Thursday, October 30, 2008

Día De Los Muertos

Tomorrow we will be heading to the neighboring state of Michoacán with our friends Annie, Super, Panzon, and Elena to meet more friends (Jose and Naomi and Octavio) to camp outside the town of Pátzcuaro. I have to resort to the Wikipedia description of this place, as it sums it up so well:
"Pátzcuaro is hidden high in the mountains of Michoacán at 2200 m (7130 feet) of elevation. It is veiled from the outside world by a curtain of high pine trees. To the north is Lake Pátzcuaro, one of Mexico's highest lakes. The butterfly fishermen, who dip their nets into the lake in search of whitefish, have become a trademark of Pátzcuaro. The town retains its ancient atmosphere. It consists of largely one-story adobe or plaster-over-brick buildings with red tile roofs. The streets are dusty cobblestones traveled by horse and car. "
Apparently the "Day of the Dead" celebrations in this town are unbelievable, as large numbers of families take boats out onto the lake with candles lit, and many travel to the center island where there is more celebration. According to Octavio, the lake looks like it is on fire there are so many candles out there (on the night of November 1).
The cemetery will also be a site to see, as large numbers of people will celebrate next to the graves of their deceased family members with candles, flowers, music, and food. We will be returning on Monday, and I will make sure to post photos. Happy Halloween to all in the states.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Color Carne

I dedicated yesterday afternoon to exploring the city a bit further, and to searching for a venue where I could work on art. I happily discovered a theater in the University of Guadalajara (UdeG) that frequently shows movies in Spanish with English subtitles, and vice versa. I caught the tail end of a documentary about women in a Mexican prison. Afterwards I viewed an art exhibit at the University Art Museum by Alejandro Colunga- an artist from Guadalajara with such an extensive and wild range of work.
Further into the heart of downtown is an impressive building (one of the country's finest examples of neo-classical architecture) which served as an orphanage for 170 years, and is now known as "El Instituto Cultural Cabañas." Inside are incredible frescoes painted by José Clemente Orozco (my camera is still in the repair shop- long story- but you can view one of the images here). Not only does this center serve as an art museum, but they also offer music/art/drama/dance/language classes. Much to my dismay, I found out that I was two weeks late for registration for October-January classes. But after a little bit of pleading in broken Spanish I was able to talk with the instructor who allowed me in to his oil painting class as an "exception." I received my list of supplies (taking me back to my college days) and then headed out on my bike to a small art store in Santa Teresita (a colonia very close to our house). I have found that in every art store here they keep a number of the more essential supplies behind the counter. So I struggled through the names of the various colors ("Necesito azul prussia, blanco titanio, siena natural..."). Just plain old azul and rojo wouldn't cut it! At one point I asked the store owner for "color carne," (meat color??) and he brought the tube of paint down and held it to my skin and compared it. Apparently it is FLESH color. But then he went on to make a joke that his skin was a different color, and that Barack Obama is color NEGRO. Ah, right. Funny guy.
I strapped the 4 foot wide canvas to my basket and biked home to go over art words in Spanish.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


A few weeks ago we SKYPED with our friend and neighbor's (in Roanoke) fourth and fifth grade classes. Each student sat before a web cam and asked Josh and I a question or two regarding our lives in México. We sat out in our patio with the laptop and our own web cam turned on, and served (as best we could) as representatives of our "host" country. I think that the experience was enjoyed equally on both ends. Friday we received a package with letters from all of the students. Each was written in pencil on notebook paper, dated, and signed. The most interesting letter came from a student who recommended that we begin this as a money-making venture (Skyping from Mexico to elementary schools across the country), as it was "more interesting than a text book." This, I too believe is the key to promoting understanding and evoking the curiosity of youth in our country. Kudos to our friend Terryee.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Waiting to see...

I realized that I have not given an update regarding the family with the sick baby (possibly hydrocephalus). For future reference, here are their first names:
Father: Juan
Mother: Maria Refugio
Healthy 3-year-old: Eugenia
Baby: Paula
There are 7 other children in this family, but they obviously did not travel with Juan and Maria. Josh went with the family to the doctor where an MRI was performed. Apparently they are trying to determine whether there is fluid surrounding Paula's brain, or whether she might have some other type of problem. She does not seem like she is in pain at all, but her head is definitely enlarged, and almost too heavy for her to hold up.
Afterward, Maria and the kids returned to Danielle's house, and Juan headed to pick up a food basket for the family. I stopped to see Maria and the kids and tried as best I could to communicate with her.
She mainly speaks Huichol, yet can understand some Spanish (we both have our difficulty in speaking Spanish in common!). I tried to find items in my backpack for the kids to play with, handing over a Spanish/English Dictionary to Paula, and a pad of paper and pen to Eugenia. Eugenia cautiously made marks with the pen, and Maria helped her to draw a little portrait of herself. Paula happily flipped through the dicitonary. Despite a lot of silence, I really enjoyed the time with them.
The family will probably be here until October 31, after their second doctor appointment and prognosis. We are heading out of town that same day for the state of Michoacan, so we will probably not be able to travel back with them. But we plan to head to see them on our own in the coming weeks.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Competitive Nature

