Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Josh and I headed up to Cerro del Cuatro this morning to see some of the women who are part of the cooperative who are beginning to learn to read and write. Two women Pia and Ruth from UACI (an indigenous support organization) are committed to helping to teach the cooperative women three mornings a week. I have been amazed by the process (remembering little from the time when I learned to read and write) as the women sound out the letters of the alphabet and practice writing them over and over again. Today we went over syllables and bringing two of them together to form a word (Seseme Street style). They cautiously wrote in their notebooks, erasing a letter if it was slightly off kilter, and laughed nervously when they were called upon to sound out a word. Despite the fact it is a long ride up to the Cerro, I am going to try and go to their classes often, as I feel honored that they have allowed me to watch them learn, and I will try and help when I can.

Adriana, Sofia and Alberta working with Pia. Three others work in the room beside us.

Daughter of Adriana, who draws pictures while her mother learns.

And now for the unrelated photo. Upon return from the Cerro I had Josh pose by the bougainvillea that are blooming in our patio, which he was really excited about doing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Border

I know little at this point, except for the fact that two of the three children trying to cross the border into the United States are now being detained until their parents or legal guardian can come and pick them up. The third (and oldest) is supposedly en route with a coyote (person who is sneaking him across).
Their uncle is heading north today to try and pick them up, and it is not clear whether they will try again at a different location, or head on home. They called back to their aunt and uncle, very scared and emotional about the experience. I am trying to imagine what their parents are thinking in the United States right now. Is it worth it to continue trying to sneak the kids over? Is it worth it to continue living in the U.S.?
Josh gave a camera to the young boy to take with him during the journey, as he is in our photo class that we run on Saturdays for 12 or so CODENI kids. The camera was taken from him, which upset him greatly. He was worried that Josh would be very mad at him, which of course is very far from the truth. We are only so very concerned for the kids.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Just For Fun

Photos by Josh

Last night, instead of resting up for the big 10K that we ran today, Josh and I went to meet Danielle and friends at a place called "Teu Lloc Galeria." We were not sorry to have made this choice. This restaurant/bar/contemporary art gallery attracts a hip clientele for its eclectic music and great atmosphere. Out of the back patio entered the band Zaiko Circo, winding between tables, through each room of the restaurant, and out onto the stage. The group included a trumpet, trombone, saxophone, clarinet, flute, snare drum, baritone, violin, and bass drum player. And three people on stilts dancing around the tables. They were all dressed in vagabond-type costumes and had painted faces or masks. They played original scores until the end, when they played Hava Nagila, a Hebrew folk song, which got everyone up dancing.

And the 10K... you are asking, how did it go? While triathlons are actually enjoyable to us both, this running race was not quite so. We both went out hard, and both had moments where we thought we were going to pass out. Was it the altitude? Too little sleep? Was it the long and gradual hill- that we had to run twice? Whatever it was, we biked home afterward and crashed on our sofas, vowing to hold off on another for a while.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One Step Forward...

Language. I thought I was getting better with this whole speaking Spanish business. While sitting with a group of Spanish speakers today I referenced "la franja de Gaza," and "un bandada de gansos" (a flock of geese). I had studied the news and looked up the unfamiliar words and felt pretty proud about being able to utilize them.
I had a wake up call this evening.
While working on homework with a group of 8-year-old boys, one of them asked me, "Que hora son?" (Which translates to, "What hour is it?"). But I heard him say, "Quieres son?" (Which translated in my mind as, "Would you like them to be?" or "Would you like to come from?"). I just didn't get it. So after he repeated himself three times and I finally answered confusedly, "De Virginia en Estados Unidos?" The boys were beside themselves in laughter. Kids show no mercy when you're trying to learn their language. Finally one of the boys gave the almost universally known gesture for time; a tap to the top of the wrist. I rolled my eyes and tipped my head back (the universal sign for "I am an idiot") and tried to gain back some of my pride with my knowledge of numbers en Español.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Viewing things from the other side

I am just trying to imagine it all. I am trying to imagine having four children, and then leaving them for five years in the care of my sister and brother in law in hopes of creating a better life for them. And then paying a stranger to take them on a 2,000 mile journey to rejoin with me. I have worked one, maybe two jobs with long hours at various fast food establishments, saving money so that they can come and live with me again.

