Monday, June 29, 2009

first baby firsts

Our village friends are having a baby in three weeks or so. Since we've been here I've spent time getting to know the young woman and her boyfriend is a good friend of J's. They live with his family in a small concrete house with many other family members and assorted animals. The woman is very shy, she speaks spanish much better than english but her english is also pretty good. Occasionally she has babysat M and she taught me how to make the best tortillas in the world and I've brought her baby clothes and special chocolates from the States. She's never gone to school beyond age 13 but she's smart as a whip and can cook me under the table any day of the week.

She's quiet and beautiful, she's scared and she's brave, she's resigned and she's looking forward. There are no baby classes here, nothing about breathing or labor or what to expect when you are expecting. There is just day in and day out, one step at a time, doing the best you can. So we've spent some time talking about how babies change everything and how mamas need to find ways to care for themselves because soon it will be all about the baby and to be honest when you live here like she does it's never been about her anyways, every day is already a struggle and a baby will just mean more.

As we were talking one day J overheard us and spontaneously said you should get a massage before the baby is born and she looked at him and at me I've never had a massage before so I asked her if she'd like to try it, a way to reduce some of the aches and pains the last month of baby brings and she nodded her head.

So I called a friend of mine here, a wise old beautiful crone masseuse and we agreed on the day and time and I picked my friend up and drove her 20 minutes over bouncing dirt roads to our destination. As we drove I asked her if she knew what happened during a massage and she shook her head no so I asked her if she wanted me to explain and she nodded her head. So I told her everything I could think of, from deciding if she'd want to take her clothes off to how wonderful my friend is to how massage is safe and all about her. She's quiet so we drive on and I tell her if she doesn't like it all she has to do is ask for the therapist to stop. Her eyes got wide at the naked part and otherwise she just smiled and once we got there my friend immediately embraced her and shooed me out of the way. About an hour later I hear giggling and I see them walking arm in arm down the path to the lovely veranda where I am sitting and I look at her and I swear it's the face of an angel, all sleepy and beautiful and glowy and I smile and ask her how it was and she says Oh Jen I loved it I loved it so much and she hugged me and I hugged her and we talked for awhile and then drove home.

On our way back we stopped at another friend's house, he has a absolutely amazing home with a pool. Pools are the lap of luxury here, every time I see one I literally start to salivate so when he says feel free to jump in I do. I look at my friend and she's watching and I reach out my hand, come in and float, you won't believe how nice it makes your belly feel having it in water so she does and she lays her head against the edge and smiles big. We chat a bit and we get ready to go and on our way home she looks at me I've never been in a pool before and I reach over and grab her hand it was a day of firsts for you then and she leans her head back and smiles and doesn't move till we reach her house.

As I drive home I wonder what having these sorts of things introduced in your life really means, whether never knowing means less wanting or knowing means you are a bit wider because you've filled yourself with new things and I hope it's the latter and am conscious of not wanting to be the former, the person with big ideas that don't put food on the table or a roof over your head and to be honest I still don't know because most of the world gets along fine without all the extras every day all the time no matter what and we folks with our fancy ways show up and tilt the scales.Bookmark and Share

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

jackpot

He showed up three nights ago in the cover of darkness. I had already fallen asleep but J was awake and when I awoke in the AM I saw the remnants of the night before. Dog food on the porch, a small water bowl. Cowering against the house is a frail, pathetic looking puppy. He is terribly thin and he isn't moving very much.

When everyone is awake we start to discuss the situation. We already have a dog, this dog looks like it's going to die, there are needy stray dogs everywhere here, we can't help them all. We make a futile call to the local SPCA but it's only a cell number and of course, no one calls back. The dog stays in his place on the porch and we feed it and watch it drink. We go back and forth. I think the dog is sick, J and M don't disagree but they like this dog, this wee little scrawny thing. He chose us they say so will a hundred dogs to come I say. Every day I see dozens of stray dogs, it is endless and terribly sad. Besides, we already have a dog and what if we can't make it down here and we have to move.

After the second day my resolve is weakening. He's awfully earnest and cute this dog and he seems to be recovering a bit, he's walking around now. We won't let M touch him because we still don't know what's actually wrong with him. I give up. Fine then. If this dog is sticking around we are taking him to the vet so we wrap him in a towel and head off into town, the vet is only in his office in the evenings and we show up right as he's getting ready to leave. He unlocks the door and lets us inside and we put the dog on a makeshift table in a very shabby room, something that would be used for storage in the States. The vet looks him over and tells us he thinks the dog is not only malnourished but has an infection and needs antibiotics. I look at J sending silent why are we doing this vibes and J doesn't look back. The vet then offers to put him down with a little shrug of his shoulders. It's humane he says and I look at J again and I see it on his face. He wants to save this dog.

