Saturday, December 29, 2007

week two

This has been a quieter week than last week, but still I've spent some time with friends and out and about on errands. Christmas day was warm and clear, and we celebrated our usual way. Christmas is the only time when we all eat breakfast together - homemade cinnamon rolls and eggs, and then we listen to the Christmas story. After that come the presents which we open one at a time to savor the suspense. Because there are six of us, the present-opening takes quite awhile.

My sister and I made waldorf salad, and my dad put the finishing touches on the rest of the Christmas feast. A friend from my parents' small group joined us, and we thoroughly enjoyed the traditional fare.

Another tradition we have is to walk on the beach in the afternoon. With the beautiful warmth and clean air, it was a lovely time. We strolled for about an hour before returning home to play several rounds of Madlibs in the evening.

The rest of the week passed rather quietly. Today I had the opportunity to go with two friends for my first (and at this point only) horse-back riding lesson. My horse Frisco was apparently the crabbiest of the lot, but he didn't cause me any particular problems. The lesson was only 20 minutes, and the fastest we ever went was a trot, but that was fine by me. It seemed fast enough for this raw beginner!

Tomorrow at church we will have a pancake breakfast and then only one service. That will be my last Sunday at Newport Mesa Church for 6 months, since I'll be returning to Puebla Jan. 5.

Friday, December 21, 2007

lots of coffee and late nights

After being up all night Saturday/Sunday, I arrived safe but dazed to LAX. This had to have been the easiest airport check-out ever; I think I was one of the first off the plane, and from there it was absolutely smooth "sailing." From the time the plane touched down to the time I met my dad at curb-side, only about 20 minutes had passed.

Sunday evening my dad and I went to see the elaborate miniature village that a neighbor sets up every year in her home. After that I tried to go to church, but apparently the 6pm services don't exist anymore, so my drive to the church accomplished nothing. Upon returning home, I settled down to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding with my parents but kept falling asleep.

Monday night I joined several members of my small group to tour Balboa Island (where the other half live) and see the elaborate lights. Stunning! It was fun to catch up with my friends again.

On Tuesday I met one of my best friends at Norms. She and her husband had just flown in from Connecticut, pulling an all-nighter like I had on Sat/Sun, but she was still able to stay awake and coherent until after midnight.

Wednesday night two more friends met with me at Starbucks, and then we went to watch August Rush. Another late night.

My family had waited for our traditional viewing of Muppet Christmas Carol until I came, and then my brother had to work for several nights, so we finally got to watch that Thursday night. Such a classic - it's the only Christmas movie that we insist on watching every year.

Tonight my sisters, dad, and I went to Fashion Island (where the other half shop) to see their 110 foot environmentally friendly tree. While there we took the opportunity to enjoy some of Macy's more entertaining clothing options. Actually, the gold tree skirt worked quite nicely as a cape.

Tomorrow I'll be playing soccer with the same friends I saw Wednesday night, but I actually have no plans for the evening. During the days I've been shopping to pick up things that I can't get in Mexico (like books for my classrooom), writing Christmas cards, visiting the lovely Huntington Beach Public Library which I definitely miss in Mexico, and going to garden centers to buy plants to fill in areas that have died back in the garden. Oh, and I've enjoyed "playing" in my garden too.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

gold, frankenstein, and myrrh

Three weeks of Christmas projects, Christmas stories, and intense practice for the Christmas pageant have ended. Most of the PCS staff left this morning to head to the US. Soon I will also be leaving, but my flight isn't until tomorrow morning. Early. Way too early. It leaves at 7:50am from Mexico City. Calculating backwards - let's see, international flights require passengers to arrive 3 hours ahead. 4:50am. The bus ride from Puebla to Mexico City takes 2 hours. That means I have to be on the 3am bus from here. My poor roommate is dropping me off at the bus station. Hopefully she'll go back to sleep afterwards. I'm not going to bother going to bed tonight.

All that aside, the past three weeks went very well. We had more than enough Christmas projects to fill the time, and then this last week all the kids had practice for the pageant that they were in Thursday. By the way, did you know that the wise men brought gold, Frankenstein, and myrrh to the baby Jesus? So says one of my students anyway. Do you think the wise men invited Frankie, or did he force his way along with them?

