Saturday, January 22, 2011

Puerto Escondido

True to be said, I am no stranger to the beach. Seasoned early on with the Washington coast and wind and chill, appropriate attire included jeans, a hoodie and maybe even a stocking cap. But as time has passed, slowly and with the laziest of snowbirds I gradually migrated south, enjoying warmer and warmer shores.

This trip had been planned for a while. Every Christmas break the staff tries to do something with the kids that have nowhere to go. Most, visit relatives if not their parents, but there are a few who have no one but those at the home. This year there were only three, Pio, Zuriel, and Celina. Jill, Janelle and Ramona and myself made seven.

We headed south on the same road to Huatulco. The driving was a little more tame this time. We weren’t flexing our stomachs as we did with Habacuc about a month earlier. Jill drove and drove, deliberate and true and handle the bulk of the distance.

We were stoked to arrive at the hotel. It was amazing, overlooking the ocean. The rooms were small but we didn’t plan on spending much time there, though the boys will sit in front of any screen indefinitely unless they are pulled away. The hotel also had its own beach club down a short flight of stairs and trail. There was another pool down there, with refreshments, and only a step or two from the beach.

The boys swam and swam. The water was warm. Puerto Escondido is known for its big surf but it was small while we were there. Even so, I rented a longboard and caught a few. I tried to take Pio out but he wasn’t kean on being in the surf. I tried to encourage him to paddle out past the waves to rest, but he wasn’t cooperating, and I couldn’t tow him without his help. It was a fairly short lesson. Pio went in and went back out for a few. When I came in to find Zuri to see if he wanted a crack at it, I couldn’t find him. Eventually Pio came up to Janelle and I saying we needed to check Zuri out of the lifeguard’s hut. We couldn’t get a lot of info out of people but apparently Zuri had drifted out a little far on his boogie board.

Janelle talked to the lifeguard who said to be more careful and that if we wanted to buy him a coke or something that would be fine. They are “volunteers” and that’s their way of saying to give them money for saving our kid. Janelle gave Zuri 40 pesos and said to pay him for your life. When we asked Zuri what happened he said he was on his boogie board and not afraid, and I wonder how much saving he really needed.

That was probably the most excitement of the trip. The rest of the time we spent eating out, deciding whether to swim in the pool or the ocean, building sand castles, and a little shopping. I ate a ton of junk food with the boys. We did go out on a boat ride one morning. These guys hang out on the beach and wait for tourist to come by and you settle on a price and hop in the boat. They took us out and the highlight was when he jumped off the boat to catch a sea turtle that he roped and hoisted up into the boat.

We had a blast and it was over all too fast. We got back and had a day or two before everyone returned. When they did it was nice to have everyone back. The vast majority of the kids were thrilled to return. Some seemed to have had a pretty tough break, but after a few days it was business as usual.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve in the Zocalo

Hey Everyone, I hope you had a great time over the holidays. Here's a little taste of what we did to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Night in Tlacolula

I couldn't believe it. The church, which is still lacking in minor detail, was packed. A ton of people had shown up. The crowd had plenty of time to grow. The pageant was advertised to begin at six, but in true Mexican form it didn't. In fact, we weren't even at the church at six. I had been at the church all day laying more of the brick floor, but as the hour drew near last minute preparations were being carried out and we didn't leave to get cleaned up until after 5. Then, we had to eat of course. So we stopped for tacos on the way home.

When we did get home at about a quarter till, Denise asked if I could be ready in five minutes. I assured her that I could, and I did. I waited a while for the others, and as the clock struck six I began to worry. Everyone else had gone to the church while we were eating tacos. Aside from Habacuc and Denise and myself, we only had David and Pedro in our group. I checked to see that I hadn't been left somehow, and David told me to relax as he continued to get ready. Denis and Habacuc finally immerged from their house and had a new and uncharacteristic urgency about them.

I jumped into the truck, ready to go and they hit the horn for David. They hit it again, holding a little longer this time. Still David was nowhere to be found. Their frustration surprised me, as our tardiness leading up to this moment had been of no concern, now all of a sudden not one precious second could be spared. Also surprisingly, the decision was made to leave David, who had a significant role in the play and was set to be the entertainment afterwards. We pulled away, but only a few hundred yards or so to the visitor’s center, where we had to grab a couple odds and ends. Luckily David used to the extra time to run down the drive with Pedro and jump in the back of the truck. Finally we were on our way to the church.