So the vet grabs a post-it (a post-it!) and writes an antibiotic on it and signs his name and tells us to take it to a human pharmacy. I look at the little slip and it makes me laugh because I am holding a post-it. There are no blood tests and the vet says come back in a week, I have a feeling this one might make it. So we go to a human pharmacy and I hand the woman the post-it and she doesn't blink an eye but she does tell me the antibiotics don't come in this small of a dose but she has capsules at twice that and I ask if she can just give me those instead and she shrugs and nods her head. Just like cutting cocaine she says just take half the powder. As I leave I laugh, I am reminded again why I like it here, the ways it's all hinged together in a way that would be entirely unacceptable in the States and there is goodness and badness in that.

On our way home we start discussing names, something I'd refused to do before now. I have surrendered to this moment in time and the meekest have inherited my earth. So we drive in the dark under a lightening storm with M in the back screaming out names. We go through the obvious Blackie! Whitey! (that one I can't help but laugh at) BlackieWhitey! (Clearly dear readers, the puppy in question is black and white) Sheldon! Fern! When the name hits me and I say it out loud. We should call him Jackpot and M cries Crackpot! Crackpot! Because lately she's trying to rhyme everything and we laugh and J says he likes it too and M tosses out one more Blackie Blackie Oatmeal Patina! Which to be honest is a close second but by the time we get home it's decided. We'll call him Jackpot.

We get home and I take the capsule and break it open and pour half of the powder onto a piece of cheese and smile thinking I need a mirror for this shit if I am going to do it right and then he eats it immediately and the next day I notice he's up and around a bit more, food and water and medicine and the puppy is starting to act like a puppy. He barked for the first time, carefully protecting his new turf and I wonder if he knows how he got here and how he stayed and how he's in it with us now, this little puppy who hit the jackpot.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

this land is your land

Come out with us to the land J says, you never come out and I think you'd like it. It's hot and dirty and it'll be good for you. He's right, I spend most of my time doing other things equally important but still. He's right. So M and I head over in the afternoon and join J and the two guys who help out and we are promptly put to work.

J hands me a bucket, the size paint comes in and points to an enormous pile of rocks ranging from the size of a small dog to the average kind that fits in your hand. Those rocks need to be moved over there and he points across at least half an acre. You can use the bucket.

I look at him thinking he is joking but he's not. I grab the bucket and walk over to the rock pile and start to fill it. It's only half way full and I can barely lift it so I stop and carry it the long distance to the other side. On my way I am cursing, in hellish moments I always silently pretend I am arguing my case in front of a jury but you see my friends I used to run a multi-million dollar non profit and it's clear that hauling these rocks must be some mistake. Anyone who knows me would clearly agree. As I walk back I say can I do it a different way or am I actually being punished and I hear the other guys start to laugh. Of course not babe, do it however you want so I look around and realize there is nothing else to move these fucking rocks but oh wait oh holy mother wait I can use our car.

So I grab the keys and back the car up to the rock pile and open the back and start loading them in and I hear the guys laugh again that bucket was bullshit I say and I load and load and load and then drive across the acre and unload and unload and you get my point and I do it for two hours without taking a break because after awhile I find the zen of it, the simple pleasure in moving my body and working our land and I realize that this is why J has been pushing me to come. I even find a piece of Mayan pottery something not uncommon here, everyone says if you dig awhile and you'll find some shards but it's the first I've found and I hold it in my hands knowing this has been here for a thousand years and more and I can just barely make out the paint along the edge.

The third hour rolls around and nearly all of the rocks have now been moved and I am starting to limp because I am a wuss and I am not used to working this hard so I tell the guys I'm done and they smile because they started 6 hours before me and they work just as hard if not harder every single day but I don't care. So I grab my kid and my dog and we go jump in the river, we watch an iguana and we see some fish.

So now I'm tired and sore, the good kind that says you did something honest and J asks me if I'll come back again because he has another job all picked out and I can't help but ask him if it involves a toothbrush and tile and he laughs and we laugh but I don't laugh too hard because if the rocks was the ice breaker I am seriously wondering what he'll think up next.



