We came home after a long day in the city, to find a plastic bag with something in it tied to the front gate. I assumed the other American lady that lives near me had stopped by with something for me, as she sometimes does. V immediately started freaking out. He wanted me to call my friend right away to make sure she had left it. He was losing it and I couldn’t figure out why, but he wouldn’t get out of the truck. Sure enough, it was a bag of mushrooms she had collected for me. So he finally got out and opened the gate and we drove inside. The whole time he was mumbling mexican curse words and shaking his head. He told me that when he saw the unexpected gift on the gate, he was sure that someone had come with “The Ojo”, the evil eye, and if he touched the package to remove it from the gate, he could potentially die!!! I have not been able to stop laughing. He insists, of course, that I should take such matters very seriously…. Ok.
A day in the life…
It’s dark still. V has gone for work already. I feel around in the blackness for my headlamp. Only six in the morning but I get out of bed and wander outside, I have to pee again. It’s cold outside, the stars are still bright and there is a faint glow present behind the mountains to the east. A rooster crows, punctuating the many bird songs. I like this time of day the most.
Shortly after climbing back into my warm bed, one child wakes up. He’s hungry. We head to the kitchen, close the blanket that covers the door and find food. I light a candle and start a pot of water for coffee. Dawn is breaking. I sip my steaming cup and put the finishing touches on a small felted turtle as I watch the sky brighten. Slowly the rest of the kids emerge and the day has officially begun.
I carry a bucket of yesterday’s dishes out to the new sink on the porch. Last week it would have been out the gate and down the path to the pila. I wash, dry and put away. Help the baby out of her pants and onto the potty chair. Not once but twice during this task. Everything is interrupted here. I set a bigger pot of water on the stove to boil meaty cow bones for the dog who has just had puppies, and start preparing what will be lunch and dinner. “Mexican Alasagna” they call it, a huge baking dish layered with corn tortillas, potatoes, cheese, fresh tomato sauce, seasoned ground beef and onions. I like to add green chiles but there aren’t any today. While that is in the oven, I prepare the salsa. No manzana chiles in my kitchen either, so I put on my boots and walk out to the avocados where several chile plants grow. I find what I need, watching carefully for snakes and head back to the house. The hem of my dress is wet from the morning dew and delicious smells are beginning to fill the kitchen. It’s just after nine am.
I make quesadillas for four, five if you count the belly baby. Squeeze fresh lemonade for the day and clear away the breakfast dishes. I feed the dogs, including the mama with the pups. One dead one this morning. Always a bummer, but that’s the circle of life… Trekking through the tall, wet grass, I feed the chickens and bunny. I take careful steps carrying buckets of water and feed down the slippery slope. I’ve fallen here more times than I can count, and now it’s getting hard to see the hidden stones beyond my bulging belly. I collect two eggs and notice that the purple beans have started growing in the garden, along with many other small sprouts. The sun is beginning to climb now, and I’m late for the laundry! With afternoon thunderstorms almost a guarantee, it’s best to wash early or they wont dry.
Twelve buckets of water I scoop from the pila to fill the old style agitator washing machine. While it cycles, I wander down the hill again to burn the garbage. Back up the hill to wash the breakfast dishes. Midway through I’m needed for the potty chair again. I remember to drink water…
Outside again. I hand rinse and wring three full baskets of laundry. Diapers, towells, dresses, jeans, socks… Up and down the hill again, hanging them up to dry in the sun. I fill three clotheslines and part of the fence. It’s hot now. My belly is soaked. I move many small pots with pumpkin and squash sprouts to the top of the bunny house where they can soak up more of this Mexican highland sun. Six different varieties plus a few herbs and cucumbers that the kids started. After I set the last pot, I watch the cloud shadows play across the green canopy on the mountain across the valley as I catch my breath and feel my heart slow. I walk back up the path to the house for some of that fresh lemonade.
Batman, Elsa and a stark naked soil urchin greet me. I cut up apples, tunas, a pomegranate, grapefruit and a peach and pour glasses of lemonade. I hear the water start filling in the pila. It’s eleven thirty now, middle day here.
