Sometimes in one’s life, an opportunity presents itself that you just can’t pass up. My once in a lifetime opportunity took 58 years to find it’s way to me and when it did, I grabbed hold. This is my adventure..
#nightsky #peppers #pyramids #peaches-seashells #raindance #orchardtour #highaltitude #aGoodFriday #loneliness #popcorn #teaching #angangueo #mothersday #reflections #throughandthrew #fiesta #daytrip
December 13, 2022
We’re finally here, standing in the lobby of the Cerro Pelon Butterfly B&B! Making this trip to see the Monarch butterflies’ winter sanctuary was something I’d planned for years and I was ready to experience all that this little establishment had to offer. Unbeknownst to me, my body had other plans and I came down with bronchitis after just one day and had to return home early. Determined to finish this experience in it’s entirety, and despite feeling absolutely horrible, I made reservations to return in February.
Once again, I entered the lobby of this sweet little B&B. I was back and ready to complete the adventure I’d started in December. Standing there at the front desk, waiting to be checked in….well, that’s when opportunity nearly looked me in the eye as if to say, “Hey! Listen up! This is for you!”
While waiting to be checked in, I overheard Joel, the proprietor of the B&B, tell a departing guest that he was hoping to bring someone here in the off season to teach his family conversational English. Teach? English? I felt like he was talking directly to me rather than a departing guest. I mean, seriously…teach? And teach English? My undergraduate degree is in teaching. My minor? English!
I checked in and proceeded to settle into my room while letting this little snippet of information percolate a bit in my head. But man, was I eager to track down Joel for more details! It would have to wait though – this was his busy season. He had many guests to attend to so it took a full day before I could sit with him for a bit and talk about the specifics.
Long story short, I volunteered to come back and teach English to Joel’s family! Opportunity had knocked the door down and jumped into my face with an exclamation of joy and excitement!
I hope over the next three months you will stop in from time to time. Feel free to leave a comment, ask a question or just sit a while with me as I embark on this journey.
Away from Home
This little adventure of mine will span a period of three months. Three months away from home, away from my children and grandchildren, away from friends and all that fills me with a sense of contentment, joy, and comfort. But it’s also going to be three months in which to grow inwardly, a period of time in which I hope to strengthen my self-confidence in who I am and the dreams to which I aspire.
Better yet, I hope that during the next three months I will find that family and friends can be found anywhere in this world if we open our hearts and receive the love and kindness that strangers have to offer. I have always believed that there is more good in this world than bad….a belief that in current times is becoming increasingly more difficult to hold onto but I have not given up my faith in humanity.
When people tell me that I am doing such a wonderful thing, volunteering to teach English in a foreign country, I am really at a loss for words. Yes, I will be teaching a family to speak English but that is only a small portion of what I hope all involved in this adventure will experience. My wish is that we all grow in our own way, gain a confidence in ourselves and each other. And I hope that my presence here will bring as much love and joy into their lives as they have already shown me in just three short days. I know I will walk away from this experience a different person – anything less and I will have failed because the only way to remain stagnant in life is to keep your mind and heart closed to possibilities.
I’ve chosen to throw open my arms and welcome life.
One of my favorite spots at Cerro Pelon Butterfly B&B is the rooftop patio. The view of the sunset is spectacular, and it is a favorite spot for guests to gather after a day on the trails to relax and visit with fellow visitors. Though I don’t make it up to the roof every night, I do take in the sunset from wherever I may be…how can I not when the sky fills with hues of red, purple, and orange. It’s breathtaking.
Tonight, I stayed on the rooftop patio longer than usual. The moon was aligned with Venus and I wanted to stay and watch the night sky unfold. It was exactly as I believed it would be – the stars seemingly growing brighter as the sun set fully behind the mountains.