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Thursday, June 18, 2009

dead horses and waffles

Today marks five months to the day that we moved to this rural little village. Our stay was broken up of course by the bizarre medical situation that brought us back temporarily so in truth we've been living here for four months all told but it feels like I should mark the date anyways because it's something to me.

Every day I feel more like I live here and am also reminded that this is not my home. There are so many things that make sense, that feel right, that I am figuring out and many others that make me realize I still and will for a long while not understand how things here are done.

The other day I was driving M to school and we pass a dead horse on the side of the road. Horses run wild here and as anywhere cars and nature don't mix. As I passed it I wondered what happens next, who gets called (is there anyone to call?) and what gets done. As I am driving back from town a bit later I see the same horse but this time there are several tires piled up on it's body and curiouser still, I wonder again. The question is answered a few hours later as I drive past once again and now the horse and the tires are on fire, a great big side of the road fire that makes me want to close my eyes but I cannot. Within a day or so there is nothing to ever mark the horse or the tires or the fire at all. Ashes to ashes, jungle style.

I don't know what to think about this, just like I don't know what to think about so many things from weird bugs to kids without pencils to battered cars puttering their way over dirt roads with six or more kids inside. It's just so goddamn rural and poor here, the poorest homeless guy I used to know on the streets in the States has more than most do here. And yet somehow it works. Somehow it doesn't matter that no one has anything, that in an increasingly globalized and techno-savvy world that years and generations pass along exactly like this and people fall in love and farm their land and make babies and get sick and go to school and on and on and on.

Yesterday morning started bad, M completely unhappy with any of our admittedly meager breakfast options (our fridge is so small it can only hold so much) so she's whining and I'm losing patience and my tone is probably bullshit when all of a sudden I hear a voice, our friend, the one I talked about in my last post is at the door. I brought you waffles she says, and she walks in with two enormous waffles still warm from her stove. I made extra and I thought you might like some and I hug her and tell her exactly how much we do and M sits happily at eats the biggest one down to the last bite. For a moment I worry she heard us arguing but I know she lives too far away for that and I realize it's just her being kind and things once again finding their way of working themselves out, the underlying current that races through so many moments here, the pulse of a community just doing what it does.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

the universal backbone

It's something I've always recognized and usually brought to the forefront during my years working with homeless families. Women are the backbone of society. I mean, we all know this on some level, if nothing else than to prove our own personal worthiness but it's worth stating.

We are the backbone of society.

I remember time and time again meeting women with children, women who were going hungry to feed their kids, women working three jobs to keep a roof, women huddled in cars doing their best to stay warm and keep their kids safe. But here, here in a place where comforts are less and work is harder and things don't magically appear from shelf to microwave to table, here it's a whole other sort of backbone. Backbone times two. Everyday life here is consists of a lower poverty level than any client I'd ever met in the States.

Many households here are headed by single mothers. The family structure is different, here folks will live with all sorts of extended family members in the home, be it grandma or nephew or sister but two parent households are not the norm. It's one of the great issues here, children growing up not knowing their fathers and women having to scramble even harder to make it all work. And work is tricky too, most of the work for women here consists of housekeeping or cooking for tourism which often means they travel far and are gone for days at a time. My good friend, a woman who has lived here her whole life has been doing this for a long time, she travels part of the week for work and leaves her children in the care of relatives and whenever she comes back she says the same thing while she shakes her head there's nothing like having a mother in the home and it's true; when her kids are on their own things get slippery, when she's home there is always a pot on the stove and the place comes alive.

But it's a wicked catch-22. Stay at home and cook and clean and parent or go out and find a way to earn money so you can cook and clean and parent. One difference here is the village picks up the slack, folks keep an eye on other peoples kids and collectively keep them in line but it's still not the same because there is nothing like having a mother in the home. In the States we pay for the opportunity to work, we juggle childcare and perhaps housecleaning and two parent households divide up responsibilities but here it's looser, there is no safety net and we look to our neighbors to see us through.

Education is one of the solutions, but here is school is expensive and folks can't afford to send all of their kids. Often once the kids finish primary school they are unable to go on to high school, that costs even more so less than half of the kids in this country are in school past the age of 13. The ones that are lucky enough to go work their tails off to get good grades and graduate and are then facing another conundrum, there simply isn't enough work to go around and my gringa novice observations tell me that even then the best jobs goes to the boys.