Noon time and the garden is calling. I split several heads of garlic we bought in the city yesterday, gather the new strawberry plants, gloves and pick ax and walk back down the path. I bend and squat, move rocks and dirt, and make neat rows of garlic just outside the outdoor kitchen. I bury six strawberry plants right where they will be easy for small hands to harvest. Another row of garlic behind the strawberries. I’m sweating but a cold wind is picking up now. When I finish, I notice that the mountain fog is rolling in. I stash the tools, smile at my garden and call the kids in from the dirt pile for lunch. They come running in, hungry from their projects, and completely filthy. The sunlight begins to dim and the chill in the air tells us all it’s time to find sweaters. The temperature shifts quickly here, and sometimes I become intensly aware that I am in the heart of a high mountain range. Exhausted, with a full belly, I set another pot of water on the stove to boil purple sweet potatoes. It’s just after one o’clock.
The kids go back out to play, this time wearing sweaters but still no shoes. I clear the table and think this would be a great time to sneak in a shower. I look out past the pila and notice half of my clean laundry laying in a pile on the ground. The line finally snapped. We actually bought a new clothesline while we were shopping yesterday, but returning home late in the day, had not yet hung it up. Trying not to let this small setback phase me, I ate a piece of well hidden dark chocolate and headed back outside with the basket to save the laundry. Still wet but thankful for this years grass landing instead of last years dirt, I double hung it on the other line and said a prayer that it would hold. I trudged back up the hill breathless. I wanted to sit down but the baby was half out of her pants, which were stuck on her shoes, trying to make it to the potty chair. As she sat down I saw that she had filled it with a deep layer of sand and dirt and rocks, but it was too late. Now I had to find a place to empty the potty chair-turned-litter box. With several hours still before V would return, I decided that nap/movie time would be the best possible option. I make popcorn in yet another big pot on the stove, put Dora on the laptop and lay down with the baby while she falls asleep. The house is quiet. My hips are throbbing and I can feel my belly baby doing somersaults. As I feel myself startinng to drift off, my bladder becomes a trampoline and I need to pee. I set a tiny pot of water on the stove to boil for tea. It looks like it’s raining behind the mountain now…
While the raspberry-nettle tea is brewing I finally shower. In the steaming hot water and cool mountain breeze, I take in the view. Bright tropical green against slate gray thunderheads. Rays of sun. Avocados and corn that stretch on as far as I can see. I notice that the dry diapers have come off the line and are blowing across the yard. I open my favorite jar of rose body scrub. I hear rumbling thunder in the distance and breathe deeply. Rose water and tropical mountain air. Stone tiles beneath my feet and the sound of so many birds…… I dress quickly and quietly sit down with my pot of tea and honey. Another prayer that this moment lasts. Right now, everything is perfect. Nourish. Replenish. Rejuvenate.
The little bears can smell honey and come running as soon as I crack open the jar. I give them each a spoon and send them outside to collect the diapers and other dry clothes. I sip tea by the window and start working on a felted fish. Baby kicks and I wonder if I can make a drop spindle and spin enough usable yarn to make a pair of booties… I might like to try it. But not now. The baby is awake so I put away my project and bring a steaming plate of rainbow sweet potatoes and popcorn. Tea and lemonade. It’s a feast and it is good.
Four-thirty pm. The witching hour. V arrives home with a giant mexican flag and a very tall beer. The kids go haywire. He announces that there is a dinner at his sisters house and drinks the beer while the kids fight over who gets to hold the flag. I am probably supposed to be getting the kids ready to go, but wash the large bucket full of dishes instead. At the end of a long day, a large social gathering in a foreign language just does not sound appealing. The “caldo de cameron” (shrimp soup) tempts me though, and I make myself ready to go while letting him handle the kids. My back hurts. I wish that I could clock out for a while when papa returns after being gone since before anyone woke up, but that’s not reality. I am 24/7. Always. I bring the dry clothes in off the line, it never did rain today. I comb hair, buckle shoes and pack a diaper bag. It’s a little after six pm now and we are out the door. I’m glad that I got that shower today after all.
