Sunday, October 30, 2005

La Drama!!

Oh my drama can rear it's ugly head.

I got the bill for the electricity & phone the other day and told Ramon about it. The bills both say that they are from June to October, so I asked him how he wanted to handle the June, July and August portion of the bill. He ran to the neighbor to get him to intervene and talk to me. I told the neighbor I got here in September, and am happy to pay my portion, but wanted to know how to handle the June, July and August portion. He went to Blanca to get her to explain to me that I had to pay all of it because I didn't understand the bill and they were all running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I got really mad and felt they were taking advantage of me and said again I would pay my portion, but not for the months preceding me even being here. It's turned into a huge drama, worthy of some tv drama or comedy...I'm not sure.

Then Mari, the lady who helps me with cleaning the house, got involved and wanted to let me know that Blanca isn't paying her properly and she doesn't know what to do.

THEN, all the kids have bought hamsters this last week and are all having a blast playing with them and making homes for them and taking care of them. Sierra took her money and bought a cage for it and promised Samady (Mari's son) that he could have it and her hamster when we leave. They are a really poor family and Mari couldn't afford a hamster, so we thought this was a great idea. Well, Miros (Blanca's daughter) wanted the house and asked Sierra if SHE could have it when we left...but only the house and not the hamster. Sierra told her that she'd promised it to Samady, so now Miros and her mom are mad, and some of the kids are teasing Sierra that Samady is her "boyfriend"...which is totally not the case, but you know how kids teasing can get to you when you are 11.

I hate drama, and I especially hate being in the middle of it. Can't we all just get along???

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Sounds of Mexico

Mexico is a loud country...there is just no getting around that. It's an interesting exercise to begin to learn the sounds of Mexico...beyond the clip-clop of the burro's feet and the crowing of the rooster, the shouts of children and the bang-bang-bang of fireworks is an entire language made up of sounds.

In the morning we'll often hear a major rattling...turns out it's chains being drug behind a truck to announce the coming of the garbage man. Everyone out to take out their garbage...the garbage truck is here!

Later we hear a garbled and variously pitched..."nanner neeny nanner neeny"...that's the water truck, here to deliver your water!

Sometimes we hear loud music blasted from megaphones on top of cars...that's the gas company with tanks of gas.

Everyone has a different sound...from different water companies to gas (propane or natural?), fruit trucks, ladies with carts of yogurt to sell, kids begging, people asking for money for all manner of purposes, name it. And everyone understands these sounds and knows what's coming by the sound coming up the street. If they need it, they scoot outside to purchase their wares. It's so much fun!

The old people just sit in front of the houses for most of the day and watch the goings on, while the kids are in and out playing and helping in the house. The rythm of the day is puncuated by the sounds that travel up and down the streets. I love it!

Updates on Itzel

Oh, my little Itzel!! She wasn't at school all week last week. This week she was there Tuesday, but not Thursday. I've talked with the teachers a little bit about her situation and it's so heartbreaking. Her mother is embarrassed for anyone to see her and doesn't take her out of the house. She doesn't do anything with her to help her to grow at all.

I really do believe that she could walk with the help of a walker and learn to communicate with sign language. I asked the regular teachers if the mom would be offended if I bought her a walker and began to work with her to learn to use it and they said no. I just love this little girl and my heart is breaking...I'd love to just take her with me!

I'm going to call the school for disabled kids and see if they can help in some way and maybe get her into classes there with her mom so her mom can learn too....Please, please keep praying on this!

As for Andrea....well, I think that little girl is just a frightened little thing. I got her out of her crib, but only if she is totally connected to me and her blanket. She doesn't like the other kids touching her or being near her, but I am pushing her to do that a little bit at a time. I actually got her to laugh, which was so much fun...she actually smiled and laughed!! I'll keep you updated on how she is doing, too.

Friday, October 21, 2005

No clever titles

I just came from my church here in Tepa...Cristo es el camino (Christ is the Way), and spent some time speaking with the pastor there. He is a wonderful man! We talked for a long time about what I am doing here and hoping to accomplish. I also told him where I am at and where I am heading from here.

In November we will be taking clothes, food and other items to Michoacan to a poor village to distribute everything and also to have a church service. Si & I will go along, and I'm really excited about it. We may stay behind a day or two to go to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve which is where 10's of thousands of Monarch butterflies migrate to for the winter to lay their eggs. It's a pretty amazing process they go through...but more on that another time.

Anyway, so I offered to sort and organize and wash all the clothes. I may have gotten in over my head....there are about 15 of those huge yard waste sized bags filled with clothes...and all very dirty...that I get to wash in my (rather small) wringer-washer (oh, about 6 hours a load) and then hang to dry and then get off the line and fold and organize back into the bags. PRAY FOR ME!!! We leave November 17, so I have only a few weeks to do this, in addition to everything else. Well, I'm just excited that I can help out, so it's all good.