And I am trying to imagine being a 10-year-old girl who speaks Spanish and Otomí, both of which will be of little help in the United States. I have not seen my mom or dad for five years. I am leaving my aunt and uncle who have cared for me during this time, and all of the other people that I love. And I may never see any of them, or the home that I have known again.

I cannot think of much else tonight, after seeing Liliana (10), Efrayn (12), and Martín (15) waving goodbye as they rode off on a bus to the border to meet a coyote who will presumably get them safely across*. Though we sit on the eve of something spectacular in the United States, I am disheartened by this experience in México. I wish there was more that I could do so that families never have to make these choices in the first place.

* At the last minute, their sister Silvia (14) decided to stay in Guadalajara.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Big Day

Yesterday morning Josh and I headed up to Cerro del Cuatro to go and meet with the four CODENI kids who are about to leave for the U.S.- with a coyote (person who will sneak them across the border). The children have been taken care of for a number of years by their aunt and uncle (Maura and Domingo) up on the Cerro, and needless to say, they are quite sad to see the kids go, and are worried about their journey ahead. The kids' parents are waiting for them and have been working long hours at fast food restaurants for years in order to pay for the very steep fee for the coyote. This is sad to Josh and I as well, as we were trying to imagine these kids that we have grown close to not only trying to make it TO the United States, but also wondering what their lives will be like once they settle there. They know no English, and they are leaving for a number of unknowns.

As we walked down toward their home we found Efrayn (a CODENI student) outside hammering nails out of wood for a fire he was stoking. The family was preparing to roast an entire lamb in a barbeque pit that they had constructed. Huge chunks of meat sat waiting in a pot covered by cactus leaves and Maura and Nicasia (affiliated with CODENI and members of the artisan cooperative) worked on filling the elastic-y stomach with intestines.

This little boy Antonio was just great. Every time I looked at him he had this grin on his face, and later he made it even better by putting his straw hat on. The meat pot sits behind him.

Meat pot covered in cactus leaves.

Meat pot being lowered into the BBQ pit.

The pit has been covered and Domingo stokes the fire on top.

Josh began interviewing a couple of the children who will be leaving, and I teased the little kids that were running around the street.

Blanca trying to teach Liliana how to ride a bike.

View from Cerro

We were invited to come back for the wedding, so Josh and I caught the bus back down to our house to change and grab some more things for the evening (this is about an hour 1/2 trip one way), and then we headed back up to the Cerro. We walked up nearly to the top of the Cerro and met the family of the bride and photographed her in her house.

Niece of the bride.

Father of the bride

Mother of the bride (Nicasia from the artisan cooperative).

Then we all piled into the back of a pick-up truck, including the grandmother of the bride (who is very fragile, deaf and nearly blind) and rode to the iglesia. At one point there were about 15 of us crammed into the back of the truck moving fast down the highway.

Upon arrival to the church we waited on another ceremony that was finishing, and then proceeded inside. It was a Catholic ceremony which went on for quite some time as kids ran around playing between the pews. We then piled into the back of another truck and drove on to the fiesta.

The space was filled with Otomí families and all of the kids were set free running around, teasing and tagging each other. At one point the DJ had to yell out, "Parents, control your children!" We ate the lamb that had been prepared earlier that day and drank cervezas. Soon the music started thumping and it seemed that nearly everyone got up and once and began dancing. Every song had the same beat and people's bodies were collectively moving up and down. We recognized quite a few of the Otomí families, which was really wonderful. They were very welcoming to us and it was a night we won't forget.

A people-free dance floor soon to be filled

I tried out facepainting for bit...