Excellent food and good company. My children became part of the pack playing outside while I ate three bowls of seafood soup with lime and chile, without interruptions for once. It doesn’t always turn out so well, but I’m glad I took a chance this time and accepted the last minute invitation. It was long after dark when we finally said goodbye. We drove through the dark avocado orchard to the main road and turned towards town to drop off my mother-in-law. I rarely see our village at night. There are still giant cooking pots boiling over fires on some corners serving carnitas. Groups of people gathering around tienditas, in which chaotic displays of merchandise are being lit by bare bulbs hanging from wires. There are stray dogs begging in front of the panderia (bakery), men talking and smoking on corners and workers sorting the days avocado harvest into wooden crates to be loaded on to a semi truck. There are only a few street lights and everything is layered in secret shadows. I am glad I am riding in a vehicle that is recognized and belongs here. The energy feels like a closed circle, guarded, with danger just below the surface. It is an interesting and very different view than I am used to. I take it in and appreciate the contrast.
It is nearing eleven pm by the time we arrive home. I carry the baby through the darkness, careful foot steps illuminated only by the kids light up sneakers. Thick cloud cover blocks out the moon and stars, dogs bark in the distance. I help everyone get ready for bed and am so ready for sleep. Tomorrow comes early.
I understand now that I don’t belong anywhere. I don’t have any land or any people. A perpetual wanderer, seeking something I will never find. I am alone.
I went “home” twice within a month. The first time, I traveled back to my country of birth to see my blood relatives and friends with history. I walked the same roads where I spent several years living and revisited the “old life” that I left behind when I moved to Mexico a year ago. The initial newness wore off quickly and I realized there was no room for me there. The space I had occupied at one time had sealed up. Insulted by my abandonment, I felt many doors slam in my face. I was not welcomed anywhere I went. A constant burdon, I was told that I was not allowed in certain homes belonging to loved ones, and that we were causing irreparable damages to the homes we were fortunate enough to set foot in. How could I have been so mistaken and longed for a place that no longer longed for me? They told me I was ruining lives, ruining homes, leaving a path of destruction in my wake. My heart raced as I moved through the days trying not to ruin anything else.
When it became time for my departure, I was ready to go “home” again. This time to the adopted country that I have chosen to make my home in. The home that I have been uncomfortably questioning my place in for most of a year. Nothing has solidified my belonging in that foreign place. Infact, quite the opposite has been true. But all at once I felt clarity, realizing that I do belong to the brick house in the valley in the mountains of central Mexico. Not because I was born there, or because the village particularly welcomes me, but because I made it. I pulled that place straight out of my dreams and built it from the ground up. More than anyplace else in this world, that place is mine.
I arrived at three in the morning to dense fog and waist high grass. In the darkness, the plants were reaching out over the top of the little stick fence, nearly blocking the pathway. The skinny dogs were barking ravenously and the front door was covered in a thick coating of powdery mold. I waited in the cold mountain air, holding my baby and my suitcase, as V fumbled with the lock. When the door finally opened, the smell that greeted me nearly knocked me over.
The bare bulb that illuminated the kitchen revealed the fact that nobody had been here for a long time. Mold and dead bugs everywhere, desperate abandonment and loneliness clung to everything. Above all, there was a sadness and emptiness. At that freezing cold, dark hour of the morning, after traveling so many difficult hours to get here, I couldn’t understand what had happened. Where was the home I had left just thirty days ago? What was this ruin that I was standing in? As V unloaded the rest of the bags from the truck, I set about cleaning. As exhausted as I was, I knew I would never be able to sleep here like this. I was heartbroken.
When the sun began coming up, V headed to town to buy some food. I scrubbed the mold out of the fridge while I waited. When he returned, he fed the dogs and brought the groceries inside. I put them away and came out to the porch a few minutes later. All he said was “I think I made a mistake…” and looked in the direction of the front gate. I walked over and saw the dogs, and my daughters tiny kitten, shredded in bloody, furry pieces. I barely held back the urge to vomit. I began shaking and uncontrollably sobbing while he explained that he threw a chunk of raw meat out for the dogs. The kitten ran out after it and they killed her fighting for it.