I also will be speaking with the youth this week about missions and organizing them to deliver food with me. I did this last week and it was great. You cannot imagine what $500 pesos will buy! I went to the market and bought 12 kilos of tortillas (a kilo is 2.2 pounds), 6 kilos of beans, 3 kilos of pozole, and at least 2-4 kilos each of green beans, apples, bananas, oranges, lettuce, radishes, cactus, potatoes, 3 different varieties of peppers, and several other things that I can't rememer right now and are fruits and vegetables we don't get up in the States! It was over 100 pounds of food!! We drove around looking for people to give it to and ended up finding about 6 families, with a total of close to 50 people represented in those families. Sierra handed out candy and little toys to the kids (stuff we bought from Oriental Trading Company) and made up the bags of food.

I'm excited to get the kids helping, and I think they will find a real blessing in reaching out to others in this way. The pastor would like to expose them to missions, so I am also going to try to see if we can organize a trip to Chapala where there is Youth With A Mission (YWAM) campus. We'll see if that will happen, but I hope it does. Do please pray about these things for us and I will keep you updated on the progress.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


We have never had cable before, and therefore, no tv...we have a tv set, but it's really only good to watch movies on with the DVD player. We have cable weird is that??

I now know why I never wanted cable...there is SO MUCH junk out there...and the commercials should be banned. They are awful...we've learned to mute the tv during commercials and do something else so we don't have to look at that junk. Although I have to admit...the tv can be addicting! We found ourselves watching way too much and I had to put a limit on it.

One show we have found that we adore is "Touched By An Angel" this is a show worth watching. I cry like a baby at every episode! I'd heard of it, and now I get to watch it. It is an amazing's about Angels who are sent by God to help people in various situations. One of them is the Angel of Death, and he escorts people to be judged by God when they die.

Whenever the Angels reveal themselves to people, they ALWAYS say..."I am a messenger of God, and He has sent me here with a message for you...He wants you to know that He loves you very much"'s so incredible - no matter what they did or who they are, the first thing they are told is about God's Love. And isn't that what the Bible tells us? About God's incredible love for us, regardless of what we've done or who we are. It's so uplifting.

It also goes into choices...and the fact that we have free will...therefore, the Angels can never "make" someone do something...and they don't know what will happen or what the outcome it...the person ultimately has to decide what to do and how to live.

I understand this was a hugely popular show...and I'm so glad, because it gives us some of God's Truth right in prime time - amidst all the other junk out there, it's a nugget of gold.

Please Pray for Us

I was looking through some missions websites, and came across this daily prayer list for missionaries and their comes from the Covenant World Missions...Covenant is the denomination I belong to, and my home church is Redwood Covenant Church in Santa Rosa,'s a great list (I modified it only slightly), and really hits the areas that are so very important to Si and please, do pray for us when you think of it. Thank you so much!

How to Pray for Missionaries and Their Kids
For Missionaries:
- Relationship with God
- Warm personal devotions
- Growth in spiritual life
- Discernment of God's leading
- Awareness of God's power
- Protection from temptation and sin

- Physical and Emotional Health
- Physical strength, good health
- Freedom from depression and loneliness
- Wise financial management
- Personal and family safety
- Time to smell the flowers

- Family Life
- Parenting skills, happy children
- Open communication in the home

- Communication
- Fluency in the language, ability to communicate
- Cultural adaptation and understanding
- Relationship with home church

- Effective Ministry
- Open doors for witness and evangelism
- Responsive hearers
- Best use of time

- Relationships with Co-workers
- Honesty and openess
- Affirmation, appreciation of others
- Submission to one another in love
- A sense of humor

- Adopted Country
- Political situation and economic conditions
- Issues of wealth and poverty
- Relationship with government, visas
- Spiritual battles
- Strong national church
- Need for new missionaries

For missionaries' children:
- Relationship with God
- Acceptance of Christ as personal savior
- Spiritual growth
- Personal devotional life
- Protection from temptation and sin
- Fellowship with other Christian kids and adults

- Relationship with Family
- Acceptance of parent's call and work
- Open communications with parents
- Love and happiness and trust in the family
- Affirmation received from parents and siblings

- Friends and School
- Dealing well with loneliness, homesickness
- If home schooling, able to learn and sustain interest
- Compatible friends, playmates, activities

- Adopted Country
- Ease in language learning
- Friendships with nationals
- Appreciation of local culture and activities
- Church participation with enjoyment

- Safety and Health
- Protection from accidents and diseases
- Protection for dangerous situations
- Peace, stability and integrity of local government
- Ability to trust God when crises arise

- Home Assignment Years
- Dealing with changes and loss
- Fitting in to school, church
- Finding friends for one year
- Accepting differences between home and field

- Re-entry to Home Country
- Choosing the right school, job, or profession
- Resisting temptation
- Handling finances, other matters with maturity
- Overcoming loneliness

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ramon the new Roomie

As you may remember, we are living in the house of a man whose wife recently passed away. She had had cancer for the past few years and lost her battle less than 2 months ago. Apparently she was a wonderful woman.

The house is pretty dark, and I think the style would be considered "garrish"...not my style, but it's alright. There are 3 bedrooms, but the master is kept locked. Sierra and I share one room and have use of the rest of the house. I had pictures...but, you heard that story.

