat pillows can ruin a vacation.  And the coffee maker.  And some snacks.  A couple of bottles of wine because you know how much they charge for that at a 5-star resort.
  • The expensive meals and fake shows. When you’re on vacation in a new spot you feel the need to experience the ‘culture’ that the hotel offers.  But I can eat real Mexican food and watch actual Mexican dancers in my town any day of the week.  Which means I felt no need to spend $59.99 on fake Mexican night.   We listened to the music on our balcony while sipping our own cheap wine and watched the tourists dance like fools with those balloon hats.   Oh no, they’re actually singing YMCA now.

Instead, I got to enjoy the parts of my favorite vacation spot that I really needed this weekend  – the alone time walking the beach, the lack of responsibilities, the absence of deadlines.  The nice housekeeping lady making my bed and cleaning my toilet.  The restaurant chef making my omelet.  There was no dust, no dogs, no chickens.  For just a couple of days I felt like I was on vacation, even though I could almost see my home as I walked.  I read lots, watched some cable TV since I don’t have that at home, enjoyed a bubble bath, laughed with my hubby.  I vacated my regular routine and to me that is a true vacation.

And the day after tomorrow I’m getting in a taxi to the airport.  I’m going to fight the lines and the security and pray that my luggage arrives.  I’m going to be a tourist and explore the city of Oaxaca with my family.  And who knows, maybe I’ll find my new favorite vacation spot!

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A Letter to Amy

Cousin Amy is coming to visit for a few days and I’m not happy about it.   Before you call the Family Counseling Services on me, the reason I’m not happy is because we’re not going to be here for most of her visit.  We’re heading to Oaxaca to meet our children for Christmas which means Amy is going to be exploring our neighborhood on her own.  While her children are away with their Dad, she’s looking forward to some “Amy time”.  She’s a musician and I’m hoping she finds inspiration here.  And peace.  I hope she finds Christmas peace.

So I’ve been thinking about what Amy needs to know on her first visit to our town.  She’s going to be house sitting and puppy sitting and both of those things have secrets.

I thought maybe you’d want to read the list too – it will give you insight into our crazy life here.

The first – and maybe most important – thing you need to know is DON’T TALK TO THE TIMESHARE SALESMEN AT THE AIRPORT.  Oh that sounds easy enough, but they’re tricky.  They act helpful.  They say they will find you a ride to wherever you’re going.  But if you ignore this first rule, you will find yourself vacationing in this area for the next 20 years.  Which is not a bad thing…. But I doubt if it’s what you want so just keep walking until you are outside.  Then you can get a taxi – the guys outside with the taxi signs are legit and they will get you to our house quickly and safely.

OUR HOUSE

20181126_153904Our house is not grand but it’s comfortable.  You can pick whichever guest room you want – you can either have a garden view or a closet.  Not both.   Of course, the closet won’t have much room for your stuff – sometimes we have foster children from the local children’s shelter staying with us, so the closet is full of little shoes and backpacks and cute dresses.  Which reminds me – if you walk around your room barefoot there is a very good chance you will be experience the pain of stepping on a Barbie shoe.  It’s like the Lego thing but it hurts more because those Barbies only wear stilettos.  Sorry.  Also, those little hair elastics are everywhere.  If you glance under the bed (please don’t) you will find enough hair elastics (called ligas here) to hook a rug big enough for Buckingham Palace.

Be careful with the doors and locks and keys.  If you close the door to the garden while in it, you’ll be stuck out there until you are rescued.  (See my Story Outsmarted by a Cucaracha).  The front door and the garage door automatically lock – keep your keys with you always!

I will be leaving the windows open to keep the house from getting stuffy, but that means there will be dust from the dirt roads.  So. Much. Dust.  Just blow it off – you don’t have asthma right?  It is getting cooler at night so having the window open keeps the house cool.  It also will keep you awake as you listen to every chicken and dog congregate at around midnight for their all-nighters.   Which brings me to the neighborhood.

OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

It’s Christmas season, so you will hear extremely loud banda music, karaoke, DJs, laughter.  It’s a fun time – just go with it.   And the cannons.  Don’t panic when you hear what sounds like loud gunshots.  It’s probably not.  It’s probably the cannons that are kind of related to religious celebrations and kind of related to bratty kids in the neighborhood.  You will jump out of your skin every time, especially the ones at 5:30 am, but El Chapo is not outside.  You are safe.