As I stood there in awe of the peaceful heavens unfolding before me, I realized that I wanted to try and capture it so I went back to my room, changed out the lens on my camera and made my way back up to the rooftop. As so often happens when I am behind the lens, I lost myself in the moment – I was no longer aware of the floor beneath me, the sounds of the evening, or the cool night air. I just…was. In that moment I saw and felt only the night sky – I’m not sure how long I lay on the patio floor, my body absorbing the heat from the tiles, lost in the stars above. But I do know it won’t be the last time I will look upon the heavens here – it’s far too beautiful to look just once.
For those who do know me, my palate is on the wussy side. When hearing that I would be living in Mexico for three months, my middle son quickly commented, “What are you going to eat, Mom? You don’t like spicy food!” It was a good question. The answer? Mexican food. On the whole, I’ve been able to handle the mild level of spice, herbs and peppers they put into their cooking. Tonight was the exception.
Ya’’ll know of the Scoville scale? It measures the level of heat in chili peppers and other substances. Well, tonight at dinner they served fresh trout. Each piece was wrapped in foil with vegetables and steamed to perfection. I love trout and so dug right in. I assumed that the vegetables surrounding the trout were onions, tomato, and sweet bell peppers. Quite simply, I chose not to verify my assumption and that was a mistake – one I will not repeat. I mean, the sliced yellow vegetable looked similar to what I know to be a rather sweet bell pepper so why ask, right? Well, I assumed wrong because it was, in fact, a Manzana pepper – a super hot pepper that rests neatly on the Scoville scale somewhere between 18,000 and 50,000 units. Let’s just say that the family got to see me make a few weird faces, listen to me clear my throat a kazillion times, and ask for a tissue because yes, it’s true…spicy foods do make your nose run! I was thankful for the freshly made tortillas at the table as I searched for something to dissipate the level of heat I was feeling in my throat. Lesson learned…when in Mexico, ask about the colored items that look like peppers cuz they just may be a little on the hot side. And before anyone gets upset that no one warned me, they apologized for neglecting to tell me but I’m a grown woman and I knowingly made an assumption that I was not qualified to make in a strange country, eating food that I knew had a tendency to be hot. And let’s be honest here…even I laughed at my own theatrical response.
Pyramids and Paper
Pyramids and Paper
When teaching a class, any class, you need supplies…period. Teaching ESL is no different and today I needed to make a supply run. My host offered to bring me into the nearest city about 30 minutes away so that I could get teaching supplies. On the way to the market, he suggested that we take an alternate route and explore the archeological site of the St Filipe Los Alzate pyramids. Willing to take the road less traveled opens our eyes to new things and today I got to see more than was originally planned.
On our way back we stopped for a light lunch at la Cabana de Don Bar Bar Restaurante. I had a couple of very tasty shrimp tacos and, as mentioned in an earlier post, my palate being on the sensitive side I left the spicy sauces just where the wait staff put them….to the right of my plate. I know, I know….some of you are cringing inwardly, thinking I’m wasting an opportunity to enjoy real Mexican cuisine but I’m really not…it’s just the really hot stuff. They also serve an awesome margarita here, by the way. We concluded our meal with a shot of sambuca served with three coffee beans. I didn’t know the significance of the three beans until today; the beans symbolize blessings that wish you happiness, good health, and great prosperity in the days to come. Salud!
On to the market! And wow – I’ve never been to such a large open market place as the one I saw today in Zitacuaro. Vendors everywhere selling just about anything you can imagine. Joel knew how to make his way through the myriad of vendors, taking us straight to the vendor that carries classroom, office, and party supplies. Right in this one little shop I was able to get markers, tape, a notebook, computer paper, and even balloons! Then it was off to the bodega for miscellaneous supplies needed at the B&B, with a final stop at a butcher shop. All in all, it was a pretty good morning for what started out as an errand run.
Peaches and Seashells
One week today! One week and four English lessons under my belt! And oh what a wonderful way to end my first week! I have been giving my ‘students’ a fairly decent amount of new vocabulary, pronunciation and speaking challenges since starting lessons. Today I decided to see if they could interact with each other with minimal prompts and have a brief introductory conversation using what they’d learned thus far. They outdid themselves and I am so very happy with the progress and level of enthusiasm they bring to class each and every day! I was even more touched when at the end of class, two children each presented me with a small gift – a freshly picked peach and a tiny, treasured seashell. I’m going to love my time here. Admittedly, it’s a risk to open one’s self up to strangers but man, when they return it in kind there is nothing sweeter – not even a peach.