About a week ago, Ramon (the owner) came down to Mexico. I guess he was too sad to be where his wife died (in Anaheim, CA) and wanted to get away for awhile, and also to get rid of the stuff in the house (and there is a LOT of stuff!). We weren't sure when he'd get day he wasn't coming til December, the next he was coming in two weeks, then in November...he finally showed up a week ago Saturday.

It was a bit awkward, and I wasn't sure how we'd do with sharing the space with a stranger. It's been a little tough, but not the end of the world. The first few days he ended up pretty sick with heart problems and low blood sugar...I was really afraid he'd come here to die and was really, really hoping he wouldn't!

He is trying to sell everything...and he wants really high prices for it all, so he spends a lot of time arguing with people about the value of his stuff. He thinks anything less then 10 years old is "basically new"...but somehow I get the feeling that if he was buying this stuff he'd want it dirt cheap. My neighbor Blanca says he is "stingy"...and hits her elbow - apparently the Mexican version of being tight-fisted!

Blanca is doing everything for him...making his meals, cleaning his house out, keeping on top of his medication...and he only complains. She wants a few things like kitchen stuff and he is charging her outrageous prices! It's a little tough living with him...but he is letting us live here and he is letting us use the car around town, so I it is really okay.

People have different gifts...I have the gift of loving children and poor people and desperate people. I like old people, but my gift is not in taking care of them...I get very impatient. Ramon isn't my favorite, but I prayed God would give me a good attitude (because it was lacking)...and I really can say I've seen a change in my attitude...I'm feeling more soft towards him, and wanting to reach out to help more...I made beans and soup for him one night and am trying to offer to take him places and that sort of thing. I am trying to turn the cheek when he complains or takes our waters and sodas. It is a struggle as my flesh continues to want him to be appreciative, and to take count of things I do for, it's still something I'm praying about!

As I said, my camera is missing...I am afraid that his niece may have taken it, but everyone has made this a big drama with everyone telling me who they think took it and who isn't trustworthy...oh, how I hate that!!! Everyone talking about it makes me more sad than the actual fact that it is missing. Some of the adults blame the kids and say they are "bad" kids...when I've only seen gracious, polite and kind children here in our neighborhood (one noted exception of an older boy...but he's nowhere around the kids who play together with Sierra).

So, that is the short story of Ramon, our new Roomie...I have to remember...this is HIS house, and we are thankful to have a place to stay. He really isn't all that bad, and is mostly just stuck in his ways. I am looking at this as an "opportunity" for growth and compassion and learning.

Monday, October 17, 2005


On Friday we thought it would be fun to take off for the weekend...we're realizing we don't have much time left here and don't want to just laze around all weekend long. We were faced with rainy weather most of the weekend, so weren't sure where to go...we finally decided on Guadalajara, which is only about an hour and a half away.

We got there Friday afternoon and went to Tonala, a suburb of Guadalajara. We walked around a bit and looked at the crafts, and then we went to Tlaquepaque and got a hotel. We walked around Tlaquepaque for awhile, and then went to our hotel to go to bed.

The next morning we got up and took a taxi to the zoo. Our taxi driver told us he was a missionary!! We were really excited and told him we were, too! He was so excited. He told us all about a group of people he is with who "dance for Jesus" and showed me a picture of him carrying a cross on a rural road...he said he carried it, dancing and singing, for 14 hours. We had a great time talking...we was what I would call a Charismatic Catholic! He was very proud of the fact that he'd been married for 24 years and had never been with anyone but his wife. In Mexican culture it is not unusual for men to have mistresses (part of the "machismo" phenomenon), so this was saying something. We agreed to have him pick us up after the zoo closed at 6:30 pm.

We went to the cost $40 pesos for me and $1 peso for Sierra!! We also bought tickets to go on their "Africa" tour where you ride in an open air truck through an area where the animals live in a more natural setting...the cost? Under $3 dollars for both of us! We made a bee-line to the African Safari, figuring the earlier in the day the better. It was so cool!! There were only about 6 of us and we rode on this bumpy road in the "savannah" and saw all sorts of animals living "wild". At one point we stopped and a huge giraffe came over to our truck and we got to feed him was great! We were glad we did the safari.

After, we went and saw the other animals, too...the zoo is set up really well and is a nice place. They have a jungle area, an Australian outback area, kiddie zoo, reptile area, nocturnal area. In the jungle area they have an aviary where you can go in and see all sorts of birds and also a monkey house with little squirrel monkeys - for $5 pesos you can buy a little cup of food to feed the monkeys. Oh my gosh - this was definitely the highlight of the day! We ended up buying something like 6 cups! We quickly learned if we just sat still that a bunch of these adorable little critters would be crawling all over us pronto. At one point I had 5 or 6 on me, with two on my head...they were picking at my hair!! I was getting REAL nervous that they would get in a fight on my head and bite me! Sierra was having a blast...they seemed really drawn to her and they were all over and around her. We were really laughing and having a good time.

One BIG bummer that happened this camera has disappeared. I'm so disappointed. I have turned the house upside down looking for it, and it's simply gone. I don't know if someone took it or the old man living here sold it by accident (more on that later). It had the pictures from Mexico City, Guadalajara (last month, not this trip), our new "home" and Tepatitlan...all gone. Please pray it turns up.