Lilianna and her aunt Maura

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nuestros Vecinos (Our Neighboors)

Right across from us on calle Tlaxcala lives a sweet family of four; Jorge and Monica and their kids Daniela (6) and Jorgito (3). Last night they invited us to Monica's mom's birthday party, so we piled into the car with them and headed on over to celebrate. I was holding Jorgito in the back seat as he was still asleep in a nap, and the above photo was taken the moment after he woke up a bit confused as we stopped (and stopped traffic) in order to pick up some tamales.
Though I am often times apprehensive about parties in the states where I won't know many people, I did alright at this one. Josh and I parked ourselves next to Monica's two aunts and uncles and they entertained us with their stories about fishing on the Pacific, hunting up in the northern Mexican states, and travel in the U.S.. We drank tequila and ate botanos (appetizers including cucumbers and jicama with pepper) and were relieved to finally eat the tamales at around 10:30. The tamales were different than those we have had before, as they were Oaxacan style, cooked in banana leaves and filled with mole and chicken. At one point in the evening, Josh tried a taste of a tiny hot pepper and it got him good, which entertained our little circle for quite some time. Upon return to a foreign country with foreign people, it felt great to add a few more to our circle of friends.

Monica and Jorgito

Thursday, January 15, 2009

January Rains

I am back to the "grind" in Guadalajara. It is good to be back. The day after I left Minnesota, the thermometer hovered around -23. And here in Mexico I spent the morning outside in shorts, weeding the cactus garden. As I rode in the taxi from the airport to my house the window was down and I was breathing in the warm, polluted air with a grin on my face.

Today Josh and I signed up to run a 10K race near our house. We thought it might be fun to try and see how we do. I realized that I have not entered a solely running race since the Boston Marathon at least 3 years ago now. I am already nervous despite the fact the race is more than a week away.

We had a good group of friends over last night for pasta, which put my rusty Spanish to the test, as I have not been using it for three weeks. When everyone was preparing to leave, the strangest thing happened; it rained for the first time in months. According to our friend Danielle, this always occurs during the last week or two of January. Then we are under a dry spell for many more months. I am sure that the cactus garden will thrive.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Some Parting Notes

I am sure that some of you are wondering if I am ever going to return to México? These are my last few days in Minnesota. It has been a wonderful extended stay and I have been constantly reminded of why I love this state and the people who live here. Above is a photo of my great friend Angie, who is a few weeks away from delivering a baby girl. She went to the neighboring school to Moose Lake (Willow River) and we were joined in sports. She and I played basketball and volleyball together, and what is even more memorable are our junior and senior year summers with our coherts Grady and Shua.

My parents and I took a trip up to Itasca State Park, where the headwaters of the Mississippi River are. Minnesota has got to be one of the best kept secrets with regard to acres and acres of wilderness, lakes, wetlands, and stretching farms. This park was no exception. In spite of the near zero degree temp, it was sunny and the snow was perfect. And once we strapped on our skis and got moving we soon worked up a sweat.

Afterward we stopped at my grandparent's home in Wadena where they treated us to wild rice soup, chicken and coleslaw, and fresh baked bread. Much of the food they eat has been canned from their enormous garden that they tend in the summer.

And now it is time for a Minnesotan oddity. The above photo is Sand Lake, covered by a foot and a half or so of ice, as well as a foot of snow. Fisherman plow out "roads" on the ice in order to access their fishhouses (see image below).

There are little "communities" situated on the lake, where the fishing is good and fisherman trust that the ice will hold.

I dug into some old family photos from the Warp side of the family and feel like I have a better grasp of who my late great grandparents were... it was also fun to see images of my dad as a kid. Above are Lucinda, John, and Diana. The three Warp kids sitting nicely for a photo.
John E. and Frances Warp.

AJ and Florence Froelke.

Today I surprised my niece and nephew at school. Though my niece knew that I was coming, Casey (7) was quite surprised. His face turned red and all of his little friends were asking him who I was. He and Natalie both went through the motions (you don't have to get mashed potatoes if you don't want to; make sure you only take one cookie. The fork comes out of the plastic fork dispenser. Never take your food out of the cafeteria- a rule that I broke). It will be a long 7 months before I see them again, but time moves fast. And Josh is expecting me back in Guadalajara.