Dancing in the Rain
For the first time since my arrival, it rained here in Macheros. My host and I had just gone up to the rooftop patio to watch the sunset. Just as we had positioned our chairs for the best view, the first drops of rain began to fall. Within moments it was obvious that we would have to move under cover.
As we sat there watching the rain, my mind kept drifting to a quote by Vivian Greene. I would often reflect upon it during my darkest days, reminding myself there was still joy.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
The longer we sat watching the storm, the stronger the urge to get myself off the chair and go dance in the rain. Not because I was weathering a storm anymore, but rather to celebrate my arrival on the other side. Giving into the freedom I now allow myself to live, I went out into the rain, spread my arms wide, lifted my face to the heavens and thanked God for the blessings in my life and for this amazing opportunity.
As I twirled about, arms open wide, I laughed at the freedom I felt; the freedom to be me and the freedom to literally dance in the rain without a care in the world.
As part of the experiences available to guests at Cerro Pelon Butterfly B&B, various tours and activities beyond the trip to the butterfly sanctuary are offered. There is a local cottage industry tour, a cooking lesson with Dona Rosa, and a tour of an avocado orchard, to name just a few. When I was here in February, I took part in all but the avocado orchard tour; not because I wasn’t interested but quite simply, I ran out of time. Touring the orchard was something I wanted to do during my time here this spring and today was the day.
Joel owns two small, organic avocado orchards and after a very busy butterfly season, it was time for him to assess the needs of his orchards, so I tagged along for the ride. As we walked through the grove, it was clear that hydration was an obvious need due to it being the dry season. That situation would be amended soon enough though as the rainy season is approaching quickly. The trees also needed nourishment and as an organic farmer, Joel uses only cow manure to fertilize the trees. There was other work to do as well, but despite the lack of rain and a need for nutrients, the trees were still producing beautiful fruit.
Joel motioned for me to follow him under the branches of one very large avocado tree, into a very spacious opening under the canopy. He sat down on a very strong, lower branch and invited me to do the same. Hesitant, I stood for a few minutes, my eyes adjusting to the deep shade. As I stood there, I began to feel an energy surrounding me. The longer I stood, the stronger the energy felt until it felt as if the tree was hugging me. I felt a little silly mentioning it aloud but then, as I so often do nowadays, I told myself who cares what anyone might think of me, and I proceeded to share with Joel my thoughts. He didn’t laugh but rather nodded in agreement.
He said that many people, including himself, feel the same energy when touring his orchards. Joel works in harmony with the trees – gives them what they need, talks to them and in return he believes they care for his mind and soul. I am of the same mindset; I talk to my plants and the forest surrounding my home and feel that there is a sharing of energy that happens between us if we are willing to be open to the stillness. I’ve felt it before, and I felt it again today among the branches of this avocado tree.
As we made our way back to the car, we passed a particularly sad looking tree – one that perhaps had a tougher winter than others. I stopped and walked up to it, placing one hand upon its trunk and another on a branch. I assured her that the rains would soon arrive, and nourishment would be forthcoming and until then, she was welcome to some of my energy to tide her over.
I am quite certain that the lessons I learn here during my stay will far outnumber the lessons I am teaching. For example, coming to a place where the altitude is over 8,000′ takes a bit of patience while one’s body acclimates. After a few days I stopped huffing and puffing, at least while ascending the stairs to my room, so I figured I was ready to go out and help weed in the family garden. Why not, right? I spend hours in my own garden at home….an elevation all of 656′ above sea level, HA!. Before you fret, I didn’t get sick or pass out but I sure did find out that I am not ready to add too much physical energy into my day. Near the end of the day, I could barely keep my eyes open I was so exhausted! Compared to a regular day back home, I barely did a thing here! I fell asleep just after 8pm, fully clothed, lights on and book resting on my lap. The next day my host told me to not feel bad and that I should not feel like I need to help – that my body will adjust soon enough.