Since we didn't have our usual camera, we bought one of those disposable, hopefully we'll get a few pictures with that...but I won't be able to post them like I could with my digital. Big Sigh.

Back to the to the zoo...or actually a part of it, is an amusement park with rides - basic fair-type rides, but rides nonetheless. Sierra was really wanting to go there...I mean, they put in right in plain view, what kid wouldn't??? So, we was $10 to get in, including all of the rides, so I thought it was a pretty good deal. We did the standard Pirate Boat, Bumper Cars, Roller Coasters and all was fun in that amusement park, fair like, wait in line and get your 2 minutes of thrills sort of way. There weren't many people there, so we did get in a lot of rides.

After a full day of this, boy were we tired! Especially me, being old and all. Whew! We got out to the entrance and our friend the taxi driver was there (remember him?)...he laughed at how tired we looked. Sierra swore she wasn't as tired as me, but then practically fell asleep on the way home. She was hungry for BK, so he took us to one and I ran in and got us some food to go. We got back to our hotel and ate, watched tv for a little bit and hit the sack.

The next morning (Sunday) we got up and had breakfast (did I mention it was included with the hotel?? cool!) and met a woman from the US who lives in Mexico now...she's been here 11 years and doesn't speak Spanish! How is that possible?? After breakfast we walked around and window-shopped a bit in Tlaquepaque, and then went to the Centro in search of a bookstore that had English language small feat, surprisingly! We were sadly unsuccessful and found only a few over-priced magazines ($6 to $7 dollars for a magazine!!). I especially want to find "The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe" as we have every other book in the series but that one, and we have some lessons we found for it with the movie coming out and all. Bummer!

We ended up getting a few of those over-priced magazines, if only for the luxury of reading in our own language...and decided we were too tired to keep going, so we headed for the bus station and on home.

We ended up getting home about 6:30 or so...had a little dinner, took showers, got a load of laundry started and hopped into bed. It was good to get out of town and and come home exhausted at the end of the weekend.

*POP* goes the finger!

Everyone sing the tune of "Pop goes the Weasel"...

Mom & Si are doing laundry
Puttin' the clothes through the ringer
Si's gets her hand caught in the roller
*POP* goes the finger!

Oh yes...the song almost captures the grossness! many blogs about my daughter's accidents.

So, in order to do laundry, we have a really old washer. We have to fill it up (15 minutes), put in some soap and swish it around to mix it, then put in the clothes. It agitates for a few minutes, and we drain it (move clothes out of way to drain better)...then we re-fill it for the rinse cycle...repeat this process about 3 times to get a good rinse. Finally, drain water, and turn on ringer - put clothes through ringer and then hang on clothes line.

One thing we've learned is how to be weather's a real bummer when you start your laundry (the washing takes at least 4 hours per load...and this is if you're on "top" of it the whole time) and then it starts getting overcast and rainy! It's happened. One night the laundry was out and we had to run up to the roof to pull it down at 10:30 at night when a storm started. So, we've had to learn how to predict weather patterns, which is interesting.

Well, getting back to the subject of this post...we were in the process of putting the clothes through the ringer and Sierra was pushing the clothes through and I was getting them out of the washer and handing them to her when all of a sudden I heard a scream...I freaked and hit the big red button that releases the ringer ('s a safety feature!). Her pinky finger and knuckle looked a little funny and she couldn't bend it. I was worried she'd broken her finger.

I went next door to Blanca's house and asked her to look at it and to see if she thought it was broken and I needed to take her to a doctor. She thought maybe it was sprained. I asked her where to go and she came with me to show me.

We drove about 15 minutes to the outskirts of town and pulled into a rundown neighborhood - Blanca asked where some guy was and we went to his house, but he wasn't there. We were told to come back after 3 pm - about another hour.

We go to work at the orphanage at 4 pm, so we went back to the house and I gave Sierra some ice for her hand and we waited a little while. At about 3, Sierra and I headed back over to this guys house. We got there and knocked on the door and some really, really old guy came out looking a little scruffy. I asked if he was the doctor and he said yes and invited us into his front room where there was a curtain pulled across the side of the room. He pulled the curtain back to reveal an old cot with a blanket. I was not inspired with confidence! I wondered if this was one of those back-country "healers" you hear about! I told him what had happened and he felt around Sierra's finger and hand a bit, and then suddenly *POP*...he put her knuckle back in place. Apparently she had dislocated knuckle. He said she would be sore for a few days or so, but would be fine. I asked how much we owed him and he said whatever we wanted, so I gave him $40 pesos and we were on our way!

We went to the orphanage for our English class, and then to the pharmacy to get one of those finger braces for her. It's been a few days and she is still a little sore, but can bend her hand pretty well. We've been singing our own little version of "Pop goes the Weasel" ever since!

Friday, October 14, 2005


So, we went to church last weekend again and it was another great service. We are talking about pride and humility, and really going in-depth about it. It's great!

This is our last week working at all three week it will be just the pre-school and the orphanage. I'm looking forward to that, even though I feel bad about missing the kids at the other school.

