Good Hombres

In spite of what Donald Trump has been spouting, we are finding the Mexican people we meet each day to be kind and helpful – good hombres and mujeres.  I admit our days crossing the border were a little uncomfortable and I am still a little unclear exactly what went down when we imported our tools and trailer.  In fact, we still haven’t been able to get the correct paperwork from our broker to actually get plates on our trailer.  We are patiently waiting for the package that was supposedly shipped from Nogales a number of days ago.  But the people we meet each day in our neighborhood are welcoming and helpful and a lost telephone reminded us of that this week.

On Tuesday we spent all afternoon at the beach in Nuevo Vallarta riding our boogie boards and eating chicken nachos, celebrating being back home after a quick business trip to Canada.   On the drive to the beach, we stopped to take pictures of the amazing purple vines that have bloomed in October.  From the airplane it looks like a purple blanket has been gently lowered on top of the other trees and vegetation.

 

 

After we got home and cooked a shrimp feast, Grant realized he couldn’t find his phone. We searched everywhere in the house and drove back to the beach.  No phone in sight.  The Security guard hadn’t seen it; the restaurant nearby was now closed.  We were pretty sure it was toast – forever lost or more likely sold. Slight panic set in.  I sent a text to the phone with my contact info – please call if you find this phone.

2 hours later I received the hoped for phone call – someone who speaks English had our phone – let’s meet at Chedraui parking lot in Valle Dorado in 20 minutes.  I was thrilled – but I was also nervous.  Valle Dorado is a bit rough – were they going to give us the phone or were we going to get shaken down?  It was now close to 10:00, kind of late for a parking lot rendezvous. We stopped at the bank to get some money to pay a reward and then went to the grocery store parking lot where we met some wonderfully kind people – a couple in their 30s or 40s and an older lady. Big hug from the younger lady as soon as I got out of the car. Another big hug. She said they had just seen the corner of the phone sticking out of the sand – the rest was buried. But she knew how important it must be to us.  Then the older lady got out of the back seat, rushed over to me for another hug and said “I really want to pray for you.” I said “Absolutely – we’ve been praying to find this phone and you’re the answer to our prayer”. She literally screamed with joy, grabbed me for more hugs and then prayed an awesome prayer for health and safety and blessing – in the middle of Chedraui parking lot.   Whatever you believe, I do believe in prayer, especially when it comes from the heart of a kind stranger just when I need it most! So Donald Trump has it all wrong – Mexicans are definitely ‘good hombres’ and I’m proud to be living on this side of his wall!

Introducing Alison Naomi

I’d like to introduce you to Alison Naomi.  Her mom is named Irandi and she is fourteen years old.  This isn’t Irandi’s first pregnancy – she had a miscarriage at twelve so Alison was born by Caesarean.   That’s tough for such a young teenager.  Alison isn’t the only baby to be born to a young mom in this family.  Irandi has twin sisters – Ivon who had baby Lupita when she was thirteen and Ibet who gave birth to Kevin at fourteen.   Besides these 3 daughters, this family also includes Nasabid, Laurentino, Isabel and little Jose. The 9 of them live with their mom in a one room home made out of tarps.  Now that Alison is here, Irandi has gone to live in the next town with her boyfriend and his mom.   Laurentino and Jose go to Manos de Amor Casa Hogar each Monday morning so they can attend school and be cared for throughout the week while their mama works 11 hours a day to earn $5 or $6.  Isabel who is now twelve has recently decided she no longer wants to live at the Children’s Home – she wants some freedom and she wants to dress ‘sexy’.  Although she tells me she is still going to school in her neighborhood I am terrified for her and for her future.

We arrived here in Bucerias on Friday and after stopping at Manos de Amor to say hi, we went to the new store in town to buy a dolly and some baby clothes and headed to San Vicente to meet Alison.  As always, Lupita, Kevin and Jose ran out to meet us.

We did not know Irandi and her new baby had moved away but Ivon agreed to help us find her new home.  7 of us piled in the car – and a dog which we kindly removed.  It has been rainy season here which means the normally crappy roads are now crappy mud holes and our little car struggled to get through.