We arrived only a half hour behind schedule. Everyone was changing into their costumes. One of the girls painted a beard on my face. Everyone had been pretty upset with me for a while, when I shaved and cut my hair. Apparently I hadn't been chosen for my role based on my Christ likeness, but rather my ragged appearance. I was also interested to observe that the entire stage had been set up opposite of how we had practiced. Stage left was on the right and I tucked that bit of knowledge away for later. The last of my costume was being finished and given to me. Unfortunately for me, this whole thing was going to happen after all.

I wasn't too nervous. I had a bit of time to kill, as I was playing the role of adult Jesus in the Christmas pageant, so I didn't appear for a while. I came to find out that Mexican pageants are quite thorough, taking the audience all the way from the birth through the Crucifixion. Fortunately we didn't also have devils and demons, as I've been told some of the school pageants have been known to squeeze into their programs. At any rate, I pondered my lines, which I didn't actually have to say. They had been recorded, as had all the lines and the performers were simply moving their mouths. Everyone but me had recorded their own lines. Luis' voice stood in for mine as my Spanish is still not up to par with theater standards apparently. I'm not sure why he was chosen, because he had a part of his own, and his voice is rather high and scratchy, which became a highlight for the staff to poke fun of later.

Finally, the lights were struck. The music was cued. We were ready to go, and only about an hour and half late. I think it went well for the most. My favorite part was when Chucho plays the angel that appears to the Sheppard’s. Then his multitude of heavenly hosts joins him, which consisted of the little cuna boys, Tavo, Julio, and Luis (not the same Luis who recorded my lines). It was a pretty good event, kind of blur for me, but I have been assured of a video that exists if I ever care to refresh my memory.

There was a ton of food and piƱatas. The kids had a pretty good time, and I think their parents enjoyed it too. Many of the kids are set to leave with different relatives on Friday. The small group of us that stays behind is excited to be heading to the beach the day after Christmas. Just like home, there are those that are finishing last minute shopping, decorations and cooking. I have been able to take a couple days off from working at the church now that the deadline has pasted and Habacuc and Denise are taking some much needed time off. We are all very excited to celebrate together. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas

It’s been a whole month since my last post and, having been derelict of my writing for so long, some will remain aloof to the reader. I hope that it does not stray from memory when I find myself separated by both time and space from this place and these people. As so much has come and gone in the time we’ve been apart, I’ll try to fill in the pieces with some highlights.

His arrival was much anticipated. Proper research was exercised via facebook though we were still divided on who exactly would show up. Jeff assertively declared it would be the grizzled fly fisherman, while Janelle confidently predicted it would be whoever had dressed their golden retriever in a Canuck’s jersey for their profile pic. Both sides were so sure that a wager was established and we, without TV, local hangout spot, sports, or our normal leisure activities, had some entertainment for which to look forward.

The guy was driving his motorcycle down from Smythers BC (8 hrs north of Vancouver). Jeff and I were working at the church and when Habacuc arrived with Dan at the job, he brought Jeff’s fifty pesos from Janelle too. Apparently he had pulled in on his bike greeted by a less than enthusiastic Janelle who immediately new she had lost the wager.

He arrives just in time too. Being a big strong farm boy from BC’s interior, he was perfect for helping us install the final and biggest beam in the church. It was to stretch across under the now sagging roof, almost perpendicular to the other beams. Hoisted by measures of rope and awkwardly thrust overhead to hands reaching down, we shimmied one end onto a concrete overhang that would support that side. The other side was rigged with a pulley, yet that did not simplify things. Struggling and straining to move the massive beam, our hands grew limp with exhaustions from holding the line. After many failed attempts the side was finally in position to be jacked into place. We had a three-ton car jack that was fitted with a measure of a wood plank and then cranked up. As I imagine, the total weight of the roof must have drawn near to the max bulk of the jack, yet it slowly and steadily lifted the droopy lid straight and flush. It felt to be quite the accomplishment when the roof was finished. Yet the church would prove to be much more work still.

It was fun having Dan around. He gave rides to all the kids and taught Jeff and I how to drive the moto. It was a ton of fun though I nearly laid it down in some loose sand when the neighbor’s dogs ran out in front of me and chased me down the road. We got a lot done at the church in the days that he was here, and then he was off to Cancun to catch a flight to Haiti. Sounds like things are pretty rough there, and we all pray for his safety.