At the pre-school, we work with the babies...there are 15 in the class. We are there on Tuesday and Thursday mornings until about 1:30 pm. It's so interesting, the differences between American pre-schools and Mexican pre-schools. This is considered a very good school, and is run by the Catholic Church. The woman who runs is it Sister Leonor, a sweet and gracious woman.

I originally went to school to be a pre-school teacher, and spent several years teaching. I took a lot of pride in my room, having different areas for the children where they could explore their world without getting too overwhelmed...reading area, block area, home play area, etc. We had circle time and snack time and play time and nap time. We had units to learn basic concepts and weekly lesson plans that reinforced the concepts. I really enjoyed it, and was good at it.

The pre-school, on the other hand, is totally different. The rooms are basically plain...there really isn't a lot in them. In the baby room where we are at there are some cribs, a changing table and a few things to climb on. There are exactly 3 old, dirty doll missing an arm and most of it's hair. One duplo block (like a giant lego) and a small plastic horse. That's it. One toy per 5 kids! The babies that don't walk are mostly left in walkers or in their strollers. The babies that do walk basically just walk around. The wierd thing is the babies seem totally happy and content. The teachers are loving and responsive, but with 15 babies they don't do any sort of lessons or games or singing.

There are 3 rooms, all fairly narrow and is the "outside" play room with a few climbing type structures. The other has the changing table and two cribs and is the smallest of all, but is where the teachers spend the most of the day. The third has 5 or so other cribs and is for the sleeping babies. The kids are often put 2-3 to a crib and the sheets are not changed regularly. All are fed with one spoon out of the same bowl. There is no sink in the room to wash hands so the teachers use that no-water type stuff for their hands.

The kids eat breakfast at 9 am, and then all get changed and play until about Noon when one teacher fixes all their hair. At 1 pm they eat lunch...the walkers go to the kitchen and the babies get fed. After lunch they all get changed into new diapers and new clothes and then get laid down for bed.

Sierra plays with one little girl named Esperanza...she is about 1 1/2 and is so cute. Sierra spoils her rotten...she carries her all the time and does whatever Espe wants! She can't stand to hear her cry or look unhappy, so she is constantly entertaining her. She loves to change her closthes and feed her and do her hair...she's even changing her diaper! It's really sweet.

There are a lot of cute babies...big brown eyes and lots of black hair - so precious! There is one little girl that I really want to love. She is disabled..she is 5 years old, but looks about 2. They said her disability is that she has cerebral paralysis, but I don't know what this means, really. Her eyes are set too widely apart and they don't focus well. She has the look of autism, and she doesn't have good motor functioning. She doesn't talk or really make much sound at all except she occasionally cries...even this is very quiet and sounds so pitiful. It's not a demanding cry, but a heartbroken one that pierces my heart. They generally leave her in the walker all the time, but I've been taking her out of the walker and holding her and loving on her. I think she could learn to walk with therapy, and even to communicate...perhaps by sign language. I've been working with her to get her to stand up and roll over. I feel like I want to just love her as much as I can and whisper God's love into her little soul. Her name is Itzel.

I'm glad we're at the pre-school. I think Sierra is learning a lot by helping out with the babies and it's great to see her fall in love with Espe. I feel like I'm doing something important by loving on Itzel. I think it was a good choice to stay there.

New Directions

So, we'd found a church and were really happy about that. We were also working at 3 jobs, as well as homeschooling and keeping the house, Rotary meetings and whatnot. I was feeling like we'd taken on too much.

I'd been asked to teach some private English lessons and was feeling like we were just going, going, going too much....we had gone from one extreme to another. One of the reasons we wanted to leave the US for awhile was to slow our pace down, spend more time with each other and with others, having deeper relationships and learning to appreciate and live life more.

We were both feeling sick...stuffy heads, runny noses, sore throats...we were in the full throes of a cold! Sierra wasn't getting her schoolwork done and we were so tired we weren't spending much time just visiting.

Most of all, we felt like we were just not doing what we'd set out to do. We felt like volunteers, and nothing more...and we didn't feel like we were being much of a blessing or really making a difference. It had been a few weeks and it just didn't seem like what we were here for.

I talked to Sierra about it to see how she felt...she also felt we were overdoing it. We wanted time to explore still, and to do school more, and to spend time together and with friends...not to mention time to just relax. I had decided to let Sierra choose which school she wanted to be at so that she would have more "buy-in" with what we were doing and she could have some ownership of it. She chose the pre-school...she had bonded with a little girl named Esperanza and was totally in love! She wanted to be with her.

Since I didn't want to be a flake at the other school, we went back for another week so we could let them know and not leave suddenly. This week was the last week for us at the school for the handicapped kids. I am sad that we won't be there because I really think these kids are special, but I do feel it is the best route for us.

God Moves

So, backtracking a day after teaching English we were waiting for the bus and there was a woman who was there also waiting for the bus. She struck me as beautiful. Sierra had taken up a lot of space on the bench, so I had her clean up her stuff and asked the woman if she wanted to sit down. She declined and said she preferred to sit in the shade.