And oh yeah, feel free to take a nap!
Today I took a trip down memory lane. One might ask how I can take a trip down memory lane in a country that I’ve formed very little memories in; well, the simplest answer is this – family.
I spent my morning out in the gardens, taking photos of the myriad of flowers spread throughout. On the way back to my room, I met Rosa, the matriarch of the family, tending to one of her many gardens. She and I share a common interest in gardening, so I took the opportunity to stop and remark on the beautiful flowers found everywhere. She took her phone from her pocket and showed me a photo she’d taken earlier in the season – a beautiful, yellow double iris. I shared a couple of the photos I’d just taken and then excused myself to go back to my room but not before she invited me to join them for lunch at 2pm.
Two o’clock rolls round and I go outside to the shaded area where the tables have been set up and realize that this is no ordinary lunch. Today is Good Friday and the entire family has been invited to a lunch of fresh trout, vegetarian chili and a delightful spring salad made with fruits and crisp vegetables.
As I sat at the table, I looked around in joyful awe at this family who had welcomed me, a complete stranger, to take part in this holiday meal. I couldn’t understand much of anything that was being said but the conversation was animated and full and reminded me of my childhood. My parents would often invite non-family members to enjoy a holiday meal with us, knowing that to be away from family and home during the holidays can feel quite lonely. There was always enough food to share but what I remember most was the abundance of love, tradition and joy that my family shared so willingly.
I felt that connection today. I felt so honored to be included, to bear witness to the love this family has for each other, and for the love that they shared with me.
Yes, it was a very Good Friday.
At the onset of my blog, I told you this would be a record of my adventure. Though I do hope most of my entries are upbeat, today I need to acknowledge the very real feeling of loneliness I feel at times here. (ahem, excuse the interruption but be sure to read through to the end, it’s a good ending and why I process the way I do – and now back to the topic at hand, loneliness ) Don’t for a minute though think that this family is anything other than welcoming and giving and kind. I can’t begin to imagine the extent of loneliness I would feel if I were 100% on my own, in a foreign country, unable to speak the language.
The loneliness I feel is only from my inability to learn the language fast enough so I can fully immerse myself into the community. I spend time with this family, not only in class but outside of class as well. I go swimming with them when they are at the pool. I walk about the grounds and if I see someone, I walk up to them in greeting, or they me. We share meals together a few times a week, but after a period of time, due to the shared language barrier, our interaction halts and I, or they, move on.
So, there are two things I can say today, about my loneliness – two steps that I am taking to combat it. First, I have downloaded Babbel, an app that helps you learn another language, and I am going to learn Spanish. Because I am here to teach English, I don’t spend a lot of time communicating with the family in Spanish so it’s been difficult to just pick it up. And for those of you wondering why I didn’t learn it prior to coming here, it’s because I was taking a TEFL course the month prior to my arrival. Second, when I am feeling lonely I am going to recognize it for what it is, a momentary feeling that will pass because, in truth, I am not alone. I can, do, and will continue to seek out my host family members and continue to open myself up to what I hope will be a loving and reciprocated friendship.
Sitting alone, feeling lonely, only feeds an emotion that brings me down. To give in only separates me more. If I’ve learned anything in the past 6 years it’s that though I may live alone, I don’t have to be alone. There is always someone, somewhere, who is willing to say hello and visit with me for a few moments. It may not be face to face, on the phone, or even text messaging, but there is always someone. I just need to reach out… and just like that a smile comes across my face cuz now I’m hearing this song by the Four Tops in my head, “Reach Out” and the loneliness has passed.