Dan wasn’t he only surprise visitor to the church, though the other was much less helpful. I didn’t personally see him so I can only repeat the story as I have heard it. Pablo, one of the gentlemen that work at the casa hogar laying the brick wall, will also help us in the evenings at the church tiling the bathroom. He’s super nice and a very, very hard worker. At any rate, he was working away in the bathroom after dark when there was a very loud banging coming from the other side of the church. When he lifted his eyes from his work, he saw a massive figure hammering away at the beam we had just hung. It was about three meters off the ground, yet the figure could reach standing on the ground. He was very dark and seemed to be content to beat away at the beam. When Jeff and I heard the story, Jeff suggested that it could have been a good spirit that came to help us with construction. When Habacuc translated that to Pablo, all he did was shake his head slowly from side to side. I’m not sure what it means that there is a nine or ten foot, dark, hammering spirit in the church, but construction to this point has been blessed with safety and accomplishment. I hope that it continues.

I get a short rest this weekend from working at the church. We are going up to the mountains since most all the kids are going on a youth event with Habacuc. Then we’ll return for our Christmas pageant, which I will fulfill my role of our lord and savior, Jesus. I can’t believe I agreed to this but there is no backing out at this point.

I hope everyone is having a very merry Christmas season. It would be fun to be home celebrating with everyone, but we are looking forward to taking some of the kids to the ocean soon and celebrating here at the home as well.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Its a boy!

I'm sure many, if not all, have heard the news by now. Thankfully other avenues of communication exist besides my scattered postings and those that keep a keen ear to the grapevine have done much to inform me of every new development.

Really, things had settled into place nicely after the Huatulco trip. Jeff and I were working regularly with Santiago about the grounds of the Casa Hogar, the demands of fruit trees, hedges, shrubs and flowers keeping us busy. Andrea and Ricardo were preparing for a much needed and deserved vacation, and the group from the Chapel had arrived. Upon Habacuc's return from the Baja we were once again making progress on the new church building. All was good and ticking along according to plan.

Then Janelle asked me a peculiar question the next morning at breakfast. I told her that, yes I had checked my email last night. I was a bit confused as to why she was sending emails only about forty feet across the courtyard from her house to mine.

"No, this morning, did you check your email this morning?"


"Well, Andrea had her baby last night." Of course I was more than a little bewildered over the statement. Andrea was to go on vacation, return, and have the kid months later, but as it turns out, she barely made it to the hospital.

The email I was to read assured me of everyone's good health and that little Micah had, in fact, insisted on arriving almost eleven weeks early. The nature of such an unforeseen event raised a thick cloud of worry and concern, as well as speculation and theories as to the reasons behind happy surprise. Staff discussed, what they thought may have been peculiar events leading up to their departure. Members of the visiting group were eager to share snippets of information discovered from facebook pages or correspondence from other church members back home.

But as many fussed over pictures and posts only minutes old some could do nothing more than wait in anxious apprehension. Some of the boys were most concerned with the matter. The baby was supposed to born in Mexico, born a Mexican. One even asked, "how will we be brothers if he is American and I am not?"

The question struck me sharply. It dramatically testifies to the work of Ricardo and Andrea in the life of these boys and to the unintelligible segregation of national economies. I fumbled to respond and finally stumbled across, "porque hermanos tienen lo mismo padres." "Because brothers have the same parents."

We don't really say brother or sister in church in the states, but here in Mexico hermano Enrique visits the prisons. Hermana Chave shares in devotions. We pray "Our Father", so it makes sense to pray with our brothers and sisters.

I'm continually reminding some of the boys how much Andrea and Ricardo want to return and as soon as they are able. They are eager to see pictures and join in on Skype calls. It will be good for brothers to be united whenever it may happen.

Friday, October 29, 2010

California Dreaming?

1. Barra De La Cruz
2. San Augustin
3. Grass Hut Chruch at San Augustin
4. From inside the church
5. Bayside of San Augustin

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Barra De La Cruz

So it has been a few weeks and the last couple blogs have been fairly heavy. There have been so many wonderfully carefree days and delightful fun with kids and staff. It isn't 24/7 drama. Sure sometimes it can be draining, but among whatever it is that may deplete or tire, there is also that which inspires and empowers. There is rest in this place.

The rest has come in days off or time to recover when feeling sick. Even being unexpectedly stranded in the city has broken up the routine. But if there were ever a place to get away from it all and completely relax, that place would be called Huatulco.

For anyone else Huatulco is about a 6 or 7 hours drive south from the mission sitting on the southern Pacific coast of the state. Luckily we had Habacuc who can complete it in a little over 5 hours including a stop for food. An impressive feat on such a winding mountain road in a 4 cylinder 12 passengers van. The man is a machine, using the entire lane and more to hold turns and keep momentum. Drafting close off the bumper of other vehicles, he sets up the pass. We snaked for hours through the southern mountains at double the posted speed limit. Scared at first, I soon gained courage after observing yet another precise and perfectly executed hairpin.

The entire point of the trip was to bring two of the young adults from our church down to help at church in Huatulco for a week or two. Arriving safely in the little beach town we dropped the kids at the church and hung out for the duration of the evening service. Haba talked with the other pastor at length, about what I'm not sure. Then, though late in the evening and dark as it was, we headed for the beach.

Walking across white sand in the heat of the night under moonlight was almost surreal. Not only that but there was an amazingly interesting hippie drum circle in full force. Beats raging complete with strung out, high on life and other things, hippie dancers. Seemed to be an eclectic group of Americans and Europeans. Not a local in the bunch that I could see. After a short walk and some time just gazing out at the watery expanse, we grab our sleeping bags and threw them out on the sand for the night.

Rising early the next morning we headed back to the pastor's house for breakfast. It was fantastic and bellies full we headed to their shed to borrow some surfboards. They had a bunch of old and busted, faded awesome boards. They handed us some of the beginner foam-tops and we were on our way.

We headed to a spot called San Augustin. There is actually a grass hut that serves as the church there on the ocean side of the point. On the cove side there is a string of grass hut restaurants and snorkel shops that are very busy at key points in the year but when we took to the beach there were only four other people. On the ocean side there were about eight or nine-foot waves crashing directly into a 45-degree beach so we took to the cove that was peaceful and quiet.

After taking a swim and then a long nap we ate some seviche and hung out and read for a bit. We were headed for another evening swim when I noticed some small waves were slipping past all the rocks and breaking over the choral in the bay. I grabbed one of the foam-tops and paddled out. A local kid joined me on a boogie board and we chatted and caught small short waves for about an hour. Then, as the tide slowly went out, the waves became a little faster and a little steeper and I went over the nose of the board and cut my hand a bit on the choral below. It was a sharp ending to my surf sesh, but I loved every second of it. We walked back over to the grass hut church and slept on the beach beside it for the night.

The next morning came early as Jeff and I were getting eaten alive by some unknown bug that came out of the sand to make us miserable. Haba opted for a room that some of the church members had offered to us, which was good because he was going to drive us back later. We were about to leave the wonderful San Augustin when some of the church members invited us to have breakfast at their little tienda. It was fresh fried fish with tomatoes and avocados and Coca Cola, of course. The breakfast of champions. We stayed and chatted with them for a while. Habacuc is never at a loss for keeping the conversation rolling. But we eventually left and Haba wanted to take us to a spot he said would be good for surfing. He wasn't kidding around.

We drove for about 45 mins and then it was down another bumpy dirt road to the beach. We had to stop and pay for access and we asked the guy how it was breaking today. "Mas o menos." "More or less," was the reply. I can't imagine what more would look like. We parked and walked past a grungy, skinny, sun beaten rabble hanging out by the lone tienda on the edge of the beach. I immediately felt like an outsider. They looked us up and down, eyebrows raised, and I knew, at least on some level, that I wouldn't be sharing any waves with these guys. I quickly found out why.

A few more steps and we had cleared a sandy knoll to a complete view of the best surf I had ever laid eyes upon. It was shocking. I immediately remembered pictures and footage of Jeffery’s Bay in South Africa and Honalua Bay in Maui. It was truly world class. A perfect right to left point break over a sandy bottom, it pealed beautifully for a few hundred yards into the bottom of the cove. Not only that but it was holding sets that were three and four meters high. A light offshore breeze held the wave for an extra second and the crew that was out caught wave after wave seemingly without effort. Catching the peak, they'd scream down the face and hook a huge bottom turn, powering back up to kick spray off the top. At that point they could make a full turn back into the wave or setup for the barrel only half way through the ride. Their rides were, in fact, so long that many of them rode it all the way into the sand and walked back to the end of the point and paddle in from there.

As much as I wanted to try my hand at perfection, I was truly out classed. Even if I had the skill and mustered enough courage to join the guild, I didn't have the proper stick. The beginner foam-tops we had wouldn't be able to hold a rail or carry enough speed to keep me in the blue on a wave like that. It would be like entering your broken down riding-lawnmower at the brickyard. We took some pictures, saw some iguanas and then headed for the car and home.

The last two days have been like many that have come to pass at the Casa Hogar. I woke early to drive kids to school and then returned to do some dishes. Jeff and I were again unsure as to what we would be doing but we were quickly given jobs about the grounds or going to town to run errands or sorting veggies. It was good to be back. The three of us had a ton of fun and now Haba is taking a group of kids to do worship music at the church down there and hang at the beach for a couple days. I know they will have a lot of fun. We are planning to go again around Christmas with some of the kids. Hopefully some day I'll be able to return to that perfect spot.