My village friend has had a dream for a long time, a dream that will allow her to be home and to make money. She has long wanted to open her own little restaurant out of her house, a place that offers good local food that she can cook out of her home. She's a terrific cook, she's shown me how to make all sorts of local dishes from fry jacks to salbutes, beans and rice. She longs for this and even though it's not a lot of money it's more than she can save while being responsible for a household of kids. I fantasize about this along with her and have even looked into micro lending, something that is hard to come by here unlike other places in the world but so far it's coming up zeros and it will continue, this wicked circle game full of women holding up the shoulders of the world until their knees give out from the weight of it all.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

guess what's coming to dinner

I've complained a lot about the rudimentary cooking facilities I have at my disposal but what I haven't told you is how we are eating. I've complained about shitty markets but I haven't shared much about what I am actually able to buy.

Things fall into two camps here: it's either locally produced, organic and fresh or it's shipped from a million miles away and it's total crap. (think vienna sausages, macaroni and cheese, velveeta, tang and cheetos). Yes. Really. I was all set to carry on about US imperialism until I realized that someone on this end is actually ordering all this bullshit and asking for it to be sent down here so I'll hold my tongue.

One thing that irks me beyond belief is the lack of healthy snacks for M, I've stopped snacking entirely and am better for it but kids or at least my kid, she likes to eat. A lot. And snacks here are for shit unless it's fruit and a kid will only eat so much of that. Everything and I mean everything has high fructose corn syrup in it. But on occasion and sometimes to please M we buy some of the distant crap, a hard day means we might just make a box of macaroni. But on a good day and there are happily more of those than bad I cook.

The other day we made flour tortillas by hand, I cooked and refried some dried beans I bought at a local supplier, cooked up chicken bought from the farm in town and bought produce (tomatoes, onion, cilantro, peppers) from the local market where the farmers come and sell their produce daily. Even our cheese (if you aren't hungry for velveeta) comes from less than 10 miles away.

So when we sat down to eat it suddenly hit me: every single thing on the table was locally grown, farmed or manufactured. While that means we have a lot less choices we are also finally living up to one of the ideals we'd set. We are sustaining ourselves food-wise within our living area about 80% of the time. And that's even without our own garden, something we've yet to establish because the season is wrong.

So I forgave the oven and I sat back and I smiled, M pointed to each food and asked where I got it and how far away it was and we realized we were within a 10 mile radius all the way. It's the first time in all this time I'd really thought it through and now it's a challenge every day, to see how close to 100% I can get.

Don't misunderstand, we aren't always batting a thousand here, like I said boxed mac and cheese finds it's way here sometimes but now at least it's matched with bread I've baked or gotten from the local bakery, paired with sweet tropical fruits we've either found or purchased. Simply put, it's just the way it's done here and for many folks they live their entire lives like this, living and eating and working in a small circle, eating fruit off their own trees and eggs from their chickens and their imprint on the earth is tiny and it reminds me once again how often the poor carry the rich on their backs in ways known and unknown all around the world every single day.

So when I can forget about the lack of work and the scorpion waving it's tail in my kitchen yesterday I start to think maybe, just maybe we're not entirely full of shit after all. This move has been hard in many ways, eye opening in others, stilling and refreshing and scary and adventurous and hot and wow, yes wow, kinder to the earth after all.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

gather yourselves

This past weekend was a full moon and as such I found myself at the monthly full moon ritual, this time held in a coconut grove.  I've learned that the rituals vary depending on which Shamanic influence is leading the ceremony.  This month was led by a woman who drew on Native American practices to serve as her guide.  One of the readings was from Hopi Elders and it struck me in such a deep way, standing hands clasped under the moon and as I stood there I thought of all of you so I wanted to share it with you here.

These words resonated so loudly with me because of my personal journey, one where sometimes I am afraid and for our global existence, the deep sense that many including myself have that things are going to continue to change in ways we can't quite yet comprehend but we better get ready for.  And we better be ready to jump in together because it might well take all of us to see us through.  

We are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

We have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in the right relation?

Know your garden. It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. This could be a good time.

There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination. The Elders say we must let go of the shore and push off and into the river.

Keep your eyes open and your head above water. See who is in there with you and Celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over, Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.

All that you do now must be done in a sacred manner and in Celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.

The Elders, Hopi Nation, Oraibi, Arizona



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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

coming

Five days in Mexico, living in a surreal sort of world with clean sheets and hot water, absolutely no bugs and nothing but swimming in the ocean and drinking cold beers.  And then it's over.  I don't think I would have noticed a year ago or even six months ago how luxurious it was but now, given how I am living now, I felt like every moment was a dream, where the buildings and roads and even the markets there far surpassed the place we now call home.

