Dirty Laundry, the Telephone Game and Accountability

​Dirty Laundry, the Telephone Game and Accountability…
Like every Friday, V left early to work on the new road in our village. And like every other Friday, the motley crew ended their cement mixing at noon to go to Zitacuaro, stand in a long line in a government office, and pick up their meagre weeks pay. 

V had my shopping list in his pocket and would bring the missing ingredients for posole when he returned in the evening.
Well evening came but V did not return. The sun went down, the kids and I ate a late dinner and went to sleep. A while later I woke up and noticed that he still wasn’t home. It was after 9, so I called his phone. No answer. I waited, and waited but still nothing. Midnight passed. No longer tired, I decided to just get up. I sat in the kitchen in the dark until 1am, when I heard the dogs barking. Then the gate quietly opened and shut, followed by footsteps that I could tell were meant to be quiet. Clumsy tip-toeinng to the back of the house then the sound of the locked door handle. 
I flipped on the kitchen light and opened the door. V stumbled around the corner, through the door and fell into the nearest chair. He had his hand over his eyes shielding them from the bright light. I observed him for a moment and asked why he’s so late. And more importantly, where is the truck? He moved his hand away and I noticed he had something black all over his face. He didn’t seem to be aware of it though. 
“Ohhhh….. Frickin line was too long. I got late. Then the police stuck me and take the frickin truck because I don’t have the papers…. I have to call my brother to come get me….”
My kitchen now smells like a bar. I ask how much he’s had to drink. One beer, he says. I stare at him in disbelief. Ok, two beers. I don’t blink. Yeah, three beers, thats it…. What I can’t drink a beer…?
So he tells me he will walk to town in the morning, buy the things on my grocery list and bring them home before he goes to figure out how to get the truck. He staggers off to his room and passes out.
The next morning he leaves before anyone wakes up. Around mid morning I begin to wonder where he is with my chicken, so I call his phone. No answer. I wait, call again, no answer. Well I’ve had about enough of this! So I make another call, this time to his mother’s house. The house keeper answers. I tell her I’m looking for Valentin, and using my best español, I briefly tell her about the previous nights shenanigans. She promptly hangs up on me! That went well. 
About twenty minutes later two of V’s sisters are seen running down my driveway, yelling. I run outside to see what’s going on. After a string of rapid fire spanish and excited wild gesturing, I finally understood that they ran to my house as fast as they could after the house keeper told them that V was missing and the police were at my house trying to take the truck!!! I explained to them what really happened, and after exchanging some words, they said they were going to go find him and get to the bottom of this for me…. 
They left and I went back to what I was doing. A little while later I see V’s brother running down the driveway! (Keep in mind, we live far outside of the small town and nobody ever comes here.) This is the brother that was part of the late night rescue after whatever had transpired with the mexican police. Also, unlike the sisters, he speaks a fair amount of english. He gets right to telling me what happened. In his version, they went to the city to get paid. Somewhere along the way the truck broke down and now it’s with a mechanic in Zitacuaro being repaired as we speak. V is working in Zitacuaro, but will be home in an hour or two depending on when the truck is ready. He doesn’t know why V told me the police stopped him. After the truck broke down, they had a few beers and then he drove V home.
Huh. Ok… V never told me he was working in Zitacuaro, I thought he was working right here in town. Anyway, hours pass, still not answering the phone… When he finally arrives home near dusk, with the truck, I have lost all interest in speaking to him. For two days I deliver the silent treatment, knowing that I wont believe anything he says anyway. 
On the third day, I decide to ask what really happened. I said tell me something true. So this is what he said… 
He went to get his pay in Zitacuaro but it took longer than normal. Afterwards, he went with the work crew, including his brother, to drink beers. They drank a lot and lost track of time. The garage that the truck was parked in had closed by the time they came back so they had to take a taxi home…
So, here is yet ANOTHER version of the same evening…..
Well later that day, the brother came to our house again to talk with V. So I asked him why he told me the story about the truck breaking down? He tried to say something but couldn’t really get any point across. So I turned and asked V why he told the story about the police? He couldn’t come up with a solid answer either. So then I offered the third story, about the parking garage and asked them both which story was true?
Then I asked both of the brothers WHO IS LYING?
The brother shoved his hands in his pockets, started mumbling and backing away… Then he literally turned and ran away up the driveway to the road! He hasn’t been back.
V sat where he was cleaning the corn and didn’t say anything.
These were their individual responses to being held accountable. I have never experienced a grown up physically running away after being caught in a lie. It was interesting, and I realized very clearly, once again, that the men here are never made to be accountable for their actions. They do whatever they want and the women, for the most part, sit quietly by and take it. Subservient, cooking and washing and never speaking up or talking back. 
Well not me. I’m just four short weeks away from delivering a baby, I run a household single-handed with three kids under five and this huge belly. V picked a really bad time to start drinking and lying about it. And the brother should know better than to try to deceive an independent, intelligent American woman. 
The moral of the story is be honest and clearly communicate the truth. Every time. All of this could have been avoided with one simple phone call. The house keeper could have asked a question if unclear before hanging up the phone. The brother could have chosen not to concoct an elaborate story to cover for V. And most of all, V could have chosen to come home to the hot meal that was waiting for him. 
Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!

