Friday, February 26, 2010

"Quick Updates"

I had really grand intentions of blog writing today... since I haven't written since before Acapulco. Blogger epic fail.No time to write grand stories.. so here are the "Quick Updates":
A really fun get a way weekend... beach time, the most beautiful view of the bay at night from the windows of a classy club, lots of new friends, a new found love for staying in hostels...
A rural community that we visited to learn about their culture and spiritual believes. We had the privilege of being invited to participate in part of a ceremony with them. Incredible!  This is also where we will be doing our rural home-stay next week. (more to come after the home visit...)
Another rural community that we visited... huge contrast from Amatlan. Tlama is a community that  was forced to the mountains during the Spanish conquest, because of this they do not have strong ties to their land or customs. Their trade is weaving baskets from palm branches... which is not providing them a sustainable income, and causes problems in families because the men travel the country selling the baskets while the women stay at home. It is a community with a lot of problems, but also a lot of hope. There is an organization called Atzin (in spanish- that it working in the community. Programs include: womens groups, fair prices for their goods, quilting group (other source of income), sanitation, nutrition, education, adult literacy... and the list goes on. Its really pretty incredible.
U.S. Embassy
Yesterday we went to the Embassy.  It was quite the ordeal to get in... long line, angry man, official name tags. We spent our time there listening and asking questions to 4 panelist: 1 worked in customs and border control, one with visas, one with energy and economics, and I'm not exactly sure what department the other women worked. It was interesting to hear the other side of the immigration story... since we have only been hearing the Mexican, or at least pro-Mexican, view of the Mexican-US relations... Overall... it was interesting, it was frustrating, it went to quickly... It was hard because we knew that the had to give us official embassy position on things... and it would be have been more interesting, at least for me, to hear their more personal views... especially because one of the panelist had only been working for the Embassy for a year or two, and had spent the last like 15 years working in the peace core and with the Red Cross.

Ministerios de Amor
Life is stilling going well out at the orphanage... I know you want to know all about it... but it is at the point where its just life now... which is awesome but makes it harder to talk about. Instead of stories, how about some random moments/highlights?
  • I have a daughter- one of the littlest girls, A, has now become my daughter. Pretty much whenever I am around, she gets passed off to me. We play in the toy room. She likes to be a dog. 
  • One of the little boys, M, decided he was a bandit and told me to stick my hands up... it was hilarious (normally he's a trouble maker). 
  • I'm pretty hooked on 2 novelas (soap operas) "Hasta que el dinero nos separe" and "pobre diablo." This is how I spend my evenings... major bonding time with my roommate and a few others.
  • I learned how to dance the "pollito" because this is what you do when you lose at hot-potato.
  • I am pretty much a professional shoe polisher
  • Since I leave on Sunday for a week-long homestay... I wont see the kids for a week and it makes me wonder what I am going to do when I leave for real...
  • I am totally used to Mexican style eating... both time wise and flavor. Mom- you will need to start buying hotter spices and limes
  • In Spanish head and shoulder, knees and toes... is head and shoulder knees and feet... that provided about 20 minutes of laughs... trying to teach that too one of the boys that knows a little bit of English.
  • I watched transformers for the first time the other day while waiting for my laundry... but didn't make it to the last half hr because it was 11:30 and I was exhausted. Yes, 11:30pm.
I don't have any pictures from out there... Sorry! still haven't figured out the appropriateness of that... It might just not happen until right before I leave. 

Other ways to keep up on my life :)

Social Work program blog:

Migration and globalization (other half of our group):

Shutterfly account the my whole group is uploading pictures to:  (I've uploaded some pics but still have many more to go...)
e-mail :
password: cuernavaca

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Being an Ally

So it's been a while since I have written on here... but definitely not for lack of things to write about. And really, no one should be surprised that I'm not a regular and faithful blogger.