And on top of it I still had to figure out how I was getting back.  I stopped at the concierge on the day before I was supposed to leave and asked for help arranging bus travel.  He looks at me with a contained mirth we don't arrange bus travel from here he says as if buses were leprosy incarnate. Of course you don't, I say but perhaps you could call them anyways. And so he does and I learn I either leave at midnight all night or I take my chances in the morning with no real option for getting the rest of the way home.  So I contact my new stranger friend, the one who'd gotten me on the bus on the way here.  I'll pick you up he says, a journey that would take him five hours both ways.  We settle on a price that is unbelievably affordable and he says he'll meet me at the bus station in Southern Mexico. I just have to get myself there and so I do.  I arrive late and am worried he'll have decided I wasn't coming but there he is, a ragtag sort of guy with a quick smile.  You are late he says with a smile and grabs my bag.  I am so thankful you came and waited I respond and he says the truth I know but remember I gave you my word.

So we jump in his car and he tells me then that he has never done this leg of the trip before and I laugh because he made it sound so easy when I asked him for a ride.  I settle in realizing I am five hours in a car with a stranger who has just done me a really big favor.  There was just no way I wanted M to make this sort of trip and J couldn't come without her. I was nervous and now I can breathe.  

And what unfolded next was almost better than the week itself, almost hard to put into proper words.  This guy and I, we talked.  We talked in depth and length about history and culture and race and consciousness and religion and God and family and poetry and work and struggle and I felt I was sitting alongside some sort of jungle shaman professor who liked to drink too much on the weekends. It is no understatement to admit that I have not talked as long and hard with a stranger like this in my life.  And we laughed, at one point so hard I couldn't speak.  

He's a family man and an entrepreneur, his mind is as complex as I've met and he's hungry for more. If I brought up something he didn't know about he asked a million questions, turning it over in his mind. He's lived in a little town near our village his entire life, his family is all rooted here and this is the only place he's ever been but he's wiser than me by miles. Towards the end of our journey he looks at me.  I'm worried about you Jen, I am worried you aren't going to make it in our country because you will give up and if you give up our country will lose.  I tell him his country isn't easy, that it isn't easy but I knew that coming in.  He slams on the brakes now fuck woman, we spent hours talking and we've connected on all these levels and then you go and call it MY country?  This is OUR country dammit, you are here too and this place can now belong to you.  I thought we were getting somewhere in all this time and I started to laugh, I said that out of respect but he doesn't care. On this he's unmoveable.

We finally arrive home and I unfold myself from a car that signals the end of a 13 hour trip.  J and M come out and J shakes my new friend's hand and thanks him for his kindness and for getting me home safe.  He leaves with promises to get our families together one night so everyone can get to know each other and he drives off.  J looks at me and says so was that okay, that trip?  I saw that guy when I dropped you off and thought he was the janitor not the owner of the transport and I laughed not only was it okay but it was one of the best conversations of my entire life and I told him all about it and as I was falling asleep that night I thought again of appearances, of how things look on the surface and how easy it is to make assumptions and how when we do that we miss out on all the good stuff and how today was a day that I'll probably remember forever, a poet jungle warrior showed me his truth and I showed him mine and it was honest and real and a hell of a good time.  Because while we we have absolutely nothing in common and nothing we've experienced in our lives so far would lend to a common understanding we were very nearly exactly the same.

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

going

I was supposed to leave at 8am last Monday. But buses just started making the trek again from here to Mexico so things were confusing but the guy who owned the transport assured me they'd show. As it approached 10am I started to get grumpy so I say it right, dude, I need to get my ass to Mexico. I knew I had a good twelve hours to go and I don't really want to arrive in the middle of the night. Fuck it, he says, I'm taking you myself.

We'd been talking for a few hours now and I already liked him, strangers sometimes have a way of making sense right off.  So I happily jumped in his car prepared for the first 5 hour leg of my trip, the one that would take me out of one border and into another with a no mans land in between.  As he's getting gas in his car he gets a call.  He looks at me and smiles the bus just drove past us so we jump back in the car and catch up to the bus which pulls over and lets me on in the middle of the road. He's yelling, my new friend have a good trip call me if you need a ride back.