 

img_20160930_191838The area where Irandi now lives is called Primavera.  Kind of ironic that primavera means “spring” in Spanish but it did not feel like a place of new beginnings or growth at all.  It is different in that the homes are made of concrete and the one Irandi lives in has 3 rooms instead of 1.  The roads are definitely just as bad and poor Azulita (that’s my little blue car) bottomed out in some of the mud and water filled potholes.  But eventually we found the complex where this new young family lives and as we got out of the car we yelled for Irandi.  We climbed the stairs to the little home and met the cutest baby I have ever seen. She looked healthy although her young mom looked tired and in a lot of pain.   One day in the hospital after a C-section seems harsh and Irandi looked worn out.  But happy.  And proud of her baby.  And really happy to see us and share her story with us.  6-year-old Jose lovingly kissed his little niece.  Lupita stared in amazement at her new cousin.  Kevin ignored it all and wandered outside where he promptly closed his finger in the door of our car – setting off the alarm and screaming down the neighborhood. The idyllic moment was gone and life with a bunch of toddlers resumed.  Because they do not own band-aids, Irandi took a piece of Kleenex and tied it over his bloody finger with a string.

After our visit we headed back to San Vicente.  Isabel joined us so we had 8 people in our tiny car – a new record!  4 in the front and 4 in the back.

 

The neighbors laughed and waved and I realize that even though this life doesn’t look at all familiar to me, every person in it is trying to live their best life and my role is just to walk alongside them and let them know they are loved.  Before we left I asked Irandi if I could pray for little Alison.  I took her two tiny hands in mine and prayed that she would know love, that she would know God, that she would have a hope and a future.  Whatever that might look like.

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And now another piece of my heart is missing.

First Day Back

Here are some of the sights we saw on our first day back that reminded us why we love this place:

  • Children of Manos de Amor – as we drove up the anthem started “Karen, Karen, Karen….” and children ran to the gate to greet us with big hugs and sloppy kisses.  Some jumped in our car, Natalia barely acknowledged me but jumped on Grant and refused to let go
  • img_20160930_172243New animals in town – we have 2 new donkeys wandering around the neighborhood. We saw a donkey chasing a dog who was chasing a donkey who was chasing a dog.  The donkey won!
  • While Grant was busy unloading the truck in the garage, a chicken wandered in to check out what was happening
  • We spent the afternoon at the beach and while we were boogie boarding we saw dolphins jumping a bit further out – and a big skate or ray of some kind jumped right next to us
  • We love the kitties that wander around the restaurants looking for some loving while we wait on our food – which by the way cost us $7 for a burrito and enchilada and a rice water – all GIANT
  • The door-to-door produce truck – check out the huge grapes I bought for less than $2 right outside the door

A great first day – the simple pleasures of children and food and ocean and animals.  Really, what else do we need?

                              The view from my desk as I write this blog

Making a Run for the Border

img_20160921_083405It’s been a LONG time coming but we’re finally on the road with the load of tools that will turn Vision Enterprises – the company my husband has operated for most of our married life – into Banderas Bay Enterprises – the company he will operate for the next part of our story.  It has truly been one of the most difficult – and annoying – things we have ever tried to pull off.  Trying to understand the rules of three countries we will need to drive through has been confusing at best, agonizing at worst.   But today we are loaded and headed for the first of the borders we will need to cross.

Because Grant sold his company in Canada, along with most of his equipment – we only have 1 trailer (okay to be fair it’s a really full trailer) of tools to take south.  It’s all of the things he feels he needs to be a Mexican building guy.  It seems like it shouldn’t be that big a deal.  But the regulations are many and seem impossible to navigate.  For instance:

  • We can’t import our business truck into Mexico because of the type and year
  • We can drive it in as tourists but we can’t leave it there if we fly out – so if we drive it in we must drive it out
  • If we drive the truck in as tourists (the only way we CAN drive it in) we can’t pull the trailer because it will have to be licensed at the border and only Mexicans can drive commercial vehicles in Mexico
  • We can’t buy a truck in Mexico and drive it to Canada to get our stuff because only Mexicans can drive a Mexican truck in Canada – even if we own it
  • So we can’t drive a Canadian business truck in Mexico and we can’t drive a Mexican business truck in Canada – and who knows what the Americans have to say about it all

img_20160921_111830So we are heading for the Mexican border in our Canadian truck pulling our Canadian trailer where we will meet up with our ‘guy’ Ramses who will help us jump through all the hoops.  There is a good chance Ramses’ friend will have to drive with us all the way to Bucerias to keep everyone happy.

img_20160822_161814It’s not just the vehicles that have made us crazy.  The tools.  You can’t just show up with a bunch of tools.  Over the past few weeks we have documented every nail, every screw, every extension cord (why does Banderas Bay Enterprises need so freakin many extension cords???).   Over 800 items have been logged in a spreadsheet with Make, Model, Serial Number, Value and all translated into Spanish.   We have an Ebay printout for every one of those items to justify the values.  We have scanned and photocopied and hole punched all those lists and put in binders.  One binder for American customs, 1 or 2 for Mexican customs.