Today’s English lesson included vocabulary that covered daily routines: eating, dressing, working, etc. As part of the topic of eating I added mealtime vocabulary – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. And then I decided to add ‘snack’ to their vocab list. Uncertain if they had a similar word for snack in Spanish, I gave popcorn as an example of a snack. One mother, seated close to the front, nodded enthusiastically in agreement – kindred spirits it seemed in our love of popcorn. Chocolate was suggested by another and, wanting to acknowledge that there are healthy snacks as well, I added carrots to the list. Satisfied that everyone understood mealtime vocabulary, we moved on to a practice session taking turns asking and answering questions in pairs.
After class, as I do every day, I called my 85 year old mother; it’s our agreed upon plan that I will call daily so she needn’t worry while I’m out of the country. Today was no different apart from the young voices calling for me from the staircase. I asked my mother to wait a moment while I addressed the children and I put the phone down. As I crossed the threshold of my bedroom into the hallway, two children, siblings, were making their way up the stairs. In the older sibling’s hands was a bowl of popcorn from their mother, my kindred, popcorn-loving spirit. The smiles on their faces spoke volumes that they were in on the surprise, and I am sure that my positive reaction and warm laugh sent them home with the certainty that their surprise had its intended effect. As for what I will take home, it will be the certainty that popcorn will now forever remind me of the kindness and joy I am so blessed to be experiencing here in this tiny little village, tucked away at the base of Cerro Pelon.
From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a teacher. As a young girl, I would set my stuffed animals and dolls up on my bed and place paper and crayon in front of each. This was my classroom, and I had the attention of every one of my students, all of whom were highly interested in what I was teaching, at least in my mind they were. In my entire youth, I only wavered briefly from an interest in teaching, once, in 7th grade. Short of that, teaching was my calling.
I eventually got a degree in elementary education and taught a year before having children. When my children got older, I started to substitute teach – allowing me the flexibility to be home if my children had the day off, were sick, or had appointments. I enjoyed being in the classroom again, getting to know students and, albeit not full time, to be teaching again.
And now here I am again, teaching. I never imagined I’d be teaching in another country, let alone teaching to non-native English-speaking students. But I’m loving it – why? Because teaching is not only about helping students advance in life with skills and increased knowledge, but it’s also about connecting with them, getting to know them, watching them grow as human beings, watching them blossom under your tutelage. It’s an awesome gift to receive – the opportunity to witness their successes, to help them overcome failures, to hope that you make a difference in their lives, somehow, even if it’s just that you are the someone they know they can trust to be there, supporting them no matter what adversities they may encounter outside the classroom.
That’s what teaching is to me – it’s about the relationship with my students. And it is a relationship – one in which there can be great give and take. I’m glad that I have the opportunity to teach again; I know I’m going to be a better person because of it.
I recently had the opportunity to visit a small village about ninety minutes north of Macheros; the town of Angangueo. By definition, Angangueo means, “town between mountains”, “at the entrance of a cave”, “very high thing”, or “inside the forest.” https://www.sectur.gob.mx/gobmx/
I wholeheartedly agree with “town between mountains” and “very high thing” as this town is no where near being in a valley….maybe an upper valley, but I think a more accurate definition would be, a very high town between mountains. The view as we approached the town from the south was spectacular with an entire valley before us as we made our way from El Rosario to Angangueo.
Angangueo is a sweet little village with a rich history in mining minerals, the story of which can be seen through beautiful murals painted along an alley in the center of Angangueo. Today the town is better known for the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuaries that are near and its a stop well worth taking after a visit to the sanctuaries. As we walked through the center of town, my host and I were accompanied by an unofficial tour guide, a sweet little boy all of 8 years of age. He was very talkative and eager to share his understanding of the town’s history and offerings.
There are two churches in the center of town, one of which we were able to take a quick walk through only because there was a small quartet that was packing up from what perhaps was a rehearsal session. The very narrow and steep streets of Angangueo are lined with colorful buildings and there are places to take in lunch or dinner. We stopped at a cute little restaurant, Los Arcos, for lunch. The staff was friendly and the food was tasty. All in all, it was a pleasant excursion and I would highly recommend that if you are visiting either El Rosario or Sierra Cinqua, to make a stop in Angangueo.