How it is

​It’s so easy to offer advice and criticism from the other side of the screen. From your living room, thousands of miles away, the solutions appear obvious. Although the truth is, you are oblivious to the differences in even the most basic things in this strange place I find myself living in. Please realize that not everywhere in the world is set up like America. Vital resources like water, food, shelter, transportation are so dynamically different here. It took me a full year of living in Mexico to understand this. I struggled with the constant thought “why can’t we just make a new water system? This one sucks… Pump water from that creek? Build a huge holding tank?? Dig a well???” Then dry season hit in earnest, months of dust bowl, no water in the pila, no water in the creek, no money to dig a well or build a tank… When they talked about water problems while I was still stateside, it just didn’t even register. I had unlimited clean water flowing from several taps in my home at that time. All I could equate it to was camping. But even most US campgrounds have better access to water than we do. I had never felt the cumulative effects of living without a reliable water source for months on end. And the truth is, there is no viable solution. Not now. Not where I live. And not without a giant pile of cash. So we deal with it the best we can. 
People often say to me, “Why not just leave? You don’t have to live like that! There are many other places you could go…” But that’s not the solution either. That’s giving up. I would never tell someone to abandon something they believed in just because it became difficult. And I find it interesting that people immediately turn to that  as a response to what I am saying.
This is not about just using my head to come up with something that works better. Everything is limited here. Building supplies are limited so we work with what we can find. Workers, skill sets and motivation levels are different. Time frames are one of the most mind boggling differences here. Even if you do have a ton of money to throw at something, it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen when you want it to. Everything moves at a snails pace here. Most of the workers walk to the job sites, and if you’re the boss, you provide a hot meal at lunch time for the crew. For real. If you want them to work for you again, you give them a good stiff drink along with it. This is mostly manual labor. Doing it the hard way. And there is no “better business bureau” here. Hiring someone is at your own risk, and we’ve had more than a few bad experiences using people who had “good reputations”. 
Yet from the American living room, all of these obstacles are unseen. And there is no clear way to relay this, it’s something you learn by living with it. I receive a lot of well meaning, completely irrelevant advice regarding my struggles here. Sometimes it makes me wonder if I should just stop sharing so much… It’s frusterating on a good day, and can be infuriating on a bad one. I don’t expect anyone to understand the in’s and out’s of living this rurally in a the heart of a third world country. But it would be helpful, if you don’t have first hand knowledge of a place like this, don’t assume that the solutions are at my fingertips or that I have possibly overlooked them. Believe me, when there is something I can do to improve these conditions, I do it. When I share my experiences, it’s not because I’m looking to you all to fix anything. I’m generally seeking support or words of encouragement. Even simply being heard helps me get through whatever it is. And by far, the least helpful thing anyone could ever say is, “just leave”. If I wanted to leave this place, I would be gone before anyone knew what had happened. Trust me on that one. 
Any way you look at it, being here is a choice. I am not stuck here, I am doing this because I want to. Even on the days when I want to have a bonfire fueled by all of Valentin’s posessions… Even when I get food poisoning for the umpteenth time… Even when I am alone on this land with no water and all these screaming kids for days on end with no help… Even when I need a friend but they’re all 3000 miles away and my phone signal wont work. Even on the worst day, Mexico is still a choice. 
Maybe some day, some of you will come see it all. Everything I’m struggling for. The true life behind the pictures of pretty flowers and juice in a bag. Maybe one day, someone out there will make their way this far south and it will shift their whole perspective like it has mine. Maybe one of you is crazy like me and you will fall so deeply in love with the landscape that nothing else will matter and you’ll decide to give up everything you’ve ever known and stay…. Stranger things have happened. There is something magic here if you know how to see it. 
True happiness is elusive. No single place on earth is perfect and everywhere you find yourself will have it’s own unique set of trials and tribulations. So it’s up to you to make it how you want it. You never really know how it is until you taste it. Breathe it in and see it with your own eyes… 

making a lifetime…

​There are these spaces that we move through when things feel golden. Perfect exactly as they are. Sometimes it is clear and effortless to recognize the joy in the moment, but I often only see the beauty and perfection of these times in hindsight. The reflection reveals the divinity. I have moved through so many of these places in my lifetime, that I wonder to myself if all of life is going to become significant and beautiful looking back through the rearview. Even the crazy and the ugly and the awful. And if this is true, how can I see each moment for the beauty that it holds now, instead of wishing it away or getting caught up in the struggle or presumed heaviness? Because looking back, all of that heaviness and uncertainty seems to fall away, revealing the diamonds that were there all along. 
What I want to say to each and everyone of you that shares those memories, even if you have never given a second thought to any of those experiences… All of those times were perfect. 
Why does it take years passing by to notice? Why is it so hard to see it in the moment? Am I the only one who feels this way?

the evil eye?

​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

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.

There’s no place like home?

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.

culture shock

**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!