Mexico Report #3

More and more we are meeting folks expressing the desire to go to America. At first some people just saw us as rich gringos and approached us thinking we had the money and influence to get them into the country somehow. They know better now. :) Just for starters we aren't as rich as most Americans and we try to explain that the situation at the border amounts to a small war with few getting through and being treated very inhumanely in the process. They don't realize many die in the desert from dehydration and sun stroke trying to reach Tucson or Phoenix if they do get over the border.

We suffer greatly when we hear about their yearning to get across the border and "better" themselves. How do we tell them that (relative to home) an empty, sterile society awaits them there, that they will be separated from the crucial support of their family and friends and church and strong customs, and that the souls of so many of their countrymen who have managed to make it into the United States begin to wither and die there. How do we convince them that they will be worse off than they are now?! They have no idea how much it costs to live in the U.S., for example, and don't realize that all those amazing high wages they hear about will disappear before they get out of the grocery store and have paid their rent. Mindy gets asked frequently how much something she just bought would cost in the states, and they are flabbergasted and dumbfounded when we she tells them. As much as she has begun to gain their respect, they just can't believe she is telling them the truth.

The following picture shows some tomatoes, grapes, and avocados which Mindy bought the other day for a grand total of $3.10. How much would this cost at Safeway?!

Several of Mindy's new friends know that she found a dog last month on the road that had been hit by a car and that he would have died there if she hadn't taken him home. We had a total of four vet visits in all which included setting a broken leg, several shots at the office, and anti-biotic and anti-inflamatory boosters they gave Mindy to take home to give to him between visits. Mindy has a nursing background and knew how to give injections. The total cost for all this was only $40! We get only blank stares when we tell people that would have been cost ten times that much in the U.S.

We named this newest member of our family Blanco. He is slowly healing from massive swelling, a broken leg, and infection which put his temperature at near fatal levels before he got his shots, but he will never gain use of one leg it looks like. He is such a sweet dog. He sleeps with us in the Airstream along with Ty and Ghost. It's mighty cozy in there but Mindy says doesn't mind bedding down with four other guys... even though one is a cat and the other three are real dogs. :)

We were quite ashamed of ourselves when we broke a solemn oath the other day not to hook up the TV antenna on the roof of the Airstream. We were quite surprised to get seven channels with good reception clear out here in the boonies and to find out we had quite an education in store for us. (We are using a good antenna and a 25 db signal amplifier.) We find listening to movies in Spanish is mighty good practice and there a lot of them being shown including some older black and white ones which are real honest to goodness Spanish films - not just something from Hollywood with dubbed Spanish. Hearing the Spanish is our biggest problem. We can speak a reasonable amount now and ask lots of questions. The trouble comes in understanding the answers we get! :)

Learning Spanish is an awesome task... We spend many hours a week studying our Learning Language Course and it's CD's, listening to the Pimsleur series of Spanish CD's (24 thirty minute lessons -- all aural, no workbook), writing out flash cards with new words and looking through them at random intervals through out the day, trying to speak as much Spanish to each other as possible at home, and listening to Spanish on the radio and now the television... And of course Mindy, in particular, gets lots of practice talking with the many folks she buys from in town. She must shop at many tiny little shops (tiendas). No super market one-stop shopping here, and frankly good ridence! The store owners or vendors on the street all have many questions for her as they try to learn about us and about America, and they must find out what she has been doing since last time she was there (maybe only the day before). We ask people in for coffee at our trailer from time to time and are getting more invites now to visit people in their homes. This is all wonderful practice in learning Spanish but we must still spend time looking up words during a conversation or asking our friends to write out the word for us in our notebook. Everyone is so tolerant as we clobber the pronunciation, use the wrong word altogether, and generally must look pretty silly spluttering and stammering and struggling the remember what we learned but have totally spaced in the heat of battle...

We have a "Franklin" electronic translator to type in either the English or Spanish word and get an instant translation. Press the talk button and you can hear the correct pronunciation of the word. Press another button for a verb and the word is instantly conjugated for you in all tenses. Sometimes Mindy talks people into typing a difficult word on the translator keyboard, but the machine intimidates. The kids have discovered Mindy has this gadget and clamor now to borrow it for awhile and punch in words. Some of the kids are learning a little English at school and want to practice on her... The Fanklin is an indefensible tool for us in our quest to learn Spanish. The amazing thing will also convert currency and measurements, store new addresses and phone numbers, and generate a personal word list for further study.

So many people here are Catholic, of course and so very serious about their faith. Christmas and Easter and other religious days are occasions for parades and celebrations of the most amazing variety and frequency. We went to Teocelo the other day ravenously hungry for a nice dinner out and found the entire town of Teocelo had shut down for a parade to celebrate the beginning of Santa Sean (Holy Week) on Palm Sunday. Even a favorite taco stand on the plaza was close d... but oh what a lovely photo-op anyway with the Bougainvillea in full bloom right now and growing wild above the stand.

Very few people seemed to watching the parade. Most were walking as part of a grand procession through the streets... Note a statue of the figure of Jesus on his donkey at the left of the picture in the crowd being carried and thus reenacting the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

There were many ladies making "palmas" on the street outside the church, a simple woven basket of palm leaves filled with heavenly smelling herbs and flowers. Mindy bought one of course (only 10 pesos). These are to be blessed during the Palm Sunday Mass. Here is a picture of Mindy's palma and the lady who made it for her. Her name is Valerie and is one of Mindy's favorites in Teocelo.













We often rely on "The People's Guide to Mexico" for information on local customs and observations. They had warned that most stores would be closing after 3 PM on Good Friday (Santo Viennese) when Jesus is thought to have been crucified. We should have known that in Teocelo all stores would have been closed all day long. A long parade of people carrying crosses filed through the streets starting at dawn, stopping at each of the 12 "stations" of Jesus's journey to the cross with a service and reading at each one. We are so moved by the strong faith of these very special people.

Tiny Teocelo amazingly enough has it's own AM radio station which switched to all classical music after 3 PM on Good Friday. We heard a very moving recital of the passion story on Radio Teocelo the day before with a Bach flute concerto played in the background. We think it was from the Benedictine Monastery here which we have learned has it's own weekly radio program. This lovely place is in fact only two miles down the road from where we live. The monastery itself is a simple square building where the monks live, and it does not have a sanctuary. There is also a huge greenhouse where the monks grow most of their own food. Sunday Mass is held in a large open-air tent with small stools to sit on. Anyone from the community is welcome to attend. Chickens wander and in and out through the service. Our camera batteries were down the day we went to Mass there so we haven't any pictures yet of the monastery or Sunday service but we will return to worship there.

Tiny Teocelo continues to amaze us with what it has to offer. Since I am disabled and can walk only a short distance, swimming is one of the best ways I can get adequate exercise. But where to find a pool? One day we headed out to find one, knowing full well it was probably a wild goose chase without driving to a bigger city to the north. Right on the edge of town, however, we discovered a small resort with tiny rustic cabins for rent and a BIG POOL. Cost was only $1.50 a day per person to swim there.

As you can see dear reader, life in paradise is a lot of hard work but somebody has to do it...

To be continued...