Two weekends ago was whirlwind of emotions: my Universal friends are leaving.... the [semester students] are coming! the [semester students] are coming! ... first "break" weekend from MdA... lots of things happening.
I left MdA on Friday night and spent my last night with my friends from Universal. On Saturday the first group of girls got here, 4 swk girls from St. Olaf and one of the MG (Migration and Globalization) students. We spent Sunday exploring Cuernavaca a little and soon after we got back EVERYONE arrived! Wow... can you say craziness?! It was a whirlwind... the week before definitely had a "the freshman are coming" feel... of those of you who know what that means :) Monday and Tuesday we were out at the Hacienda Santa Cruz de Vista Alegre (we had some Ecuador-ish connections there). It was orientation/retreat thing... we spent most of our time learning about what it means to be an "Ally." What is an ally? It is something that has many definitions and varieties, but more or less it is someone who "stands with oppressed communities and works toward blurring the lines of who is in and who is out of the so called 'traditional' categories." We talked about not making assumptions/"climbing the ladder of inference,"  being aware of the privileges we have (being white, straight, American, wealthy...) and how we choose to use those privileges... Here at CEMAL they are very conscious (and make every effort to help us do the same) about these things... We played random games and used several different discussion formats (including the fishbowl) to talk about being an Ally. It got a little long at times, but it was definitely and interesting and worthwhile day. It is so important to be aware of the affect you have on others and how to use the privileges you have for good instead of perpetuating discrimination. Being white in Mexico definitely puts a person in a higher position, and gives them certain privileges. It's something you can't escape to some extend... but definitely something you can choose how you use it. For example many of the clubs here are super racist or super discriminatory against the GLBTQ... and choosing to frequent or avoid those  places is choosing to support or not support those practices...
I don't know if it was a direct effect of learning about ally's but since being back at MdA, I have definitely used the Ally theory... As with all little kids (probably even more so when 50-ish live together) there are some that just chose to be naughty/defiant frequently... which is super frustrating and exhausting... especially if you are trying to bathe them. Defiant child that has no desire to take a bath + a bath full of water = water everywhere! That gets old real fast! However, if you change the relationship to friendship instead of authority relationship... you can play and get them to do things because they are your friend... For example with one of my boys, he is the oldest one in the baby house... we established a friendship relationship earlier in the day... basically I just asked him if he wanted to be my friend... so when it came to be bath time and my turn to bathe them... I was able to "use the friendship card" and get him to cooperate with me... and because he was choosing to be cooperative, I let him help me and poor the water over himself... and everything went smoother than ever. Genius. Everyone should use this ally theory...  : )   But really, if we chose to build relationships with people, instead of making assumptions, using our power/privileges in positive ways, the world would be a better place. Sounds cheesy, but I honestly believe it to be true.

So yeah things are going well : ) We have a long weekend this weekend (and its my weekend off) because Friday is a holiday celebrating the Constitution... pretty much everyone is traveling this weekend... I think I might join the group going to Acapulco. I'm not sure how badly I want to travel... I kind of just want to chill... but I guess I can do that on a beach in Acapulco just as well as here. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1 week down.

Wow I can't believe it has been a week... I can't believe it has already been a week... and that it has only been a week. A lot has happened...

It was exactly a week ago that I left for my new home at Ministerios de Amor.
On a "normal" day I...
Help dress the "bebes," get them ready for the day, and bring them over for breakfast. This begins at 6:00 (feel free to let your jaw hit the floor now... at the fact that I am actually starting my day before 6AM!). Then I eat a quick breakfast with them, get my things together, and leave for class. I take a taxi every morning and it takes 20-30 minutes... I pretty much hit rush hora (la hora pica) dead on... If I left about 5 minutes earlier I would be about 10 minutes early for class but if I leave at 7:30 I get there pretty much right on time... once a minute or two late... (I'm sure you really care about my taxi rides and rush hours). After class I come back to the casa CEMAL to do my homework/check my e-mail/update my blog/take a break... and then at around 1:30 I eat lunch with whatever staff is around... then I walk downtown to take the 1hr bus ride back home. When I get there the kids are working on homework because they also just got back from school. So I help with homework and play until it is time to bathe the bebes and get them all ready for bed... Then I... go over and help with the older kids dinner and clean up, or talk to the tias or other people... or do whatever else needs to be done.
Saturday I helped with a variety of different things and met many new people who were around to help on the weekend. On Sunday we went to church. All the children from all of the different houses go to the same church.. Mamí Ceci's church. It was really cool to experience... Some of the kids have older siblings in other homes, and got to see them at Church which was awesome... The church itself was really interesting to me... It was pretty much only Ministerios de Amor(MdA) kids and Staff. Apparently they used to go to some other church... I'm not really sure what the story is though... I think it is awesome that all the kids go to church together and siblings get to spend time together ever week... and it would have to be a good sized church to be able to accomadate like 200 kids... but it is really intersesting if in fact they do have their own church... Ha, I've been busy...