The holidays celebrated by the Mexican people are rich in tradition and native culture, some having deep ancestral roots, and family is at the core of most (if not all) celebrations. It’s been quite an honor to witness some of these holidays with my host’s family during my stay, but I will reserve a separate post detailing all the holidays experienced during my time here.
Today’s holiday is different though, for a couple of reasons: first, as an American, I have celebrated Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May with my family all of my life – as a daughter and later as a mom myself . Yet here in Mexico it is celebrated on the 10th of May, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. Secondly, although some Mexican children may wake their mother with song (a tradition for some in Mexico) that was not the case here.
Mother’s Day has a strong religious connotation in Mexico, so as with many events here in this beautiful little farming village, volunteers ring the church bells and set off fireworks (all noise, no pretty colors). But today was different because today those bells and fireworks started at… wait for it… 4:40 this morning. Yes, that’s correct…the mothers in this little farming village (myself included) were serenaded by the sound of church bells and fireworks before the sun had even offered a nod to the coming day. Not sure what part of that sounds like little children serenading their mama, but apparently it was a surprise to no one other than me.
I did enjoy a very nice luncheon put on by my host’s sisters as their gift to their mom and the other mothers in the family, including me. They served a delicious meal of chicken with mole sauce, rice, warm tortillas, and a blended fruit juice that was made moments before the meal was served. Being so far from home this Mother’s Day, it was nice to celebrate it with family.
¡Feliz dia de la Madre, Momma!
Ya’ know how sometimes, when you’re in the middle of something, you’re just not aware of how significant that event might be – or how much it may mean to you? I had one of those moments when I was teaching yesterday, and it only dawned on me this morning.
When planning my lessons for this week, I realized I had moved through some new vocabulary and sentence structure too quickly for my students to retain and decided that what they needed more than anything this week was time – time to practice and then practice some more. It was just a gut feeling, honestly, cuz I’ve never taught a foreign language before and therefore had nothing to base it on. So I focused my daily prep primarily on review at the beginning of class and then verbal practice in the form of questions and responses.
The first couple days I questioned myself – am I moving too slow now? Are my students getting bored? Do I really know what I’m doing? And then yesterday happened…I decided it was time to remove the answer prompts and ask them to use purely what we’d been practicing, what hopefully by now had been moved into their long-term memory. And ya’ know what? They did it! I handed half the class question prompts and the other half had to answer, with no visual prompt. And then they traded roles, the questioners becoming the respondents – and they succeeded at answering as well!
I know I can teach and I know I’m a good teacher, yet sometimes that inner voice prefers to question that belief and hammer me with doubt and criticism. I’m getting better at ignoring the self-criticism because of days like today – days that reinforce the positive voice with actual successes that I can see and remember when those days of self-doubt surface.
Through* and Threw
Teaching English to non native speakers has been a wonderful learning experience for my students as well as for me. But let me tell you, my students are incredibly brave taking on the English language. My goodness! English is so messed up and it’s my native tongue! I used to teach children, whose native language was English, to read and they even struggled at times. Maybe other languages have sight words, I don’t honestly know (I took French for six years and don’t remember learning ‘sight words’), but English has sight words that children just need to memorize. Why? Because the word pronunciation just doesn’t bloody well make any sense! Think about these two words for example: do and go. Seriously? How do you explain that one? Or….what and who? The wh is pronounced in what, but who sounds like it starts with an h. Or read, read and red. Or to, too, and two. Or…yeah, you get it. The list is long.
English has rules but there are so many exceptions I question why there are rules in the first place. And why can’t we say good, gooder, and goodest when it’s okay to say fast, faster, and fastest. Why did we have to change it completely to good, better, best? My students look at me as if I’ve lost my mind sometimes when I show them the spelling of some words (knife) or words that sound the same but are spelled so differently (would, wood). All I can say is, “yup….I know, but it’s true.” I introduced the word glasses a few weeks ago because two students wear glasses. But hey, yeah….there are also these glass cylindrical things that we drink out of and they (pl) are also called glasses.
