Wednesday, January 2, 2013

December tidbits

December kind of got away from me, so I'm going to attempt to share a few stories here!

Work at ALEM: ALEM has stayed mostly the same this month.  More research projects, some time helping in the workshop, afternoons watching Rosy cooking comida for the team (I am slowly learning how to cook a few things!), sleeping kittens in my lap, etc.  There was one exciting morning where a group from Portland came to visit us.  They were staying at the convent where the Mexico YAGMs stayed for orientation, so I got to say hi and chat with Hermana Raina again.  She is possibly the sweetest woman ever.  I also just enjoy anytime that I get to talk with people from the Pacific NW, as I miss it so much!  One woman somehow recognized me from PLU (I'm not entirely sure how that happened, but it was pretty cool).  I shared some of my work with them, and even translated a few questions at the end when Mayra was busy.  ALEM's Christmas event this year was a trip to Xochimilco.  Xochimilco is a series of canals in Mexico City.  You rent a boat, and then float down the canal.  We ate lots of food, and just enjoyed life together.  The entire time, different food and souvenir vendors and mariachi bands were floating by on their own boats, trying to sell their products.  It was a fun way to celebrate with the team!

Garfield and Pirata keep me company while I work on my computer
hundreds of brightly colored boats!

enjoying some of the music at Xochimilco
CEDISH: I didn't really work with CEDISH in December.  Lots of things in Mexico kind of shut down in December in preparation for the holidays, and CEDISH was no exception.  However, I was invited over to bake cookies one evening, which was pretty exciting.  We baked M & M cookies, as chocolate chips are difficult to find here.  I was the master baker, and taught everyone how to bake.  Mitzi's son had even invited a friend over so that he could join in on the baking.  I was a little surprised that Mitzi and Magnolia don't really know how to bake much.  Unfortunately, baking (and baked goods) aren't really a big deal here in Mexico, so it shouldn't be too surprising that most families don't do much (my host family is always surprised by the things I like to bake).  Mitzi even showed me a chocolate cookbook she bought but doesn't know how to use, so I foresee many other baking parties!  It's a positive first step in building relationships.  They also invited me to visit Ocotepec with them to view many of the nacimientos (nativity scenes) that families had set up outside of their homes.  They were quite elaborate!

YAGM Christmas Party:  On December 15th we had our YAGM Christmas party!  I attempted baking my family's cinnamon pull apart bread with Casey, and it was a great success!  A familiar taste of home for the holidays.  There was also lots of other delicious food, and I ate so much that I almost felt sick.  We also had a White Elephant gift exchange.  Everyone brought a small gift, and when we arrived Andrea informed us that there were also other presents for us!  Turns out that the Mexico YAGM program has a tradition of leaving behind presents for the next year's group.  A big THANK YOU to the Mexico YAGMs from last year.  It's a little bit absurd how excited we were for Tide to-go pens, half bottles of lotion and hair stuff, and the pop-tarts from Andrea.  But with our stipends, even the simplest presents are exciting.  We finished off the evening by going to St. Michael's for their Lessons and Carols service.  It's still not quite the same as going caroling in the U.S. or attending the Christmas Eve service at my church, but it was the one chance to sing any English Christmas carols, so it was greatly appreciated!

Christmas:  I celebrated Christmas with my host family.  On Christmas Eve I had been told that we were going to Zury's mom's house for comida and then to Mauricio's family's home for dinner.  Although I still had no idea of what to expect, having a general idea of the schedule was nice.  Then Christmas Eve happened, and I remembered that in Mexico I had to throw all my ideas of what my day is going to be like out the window.  Zury was in and out all morning, running errands and prepping food.  She came back from one of her many trips at about 2:45 (we were supposed to have arrived at Ana's house at 2).  I started chopping celery at around 3, and then helped wrap some presents at 3:15 or so.  At 3:30 Zury tells me to get in the car, as we have to go to the supermarket again.  At this point I just assumed she had forgotten to get something for our meal.  I was completely off-base, as usual.  We go into Soriana's (the grocery store by my house) and Zury goes to speak with a manager of some sort.  She then heads to the appliance section, grabs the barcode for an oven, and then takes it over to a cashier.  Turns out we were at the store to buy a new oven as a Christmas present for her mom!  This whole transaction took maybe 10 minutes, but then it took another 20 minutes to figure out how to load the oven into the back of her tiny car.  We finally crammed ourselves in, stopped at home for 2 minutes to grab the presents, and then take off.  It was a pretty chaotic afternoon, and we finally got to Ana's house at 4, only 2 hours behind schedule.  Comida itself was fine; I got a little overwhelmed with the sheer chaos of that family all afternoon.  While handing out presents there was a great deal of chanting and singing (along the lines of "open it, open it").  I got a couple of small presents from my family, which was pretty sweet.  We finally got home around 9 pm, but were only home long enough for Zury to finally take her shower (she had run out of time in the morning).  Then we headed to see Mauricio's family.  4 generations live in the same house, so there are always lots of people around.  There were fireworks for about 2 hours, most of which were just loud bangs, and then we got around to presents by about 12:30 or so.  Maury then fell asleep on the couch, and our "midnight dinner" started at around 1:15 or so.  I didn't really eat much, as I was far too tired.  We finally made it home around 2 am.  Then on Christmas Day I attended church with Catie and Colleen before heading home to skype with my family.  Then we headed to Zury's aunt's home for a quiet afternoon.  We played some video games on the kinect, ate more food, and had a couple of piƱatas.  I felt much more relaxed at this family gathering, as it included less awkward small talk, and the games reminded me of my family's holiday celebrations.  Then I raced home to finish packing so I could leave for my vacation!  It was a jam-packed couple of days.

Vacation: I traveled with Colleen to Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, which is about an 8 or 9 hour bus ride from Cuernavaca.  We took an overnight bus, so were a little exhausted the first day.  Our vacation was full of relaxing days on the beach, lots of reading, snorkeling, swimming, meeting lots of cool people, and my first surf lesson!  Our first night at dinner we started talking to a friendly Canadian man vacationing with his young son.  He secretly paid our bill, which was a great way to start our vacation!  Something I want to pass along at some point...  We also hung out some with a couple staying at our hostel.  They were from the UK, and they had both quit their jobs to spend a year traveling through Australia, Central and South America.  As they had been in Zihuatanejo for a few days already, they were able to give us lots of tips for what to do.  This week was a nice relaxing break from life in Cuernavaca, but it has been so nice to get back home!  It was also a little weird to be spending so much more money than I do on a regular basis here.  I was aware the entire time of how privileged I am to get to go to the beach for a week at Christmas.
Colleen and I ready for our overnight bus!

the main beach in Zihuatanejo - everything was pretty crowded, because most Mexicans have a week or two of vacation around Christmas, and a lot of them head to the beach

welcome to the Pacific coast of Mexico!  So nice to see the ocean again; 4+ months is a long time for a Washington girl!

enjoying the heat
Happy New Years everyone!  I head back to work tomorrow, go back to language school for a week on Monday, and then have another YAGM retreat to look forward to at the end of the month.  I can tell that the rest of my YAGM year is going to fly by...

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