This sent my over the edge. I no longer knew what I was doing here. All of the destruction that I was being blamed for back in the states was now a harsh, nightmare of a reality, slamming me up against the brick wall that I thought was “home”. Maybe it wasn’t home at all. Maybe this place only existed because I could see it and it all just dissolved when I left. The ultimate illusion. Maybe I simply imagined the whole entire thing.
After crying for a long time, I started cleaning. I cleaned for a solid week. Scrubbing, sorting, burning. Moving, clearing, chopping. I didn’t talk to anyone. I burned cedar, sage and palo santo. I lit candles and sang songs. I stomped my feet and sweat and yelled. I did everything I could possibly do to RECLAIM.
Just as things were starting to feel normal and good, death called again. Both puppies died within a day of eachother. Both were sick and bled out on the front porch, right outside the front gate. V wasn’t home so I had to deal with it. Bleach and a shovel. Six months pregnant is just not a good time to witness so much death. The hammer just keeps coming down. When will it let up?
Well a few days later the rumor mill started up. Despite the fact that I never leave my house, I found myself in the center of some outlandish drama that was playing out like a junior high school telephone game. This is causing even more tumultuous upheaval in my homeplace. Miscommunication abounds and that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach is growing stronger by the day. Slowly but surely, I’m getting the message that I do not belong here. Or anywhere, for that matter.
All of this and that is grinding me down at a time that I Should be focused on building myself up. I’m getting ready to have a baby in a few months… Instead I feel like I’m on an island that’s been hit hard by a tsunami. Just barely making it through each hour. Surviving, kind of.
People have said at times that my life is such an inspiration. Or in some way or another that they wish they could be more like me. But what you are seeing through my pictures and writings is such a small shred of my reality. The truth is, most of the time I feel like running. No matter where I am, I am rarely content for long. I need to move, shift and change with startling regularity, and no matter what I create or how great everything appears, I never feel like it matters. I live with the bleak undercurrent that deep down I will never, ever be good enough. There will always be something more important or better. I will always and forever be secondary. And what’s more, judging by the reactions of others, my existance appears to be anything from a nuisance to an enormous burdon wherever I go. My army of mini-me’s are just too much for any space. And I have the audacity to be welcoming in yet another one. For anyone wondering, my fifth baby was not an accident or a mistake. I am quite happy with my decisions regarding family size and could see myself going on to have even more children in the future. I am not concerned with the myth of overpopulation and I’m not trying to drain anyone’s retirement fund with hand-outs and birthday presents. Yes, my hands are full. Yes, it can be extremely challenging at times. All you have to do is say congratulations and enjoy my photos from your sofa, worlds away. That would have been a much more caring and appropriate response that what I’ve experienced this time around.
Despite what you may be thinking, this is not meant to be a pity party. And though I do have an inkling of where these feelings come from, it really doesn’t matter. This missing piece deep within myself that I am perpetually searching for is the driving force behind every single action. Don’t confuse this with bravery or creativity or strength. And next time you think someone’s life looks so great, know that you may not be seeing the whole picture. My efforts to create life and walk in beauty pale in comparison to the ugliness that finds me everywhere I go. Perhaps by attempting to find truth and harmony I am pulling in massive discord. Maybe I am paying karmic debts or have dark spirits lurking around. Maybe these are just hard times and the jokes on me.
This month has brought about a lot of reflections that are not pretty. I feel like I am looking into a grotesque carnival mirror. What is real and what is the warped illusion? I don’t have any answers, except that absolutely nothing is solid. I have to disappear for a while now, whatever that means. Reaching out, opening up and trying to be involved on any level is just not worth it. I’m tired. You know where to find me….. Well, except that most of you don’t.
**I don’t believe in disclaimers or censorship. I actually debated not posting this one. But I am anyway. If you are offended by my words, you probably have some serious deep thinking to follow…
Welcome to the USofME!
This past month I hopped a jet plane with my kids headed for the good old United States. What I found there waiting for me was a lot of culture shock and a very rude awakening. I quickly realized that most of the things that I was so excited to experience again, most of the things I had been desperately missing during my year abroad, were not nearly as great as I had remembered them. That truth hit hard.
Stepping off the plane was like being in a dream. Perhaps due to sleep deprivation and exhaustion, seriously botched travel plans and toting several small children solo; I definitely felt more than a little crazy. Airports are strange anyway, but this surreal gallery of perception extended well beyond that initial point of impact. Everywhere I looked I saw people wearing masks. An array of illusions. Gluttony. Self indulgence. Over abundance that choked the wildness out of everything. At first I kept asking myself what it was I was seeing. Was this new? Why had I never noticed this before? It finally struck me that what I was witnessing was a population’s best attempts to cover their deep dissatisfaction and unhappiness. The eyes are truly windows to the soul… Even with dark designer sunglasses on.
Time reveals all. All illusion must eventually fall away…
Continuing to observe the culture that I was raised in, after gaining perspective from immersing myself in another, I could see that most of the people were desperately off balance. So completely immersed in their own ideas and lives, unwaiveringly obsessed with their own experience and point of view, that life seemed to take on an extremely selfish, superficial and neurotic tone. Nothing felt real. Everyone was worrying about things that didn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things, nor should they warrant such provocation of intense thought. From what I could glean during my possibly biased observation, Americans never seem to look at the bigger picture and are quite content to remain inside their crippling bubble of isolation. I feel like the entire population is in a deep sleep, induced by over indulgence, materialism and constant streaming media. It made me feel ill.
Chew on this. If the USA is supposed to be the land of opportunity, abundance and convenience, with access to unlimited information and resources, a steady stream of available jobs, machines that do the work for you and creature comforts everywhere; a premium, first world nation…. Then why are the people there so unhappy and stressed out?? Even people I saw on vacation seemed to have a huge chip on their shoulder!
People in the grocery line with carts full of food didn’t seem to appreciate- or even think about- the fact that they are not hungry. During my month long stay in America, as a household we threw away enough food each day, into the garbage can, to feed a small rural family in my village. I watched on in amazement as people stared into overstocked, oversized fridges and proclaimed there is nothing to eat! And then drive to the store to buy.
People with clean drinking water are insisting on buying bottled because they heard it’s better. Everyday people are peeing in water that is cleaner than our drinking water in Mexico. Flushing it down the drain several gallons at a time, while the women in my neighborhood are carrying contaminated river water by the bucket full, down dirt roads in the heat, so they can cook for their families.
Houses bursting at the seams with things that are never quite enough. Folks are angry in their air conditioned cars because traffic isn’t moving fast enough….. Hey! You COULD BE walking in the heat. Hungry. No access to clean water. Shoes with holes or none at all. Working your bones for pennies….. SO MANY PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ARE STRUGGLING. Not being able to afford your latte is NOT struggling. Full fridge but not seeing anything you desire is rediculous. Shopping for anything you already have doesn’t even make sense.
People seem to be more concerned with the strength of their wifi signal or the sale prices at Wal-Mart. To think about real life global crisises such as food security, water health and availability, deforestation and the long term consequences to their disposable, instant gratification lifestyles would be a waste of time to most. These things that are a harsh reality to four fifths of the worlds population, are nothing more than intellectual concepts that drive feel-good consumer slogans such as “buy local”, “sustainable” and “fair trade”. This jargon pads the egos of the first world buyers, yet does nothing to move towards a global solution. How much money do the women in Ghana REALLY get when you buy a fourty-five dollar African market basket from the local food co-op? Think about it.
More food for thought…
After living in the Mexican country side for a year, amongst ancient native corn fields, the corn I have seen growing here in Whatcom and Skagit counties has an almost sinister look… These plants appear to be aggressive and somewhat invasive compared to the varieties growing in the valley where I live. It’s shocking. Heavily fertilized, GMO monoculture crops at their finest. Man made destruction. I never had such an acute awareness of plant energy when I lived in the US before… There is an overwhelming difference between these crops. And between cultures……. You really ARE what you eat. This goes without saying, or maybe it doesn’t. The food I experienced buying, cooking and eating from a vast array of grocery markets in my home state of Washington, all left me unfortunately unsatisfied. The foods available for human consumption are all either highly processed or old. Thats right. The food at the grocery store is old. All of it. And it has all been processed and modified to keep it from spoiling. Unless you have grown it yourself or know the farmer, I guarantee you are not getting what you are being marketed. Truth in advertising. Even if you buy organic. Old food is nutritionally sub-standard.
So, day to day. Moving from the enclosure of the modern home, to the air conditioned vehicle, to a shopping center, back to the car; where we open the windows only momentarily to place our orders and eat our meal (devoid of nutritional content) while speeding down the highway unaware. Disconnected from our food, from our environment and from each other. One version of this or another, be it McDonald’s, cruising coffee or the organic version thereof,… Is it really a surprise that we live in a society where absolutely nothing matters???
Americans should be required to put down their smart phones, visit a third world country and stay for 6 months minimum. The perspective would do them good. Even if it didnt rid them of the feeling of entitlement or shake them out of their private bubble, it would likely make them appreciate what they have. Time to wake up folks. The American dream is just that…. A dream.
Some readers may take my words as a personal attack, envisioning me preaching in organic white flowing robes, from my third world “better than you” mountain top. So be it. Until you’ve walked that rutted dirt road, my perspective is nothing more than a story. An illusion that bears no meaning other than possible entertainment. Do not attempt to idealize or glorify anything that I relate here. And for some of you who have walked this road, you know all too well that white robes would never make it in this place. Real life is dirty. Rough and rugged, it will rip you open and you will see God. Keep your eyes open and don’t run out the back door. Those dogs will chase you if you run. Hold as still as you can and let the truth sniff you up and down until it knows you. Only then can you walk free and protected here. Aho!
The fifty mile diet is a novel concept. Consciously picking through the array of imported goods and selecting those that originated within fifty miles of wherever you live. Buy local is the progressive persons mantra and practically a religion in my home town in the pacific northwest. You can still technically acquire whatever you want or need, you would just do so knowing that when it is outside the scope of “local” you eat the karma that comes with the global market place. Farmers markets, pea patches, backyard chickens and eating what’s in season are also hugely popular in the name of being “green”. As are clothes lines during the warmer months. All of these lifestyle choices make people feel better about themselves, but they can still drive to Safeway or the food coop and pick up that extra item that really sounds delicious in the moment. And if you just can’t find the thing you want, Amazon offers one click shopping that delivers anything you could possibly desire, straight to your door. With all of the choices, the obvious solution to life’s many problems, is to just buy something to fix it! Couldn’t be any easier. Oh, that’s not working…? You know you can just get a (fill in the blank)! Well why don’t you just get a (____)? You know, they make blah blahs that would take care of THAT, and they’re cheap!
Now imagine that you didn’t have a choice. Amazon doesn’t deliver and the stores only sell things that were sourced locally (or in China as the case may be), because the local economy is so poor that it can’t sustain the high price of importation. Really dig into this possible reality. So many items you have become accustomed to suddenly disappear. Your natural toothpaste. Organic coconut oil. Essential oils. Books. Seeds. Quality clothing. You are not running around naked, by any means, but the only thing available to cover your body are disposable made in China sweat shop garments. Fabric that is purely 100% natural fiber has also disappeared, so making your own is not an option either. Cross-contamination is huge, you have to be vigilant and choose wisely. Safe food handling is unheard of as is refrigeration. The Wal-Mart is the only source of safe dairy products for miles. Are you ready to go vegan? You have not only entered a world where there are very limited choices, but you have also become part of an economy that is barely scraping bottom. Your visa card or cash money are no longer viable tools to gain necessities, as your reserves have long since disappeared.
If you have survived this far, lets take a look at the water. First thing you need to know is that you can’t drink it. The large concrete tanks where it is stored are rarely cleaned. Birds, snakes and squirrels accidentally get inside and drown. Then this water flows through miles and miles of above ground pvc pipe to your home. Unless it doesn’t. You have to walk the line daily looking for leaks and disconnections. Sometimes a beetle will plug the hole. Perhaps a stray horse or machete cut your line… And maybe there’s just no water. This is a reality during the long hot dry season. The little river is an even less suitable option, but sometimes used out of necessity when the water doesn’t flow for too many days. This is where the women wash dirty dishes, diapers and laundry. So what do you do? Sure you can collect rain water 3 months out of the year. But the other nine months? Some people use microdyn drops. Or you can boil it, and constantly have a large pot of drinking water on the stove. And FYI, you still have to use that romantic outdoor clothesline during the three or four months of heavy rain…
Am I describing the apocalypse? Sort of. Some fictional land that survived armageddon? Nope. This is where I live, in the heart of a third world country. The fact is that many things just are not available here. Simple things that seem so normal. For people who have never visited a place like this, the reality is inconceivable.
I live on a nameless dirt road, in a house with no address, miles outside of a small village that does not receive mail. The nearest shopping area/city experience, is a 45 minute drive on a windy road that is full of hazards; donkeys loaded to the sky with firewood, motos, young children, unmarked topes and potholes that will swallow you if you’re not paying attention.
The lack of access here is confounding. When I want to buy dairy products, for example, I have to go to the city. Buying cheese in our little town is asking for trouble, as these items are never refrigerated. Eggs are salmonella in a shell. And if you wait until afternoon to buy your chicken, you can be assured that it’s been sitting out on a stump under a towell since early morning. Information and connection to anything outside of these hills is unnecessarily complicated. Usually I use the WiFi that I had installed at my mother-in-law’s house. Though this is technically the closest, most convenient spot, it is also terrible. To connect with my friends and family, or find information, I have to subject myself and my children to a battery of passive aggressive bullshit, that usually goes unnoticed by V or anyone else. She can cut you with a smile or stab you in the back and make it look like she was offering you something to eat. I keep my guard up and I always leave her home exhausted and in a foul mood. The other internet option is to wait for our bi-weekly trip to the city and use my smart phone to connect while driving in the truck through crazy city streets, with one hand on the phone and the other handling a wild toddler who would rather be climbing than sitting. No carseats. In this situation it is extremely difficult to focus and I usually end up dripping with sweat and covered in some kind of food by the time we get to where we are going. Not a great choice either, but at least it comes with more autonomy. In home Wi-Fi is not currently offered in my remote area, unfortunately, and so I make do rather than lose touch.
Receiving items by mail is expensive and unreliable. It’s excruciatingly slow, if it makes it to me at all. In the past 15 months, I have successfully received two packages by mail. One at a private residence and one at a DHL location, both in the city. Several other parcels have been lost along the way.
I am relaying this strange reality mostly to give you all back home a sense of what I’m dealing with and insight as to why these seemingly avoidable problems occur here. When you offer well intentioned advice on how to cope with these bizarre issues, understand that I am not shooting down all of your remedies because I am a pessimist or don’t think your ideas would be valid if I lived someplace else. But here… Everything is different. While part of me enjoys finding creative solutions and not strictly relying on westerner purchase power, I’m getting worn out. At some point, I just need something to be straightforward and easy. I need something to work. I’ve been teetering on the edge of sanity here for a while now, hoping that life will smooth out a bit. But with every solution comes ten more problems. For every $500 I have, I need $1000. It’s exhausting. Most days I just want to order a damn pizza and watch TV (neither of which are an option). Or ditch the kids and go to that Chinese buffet on the Guide by Costco. Get fat. Depend on unlimited convenience. Maybe the good old USA ain’t so bad after all. One click instant life… Yeah. Why not?
Litter. Microtrash. Basura: Yes I have a lot of kids. Yes Mexico is inundated with cheap made in China crap. And crap foods. And though I am Anti-garbage, I am unique in my stance. People love garbage. Stuff that comes with lots of garbage, single use items and stuff so poorly crafted that it becomes garbage nearly instantly. There is NO landfill here. No place to hide it all away. The idea of built to last is a thing of the past. Zero-waste is just not a concept here. I filled a five gallon bucket picking up trash at my own house! And will probably do so again. What did I do with it? I burned it. This is a regular chore here… And most people don’t bother. They live with it. If you go to town early enough, you can see old women sweeping dirt and accumulated trash into corners or ditches. Sometimes you see men carrying ten bags larger than themselves filled with empty plastic bottles, because recycling pays a few pesos per kilo. Waste pervades and can be seen everywhere you look.