OFogoncitosur neighborhood has everything you need for a few days.  Next door is the little tienda where you can buy all of the staples – bread, milk, coke and chips.  And tortillas.  Around the corner to the left is the fruit and veggie store, the fish store (with delicious ceviche to go), the taco shop (open in the evening – get 2 tacos de pollo, take one of the tortillas off the bottom so you now have 3 tacos, cover it all with veggies and beans and sauces from the topping bar – boom, 26 pesos, about $1.50), and the other taco shop (open at noon for fish and shrimp tacos and at night for tacos pastor, the meat on the spinning thingy – also less than $5).  There’s the chicken lady selling whole flattened grilled chickens, the Taco de Cabeza stand that sells tacos made of all things ‘head’, the guy with the rolling cart of delicious drinks made of pineapple and lemon and ginger and chia.  If you need a pinata or a giant bag of candy, there’s a shop for that.  Nails, hair, clothing, pirated DVDs – new or used – it’s all there.

 

 

20181210_091409If you walk another block and dare to cross the crazy highway (if it doesn’t work out, there’s a brand-new hospital right there on the corner) there’s another whole world of restaurants and galleries and shops more geared to the gringo tourists and year-round residents.  You can walk for days looking at cool buildings and amazing flowers and stop to sample every kind of food – there’s Italian, and Sushi, and Thai and Vegan and the best hamburgers I’ve ever tasted and lots of Mexican.  After all that, if you’re still hungry before nodding off at night, just listen for the blaring song driving by around 10:30 – that’s the donut lady with a van full of every kind of donut, muffin, croissant and sweet bread you might need.  Who can’t love a place that does donut drive-bys every night!

(Don’t worry, I’ll leave a detailed map to share our favorite restaurants and other must-sees.)

CRITTERS

The good news is we haven’t seen a cucaracha (cockroach) in a long time and I’m pretty sure the mouse is dead.  We do have a small bright green lizard that lives in the garage, but he doesn’t show himself very often and as far as I know he’s never come in the house.  From time to time large lizards sun themselves on our neighbor’s roof in the backyard but they’re shy and run when I open the door.   There is one pretty cool spider in the palm tree – his web is such a work of art I hate to disturb him.  And some small wasps are busy at work creating a home amongst the leaves of that same palm, but they are not like Canadian wasps – they aren’t interested in your Coke and BBQ and keep to themselves.   You will hear chirps in the house at night – those are the many tiny geckos that share our home – they are cute with giant toes that run up and down our walls with lightning speed.  If you eat your breakfast i20181128_121154n our garden, you’ll be joined by some tiny colibris (hummingbirds).  Really the only critter you have to worry about is Nacho the puppy.  He will keep you company, love you to death, and drive you crazy.  DO NOT leave any shoe at his height – or really any item that you value in any way.  Paper, pens, clothing, pencils, jewelry – he’ll take and destroy it all.  If you find yourself missing underwear, check behind the palm tree in the garden.

THE PEOPLE

20180211_135840_resizedWhatever you do while you’re here, enjoy the people you will pass on the streets and meet along your way.  The Mexican people seem shy at first, but they are watching for a smile, for you to say “Hola, Buenos dias” and then they light up.  Everyone is friendly, but they usually wait for you to say hi first  (except for those blasted Time Share guys).   The children, so very many children, all eager for some love, some attention from the gringos.   Your red hair will make you the most popular tourist on the block.   My neighbors are poor, but they are kind.  Even while having so little, they will have family over for fiestas during Christmas week.  They may set up tables in the street, chickens wandering through, fireworks exploding.  It will be fun.

And that Christmas peace I am praying for you?  Walk the beach until you find it.  For these few days, the beach can be your safe place – a soft sandy path alongside powerful ocean waves, hugged by the blue layers of surrounding mountain peaks.   Maybe you’ll see a dolphin or a whale or a tiny hatchling turtle racing for his escape in the water.  A star fish resting.  Keep walking.  Find a new song.  Rejoice in your healing.  Embrace Amy.    And have a blessed Christmas in our paradise!