This may be the semester that I actually kick procrastination's butt! I really don't have a much time to do homework while I'm at the house... so I have to be diligent about getting it done in the time I have after class and before lunch... this is sure to be a challenge... In reality I could probably do some homework at night... but I have been way to tired for that. And this is coming from a girl who has no problem pulling all-nighters. Go figure. I knew it would be time of firsts...

The adjustments are coming... I'm understanding easier and easier... the confidence in speaking is coming too, but much slower. I love that I have kids to practice with... we just laugh when we don't understand each other... they probably take advantage of it sometimes... and I think I need to learn all the "bad words" to know when they're saying them... Add that to the list of things I wish I would have learned in spanish class... along with apurarse=to hurry (a word a hear about a million times a day), bien can be used like muy, or "very" (ex:bien deficil...etc), people don't actually say "can I use..." puedo/podría usar...  they ask if you will lend it them... and I'm sure there are so many more... ha. but as it has been my life here so far... things are about to change again, My semester group comes this weekend and my Universal (language school) friends leave. Once the semester group gets here I will be even busier... I will have orientation stuff and who know what else, and then real classes will start. yikes.

Pray: that the comprehension and confidence would continue to improve. That I would be able to build relationships with the people at MdA, esepcially my roommate (we had a couple of good nights of talking, starting with when I walked down to the store with her one night... but it has been uncomfortable again lately...). That all of the semester students would arrive safely and the next transition would go well. That I find a way to end well my time with friends from Universal while living and spending all of my time at MdA.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

People have been asking... so here's my address. They kind of adviced against packages... especially through the mail. I know you all really want to send me huge packages of goodies.... haha. Cards and letters should be fine... and UPS/FedEx could be ok too.

J.H. Preciado # 314
Colonia San Antón
Cuernavaca, Morelos
C.P. 62020 MEXICO

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Changing sceanery (again and again)

Changing scenery again and again
Well... I started this post about 6 days ago and never finished it... So I'll give you that and then get to the rest :)
¡Feliz dia de los tres reyes!
Today (1/6/10)in Mexico it is el Dia de los Tres Reyes or the Day of the Three Kings. Today they celebrate that day that the three kings (or however many wisemen) brought gifts to baby Jesus. Today is the day that they give gifts (mostly only to children) instead of giving gifts on Christmas. Everyone celebrates by eating this big round sweet bread called rostro and drinking hot chocolate. Each person has to cut their own piece of bread because inside the bread are little plastic baby Jesus toys. Who ever cuts the baby Jesus or gets a piece with it inside has to through a party and buy tamales for everyone in February... we celebrated it at the school and then again back at the house because a travel seminar group arrived that night. They're studying migration.

Which leads to my first change... After spending two nights in the house by myself (the interns and the professor from Augsburg are in the other house... la casa verde). I got kind of used to being alone... then this new group (Aindrea, Brittany, Becky, and Alicia) came and they are staying in the house I stay in... la casa CEMAL(change). Since I hadn't started my practicum yet i was able to join them for some things... We went to the market, learned about the economy of migration, and listened to the stories of people who either went to the US to work or had family that did so. These people also happened to be there host families. After two days of living in the casa CEMAL with me, they stayed with host families for the weekend (change). So I had the house to myself for the weekend. They came back on Sunday (change) and I moved last night (huge and permanent change!).

The language school keeps changing too. When I first started there were only a couple people there... Taylor and Ben from Rhode Island (they had been there a week before I got there), Mike (the social work prof), another woman in his class, and a woman from Canada... and that was about it for students. Then a huge group about 20-ish people from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD aka RIZ-DE) came and started taking classes, then the next day the four girls in the travel seminar started taking classes, and this weekend a group of 14-ish from Pennsylvania came... We also change classes every week. So yesterday I started a new class with Taylor, Ben, a girl from Pennsylvania named Rachel (she's going to be here for a while!), and a girl from RISD named Laurel.