We waited for the bus and when it finally came, I glanced back at her and noticed she was putting a book in her seemed to me it was a Bible. We all got on the bus and went on our way. I kept wondering...was that a Bible? Is she a Christian? I wanted to ask, but the bus was crowded and we weren't close enough to talk.

Finally, our bus stop came and Sierra and I got off the bus. I was surprised that the woman got off, too! I decided to be bold and just asked, were you reading your Bible? She said yes, she was. So, being bold again (this is very unlike me...I'm not usually bold in matters concerning anything personal), I asked if she was a Christian. She said yes and I, I mean, are you a Christian or a Catholic? She again responded she was a Christian. I was really excited! You see, there are many, many Catholics in Mexico, but not many Christians...I believe it's something like 93% of Mexicans consider themselves Catholic, 4-6% Chrisitian and 1-3% "other".

I've come to think that mostly the Catholicism here is symbolic and somewhat superstitious. It's interesting that everytime the bus goes by a church, the entire bus will do the cross symbol and kiss their fingers. It's a comfort to people, but I don't see a lot of people whose lives are dictated by what their faith says. I suppose the same is true of US "christians"...people who identify themselves by a particular religion, but it really has nothing to do with their day to day lives. Maybe earlier in American History, christianity was more embedded in the culture, as it is here in Mexico...thus making it an interesting intertwining of belief, culture and habit. I have a lot of thoughts on this, but won't bore you with my ill-thought-out philosophies!

So, anyway...back to the bus stop and the woman...I told her I was so excited to meet her as are missionaries here and working with the orphanage, but felt like I was not being "fed" and was anxious to find a church. She told me that the church was just up the street, so we went there with her...turns out it was only 3-4 blocks from where we are living! We went in with her to see it, and visited with her for awhile. Her brother is the pastor, and she is the Sunday School teacher for the pre-schoolers. They are building the church still, and so it is not all done. They have two rooms set aside for missionaries! I was really excited and felt so great. They are collecting donations of clothes and blankets to take to Michoacan in November - I told her I'd love to help out and go with them to Michoacan. Her name is Maria Elena, and she was also excited. She said at the bus stop she had had a feeling we were Christians! This made me feel really good. We told her we'd see her at church on Sunday.

That Sunday we got to church about 10:45. They start prayer at 10:30 and service at 11. Boy, do these people pray!! People were walking all over the church, praying out loud. It seemed pretty chaotic, but in an exciting way. Everyone was really passionate about their particular prayers. It wasn't being led by anyone and people weren't particularly praying together, but everyone was together...that sounds strange, I know. It was really cool!

Service started slowly, with people still praying while music started. By about 11:15 or so, everyone was singing along with the band and more people were showing up. The music was really uplifting...mostly fast songs, and people were dancing and some people were even jumping and dancing around the building with tamborines and other musical instruments. Everyone was clapping and raising their hands - it was great. I hadn't realized how "hungry" I'd been for Christian fellowship until I got there...I was overwhelmed with emotion most of the time and kept crying. Sierra kept asking why, which was really bugging me!!! I remembered really thinking my mom was wacky when she'd cry in church all the time, and how I'd ask her what was wrong...and now I know how she felt!

Everyone was so welcoming and it was great to be there. There was a girl who was turning 15 and was having her Quincinera, which is a sort of "coming out" party for young ladies, announcing them as young women. It's quite an ordeal and is as elaborate and fancy as a wedding. Families often spend as much as $20,000 US dollars for this party! She showed up at church in this beautiful baby blue formal and her hair done just so...she was gorgeous. The pastor had everyone go up and greet and hug her and the congregation was invited to the party afterwards. His sermon focused on Ephesians 6...about children obeying and honoring their parents, and the promise that they would live a long, happy life...and also for parents not to exasperate their children and to remember that it is more important to capture your childs heart than it is to have little robots. It was a great much as I understood!! Haha!

So, we didn't get out of church until...oh, about was like a 3 1/2 hour sermon! Yikes! I figured my pastor back home, John Strong, would have loved it! He is always chagrined at having to keep it at an hour and fifteen.

We were supposed to have left at 2 to go to a party (every Sunday there is a party of some sort), and we were late. I didn't really want to go...after working all week we were tired and I just wanted to relax a bit. We got home and found out our friends were waiting for us, so I felt really bad to tell them we weren't going! However, that is what we did, and then we enjoyed the rest of the day hanging out together.

Overdoing it

Monday came bright and early...we had to be at the school at 8:30 am. This means up by 7 am to get ready and out the door at 8 am to catch the bus. The bus is about 20 minutes, and then we have to walk 6 blocks to the school. We got a hot chocolate to drink along the way.

We got to the school and couldn't find the director. We were supposed to be checking out different classrooms every time, but didn't know where to go. Someone told us to just go back to the one we'd been at before. We got there and the teacher told us he had to go for an appointment and he'd see us later. Another girl was there as well. Some of the kids remembered us and that was fun.

