Year THREE in Zacango here we come...

Friday, December 26, 2008

In the middle is the kid's yearly Christmas photo in front of the tree, together with some photos of Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve night was a blast with meals at our neigbor's, a gift exchange with our neighbor's, fire crackers, and more pinatas than you could shake a stick at (ha, ha!) The kids had a great and very late night!
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Here in Mexico people do not exchange gifts on Christmas morning. Instead, gifts are exchanged on King's Day ( January 6). We decided to keep the Canadian tradition this year and we exchanged gifts on Christmas morning. We gave the kids some traditional crafts from this area as well as some not-so-traditional toys. It was fun!
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The perfect ending to Christmas day! We went hiking with our friends, found all sorts of treasures (such as a shed snake skin, a cow jaw, and antler shaped branches), and had a hot dog roast complete with Heinz ketchup and French's mustard. What more could you ask for in a Christmas dinner!
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The other day we went for a hike around the ourskirts of Zacongo. There was loud Mexican music playing and I thought that it would serve as a good sound track for a short movie. So here's a little tour of the outskirts of Zacongo complete with soundtrack.

Hizee standing by the pointsetta tree at her school on the last day before Christmas break. She thought that her Grandmas might like this picture.
Zam relaxing on the fence in our back yard and enjoying the great view.
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We went fishing with our neighbors a couple of days ago and had a pretty good catch thanks to their net.
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Making Christmas cookies!
I'm in super collage making mode right now because I haven't posted in a while and we have an abundance of pictures! A couple of weeks ago fellow MCCers Kiara and Meridith came over for an afternoon of cookie baking together with the kids. It was a hoot and a touch exhausting (sugar cookies seem to take a lot of energy as the dough never seems to disappear no matter how much of it you eat along the way)! The "icing the cookie" process seemed to take on a life of it's own as it became "one dab of icing for the cookie, one for the mouth." I think that the bowls of left over icing were probably about 90% saliva at the end of the whole event! Sugar cookies anyone?
(Click "older posts" to see more new photos and video)
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All about Burros!
The kids have been doing a lot of donkey riding lately. The other day Hizee went with her friend Maria to get water and rode all by herself for the first time. Zam and I had our own donkey riding adventure when we traveled back to Zacongo on donkey after helping our neighbors collect wood about an hour out of town. Not the most comfortable of rides but certainly a fun adventure to say the least!
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Three goofballs (Lalo, Hizee, and Zam) riding back from our fishing trip. The theme song: "Otra vez con sin manos" meaning "another time, with no hands." They couldn't get enough of singing their goofy little made-up mantra and sang it all the way home (about a 20 min. trip)!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ziko with his buddies David and Lalo.
A friendly game of UNO on top of our water cistern in our back yard.
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With a view like this even laundry is fun!
Hizee loves caring for her chickens! She feeds and waters them and sits with them in their cage. Here she is with "Chocolate" teaching her how to fly.
This is how Ziko looks at the end of most days. On this day I had just left the room and was going to come back to read him a story and put on his pajamas. When I came back into the room he was already flaked out!
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Celebrating advent and decorating our tree.
People have asked us if it feels like Christmas. It definitely does, in a beautiful and simple kind of way. We made our advent wreath out of lemon tree leaves, and brought our little advent tree with us from Canada. The MCC office in Mexico City gave us a piney type tree which we made some decorations for. Most of all the kids are excited -- so, yes (aside from dearly missing family and friends), Christmas is here!
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Hizze and Lizette in their Virgin of Gaudalupe day outfits.
Enrique, Augustine, Zam, Lalo, Edger, Jose, and Ziko waiting for the procession to start in Las Juntas
During the procession of the Virgin Mary in Las Juntas Zam and Hize and their friends Enrique and Jose spontainiously linked arms, it was beautiful!
Hizee and her buddy Maria.
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Collecting tadpoles at the barranca near Zacongo. Bruce made a little aquarium at our house. It's a huge hit. The kids keep bringing more and more tadpoles and fish, I think the tank has reached it's capacity.
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We've been making Christmas decorations all week. Here is David and...
Maria and Hizee and...

Raffa and...
Lalo and Zam.
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It has been non-stop fiestas around here these days, celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe. We are told be fellow MCCers that this holiday is bigger and more important than Christmas. The collage above are pictures of Zacongo's fiesta celebrating the Conception (and more slides of the prep. for this below) There have been big celebrations in Olinala and other communities (see Las Juntas above) Here is a brief decription of the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe from an online magazine about Mexico called Mexico Access Connect:
"In 1523, just two years after the Aztec capital of Tenochitlan fell to Hernán Cortés and his Conquistadors, the first Roman Catholic missionaries arrivd to begin the religious conquest of Mexico.
Fray Bernadino de Sahagún and his fellow Franciscan brothers immediately immersed themselves in the intensive study of indigenous tongues along with the history, customs and religious practices of the Mexicas, whom they called Aztecs. Soon fluent in Nahuatl, they proceded to translate religious texts and teach the Christian doctrines.
Among their first converts was a man baptized with the Christian name Juan Diego. On the chilly morning of December 9, 1531, Juan Diego crossed the barren hill called Tepeyac to attend Mass. He was brought to a sudden halt by a blinding light and the sound of unearthly music. Before him appeared an astounding vision--a beautiful dark-skinned woman who, calling the Indian "my son," declared herself to be the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. She told Juan Diego it was her desire to have a church built on Tepeyac hill, and asked him to relay that message to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga.
It was no easy task for the humble Indian to be granted an audience with the top prelate, but the persistent Juan Diego was finally admitted. The incredulous Bishop demanded that he be provided with some proof of the unlikely encounter. Confused and fearful, Juan Diego avoided Tepeyac for several days, but on December 12, while rushing to find a priest to attend a seriously ill uncle, he took a short cut across the hill. The Virgin once again appeared and Juan Diego told her of the Bishop's request. The Virgin instructed him to pick roses from the usually sere and desolate hill and deliver them to Zumarraga as the sign.
Juan Diego gathered up the miraculous blossoms in his mantle and hurried off to complete his mission. Once again before the Bishop, he let the roses spill out before him. To the wonder of all assembled, a perfect image of La Virgen Morena (the Dark Virgin) was revealed emblazoned on Juan Diego's cloak.
By order of the Bishop, a small church was soon constructed on the site designated by the Virgin. Skeptics are quick to point out the unlikely coincidence of the Virgin's appearance on Tepeyac, the very site of an Aztec temple dedicated to Tonatzin (earth godess, mother of the gods and protectress of humanity) which had been devastated by order of Bishop Zumarraga."

Here's a bit of a play-by-play of the slides getting ready for Zaconogo's celebration of Concepcion -- the Virgin Mary.
1. Sweeping the streets in preperation for the fiesta (our house is the one in the background with the big black container on top.)
2. The slaughtering of pigs. Hizee had to leave for this part. They used the pork meat to make a special soup called "pazole."
3. Getting the church ready.
4. Ziko playing with his friends beneath the results of the pig slaughter.
5. In the morning we helped bring the statue of the Virgin Mary to a cross roads from where the community would later and bring her into town in a large procession.
6. Zam and his friend Carmello in the church.
7. The church in Zacongo. From what we can decipher, this church is only used during fiesta times (twice a year), with the fiesta being in the evening and Catholic mass the following day.
8. The "castillo" or castle of fireworks as it is being built -- quite impressive!
9. The procession of flowers to the church, complete with big band.
10. The procession leading the Virgin Mary into Zacongo.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rock sliding at the barranca in Las Juntas. See description of Las Juntas in the video entry below this.

Last weekend we went with our neighbours to visit the nearby town of Los Juntas. This community has a substantial stream running through it (right now, anyway, we are told it will soon be dry) and we took advantage of it and had a swim. There 27 of us in total and we had a blast playing "keep away" ("boys" vs. "girls") with a football.

Here's a collage of Zam and his best friend Miguel. Miguel is a beautiful person and he and Zam have a beautiful connection. On this day we went hunting for "chameeyas" (spelt phonetically). Chameeyas are large insects with a very spicy taste. People like to eat them with beans and to add some spice. Miguel's dad and Uncles walked ahead of us and smoked the chameeyas out of their homes in the sides of hills. They are quite hard to find but in the bottom two pictures you can see Zam and Miguel with one (click for larger view). A chameeya flew right onto Zam's shirt. I guess you could say that Zam is quite lucky when it comes to hunting for chameeyas!
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Hizee is classic in her cowgirl hat hiking with Flo. SHe is a hardcore hiker girl -- during this trek to the barranca she picked up a piece of algae and said "Hey mom, look at this "algergy" I found. I'm gonna make something with it...I'm going to make a tortilla. Here's your tortilla mom."
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Here the kids are having a grass fight after a soccer match at the nearby pitch.

Ziko is quite the little man with his new cowboy hat (which now looks about ten years old after two days of use)! Here's Ziko on our hike down to the nearby "barranca" (small stream).
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Monday, December 1, 2008

Diana, Hizee, and Lupe

Ziko, Hermilo, Lizette, Hizee, Alberto and Cedilo at our neighbour's house.
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Uno anyone?

Hard at work in the "classroom" in our house.

Carmello, Lalo, and Zam with the finished products.
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