 

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Giving, Kindness & Acceptance

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Recently I was invited to join a group called South of the Border Bloggers (SOTB), a group of writers who have all had experiences like mine living in Mexico and other countries south of the US border.  I have never considered myself a blogger or a writer, but I like the idea of connecting with others who have their own crazy stories to tell and of sharing ideas and thoughts and maybe even support.   Each month the group picks one topic to write about and this month, in honor of American (and Canadian?) Thanksgiving they chose the title Giving, Kindness and Acceptance.

Although I don’t have American or Canadian cable TV, I do have Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.  I hear what is happening in the world.   I know that giving and kindness and acceptance are having a difficult time right now.  Definitions are shifting.  Opinions about who deserves acceptance and who needs to give it are being debated by politicians and churches.  Kindness is being lost in polls and demonstrations and hashtags.   They say that the solution to gun violence is not more kindness but more guns and the streams of broken people seeking shelter and safety are not brothers we should give to but invaders coming to take from us.  They…. We…. are building walls to separate us rather than bridges to connect us.   No, I’m not picking on any one political party – it’s just all of us.  We all do it.

IMG_20160704_174431_edit_editI know I do it.  One of the things I have struggled with here is looking into the bitter eyes of the children I work with, and not being filled with anger and judgement towards their parents and caregivers.  Oh, how I want to judge.  Drug addiction, prostitution, poverty, alcoholism, violence, abandonment.  So many mistakes that have landed on the shoulders and hearts of these children.  It’s not hard to justify my stinkin’ judgey attitude.

 

This month as I considered this topic and as I considered Thanksgiving, I was reminded that “but for the grace of God go I”.  I know how much I have to be thankful for.  In fact, every day in 2018 I have been writing in my Lovely List – 20181113_162547_resized.jpgI have over 950 items now.  The hummingbird in the garden today, the laughter with my husband, the help of a friend, the crazy antics of a puppy, a text from a daughter, a really good taco …. So many things to be thankful for.  Family and faith and home and my daily bread.  But I also recognize that I did nothing to deserve any of it.   Where I was born, who I was born to, the education I was given, the security I have always had and always taken for granted…. I did not earn any of it and do not deserve it.  Not more than the sweet boy who lives in a one room house in the slums made of tarps, or the 5-year-old who was given an STD by a relative or the young daughter raped by her father who she trusted.

So what does acceptance look like in this place?  I don’t think it means that we accept injustice.  We must keep fighting that.  But I am trying to accept that these parents are doing the very best they can.  I accept that they were also broken as children and don’t know how to give love or guidance because they’ve never seen it.  I’m trying to believe that it is in the acceptance of the broken, that we can finally get to the giving of the kindness.

So Happy Thanksgiving to my friends North of the Border!  Enjoy the turkey and the trimmings and the love of your family.  Don’t feel a bit guilty – you have been given a great gift.  But please, take a moment to give away some kindness, to offer love and acceptance to someone who might not seem to deserve it.    Put the debates on hold and the Facebook rants on silent and the judgements in the trash can – and just go #love someone!

“Freely you have received; freely give”  Matthew 10:8

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45139569_10215621288638874_8553295776481017856_nCheck out some other thoughts on this subject by the SOTB

 

 

Posted in Challenges & Frustrations, Things I've Learned, Uncategorized, Volunteering in Mexico | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

A Major Purchase & More Bureaucracy

Finally! We made a major purchase, licensed and registered it with the State of Nayarit and it WORKED almost perfectly.
You’ll remember that in late July we drove our truck and trailer back to Canada to sell. It wasn’t pretty – the accident, the near arrest, the breakdowns, the late arrival. (Maybe our Worst Trip Yet!)  It was ugly, but it was done and since then we have been keeping our eyes open for a replacement truck. A couple of weeks ago we got serious about the search. Grant has a new business idea brewing (stay posted!) and he will need a truck to make it happen. We had expected to buy a vehicle in Guadalajara, but after a LOT of online research, we decided to check what was available locally. Big club cab trucks aren’t all that common here, so it didn’t take us long to check out every used lot in the Bay and to settle on two options. A sleek, shiny black truck and an older bright red one – both Dodge, both heavy enough to haul a lot, and both roomy enough to transport a crowd of little Mexican children. Both in good shape. The red one was considerably cheaper but also considerably older. We test drove them both, had our mechanic give them the once over and chose ….. (insert drum roll) … the black one!