My students get nervous or embarrassed that they may mispronounce something. I tell them to not worry, English is a tough language to learn. And I occasionally add that they may be learning their initial English from me, but the next person to come along may have a different accent or be from a different region and that’s a whole other can of worms. Freeway or highway. Faucet or spigot. Aunt or aunt (said ant).
One other little aside: I’ve started to think in Spanish, at least when counting knitted rows in my head. I’ve started to use the word Si when I am answering in the affirmative in texts or phone calls to my English speaking family and friends. And I’m getting comfortable uttering simple Spanish greetings when I see someone outside of the classroom; at this point it is second nature. And the weirdest thing is, the stowed box at the back of my brain containing the six years of French I took back when I was in high school and college – it seems to be moving forward in my brain’s attempt to grab any foreign language it can latch onto when I’m searching for the Spanish word I think I may know. Not helpful in Mexico but I do appreciate the effort, brain.
*Through, but this is rough…uh huh. Go home, Sharon.
In the time that I have been here, I have experienced several Mexican holidays: Holy Week and Easter, Children’s Day, Mother’s Day, Feast of the Holy Cross, and most recently Saint Isidor de Laborer.
Holy Week and Easter Week: With deep Catholic roots, it comes as no surprise that Mexico recognizes the week prior to Easter as their most important religious holiday. Schools have two weeks off as well as some businesses in recognition of these two Catholic holidays. For me, it was especially nice to arrive during this time as it gave me the opportunity to meet all the family members and to take part in a large family meal on Good Friday.
Children’s Day: Children are recognized at school with parties and goodies. The church here in Macheros also hosted a small parade/processional and fiesta at the church.
Mother’s Day: There is a separate post about Mother’s Day.
The Feast of the Holy Cross: Interestingly enough, it is celebrated in two distinctly different ways here in Mexico – both with religious ties, but uniquely different. One is the recognition of masons and construction workers in Mexico, the cross being the patron saint of masons and laborers. The other is an older and deeply historical, pre-Hispanic tradition celebrating the return of the rains. In both instances, crosses are built and adorned with real or handmade paper flowers. But here in Macheros, I witnessed the pre-Hispanic one. The morning of, I went to visit one of the host families here and found the kitchen busy with activity. The women were at the table making the most beautiful and colorful paper flowers I’ve ever seen. When complete, they attached them to the carved wooden crosses the patriarch of the family had made that were placed around the room. Once complete, the crosses would be placed in cornfields and gardens, honoring the return of the rains. I was deeply moved witnessing a tradition so deeply rooted in their Mexican heritage. In fact, I was afraid to say much of anything for fear that tears would stream down my face, that’s how beautifully moving it was to me.
The Celebration of Saint Isidor: This celebration was definitely the most fiesta-like atmosphere of all the holidays that I’ve witnessed here. The fiesta took place on May 14 and May 15 and the streets were adorned with festive streamers and balloons, the church was beyond beautiful with fresh floral decorations placed in and around the church, outside, inside and under the big event tent. So what was the cause of the celebration? Saint Isidor, the patron saint of farmers and rural communities. Each year, Macheros is host to this two day celebration honoring the patron saint, Isidor. And oh what a festival it is! Fireworks, parade complete with a marching brass band, processionals to each town line to greet and process back to with neighboring villagers to the church at the center of town, blessings and celebrations at the church, a horse parade, street food, rodeo, and a popular band wraps up the event with music and dancing. It really was the most animated event I’d seen here in Macheros and it was truly wonderful!
A quick note: Cinquo de Mayo is not on the list because they do not celebrate it here in Macheros. In fact, it is not celebrated in most of Mexico, nor is it a federal holiday. September 16th is Mexico’s Independence Day.