Icm sure you're all wondering what I did this weekend all alone in the casa CEMAl. right? but I told you I have friends... remember? haha. On Friday after the other girls left... I watched a little OTH and went to bed. Haha. I was exhausted... and no one was doing anything. on Saturday I went to church with Christina... ate lunch, went to visit the house with stephanie,
-------- pause----------
I don't think I told you all what I am going to be doing for my practicum/fieldwork/internship (whichever word you prefer). I'm going to be working for a place called Ministerios de Amor ( in spanish). They have several homes for street kids and orphans... what I was told is most of the kids have some sort of family but for some reason or another they can't live with the... whether they're in jail or something else... I am going to be working in the house for the little kids and babies. It is also the place where I a going to be living!
went downtown to eat Pizza with Mike, and met Taylor and Ben on the walk back... I literally turned around and walked right back where I came from. We ended up at a bar with a couple of RISD girls... with out of even meaning to... but 3 soon turned into 10... and then even more... we stayed there for a while just hangin out... and then we went to a club and stayed there way to late because we left at 8am for an excursion with the language school the next day... this left me with about 3hrs of sleep before climbing the pyramids. We went to a place called teotihuacan, I have pictures but not time to post them... here's the google images version... . It was a really fun, beautiful, impressive place... with lots of really interesting history... ask me about it later...We also stopped a really interesting tourist trap... and learned about all of the things you can make out of this one cactus (soap, paper, needle, fibers for weaving, and a drink) but... If I don't move on now I wont have time to talk about anything else... and I rambled a lot already! The other girls came back on Sunday we went out to eat.... New class on Monday... and then... repacking and moving in!!!
Stephanie took me out there around 4... we talked to the Tia (which means aunt... but is what the women who work there are called), I think I met about 500 people and remember about 5 names... then I helped two girls with there home work... who were much more interested in this strange new person than their homework... I hope I didn't get them in too much trouble... after homework time I helped bathe (well, dress after they were bathed) and feed the littlest ones and then went over to be introduced to all the other children and helped with supper... then I the girl (16-ish) that I am rooming with showed me the room and made room for my things... then we went back to eat a little something, watched part of a novela and part of some movie on TNT, returned to our room, I did some homework and passed out because I was exhausted and had to be in the Kitchen by 6 to help with breakfast... Then I went to class this morning... it is sure to be an eye-opening and interesting experience... I'm sure I will have many stories to tell... so far I feel pretty lost there... I don't know what I am supposed to be doing most of the time... I was pretty confident in at least my spanish comprehension skills before I went there... and last night and this morning, I felt like they could have been speaking french... I know that will come though...
Well... I think it is about time for lunch... I'll update again when I have time... You can pray for the transition to living out there and that comprehension would come quickly.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I'm here!

So, I made it!

I arrived on Sunday night around 11 in Cueravaca after...
- a plane that was delayed 2.5 hrs which led to...
- a really long layover in the lovely terminal 5
- a 4 hr plane ride with no movie!
- lots of airline people that thought if they repeated themselves and yelled louder that you would know what they meant... in both languages!
- a restaurant/meeting place in the airport with a new name
- a very lost, non-Spanish-speaking Swiss boy that my driver kindly brought back to Cuernavaca which resulted in...
- an hour-ish bus ride of translating for my new Swiss friend (Ben?) even though the driver Ismanuel knew some English but spoke only in Spanish be because he liked that I could understand him :p

I got about 7 hrs of sleep after a very long and tiring day of travel and yesterday I...
- had class at 8AM with the best teacher Rosario
- met new friends Ben y Taylor who had Rosario for their last class and are very jealous. They will be here for only a couple more weeks... but they will leave around the same time the rest of the group will arrive. Don't worry... I'm not lonely here. :)
- ate lunch in a small restaurant near our houses with Cristina and one of the other staff (I can't think of her name)
- went to "el centro" or downtown by myself in the afternoon... to start get to know the area and just see what was there
- saw the cascada (waterfall) with Cristina the Intern who is one of the few people that is already here
- went to dinner with Cristina and Mike (the Social Work prof from Augsburg) at a restaurant downtown
- and moved rooms about 3 times...

Today hasn't been to eventful so far... I went to class and had a meeting with Stephanie who is in charge of the internship stuff. I should be starting that at the end of the week I think.

Well, that's all for now...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Last moments in the states

I am sitting in the Chicago airport in terminal 5 waiting for my flight to leave for Mexico city. For those of you who have flown through chicago before, terminal 5 is not like the rest of the airport. It is very small, about 4 restaurants, and you better eat before going through security (thank you check-in lady!)
So It begins... My semester in Mexico starts today and I'm so excited. I am going to be studying abroad in cuernavaca, Mexico. I'll be taking social work and Spanish classes and doing a social work internship there.
I can't wait to tell you all about my experiences!

Last meal in the states... McDonalds. Yuck, but maybe appropriate...