Tonight at the tutoring session at CODENI I became involved in playing various games with a group of 7-ish-year-old girls. We played Memory so many times that by the end I had no idea where the cat/car/apple/turtle was last seen (if you have not played Memory before, this might confuse you a bit). The little girls were kicking my butt. And my competitive nature kicked in a bit when I caught the player to my right cheating every once in a while. She would casually lift a card and then turn in back over, and then proceeded to turn over a few more. This did not seem to bug the other players, but I was a little concerned :)
I also had the opportunity to play "Pick up Sticks," a rather simple yet thrilling little game. My friend and I each had a token stick to pick out other sticks one by one, without moving the others. We had a little crowd of onlookers around us near the end of the game, and I felt myself becoming more and more focused on winning. But of course, the game went to my friend in the end.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Change of Plans

We thought that we were leaving Sunday to travel with Juan and Eugenia to Huamustita, but Juan's wife has arrived in Guadalajara with their baby. Depending on how serious the infant's illness is, we will leave for their pueblo with them soon... or later. We visited with Juan and Eugenia tonight and found Eugenia (3 years old) transfixed by a cartoon on the television in Danielle's room. (Josh is sure to have photos soon).
They will continue to stay with Danielle while in Guadalajara.

Traveling to Huamustita

Back into the swing of things here in Guadalajara. Yesterday we headed up to Cerro del Cuatro to meet with the Cooperativa artisan group. Josh put together the photos above of me showing them the design for the Cooperativa website. Many of them have not ever viewed a web page, let alone used a computer. It was interesting to hear Danielle describe to them about how anyone in the world will be able to see their faces and their work.
Starting on Sunday I will be away from my blog for about a week. Josh and I will be traveling with a Huichol man and his daughter back to their pueblo, which is north of here in the Sierra Mountains. The man came to Guadalajara with his 3-year-old daughter, thinking that his wife would soon join him with their infant daughter (details on why they traveled separately are fuzzy). The infant has a problem with fluid in her head; apparently it is so swollen that she cannot hold it up. Because there are no hospitals close to them, the mother was coming to seek medical treatment here. The bus ride is nine hours, despite the fact that their pueblo is in Jalisco (the same state that Guadalajara is in). For some reason, the wife did not show up with the infant daughter, and because the husband has no way to contact his wife, he is traveling back to his pueblo. Josh wants to cover this, as it is an example of why life is so hard for the indigenous, and why so many travel/ move into cities and leave their "village lives." We will not only take the nine hour bus ride, but then have to hike 12 KM through the mountains to get to the pueblo. I just cannot imagine the mother hiking this distance with her infant. Or the fact that we will walk with the father and his 3-year-old daughter over that same route. I am trying to imagine my 3-year-old nephews having to do the same! Apparently the father had to make this same trip at the beginning of the summer when his 3-year-old daughter tipped a pot of boiling water over herself.
Another challenge for Josh and I will be that the majority of people in Huamustita will be speaking Huichol, a language that we obviously are not familiar with. Fortunately, the father speaks Spanish, so we will be able to communicate through that means.
I will try to post another entry before we leave on Sunday!

Monday, October 13, 2008

A few parting photos...

Before leaving Minnesota I was determined to post a few images of the scenery around my parents' place. Above are the paper birch trees, which can be found all over northern Minnesota. Below is Sand Lake... my parents' daily view.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wedding and Pumpkins

Yesterday was my cousin Danielle's wedding. She and her new husband David were married at a beautiful cathedral, St. Mark's, in downtown Minneapolis. Afterward, the wedding party was held at a classy restaurant along the Mississippi River. I was so happy to make it back and see my whole family at this event.
Dani and I are close in age and played together often at our grandparents' house in Minneapolis, as well as on trips up to the cabin on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Among my favorite memories (I am not sure if this is interesting to anyone else, but I think Dani will enjoy it): Playing store with grandma (and we had no idea that at the time she was teaching us how to count money); heated games of Memory; talent shows (Dani always had dance routines... mine involved a trumpet as I grew older); our "house" under the big pine tree and collecting sap for "dinner"; dressing in old bridesmaid dresses and cheerleading uniforms; making seaweed stew; campfires down on the rocks by the big lake; transforming grandma's closets into "apartments; chips and french onion dip and kiddie cocktails; the yellow and blue stools in grandma's kitchen...