Last Sunday I was asked if I wanted to join one of the families that I teach and take a ride to get some delicious lamb tacos in a town about 35-40 minutes away. More than happy to go on a little excursion, I answered with an enthusiastic yes! We got into their little truck and off we went. The country side was beautiful, road a tad bit bumpy and riddled with pot holes, but the conversation and company inside the truck made for a very enjoyable ride. We ended up at a road side stand, two women cooking fresh tortillas to order and handing customers foil wrapped shredded lamb – half plain the other half with a delightful, not too spicy barbecue sauce, as many tortillas as you wanted and fresh toppings to choose from. We ordered enough meat and toppings for five of us and sat down to eat. This is the closest I’ve been to seeing a food truck here in rural Mexico, so it was fun to enjoy local fare at a place that was obviously popular if the steady stream of customers was any indication.
After breakfast, they asked if I would like to continue on and do a bit of touring around and again, I was readily agreeable. We drove along through the countryside for quite some time before happening upon the town of Donato Guerra. We didn’t get out in the town itself but instead followed the road up out of two, continuing to increase in elevation until we got to a pull off on the left hand side of the road where there was a welcoming area specifically made to allow travelers to get out and take in the beautiful scene of the town far below in the valley.
After taking photos, we hopped back in the car and again I was asked if I wanted to carryon in our journey and once again, I responded in the affirmative. Just a little further up the road (about a 20 minute drive) was the town Valle de Bravo, a tourist and resort town on the massive reservoir known as Lake Avandaro. The cobblestone streets are narrow and lined by quaint and historical buildings. Sitting high at the town’s center is the beautiful San Francisco de Asis church. Though it has elements of the 17th century, construction of the church didn’t begin until 1880 and didn’t reach completion until 1994. Open are markets are found as well at the town center with vendors under tents or tarps selling any number of items to the many tourists that come to visit. I will say the sheer number of people walking around reminded me of the crowds that flock the New England coast line every summer – little space at maximum capacity. After walking around a bit, we stopped at a favorite market and purchased some freshly cut steaks to bring home and enjoy as a special dinner. It was a lovely excursion, but truth be told I was very happy to return to the gentle breeze and cooler temps of Macheros.
Thank you so much for sharing this! My son and I visited Macheros in early March, and can’t stop thinking about it. We left a piece of our hearts, and long to return, so it’s amazing to learn from you about the experiences beyond those possible during a short visit. While it began as a trip to see the butterflies for us, it so quickly became about the people, and even while there I dreamed about returning for an extended time to volunteer when I retire in 5 years. I am a naturalist, and have worked with monarchs and habitat and done programming around that for many years. Our experiences in Macheros have brought the story full circle and enhanced my ability to teach others.
I would absolutely love to connect with you to learn more about…well, everything!!
I can’t tell you how much your opening this door has intrigued and inspired me!
Then it seems I just missed meeting you in person cuz I was here at the end of February! It is the most amazing place, isn’t it! Feel free to email me if you’d like!
Btw, out of curiosity, how did you find my blog?
I would love to connect and learn more! I am dreaming of the day I can return to Macheros and stay for an extended period to volunteer. I saw a post on the Cerro Pelon Butterfly B&B FB page, and was inspired to follow your blog! I love learning about what being there beyond a short visit is like. Thank you for sharing this! When we were there, it seemed like each guest, no matter where they were from was brainstorming about what they could bring to the table to help with this amazing place! Some of us were naturalist, some artists, and many others. Each had a different gift and idea.
You can find me on FB as View Found Images and leave a message there if you’d like.
Great reading and remember just to reach out and touch someone. We are out there 🤣🙃. Love ya sis!!!!❤️❤️
It’s great to hear about your life and thoughts in Mexico 🤩 thanks for letting me follow.
I promise, that if you start tasting the hot sauce from now on, you will be able you eat and enjoy by the time your are going home 😅😅 my personal experience from Nigeria, it took hole 7 weeks, but that was also the only thing we could have😂😂😂
What is pleasure it was to read about your adventures, even though I had heard some of it before. You have a wonderfully free writing style and I quite enjoy reading it. I look forward to your next installment!