The kids were wild. They wouldn't listen to anything and everyone seemed really wound up and bothered. One boy in particular was really having a hard time and was screaming and kicking. It was totally out of my range of ability and the kids were not listening to me at all. I asked the girl if she'd been here before...turns out she is a student teacher, but is usually with another class. She should have been taking control of this class, but wasn't doing anything. I felt like I had to take charge and it was only my second day as a volunteer!! The kids were really hitting each other a lot, and out of their seats and wouldn't sit down. One girl named Sandra kept running over and taking the paint off the shelves, and also the markers. She would run away when I tried to get it from her.

Two girls were putting their sweaters and backpacks on their desks to block out another girl and so the third girl was crying. Another boy, Erik, started throwing things and really freaking out. He was pulling everything off the shelves and throwing it...puzzles, chalk, everything. The sub was doing nothing but saying "oh my". I said...I'm going for help!

I went to the office and asked for someone to help us. They got the school counselor and she came in to was total mayhem and she really had to work to get those kids under control. Erik and another girl never did and spent time with me and her forcing them to sit down and not hit, kick, bite or throw. was a hard day! I was exhausted.

The next day we started at the pre-school, working with the babies. Sierra was supposed to help with the 3 year olds, but decided she wanted to be with me. She had a terrible attitude and was getting in the cribs and demanding my attention because she was jealous I was holding babies. I was so mad at her! I was embarrassed! Otherwise, the babies were cute and it was fun to hold them.

That week went on, and the next, and we continued to work each day, basically from about 8 to 6. We had a break of a few hours in the afternoon, and Sierra was doing her schoolwork. At night we were exhausted. All the babies at the daycare were sick with colds and by Thursday I could feel I was coming down with it, too. I woke up Friday with a sore throat and stuffy nose. By that afternoon, my throat was very sore and I was all clogged up. We decided to take it easy for the weekend.


I had been teaching English at the orphanage for a few days and was really enjoying it. There were about 5 girls who were coming regularly, and they are all really sweet. They are from 11 to 23 years old. I am cautious to ask too many personal questions because I don't want them to feel uncomfortable, but I am curious as to their stories. I hope as we get to know one another better that they will open up to me.

Sierra is enjoying being with the kids, too, and is a natural teacher (which is no surprise!!). She tends to take the younger ones and they play vocabulary games while I tutor the older ones with their homework. We're having a lot of fun coming up with lesson plans and putting together ideas for games to teach them. We are finding that we usually run over by at least 30-45 minutes and I think the nuns are annoyed, but they haven't said anything!

We also started to help out at the school for disabled kids. The first day we were in a class with children of various disabilities, and they are all quite profoundly disabled. They have the abilities of about 2 year olds, but are ages 9 to 20. We helped them with cutting, coloring, matching and that sort of thing. Since they have the ability and mind of 2 year olds, we are also often keeping them from hitting one another and that sort of thing...the thing is, these kids are STRONG!! Mostly, they are really sweet and it's so heartwarming to be with them. I really believe God has a special place for them in heaven. One boy, Martin, is just as sweet as can be...unfortunately, he seems to be somewhat of a target for the other kids and they will just randomly go up and hit him. Sierra has taken him under her wing a bit and that seems to help.

We were scheduled to start at the pre-school the next week.

Volunteer Opportunities

As I said, I was so disappointed about the response I got from the orphanage. I began to doubt if I had heard the Lord correctly...I thought, "Maybe I heard it partly right"...I wasn't sure what to do. I did an internet search for other orphanages in Mexico and put out the word to some other people about what was going on. I found a few orphanages that seemed like something I would like to be involved in and emailed them, but didn't hear back. Many said they needed 3-6 months notice for volunteers. I spoke with some Rotary friends.

Sierra and I were getting pretty bored just hanging around the house all day. School wasn't taking very long and we were spending too much time watching tv. I was praying a lot, asking God what He wanted from us. I still felt that the mission field is where we belonged, but it didn't seem to be working like I had planned.

We went to a birthday party one Sunday for a woman who was turning 88. There were probably 300 people there!! It was as big as a wedding. I found out that her kids throw her this big of a party EVERY year! I ran into some friends I had met from last year...they had been in Rotary but aren't any more. I had really connected with them last year and was disappointed I wouldn't be seeing them at the meetings. I spent quite a bit of time visiting with Jose Luis and fact, they were the ones who had introduced me to the Mother Superior and the orphanage the year before. I told Angelica what was happening and she said we should have lunch the next day and she would tell me about some other places I could do some work at. She told me her sister is a missionary for the Catholic church and just left to go to Africa to work with children there.

The next day I met with Angelica and we spent the morning with her showing me the best places to shop....bread at this store, meat at this one, fruit and vegetables another, cheese at yet another. Shopping is a major undertaking here in Mexico!! Next she took us to a school for disabled children. I could tell she had been there before as everyone knew her and paid her a lot of respect...she told them we wanted to volunteer and we were told we could come 2-3 days per week in the mornings. Next we went to a pre-school, with the same results. In a short amount of time we had 3 jobs and were plenty busy 5 days a week.

