Year THREE in Zacango here we come...

Friday, November 28, 2008

The fun never ends with the skateboards at the hill by our house!

We continue to be astounded by the generous spirit of the people of Zacongo. This week we went to the home of Ermilo and Anastasia for a visit and a meal. Hizee and their daughter Esbeydi became instant friends and enjoyed exploring their farm together all afternoon, while we were once again treated to copious amounts of food! This family has four donkeys and four horses so Hizee got her fill of being near her favourite animal. A final highlight of the visit was that Zam, Hizee, and Ziko were each given their very own chick! More animals for our ever-growing farms. Names of the chicks are as follows (starting with Zam's ending with Ziko's): Sugar Cube, Cocoa, and Chocolate. Notice any particular theme? (For larger view, click on the collage)
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This week Hizee decided (all on her own) that she wanted to go to school. (They have two levels of pre-school here followed by a year of kindergarten -- all classs are in the same building.) She was so excited about her decision and kept counting down the days until it was time to go. Here she is being escorted to "el jarden" on her first day. Way to go Hizee! I anticipate that she will be the first fluent Spanish speaker in our family!

Hizee and Fernando below.
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Firecracker Boys! Zam and Bruce have found a new passion -- firecrackers! Each night they go to the store, buy a bunch, and set them off outside our house. Here's Zam with his friend's Ediger and Miguel, before a big purchase.
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Hizee and her good friend Maria. Maria is thirteen and Hizee is four, yet somehow these two have connected in a way that trancends the age barrier. Hizee often spends entire afternoons at Maria's house, or can be seen riding all over the village on Maria's back.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008

This week, while Zam and I were sick in bed with vomiting and diarrhoea, Hizee, Ziko and Bruce went fishing with our neighbor Lalo and another friend, Carmello.

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Some of you may be wondering what it is we’re supposed to be “doing” here in Zacongo (in terms of something resembling work or a job). We sometimes wonder this too! However, MCC (the organization we are volunteering with) places a high priority on developing relationships and also emphasizes learning what people envision for their lives and their community. So right now we are trying to do just that – getting to know people and learning about what people are interested in doing. So far Bruce (together with two other MCC volunteers, Kiara and Meredith) has spent some time talking with people in another community (close to Olinala) about a fish pond project that they have started in their community. It is likely that Bruce will do more work with these types of projects. As for myself, I’ve been talking a lot with people here in Zacongo (mostly women young and old) and the one thing that keeps coming up is people’s desire to learn English (younger generation) and to improve Spanish literacy skills (older generation). These are both areas that I would be very happy to work in. One other more immediate desire that was expressed by the women was the desire to learn how to make pizza. While I don’t really consider myself to have the gift of being able to cook (let alone teaching others to do it), I do like making pizza. So yesterday (Saturday) a group of about 15 women came to make pizza. It was a hoot!

We got running water this week and hot water to boot! Thank you Martin!!! Our fellow MCCer Martin has been working tirelessly to make this happen. Our hot water is thanks to a solar heater and it feels good to be getting water that has been warmed by the sun. Here's Bruce on the top of our roof with our water tank in the back.
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Our young revolutionaries and Bruce (a young-at-heart revolutionary)
Leobardo! This boy makes my heart smile -- he's got a winning personality to go along with that smile!
Jose giving Ziko a bigote.
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It’s been another amazing week of firsts in Zaconogo and we are truly enjoying life here! The highlight of this week was celebrating the “Aniversario del inicio de la Revolucion Mexican, en 1910” or the anniversary of the day of the Mexican Revolution. For those of you interested in the history of this day, I’m sorry, I can’t provide much in the way of an historical explanation. This is sad for someone who appreciates knowing the history of days such as these. The significance of this day was explained to me be one of my Spanish teachers in Cuernavaca; however, the explanation was in Spanish, of course, and I think I absorbed about 20% of it at best. I badly need to invest in a good English book on the history of Mexico. However, I can direct you to google where I am sure you’ll find ample information on the topic.
What I can tell you about is how the holiday was celebrated here in Zacongo and how much we enjoyed being a part of it all. It started out at the school where the kids gathered in their revolutionary costumes. For the girls this meant traditional skirts, hairdos, and babies (dolls) on their backs; while the machete and pistol wielding boys were dressed in cream coloured pants and button up shirts with “bigotes” (moustaches) painted on their faces. The purpose of gathering first at the school was to assemble for a parade through town. What resulted from the gathering was a mini-revolution all of it’s own with the boys running around shooting at one another. In all, not a very MCC friendly event but our kids were right in there and had a complete blast! Ziko even got his own bigote painted on his face and Hizee enjoyed being doted on (as usual) by the young revolutionary “mothers.” Zam was right in there with the young pistol wielding boys , and it was this event that has made Zam contemplate going to school here in Zacongo sooner rather than later (he’s home schooling right now).
Eventually mini-revolution came to an end and the parade through town commenced after which there was a short program at the basketball court (cancha) in the center of the village (right across from our house). The program was followed by LOTS of food, music and dancing. Zam, Hizee, and Ziko ran around in circles and danced with their friends, under the stars – it was beautiful to see! At the risk of totally romanticizing the whole event, I must say that this evening was much like a dream – one of those moments where you have to pinch yourself to know if it’s really happening.

