"...He prayeth well, who loveth well, Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best, All things both great and small;
for the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all..."

The Rime of the Anchient Mariner -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How did I let my heart harden?

I've been in Mexico about a month & I've seen so many beautiful places, events, colors, foods etc that I still feel like a tourist. It's all still shiney and new and I've been determined to take in every second hoping my memories will serve me like photographs...determined to live my life.
I currently live in a beautiful city in an upper middle class neighborhood where it's easy to forget that beyond my little world encompassed by my home, the university (where we receive training), and the tourist spots, there are people who struggle to make a living.

Somewhere along the line I started tuning out these people, their faces, and even the goods they work so hard to sell. I went for a wonderful five-mile run this morning, all through the city's 'centro' clear to the otherside of town, running along the 18th Century Aquiduct and back up through the centro; as I crested the hill there I saw a 'Maria' (term given to poor women in indigeonous clothing selling craftwork) selling little butterfly windmills.

The first thought that went through my head was 'no, i don't want to buy a useless windmill.' I crossed the street to see some monuments for a break, and noticed two 3-4 year olds playing around and in a tree. Near them was some craftwork laying on a cloth. I sat down for a few minutes and thought how they reminded me of my brother's kids. Then it occured to me that these kids must be the children of the Maria selling the windmills across the street. Just then two young girls will a bag of torillas walked by me and took them to the kids; they all sat down and distributed these tortillas...their breakfast.

I felt ashamed at the sentiment in my heart. I drop an obscene amount of pesos on frivolas things, and my giving nature gives to those who need it the least. Meanwhile, I won't let myself be bothered by eager faces struggling to make an honest living. I asked myself how I became so miserly. I couldn't remember the last time I gave radomly, unexpectedly, a hand out or otherwise. I felt moved today to change the way I view my money.

As I ran home, I thought about the types of giving: thanks-giving (part of your daily life b/c you are happy to share), grudge-giving (giving you are guilted into), sacrificial-giving (this one is kind of hard to define, but I think of it as giving much more than your left-overs). While I do make very little money relative to the American life I lead, I want for nothing and make more than enough to be wasteful.

My spritual ephipahny was confirmed by today's church service that spoke on the adminstration of our worldly goods. The parting thoughts were to use your money to bless others/make friends, because it's not good for anything else.

Quick thoughts on hand outs: I think my intent is what matters...after all it's likely only $1 peso MEX, (equal to 1 cent US). I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this. Yes, food would be more useful to give away, but it's been a while since i handed out food on the street.

Quick thoughts on haggling: I know myself to be cheap and I get a high on haggling someone down a few dollars or pesos...but I feel less inclined to do it these days. I pick and chose when I do it especially if I know they are raising the price b/c I'm American...

In the end, I hope to be known as generous because that is what life is about.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Viva Mexico 2010

A few highlights to cover since my last blog post.
1) My field trip to Ciudad Guzman in Jalisco Mexico:
I had a great time there & one of my best days so far was the feeling of getting to the top of a dormant volcanoe & hearing the sister volcanoe rumble (ok, it could have been thunder too)--breathing at 11,000ft/4,000m really is hard! Basically, they made the top of the dormant volcanoe a National Park (Nevado de Colima); they are working to implement methods to prevent errossion. caused because the area was logged in the 80's (before it became a national park), so while logging is no longer permitted they still have cattle from the surrounding areas whose owners allow them to roam the National Park--illegal cattle grazing. The owners get fined only after the damage is done (cattle are very destructive)...so the answer is never easy, but this national park does make a good effort to educate the visiting public.

2) The Mexican Bicentenial:
Someone told me this was the event of the century in Mexico, but another person told me this is the way Independence day is celebrated every year. Either way, it was an event of epic proportions. It's difficult to explain in words b/c there was so much going on, but I will attemp.