20181101_123714_resizedThe main hurdle to purchasing anything major here in Mexico is figuring out how to pay for it. The dealer only wanted cash – no cheques, no bank wires, no drafts, no credit cards. Just a lot of cash. We started raiding ATMs and then realized since I would be in Canada for a few days for family business, I would be able to get most of the pesos we needed from our bank there. I called ahead to order the rather larger number of pesos and when I arrived, I was thrilled to be told they had just received a shipment of mostly $1000 and $500 bills. My stack of bills would be manageable. Oh, the irony of going all the way to Canada to find pesos to purchase a truck in Mexico.

The dealer had promised to repaint the truck hood which had peeled a bit under the grueling summer sun and on Thursday we went to pick it up and get the legalities of registration taken care of. We expected the worst. When dealing with bureaucracy we always expect the worst. We’re rarely disappointed. Remember our story of buying my little VW?  (Shopping for Wheels) Or registering the trailer? (One Full Year to Get Some Plates)  It never goes smoothly, and we didn’t expect it to this time either.

First, we had to get it inspected and the serial number verified – last time that cost me a ladder! But that went smoothly, and we were only there for about 1 ½ hours waiting in line. The next stop was the registration office in the town of Mezcales. It was around noon and they are open until 2:00 so we were confident we could get this done. We knew the next day all government offices would be closed to recognize Mexico’s beloved Day of the Dead – a day to remember and celebrate those loved ones that have passed on – but we still had 2 hours and we really wanted to get those plate before the weekend. But of course, no. They were already closed. “Why are you closed today?” “Well tomorrow is a holiday, so we closed today at 11.” “But the holiday is tomorrow.” “Yes, so we are closed today.”
Well okay. I guess Monday will work. Today we headed back to the office knowing there would be a big lineup after the two-day closure. We arrived at 8:30 and at 9:00 when the doors opened, we were at the front of an already long line. We had brought multiple copies of everything – we’ve been through this drill before – but after the shuffling, stapling, reshuffling, restapling we were sent across the street for more copies. 3 copies of this, 2 copies of the rest. Fine. More copies, more waiting in line, more shuffling, more stapling, many of the copies handed back to us as unnecessary (but you just told me to get them???) and finally, we were handed our new license plates. We also realized that we were supposed to have renewed our registration on Azulita the Volkswagone every year and we hadn’t done that since 2016, so we took care of that too. Oops.

20180915_091319_resizedSo, Grant is back on the road. We are again a two-vehicle family. Well three if you count our favorite, the little blue golf cart which really has become our main mode of transportation over the rubble and through the potholes. Our lifestyle is so very different here that I know we could get by with just 1 set of wheels, but I am not quite ready to let go of my own sense of independence and identity. My freedom. I really have absolutely nowhere to go that I can’t walk to or bounce to on the golf cart, but I’ve owned a car since I was 16. My powder blue convertible is just one more of those material things that I continue to cling to as some kind of weird crutch to prove that life is normal. That I am okay when so much is uncertain. That I can go….somewhere….  I know that’s not where my comfort lies, but hey I’m just being real here!  Besides, who doesn’t want to see a couple of old people and a fluffy white poodle heading to the beach with the roof down and the music blaring. It’s all part of the dream and we’re loving living it!

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Are We Happy?

Recently one of my friends emailed me to question whether we are really happy here.  Whether we are at peace.   Which made me realize that a LOT of my blog posts are about the crazy and difficult things that happen to us here.  Let’s face it – drama makes for better blog reading.