And now it is out of our hands.  We have done our homework.  We have made our lists.  I have copies of our company incorporation papers, copies of our house lease, copies of the deed for the land we have purchased, receipts for everything I can think of, passports and drivers licenses and car and trailer registrations.

Now it is time to trust.  To believe that this is the journey we are called to be on and everything will happen just as it is supposed to.  I think of my favorite verse “Whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying ‘This is the way, walk in it’”.   It might be easy, it might be hard, but it will be good – because that is how God is.

In the meantime, first stop is to fix the flat tire before we even leave Regina…. Sigh…..

Outsmarted by a Cucaracha

I must admit we have been pretty fortunate in the creepy crawly department – we have not had a lot of bugs or spiders bugging us. We spray around the garden and doorways from time to time and have cockroach traps in places where these little guys might try to sneak by us. But the other day, I was sitting outside reading when I spotted movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked over and sure enough, there was a giant cockroach looking me over. So I did what every girl would do – I screeched and put my feet on top of the table and demanded Grant deal with the intruder. Grant doesn’t love them either, so he went inside and grabbed the broom and proceeded to wage war with the tiny dinosaur. Now there’s no way an old gringo is going to be faster than a cockroach, so the creature ran under a plant pot to live another day. I’m okay with the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ theory of pest control and I went back to reading. Grant closed the door to ensure the scavenger did not make his way into our kitchen – and just like that we were locked out in the garden. Our house has a lot of weird locks – and when the doors close, they cannot be opened without the keys. Which were sitting on the dining room table – INSIDE THE HOUSE!

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Locked OUT!

Our back yard is surrounded by a cement wall – too high to climb and topped with barbed wire. Okay, how about climbing the ladder that leads to the roof where the propane tank is stored? We (okay Grant) could climb the ladder, shimmy down the roof to our bedroom balcony and …. nope the balcony door is also locked and we always ensure the key is out of reach to prevent intruders from getting in. Not considering of course that we might be the only intruders that actually want to try. The windows? All covered with bars. Call someone? No one else has keys but us. And did I mention they are INSIDE THE HOUSE?

Ladder to the roof didn’t help, no way to get my arm in that window and around the corner …..

I admit I started to laugh – or was that hysteria? – cause what else are you going to do when you are locked in the garden with a ravenous cockroach? Our last resort was to try the window close to the door. Yes, it is covered by bars, but maybe if I breath in and twist my arm into a pretzel shape I will be able to reach the door handle. Not. But in the process Grant noticed that the broom he had used to shoo the menacing bug was standing inside next to the door…. If he could just grab it through the window and use it to push open the handle…… Bingo! We’re in. And we now have a set of keys hidden in a place you will NEVER guess but that will prevent us from perishing in the garden we love. Another potential disaster in paradise averted!

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A New Job

Today was the start of a new volunteer role for me! Those of you who know me won’t exactly be surprised that I have dipped my toes into the management of my favorite organization here in Bucerias. A few weeks ago Veronica asked if I would join the Steering Committee of the Manos de Amor orphanage. She already has a great committee but they all go back north to Canada or USA for ½ of the year so she liked the idea of me being here year round to lend a hand.

I have been at many committee meetings over the years – in offices and homes and boardrooms – but I have never had a walk to a meeting like this one which ended around a table on a patio under palm trees. Grant had to take our car to finalize our license plates (there’s another blog post for sure) so I walked to the meeting across town. It was so awesome as I walked to be greeted warmly by everyone I passed – and realize how many people I now know in this town. Many people who I have met – vendors, restaurant owners or waitresses, workers from the orphanage or people from the church – calling out “Hola – Buenas dias Karen”. Waving at me with huge smiles. I realized I was walking by myself – down the cobblestone streets, across the beach – with a really silly grin on my face.

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Walking to a meeting – better than any boardroom I’ve ever been in!