Mexicans celebrate their indepence on Sept 15th by gathering in their town's main Plaza & at 11pm, when the mayor or govornor leads the crowd in shouting "Viva Mexico" and the crowd shouts back "Viva!" (actual indp day is sept 16th)

We knew the Plaza de Armas in Queretaro would be get so crowded that walking would be impossibe, so we staked out out spots in front of the main fountain, where we sat for 6 hours. We witnessed the lighting of the torch that was to be carried by runners to our sister city 65km away. Then, we had live orchestra music until the main event @ around 10:30. At 9ish I decided I had to use the bathroom, which turned out to be one of the worst mistakes I had made in a long while. By the time I got back, the plaza was so packed that walking through it was impossible. It took me nearly an hour and a half to make it back to my group...but I almost didn't make it. People were snearing at me and I'm really lucky I didn't get hurt. Anyway, I was so happy to make it back I hugged the first person I saw (Dan Evans, the Peace Corps Country Director). So I reclaimed my seat on the fountain, and then the festivities started. The crowd, the snycronous responsive shouting, the music, the AMAZING fireworks display snyced to the music, and being around all my friends (b/c all our group ended up finding us & we had the best spot to congregate around)---now picture all of this for a full 20 minutes.

That sets the scene, here's a video from one of my fellow Peace Corps Trainees John Dye:

Then I came home, and my family was celebrating w/ awesome food & music, and best of all my 65 year old host-mom out danced me & out lasted me that night. I went to bed at 2:30am.

I'm not used to having this much fun!

3) I visit La Catrina!
Ok, not really,...but really.

First let me explain that Mexicans give the manisfestation of death 100+ names and it is represented as a female figure and the most common name is 'La Catrina.' The names range from gods of the prehispanic cultural eras to common names of modern day culture. The names and characterizations are female because in the indigeonous cultures, it was thought life started nine months in the womb and that death was the return to womb/mother earth (i think there were nine levels to death too). So death was not feared, rather it was the natural course of life and the continuation of life...so Mexico's Day of the Dead is a celebration of the lifecycle of those who have died (not as macabre as I had thought before it was explained to me).

My host family happens to live two houses down from an actor who gets hired every year to dress up as La Catrina. He's been doing this for about 11 years and has made a business combining his passion for graphic design and his passion for acting, seeded in Mex culture and folklore, by opening a store that sells shirts/mugs/jewlry/bingo/decks of cards/magets etc all of which have his interpretation Las Catrinas. Meeting him was a real treat, and we ran into him on the street this afternoon...so I know a celebrity. Check out his website at: http://www.calakitas.com.mx/

4) Bernal, Blue corn gorditas & Bubblee:
I returned to el Pen~on de Bernal to hike up to the 3rd largest monolith in the world...I thought to myself, I'm pretty outdoorsy for a girl who is not outdoorsy. Then afterward we visited a champaign winery (even though they call it bubbly wine b/c only bubbly from France can bee called champaign). We took a tour of the caves where the wines & champaigns are fermented. Mariachi's, a bottle of Brut & Rose`, & friends--it was nice.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Field Trip

First let me say, I love this!

Secondly, I realize I can't change the entire world in two years.

I was debriefing my host family on my field trip this week; we were debating the effectiveness of our work in the grand shceme of things. In the end I expressed that the world is relative & if I can reach one person, then it was worth it.

Mexico is complex, yet it is simple. People live simple lives in a complex system marred by historical events which have had long standing consequences (embedded in the culture & in the way the govt is run). We visited many projects where we saw the struggle of people to exist & prosper on of lands that where declared National Protected Areas (and rightfully so). On top of that, Mexico has a semi-socialist system of 'ejidos' (eh-hi-dos), where hacienda lands were redistributed after the revolution (100 years ago) to the workers; while the land still belongs to the govt, ejido stakeholders have a deathgrip on the land, its use & funding the govt sends... so in a way, the decendants of the peasants have become the proprietors their ansestors revolted against---meanwhile families grow bigger & lands mass remains the same, so naturally there exists a struggle with overuse of natural resources.

Bueno, bueno...enough of things that can't be changed--i'd rather focus on people...b/c people do change...and slowly so do cultural more`s (i hope i'm using that word in context).

Right now, all i have is 'the jist of it'...so as i know more, i will share. But I hope you get that the 'jist of it' is to share ideas & life & to mutually make each other's lives better.