Pictures of the kids before the parade. Click on "older posts" to see more, plus pictures of Ziko's new kitten.
The the young revolutionaries marching through town
Arriving at the basketball court.
Hizee and Miguel
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Hizee and one of her best friends Lupe. We went for a walk on this day and they walked with their arms around each other the entire time.
Dianna, Hizee, Lupe and Victor. The girls are busy removing "espinas" (little thorns) from Victor's pants.
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Prior to moving to Mexico we did a lot of dreaming about all the animals we wanted to get when we got here. Zam and Hizee decided that they should each have their own dog but that Ziko shouldn't have a dog because three dogs was too much. So they convinced Ziko that he should have a cat when we get to Mexico. Ziko thought this was a fine idea, and since his favourite colour is orange, he decided that he would get an "orange cat" when he got to Mexico. Well, this past week Ziko's dream was realized when Hizee's friend Maria brought a skinny little kitten with splotches of orange fur to our door and asked if we wanted it. Ziko was thrilled! When we asked him what he wanted to name his cat he responded without hesitation "Orange Cat." We are all enjoying Orange Cat. She is very affectionate and is starting to thrive after a rather rocky start to her life (she was basically a walking skeleton and we weren't sure if she was going to pull through -- but she's putting on weight now and doing great).

Here Ziko is with Orange Cat right after he got her, together with Zam and Kiara and Meredith (two of our fellow MCCers who live in Olinala). The kids are crazy about Kiara and Meredith and on this evening had a blast playing Old Maid together with them. Kiara and Meredith are the ones who painted our entire house before we came.(A beyond kind act given the amount of wall space in this place!) We feel so blessed to be part of such a great team here in Mexico!
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

My friend and neighbor Erica, trying to teach me to make tortillas.

Our neighbour Luis and his family at their maize field. It is harvest time right now and all the maize is picked by hand.

Hizee and Flo running to Luis' field
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Our second week in Zacongo proved to be as busy and intense as the first. We are learning so much and while it can be a bit overwhelming at times we are mostly just enjoying all those first experiences that living in a new place brings. One of those “firsts” for me has been learning to make tortillas. It seems that the women here in Zacongo are very curious about what I do all day, and what our family is eating seeing as though I do not make tortillas. The conversations I’ve had with women in the community usually go something like this:
“Did you make tortillas today?”
“Then what did your family eat?”
“Some bread, pasta, vegetables, etc.”
“Don’t you like tortillas?”
“Yes, we like them.”
“Do you know how to make them?”
“Well, we can teach you how.”
“That would be great!”
And, thus, I have had a few lessons on how to make tortillas. It is quite a fun process (which is easy for me to say because I don’t have to stand in front of a smoky stove for hours making them) and the women are very excited for me when I am successful (which isn’t very often). The tricky part for me is getting the flattened circular piece of tortilla dough from my hand onto the hot stove (pan) -- I am always scared that I’m going to burn my hand. Other firsts include: harvesting corn by hand (Bruce), harvesting peanuts by hand (me), attending a Mexican birthday fiesta, and attending a fiesta for the patron saint of a neighbourhood in the nearby town of Olinala.
People here in Zacongo are extremely warm and generous. During the past two weeks I’m sure that well over a hundred tortillas have passed through our door (together with beans, salsa, peanuts, cookies, sweet potatoes, boiled maize, etc.) and people pop in often for visits. While this warm welcome continues to humble us we have had to relearn the idea of dropping whatever it is we are doing and taking the time to visit. We’ve experienced this type of lifestyle in other places that we have lived but it still doesn’t make it easy to shift your mind to making relationships come before all the “work” that “needs” to be done. (We are still busy unpacking and trying to establish some sort of sense of order in the house. We still don’t have running water – although our friend and fellow MCCer Martin is hard at work on it – and this means regular daily chores take a little longer.) At the same time, we know that we need breaks from always having people in the house if we want to remain somewhat sane. I guess it’s all about balance – which I’m sure is to come!
Ziko and Lupe
Lupe, Dianna, and Hizee
Ziko, Miguel, Zam, and Ceasar cruising around Zacongo in the back of a truck.
It is breathtaking country here. These are the hills in and around Zacongo.
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Miguel and Ziko at Miguel's family's maize field

Ziko, Hizee, Raffa, Dianna, Lupe, and Vitor "playing" with a toad (poor toad) on the street near our house.

Zam and Lalo in action on top of our roof.
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