Like most meetings I have attended over the years we talked about finances and fundraising events and websites (guess who is creating the new webpage ??) but we also talked about how to teach values to children who have never had role models, how to provide the best possible nutrition on a tight budget and how to bring love to children who have been abandoned or even sold into prostitution.   It was sobering …. and exciting and while I hope some of my experience can benefit these children that I love, I recognize this will be a place where I will be the one to learn and grow and be humbled and ultimately receive much more than I can possibly give.

Job skills + education + experience + God’s assignment = JOY.

You can’t really ask for a better volunteer job than that!

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Welcome to the Neighborhood

I really love my neighborhood! So often in my life, I drive from Point A to Point B and am surprised when I arrive at my destination. I know you are the same. We put our cars – and our minds – into automatic and forget to pay attention to what is happening along the way. That is quite impossible here in Mexico. For starters, if you don’t pay attention to your driving, you will definitely be killed. Cars and motorbikes cut in and out from both lanes and it is every man for himself. Also, there is just so much to see and no matter how many times we drive or walk down the same streets, I notice something new or different or crazy that I did not notice before.

Today I want to take you on a picture tour of my neighborhood. I will barely scratch the surface of what there is to see but I hope you will feel the love I have for this place and laugh with the craziness of it.

The town of Bucerias is divided in half by Highway 200. To the west is the ocean – which of course means this is the area where the tourists and gringos live and visit. There are restaurants and galleries and pretty houses. The main towns square and the flea market are there. It is fun and you can get by speaking English and eating guacamole and drinking cheap beer. There is an OXXO (like 7-11) on every block. One the east side of the highway is the Mexican part of town. Roads are bumpier, chickens are louder and Spanish is the predominant language. There are gringos like us who live here but they are few and far between. The restaurants here are generally taco stands on the side of the road or in backyards. Instead of OXXOs, there are mini-supers on every block.

IMG_20160312_152837Grant and I often drive or walk up and down the streets surrounding our house, exploring each block so we know where to find the local mechanic or hardware store or tortilla lady. Today I found a seamstress in a tiny shop – someone I can ask to sew new cushion covers for our garden. Sometimes we look in windows or climb up to look over fences, curious to see how our neighbors live. We feel welcome here, everyone stopping to smile and say “Hola, Buenas tardes”. Children are everywhere and are excited to speak to the gringos. When we drive our convertible around with the roof down, everyone stops what they are doing to wave, and call out to us.  Here are a few things you will see when you come to visit us in our colonia.

Transportation

When you watch an old Mexican movie, you always see vehicles on blocks, covered in thick layers of dust. This is a true depiction of my neighborhood. I now realize that all that dust does not mean the vehicles have been abandoned for a long time – it is just that dusty on the unpaved streets.  Here are some of the transportation options around here:

Every block has a VW bug or VW van parked on it – I suspect it is mandatory.

Not all vehicles are exactly road worthy – but no  point in getting rid of them.

Horses are almost as common as vehicles – not sure what the laws are for drinking and driving a horse but that horse is looking mighty hard at that sign…

Animals

Animals are everywhere – I am sitting at my desk and at this exact moment I am listening to dogs (a LOT of dogs), chickens, roosters, a parrot, and some goats.  Check out the tiny chihuahua I am holding – there are more chihuahuas here than Volkswagons!

And lots of cats too….. certainly more dignified

Check out the giant iguana that sometimes lives in the tree next door

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Shopping

You don’t need a mall here – there is lots to be purchased on every block – today we saw fruit and tortillas and bums – and a ton of other stuff.  Spices, flowers, pinatas…. what do you need?

A few weeks ago we came upon a woodworker making trinkets to sell at the market.  Grant spied an old wood carving of a saxophone player way back in his yard.  The woodworker said he had made it 28 years ago and it had stood in that spot ever since.  Grant decided we needed the musician in our garden and convinced the old carpenter to sell it.  It got a lot of attention driving home in the back of the convertible but it now looks great in the garden.  Today we stopped to show the woodworker some pictures of the carving in our yard and he was thrilled!  Can’t buy that at Walmart!

This morning we found our new favorite breakfast spot – full breakfast including bacon and eggs and hashbrowns and beans and coffee and fresh squeezed juice and homemade strawberry jam on toast in a pretty garden –  for less than $5  – and of course no afternoon walk would be complete without a stop for a taco. (Why does every blog post I do end up being about food?)