Congratulations Danielle and David!

Natalie, our niece. She was a "junior bridesmaid" in the wedding. She made the ceremony even more memorable as she passed out as Dani and David were about to be pronounced husband and wife. Fortunately, after sitting out for a few moments, she was back in the game.

The following morning I headed to a nearby pumpkin patch with the Holmes family. We searched long and hard for some of the biggest pumpkins on the farm...
Alexander, 3- Casey, 7- Natalie, 10

Under Alex's feet: a 48 pound pumpkin, which he took home.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Taste of Fall

I am back in Minnesota to see family and attend my cousin's wedding. After 8 or so years away from this state, I have forgotten just how beautiful it is here during fall. As I took my folks' dog on a run past the lakes and ponds (with reflections of intense yellows and reds) near my parents' house, I had a tremendous urge to just plop down and stay here a while! I will be heading out shortly to drive down to Minneapolis to see the rest of my family and have a fun night at the wedding.
My trip here was fairly interesting. I was directed from Guad to Puerto Vallerta and was supposed to head on to Phoenix, and then Minneapolis. But when we reached Puerto Vallerta our next plane was having mechanical problems, so they had to put us up for the night in an all-inclusive resort on the beach. Now I have been caught mid-flight in other cities before (ie; Detroit) but nothing quite compared to this experience. I was only wishing I could have enjoyed it more... I could not help but want to continue on to Minnesota.
(Note- my camera is broken, therefore you will have to imagine the falls colors, and the pacific ocean. I hope to have the camera back soon!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Keeping busy

Josh passed this photo along to me and suggested that I blog about my work here over the past few weeks. I have suddenly transformed back into 'graphic designer,' as I have taken on the design of four new websites. I have mentioned the Artisan Cooperativa on Cerro del Cuatro... I am designing a site that will promote the women and their artisan work. Along with this, I am redesigning the CODENI and ALHALA sites. And as pictured above, I have begun to work with Danielle's boyfriend David, mapping out a new site for his architecture firm. Lastly, Josh and I are going to form a website for the weekly photo classes with the CODENI kids.
There you have it!
Last night David made tacos dorados (golden tacos) for dinner for Josh, Danielle and I. They were great, and Josh and I both lamented on our bike ride home that we had each eaten one too many. Tonight we will do dinner with them again, along with our new friend Lara, who is teaching English at the American School here in Guadalajara.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lago Chapala

Super and Panzon along with Annie in the background

Today Josh and I went to see our new friends Super and Annie in Parque Revolución as they led a group in Capoeira, a really interesting form of martial arts that originated in Brazil. Along with Super and Annie were their kids Panzon- a 10-year-old who is an amazing athlete as well- and their new daughter Elena. I watched and held Elena as the group performed, my palms sweating as a few (including Panzon and Super) did flips and somersaults.
Afterwards we all piled into their van and headed to Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico, which is about 45 minutes outside of the city. There we swam in hot spring swimming pools and had a great meal of arrechera. People, sadly, do not swim in the lake because of its contaminación, yet it is beautiful... quite large and surrounded by mountains.

Panzon and I goofing around at one of the pools. Panzon and his father had just finished carrying out a series of multi-flip and backwards dives off of the diving platform.

Super, Elena, and Annie

Josh and Panzon in back of van... Josh was trying out the elote (corn) ice cream

Photos by Josh. Of course.

Yesterday we had our first day of class with 8 students from CODENI. We will meet with them every Saturday to take photos and critique. The organization Listen to My Pictures is purchasing cameras for the kids to use, and they will be able to take the cameras home with them each week in order to better "document" their lives. Late next spring we are hoping to have a show with their best works, and along the way we will be creating a website to display their work.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pedals, Cacti, and Tamales

A number of dogs guard their owners' houses from the rooftops in Mexico.

Josh and I had a slow start this morning after a late night at the Manu Chau concert. We are managing regular 8-hour-a-night sleeps here... and wondering how we pulled it off in Roanoke on so much less? Octavio told me it is México. The country is just plain laid back. How nice.
Some much needed updates.
My bike, of course, is fixed. But then Josh had a small accident this weekend where he stood up to pedal and the pedal broke off (it is at least a 50-year-old bike with 50-year-old pedals). He wiped out and did a number to his shoulder. All is well now... he is fixed and the bike is fixed and we happily rode our bikes downtown again today.

We were pleased to discover a store selling yeast so that we can make homemade crust for a small pizza and Palin party tomorrow night.

We have had beautiful weather now, as it seems to have switched from the rainy season to dry. I am hoping that our cactuses will now thrive.

Tonight we made our weekly trip to the tamale stand. We thought it would be nice to document the experience, so here is the fine work by Josh.