That in itself was a story. The pageant started at 6:30. I went over to the school at 6 to get a ride over, but no one came. I tried calling some people's cell phones, but no one answered. By 6:30, the school's cleaning ladies had arrived, and they called a cab for me, but when the cab came, the driver didn't know where the church was and neither did I. I tried more cell phones with no results. They ladies called another cab, but just when it arrived, one of the PCS teachers also drove up. He'd been sent to find me. Unfortunately, the cab driver demanded payment for the call, even though I didn't ride over to the church with him.

On Friday the parents of my students came with Christmas food for lunch. Not all of them could be there, but it was nice to have the ones that could come.

Now I've finished my lesson plans for the first week of school - Jan 2008! and I'm all packed. Ten more hours til I have to be at the bus station.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

staying home

Perhaps I'm related to Scrooge or the Grinch. Just perhaps. Anyway, whether I'm related to one of them or not, I have chosen to stay home from a PCS friends and family Christmas party that starts in an hour. I wavered - there will be carol singing and cookies galore, but there will also be scads of people, including many kids. I'm not in the mood for that much noise and socializing.

We actually already had a Christmas party, just last night, in fact. That party was for PCS staff and the board members - adults only. Even with the invitation narrowed down, there were still times during the party when the noise of talking was overwhelming. There was plenty of tasty finger food available, since Jenna, the director's wife, had been preparing the goodies all day.

After returning from the party in the evening, Bethany and I took a walk up to the Catholic church on the hill to see if they had put up Christmas lights since the church on the pyramid in Cholula had put up lights. The church here hadn't, but some houses nearby had. We strolled around part of the neighborhood, searching for the perfect place to take a picture of the chapel capola, a "tree" of lights strung up one of the television broadcast towers, and the massive Mexican flag. No success on that front, but we did get a nice walk.

Today Janelle and I grocery shopped at Walmart early on to avoid the massive weekend crowds, and then I took care of some school business - still not lesson planning (that will be on tomorrow's agenda after church). Early in the afternoon, Bethany and I caught a bus to downtown so she could finish some Christmas shopping.

On Wednesday much of Mexico will be honoring the Virgin de Guadalupe. For this reason right now there are singles, couples, and groups of pilgrims walking through here

on their way to the Basilica in Mexico City. What a walk! As Bethany and I neared home this afternoon, we saw a particularly notable group of pilgrims wearily trudging down the street. They paused briefly for refreshment and rest before continuing the long trek. It's hard to see in the picture, but the young man with the white baseball cap has a glass case strapped to his back. In it is the image of the virgin. Many of the pilgrims have large framed paintings or images strapped to their backs as they walk. Downtown we passed an enclosure where an image of the virgin had been painstakingly created out of dyed rice and brown sugar.

I can't help but think of the contrasts in belief systems. Last night at the Christmas party, one of the board members talked about God's giving us the free gift of his Son Jesus. He came to earth as a humble baby, born in a stable and destined to die for our sins. A free gift. Salvation and a place in heaven for all eternity doesn't depend on us making a tiring, painful trek on foot each year to a center of worship. We don't have to carry any burdens on our backs as we process from home to the Basilica. Christmas is about celebrating or freedom in Christ. May these pilgrims find the same hope in Jesus, not the Virgin de Guadalupe.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

around town

The week back from vacation sped by in a blur. We worked on many Christmas related crafts, stories, and activities in school. Two more weeks before vacation begins again, this time for 3 weeks.

This morning a friend from Dios es Amor came by so that we could go to El Centro together. She wanted to show me a couple of places that I hadn't seen yet, so we caught the bus that took us downtown. She showed me the street where the hippies sell their wares. Some of it is really original and well made, and some of it... well, I don't think I'd want a necklace or earrings patterned with psychedelic mushrooms or marijuana leaves.

After going there, we visited a weekend market that sells just about anything. We could have bought Christmas trees or furs, or any number of other gadgets and knick-knacks. As we strolled the streets, we saw all kinds of stores and markets. Finally, after a few hours of walking, we were both hungry and stopped at a restaurant. Finishing our lunches, we explored more of downtown before finding Reforma and walking the 45 minutes back to my home.

Last night I went to Dios es Amor for the bimonthly Friday night youth group. Abraham and I arrived early, so we played kickball with the neighbor kids for awhile. My roommate is driving back from Texas with her new (to her) van, so she wasn't there to teach the young ladies' class. We stayed with the young men, taught by Mario.

With the Spanish from last night and all day today, I actually found it difficult to think of words in English when one of the PCS students saw me returning from El Centro and started talking to me. That doesn't mean I'm fluent in Spanish by any means, but the Spanish saturation had taken over my brain for the time being.