A couple of other interesting spots around town.

But there are two places in my neighborhood that I love the most  – my church La Fuente Riviera and the orphanage Manos de Amor Casa  Hogar.  These are the places where my heart has settled and where I both give and receive love when I am far away from my own family and friends.

It is not always easy living in this neighborhood – I don’t sleep that great because of the never-ending noise, I often feel hot and dusty and I struggle to be understood by everyone I encounter.  When I walk down the street I risk breaking an ankle on the cobblestones and when I drive down the street I risk ripping the bottom off of my car on the speed bumps.  I don’t have a bathtub or a clothes dryer or a BBQ.  My kitchen is tiny.  But I can truly say that I absolutely love living in this house and in this neighborhood.  Every day is an adventure – some good, some not so good – but I have concluded that curiosity and the unexpected life is what keeps us young and engaged in the journey.  Never again do I want to move through life on auto-pilot.  From now on, I’m going to climb fences, and be bold enough to speak awful Spanish to neighbors and try new food that looks weird.  I challenge you to do the same in your neighborhood!

You’re Invited to Dinner!

Welcome to my neighborhood! As we settle into a routine here in Bucerias, we are spending more time in our own colonia, Buenos Aires. As you know, we are planning to build a house up the mountain close to La Cruz, but for now we are happy to be renting a house in this Mexican neighborhood. So for the next couple of blog posts let me take you on a tour of where we live and tell you about our daily routine.  First of course is the food!

Morning coffee

 

We always start the day with our coffee in bed or on our balcony, blue sky and palm trees welcoming us to come awake. Breakfast is a vitamin fruit smoothie in the back garden and then we work for a few hours in our office. We have a great setup and as I work I look out the window at the cat on the roof next door or the giant iguana in the tree. Sometimes I take my computer outside to work.IMG_20160303_101548

By lunch time we’re ready to get out and explore the town. Trip Advisor tells me there are 116 restaurants in our little town and we’re determined to get to them all! Most are in walking distance – lots of them offer us a delicious lunch for less than $5. Tortas, tacos, tortilla soup, shrimp salad – those are our favorites.

Some of our favorite Mexican restaurants nearby -you can always count on being entertained by some music or shopping or chatting with a friend while you eat!  We also love the little taco stands on every corner with the Mexican abuelas (grandmas) cooking the best smelling tacos imaginable.

 

Afternoons are spent doing errands like paying bills – remember, only 1 errand per day – and volunteering or visiting at the orphanage. Some days we just explore – driving up and down all the streets in the town.  If we are cooking dinner, we stop at all the little shops to purchase fresh ingredients – just enough for today!  We also purchase food from the assortment of vendors who drive down our street, loudspeakers blaring.  I certainly don’t plan menus far ahead – it’s more fun to be surprised by what shows up each day!

Jicama Guy and Corn Guy stop right outside my door

Fish Market and Fruit Store right around the corner – we bought vegetables and mangos and Red Snapper and cooked up this feast. 

There’s the La Cruz market on Sundays – fish right out of the ocean, vegetables fresh from the garden and organic honey and eggs sold out of the trunk of a car…

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Always great food to be had at the beach….

And of course there’s no end of weird food stuff – a grilled cheese sandwich out of a vending machine?

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Our little Mini Super right across the street may look tiny but it always has just what I need – and we visit it once or twice a day to get 20 litre jugs of water ($2) or bags of sugar ($0.80) or eggs sold individually for 10 cents each.  Fresh tortillas are always warm in the red cooler.  It is open from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm every single day and the sound of its rolling door going up every morning and down every night is all the clock I need to plan my days.  There is something comforting about knowing there is always someone in those white chairs, keeping watch over the neighborhood that I was once wary of but now call home.

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So that’s a food tour of my neighborhood.  Next I’ll show you some of the other sights in the streets surrounding my home.  It won’t be the same without the sounds, but you’ll get the idea!  In the meantime, I’m starving and we have at least 99 other restaurants to check out…..

Learning to Share

Today we were invited to help Veronica and some of the Manos de Amor children with a task they do 3 times a week. We have told Veronica to assign us tasks that will make her life easier and this is one she has chosen for us. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday she takes a few children in the late afternoon and heads to Vallarta Adventures, a tour and excursion company that takes tourists out on crazy adventures. Every day, Vallarta Adventures piles people on boats or in open jeeps and take them snorkeling, sailing, whale watching, scuba diving, zip lining, touring tequila factories, hiking, horseback riding, and pretty much anything a tourist is willing to pay to experience. They are really a top-quality company – and today I found out they are also a generous company.

