Sunday, September 25, 2011
25 Septiembre, 2011
The world of dichotomies
Everyone I have met from here talks about someone they know who was killed in some violence in Mexico. At a nursing home I visited – children of the women working toward peace and development in rural Mexico – one of the women who used to work with a cultural center at my work was recently killed, no one really knows why. Sometimes I feel myself wishing I were blind to the newspaper headlines, deaf to the cries of my neighbors, and unable to feel the hands reaching out to me to pull me deeper into this scarred place.
But I turn around and there is beauty. The hermanas at the convent have received me with pure joy and kindness, have set an extra plate at their table and told me their home is my home. They have offered for me to come and relax whenever I want to. They have prayed for my friends and family in the US in a prayer circle and constantly ask about the other volunteers here with me to make sure we are all feeling well.
My host family and I continue to laugh and eat late meals together, entering spaces for love and care together and for one another. Meals are made which are the artistic product of a brother who lives to care for his family, which now includes me. They always ask if I am happy.
I go to conferences in rural towns where the groups who are working on environmental sustainability projects thank me profusely for coming and sharing their town, their ideas, and my time, knowing that I may never return and also that I only understand about half of what they are saying. The power of mere presence is a beautiful thing.
I always get extra hugs and words of encouragement from the members of my church,
asked by people I barely know to have coffee or to join in discussions about which I feel like I have nothing to contribute. Still I am received with smiles.
I get lost often trying to find buses and the stress from feeling lost, physically and metaphorically, is immense. But then I muster up the courage to ask a woman on the corner if I am at the right place and she smiles and points out when the bus I want is coming. People are always looking out for me. Even a woman I met once at a lecture offered for me to knock on her door no matter what time of day or night if I ever got lost or need to get out of a taxi in the neighborhood so far away from my own.
I learn about cultural ambassadors of all sorts – those who have made professions out of this work, those who have married cross-culturally. It has been so helpful for me to have people leading me through these huge times of transition, frustration, and unknowing.
I see beautiful flowers and sunshine everywhere, gorgeous countryside, hills, and ruins that tell me a story about the place I am at present. Sometimes I literally need the wind to slap me in the face to wake me up and see what is right in front of me.
Awesome mariachi music alternating with Pitbull blares from the buses as the bus drivers deck out their buses in all sorts of party gear. Just because they can. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed, and sometimes I have the overwhelming urge to laugh and be slightly frightened at the same time. Like when I got on a bus two days ago that had a huge sign that read “SKULL” on the ceiling but then on the dashboard had a bobble-head frog holding a heart that said “I LOVE YOU” for example What would you think in that situation?
I was invited into the home of one of the women I work with, to come meet her whole family and cook with her, though she hopes I enjoy it because she proclaims her family poor.
The same woman shines with pride as she clarifies that her spirituality will never be poor and that her spirituality always brings her peace when she doesn't have money or the ability to read and write. She is embarrassed when I call her my teacher. But although she is not the one in the room who has been working in a physical classroom for 50 years, I am learning so much from her.
I see the pain of people holding out their sombreros for money on the corner of many streets and feel uncomfortable. And then I hear a man call, “Yessica!” I recognize him but can't remember his name, only that we've met once my first day of work at a reunion. He greets me with a smile and asks if everything is going well. He remembers me and I have somehow made an impact on his life. No idea what that impact is. But it comforts me when I am surrounded by discomfort.
I see huge movements and demonstrations that are very dangerous and risk everything, literally.
But then I feel the importance of these actions and words and it is good.
I hear people tell firsthand accounts of immigrating illegally to the US, how hard it was, how easy it was, how much money meant or means to them. And then some say they really miss the US but cannot go back. People of all ages.
It really puts my judgments into perspective when I find out that everyone in my host family has nieces/nephews/daughters/sons illegally in the US, and their children do not have access to education because of their status. And when I find out that 3 members of my host family, those who I probably trust and rely on the most in this unfamiliar place, who I can talk with about nearly everything and who take such good care of me,
are street vendors, jobs which I have always viewed as 'dirty' or 'bothersome and desperate.' Little did I know.
To live with pain, fear, love, ignorance, joy, wonder, judgment, discomfort, caution, reassurance, happiness. Every step I take is a blind one.