The bus is full of backpackers, Israelis and Brits and an American or two.  I settle in and pull out my book.  I'm in this thing now and so far I've only got a ride across the border, the rest will still need some figuring out. I read for awhile and fall asleep.  At the border the driver tells us to get out and go through immigration and he'll meet us on the other side.  We do and after the free zone we have to do it again but this time it's Mexico.  Bienvenidos.  

The countries are so different right away, here is all Dos Equis and street tacos and everything is in spanish.  I go through customs and they search my bags and I always, always think of Midnight Express in these moments, like somehow someone stuck a kilo in my bag but of course no one ever has and they wave me through, machine guns at their sides. 

I sit on the curb and it's hot and I am at a border and no one knows I'm here.  I'm on the road even if it's just for a day and it makes me want to keep going, that backpacking sort of travel where things happen and everything unfolds.  I look up at the sun and realize I need to make sure the bus doesn't leave without me.

This transport ends at a bus station and I have no idea when I can catch another bus to go up north.  I learn quickly the next bus doesn't leave for two hours (fabulous) and it's a six hour trip (super fabulous) but it's less than $20 for the whole ride.  So I buy my ticket and wait some more. I'm a dork at bus stations, I am always sure they are going to leave without me and I can't understand a thing folks are saying so I am anxious.  I eat a bad looking taco because I am not sure when I'm eating again.  My cell phone doesn't work and I forgot to exchange enough pesos and I ran out of US dollars a long time ago.  I shake my head.  I wait.

I finally board the bus and it's a nice one this time, air con and decent seats.  I don't realize the seats are assigned so I of course sit incorrectly and am promptly booted but at least he took pity on me and pointed me in the right direction. I read and fall asleep and look out the window and somehow six hours make their way gone.  

I get off the bus at my destination and get in the first taxi I see. I only have a name of a hotel and we settle on a price first because I'm still peso poor.  We drive in silence, I roll down the window and lean my head back and breathe deep, I love the smell of travel, it's intrigue and exhaustion and solitary and a bit on the edge. I'm both sad and happy today is almost over.  

We pull up at the hotel, my friend she has money and insists on staying in nice places and even offers to pay so what the hell, I can suck it up. My dusty flip flops hit the marble floor and a porter dressed in a suit actually wants to carry my piece of crap backpack and I feel embarassed, both for being here and for being me.  They stop me and ask if I am a guest here and I am not surprised in the least. I promise I clean up well I say and they smile the smile that richer people than me are much more used to. Me, I much prefer the dusty road and straight talk, street tacos and a cold cheap beer. All of a sudden I see my friends and they scream a happy scream. I'm finally where I've been trying to be.


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Monday, June 01, 2009

if you build it they will come

I took M to visit my artist friend, the one who teaches in a neighboring village. She is a prominent artist in the West. But here, her art classes are taught in a building that looks like this. It's adjacent to the village school which might actually look worse than this.
I didn't realize M would get to participate but she did. She jumped right in with the other kids and learned to make a shadow puppet. The kids here work on the floor or on simple benches inside this dirty, hot building but they don't complain because this is the only art class to be found.
After the puppets were finished the kids put on a show. M is waiting her turn while watching some of the bigger kids perform. Their stories are a bit jumbled but there is much laughter and some shyness, they aren't used to performing like this. The benches can double as work tables, an extremely creative use of simple pieces of wood. M is very proud of her puppet and was even allowed to bring it home with her. Her puppet, by the way, is an apple. She performed with the teacher who used a horse puppet. Of course, the horse ate the apple. Smart horse.
After the class I cajoled my artist friend again and asked her to bring her talent to the kids in our village and she agreed to come for a month over summer but said we have to provide the art supplies because she's already out of pocket with her current work. But it means that the kids in our village will get a chance to exercise their own potential, so that kids like G can come and learn. I remind her again about G, about how much he could benefit from her lessons and she tells me to show her a child who could not benefit from art and I had to agree.
The below picture is of G and M, practicing their art at my dining room table. He still comes round almost every day.
When I told him about the art class his grin was wide and sweet. I come too? He asked. Well of course, G. This class is for you.

I'm away this week, headed by bus to Mexico where I'm meeting my two best sister friends from the States. I'm leaving the jungle behind for a week and while I'm a bit nervous leaving M I am thrilled beyond measure at the thought of cold beers and the ocean, sisterhood and clean sheets. But between now and then I'm 12 hours on a rickety bus, getting there may be much less than half the fun but well worth it for what's on the other side.

And in case you really miss me this week, I've also written my latest BlogHer installment.  Go take a peek and let me know what you think.

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