But as the 3-year anniversary of our move passed in September, I thought this would be a good time to consider the question.  Are we happy?  And if we are, why?  What are the things we love about living here.  Just thinking about the question made me smile.  YES!  We are happy.  I am happy.  It is a bit hard to put into words what makes something ‘right’ or ‘good’ but I can think of many tangible things that I love about our life here:

  • The weather. I can’t lie.  The weather had a lot to do with why we moved and that has not changed.  Yes, it is super hot right now, but I still love the perpetual summer and although autumn is no longer about pumpkins and gourds and red and yellow leaves, there are changes in the flowers that bloom and the foliage that grows.  The bouganvilias are back and the pretty purple vines are now everywhere.  Soon the nights will cool and our air conditioner remote control will be put away in the nightstand for a few months.
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    Fish Taco heaven!

    The food.  Who doesn’t love a good taco?  I am surrounded by Mexican food – taquerias and loncherias – not to mention donut trucks that show up at my door and a French Fry cart that recently appeared right across the street from my house.  I almost never tire of Mexican food, but when I do there is also a great Sushi place around the corner, the best burgers ever across the highway and a delicious pasta/pizza place a couple blocks away.  All of it for less than $10 a meal and most of it less than $5.   Unfortunately, that means I’ve gained some weight, so that brings me to the next thing….

 

  • The beach.  Any time I want to I can walk or run on miles and miles of soft sand beach or jump in the ocean which right now is as warm as a bathtub.  Gorgeous sunrises, beautiful sunsets, majestic lighting storms – it is easy to get my 10,000 steps in if I want to.  Those are the key words and I admit I have been slacking lately – time to get back on it before my Fitbit buddy Cheryl comes down to kick my butt as she has threatened.

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  • The people.  There is something infectious about the passion of the Mexican people.  Whatever they do is accompanied by loud music, loud laughter, loud children, loud dogs.  Even the barrios most touched by poverty have streets blocked off and pinatas hanging from trees when birthdays roll around.  Today we drove around town on our golf cart and we headed into the poorest communities in our town.  Groups of men sat on corners sipping from giant bottles of beer, but they all waved at us and yelled greetings as we went by.  I have no idea why I like that, but I do.  I love these people and I love being part of the rhythm of life here.
  • The meaningful work we do. The most important part of our life here is the work we do at Manos de Amor, the local Children’s Shelter.  We have seen the worst of the worst there – a 10-year-old repeatedly raped by her father, a 5-year-old with an STD, a young preteen whose mom recently went to jail for killing her husband, leaving the girl without mother or father or home.  Pregnancy, and drugs and prostitution and poverty.  I hate it all.  But we love these children and we believe that our presence in their lives matters – teaching them English, inviting them to stay in our home when they have nowhere to go, driving them to visit family on weekends, playing silly games and singing and dancing. Loving on them.  It all means something that has become more valuable to us than careers, salaries and possessions.

I guess the bottom line is that we have changed and what matters to us has changed.  We have less security but more peace.  Less comfort but more joy.  Less success but more compassion.  I could make a long list of the things that are harder here, but you can read the rest of my blog to get all those stories.  Tonight, we rest in the assurance that we are where we are meant to be, and we are indeed happy!

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So dear family and friends, please stop worrying and go book your winter vacation flight – we’ll be waiting for you curbside in the golf cart with a taco in hand.

 

 

Posted in Things I've Learned, Volunteering in Mexico | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sisters in School

It has been a very long time coming, but finally all 3 of our weekend daughters are in school and we couldn’t be happier.   Here in Mexico children must have birth certificates before they can enroll in school, and the two youngest in this family had never been registered, never been counted, never really existed as people with the right to be educated and employed.  After more than a year of knocking on the closed doors of doctors, lawyers and other bureaucrats, Britany and Pricila finally possess the papers they need to open locked classroom doors.

During the week these girls live at Manos de Amor, Casa Hogar and on weekends they hang out with us – at the pool or at the beach, eating chorizo quesadillas and tacos.  Little Pricila has a medical issue that keeps her from living at Casa Hogar right now, so she is temporarily living with us all week.  It’s been a long time since I took a little one to her first day of school, but I was pretty excited to do so this week.  So was she!  I definitely need some practice on how to create pretty braids and keep white uniform shirts clean,  and what the heck do I do with Spanish homework?  But I’ll learn.  More importantly, finally Pricila has her own opportunity to learn… to read and to write and to dream of a future where she can grow up to be whatever she wants to be.

 

 

Posted in Our Life Here, Uncategorized, Volunteering in Mexico | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments