Archive for September, 2009
The book fair is in town! One of the vendors is selling quality hardcover picture books in Spanish. The best I’ve seen thus far. Picking over the books last night, I became as excited as I know the girls will be when they crack them open. The books are filled with fun and imaginative art. I hope to encourage the girls interested in art to try new styles in their drawing.
If you would like to add to our fledgling and treasured picture book library, it’s easy. PayPal me $20. I’ve worked out an incredible deal with the vendor: 5 books for $20. The fair ends next Monday.
The girls at Buen Pastor are just like any other girls. They have hopes, dreams, humor, and beauty. But unlike most of the girls I grew up with or surrounded me as an adult, their potential remains untapped. Many grow up in an environment where nobody sees them.
Yesterday, F and I explored the bluffs and buttes jutting over Guanajuato’s panoramica. We could see all of Guanajuato from the buffa. We outlined our favorite walks and pointed out places we have yet to explore. We watched the progression of a thunderstorm miles away and stopped from time to time to trace where we had hiked the hour before. There was no trash. There were a few rock climbers, and a number of grazing cows and horses. Walking in the sun and the wind, I found my favorite place in Guanajuato. I look forward to returning next Sunday.
There have been a lot of firsts this week. I feel honored that I’ve been included in family discussions and have met some of the girls’ families. I hope to continue doing more of this as to help the girls, you have to start at home. Mothers hold the key. Their daughters will repeat the same story for generations. To break that cycle, you have to sit and learn the stories from the mother if they’re willing to share them. Only then do you have a strong starting point.
One of the shelter women let me work on her today. Another first. She suffers from severe headaches and neck pain but hasn’t accepted any form of bodywork until now. This young woman was severely abused by family members and neighbors since childhood. Her brothers, uncles, and father raped her from childhood. Her mother sold her to anyone who would pay. So you can imagine, she has issues with touch.
When Madre Catalina told me that she was willing to have me touch her neck and shoulders as long as Madre Cata was in the room and she was fully clothed, I thanked my fairy godmother. This first session was only 12 minutes long and she shook the entire time. I barely touched her and she would wince and pull away as if I were hurting her. I talked her through it and asked for permission when moving my hands. In the end, I practiced what I have been reading on Reiki so as not to touch her at all and interact with her energy field.
I hope she is willing to try again. This woman would so benefit in learning how to accept compassionate touch and develop appropriate trust. And I would so benefit from taking Laura Magpali’s reiki class this October in Eugene!
There are a row of these lions perched on the entry walls of the government offices near the dam. I love the architectural details of the buildings in that part of town.
Portero street offers a swatch of the bold and playful color palette seen throughout Guanajuato. The colors of this City uplift the spirit in the same way sunshine does.
I’ve been working on the Buen Pastor website today. I added three new faces to the Sponsor Me page. Sadly, I removed the twins but saved their profiles in the hopes that they will return.
I love interviewing the girls. They surprise me with their answers and make me laugh. Blanca had some interesting responses. For instance, she insisted that she truly loves to mop and sweep. And she was very specific on her intended career: a surgical nurse specializing in amputations. She even provided a drawing of a future patient on a gurney while she efficiently works on removing a leg.
Brenda is a new favorite. Her parents died in an accident and she has been living with her grandmother. Now her grandmother is sick and can’t care for her. So she’s at Buen Pastor. Brenda and I share a number of similarities: the same birthday, March 9, and a love of running, jumping rope, and nature. She surprised me with her sage responses. Quite, withdrawn, and smart, I’m going to enjoy spending a lot of time with her.
When the twins‘ grandmother came to take them home for the weekend, Lourdes cried. She didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay and go to school. The mother was in tears too. It was September 11th, and the grandmother told them they would come back. It was just for the weekend.
The twins didn’t come back on Monday, or Tuesday, or any day the following week. We thought it might be due to the heavy rains making the campo roads treacherous and the trip impossible. But after a sun-filled weekend, they still didn’t come back. So a few of us paid them a visit today. Our group consisted of Tere, the social worker, Adrianna, a social services state representative, F and I.
We drove nearly to Santa Rosa before turning off on a gravel road. We stayed on this road for 30 minutes, driving through the most spectacular scenery. When we got out of the truck, it smelled like crisp green. It was colder in the campo, sweater season. We made our way to the twins house, passing their horses, and were greeted by their uncle. The twins, along with their 4 brothers, were in school.
So we went looking for the school. On the way, we passed the grandmother, mother, and the smallest children, two girls. They were waiting for their checks. The Mexican government awards campo families a check for each child they send to school. School children are income. We asked why the twins hadn’t come back and were told that they didn’t want to.
When we saw the twins, they confirmed that they wanted to stay with their family. It’s understandable: it’s what they know. But I suspect that their earning potential at home is what is keeping them there. The mother, grandfather, grandmother, and eight children all sleep in one room. The uncle has his own room. It can’t be easy to live like this. Furthermore, when we went to the school, we found that the teacher hadn’t come to class that day. So there were 30+ children running around in the sierra outside and darting back and forth inside the classroom. It’s too bad the Mexican government doesn’t pay these rural families for each child that can read and write, not just attend an empty classroom. I have a feeling the twins would be back at Buen Pastor: reading, learning their multiplication, and English.
Before I left, I told the girls that they have a special gift inside that they can share with the world someday, to make the world a better place. But that gift is still growing. Given their impressive intelligence, they have the capacity to grow a very big gift. If they come back to Buen Pastor, the madres, Tere, and I would be there to help them nurture that gift and find the best way to help them realize a future where they share with the world. But they listened in silence, their gorgeous brown eyes unblinking, resolved to stay in the campo, their home, and continue the life that generations have lived before them.
F waits patiently on somebody’s steps as I photograph vibrant colored walls in the alleys.
Lucy went through her dark night when her husband died. Not only did she miss him terribly, but she had to find a way to support their three children on her own as she mourned.
She turned to Buen Pastor. At first, she intended on placing her daughters there as she looked for work and climbed out of her depression. But then Madre Lourdes suggested she come work at Buen Pastor with the girls. Madre Berta could certainly use a hand with 29 girls. So Lucy joined Madre Berta in watching the girls, helping them with their homework, and cooking meals. The work not only gave her the means to provide for her family, but a way to move on. Having her at Buen Pastor has kept a good family together.
Massage has been going well. The room is coming together. Madre Lourdes put a butterfly on the wall and lent me a CD player. Now I just need to find some good music. The CD I’ve been using skips and scratches.
One of the women I worked on this week is new. She fled her violent husband with just the clothes on her back. She didn’t even have shoes. So she’s been borrowing a pair that doesn’t quit fit. When I asked her what had happened to her feet, she told me the shoes were hurting her. She shared that she wears her clothes all week, washes them, and puts them on again as she only has one outfit.
Another woman I massaged told me she misses her two children she had to leave behind. She wanted to spend Independence Day with them. But she knows if she goes back, her husband will kill her. She can’t read or write. She was married young. What options does someone like her have? She was especially upset because celebrating holidays is her favorite thing to do with her children. For some reason, I found that her inability to do something so sweet and basic was unbearably sad.
Another woman did leave, but came back a few days later. Her husband found her in their town and gave her a solid beating. She returned immediately. It’s not safe to leave.
How can these women self actualize when they have no skills, nobody is hiring in this economy, their families have deserted them, and going back to their husbands means suicide? The only thing that keeps them going is their children.
Everyone is behaving like dogs
And the horses are coming down Violin Road
And Dutch is dead on his feet
And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet
til you’re full of rag water and bitters and blue ruin
And you spill out over the side to anyone who will listen…
And I’ve seen it all, I’ve seen it all
Through the yellow windows of the evening train…
It’s rained everyday since we’ve been here. The sound of rain as it pounds the roof, slides down the walls, and eventually drains down the street, reminds me of this song for some reason. It’s always been one of my favorites.
It was great to see Ann Marie today. Last Christmas, she rallied friends and family back home in Michigan to send her money so she could buy each girl an outfit for Christmas. When it came time for her to go home, there was not a dry eye in the house. She had made a strong impression on the girls, and they had made one on her. It was hard to say goodbye.
Ann Marie first came to Buen Pastor last August when she decided to improve her Spanish and volunteer with children. She told me that she learned more with the girls during her four months of volunteer work than at any other place or time in her life. Buen Pastor was a life changing experiencing for her. Ann Marie says that now she has thirty sisters.
Ann Marie loved Guanajuato so much, she came back to live. She’s currently teaching English to preschoolers, but she visits the girls when she can. She would love to come and work at Buen Pastor full-time if she could afford to do so. And with a B.A. in International Relations and a Masters in Childhood Development on the way, Buen Pastor could easily put this talented Michigander to work.
These crooked and crumbling structures are built over a tunnel. Worn, frayed, and mismatched: I find beauty here.
It’s been an incredible week. The novelty of everyday has me zombied out by evening and I love it!
I probably shouldn’t be surprised because I know how much I loved books as a kid, but I am continually taken aback by how excited the girls are when I arrive with my backpack with three carefully chosen books for the day. The little ones sit around as I read and re-read and then re-read once again the books of the day. Then they ask if they can hold them and carefully go through the stories themselves, mouthing and sounding out the words. The twins are set on learning English and whisper back English words into my arm.
I help the older girls with homework. I’m happy to say that F was able to fix two dinosaur computers and equip them with Internet cards he harvested from non-functioning computers. Nothing goes to waste here. Then he wired the room and the secundaria girls are estatic to have readily available Internet. Previously, they had to go to a cafe and pay for time themselves. Today I taught them about google docs, google translator, and how to think about information we find on the web. What they really want to learn, though, is English.
Adding the new girls to the Sponsor Page has allowed me to get to know them a little better. It’s nice. Each girl is incredibly special. Carol (pictured) told me that when she first came to Buen Pastor, she was depressed. She didn’t know how to fit in. Since the madres put such an emphasis on school, she realized that she might as well buckle down and study… there’s not much else to do. She told me it’s completely changed her perspective on school and what it means to be educated. She confided that she’s no longer sad, only set on doing the best that she can in school so that she has a shot at University.
Madre Berta knocked on the door early Monday morning. I had just woken up and F was in the shower. Madre Berta speaks so fast, and Monday morning wasn’t an exception. I understood that we were needed immediately in the reception room to talk to somebody. Who? I wasn’t sure, except that it was a parent. Why? we would soon find out.
In ten minutes, we were at the reception room being introduced to the twin’s grandfather, mother, and baby sister. They had come to take the girls home. Madre Lourdes and Madre Berta had spent the last half hour pleading with them to reconsider. At the last moment, mostly likely grasping at straws, Madre Lourdes told Madre Berta to go get us… maybe we could help plead their cause.
Since I didn’t understand why we were there, I began by congratulating the mother and grandfather for having such smart girls. I told them that they were the stars of Buen Pastor, and that everyone was so impressed with how quickly they had learned how to read. The twins, eleven in November, had never been to school before last year. But they possess a love of learning and a thirst for books. In no time, they surprised everyone and caught up to their peers.
Madre Lourdes told us that they were going to take the girls home and asked F and I to reason with them. Fernando talked to the grandfather a long time about the economy and job opportunities (and lack of them) and listened to the abuelo while I gathered my thoughts. I realized that these people don’t value education the same way I or the madres do. The twins have six other brothers and sisters at home. They are needed to help their mother run the household. What good will sitting in a classroom bring to the family now? The needs are always and ever present. Best to take care of them instead of thinking about the future.
When I spoke, I told the them that not every child shows the same capacity and interest for learning. However, it seems as though the twins were made to learn! They love schooling, and books, and math, and all of it. Perhaps they could consider giving them the opportunity to develop their talents this way, even if it was a sacrifice at home as there is a chance it could pay off when they’re older. I mentioned that at this moment, they–the mother and abuelo–are at a crossroads, and that their decision could cement the girls’ future. Why not allow them an education and perhaps the opportunity of a career somebody? It’s certainly a possibility given their intelligence and drive.
Transportation was another problem. The bus takes 30 minutes to travel to their stop. It’s another 30 minute walk through country to their home. I offered to take the girls home on the weekends, but we will probably find another way. One of the twins, Teodora, is sponsored (which made for a good case to keep her in school). We can also use her sponsorship to help pay for home visits once a month.
At last, the grandfather agreed to keep the girls in school. I was so relieved because I know they can go far if given the opportunity and the people around them who foster education. I only hope they can continue their stay with us at Buen Pastor and that abuelo won’t change his mind once the girls are back home for a visit.
Cuerpos Desdoblados, a new installation at Bellas Artes by Héctor Velásquez.
We thought we were done. We were wrong.
Marrying a Mexican is kind of like participating in an adventuresome and challenging scavenger hunt. For months, we’ve been collecting the documents we need to marry. I found out I had to get my official birth certificate and divorce papers, signed and sealed, attached to an apostil for Mexico, and officially translated and stamped by someone recognized by the State to translate and stamp. Keelin drove to San Diego County to get my birth certificate and stopped in Sacramento on her way back from Oregon to get the apostil (you must apostil in the State Capitol). Bobby went to the courthouse in Missouri to get our divorce papers and drove to Jefferson City for the apostil (thanks, Bobby!), then UPSed the documents to Buen Pastor. UPS tried delivering them to the wrong address so they were in limbo for a couple of days. We hired a contadora do to the really confusing paperwork with immigration while we gathered originals and copies of passports, my FM3, proof of residence, birth & divorce papers of both parties, a date approved by a judge for the official–or civil–marriage, blood work, and a stamp of approval from a doctor saying we’re fit for marriage. Fernando had to go to a special office where he got a certificate that indicates he’s not currently married. Apparently, polygamy is an issue.
We were so close. All we thought we needed was the official identification and copies of the IDs of our four witnesses. So yesterday, we bolted up the hill to Buen Pastor looking for nuns with ID. Only three were to be found. So we searched for Maestro Chuey, Don Ramon, and Tere, hoping they were around and had their ID on them. Tere offered hers. Back down the hill now to Registro Civil where we happily took our turn thinking the end was near. But when the judge reviewed our paperwork, she stopped at my birth certificate and then again looked at my FM3 and asked why the names were different. I explained that I had been married before and this was my married name. And here lies the problem: I have to marry with my maiden name.
I don’t know what happens next. Fortunately, the judge agreed to see if she could find a loophole for us. We’re to return to Registro Civil in Guanajuato on Thursday to find out if we have permission to marry this Friday under a full moon surrounded by nuns, beneath Pipila‘s arm, and with Benedicto as my last name.