We had lunch with Angelica and her family - they are really wonderful people and I am so glad they are our friends. I was happy to have work to do, but a little nervous, too, because it had been such a whirlwind! I figured we'd take it day by day to see how it went.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


We pulled into Tepatitlan around 3 pm and grabbed a taxi to head to Martin and Blanca's house, who were going to help us get settled. I had met them last year when I was here with Rotary for the Festival de Hermandad...Martin loves to sing and is a real party guy. When we got to their house, Martin was out of town but Blanca was in and welcomed us warmly. We spent the day visiting and getting acquainted. They have 4 kids, one of which is the same age as Sierra so they had a good time playing.

Blanca explained that Martin's aunt lived alone a few blocks from the plaza and that she didn't really like to live alone and had said we could live with her. I wasn't too happy about this as I really wanted to live alone, but Blanca explained that there really aren't any furnished apartments here in town to rent. We went to visit with Martin's aunt and she was a nice woman. Her home was very small and filled to the brink with breakable, valuable stuff. She wanted $300 per month. I explained that I really couln't pay more than $200. She said this would be fine. We would have the upstairs room...I felt that even $200 was a bit expensive for just a room, and was concerned we wouldn't be comfortable there because it was so fancy. I expressed my concern to Blanca.

Later that night Martin came home and Blanca told him that we'd visited his aunt...he understood how we felt and we decided to try to find another place. The house next door was empty as the owners live in Mexico City so Martin thought maybe they would be willing to rent it out to us for a few months.

The neighbor across the street also lived out of the area with their kids in the US. The wife had recently died and Blanca was helping to clean up the house and get rid of old stuff. That night they spoke with the owner Ramon, who said he would be happy to rent it to us. We agreed on $250 for the house and we would be responsible for the utilities we used. We got in and cleaned the house over the next few hadn't been lived in for awhile so everything was really dusty and dirty. However, we were glad to have a place to call our own and were anxious to settle in.

We spent the next week or so going to the grocery store, settling into the house and getting acquainted with the town. I was still getting tired quickly from having been sick, so we rested as much as needed.

On weekends Martin would invite us to go with them to various ranches in the surrounding areas to visit friends and family and eat dinner with them. This was always fun and everyone is very welcoming.

The second week we were here we went up to the orphanage to talk with them about what we were to do. We went several times, but every time the Mother Superiour was busy or not there. I was getting very frustrated. One of the nuns then gave me her phone number so I called to set up an appointment...she told me to come in the next day.

We went in and spoke with one of the nuns for quite some time. She seemed excited to have us and we met briefly with the Mother Superiour...she remembered me from last November and also seemed happy to have us there. We were to start off teaching English in the afternoons and then help with the children in the evening preparing them for bed and getting their clothes out for the next day. This would work well for us as then Sierra could do her schoolwork during the day.

While we were there two women came them had a 10 year old daughter and didn't want her anymore - she said she was too rebellious. I couldn't believe it!! Giving up your 10 year old daughter!! I was heartbroken and wondered if I should offer to take her. The nun responded that they don't take children simply because they are rebellious...the family must be too poor to care for them, or the government removes the child due to abuse. They wouldn't take the child. The woman was well-dressed, as was her friend. Money didn't appear to be a problem. What a heart-breaking situation, especially for an unwanted 10 year old little girl. How rebellious could she be?

The next day we headed to the orphanage to get to work. We taught English for awhile, and then played with the kids for some time. At dinner I asked what we should do and a nun said she needed to talk to me. She took me and Sierra to the seating area and told us they only wanted us to be there from 4-5 pm to teach English. I asked why and she didn't really have an answer...I expressed that we had intended to work 4-5 hours per day, and this is what we'd talked to the Mother Superiour about. She just nodded and looked at me. I was so disappointed. I wanted to cry. Did I give up everything back home for this?? What was wrong with us? I was angry and felt ashamed. This is not what I had imagined.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Moving On

I was anxious to move on and get to Tepa, and I was feeling a lot better. I was still feeling pretty weak, but up to moving on. I decided to take a taxi instead of the Metro, so we grabbed a taxi and went to the bus station.

Buses were leaving every 15-30 minutes for Guadalajara, so we were able to get one right away. We made it to Guadalajara in about 5 or 6 hours and called my friend David, a Rotarian I'd met the previous year and kept in contact with. He said he'd come pick us up and take us to our hotel.

David got to the bus was great to see a friend! I had chosed a hotel in the downtown district, so we headed that direction. It was rush hour traffic and huge storm started and soon all the streets were flooded with about 3 feet of water, so it was slow going. We finally made it to the downtown area, but couldn't find the hotel. He recommended one near where he lived, so we headed there. By this time it was almost 8 pm. Sierra was disappointed because she had hoped to go see a movie, but it was now too late. We decided to go to McDonalds for dinner instead...Sierra was excited to play at the play station.

David had to go pick up his girlfriend, so we said goodbye and Sierra and I went to our hotel to get to bed. The next morning Sierra swam in the hotel pool and we relaxed a bit before going back to the bus station to head to Tepa. I called a few of my Rotarian friends in Tepa and they said they thought they had a place for us to stay and when I got in town I was to call Martin and Blanca.

We went to the bus station and grabbed a bus to an hour or so we'd be there!!!