Most of the tours they offer provide lunch, which means lots of leftovers – and Manos de Amor is fortunate to be one of the beneficiaries of the excess food that returns to the Vallarta Adventures office in Nuevo Vallarta each afternoon.

Today was our training day. Veronica showed us how to fill plastic tubs and plastic bags with chicken, rice, turkey, salad, vegetables, buns and soup. It looked delicious and I would be lying if I said we packed it away without sampling a bite or two. The children worked hard, filling bags and carrying empty trays to the kitchen. But what was most impressive to me was the final destination of all of this food. Much of it of course was for the children at Casa Hogar. Veronica packed up enough food for them for tomorrow’s meals. Then she packed up many more bags to give to the women who work at the home and to the many poor neighbors who live in the streets surrounding the orphanage. She encouraged me to fill two large bags to deliver to our family in San Vicente. In the midst of receiving a blessing, she became a blessing.

I love that instead of filling the freezer and hoarding supplies, Veronica is teaching the children to share what they have with others who need help. To share. I know that we are super fortunate to have social programs in Canada that seek to care for the marginalized in our country. And let’s face it, it makes me feel less responsible or compelled to help when I know our government will provide. But that’s pretty much a crappy attitude. What if we all just shared our excess with others? Sometimes I go to Safeway and buy 3 or 4 tubs of Peanut Butter or 72 rolls of paper towel or a case of soup because hey, look at all the Air Miles! And then I stock my pantry and it sits there until I spill enough stuff to need 72 rolls of paper towel or make enough toast to eat 8 litres of peanut butter. I don’t even really like soup.  What would happen in our world if we kept enough for tomorrow, or even for next week and gave the rest away? What if we were to share what we don’t need with those who don’t know how to face an empty tomorrow? Instead of implementing more government social programs to fight poverty, what if we, who have so darn much, just gave away our stuff?  What if finally just learned how to share? Another day of being humbled by Mexico and learning a new way to live.

 

A Birthday Party

Last night we headed to San Vicente to deliver a birthday party for Mama Santana. I won’t tell you her age (okay it’s less than 40 but more than 38). She has a very full life. She has 7 children and 2 grandchildren – most live with her in her tiny one room house. She works hard at a garden store – 6 days a week for 11 hours a day. Her 3 youngest children live at Manos de Amor during the weeks so they can attend school. We have grown to love this family and try to visit a couple of times a month. They welcome us in and offer us tostados with macaroni or chicken – I know this is a sacrifice for them.

Earlier in the week Laurentino had told me that his mom’s birthday was on Friday. Isabelle told me her favorite food was Shrimp Ceviche. After our car shopping stress, we really needed a party, so we picked up a cake, and some ceviche and a gift and headed to what is often called Cardboardlandia – a neighborhood composed entirely of homes made of cardboard or tarps or tin. There are a LOT of little children and puppies and chickens and everyone is friendly and laughing at us as we drive through the water-filled potholes in the new convertible. I was used to children laughing at Milly so this feels good to me.

As always, everyone was excited to see us drive up. They were especially excited to see the new car. Instantly it was filled with little children and birthday balloons. Jose and Kevin and Lupita thought it was a toy and were ready to take it for a spin.

 

The rest of the evening was about eating tostados and cake and playing with children. Lupita loved hanging out with Klara, not even realizing that when she was just a baby she had met Klara and Fred and that they had paid to have her water tank filled. I don’t think we understand how the smallest acts of kindness – a hug, $8 to fill a water tank, a tub of ceviche – make a monumental difference in the lives of those who live in difficult situations every day.

 

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Peace!

As we said goodbye, Mama grabbed me and with tears in her eyes said “Muchas Gracias Karen. Muchas Gracias. Te Amo.” (Thank you very much Karen, I love you). And I squeezed back and whispered “I love you too”.

This is why we are here. Car shopping and buying things for our house and figuring out how to buy insurance – those are the things that must be done in order for us to live here. But the reason we live here is so that we can touch lives that need God’s love and light.   For some reason this family crossed our path 2 ½ years ago when 13 year old Ibon was about to give birth to Lupita and now they are part of our Mexican life. For that I am grateful.