This is what I picked up at my house. I would never do this to a camp site, so what gives? Why the hell is there so much TRASH? Corners of candy wrappers. Juice straws. A broken wheel. Lollipop sticks. A sock. Bits of multicolored threads. Pop bottle tops. Action figure leg. Popped balloon. Shards of broken plastic. Hair rubberbands. Several plastic dishes. Crayons. Ends of a shredded rope. 1/2 of a styrofoam container. Random metal pieces. Bent wires. Small scraps of wood. Busted clothes pins. Remnants of half burnt garbage that blew out of the burn barrel. Torn pieces of kids art work. Tea bag. Toilet paper tube. Plastic bag. Twistie ties. Raspiditas (plastic coated disk with pictures that come with cookies here). Plastic yogurt container. Ripped aluminum tops. Cardboard single serve juice carton. Chips wrappers. 12oz plastic water bottle, Nestle brand. Tiny plastic spoon. Crumpled aluminum paper. Broken mermaid tail. AA battery. Basket handle. Unrecognizable shreds of man made crap……
I can’t handle it. Humans are disgusting. We should be disqualified.
Proof in Homeschooling.
We are only two weeks in to our rebellious mexican homeschool adventure. The first day we sat down at the table to work with letters. Anahi took off on her own, writing up a storm. Inti would have rather been doing anything else. There was the dirt pile, some chickens were roaming outside and there was a toy car under the table. After struggling to get his attention, it sadly dawned on me, that although he had attended “school” here for six months, not only did he not recognize any of the letters but he didn’t even know how to hold a pencil. I finally persuaded him to try writing the letter “T” and only because “T” is for truck and tractor. He managed to rip a hole in the paper, spill juice on it and write three faintly legible “T”s before running away to play outside. Well ok, he’s three and it’s only the first day…
Feeling discouraged, the next day I went to the papeleria in town for new supplies. I bought paint, glue sticks, tiny scissors, every color of glitter, a big stack of paper and some googly eyes for good measure. I thought to myself “Fuck it. We will just do art. Art is important, right?” The kids were excited to see the pile of stuff and wanted to get started right away. This is the enthusiasm I was hoping for! So along with the crayons and pencils we already had, I left them alone to make anything they wanted. They sat there creating for over an hour.
The next day I decided that we could start making an alphabet book using the new art supplies. So I drew a giant uppercase and lowercase “A” in the center of the page, Anahi colored it in while Inti and I looked through their cousins old school work books and cut out things that started with the letter “A”. Later they glued the cut outs around the letter and embellished with glitter. Every day they each made a page for the book, had a great time and were learning a lot without even realizing it!
A few days later they asked to draw so I gave them each colors and paper and headed out to wash laundry. About thirty minutes later I came back in to check on them. Anahi was happily making her own book full of letters and princesses, and Inti was working away on a page full of rainbow colored “T”s! I couldn’t believe it. This kid wanted nothing to do with it just a few days before and there he was practicing away without even being prompted! This was the first clear sign that what I am doing is already working. They have both started asking me what letters things start with and like pointing out letters they recognize around town. We don’t do school work every day and I never make them if they don’t want to. If I don’t offer it, at some point during each day they will ask for it. They also show more interest in the story books we have.
The second thing that has been happening has to do with the people in town. V was quite sure that homeschooling would be extremely unacceptable here, which was a large part of his initial hesitation (more like rigid determination to stop me). Turns out he was mostly wrong.
I like to do my shopping in the morning before it gets hot. When the shop keepers see my children in town rather than in school, they always ask why they don’t have classes. My response is always the same, that I choose not to send them. At first the people are shocked, but then I explain why I think homeschooling is better and the consensus is always the same. They agree and applaud me for being brave enough to do something different. Many people even tell me about someone else that they know, usually in the states, that choose not to send their children to school either. By the end of the conversation, the people always say “Si! En la casa mejor! Esta bien” or yes, in the home is better, it’s good. There is surprisingly more support for my “crazy decision to pull them out of school” here than I ever would have thought. Thank God, but even if there wasn’t, I would do it anyway! Today they are in the field learning about farming as they help V plow the corn with horses. The best thing for me about homeschooling is that each and every day brings something different. I’m very glad I followed my instincts instead of listening to nay sayers or fearing the unknown.